by Justin Chu
Art by Katherine S. Li
Issue: Kalopsia (Spring 2017)
“Welcome to the Dream team, Mei,” her new coworkers smiled. “Pun intended.”
“I can’t wait to get started.” Mei was carrying a box full of her stuff.
“I bet you can’t,” he laughed pleasantly. “Oh, how rude of me. I haven’t even introduced myself yet. I’m Jesse.” He extended a hand.
“Nice to meet you, Jesse. I’m Mei,” she shook his hand with her free one while precariously balancing the box.
“I’m the one in charge of showing you around, so let’s not waste any more time and get to it.”
Jesse led Mei around the well-lit wing. He first brought her to her new office to drop off her things. Mei was surprised by how spacious it was. Though she was only a rookie employee, she got an entire room to herself. It came complete with a fairly new computer, desk, bookshelf, filing cabinet, chairs, and another table.
Jesse got around to showing her around the rest of the equally impressive offices, the bathrooms, and finally her new boss.
“Glad to have you on the team. Mei,” her boss, Wilhelm said.
“Thank you, sir,” she bowed slightly.
“It’s about time we had another girl on the team. Before you came, we only had Satya. I’m sure you two will be good friends.”
“I’m sure they will. Now, if you don’t mind, Chief, I have to show her the rest of the building.” Jesse said.
“Oh, not at all,” Wilhelm laughed with his deep, booming voice. “If anything, you two were infringing on my time. You enjoy the tour, Mei. I’m sure you’ll love it here”
“Thank you,” Mei smiled. They left her boss’s office, shutting the oak door. “He’s a little too much isn’t he?” Mei asked.
“Oh, you bet,” he grinned. “You should’ve seen him at the company Halloween party. He was dressed up as a crusader. He had everything: chainmail, iron armor, hammer, shield.” He shook his head.
“I wish I saw him,” she laughed.
They continued with the tour. Jesse showed her the meeting rooms with a smartboard on one side and a projector screen on the other, and the rest of the pristine office spaces.
“Well that’s pretty much everything,” Jesse stretched. “What do you think? Not bad right?”
“It’s a lot better than my old department. It’s all so … new and high-tech,” Mei stared, marveling at the expansive workplace..
“Hahaha. Yeah we get a lot more funding than the other departments.” he chuckled. “I’ll take you back to your office now.”
They walked to one of the offices. On the way, Mei noticed a heavy, iron door labeled “Authorized Personnel Only,” with two security guards in front of it.
“What’s in there?” she pointed.
“Hm?” Jesse turned his head. “Oh there? Just a bunch of boxes.”
She raised an eyebrow.“A lot of security for just a bunch of boxes,”
“Maybe there’s valuable stuff in the boxes,” Jesse shrugged. “You wanna sneak in and steal some of it?” He winked.
“As if,” she rolled her eyes at him. He laughed.
Jesse looked over at her“You okay?”
“Yeah, it’s jus-”
Help me. Please.
She broke into a cold sweat.
“You sure?” Jesse asked, concerned.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” She reassured. As they walked away, she strained to listen, but the voice had gone away.
One day later…
Mei jumped at the familiar whisper.
Please. Help me. They’ve trapped me.
Mei frantically glanced around her office space.
Please. I’m behind the restricted door. They’re performing experiments. Please help.
Frowning, Mei got up, and looked behind her chair and computer screen. Maybe someone was using a secret speaker to prank her. Some of the other offices had traditions like this.
This isn’t a joke, human. There are no speakers in your office.
Yes, human. I can read minds.
Fighting the urge to run, she calmed herself. After a couple of deep breaths, she had an idea.. Who are you? She thought.
Oh. Very clever, human. For that, I will tell you. I’m the Puppeteer.
Two days later…
Why should I help you? She thought. The voice had called out for help again. I don’t even know who or what you are.
I’ve told you, human. My title’s the Puppeteer, and I’m an artificially made organism created around 700 years in the future.
Then how did you get here?
By time traveling.
And you expect me to just accept this as a fact?
Would you like me to prove it to you?
This sent a chill up Mei’s spine. Something didn’t feel right about this, but her curiosity got the best of her.
Then brace yourself, human.
Suddenly, an onslaught of memories flooded into her mind. Memories of the Puppeteer’s childhood in a vast mining cave, of loving parents, and of childhood friends. The memories suddenly turned dark. The kidnapping and testing of a strange chemical, of thousands dying from it and only him and 15 others surviving it stronger than ever, the escape, and a great war that raged. Among all of these, she found the memory that proved his point. There was a young Puppeteer and another teenage boy, who by drawing a circle in the air, created what looked like a huge tear in the air. They both stepped through, and they ended up in a Victorian England.
Now do you believe me?
Yes, Mei thought, dazed by the passing of a decade or two in mere seconds
One day later…
It won’t be that easy to break in.
If you follow my instructions exactly, you will get in without a single problem.
And how do you know about all the locks and such?
I’m disappointed in you, human. I believed you to be one of the smart ones.
What’s that supposed to mean?
I mean I’m disappointed that you’ve already forgotten. Oh well, you’re only human.
And you’re not?
Hatred dripped from each syllable.
Never associate me with your kind. All of your kind ca-
He cut himself off, and mentally sighed.
Point is, I’m not human. I’m part of a new species that humans created. So no, I’m not human. So stop asking questions.
Why do you hate humans so much?
If you free me, I will tell you.
She agreed, but in the back of her mind, something yelled at her to not trust him.
Three days later…
The entire plan for his escape had been laid out by the Puppeteer. She would break him out, and she would get the answers to some of the questions that she had for him.
How do I get past all the locks?
Simple. I know all the passcodes.
Then why haven’t you escaped yet?
I’m bound to a chair by several bars of extremely strong metal.
I see. Mei had one more question about the plan for him.
How do I get past the guards? Mei concentrated.
Mei sighed. She supposed that it was inevitable. The little piece of her was back, whispering to her that she was being controlled. However, over the course of the days, the voice had grown quieter and quieter. That day, that piece of her died.
One day later…
Mei was breathing heavily, blood drops staining her white blouse. She ran up to the doors and tried to push it open, but to no avail. There was a keypad.
She punched in the numbers and pushed them open. She found herself at the top of a staircase, staring down at a dark abyss.
Hurry, they’ll be there soon.
Obeying, she rushed down the stone stairs. At the bottom, she was met with yet another set of doors and a keypad.
She punched them in, and forced the doors open.
She was met by a small, sparse room. It was furnished with a computer, a desk, and several file holders. At the other end there was another door, this one needing a keycard.
Use the one from the security guard.
She pulled it out, and slid the keycard. The scanner blinked green.
She pushed through the final door, and was met with yet another room.
Let me out.
There was a chair, and strapped to it with metal bands was a man with messy brown hair. He looked up at her. He had eyes that pulsed with colors.
“First, I want my answer.”
Let me out.
The colors of his eyes swirled in sync with his words. Mei felt her control of her body slip away.
Her eyes widened with surprise, but quickly slipped into a blank stare.. Mei walked over to the chair and undid the bands.
Suddenly, a shot sounded, and Mei convulsed. She fell face first into his lap.
“Filthy humans,” The Puppeteer lightly placed her on the ground, “killing one of your own for selfish gain.” He placed a hand on her head. “Rest.” He got up, and faced the two confronting him.
“Well, looks like the new employee got a little out of line,” Jesse glared, a revolver in his hand.
“Looks so,” Wilhelm nodded.
“Point the gun away. You know very well that I’m able to dodge all of them,” he stared into them reading their minds. “So that’s why you were able to contain me, and avoid my hypnotizations,” he grinned sadistically. “Unfortunately for you, it doesn’t work if I plant a Memory Seed into someone.”
He walked over to the machine in a corner of the room. Suddenly, he felt something hit his back. He turned around, and caught Wilhelm’s next punch.
“Stupid human,” he pulverized his hand, leaving fingers jutting out at awkward angles and slammed him into the ground, screaming.
“Chief!” Jesse yelled. He quickly fired 3 shots, all aimed at the Puppeteer. He dodged them all.
He then picked up the machine, and promptly smashed onto the ground. He looked over at Jesse, who was now quivering slightly, but still glaring.
“Kill yourself and your boss,” he sneered with delight.
His arm, shaking slowly moved towards Wilhelm.
The gun was then in Jesse’s mouth.
The Puppeteer started to walk out, but stopped right before going.
“Beware humans. You all have much to pay for imprisoning The Puppeteer.
The Puppeteer walked out, and more gunshots could be heard.