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Not So Novel: Footsteps in the Hall (NN Episode 2)

[continued from Episode 1, the Narcoleptic Ninja is remembering: “He had jumped between two buildings….and then woke up in the infirmary.”]

He blinked.  What happened?  What had he been doing?  Right, the mission!  The main part of the job was done: the woman had taken seemingly forever in the lab, but she had finished whatever it was she was doing and they had all prepared to leave.  He had climbed up to the top of the building adjacent to the lab, and as they got underway he had leapt to the next building…..  He shuddered.  That was it.  That was where his memory just stopped.

More importantly, where was he?  Well, no one had tried to kill him yet, so good.  He flexed and moved around.  OK, he seemingly was on a bed but not tied down, also good.  But why was it so dark?  And where were his weapons and tools?  He cautiously got to his feet, and then froze:  footsteps.  Faint, but getting closer.  Feeling his way, he slowly found a wall, then the door.  Locked.  Damn!  He knew a dozen ways to open a locked door (a faint smile as he remembered a few which didn’t leave a door behind at all), but only a idiot tried to bust open a locked door in the dark with only your hands and feet.  He waited.

The footsteps stopped.  A female voice called out, “Look, I know you’re awake, I know you are right behind the door, and I know if I unlocked it right now you would try to either incapacitate me or take me hostage.”  He heard a long-suffering sigh.  “You can’t imagine how many operatives who come back unconscious assume the worst when they wake up, so we developed this little room to allow them to wake up slowly and not be able to hurt any one.  Oh, and I might add that the last person who tried to take me hostage woke up back in that room….2 days later after he had time to heal.”

He considered this, and then asked, “So who are you?  Why should I trust you?”

“If you remember your training you shouldn’t trust me, but know that my codename is Naginata”.

He relaxed.  Only one person he knew of would dare use that codename; rank and codename go hand in hand at The School, and he knew that she had killed the last three people who tried to “assume” her rank.  He also knew that she was the head doctor in charge of dozens of other doctors and nurses, and it paid to remember that even they went through the training.  But why did Naginata herself want to see him?  As far as he knew she had never paid any attention to him before, and he hadn’t been in the infirmary for anything more than the regulation shots before now.  Feeling his way carefully, he backed away from the door.  As soon as he got back to the bed, the lights came on and she opened the door.

“Good”, she said, stepping into the room, “we can bypass that tedious exercise.”  Naginata, upon closer inspection, rather resembled the weapon her codename stood for.  She was dressed plainly in a doctor’s lab coat and black pants, and though her facial features included a sharp nose and chin, the rest of her was, well, normal.  He might have even passed her in The School and never noticed.  But like her namesake, her movements were graceful, flowing, and obviously when underestimated, deadly.  She indicated that he should sit down, and after he carefully sat down on one end of the bed she sat down on the other end.

“So”, she continued, “I’m sure you have many questions, but I don’t have the time right now to sit and answer all of them.  Besides, I don’t have all the answers.  What I can tell you is this:  you, young man, should be dead.  From the reports your teammates gave you only jumped halfway across that gap and then fell out of sight.  When your teammates got to you, you were laying on the ground unconscious.  But that’s the problem.  By all accounts you fell from 3 stories up in an alley that had no fire escapes, ledges, or anything else that could slow your decent, but upon inspection you were still alive.  And there wasn’t a scratch on you!  You didn’t, by any chance, activate any grapnel or such on the way down, did you?”

Dumbfounded, he shook his head.  “No, ma’am.  I remember starting to jump and then…nothing.”

She stared at him for a moment, then sighed, “No, I didn’t think so.  Well, that’s one mystery that will have to stay that way for now.  As for your passing out, that part isn’t a mystery.  I’m sorry to tell you this, but you seemed to have developed narcolepsy.  Normally we wouldn’t have even tested for this since you hadn’t shown any of the symptoms before now.  However…. well, I might as well tell you now since you’d just find out later: you’ve been unconscious for several days.  Due to the circumstances of your, let us say ‘accident’, we kept you unconscious until we wanted you to wake up.  During that time we performed several tests.”

He decided for the time being to ignore the bit about being kept unconscious against his will.  “Wait a minute, couldn’t I just have passed out from, I don’t know, exhaustion or something?”

“Believe me”, she said, “we thought about that already.  All the tests we could think of showed negative.  It wasn’t until someone decided on a whim to check your hypocretin and orexin A neuropeptide levels. They were far enough below normal to convince us to compare your genetic pattern against known cases of narcolepsy.  I’m sorry.”  She did actually sound sympathetic.  “We will probably start you out on atomoxetine and see how that goes, combined with some sleep therapy sessions.”

She stood up and walked towards the door but then stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Oh, and for the next month you are banned from going out on any missions.  But for now you are free to go home.  Report back here first thing in the morning.”  With that, she walked out the door, her footsteps echoing down the hall.

He didn’t really know what to do.  Not go on missions?  Is she crazy?  They couldn’t stop him from going on missions!  Oh, wait, they could.  Disobedience wasn’t tolerated, and though he felt he could count on his friends for a good many things, he knew they wouldn’t risk their lives.  He laid back on the bed and closed his eyes.  What could he really do?  He can’t blame them.  He put the whole mission at risk by passing out when he did.  But he had to do something.

He opened his eyes, then immediately jumped off the bed and crouched on the floor, scanning the every inch of the room.  Satisfied no one was there, he reached back and grabbed the envelope that had fallen off his chest.  Still keeping an eye out, he carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the slip of paper inside.

“Trust no one.  You didn’t develop your condition.  It was given to you.”

He slipped the paper back into the envelope, and the envelope into a pocket.  He walked out to the hall.  As he suspected nobody was there, though the hallway stretched for a good 25 feet without another door or window to go through, and even the soft slippers that he had on made some noise, albeit faint.

So someone had been able to make it into the room while he was lying there, leave a note, and get back out.  All without even the sound of a footstep.  He knew only the very best could accomplish that feat.

He shook his head.  For now, home.  Tomorrow?  Well, at least now he has something to do, and he has someone to find.  He has his mission.

[to be continued]

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Jen | November 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    The Narcoleptic Ninja returns! I’m glad you’re turning this into a running story–and impressed that you’re sticking to the prompts. I’m looking forward to learning how it will all turn out for this sleepy ninja.

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