From the Writer’s Digest creative writing prompt “Rude Awakening”
“Get up. That’s right you, with the face. Get up!”
A kick to my ribs punctuates the demand, dragging me back into the world from the black abyss of unconsciousness. The very blurry world. I blink several times, trying to clear my vision as my mind tries to catch up with my current situation, and my situation begins filtering into my awareness. A swarthy, unpleasant man is standing over me, a six inch blade in his hand. The natural way he cradles it in his grip makes my blood cold. Even in my groggy state I can tell that he’s beyond comfortable with that knife. Proficient. He checks his watch with a hint of urgency. My head feels like I was run over by a semi, and I can feel the bite of rope binding my wrists together.
I slowly push myself to a sitting position, my head spinning at the movement. I focus on the toe of the man’s boot, and gradually the floor stops rocking beneath me. Impatient, the man grabs my arm and drags me to my feet, causing another rolling wave of dizziness and nausea. Something nags at the back of my mind, but I can’t remember.
He grabs the shoulder of my uniform, pushing me in front of him as he begins to walk. “Let’s go, princess. I can’t have you messing up my work.”
I stumble and fall, my mind suddenly catching up to what led me here. I’m supposed to disarm that bomb! I feel my pulse soar. I have to get back to the supply bay. The timer had been counting down from an hour when I had seen it, and I have no idea how long ago that was.
Knife-man growled, dragging me back up to my feet by my hair. He places the knife flat against my collarbone as if to remind me who was in control of the situation. “No pranks, sweetheart. Just move when I tell you to move. We’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
The soles of my boots squeak on the polished floors, each step shattering the unnatural quiet in the normally bustling luxury space cruiser. Even here below decks, there were always crewmen shuttling supplies, seeing to the engines, and ensuring that the inter-world voyage goes smoothly. But not today. This area had been evacuated and I had been sent in to diffuse the bomb. The bomb that had been expertly placed in such a way that it would take out not only the supply quarter, but two of the engines and the life support as well.
I take a deep breath. I wanted this assignment, I remind myself. Youngest woman to ever make the interstellar task force, and the only one to make it as a bomb technician. I feel the grip on my hair release as the man checks his watch again, and I know I won’t get another chance.
I jump backwards into him, driving my elbow up in the direction I perceive his nose to be. I feel the crunch of bone as I hit my mark. I turn, trying to disengage without his blade finding my skin, but my equilibrium fails me and I stagger sideways and fall into the wall. He swears. His fist, still tight around the knife handle, strikes my jaw in a lightning uppercut, and right away I taste blood as my ears ring.
“You’ll pay for that,” he growls, grabbing my forearm. He turns back the way we came, half-dragging me as I struggle to keep upright.
I see the doors to the supply bay opening, trip over the landing and am unable to regain my footing. He hardly slows as he hauls me across the bay. With my world still tilting on its axis, it didn’t register to me that we stopped, that he dropped me. I hear the soft clink of small metal pieces hitting each other, and I struggle to focus on the sound. He grabs my foot and I feel him roughly place something around my ankle.
Clink clink. Click!
The pressure around my ankle is uneven and I jerk back into now with realization. I struggle to get to my feet, staring at the chain that he just secured to my leg. My eyes follow it, and I try to suppress my rising panic as I see the other end locked to the I-beam support pillar. My captor’s steps echo as he walks away, the supply door slamming behind him and leaving me in near silence.
The supply room…the bomb! Numbly, I look over my shoulder. Not five feet away, the archaic digital timer was ticking down seconds, beeping on each.
I lunge toward it, but the chain is just short enough to keep it out of my reach. I turn to the chain. Locked. I glance back at the timer.
My still-bound hands are numb, pins and needles, but I try to grip the chain or my boot in order to free myself. I feel tears of anger and helplessness dripping down my face as I realize the futility of my struggle. I clumsily stand, resigned to my fate, and face the bomb. I never thought I would die like this.
The force of the blast rips the scream from my lungs, and then…nothing. Darkness. I wonder for a moment if this is the way to hell when I hear my communicator, and I wake up. My heart is racing and I’m drenched in a cold sweat, but I’m alive. I pick up my communicator with trembling hands.
“You sound like hell,” my team leader’s voice declares. His next words I already know are coming, and hit the bottom of my stomach like a lead ball. “You’re on. Get your crap, there’s a bomb threat on that fancy starliner passing through our sector. Be ready in five.”