I didn't quite anticipate the pain that I experienced upon waking. I had expected the initial stab to hurt, but I had not much thought about what would come afterward. As I came to, however, pain seemed to sear through every atom of my body. It was so agonizing, it was a wonder I didn't pass out again right away. I felt starved for air, as though I had just spent an inadvisable amount of time underwater, yet every breath I drew burned my lungs like molten metal. My head hurt as though a hoard of angry wasps were inside my skull stinging my brain, and the wound in my gut throbbed terribly.
I don't know how long I lay there like that, incapacitated by agony. But as the oxygen returned little by little to my bloodstream, the pain slowly, excruciatingly lifted and I was left only with the intense throbbing of my abdomen. I became aware that my face and body appeared to be covered with a thin, once-white cloth that was stained with dark brownish splotches of blood. I also noticed a revolting, putrid smell in my nostrils that made me feel even more ill than I already did. With what strength I could muster, I brushed the cloth off of my face and looked around.
I was in the morgue, there was no doubt about that. I was lying on the hard, cement floor and all around me lay other, motionless bodies covered in white cloths. The stench of death was heavy in the air; the metallic smell of blood, the sickening scent of decaying flesh. I was the only thing alive in the entire room, but I wondered for how long.
Gingerly, I removed the cloth from the lower part of my body. Blood had soaked through my shirt staining the whole thing dark red and I winced at the pain that surged from it every second. The sodium sulfide had just about stopped my metabolism, but it had not stopped the bleeding entirely. I had still lost a lot of blood and would continue to lose lots more since my heart had begun pumping again.
I immediately went about the process of procuring a bandage for myself, tearing the cloth that had been draped over me into strips and tying them tightly about my middle. The wound was terrible, but I knew that that had been necessary. It had needed to look fatal because I had needed to look dead. Still, I was incredibly weak and I wondered if I would be strong enough to complete the task that still lay ahead of me.
I finished bandaging my injury then began planning my next move. Immediately, I scoped out the door — a dented rectangle of metal set into the far wall. That would be the first step, but I wasn't sure if I could make it even that far. I needed serious medical attention, but I knew that there was no chance I would be getting that any time soon.
I rolled over onto my hands and knees. My head spun violently, black splotches blooming across my vision. Sweat collected on my brow but I forced myself to stay conscious. I wasn't dead yet. I wouldn't let myself die. After some steadying breaths, I rose to my feet, leaning heavily against the wall. Agony and nausea swept simultaneously through my body, but once again I kept myself from blacking out. With shaking steps, I began the arduous journey to the door.
When I reached it, I fell panting against it, my body trembling. How was I going to have enough strength to reach Kris and free her? How would I have the strength to overcome any guards I came across on the way? Vengeance had wounded me too badly. I could feel myself slowly weakening.
I shook myself and clenched my teeth with grim determination. I had to keep going. Failure meant death.
I reached down slowly and drew my knife from its concealed location in my boot. Gripping it tightly in my right hand, I opened the door and stepped out into the next room.
I didn't know the layout of this part of the building, so I was surprised, but very lucky, to find myself standing in a small infirmary. It was empty apart from the whirring forms of outdated computers and medical equipment. I staggered forward and groped at the counter for support. I realized that this room might well be my salvation.
First, I exchanged my disgusting, bloody bandage for a much more satisfactory spray-on plastiskin one. At least that would prevent me from losing any more blood. On the outside, at least.
While I returned the can of spray-on bandages to its drawer, I came across a long, sharp syringe. It was labeled with a sticker that read ENERGIN. I recognized it immediately from my days on the street. It was pure adrenalin, used to treat victims of serious shock. However, I had known some to use it as a stimulant to give them an extra kick before a raid or dangerous situation. I hesitated for a moment, wondering whether the contents of the hypodermic would be a lifesaver or whether they would kill me. I made a quick decision, and wincing, I plunged the needle into my left arm.
The effect was almost instantaneous. I felt my heart rate quicken to an alarming speed and my senses were measurably heightened. I found it somewhat more difficult to breathe, but a sudden surge of energy was coursing through my veins. Pain still sliced through me every moment, but I no longer felt on the verge of collapse.
I readied the knife in my hand, then turned to face the way out. But the door was already open. And there was someone standing in the doorway.