Movement. Movement on the surface he lay on. Movement in the pattern of glaring lights that lined up on the ceiling which he faced. Movement which aggravated his throbbing head.
His hands flailed under thick covers, feeling the edges of the structure that supported his body. He was on a bed, but on one that moved.
"Mr. Jones?" He flinched when he finally recognised his own name, or at least what some people had referred to him as.
The voice came from a man who was pushing the bed where Mr. Jones lay by a rubber handle just past his feet. The man that he had noticed before, when trying to get out of the cell.
Reluctantly Mr. Jones attempted to respond with a low croaking that vaguely resembled speech. Resigning he sighed wistfully, letting the undisturbed man before him wheel him out of the uninhabited hallways into destination unknown.
"In case you were wondering, Mr. Jones," the man continued, "I was known as Mr. McKenzie."
Mr. Jones wiped the grimace off of his face once he realised that he still had one, and at once looked straight into the face of this Mr. McKenzie. If he was expecting Mr. Jones to remember something, he was mislead. Shaking his head, Mr. Jones lay back down into his rather suspect pillow.
"You must have been before my time," Mr. McKenzie supposed as he continued his almost nauseating pace with the bed.
Mr. Jones was surprised with how much he had in his mouth to swallow when he did, and how much better the air was in a long and wide hallway that looked to be not much different than the one just outside his own cell. But he surprised himself with almost everything around and about him, as such surprises were weak efforts to distract him from his own headache.
When the door to an elevator that at first he did not know he was in shut, however, he very nearly was distracted. The doors closed, but the elevator did not move as the destination floor had not been keyed in. It was just as spacious as the hallways were and the cells weren't, however - probably meant for at least twenty people or so.
"Okay, this is it." Mr. Jones instantly became anxious to know in his own condition exactly what "it" was - after all, before that point he had been doing nothing except letting Mr. McKenzie literally push him around.
But almost too soon Mr. McKenzie simply pushed Mr. Jones again - right off the bed, covers and all. Mr. Jones only let out his tightly-held breath when he landed with a sharp "thud" onto the metal floor of the elevator.
"Time to get up, Mr. Jones." Mr. Jones took a second to look up at this gladly in-control man he had for company before complying. Only then did he realise that he could indeed move perfectly well, and only then did he realise that he in fact was naked.
Mr. McKenzie had clearly realised the nature of Mr. Jones's own astonishment as with a patronising grin he withdrew some clothes from a shelf in the wheeled trolley under the bed. "Here you go." He then dumped them on the floor, at Mr. Jones' bare feet.
Grunting, Mr. Jones stumbled back down onto all fours to reach his clothes. He spent the next few minutes either fumbling with an obviously used shirt and jeans or trying to look away from Mr. McKenzie's smiling face.
Mr. Jones knew what most people were like. They would conform to the ideas of coming to someone's help, and of saying "please" and "thank you" so that the people above them that told them to do so wouldn't bitch at them. To Mr. Jones, however, Mr. McKenzie looked to be spiting the elders in question.
So just why did Mr. McKenzie free him?
"You could be a bit quicker," Mr. McKenzie remarked, "you don't just have yourself to help."
So already his question was almost answered. But even though seconds later Mr. Jones had just managed to snap on his two loafers (which like the rest of his clothing felt quite well-used), he didn't feel any real threat in the voice above him. If Mr. McKenzie had to do something with Mr. Jones to the point of bothering to free him, he would have to do it to the point of letting him dress at his own pace.
Mr. Jones felt roughly as tired getting up for the second time as he had expected to feel getting up for the first time. He didn't know if his shoes were the right way around, even though oddly enough they appeared to be just the right size.
"Well, then!" Mr. McKenzie concluded. "I can only guess that you're ready." And finally he approached a wall-mounted keypad and tapped in the destination floor.
The elevator's pulleys squeaked worryingly above them, and Mr. McKenzie smiled at Mr. Jones' concern. "No need to worry if it breaks, we're only moving up a few hundred floors."
Okay, Mr. Jones thought, so it's not a hydraulic elevator then.
But in spite of that Mr. Jones still had plenty of time in which to notice that Mr. McKenzie's own clothing appeared to be in very good condition and fit well on his stocky figure. Mr. Jones felt sweaty in his own shirt and tight jeans, but that sweat was from whoever wore them beforehand.
Mr. McKenzie's grin faded when he caught Mr. Jones's stare. "The clothes you have are the only ones you're ever going to get. I myself am wearing the only ones I've ever got. I treat the clothes I have as part of myself, and soon you will do."
"I didn't know that clothes were for modelling," Mr. Jones grunted.
A pause. "You know," Mr. McKenzie observed dryly, "that was the first thing you actually bothered to say." Another pause, lasting all the way to the floor where the elevator ultimately opened.
It was the ground floor level; past the elevator door, the surface opened up to them both. Mr. Jones flinched as the sunlight glared inside, being all the more hesitant when Mr. McKenzie pulled him out.
The door closed behind them; looking back at it, Mr. Jones made out a rugged building that only went up the one floor but went down hundreds from where they had both emerged. It obviously had no use outside of what was below the surface.
Turning around again, Mr. Jones instantly forgot about the building as hundreds of buildings that looked to have once been skyscrapers lay in piles of dust-laden rubble ahead of him. Those buildings were some distance off from the vicinity of the two people and the durable complex behind them, but Mr. Jones could certainly see enough from where he was.
Yet again Mr. McKenzie was able to see his own thoughts. "Who'd have guessed that the bull they say about buildings being able to withstand nuclear blasts was true. Do you remember what this place looked like before...?"
"No," Mr. Jones coughed out. Now that he thought about it, he remembered very little.
"Me neither," Mr. McKenzie chuckled. "Come on." With his hands in his pockets, Mr. McKenzie trotted whistling towards what looked to be a rather souped-up car on the track ahead of him.
The car (which on second glance appeared to have eight wheels) looked to be in reasonable shape relative to the buildings further on down the plain of dust and what looked to be a tarmac surface below it which stretched all the way around the very much intact building that they had come out of. Mr. Jones noticed a mess of debris ahead closer to the buildings, gleaming under the sunlight.
"Get in," Mr. McKenzie ordered as he flicked open the back seat of the car. "No city antics, I'm afraid; the battery fuel can't hold up, and neither can the tyres."
Battery "fuel"? "This is an electric car?" Mr. Jones asked carefully as he tumbled into the cushy back seats.
"You think it isn't? It certainly has been a while since you were put under, Subject Jones!" The door slammed behind him.
Subject Jones. He had been called that before. Subject Jones, as the subject of everyone's hatred and everyone's blame - and as the subject of authority's iron fist. The subject of the Blue Pool, which he had gathered put him on common ground with this "Subject McKenzie" he was dealing with.
Mr. Jones blinked. He had been Subject Jones for long enough. He was free, wasn't he? Freed by a fellow prisoner with virtually no resistance. He was being taken somewhere, as the subject of someone else's authority. Someone else's iron fist.
Mr. McKenzie opened up the car door to the driver's seat in front of him, and stepped inside before briskly shutting it to let himself at his own controls. He twisted the ignition key in its place and promptly the car whirred into action.
"You know," Mr. McKenzie chuckled, "every time I start this thing I half-expect it not to, even though it's never failed me. I was used to petrol too."
The car then began to drift forwards, but Mr. Jones couldn't see how since Mr. McKenzie's seat obstructed Mr. Jones's view of the controls he was using. With no idea of the implications of anything around him, however, that was the least of Mr. Jones's worries.
His eyes narrowed. "Where are you taking me?"
"Out of here," Mr. McKenzie immediately countered.
Mr. Jones snorted. He wasn't going to ask him again. He had given this Subject McKenzie his chance. Mr. McKenzie seemed conscious enough of his own intentions, if not the intentions of the people sitting down behind him.
Mr. Jones clung on to his memory of taking another person's life without being told to do so. Calling his own hit. The squeak of surprise, and the squeak of death that followed. Knowing when to do it and how. Feeling the limited resistance and relishing it as the resistance was part of what led to a truly rewarding victory.
Fortunately Mr. McKenzie did not talk to him in his typical fashion for the minutes that followed, perhaps because with whatever obligation he had being close to fulfilled he had nothing else to say. Mr. Jones remained suitably silent, but not in thought as he quietly prepared for the pawn's next move.
All the while Mr. Jones idly gazed at the driver's seat clock before him which may or may not have been giving the right time: five minutes passed, plus ten, and another five before finally the car stopped and hence he got the chance he was waiting for. His aching limbs and ever-throbbing head was nothing compared to the rush that went over him at the thought of what he was about to try to do.
Mr. McKenzie arched his back with the loud yawn he let out from his comfortable driver's seat. "I'm going to go take a piss. Have some fun while I'm gone, right?"
Mr. Jones nodded sagely back, although really his mind wasn't on Mr. McKenzie's urinary exploits but rather on a rather interesting-looking tool under the seat. It had a long barrel from which certain missiles - emerging from the large magazine mounted into the tool beside its handle and trigger - were fired. He waited until Mr. McKenzie shut the door and turned away to move off into the distance for his business before making a quick inspection.
Mr. Jones looked over the inside of the magazine after unloading it to find that fairly long nails were being loaded into the tool for firing, presumably at high speeds. Loading the magazine back inside, Mr. Jones suddenly had a fair idea of what to do with it.
Okay Mr. Tool, Mr. Jones thought hopefully, show us what you can do.
Mr. Jones turned to the left-hand door of his back seat and at once popped it open, half-heartedly attempting to conceal Mr. Tool behind his back as he stepped out of the car. He shut the door behind him, but kept looking into the distance in an effort to spot Mr. McKenzie as he did so.
Eventually Mr. Jones spotted his very own Subject for the day, walking back with the job safely over and done with. He looked to be fairly pleased with himself.
"Hey, what are you out here for?" Mr. McKenzie inquired from about two metres out as he kept his eyes on the pant zipper he was still doing up.
Mr. Jones at once made short the two metre distance. "This." And from there Mr. Jones gave himself three seconds to whip the tool out and fire in the general direction of Mr. McKenzie's intrigued facial expression - disappointingly, it took him four.
Mr. McKenzie's left eye at once departed from its gaze at the pant zipper to vanish off into the distance with the kick of inertia that the nail carried, taking various bits of human debris with it. The rest of Mr. McKenzie that it had left behind staggered back a couple of steps with arms held high, screaming something incomprehensible. Eventually Mr. McKenzie himself lost balance and fell to the ground, flinching erratically.
"Enough of that," Mr. Jones cooed, and at once the twitching and shivering body that was Mr. McKenzie went limp on the baking sand he lay on with his arms spread out wide over the pool of blood under them.
Mr. Jones's own job outside the car was done, and with that he opened the door to the driver's seat and unashamedly took Mr. McKenzie's place. No more back seat action was left for him anymore, although Mr. Tool earned an honorary place in the passenger seat beside Mr. Jones (which of course Mr. McKenzie had never thought of suggesting to him).
The headache returned to Mr. Jones's attention once he began to think again, so he opted to think quickly. He could just notice a few buildings far into the distance, which considering the previously expressed concerns over "battery fuel" was probably where Subject McKenzie had been heading.
After fastening a seat-belt that thanks to the incompetence of Mr. McKenzie he had not known of previously, Mr. Jones turned the ignition key back on, and his hands wandered over the confusing array of panels and lights in front of him and onto a double-pronged control stick in front of him. He gripped each prong with one hand and at once his grip lurched the car forward.
After a moment of utter confusion and wheels involuntarily spraying Mr. McKenzie's messy remains with dirt, Mr. Jones hypothesised that the car was controlled by slight instinctive movements that came with thinking about moving in a given direction (following the results of his concern over the car moving forwards too quickly making for just as swift a reversal).
His guess was, incidentally, a correct one. Catching a breath that he didn't know he had lost, Mr. Jones sighed with relief as he eventually found the car moving - albeit at a somewhat worrying pace that he tried his very best to ignore - towards the cluster of buildings and away from Mr. McKenzie's corpse.
I know who I was before, Mr. Jones thought, let's see who I'm meant to be now.