Back from the Brink

The old man stops and contemplates the question. “Most simply call me the Inventor. Few know my real name. Truth is, it’s a long time since I’ve said it out loud.” He stops, adrift in his own thoughts. “Daedalus.” He says it slowly, as though recalling each syllable.

My left eyelid flickers open, then falls back to rest. A hazy image of white walls mixes with a thick smell of disinfectant. It sticks to the back of my throat like tar. My limbs are heavy, as though something is perched on top of them. I try to move them, but I don’t have the energy. I test my right eye to find it welded shut. I open my left eye again, this time more forcefully. A layer of water on my cornea refracts the light, and a needle of pain pierces my ear.

He’s awake!

The sound echoes around me. The male voice is gentle but firm, with a Russian accent. I can’t tell whether it’s friendly.

“Check his vitals.”

Something cold presses against my chest, and fingers prod my face. Lead scratches against paper. I try to talk but only manage a groan.

“You’ve been out for a long time,” a female voice tells me, answering my unasked question. She sounds excited. I open my eye again to look at her, but she’s gone. My neck is in a brace, restricting my movement. All I can see is a white ceiling fitted with six spotlights. One of them flickers amidst an irritating buzz.

“Where am I?” I ask. The sound escapes as a hoarse whisper. No-one responds. Then a face hovers over me, a pretty face. She has full lips, blonde hair tied back in a bob, and a small, straight nose with large circular glasses perched on the end of them. Lines on her forehead suggest her youth is ebbing away. She is wearing white scrubs and has a clipboard in her hand.

“That was some show you put on,” she tells me. My mind races back, but I can’t remember a thing. “No-one believed me when I said we’d captured a Titan. They just thought you were some drunk from the party, but then we ran some tests, and I knew we’d hit the jackpot.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, my mind a jigsaw of memories.

“Stop engaging with him,” the Russian voice mutters from the other side of the room.

“What’s he going to do, Gregor? He can’t move. He can barely talk.” The lady spits her response. There’s no love between these two.

“He’s a Titan, Herta. Don’t underestimate him. We don’t know the extent of his powers yet.”

“Who are you, then?” Herta asks, ignoring her companion’s warning.

“Why would I tell you?” I ask.

Herta sniffs. “From the scars on your abdomen, I think you must be Prometheus.”

My silence is enough to confirm her suspicion.

“Told you, Gregor. We’ve caught ourselves a big one.”

“We’re not ready,” Gregor mutters under his breath.

“Ready for what?” I ask, testing the restraints. There’s no give. Whatever is holding me down has some sort of magic within it.

“I’m not a fool, Prometheus.” Herta grins. “Our plans are not for your ears. But you can certainly help us. And have.” She says the sentence with glee, teasing me with the riddle. “I can’t believe we have a Titan,” she hums to herself, turning away.

Energy slowly returns to my limbs, and I wiggle my fingers and toes, but I still cannot move. “What have you done to me?” I ask.

“Have you any idea the amount of power you harness?” Herta blurts.

“Herta…” Gregor mutters.

“We’ve only had you a few weeks, and the scientific advances we have made already. It’s mind-blowing.”

“Enough, Herta,” Gregor barks.

A few weeks? Have I been out for a few weeks? Memories lock together: the party, my disguise, the diversion, the break-in, then…nothing. I can tell Herta wants to say more, but the Russian’s tone was enough to silence her.

“We’ll need to tell the boss he’s awake,” Gregor continues. “He’ll want to see this for himself. You wait here, and I’ll go get him.”

“To Hell with waiting here,” Herta bites. “You think I’m going to let you go and get all the glory for yourself?”

“We need eyes on the Titan.”

“So you finally agree he’s a Titan?”

“I never disagreed with you, Herta.”

“Yes, you did! You said he was a demigod of no importance. I don’t need your permission, anyway.”

Gregor sighs loudly, defeated. “Fine, then. Come with me.”

“You come with me!”

Their bickering is giving me a headache. They’re worse than an old married couple. It’s a relief to hear their footsteps fade away and the door slam shut. A few seconds later, the lights switch off. They must be on a motion sensor.

I rest my eyes and try to make sense of the situation. Somehow, mere mortals have managed to create the tools to restrain me. I can’t sense my powers. I feel…helpless. Disbelieving, I pull on the restraints again, but the effort exhausts me.

Herta wanted to talk. I can work on her. She was almost buzzing with excitement. I try to think of a plan, but my brain is numb. Then the generator kicks into action, and the lights warm up again. I expect to hear Herta and Gregor squabbling. Instead, I hear shuffling and a phlegmy cough. I try to turn my head, then remember the brace.

“I heard you were awake.”

The voice is old, the echo of a man who has seen many years. But there is wisdom behind it. “Who are you?” I ask.

The old man clears his throat. I can see his bent frame in my periphery studying papers, shaking his head. “I never wanted this,” he says absently, ignoring me. It might be the angle, but he looks a hundred years old with scraggly white hair down to his shoulders and a slight hunchback. “We haven’t got long,” he tells me, casting a glance towards the door and resetting the papers.

“What are…”

“Shh!” he demands, then pauses for a second to listen. “My two assistants, they have been running tests on you.”

“Gregor and Herta?”

“I see you have become acquainted. Yes. Not my choice. None of this was.”

Something about his demeanour and mannerisms seem so familiar.

“We need to get you out of here, somewhere safe, but not now.”

“Why not now? Release me, and I’ll unleash the Furies. Should have done that to start with.”

The old man shakes his head. “You have no idea.” He stands over me, and I can see his face, covered in lines. His cheeks sag, and his eyes look lost in their sockets. His neck is a mass of excess skin, and he has whiskers on his chin. He looks like he’s just escaped from a hospice. I let out a laugh at the thought of him saving me, which turns into a cough.

“They have weapons,” the old man continues. “Ones which are strong enough to overpower even the most powerful of the gods. And now they have you. With the information they can harness from you, they’re only going to get stronger.”

“Weapons?” I ask, lost in what the old man is saying.

“Yes. Prototypes which, until you came along, were untested. Now they have a real-life Titan to play with. What were you thinking, coming here?”

My heart rate quickens. I know the old man is telling the truth, yet I can’t bring myself to believe him. “How do they have weapons? It’s not possible!”

“Yet here you are, a Titan strapped to a bed, unable to move. And here I am, a frail, old man who can barely control his own bladder. But who is at the mercy of who, here?”

“Let me out and let them try,” I growl. Anger fills my veins. I’d like nothing more than to fight a few mortals with their pathetic weapons. They’ll find out what it’s like to face a Titan hell-bent on revenge. I fought in the goddam Titanomachy!

“What weapons do they have?” I shout at the old man.

“We don’t have time now to discuss this. My assistants will be back any moment now. I shouldn’t be here, but I’ll be back for you. Now you’re awake, they’ll have eyes on you, so it’s going to be difficult, but do not leave here alone.”

“You think I need an old man to rescue me?” I laugh, then realise I do.

The old man looks at me, his face contemplative. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. This must be stopped, but right now, I need to leave, and you need to forget this talk.”

“Wait,” I mutter as my saviour shuffles towards the door. “Who are you?” I realise that he never told me his name.           

The old man stops and contemplates the question. “Most simply call me the Inventor. Few know my real name. Truth is, it’s a long time since I’ve said it out loud.” He stops, adrift in his own thoughts. “Daedalus.” He says it slowly, as though recalling each syllable.

Daedalus? The Daedalus? Who devised the Labyrinth to house the Minotaur, who invented wings that his son, Icarus, flew towards the sun. I remember him as a youth. It couldn’t be one and the same. He died thousands of years ago. Didn’t he…?

The lights turn out, and I’m alone again. Lost. Confused.     

Prometheus (DM White)
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