Chapter 5: Back to Zero

When he awoke, Red_Two found himself shivering, laying down on his stomach, on a soft, albeit cold, bed. He didn't feel a blanket over him, and he could feel a cold breeze on his feet, but not his legs. Without opening his eyes, he slowly inched his right hand towards his torso. He felt the intersection of two lines of bandages. An engulfing warmth surrounded his hand, and moved it back to his side.

He was alive. Red_Two blinked his eyes open slowly, looking down at his pillow.

"I know you're awake," an unknown voice rang, slightly high pitched, light and cheery, definitively male, and speaking in English.

"I'm awake," Red_Two replied, voice slightly raspy, turning his head towards the right, in direction of the voice. He was on a bed with white pillows and sheets, with a bedside cabinet and chair next to him.

On that chair was a man with an average build, matching his own, in a lilac shirt and dark blue trousers - part of a matching suit with the shiny, light blue tie - with a white lab coat completing the look. Red_Two squinted upwards to the stranger's face, as he leaned forward, and took the offered straw in his mouth, sipping small gulps of water.

The stranger's ocean eyes were big and bold on his face, perfectly matching his long, dark brown hair, strands falling to frame his pale face. Red_Two found himself staring at him, as he placed the half full glass down, back onto the bedside table.

The ocean-eyed stranger was the man who had found him on the cliff. This was the man whose arms he was ready to die in. Red_Two flinched, eyes snapping wide open, and swallowed.

"I'm sorry if you're in any discomfort," the ocean-eyed stranger began, looking off to the blank wall above Red_Two's head.

What was he apologising for? Red_Two was ready to die back there. He was ready to die. He gulped.

"You can adjust the painkillers you're receiving if necessary. I'm also sorry about your new haircut. Dr Johnstone, the chief medical officer here, ordered it to be cut, so she could operate and remove the microchip in your back safely," the ocean mind explained kindly, eyes returning back to Red_Two's.

Red_Two found himself confused under the attention. Why was he even given care? What time was he in where this was normal? It had to be at least before 2100 AD, when the Great Drownings happened.

Why was he even here? Ocean eyes or not, the stranger was a threat, even if nobody had ever looked at him, without ulterior motives. He was apparently an injured stranger found on top of a cliff with a strange machine on his chest.

But what was the point in doing anything? Was there a point in anything? The time machine was obvious in what it was. It was just a matter if anybody fiddled with it. If so, then he would be locked away in another Sýnnefa. If not, he didn't have any believable excuses.

Red_Two realised that he had not answered the stranger.

"It- it's fine," he managed to stutter out, sweating under the attention, looking away to the white blanket.

He saw the metal bedframe was painted grey.

"I was needing a haircut for a while," he mumbled out, ready to close his eyes.

"I see," the ocean eyes man replied, smile in his voice. Red_Two glanced up. Those ocean eyes crinkled in the corners whenever the man smiled. Red_Two looked down again and closed his eyes, hoping he would leave.

He was too kind. He wasn't used to this at all. He was feeling sick and his stomach was rolling.

"So, what's your name?" the ocean-eyed man finally asked. Red_Two screwed his eyes shut and lamented his lack of range in movement.

Wait, if he was just getting a microchip removed from his upper back, why was entire torso bandaged?

Red_Two snapped open his eyes, and looked up his arms. His hands were unwrapped, but his arms, torso, and legs were bandaged, his right leg and foot in a cast. Did those injuries come from the time machine? Or maybe from the laser? Where did he get them?

He began to shake. He clenched his teeth, and right fist. If it was the time machine, every single journey would cripple him, and he could never escape.

The ocean eyes of the stranger widened as he stood up, and leaned over to the bedside table, pressing the emergency button. He looked over to Red_Two, and crouched down to be eye level.

"Hey, you don't have to tell me your name. It's fine. You're safe here. You don't have to tell me anything you want to," he cooed, smiling at Red_Two.

The panicked man in question, wanted to scream, then cry. This wasn't about his name. This was about his injuries.

"My name is Red_Two," he gritted out, teeth no longer so clenched, but new tears in his eyes. He had to be calm, and learn where he was, how he was injured and bide his time. Then maybe he could get his revenge…

But he didn't want revenge. He didn't want to go back. He didn't even have a plan other than steal the time machine, go back in time, and stop Sýnnefa from ever forming. All his planning had been placed in stealing the time machine, and the consequences of him failing to leave his current place in time.

He took as deep a breath he could, and choked.

"Where am I?" he croaked, quietly but hotly, trying to conceal as much panic as he could by forcing his limbs to loosen. The ocean-eyed man looked at him with a thoughtful expression on his face. He smiled brightly and looked at Red_Two as if he was the only person in the room.

"I'll tell you, I promise. But first, I want for us to do something together. We're going to count to five while breathing in for five seconds through our noses. Then, we're going to breath out for five seconds through our mouths. We're only going to do this for a few minutes. I promise. Then, I'll answer your question," the ocean-eyed man soothed, as calmly as he could, taking Red_Two's right hand, and stroking it.

He used his other hand to enunciate his exaggerated breathing motions as he sucked air into his lungs. He paused, grinned brightly, and gasped it out again, seeing Red_Two's growing half-exasperated look. "It doesn't work if I'm doing it on my own. You have to do it with me," he explained patiently, as if Red_Two was some sort of child.

Red_Two's eye twitched, but he played along. He breathed in as the ocean-eyed man did, and breathed out as he did, counting the numbers one to five in his head, quietly ignoring the fact that he didn't have to, but was doing so regardless for the ocean-eyed man.

It struck him during those few minutes that this was the first time somebody had made a promise to him with the intention to keep it. He remembered those friends, his mother promised him, that he never made in the gorge twenty years ago. He felt stupid for drawing such a comparison and placing this ocean-eyed stranger in such high esteem. He was just being nice.

It also struck him that if he could just see his injuries, he would be able to discern whether they were a consequence of the time machine, the microchip, or the lasers. It was topical, and should be easy enough to find out, particularly if he was to be questioned. Remembering the cast on his leg, he knew his injuries were varied enough that at least some questions would involve individual, specific injuries.

He jumped when the ocean-eyed man poked his hand, then gave another sunny grin. He was joined by a lady wearing stricter uniform than him and looking as if she had been transported straight out of a hospital. Red_Two noticed for the first time the door leading into the room on the wall on his right, and the giant, cliff facing window his feet pointed to.

He knew he was being erratic, and panicking, with ideas, and emotions flying everywhere in his head. He had too many goals, too many needs for a dead man. He didn't know what he was doing. He needed to stop, think, and just do something.

Her skin was dark, and she looked stern and professional, almost reminding him of somebody he had met once before. He couldn't think of a face, but a name at least with the letter 'H' sat uncomfortably at the tip of his tongue.

"My name is Dr. Linda Johnstone, Professor Emmet's colleague here. You have been asleep for two days," she said in a clipped tone, reminding him more and more of somebody he couldn't remember, and had left behind.

Red_Two looked up at her, and gulped, unsure on how to fill the silence. What was he supposed to answer her with?

"I-" he attempted to start, before shutting his mouth, unsure. He blinked a few times, readying himself. "Where am I?" he asked, trying to keep his voice as neutral as possible, to avoid angering the scary doctor.

She glanced, looking down on the ocean-eyed man, at Professor Emmet, disapprovingly and looked back at Red_Two, boring into his eyes.

"You're on the Fourth Island Military Research Facility for the Republic of Archés. The island itself is called Sýnnefa."

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