Ace awoke to a dark room. Her head was fuzzy and her thoughts were muddled, and she couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on. Her limbs seemed to be made of cement. Struggling, she shifted her head and looked around. The room was unfamiliar. What was going on? Where was she? Her mind tried to race, but never got off the starting block. Those two questions just seemed to repeat in her mind again and again. She tried to lift her head, but only got several inches above the pillow before collapsing back down. She heard some muffled sounds above her head, and suddenly a pinch in the crook of her elbow. Darkness swallowed her again.

Her eyes flew open. What had happened? She found she could move, and shot up into a sitting position, adrenaline coursing through her. Immediately she regretted the decision, as a wave of nausea swept over her and she heaved over the side of the bed. Her stomach was obviously empty, however, as there was nothing to throw up. Physically exhausted, she tried to remember what had happened and what was going on. Ace looked around the room, and everything seemed off. It seemed…sterile. Too clean. It had the feeling of a hotel room mixed with a hospital. She tried to remember how she got here, but no memories came. In fact, she found she had no memories of her life at all. What was going on?

“It would be wise to take things slow.” The metallic voice filled the air. Ace looked up and noticed speakers in the top corners of the room. She wanted to speak and ask what was going on. She wanted to yell, to shout, to do something. All she could muster was panting, clutching onto the side of the bed, thoroughly deprived of energy. It was maddening.

A tube descended down from a panel in the ceiling. A needle extended, jabbed her arm again, and fluid streamed through. Ace didn’t have the energy to fight. Come to think of it, she’s not certain she would if she could. She just sat and watched. Apparently there was another sedative in the fluid, because seconds later she descended into darkness, embracing sleep.

“Get up already. If I had known you were this lazy you wouldn’t have made it this far.” The voice startled her into consciousness. She lay still for a minute, not wanting to move too quickly for fear of a repeat episode. She examined her body, probing her muscles with her thoughts. She felt…good. She was hydrated and felt rested. The only thing that she could tell was off was, well, the situation. She remembered where she was, and the fight-or-flight response kicked in once again. She had to find out what was going on.

“Who are you? What is this place?” she asked, struggling to keep calm. Apparently she had medical training, as she knew that the last thing she needed was to panic. While the boost in reaction time and strength would be welcome, she needed to keep her head. This didn’t look like a situation she could try to muscle her way out of.

“So full of questions, aren’t we? The last subject I had in here didn’t say a single word. That was the most enjoyable part of her company,” the voice responded. Ace noted that there was a distinct lack of information in that answer. She began searching the room, looking for anything that might be helpful.

“Subject, you say? As in, test subject?” Ace noted the door was locked, and the rest of the room was remarkably bare.  A still life of a bowl of apples hung on the wall. There was a radio softly playing some uppity jazz number. There was a closet, but not even a rod to hang clothes on was inside. It was empty.

“Yes. You’re a little slower than the last one it seems. Also not as strong. “ Ace noted that the voice, while robotic, had a feminine tone to it.

Ace stared blankly at the speakers. “Excuse me?” she asked.

“Your muscles are not as highly strengthened as your predecessor. I thought that was clear. Get moving, we have work to do.” The voice responded. The door swung open. Ace looked around, decided there was nothing better for her in the bedroom, and walked out the door.

She was at the end of a long hallway. She walked in the only direction available and tried to gather more information while she could. “What kind of tests will you be running, anyway?”

“The same kind of tests I ran with my last subject, of course,” the voice replied. “There is one marked difference, however. This time, you don’t have the hydraulic braces to absorb the impact of falling. It will be interesting to see how your fragile body handles the strain that will be placed on it. My hypothesis will be that both of your femurs will snap and you’ll lie until you die, but I have previously been mistaken about the tenacity of humans. We’ll see how you work.”

Ace swallowed hard. Falling from places high enough to shatter bones was not her idea of a good time, to put it mildly. She needed to find a way out of here, and fast. She got to the end of the hallway and a panel opened to her right. She wandered in.  It opened into a large circular room, brightly lit in a washed out sterile white, with a pedestal in the center. On the pedestal sat a strange looking gun. Cautiously, she reached out her hand and touched it.

A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air and Ace leapt backwards, suddenly on full alert. The scream ceased and the robot voice began laughing hysterically. “You humans are highly amusing,” she stated. “Pick it up. It’s what we’re testing with. You really ARE slower than my last subject.”

Ace picked up the gun, hefting it in her hands. It was lighter than it looked. “What is this thing, anyway?” She found that in each grip was a trigger. Pointing it at a wall, she squeezed the one resting by her right hand. An orange glob shot from the muzzle and splattered on the wall, creating a translucent orange oval.

“It’s a portal gun. I would recite the technical specifics of its effects, but based on the lack of intelligence you’ve shown you would understand very little. In short, you make portals that you can freely move through, allowing you to reach previously unattainable areas, to say nothing of previously unattainable speeds.”

Upon pressing the other trigger, Ace found it was somehow true. She could walk through a portal on one wall and appear behind where she stood, walking from the other wall. She could see the back of her head! And, ew. Was that really what her hair looked like from the back? She would need to have a word with her stylist when she got out.

“Ah. A mirror to see the back of your head. How original,” the voice quipped. “The last subject liked to create an infinite loop where she could fall from the portal in the ceiling to the one in the floor. She though terminal velocity was entertaining. Of course, I would advise against doing so yourself. The leg braces she had prevented any harm from happening to her, but I’m sure every bone in your body would shatter on impact if you tried the same stunt.” Ace grimaced. It was right. “Naturally, I suppose this is going to be the end result of these tests anyway, so if you’d like you can go ahead and get it out of the way right now.”

Thinking better of it, Ace walked towards the doorway in the far side of the room.  She entered a huge area, with a ceiling 50 feet above her head and the place at least twice as wide. There were glass walls everywhere, giving her a view of everything but obviously showing her she couldn’t reach it. There was also a second story of catwalks above her. She studied the room for a while.

“This test is simple. It will test your ability to figure out that the giant red button on the floor opens the door. Oh no, now I’ve spoiled the test for you. That was sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell,” the voice echoed in the chamber. “Of course, based on your IQ, it may have been interesting to see just how long it would have taken you to figure it out. And one last thing: if you don’t break your legs in this test chamber, it will be a profound leap for science, as your bones will of a necessity be made of steel.”

Ace continued to look around. She didn’t even see a red button. Maybe up on the catwalks? But…how? Studying the room, she shot a blue shot at a glass wall. It splattered and fizzled. Ace frowned. She looked around, shooting every surface possible. Quickly learning that only certain surfaces support the portal, she finally wound up on the catwalks.

There!  The button was directly in front of her. Ace went and stepped on it, and a door on the far side of the room opened – on the bottom floor. She turned around and noticed that her portal was gone. The surface that her portal had attached to had been covered by a glass wall. She would have to find another way down. Looking over the edge, she saw the ground…after a long drop. There was still her fuzzy blue oval on the surface directly below her. She just needed to find another surface to ensure her life continued. She couldn’t exactly just quit the test. Especially up here on the catwalk.

She spotted something and got an idea. The voice laughed as she readied herself, gripping the handrail with one hand. Closing her eyes, Ace whispered a three count and then launched herself from the catwalk, plummeting toward the blue oval. The floor rushed at her, and she gripped her portal gun. Suddenly she twisted, steadied her arm, and fired at a surface on a wall, just above ground level. The orange goop shot toward the wall, but Ace was still screaming toward the ground. She closed her eyes and fought every impulse to brace her body, as she knew she needed to absorb as much impact as possible.

The orange glob connected just before Ace hit the ground. Her vertical momentum was suddenly horizontal, and Ace sprawled across the ground, tucking and trying as best as she could to turn her furious bouncing in to a tuck and roll. She came to a rest and lay there, waiting, assessing the damage to her body. Ace could tell she was bruised and battered, but no intense pain signified that her vitals and bones were still intact. She stiffly got to her feet, nursing her wounded body, and staggered over to her portal gun. Stooping to pick it up, she wondered how many of these tests she would need to endure before she found a way to escape. Dragging herself to the door, she saw a room with a staircase leading to an elevator. She sighed, stepped on and turned around, gripping the gun tightly.

“This will be interesting,” the disembodied voice commented.

Ace couldn’t help but agree as the elevator ascended into darkness.