The Machinist

Gunfire pulled Avery from a doze. He shifted, sitting up as best as he could within the scant room his chains allowed him. The shots were distant, but coming closer with each passing second. Avery considered himself something of an expert on guns. He closed his eyes, blocking out the miniscule light that seeped in from the crack at the bottom of his cell door, and listened. Each type of gun had a unique sound. It was hard to mistake the crack of a rifle for the boom of a heavy pistol. The volume and tone of the shot told him the caliber and the length of the barrel. In general, shorter barrels made louder shots. The amount of time between shots told him the type of gun. Faster meant automatic, slow meant single-shot.

The closest gunfire likely came from his guards and their modest six-shooters. Their shots were messy and sporadic. They weren't very good, though they'd been good enough to capture him. The approaching shooters fired in steady bursts. There was a rhythm to the way they shot that screamed practiced military maneuvers. They were also better equipped. He could make out the steady bang-bang of several semi-automatic pistols, intermixed with the louder thud from a shotgun or rifle. Whoever they were, they were definitely heading towards Avery's cell. He wondered who else was trapped here. He certainly hadn't heard any other doors open recently, but there had to be someone important imprisoned in the cells to warrant that large scale of a rescue. Maybe if he was lucky, they'd let him out, too, and he could run far away from this ridiculous colony and its barbaric ideas about the rights of a machinist.

A man screamed just outside his doorway. He heard two thumps, and then the gunfire ceased. His guards were dead. Faint voices filtered through the heavy metal door. There was a soft shuffling, as if something heavy was being dragged away. Keys jingled. Avery jumped as the lock on his door clicked open. He turned his head to the side and squeezed his eyes shut as light brighter than what he was used to momentarily flooded the cell. Three thick figures stepped through the doorway, blocking most of the light. He squinted in their direction.

"Are you the machinist?" The center figure spoke with a commanding tone. He was taller than the other two and thicker in a way that suggested an excess of muscles.

Avery licked his lips. His voice cracked. It'd been far too long since they'd last given him anything to drink. "I'm a machinist." He wasn't sure if he wanted to be the machinist they were looking for, though dealing with them had to be better than how he'd been treated at this colony.

"Take him." That answered his question.

The two flanking men moved forward. They wore black uniforms heavily geared towards combat. Their long-sleeved, black shirts were covered by black tactical vests. There was an excess of pockets on their pants, which bulged with what Avery assumed was ammo and other deadly instruments. Each carried a wickedly curved knife strapped to their leg and a pair of pistols holstered at their hips. Night-vision goggles hung around their necks. They passed a ring of keys between them as they unlocked his manacles, and then replaced them with an equally strong grip on his arms. Any protest Avery would have issued was forgotten as they hauled him to his feet. He swayed and would have fallen on his face if not for their hold.

His legs took a few minutes to reacquaint themselves with walking. He was dragged forward, his feet scraping against the stone floor as his captors brought him before their leader. The man was handsome in a rugged sort of way. His face was chiseled, with an expression that matched: hard and cold, without any hint of a smile. He wore the same sort of uniform as the others, though his guns were in considerably better repair. His black hair was sprinkled with grey on the sides. Avery guessed him to be nearly twice Avery's age and twice as fit.

The man frowned at him and gave Avery a once over at the same time as Avery was observing him. He probably expected someone a bit older and less gangly. Avery opened his mouth to ask for introductions, but the man was already turning away. His guards followed. As they stepped out into the hallway, the rest of the rescue party became visible. There were two men flanking the doorway, and another pair at either end of the hallway, keeping watch. They seemed to have a decent idea of where they were going—better than Avery did—as they moved through the halls without hesitation. Bullet-ridden bodies littered the sides of the hallway, which explained the lack of resistance as they made their way out.

A flash of brown caught Avery's eye as they passed an open room.

"Wait." He jerked backwards, out of his captors' hold. He made it two steps towards the door before a hand on the back of his collar brought him to a halt. Four guns were pointed in his direction, though they were far less frightening than the scowl the leader aimed at him.

Avery smiled, hoping his good looks and charm would soften the man's demeanor. It didn't. "I just want my bag."