He hit the surface of mental consciousness at full throttle, his whole body pushing up and out. His mouth ripped free of the air mask, and he felt the suffocating press of a thick membrane stretching taut across his face with the full force of every tensed muscle in his body pressing forward. Kerr crashed through the imprisoning wall of membrane. He felt twisting, sucking cords ripping from his skin even as he hit the floor in a heap of limbs and gelatinous membrane fragments. Glistening containment fluid tinged with a hint of neon blue in the low light cascaded around him. Pain shuddered through him, blacking out his vision. He felt the deceptively toothless maws of the writhing cords begin gumming at his skin, and he began scrambling out of the pile of debris before the flashing spots had fully cleared from his eyes. He felt one snake-like cord sink its mouthful of barbed hooks into the back of his right calf. The shock of pain was almost debilitating, bringing him back down to his knees. Swinging his hand blindly across the floor, he managed to grab hold of a metal bar that was lying near him.
Spinning, he jammed the end of the metal bar into the taut cord with all his might. He felt the cord sever under his hand. Cut off from the machine that powered it, the barbs retracted automatically and the mouth of the cord fell lifelessly to the floor from the back of his leg. Black inky fluid drained out onto the floor and began spreading out in an ever widening circle. A mixture of his blood and the incoming chemicals meant to disable him dripped down his leg.
Backing away, he watched intently for any other fast moving cords. When he was certain he was far enough away and it was safe to turn his back, he stood drawing in deep breaths of air and took stock of himself and his surroundings.
He was dressed only in a thin gauzy gown, the slimy fabric clinging to him in the chill air. His feet were bare. Tall tubular sacs hung suspended from the ceiling, glowing translucent from within in the dim light. The slack faces within obscured from recognition by the distortion of the sac membrane. Level 5. He looked next for the control panel hanging on the wall by the door. Green lights blinked back at him as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. No alarms. No warning alerts. Not a single yellow dot among the sea of green. He didn’t know how Tricket had managed it, but he wasn’t sticking around to take it for granted. He limped toward the door and the supply chamber he knew lay on the other side. Hopefully one of the caretakers or the scientists would have left a lab coat or a change of clothes in one of the lockers.