This was my third NaNoWriMo and my first ‘failure’. I didn’t manage to spew 50,000 words last month. Regardless, I like this story better than my two ‘successes’. I’ll keep plugging. In this installment, we have elevators and fish tanks. How exciting.
Featured image from: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/moray-eel/
“I still think I should go in.”
“Why so jumpy?”
“Umm. Well. It’s possible the government might have had a hand in designing security for the place.”
Persephone gave him a cold glare. Her computer contact hadn’t turned up that piece of information. “And you’re only just mentioning this?”
“Hey. I told you the government was sponsoring their racing team.”
“I could have figured that out by the decals on their damn cars. You should have given me everything you had after I agreed to take the case. What do you know?”
“Well, one of our contacts said to look out for the guard dogs.”
“Dogs? Seriously.” Persephone had her cameras trained on the eXime compound for the past week in an effort to see if there was any kind of roving security force. Behind that wall there were two buildings, the larger a manufacturing facility and the smaller an office tower, separated by a courtyard. She’d used drones to give her top-down coverage of the compound and had set them up to run all night. After dark, the drones recorded nothing moving in the courtyard except the slow trickle of the mud fountain. Those had grown in popularity and were now pretty common in civic and business buildings across the city. You could purchase them inoculated with many different colors of algae. The eXime one was a vivid turquoise blue. Not that that would matter in the dark.
“Well, I got the impression that the word dog was in air quotes. Some kind of animal. eXBioform is the parent company after all. Probably something derived from the natural fauna.”
Persephone relaxed. There were only three broad classifications of native fauna none of which got any bigger than your average squirrel. There were arthropods (30 species and counting), tube fish (10 species) and mud flat worms (90 species). There were rats of course but they were an import. They’d stepped off the ships with the first Old Sol colonists and were in the process of eating their way through much of the local life forms. In that respect, they were less picky than many of the colonists, excluding Mr. Adams of course.
“I’ll just have to work fast. I won’t be spending much time outside anyway. It’s unlikely they’ll let their guard beasts roam around the inside of the office building.”
“It’s just that I know you prefer to work unarmed and….”
Persephone cut him off. “I’ve survived this long . Don’t you think, I…” She was sliding then and ended up pitching into Arch’s shoulder. He’d taken a corner a bit too fast and the treads had barely caught. Persephone straightened up and cleared her throat. “Easy there. Looks like I’m more likely to get injured in this car than in the eXime compound.” She shot Arch a quick look.
He seemed to be concentrating on the road, but his right arm was resting lightly on the back of Persephone’s seat. He gave her shoulder an awkward pat, pulled his arm back, and stopped the car.
“Anything you want to tell me before I go?” She inquired. “I mean about their security.” Anything non job related could wait. Or better yet, never get mentioned.
Arch shrugged. “Just don’t get hurt. Okay?”
“Done.” She slid out of the car, pulled her goggles back into place and strode for the gate. Mr. Adam’s badge got her through without a hitch and she stepped into the courtyard. There was a spot-light on the fountain, but it was easy enough to skirt the lighted area. The fabrication facility loomed on her right with the office tower across the courtyard. She could keep in the shadows of the factory building and work her way across the open space without getting anywhere near the fountain. She was halfway across the courtyard, when a light flicked on in the manufacturing wing. It was shining from a small window in the warehouse wall. It cast a hazy orange pool of light against the side of the building and turned the raindrops into a silver curtain. She froze trapped between the new light source and the spot-lit fountain. She opted to keep moving along the warehouse wall. Someone might be working late, but they’d need to be looking straight down from that window in order to see her. If she moved away from the wall, she’d be an easier target. She cautiously stepped into the light from the window and was relieved when no one cried an alarm. No rent-a-cops, no ‘dogs’. Five strides later, she was stepping back into the shadows when she heard a scream. It came from the lighted window, trailed off into a guttural whimper and then fell silent.
Her earpiece crackled, “Tell me that wasn’t you,” Arch demanded.
“Get off the line. I’m trying to listen.” She snapped. Shortly after the scream she’d heard a sloshing noise from the fountain. She looked back and forth between the window and the center of the courtyard trying to decide what sound deserved her immediate attention. Screaming was more ominous than sloshing so she opted for the window. She fired a grapnel up the side of the manufacturing wing and hoisted herself up to the level of the window. Her stolen uniform was sopping wet and felt like an anchor. Poor Mr. Adams. Apparently, the cheap bastards hadn’t bothered with water resistant material. That meant the company deserved to get broken into.
She was looking down into a large space filled with machinery and the partially assembled chassis of one of the H-craft. A more complete model rested at the end of the assembly line, it’s hood popped. There was a woman down there, and another figure, man or woman lying at her feet. The woman tossed something into the engine compartment and then slammed the hood closed. The machine rose from the ground, jerked a few time and then subsided.
Arch’s voice tickled her ear again. “I’ve seen her at the track. One of the eXime drivers. Myra Holloway. No one else has hair like that.” The woman’s head was covered by an amazing mane of bunt orange curls. “What the hell is she doing?”
“Damned if I know, but that guy on the floor isn’t moving.” The driver left the guy lying there and walked over to the wall. She flicked a switch and the lights went out.
Persephone strained to listen, but no more unusual sounds came from the warehouse or the fountain. She let herself drop back to the ground and moved quickly towards the office building. She didn’t want to be caught out in the courtyard in case Ariadne or anyone else came out.
“Whatever it was, we got it on tape. I’m going into the office tower now.” She wasn’t sure why, but narrating her thoughts to Arch made her feel better. Her key card worked on the office door, and she mouthed a silent ‘thank-you’ to the absent Mr. Adams.
Once she was inside, she brought up a map of the office tower on her goggles. It was a construction schematic so she knew where the rooms were, she just didn’t know what they were. This was the part of the plan where things got dicey. The part where careful surveillance of the exterior of the building was no help anymore. Were there access checkpoints inside the building? Security cameras? Armed guards? And where precisely would the eXime execs keep their top secret blue prints? Would they be digital or hard copy. It would be prudent of them to have both considering the unreliable nature of the colony power supply. She decided to start at the top and work her way down.
The first floor was just lobby space containing an unstaffed information desk. Signs indicated the direction of bathrooms and the elevator. She scanned the walls for cameras, saw a few red lights. The front door was being monitored and the elevator, but with any luck they wouldn’t notice that her uniform didn’t fit. She shuffled across the lobby water oozing from her pant legs, and waited for the elevator.
The building had six floors, the top was card access. She swiped her badge, but the button didn’t light up. Crap. Apparently, the executive suites had executive janitors. She punched in floors one through four and glanced out at each one as she rode up. It was all lab space packed with refrigerators, freezers, shakers, bakers and candle stick makers? She really wasn’t sure what half the stuff was. One thing was clear though, eXime had cornered the market on fish tanks. They were full of liquid silt, pretty much the same stuff that covered the planet. The tanks on floor four all had elaborate lid assemblies, with a turn crank and a claw like locking mechanism.
“You getting this?” Persephone whispered.
“Yeah. Weird, but they are an exBioform spin off.”
“Should I check one?” She tapped the glass on one of the sealed tanks. The silt swirled and then something inside smashed against the glass. Persephone jumped back.
“That was big,” She muttered.
“Just see what’s upstairs,” Arch advised.
“Great idea. Fantastic.” Persephone grabbed a lab stool and backed away from the tank. She punched the elevator button and went in with the stool when the car arrived. She barely glanced at the fifth floor. It was a cubicle farm. Desks, some antiquated computers, a pair of ethanol back-up generators. Apparently, eXime didn’t want to be caught flat-footed during a brown-out.
“I’m going up to the sixth floor.”
“How?” Arch queried.
“Watch and learn.”
Persephone didn’t bother punching a floor. She just let the doors close and then considered the roof. The elevator wasn’t metal, of course. She had a ceramic and glass cutter, the thing that had let her into the janitor’s apartment. In this case, she’d have to cut a hatch big enough for her to crawl through. She stood on the stool, etched a rectangle in the roof and punched it. It didn’t budge. She ran the etcher around a second time and smacked again. Her improvised hatch popped out and she pulled herself out into the elevator shaft.
“Persephone. Guy in a uniform like yours just went through the gate.”