Tag Archives: elevator

Episode 145: Document Delivery

Mister Mayfair heard the polite cough of Julianna Dawes, the latest administrative assistant to be granted a position working for his division of BristleCorp’s Pando Project. He looked up from his desk and saw the orange-skinned human holding up a document.

“A message for you, Mister Mayfair. It wasn’t marked as urgent, but I took the liberty of treating it as such.”

Mayfair held up a finger and quickly finished scanning the document he was working on. He noted the pertinent corrections onto the context-sensitive interface of his desk and turned to face Dawes.

“Good timing. I have a few minutes here. What’s the issue?”

“You’re familiar with the Dyson Empire’s attacks within the system?”

“It’s hard not to be. Brilliant light show. Our building should be safe from most incidental damages likely to occur in a battle of this sort.”

“Emperor Dyson’s Herald has sent a list of demands to the rulers of Veskid,” said Dawes, handing the document to Mayfair. “It seems that we were included on that list?”

“Oh?” said Mayfair, taking the document and reading it. “That doesn’t make sense. We’re not the only… oh.”

Mayfair read the document, a single piece of paper with text filling only two-thirds of its available space. It had been years since Mayfair had misread something on a document of this nature, but he read it three times just to be certain.

“This can’t be accurate. Surely any reasonable person would know that we can’t do this.”

“Harold Zamona seems to believe that we can.”

“Well, let him know that he’s wrong,” said Mayfair, pushing the document away and onto his desk, where its contents were quickly scanned, registered, and filed away. “Even if we ignored the incredible cost and the unimaginable impact on local economy, we simply don’t have the authority.”

“I know, sir,” said Dawes.

Mayfair drummed the top of his desk.

“Right. Here’s what we do: nothing. We don’t respond, we don’t acknowledge, and we don’t activate. In two hours, remand all employees with a Rho classification or higher to a protective facility unless they have proper clearance to ignore you for this kind of order and choose to ignore you, they should know what they’re doing. Include yourself in this list if you wish, or just take the rest of the day off if you’d prefer. In the event of my death, I have a pre-written letter of recommendation on file for you.”

“Thank you, sir, though it’s hard to imagine working anywhere other than BristleCorp.”

“Good, we might have some career vacancies in the near future. I’m going to call some of my counterparts and let them know what’s happening.”

“Good luck, sir.”

Dawes nodded, turned, and walked for the door of the office while Mayfair reached under his desk. The helmet resembled an old fashioned sky divers helmet, though the interface was decidedly modern. Mayfair lowered the headgear onto his head until it obscured his eyes.

“Conference Call,” he said. “Urgency Level Two.”

Much earlier, on another world…

Zack’s room was as tiny as the rooms in the hotel came, which was still more spacious than the kinds of places he liked working. He shuffled through the documents in for the next DMA assignment, a case involving two sects of different religious groups that had monasteries close enough to each other that one was blaming the other for a series of unfortunate ‘accidents’ that had been increasing in number, one including a death. He kept an older style clock on the nightstand near his bed, one that would tick and remind him of the passing time, since he knew that he had to make it to the space port in order to get through security.

He slid the final documents that would help the case into the green folder, and pushed the folder itself into his new briefcase, a parting gift from Azar. He’d withdrawn his support of Azar’s anonymous case from the Desperate Measures Agency at Azar’s request, marking the case as “complete”, a generic enough description that was accurate enough without giving anything away. Azar would continue paying him personally and had even offered to pay what he’d been paying the Agency, meaning that Zack would be getting a raise now that the DMA wouldn’t be taking its percentage off the top.

Zack turned his attention to the second folder, the red folder. Despite the color of the dyes, Zack noted that the folders had actually been made from abacá when he purchased them, making them genuine manila folders, an extra expense he was willing to spring for. The red folder involved notes from his case with Azar, including some predictive strategies for reacting to likely eventualities while he was gone. He checked it to make sure that everything was in order, sighed, and closed it. Taking a pen, he wrote the word “Eclipse” on the top of the folder so that he could refer to the plans by shorthand in the future without giving away too much of the contents of the documents.

He donned his coat and his hat, grabbed the briefcase and the red folder, and left. He’d decided it would be best to part ways without drawing much attention to it, so he had said his goodbyes to Azar and Harold the previous night. This didn’t stop him from passing Azar’s door on the way to the elevators, though, and as he moved in front of the door he carefully slid the red folder beneath it.

His business concluded, he walked to the elevator. The early hour meant he hadn’t seen a soul since leaving his room, and the bellhop carrying the suitcase inside the elevator was almost startling. He recovered quickly and tipped his hat to the bellhop as he entered the elevator, and the bellhop gave a friendly salute in return.

“Going down?” asked Zack.

“No, but we can head down first. We’ve got an early arrival, but I don’t think they’ll be finished checking in for a few minutes yet, so I’ve got the time.”

“Thanks, pal,” said Zack as the doors closed. He pushed the down button and felt the shift in inertia as it began to descend. “Thanks for the attention to detail while I’ve been here, by the by. This company’s a real tight ship.”

“We aim to please. I take it you’re leaving then?”

“Yeah,” said Zack. “I’ve got a plane to catch.”

“Not a ship?”

“No, I’m leaving the spaceport by plane. They have some small charter ones if you’re just going elsewhere on the world.”

“You sure you want to do that?” asked the Bellhop. “I’ve heard that outside the parts that are dedicated to tourism this world can be a little rough.”

Zack grinned as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open.

“What can I say?” he said, stepping into the lobby. “Duty calls.”

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Episode 45: Heat Of The Moment

Zack peered around the corner and watched Murk’s two stone men rush at Igneous, and watched Igneous grab the arm of the closest one, twisting its arm and spinning it about to act as a human shield, an act that prevented the second from tackling her. Zack winced and pulled his head back around the corner. Chip and Hobbar stood right behind him, looking worried. Zack wasn’t sure why, but seeing the hacker unsettled made him happy.

“Do you think she’ll be able to handle them?”

“If none of the humans or Murk join the fight, absolutely,” said Zack. “They’ve got a numbers advantage, but she’s got the kind of experience that’d put a drill sergeant’s boot camp out of business for five years if it could be bottled and sold to new recruits. Murk and company’ll be coming around this corner any moment now. Does this other hallway have any exits?”

“I don’t know,” said Chip.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I really don’t know! I was here once, and I went straight from those elevators to the cells and back.”

“We need to move, and now,” said Hobbar, looking around the corner. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get those guys into the cells like we did with the guy downstairs.”

“Right,” said Zack. “This way, Chip. If I’m lucky, you’ll make it out of here in one piece.”

***

Igneous watched the human guards rushing around the corner, and hoped that Zack would be able to handle everything coming his way. She grabbed the fist of one of her assailants to block his strike, and spun him into the other, causing the two to crash into the wall. She noticed that Jen was crawling away from the combat, toward the elevator behind Murk. Igneous was already starting to breathe heavily, and the orange and red glow from behind her eyes and the cracks in her skin increased along with her breathing. These two had clearly never practiced combat as a discipline, and lacked the field experience that might make up for it, but if they were smart about it they might be able to outlast her. The two regained their feet, faster than Igneous had hoped for, but unsteadily enough that she felt she still had a chance.

“I don’t have to handle this myself, do I?” asked Murk, flowing closer to the combat, growing slimmer and taller as he neared. “With what I pay the two of you, I’d hope that you could incapacitate a single mercenary without requiring my assistance.”

“Try it,” said Igneous, keeping an eye on the two rock men as they tried to circle her. “These two’ve at least picked up a few brawling techniques from the back alleys, but from what I remember you don’t even have that.”

“My people don’t need to learn to fight,” said Murk. “To touch us is to feel our wrath, and to engage us is to take the first step toward being enveloped.”

“Then all those combat classes I took when I was your age must not have given me any advantages over the years,” said Igneous. “Clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing out here.”

One of the rock men lunged, and Igneous grabbed it, using her attacker’s momentum and her own raw strength to launch the him into the opponent on her other side. The two hit the ground and looked up in time to see the cloudy expression intensify on Murk’s face.

“Fine, then,” said Murk. “I’ll drown you, and errode you away, and leave whatever might remain as a warning to future DMA members who think they can charge into my home or operate in Helix without my say so.”

***

Fletch lifted the entry hatch of the elevator and dropped into its cab. A magnetic key unscrewed the maintenance panel and allowed her to disable the elevator’s chime with the pull of a single wire. A button push later and the door silently slid open.

She witnessed Murk, the undisputed ruler of Helix’s criminal underworld, forming into a wall of purple and blue liquid, a liquid that almost prevented her from seeing Igneous on the other side. The wall rushed and rolled at Igneous like a wave, one designed to flow upon and easily entrap anything it encountered.

Fletch calculated the value of Igneous to her endeavors and relative use to DMA projects that involved her, and the worth of Murk. She reached for a pistol at her tech suit’s belt, one loaded with one of the two doses of Teles. She stopped reaching for it when the wall touched Igneous, sizzled, and recoiled.

Murk reformed into a more familiar version of himself, and came as close as he could to falling onto his back in surprise.

“How are you that hot?” he asked. “How… how are you alive? You should have either died or moved on to your metamorphosis by now!”

“Funny thing about all that combat studying I did,” said Igneous. “It taught me a few things about balance. Physical, emotional, mental… you’re right that I’m well overdue for your average Pyrhian, but I’ve got more than enough fight in me to burn you away. Or evaporate you. Whatever it is you do.”

Murk washed backward, toward the elevator.

“Now, you keep your hands off me.”

“Why?” asked Igneous. “I thought to touch you was to feel your wrath. Will your wrath not keep you cool? Hey, at least your guards here don’t seem to mind the heat. I should probably thank them, really, for the warm up before you entered the ring. What say you call them off, and the guards chasing Gamma, and I won’t finish the job.”

Murk took a moment and nodded to the two guards. They regained their feet slowly. Igneous looked beyond Murk and saw Jen sitting in front of one elevator and Fletch of all people stepping out of another.

“Sounds like you found your friend,” said Fletch. “Glad to hear that I came to the right building. When I saw the wind prophet, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to piece together the location properly.”

“I was worried that’d happen,” said Igneous.

“Don’t be too sad,” said Fletch. “You may still get your Teles if I find Gamma.”

Murk stared at the new intruder, not sure what was happening. Fletch glared at him when she noticed.

“I think my stony friend just told you to call your guards off from pursuing Zack Gamma. Get on that.”

Episode 41: Hacker’s Recollection

Carmen had half-expected to hear klaxon alarms and the thundering footsteps of guards around every corner, but the facility apparently lacked the large staff or intricate security systems that media had led her to expect. At one point, two frantic looking humans in suits ran down a hallway while she hid behind a disused aquarium in an open supply room, but hadn’t otherwise seen any signs of people looking for her.

She wasn’t sure what she’d missed by choosing not to follow the Phantom Matador’s directions, but the path she’d taken had been a long one through a mostly linear set of halls. She’d considered hiding in each and every room she came to to make sure that the coast was clear every few feet, but dismissed the idea as ridiculous and a waste of time. Just when she was beginning to feel that she was going in a circle, she turned a corner and saw two elevators set into the wall. She ran to them and pushed the Up button before beginning the tiresome process of waiting. Finally she heard the elevator chime and saw its doors glide open.

A rapid set of footfalls echoed from around the corner and she winced, worried that the sound of the elevator had attracted attention. She jumped into the elevator and pushed the button to close the door.

Moments later, a second chime was heard in the hallway as the second elevator’s doors opened. Zack, Chip and Hobbar quickly stepped out of the tiny elevator, giving Igneous the space needed to slowly extract herself from the human-sized doors. Two people in suits ran around the corner and stared in surprise at the four of them.

“Hey!” shouted one of the two men. Zack tensed and reached for his pistol.

“They’re with me!” shouted Chip, pushing his way ahead of Zack.

The two men paused, unsure.

“Who are you?” asked one.

“I’m Chip,” he said. “Chip Creep.”

The two stared.

“I work with Murk. I’m an information specialist. These three are with me.”

“I think I’ve heard him mention a Chip before,” said one.

“If you have questions, just go and check the Underjungle Manifest. I’m it’s curator.”

“Oh! The Ravelar thing,” said the second. “Yeah, I know this guy. He does work for us.”

“With you,” said Chip. “Not for you.”

“Sure,” the second man. “Sorry, we heard the elevator and thought-”

“Never mind,” said Chip. “No problem. Carry on.”

Chip turned and walked toward the near end of the hall. Hobbar and Igneous quickly did likewise, followed by Zack. They soon turned the corner and Zack breathed a sigh of relief.

“A little slow on the uptake there,” said Chip.

“Sorry,” said Zack. “Felt like things were going to go south.”

“Yeah, and I would’ve either died in the crossfire, or you would’ve attracted so much attention that we’d have a firefight.”

“Thanks for not trying to pull a fast one there.”

“It wouldn’t have been practical,” said Chip, reaching a door that opened onto a flight of stairs. “Though if they actually check the Underjungle Manifest, they’ll think something’s up since there isn’t a Manifest for that project. Not one I know about. I think she’ll be down here.”

The three shorter figures entered first, allowing Igneous the chance to squeeze through the narrow door. She was glad to see that the passage quickly expanded on its way down.

“I hate it down here,” said Hobbar. “The deeper you go in a building, the fewer exits you’ll get. And I’ve been looking. There aren’t any. The farther we go here, the harder it’ll be to get out if something goes wrong.”

“What a coincidence that that’s where the cells were put,” said Chip, leading the way down. “They really lucked out on that. Truly, Murk’s money was well spent on whatever architect worked that out.”

“Look, don’t start with me,” said Hobbar. “I get jittery if there’s not a good way out.”

“We won’t have to be here long,” said Igneous. “Just long enough to get the racer since Zack’s already got everything else he needs.”

The staircase opened into a long hallway. Reinforced doors ran along one side, with a control panel for each door opposite them. Zack’s eyes shot down the hall until he saw the control panel with a different readout.

“That one,” he said. “She’s there.”

“How do you know?” asked Hobbar.

“Green readouts on the others that say they’re unlocked,” said Zack, running down the hall. “It’s the only one with a red screen. It’s locked.”

The others followed as Zack ran to the control panel. He looked at it, perplexed.

“I’ve never seen something like this before,” he said. “It’s not a standard model. Not like the others.”

“It’s custom,” said Chip. “Designed to dampen psychic capabilities as well as keep the door locked.”

“You’re sure?” asked Zack.

“Like I said, I’ve been down here exactly once,” said Chip. “I can get it open without a password.”

Zack stepped back and allowed Chip to begin working at the terminal. Chip smiled to himself. He certainly remembered adding the custom design to this particular terminal. He also remembered that Carmen wasn’t in this cell. He couldn’t wait for Zack to meet the person who was.

Episode 18: Landing Fifty-Three

Chip witnessed the car, swinging like a hammer as the leveraging force of the still-active tractor beam caused Carmen and Zack to hurtle toward the outer wall of Helix. His finger zipped to the key for Function Four on his computer, the kill switch that could have cut the power to the beam, but he stopped himself. Physics wasn’t his area of expertise, but he knew that cutting the power at this point in the arc would propel the car like a slingshot into a lower portion of the wall or the ground.

He’d already wasted precious milliseconds on that train of thought, but he already had the Helix Defense System’s interface loaded thanks to the initial tractor beam. Instead of cutting power to the first tractor beam, he pulled up the interfaces for three other tractor beams and activated them simultaneously.

Forming a roughly triangular area around the region that would have been Carmen and Zack’s vertical graveyard, the beams activated and formed a pyramid with a point just ahead of the hurtling car. The car collided with the intersection of three other tractor beams, slowing instantly. Still moving at dangerous speeds, but hopefully nonlethal ones, Chip activated Function Four and saw the initial tractor beam power down. No longer connected to the car, the spire and chunk of wall that it was connected to finished tumbling off its perch, beginning its miles-long fall down to the base of Helix. Chip breathed a sigh of relief. He’d acted in less than three seconds, but knew that it had more to do with luck than actual skill. He typed a number of commands into his interface and saw the three tractor beams awkwardly work together to resume the car’s slow pull into one of Helix’s acquisition bays.

“My fault for improving the capacitors on those things,” said Chip, collapsing into his chair. “That’ll get me to think twice the next time I upgrade something.”

***

Carmen wrestled with the hover-car’s controls one last time before pushing them away angrily. She then shrieked as the spire that had generated the initial tractor beam fall in front of her car, narrowly missing it by less than a dozen feet. She took a moment to calm herself before turning to the other passenger.

“Zack, if you could wake up sometime soon it’d be great,” she said. The detective didn’t have the resistance to heightened G-Forces that she did, and had nodded off mid-arc. She’d considered shaking him, but wasn’t actually sure if he’d be any help right now. It might be better to let him sleep it off… though once they stopped being airborne and found themselves back in Helix his knowhow could come in handy.

They were entering a chamber in the wall of Helix, some sort of storage and acquisition hangar. another tractor beam within activated when her car was close enough to the gate, allowing it to be gently brought in while the other three tractor beams released them. The airlock doors shut behind the car, quickly cycling through a series of locks designed to withstand the harshest conditions of space, a leftover from the early design era of Helix when its ability to journey from planet to planet was still a priority. The beam set their vehicle on the center of the floor, but didn’t deactivate. Carmen groaned. She had briefly hoped that she might be able to activate the car within the hangar and cause some damage that way, but her vehicle was effectively in lockdown.

Facing her through the front window, the door leading out of the chamber appeared to be a standard blast door arrangement, but modified to act as an elevator door. If the entrance to the hangar hadn’t been so menacing, the rigid efficiency enhanced by the earlier age’s architectural stylings might have been an awe-inspiring first taste of Helix for any new arrivals. Carmen noticed the numbers on the elevator ticking down toward a highlighted number fifty-three in the center of the dial, accompanied by the cycling and spinning of the blast door’s locking mechanisms.

Carmen jumped out of her chair and opened the emergency panel in the floor of the small standing area behind the driver and passenger seats. She removed the spare machinery and instruction manuals designed to make the car easily repairable in the event of a minor malfunction, and took out the first aid kit, box of rations and winter blanket loaded beneath it all.

She looked out the main window. Her ship’s external microphone picked up the noise of a gentle chime as the elevator reached the hangar door. The blast doors hadn’t finished unlocking yet, but likely wouldn’t take much longer.

Moving fast, she removed Zack’s safety harness, pulled him out of the chair, and dragged him to the emergency panel. Right before she could begin hiding him, his eyes fluttered open and he shook his head.

“What’s…?”

“Good, you’re awake,” said Carmen. “G-Forces knoacked you out. Hide yourself in here, see if you can get the blanket over you and close the emergency panel from inside. Might not fool a DMA Agent, but it’s the best I can arrange right now.”

“What?” said Zack. “Wait, the tractor beams! Carmen, did…”

“No time!” she said. “We’re alive. Someone’s coming, I’m going to buy you some time. They’re not after me, after all.”

Without waiting for another word, Carmen opened the side door and let herself out of the car. Zack looked into the uncomfortable security panel and at all the gear that needed to be packed inside.

***

Carmen reached the blast doors as they opened, revealing three people. Two of them were humans, but the tall one in the center was a Pyrhian Rock Man, a bipedal creature made of a form of living stone. A small ring of thorn-like protrusions around its head almost made it look like it was wearing a crown, and the dull orange of its eyes indicated that it probably hadn’t been long since its last metamorphosis. Carmen angrily marched to the rock man, ignoring the two humans reaching for weaponry beneath their coats.

“I don’t know what you’re up to, but no one jacks my car, especially not when I’m driving it!”

“Sorry,” said the rock man in a rumbling, gravelly voice. “We don’t want your car. We want your passenger, Zack Gamma.”

“So you’re a DMA operative, then?” asked Carmen. “Look, I don’t know why you people want him so badly, but if you want the DMA bounty you’re going to have to go through me!”

“We aren’t in the-” started the rock man. He was interrupted when Carmen lifted a hand, causing him to shoot into the air, knocking him into the ceiling. With a flick of the wrist, he rocketed from the ceiling into one of the two humans, causing him to drop his weapon. The second human stared in surprise. He tossed his phase pistol onto the ground and held his hands up.

“Smart,” said Carmen. “You people really don’t know who you’re messing with, otherwise you might not’ve opened with a Pyrhian. Now, how do I get out of here?”

“You won’t,” said the man, taking a nervous step back.

“You’d better tell me something else, and fast,” said Carmen. “Unless you’re in a real hurry to see how long you can dodge the walking pavement over there.”

“No, please!” he said. “Look, we’re not with the DMA. My boss just wants to talk to Zack Gamma while he’s in town. I sure can’t open the airlock, and there’s no place you could take the elevator that won’t have more of us! I don’t know what the boss wants, but I’m pretty sure he’s not with the DMA!”

Carmen narrowed her eyes.

“All right, let me talk this over with Zack,” said Carmen. “I’ll keep my eye on you, though… if it looks like you’re getting on a comm-link or doing anything I don’t like, I’ll try my hand at some rock and roll again. You get me?”

The rock man convulsed suddenly, and it opened its eyes. Shaking its head, it slowly rose to its feet. The man watched the unsteady Pyrhian rising before turning back to nod at Carmen.

“Good,” she said. “Tell your friend about the deal, then, and I’ll be back.”