I’ll admit, I may have blacked out shortly after jumping off the side of the building. Although I was terrified at the idea of heading from building to building at top speed, I find the reality much worse. Instead of speeding to my destination, I’m moving at more of a crawl. I could easily run faster than this, probably walk, meaning my long distance flight toward the Hancock Tower is also a long-enduring one. I’m hanging with my face toward the ground, which is at least fifty feet below me, probably much more.
I twist to look back and find the post I started from is growing taller. The cable rises toward the sky. It goes up quickly, several stories, and the speed in which I hurtle increases greatly in response.
I’m now careening toward the glassy building, aimed directly at the center section, between the two glassy halves. As I get closer to the tower, I’m also getting closer to the buildings which separate us. My feet nearly graze the far corner of the building across the street from The Hancock.
I can’t help but notice my velocity doesn’t seem to be slowing as the building gets closer. I close my eyes as impact seems imminent, picturing myself as nothing more than a splattered bug against the dark glass windows which line this inner segment of Miss Nile’s monolith.
Finally, at the very last moment possible, my speed slows greatly until I feel myself bounce lightly off of something firm but soft.
I cautiously open my eyes and look down at the ground beneath me to find I’m mere inches away from blue foam mats in the interior of a rather small room. I look back along the cable which carried me here and see this room has an opened wall where the rest of the building would have glass windows. The blue mats of the room must have made this area appear to have the same glassy substance on the exterior.
I press the button situated directly in the center of the harness and fall to the floor, gasping for breath. I hadn’t realized I had been holding it for the entire flight.
Clasping myself as I roll from side to side, I can’t help but feel overjoyed I made it. I’m inside the very building I wanted to get inside of. The building I should never have been able to enter. The building no one should be able to enter.
I’m in it. And for the first time in a long time, it feels as though I’m going to be able to win. I’m going to finish this run.
And I’m going to be able to save this country from a mad woman. Although to be honest, I’m more interested in completing my run than the other stuff.
I stand and walk to the edge of the building, to the opening I had entered through, and look down. I’d guess I’m about ten stories up. Directly below the window is a ledge covered in air conditioners and other forms of large equipment I can’t identify. I believe that’s the section which is crammed between the two tall tower segments.
I turn around and take inventory of the room I’ve found myself in. Outside of the end of the zip line and the blue padding which covers everything, there seems to be very little of use. There is a door on the other side. I feel hesitant to enter the building that way. Who’s to say Miss Nile or her henchmen aren’t waiting on the other side for someone as stupid as me to choose to use this entrance?
I find it difficult to resist the urge to turn on my earpiece and check in with The Geek. Surely he’d have some clue of what to do, now that I’ve made it inside. Of course, he could be in the grips of the very people I don’t want knowing I’m here, which makes contacting him a very bad idea.
Besides, who’s to say he’s even got his in his ear anymore?
I decide to turn the device on, but keep from attempting to contact him. At least be able to warn me if he knows something I don’t.
The only options available for me right now are to either go through the door in front of me and hope I find something useful and not a trap on the other side, or go out the window and climb through air conditioning ducts, hoping I can find some way to use them to climb up the next fifty stories to the top of this building.
Given those are my only two options and something about the dark confines of an air duct hundreds of feet up in the air doesn’t appeal to me, my decision becomes an awful lot easier.
I walk to the door, turn the knob, and push it open.
Stepping through, I find myself in a large open hallway. Light comes in through the great big glass exterior. In the center of the hall is what appears to be an area separated for office space, but out here are potted plants, benches, and carpet. And a ceiling ten feet up.
It’s kind of nice, almost the kind of place I could picture myself working when I get my government-sanctioned job.
Of course, there’s no longer one of those in my future. Becoming public enemy number one has pretty well jeopardized any possibility of career placement for this guy.
I slowly amble around the room, seeing no signs of life, no signs of activity, no signs of anything within the desks and cubicles of the nearby offices. There is a door like the one I exited through on each side of the building. They are all locked, even the one I had just used.
As far as I can see, there is no way off this floor. No stairs, no elevator, nothing.
Unless, of course, they are hiding in the center, the area I’d really rather not have anything to do with.
After walking the circle around the offices six times, I finally come to the conclusion no one is inside and make my way to the glass door which allows entrance.
Although yes, there are definitely chairs and desks and other office-like accoutrements, I see nothing which would resemble work anywhere. There are no computers, no paper, no pens, no office supplies whatsoever. It’s almost as though this has been set up to resemble an office, although no one has moved in.
For a building this big, with as many important people within as I’ve been told are in here, it seems odd there would be an entire floor without tenants. And if it’s truly unoccupied, it seems weird to me they’ve kept this floor as neatly managed as it is. Back home, I’m sure they would have turned it into something of a storage facility, housing all the things everyone on the other floors no longer wanted, but also didn’t want to get rid of. Of course, what do I know about building management? I’m a smuggler, right?
Walking directly toward the center, I find four sets of elevator doors. None of the four show themselves as currently being in use. That’s not too odd, I guess, seeing as it’s probable the sanctioned travel time is over. I hadn’t looked at the street closely enough as I made my way above it.
It still strikes me as odd.
I decide to use the stairs, hidden behind the door on the far wall of the room. The elevators are probably a dangerous choice, given how easy it is to see they’re being used.
I go up two flights and reach the next floor, marked ‘11’ on the exterior of the door. I pull it open, the sound of the hinges creaking echoes through the stairwell. I peek my head through the open door and find a similar, albeit much starker, version of the same room from below. There are still four sets of elevator doors, but this time, there’s no paint on the walls, only exposed drywall.
I cautiously step into the room, keeping my ear aware of any noises which might indicate I could be spotted.
From my location outside of the stairwell, I have a clear view to the glass exterior of the building. All I can see along the way are square columns, again covered only in drywall, no paint.
I walk out of the elevator room and find the entire floor is nothing but columns, drywall, and plywood covering the floors. It’s almost as if whoever was working on this part of the building stopped mid-work and went out to lunch. But this building has been here for years, hasn’t it? Or has it?
Maybe it’s new. That would make sense.
I turn around and face the stairwell again, finding myself tempted to enter the elevators and get this over with. Something about an empty tower which has an evil mastermind at the top seems too creepy to go through slowly.
I decide, instead, to allow myself more time to think and reenter the stairway, once again climbing the two flights before exiting onto floor twelve.
This floor is exactly the same as eleven. There is nothing to mark there has ever been any use for this floor at all, except to hold up the ones above it. I go up another floor to thirteen and find this one doesn’t even have the drywall. Two by fours barely hide the steel infrastructure of this building, and my heart barely hides inside my chest as I become aware of how little there is currently keeping me up these hundreds of feet from the ground.
Again I turn and look longingly at the elevators. Maybe if I run up a few more floors. Maybe then I’ll find someone or something.
I bound up the steps quickly, skipping every third one, and finally decide to exit at floor twenty, ten floors above where I had entered. I step out the door to the stairwell, completely out of breath, and find myself in a room which looks exactly like the one I found on floor ten. Fancily stained wood molding, beautiful carpet, a nice drop ceiling. Everything one would expect in a higher end office environment. Except the people. Or the equipment.
I collapse at the wall between two of the elevator doors and become taken with how this building is so quiet. I don’t hear running water, moving objects, absolutely no white noise at all. If I were any less certain there were people still in existence in this world outside of me, I would have decided the rapture had come and gone and I was somehow not one of the chosen. Me, Cyrus Rhodes, symbol to the rebellion, heir to the Golden Dawn, and brother to the kid who ruined everything. Not good enough for a little old rapture.
Then I feel it. At first it’s nothing more than a faint shiver along my spine, but it quickly grows and grows. The wall behind me, it’s barely there, but I can feel it moving. I can hear it moving. In the absolute silence of this tower, the sound of the elevator climbing toward me is as good as deafening.
I run deeper into the office and hide under a desk. Perhaps they’ve found me. Maybe there were some cameras I hadn’t noticed. Maybe they are tracking my ear piece.
All I know is I am alone here on this empty floor of an empty tower, and someone is finally coming to find me.
At least, that’s what I realize I hope is happening.
Ten minutes pass and the doors never open. I readjust my position to get a better view of the elevators and wait for another ten minutes. Nothing happens.
Had I imagined it? Was it really a false hope I might find something within this empty shell?
In a fit of desperation, I jump out of my hiding place, run to the elevator doors, and push the call button labeled with an arrow pointing up. It lights up and I immediately regret my decision.
Now they definitely know I’m here.
Go to Chapter Thirty-Two