Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 04 - "Tranz-D"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Max meets the cleaning drones

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-10-12 - Updated: 2008-10-12 - 940 words - Complete

Max didn’t have to walk around more than a couple bends before Justin’s trail began to deteriorate beyond his tracking abilities. He was beginning to wish he had grabbed his boots— what was left of them— before he jumped in after Justin. The cold metal floor of this place was numbing his bare feet with every step.

As he stood at the current junction, he found himself staring at the doors that lined the halls. At least he assumed they were doors. They were the right height, and set in alcoves and made of a lighter grey metal. There were no handles, just small slotted keypads next to each one.

Just out of curiosity, he pressed the key marked ÖPEN, pondering the peculiar spelling used here. With a faint hiss, the door snapped open, sliding right into the wall. Both he and Bandit jumped back at the abrupt movement, then Max peeked inside.

Beyond the threshold was a compact utility closet, a tiny room in which even a handful of people would find themselves crowded. Shelves were lined with what looked like small wheeled metal boxes. There were dozens of them, all with a glassy black strip running around the top of the sides, which for some reason made him think of eyes.

“Hey!” Max yelped as the door snapped shut behind him a few seconds later. Only a faint light shone from a clear panel above the door, rendering everything in shadows. Between Bandit pawing at the door outside, and the way all those boxes seemed to stare at him, it was hard to resist the impulse to start blasting.

Instead, he focused his attention on the matching keypad on the inside, which he had noticed while looking around. From its shadowy relief, he could see it was identical to the other pad, ÖPEN and KLÖZ, LOK and UNLOK, the number pad below, the mysterious slot above. Remembering where the ÖPEN key had been, he punched it, and the door opened again.

Max took a hasty step out of the little room, not liking how positively claustrophobic it made him feel.

He decided to instead resume his search for his friend. Turning to his feline companion, he wondered if Bandit could sniff him out. Earlier, he had noticed how peculiar the air was in this place. After living his whole life with forest, jungle and sea smells, this place smelled as close to nothing as he had ever encountered. And he suspected Bandit could pick up anything for miles around in this atmosphere.

Yet whatever Bandit’s nose might be detecting, his ears had picked up on something more compelling. A moment after he perked up, Max was able to hear it, too. A sound the like of which neither of them had heard before. Bandit pawed his leg urgently, but Max decided to stand his ground.

Moments later, it was accompanied by a sight neither of them had seen before, either. Max wasn’t sure whether to be amused or terrified as he watched a line of those little metal boxes moving along the floor. Again, he resisted the urge to open fire and decided to stick around and watch.

Perhaps now he would get to see what they did. The sound that had alerted them to the tiny machines’ presence was the faint whirring noise coming from underneath them. The little automatons didn’t even notice as he dropped to his hands and knees and scanned along the floorplane and finally figured out what they were doing.

They were scrubbing the floor.

Max simply stared in shock and horror as the pint-size cleaners wiped away the trail he had followed thus far. The walls seemed to close in a little tighter around him. Not only was he cut off from Justin, but the way back to the cave had also been erased.

Glaring at his own fuzzy reflection on the dark cobalt steel floor, he tried to figure out what to do next, his thoughts leaping. No idea where Justin had gone, or how to find him. No idea how big this subterranean complex was, or what it was doing under Paradise, it just seemed too big to fit under the island. How ill-prepared he was to go exploring down here, and how Justin was even worse off. He felt completely disoriented, an effect this place seemed to specialize at inducing.

“Justin! Where are you!?” Max cried out, wondering a moment later why he hadn’t thought of this before. With as little noise as there was in this place, Justin should be able to hear him even from a long way away.

He realized a moment later, though, that his brilliant plan seemed to have a few holes in it. For he had been only half right. Justin’s “Max! I can’t tell where you are!” echoed off all the walls and seemed to be coming to him from everywhere at once. He sounded close by, but in what direction?

His friend may as well have shouted at him from another world for all the good it would do him.

Thinking frantically, Max demanded, “Justin! Can you come back to where you came in?”

After a long moment, he heard something that sounded like “Dammit!” but he wasn’t completely sure.

“What!?” Max called.

He listened to the sounds of the machines’ tiny motors as they faded away. Then he and Bandit were all alone again.

At least until a moment later when Justin’s “Max! We’ve got a—” (problem?) was cut off by a jangling barrage of alarms.
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