Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 09 - "The Building is Hungry!"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Justin's first vending machine

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2009-03-09 - Updated: 2009-03-09 - 1189 words - Complete

After a while, the cages began to give way to higher ceilings, cavernous chambers full of machinery whose exact purpose he was uncertain of, but Justin didn’t consider it much of an improvement.

For starters, he was just starting to get used to the silent cages when he pushed through a set of double doors leading into these massive rooms of machines. Though these machines were dusty but otherwise apparently functional, they still reminded him of the creaky hulks of the Bone Yard on Benton Island, left to rust in peace after a life of slavery. Much like those diesel dinosaurs, he could all too easily imagine these dully gleaming collections of conveyor belts and gears and other, more specialized, equipment grinding back to life…

He was alarmed to realize how jumpy he had become in here.

Along the way, the path forked in several directions. He made up his mind to go back and explore the other ways when he had checked this section, but so far he had yet to find the end of it. On top of the feel of all that dormant equipment, he was beginning to accept the possibility that he might be lost. There was also something about the black-and-yellow stripes marking parts of the walls and floors in places that felt like some kind of warning; he avoided those areas though he knew not exactly what danger he was averting.

At one point, he stopped to notice that his other hand was still in his pocket, nearly clutching the figurine from Obscura Antiques. Fetching it from his pocket, he examined it again for a moment, deciding that the thing had a stern, somber look to it, and he honestly wondered again if it was really meant to bring protection or good fortune. Putting it away, he pulled his hand back out of his pocket, concluding that it seemed too much like something from an old seafaring legend, too good to possibly be true.

Too good to be real.

Of course, he had heard of some pretty weird shit back in Benton, and when he was running around in the depths of Tranz-D, he thought he had found something that would turn those traveling braggarts’ hair white. Now he had the sinking feeling Kato’s friends had just found him another one. This procession of concrete chambers was beginning to seem, for lack of a better word, endless. Just thinking about it gave him a creepy feeling, complete with raised hairs on the back of his neck, that there was more to this “Never-Ending Building” business than he had wanted to believe. That he had just walked into another nightmare.

He decided if he ever caught up with him again, he was going to kick Shades’ ass even though it was real, or rather, because it was real.

At least being mad at Shades helped him take his mind off how eerily quiet this place was. He couldn’t quite pin down precisely what it was that irritated him. Something about how he couldn’t see the guy’s eyes bothered him. He also couldn’t help thinking this Shades didn’t really like him.

Or was it that he didn’t like Shades?

Perhaps a little of both, he decided. Part of it was that he was so easygoing, like Max. That it came so easily to him, that the two of them got along so naturally, while he just couldn’t lighten up. Much as he wanted to.

Maybe hanging out with Max in Paradise was starting to have an effect on him.

Lost as he was in this place, he felt sure that Max, at least, would risk coming in here looking for him, even if Shades didn’t. And for some reason that thought made him feel bad. Justin knew he was taking a risk joining Kato, given his luck trusting Cyexians. Had even talked Max into taking his risk. Yet after keeping each other’s back in Tranz-D, he was confident she would hold up her end of the agreement. Still, he worried that Max didn’t like being dragged into her business.

But we’re partners, right?

As he began to look around among these post-industrial artifacts, he wondered if Max really would come in here. Or if Shades would somehow talk him out of it. Then again, Max had been willing to risk returning to Tranz-D without even knowing whether or not he was still alive anymore. As for Shades, mad as Justin was, he found himself hoping the guy didn’t come in, too.

Max can take care of himself, but I don’t think Shades has the balls for this.

Justin glanced to his right and spotted his first vending machine. It took him a moment to figure out what this strange new machine was all about, but he recognized the way the contents looked like fancied-up ration packs, and decided to stop for lunch. Since his harrowing escape from Tranz-D, he hadn’t had a free moment to sit down and eat all day. Though there was some food in the pack Max and Shades had prepared for him, he decided to save it for later, to take advantage of this opportunity for a free meal.

In all his life, Justin Black had never had exact change, but his laser staff did the trick. Cutting away the glass panel gave him access to all he wanted. Mouth watering, he tore open one of the packages and took a tentative bite of it.

The brown bar melted in his mouth with a sweet flavor that Shades (and now, thanks to him, Max) would recognize as milk chocolate. It didn’t quite look like a ration bar, but it tasted infinitely better. Chocolate… He had heard of it, and now that he finally got the chance to try it for himself, he at last understood what everyone else got so excited about. He looked among the labels, though, and found he had no idea what some of the other ingredients were. Nou-gat? Pea-nut but-ter? But he suspected that they would probably taste good, too.

When one of the bags of chips fell out of its slot and plopped into the bin below, he jumped back from the machine with a sharp cry of alarm. Survival instincts honed against two weeks in hell made him hear alarms for a moment that weren’t actually there. Followed by the distinct feeling that, in his hunger, he had been too careless. Leaving the candy bar he was eating lying on the floor as he about-faced, wondering in stark horror what could possibly have possessed him to come so far into this place to begin with.

Power pistol in one hand, fresh chocolate bar in the other, he headed back the way he had come. Kato largely forgotten. Now he quietly hoped Shades had talked Max into waiting. If he could just get back to the entrance in time, he might be able to prevent another pointless nightmare expedition.

He just hoped he wasn’t too late.
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