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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Kato vs the elevator

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-04 - Updated: 2009-10-05 - 1968 words - Complete

“Shit! Finally!” Kato muttered as she left the round-and-round menagerie of showroom bathrooms behind her.

She was beginning to see where the Harken Building got its infamous nickname. After what had to be her best meal in weeks, she had wandered through some more kitchens, then that long chain of bathrooms. This place was so big, yet seemed so small, she was beginning to fear she would never find her friends in here. Resigning herself to the likelihood that Chase and George would have to find their own way out, she would have to focus on getting herself out of this mess. But she was still sure she would come up with something.

She always did.

Her confidence, though, took a bit of a dip when she spotted bleached bones lying on the floor.

What looked like it was once a human hand, and lying next to it, a device. A device that looked similar to Justin’s laser staff, but with subtle differences. Trying as hard as she could to ignore what she was sure was once the hand that held it, she picked the object up for a closer inspection.

It may have looked a lot like Justin’s weapon— even the controls were similar— but when she activated it, the bright purple “blade” hung down in coils like a shimmering, fluid neon rope. She flicked it a couple times to test the “beam’s” flexibility, finding it as pliable as any cable she had ever seen. Clearly built with technology more sophisticated than either Justin or Max’s weapons, not even the mercenaries in the Triangle State ever brought something like this, of that she was certain.

A laser whip?… It was the best thing she could come up with to call it.

Clearly a treasure to lose, but much like her meal earlier, she didn’t see anyone around to object to her taking it, so she did. The only place she could figure out to carry it was in the long thigh pocket of her pants. Their bagginess even helped conceal her new weapon, so she felt less conspicuous about carrying it around.

The hand itself bothered her, though, begging the simple question of where it came from. Who it used to belong to. How it came to land in the middle of the floor in the depths of the Harken Building. And why the owner of that hand was apparently wielding a weapon in this silent room.

That part she found less surprising the more she thought about the vibe in here, combined with the fact that, beyond the endless display rooms was a short, dim hall with an elevator at the end. Feeling that she must have already covered the building’s entire floorspace, and then some, just searching this floor, she concluded that she was probably well past the point of no return. As she traversed the hallway, she found herself thinking about things she hadn’t thought about in a long time. Things, she figured, her chance meeting with Justin Black, streetrat fugitive from her former home in the Triangle State, had likely prompted.

Kato. Alexandra Aremac. And one name she would never know.

Along the way, Kato had learned of the naming customs of her Cyexian clans. Had learned that, though often Cyexian women bore intimidating, masculine-sounding public names (like a hard, protective outer shell), each was also given a hidden, secret name, often otherwise known only to their mother. Unfortunately, Kato’s mother died when she was still a baby— died, she later learned, trying to escape back to her clan— and Kato’s true name died with her. Only from one of her father’s servants had she learned of the name Kato, a secret passed from one mother to another, and she kept that moniker as her handle because it at least sounded Cyexian. And because she abhorred the name her father gave her, what it represented. It didn’t matter how much money they had, how big the house was, there was no freedom, it was not a home.

No matter what anyone else called her— or thought of her, for that matter— Kato, like her mother before her, was nobody’s “pet” Cyexian.

Yet, much as it vexed her, she had little idea how to be a Cyexian, just fragments of her own original culture, and no experience among real Cyexians. Just acting tough and working hard to keep her act together seemed enough to convince Chase and George, but she always found herself wishing she knew more. Wishing she really was as tough and resourceful as Cyexian wanderers and warriors were reputed to be. Anymore, she could make herself believe it when she needed to, but this place seemed to be draining her confidence as much as her spirit.

Bringing to the surface not only her own edginess, but insecurities she didn’t even know she still harbored anymore.

Not wanting to dwell on such things, and wishing this place didn’t call them to mind so readily, she turned her focus back to the situation at hand. That hand had alerted her to the very real possibility of previously unimagined threats. Anyone or anything that could take a person’s hand off was nothing to take lightly, and the more she thought about it, the more one other aspect of that scene bothered her. She wasn’t terribly experienced in dealing with corpses, but it seemed to her that those bones had achieved a peculiar state of decomposition for an indoor environment, as if something had picked them clean or something…

As there were no other doors in the hall, she entered the elevator with these thoughts in mind. The elevator itself was small and cramped, its walls painted a harsh institutional yellow-orange that cast a sunset light which almost made her stop in spite of herself. There was something about that light that felt like a warning, in some way she wished she understood, yet wondered if she really wanted to know.

When she saw the triple row of buttons on the elevator controls, she felt a sense of vertigo akin to what she experienced seeing that unreal entrance to Tranz-D. She could picture all these levels underground, yet she could tell from the display above that this was one of the middle levels. The dozen or so levels above her hurt her mind in a way not unlike the inexplicably agitating light in here.

She jumped in spite of herself as the door snapped shut in front of her.

After a couple seconds, she regained her composure. The place had been gradually getting to her with every room. Her wonderful meal made her forget for a while, but being cramped in this excitable space made it all catch up with her at once. Deciding that she wanted nothing to do with the basement levels of a place like this, she pressed for the top floor.

Though she was starting to get the idea that it didn’t matter which floor she picked anyway.

Kato watched quite possibly meaningless numbers climb up the display. So far, nothing here was like anything she would have expected, or even imagined would be inside. That she could only guess what she would find on a floor at least ten levels above where the building was supposed to end.

Her vaguely anxious speculations were interrupted as the elevator slowed to a halt several levels below the top floor.

She stood there for a moment, trying to figure out why she was dreading the moment the door opened, but that moment never came, the door remained shut.

“Hey!” Kato snapped, jabbing the “open” button several times.

Still the door stayed shut.

“Open up!” she shouted, pounding the emergency button with her palm several times, to no effect.

Fearing that she may have been somehow diverted to this level, though she had no idea why she thought this, she hit the button for the top floor again.

At last the elevator started moving again— going down.

“Hey!” she cried, surprised at the strain in her own voice. She started pounding on the button even harder, screaming, “Give me goddam fucking twenty-six!”

Still the car descended.

“This is motherfucking twenty-six, you piece of shit!”

That last scream hurt her throat, but at least it did the trick; the elevator started going back up.

Or it did for about five or six floors. Just when she was starting to relax, telling herself that it was only a malfunction— for a moment the hope crossed her mind that perhaps that might have been Chase or George trying to summon the same elevator— it stopped and started going down again. The little light for each floor seeming to wink at her as it went.

Let me the fuck off!” Kato shouted. (At the Building? she wondered.) Max had mentioned that graffito-tag, and now she wondered if there was anything to that whole The Building is hungry! bit. By now she had switched tactics, banging on the emergency button over and over.

She watched the numbers slide back down again. Then, just when she thought she would have to face the bottom floor anyway, it stopped a couple levels from the lowest, just for a couple seconds, almost toppling her off her feet, before starting back up again. She steadied herself against the wall, finally realizing what it was about that hue of light in here.

It made an already small elevator somehow feel even smaller.

Kato jerked her hand away from the wall with a horrified hiss. Even the feel of moving machinery on her hand, along with a thin film of dust, was more than she could stand. The car rose about a dozen levels, Kato banging on the controls all the while, surprising herself by not screaming.

As the elevator went up and down random numbers, sometimes pausing briefly between floors, the indicator lights blinked at her.

Laughing at her.

“No… no…”

Kato watched the numbers shift back and forth, feeling the car ascending then descending, lurching a little more violently each time, and starting to wish she hadn’t eaten so much back in that kitchen. She had traveled on the high seas since she was girl, and was by no means prone to seasickness, but this was starting to do the trick. At first she had no idea what to do, just stood there, wanting off. Finally she brought out her new laser whip, resolving to tear down the door. As the car hit each level, she would break down the outer doors until she at last had a way off.

No longer cared what level it was, she just wanted out.

Just as she was about to make her move, though, the elevator came to a halt, and the door popped open.

Wasting no time, Kato seized her chance, springing outside before the door could snap shut on her again. She leaned against the wall near the door, trying to regain her composure. Beyond was a long, dimly-lit hallway. The walls were grimy, the floor under her feet gritty, and she was pretty sure everything would be dusty.

She had almost decided that perhaps this wasn’t the best level to get off on, when the elevator door slid open again.

There was something about that shaft of dusky-orange light thrown out across the linoleum, radiating her own spindly shadow out of that open door, the irrational fear that there might be something bathed in that unhallowed light that wasn’t in there a moment ago, that was just a little too much for her.

She took off down the hall with a panicked yelp, refusing to even look back into that creepy light.
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