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


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

intercom: Max's side

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Published: 2009-10-16 - Updated: 2009-10-16 - 1707 words - Complete

Max kept his and Bandit’s meal a short one, for he was loathe to stop for long anymore, now having witnessed for himself the true terror of the Harken Building.

After their brief repast, Max resumed his quest, grateful simply for finding his friend. Still he tried to remember what Mom said that day, the key to how she found the exit. And still keeping his new power rifle handy, though he feared it didn’t have much ammo left, determined not to let anything in here reduce him to close-quarters combat again.

He never imagined that a cemetery could be so big, but eventually it gave way to a courtyard, then small groups of offices, connected by concrete stairways that were completely incongruent with the designs of any of the offices.

Max sat in one of those cushy, ergonomic chairs to rest his legs. Especially the one that thing had bitten, for his ankle was hurting still more. He didn’t have to sit there long before he began to worry that maybe he was getting a little too comfortable. Though he doubted Bandit would allow anything to enter this area without giving some manner of warning, still he pictured one of those creatures lurching toward him, and it jolted him awake every time he started to nod off.

He kept chiding himself for letting his guard down so easily in such a dangerous place, when he really did jump out of his seat as something in the room started beeping, followed by a hiss of static.

The last thing he expected to hear was Shades’ voice. At first he wasn’t sure, due to the crackling static, but the more he listened, the surer he was.

“Hello?… Is there anyone else out there?… Anybody hear me?…”

Then the confirmation.

“Max?… Justin?… Kato?…” Then a longer pause. “Chase?… George?… Stupid question…”

Max started looking around the room, finally spotted an electronic-looking box on the wall.

“Justin?… Max?… um… Bandit?… John?… Amy?… Anybody?…”

After examining the device for a moment, Max found the TALK button, pressing it and saying, “Shades? Is that you?”

“Max? Max! Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Max assured him. “Shades, have you run into any, um… strange people in here?”

“No, but…”

“Watch out,” Max warned him. “They’re dangerous. Even stun mode won’t work—”

“Max,” Shades’ voice cut in, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to tell you this, but I ran into Bandit earlier, but he ran away again and…”

“Shades, it’s all right,” Max interrupted, “I found him again. He’s right here with me. I know you did whatever you could… Uh, Shades, why are you talking on this thing anyway?”

“Well, Bandit was wandering around with these keys hung on his harness— I don’t know where he got them, but it seems they’re keys to the intercom system here, so I thought I’d see if I could, you know, talk to any of the others…”

“Has anyone else answered?”

“No,” Shades sounded both grave and worried. “I’m really glad you found Bandit again, but I’m worried about Justin and the others.” Another long pause. “Max, we need a plan. I mean, you could walk around at random forever and…”

Max lost track of what his friend was saying as those words echoed back to him across a gulf of years: Unless you got lucky, you could just wander around at random until you die, or the Building gets you… And then Alida had said something about having a dream, or a vision, something about snake-fangs. Easy to walk into, but hard to walk back out of. Something about doors…

“…Max? Hey! Max! Are you still there?”

“Yeah,” Max replied after a moment.

“Don’t scare me like that, man. I don’t know what happened to you, but all the doors I open…”

“That’s it!” Max finally remembered.

“What? Did you say something?”

“Yeah,” Max told him, “I finally remembered. The dream. Try looking for doors that pull open.”

“Max, what are you talking about?”

“It’s hard to explain…” Max didn’t want to go into his parents’ visit here, so, “The point, if I understand this right, is that if you go through doors that pull open—”

“You only have to push them open to get back out…” Shades’ voice had an odd, meditative sound to it, as it often did when he was lost in thought. “Because if you push a door open, then that means you have to pull it back to get back out again… Max, every door I can remember has been a push door since I found that damn book…”

“Book?” Then something else. Very important. “Shades, you need to find a blue exit sign. The rest are all fake.”

“Okay… I guess we’ve got a plan. I’ll try your idea of using only pull doors, and try to find one of those blue exit signs. And since it takes one of these keys to activate the intercom, I’ll leave this one switched on. Keep an eye out for more of these intercom boxes, and if you run into another one, stop if you can and try to get in touch with… with any of the others. Good luck, Max.”

“Shades, wait.” In the midst of these revelations, Max had nearly forgotten the most urgent thing he needed to say. “Be careful. Those guys I ran into… they look like people, but they’re different somehow. Don’t try to talk your way out— they won’t listen. They’ll just try to kill you. I mean it. Just run. And they’re faster than they look. Whatever you do, don’t let them corner you. Just… come out alive.”

“I will…” From the concerned tone of his voice, Max was fairly sure his warning had gotten through. “And you be waiting for me when I get out, Max.”

“No way I’m gonna let this thing beat me.” Though Max almost said, If Mom and Dad could beat the Building, so can I, he kept that part to himself. And found that he actually believed it.

“I think the longer we stay in this place, the worse it gets,” said Shades, “so I think we should get going. Good hearing your voice again, Max.”

“You too, Shades.”

And then he was alone again. No, not alone, Bandit reminded him with a quizzical stare. Still, this was one place he wanted to leave as just a memory.

He just hoped Shades could do something for Justin, too. That conversation gave him hope, but still he feared Shades or Justin might end up sharing Chad’s fate as “the one who didn’t come back out” and wished there was a way he could do more for the others.

Even Kato; he still was none too thrilled about teaming up with a Cyexian, but what he had seen back there was something he wouldn’t wish on his own worst enemy. The thought of any of them rotting in some forgotten corner of this place was enough to make him shudder.

Mostly he tried to keep his guard up as he continued through more of the Building’s never-ending menagerie of blind, twisting halls. This time careful to turn back from any door he had to push to open. It was slow going, with a good deal of backtracking (Backtracking is a thief of time… he vaguely recalled that custodian muttering, that, and something about not letting the Building overwhelm him), but he eventually found himself standing in front of the very thing his mother had described, once upon a time.

A white, four-panel door, totally incongruent with the design of his surroundings, with a blue EXIT sign glowing above it.

Pausing for a moment, he looked to his feline friend before making up his mind. He had not steered Shades wrong, as he half feared he had with his fuzzy memories of past events, so at least he knew his friend knew a way out. That the others had a fighting chance. Still, that didn’t stop Max from worrying about him, and Justin. Yet he also knew that their chances of finding one another in this place were nearly non-existent.

Putting his faith in his friends, Max opened the door and stepped out into the alley next to the Harken Building, Bandit hot on his heels.

There was no one in sight, but he could hear the distant sound of traffic, alien to him but reassuring after so many long stretches of eerie quiet, and nearer the buzz of conversation around the corner by the entrance. As he came around the corner, he spotted Kato talking with Justin, and a guy matching her description of Chase. Off to the side was the one who must be George.

But of Shades there was no sign.

“…if we went back in,” Kato was saying, “we could mark each way as we go. I know that place is big, but sooner or later we could mark all the ways if we kept at it. They are your friends, aren’t they?”

“I know,” Justin muttered as if he had already been through this a thousand times, “and I know Max even tried to go back to Tranz-D for me, but do you really think—”

“Justin,” Max said simply. “You’re okay.”

For his part, Justin wheeled around, and the others jumped in spite of themselves, as he replied, “Damn straight, Max. Took ya long enough.”

Meanwhile, when George saw a certain black-and-white panther emerge from the Building with Max, the way the two of them made such a natural duo, he couldn’t help but feel a hint of envy for the lucky bastard, to have such a cool pet.

“Have you seen Shades?” Max asked.

“Hell no.” Justin glanced at the Building for a moment, then said, “I saw nobody.”

“So we’re still waiting,” Kato concluded, folding her arms and glaring at the Building.

Nothing more to be said for now, Max and Bandit took their places, joining the growing vigil for the one still trapped within.
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