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Part 2 -here
Part 3 -here
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Part 7 -here
The ever expanding group approached the surprisingly unguarded lift, one of the rare ones that was still in working order and mostly maintained. There were of course abandoned elevators, escalators and giant open pits littered across each floor so someone without the right FC could slip down to where they weren’t supposed to be but it usually ended in death from either a downed wire, a bounty hunter with cold feet or gravity. Only one lift was sanctioned by whatever half sentient force ran Tw’ iter and it didn’t need any guards.
Devtony paused at the doors, taking a deep breath and repeating a calming phrase he’d learned from his grandfather who spent his days licking the walls, its exact meaning lost to the annals of time, “Meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow.”
“Wow, is that a Straight in the Arm two handed bastard sword? And you went with the gold overlay, good choice the silver had no balance,” the giant walking haz mat suit known as Steph asked the Amazonian.
“Uh, sure, I think,” Hellena shrugged, the coveted sword rolling between her terrifying muscles, “You know a lot about weapons?”
“Oh only collector’s pieces, mostly stuff that hangs on walls and gathers dust until you need to get rid of a rich uncle. I used to do a bit of freelance work before this job.”
The woman behind the porcelain mask slowed, she’d followed behind the strange group at a distance for fear she might run into one of them on accident. Her people might be excellent craftsmen but they didn’t think much of depth perception. Now the tall one, the bounty hunter, was rubbing his temples and murmuring something about “Wassup” over and over as the other women argued over the best price for crossbow strings. Well this was her quest after all, she pulled her cloak in tight and brushed past all those assembled and walked into the open lift.
“WAIT!” Steph yelled dashing forward with Hellena plowing into the back of Devtony pushing him into the rather roomy pristine white box. In a station full of grime, dirt and life teeming over every surface it seemed strange that this remained untouched. As the last bits of the bounty hunter passed across the threshold the door whished shut trapping them all.
“Oh bugger, now where’d I put that damn card again?” Steph ripped off her glove turning it inside out and stowing it safely before routing through her pockets.
A panel on the side lowered and a large glowing face appeared. It was half yellow and half green like a crazed Packer’s fan. “Hello. Welcome to the Transit System I Am MoCoddle. I Am Here to Make Sure Your Trip Is A Pleasant One. Please Present Your FollowerCount,” the voice, which echoed back in thirty different languages, sounded strangely alive for being a robot.
Pearl turned from the MoCoddle to look at her companions, “What a strange little box . . .” the thought died on her tongue as the bounty hunter and the Steph patted themselves and then each other down in a mad search to find her piece of paper.
“WHERE DID YOU PUT IT LAST?!” Devtony screamed at her, turning all of his pockets out for a third time.
“I DON’T KNOW!” Steph yelled back, “DON’T YOU THINK I’D TELL YOU IF I DID!”
MoCoddle, having finished her first pass of all the galactic recognized languages was on to the next paragraph, “Please Present Your Designated FollowerCount. If You Do Not Have The Correct FollowerCount You Will Be Forced To Leave The Transit System.”
“IS IT IN MY HAIR?” Steph yelled ripping her green hair scarf off and shaking her face beneath a mess of blonde hair.
“IS IT IN MINE?” Devtony followed suit fear consuming whatever few brain cells he had left to rub together.
Hellena, bemused by the party shook her own hair upside down, “Hey, this is fun.”
Pearl put up her hands, “I don’t understand . . .”
Before she could continue MoCoddle piped back up with her final warning. “Please Present Your FollowerCount Now. If You Do Not You Will Be Forced To Leave The Transit System.” A strange whirring sound filled the mad lift as panels moved back and laser weapons descended upon the denizens. “If You Do Not Have The Proper FollowerCount You Will Be Vaporized. Veuillez présenter votre compte de disciple maintenant. . . .”
“Um . . .” Pearl started, her hands slipping into her cloak.
Steph had one of her booties off and was digging through the other while Devtony was half naked and working his way to whole. Hellena still not certain what was going on was patting each of them on the head to a tune she hummed under her breath. The tension and fear were so palpable the little cleaning bots were about to kick in before all the bodies were disposed of.
As MoCoddle was rounding up on the last bits of her final dialogue “Click Click Clack Clack Click Click . . .” something hard beneath Pearl’s folds bent under her fingers. Ah ha! She freed Steph’s FC card uncertain of how she got it in the first place. The Yellow/Green face paused mid Clack as a laser burst through her forehead and scanned the card.
Everyone paused, watching the death beams through held breath. “Accepted, You May Travel Down To Level 500. Where Would You Wish To Go?”
“Um, 500. If you would be so kind, woah!” Pearl mumbled softly, the threat of vaporization lifting as the panels slid back and the lift started up gaining speed that thanks to dampers the inhabitants didn’t feel. Instead they each slowly got dressed doing their best to not make eye contact. Hellena kept whistling her tune under her breath.
“Arriving at Level 500,” MoCoddle chimed, a smirk in her voice. She loved this job, “Please Mind Your Heads. Thank You For Traveling With The Transit System. Have a Nice Day.”
“Yeah, right,” Devtony mumbled as he realized he laced his boots up on the wrong feet.
The doors opened to Level 500, and all except Steph gasped in astonishment. All the higher levels looked well as one would assume when every manner of species regardless of proclivity to cleanliness or orderliness is dumped into a small place together and never allowed to leave. It was a wonder the floors weren’t covered in blood, though come to think of it they were always rather sticky.
But Level 500 was immaculate, white on white on white. You could confidently lick the floors, the walls and the ceiling without having to worry about updating your will. It looked like it fell out of a computer commercial.
A few personnel walked past the lift their noses buried in clipboards wearing the same strange garb Steph appeared in. “Welcome to the Virus Zone,” she announced slipping her hair back into place beneath the green hat.
“The . . . The virus zone?!” Devtony gasped and then lest he leave his lungs open to another attack vowed to stop breathing the entire time they were up there. He lasted a half a minute.
“Yep, where all of the best viruses are both discovered and then cured. It’s also a gold mine for smugglers . . . or so I hear,” she winked lest the others be as slow as she heard the upper decks were.
Pearl snuggled deeper into her protective mask and clothing, “And where would we find someone who could take us even lower?”
“Oh . . . you’ll want the forum,” Steph touched one of the walls and brought up the clock which was for some reason counting down instead of up, “which should be starting in a few minutes.” Another hand appeared next to hers, turning the clock into a series of circuit diagrams.
“Hello, hello, hello!” the woman smiled wide at Steph, her voice zipping into super sonic speeds, “What are you all doing here? A bit of exploring, oh yes I know how that goes.” She, unlike everyone else who was supposed to be on the Virus level wasn’t dressed in sterile garb favoring instead a long brown suit and bright red suspenders.
“Who are you?” Steph asked, concerned someone else was muscling in on her territory.
“I’m the Geek, well the Geeky to my friends. And I bet we’re going to be friends,” she turned her attention to the rest of the party, at the sight of Devtony she called out, “Oh nice coat, I should get one in brown.”
“I’m sorry, you’re the Geeky?” Pearl asked, her knowledge of human names was rudimentary but something about this seemed wrong, “Just that?”
“No, you’re not doing it right,” she yelled. The woman extricated a small tool from her pocked and waved it at the panel, which now showed old black and white cartoons from the thirties that all space people seemed to love watching.
“You say, Geeky Who and I say, well I say actually that’s not right it’s Geeky Mae but I’m still trying to work the Who in.”
“And you’re wearing a bowtie.”
“Yeah, bowties are cool. It seems as though you are all here looking for something or someone, only strangers come to level 500 without all of that rather drab lab stuff,” she motioned to Steph who crossed her arms, “so I can’t help but wonder what is it that you need?”
Hellena having finished her song butted in, “We’re trying to get to Level 1.”
Everyone shot her daggers but she ignored it, this geeky who seemed like a lot of fun. The woman pulled out her tool again and made an ungodly noise shining a green light upon the Amazonian, “I see . . . well it just so happens I can help you. I am, in fact, in possession of the only papers that can get anyone to Level 1,” she whipped out a small black book and flipped it open flashing it to everyone.
Excited murmurs gave way to gawking stares in the group.
“Oh well, I . . .”
“Bloody hell, the damn thing’s blank!” Devtony roared, his small hopes of going home in one piece before the last call dashed. Though come to think of it he had yet to actually see a last call.
The strange woman cocked her head and turned the paper towards her, shaking it up and down a bit, “Hm, it must be stuck or I’m getting some interference from a weather balloon again.”
Still shaking the paper a bit she parted the group and walked into the killer lift, pulling out her strange noise tool for one last wave before the doors closed on her. The group heared a muffled MoCoddle start up “Hello. Welcome to the Transit System I Am MoCoddle. I Am Here to Make Sure Your Trip Is A Pleasant One. . . “
Followed by that strange tool whirring noise and then nothing.
Pearl said a silent prayer for whoever that strange woman was and the atoms she now inhabited and turned towards Steph who was hoping back and forth uneasy to be standing in one place for so long. “Lead us to the forum.”