Chapter 26:


Pyro's Grand Demise

“I’m only doing this because you promised we’d leave,” Joe reminds me for the fourth time. “As soon as we find out whatever is in that hallway, you’re packing your bags.”

I roll my eyes. “Yes, Sergeant Bossy-Pants. Open that folder,” I add, pointing at his computer screen.

Well, it isn’t his computer screen. Technically it belongs to his mother’s administrative assistant. We broke into her office ten minutes ago, and it only took me five to hack into the laptop. As it turns out, being a purple-type truly does have its values.

So long as I have a cable to plug myself into the system, I can pretty much hack into anything. It’s not even that difficult. There’s a bunch of code I have to solve, but due to something they added to my chip, it all reads like common English to me. Funny how technology works. I’m using it even though I still don’t quite understand it.

Then again, people use phones all the time without understanding how they function. Same difference.

“What are you going to do if nothing’s there?” he asks while perusing through the folders inside folders. It’s an utter maze in here, and I’m surprised the CEO’s assistant isn’t more organized.

“Cut my losses,” I say with a shrug. “I think I’ve had enough of GravityTech to last me a lifetime. Besides, maybe with my inside knowledge I can somehow help these people from the outside.”

“And what if there is something?”

I chew on my lip. There’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s not one which Joe would like at all, but it’s a plan. “I’ll let you know when we cross that bridge.”

He furrows his brows at me, but I say “There!” and stab the computer screen with my finger.

“It’s not a touchscreen,” he chastises me and clicks on the PDF.

“That’s stupid,” I huff. “Who doesn’t have a touchscreen these days?”

“Some people don’t prefer it.”

“A clusterfuck of folders, a non-touch screen. This assistant lady is a sociopath.”

“I can’t exactly disagree with you,” Joe says while we wait for the large file to load. (The wi-fi down here is kind of terrible. Something about being underneath a mountain, I think?) “For my eleventh birthday she got me a textbook on human anatomy. I mean, who does that?”

I snort. “I guess that’s why you had so many girls confessing their love to you in high school. You were knowledgeable on anatomy.

“Did that comment actually bother you?” he asks, surprised.

“No,” I say forcefully. “Look at the computer screen.”

Snickering, Joe does as he’s told. Then the laughter abides. “These don’t look like the infrastructure maps.”

“Not the infrastructure we’re aware of,” I correct. I squat down beside Joe and stare at the map. “There’s an entire level we didn’t know about.”

“A hallway,” he says while guiding his finger along the straight line. It was beneath us this entire time.

The only good thing about it being three in the morning is that there are hardly any people awake. Even inside a mountain, people are creatures of habit. They’re awake with the sun, even if they can’t see it. It’s all thanks to the handy-dandy yet annoying technology called the alarm.

I yawn widely as Joe looks around a corner at the end of the basement floor hallway. This is the furthest down you can go, according to the original maps. The new ones we found depicted an entrance to a staircase somewhere around here.

I’m just glad Joe is along for the ride now. Ever since we found out Angie was right, he’s been invested in finding this entrance. He’s a natural problem solver, so of course it would bother him to leave this case open.

I for one just want to find this damn place before I pass out from exhaustion. It’s been twenty-four hours since I last slept, and the sugar from all those muffins is about to send me crashing.

“There’s just no way it could be here,” Joe says while scratching his neck. “There’s no seams to mark a door, and no handles or anything.”

“Are you sure this is the spot?” I ask.

“You saw the file. The entrance was at the end of the east basement corridor.”

I frown at the wall. It’s odd how the hallway ends here. Naturally it would have ended a ways back, where the last doors were. There’s just nothing down this way. A dead end.

I approach the wall and place my ear against it. I knock, and it sounds peculiar.

“What are you doing?” Joe asks.

“Testing a theory.” I take a few steps back, then run toward the wall and slam my fist into it. It goes straight through.

“Pyro!” Joe exclaims, glancing down the hallway in case someone heard us.

I peer through the fist-sized hole. Thanks to my night vision, I can make out a winding staircase leading down into the dark abyss. Bingo.

“The stairs are on the other side.” I begin ripping the wall down, starting from the hole outward. It looks like a regular wall from the outside, but from the inside it appears to be sheet metal. That explains the strange sound when I knocked on it. There's probably a remote mechanism to open this thing, but this way is faster than finding it.

“Aren’t you lucky I’m a woman of many talents?” I ask when the sheet metal has been pulled back far enough for us to enter. It reminded me of peeling back a tuna can lid.

“Very lucky,” Joe says. “Some talents of which I made possible.”

I make a disgusted sound and grab his hand before tugging him into the darkness. “You just won’t let that go, will you? Watch your step.”

“Your hacking abilities wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for me. Thanks.”

Our descent is slow because it’s so dark the human eye wouldn’t be able to see a thing. I don’t exactly want him twisting an ankle right now, and I highly doubt he’d let me carry him. Towing him after me at a snail’s pace is my unfortunate option.

“The hacking ability which could have very likely killed me? Not to mention the procedure I had to be awake for. I swear to God, you were moving about those prongs of yours just to freak me out.”

“How could you think that?” Joe says. “I’ll admit it was my first time doing such a procedure, but I think I did very well despite that fact.”

I halt and turn on him, despite him being unable to see me. “That was your first time doing a procedure like that? I thought you were an expert!”

His silence is answer enough for me and I moan. “I could have died!”

“But you didn’t! You were in capable hands. I had the instructions I needed, as well as the stable hands.”

“You mean sweaty hands.”

“That’s your hand, not mine.”

I scrunch my nose and tug him along. “Maybe, but you’ll have to deal with it. Unless you’d really rather I carry you.”

“No, thanks.” He’s quiet for a moment. “Besides, I like holding your hand.”

My face burns and I silently curse him for making this awkward. Just how long is this staircase?! “Me too,” I mumble.

I somehow feel defeated.

When we finally reach the bottom, there’s a door with a strip of light escaping the bottom. I lean my ear against it. “I think I hear breathing,” I whisper. Joe nods and I slowly lower my hand to the door handle.

I pause.

“Did you bring a gun?” I ask.

He’s taken aback. “No. This is my mother’s facility, I didn’t exactly think I’d be needing one.”

I press my lips into a thin line and carefully open the door. The hidden hallway is beyond.

Steward McOy
Makinohara sensorika