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Falling UP

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Only. Why not just add an extra level for fun? He ran his hand through his hair and let out a deep sigh. “I never get paid enough for these jobs.”

His target was, of course, on the highest floor. Also, all too coincidentally, on the most secure one. But even in the spy business a professional had to start at the bottom. In this case, quite literally. He opened the floor plan, futilely trying to wipe away the grime resting on a bit of the ground for him to place his map on. The halls and rooms of the top floor spread out before him, and he drew his finger counterclockwise across the lower portion of the paper.

On the west of the building was a window that wasn’t being used due to ongoing renovations. That would be his entrance. From there, he should be able to get to the room in the south-south-west which should contain a vent that would allow him to move around more easily.

“South-south-west, south, south-east, east…south-south-west, south, south-east, east….”

Confident he had memorized the directions, he rolled up the map and activated his mag boots, pulling out his grapple. Glancing up, he glimpsed a balcony above, the office attached to it darkened. Pointing his grapple gun, he launched it towards the edge, the prongs catching. He pressed his boots against the side of the building, the magnets latching on, and managed to pull himself up. Reaching it, he noted that he had already managed to get to the fourth floor.

“Out of 34.” He reminded himself. There were many more balconies that would allow him ample grappling material, though several were lit up, their occupants seemingly working late. Ideally, he would have waited for everyone to go home, but the high-level security would make it near impossible to enter once the building was empty. He quickly spotted another dark balcony and grappled to it. He continued pulling himself up repeatedly, briefly looking through windows near him to ensure he hadn’t been spotted. Upon reaching the 23rd floor balcony, he paused to take a breath. The boots and grapple might keep him from falling, but dragging himself up was no easy feat. As he caught his breath and glanced around for another grapple point, he was momentarily blinded by the office light flashing on next to him. Quick as he could, he leaped over the side of the balcony, hanging from the edge and hoping the shadows would mask his gloved hands poking over the edge.

Hearing the balcony door slide open, the sound of black heels clinked against the metal beneath. He heard a sharp click, and after several moments the faint smell of tobacco filled his lungs. He pressed his face against his arm, resisting the urge to cough.

“Listen, Mark. He’s a danger to himself and others. I know we can’t just let him have the run of the place, what are you expecting me to do?”

He strained his ears, but the other voice was too faint to be heard.

“I know what we do here, I’ve been managing this department for 15 years and taking care of Jason for 10. Don’t you dare tell me how to do my job. I’ve done as much as I can for him, and you know that. I won’t just abandon him”

There was a pause and he shifted his weight ever so slowly, trying not to be noticed. He needed to keep moving, but with the light coming from the office, there was no way to get by her.

“Okay listen, can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m already at the office late and I’d rather not extend it…Yes…yes, goodbye.”

There was a low beep and he heard her sigh. A minute later, the sound of a door closing echoed through the alley and he peeked over the edge. Through the glass door, he could see her was sitting at her desk facing the wall. Taking his chance, he raised his grapple and pulled himself upwards again.

Finally, he reached the top floor. Luckily, the window was wide open, only blocked with a thick tarp that was easy enough to push aside, letting him jump in.

Listening cautiously for any sounds and hearing none save the breeze outside, he unrolled his map along the ground and rechecked his path.

The archway where a door would be was to his right, which would lead to the south room with the vent. Peeking through, he saw it on the ceiling, hidden in the corner. The vent tunnel, assuming the map was still accurate, would take him to the janitor room in the south-east. He packed away the map and stepped into the next room. While also under construction, it was clear that someone had used this room recently, as a desk and chair sat facing the opposite wall. Curious, he walked over to the desk, opening the drawers and finding little until he reached the bottom. In it, he found a single thin folder, surprisingly void of dirt and dust considering the state of the room. He was right. The room wasn’t completely abandoned, though why anyone would choose to work in a barely finished room was beyond him.

He opened the folder and read through it. It was a profile of someone named Jason Tinn. He scrolled his eyes down the page, but much of it was medical terminology he couldn’t understand. Whomever it was seemed to be a patient of sorts, though he wasn’t aware of this building hosting any medical services. He shook himself out of his thoughts and placed the folder back in the desk. It wasn’t part of his objective, and thus not important. He once again turned his gaze to the vent in the corner of the room. It seemed to be pinned in place with simple screws. He could have used his all-purpose screwdriver, but there were many of them and it would take far too long to deal with them all. Looking aside, he noticed a toolbox not far. Looking inside, he spotted a hammer and grabbed it, returning to the vent. Placing the claw in between the bars, he leveraged it downwards, splitting prying them apart. Grinning, he continued wrenching the grate open, the weak metal barely providing any resistance. He had nearly made a hole large enough when the hammer slipped and slammed against the wooden floor, echoing through the unfinished rooms. He cursed under his breath and braced his hands on either side of the hole, pushing it open as wide as he could when he began to hear footsteps rapidly pounding against the ground.

They were coming for him.

Hoping that the hole was wide enough, he slipped through into the vent just in time to hear voices behind him.

“Where is he? Where did he go?” A feminine voice cried out.

There was a moment of silence before he heard somewhere swear, then loudly sigh.

“Not again. Guard all the exits. Don’t let him have a run of the place. Quickly!”

 

He heard the steps trail off and began to move forward. He would need to move quickly if he didn’t want to be caught. He pressed on, taking the nearly straight path for about 2 minutes before he saw the light from an exit vent. When he reached it, he looked out and saw cleaning supplies, a broom, and several mops. He smiled for a moment, but then it left his face. He didn’t have anything to open this grate with from his side. Thinking for a moment, but seeing no alternative, he pulled himself into as small a ball as he could, reversed his direction, and kicked with all his strength. After several strikes, the vent shot against the wall and he slipped into the room, though more loudly than he would have liked. He had already made enough noise; speed would be imperative. From this room, he could access the east wing in moments, but the only exit was the windowless door in front of him. Opening it just a smidgen, he peeked out, though he wasn’t able to see much. Thankfully, he also heard little to no noise. He pushed the door open wider and looked around the other side and seeing nobody there, made his way to the east room. He stood in front of the door a moment. His target was inside. He was almost done. Letting out a long breath, he pushed open the door, only to come face to face with the same woman he’d come across on the balcony earlier. She smiled sadly at him.

“There you are! We were worried you know. You’re in quite a bit of trouble. You realize you’re not supposed to be here, right?”

At that moment, speechless, he panicked and ran, only to slam headfirst into a man in a white suit who grabbed hold of him. Before he could break away, a second man almost identical to the first, grabbed him tight as he struggled. She gave him a sympathetic look before turning to one of the men.

“Take him to the north wing and keep him there for the night.” The woman ordered. “I’ll be back in the morning to speak to him.”

As the men dragged him away, he attempted to lash out and kick at them, but their grip was too strong. After a short walk through the halls, they opened up a metal door with a smudged window and threw him inside. He got up to run out, but they slammed the door behind them. Frantically, he tried to open it but had been locked in. He banged on it, begging to be released, begging to talk to someone, but nobody replied. It was silent.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Standing in front of the metal door, Victoria pressed a hand to her head. She wanted to do anything except this but knew she had no choice. She knocked on the door and not a moment later a fist rammed against the window. She placed her hand against it and looked into the wild eyes glaring at her.

“Jason? Can you hear me?” She said hopefully.

For a moment, he stopped screaming, and she saw him press his hand against the door, mirroring hers.

“Do you know where you are?”

A feral look burned in his eyes. “A room. Trapped in a room. I was just exploring. Just exploring…” He trailed off.

“I know you were trying to get into my office again Jason.”

He slammed his head against the window and she took a step back.

“They were gonna pay me! They would have given me so much money!”

“Do you know what you were looking for?”

He nodded, tears beginning to fill his eyes. “My target.”

“What was your target?”

“It was…” He hesitated. “My target. I needed it.”

“Jason,” She said sympathetically. “There is nothing in there that you need. You’re not well, and we’re just trying to-“

“No!” He screamed. “Lier, lier, lier! I needed it! It was my target! It was my-”

With those words, he began rambling incoherently again, with nothing she said getting through. She slid the pane across the window, blocking him from view, and leaned her forehead against it, his ranting echoing in her head.

“You knew that was going to happen.”

She looked over at her colleague, who was wearing a smug look on his face.

“Just because you’ve given up on him, doesn’t mean I will. “

The man shook his head and sighed.

“Come on Vicky, you’ve been doing this for years. Over and over, the same thing. It’s been long enough that even I know what comes next.” He pressed the button to activate the room’s sound, expelling Jason’s all too familiar words into the hallway. The words she knew preceded every episode.

“South-south-west, south, south-east, east….”

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