(For New Readers: See where it all started!)
5. The Real Deal
His leg itched horribly but at least he could put some weight back on it. The med pack was the stuff of miracles and, while he didn’t understand how the tech worked, somehow the sticky yellow goop that popped out when he activated it had filled in his damaged flesh and was holding tight. Vance had said that the stuff would take a bit to set fully but for now at least he was able to hobble around and take the Nerve Blocker off. That meant getting back to the plan.
“So, I’m wondering Vance, how come nobody has come in here while we were fixing my leg?” Trevor asked the air as he limped his way to the back of the antechamber.
“I’ve blocked the alarms...”
“That’s it? I mean that was the original plan, sure, but that’s gone out of the damn airlock right?” Trevor reached for a scan plate against the wall and passed the Ident across it. “I mean the explosions and dying Bug screams should have clued somebody in on what we were up to right?”
There was a soft beep from the plate and a section of the back wall shifted to reveal a small doorway. “Did you blow something up?”
“A couple levels…”
Trevor stopped halfway through the door, “‘Levels’, plural?”
“Look on the bright side, at least you should be left alone while they deal with the casualties.”
Trevor looked back into the antechamber, the purple blood, the bits of gore, the smoking husk of the Juggernaut corpse, and frowned. “Guess I’m not really in any position to judge...”
“No, not really…” there was a tremor of forced levity in Vance’s voice.
The hall was dimly lit with jury rigged glow bulbs haphazardly glued into the ceiling. Trevor moved as quickly as he could, given his leg, and soon found himself in a small chamber with no obvious exits. A smooth gray cube stood isolated in the chamber’s center, far from the walls and potential cable connections. Trevor winced as he reached into the storage pocket at his back, his fingers fumbling around until he found what he was looking for.
He pulled out a stick of chunky black material the size of his index finger and gently twisted the end. A string of tiny lights blinked to life along its edges which cycled through colors until they settled into a pulsing green pattern.
“Ok, any new info on where the fukkin interface port is on this thing?” he mumbled into the chamber.
“No luck. According to the Augnet the contractor that probably made the thing vanished and they had some kind of fatal server crash right before their offices burned down.” Vance said with no small amount of sarcasm.
“Well, shit.” Trevor reached forward, hesitated, then gently tapped the cube with a tentative finger. It was cool to the touch, a smooth, inert block of gray metal. He moved his hand across every surface of the thing, trying to find some indentation, a seem, anything that could be a hidden catch that would grant access. “No luck feeling around, gonna try an alternate look.”
“Full Spectrum,” Trevor said as he closed his eyes. The darkness behind his lids took on a yellow glow and he noted the little eye icon vanish to be replaced by a stylized sun. He slowly opened his eyes as his vision clouded, the whole chamber taking on a ghostly quality. Rainbow fractiles began to flow around the room, filling the chamber with hallucinatory light. His head started to pound and he tried to narrow his eyes to reduce the data stream. Eventually curved lines started to crystallize from the chaos, becoming obvious radiating waves spreading from the cube. Vance moved his hands through the wavelengths, twitching his fingers at certain points, and turned the colors around in his vision. The lines withdrew and vanished one by one leaving a slowly spreading series of calm waves emanating from a small rectangle set into the upper front of the cube.
"Ok, I think I found the scan port, thing is broadcasting low level pulses.” He took a half step back and considered the cube. “Exactly how far will this Ident get me do you think?”
"Well..." Vance hesitated.
“Well...it might open it up...maybe...or the vault will self destruct.”
“Come up with another option?”
“I fukkin hate you…” Trevor sighed and after a few moments of repressed panic he passed the Ident across the front of the cube.
The waves shifted, vibrating rapidly, as sweat dripped to the floor from Trevor’s face. His universe contracted into a single metal box and a promise of swift death. After an eternity the top of the cube smoothly parted to reveal a dark void the size of his thumbnail surrounded by a ring of glittering white lights.
“Oh thank God...” Trevor said as he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Normal Spectrum.” The cube returned to its cold, silent, and boring self. “Sliding in the Skeleton Key now.”
He touched the chunky Key to the revealed port and watched the show. The Key adjusted and seemed to pull itself from his hand to sit firmly in the data port. The lights on the Key cycled, slowly at first, but soon they sped into a rapidly flashing cadence.
“Wow, how much data do you think is in this thing?”
“About as much as a soul…” Vance whispered.
“Never mind, the Key should hold it, might take a while though.”
“How long is ‘a while’ Vance?” he asked just as the lights went sold and the Key slowly rose from the port.
Trevor reached forward and freed the now extremely hot Key from the the cube. It burned the tips of his fingers before he could toss it back and forth in an attempt to cool it. The heat dissipated rapidly and eventually it was cool enough to rest in his palm. It felt heavier than when he slotted it into the cube. He slid the Key back into his pouch and blew on his tender fingers.
“Did it work?” Vance asked over the link. The tiny chamber was filling with the smell of burning electronics and Trevor could see smoke rising from the cube’s port.
“Probably?” Trevor said with a dark grin. “You got an exit ready or are we still improvising?”
“A little from column A, a little from column B, the target lift is still more or less secure as far as I can see. It should be waiting for you but you better move quick, I think the distraction is getting under control.”
“Great…” Trevor checked and stowed his cannon, tried to straighten his bloody pant leg, and rehearsed the story he’d tell in case they found him...