If there had been anybody around, then I certainly would have looked very strange to them, even by these facilities standards. Here I was, a grown man travelling down a corridor sitting on top of a strange metallic beach ball that just so happened to be floating 2 metres above the ground. Aladdin and his flying carpet would be an apt description of me right now.
I don’t know why I stayed in this position. I could have easily disembarked, if that is the correct phrase, and walked down the corridor with the orb floating behind me but for some reason it just never occurred to me. I navigated the corridors in the same way I had done for years, with a left then a right making my way to the elevator.
I had walked these corridors too many times to count but they looked very strange tonight, they did not look like the corridors of my workplace, full of memories and nostalgia, passing the doors of the offices of my colleagues and friends, but instead they felt like corridors of my own personalised prison. As I turned the final corner and approached the lift shaft, I heard the whine of the elevator motor and the familiar sound of the little lady’s voice in the elevator reading out which floor the riders had arrived.
“Basement Level 2, Thank you”.
I was startled. ‘Was someone else was coming for me?’ I wondered.
I immediately sent the orb in reverse. It did reverse, of course it did, without hesitation, but it forgot to take my body with it. Until that moment had been sat up on top, my legs wrapped around the floating ball. But as soon as it stopped moving forward and reversed course, I found myself falling to the floor like I had been kicked off a mechanical bull at a carnival. The floor was made of concrete, cold and hard, I am sure that there must have been a budget for some carpet but someone had decided against it for reasons that escaped my logic right now. It hurt, a lot and I would certainly pay for it tomorrow but right now, this was no time for pain.
I scrambled back to my feet and around the corner looking for a place to hide. The elevators doors opened I heard several pairs of heavy boots rapidly approaching my position.
“Guns ready men, this guy is dangerous!” I heard from around the corner and I realised they’re going to shoot first and ask questions never.
I looked around and I realised the smooth concrete walls that surrounded me offered no protection. I glanced back down the long corridor and realised I would never make it to the end in time. Then an idea hit me, it was going to be a tricky one to pull off but it might just work and I didn’t really have many options left.
I took control of the orb with my phone; I always imagined the floating orb was going to be trickier to control. I was never able to master control of drones or toy helicopters and had caused lots of damage trying, but these controls were very intuitive.
Unlike a drone which tends to bob and lean at the slightest movement the orb remained still, perfectly still, perfectly horizontal at all times which made it very easy to control.
Firstly I pushed the joysticks in the direction of the elevators around the corner of the corridor and the orb instantly, silently, floated away.
The orb was equipped with a 360-degree camera which was a prototype from the military division, because, let’s face it if your choice is an old webcam from your colleague’s computer or go down to the restricted section and pick up a 360-degree camera from a military experiment, which one would you choose? It also helps if you happen to be with the CEO of the company at the time as it means you don’t have to hack your way in, just use her security clearance.
This addition meant there was no real front to the device as it could see around it at all times, useful, being ball-shaped.
It rounded the corner and came into view of the guards. I swiped my phone screen to pan around and then pushed forward again on the virtual joysticks. I could see the startled faces of the guards as this metallic basketball floated in front of them, this camera had great resolution.
There were 7 guards, they were standing in formation, with the one really huge guy at the back and three rows of two in front of him.
I smirked at their SWAT-style outfits, who did they think they were? I stopped smirking when I noticed the guns. These were the largest I had ever seen in real life. Actually, they were the only guns I had seen in real life but that doesn’t matter they were very big.
Suddenly the guards started to point their guns at my orb, unsure of its intentions they started to unload their bullets. The noise was terrific, but as they started firing, I pushed forward on the controls and the orb flew towards them. It was moving too fast to get hit and the guards were too slow with their reactions, they didn’t get a clean shot, at least not on the orb.
As it flew between the group at chest height, three on its left, three on its right, the guards kept firing. The machine gun volleys peppered into the opposing guards and their bulletproof armour.
I don’t know much about how these things worked, I hope they hadn’t killed each other, I hope they would survive but they certainly looked down and out after the little exchange. It was a simple tactic but it worked like a charm, six down, one to go.
The guy at the back just stood there and as the orb got closer I started to recognise him. His name was Frank and he had been with the company for years. I had often seen him around the campus and his official role was chief groundskeeper although we always wondered why a groundskeeper travelled in a bulletproof car surrounded by large men. I tried to pull back on the controls but for some reason they didn’t respond, the screen started to flicker and not long after the picture went dead too.
I guessed I was out of range of the orb, it was only a simple Bluetooth connection and although the orb was capable of much greater ranges I didn’t have the briefcase of complex equipment with me to send the signals.
It was just me and Frank and I suspected he had the same goal as Lara, to get rid of me.
I started to panic and as I looked around for a solution to present itself, there was no way I could win in a physical battle with Frank.
I was hit with two thoughts, firstly ‘How big was Lara’s cover up and what had I gotten myself into?’ and secondly, why were there no doors down this long, cold corridor.
The concrete was really cold, I never noticed it before but right here with my senses heightened I felt myself starting to shiver. It didn’t make any sense but as I looked down I realised why, the rose water, that horrible stuff that we kept in the lab that was brilliant at decomposing organic material had been slowly eating away the rubber on the bottom of my shoes and my feet were very nearly in contact with the cold concrete.
That was it, there was my solution.
I knew what to do, firstly remove my shoes before the rose water broke through and made contact with my skin. If that was to happen I would have bigger problems than just cold feet. Then I moved to the corner edge of the corridor and waited.
Frank was a big man. I don’t know whether he was hired because he was a big man or he became a big man to match the needs of the job but either way he was huge. He could have easily lifted me in the air and that machine gun he was carrying, while it looked impressive on the other hired goons who were fallen around the corridor, on him it looked like something he got out of a kids toy box.
Unfortunately for him his huge presence also meant that he had no ability to sneak up on anybody and I could listen to his heavy boots straining to take his weight as he stepped down the corridor. Clunking as he went. He got closer to the corner and my muscles tensed in anticipation.
It only took a moment for the rose water to take effect when it met his head. I had to adjust when I attacked, as I said, he was a huge man, and as he turned the corner, the point where I thought his head was going to appear was way off.
I was wearing my boots as gloves and instead of delivering clean blow to the head I first hit his jaw and smeared them up his face as I adjusted for his height. For Frank this meant that not only did he get a face full of rose water but also molten rubber in his face.
The sight would have been very disturbing if this man was not trying to kill me. Instead I took relief in seeing him drop to the floor clawing at his face.
We had some excellent technology in this building but doubted if they could reconstruct what was currently being melted away. I did feel sorry for him, because I didn’t know if he wanted to carry out these orders or what leverage Lara had over him, but I would be hearing the screams for the rest of my life, it did not look pleasant. After a few moments he went quiet and I was grateful that he had passed out. I raced around the corner to find my orb floating in the middle of a broken elevator car.
When it lost signal from my phone it was on a collision course with the elevator shaft and it had continued with the same path. I was going to have to fix that. It appeared to have broken through the doors with relative ease. Of course, the elevators were the only real way to get up to the ground floor. There were stairs on the other side of the basement floor but that meant going past the lab where I left Lara and I didn’t know if she was still unconscious.
Instead I decided to use the tools at my disposal, I climbed on top of the orb again and reached up to the roof of the elevator, pulling away the ceiling tiles and revealing the elevator shaft. A simple adjustment of the controls on my phone allowed me to ride the orb all the way up to the ground floor.
Within the elevator shaft there were cables and steel girders but eventually the concrete walls broke away and revealed two shiny steel doors. I leaned up against them to see if I could hear voices on the other side but it was all quiet. I hoped I was right about this because I was about to enter the main foyer and all this could be in vain if there were people there, people with guns.
I tried to move the doors and realised that they really weren’t meant to move without an elevator cart in place, it must be some sort of safety design. With a lot of grunting and nearly falling off the orb I managed to slide them open far enough to squeeze through and take the orb with me.
The big glass atrium it was nicely lit up at night and I made my way across to the exit without much fanfare. I deactivated the orb by pressing the button at the top, took off my coat and wrapped it around the orb. I figured I would get much more attention if I was being followed by a metal ball floating in the air instead of carrying my lab coat in my hand. People tend to notice that type of stuff.
The night was cold and it hit me quite suddenly when I opened the door. The staff car park was empty except for a handful of cars and I was very pleased to see my car.
It was second hand, a decade old but it never let me down. Like always it started first time and with the orb resting on the passenger seat, covered in my coat I made my way to the security checkpoint at the exit of the car park.
The barrier was down and the little light on the security guard’s office was dimmed, clearly tonight’s guard had taken this opportunity to take a nap because who in their right mind would come to work at this time. I opened my window and tapped on the glass only to see the guard jump with alarm. He looked at me, looked at the barrier and pressed the button, I was a free man.
I didn’t know that guard, unfortunately, a place like this has so many staff and the night security guard was not somebody who I regularly met. In fact it seemed every time I did work late there was a different person on the rota, but he seemed pleasant and he gave me a smile, I just hoped his actions, letting me through the gate, were not going to have dire consequences for him.
A minute later and I was on the main road out of town, relieved.