Gaia jogged across the street to catch up with the others as they vanished around the corner of the enormous building. Entering the narrow alley, the side of the Genesis Tower became a shiny slate surface – no windows, no doors. Gaia felt like she had entered a maze and fought to push down the claustrophobic feeling that rose in her stomach. Like picking at a cuticle, this break-in felt strangely welcome and compulsive, even more so since it could result in disaster at any moment. Jon and the others had slowed down in front of a gap in the endless wall. Gaia caught up with them. They were standing in front of a hollowed out room lined with dumpsters surrounding a steel door – the service entrance.
“Right,” Jon looked serious. “I think when we get inside we should split up and look for some kind of control room, or at least computers. Any proof we can get, take a photo of it. For now, this is just for us.”
Obi nodded. Charlie moved closer to Jon.
“Charlie is with me,” he continued. “Obi and Alessandro. Gaia, are you ok alone?”
Gaia shrugged. Alessandro shot her a sympathetic look.
“Let’s go,” she said, avoiding it.
“Gloves,” Charlie said, pulling a pair out of her pockets. Jon followed suit and took a step towards the door, before pausing.
“Obi, you try the door,” he said.
After fidgeting with a pair of rough wool gloves, Obi moved tentatively to the door and reached for the handle. To everyone’s surprise, it was unlocked.
Gaia slipped on her own pair of soft calfskin gloves. They used to belong to her mother and for a horrible second she saw herself arrested, thrown in a cell, and having the gloves ripped from her. It was almost enough to turn back. As if sensing her hesitation, Alessandro quietly put an arm around her.
“Are you alright?” he said.
“When we get back burgers are on me.”
“Sounds good,” she smiled.
Ahead, Jon was furiously motioning for Alessandro to follow Obi, who was already inside, so Alessandro nodded at her to seal their deal and hurried to catch up. Charlie and Jon stepped inside, and Gaia followed.
Inside, the hallway was dimly lit, only used by staff and cleaning services. Gaia made her way down a narrow corridor and around a corner which led to a windowless lobby with a double set of elevators. The hallway continued past them, lined with plain, shut doors, same color as the walls. It was a concrete bunker, no resemblance to the glass tower above.
Gaia tried the first door. Locked. She could see Jon and Charlie further down the hall. They were also trying door handles. She glanced up to look for cameras. None of those, either. This was a DOA mission. She was kind of relieved.
Jon and Charlie came back over to her and they entered the lobby again.
“All the doors are locked,” said Jon.
“Yeah, I know.”
“We’re going to go back out and look for another way in. Can you take the elevator, or look for the stairway maybe, and go up one floor?”
Gaia was about to answer, sure yeah, or some snide remark, but suddenly it was like she saw Jon clearly for the first time. He couldn’t wait to get out of here. He was scared. Strangely, that made her feel better. With exaggerated casualness she leaned in and pressed the elevator call button. Jon practically flinched.
“So we’ll just see you outside.”
“Pray for me,” Gaia said, dripping with sarcasm. Jon left with such great haste that Charlie had to run to keep up with him, and they disappeared around the corner.
Now that she was alone, Gaia took a deep breath. The elevator arrived with a ding. She stepped inside. It was a gleaming capsule, mirrored walls that turned translucent when the elevator reached higher levels, but Gaia wasn’t going to experience that. She pressed the lobby button.
Welcome, an artificial female voice began as the door closed. We here at Genesis hope you are having a transformative day. Remember, the path to a good life begins with you.
Gaia rolled her eyes. Another ding and the elevator arrived at her destination. Gaia stepped out and into what felt like a cavern. She was finally inside the glass structure. The lobby twinkled silver and steel blue in the moonlight that was coming through the enormous window walls. She looked around for a computer, anything that seemed familiar in the alien world she found herself. With no other options, she headed towards the reception desk by the main exit but a sudden noise and a golden strip of light from a door behind her caused her to jump and scramble for shelter behind a nearby potted bush.
Two figures walked into the room conversing in hushed tones. They didn’t notice her. She remained crouched as they crossed the room, unhurried, two dark shadows. One of them, a woman, laughed softly. They reached the other side, unlocked another door, and passed through it. Just as Gaia felt safe to move and started to stand up, a hand fell on her shoulder. She jumped, her heart thumping out of her chest.
Behind her was a young man, Tall, dark hair, he was wearing a velvet blazer and a glowing in the dark necklace. He didn’t look like security.
“Follow me,” he said.
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