I kept on running through what might’ve been happening back at base. I imagined Patricia screaming. At Alan. At me. At whatever unfortunate Alliance member might’ve walked past at the wrong time. I imagined then scrambling over the consoles, trying to figure out what had happened, why I’d gone dark. Realising what I’d done…. And already planning how to punish me for it.
I tried to push those thoughts to the back of my head. They wouldn’t help me now, and I wasn’t going to regret it when I knew something was up. All that training hadn’t been for nothing. I could tell when something was suspicious. And if I had just let this go...I don’t know if I ever would’ve been able to stop thinking about it.
I had to find out.
I waited around until they had moved far enough away and started after them, always keeping a turn between us. I peaked over every corner before I moved, to make sure they were still walking like they were supposed to. If they turned at the wrong time, and saw me, and neither of us had a good explanation as to what was going on, well…. It wouldn’t be pretty.
They walked with their heads forward, not speaking to each other. They knew where they were going, and didn’t waste any time getting lost. From what I could tell, they were headed somewhere in the industrial sector. Gradually, factories started to appear. Long, darkened pipes on the horizon. I could smell the ash and soot already, could feel my skin getting dirty, pores getting blocked and blackened.
This was a part of the city I didn’t see often. It was hidden behind larger buildings, put far away from the general population. This was the ugly side, the gory insides that kept the city working. The skeleton of abandoned projects, cranes and rebar, stuck out from the ground like the skeleton of a great metallic beast.
I was finding it harder to breathe the further I followed them, but they continued on, undeterred. I don’t think they were speaking to each other anymore. Or if they were, I couldn’t hear it.
After a few more minutes, I grew nervous. No doubt Alan and Patricia would now be scrambling to find out where I was. I knew I had jeopardized the mission, and that there would be serious consequences when I got back. But this was something I couldn’t just let go of. The streets were quiet here, no one around but me and the two men, and any practical repercussions seemed very far away.
Eventually, the men came to a stop. I stayed one turn behind them, obscured by the stained brick wall of a fishing packing facility. They were waiting outside the entrance to a harbourside warehouse, one without any recognisable branding. From all indications, it looked abandoned. The lights were out and there was ample rust gathered around any metal surface exposed to the air.
One of them knocked on the door, and turned his head around in a sweeping scan. I ducked behind my cover, avoiding his gaze. When I peered around the edge again, the huge doors had opened, and soft yellow light was pouring out of them. The men entered, and a chorus of soft voices started up, indecipherable. Shadows appeared. I counted at least five, including the men. Then entered the warehouse, and the doors were pulled closed again.
I waited for a minute until the lights went out again, and I couldn’t hear any voices anymore.
I stepped out from my cover, but made sure to stay close to the walls, obscured in shadow. The only source of light was a single street lamp on the corner, old and flickering in and out. I approached the warehouse from the side, steering clear of all of the windows, even though most of them looked like they’d been blacked out with flick paint. Didn’t want to risk it.
There was a rusty wire fence around the sides, but the gate gave way easily when I pushed on it. It let out an uncomfortable whine, and I winced for a few moments, frozen in my moment. When there was no noise from the warehouse, I assumed no one had heard it, and pressed on. Hyperaware of every step I took, and how much noise by boots made, I walked right to the side of the warehouse, and pressed by air against the metal. Someone was definitely inside. More than one someone. Whatever they were saying, they sounded more than a little angry.
But staying here wasn’t helping anything. All I could hear was vague tones. I couldn’t see any faces, or hear any specific words. I had to get closer, but the main entrance was definitely not an option unless I wanted to get seen immediately.
I stepped back from the warehouse and started circling it, eyes peeled for any way in. It seemed all sealed up, except for a staff door at the back. I approached it to investigate it, going as far as laying my hand on the handle. Then I heard a gruff cough, no more than a meter away from me, and I jumped back. Clearly it was being guarded, so that wasn’t an option. I moved on, and finished my circle of the warehouse. I was back where I started, still with no way in.
I stepped further back. Maybe I’d missed something. Maybe there was another way in, or I could distract, or sneak in, or-
I traced the path with my eyes, estimated the size of the jump, if I could land it…
There were old cargo crates stacked up around the side, almost reaching the roof. If I could make the jumps without making too much noise, I just might be able to use them like a giant staircase. The warehouse looked like it had been a factory in another life. It didn’t seem like that far fetched an idea that there might be a skylight built into the room, or even a vent.
The first metal crate was a little more than half my height, and I was able to hop up fairly easily. The second one would be trickier. It was higher, and I’d have to lean over a gap to reach it. I couldn’t just jump, or my boots might hit on the metal, and they wouldn’t be able to just ignore something that loud.
I walked right up to the edge and leaned forward, hand outstretched to lean on the crate at the other side of the gap. Keeping one foot still, I searched for a foothold with the other, and pushed myself up and across in one fluid motion.
The roof was angled, and from here I could clearly see that there was a skyroof. All that stood between me and it were two mores crates. I climbed the next one, knocking my knee on it, but the sound was muffled by the fabric.
The last jump looked like it’d be the hardest. I was a little below level with the roof,and I could just jump and land, that’d be too loud. I stepped as far back on the crate as I could, and run up, getting my body low. I jumped off the edge and landed on my torso on the roof, with my legs off the edge. I grabbed at a notch in the roof with my arms to help pull myself up, and swung my legs up onto the roof too. I paused for a moment, to check I hadn’t been detected, and got onto my hand and knees.
Slowly, I climbed up the slope. The roof was slanted, with a flat section at the top, where the sky room was set in with a risen glass box.
I approached it cautiously. There was dim light beaming from it, and the voices were already much clearer. I got on my stomach and crawled closer to it. I peered in, as far as I felt comfortable, and saw three figures standing around, engaged in some kind of argument.
And someone was tied to a chair.