October 21st, 2020

_Maze of Worlds_ part 2

He listened, heard nothing. Climbed up the back of the truck and laid out the green duffle on top of another . . . Bit his lip and propped up a full bag and edged his under it a bit. Climbed in, shoving his way under the overlapping bag, then pulled his back pack in after.

So if anyone looks in they'll see it, not me.

He reached past it to find the draw cord and snugged it up.

Froze at the sound of a motor, very near. Voices echoing around . . . something about custom filters for some string of numbers.

" . . . bloody last minute additions. Well, let's see . . . oh hell, they're too light to ride on top unless we net the whole . . ."

". . . shift a few sacks to hold it down . . ."

". . . still going to need a net."

Kit froze as he got shoved. A metallic clatter as something large and liughtweight was dropped on top of him, that got pressed down and heavy.

Not too much piled on top, please!

More jerky movements, loud voices, "About time you showed up! Grab the other side of this net, and tighten it down good. Then get out of here. You miss that gate . . ."

"Oh, cool off. The gate's damn near two hours from now." A man's voice, very close. Light shone around his backpack as the mouth of his duffle bag opened, something was shoved in, the cord tugged down tight.

"All right, the net's tight. I'm out of here."

The roar of the engine starting and vibration. The rattle of the garage door opening, then the truck eased forward, stopped, forward again and turned . . .

This is either best idea I've ever had, or the worst.

Chapter Two

Experimental World UE2131617

They couldn't have gone more than a few kilometers before they turned into stop-and-go traffic. A lot of crunching, as of heavy gates closing.

Okay. I read about this. Everything goes though a check point. I wonder what they check for? Do they have drug sniffers? That's not a problem . . . depending on what just got stuffed into my duffle.

Or are they looking for people escaping, like me? Or someone who's broken out of prison, or a spy heading home with the secret plans?

How would they detect them? Thermally, maybe? That's not good. Can my weird stuff make me look cold? I sort of augmented my coat last winter, because it was pretty thin. But that just held my body heat in . . . which is actually what I need right now.

He shut his eyes and thought about what he'd done. Visualized a blanket wrapped around him, holding the warmth in. The thud of heavy gate, door, whatever it was, was close now. And then the noises were muted and echoing as the crunch of the gate was behind them. The truck braked, then drove on before it had actually stopped.

Was that it? So fast?

So much for the super secure gate field.

After several turns, Kit relaxed his mental blanket. I'm sweating like mad, and even if the duffle and everything it's got piled on it isn't air tight, it does restrict the airflow.

He reached over the backpack and the smaller package and pulled at the puckered opening. It didn't give. Drat! He tied it shut! Or almost shut. But it's a little less stuffy if I hold it up . . . and I can sort of look around. What are all those white things, rows and rows of them? They aren't foggy, like corridors . . . are those the gates?

Then the truck made one last turn and stopped. The engine cut off. Slamming vehicle doors and voices.

"Hey Mike, I was starting to wonder if you were going to make it."

"What? Miss my twice a month delivery to Hell? Not a chance."

A laugh, and now a woman's voice. "Well, even the animals need to be fed, and the zookeepers rotate out."

"I'm surprised they don't have their own vehicles, though."

"I heard they don't want vehicles on site, and other than that, they don't want it to look like a government project." The woman again. "Mind you, it's all speculation, and we ought not talk. I'm running empty, this part of the trip, otherwise I wouldn't even get out of the bus."

Male laughter. "We know you, all stiff and proper, where the customers can see you."

She laughed. "Well, they've had a cancellation. Maybe we can get out of here on time. I wouldn't mind catching dinner there."

"Yeah, good chef, even if he is one of the inmates in the asylum."

Asylum? And I running from Social Services . . . to an insane asylum? Or prison? Oh man, I need to get out of here . . . but I'm here illegally . . .

"It'd drive me up the wall, not being able to go outside for weeks at a time."

"Yeah, no kidding. Well, the place is pretty empty, the last two years. Sheesh. I had to make four trips in my little bus, when they shut down . . . whatever the heck it was that they were doing. Maybe they'll just shut it down altogether, when the kids are grown."

"Yeah . . . I wonder what's going on with those kids, sometimes."

This is sounding worse and worse!

A electronic ping. "Whoa, another cancellation! I'm grabbing the slot, let's go!"

But doors slammed, engines started, and the truck jerked into motion. Turned, turned back . . . paused. The engine roared as the truck accelerated hard.

This is going to be worse than a corridor!

He pulled up his shirt and bit it. Don't scream! Don't scream . . . he was spun, tossed, crushed, stretched . . . and dumped back into the normal world gasping for breathe . . . a nasty stink invading . . .

Is the air out there breathable? Oh . . . Kit reached and grabbed the opening of the duffle and clenched it shut. Buried his nose in the bottom of the duffle where it met his backpack and tried to breath slowly.

The duffle's not air tight, but it's better than nothing.

If we're not going too far.

If . . .

The truck bumped over somthing and stopped. The rattle of descending garage doors, a roar like giant fans . . .

Kit swallowed. Right, they had to have the gate outside, because the trucks coming through, moving. But they must have built pretty close.

And if I'm going to leave here, I'll need to know when they'll open the gate, and someway of breathing while I get there. Because a halfhour wait for the gate to open might be fatal.

Or . . . maybe the air is breathable, just ultra stinky.

More vehicle door sounds, voices.

Uh oh. I need to get out of here before they unload . . .