1.13: Laser Boy: Haunting the Ducts
The image of Zombie Lisa getting knocked around by the giant abomination was replaying on an endless loop in Vince’s mind. He was crawling along a familiar shaft cussing at himself under his breath. He could not believe how fast his entire life had gone to sorg. Maybe if he could find Syrge he would have some way to rescue their friends, but surely not. No one escaped from Papal custody. Not that Vince knew of. Plus, he had no idea where Syrge and Scroot were hiding. They always ditched the scene when there was violence, not that Vince could blame them, they were young and small. That was how he tended to react too. Flight usually won in the fight or flight instinct. The only reason he ever fought was if he had no choice, or if he was striking first at unsuspecting citizens in the process of committing a crime. Elvis, Zombie, and Skum just threw themselves into anything that pissed them off. Vince knew Elvis looked down on him, but he usually tried not to let it show. Skum Bunny, on the other hand, was merciless in his taunting. Lisa could almost never remember the violence she was involved in so she really had little idea how deep Vince’s cowardice ran, until now. Vince had to stop and suppress a gag reflex.
He came to a familiar fork and turned to his left and started to get a bit lighter. After a few more minutes he came to a screened opening that looked out onto an old fashioned looking suburban type earth neighborhood. He kicked out the screen and jumped down to the ground. He pulled his hood over his head and walked down the middle of a concrete road much too wide for foot traffic. He seemed to remember from old videos that some kind of rubber wheeled vehicles used to move on paths like these. Of course, this area was designed to look like the old videos, but there were no vehicles of that sort on the station as far as Vince knew. He came here every once in a while and wandered the paths. Sometimes he got dirty looks, but he didn’t look too different from the boys that ran around the neighborhoods. As he got older though, it would become harder to pass through middle class areas like this. He walked quickly to the end of the block and turned left onto a path with rows of businesses lining the side. Syrge said these kinds of arrangements used to be called strip malls.
He looked overhead and saw hanging down toward him the tops of skyscrapers on the other side of the sphere. It was Down Town. He stayed away from there, security was tighter and sometimes even rich people went there for the ambience. All the borges spheres had little cities in them named for old Earth metropolises. He couldn’t remember the name of this one. They all had weird forced perspective sky-scrapers that made him dizzy to look at.
He turned into a narrow alley next to a business called, ‘The Wizard’s Gizzard Implant Emporium.” He braced his back against one wall and put his feet on the other and shimmied up to a vent at the end of the alley. He used a long narrow piece of metal from his pocket to pry it open and crawl inside. He did not even bother to replace the grating.
He crawled for about an hour through various sized passages until he finally got to a place he was unfamiliar with. There were some graffiti’d markings, but they were in some unfamiliar scrawl that he had never seen. For a moment the enormity of what had happened to his friends hit him again. He got dizzy and threw up between his arms. He squeezed his eyes against tears and wished he had at least held onto Lisa so she would not have run into that brutality. She would probably still be fighting him if he had though. He started crawling into the unknown passages, trying to forget the image of Lisa getting hit with that ham sized fist. The Papal Investigation Guerrilla Soldiers were genetic monstrosities bred for strength, savagery and mass, and then raised at the outermost ends of spires that extend outward from the wheels in 5 g environments. They were the worst things Vince could imagine in this haunted and harsh world he had been born into. He heard they cost about a million stakes each to create and train.
After two hours of crawling without seeing any openings, Vince experienced a feeling of claustrophobia for the first time in his life. He had taken so many turns and had been so preoccupied by his own self-loathing thoughts that his disorientation was complete and the sense of being trapped in these tunnels forever filled him with panic. He kept crawling though. He had little other choice.
Eventually, he did come to an opening that was giving off some light. He looked through the screen and saw a smooth white passage. There were no hard angles, it was all featureless and every thing appeared to be made out of white dino-glass. There were no people that he could see. The screen was tight and he had to back up and twist around painfully to kick at it with both feet before it fell to the floor.