Wednesday, 30 December 2009
This City Never Sleeps - Prologue
The cigarette fell like fireworks at his feet and he crushed the stub in to the concrete. The night air was cold and the wind bit his skin as he walked through the deserted city streets. The warm glow of streetlamps mapped out his journey ahead. Not long now.
The massive glass front of the Tyler Institute loomed over head. By day, all sixty storeys shone and gleamed in the sunshine, almost symbolic of the bright minds that worked inside its walls. Tonight, however, it looked dark and lifeless. The man checked his watch. 1:50 am .He was early. A long stone staircase led up to the revolving entrance doors, up which he limped, dragging his left foot behind him. Pulling the collar of his long coat down from around his neck, he savoured the shelter of the doorway. A small red light blinked on a panel next to the door, requesting a key-card before entry would be permitted. The man fumbled through his pockets, looking for the thin piece of plastic that had been given to him earlier that evening. After some searching, he found the card and fed it through the reader on the side of the door. The light paused, and then blinked amber. Still not satisfied. The words ‘Please enter four digit security code’ flashed on to a small LCD screen on the panel. He remembered what he had been told: ‘…The year history was changed…’ and instantly recalled the code which he promptly tapped into the keypad. Green light. There was a mechanical click and the image on the LDC now read:
Security Level- B
Welcome to the Tyler Institute
As he pushed the security door, it revolved and he slid silently into the building. The massive reception area was the size of the entire ground floor, and as he looked up, he realised there was no ceiling. He could stare right up at the top of the building through its hollowed-out core, which was framed by staircases spiralling round to each and every floor. The room was dark, except for a few security lights dotted around that cast eerie shadows on the walls.
He looked left and right to make sure there was no one in the reception area with him and carried on towards the elevator. As he walked out across the vast room, a large sign on the back wall caught his eye.
The Tyler Institute for Independent Scientific Research
His footsteps echoed throughout the building as he limped across the tiled floor to the elevator door. He called the elevator and as he waited for it to arrive, he once more searched in his pockets, and after a moment, his expression turned to fear and his searching became more frantic… and then he felt it slide between his fingers deep within his pocket. Got it. Thank god for that.
The elevator pinged and the doors slid open, bathing the reception area in a warm glow of artificial light. He climbed in and pushed the button for the third floor. As the doors closed and the elevator climbed the building, an overwhelmingly uneasy feeling came over him.
Dr George Burkley paced up and down the floor of his lab. He had worked on the third floor of the Tyler Institute for four years now, rarely spending any waking hours away from his work. He held his cell phone to his ear and muttered to himself. It rang and rang against his ear until eventually it cut out. He dialled again. No answer.
‘Howard… where the hell are you…’ he said to himself.
He sighed, and tried ringing one more time, before setting the phone down on his workbench. The sky looked particularly black outside the windows of his lab tonight, and rain had started to beat against the glass.
The serenity of the third floor hallway was cracked it two with the ping of an arriving elevator car.
Dr Burkley checked his watch. 2 am. He lifted his thick glasses from his face and rubbed the top of his nose. As he went to put them back on, he heard the mechanical click of the security door to his lab accepting a key card and preparing to open. Howard… thank god.
‘Howard,’ he called as the door slid open. ‘I’ve been trying to ring you. What’s happened to your phone? I’ve been…’
As the man limped through the door Burkley stopped dead.
‘Howard can’t make it’ the man replied ‘he sent me in his place.’
Burkley stared at the man in the doorway.
‘Who the hell are you?’ Burkley swept his graying hair from his eyes ‘And how did you get in here?’
‘I’m a friend of Howard’s. He’s currently otherwise engaged.
‘This is a restricted area…’ Burkley stammered ‘…do I even know you?’
‘No, but Howard does. That’s all that’s important.’
Burkley looked uneasy. ‘Do… do you have it? Have you brought it with you?’
‘All in good time’ replied the man. ‘Take a seat.’
Burkley resented being told what to do by a total stranger in his own lab, but grudgingly sat down at his workbench.
‘Where is Howard? Is he okay?’
‘Howard’s fine. And, yes, I have brought it with me. It’s right here in my pocket.’
‘May I see it?’ replied Burkley.
The man slid his hand into the pocket of his long coat and reached around, looking Burkley right in the eye.
‘I’m sorry’ he said. ‘Truly, I am.’
‘Sorry…?’ replied Burkley, but before the words were out of his mouth, the man had pulled a snub nosed revolver from his pocket. A loud crack echoed through the night, and Dr Burkley grabbed his chest. A pain the likes of which he had never felt before in his life gripped him, like a thousand knives entering his chest. His pristine white lab coat slowly turned a deep shade of crimson and trying to catch a breath, he looked in to his assassin’s eyes as he fell to the floor.
‘Wh...who are you?’