Decipio Umbra, Chapter One Part Two
Posted By: Archangel 7<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 22 March 2007, 10:00 pm
Geneses [Part 2]
Considering the location, Major Winston Lanford found the building to be exceptionally stunning. The combination of a striking pyramid construction and the general feel of modern grandeur amidst the dusty environs of Old Miami raised the building to an elevated, even transcendent standing. Undeserving, he thought, were those people, shuffling in crowds of cheap-suited strangers in and out of the building through the daily grind of meetings and coffee runs punctuating the corporate work day. A few looked at him, staring for a moment before glancing at their watch and returning to their own encapsulated worlds. Such apathy, such carelessness for the world outside of an endless cycle of bed and office, was why Winston had never joined the faceless ranks of the corporate machine. Maybe he was undeserving as well, but at least his ambitions were driven by something higher than a bigger paycheck.
He pushed through the light crowd, clutching a faux leather briefcase in his left hand and the pistol concealed in his pocket with his right. The outfit seemed like a pitiful attempt to fit in, with a cheap shirt and tie tucked under an equally inferior brown overcoat, a pair of black-framed eyeglasses, and the briefcase, but the overall effect rendered him surprisingly anonymous. Anonymity was his objective; he was a face to be seen, but never remembered.
Lanford cycled through the revolving door, entering a cavernous foyer with grey-marbled floors. The reception desk mounted in the center of the room glinted with the combined power of fluorescent lights and a spotless stainless-steel paneling. The raw majesty of the outer construction belied this, a gaudy attempt at sophistication and modern styling. Disappointed but otherwise nonchalant, Lanford continued on past the reception desk. Never looking up from the filing of her prim, manicured nails, the receptionist did not notice his passage.
Trudging alongside weary passengers, he made his way to the elevator, and entered through the aluminum doors. Stuffed inside the six-by-six-by-eight cell with ten other passengers, Winston felt absolutely smothered in a cloud of white-collar trash and fifty-cent bathroom cologne. Disgust could be stifled for as long as Winston needed but the disgust remained.
Floor by floor the passengers slowly disseminated, until finally Winston was left alone. He searched the rows of opaque buttons on the floor indicator until he found one marked with a gold-colored brass tag etched with the symbol "B3." He pressed it.
The lift slowed to a halt as it approached the third basement level below Rotham Bank. Nearly four stories of concrete and steel lay above Winston, though the representative security offered him no comfort. The seedy roots of the city were a place for rats and criminals, not someone like himself. But, he had agreed to the location, and if anyone was not worth angering, it was Ackerson.
The doors parted, revealing a dank, dimly-lit passageway lined by a cracked concrete wall on the left and a chain-link fence on the right. Winston entered apprehensively, looking into the dark void beyond the fence, where the weak overhead light failed to penetrate. He tossed the briefcase aside, its purpose served, and gripped the pistol tightly in his sweaty right fist. Still hesitant, he glanced at the watch clasped around his left wrist and saw the hands slowly ticking closer to the 12:15 deadline for his appearance. "Well, the Colonel likes punctuality," he said, unconscious of his own vocalization. Lanford proceeded down the passageway, which ended with a single aluminum door set into yet another concrete wall. He tried the door, but the knob stayed stationary as he turned it. "Goddammit," he muttered, twisting the knob angrily in his hand. "Where is that bastard when you need him?"
"Angry, are we?"
Winston drew his pistol and aimed it into the darkened void. Someone had followed him. He didn't know who, and what interest they would have in his affairs, but he'd be damned if they sabotaged his plans. The voice had come from somewhere inside the darkened room but exactly where was anyone's guess. He released the safety and gazed intently into the darkness. "Who's there?" His voice resonated through the room. "Show yourself!"
"Now, now, there's no need for threats," the voice continued. "I'm sure you'd rather talk than wave a gun at something you can't see."
"What the hell makes you think I would talk to you?"
"Because, Winston, I'm the ticket to your future."
Somewhere above him, Winston could hear a vague click followed immediately by a distant buzzing that soon came to fill the entire room. Fluorescent lights began to cast their ghostly glow upon the darkness, revealing a large glass-and-metal bulk seated below him on what appeared to be a small set of subway tracks. Before the tramcar was the silhouetted figure of a man. His features were still hidden by the dimness of the lighting, but Winston immediately recognized the sense of ambitious fear and insecurity this man seemed to generate. The man walked to the edge of the platform and lifted himself to the concrete, uttering a slight groan as he did. He made his way to the fence that separated them directed Winston to the gate at the other end. After removing the electric padlock, the man started back toward the tramcar. "Come, Winston," he said, "Take a ride with me."
Winston could remember the shouting. Piercing shrills of laughter echoed back to him from across the void of time and maturity, pecking at him like some impatient vulture of a memory. His father, tall, dark, dressed in modest work clothes, laughed along with him, or rather, his child avatar. He felt his father's shoulder below his stomach, holding him high in the air as he pretended to soar among the clouds, laughing at and in spite of the dreadful world below. It had always been his mission, so he thought, to save that world. He wanted to be a liberator, a strong and victorious hero to the people, who might not always get his man but always got the girl. He couldn't accept a romanticized fantasy, he wanted this illusion to be real.
Reality, however, always took a different turn. Winston never liberated more people than he had ended up killing, couldn't lift more than ninety-two kilos to save his life, and hadn't had a date in years. His childhood avatar would have shunned what he would become rather than accept it, let alone respect it. Winston desperately needed the drive and will to be great, to become better than the status quo, but the circumstance of his own nature never allowed him that quality. That was always true of people, wasn't it? Unless you were already some kind of goddamned superhero, you would never become one.
Winston gazed out the window as the tunnel came rushing past. Here and there, he would catch glimpses of another area, somewhere beyond the narrow tunnel the tram was now speeding through, though he was too distracted to make any sense of it. More than once he could have sworn he had seen some sort of machines inside those rooms, but common sense had the better of him.
Ackerson, standing near the front of the tram facing the front viewport, turned his head to speak. "Major?" he said.
"Tell me, do you believe in God?"
"Well, I was raised Catholic
"That's not what I asked."
Winston hesitated. "Yes, yes I do," he finally said.
"You believe in His forgiveness, correct?"
"Good," Ackerson muttered. "Very good."
The tram continued in silence, speeding its way through the underbelly of Miami, through a place Winston never thought existed. None of the city's histories he had read ever mentioned an underground such as this. This railway, though ostensibly without purpose, must have cost a small fortune to construct. Indeed, the railway must have served some purpose aside from ferrying a visionary and a shady Colonel to a hidden location, Winston reasoned. The question of why would need to be answered by Ackerson, and a question like that would likely be answered with a bullet. Only one more reason never to trust the man.
"One minute to your destination, sir," announced a voice over the car's intercom.
"Prepare the station for our arrival," the Colonel answered. "Everything's in order, Captain, correct?"
"It's just as you left it, sir."
" The minute passed without a further word between the two. Winston continued to look out the window, seeing nothing but the blur of the wall they passed. People always commented on this habit, calling him a daydreamer or a wandering fool, but strangely Ackerson remained quiet. Of all people, Winston expected a comment from him, but no further words were exchanged until finally they came upon another station, identical to the one Winston had boarded from.
"Now, Major, before we discuss the terms of our deal, I have several things that I need to show you," Ackerson finally said.
"I'm fine with that." Dreamer they may have called him, but would those naysayers, those cynics, believe he would be the one to change the course of their future? The circumstances of his nature may have never given him the superhuman will to change humanity, but he would be damned if that would stop him now.