The elevator doors opened with a ‘ping’ sound. ‘Floor 56’. The top floor of TethTech and the office of Tobias Zen.
I stepped out of the elevator onto a walkway suspended in the air. The walkway itself was comprised of orange metal struts that zig-zagged in the same double helix pattern that I had seen on the side of the tower. Large grey metal poles went vertically upwards holding the walkway in place. It looked secure so I began to take tentative steps towards a pillar at the centre of the walkway.
As I walked forward I made the mistake of looking downwards and saw through the metal struts that the next floor was twenty feet or so below me. I wouldn’t survive a fall if it came to that. The elevator behind me began to whir into life and start to descend; there was only one way to go now.
I took off my heels and left them by the elevator door as they looked like they would easily get stuck in the struts. Walking bare foot made me feel exposed and the cold feeling of metal on my feet sent a shiver all over my body. It was a refreshing feeling after the intense heat of the previously tight corridors of the last floor.
As I arrived at the central pillar the walkways radiated around it in a circle and the floor changed to a white hard plastic coating. It gave my feet a moment to recover from the hard steel helixes and I felt the blood rush back into my feet as they recovered from the cold.
The central pillar reached my waist and then stopped rather than continuing to the top of the building. Whilst I rubbed one of my feet I could see that the central pillar was wide open at the top and through it I could see a long fall down to the bottom of the building.
Intriguingly there were several thin slits in the side of it, no wider than the size of a chocolate bar. Letting curiosity get the better of me I leant forward towards one of the holes and could see that the pillar itself was lined with mirrors that looked like they snaked down the entire tower. Each mirror showed a vision of a different room in the building and I worked my way around the different holes taking in glimpses of the world of TethTech.
What I saw amazed me. I saw rooms filled with plant life that sprawled across every surface, their vibrant colours of green, purple and red creating an intense burst of colour. One room was covered in plastic sheeting and contained a giant tank of water with dolphins in it who playfully splashed around. Another room was nothing but white space with a single pillar in the middle that gave off sparks of electricity. In one room I’m sure I saw a man walk through one wall and emerge through another on the opposite site of the room.
This was truly a house of science and it was fascinating.
Yet one of the rooms was one that filled me with horror. This room was filled with cells that contained animals, probably for testing. Cats, dogs, monkeys, rabbits and so much more all sat on the floors of their cells waiting for their next experiment. I felt sick. It was the first sign that there was more to TethTech than I had first thought.
Then in the last cell I saw a person lying on the floor. He was wearing an army uniform that had been torn. His hands were bound and his mouth gagged. I could see his face and his dark black hair and stubble but I’d never seen this man before. I thought about crying out to him but he seemed to be located at the base of the tower in the lowest level I could see. He’d never hear me and I wasn’t sure how I could reach him.
“Ms Young,” came a booming voice from right behind me. It startled me forwards and I felt my feet slip, sending me heading towards the pillar. The owner of the voice grabbed my jacket and pulled me backwards.
I regained my footing and turned to face the voice.
“Careful Ms Young. I wouldn’t want you to fall down there at least until we have had a little chat,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said not sure if falling down the pillar may have been a better option.
“I’m Tobias Zen. Thank you for coming today, we are always happy to hear from the BBC. This way please,” he motioned towards a path at the end of the walkway which branched off in three directions. I felt the tingle of cold as my bare feet stepped off the plastic and touched the orange steel again. We continued to walk forwards towards an ornate dark brown door marked “The Tea Boy.”
“That’s a little joke we have around here. I like to feel that each employee here is the boss and that I make the tea for everyone. I simply allow them to realise their dreams and they deliver amazing products. It’s key to the way we do things,” said Tobias, clearly the captain of an efficient ship.
“And then you watch them through the pillar?” I asked.
“It’s my little way of checking in on people. Frankly it’s more curiosity on my part, than wanting to control my employees. I like to see what world changing things they are making and the pillar lets me get a constant stream of activity in minutes. Did you like what you saw?”
“Yes,” I lied and then unable to contain my frustration I asked. “But why are you experimenting on animals?”
He seemed taken aback by this question. I wasn’t sure if he was shocked by the question or the fact I had seen the basement room.
“Ah, yes. The bottom floor. We recently started a service where we allow employees to bring their animals to work. Some of our team are really attached to their pets and they don’t like to leave them alone for long hours whilst they are at work. So we let them bring them here. One of our trainers then walks them and looks after them during the day and employees can see them whenever they want.”
His reply was clever and calculated but it had to be a lie. Even if someone had a monkey for a pet, there’s no way a human would be a pet. The ‘haves’ had extravagant excesses but slavery was not one of them I hoped. There was something about the basement that I didn’t like and I vowed to find a way into there no matter what happened next.
I didn’t feel I could confront Tobias about it any further. He had all the power and this was his home. Talking about it wouldn’t change anything. I’d have to sneak into there later. For now we walked into his office as I took one look back at the pillar wondering what other secrets it held.
There were three things that Grace hated. Marshmallows, Tobias Zen and waiting. For the past thirty minutes she had watched a display on her phone that showed a blue dot that symbolised Emmie move around the TethTech building and she was starting to become concerned. The waiting was getting to her. So much so that she’d be prepared to eat a marshmallow served by Tobias Zen, if the waiting would stop.
Grace’s mobile showed Emmie’s small blue dot move vertically up the tower. Where is she going? wondered Grace.
She had sworn to protect Emmie and each moment she stood outside felt like she wasn’t fulfilling this oath. As she watched Emmie’s dot head towards the top of the building she couldn’t wait any longer.
If anything happens to Emmie and I’m just stood here waiting I won’t be able to forgive myself, she thought.
Grace walked around the central dome towards the back of the tower, hoping she could somehow sneak in via a grate. As she made her way out of the view of the crowds she heard a loud crash come from directly in front of her.
“Emmie!” she though as she dashed towards the source of the noise, entering a large transportation area filled with trucks and large gates that teased entry into the building.
The noise hadn’t come from Emmie but was one of the competition winners. Tom? thought Grace, remembering him from the earlier ceremony.
Tom was kicking crates that were stacked around the back of the building and shouting incoherently. “Bastards!” he shouted, as he started to remove boxes marked ‘Medical Waste, Do Not Touch’ from a large crate.
“Ok,” said Grace. “Put the box down crazy boy.”
“And who are you?” asked Tom. “Another of Tobias’ fanboys? Get out of here!” he held the box of medical waste over his head and threw it at Grace’s feet. Needles filled with mysterious chemicals and other people’s blood tumbled outwards, narrowly missing her.
“Woah. Calm down. I’m no fan of Tobias; I just want to help my friend,”
“I hate Tobias Zen. One day I will make him pay. He killed my Mum and Dad and I hate him,” Tom’s words suddenly intrigued Grace.
Grace was shocked. “How did he kill them?” she asked.
“They died on the last day of the 20 Day Siege. If he had been quicker creating a solution he could have saved them!”
“If you hate Tobias, I know someone you should talk to. Tell them Grace sent you,” she handed Tom a card that had a playing card back and a phone number on the front. “They’ll help you.”
Tom tossed the card on the ground. “Yeah, right. What are you, some sort of police officer? You’re gonna lock me up, as soon as I ring that number and say that I want to kill Tobias.”
“Look at the card again.”
Tom picked up the card and flipped it over. He saw the playing card back and when he turned around Grace took the Queen of Diamonds playing card from out of her top and showed it to him.
“You’re The Deck!” he said, as the reality sank in. The news reports had gone viral and it was well known that The Deck had tried to kidnap Tobias. “You do hate him as much as I do.”
“Exactly. Now are you going to help me get in the building or not?”
Tom looked back at the building and motioned to the perfect entry point. Grace dashed off and thanked Tom. “Call the number,” she said and she really hoped that he would. For his sake.