Paranoia (158 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.


Fifty feet up ahead, a security camera was mounted high on the wall, next to the ceiling, its tiny red light winking.

Wyatt said I was a good actor, and now I'd really need to be. I had to look casual, a little bored, busy, and most of all not nervous. That'd take some acting.

Keep watching the Weather Channel or whatever the hell is on now, I mentally willed whoever was in the command center. Drink your coffee, eat your donuts. Talk basketball or football. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

My work boots squeaked softly as I walked down the carpeted hall, wheeling the cleaning bucket.

No one else around. That was a relief.

No, I thought, it's actually better if there're other people walking by. Takes the focus off of you.

Yeah, maybe. Take what you get. Just hope no one asks where I'm going.

I turned the corner into a large open cubicle-farm area. Except for a few emergency lights, it was dark.

Pushing the bucket through an aisle down the middle of the room, I could see even more security cameras. The signs in the cubicles, the weird unfunny posters, all indicated that engineers worked here. On a shelf above one of the cubicles was a Love Me Lucille doll, staring malevolently at me.

Just doin' my job, I reminded myself.

On the other side of this open area, I knew from the map, was a short corridor leading directly to the sealed-off half of the floor. A sign on the wall (SECURE FACILITY C—ADMITTANCE ONLY TO CLEARED PERSONNEL, and an arrow) confirmed it for me. I was almost there.

This was all going a lot more smoothly than I'd expected. Of course, there were motion detectors and cameras all around the entrance to the secure facility.

But if the call I'd made to Security the day before had worked, they'd have shut off the motion detectors.

Of course, I couldn't be sure of that. I'd know in a few seconds, when I got closer.

The cameras would almost certainly be on, but I had a plan for that.

Suddenly a loud noise jolted me, a high-pitched trill from my Talkabout.

"Jesus," I muttered, heart racing.

"Adam," came Seth's voice, flat and breathy.

I pressed the button on its side. "Yeah."

"We got a problem."

"What do you mean?"

"Get back here."


"Just get the fuck back here."

Oh, shit.

I spun around, left the cleaning bucket, started to run until I remembered I was being watched. I forced myself to slow down to a stroll. What the hell could have happened? Did the ropes give us away? Did the ventilation grate drop? Or did someone open the door to the mechanical room, find Seth?

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