Chapter 17

As his apartment door clicked shut, Tom peeled the garbage bag up off the chair so he could sit down. He needed to sit. He needed to process. Settling into the chair, he started to replay the conversation in his mind.

From his pocket, a familiar buzz caught his attention. His phone was ringing. Awkwardly, Tom scrambled for his phone, barely managing to dig it out of his pocket.

“That’s a work number,” he thought to himself, answering it. “Hi, this is Tom.” He declared tentatively.

“Hi, Tom? It’s Conrad. Could you come back into work tonight? We have some changes in specification and want them going live as soon as possible.”

Tom pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at the time. It was only 9:30. He could probably go back. Putting the phone back he answered Conrad.

“Yeah, sure. I can be there in about 20 minutes. Just get the specifications ready to discuss and I’ll work on them through the night.”

Tom got up, grabbed his keys and wandered out of his apartment. He headed down the stairs, hopped into his car and half-heartedly drove while thinking about everything that Neil had said and his half-baked story about amnesia, assassination attempts and being a human generator. He wasn’t sure what to believe. Neil was sick and needed mental help. He knew he’d seen him this adamant before, back when he was in the hospital. He probably needed some medication.

The only thing that kept nagging at Tom was how Neil managed to get around so well without a cane. Could this story have some truth to it or was it some kind of mind over matter trick? He played everything over in his mind again and again, analyzing it bit by bit.

Before he realized it, Tom was sitting in his parking spot at work. He turned off his car, took a deep breath and walked towards the building. He could see Conrad waiting for him just inside the main doors. He walked up. Hurriedly, like a child, Conrad pounced on him with specifications right as he entered the door.

“As well as this list of tweaks, the board wants a special test protocol. You’re going to teach me and Scott how to run the machine and then we’ll do the testing as specified. Here’s the notes. Let’s get moving.”

Tom was unimpressed at the prospect of having to work throughout the night, but more because he would need to work with Conrad and Scott. The hours didn’t bother him, just the company.

He let Conrad drive to the silo while he started planning out what steps he’d need to take to make these changes work. Some of these requirements were just odd.

“So, does this new list still include the requirement to have the cannon articulating?”

“Yes,” replied Conrad

“Well, did you source out the material we’ll need to build the shielding? We’ll need to build a mesh grid around the entire thing to prevent any further mishaps.”

"Yes, I got that.”

“Well, that’s as good a place as any to start. Let’s get that moving.”

“We already have – the grid is up, per your specs. You’ll just need to do the electrical stuff.”

“Wow, you’ve been busy. I haven’t been away from the office that long.”

“As I mentioned, we’re running short on time, Tom.”

Tom nodded. He grabbed a pencil and started jotting down notes on the sheet from Conrad. He handed it back to Conrad.

“That’s a shopping list. We’re going to need that stuff to make everything you want happen. We should have all of it here, but it’s going to take some time to gather that all up.”

Conrad passed the list over to Scott.

“Take care of this,” barked Conrad.

Scott took the list and ran off.

Tom got started on the work. He couldn’t get his mind off of everything that had happened. Before he knew it, he had banged out all of the requirements on the list. He trained Conrad and Scott on how to use the cannon. He even did a successful test and confirmed that the newly designed shielding was going to meet the new safety requirements. Satisfied, he grabbed his coat. Over his shoulder he called back to Conrad and Scott.

“Are you sure you guys got it?”

“Yeah,” they replied in unison.

“Will one of you be driving me back to the lobby?” asked Tom, motioning to the golf carts.

“No, just take the one that Scott was using, we’ll come back together after all the testing,” responded Conrad.

Tom nodded and jumped on the golf cart. Slowly he made his way back to the main part of the building. He passed a clock, noticing the time. It was 4:43am.

Tom fumbled with the lock on the front door, turning the knob to unlock the security door. He reached into his pocket to get his keys so he could re-lock the door from the outside.

Tom felt around. His keys weren’t there.

“Shit,” he thought to himself, “I probably put them down somewhere.”

Wearily, Tom let the door close and made his way back to the cart. He was going to have to retrace his steps and get his keys if he had any hope of actually getting a few hours’ sleep in his own bed.

As he arrived back at the silo, he could hear the cannon’s generator humming through the initial sequence. They were prepping for a live test.

The thought of weary minds handling this kind of dangerous equipment gave Tom pause. Cautiously he opened the silo entrance door and looked in to make sure it was safe. Just as he looked in, he could see Conrad and Scott talking with one of the janitors. It seemed odd to Tom that someone would be cleaning the silo at all, especially at that hour.

Tom watched as Scott withdrew a handgun and shot the janitor. Tom barely managed to stifle a gasp by putting his hand over his mouth. From behind the partially closed door, he watched Conrad and Scott struggle to load the janitor into the cannon. Paralyzed by fear, he watched to see what they would do next.

Clumsily, the pair managed to get the janitor in the machine. They walked over to the console and started poking at buttons. The cannon started to pivot upwards until it slowly settled at a 90 degree to the ground. It was pointing straight up. Soon, the moving parts on the cannon started to churn to life. The cannon fired, scattering the beam in every direction. Tom was glad that the shielding he designed was holding up. Over the noise, he could hear a faint scream and a countdown.

“three… two… one… SHUT IT DOWN,” bellowed Conrad. Scott mashed at the console until the cannon stopped firing. Soon it was pivoting back downward, parallel to the ground.

“Can you pivot that down further, more towards the ground?” asked Conrad

Tom watched as Scott shrugged and fumbled with more switches. The cannon pointed down. The contents of the cannon emptied onto the floor.

From where Tom was standing all he could see was liquid and the better part of a mutilated arm. His mouth filled with saliva, he did what he could to not throw up at that point. In grim horror, Tom was unable to leave, unable to walk away.

From across the room he could hear Conrad yell out to Scott.

“Well, it looks like those weren’t the right settings. Do something with that arm and get another janitor to come clean this mess up, we’ll tweak the settings a bit and try it on the next one.”

With that, Tom let out an audible gasp. Both Conrad and Scott looked towards the door. Tom hoped that he managed to duck behind the door fast enough.

Holding his breath for what seemed like an eternity, he started to hear Conrad and Scott talking again.

Tom waited silently in the hallway. He knew that if they started up the generator sequence again that it meant that the other janitor would be as good as dead. He had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew he couldn’t move until the cannon started to drown him out, but he knew that noise signified another person would die. He knew that it meant he was going to sacrifice someone else to stay alive. He thought of the janitor and his hypothetical family and felt guilty.

Suddenly the generator sequence kicked on. The noise would mask his escape on the golf cart. Carefully, Tom peeked back into the silo through the open door. On the other side was Scott, holding Tom’s keys.

“Forget something?” asked Scott as he kicked the door against Tom, knocking him back. Quickly, Scott pulled his gun out and fired two shots into Tom’s stomach.

Tom’s ears were ringing and his stomach felt like it was on fire. He could taste the metallic tinge of blood in his mouth. Gasping for breath, Tom’s vision started to fade. He was passing out.

Just as he lost consciousness, he heard Scott shout out. “Don’t bother with the janitor, we have our second test subject.”

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

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