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Dome: Episode I

By Cristian Mihai

Copyright 2017 Cristian Mihai

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this
book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are
either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

First edition, October 2017

Cover Illustration Copyright © by Cristian Mihai

www.cristianmihai.net
Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza believed miracles to be unexplained acts of nature. For
instance, the ancients were afraid the sun might never rise. Nowadays, we know for sure that the
sun’s going to set and rise for a few more billion years.
But there’s always a dose of the miraculous about watching the sunset from the observation
deck of the Dome. It happens on the March equinox of every year. Slowly hovering above the
horizon, just as it did for the past six months, the sun sluggishly disappears beneath that
invisible line that separates the earth from the sky.
Of course, we can explain the process now, but there’s something miraculous about it… that
goes beyond knowledge or faith. It goes beyond that which can be seen or touched or
demonstrated in a scientific manner.
Terra Australis, they used to call it. All the way from Antiquity to a mere two centuries ago
people could only theorize about this vast continent; the land mass in the northern hemisphere
was supposed to be balanced by a continent in the south. Some kind of equilibrium was required
of our planet.
Finally, in 1820, a Russian expedition sighted what would later be known as Antarctica: the
coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth. Less than a century later, Roald Amundsen reached
the South Pole, thus conquering the impossible.
Almost two hundred years later… Dome received its first inhabitants. A structure unlike any
other built before it, a geodesic dome of gargantuan proportions, Dome is home to nearly three
hundred thousand people. A private city, owned and operated by the world’s largest corporation.
The point of this short history lesson?
Well… humans are a peculiar species. We act on faith, imagination, and intuition. At
midnight, we find ourselves gazing up at the stars and dreaming about the dawn…
That’s the only miracle there is: seeing what does not exist.
Yet.
Table of Contents
Prologue
Dome – Antarctica – 20th of March, 2087
About the Author
Also by Cristian Mihai
Dome
Prologue
For a man who knows that our worst nightmares are about to come true, Jack Riddell
has no trouble sleeping at night. “It is said that Caesar wept when he found out about
Pompey’s death.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” the host of the show, a woman in her mid-
thirties, asks. For the last hour or so, the richest man in the world has avoided giving her
a straight answer.
Jack laughs. “A man’s character is determined by how he reacts in the face of
adversity. By how strong his enemies are.” Ignoring the dumbfounded expression of the
host, he adds, “I believe people should realize Dome is a simple reminder that we can
fight against insurmountable odds and win.”
“People don’t like it when a corporation invests billions of dollars in an artificial
city.”
“Whether people like it or not, it is not my concern. Our money, our investment, our
city.”
“See?” the host cries. “You’re displaying the same arrogance that has cost us dearly
in the past. Megalomania is one way of further crippling our resources.”
“Do you know, miss, why we do most of the things we do? Wage wars and send
space ships and build artificial cities in the damn center of this planet’s harshest
continent?” Jack pauses for a moment, staring around at the faces in the audience.
“Because we can.”
“KaiCorp has spent the last thirty-five years investing tens of billions of dollars in
this city, in permanent bases on the Moon or Mars. An awful lot of money just to prove a
point.”
“Advertising, miss. That’ all.” Jack grins.
“A bit costly. Wouldn’t you say so?”
“Let me tell you this,” Jack says as he places his palm over his chest. “It’s not all a
waste of money. We do a lot of research and development there.”
“But not enough to recoup losses of almost 27 billion dollars in the last fiscal year
alone.”
“And your concern is?”
“What are you doing there, mister Riddell?”
Jack smiles his smile, the one he uses whenever he wants to assure people he is
aware of his place in the world: he is at the top, staring down at everyone else. A bizarre
mixture of sympathy and hatred and arrogance. Then he takes a deep breath, as if he’s
readying himself to explain where babies come from to a five year old, and says, “Dutch
philosopher Baruch Spinoza believed miracles to be unexplained acts of nature...”
Dome – Antarctica – 20th of March, 2087
Alexander Truffon knows he is going to die. His head is bloody, his legs tired. Muscles
and joints and skin and bone hurt with every step he takes, with every breath, with every
thought it seems. All around him, burning cars, bullet shells. Police sirens - a distant cry.
He closes his eyes in quiet surrender.
A few minutes later, after they’ve surrounded him, pointed a number of guns at him,
and shouted threats through a megaphone, he surrenders to the Guard.
As he walks into the restaurant, all Jack Riddell can think about is that he doesn’t like
being summoned. The maître instantly recognizes him and leads him to a table where
councilor Tziglievski is waiting for him.
Jack instructs the waiter to bring him his usual: a double shot of espresso and water.
He glances around: a full house tonight; the diners well dressed, the women in cocktail
dresses and jewelry. Loud music blares from enormous speakers located at each corner
of the restaurant, hopelessly trying to muffle the incessant sound of chatter and
laughter. The ceiling is a huge screen – playing over and over a video of the night sky
during the Aurora Australis. He glares over to Tziglievski, furrows his eyebrows. “So?
What’s this about?”
The councilor, a man in his late forties, perhaps early fifties, grey hair, but well
dressed and still attractive, takes a cigarette out of the packet that lay on the table, rolls
it between his thumb and index finger. He doesn’t seem to notice anything else. Finally,
he places the cigarette on top of the packet and takes a sip from his drink. “White
Russian. My favorite,” he exclaims. Riddell frowns. “What?” The councilor grins.
“I don’t have all night, you know.”
Victor Tziglievski laughs. “Busy, busy, busy?” He looks over to the table closest to
them: two women are chatting vigorously over brightly colored cocktails. One of them
notices him and smiles. “Good God,” he says, turning around in his chair to get a better
look at them. “They seem friendly.”
“What do you want?”
The councilor takes a long slug from his drink. “We might have a problem.”
Jack taps his fingers against the table a couple of times. “What kind of problem?”
“I was in my office this morning… when this woman shows up. A journalist.”
“Maria?” Jack inquires.
Tziglievski shakes his head. “Lilly something. Don’t know.” He takes a small vial out
of his jacket’s inner pocket and places it in on the table. “But she gave me this.” Riddell
picks is up, inspects it. “She told me this guy gave her a few. Same guy told her it’s a
virus or something KLX has been working on for quite some time now. She said she
wanted to take it to Von Grafsfeld… why didn’t you tell me one of our shipments had
been intercepted?”
Jack laughs.
“What’s so funny?”
“Are you concerned, councilor?”
“Damn right I am –”
“You shouldn’t be.” Jack uncaps the vial and takes a sip from it. “This is a tonic.
Really good at keeping you awake at nights.”
“Manufactured by KLX?”
Jack sighs. “Yes. They’re not out on the market yet, and I asked for a few to be sent
to me because I was feeling tired.”
“This Lilly thinks she’s onto something.” The councilor keeps eyeing Jack
suspiciously. “If she starts to dig up dirt…”
“I see.” Jack says, rubbing the back of his neck persistently. He closes and opens his
eyes slowly. “What do you want to do about her?”
“Find out what she thinks she knows, who gave her the vials, and then...”
A man dressed in an impeccable black suit but with the allure of a bodybuilder
comes over to their table. He shifts his weight nervously, clears his throat. “Sir…”
Riddell turns around in his chair, signals the man to come closer. The man whispers in
his ear.
“Okay, okay, we’ll leave right away.” He turns to face Tziglievski. “Councilor, I have
to go now. Take care of this issue, will you?” Victor glances at the two women. Smiles.
“You can go back and talk to them after you’ve solved our little problem. Okay?”
Riddell says.
The councilor grins. “Sure.”
Once outside, they both head towards Jack’s limousine.
“You know what I don’t like about these two idiots?” Jack doesn’t wait for an
answer. “That even though they have nothing more than a few vials of an energy drink…
if this whole thing goes public, and it might... it could lead some folks in the right
direction.”
The bodyguard opens the door for him, and just as he’s about to climb in, he turns
over and says, “Call Truffon. We don’t want this to get traced back to us in any way. And
make sure he does his job.”
A grimace flickers on the councilor’s face. “Never much liked that prick.”
“He’s good at what he does,” Jack says before climbing into the car.
Victor spends a couple more minutes on the sidewalk after the car has left. He takes
a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it. He breathes in the smoke, closes his eyes.
You can hardly hear the plane’s engines as it glides through the air. Stewardesses are
graciously moving up and down the aisle, glancing down at the passengers, ready to
satisfy any wish they may have.
Or almost any wish, a man thinks to himself. For the tenth time, he stares to his left,
wishing to take a look out the window. A screen is playing some pre-recorded image of
blue skies. He shakes his head, defeated. He has the allure of a retired boxer - late
forties, well built, rough features.
Holographic images are being projected on the aisle, a couple paces apart - the
Dome as seen from the perspective of the pilots. A diamond glittering in the scarce light
of the sun.
A black SUV parks alongside the councilor’s limousine. All around, four story apartment
buildings neatly lined up in rows of threes. A man comes out of the SUV. Blue eyed,
blond hair, he is the old god Thor come to life it seems. The window of the back door of
the limousine lowers. “You know what you have to do.”
The man doesn’t reply. He stares out at the building closest to them.
“Alex!” the councilor shouts out. “Get it done fast.”
Truffon smiles. “Who is stupid enough to steal from Riddell?”
The councilor sneers. “Just do your job and bring me back the vials.”
Alexander Truffon is walking down a poorly lit corridor. An old lady holding a bag of
groceries passes him by. They nod at each other. He climbs up the staircase to the
second floor, takes a right, then a left. He stops in front of a cherry colored door, pulls
out a card out of his jeans’ back pocket. He swipes the card through the slot beneath the
door handle. It beeps once. “Fuck.” He tries one more time. Two beeps and a click. He
pushes the door open and enters and turns and shuts the door. It’s dark and silent. He
walks through the living room. The bedroom door opens and a woman comes out. The
lights turn on.
“Lily… what did you do?”
“I thought…”
He comes up to her and places his hands on her shoulders. “Told you not to trust
anyone.”
“Then why did you –”
“Because… I needed to tell someone about it.” He shakes his head. “You’re lucky
Riddell chose me to do his dirty work.”
“What now?”
“You go to my place. You’ll be safe there.”
“I don’t think…” She’s breathing fast and brokenly. “If Riddell and Tziglievski are
working together… who do we trust with this? Who do we tell?”
“There’s a chance Pieter von Grafsfeld isn’t on the same side.”
“Are we supposed to take chances with my life? With our lives?”
“We don’t have any other options.” He places his hand on the side of her neck, kisses
her forehead. “Go to my place. Let me take care of things.” He wipes the tears off her
cheeks. “Please.” He takes out his phone, dials a number. “Councilor, job’s done. Yes. I
know who gave her the vials. A guy who lives in the Village. Of course. Of course. Yes. I’ll
give you a call once it’s done.”
Dome International Airport. What can only be described as what you’d expect to see in
an apocalyptic scenario: escalators and lifts and people hurrying about as if their lives
depend on how fast they reach some obscenely long line. Most certainly, the four
Horsemen are lurking about this place.
The man is seated at one of the circular benches, a small briefcase between his feet,
reading a brochure. As if startled by something, he stands up, picks up his briefcase and
makes his way to one of the access tunnels to the city. An apathetic lady welcomes him
from behind a glass paneled info-desk. “Welcome to Dome City. Have a nice stay.” He
steps onto the conveyor belt. Glass walls, glass ceiling. He yawns. Two teenagers run
past him, screaming and laughing.
The conveyor belt stops. The lights flicker on and off for a few seconds. Then an
explosion. Somewhere in the distance. The shock wave vibrates across the glass surface
of the tunnel. People scream and shout and run in all directions. The man looks around,
amused.
“My God! The power plant!” A woman shrieks.
An almost inaudible voice blares from the speakers. Something about calm. Then
something else. It doesn’t matter. No one listens. People bump into each other, security
clerks are doing their best to extinguish the panic. He slowly makes his way to the other
end of the tunnel. Once there, he lights himself a cigarette. Above, a sign reads,
“Smoking strictly prohibited!”
Somewhere in the distance, a building is on fire. Too much smoke to make anything
else than the blinking lights of police sirens and firefighter trucks. Around the building,
a glass dome is very slowly closing in on it. People are running to get out before the
dome closes in completely...
A man approaches him. The allure of a bookworm. He stares at him for a moment,
looks around, his gaze stops over the sign for a moment. Shifts his weight impatiently.
“Are you?” he finally asks.
“I am.” He laughs. “You can call me Hew.”
“Hew…” the man repeats, as if he’s been unable to breathe up until now. “I am the
accountant.” He extends his right hand. He stares at it for a while, then up at Hew.
Hew smiles tenderly at him.
The man nods nervously, then pulls an envelope out his jacket’s inner pocket. “Here
is all you need.” He hands him the envelope. “Money, a biometric card… all you need is
touch it and it will create a new identity. Also, an apartment has been –“
“I am here on vacation,” Hew interrupts him. “I don’t need any of these.”
“Of course, of course,” the accountant replies. “But it is our pleasure to take care of
everything for you.”
Hew takes a stack of money from the envelope, walks in closer to the accountant,
slips a couple of banknotes in the man’s hands. “Much appreciated.”
“You don’t have to do that, sir.” He stares down at his hand holding tight to the
money. Looks up at him, gulps.
“Nonsense. We’re friends.” Hew puts the envelope in his jeans’ back pocket.
“Anyway…”
“Yes?”
“When they ask you how I look like… tell them I’m six two, two hundred fifty
pounds, and speak with a strong British accent.”
“I…I…”
“Funny enough, there was such a guy on my flight.” He taps the accountant twice on
the shoulder. “Cheers, mate.”
Three men are seated on a couch, watching a soccer match on the TV. On the table in
front of them: empty champagne bottles, half-filled glasses, drugs. The works.
On an armchair next to them, councilor Gonzalez is enjoying a cigar. From time to
time, the smoke gets in his eyes; he has to rub them.
The muffled sound of the explosion…
“Thunder?” one of the men inquires.
“Thunder?” another one interjects. “Are you insane?”
“Earthquake.”
Gonzalez keeps puffing from his cigar. “Take it easy, boys.” They stare at him with a
dumbfounded expression glued to their faces. He sighs. “No thunders. No earthquakes.”
Upstairs, Alexander Truffon is interrupted from pacing up and down and all around
his office by the same sound. He’s now staring out the window. “What the hell?”
His phone rings in his pocket. “What’d you find out?”
In the living room, the men have resumed to watching the game.
“Man, this Jones... he’s an artist,” one of them exclaims.
“Too bad his teammates are a bunch of idiots,” Gonzalez adds.
“What do you say, councilor?” one of the men addresses Gonzalez. “Why don’t we
make a soccer club ourselves? Bring in some of the greats getting ready for retirement.
You can even be chairman if you’d like.”
“And what are we going to do? Play a fixture once every six months?”
From upstairs: a door being slammed close. Footsteps. Truffon storms into the
living room, a gun in his right hand. He gives a quick glance to the table, then starts
going through drawers.
“Something wrong, boss?” one of the men asks.
“Trying to find my keys…”
“Oh,” the man pulls a car key out of his pocket. “Took it for a spin earlier.” He
throws the key to Alex.
“Having fun, councilor?” Alex asks him. He signals his men to get out of the room.
Gonzalez stands up, Alex walks over to him.
“What did you want to talk to me about?” the councilor asks.
“How much do you hate Victor Tziglievski?”
“I’d pay for his plane ticket just to see him gone for good.”
“Then you’re going to love what I’m about to tell you.”
His black Tesla is racing through a labyrinth of streets at the maximum speed permitted
by the autopilot. The assistant has asked him twice already if he’s under some kind of
duress or if it should alert the authorities. He pulls out a couple of pills from his pocket,
throws them in his mouth. Shuts his eyes tight, shakes his head.
The car stops in front of an apartment building, Alex steps out. He walks inside. The
corridors are long and poorly lit. He stops in front of a door, glances down at his feet,
balls his fingers into fists and, with all the strength he is capable of mustering, knocks
the door down.
“Jerry, mate, how are you?”
A worker is lounged on a couch, watching television. The moment he sees Alex, he
stands up and tries to make a run for the window, but Alex grabs him by the shoulders
and hurls him back on the couch. The man screams.
“What were you going to do? Jump from the third floor?” he says, grabbing him by
the hair and punching him in the face. “Why’d you lie to me? Huh? Why?” he takes
another swing at him, stops his fist mid-air. Not worth it.
“I didn’t… I swear… man…”
A right hook and the man is down on the floor. He struggles to get up. Alex lifts him
up, throws him on the couch again. “Maggot!” He pulls out his gun.
“No, please,” the man cries.
“The meeting takes places tonight,” Alex says. “Why did you lie?”
The man stares at the gun, shaking. Alex hits him in the head with it. “How do I get
into the factory?”
“You need an access card.”
“And you have one, don’t you?”
“Here, take it. Please. Leave me alone.”
Truffon grabs the card from his hands, glances at him. “I heard you also need an
authorized fingerprint.”
“No, no, I swear… I am telling you the truth,” the man mumbles. “No fingerprint.
Just the card. That’s it.”
“I know there are a number of ways to forge a fingerprint these days,” Alex says. He
pulls out a knife from his back pocket. “But I like to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Maria steps out of the elevator to find the newsroom overwhelmed by inconsolable
chaos. Phones ringing with no one to pick them up, people coming in and out of offices,
carrying files and folders, people shout at one another even though they’re only two
cubicles away from each other.
A man sitting at a cubicle takes notice of her and signals her to walk up to the far
side of the room, where her boss, Ralph Merdol, is gesticulating wildly at a woman.
“You mean to say that a power plant blows up and we don’t have any footage with
the explosion?” He grabs her by the arm, spins her around. “What does it say? On the
wall? What does it say? Dome City News Channel.” He shakes his head. “N-E-W-S. C-H-
A-N-N-E-L,” he spells out, motioning towards his mouth.
“How the hell are we… ah, there you are. They’ve moved you to a different timeslot.
Breaking news and such.” He stares around. “And no fucking footage of the explosion,”
he shouts.
He proceeds to walk with her through the room.
“Don’t you think you were kind of hard on her?”
A man, his arms struggling under the weight of a multitude of files, crosses paths
with them. He hesitates, not knowing which way to go. He finally decides to step aside
and let them pass.
Ralph sighs. “See? Surrounded by idiots, I swear.” They stop in front of his office.
“Can’t reach Lilly. Do you know anything about her?”
Maria shrugs. “We talked this morning…”
“If we can’t get a hold of her in the next half an hour, you’ll have to step in.”
Maria nods. “Okay, boss.”
A car can only go so fast before the artificial intelligence disengages the autopilot to
allow the driver to take manual control of the vehicle.
He’s fast approaching the car’s top speed of two hundred miles per hour, yet he feels
he’s not going fast enough. He is trapped in a dream, headed for a destination he’ll never
reach.
All these lights, all these…
It is maddening. He is sure he is being followed. That maggot. Shouldn’t have left
him live.
He presses the pedal to the floor. It is all luck controlling the car at such a high
speed. A game of chance. One of the mirrors comes off. He does not notice. He does not
care.
Left, right, left, right through the labyrinth that is Dome. The generous main streets
dissolve into poorly lit alleys.
He stops the car in front of a factory, steps out. He lights himself a cigarette, stares
around.
Silence.
A voice inside his mind tells him there’s something off about this. Disgust is etched
on his face. He sees Riddell’s limousine parked in the factory’s yard. His blood begins to
boil inside him. He takes on long drag from the cigarette...
He uses Jerry’s card and index finger to gain access. The lights inside, he’s sure they
have caught a flu or something. He’s struggling to focus. Too many shadows, too many
ghosts that could be anything. So many corridors and passageways and stairs and
elevators…
He begins to run around. The world spins out of control around him. It is all a
dream. Just a dream. He draws out his gun, points it toward a shadow that might, just
might, somehow become real enough to shoot. He fires a couple of shots at the darkness.
Just in case.
Long, too long a minutes pass like this: him trying to find his way through the maze.
Suddenly, he hears voices. Shakes his head, struggles to focus, to pinpoint their
location.
He takes a turn down a corridor. He can hear Riddell’s voice.
“Son of a bitch,” he mutters under his breath.
In what appears to be a dining hall, Jack Riddell is addressing a group of workers.
“Like my father before me, I’ve always believed that we all have a part to play. Like a
lever inside a grand machine…” He walks around, his eyes darting from face to face. He
smiles. “You have been chosen.”
The workers stare at one another. Whispering through the crowd. One of them
raises his hand. “What’s this all about?”
“You’ll see, you’ll see,” he replies.
That’s when men with guns materialize out of the darkness. They grab the workers
and force them out through a door. There isn’t much a resistance to speak of. The few
who try to protest or fight are swiftly incapacitated.
Riddell’s phone rings, but he chooses to reject the call.
That’s when Alexander Truffon decides to come out, gun in one hand, knife in the
other, a great beast of a man shouting and swearing. He aims his gun at Riddell, but
before he can pull the trigger, the guards overwhelm him. He puts up a fight, he punches
and bites and tries to grab his gun, which has fallen to the ground, but they are too
many.
“Son of a bitch,” he manages to shout before being knocked out cold.
Dome is located at the geographic South Pole. At the very center of it, a building rises
from the ground like a shard. The tallest building in the city, it soars above everything
else around it. It breaks free at the very top, where the so-called observation deck allows
for a three-hundred and sixty-degree view of the surroundings.
It is where councilor Pieter von Grafsfeld’s office is situated. The room is modern
and elegant. A bank of computers and electronic equipment along one wall, windows
from floor to ceiling on the other four. An elegant desk of figured hardwood and
stainless steel. Von Grafsfeld is sitting on the edge of the desk talking to the accountant,
who sits on a leather sofa at the end of the desk.
“What do you mean you can’t tell me how he looks like?” Von Grafsfeld inquires. A
man of sixty-five, tasteless and humorless, who has spent too much time without being
denied a thing. An art teacher could easily instruct children on the entire spectrum of
color by using his dinner jacket to do so. An electronic wristwatch on his right wrist.
“It was his expressed desire…”
“I don’t give a damn what the man told you.” Pieter walks over to one of the
windows. The world is slowly drowning in the shivering light of the horizon. The sun is
but a small dot of struggling light. Slipping under. Slowly slipping under.
“Technically, the law demands that -”
“Fuck the law,” von Grafsfeld turns around to face him. “He’s here because he wants
something. And we need to find out what is it that he wants.”
The accountant gulps, uses the heel of his hand to wipe off a couple of beads of
sweat from his forehead. “He said he’s on vacation,” he says innocently.
“Vacation,” Pieter mocks. “That man barely knows sleep.”
The sun is dying before their eyes. There will be nothing but night for the next six
months.
“A long fucking night,” the councilor mutters to himself.
He is no prophet. He is no deep philosopher.
He knows one thing and one thing only: survival is a messy thing. And survival is
not the same as being alive. For whatever reason, Vincent Van Gogh comes to mind. It
was only after he died in terrible agony, having been ostracized and marginalized all his
life, it was only then that people bought his paintings. Long after his tears had dried out,
long after his bones had turned to dust.
He allows himself the briefest of smiles…
When he comes to his senses, he’s been strapped to what he thinks is an operating table.
The light hurts his eyes. When he can finally see himself clearly, he notices tubes
entering his arms. He fights, he screams, he wants them out of him. His face becomes a
web of veins and muscles, spit flies out of his mouth. But no matter how much he tries,
he cannot set himself free. Lastly, he tries to pull the tubes out with his teeth.
“What on earth did I ever do to you?” Jack Riddell’s voice.
He looks around, see him seated on the far side of the room, surrounded by his
security.
“You motherfucker,” he sneers.
Riddell is now circling him like a predator its prey. He runs his fingers over the
tubes, tracing them all the way to where they enter his flesh. He tries to break free once
more. Jack takes a few steps back.
“Tell me,” he says as he pulls a small vial out of his pocket. “My men found this on
you.” He stares at the vial, then addresses a pitiful smile at Alex. “Is this why you’re
here?”
Jack slowly uncaps the vial, takes a sip. “Want a taste? It’s not bad. Not bad at all.”
He then walks over to a table, ceremoniously places the vial on it. Turns around, pulls
another vial from his pocket. “This…” His gaze fixed on the vial. “This is the future.”
“You’re a psychopath, Riddell. A murderer,” Alex shouts.
“And you’re a gangster addicted to anything you can get addicted to these days,”
Jack says bluntly. “Didn’t know we were passing around compliments.”
As if he forgot, Alex stares down at the tubes entering his flesh, the muscles in his
arm become as hard as stone.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Riddell says, also staring down at his arm. “I’m just fucking with
you.” He picks up imaginary flakes off his jacket. “You do not fit the profile to be a part
of our glorious program.” He moves closer, leans towards him. “A junkie such as
yourself…”
Somehow, he manages to break free from his straps, jumps on Riddell, punches him
in the face. The guards pull out their guns. He looks around; he is surrounded.
Behind his men, Jack is massaging his cheek. “I don’t think we can’t be friends
anymore.”
“Fuck you.”
He’s a cornered animal. No way out of this. He is going to die. He’s damn sure of it.
The guards hesitate to attack him. It is his chance. He notices there’s a window behind
them. His heart - a fist fighting its way out of his chest. Fueled by adrenaline, he pushes
some of them out of the way, runs for the window, jumps… falls on his back, runs all the
way to the car in what seems but a moment in time.
If something broke inside him, he’s going to feel it later…
A cab parks in front of the Macht Hotel, the most luxurious hotel in the city. Hew steps
out, grimaces at the sonic wallow of sirens, the soundtrack that has accompanied him
ever since he arrived.
He walks inside, makes his way to the front desk. There a young lady is hard at work
playing on her phone.
After a few moments, in which he shifts his weight around without being notices, he
slams his elbows against the counter. “Excuse me, miss.”
She looks up at him, gives him a bored glance. “Can I help you, sir?”
“I have a reservation.”
“I’ll need your ID.”
After a few minutes and a biometric scan of his print, he’s being assisted by a young
bellhop, who had insisted he help him with his luggage - a lonely briefcase of negligible
weight.
“It’s crazy out there,” the bellhop says, seemingly addressing the glass ceiling of the
elevator.
“I was at the airport when it happened.”
“Tragic, tragic.” The bellhop shakes his head. “Do you think… the terrorists did it?”
The doors to the elevator slam open.
“Terrorists? Here?”
The bellhop nods his head repeatedly. “You are right, of course. Silly me.” They
make their way down a hallway. “Yet, you know, those anarchist groups or whatever…”
he snaps his fingers. “The ones who hate technology and big corporations and…”
Hew laughs. “I don’t think those vegans have the guts to pull something like this
off.”
“Of course, of course.”
They stop in front of a door.
“Here’s your card, sir. Enjoy your stay.”
Hew places a banknote in his hand as a replacement for the card he was just
handed. He uses it to unlock the door, opens it and walks inside.
The black Tesla stops on a street in New London. Alex pulls another gun out of the glove
compartment. He presses a couple of buttons on the central console. A man appears on
the screen.
“Chris, old man, how are you? Did I wake you up?”
“Jesus, Alex. What happened to you?’
“Nothing, nothing,” he says pathetically, wiping blood from his temples and
cheekbones with the palm of his hand. “It’s that I tried to kill Jack Riddell.”
“What do you mean you tried to kill Jack Riddell?”
“It means I tried. I failed.”
“You’re lucky you’re not dead.”
“I know, man, I know.” Alex shakes his head. “Listen… can I stay with you for a
while?”
“Of course. But how are we going to get you here? Riddell owns every single cop in
this time.”
He stares into the rearview mirror, nods. “I know. I’m going to make a big mess, get
the Guard involved. If I were you, I’d turn on the TV.”
Truffon steps out of the car, and starts shooting at passing cars - a scene straight
from a video game. Someone starts screaming. He does his best not to hurt anyone,
while trying to make as much noise as possible.
It does not take long before the Guard arrives.
Councilor Tiglievski is asleep in his bed, a naked body curled around him. He is
awakened by persistent knocking at the door.
“Excuse me, sir, but mister Riddell wants to speak with you,” a voice from the other
side of the door.
“Fuck he wants?”
“Told me to - the man pauses - off when I asked him, sir. He’s in the main living
room, with ten of his bodyguards.” A brief pause. “He also has a swollen eye, sir.”
He gets out of bed, takes a robe from a chair. The woman has also woken up, her
hands searching for him in bed. “What’s going on?”
“Go back to sleep.”
He walks out of the room, where a butler proceeds to follow him down the stairs.
“What time is it?” the councilor asks.
He walks into the living room. “I’d put ice on that,” he says.
“Funny man,” Riddell sneers.
“Who did this to you?”
“Truffon.”
“Truffon? Why?”
Jack shrugs. “You know he didn’t tell me?”
“Why?”
He gives him a disgusted look. “He was too busy trying to fucking kill me,” he
shouts. “That’s why.” He receives a phone call, he answers. “What?” He clenches his
fingers around it. “Fuck,” he screams. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“What now?” Tziglievski inquires.
“Alexander Truffon just got arrested by the Guard.”
The councilor shakes his head. “Clever boy. I knew why I didn’t like the prick.”
Riddell’s phone rings once more. “Yes? I am okay. Yes. Yes. Fuck you.”
Tziglievski gives him an expectant look.
“Gonzalez. To let me know Truffon is out to kill me.”
“If Von Grafsfeld finds out about the mess we’ve made…”
“He won’t,” Jack says. “I have an idea.” He dials a number. “Commissioner Jackson,
sorry to call you so late at night, but I need you to do me a favor.”
An alarm clock goes off inside a bedroom. No one is in the bed. No one in the room. In
the living room, a television is playing a black and white movie on mute.
A man is standing in the doorway, hand on the handle, staring back toward the
bedroom. He takes a few steps inside the apartment, then he turns around, walks out,
and shuts the door behind him.
About the Author
Cristian Mihai (born 25 December 1990) grew up in Constanta, Romania. And he’s
still growing up, or at least trying to. Sometimes he writes. Sometimes he gets lucky and
writes something good. He can’t, however, draw a straight line. No matter how much he
tries. Not even with a ruler. And, please, don’t ever ask him to sing.
Visit him at www.cristianmihai.net
Also by Cristian Mihai
NOVELS

JAZZ
THE WRITER
2:22 AM

SHORT STORIES

STRANGERS
DREAM CITY AND OTHER STORIES
REMEMBER

ESSAYS

MEMENTO MORI

SERIALIZED FICTION

land of the blind

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