In conclusion, it was a stupid thing to do.
Okay, so sneaking into the farm tower wasn’t that difficult. It had just meant me climbing a sheer, two story wall, and hanging beneath the rail while I waited for the train. Dodging the rail cart as it went though the gateway had been a bit dicey, especially as the doors snapped shut mere moments later, but humans are just overgrown monkeys really, so I can’t say I struggled with all the climbing.
Not breaking my neck as the dock dropped away beneath me was a little tougher, but I recovered well and rolled, dropping into the gap between the monorail and the concrete base. It actually worked in my favour as I could skulk along the pit beside the platform, carefully avoiding the live rail, and waited for everyone to disembark, dragging the massive trolleys they used to carry the food. That was what I was after. It had been a harsh winter and I was starving. I could literally feel it gnawing away at my insides.
There was a tense moment when the train shot off into the bowels of the complex but I dropped onto my stomach and none of the white suited workers noticed me. A minute or so later, when my blood had stopped pounding in my ears quite so loudly, I crept over the lip of the platform and skulked over to the nearest door. It opened as I approached and I shied away, waiting for someone to come through.
Another tense moment passed, and no one entered. I slipped though, thanking my luck and found myself in a tall room, filled with boxes and cranes. There were people scattered around, but most seemed to be busy loading crates onto carts and didn’t pay attention to the gangly teenager edging his way through the shadows.
I found a lift in short order, and had it open before me. I’d seen people use these things before. I stood up straight and proper inside it and enunciated.
“That is not a valid command,” a bland female voice replied, and I looked round wildly for the source. “Please restate entry.”
I pinpointed the noise, a vibrating panel behind my head, so the voice wasn’t a real person?
“Erm, what is a valid command?” I asked hesitantly, physically drooping.
“Commands: Packaging. Processing. Atriums ones through nine. Livestock…”
“Livestock,” I cut in. That sounded good, and I think that was what they called animals in this place.
“Rabbit?” I enquired hesitantly.
I leapt backwards as the doors hissed closed and winced as I felt myself pulled towards the floor, though that faded after a moment. Suddenly the metalled walls fell away and I was left staring at my reflection in my glass as the farmland shot away beneath me. I had to admit it was impressive. The lift flashed through another tier revealing yet another row of fields, lit by the sinking sun, and beyond the glass walls of the tower I could see the forest. Far in the distance I could see one of humanities’ city towers touching the sky, along with a dozen or so farming complexes further out, replicas of the one I was in.
“Tier ten,” the voice reported and I jumped, surprised. “Poultry.”
There was an odd feeling of weightlessness, and the lift began to slow, coming to a silent stop in another sheath of metal. I leapt out the moment the doors parted and ran down a corridor in a half crouch, picking a direction at random as I had no idea where I was.
After a few minutes I had to admit I was lost. It was just plain white walls everywhere, and that eerie light coming from every surface. I mean, where were the chickens, wasn’t this supposed to be a farm? I wrinkled my nose in frustration, and spied a door sitting isolated against one of the walls. Well, I wasn’t getting any closer to dinner sitting here wondering about it.
I wrapped my knuckles on the metal, looking for some kind of trigger.
“Access code please?” the same female voice asked politely and I whipped round to make sure I hadn’t made it back to the lift by mistake.
“Um… what?” I asked meekly.
“Open?” I suggested.
“Invalid code, please wait.”
Okay, so that didn’t work. I growled softly to myself, and went to find another door.
“Hey! Kid!” someone roared, before I’d gone half a step and I whirled to see a uniformed man rushing towards me.
I was off like a shot, head down and charging away from the man. Another human, same uniform, appeared suddenly out of a side door and I darted around him, dodging beneath outstretched arms and bouncing off the wall in my haste. Almost falling.
“Stop him!” one of them roared, and I chanced a glance over my shoulder to show both tearing after me.
That was perfect. The only way I knew to get out was back the way I came, and that was nicely blocked by the guards.
I hung a quick left at an intersection and ran slap bang into a wall of muscle, rebounding off and falling heavily on my behind. A third guard towered over me. How many guards did they need just to protect some chickens anyway? He glowered down at me. I scrambled round and desperately tried to get back to my feet but felt huge hands grab my shoulders and lift me clear off my feet.
“Let me go!” I barked, shrilly. Struggling in vain as the guard held me at arms length.
“Well, what have we here?” the first guard said with a smirk, sauntering up to my thrashing form. “A little vagabond in our tower. A fox in the hen house.”
I huffed in annoyance, but stopped struggling, instead scowling at the guards in my line of sight.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” he continued, leaning closer, and I bared my teeth at him, forgetting just how pointless that was just then. “Whatever. Take him away.”
The overlarge guard put me on my feet, still holding onto my shoulders and lead me roughly away, the second guard dropping into step behind him. This was rapidly going from bad to worse. My skin crawled at the man’s touch and I so wanted to just bite him and run. But I was still lost, and held it for the moment.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked suddenly, on the off chance of getting a response.
“Internment,” the big guy replied gruffly.
“That’s the cells,” the second interjected helpfully, catching my blank look. “How old are you kid?”
I didn’t say a word. Mostly because I couldn’t think of a response that wouldn’t get me into deeper trouble.
Eventually we reached another featureless stretch of wall and stopped in front of it.
“Three, omega, nine,” the large guard intoned, and the wall spilt to reveal a second, far more subtle lift.
Well. I wasn’t going to get a better chance than that.
I bit down on the guys arm and tasted blood, before being literally thrown off my feet as he flailed yelling. “Yarh! The bastard bit me!”
I hit the floor of the lift hard and gasped. “Out, now!” To have to doors slam shut before the surprised guards and the lift whisked me towards the top of the tower.
Before I had even managed to get to my feet the lift arrived and I was hit by a tumultuous blast of wind as the doors slid back open. I ran headlong out of the elevator into the maze of ductwork that laced the top of the tower, before realising that I had no idea how to find a way down except by the lift.
I skidded to a stop, swearing, and was just about to run back when a second set of doors split apart, depositing my two favourite guards into the tempest. Waiting wasn’t an option. I was off at a blind sprint instantly, picking a direction at random and dodging around various pipes, boxes and what looked like little sealed huts. A quick glance told me they’d spotted me and were now hounding after, but I didn’t have time to stop and think; both were gaining far too fast and a moment’s indecision would have me.
It wasn’t long before I was hopelessly lost and I had just dodged capture by a hairs’ breadth for the umpteenth time when I burst out into a sudden quiet space and ran slap bang into a railing. I gasped for breath as the bar slammed into my stomach, the wind rushing out of me, and made a desperate grab for the rail as I toppled head over heels straight over it, the ground suddenly swimming into view a long way beneath me.
Reality skipped a beat, as I teetered on the brink, staring down at the solid expanse of trees beneath me. But then physics caught up and I tipped, my arms being pulled up over my head and suddenly feeling as if someone had set them on fire. I probably should have yelled. I probably should have been looking where I was going in the first place. I definitely should have realised the pain involved with letting go would be infinitely worse than holding on.
Yeah, there were a lot of things there I could have done differently.
My grip slipped and for a moment my feet scrabbled on the slick side of the tower, but then gravity had its way and I felt myself begin to fall.
I jerked to a sudden stop, my arm once again feeling like it was about to dislocate, and I looked up to see the big guy draped across the rail, huge hand locked around my wrist.
My next trick was pure instinct, or at least, that’s what I’ll tell anyone who asks.
I slashed wildly at him, nails, already reverting into claws now that I was on the boundary of the tower, biting deep into his flesh and reflexively, he let go.
As I said. It was a stupid thing to do.
The tower was quite tall. At least tall enough for me to contemplate the meaning of existence a few times, and maybe watch the better parts of my life flashing before my eyes. I’d been assured that all this would happen just before I died, but all I could think about was how this was going to really, really, really, really, real-
The agony was unbelievable. I lay there stunned that I was even conscious, and feeling vaguely cheated that I actually was. Every single bone in my body was screaming at me about just how badly they were shattered. Blacking out was looking like a good option just then, but some part of me, apparently unperturbed by the half mile plummet, knew I was still being chased.
I began to pull myself together, abandoning the human shell and letting myself flow into the far more familiar form of an adolescent wolf. There was a momentary sense of being buried alive, followed by the urge to throw my guts up, but those were infinitely preferable to the pain before them.
A few moments later it was done and I got unsteadily to my feet, shaking myself to clear out the last fragments of human me. I sniffed pointedly, but couldn’t pick up any human scents other than mine, and nothing mechanical seemed to be stirring, as much as I could tell with the constant whir that came from the blasted place.
I huffed at the building in annoyance, before trotting off. It looked like I’d escaped. The humans never came into the forest anyway. But still, the farm had bested me, and I didn’t like that. Not to mention that I was hungrier than ever.
My nose crossed a rabbit trail suddenly and I froze. It was fairly fresh, ten minutes tops. I grinned wolfishly. Well, maybe the day wouldn’t be a total loss.