Shut In

They'd thought the person was gone, but apparently, not. The hologram screens lit up again, and the masked man looked down at them.

“Oh, my,” he said, amused. “I never noticed it, but looks like the ground floor's lessened in people somehow. Did they think that the explosion was nothing?”

“So that explosion was you, too?” Astrid demanded.

The masked man's fingers danced against the table top in front of him, and Weston noticed a movement in the shadows; the cameras turning to her. “Astrid Lansing, assistant to the chief programmer, Madison Levy,” he said, glancing away at something that left a glowing light bouncing off his mask. “I see, that's your identity. I suppose you are an important key point here. And yes, that explosion was done by our most famous Gladiator.” Then he leaned forward, apparently in interest. “Would you like to find him? If you don't, he might just destroy this building, you know.”

Astrid shivered; she could get the feeling that he was smiling behind that strange mask. The mask was white and plain one of a sly face with slanted eyes. Gruesome, with an evil face. Behind the eyes was darkness.

“You want that threat answered?” she asked.

“It has been three weeks,” said Blackray. “Of course, we are humans as well. We can get tired – by the way, sir, don't think to break the glass of the exits to outside, because if you do, you'll set off an alarm.”

All eyes turned to a man who was holding up a chair and about to break the glass entrance.

Carter then spoke. “If you cut off all links of the Core to Synchron, how is it that you're still able to power this place up? This would have been a blackout.”

“If it was a blackout, then I don't have the advantage of this building, and our wish might never be fullfilled, anyway,” said Blackray. “We spent two weeks before connecting your Organization to a nuclear powerplant that's on Redwall, so that only I can hack through this building the old-fashioned way.”

“I'll bet you're doing this out of the country,” said Astrid with a growl. “You do know what happens to the Core, too, right?”

“Redwall will explode,” said Blackray. “Because the Core might be overpowering itself, right?”

Gasps of astonishment came from the other people.

“In other words, we're trapped here, and ready to die?!”

“No! I – I still want to live!”

“Don't joke with us, hacker! Let us out of here!”

Blackray slowly leaned back. “I'm afraid not. You've been in my hands since two weeks ago, when I planned this. It won't fail. An explosion to attract the attention of everyone who works in here, or anywhere in Redwall. They'll all be here to see this place and find out what's wrong. Then I shut down everything, cut off the Core's link to this building, trap people here. And then the Director, Sky Travers, will only have one hour to decide on whether he will accept the EAS as sponsors for the Gladiator Games, or to let Redwall get blown up.

“Though somehow, I can't figure out how the amount of hostages on the ground floor lessened. Why are they now outside?”

“Well, that plan worked perfectly, didn't it?” said Zack, stepping forward. “Who's the guy who caused that explosion?”

“Zack, keep quiet!” Weston started, grabbing him, but Zack didn't seem to listen.

Blackray looked at him. “Who are you?”

“Just a newcomer to Redwall who got stuck here when he came to find out what the explosion was about,” said Zack. “Well? Answer my question.”

“I don't think I'll need to answer it,” said Blackray. “Well, you might run into him somehow, so I'll sit back and watch things unfold. Now, then I'm going to start scouting the floors of this place, so pardon me.”

The screen went blank again.

“Astrid, is there a computer that branches out to several more computers in this building?” asked Zack, turning to her.

“Um – why?” asked Astrid, frowning with suspicion.

“I desperately want to make sure Sky's okay, so I'm going to need to use that computer.”

Astrid sighed. “Well, if you want to use that computer to see him, you'll find him when you reach his office. It's his computer that's connected to another connection that links to all computers in this building.”

“Why do you need that computer?” asked Carter. “I can hack on my laptop here-”

“Useless,” said Zack. “It runs on the Synchron connection. But the Core is being cut off from the Synchron Organization, in other words, you can't go online either, unless you use a really, really slow connection like those before the Core was created. And that's – what, almost a hundred years gone?”

“So, now what?” asked Weston.

“We'll need to use the same connection that Blackray's using,” said Zack. “I think I remember Sky's computer using the same thing.”

“But it's not the most powerful – wait, wait, what do you plan to do with Sky's computer?” Astrid demanded.

“I'll tell you later,” said Zack, turning away. “Anyway, where's the emergency stairs?”

The End

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