Episode 35 – Skyland Mountain

[MONICA:]

I don’t know how much time passes. The booming sound is long gone. Still don’t know what the fuck it’s all about. And for the moment I’m not going to worry. I’ve got enough shit to deal with.

I keep staring at those grooves in the dust. Are they really incontrovertible proof? Was someone else truly here? Yeah. Of course someone was. But the important question is . . . When? This is the Ostium Network after all. Time is always fucking relevant.

So . . . The frame could’ve been moved what . . . Years ago maybe? Nah. Too long. The dust wouldn’t look like that. So weeks maybe? Months? Possibly. Not too many of them though.

Or . . . It got taken a couple days ago? Or a day? Hours?

Minutes?

And that’s when that fear shoots up inside me again and this time it drives me to my feet.

Yeah. I . . . Entertained the idea of staying here tonight. Because it’s Steve’s place. But now . . . Nuh-uh, not happening.

I’m heading back to my place.

[Short pause]

It’s on the quick ride over in the EV that I realize where I need to go next. The place I need to check out tomorrow. Somewhere I’ve never been before, even when this place was swarming with people.

I can’t help looking up at the top of the rock of Gibraltar as I’m thinking about this.

[PAUSE]

[DAVE:]

When we get back to my place .  . . Because that’s what it is, if you haven’t caught on yet. Can’t remember if I said it in so many words. But I notice right away that the front door is now closed. It wasn’t like that when we left. I remember. I remember looking back at Jake, watching him make sure it was ajar.

I reach up to type in my code to let us in, looking at Jake. He looks just as worried as me.

Bloody brilliant.

I take a deep breath just as the door unlocks and pops open. I charge up the stairs, ready for anything, and scared of bloody everything. My heart’s pounding like I just chugged a pint of very strong coffee. But my worries are all for naught, I discover, once I’m upstairs and looking around. Jake’s right behind me; my very necessary backup. But we don’t find anyone here.

Safe for now, at least.

We both let out heavy sighs.

JAKE: “Okay, I’m going throw some grub together, in the meantime, you . . . Collect your thoughts, and we’ll go over what’s been going on with you.”

DAVE: “Sounds good mate.”

Jake makes supper too bloody quickly for my liking. It felt like I just sat down and then there he was with two plates of steaming food. Pasta. And some sort of tomato sauce. Good enough for me. He puts the plates down and I start eating. He returns with a couple glasses of water and starts eating as well.

He gives me at least five minutes, which is very decent of the chap; gives me time to gobble down my food, let out a very loud burp, and then get settled, nestling the glass of water in my hands.

DAVE: “I . . . I lied to you before . . .”

JAKE: “What? Why . . .”

DAVE: “Just . . . Just let me say my piece. I’ll explain why. What I mean. I had my reasons. Just listen for now. We’ll have a Q&A session after the lecture, okay?”

JAKE [not happy]: “Sure man.”

DAVE: “I lied about never having been to Gibraltar before. Honestly, my memory has been an absolute pile of shit since we came through here. So I’ve got that going for me. I suppose. But as more time goes by, the more I feel I remember. It feels like my memory is coming back to me in dribs and drabs.

“I’m sorry for lying to you, Jake. The first time I came to Gibraltar was on holiday. I was spending a package deal in Spain and thought I’d visit a piece of foreign Britain. There was . . . Nothing remarkable about it. It was perfectly normal in every way.”

I pause, drinking some water. Clearing my throat.

“But that was another time. Long ago. Jake: I remember being here more recently. A lot more recently. I had no clue at first, when we arrived. But as each hour . . . bloody hell: as each minute goes by I remembering more and more. I remember lots of people here; I was one of many. Thousands it felt like. And we all had jobs to do. We were working together. Learning together. We were in lots of classes, being taught about time and time travel and . . . Ostium. How it started. How it got made. How we were going to use it. A lot of the details are still quite fuzzy, but I’ve got at least a general idea about it all. The gist, you know.”

Jake’s nodding at me, trying to control the shock on his face. Honestly, I can’t blame him.

“I can remember . . . I can remember the ones in charge asking if I’d like to be the first one to go through. To try Ostium. To get to the town and go through one of the doors, come back, and tell them all about it. We’d been training and learning for months. At least six months, I think. I was so bloody anxious to actually do something. I know I should’ve thought about it some more. Taken more time and talked about it with my mum.”

JAKE: “Your mom?”

DAVE: “Yeah, she was here with me, in Gib. We got hired pretty much at the same time and arrived here on the same boat. Something . . . Something weird happened when we took that boat. I can’t quite remember what. But something . . . Special happened to get us to this unique place. To this Gibraltar. This island. It’s not . . . Well, I think you know this already. But it’s not a normal place. Not naturally occurring, if you catch my drift.”

JAKE: “Yeah. I know. There’s something very . . . Similar about this place and Ostium.”

DAVE: “No bloody kidding.”

JAKE: “So do you remember what happened? How you got into Ostium? How the whole EMU thing came about?”

DAVE: “EMU? Oh, bloody hell. No . . . No, I don’t remember any of that yet. Let’s see. At the moment, all I can remember is them all giving me the okay and stepping through that door. The one we were looking at earlier, in the funny looking room.”

JAKE: “The one that looked like a deadly virus containment facility?”

DAVE: “Yeah. That one. They gave me the okay and I stepped through and . . . I can’t remember anything after at. Yet. I really hope it starts coming back to me. It’s . . . It’s honestly starting to turn my stomach a bit. I want some fucking answers.”

[short pause]

JAKE: “I feel you, Dave. I know where you’re coming from.”

DAVE: “Thank you Jake. It means a lot to hear you say that. And to have you hear it all. I’d be barkers if I was here on my own.”

JAKE: “But Dave, how can you be so sure this is the place? You’ve got memories of it, sure, and you somehow managed to get into this apartment. But you don’t exactly sound fully confident of your faculties. How do you know this Gibraltar, this island is the same place?”

The moment of truth. I knew it was coming. And this was the right time.

DAVE: “Because I didn’t do anything special to break in to this place. I didn’t hack that terminal or randomly type in the exact number. I knew what the number was because I remember setting it when I first moved in. I remember being told how to set the pass code and choosing those random numbers. And they worked.”

JAKE: “Huh. Okay then.”

DAVE: “That’s not everything though. I also have a piece of undeniable evidence.”

Jake is watching me intently now. I pull out the small framed photograph from my trousers and put it in his hands.

He looks at it. His eyelids half close, frown lines forming on his forehead. Then the lines suddenly disappear and the eyes become huge egg-sized things and I think his eyes are going to fall out of their sockets.

Then he looks up at me and his look makes me feel scared. The sort of fear that makes you feel cold inside.

JAKE [in shock]: “Dave . . . This . . . is you . . .”

DAVE: “I know.”

JAKE: [still shocked]: “And . . . Who’s the woman beside you?”

DAVE: “That’s my mum. She was here with me, remember?”

JAKE [utter incomprehension]: “Dave . . . That’s Monica.”

[Pause]

[MONICA:]

I barely remember what I chow down for breakfast. I don’t make my bed, even though I did so religiously every morning I was here. I just get myself ready and set out.

I did remember to charge the EV last night. Took a little while to work out where everything was, but they showed us how to before. The knowhow was still there. So come this morning, it’s all ready to go. I take a few minutes to think. To wonder if I need anything, for where I’m going. Food? Supplies? Nah. Not really. It’s not like I’m going to be staying where I’m going. But I do take one important item: the gun.

The ride over is a mixed bag. Half of it is lovely. Fresh, clean sea air. A gorgeous sunrise. As that yellow ball climbs higher, it gets deliciously warmer. It makes me feel . . . For the moment at least . . . Happy. Sort of. Happy to be here. In a way. Happy to be somewhere nice for a fucking change. Somewhere I might want to call home. Somewhere I have called home before. Somewhere familiar and comforting.

Of course. It’s just me here. All by my fucking lonesome. I’d like that to change. Scratch that. I really want some goddamn company here. Anybody would be okay. Someone nice preferred.

Ahh, well . . .

Enough rhapsodizing on what I don’t have. What can’t be.

Now we’ve reached the other half of the journey. The half that’s more of a question and I gotta concentrate. Because I haven’t really been in this area much before. They showed us, like, once. Way, way back in the early days. Fortunately, I still remember. It’s kinda hidden too. So I navigate the EV down alleys. Make turns here and there.

Just when I’m starting to think I took a wrong one, I see it. Standing there. Ready and waiting for someone to use.

[Short pause]

We call it the cable car. Always have. Always will. There’s a bunch of damn names for it. Fancy sounding ones, like “aerial lift.” Or scientific sound ones, like “aerial tramway.” “Gondola lift” is another. They called it the cable car here, so that’s what I called it. It’s what we all called it. We all saw it. Going up and down. Couple times a day. Sometimes lots of times a day. Not that it mattered that much. None of us ever fucking went on it. No . . . The only peeps that got to ride the cable car were the special ones high up on the totem pole. Got to ride it all the way to the top of the rock. That’s what they told us during that introductory tour.

How many of these special people are there? How many of them are white dudes? Those details weren’t given. It was also clear it wasn’t worth asking. We weren’t going to be given those sorts of answers.

I watched it. A number of times. The cable car. It was kinda relaxing to do. Watch it make its slow way all the way up there. And each time I did I thought about who was in the car. What were they like? Were they nice people? Not so nice? Did they even care about all of us down here?

I knew then I’d never know. I know now too.

But one thing is about to change . . . Assuming I can get the fucking thing working.

How hard can it be?

[Short pause]

I try the door to the little house at the bottom of the rock. From its roof erupts two sets of cables reaching high up to the top of the rock, like . . . Really long strings that have been attached to arrows and shot up to the peak. Yeah. Pretty shitty simile, I know. Jakey’s the one for those. Along the way up the mountain are pylons holding up the cables.

The door’s locked. This stops me for just a few seconds. Guess they usually kept this place guarded or something. The door’s nothing special. I lash out with a couple stiff kicks just to the right of the handle. They cause enjoyable crunching sounds. One more and the door swings open.

I step inside a kind of atrium . There are glass doors on the other side that I get open much easier. They open onto the staging area and there’s the cable car looking like something a little bigger than a van but too small to be called a bus. From the top of it extends the connector to the cable above it.

Okay. Good. There’s the important part. The part that’s going to get me to the top of the rock. Now it’s time to figure out how this sucker works.

Doesn’t take me long to find the control room. And everything’s labeled. Fucking-A! Someone was smart in setting this up. Or at least helpful. And what have we here . . . A damn instruction manual. How goddamn useful is that?

And what’s this? A quick pointer sheet on how to operate the cable car?

Don’t mind if I do.

I start pressing buttons, turning knobs, and flicking switches. There are groans and creaks and then things start moving. A humming sound builds.

We’re in business.

I complete the checklist. Think about getting into the cable car to see if I can get it moving and stop myself. I keep checking the instruction manual. There’s another page with another checklist. For operating the fucking cable car while riding it. That page gets torn out and is coming with me.

[Short pause]

Okay. Standing at the door to the cable car.

Here goes.

[Door sliding open]

I step inside and expect it to move. Like a boat on water. It doesn’t. Stays perfectly still, like it doesn’t even know I’m standing on it. I slide the door closed. Make sure it’s locked and secure. There’s a panel beside the door with instructions on this too.

Damn, they’re making this easy.

I . . . I really fucking appreciate it. Thanks big wigs.

I walk over to the operating station and whip out my cheat sheet. I flick a switch and press a few buttons, then I hold my breath.

Here fucking goes . . .

I press one more button, then put my hand on the accelerator: a big knob with a speed dial above it. I turn it slowly. A digital number tells me my increasing speed. Once it gets past one, the cable car starts moving. I jam the cheat sheet in a cubby underneath the control panel and grab hold of a very well placed handle next to me.

I’m not taking any risks.

The cable car moves out of the . . . Station? House? Whatever the fuck it is . . . And starts ascending.

I’ve regained my balance and my confidence is starting to come back. Good. Not sure about my bravery. I recall the recommended speeds on the instructions and slowly turn the knob. The cable car moves faster, up to fifteen kilometers an hour. Not really that fast, but in a glass box on its way to the sky, it feels fucking fast enough, let me tell you.

I approach the first pylon and remember the instructions, slowing the cable car down to 5 KPH. As the connector above the cable car passes over the pylon, there’s a clanking sound. And everything shakes

It’s normal the instructions say.

It doesn’t relax me at all.

I’m also remembering one of those X-Files episodes I watched. There were a lot of them. One of the early ones with the guy. Fox Mulder wasn’t it? Riding a cable car. Trying to catch up with someone. He kept pushing the cable car to top speed and barely slowing it down when it approached the pylons. I remember the billboard in the episode: Skyland Mountain. Ascend to the Stars.

I ain’t going to be taking any of those risks.

Past the pylon, the cable car speeds up to a normal 15 KPH, and now I finally start to relax. I look around, through the windows, and admire the view of the island of Gibraltar opening up before me.

It’s quite breathtaking.

[PAUSE]

[JAKE:]

I’m awake and up. It’s a new day in this strange, new place. I wake up in a strange bed, but I slept like a baby. It felt really damn good to get to sleep in an actual bed. I know I’d been sharing the bed in Ostium with Monica, but there’s something to be said about enjoying a queen-sized bed all by yourself. And after the last twenty-four or forty-eight or however many hours its been since the blackness swallowed up my world, I really needed a good rest. I feel alive and rejuvenated.

So it’s time to start brooding. Well, no so much brooding. But some deep, introspective thinking about . . . No. It’s brooding.

Dave. Is. Monica’s. Son.

Dave. Is. Steve.

It’s a big fucking deal. All that time. All that looking. All that suffering. And he’s here. He’s found. He’s with me. But Monica isn’t. And he was Dave all along. Somehow. No. I don’t get it. Not one bit. And I’m not going to try to right now. It’s too much. Too much to process. Too much to try and comprehend.

Dave’s . . . Should I still call him that? Should I tell him his name’s actually Steve? And then why does he think he’s called Dave?

Anyway, Dave’s still sleeping out on the couch, I can hear him snoring. I look out the window and see the sun’s making its way up into the sky. It’s well into morning. I’m going to need to get Dave up soon. We need to keep checking this place out. See if we can find anything that might help us. Something that will help explain all of this. What happened here.

I decide I need a breath of fresh air and sneak down the stairs, quiet enough not to wake Dave. I open the front door and leave it ajar so I can get back in with no issues. I think I remember the number Dave said was the passcode, but I still don’t really trust all this. Not completely.

Outside the air feels fresh and wonderful. I walk into the street, taking deep lungfuls. It feels so great, waking me right up. I can’t help looking at my surroundings. My eyes studying the buildings I can see, then casting over to the rock, following its ascension to the peak. And then I see movement.

What the fuck?

I don’t understand it at first. It takes some time. Then I realize what I’m looking at. It’s the cable car. I can remember that. Doing some reading when I was younger on Gibraltar and how the town has a cable car that takes you to the top of the Rock. You know: to check out the views, and the monkeys. So I shouldn’t be that surprised to see it there. The cables swooping down the mountain like big electrical wires. Except . . .

Except the cable car is moving. I can see it from where I’m standing. It’s far away, almost to the top. But it’s definitely moving.

And that means someone’s probably on it.

Just. Great.

[Short pause]

I get ready to go back inside and wake up Dave, to give him the [sarcastic] truly great news.

Do I still call him Dave? Or Steve? What’s right? Last night when I told him that was Monica in the photo he didn’t believe what I was saying.

DAVE: “You what? You must be bloody kidding.”

JAKE: “No Dave. I’m deadly fucking serious. That’s Monica in that photo. And I can see you too. That means she’s your mom. You’re her son.”

DAVE: [Silence at first] We ARE talking about the same Monica here? Aren’t we? The one you’ve been gallivanting all over the place with? The one who was . . . Seducing and attacking you with those things so you’d stay in line?

JAKE: [Silence] Uhm.

DAVE: [Cutting Jake off] The one who was always looking for bloody Steve who we all thought was her boyfriend, but who was really her fucking son. Who was really . . . Me!

JAKE: [Breath] Yes. Dave. That is what this all appears to be.

DAVE: [Angry] Does it!

JAKE: [Quietly] Yes. It’s . . . It’s the one thing I’ve never been able to find out until now. Absolute proof. Undeniable. Unquestionable.

DAVE: What? This?

JAKE: Yes. It’s you. It’s Monica. In the background is the rock. This place. You were here. With her. Your mother. And she was also with me. And you – Dave – went on your own journey, and you found Ostium – or maybe it found you – and then you found me. And then we both got here. Where you were before. When you were Steve. When you were here with your mom. With Monica.

Dave’s looking down at the photo. I’m not sure what’s going through this mind. Inside me my heart’s racing. This is so incredible. I don’t really know what to think. Does he remember being Steve? What changed?

He looks up at me.

DAVE: I don’t know, Jake. It’s a fucking lot to process.

JAKE: Yes. It is.

DAVE: Look. It’s late. I’m bloody knackered. Let’s get to bed. I’ll sleep on the sofa tonight. Maybe sleep will help me take all this in a bit better.

JAKE: Okay, Dave. That sounds good. Do you still want me to call you Dave? Or Steve? I don’t . . . Really know. It’s what you want that’s important.

DAVE: I don’t know either, Jake, to be honest. I can remember things, being here, but I don’t really remember being too different at all. Not being me. Being Steve. So let’s keep to Dave for now.

JAKE: Sounds good.

DAVE: Jake? Are we ever going to find my mum? Are we ever going to find Monica?

JAKE: I don’t know Dave. I just don’t know. But if there’s anything I’ve learned with Ostium and everything that’s happened to each of us, it’s that wherever we are, there’s always a chance.

DAVE: Good answer. Night night.

JAKE: Goodnight Dave. Sleep well.

[Short pause]

I run up the stairs, thinking I’m going to have to shake Dave awake if he’s not up already. I find the couch empty when I make it to the top, a piled blanket at one end. Where the hell is he? I then see him over at the window. He’s staring at something; eyes wide in astonishment. I walk over to him and follow his angle of sight and discover he’s seen the cable car too.

Finally he breaks his stare and looks at me.

DAVE: Who the fuck is that?

JAKE: I have no idea. But we’re going to find out.

His eyes somehow widen a little more.

DAVE: Are you . . . Are you sure that’s a wise idea?

JAKE: Oh, it’s definitely not. But I don’t think we can go about our day checking out other buildings, while there’s someone riding that cable car to the top of the mountain. Or riding it down to come find us. I’m just not going to feel comfortable going about our business today knowing there could be someone watching us behind our backs. Or coming at us without our knowing.

DAVE: You’re fucking right, mate. Okay. I’m scared shitless and it’s the last thing in the world I want to do. But you’re right.

I put a warm palm on his shoulder.

JAKE: I’m scared shitless too, man. Now let’s rip the band-aid off and deal with this.

DAVE: You what?

JAKE: Er . . . Never mind. I’ll explain it on the way.

[PAUSE]

[MONICA:]

It’s a very enjoyable ride. Rising up and up. Ever higher. Getting to look back and down on this very strange island. It’s surreal. Not as surreal as it could be. I’ve spent time here before. Know the lay of the land, so to speak. But seeing it from way up here. It’s pretty trippy. And beautiful. Looking down at all the little buildings below. The streets and lanes between them. Like arteries and veins. Only there’s no life blood here. It’s all dried up. Dessicated.

And that’s when I fucking see something I can’t believe. It can’t be real, can it?

I know I’ve been hearing some weird shit. Those goddamn explosions. Who knows what they’re about.

Could there be someone else here? Somehow? This place definitely had the “Ostium vibe” when I arrived. Polar opposite to how it was before.

But I’m seeing the proof right now. Undeniable. Unless that EV’s driving itself.

Okay, for just a moment. An iota, as Jakey would say. In this place of all places. That’s a maybe. A possibility. But I’m not buying it. Not a bit. There’s a someone or someones in that vehicle down there. And looks like they’re headed my way. Via the cable car station.

Let the games begin, I guess.

Part of me is happy to know I’ve got company, and another part of me, a big part, is fucking terrified.

I turn around and see I’m not too far off my last stop. I went over the last pylon already, slowing down, then speeding up. Got the hang of it now. Actually, the end is coming up real fast. I’ve got a matter of seconds. And I didn’t check the instructions on how to stop this flying umbrella.

Yes. That’s a reference. Look it up.

So I drop the speed down to five KPH which is as slow as it’ll go without flicking switches I don’t know anything about. Shoulda done my homework. But it’s slow enough for me to make it work. I slide open the door. Holding on to the rails. There’s still one heck of a drop. I’m not taking any chances. The cable car slides into the opening of the station like a Pez candy into a Pez dispenser.

Yeah. That simile was fucking terrible. And yeah. You can pick your favorite Pez dispenser.

I get ready to leap through the door and onto the platform . . . Except there’s a fucking gate. And it’s closed! Time to adjust the plan of attack a little . . . And now we’re out of time.

I leap through the doorway, grabbing onto the railing with both hands, which rattles around like something electrified, and throw myself sideways. Once my body’s clear of the rail, I let go and twist with it, letting the momentum carry me in the turn. I land on my feet, bending my knees.

I stick the landing.

No sweat.

I hold my position for a minute. Catching my breath. Then I’m up and moving around. Meanwhile the cable car has done is revolution and is out the station and on its way back down to the town below. All ready for some fresh passengers.

Just fine and fucking dandy.

Can’t think about that now. They’ll presumably be up here at some point. Joining me. But I still got some time.

I open the door of the cable car station and step into a big room. It’s covered and well shielded and insulated. I get the sense of a bunker or fallout shelter. The sort of place an important person in power would need to go during a strike.

It’s quiet here. Silence is swallowed up. Absorbed by the thick walls. Not letting anything out. Not letting anything in.

I stroll down the hallway to solid metal.

My footsteps don’t echo.

[PAUSE]

[DAVE:]

It takes us a good long while to find the bloody platform where the cable car’s supposed to be. We thought we were doing just fine. Trudging along. We could see the big wires that carry the cable cars, even if we couldn’t actually see said cable cars. We could see where they came down to earth, so to speak. So we headed in that general direction. We got close. Bloody close. Or so we thought. Then we hit our first dead end. We went back and tried again. Then we found a bloody great big building blocking the way. So we went back and tried again.

On the eighth try we had success!

I let Jake lead the way. You know: to absorb any oncoming fire.

We step into a sort of waiting room. Jake points out the door. There’s some splintered wood around the lock. Yeah. Definitely a break-in.

JAKE: Someone probably attacked it with their feet.

I look at him in absolute confusion for a few seconds and then realize what he’s going on about.

DAVE: Oh, right. Gotcha.

On the other side of the waiting room are glass doors and they’re open. We step through and now we’re on the platform. There’s a big U-shaped hole in the center where the cable car’s supposed to go and turn around. Only, there’s no cable car right now. But we can hear the sound of machinery. Everything’s on apparently and working.

Jake is looking up the mountain and points to a distant cable car making its way down towards us.

DAVE: I hope there’s no one on that.

JAKE: No, I don’t think so. It looks empty from here, and whoever was on it was probably riding it up. It’s empty now. All ready for us.

DAVE: [Sarcastically] Bloody brilliant.

[PAUSE]

[MONICA:]

I get to the end of the hallway and find another doorway. It’s a sliding door. One of those fancy ones where the door slides into the wall and kinda disappears. We didn’t have anything like that back down below. Makes sense. For the bigwigs up here. To have all the fancy shit.

Would I have wanted a cool sliding metal door for the front door of my apartment? Fuck no. But I woulda liked the option.

I step into the room and it’s pretty dark. I can see a few pinprick lights here and there, but nothing that tells me what it is. I can’t even make out shapes. I pull out my datapad and find the flashlight option. The darkness is torn apart by a bright white beam and suddenly I can see what the hell is around me. It’s . . . A . . . Fucking control tower. Machinery. Everywhere. Consoles. Racks along walls. And I can see many more little lights now. Greens. Reds. Blues. Oranges. And more.

I shine the light around. I see a light switch on the wall. Now why the hell didn’t I try that when I walked in?

It’s a big switch. Almost a toggle. Takes a good bit of effort to lift up. There’s a loud, echoey metallic sound. Like something dropped. Then the room is bathed in light.

Wow. Now that’s much better. And yep. Just as I thought. This is a watchtower. All those conspiratorial ideas we were having way down below were 100% correct.

I can now see a single button on one of the consoles is lit up in a orangey-yellow. It’s thick and attending-demanding. Taking the bait I press on the damn thing.

 If I thought it was bright before, I find myself covering my eyes as the metallic shutters rattle up and reveal giant windows all around except for the doorway I came in through.

Holy shit. I can see everything from here. Literally everything. An almost three hundred and sixty degree view. I can see down below, way down to the town and the buildings and the many streets. I can look out far to the horizon. Nothing but ocean and more ocean it looks like. Though I guess if this is still the Mediterranean, it’s all sea. Jakey would correct me on that. Sea as far as the eye can see. He’d laugh at that too.

And now I can see the cable car. Just about to come into the station. Well, then. That fun time was short lived. Time to face the fucking music.

[PAUSE]

[JAKE:]

We don’t know how to stop it, so it’s all about timing. Fortunately the cable car is going slow. Damn slow. So it isn’t that big of a deal. We watched as it makes its U-turn, and then we’re ready by the railing. The door is open. Makes it even easier. Whoever used it last has been courteous. Or in a hurry. I hop on as soon as I have the chance, and Dave is right behind me, actually running in to me.

I kind of slip over to the far side of the cable car.

Then we’re out of the station and beginning our ascension. Dave doesn’t waste time, throwing the sliding door closed. That makes things feel a lot safer in here.

I walk over to the control panel, looking at the various dials and switches, not knowing if I should do anything. I wonder if there were any instructions? I look around, then below, finding a small cubby underneath. There’s a piece of paper there. A page of instructions. I shit you not. Awesome!

Dave is at my side as I’m reading how to operate the cable car.

JAKE: Here goes. Hold on to something.

Dave does and I accelerate the car to 15 kilometers per hour. When I reach the first pylon, I dropped it to 5 KPH, then speed it back up again. Having me focus on operating the car does wonders to make me not have to deal with the fact that we’re getting higher and higher and as I might’ve mentioned once or twice before, I’m not a big fan of heights.

Dave meanwhile is at the far end of the car, looking at the window and taking in the splendor laid out below. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but right now I have to focus on operating the cable car. You know. For our safety and all.

[PAUSE]

[MONICA:]

I haven’t got long. A matter of minutes. Got choices to make. Gotta be quick. Do I fire first? Do I take down whoever I see? Or do I give them a chance? A hope? I dunno right now. It depends if they’re pointing anything my way. Depends on who the fuck they are.

I draw out my little pistol. I haven’t had to use it yet. I hope that streak continues.

[PAUSE]

[DAVE:]

We’re coming into the station now. Right where whoever was riding this car got off before. Presumably. We can’t take any chances. Jake is carrying out the instructions on the piece of paper. The cable car is coming to a complete stop. He’s managed to break off a thin piece of metal from inside the car. It didn’t look important. Nothing bad happened when he did it. And now he’s got himself a makeshift weapon. And I’ve got the little gun. I draw it from my pocket and look at it. The last time I used it was to kill someone I didn’t want to shoot. I hope this time I don’t have to use it to kill someone I know I need to kill.

[PAUSE]

[MONICA:]

I’m standing in the doorway. The cable car has stopped. Whoever’s on it must’ve looked at the instructions. They must be pretty smart too, or at least able to read. Can’t trust them though. I make a snap decision and shut off the lights. It plunges the room and the hallway into mostly darkness.

With the gun pointed at the opposite end, I start walking.

[PAUSE]

[JAKE:]

We’ve stepped off the cable car and can’t see anyone on the platform. I feel more than helpless with this pathetic piece of metal, but it’s all I’ve been able to salvage on such short time. This time I make a hand gesture for Dave to go first. No talking from here on out. We might be heard. Dave nods and walks in front. We reach the doorway that leads to a dark corridor. He steps through and I follow. We stop and wait.

It takes a while. But then I hear it. Slow footsteps. Coming closer. Dave hears them too. He starts walking down the hallway. I don’t know what the hell his plan is but I stay close behind him. He must have something in mind.

He’s reaching into his pocket for something. I can hear the rustling. The footsteps are coming closer now, as we draw nearer to the person.

[PAUSE]

[MONICA:]

They’re coming nearer. There’s two of them. I can’t tell if they’re armed. Probably got something. It’s your classic standoff. Only I’m really fast at the draw. Fuck. I’ve already drawn. I just need something to pull the trigger at. I’ve brought out my datapad. My finger is ready on the flashlight button.

[PAUSE]

[DAVE:]

I’ve got my datapad out. I don’t know who’s coming towards us, but I want to see them before I try anything. Before I shoot them. If I have to. I know there’s a torch option in the menu. There it is. Got to wait for the right time.

We’ve very close now. And so are they.

[PAUSE]

[Simultaneously DAVE and MONICA:] I turn the light on.

[Single laser gun shot.]

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