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William pressed the top floor button, marked with an O for Mr. Coldwell’s office. The doors closed and the service elevator soared upwards.
Time to put his nightmares to rest. He couldn’t fail now. Mr. Coldwell would be arrested for his crimes against humanity as his machine’s nature was brought to light.
No more people would suffer beneath the Penthouse.
A part of William wanted to be known for bringing his father down. He felt it gnawing at him, a dark and desperate need– William needed to prove to the galaxy that he was more than his father. Then, William would be free of his father’s shadow.
William would finally stop being the insignificant, failed, and forgotten son of a giant.
Stop it, William thought. You’re thinking like he would.
Above all, William would not become like his father.
There was a ding and then the service elevator doors swung open atop the service shaft. William stepped out and turned left. Across the metal walkway laid an electric box. William tried not to look down over the railing as he approached the interface, the sheer height of the Penthouse sending chills through his toes.
He opened the box and tapped on one of the wires. Maxis scuttled down his arm and used his mag-driver to twist around the wire William had pointed out and rerouted one of the circuits beneath. Maxis beeped and inserted a tiny stopper to the circuit board. If William had studied the mechanics of the building correctly, this should keep his father’s office door from opening once Maxis triggered the stopper. His fiddling should have also deactivated the receptionist droid that monitored the doors to his father’s office.
Maxis ran back up to William’s shoulder and they exited the service shafts, entering the main portion of the skyscraper.
The top floor of the Penthouse looked different from the rest of the tower. Where the other floors of the skyscraper were shining models of modern technology and efficiency, Mr. Coldwell’s office floor had a more ancient feel. The lower floors had white lights and mostly plain walls, uniform with everything else.
Up here the walls were all made of polished wood– or at least framed to look that way. The lights came from old-timey (and inefficient) electric lightbulbs in little lamps placed around the room. Once you stepped out of the main elevator, you were confronted immediately by the imposing oak double doors that guarded the entrance to the office.
There was a little desk to the right of the elevator doors that held a custom QOL droid, a nice chatterbox of a robot that always ushered people in and out of Mr. Coldwell’s office. She was shut down right now, as a result of Maxis’ work moments earlier.
William took a deep breath, facing the large double doors that lead to his father’s office.
Be strong. Make him talk. You can do this. You need to do this.
The baby’s terrible cry echoed in the back of William’s mind.
His fingers tingled with anticipation. He checked his pockets, making sure the two items Maxis had brought him were still there. He pulled out the first, a little rectangle and put it inside his jacket pocket. He pressed one of the side buttons on it. The recorder was activated.
William pushed open the double doors with a creak and entered Mr. Coldwell’s office.
His father’s office was decorated like an old-Earth hunter’s cabin. Three of the walls were made of fine, polished wood. On the right wall, a stuffed moose head stared out lifelessly from its mantle. Mr. Coldwell liked to think of himself as a hunter– really, he just tagged along while professionals instructed him on what to do. Still, it was a sign of his wealth and power. Real Earth animals were rare enough that to be able to go pleasure hunting for one spoke volumes.
Famous paintings of Earth pastures and wide-open plains hung around the room. On another wall, the chalkboard William’s father used for his equations was framed on both sides by rows of books. William was sure his father had read every one.
The back wall of the office was different. It was a huge, clear glass pane that looked out on Obsius and down on the little port-city that had sprung up around the Coldwell Industries Penthouse. The white-dust shone brightly with the light of the New System’s star, and Mount Sica jutted out of the planet’s surface with its harsh black edges.
At the center of the room laid an imposing desk, with an even more imposing figure sitting behind it. Holoscreens blinked and little desktop ornaments sat frozen in the moment, as if holding their breath. A little silver nameplate read in bold letters:
The man looked up from his screen and noticed his son, his glasses glinting. Mount Sica seemed to form a jagged shadow behind him. William wondered if he’d planned his office that way. Probably.
Mr. Coldwell narrowed his eyes, his mouth half-open. He had a strong jaw and pale skin. Lines were permanently creased on his forehead. His hair was an oily black that still had a bit of length to it, despite his age. Behind his glasses, his icy-blue eyes calculated.
Mom always said we had the same eyes.
William was disgusted with how many of his own features came from this man. Mr. Coldwell’s lip twitched upward, a ghost of a smile.
“Turn off your generators,” William finally spat. “You need to shut them all down. And you need to stop enslaving people in your enrichment centers.” William’s heart pounded in his ears. Even their tempers were the same. His father got angry quickly, like William. Mr. Coldwell formed a line with his lips.
“Feeling persistent today, are we?” He asked. William twitched and tried to control his tick. He had to remind himself to feel no fear.
“You’ve seen what your generators are doing. I’ve seen it, too. It’s sick,” William pressed, licking his lips. He had to get his father to talk about his machine, give something away to the recorder that would incriminate him.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Mr. Coldwell replied, furrowing his brow. His look of confusion was a weak front, and William knew him well enough to see through it.
“Stop playing dumb with me,” William ordered, surprised at the vehemence and authority he said it with. He sounded like his father. “The living matter density to energy conversion. You claim it’s because of a breakthrough in clean, renewable energy, and that with your new equations, your reactors can convert dense matter into energy. You say it’s harmless,” William went on, shaking his head.
“My generators are clean and renewable. They are harmless, and they are effective. I’m afraid you’re confused,” Mr. Coldwell said, with his hands splayed out in front of him. His voice was quiet, but deep. His father had lost the intense calculating look from earlier. Mr. Coldwell thought he had William figured out. He thought this was just another rash outburst. He never took William seriously.
“Then why don’t you let any real people monitor the machine? How come nobody’s been able to see it?” William shot back. William remembered the cold steel of QOL droid-arms picking him up after he’d seen what was below the Penthouse and shivered.
“Because it’s dangerous and emits a very special kind of radiation– you know this,” Mr. Coldwell sighed, tapping a button on his desk. No doubt trying to call for security. He pressed another button, and the doors behind William tried to jerk open, but were locked in place.
Mr. Coldwell frowned.
Maxis beeped happily.
William stared his father down. Mr. Coldwell looked up from his desk and William could practically see the gears turning in his head. William’s throat felt dry, but he barely noticed because of the electric feeling he had in his whole body. This was it.