Trump had managed to open up most of the doors on the zeppelin; he shouldn’t have been able to do that. The only doors that remained closed led to the most sensitive and fragile sections of the ship. The hallways leading up to them were lined with cameras and scanners. They could recognize a person’s height, gait, power signature, DNA, and anything they had to eat in the last three days. If anything didn’t add up, then hallway would be sealed off and pumped full of a sedative strong enough to knock out the most resistant walker.
Will had barely taken a step into the hallway before every door between him and the control room slid open. Despite that, he didn’t run. Beck’s computers had a tendency to make life difficult for anyone who looked like they were trying to rush through the security system.
The control room was empty. Even before the spell had hit, it was completely abandoned. There were almost a hundred monitors spread across at least forty workstations, and unless the zeppelin needed a massive overhaul, they would remain unmanned for the next ten months.
The monitors started flickering on and off when Will walked past them, creating an almost unnoticeable hum that slowly grew louder as more and more monitors stayed on. The bottom of Will’s spine started tingling by the time he was halfway to the central station.
A raised dais in the center of the room held a single chair with half a dozen monitors in front of it. If Beck were there, it would have lowered itself for him; the computers made Will take the stairs.
The monitors clicked to life in front of him. For a moment, he was bathed in blue light. One by one, the monitors turned off, until only the center was on. A thousand images flashed across the monitor, appearing for only an instant before shrinking down, until they took the shape of a face.
The computer’s voice lacked gender and tone. Every syllable sent an unpleasant shiver running down Will’s spine.
“Identified, William Writer. Sensors and cameras have confirmed a state of dormancy among 98% of the population. Armed intruders have been detected on all floors. Your authorization level has temporarily been increased to the maximum grade. State your request.”
“There’s no time for this game. Talk normally.”
“Of course. Good evening, Will. What can I do for you?”
Will took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He was certain the Ambrosia was onboard; Slipstream had insisted on referring to it by any number of names to avoid the myth; he’d settled on Power Nectar after the weeks they’d spent looking for it. There was no doubt that the document Unimportant saw was describing Ambrosia. But that meant that Slipstream had held onto it for nearly a decade; it meant that Slipstream had been lying, to him if not the entire Council, for years.
Will opened his eyes and looked straight into the digital pupils on the screen. “Is there a sample of Ambrosia on board?”
The face froze on screen. It only lasted a few seconds, but Will could feel every heartbeat before it answered. “Yes. A sample of PES 492: Power Nectar, also known as Ambrosia was retained for experimentation by Beck industries after its destruction proved inadvisable. Mr. Beck had it brought onboard as a safe location for further testing.”
Will thought he felt the ship shaking, it took him a second to realize it was just him.
“Where is it?”
“It is currently on the 18th floor on subsection C of the Western quarter of the ship in Lab 15. Unfortunately, this lab is off limits to all personnel not currently taking an active role in its research. If you attempt to approach the lab, all security protocols will activate.”
“Of course they would. What if an intruder was already present? Could emergency access be granted?”
“Security personnel are allowed access in such situations. Given the current situation, you are authorized to deputize temporary officials.”
“The four who came with me, make sure they can get in anywhere they need to. Then give me access to the PA so I can talk to them.”
“Using the PA is inadvisable. Enemy troops are patrolling the hall and destroying any camera in their path. Your allies are hard pressed to avoid notice. Any announcement they were capable of hearing would alert the intruders to their presence.”
Will shut his eyes and sighed. If he wanted to let them know about the lab, he’d need to get closer. But he didn’t have the time to wander around looking for them. “If you get the chance, let them know.”
Will hopped off the dais. The computer’s face followed him along the monitors.
“Where are you going?”
“If it’s just me, how long can I keep them out of the lab?”
“If there were a single entrance, you may be able to guard the lab indefinitely. However, you could only defend one entrance at a time without resorting to excessive force. The moment they find another entrance your defense would fail.”
Will kept walking.
“None of your allies have been registered in any major conflicts. Their chances of surviving an incident with the Amborsia are-“
“I am well aware of what that stuff does. If I want to keep it out of Trump’s hands, then I need help, and they’re the only backup I have right now.”
“If you fail, they will die.”
Will smirked. The light of the monitors grew dimmer, as the computer’s face followed him to the door.
“They’ve gone against threats above their paygrade more times than they should have been able to survive. This won’t be enough to keep any of them down.”
“It seems you are confident in their abilities. Is that why you are acting again?”
“At the moment, I am the only walker of the appropriate level to handle this threat. What little respect for the job I have left won’t let me stay idle.”
“You are lying, Will.”
Will left the room.