This is Part 3 of the longer story “Core“. Here are Part 1, and Part 2.

I exploded out into the concourse, pounded across the grey tile and into the bazaar. Legs churning, I ran past and stumbled into tables placed seemingly at random and strewn with cheap junk.

I looked down at the core in my hand. It was like some sort of Bic pen with a fat red core and an eye-dropper for a tip. What the heck? I had no idea what this thing was, but whatever was in it came out of my head. Some part of me screamed with greed and defiance, demanding that I do everything I could to protect it.

I ran on. If I could find an elevator or an escalator or anything I might be able to get away.

“Stop! Come back!” Pocket Square called after me.

I turned to see him charging after me through the market, and slammed into a table for my trouble. The table went over and down I went. Pens scattering across the floor. Pens!

I snatched a handful and scrambled back to my feet. Maybe I could trick him…

I held the core up and saw that now I actually had two of them. What? When did that happen? Did it split? The center of one of the cores was aqua and the other sea green. That something inside of me snarled in frustration. Are they cooling? Am I dying? I shoved the cores into my pocket.

There! An elevator door suddenly appeared on a nearby wall.

I dodged around a table, and waved a ball-point pen in the air. I stopped next to a table piled messily with books, reams of cloth, and all manner of knick-knacks and junk, and turned to look to see how close behind me they are. Very. I screamed in surprise and shoved the pen into the midst of the bric-a brac, sending books and reams of cloth spilling off of the table and clattering to the floor as I darted towards the closing elevator doors.

I stumbled between the doors and turned to see the men searching through the mess I’d made of the table. Mohawk frantically pawed books out of the way and threw reams aside, which rolled and unraveled messily across the floor. Pocket Square raised from where he was crouched, and turned towards me. Our eyes made contact and a look of almost panic came over his face as the doors bumped closed together.

It left me very unsettled. That wasn’t the look of someone trying to hurt someone. What was this thing? Who are they?

Why are they trying to destroy me?

Again, I paused. Me? No, that isn’t right, they’re trying to take whatever this core thing is away. I argued back.

They’re trying to destroy you! That something within me snarled.

I had nothing to say in response.

I nervously reached into my pocket and took out the core. It had somehow merged back into a single core again. The center was now a burnt orange color. I clutched it in my hand, trying to keep it warm.

I turned around and walked deeper into the elevator. Deep green and blue checkered tiles came up from the floor to meet a rough white blank wall that stretched up to the ceiling. It smelled like metal and I heard the elevator machinery whirring softly as we began to move… crap. We’re going down.

I stepped down three short, but deep stairs, which wrapped around a smaller central chamber, and into the main compartment. My left hand trailed along the smooth cold surface of the aluminum handrail. I was in a macro-elevator, which flew rapidly past dozens of levels at once. I knew somehow that the smaller central chamber housed a door leading to a micro-elevator, which could take me to a specific floor once the macro elevator got me close enough. It would be my only way out.

I walked through the small crowd of people standing passively in the elevator and over to the window. The view that met me through the semi-circular glass facade showed what I had suspected. The city, darkening ever so slightly as we race down. It looked like parking garages for as far as I could see. Millions of the same yellow car parked in every conceivable space. It looked almost like I was inside a megalithic computer or machine or something.

Some part of my brain gibbered frantically that we would soon be deep underground. Not that I could ever see any top, or bottom, or “ground”, or even anything resembling a bottomless pit. Looking outside just gave this impression that around endless corners “up” and “down” continued on and on.

Suddenly there was a strange soundless snapping feeling. Somehow I knew I’d fallen below the surface.

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