"Did you get my email?" the voice came out of the blue, a void, for his mind was already somewhere far away, relaxing at home.
"Huh?" he replied, startled to the presence by the colleague. Alex asked Dan again.
"Dan, did you get my email? The customer wants some big changes, we have a meeting to discuss it on Thursday," Alex summarized his own email he had sent to Dan once again, who sighed realizing that this was a 'gentle reminder'.
"Oh yeah, I skimmed it. Thursday to discuss it?" Dan replied, opening Outlook only to scroll past the email from Alex.
"Yep, that's the one," Alex smiled knowingly, now he had the email reminder and reminded him in person. Dan loathed his impatience. It was a fucking Monday morning, Alex should calm down. What the hell does he thi- Dan closed his eyes and rubbed his nose.
Alex raised his eyebrows "You alright?"
"Yeah, just tired is all. Let me get a coffee first," Dan sighed and got up to head to the kitchen.
"Cool, see you later," Alex trailed off as he went back to his desk.
The flurry of curses and ill-wishes that escaped Dan's inner dialogue were quick and relentless, but still he smiled a weary smile when he held open the door for another colleague. As he went to the kitchen he noticed another colleague going there as well and decided spontaneously to simply go to another kitchen on another floor. He headed to the elevators and to his dismay, another colleague was just arriving.
"Morning Dan, how are yo-" the voice began but Dan already pushed open the door to the stairwell.
"Good thanks, in a rush!" he shouted behind him and spurted into the stairwell. He pushed the door behind him slightly with his fingers to make sure the door closed faster, whilst also hoping no one else attempted to follow him at that just moment, feeling a sense of dread of another high level encounter that would drain his energy even quicker than the first.
He stood in front of the closed door and took a deep breath. Luisa left him. He had to come to terms with that. It was clouding his mind and he couldn't help but think of her. What did she mean? Find herself? Maybe they should have talked about it more often. Five years down the drain? No, he would fight. He felt the tears welling up again and leaned on the wall, muttering a steady flowing collection of "fuck" under his breath.
Suddenly, the wall he was leaning on gave way, ever so slightly. He jumepd up. "What the fu-" he looked as the wall had given way where he was leaning on by a few millimeters. It was a rectangular shaped indentation on the wall, barely taller than him and slightly wider. He touched the crack that had formed and as he outlined it gently with his hand, he felt it give way a bit more. The line on the wall went far enough that a dark black line formed within the rectangle. He could see the faintest indication of an orange glow that reflected off of... something past the black line. He began to push the hidden door ever so slightly more until he heard someone enter the stairwell from another floor. In a panic he pushed harder and the hidden door gave way, he shut it quickly behind him, so as not to get caught.
"Caught? Shouldn't whoever put this here be "caught"?" he asked himself as he now had entered and noticed that he was in a hallway. A long dark hallway with obsidian walls and opposite of where he stood was a door in oval shape without any door handle or indicator of opening. Above it shone an orange light that glowed patiently and invited him to come closer, so he did. There were only sounds from the stairwell, whoever was there had carried on. No sounds came from him walking to the door, the ground seemed to be silent, but he did not notice that. He looked at the door and now standing in front of it, it felt ominous. Why was there a secret hallway and door in his office building? The door itself was a very slim oval shape, and a dark silver. The light above it was on a black piece of metal protruding from above the oval door. Dan got closer and touched the door. It was oddly warm and he pushed it gently. This door also opened very easily and gave way. Within the second door was a room filled with screens, many of them angles of his workplace, or his colleagues. Some of thefam were moving around, as if they were someone's eyes. In front of the multitude of screens was a chair but it was not an ordinary chair. It had four legs, yes, but the seating itself was oddly disfigured, one would have to contort themselves a lot to be able to fit in the chair. He did not recognize many of the desks, but realized that somehow these screens were showing a view from inside of people's heads, or from their point of view.
"How did they get the cameras in there?" he wondered to himself. The chair he now approach seemed to have many buttons on it, and a touchpad that was lit up and had characters written on it he had never seen before in his life. They appeared to be hieroglyphs but he did not recognize them as Egyptian. It didn't look Georgian, or Greek, he had seen those before. This was something else. Suddenly he heard a gargling noise behind him. He spun around and before he could recognize anything he was out cold on the floor.
"Oh no, oh no a human got in," Fleeborx panicked. He was in the adjacent room having a break and did not realize that he was not only not fit with his human skin, but also left both doors open. He called up his old friend Dulgax as quickly as he could.
"Cmon, cmon pick up," he rang Dulgax, his best friend from Amiguld, their outpost in the Sol system that was helping observe Terra.
But no one picked up.
“Florg… Florg, Florg, Florg fleebing Florg!” he cursed under his breath as he struggled to find his human suit. Finally, having found the corpulent skin sack that he inhabited when he was undercover, he put it on and called his superior. One of his, what we would call, four hearts was beating way faster than the other three. Finally, his superior did pick up and a lot faster than he wanted.
“Hail Snork,” he wheezed into the speaker as one of the ultra-thin screens in front of him flickered on to show hi superior, Captain Dul-dik.
“Hail Snork,” the Captain squeeled and already Dulgax was afraid. He mustered all of his courage.
“Captain… we have a code XJ-521-773,” and as Dulgax spoke he noticed a second heart increasing in it’s beats.
The Captain gave a pondering clicking sound and then after a moment replied “Who died?”
Dulgax panicked. He said the wrong code.
“May Snork forgive me, I misspoke, XJ-521-774! Of course, Captain. Please forgive my insole-”
“How long ago?” the Captain immediately answered, having inspected the feed from Dulgax’s room and having already seen everything. Dulgax realized it before Dul-dik could say anything. Of course Dul-dik would know.
“About four ticks. Maybe six, I don’t know, I am facing heightened stress levels,” Dulgax honestly admitted. He noticed an acknowledging, almost forgiving tone in Dul-Dik’s reply.
“Sufficient. We have prepared for such a situation, with three alternative scenarios. This is the optimal scenario,” Dul-dik turned away to another screen and paused Dulgax.
Dulgax waited and turned in his chair, sitting as a balding, Caucasian man with a larger than average nose, brown eyebrows, glasses, and a polo shirt. His corduroy pants were the peak of his individuality and helped him blend into crowds when going undercover. He wiped his protruding human-stomach and noticed his second heart beating slower. He stared at the man laying on the floor, still breathing through his oxygen exchange areas at a normal rate, as if he were asleep. The man had short hair, wore a simple polo shirt, black pants, and black shoes. Contrary to Dulgax, the height of his individuality was contained near his feet, barely visible, in the form of socks with beer mugs on them. They were the brightest thing in the room.
“Envoy Dulgax,” Dik-dik chirped and Dulgax rose in his seat.
“Captain?” he replied, his second heart almost on par with his first. Would they execute one of his brothers for this mistake? Or worse?
“Induce a bruise in circular form around the back of the intruder’s head. Place him at the bottom of the staircase, but the upper staircase, not the lower one, of your floor. The lower one has a camera and could implicate your current form. Once done, lock the observation room and have your observant cells remain independent. They will be terminated at a later time, should they be compromised. Understood?”
Dulgax was elated, no punishment? He was truly blessed by Snork.
“Understood Captain, Hail Snork,” Dulgax replied, sealing the order with a nod.
Dik-dik confirmed and closed the connection. Dulgax did as he was told and laid the man out on the upper staircase after inflicting a small bruise on the back of his head.
Dan awoke in a hospital bed. He looked around and saw a few cards, flowers, and balloons opposite of his bed. To either side were beds as well, both were empty. He looked around and saw it was dark outside, the curtains were closed, a thin light shone in from a street light. Dan tried to remember what happened, but all he remembered was a door with an orange light. Nothing else. He turned his head and felt a slight pain in the back of his head. He winced and gently touched the back of his head, a large bruise, and sighed. He hoped he would remember, soon. His eyes hurt slightly and he closed them slowly, drifting back to sleep. Perhaps it was just a dream?
He nodded to himself "Yes, probably just a dream," and dozed off.