Dark Fate 6 – an almost harmless diversion.

*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON.  THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely.  Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off and beating me to death with it) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this?  Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on.  However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there.  If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.)  And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the world building.  (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse.  The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone.  (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families.  Ask my husband.)  So I’m torturing him.  Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ve sent the first chapter to Larry, and after I clear a bunch of minor cr*p in my way, I’ll be sending him probably the first ten chapters by the end of the week.  [Yay, Mr. Trashbags.  Oops, did I say that?])
Will this ever be a book?  Don’t know.  First Guardian will get delivered.  Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry.  And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.)  It’s his world and his character.  I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*

First chapter is here.

Second Chapter is here

Third Chapter is here

Fourth Chapter is here

Chapter 5 is here.

6

I might someday be able to overcome my distaste of elevators, but that isn’t going to happen for the elevator I had to take at the back of that Portuguese deli.

Okay, imagine an iron cage, of the sort that was put in as an elevator in the nineteenth century of so; the kind that used to have a uniformed buy just to operate the controls.  Then imagine that the uniformed man was done away with, and instead we had a bunch of obvious gears and stuff in a corner, all of it operated by a push button panel that I swear looked a hundred years old, though it certainly couldn’t be.

It was square.  It had three black buttons on it.  The buttons might at some time have had numbers on them, but they had long since been rubbed away.

Franks had said first floor, so I licked my lips, looked at the instructions, looked at the panel and pressed the middle button.  The panel sparked.

For a while nothing happened, and I was reaching for the metal door to open it, when the whole structure gave a looooooong groan and hobbled.

By which I mean it shook side to side.

I looked up and could see what looked like a much too flimsy chain holding it up, threaded into a really large gear.

Right.  There had to be stairs in this place.  And for that matter, why wasn’t the elevator resting on the floor, here, on the ground floor.  And also–

I reached for the door.

The groan deafened me and then, like an arthritic man, groaning and moaning, the elevator started lurching upstairs.

The sequence went something like this: groan; shudder from side to side; groan; shudder.  Each groan took up about fifteen inches up, which means the first lurch made it impossible for me to get out of there easily.

In an iron cage, being pulled up, I realized I was the perfect target for shooters from the bottom floor, or the floor I was going to for that matter.

I resisted the impulse to lay flat on the floor of the elevator.  For one, because I really do try not to look crazier than I am.  For another, because the floor of the elevator was also metal, the kind of metal grates they put over manholes in Manhattan, you know, the kind smoke streams out of?  And through the openings between metal slats, I could see another level, where it seemed to me like people — or perhaps things — were moving around in the darkness.

So instead of lying flat on the elevator floor, I tried to restrain my footprint to… well… my footprint.

I squeezed near the far wall of the elevator, against the bars there, because those at least backed to a solid — okay, plaster and crumbling — but without holes.  And I put my hand in my pocket, where I kept the glock I’d rescued from my luggage.  No, I’m not saying ow I got it into my luggage and through customs with no questions, even though I wasn’t using my official passport to travel.  It’s none of your business.  And besides, I might need to use it again.

But nothing blasting-worth made it into my field of vision.  In fact, nothing happened beyond the creak and lurch, and it seemed like forever between floors, until suddenly it gave a creak-shudder, like a great beat dying and I realized we were level with the time-corroded floorboards of the first floor.

As I reached for the door, the elevator gave a great groan and lurched upward again.  Oh, no way in hell was I going to go up at the mercy of some crazy, ancient contraption.

I grabbed the door — a sort of sliding gate really — shoved it to the side, and jumped out, which was scarier than it should be, because the elevator was too small for the hole, and there was this space I might have fallen down, into the endless darkness beyond.

I managed to land on my feet on floorboards that creaked and groaned as much as the elevator.  But I was very glad I managed to land on my feet, because as I looked up, I was being coolly appraised by a young woman in a black-skirt-suit.

She was much shorter than I.  Must have been all of five foot nothing.  And it looked like she was wearing at least a one-inch heel too, on her impeccable black pumps.

Her hair was dark and curly, her face was olive and pointed, and her dark eyes were profoundly amused.

She looked me up and down, and said “Grant Jefferson?”

I wanted to say “if you’re Fado Negro, I don’t think much of your death elevator.”  Or perhaps “Woman, surely you have stairs somewhere.”

But she looked so amused, as though the elevator were an elaborate prank — and it might very well be — that all I could say was “Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said.  She extended her hand, and I shook it.  A little, hard, cool hand.  “We’re all waiting for you.  I don’t mind saying we’re in a hell of a pickle, and it’s about time you Americans showed up.”

41 responses to “Dark Fate 6 – an almost harmless diversion.

  1. I temember those elevators! Sarah didn’t have to make anything up. That’s a masterly description, though.

    • The place where I put Fado Negro was actually where I used to get my art supplies. And I’m not joking there was a code word that led the deli people to take you to a hidden door, from which you took this scary elevator up.
      I NEVER figured out why the secrecy, but I suspect they were evading onerous business taxes. (Shrugs.) It’s Portugal.
      The last time I was there, I tried and failed to find the deli.

      • The explanation is obvious: to find that deli requires you to first find the proper art supplies shop, give them the correct code word and only then can you take the elevator up to the deli.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        And this is one of the many reasons I love coming here. Where else could you learn stuff like this?

        • seconded! Thanks for posting this. If you’ve got paying writing to do then, as much as I am enjoying this, I hope you don’t feel pressure to keep this on any schedule other than at your convinience.

          I think the word ‘wall’ is missing right after ‘backed to a solid’.

      • Should you wish to experience Scary Elevators (avec guy to operate) try the Smith Tower in Seattle. It has a pyramid at the top that used to be a Buddhist temple, and the elevators appear to be launched by Acme brand springs. I once went to a job interview for a company in that building, and a substantial part of my subsequent refusal of their offer hinged on the terror of having to use those damn elevators *every damn day*. Pretty, though! Art Deco. And every one of them has to have an operator to function. Or maybe it is to use the defibrillator on passengers?

        • That might be fun. Most of the time when I ride in an elevator it’s at a hospital, and most of those are so slow they’re barely faster than gimping up the staps with my cane…

          • I have unfond memories of a church elevator ca. 1947, still in use until the late 1980s. I suspect the church never bothered to let the building inspector or fire marshal know it remained in use. It worked, but the ride was truly faith-building!

            • Back in my college days while on crutches following knee surgery I was “authorized” to take the elevator in one of the older buildings on campus, an elevator only slightly roomier than a phone booth. For whatever reason I took diabolical delight in turning off the light while riding up three stories.

              Coming down it was faster by far to use the stairs, leaning out to plant the crutches midway and swinging through to the landing. Without witnesses, of course.

              • I liked to ride the elevator in the World Trade Center – it was fast and if it was windy outside it had a slight sway to it. Thankfully there was a bar at the top so you could fortify your courage for the way down.

                -John

      • Yeah i was going to ask if you were describing a specific elevator you knew about, it had that flavor.

  2. Wait a minute now. Can’t fool us.
    YOU came stumbling out of the Portuguese undergrowth, so don’t be telling us otherwise.

  3. Ah yes, that curious affectation the Europeans have that trips up so many yanks. The first floor is actually one up from the ground floor.

    • I never remember which country does it which way, so … it gets very frustrating.

      • This one, sometimes. First encountered it on a house that was my first part-time job in construction. Three stories, and the first floor was on the second story. Can’t remember what they called the first story. Have also seen it in some hotels, with the first story marked ground and lobby.

    • Britons walked on dirt in their huts. Floors were for upper stories. Eventually even the poorest homes managed to add a floor at ground level too.

      Leveled and hard-packed dirt (assuming you have the right kind of dirt) makes a reasonably good flooring surface.

      In Mexico and parts of the American southwest, dirt floors are quite the stylish thing. They’re usually called something like “blood adobe”, and use animal blood as a binder to create a tough floor surface.

      “What goes around comes around…”

      • I forget who said that leprosy vanished from Europe when dirt floors did. Makes sense since we still don’t know where leprosy really comes from (you can catch it eventually if you live with someone, but its hard).

      • My great grandmother had a dirt floor in her kitchen. It is not QUITE as unhygienic as you’d think. At least, after 200 years it’s d*mn difficult to tell packed dirt from cement.
        In fact the last house we bought had packed dirt instead of cement in a corner of the basement and no one — us included — noticed until we hired someone to repaire the basement floor.

  4. Is it this type of elevator you’re talking about?

  5. a uniformed buy just to operate the controls

    A uniformed boy? Guy?

  6. So far Grant has had life-threatening encounters with an airport luggage carousel, a cheap hotel room and an elevator. How the hell does he get to work in the morning?

  7. FYI, what pours out of the grates in NYC streets is steam, not smoke.