Thread: 6 of One...
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Old 07-30-2008, 09:28 PM   #54
Steven Lyle Jordan
Grand Sorcerer
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Much like the green dome, the hallway I found at the bottom of the hatch was an anachronism... all modern lines, hidden fluorescent lighting, and plastic-looking walls. It ran in one direction, and as the only other place to go was back up to the giant panda, I started down the hallway. Along the way, I noticed signs lining the walls at intervals. They were old advertising slogans: The pause that refreshes; Finger lickin' good; Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet; It's not how long you make it, it's how you make it long; It's the real thing; Just do it.

The hallway finally emptied out into a larger room, subdivided into spaces by large partitions. Most of the partitions had something attached to them: One of them I saw had a map of what looked like the Zoo. Another one sported a wiring diagram that was wholly incomprehensible to me. And a third had an autographed portrait of an old man. I could not read the signature, but the name printed at the bottom of the photo read: "Fritz Lang." The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place it.

I moved past that partition, and into a sci-fi moviemaker's wet dream. There were the most incredible pieces of machinery everywhere, with lighted boards flickering with tiny lights, lights that seemed to run around the boards in choreographed patterns that repeated every few seconds. I saw flashing electrodes, bubbling beakers, spinning wheels, steaming pipes, and moving geometric shapes. Everything was kinetic in that room, nothing failed to do... something. Some equipment gleamed in shining metal and plastic. Other pieces looked grimy with oil and age.

I stepped past this section, and found a small desk with a glass top. The desk had a viewscreen protruding from the top, and a smooth plastic panel embedded in the desk's surface before it. I tapped the plastic surface, and the screen lit up with a screen saver... a tiny icon of a panda, bouncing from side to side on the screen. I smiled. The desk was like one big, fancy computer.

Looking past the computer, I saw a wall that seemed to have pictures of types of food embedded on it. I looked closer, and realized that it was some kind of food dispenser. I tried touching an image... a pear... and the wall started flashing telltales and whirring. A panel slid back, and a small shelf extended with a plate of... what looked like baby food. It did smell like a pear, though. I decided to pass for now.

Just then, the room exploded in noise... loud klaxons, like a Star Trek red alert warning, but incredibly loud, forcing me to slap my hands over my ears. Thinking I may have triggered an alarm, I started to head back for the hallway, hoping the noise would stop. My back-tracking brought me back to the sci-fi hardware room, and there I stopped.

On one piece of machinery, I saw a series of lights, flashing in a circular sequence that surrounded a single blue button, about the size of my fist. Above the button, a readout sign flashed: "Emergency! Emergency! Press this button to restore normalcy!" All the lights on the other pieces of machinery were flashing frenetically, enough to give someone an epileptic seizure, or at least a blinding headache. And between the lights and the klaxons, I felt a doozy coming on.

I didn't know if it would work... but in helpless desperation, I slapped at the button. To my surprise and relief, the klaxons stopped, and the lights went back to their previous harmlessly-kinetic patterns.

"Now... see how easy that was?"

I spun about. There was Panda-man, smiling at me as he removed two foam pads from his ears.
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