Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 15

In which Jones feels a bit judgy

Jones dialed Agent Moss on his cell phone, but the call wouldn’t go through. The signal was too weak. Jones turned a corner and tried again - this time the service was completely gone. The lights dimmed around him. Jones froze. The lights brightened again, then went out completely. The long, windowless hall was now completely dark.

A moment later, the HVAC stopped. In the new quiet, Jones could hear doors slam open all along the hall as staff began a cautious exodus from the building. Already, the recycled air was beginning to taste heavy and stale. Emergency running lights popped on along the hallway’s edges. They cast a blue, anemic glow that didn’t reach more than a foot off the floor. Jones checked the signal on his phone. One bar.

Jones headed to the building’s lobby. The sight nauseated him. Hunched, aimless shapes filled the lobby's floor. They groaned, wailed and beat at the carpet. Some shouted epithets at the staff members hurrying towards the lobby’s exit. Others sprawled out, prone and sobbing. The customers of Virtual Vegas had lost access to their feeds. 

Jones tried to cross the lobby. A woman grabbed his arm. Her white t-shirt hung ripped from the neck. 

“You have to make them turn it back on,” she demanded.

“I don’t even work here,” Jones replied, trying to shake her off. She grabbed him harder, searching for his eyes in the gloom.

“What do we do now?” she asked. 

Jones didn’t know what to say. He was talking to a woman who had abdicated all responsibility for the future tense. It was clear from her sunken cheeks that she’d been a customer of Virtual Vegas for a long time. The dark circles under her eyes looked like deep bruises in the shadows of the ever-hotter purgatory of the hotel lobby.

“Go home,” he said, unable to look at her any longer.

“I was,” she said, almost to herself. She shook her head, rejecting the thought. “What do we do now?”

Jones pushed her away from him, and she kneeled, limp. Jones realized that he did not want to be outside among the masses of people waking up from their long and total retreat. Anger constricted his throat. Abrera had told him to leave, but Jones was not another obedient customer. He didn’t even work here. Gritting his teeth, Jones turned away from the bodies restored to the basic responsibilities of life. He had a hunch that the door to the server room was still unlocked.