Time and a Half, Chapter 5

The Janitor, Linden, and Constance made their way down to the first floor without incident; they were all relieved by this. They were not prepared for another time skip. The first one was strange enough. Constance picked up her campaign to rescue the rest of her colleagues before they vacated the building. The Janitor didn’t put up a fight. He didn’t want to be a jerk and let innocent people die if they didn’t have to. All life was important.

Constance led the way to the lab they were working in and opened the door with her badge. The four other scientists looked at her as she walked in. The Janitor and Linden followed her.

“Okay. We have to go, for real this time,” the Janitor said.

The scientists had a mixture of irritation and concern on their faces. They all stood up and began to talk at once. Questions of “what the hell was going on” and “where have you been” were uttered amongst the noise. The Janitor put his hands up to quiet the noise. This worked for the most part, but they were still upset.

“Constance, what in the world is going on?” Dr. Raimundo Casablancas asked, taking his glasses off dramatically. “First Linden disappears, then you disappear after the janitor tells us we have to leave, and then we don’t hear anything for thirty minutes.” The other scientists chimed in.

Constance didn’t know where to begin explaining. The whole thing was so bizarre. She opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. She mumbled incoherently for a second before she turned to Linden for help. Linden cleared his throat, prepared to explain everything, but the Janitor interrupted him.

“There’s really no time to explain,” he said. “The longer we stand around answering questions, the more likely we’ll never make it out of here alive.” He received blank stares. “So, let’s get going! Single file line, no shoving, and everything will be fine.”

“Let us put our equipment away first.” Dr. Elaine Saunders started packing her things. The other two scientists began to do the same.

The Janitor rolled his eyes and sighed. “What part of there’s no time do you people not understand?”

“You won’t even tell us what’s happening, so why should we hurry?” Dr. Casablancas put his glasses on only to take them off again, this time to clean them.

“Did you not hear the urgency in my voice? Are you deaf to inflection?” The Janitor approached him and spoke a little bit louder to get his point across. Raimundo took a step back, but refused to be intimidated. He puffed up his chest, which was easy to do because he was a big man. The Janitor was not fazed. “Listen to my words, read my lips. We need to get out now! Comprende?” Raimundo resented him using Spanish on him, but said nothing.

The other scientists watched this and got the hint that the Janitor was not playing around. They stopped packing and gathered around the Janitor.

“Okay, let’s go.” The Janitor led the scientists out of the lab. Well, one of them went back to grab his coffee, he didn’t want it to go to waste. It was shitty coffee, but coffee nonetheless. He caught up with the others and joined the trek to the front door.

Raimundo found his way next to Constance and whispered to her, “What in God’s hell is going on? Why are we being escorted out of the building by a janitor?”

“Brian is back with his time machine and he’s opening portals in time.” Constance found that the words came much easier to her this time. “The Janitor thinks that the building might explode if we stay here any longer.”

“Why couldn’t he have just said that?” Raimundo was much easier to deal with if he was told reasons for why things are happening. He wouldn’t have put up such a fight, especially after hearing that Brian was involved. He didn’t want to be anywhere near that crazed man. After what he did to poor Dr. Rickman, the pariah was the personification of death.

“We got caught in a time loop earlier, which explained why there were two of Constance at the same time,” Linden whispered, leaning into the conversation. Raimundo rolled his eyes. “We just have to be careful not to slip into another time loop and we should be fine.”

“How do you know when you’re in a time loop?” Raimundo asked.

“We didn’t know until Linden figured it out,” Constance replied. “It was so seamless. We were walking and then the next thing we knew we were thirty minutes in the past.”

The Janitor looked back because he heard the whispering, which was quickly becoming louder. “Be quiet back there. We don’t know where Dr. Hu is. He could be anywhere around here.”

The other two scientists, Dr. Eric Kovach and Dr. Lorraine French, gasped when they heard the name Dr. Hu. What did he have to do with this? They found that they didn’t care just as long as they were able to leave the building safely.

The front door was finally in sight. The Janitor didn’t want to take any chances of being stuck in another time pocket and ran toward it. The scientists, not wanting to be left behind, followed suit. The seven of them sprinted down the hallway into the lobby. They were within a few moments reach of the door when suddenly the lights turned off. The sound of the air conditioning cutting off filled the lobby. The scientists murmured in surprise. They all stopped running and looked up at the ceiling, wondering what happened.

The Janitor knew that when the power went out, the auxiliary power would come on. It was usually a few seconds after the main power went out. He waited patiently for the backup power to come on. He waited for a good minute, but nothing happened. He knew that this was no good. His first thought went to Brian. What had he done to the power?

“Can we just get out of here now?” Raimundo asked impatiently.

The Janitor nodded his head and walked to the front door. He took out his badge and placed it in the reader. He waited for a light to turn green, but there were no lights. Nothing was being read. He picked up his badge and replaced it on the reader. Nothing registered. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a chill went through him. They couldn’t get out without the power.

Linden could see that the Janitor was troubled but trying to control it. He walked up to him and whispered, “What’s going on?”

The Janitor slowly turned to him and whispered back, “I think we were a little too late.”

“What do you mean?” Linden knew the answer to the question, but he needed confirmation.

“Dr. Hu shut down the power. I’m sure of it.” The Janitor continued the futile gesture of replacing it on the reader in the hopes that his fear was not founded. “We can’t get out.”

Linden felt his stomach drop. He was starting to panic. Without thinking how this would affect the others, he ran to the door and pulled on the door handle. The door did not budge. He started to push on it in the hope of a different result, but the answer was the same. “Shit!”

The other scientists watched Linden push and pull on the door and grew concerned. “What’s the hold up?” Raimundo asked.

Linden and the Janitor slowly turned around and tried to hide the panic from their faces. They did not do a convincing job. They watched the concern spread to the rest of the group.

“Why aren’t we leaving?” Elaine asked with a hint of panic in her voice.

“It appears that we need power to be able to use the door,” the Janitor said, looking each of them in the eyes. “There’s no power. I believe we are stuck until the power comes back on.” The scientists began to complain and shout. “Shh! I know that this sucks donkey testicles, but we just need to be patient…”

“What about the backup power?” Eric asked, his voice cracking.

“It should have come on already,” Constance added. “Something’s wrong.”

“Whose bright idea was it to have a door that only works if there’s electricity?” Raimundo shouted. “This is bullshit!”

“Calm down,” Constance said, patting him on the shoulder. “Shouting is not going to make it better.”

Elaine marched up to the Janitor and poked him in the chest. “What do you plan to do about this?”

“Me?” The Janitor rubbed his chest where she had jabbed him and took a step back. He didn’t exactly have a plan. He just wanted to get them out of the building, there wasn’t supposed to be a Plan B. He was at a loss for anything to do. He wasn’t sure when he suddenly became the leader of the operation, but he supposed that it was too late to reject the title.

The Janitor thought quickly about what Plan B was going to look like. He supposed that he would have to figure out how to turn the power back on. He saw that Elaine was impatiently waiting for an answer. He guessed that his plan would have to suffice.

“We need to get to the basement to turn the power back on,” he said semi confidently. “I’m assuming that Dr. Hu cut it, but if we can find a way to turn it back on, we can leave.”

“This is ridiculous.” Raimundo reached into his pant pocket and pulled out his cell phone. Linden looked at him and held Raimundo’s phone.

“What are you doing? We’re not able to make calls. The jammer, remember?”

Raimundo wrestled the phone out of Linden’s grip. “The power’s down. The jammer probably isn’t working. We’ve got to call for help.” He dialed 911 and waited. The line was silent for a good minute before it clicked and dialed out. He nodded to Linden indicating that it was working. The other scientists gathered around him.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Hello, this is Dr. Raimundo Casablancas out at the DenenTech office. The power is out and we’re trapped inside with a maniac scientist who trying to kills us by trapping us in time loops. We need help right away!”

The dispatcher was silent for a moment as she tried to digest everything he just said. She coughed and asked, “Is this the DenenTech at 3240 E. Florence Drive?” Raimundo answered in the affirmative. “Okay, we’ll send a unit over right away.”

“Make sure they’re armed!” Raimundo added quickly.

“And bring tanks!” Eric Kovach said in the background.

Raimundo ended the call and put his phone away. “At least some good can come from this situation.”

“I’m surprised that worked,” Linden said. Raimundo nodded his head.

Elaine prodded the Janitor in the chest again and said, “Well, what are you waiting for? Get us out of here!” She shooed him away from the door.

“Okay, I guess you guys wait here, I’ll be back in a moment.” The Janitor proceeded to walk by the scientist when Constance grabbed his left arm.

“I really think we should stick together,” she suggested. Elaine and Lorraine started to disagree, but Constance stood her ground. “These time portals could appear anywhere. What if we get separated? It would be better to be altogether than spread about throughout time. Am I right?” She looked for support from Linden, which she received. She looked to the others and waited for their decisions. Ultimately, the decision would have to be made by the Janitor. She looked to him and saw the wheels turning.

The Janitor wasn’t sure if he was willing to risk the lives of these scientists while he led them through the building, not sure where or when they might end up. Constance did make sense though. He would have a better idea of where they were if they stuck together. He made his decision and nodded. “Come on, follow me.” He led the way out of the lobby toward the basement.

Dr. Eric Kovach, the one who had gone back for his coffee, finished said coffee and threw the cup on the floor for lack of a trash can.

The sound of the paper cup hitting the floor traveled to the Janitor’s ears and he stopped abruptly. The other scientists were confused. He slowly turned around and zeroed in on Dr. Kovach, his face intense and angry. He spoke through gritted teeth. “Pick. That. Up.”

Eric gulped. “But there’s no trash can around.”

“Were you raised in a barn?” The Janitor glared at him.

“We’re probably all going to die and you care about a coffee cup?” Eric attempted to stare the Janitor down, but the Janitor’s eyes were too intense. He could feel the Janitor’s anger piercing his soul like a knife. He gulped and slowly bent down to pick up the cup. “I’ll just hold it.”

The Janitor’s face lightened and he give him a firm grin. “Thank you.” With that, he turned around and continued to lead them to the basement. Eric took a deep breath and gripped the paper cup tightly, hoping that it would alleviate some of his newfound stress.

To be continued…

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