This is not a standalone blog entry or short story, as such, I’d recommend beginning at the beginning: A Mightier Penn (1)
It was go time.
Hastily he began pulling the pins from the smoke bombs laid before him. He was engulfed in smoke by the time he pulled number four. Dirk the clerk was right, it was a shit ton of smoke. Squinting his eyes and clinging to his breath, he ripped the remaining pins. Smoke poured from the bombs. The billowing cloud devoured the lobby’s air and flooded into the adjacent air ducts.
Penn stood with his backpack in his hand and sped to the elevators, passing a door designated ‘Stairway’. Gripping a bomb in his pack, he considered fumigating the stairwell, but decided against it and continued to the elevator bank. Smoke swelled behind him, but he pretended not to notice.
The instant the word “smoke!” rang out over his shoulder, Penn vaulted the waist-high access gate like a gymnast and sped to the first set of elevators that serviced floors one through twenty. He pushed the ‘up’ button before glancing to his side.
Corporate bedlam had quickly, but professionally, taken hold. Everyone was moving in restrained sprint, the guards to their assigned posts, commanding those in the lobby to vacate the building, and those being commanded to the doors as fast as business decorum would allow. For those in suits, primeval self-preservation was strong; it was every businessperson for themselves. People spun through the revolving doors without looking back. Once outside and a safe distance from the building, the self-proclaimed survivors transformed into concerned and compassioned gawkers.
“Come on, come on,” he quietly repeated to himself. The seconds refused to rollover.
Waiting, staring at the illuminated floor numbers above the elevator doors, he spied traces of white smoke trickling from the vent located above the elevators. He knew, without having to turn around, that the lobby would so be a dream.
Penn heard a seasoned sentry order another to activate the fire alarm, but just before the deafening alarm rang out, the elevator doors opened in front of Penn. No one stepped out. He stepped in and illuminated every yellow circle on the wall with a swipe of his hand before repeatedly pressing the ‘door-close’ button. The doors obliged.
The car rose as the fire alarm sounded. Penn was fortunate that in the event of an alarm, the elevators were programmed to complete their assignment before returning to the ground the floor. Had that not been the case, or had he summoned a cab following the alarm’s activation, he would have found himself taking the stairs and swimming upstream against a deluge of fleeing employees.
Kneeling, the backpack before him, he fished out two bombs and readied himself.
When the doors opened on the second floor, he pulled the pins, lobbed the pair onto the floor, and watched the smoke blossom to life before the doors closed and he was carried onward and upward.
Penn repeated the smoke bombing on each presented floor. At a few floors he encountered office proletarians jockeying around the elevators for a more effortless evacuation. When they approached Penn’s inviting elevator, Penn hollered “Out of order, take the stairs”, winked, and rolled a couple smoke bombs past their feet.
The employees appeared dumbfounded. From their vantage point, an old man just barked “Out of order” from a functioning elevator whiling bowling a couple smoke bombs in their direction. Stunned, they took the stairs.
At floor twenty, the elevator rested momentarily before automatically beginning its descent to the lobby. Penn removed one last smoke bomb, pulled the pin, and dropped the bomb to his feet.
The smoke raced from the bomb, overtaking the small elevator cab, and eventually blinding the concealed camera mounted in the upper corner.
Before being entombed in white smoke, Penn took a hurried breath of air. He then scrambled to strip his hat, wig, fake beard and mustache, which he replaced with the gas mask. The oblong lenses reminiscent of honeymoon snorkeling.
Penn took a breath. The mask, like the smoke, worked as advertised. He jammed hat and disguised into his backpack along with his tie that he pulled from his neck. Leaving the pack slightly open, Penn shed his suit jacket, which he draped over his forearm and backpack like a butler holding a towel.
The elevator returned to earth and the doors opened to a smoke-filled lobby. Penn had anticipated dense smoke, but was in awe at the ghostly glow of the dense fog shrouding the lobby. The ambiance of the otherworldly lobby was surreal, almost peaceful, away from the fire alarm. Visibility, measured in centimeters, was next to nonexistent. Lit from the sunlight beaming through the large plate windows, the air in the entry was a compacted indiscernible brick of bright heavenly cloud. Most of the occupants had already evacuated, and those on the floors above were using the stairwells that led directly to the street to exit, leaving only a few shadows and voices moving through the smoke.
Penn edged his way towards the light coming from the windows and doors. It then began to rain. The overhead sprinkler system engaged and water poured through clouds. Penn was unfazed, unhurried, and continued on his way with outstretched mummy arms guiding him. When his dripping hand touched the metal crossbar of the revolving door, he took another deep breath, ripped the mask from his head, tucked it back into his pack under his jacket, and leaned into the door.
One hundred and eighty degrees later, Penn, clothes soaking wet from the sprinklers, walked from the building towards the flock of gathered employees and onlookers. He stepped into the crowd just as the police and fire vehicles screamed onto the scene.