I was shuffling through an air duct on the 114th floor when the building stopped breathing. It reminds me, when this happens, just how close these things are to dead. Take the power away, move the people out and a building gets to be as spooky in its hallways as it already is in its guts. And without power, the whole thing gets bigger too. When there are no express lifts to take you up and down, the stairs echo enormous. Sometimes, in this situation, I like to abseil down the lift shafts, but today I have a job to do. Today I am stealing this building's beating heart.
The power cores are in high demand. Tiny nuclear batteries that can power a building this size for a century can just as easily power a small town. Since the plague, we've lost too many people and therefore forgotten how to make them. But in the cities, there are hundreds, and out in the country there are towns willing to pay. So I steal from the rich and give (or sell) to the poor. Hey, a guy's gotta eat, right?
Approaching the spine of the building, that service shaft going up through the middle, I started hearing noises through the ducts that didn't sound like the usual pests. No, this was another thief, come to take my prize before me. With the power out and these noises going outwards, not inwards, I was pretty sure he had the power core already. That makes this a chase, not a heist.
He's either heading for the roof or the front door. I'm betting on the roof, because they tend to be less guarded. He'd know that. I start climbing the ladder in my service shaft, listening carefully for the sounds of the other thief. If he doesn't know I'm here, he might not move as quickly as me.
As I pop out of the vent on the roof, I see another figure, clad in black, fussing with a clearly-heavy backpack. And it's a "she". I can tell, though her face is covered. She notices me, looks to the edge of the roof, and quickly shoulders her pack. As she leaps over the railing, she does this complicated, graceful pirouhette in the air, reaches down and clips something onto it. I hurry out of my vent and look down over the side in time to see a figure finish running down the side of the building, assisted by a descender. When she reaches the bottom, she unclips it from her belt, looks back up towards me and lets it go.
It zips up the outside wall, bumping and spinning, winding itself back up on its springs. When it reaches the top, I step back as it flings energetically over the railing. So my rival is gone, but I have her descender. And I know the only man around who still makes things like this. I'll find her again.
Mokalus of Borg
PS - I'll be honest: I haven't been writing much else since I started NaNoWriMo.
PPS - But I think this came out pretty well.