Rising up from the warm tile floor, Donnor went in search of a service hatchway. Not more than 40 steps from his observation post he found the first one, and lucky for him, it was for the exact supplies carts that were going into the mystery door. He waited for a cart to come out of the hatch and dove through the opening before it could close behind. He landed roughly on the metal mesh cart track, scraping a gash into his elbow and taking a mild shock from the electrified grid before he could get to his crepe-soled feet to protect himself.
Gripping his bleeding elbow, Donnor looked around at the world of automated service machines he had entered. Everything was precise, sterile and hermetically sealed. Metal gleamed, rubber shone softly, and robot arms reached and placed, filled and filed all with a quiet whooshing sound like a heartbeat. Hospital infection rates were controlled partly by this quiet and clean efficiency behind the scenes. He felt momentarily guilty for the drops of blood that were falling to the mesh floor, but quickly banished the thought – he had never been sick a day in his life so there was very little chance he was carrying an infection, and besides a few drops of blood were nothing compared to his planned vandalism.
Moving cautiously along the grid, Donnor worked his way past the first rank of robot arms and deeper into the system. He needed to get far enough back to reach the un-activated carts. That way his tinkering wouldn’t set off any alarm bells.
The further back he moved the dimmer the light became, as fewer machines had active sensor lights. Gradually, his vision was reduced to the faint glimmer of the track below his feet, and the infrared glow of his embedded watch. He turned his wrist so that the pale light added what strength it could to his path.
Feeling his way carefully with his toes, Donnor inched along the path until he came to the cart storage facility at the end of the line. Here was rank after rank of supply carts, returned from the sterilization wash, sitting in standby mode, waiting to be summoned from electronic slumber.
Donnor pulled his pencil box from his pocket. The box was his own invention, built in applied robotics. Any casual scan simply revealed a very old-fashioned container for holding pencils and other archaic writing implements. He had told his teacher it was for storing some antiques inherited from his Grandmother. In fact, each of the 6 ‘pencils’ stored inside were highly advanced multi-tools. He had ‘found’ most of the technology in the University Robotics lab while on a field trip there when he was 13.
It had taken him two years of fiddling to discover what he had and how to use it. In the end run, by combining what he had found at the University with the basic student kit in his robotics course he had been able to direct his robots to build a red and blue laser, a fuser, a pocket sun, a holo-jector, and a flexi-chip interface; all cleverly disguised as harmless mementos that would evade security scans.
Power for the tools came from a perpetual fusion battery disguised in the base of the box.
Donnor pulled pocket sun from its cradle in the box, automatically activating its power. He projected his sun just above his head, and dialed up the light just enough to be able to see the electric panel on the front upper corner of the first cart. He slid the sun pencil into the chest pocket of his shirt (a fashion faux pas that he took a lot of grief for at school – pockets in shirts are entirely L.C.) and picked up the red laser. With quick deft strokes he removed the faceplate of the cart in front of him.
As he had expected, the electronic workings of the cart were all grouped to the front in a narrow space between the outer paneling and the break-wall that sealed off the supply hatch. This way, if a loaded cart needed repair or service, the technician never came in contact with the supply chamber.
Rising from his crouch, Donnor went around the cart to check out the supply hatch. It was his bad luck to have chosen a medicine dispenser cart first. This cart’s supplies space was entirely taken up by a complex system of conveyor belts which could feed the correct medications to patients one by one. No room for a teen-aged boy in this cart.
Donnor used his blue laser to seal the damage to the cart and moved down the line. This time he checked the supply chambers on the carts first. Food carts with larger versions of the medicine dispenser system; dirty laundry carts which would douse the contents with boiling steam as soon as the hatch door closed; clean laundry carts which had too many narrow shelves to allow space for a teen-aged boy; cart after cart proved useless and Donnor was beginning to think he would have to abandon the plan when he came to a row of carts that were slightly longer than the others.
The space in this cart was more than ample to allow for Donnor’s presence and judging by the size, his weight would not trip any sensors. All he would need to do now is program the sensor to tell the robots the cart was already full, and ride it into the room behind the forbidden doors.
A few minutes of work had the front panel open, and the interface tool effectively inserted. Donnor studied the holographic image his tool projected in the air above the panel. He found the appropriate switch, triggered it into the ‘full’ position and then used his fuser to seal it that way. For a few days this cart would both exit and return to the cleaning and storage facility labeled ‘full’ – until auto maintenance caught the problem and alerted a technician.
Sealing the control panel closed once again, Donnor maneuvered the cart out of the storage row and onto the electrified path. It began to move forward immediately and he jogged to catch up and climb into the supply hatch, pulling the door closed behind him. In the enclosed space of the cart his pocket sun was blazingly bright and he quickly dialed it down to a dimmer setting.
All he had to do now was wait for the automatic system to deliver him behind the door.