Thursday, September 6, 2018

9/6/18

Earth Tours: UAE
By J. H. Malone


I work for Earth Tours travel agency, but I am not a travel agent. I'm a host, guide, and fixer for visitors to our planet. Potential tourists contact the agency via our deep-web .onion site. We email them highest-quality counterfeit visas and wormhole directions to any of our suites around the world, together with local arrival and departure dates and general sightseeing information. They pay with bitcoin.
In they come from their homes scattered throughout the universe, for a quick pep talk. Then out they go into our world, whereupon I wait for my phone to beep.

"We've got a problem," my supervisor tells me. "It's the client we call John Smith."

I groan.

"Him again?" I say. "Why do we let him keep coming back?"

"His money is good."

"What's he done this time?"

"He arrived at our Mideast office looking exactly like Tom Cruise. All 5' 7" of him."

"Totally, awesomely against the rules," I say. "Where do I find him?"

"In Dubai. Halfway up the Burj Khalifa. Using suction cups, just like Tom did."

"Good Lord. Has he been spotted?"

"I don't know. He got started in the dead of night. The sun's up now and he's a hundred stories high. The window cleaners are bound to spot him, if no one else."

"The window cleaners?"

"The building has 24,000 windows, but never mind the window cleaners. Get over there and remove him before he falls off."

"I'm on the other side of the world," I say.

"I'm authorizing a dimensional jump for you."

I stepped through the shimmering curtain that appeared in our Van Nuys suite, emerging in our Dubai office. My ride awaited me on the rooftop helipad, rotor blades churning the air in preparation for takeoff.

The day was clear, as it usually is in the UAE. The Burj Khalifa stood above all other structures, queen of the sky. I hadn’t seen it up close before and it left me slack-jawed. We circled twice before I spotted Smith. He was already up to tier 17, at the foot of the spire, 163 floors and change above the ground. His suction cups were obviously not of this world.

My pilot brought me back to the pad and our office driver whisked me over to the hotel via D86 and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road. I took a moment before entering, using binoculars to spot Smith again, now on the spire. He was halfway up it on tier 23.

Inside, I used a corporate pass from the Dubai office to take elevator BS1 from the Concourse to level 138 and BS3 from there to 159 in tier 17. That's the last corporate level. After that, it's all support mechanicals.

I used my AI lockpick to access the stairs (steep) up to 18B, then a ladder to 19, and stairs (steeper) to 21.

From there, a ladder in the pinnacle pipe led to the top platform 443 feet above me. I was winded and in no shape to handle that climb. Instead, I stepped out onto the level 21 maintenance deck, where a stiff wind was blowing. Metal vibrated beneath my feet.

The tower is made up of tiers to confuse the wind and minimize vortex suck, but without a safety belt, I was liable to be blown off the deck by a random gust. I clung to the railing in front of me for dear life.

The view was worthy of a small plane. I looked out over Dubai and the Persian Gulf, deep blue in the morning light. Iranian gunboats were running maneuvers in the Straight of Hormuz. Above me, Smith continued his ascent, suction cups popping rhythmically.

"Smith!" I called.

He peered down at me.

"Come down!" I called.

"I go up, see message Tom scratched on spire to Kate and children!"

"What?"

"When making movie. Tom sat on top. Also hung down and scratched message. I go see and also sit on top."

"You must change your face! You cannot look like Tom!"

"Ok. After I see message and sit on top, I change."

"And immediately transport yourself off the building, yes?"

"Yes. I transport to East Compton Boulevard."

"East Compton Boulevard? What's on East Compton Boulevard?"

"I change my face and body to Vin Diesel. Street race, baby!"


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J. H. Malone recently returned from 3 years in Dar es Salaam, writing copy for a refugee-aid NGO.


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