Half-Life: Resonance

Wednesday November 20, 2002:

I must really be racking up some good karma right now. Got a call from Otis five minutes after my shift ended to say that a Dr Kleiner had locked himself out of his office and needed help to get back in. Despite the fact that there was a Barnstormers game I wanted to watch tonight, I decided to shoot over to Sector C and help him.

I found him sitting on the floor outside his office: a balding guy who looked like an apologetic tortoise. He had the kinda bemused look of someone trying to remember the punchline of a very old joke. That expression gave me a feeling this sorta thing happened to him a lot.

“Ah greetings!” he said when he saw me. “Mr Calhoun, is it? I apologise for imposing myself upon you, but I’m afraid I’m in something of a quandary.”

“Okay Dr Kleiner,” I said. “What’s the trouble?”

“Well, I seem to have mislaid my keys, and this door is locked and barred.”

“Do you have a spare set anywhere?” I asked.

“Oh certainly,” he said, rising to his feet. “I keep them in my office for safekeeping.”

I sighed. “You mean both sets of keys are locked in the room?”

“Quite possibly,” said Kleiner. “Although I cannot say with any certainty how. It is a conundrum that defies conventional explanation, even taking quantum dynamics into account.”

“It’s a pickle alright.” I said, scratching my head.

Kleiner sighed. “Frankly, this interruption couldn’t have happened at a more crucial time. I had a key insight into our massless field-flux hypothesis, and meant to transcribe my theory with all due alacrity.”

“Tell me Doc,” I said carefully, “Do you find that stuff tends to go missing whenever you have one of these ‘key insights?'”

“Oh yes,” he nodded sagely. “An ineluctable consequence of rigorous scientific inquiry. But frustrating nonetheless.”

I gotta tell you, I was stumped. You almost had to be impressed by Kleiner. I didn’t have a spare key and neither did he. There was no door and I didn’t think I could break it down. I was getting a headache just puzzling over it all.

But then I spotted the air vent leading from our corridor into Kleiner’s office. It looked big enough to squeeze through, and that reminded me of Die Hard. Hey, if John McClane can do it, why not Barney Calhoun?

After a few minutes we managed to find one in a supply closet, and I loosened the grille covering the vent. There was no ladder, but Dr Kleiner managed to give me a boost so I could crawl up inside it.

“Now Mr Calhoun,” said Kleiner, “I must caution you to be, well, ah, cautious.”

“Don’t worry,” I said as I wriggled into the passageway. “I think I know where I’m going.”

“Just don’t get yourself stuck on my account!” he called after me.

I gotta admit, it was a bit of a tight squeeze, but I was able to crawl along at a reasonable pace, and I had my flashlight to see where I was going. It was a labyrinth! Eventually I wormed my way into Kleiner’s office, and dropped down onto the carpet. The keys were lying there on his desk, and I opened the door to find him standing on the other side, beaming at me.

“Superlative work Mr Calhoun!” he said warmly. “Many thanks indeed!”

“Don’t sweat it Doc,” I said, dusting myself down. “And my friends call me Barney, by the way.”

“Well, in that case, Barney, allow me to reiterate my gratitude,” he said, smiling. “And let me add that I will endeavour to ensure that your efforts this afternoon will not go unrewarded-“

He fumbled for something in his pocket, and then his face fell.

“Oh fie,” he said wretchedly. “Now, I swear this wasn’t here a moment ago…”

The spare key had been in his pocket.

Harvard’s brightest, am I right?

Published by itshendo

Callum Henderson is a carbon-based life form who graduated with a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing from the University of Strathclyde in 2016.

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