They did get a look at the building, and what they saw was not quite as disheartening as the knight had feared. There was a central lobby to the building, a place with public access that anyone could approach. The rest of that floor, and the one above, were office spaces, where various representatives could meet with you if you had an appointment. Above that was seven more floors, which were inaccessible to anyone who wasn’t authorized. There were guards at each stairwell and lift that would only admit those that knew the right password.
The knight spent his few remaining discs and managed to track down one of the workers who had been involved in the construction of the building. They got access to some old blueprints, and got a general idea of how things were laid out up above.
“So these top three stories are the highest security areas,” the knight explained to the drummer, after he had had some time to review the plans. “The Boss and other high-profile officials stay here, as well as some of the more historically significant documents, and who knows what else.”
“The teddy bear?”
“I would guess…not, actually. From what I’ve been able to gather, he might be important as an image of the Administration’s ‘divine will,’ but most toys see him only as a lackey. No one gets the impression that he is actually involved in any real administrative decisions. If anything they’re probably more worried about him getting out than anyone getting to him.”
“So that leaves these middle three floors. Considering that the bear is known to live in this building at all times, that further rules out floor five, it’s only small spaces large enough for offices.”
“So four or six?’
“Six is something of an enigma. It’s simply a grid of large, divided spaces, and no one really has any idea what they are for. Conceivably one of them could be the living quarters of the bear. But there’s nothing more definite to point to it as a likely place for him.
“Anything for four?”
“A bit of a stretch, but yes. See we do know that in one of these floors has the printing press where they put together their propaganda. Those flyers have to reach the ground floor to go out in the caravans, and the fourth level is the last one that the lifts on the ground floor have direct access to. To get to the higher levels you have to get on a second set of lifts that start on number four. Four is kind of the cap-off point of the first half of the building, and for sheer convenience’s sake it would make sense if the press was on it.”
“Is that helpful?”
“Just a hunch, but if the communications department is indeed on the fourth floor, and the bear is so frequently featured in those communications…then it might stand to reason that he’s on the fourth floor as well.”
“Which of course brings up the question, well where on that floor? See here, it’s a sort of spider-web design of rooms. This large central one probably holds the press itself, and all the different departments extend from that down these hallways. They’d want him out of the way until he needed to rehearse a script, so probably one of the large rooms at the far end of these halls. Here, here, here, or here.”
The drummer rubbed his batons together. They were getting close!
“These two have windows, which would not work, because that would risk him being seen by the public outside of their control. So that leaves two. Room number 422 and 478.”
“And they’re identical. For the life of me I’ve tried to find some way to reduce our options down further, but this is far as I can get. Keep in mind, I might have made a mistake at any of the earlier steps already.”
“Which room is easier to get to?”
“You’re still okay with the distraction-and-bridge idea?”
“Then 422. It’s right next to a room with a window, which window is right across from the roof of the Spring Club.”
“Alright, 422 then.”
The knight shrugs. “Just as well. In the end it was always going to be a bit of a guess. You’re still sure that you’re the one who should confront the bear? I’m bigger than you are.”
“The dancer knows me. I should go.”
“And even if the bear is there, there’s no guarantee that the dancer is with him. Or that he has any real clue where she is. And even if she is there, or he does know…well, I can promise you that getting out of there isn’t going to be easy.”
“That’s okay. I don’t need it to be easy.”
The knight clapped the drummer on the back. “Well alright then. We’ll do it tomorrow.”
The next day the drummer stood perched on top of the Spring Club. It wasn’t exactly open to public access, but the knight had managed to smuggle him up there via a ladder placed in the back alley. Then the knight had left to go perform his own part of this heist.
The drummer leveled his eyes at the tall, many-windowed building across the way. The knight had pointed out the window in question to him, the one that he would have to pierce through. Just to the right of that was cold, dark concrete, seemingly innocuous, but the drummer knew it was the wall of the room where the bear was this very moment.
The knight seemed less certain of that fact, but the drummer knew it. He was there.
Even just thinking of that bear, the anger started to stir up in the drummer. How could that toy have hurt the dancer like that? He had no right to take advantage of her like that. It hadn’t been an accident, and it hadn’t been a mistake. That the drummer could have understood. But no, the bear had done it only to be cruel!
Slowly the drummer became aware of his tiny fists raised in front of his eyes, trembling with a flowing rage. He didn’t know why or how, but some part of him wanted to hurt that bear. Because the bear had been a hurter, too.
A large crack split the air and a corner of the administration building rippled. A cloud of rubble and smoke rushed up against the windows on the first floor. Soon those windows flung open, and various toys stuck their heads out into the air, coughing and gasping for fresh air, while others spilled out through the front doors.
The drummer and knight hadn’t been sure if the firecracker would just make a loud noise, or actually collapse the corner pillar. Apparently it had been the latter!
Another equally loud crack burst from the opposite corner of the building, right beneath the cart full of the day’s propaganda papers. Wood splinters and shreds of paper flew everywhere!
“NO TOYS, BUT FREE TOYS!” the knight’s voice echoed from the streets below. “THE FACTORY SUPPRESSES ITS WORKERS AND ENGAGES IN ILLEGAL PRACTICES, AND THE ADMINISTRATION KNOWS IT!”
A few other various shouts from frightened passerby echoed up and down the streets, and then a troop of guards came filing out of the administration building. As soon as they appeared on the scene the knight turned around and ran away, leading them on a chase and calling further criticisms over his shoulder as he went. Hopefully he would get away alright.
The drummer snapped his head up, and narrowed his eyes at the window that was his mark. He stepped back to the edge of the roof, and reached down to where their ladder still emerged from the dank alleyway. He hoisted it up until he could grip its mid-section, then ran forward with all his might. He streaked across the roof, faster and faster. The other edge rushed up to meet him, and he dove to the ground, skidding his legs along the gravel as he thrust the ladder upwards and outwards like a javelin.
It sailed through the air, rungs whipping by him as they measured the distance to the window of the administration building. The ladder’s firecracker-tipped ends touched against the pane.
The glass burst into a thousand pieces, and further cries echoed up and down the street. The ladder clanged into place, extending as a bridge at the drummer’s feet. The drummer didn’t pause for a second. He raced across the chasm, knowing full well that it would not be long before more security arrived!
Through the broken window he could see a hallway and a few toys fleeing down it, afraid that he was some maniac come to murder them, no doubt. Well good. Hopefully their stampede would keep the guards back for a few extra moments.
The drummer took one last leap, clearing the last of the ladder and landing inside of the building. He had already made out the bronze 422 on the second door on the right. He stomped over to it, pulling out the hammer slung at his waist. The knight had told him to not even bother turning the knob, the first thing that the bear would have done once the explosions went off was lock it.
Instead the drummer lifted the hammer high over head, and slammed it down on the doorknob, popping the whole thing off with a satisfying crunch. Then he kicked out at the door and let it swing wide.
“Oh no, no, please no!” a panicky voice shrieked from inside. Though it had been a long while now, the drummer recognized it instantly.
“Bear!” he growled. “Where is the dancer?!”
He advanced on the large, misshapen lump huddled on the floor of the lavish receiving room. The lump shuffled and the bear’s faced poked up in terrified confusion.
“The dancer! You took her and ran away, remember?!”
The bear shook his head frantically.
“On the road, on our way to the Great City. We passed by you and spoke to you, then you took her and ran into this dirty town!”
The bear’s eyes squinted at him, as if trying to see someone different. For the first moment it dawned on the drummer that he must look very, very different than he had back on that day. Now he was stained black with soot, scorched and cracked, to say nothing of the haunted glint in his eyes. For the first time it dawned on him that the bear looked very different as well. His fur had been swept back and painted. It made him look unearthly, like some sort of mystic.
“That was quite a long while ago,” the bear finally said. “Yes, I remember. I took her, I kept her for some time. But I haven’t seen her in a long, long while.”
“Where did you send her?”
“Send her? No, I woke up one day and she was gone.”
“She didn’t say where?”
“Of course not. She hated me.”
“What?!” hot tears sprang from the drummer’s eyes. This was too much. She was alone out there? And no one knew where! This was the one good thread they had had to follow, and it didn’t get them any closer at all.
“Maybe–maybe she’s back on the road for the Great City,” the drummer said suddenly, grasping for some stray glimmer of hope.
“I–doubt it,” the bear said slowly, backing away towards the corner. “I don’t think she wants the same things that she did before. She’s not really the same toy as she was then…none of us are.”
“I AM!” the drummer roared, charging forward so that the bear scurried flat against the wall. “I STILL WANT TO GO TO THE GREAT CITY!”
“I don’t think you’re the same. Not at all the same at all…”
The bear had a point. For never before would the drummer have considered the violences that his mind was entertaining here and now. He still had that hammer gripped tightly in his hand. Maybe the dancer wasn’t here. Maybe he couldn’t save her yet. But the bear was here, and he could still punish him.
The drummer’s eyes winced shut and his fists shook. A deep struggle rippled through him. At last he dropped the hammer to the ground with a thud.
“I am the same!” he strained. “Same enough anyway.”
The bear looked from the drummer towering over him to the hammer down on the ground.
“You probably should hold onto that, y’know.”
“Don’t you know what they keep on floor six here?”
“The scowlies!” the bear shuddered involuntarily. “They’ll already be on their way.”
“I don’t hear anything out there.”
“That’s how you know that they’ve arrived!”
And so our little drummer comes to another dead-end. This one is a bit bleaker than the previous ones, there really isn’t an obvious next step available to him. As I mentioned on Monday, though, he is still progressing in the journey of his soul.
For the first time we start to see the temper that has been growing in our hero. It’s a progression in him that only feels fitting only because of us blocking the journey to the dancer. We start to realize that his quest to find the dancer is also a quest to reclaim his happy, carefree nature. But in pursuing that, and being frustrated, he is instead moving further from self-peace. This brings up the question, even if he does succeed in finding the dancer, will that be enough to bring him back to innocence?
Perhaps our drummer is beginning to become aware of these inner conflicts as well. It is implied that he realized harming the bear would be an admission that he had changed from who he was before. Moments of self-realization like that are very interesting in stories. Most stories feature a protagonist that changes, but it is only some in which the protagonist is aware of that process. I’d like to take a closer look at this narrative tool, what purpose it fulfills, and how it can be employed most effectively. Come back on Monday to see that discussion, then on Thursday we will see the drummer’s encounter with the scowlies!