Rube Goldberg

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I always feel ridiculous when I put on the balaclava, but I know I must. I check my appearance in the mirror and a man in black from head to toe stares back at me. Hey, I think, at least I look the part. I yank the balaclava off and stuff it in my pocket for later.

I walk over to the table at the other side of the room, not a huge journey in such a cheap hotel, and check that I have everything I need, ticking each item off against my mental itinerary just as I’ve been trained. I remember all the drills clearly and trust that instinct will guide me should the need arise. Taking a deep breath to calm my nerves I slowly fill the pockets of my jacket.

As I leave the room I pause before the mirror for one final check, one final deep breath and I know that I am ready, know that all that training will come to the fore, know that my first mission will be a success. Confidently I throw open the door and head for the rendezvous area.

I’ve surveyed the area for the past week and know the best entry and exit points. I know which cameras are where and what time the guards do their rounds. I’ve done my planning, nothing can go wrong. The adrenalin begins to course through my veins.

Twenty minutes later I gently swing myself down from a high window, landing softly on the balls of my feet, hidden behind stacks of empty boxes. I’m in the grand hall, a huge space with high ceilings that feels empty and bereft of life.

Checking my watch I wait for the guard to pass, still amazed at how lax the security detail is for such an important occasion. Then I remind myself that the security guards don’t care, not enough anyway. If it were my company we’d use our own people not hire in some part-timers, but then we know what is at stake and the price that will be paid for failure.

Crouched there I think back to my first encounter with the company, the quiet man at the celebration party who waited until I was alone to approach me, a congratulatory handshake was offered (it was my first world record) and accepted before he outlined the big picture, outlined just how much is resting on these events and why his company, my company, had to come out on top, had to be the ones with the upper hand. He stressed the seriousness of it all and I was soon converted.

There had always been a nagging doubt in my mind and I was quick to realise what a pawn I’d been. So keen had I been on placing the bones, stacking the stones, playing the game, that I hadn’t considered the implications. All the while I’d been concentrating on the details, steadying my hand, meticulous in my preparation. Ohhh how blind I’d been!

Footsteps pull me from my thoughts and I ready myself. I have precious seconds in which to make my move, but it is time enough unless something goes wrong. The guard walks past, whistling a nothing tune, and as he pulls the door closed behind him I slowly move out from the shadows.

Standing now I survey the scene before me, the floor is almost full, patterns ripple here and there, climbing stairs and bridging gaps. It take it all in and a tinge of sadness colours my view. I know what all of this took, I know the pain and sweat that has already passed, I know too the tears that will come but I cannot be deterred.

Carefully I step through the patterns, each foot placed slowly and carefully in the gaps. The pattern is etched in my mind and soon I’m in there, at the place where it all starts and ends. I’m still surprised that such a flaw exists for I know how painstaking the preparation will have been, diverts and errors are usually accounted for, and it seems a glaring omission for them to have left such an opportunity. A ripple of panic brings sweat to my brow. Surely it can’t be this easy? Is it a trap?

I know it’s not, I know the analysis of the design was thorough and I oversaw the simulations myself, I know that here, at this very point, this very piece holds the key to the entire pattern. The fulcrum on which power will tilt.

Slowly I bend and gently, ohhh so gently, I reach down and grasp the piece between forefinger and thumbfingers, easing it slowly out of place until it is free. I rests in the palm of my hand, such a small and fragile thing to hold such power. I stare down at it, amazed that after all this time it has come down to this. I feel like a god, ultimate power in my hand, the power to end it all. A flicker of doubt is passed off as guilt.

With my other hand I pull a small tube from my jacket pocket, unscrew the lid with my mouth and after a short pause to savour the moment, I gently squeeze out a thin line of superglue across the short flat side of the piece in my hand. I seal the tube, place it back in my pocket and check the line of glue. Perfect.

Slowly I bend and gently, ohhh so gently, replace the domino at the centre of the display.

There, I think, that’ll stop them.