Hey there! Welcome back for another installment of When Our Lives Got Exciting!
In last week’s chapter we were in Vegas, right? Right. We were trying to kill time in one of the casinos until our capsule was called, and somehow Cass managed to win a nice pile of change. So much for keeping a low profile!
On the other hand, with all the publicity we got, it probably focused the opposition’s efforts on Vegas for an extra day or so, which was a good thing. Plus having folding money, off the grid, is never a bad thing!
Then, of course, it was my turn to explain more about our destination and why we were crossing the continent.
So, if you want to buy the book, click on any image, and stay tuned at the end to listen to the Audible version of this chapter!
Chapter 14: Handyman’s Special
‘We’re in the capsule. Explain.’ Cass’s tone showed clearly that she wouldn’t be put off by glib answers and doubletalk. Newlywed or no, there was only so far she could be pushed before pushing back. Kendra sighed. This would be so much easier if Cass weren’t so bright.
‘We need to lay low for a while, right? Figure out what’s going on, who’s behind it, and how to stop it. We need peace and quiet and lots and lots of access. So – we’re on our way to a little place I have.’
‘Well, we, fine -’
‘No, I mean, look, if they’re looking for me, and they know you’re with me, you’re married to me for gossake! Won’t they lock in on any place that you, you know, own?’
‘Ah, I understand. You’re right, of course. Your apartment, my house, the studio, your lab – all almost certainly watched now. We go back to any of them, we’re done for.’
‘That’s what I thought. So why is this place different?’
‘Because I don’t own it.’
‘But you said that you have a place.’
‘But you don’t own it.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘Well, I paid for it, but through a number of dummies and cutout corporations. Now it’s maintained with its own funding, managed by a little AI that only knows to invest and pay bills for upkeep.’
‘And we can get in?’
‘Yep. All I ever used it for were quiet weekends, a little retreat off in the woods and hills.’
‘So where is it?’
‘You might not like this.’
‘It’s in the People’s Republic.’
‘No, it was my mom who didn’t want me going there. I didn’t care one way or another. People are people, even if they did talk a bit funny.’
‘Good. We’re out in the western end, a little town called Florida.’
‘I thought we were going to Massachusetts?’
The closest the capsule could get them was Albany, the capital of the Empire of New York, still part of the loose confederation that styled itself the United States. From there, a chartered transport brought them to the border in Williamstown. Exiting the United States was painless.
Entering the People’s Republic, not so much. Original forms in triplicate began their ordeal, followed by a detailed inventory of every possession they were bringing into the country, payment of import tariffs on each item, submission of an income tax form, conversion from universally accepted Dollars to People’s Republic Work/Goods Transfer Chits (at a ruinous exchange rate)… The tedium lasted three hours.
‘They ought to work for the CIA,’ commented Kendra as they finally passed through. ‘They could teach us a few tricks. I felt like confessing to everything – and I ain’t done nothing!’
Cass just nodded; she was wrung out. ‘So, where’s this little place?’
‘Not far now. We just have to hire a taxi or something and we’ll be there in forty-five minutes. Tops. Then a soak in a hot tub, dinner, and bed. What do you think?’
‘Don’t let me fall asleep in the tub.’
Hiring a taxi wasn’t that easy. They were few and far between, all running according to strict state guidelines regarding hours of operation, miles, rates, zoning, and endless other minutiae. In the end, it took four separate vehicles two hours to eventually bring them to a small collection of run-down buildings. ‘Are you sure you have the right place, lady?’ asked the cabbie, peering into the encroaching brush.
‘Quite sure. There’s a trail here we’re interested in hiking.’
‘Oh. Greens. Have a nice walk, then.’ Apparently he didn’t think too highly of ‘greens’, because, despite the darkness, he sped off quite readily.
‘That got rid of him,’ said Kendra.
‘I’m not sure I wanted him to go! This place gives me the creeps!’
Kendra looked around. ‘Oh, the old museum. Yeah, but it keeps people away. Come on, it’s only a few hundred feet back into the woods.’
Cass pointed at the massive second-growth forest. ‘In there?’
‘Yes, in there. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe as long as you’re with me.’ Confidently, Kendra set off. With no choice but follow or be left behind, Cass hurried to catch up.
The path through the trees was nearly impossible to see as it plunged into the darkening forest. It was obvious that this particular trail had few, if any, regular visitors. Yet something odd was happening.
Every few meters, as Kendra approached, a soft blue glow would illuminate the ground, then fade away seconds later. The glows were directed downward; they wasted no light on the trees behind and beside.
‘Am I seeing things?’ asked Cass after passing a few of the lights.
‘No,’ laughed Kendra. ‘They’re programmed to respond to my subdermal implant. It broadcasts on a very particular frequency. Come to think of it, I should get one for you so the house will recognize you and learn your habits too.’
‘The house, habits, what?’
‘We’re almost there,’ was the only explanation.
And soon enough, they were.
‘It’s very, ah, rustic.’
It was a mess. It looked like an old-fashioned chemical rocket that someone had squashed flat and then layered in brick. The second-growth continued around it, completely concealing it from any overhead eyes.
‘This is your retreat?’
‘Sort of. Come on it, you’ll love it!’
Muttering, ‘Somehow, I doubt that,’ Cass nevertheless followed her wife up the rickety-looking stairs to a worn, but securely locked, door. Suddenly she felt Kendra’s arms under her knees and behind her shoulders, lifting her off the ground.
‘Traditional, carrying the bride across the threshold. Have to collect a kiss for the toll, though.’
She paid willingly.