Oh, man. This is one of my favorite times in my life, ever.
I know, it seems weird. There we were, on the run, hiding, having crossed something like four thousand kilometers in a couple days, had one wedding broken up, arranged a second one, lost a fiance, gotten fake IDs, and yet…
Yes, exactly. And yet.
I’m not dumb. I know why: it’s because Cass and I finally got to be together in a place we felt safe.
Why Adam split this entry into a bunch of small chapters, I don’t know, but he’s the writer. I just lived it!
The images will send you to a page you can purchase the book, and at the end is the audio for the chapter. ENJOY!
Chapter 15: Hobbit Hole
On her feet inside the dilapidated building, Cass said, ‘For this I kissed you?’
It was a reasonable question. The dim light barely pushed back the shadows, but what she could see was ruin and wreckage. Large, unrecognizable machines were strewn through the room she could see, giving the impression of a careless child dropping their toys. A broken door, barely hanging from a single hinge, was askew on the far wall. Vines had forced their way through the shattered windows, taking root in the decomposing walls. Dirt and other filth covered the floor.
‘Safe? Safe? This must be some strange usage of the word of which I hadn’t previously been aware – I felt safer running from the wedding hall!’
Kendra laughed. ‘It’s not much to look at, I know, but -’
‘It looks like it should be condemned!’
‘Actually, it has been. That’s how I got it so cheap.’
‘You mean you actually paid for this?’
‘Yep, and it’s worth every penny!’
‘Ken-doll, I don’t know how to say it – but it looks like shit!’
‘Exactly!’ She saw the confusion and anger on Cass’s face and relented, laughing. ‘Follow me.’ She walked toward the broken door. Half-expecting the floor to disintegrate beneath her feet, Cass followed gingerly.
Kendra pulled the door open, exposing another, almost-as-ruined room. ‘This was the control room,’ she said in explanation, though it really explained nothing.
‘For the ventilation fans.’
‘Fans? What are you talking about?’
‘Sit, and I’ll tell you.’ Kendra dropped into a chair. Cass looked around suspiciously before settling gingerly on a chair of her own.
‘Have you ever heard of the Hoosac Tunnel?’
‘It was a nineteenth-century engineering project. It took over a quarter-century, cost millions of old dollars, and killed almost two hundred people. All to get through the Hoosac Range and connect a couple of railroad lines.’
‘Ah. Money was the motivation.’
‘Mostly, but also there was a sense of challenge. That was an age where men tried to do things just because they hadn’t been done before, just to do them, to succeed where others had failed even to dare.’ Her tone was wistful.
‘So what? They built a tunnel through a mountain?’
‘Not just a tunnel – it was the longest tunnel in North America at the time, over seven-and-a-half klicks long!’
‘The capsule tubes have longer tunnels.’
‘Now, yes, but we have laser borers, high-output plasma cutters, and all sorts of other technology. They used steam power and nitroglycerin!’
‘An explosive. Don’t distract me.’
‘Right. They dug a tunnel.’
Regaining her enthusiasm, Kendra started again. ‘Right! And it was used for nearly two centuries, only finally falling into disuse in the last half of the last century. The tubes were the last blow to the old rail network, and so the Hoosac saw its last train. The automatic doors were closed for a final time and sealed, and the site was abandoned.’
‘Sad story. So what?’
‘This is part of the tunnel!’
Cass peered into the encroaching darkness. ‘This? Honey, we’re on top of a mountain, not under it.’
‘You don’t know what this is? Come on, use that brain of yours and figure it out!’
Cass thought. ‘Where’s the tunnel? From here.’
‘The west entrance is three point seven klicks west of here, and the east entrance three point nine clicks east-southeast.’
‘About a thousand feet down.’
Cass nodded. ‘This was a ventilation and exhaust shaft, wasn’t it? And all this was the control systems and machinery for the fans.’
Kendra’s smile blossomed. ‘You got it!’
‘You own a defunct exhaust system for a disused railroad tunnel.’ She made a face. ‘I still can’t see the attraction -’
‘It’s simple!’ Kendra stood and held out her hand. ‘Come with me.’
‘Where now?’ asked Cass, taking her hand.
‘A good surprise.’ Kendra guided her unerringly towards a seemingly-solid wall. When they were only a meter away, a previously-invisible seam appeared in the center of the wall and the two halves slid backwards then into hidden pockets on the side, revealing a small, gleaming room. Kendra stepped in without hesitation, followed closely by Cass.
‘Same chip?’ asked Cass.
‘Yes, but a little more advanced reading,’ answered Kendra as the room began to descend. ‘Not only is it responding to a particular frequency, but it also transmits the surrounding temperature, salinity – basically, if it’s been removed from my body, it won’t work, even if the frequency is right.’
‘Clever.’ Cass did her best to appear nonchalant. ‘So, an elevator. Where to?’
‘The bottom of the central shaft.’
‘Kendra! Can’t you just give me a straight answer?’
Kendra looked abashed. ‘Sorry, dear. It’s just, I’ve had to hide all this for so long, I’m loving showing it to you and I don’t want it to end!’ She stepped closer to Cass and looked into her ice-blue eyes. ‘Forgive me?’
‘How long does this elevator take to get to the bottom?’ asked Cass evasively.
‘About five minutes. It’s not particularly fast, but it’s never failed me yet.’
‘Then you have five minutes to earn my forgiveness,’ said Cass, grinning.