And we’re STILL getting into my hideaway!
Boy, Adam took his time on this! I’ll admit, I like the chapter titles he came up with. I had almost forgotten about The Hobbit, but it does sort of describe it. Sort of.
He does do a good job in the NEXT chapter, describing it all, the good bits, I mean. Of course, I appreciated all of it, since it was my baby, but looking back I can see how it might be misconstrued by someone unfamiliar with the layout.
In any case, enjoy the chapter. If you’re ready to buy the book – which is only 99 cents to buy, or free if you have that Kindle Unlimited thing – you can click the button or you can click on any image. Finally, the audio version is at the very end!
Chapter 16: A Little More Than Meets the Eye
The elevator doors opened to a somewhat mussed, but forgiven, Kendra.
The difference between the surface and the lower level couldn’t have been more staggering. Where above all was ruin and filth, below was gleaming and new. Lights that simulated natural sunlight snapped on, dispelling the darkness.
‘Don’t move!’ said Kendra urgently as Cass began to take a step. ‘The sensors have to react to my implant first, or the automatic defenses will activate. I really don’t want that to happen.’ She stepped forward, shielding Cass, then stood still for a few seconds. Cass noticed a small emerald light illuminate on the far side of the room.
‘Okay. I’m clear. You can follow me, but don’t pass me or make any sudden movements. The system will still respond, ah, negatively.’
‘Negatively. As in, shoot to kill, no warnings negatively.’
‘I think I’ll wait right here,’ said Cass, patting the metallic side of the elevator.
‘It’ll only take a minute,’ Kendra said, striding across to reveal an old-fashioned keyboard. Her fingers flew across the keys, a retinal scanner popped out of the wall, and a small compartment opened up. ‘Right, we need to key you into the system. Come over here,’ she said, still typing.
‘It’s safe?’ said Cass as she took a tentative step into the room.
‘Safe enough. Don’t dawdle! We only have sixty seconds to complete this, or…’
‘Bad things?’ Cass said, speeding her pace.
‘Very bad things,’ confirmed Kendra. ‘Here,’ she continued. ‘Finger in here, this will do a print and get a DNA sample. Look into the scope, state your full name, and then say, ‘Though through the rough borough the plough ought to cough’.’
‘It’s nonsense, just say it, and quickly! Though through the rough borough the plough ought to cough!’
Stumbling a bit over the odd phrase, Cass said, ‘Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs, though through the rough borough the plough ought to cough.’ A second emerald indicator lit. Removing her hand from the biometric sampler, she said, ‘Now, what was that about?’
‘Apparently, that phrase covers enough of your usual speech patterns to ensure that the system will recognize any spoken command. And, until we get you implanted, the other biometrics will allow you access to the house.’
‘This is your house?’ Cass said, bitingly. ‘Not much in the way of furnishings, is there?’
‘Ah, in the words of the philosopher Bachman Turner, you ain’t seen nothing yet!’ Kendra’s mischievous grin was infectious, and Cass felt herself smiling back. ‘Right through here, my dear!’ And with a magician’s wave, another door opened.
The room beyond was amazing. Cass knew that she was hundreds of feet below ground, in a centuries-old abandoned railroad tunnel, yet the ‘windows’ set into the walls showed the outside scene as it would appear if she was on the surface. The walls were paneled in dark wood, with comfortable-looking furniture grouped in conversation areas. The ceiling was low, about two-and-a-half meters, and Cass commented on it.
‘Oh, there’s a second floor. The tunnel is about six meters tall and almost eight across, though we were only able to use seven of that. Supports, reinforcing the old brickwork, and a few other mechanical things take the rest of the space.’
‘’We’?’ asked Cass.
‘OutLook and I. What’d you think, I had someone else stashed away down here?’
‘No, but – why all the furniture? It seems like an awfully big space for one person.’
‘It is, but, well, you’ll see. This is sort of a public area, where I could be debriefed without getting into the rest of the place. Through that wall,’ Kendra pointed to the west, opposite their entrance, ‘There’s a huge kitchen and dining area. All the bells and whistles you want, from replicators to an old-fashioned wood-fired brick oven set into the original tunnel wall. A huge freezer, too, that I paid an arm and leg for, but it’ll keep my dinners frozen until the next ice age. Then, further along, there’s a lounge and hot tub.’
‘Wow! That’s a lot of space!’
‘Well, there’s lots of space to use down here, and it was a case of, if it didn’t get done at the beginning it wouldn’t get done at all. Then, there’s upstairs.’ The entire time she had been talking, she had walked to another unobtrusive door, which she now opened. A short flight of stairs led them up.
‘This is where I spend most of my time when I’m here,’ said Kendra, clearing the door at the top. ‘Do you like it?’
Cass couldn’t answer. The sight before her was staggering.
It was a bedroom. But to call it a bedroom would have been like calling the Coliseum a ‘sports venue’ – it was the absolute epitome of all things bedroom, from the oversized bed to the reading corner, the walls of books to the integrated entertainment area, but Cass’s gaze kept returning to the bed. Massive, supported by mahogany posts that were exquisitely carved, the bed dominated the room without effort, as a lion would dominate the savannah.
‘There’s a ‘fresher through the far door,’ said Kendra. ‘All the amenities. Just one little problem,’ she admitted with a frown.
‘What?’ managed Cass, finding her voice again.
‘I’ve never figured out if two people could fit into the shower. Or the bath. I think so, but there’s never been anyone I brought down here I wanted to find out with. Until now.’ Kendra glanced down, then brought her eyes back up to meet Cass’s. ‘Or would you rather hear about how this place was built?’
‘You owe me my back scrubbed…’ Cass let her voice trail off suggestively.