15: The Gathering Place
He returned the panel to its place. “Somebody must have gathered every battery they could find for a large-scale project. Something that couldn’t wait for a dedicated shipment of supplies.” Projects that could use that much energy, however, were rare: weather control, large-scale levitation, terraforming…
It was so obvious an answer that even Theseus Armstrong had figured it out. “Like that bloody gret dome over our heads?”
“My thoughts exactly,” said John. “My analysis of the Scar’s material structure did indicate a predominance of local sediments, suggesting an improvised mutation of the landscape took place.”
Theseus huffed. “See, Mandy, I told ya we’d get to the bottom of this.”
His girlfriend managed a half smile. “I don’t see how any of this matters,” she said. “Phoenie will kill us if we get in trouble with the Aristocracy.”
“Relax already,” said Theseus. “This is a safe house, remember?”
A heavy thud sounded through the house upstairs. Sometimes, there was such a thing as coincidences. Amanda punched her boyfriend in the arm. “What have I told you about jinxing things?” she said.
He lifted his hands in protest. “Don’t look at me!” he said, then headed over to basement’s narrow stairway. “What do you think, Sophists trying to break in, or Joel Gibson crashing through a window?”
“I’d rather not take my chances,” said Amanda. “John, you still got those directions Alonie gave you.”
“Indeed, although I already have an extensive map of the tunnels below, should we get lost. Doyle has located Vincent and Blake, by the way. They had stopped for a cigarette.”
Theseus moved over to the console. “This day just keeps throwing up the surprises, don’t it? Okay, you three get going and I’ll fetch Kat and Annie.”
Amanda coughed. “We’ll fetch Kat and Annie.”
Before her boyfriend could protest, there was another, louder crash, followed by voices and heavy footsteps. Chris, with his augmented hearing, heard it all, as did John, who relayed the conversation in his usual deadpan style.
“And that,” said Theseus, grabbing his girlfriend by the shoulders and shoving her towards the secret entrance in the corner of the basement, “is your cue to get the hell out of here. Or not,” he added, a moment later.
Chris felt it too, that voice that wasn’t a voice, whispering across time and space to inform them that retreat through the catacombs was A Very Bad Idea.
“Okay, change of plans,” said Theseus. “You three stay down here, I’ll head upstairs and—”
There was a knock at the door. A loud knock. An I’m-breaking-the-door-down type of knock. Chris stepped up beside Theseus to face the challenge head-on.
“This ain’t the time to be playing heroes,” said Theseus.
On the contrary, now was chance Chris had been waiting for since he first joined the Theatre’s training program. Everybody assumed he was just some spoilt Arcologian, but now he could prove that strength was about more than muscles. “I can handle myself in a fight,” he said, drawing his quantum pen from his pocket.
Theseus pulled at his leather glove and slipped into a defensive posture. “What’re ya planning to do?” he asked. “Point at them?”
The door above them crashed open. Chris smirked.
“As a matter of fact,” he replied, “I am.”
John likes to scan things. Ever had OCD about collecting everything in a video game? Yeah, well John’s like that. In real life.