A TROUBLING DISCOVERY

Scene 18  1560 4D

The Gellin surveyor adjusted the optical-beam orienter. “I can’t get this aligned. Terrenci, is there another way to check the way this hatch is facing?” A tilted, circular, metal hatch door, with scattered bits of rock from their digging, lay in the floor ahead of them.

Terrenci, his engineer, inspected the orienter, designed to determine compass directions. It usied a reference beam reflected down pipes from a fixed source near the surface above. She said, “It’s working as far as I can tell. Why do you think there’s a problem?”

“It doesn’t make any sense the way it’s tilted. It ought to be lined up between the City and Kiliasil to the west-northwest, but it’s just about at a right angle to that. Here – Fornonck – is almost on that line.”

“Well, are we ready to see what it hides? Let’s get this thing open. It might just cover the tunnel you’re looking for.” The engineer beckoned to the four miners standing nearby and resting from their breakthrough into the low chamber where the hatch lay. They brought tools over.

One inspected the hatch and its fastenings. It had no hinges, but appeared to open upwards. Five flat, round, raised studs circled the center of the hatch door. After some cleaning, dusting, chipping, trying different tactics for moving the studs, the five men pushed the studs radially inwards. A cracking sound, and the hatch rose, floating, into the air above the metal ring of the circular opening it covered. It hovered there as the men and the woman gaped at it. “Never seen that,” the woman said. She pushed it to one side, and it returned to float about a meter above the opening.

A moment later a rich odor of long decay, a fruity miasma of mold and rot, assailed them all, and they backed away to the walls of the chamber. “Masks!” the engineer shouted as she slapped hers on. A few breaths, and the group eased as the masks filtered their air. The surveyor said to the woman, “You’re the lead on this. You’re the engineer. Do you have any idea what this is?”

The woman turned to one of the miners. “Do you have a vid probe?”

“I always carry two. Here.” He handed her a flying drone with lights and camera. “I wouldn’t want to go down in there, not just yet.”

The engineer linked her datasheet to the drone, and sent it down into the opening, barely squeezing its props under the levitating lid. She studied the screen; the others gathered behind her to watch.

“It’s a big, smooth, straight tunnel. It’s heading, just like the hatch here, is north. That would run it under the Great Curl Ridge and to the North Mines. Wait. See that? And that? Those look like rails under a lot of debris.”

She brought the drone up again, wiping a coating of dark dust from it. “Ugh. Bag this and clean it when we get back up. The council will have to get this to discuss what to do about it.”

“We’re over a hundred meters down, in here,” the surveyor said. “Why don’t we get down in there and get more data for them before we have to do the descent and climb all over again?”

The engineer snapped, “Look. Who wants to drop into a filthy, unknown, risky place like this without good preparation?” Murmurs of agreement from the others. She added, “We’re looking for more ways to get refugees and exiles away from the City – that’s why we’re doing this. To make it safe for them, we have to make it safe for us first. Let’s get back up to Fornonck and the council. Can we get that hatch back in place?”

It took all of them to force the hatch door down into place and dog it securely again. As they packed up and turned to climb out of the chamber, a deep bass moan, undulating, shook dust from the walls and ceiling. One of the miners muttered, “If a team comes back down here and opens that thing, they’d better come well-armed.”

 

Next scene.

Last Updated Friday, June 21 2024 @ 02:24 pm  19 Hits   
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