From the inside of his temporary room in the underground base- Michael looked up and took a deep breath.
Jess wakes to the comfort of a warm blanket and soft pillow. I’m in my bed, she thought. She opened her eyes to the ceiling. The time said eleven.
She’s been given the day off: because of her father’s death, for one, for two she’d just come back from a major assignment.
Her eyes looked in an unfocused gaze at the ceiling as she got lost in thought. A heavy sigh came out as she thought about her dad and the things they did together.
“Hey Jess,” she heard her roommate say.
Sally responded with an unsure smile.
Jess paused for a moment in thought, the last thing she remembered from last night was Vincent coming in to comfort her.
“How did I get here?”
“Vincent knocked on the door holding you. He brought you in to your bed, undid the covers and tucked you inside.”
“Ah.” Jess said. Well, isn’t that romantic… he should just kiss me and be done with it.
After a while of sitting there, Sally took up the courage to ask Jess from below the bunk,
“What happened between you two?”
“He found me at the quiet spot we both use when we were smaller. Held me in a tight hold and sat me down while I buried my head in his shoulder and fell asleep.”
“Ah. That’s nice…” Sally said sheepishly.
She paused with a reflective look and then continued (more to herself than to Sally), “We found it together when we were around ten. We’d go there and hide sometimes. I’m surprised he still remembers that. He must have known I wanted to hide away.”
Sally looked on with a tinge of jealousy, then remembered what had just happened to Jess.
She picked herself up and leaned her feet on the ground, she went to the table with the mirror to get ready.
Something about having time to think made her think of her dad.
Instead of feeling sad, she decided she didn’t want to deal with his death for the moment. She decided to get up.
She knew her father was involved in dangerous stuff, diplomacy and being the forerunner of the defense system was a dangerous combination.
However, as she’d lived her whole life following her father in an attempt to rekindle the lost relationship-a bit of darkness clouded her pure heart. She wouldn’t forgive the perpetrator for his work, whoever that may have been.
An announcement on the com sounded. Michael heard someone’s voice, hard and commanding on the speaker:
“In light of the recent changes, I would like propose a new arrangement within the UG. We will meet inside the cafeteria at 1900 hours. Thank you.”
Michael listened to the different announcements and sounds around the Underground from the bed they set him up in the recruitment ward. After the interview- they set him up here. Until the time was indicated that they’d transfer him to a town of their choice for him, he’d be there. They gave it probably about two weeks, just to set up a home and give him some time.
Michael had had a plan. It wasn’t a great one but it was his.
He was going to be the town leader. He would marry the girl who always spent time around him, he would grow old his part to make sure the town was taken care of.
Sure, he had hopes but he’d hid them down deep so no one would know; he never really expected a change in his life. The girl he liked in town and liked him a lot more- She was beautiful but she didn’t really understand who he was, she knew what his hopes were, she respected him and the things he liked but she never understood why…
He spent time thinking about how to approach his future before getting up. For now there were no strings attached. Nothing to hold him back. Along the lines of his future, he’d always wanted to ‘understand’ the other side… at least get to know what Allied culture was like. Perhaps from there he’d be able to make a rational decision unbiased. However, he understood the ‘Underground’s’ perspective.
It seemed that the ‘Allies’ were pushing themselves deeper into the territory to gain control and
When he figured it out he started getting ready. He’d go to the Allied city and try to understand the culture. He’d see if he could find one of his dad’s old contacts from the war campaign. There were a few sympathizers. People that he might be able to work with the negotiate peace with between the two sides.
If there was peace between his town and the Allies, perhaps he could return when it was all over. Perhaps he’d be with Sarah, but he couldn’t stay here. It wasn’t something he believed in. From what he gathered from all the people here, they all seemed single-minded. Attack the allies, defend the towns.
A lot of the Allies wanted more for their city it seemed.If setting up a wall against the allies continued the way it did, there wouldn’t be any change. The best way would be to
He opened his eyes and got out of bed. He put on a small change of clothes. He had an extra set from the bag he brought, a small bible, and a basic grooming set.
When he wasn’t introduced to the Underground leaders initially due to being incapacitated, he was set up in the healing ward. A council member came to the bedside when he was awake. After he found out the story from the recruiter lead, he and the council discussed what would happen to him.
He was treated as an unwelcome guest. Regean and the council had decided that seeing as he saved the lives of two members of the underground; the least they could do was set him up for a couple weeks until they had time to send him elsewhere.
In the meantime he was allowed to inhabit the unrestricted areas: the lounge and the cafeteria, and maybe the hangar.
He was alone. He’d been set up in the recruitment center. The recruitment center was deserted seeing as there weren’t any. He wasn’t exactly sure how he’d gotten here or how to get out. He got out of the top bunk of the double bed and opened the door to the hall. He closed the door on the small room behind and looked both ways. Left or right? Left showed a hall leading to a fork and right showed a long corridor leading to some light. Right it was.
He would head to the cafeteria first, if he could find it, followed by the lounge area and see if he could find info on his dad’s old contacts. It was one of the few places that he was given a right to see unsupervised. If he could find information on his dad’s old contacts, perhaps he could start working with the Elites for change. He was sure there were more like his father. He just had to find out who they were. Even though the Underground saw all the Allies as the same, there were good people- sympathizers to the towns’ plight.
Light shone through the end of the tunnel. When he reached the end he reached a large room. The ceiling was probably thirty feet high. There were eight different halls protruding from the room. A giant tower in the center held a couple guards that overlooked the proceedings throughout the Underground; in the center on the tower was a circular and a sort of holographic message board listing times and locations and people and events.
He saw a few people at it and go about their way in some direction or another. He saw a girl looking at it intently. She looked like she wasn’t satisfied with what her schedule was. It was the same girl as last night. He walked up behind her and looked over her shoulder. It was all complicated to him but perhaps she could clear it up.
She turned her head and stepped backward.
“Hey, I saw you yesterday,” he said.
“Hey, I saw you too,” she returned.
“Hi, I’m Michael,” he said as he stuck out his hand to hers.
She spent a couple seconds adjusting to the introduction. She took it and they shook, “Jess.”
“What do you have planned?” he said as he looked at the schedule on the board. He gathered that it was a schedule even though he didn’t know what it was about. It all seemed quite fast and complex. She knew what she was looking at and seemed not unpleased but still wrapping her mind around the idea.
Accepting the turn of events she went along with his discussion, he seemed friendly, so she couldn’t help being nice, at least as a newbie, “Not too much actually. Normally I’d be introducing the recruits to the area, but seeing as there aren’t any, I don’t have much planned. Normally we’re involved in working with the towns and special ops missions in recon and espionage; seeing as where that’s where most of us come from; but soon a lot of them will be coming here.”
“Uh…” she thought pensively for the total of a second than told him about it, “It entails a lot of recruits. I shouldn’t really tell you, but whatever, you know? I can tell who I trust and not. It’s a big mission, first strike. We’re going to sabotage the tower system.”
“Whoa, that’s a big deal for everyone…” He said back.
“yeah…we’re sure it’ll turn things in our favour and pretty soon we’ll have given freedom throughout the whole territory.”
He undestood where she was coming from, however couldn’t completely agree with endangering the lives of the Allies.
“will they be hurt?”
“Uh. We’re trying to keep casualties to a minumum… but this is sorta a war, they started it.”
He wasn’t really sure what to ask about it. He probably shouldn’t be too curious. “Well, they have this really boring outline of what I can do here and what my schedule should be. I thought it would be nice to get a tour of the area. See what I can learn about this place and get an overall idea of what goes on around here.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind giving you a tour. That’d give me something to do; this schedule basically had me working with the new recruits and now I don’t really have much besides preparing for the mission in a while.”
“That’d be cool,” he said smiling.
Jess smiled back at him.
“Alright then,” she took his hand by instinct, “follow me.”
They started walking through the halls together. He noticed a lot of busy people passing by them one way or another.
As they were walking she started explaining.
“The general amount of people that operate the entire Underground is about three thousand. Most of the people go about the normal life in towns like they normally would, but with added responsibilities as liaisons and support to town’s structure of defense. This central hub can hold up to a couple thousand, but only a thousand have been here ever at one time.”
She explained the main structure, “The headquarters was chosen to be an underground base to protect it from aerial attack, as well as control the passages leading up to it. it also allows it to remain hidden from radar- thus allowing it to remain anonymous.”
As they walked, She noted that there were ‘eight’ main halls extending from the center, as well as a long hall that surrounded the perimeter in a octagonal shape.
The first hall they started with was the main offices of the commanders. This included mission rooms and technical areas for debates and judging and deciding rules and regulations.
They traced the outer perimeter to the right:
The offices, where officers were each given a room to perform their duties from as well as meeting rooms.
The cafeteria: Jess’s and most of the Underground favorite location on the premises. Most of the food made was from chefs that could feed many but also by automated food dispensers that could make a food with basic ingredients inserted. The cafeteria was big enough for two hundred and eighty at once.
People generally went there based on their schedules, sometimes at night following night missions, sometimes during the day. The automated stuff stayed open during night.
She took him back along the path he came from and showed him all the different rooms of the recruitment center: a training area, study room, its own cafe, sleeping quarters, and small library area for basic 101 of the Underground.
“If you were training, you’d mainly stay here until you were finished with basic: it comes with everything needed to learn and not much more. Except for the lounge, everything else would normally be off limits.
She took him around the outer perimeter of the Underground, “It takes about eight minutes to walk the circumference of the underground. “It’s probably about” she weighed a general distance in her mind, “half a mile or so around.”
As they continued walking she showed him each different hall they came across.
There was the study: including libraries, and meeting rooms for study groups.
There was the research and development labs: highly volotile. where scientists, engineers, and other persons worked on undisclosed projects or (‘Tech’ included, but you’ll meet him-whoever that was, he thought.) developing additions to the equipment and vehicles and things they had. (While most scientists worked on projects related to missions, Tech seemed to have an interest in ‘B.M.I’ and the LGT or ‘Lost Generation Technologies’.)
There were the ‘offices’. Most business and operations were conducted here by the ‘leaders’.
There was the ‘storage’. with many equipment rooms.
There was the cafeteria. most people’s favorite place, including Vincent’s, who was Vincent? to be.
There was the ‘hangar’. where vehicles were stored until needed, and where the mechanics and technicians would work.
There was the lounge area and sleeping quarters: the lounge area was in the back, the sleeping quarters along the side halls: this area was monitored at night and the girls and boys were separated on different sides of the hall
There was the entrance bay: where a long hall protruded from where vehicles would pass through checkpoints before entering.
Including the recruitment center hall, they totaled eight different sections, with their own subsections located inside, including an exercise area and medical locations. The eight different halls formed an octagon shape: each hall equal in the space of the octagon and the central room with the control tower.
When she finished the tour, they took a break at a rest area in the sleeping quarter area. As he got some water from a dispenser, she started explaining its history:
“I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic history of the dark ages and the decline. It related to what we now know as the modern ‘Underground’. The old tunnel systems allowed people to work out a sort of neighborhood watch: when one person was in trouble, others could help them through the tunnels. It was the best defense against criminals when government wasn’t in control. The main leaders of the neighborhoods turned out to become the main leaders in the new Underground. They took pre-emptive measures with the foreshadowing of the Allies expansion and formed a lot of posts to keep tabs on allied activity near boarders and this base as the main center for operating missions.”
They walked along to the lounge area where a setup of break-related stimuli were.
“hey, i’ll introduce you to a couple people.”
As soon as she got to Tech in the back of the lounge, he introduced her to a project he’d been working on. Sally was just watching him work on stuff, trying to keep up with his conversation while Jason was ignoring it all on the couch watching the t.v.
His major set-up of technology was in the lounge area; he liked being around a busy atmosphere to concentrate even though he mostly interacted with the computers and projects. It was less boring then being in a room by himself to him.
“Oh hey Jess,” he said without looking up. “Check this out.” He lifts up his arm and a metal sphere some distance away from him rises.
Michael was shocked. Jess gave a nonchalant, “cool.”
“How does that work?”
Tech looked up.
“BMI, or brain-machine interface. It’s a project I’ve been working on for a while. In the late twenty third century there was a lot of experimentation with it before the dark ages. A lot of its history got lost but the technology remained in black-market.
“It works like this. I installed a device into my arm linked to my brain that transmits from my thoughts into computers. Anything connected to the same transmitter will act based upon my thoughts. I didn’t need to move my arm, if I wanted I could just use my mind, but I adjusted the program to function to my body specifically, it makes things less confusing and more direct.
BMI used to be popular for a thing called the ‘web’, or a link between people through logging into a certain frequency with BMI, but some brilliant hacker thought it would be fun to hack people’s brains.
Seeing as the mind was so dependent on the BMI, the attack caused a lot of people to lose their ability to function. The web carried on while the BMI portion faded- until the decline. Then the network broke down too. The allies have been picking it up the lost technology as of recent days, but mainly in government for the network and military for BMI. There’s nothing about it in the news, but you can tell from certain operations how BMI had to have been used: sniper shots like 3 miles away, auto-targeting systems that can be manipulated around corners and such, I mean Vincent’s good but not that good.”
That was the second time he’d heard the name.
“They program the bullets to interface with the sniper so even when the shot is off, he or she can redirect the bullet trajectory. Gravity comes into effect with bullets, so they adjust the speed of a bullet to reach certain shots. At that speed it’s hard to adjust but the pathway of the bullet only needs to be adjusted little nuances if you have a good sniper.
A lot of the people here are afraid of BMI because of the operation it uses and the history behind it, but ignorance is weakness; that’s my take.”
It was a lot to take in for Michael. He thought he understood it, but this web he was talking about seemed a little farfetched.
“I’m Michael,” he stuck out his hand.
“Do you prefer Jackson?”
“Everyone calls me Tech. I’m used to it,” tech and Michael shook.
Michael thought about this, he’d stick with ‘Tech’ unless he felt more connected to call him Jackson.
Tech went back to his studies.
“Where’s Vincent?” Jess asked the crew.
Sally replied, “Working on the bike. He’s been at it since he’s been put on probation.”
“Let’s see him,” Jess took Michael by the hand. Michael went with her.
They walked through the hanger up to the bike area. In it were a lot of speeders and bikes including Michael’s own speeder. Vincent looked like he was working on a somewhat older model with a lot of adjustment.
As Michael and Jess entered, Vincent greeted them.
“How’s it going, Jess?”
“Not bad, Vincent. I’m showing Michael around.”
“Yo,” he said as he saw Michael.
“Yo,” Michael said replied.
“So, I hear you can ride.” He said as he got up from his work.
“I’m not bad.”
“Want to check out my bike?”
“That’d be sweet.”
Jess seemed a little perturbed when she got the brunt of being ignored: boys will be boys.
They started talking about converters, energy, and what-not. Jess just sat on the side. They kept talking for a while. Vincent gave a backdrop on most of the vehicles they had.
“The advantage of a bike is that the wheels aren’t really necessary for driving on as much as used for traction to grapple onto different surfaces that a speeder might not be able to get to.”
“That makes sense,” Michael wondered why they had any bikes.
“Once we get to the Allied cities there’s another problem. Everything was based on electromagnetic force. So Vincent’s electromagnetic energy source actually came from the wheels. Besides being able to fly, it could go pretty much anywhere- even across water and if the surface was sturdy it could maintain stability on it even at a dead stop. There were Fliers that were designed for quick travel based solely on propulsion, but they weren’t as durable as a bike and could only work on specific roadway systems.
When I was assigned to special operations, I got to choose out a speeder, flier, or bike, most people don’t go with the bike but it’s my fave, so I requested it instead.”
He continued, “A lot of the allies don’t really need vehicles. As they live in the cities, they use these discs.” He pulled out a layered metal block. He pressed a button and it turned into a large metal disc.
Michael knew about them but never saw them before. As Vincent noticed his interest, he handed it over. Michael held on to it.
“They work on electromagnetic energy. We can study them in certain chambers. The recruits learn how to use them but since our underground isn’t based on the same energy system, we don’t generally use them for travel. The way they work, pretty much the outfits they wear work with the electromagnetic field. They stand on it and control it with their feet. They can control the level and hover throughout the city outside of the buildings.
“What are you working at right now?” He handed back the disc to Vincent.
Vincent showed him what he was working on. He was adjusting the restrictor plates for speed. A bike wasn’t allowed to go past a certain speed, but Vincent adjusted the breaking point to handle a greater speed and adjusted the restrictor plates by taking them off.
“So do you race?” Vincent asked.
“I used to.”
“Why did you stop?”
“I ran out of people to beat.”
Vincent grinned, “You up for it?”
Michael grinned back, “Let’s do this.”
As Vincent and Michael worked on figuring out a path for the race, one of the mechanics got up to gather people to watch. Tech, Sally and Jason were all in the crowd. Tech set up a camera to track the movements on a direct holograph projection.
Michael and Vincent stood next to their vehicle and geared them up.
As they got started to heading out of the entrance, Tech’s camera circled them. The people cheered them on. Jess looked at Vincent and gave him a smile: Vincent
Tech signaled the start:
“On your mark,” their engines geared up
“Get set,” the feet went up.
“Go,” and bike and speeder flew into the outside darkness of nighttime in seconds.
Jess watched them leave the area followed by their dots on the map of the course.
On the holographic –screen, it showed the two racers: wind brushing past them at high speeds and small pebbles picked up and flying backward from the small dirt paths they were on. Vincent had the early lead ahead of Michael with the ability to grip giving him higher acceleration.
Michael’s speeder picked up speed quickly though: with each turn the holograph showed him gaining on Vincent. Vincent’s bike wasn’t designed to go as fast except through his own adjustments. While a bike typically had an advantage against an unskilled racer on twists and hills, Michael showed expert cuts and balance. By the second part of the course Michael had caught up to Vincent. Part two would be the straightaway: purely speed.
Michael took advantage of his position and gunned past Vincent. Vincent watched him pull away ahead of him; the holograph showed Michael in the lead and getting a larger gap. Vincent put his bike into over-drive, pushing it to max and keeping it as stable as possible. He’d attached some boosters to allow it to go past breaking point temporarily and engaged them. He caught up a little, but Michael was still in front by the time they hit the last course.
“Come on Vincent,” Sally whispered.
With Michael in front of Vincent, it was only a matter of time before the finish. Wind brushed him and his bike at breaking speeds. Even through his suit he could feel intense pressure as he pushed the bike as well as a man could push.
Michael ahead of him maneuvered the speeder through the obstacles of rocks and trees as well as he could. Vincent had to do better if he were going to catch up. Luckily, this was the terrain bikes were best suited for. He swung the bike through edges of rock as they passed through the cliffs and into a wood. As Michael weaved his speeder through, he began to wane. Speeders didn’t have as much ability to maintain their speed while dodging obstacles.
Vincent began to catch up. He had just passed through the trees and almost caught up with the speeder ahead.
Vincent was a split second behind when they reached the entrance in sight: they fought for space as they crowded the dirt path to the entrance opening.
Vincent and Michael crossed the finished. The camera behind both of them slowed down the frames to the exact instance of the finish; Vincent had the lead by less than an inch.
Vincent had won.
They both tried to slow through the hall into the entrance bay. Vincent’s bike tracked the floor to a solid stop while Michael’s had trouble in the deceleration. Michael crashed into a pile of boxes near the end of the bay.
Vincent smiled at Jess. Jess looked at him as he smiled at her and frowned. She tried to act sportsmanlike. Inside she was happy, both that he gave her attention and that he won.
Michael got out of the boxes and brushed himself down, Well done.
Vincent went up to him, “Good job. I’m the best racer here and that was the best race I’ve had in a while.”
Vincent put out his hand for Michael to shake. Michael took it, and they shook: then gave each other a quick pat on the back.
“That was a good race,” Michael replied. It was good that he had someone to challenge him: Vincent would be a good person to help him. He was pretty sure Vincent felt the same way.