Here is Chapter Six 🙂 Please remember this is a rough draft, and as the author I own FULL copyright to it. This work may not be copied/shared in any manner other than a link to this blog. Thanks and enjoy!
Eoin’s eyes looked as gray as the steel of the room as he stared at Holi.
‘What is the date?’ Holi’s voice pitched the volume enough to make them both wince. Ally gave a tiny flick of her hands, eyes fixed on Eoin’s. He pursed his lips then shrugged.
‘It is the second century of the eighth millennium of the common era.’
Holi stared blankly at Eoin, and as the silence extended Ally moved to his side. Holi’s eyes seemed to flicker, actually her whole body seemed to shimmer making her hard to watch. Ally and Eoin stared uncertainly at the image. ‘Did you break her?’ she murmured.
‘That does not compute,’ Holi declared and her eyes narrowed at them. ‘What is the ACTUAL date?’
‘Why not?’ Ally asked with irritation. ‘You’ve been asleep. How would you know?’
Holi pivoted, the lack of normal sound from movements eerie and she addressed Ally directly. ‘This facility was completed at the end of the second century of the third millennium. This facility is designed to sync with the main facility in London every year. In the event of any worldwide catastrophe this facility is instructed to deactivate completely. Has there been a worldwide catastrophe?’
Eoin’s breath hitched in his throat and Ally froze. ‘No! No. It is the, the fourth century of the third millennium,’ Eoin blurted the words out eyes half squinting and face pale. Ally regarded that expression with a surge of gut twisting anxiety, realising that he guessed, and that if he were too out for Holi’s liking, she’d make this entire lab nothing more than a hunk of ancient worthless metal.
Holi’s image flickered rapidly for a moment then solidified. ‘That is acceptable. But I must report to London for updates.’
Eoin went to speak but Holi’s eyes were lowered. He met Ally’s eyes with a dubious expression. Minutes ticked by as they waited, watching. Ally began to wonder if this wasn’t both the most exciting, and most disappointing find of their lives. To be this close to the facility that had been sort after since the time of the Event, and it could all collapse in a moment depending on the response Holi received. Ally gave a quiet sigh and lowered herself to the ground, legs crossed and an elbow on her knee, chin on her palm as she watched the AI projection.
‘Eoin,’ she whispered. ‘What does she mean by AI projection?’
‘Artificial Intelligence. Projection means her image.’
‘I understand that, but how can an image be an AI?’
Eoin stepped across so he stood behind where she sat. Ally leant back against his legs and smiled up at him. The wrinkles of stress across his brow vanished as a smile spread in return and he squatted, thighs on either side of her back and bent to kiss her lips. ‘I don’t know,’ he said when he lifted his lips from hers. ‘I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to find out.’
Several more minutes ticked by before Holi’s eyes lifted. The sound of the energy system within the lab increased and Ally and Eoin hastened to standing. ‘Unfortunately I cannot reach London,’ Holi announced as she crossed her arms behind her back, and spread her feet. ‘Neither can any of the other twelve labs be reached. I fear my transmitter must have been damaged.’
Eoin’s hand found Ally’s and squeezed tight, tension humming through his flesh. Ally squeezed firmly back and took a breath, waiting for the bad news. ‘This means we will not have their expertise to refer too, I apologize for the inconvenience. But you should find all the equipment necessary within this lab. Your results will depend entirely upon your own capabilities. What grade scientist are you?’ Holi tilted her head, blonde ponytail swaying as she stared at Eoin. Ally glanced quizzically at him, wondering if he had an answer to that.
‘I’ve recently achieved the highest grade,’ Eoin said with a glib smile. Ally rolled her eyes, wondering if the AI was capable of understanding a lie.
‘You are of the Master Grade!’ Holi exclaimed then bowed her head to him. ‘It is a privilege to have you within my lab. Please make yourself at home. I am at your complete disposal, just ask.’ Eoin waggled his brows at Ally and grinned cheekily. She pulled an exasperated face, crossing her eyes with a silent sigh. He chuckled then nodded at Holi. ‘Thank you for the recognition. Can you please tell us about this facility, it is the first time we’ve had the privilege to enter one.’
While Holi might be incapable of recognising an untruth, she seemed to easily understand flattery. ‘Oh! Of course, this way Sir,’ she motioned him to move to the head of the egg shaped room, without a second glance at Ally. Eoin winked at Ally while mouthing ‘Sir’. Ally snorted and followed along as Holi began to explain.
‘You’ll see the full length bench space to allow you to spread your work comfortably. All equipment is kept within specially designed chutes behind the walls. If you’ll motion your hand over the bench like so,’ Holi demonstrated from where she stood, a projection of the bench appearing before her instantly. ‘You’ll see it calls up a remote. Select the equipment you require and it will be delivered.’ Eoin didn’t hesitate, Ally watching curiously from his side as he held his palm over the bench. A holographic remote appeared beneath his hand. After a moment of studying it, Eoin pressed three buttons in quick succession. Sounds of something moving behind the wall made them both pull back slightly, watching as a small portal appeared in the wall and ejected three items; a transparent rectangular sheet the size of a small book, a box full of padding with three syringes nestled within, and a strange looking contraption.
‘What is that?’ Ally asked, moving closer. Holi beat Eoin to the explanation. ‘An electron microscope. What is your intended project?’
Eoin answered vaguely. ‘To have a better understanding of our nano-virus.’
The answer satisfied Holi, who stood silently behind them as Eoin delicately examined the microscope, his ears tinged pink with excitement.
Ally decided to try out the remote herself, holding her hand above the bench. A moment later and the holographic pad appeared beneath her hand. She lifted her hand away to examine it but it vanished a moment later. Frowning, Ally put her hand out again. The remote hovered to life. Lifting her hand higher, but keeping it at the same angle, she studied the buttons. It showed small glyphs of each option. Pressing the tool glyph, Ally smiled when it opened to a new menu of dozens of items. Hitting the plain circle glyp, the remote returned to its main menu options. ‘Holi,’ Ally asked as she studied the remote. ‘What is the large screen option it shows?’ Holi inclined her head at Ally and a moment later the wall before them seemed to vanish, replaced with a remarkably clear view of the surrounding forest. Five seconds later the image changed to the entrance hole they’d fallen down.
‘This is the large version of the small monitoring screens. This can also be used to demonstrate ideas with the simulator, or to showcase microscope results,’ Holi explained, Eoin listening intently.
Ally nodded and pressed the button on the remote, marvelling as the screen vanished and the wall was returned to normal steel. ‘Are there windows?’ Ally asked Holi.
‘No, windows are a safety risk. Cameras give a full 360 view.’
Eoin muttered away, still examining the microscope though the initial expression of sheer joy had been replaced by a frown of confusion. Ally returned to the remote. She discovered how to change the views on the small monitors, and how to adjust the speed with which they changed. Further study of the remote made another small rectangular sheet appear on the steel above the bench, and a foreign voice announce in old English, ‘Instruction manual. Select which language you prefer?’
Eoin jammed hard against her with a sharp inhale. ‘Ally! Clever girl!’ And promptly pinched the sheet, looking for instructions for the ‘scope. With an indignant huff, that earned a sheepish grin from Eoin, Ally turned her attention back to Holi. The projected female stood, eyes turned to white and flickering. ‘Holi?’
At once the image gave its attention to Ally. ‘Yes Hunter?’
‘My name is Alyssa. What sort of energy system does this lab utilise?’
Holi inclined her head then motioned beside her where a flat 2d image showed a drill penetrating the surface of the land, drilling down until it met a pocket of thermal activity. ‘We utilise the natural thermal activity of this region. It provides ample energy to power the lab, as well as the pump system that allows this lab to be deep beneath the surface.’
‘What is the lab, and the tunnel made of? It shows very little signs of wear?’ Ally said it tentatively, not wanting to alarm Holi.
‘A titanium alloy discovered in the late second century of the third millennium. There has not been enough time yet to prove the original claims, but it was thought that the alloy might be able to survive millennia without succumbing to the normal ravages of time. The initial prediction was ten thousand years,’ Holi spread her hands and smiled, the expression almost cheeky. ‘But we have yet to see.’
Ally watched the AI in amusement. ‘Are you capable of joking, Holi?’
‘My system has the basics of humor downloaded.’
‘We saw living quarters, could you explain those to me?’
Instantly a life size projection of the bedroom appeared around Holi and Ally. Eoin, oblivious to it all, appeared to sit through the back wall of the bedroom, head appearing then disappearing as he shifted from studying the manual, to studying the ‘scope. ‘This room is the kitchen, living quarters, and bedroom. The bed folds away to allow like so,’ Holi motioned clicking the bed into place like Eoin had done. ‘With the bed out the way you have access to the kitchen facilities. All food is sealed in the same titanium alloy as the tunnel, designed to allow it to keep for an infinite amount of time as the alloy is completely sterile. By pressing the lid on this, the cooker opens. Place a tray into it and close the lid. The cooker will automatically cook the tray according to what it contains.’
‘Is there a way to tell what food is in the tray before cooking it?’ Ally asked.
‘Yes, hold it above the closed cooker. It will reveal its contents. As you see here, utensils are provided. Make sure to return them to the same cupboards for automatic cleaning. Water is accessed here. Any waste products should be placed here for instant incineration,’ the cupboard Holi slid closed gave the faintest flash of light. ‘By sliding the kitchen panel away, you turn the space into a comfortable lounge space. The wall converts to a full screen and a large selection of movies and documentaries are at your disposal. This unit here,’ Holi tapped beneath the screen that filled the projected wall of the room which slid away to reveal a small square screen. ‘Plays a variety of music, from current popular tunes, to meditative and sleep assisting tracks.’
Ally inwardly grinned at the notion of “current popular” music and watched as the bedroom projection vanished and the bathroom took its place. So far it appeared everything they could possibly need for their stay was provided within the clever space. Now the only thing they needed was a way to stop the humans from finding them.