It’s only taken a week and a half, but I’m all into my new computer and loving it. What a difference 10 years technology makes *lol* Here is Chapter Nine 🙂 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!
The soft echo of her footsteps in the tunnel and the hard scent of metal drained away some of the peace the jungle had given her. Ally wandered along at a lazy pace, fingers tracing the wall she walked alongside. As much fun as these adventures were, the ache for home grew stronger and stronger. She missed the mountain range their city, Winterthur, nestled beneath, with its protection from the winds that whipped up elsewhere. Their earthship, a popular home design that re-used materials, was still in its infancy. They’d cut out a section of earth and packed in carefully layered junk to provide a stable back wall and insulation that would keep the house cool even in the muggiest of rainy seasons. When it was complete it’d be a spacious three bedroom home, with a generous long conservatory that would house all their produce. Ally would be able to wander in before a meal and pluck the freshest vegetables and fruit as they desired. Eoin had designed a special window for their bedroom ceiling so they could sleep under the stars. It’d taken years to accumulate all the materials, her father laughed at Ally’s obsession with finding the right pieces, but this home would be theirs. Just hers and Eoin’s. And their child when she finally reached full fertility. In what she considered the most beautiful land, rich and green with an equal measure of sun and rain.
Once upon a time their mountain range had been covered in snow. Families who’d survived the Event remised of the old country known as Switzerland. Of its steep pasture land and world renowned cheese. Cheese was a delicacy nowadays, something made by a few artisans within their city who remembered the old ways and taught them only to their children, jealously guarded family secrets. The humans who chose to live in Winterthur – one of the few Free cities scattered across the continent – were always delighted with the quality of the food. It was funny to think of home, with the humans Ally considered friends, even family, and to compare it to those they met on this, and all the other expeditions. In Winterthur you were free to be you, providing you allowed others the same courtesy. The council of Winterthur presided over the city in a manner that considered the good of all, and not the discourtesy of a one or two who disagreed. Those that didn’t abide or accept the rules were moved on. For Winterthur to work as a progressive city it had to be at a level of peace. But with Promethians and Humans being so similar, yet so inherently different, problems couldn’t help but arise. The council’s fifteen members were all Promethians, something that irked even the most loyal of humans. And while Ally understood their concerns, they also couldn’t argue that the Promethians were more suited to the task than Humans who could be diverted by greed and prestige. Promethians were designed to lead, to keep a consideration of all, to be the Peace Keepers.
A hum beneath her hand distracted Ally from the politics of home, pulling her back to the present of the tunnel. Blinking, she saw a remote hovered beneath her palm. Exclaiming in surprise, she pulled away too sharply and had to hold her hand still for a moment before it reappeared.
Very basic, the remote only had two buttons – open, and close.
Glancing around, mind arguing with itself as to whether she should call Eoin first, Ally grinned mischievously. What he didn’t know couldn’t hurt! She punched the open button.
The wall, solid moments ago hissed and split apart, doors sliding open to reveal a huge enclosure. Gleaming in the lights that flicked on were three alien vehicles. Ally sucked a breath in, heart suddenly pounding as she stared.
‘Promethian, welcome to the garage.’
The foreign mechanical voice spoke old English like the voice of the lab. Tentatively, eyes darting back and forth as she took it all in, Ally stepped into the room. The doors whisked closed the moment her feet cleared the threshold.
The moment of thrill halted in her throat. She twisted hands against the solid looking wall. Instantly the doors opened.
Dropping her hands, Ally watched them close again. The panic within calmed, body relaxing as she confirmed her ability to exit at her desire.
Turning back, Ally stared at the three vehicles with a growing sense of excitement.
‘Mechanic?’ she called in a croaky tentative voice, unsure if it would be the correct term.
‘Yes, Promethian?’ The mechanical voice answered back in an instant.
‘What is the status of these .. vehicles?’
‘Basic terrain vehicles one and two have eroded batteries. Will need a full engine reconditioning. Extreme terrain vehicle three requires lubrication and calibration. The hover skirt needs examining for age deterioration.’
Lights over the vehicles lit and dimmed as the voice referred to them. The vehicle currently lit up was unlike any vehicle Ally had ever seen before. It didn’t look substantial enough to be considered ‘extreme’. White and silver with so much glass! She stared through the bulbous front window at the two large seats, a second row behind and space behind that too. With a hesitant glance around, Ally rapped her knuckles on the window. Not glass! Smoothing her hands across the clear surface, she frowned while trying to make sense of the material.
‘Mechanic? What is this material?’
‘Plasoglass. Can accommodate a strike of three tonnes.’
‘Three ton?’ Ally gaped, the plasoglass reflecting her astonished face. ‘What is the white metal?’
‘Titanium alloy, coated in a protective resin.’
‘The alloy needs coating?’
‘It is another layer of protection.’
Ally nodded then crouched peering beneath the vehicle. It had a set of small wheels that were completely round. Those can’t be any use outside, Ally thought then asked, ‘Those wheels are too small for rough terrain?’
‘Yes. Those are the hanger wheels only. Once outside they change for all terrain wheels, or hover, if desired.’
‘What is the hover, Mechanic, can you show me?’
A hum, deep and vibrating, rumbled through the garage. Ally stepped back smartly when the vehicle began to shudder. Abruptly it all stopped.
‘The PMM requires a spin. Please turn the handle.’
As the voice of the mechanic requested a white and silver handle appeared in the floor, sticking upright. Staring at it Ally called out. ‘Which way do I turn it?’
Bemused at the concept, Ally crouched down and with one hand braced on the floor, the other firm around the handle, began to drag the handle around. Vibrations rumbled through her hand and arm, the vehicle again shuddering but this time it kept it up, shuddering and rumbling until the noise lifted. The moment it did a skirt of fabric flicked out from the bottom of the vehicle, puffing with air as a motor roared into life. The cushion of air floated the vehicle gently in the air, like a leaf bobbing on a creek. Ally stared opened mouthed at the sight as the mechanic began to speak.
‘Hover ability is normally used for over water. As you see it gives a decent lift. It isn’t suitable for rough water.’
As the voice finished its speech the hover engine dropped to a whisper and the small hangar wheels unfurled as it set back down. The soft humming of the engine made Ally move close, head cocked as she listened to it. ‘May I see the engine?’
‘Certainly.’ The vehicle smoothly turned as though self aware, presenting its rear. What had appeared a seamless covering split apart, layering back upon itself exposing the motor within.
A gasp of admiration shuddered out Ally’s chest as she simply stared at the beautiful workings. Spheres of metal spun at different speeds, one way then back, while delicately wrought hemispheres of metal moved around them, all pieces seeming to push the next into a swirling mass of constant motion. It was utterly mesmerising, the pieces all in varying shades of bronze, tan, gold, silver, and dark steel, enclosed beneath a sheer layer of plasoglass.
‘Mechanic, how does it keep moving?’
‘Perpetual motion. Initially powered by solar, or if no solar is available, the turn handle.’
‘How long can it run for?’
‘If in use, perpetually. If at rest, it will slow to a stop over several months. Do you still require to view it?’
Ally could have watched it for hours, lured into the hypnotic dance. ‘No, you can close it.’ She felt a twinge of regret as the metal casing smoothed back over, hiding any trace of it. Leaning forward to see if she could spot a seam, even a hint of one, she placed her hand on the vehicle then jerked back when a loud peep sounded. The plasoglass protecting the front two seats slid back.
‘You may examine the interior if you wish,’ the mechanic said unnecessarily, Ally already in the process of stepping in, head tucked down against the curve of the ceiling. Carefully turning, she eased herself into the front right seat flinching in reflex when the plasoglass slid back down. Before Ally was a low white dashboard that when she reached her hand toward to look around, lit up. With a muffled exclamation she snatched her hand back, staring saucer eyed at the various daunting displays. Numbers and percentages with old English words shimmering alongside them made no sense whatsoever to her. A number of small screens projected across the dash, allowing a full 360° view of the space around the vehicle.
‘Mechanic, what is all this?’ Ally spoke loudly but didn’t need to, the answering voice made her jolt in shock as it appeared to come from the back seat.
‘Controls. Allows the driver to have full control so they needn’t leave the vehicle unless they desire.’
‘But what if,’ Ally groped for a scenario. ‘What if a sharp rock punctures a tire?’
‘Airless tyres,’ the mechanic’s voice droned and identical images flashed simultaneously across all the screens before her. The shape was that of a tyre, but that was it. The dense dark material used to create the tyres was molded into numerous hexagonal shapes jammed together so it looked like honeycomb. The screens showed a short video of the tyres tackling all terrains, including footage of it passing over glass in a city. Ally gasped, face close to the screen as her eyes darted all over it frantically trying to absorb this memory of an ancient world she’d only read about. Perhaps half a minute, showing enormous structures of metal, with people, humans, everywhere!
‘Mechanic, replay that video!’
Again and again she instructed the video to replay, watching that glimpse of history. The humans wore all manner of clothes and the colours! The images flashed past too quickly, leaving her with that tantalizing taste of the past. She sat back with a smile, mind preoccupied before she sat upright, waving her hands to the plasoglass.
‘Let me out! I have to show Eoin!’
The glass slid back and the mechanic voice bid her farewell as she darted out the room, backpack jolting away on one shoulder as she set off at a steady jog, delighted to have something so exciting to show off.
Her feet padded softly against the hardened dirt of the tunnel floor before a sound erupted around her, lights popping down from the tunnel ceiling and the mechanical voice began a stern intoning.
‘Emergency beacon has been activated. Emergency beacon has been activated.’
Ally pulled up short and twisted, looking back down the tunnel with wide eyes.
Someone had tripped one of the wires!