Here is Chapter Five 🙂 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!
Staring through the open door, Ally turned to meet Eoin’s gaze, her mouth in a flat line. He stared back with a guileless expression. She scowled, glaring at him. ‘You did something!’
‘How did it know you, how did you know to touch it?’
While entirely probable, she still didn’t believe him. With a huff of annoyance Ally turned back to the open doorway. ‘Fine. Give me a moment to check it.’ When he didn’t respond she twisted to meet those blue gray eyes. The innocent expression wavered, she was sure of it. Eoin shrugged and gave a half bow with a sweeping arm, the archaic gesture supposed to be charming. Turning back before he saw the smile touch her lips, Ally stepped across the threshold onto a stairwell landing. The sterile smell struck first then a coldness though she couldn’t say if it were actually colder or just the illusion from being surrounded in steel. Eoin pressed close behind her as they peered into the space. Taking the ten steps down into the surprisingly large rounded space, Ally held a hand up, signalling for Eoin to stop. Before her she could see a ledge like table that jutted out from the side of the space, following the curve around. Beneath the staircase was an open doorway. Ally stayed still for a moment, ears almost ringing with the effort to hear even the slightest noise. There was a soft hum running through everything, and she assumed it must be the power source, but where did it come from? Her walk along the tunnel had revealed potential hidden panels, if her eyes didn’t deceive her, as well as an odd entrance or exit some way down, a circular door like what Eoin had speculated for the tunnel end they had entered through, half jammed open and heavily overgrown from the outside; she’d only just been able to glimpse sunlight through it. Nothing that she’d seen anywhere had revealed a power source, or even cables for a power source, suggesting it had all been well hidden when this place was built.
‘Give me a moment, there’s a room out here I want to check.’ Ignoring the hum for the moment, Ally stepped through the doorway beneath the stairs. Instantly the space lit up. Ally stared in astonishment. The doorway led to a tiny hallway, with two more doorways. From where she stood Ally could see straight into what appeared to be sleeping accommodation. A bed set against the wall sat perched on a platform that seemed layered. Ally squinted at it and cautiously moved closer peering into the room then gasped. The wall opposite the bed showed the jungle! From edge to edge.
‘What?’ Eoin’s voice from right behind made Ally jolt but she was too distracted to be annoyed.
‘Oh wow!’ Eoin didn’t hesitate to squeeze past her. He admired the image for a brief second before the bed had his attention. Ally watched in wonder as he swiftly made sense of how it all worked. She stayed still in the doorway as he slid the bed back then swung it up. With a soft click the bed slotted into place and a wall slid over it. The layered platform slid too, the top section moving back half the width of the bottom. With several deft presses here and there, Eoin had the platform opening up to reveal what must be a kitchen hidden within, though it all looked foreign to Ally. In the platform below storage spaces yielded numerous sealed containers.
‘What are those?’ Ally asked as she entered the room, squatting beside him to lift one of the containers. It wasn’t made of steel, and it didn’t seem like the plastic containers they’d come across before. It sealed tight on its contents, taking a rough outline of it. Eoin turned the container he had in his hands over and over while casting furtive glances at a device in the kitchen area.
‘I think,’ he said as he stood, speculatively eyeing the rounded pot on the kitchen area. ‘I think this might be food. And I think that might cook it.’
Ally couldn’t stop her eyebrows shooting up in disbelief as she stared at the silver pot-like device that had no obvious opening. Eoin didn’t hesitate, moving like he always did with objects she considered unidentifiable and therefore dangerous. He deliberately placed his palm on the top of the rounded silver pot. A hum like the one Ally could hear throughout the space seemed to vibrate through Eoin’s hand and the top of the silver pot lifted, revealing an opening. Without pause Eoin promptly set the knobbly shaped container of suspected food into the silver pot. The lid clamped down shut. They exchanged a glance, hers concerned, his excited. A rapid ticking sound caused Ally to leap to her feet, a hand on Eoin’s arm about to wrench him bodily from the room when a clear sharp ‘ding’ rang out. The lid opened, and Ally jerked back, half dragging Eoin.
‘Calm down, Ally! Look!’
From the open lid steam rose, along with the scent of rich spices, and meat.
Ally stared in bewilderment at the pot while Eoin shook off her hold and moved into the kitchen space, selecting a plate and utensils before peering into the pot. He gave a chuckle of delight and carefully reached in. Gone was the misshapen container he’d set into the device, in its place a wide open platter covered with food. Ally gaped at it, mouth working as Eoin spooned it onto the plate. Finally she found her voice. ‘You’re NOT going to eat THAT?’ Eoin’s eyes jerked up from admiring the steaming plate to stare at her with bewilderment, that open confused expression causing a sudden flare of anger. ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ Ally half shouted. ‘If this is pre-event then THAT is over five THOUSAND years old! You CANNOT eat it!’
Eoin’s confusion melted away to amusement, the half arched eyebrow patronising Ally. ‘You’re not worried about me poisoning myself?’
Proper fury at his calm, teasing question forced an override in her system and she blacked out, vision narrowing to pin pricks of muffled light, her legs buckling, and her hearing blurring out until nothing registered in her mind.
Eoin set the plate down and stepped over to his wife’s prone body, quickly arranging her on her side, outer leg sprawled across the lower, arms the same, then stepped back to his plate. Having a seat on the platform beneath the kitchen space, he kept an eye on Ally but didn’t panic. She knew not to let her emotions to overwhelm her. Hunters weren’t allowed to feel intense anger, it promptly triggered an override response to the nano-virus that momentarily shut down their system, killing the fury. The best hunter was always calm. She also knew the chances of a Promethian managing to poison themselves were slim to none. The nano-virus was sensitive to compounds that could do potential damage.
Ally breathed easily enough and knowing she’d open her eyes in a moment he hurridly scooped a fork full of the steaming food and popped it in his mouth. Ally’s eyes flicked open as Eoin’s eyes began to stream.
He waved his hand at her as the intense mix of spices and the unexpected heat rose up the back of his throat. She perched beside him, clutching his arm, her eyes wide with fear, frantic with alarm. Forcing the mouthful down, noting as he did the creamy rich touch of meat, Eoin gasped a breath and patted her hand. ‘I’m okay. I’m okay. Are you alright?’
‘I’m fine,’ she assured him. ‘What’s wrong, did it burn? Is it okay?’
‘It’s good! Really! It tastes like it was made fresh now!’
Ally’s sceptical expression said it all.
‘Go on, try it.’
It took some persuading and then a dubious and tiny taste test before Ally’s eyes went in astonishment. She took a larger mouthful and slowly chewed it, visibly rolling the food across her tongue before finally swallowing. ‘That’s insane,’ she finally said. ‘How does it taste so fresh?’
Eoin grinned and stood to split the food onto another plate then handed it to Ally along with another fork. ‘I don’t know. I’d need to see how it’s sealed in those containers, and what they’re made of.’
‘Though, given that the tunnel is open and only relied on that mesh stuff to seal out, the metal of the space is in incredible condition,’ Ally said between mouthfuls, all apprehension toward the food long gone. ‘And I can hear that hum of something working away all the way down the end of the tunnel. I wonder if there are pumps and things to keep the space dry.’
Eoin considered that as he set his now empty plate aside. ‘Even the air is dry compared to the jungle. And it is so low, there must be the risk of flooding.’
Ally nodded, mumbling through a mouthful. ‘No sign flooding. No where.’
Eoin nodded, mind considering all the options while Ally finished her plate. Offering her his hand they explored the rest of the room side by side, discovering clever cupboards tucked away behind panels, some empty, others containing white clothing, long pants and shapeless over tops that tied at the waist. Ally regarded them with a derisive sniff, wrinkling her nose. The next room revealed itself to be a bathroom, with a floor the sloped to the center drain. A press made a small sink pop out from the wall and a discreet toilet too. Fascinated, Eoin tested the tap, delighted to find water.
‘The legs,’ he said to Ally excitedly. ‘They must disguise all manner of pipes.’
Ally nodded but he could see she already edged toward the main room. With a grin to her he motioned her ahead as they walked back into it, the area excessively spacious in comparison to the sleeping and bathroom areas. Ally stopped a couple of feet into the room and slowly studied the space. The jutting out shelf-like table that ringed the outer walls left an overly wide space through the middle of the room. She knew something must occupy that space. Beside her Eoin muttered under his breath studying the area too; it caused a twinge of competitiveness and Ally moved further into the room. The smooth floor had the slightest variation in the very center of the room. She heard Eoin moving closer and quickly stooped, reaching for that tiny bump. The moment her hand came within an inch of that spot a loud hum and sudden vibration made them both recoil in shock.
‘Greetings Promethians. Welcome to the Seventh Promethian Laboratory. My name is Holi, I am your laboratory guardian.’
Ally gaped at the woman standing before them, eyes and mind disbelieving.
The slightest flicker in light made Ally spot the dot on the ceiling, identical to the one on the floor. Both dots emitted the light source that somehow produced the human woman they saw before them.
‘Holi,’ Eoin’s voice sounded strained. ‘What are you?’
‘I am your laboratory guardian. A fully interactive AI projection. I am responsible for protecting this laboratory and assisting scientists in their work.’
Ally and Eoin exchanged a blank stare of shock. Holi continued. ‘Protocol demands must be met. Do you have any injured humans in your party? If so please bring them in immediately so I can see to their injuries.’
‘No,’ Eoin began. Holi interrupted him.
‘Please ask your commanding human to enter the laboratory so I may talk with them.’
Ally arched an eyebrow at Eoin, her lips pressing smaller as Holi continued, demanding to meet their humans.
‘No!’ Eoin raised his voice as Holi went to repeat her questions. ‘We are a team of two Promethians only. A scientist and a hunter.’
Holi’s expression flickered in a manner that soothed Ally’s irritation. She smirked as the projected blonde placed her hands on her hips the odd looking fitted suit of white fabric with lines of blue down either limb appearing to stretch across her bust as she huffed. ‘Well! This is NOT normal protocol. What year is it?’
The irritation vanished and Ally met Eoin’s eyes, apprehension swirling at that potent question.