Mind the Gap – An new Excerpt from “The Mason Chronicles”

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Here is a new excerpt from the next part of the Mason Chronicles.

Enjoy!

PA Train Station

The light beam broke through the darkness and revealed stairs leading down beyond the half opened door.  These stairs were like others within the Facility in that they were designed to move on there own, but since power had not been restored yet this far down they were static.  Aeron moved the flashlight around directing the beam of light towards the bottom the stairwell.

“What did Eldar say was down here?” he asked over his shoulder without taking his eyes away from the stairwell.

“He wasn’t sure.  But said some alert starting firing off from down here.” Laris replied looking over Aeron’s shoulder.

“Lovely.” Aeron lifted his rifle and awkwardly held the flashlight against it and pushed in through the doorway and started down the stairs.  Laris raised his own rifle and followed him in, staying close so he could see what the light illuminated.  They only had the one light between them.  Lights had become a precious commodity in the massive, and mostly unpowered and dark Facility.

Looking down the semi lit stairs emphasized how little of the facility they actually controlled. It was not uncommon for the central system to show alerts in various parts of the facility. Most of the times they knew an alert stemmed from some of the restoration work that was going on. On occasion the alerts fired from a remote section of the facility and Aeron and a few others had come to see those alerts as the central system sending them on wild chases around the place. While it was possible that the system was just not fully restored and running properly, there seemed to be a smug sense of pleasure in the system’s voice when they returned from one of those searches only to be told the alerts stopped a short time ago. Eldar had cautioned them all about thinking about the central system as a person, but Aeron and several others still all referred to it as ‘The Bitch’. Of course they only said that quietly amongst themselves less she overhear. ‘TB’ was what they used more commonly and took a certain sense of pride in that the system had never figured that out. Aeron wondered what TB might do if she realized. In a way he wondered what it could do. There was so much that they still did not know about the Facility.

The stairs led down several meters and ended in the center of a broad platform of sorts. Aeron panned around with the light and they saw that the platform was centered in a massive tube of a room that stretched out beyond the edge of their light in both directions. Across the ceiling a web work of pipes and cables crawled. In several places large boards hung down over the platform from the ceiling.  Along one side of the platform there was a set of train cars or pods each with several windows and a set of doors. On the other side ran a large gap that dropped out of sight and probably housed a set of rails for more train cars that were presently absent.  In the center of the platform there was a low barricade made from the same formed stone that made up much of the facility. Stationed behind the barricade was a large gun. Two long barrels stretched out from it and pointed towards the side that was empty of pods. While clearly abandoned a long time ago the gun emplacement had been set in place to defend the stairway leading up into the platform. Despite the presence of the fortifications there was no evidence of a battle or any damage. The two men traded a silent look of concern and then continued around the barricade to check the rest of the platform.

Aeron and Laris checked down the length of the train cars, shining the light through the windows for anything that could have triggered the alert. The alerts often had no real information involved, so they had no idea what they were looking for.  That was one of the games that TB liked to play with them. An alert would fire but she claimed she had no details. Not a power spike, or drop off. Not water leakage or a pressure increase or decrease. Just an alert that should be checked, so go check it. So the more that they looked and did not see anything the more that they relaxed.   They began to search the platform somewhat haphazardly with no expectation of finding anything other than another part of the facility that was well preserved but in powered and would probably need a lot of work.

As they moved down the platform away from the stairs and the barricade their light finally swept across the end of the platform. The platform itself ended in a wall that stretched up the curved ceiling. On either side of the platform were large circular doors that appeared to have been sealed Before. As they approached, a small yellow light sprang to life on the wall and then began to pulse. It illuminated a panel just below it. The panel had a small handle on the side and Aeron reached over and pulled the handle down and opened the panel. There was a loud squeal and something skittered out and fell from the panel to the floor of the platform. Aeron dropped the light and he and Laris both jumped back. The small creature skittered over the edge of the platform and disappeared into the gap.

“For fuck’s sake!” Laris shouted and aimed his rifle in the direction that whatever it was had ran. Aeron reached over and picked up his flashlight, pausing a moment to catch his breath after the shock.

“Well that was probably our alert.” he sighed, picked up the light and shined it into the open panel.

“Probably chewing on cables, right.” Laris agreed.

Inside the panel was a small screen, a number pad and a larger red button. The button had an eerie reddish glow to it coming from some form of back light.

“You know what Eldar always says about buttons in this place?” Aeron asked.

“If you don’t know what it does,  don’t press it!”  both men said in concert and laughed.

“Well, fuck it.” Aeron said and pressed it.

The men waited a moment and nothing happened. Aaron shrugged and started heading back to the stairs so he could report this as a another useless alert.

“Wait… Do you hear that?” Laris stopped and said.

Aaron paused and turned back. He remained quiet and at first was not sure there was anything. Then slowly he heard a buzz sound growing louder. It seemed to be emanating from the panel and so the two men walked back towards it cautiously. As they approached the buzz gurgled and then went quiet. The small screen came to life and green text scrolled across very fast. The screen blinked twice and then froze in place with odd jumbled text on it. Just as Aaron leaned in to read it a voice broke the silence.

“Initialization failed. Second attempt in 3….2….1”

With this both men ducked as if something had flown at their heads and looked around for the source of the voice.

“Hey, that sounded like TB.” Laris said.

“Yeah but if she had a deeper voice.” Aeron agreed, still looking around.

“Voice projection systems are sub optimal in the station platform. Please wait for reinitialization. ” The voice answered them.

“Definitely TB.” both men said at once and laughed at each other.

Meanwhile the green text had begun to scroll over the small screen again. This time when it blinked the screen said “Restart Successful”. Then the screen winked off.

“Doesn’t look to successful to me.” Laris said and elbowed Aeron.

Just then the whole platform erupted into light, blinding the two men.

“Damn! Fuck!” Aeron yelled. “Turn the lights down central!”

“Safety regulations do not allow light levels to be reduced while passengers are present on the platform.” Central replied. “If you wait 3.5 minutes organic optics should be comfortably adjusted. Sorry for any inconvenience.” this last part was said with a clear smirk, if the disembodied voice of a semi intelligent computer system could be said to smirk.

“Fucking TB.” Laris muttered rubbing his eyes.

Sure enough their eyes began to adjust and the whole of the platform was revealed to them. Under direct lighting its age and inattention now showed clearly. There were bits of debris strewn along the platform and there was a thick layer of dust and grime over the cars lined up on the one track. The empty track was cluttered with various bits of remains and rubbish. Here and there they notices something small crawling through the litter.

Above the platform they could now make out a large board that was suspended from the ceiling. It glowed dimly and appeared to be a larger version of the screen that had been in the small panel. The two men watched as text began to fade into being on the screen. The screen was organized into two sets of columns of text. Under the heading “Departures” were several rows of entries:

Destination

Status Track Departs

Tooele

Cancelled 1 n/a

Mesa

Cancelled 1

n/a

Shelter 21

Cancelled 1

n/a

Ogden

Cancelled 1

n/a

Groom

Cancelled 1

n/a

Shelter 42

Cancelled 1

n/a

Shelter 101

Cancelled 1

n/a

Yucca

Cancelled 1

n/a

Shelter 13 Cancelled 1

n/a

Green River Cancelled 1

n/a

 

The second column had the heading “Arrivals” and there was only one entry:

 

Origin

Status Track

ETA

Hub

Delayed 2

2 min 1 secs

 

…And the last entry was counting down.

Sound off in the comments with what you think, and as always thank you for reading!

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2 thoughts on “Mind the Gap – An new Excerpt from “The Mason Chronicles”

    […] now available again on Smashwords!  This time around it is the complete Novella with a preview of Part 2 which is also here on the blog with other […]

    […] churn for the readers.  If you have been following along then you have seen excerpts from part 2 here, here and here so you know that there is some actual writing going on between occasional blog […]

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