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Hey, did you hear what happened in my last post- Part 2: The Keepers: Qbit and Skyler?
Qbit explained to Skyler that the tablet Skyler had purchased at a garage sale was capable of locating “Gates”. These are “openings” or “portals” that allow travel through threads from the fabric of space and time.
That Can’t Be Good
Emily steered her electric Jet Ski south, past the Panorama Tower on Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami. She kept to the center of the street to avoid any signs that might be lurking just under the surface of the water. She didn’t have to worry about the traffic signals hanging down from above as there was still plenty of room to safely pass under them. Drooping power lines weren’t a threat either because the power to this part of the city had been shut off long ago.
Southeast Eleventh Street was her next turn. She kept the throttle open enough to make sure she could safely make the tight corner. As she turned, she caught herself looking to her right for oncoming traffic. It’s not like I’m at home riding my bike through an intersection she thought. She relaxed her grip on the handlebar and headed down the narrow street until the Brickell Avenue Parking Garage came into view.
For about the twentieth time she checked the display on her glasses to make sure she was at the right place and was not late. She found a break in the ivy covering the side of the building, switched off the power and let the craft silently glide toward the wall. It lightly bumped once before coming to a stop. She stood part way up, checked the straps of her backpack then reached forward and grabbed the mooring line attached to the front of the small craft. She pulled out a couple of loops then checked the distance to the wall once more and decided to pull one more loop. “Better safe than sorry,” she said out loud.
The water had a slight chop to it, so she carefully adjusted her left foot on the running board and brought her right foot up to rest on the seat. She waited a couple of seconds to get her timing right, then launched herself towards the concrete block half-wall that ran around the outside edge of each parking level.
She made it without slipping, almost like she did this sort of thing every day. She tied the rope to a faded Reserved sign just inside making sure to leave enough slack in case the water level changed. Judging from the line of green algae on the outside wall, high tide wouldn’t be for another couple of hours. In this part of the city that would mean a difference of about a foot and a half, give or take a couple of inches.
Before going any further, she took a quick look around outside. Most of the original inhabitants of this part of Miami had moved on. They had abandoned their expensive homes as the sea level flooded in around them. The only people remaining, this close to the water, were construction workers, demo bots or squatters working or living in the empty hotels. At this time of day, most of them were hunkered down inside because of the extreme afternoon heat. Every now and then she could hear a plane flying over but, other than that, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. Even so, she was still a little uneasy and nervous.
She pushed the vines aside and cautiously jumped down into the parking garage. She expected to land on hard concrete but, instead, her shoes sank into a soft mix of ivy and moist plant debris. Even in the shade of the garage the late afternoon Florida humidity was oppressive. She glanced at the time again; 3:50. Soon the afternoon thunderstorms, which came like clockwork each day, would offer a short period of relief.
Emily jumped at the sound of Athena’s voice in her head. Oh my god, Athena, you almost gave me a heart attack! Where are you?
Emily spun around to find Athena sitting in the shadows.
…and why don’t you have your tracking system loaded? I wouldn’t have startled you if it had been up and running.
Emily reached up to tap the sensor on the side of her glasses and replied, Right Sorry, I forgot. In the left lens, a map of the garage came into view. Two green blips silently blinked, indicating their position. She zoomed out a little and saw two other blips. They were marked Yuki and Kit. I don’t see Maria and Lou.
Their signal may be blocked by the thick concrete and reinforcement bar. We’ll proceed and I’ll keep an eye out for them.
Emily started forward and Athena moved in behind her. The two of them slowly made their way deeper into the parking garage. The smell of salt water mixed with the sweet fragrance of the overgrown plants and flowers was almost overpowering. The software in her glasses not only had a tracking system installed, it was also able to identify and label just about anything that came into her field of view. A hanging vine with purple flowers was identified as Bamboo Vine and, when she looked back at Athena, the small lavender, pea-shaped flowers of a vine growing near the outside walls was labeled Milk Pea.
As the two of them picked their way through the tangle of vegetation, Emily thought about the last time she was in here. When she was much younger, her family would come down to visit her uncle every Christmas. While the parents remained inside to catch up, she and the other siblings were allowed to go outside and explore. The beaches were off limits and too hot, so they used to play in here where it was much cooler. Back then plants from the adjacent hotel’s shattered atrium had just begun their slow and unchallenged take-over of the garage. The earthquake, caused by the increased weight of the rising sea level on the ocean floor had made the parking garage unusable to vehicles, and the broken concrete pillars with their maze of exposed sharp metal rods made it extremely dangerous but exciting!
Most of the lower floors had completely collapsed creating a cave-like opening leading deep into the blackness of the basement level. They used to climb down then dare each other to go in and see how far it went. None of them had the guts to do it so to cover up their fear they made up stories of a narrow opening at the very back of the cave big enough to allow sea monsters from the deep to swim right into the garage and eat anyone in its path. There was no way to know then how true that child hood nightmare would turn out to be.
As she crept forward, an arrow pointing to the left blinked on the eyepiece. Emily looked that way and saw a faded white capital letter “E” painted on the far wall. That’s where she needed go. She slowly crept forward, carefully picking her way through the dense foliage.
The floor gently slopped downward making the footing a little tricky. She had to pick her way through the dense, moist undergrowth testing each step, in case the twisting green vines hid an open crevice in the concrete.
An alert sounded in her ear; they had reached the end of the first stage of today’s task. Emily was most worried about the next stage; everyone was going to rappel down a sharp drop off in order to get down to the mouth of the cave. She dropped her pack, pulled out a coil of rope and asked Athena, “Any sign of Mari and Lou?”
“No, not yet. Don’t worry they’re okay. They would have put out a distress signal if anything were wrong.”
When Emily heard her say that her mind flashed back to when her foot was stuck on the debris at the bottom of the pool where she had first seen Athena.
“Like the one you sent when I was trapped under the water?”
“Yes, and Tau came for you just like he is out there now in case something happens to them. Stop worrying.”
“10-4.” She wrapped one end of the kernmantle rope around a pillar, careful to avoid anything sharp. Once it was secure, she clicked the mic button on the left leg of her glasses twice, signaling to the others that she and Athena were in place. She had to wait a couple of seconds for Yuki’s three clicks. She could see their blips flashing a short distance away.
From her glasses she heard Yuki whisper, “I don’t see Mari or Lou, have you heard from them?”
Emily whispered back, “No, nothing. I’m not sure what happened to them.”
Athena said, “I’m going to wait here until I know Maria and Lou are in position. You four go ahead.”
Yuki said, “Ten four.”
Emily said to her,“Okay, be careful.”
“I don’t know! I just wanted to make sure nothing happens to you.”
“I’m a two-hundred-pound military robot designed to go into combat, what could happen?”
Emily sighed, “Never mind, forget it.”
Grabbing the rest of the rope with her gloved hands she ran it through the carabiner the way they were taught during practice. With everything double and triple checked, Emily slowly made her way closer to the edge of a drop off. She peered down into the darkness.
She turned around, set her feet then gently picked her way down and around the broken pieces of concrete. After about twenty feet she was able to breathe again as her foot touched the bottom. She undid herself from the rope and turned. The opening to the cave was visible using the night vision but when she lifted the glasses, it was pitch black. She could hear the water lapping at the edge of the broken concrete.
Nobody had been sure how bad the floor was, so she got down on her knees and crawled forward feeling for any huge cracks and breaks in the concrete. She couldn’t remember there being any big ones this close to the mouth of the cave but things might have shifted since then. When she reached the point where the foliage stopped, she lay silent and listened. She noticed how the vines had halted their progress as well. Unable to go any further, the plants seemed to be waiting and watching, just like her.
Something tapped her arm and she heard Hey in her head.
For a second time in only five minutes, Emily almost had a heart attack.
She whipped her head to the right and saw the ghostly, night vision version of Mari and Lou lying next to her.
She pushed the mic button and whispered, “Where the heck did you come from! You scared me to death!”
In her head she heard Lou respond, Sorry Emily, I told Mari it wasn’t a good idea to sneak up on you.
Oh, come on, I was just having a bit of fun.
Fun? I almost wet my pants…
Sorry, sorry. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
…and we’re supposed to use our mics only!
I know but I lost my glasses…
What? How did you lose them?
Lou added, They fell in the water and sank.
Thanks Lou you make sound like I was being careless! They fell out of my pack when we jumped over to the wall.
Yuki and Kit had made their way over to them. Yuki said, Hey you guys, be quiet! We’re not supposed to talk to each other this way! Use your mic.
Emily looked over at her and said, She doesn’t have her glasses.
Kit chimed in with, Wow, that sounds careless.
Frustrated, Maria answered, I was not careless!
You lost them though, right?
Yes, but it was an accident!
I don’t know about that.
Yuki was about to tell them again to be quiet when a deafening roar echoed throughout the cave and a wave of water rolled toward them.
Lou said, “That can’t be good.”