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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mark Loren - The Wall

“Are you sure we all have to wear these suits?”  Eric Gibson looked rather uncomfortable in his

maintainer's suit.  He struggled with the helmet and took a deep breath once he got it off.

“Aww, come on.”  Vinsce walked into the room from the hallway.  “It’s all in the spirit of fun.”  He donned his helmet and walked into the Maintainer’s Tube.

Eric scoffed.  “Can you believe this guy?”  Eric set his helmet on the relic maintainer’s suit before heading toward the console in the training room.  I still needed to suit up.

I walked out of the equipment room and took a left toward the other training room.  The heavy stone that made up the hallways maintained the silence that grew after The Fall.  Even after being host to countless explorers the silence of these halls could not be touched.

"Mark." I looked up to see Flora stepping through the heavy door from the observation room.  "You'd better hurry," she laughed a little as she spoke.  "Vinsce is already in the pit."

"Yeah, I saw him head down."

"Shall we?". I nodded and we continued toward the training room.

"Have you heard anything from Torri?"  Flora asked.  I was a little surprised at the question.

"No.  Not really."  I thought to myself.  I haven't really seen her since that night in Eder Gira.

"Me neither."  In just a few moments Flora had gone from her usual cheerful self to being pensive and muted.  "I tried to invite her to the race today, but she never replied to my KI mail."

"Maybe she's just gotten tied up on the surface?" I offered hopefully.

"Maybe..."  Flora opened her KI.  "I guess that's possible, but I sent that message three days ago."  She looked worried.  I had heard that Torri and Flora had met once on the surface, but more than that I was unsure just how close they were.

"Hey, don't you.."

"Come on.  What's the hold up?"  Steven Petersen had come out of the control room.  His voice was muffled by the helmet.

"I'll be there in a moment."  Steven made like he couldn't hear very well and waved before turning back into the control room.  "I think he's got his helmet on a little tight."  Flora cracked a smile, waved, and ran back toward the observation room.  That's a relief.  She had me worried for a moment.

I passed through the training room and patted Steven on the back before getting suited up.  I stepped into the Maintainer’s Tube, doned my maintainer's suit and dropped into the pit.

I climbed the ladder and looked around.  I saw Flora amidst a crowd through the conference room window to my right.  I thought Pam would be with her.  The other conference room was packed.  I opened my KI and sent Artus a message.  Good luck.  A moment later my KI flashed.

Good luck to you too.  You’ll need it.

Eric started the countdown on the speakers, “3, 2, 1, Go!”

I started my climb.  <<Mark, can you hear me?>>  A voice came through my helmet.  I reached forward and continued to pull myself up the wall.

“Is that you Steven?” I asked.  Thoughts began crawling through my mind.  How exactly did I get chosen to climb?  I’m not certain this is my sport.  Steven responded.

<<We’re gonna win this one.  You hear me?>>  He sounded determined.  I didn’t want to let him down.  I reached up again and before I knew it found myself falling to the floor.  I flailed and caught my hand on the catwalk preventing my crashing into the hard stone floor.  <<Mark! Are you alright?>>  I pulled myself up and got to my feet.  <<That was the first marker.  Artus should be reaching the nasty trap I left him soon.>>  My hands were still shaking from the fall.

“I’m not sure I can do this.”

<<You’ll be fine.>>  Steven’s voice was steady and reassuring.  <<That suit you’re wearing was made to take more of a beating than that.>>  As I thought about it, the fall had caught me off guard; but I wasn’t injured.  I had expected my shoulder to be wrenched from catching myself the way I did, but I felt quite comfortable - aside from a mild nausea from the fall.  I placed my hands on the wall and began my ascent again.  <<I’ll keep track of blocker locations and try to guide you through this.>>

“Got it.”  I felt a thud through solid wall.  Artus must have taken quite a fall.  Inevitably I fell, and each time, Steven made a mark as to it’s location.  Before long, the end was in my reach.  I had to be careful.  There had been 20 blockers set for this course; yet I had only ran into 12 of them.  One wrong move and I would be sent plummeting back to the floor.

<<You’ll have to play it safe.>>  Steven must have been thinking the same thing I was.  <<If I were Eric, I would have placed the final bumpers around the most direct route to the linking panel.  Looks like you’ll have to go around.>>

I agreed, “Better to take my time, than to have to start over again.”  I climbed carefully to the side.  Looking up and to my left I could see my goal.  Just a few more paces.

Two paces up.  Now, just to slide over to the finish line.  I reached out my hand and heard a linking sound and closed my eyes.  My hand kept moving.  I opened my eyes and saw the Wall before me as my hand moved to touch the linking panel.  He beat me.  Artus beat me.  I linked.

I watched as the world around me warped and twisted, leaving a darkness that faded into the elevator shaft of the Maintainer’s Nexus..  Artus stood next to me.  “Good game,” Artus said as the platform began to rise.  “I gotta hand it to Steven.  He almost got me.”  He looked back to me.  “Aw, come on.”  He nudged my shoulder.  “You almost had it.  Next time for sure.”  He chuckled to himself and removed his helmet.

As the elevator platform reached the top of the shaft I struggled to get my helmet off.  “Mark…”  I heard Artus falter.

“What’s wrong?”  I finally pulled my helmet off and looked around the room.  Artus stood two steps from me; his eyes fixed on the panel before him.  I looked around him and saw a glowing spiral.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jessie Pollick - Plots and Puzzles

Takotah alley. Usually empty, but the same cannot be said about the plaza it empties into. Takotah Plaza is quite possibly the busiest and most trafficked area of the cavern. It is host to a wide range of explorers from all over the world. Some live here in the cavern. Others just pass through.

The plaza gets its name from two if the surrounding buildings: Takotah and Takotah II. Years ago, the DRC took up residence in Takotah and every now and then explorers can be seen scaling the building as they try to sneak into the old offices. Takotah II is different.

Consisting of a series of interconnected buildings, Takotah II was inhabited by various explorers following the closing of the cavern under Cate Alexander. Eight months ago, the building was evacuated. The building was condemned. Rather than erect a barricade over the single entryway, just above the Ferry Terminal, has been under constant guard via a ResEng.

Kahlo Pub will serve as our meeting place. Jeremy Reinhold will be joining me shortly. His interest seems to be more than academic. Who could blame him? His encounter with the stranger in the worn Yeesha shirt is enough to intrigue even the most unimaginative explorer. Together, with the aid of Terry Suguino and David Farwell, we will make our way into Takotah II unnoticed.  

We'll need a considerable distraction. One at the Ferry Terminal and one above in the Takotah plaza.  If successful they should serve to draw the explorers and the ResEng from his post. The ResEngs are few in number so if we're lucky, we should be able to leave Takotah II unguarded - if only long enough to get inside without being spotted. And what will I find?

My hope is to find something that will point to the truth. If my thoughts on “Panta in Takotah II” are correct, we may find some clue in this: the origin of the story. There is the possibility that we will find nothing. As I said before, the building was evacuated. It would make sense for any explorers still living within to take their belongings with them. Regardless of the likelihood, I still must see what there is to be seen. There are no other paths open to me.