Academic journal article et Cetera

Under the Eye of God

Academic journal article et Cetera

Under the Eye of God

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MESAPORT only pretended solidity. Within the towering rock lay a hidden network of caves and tunnels. Generations of dwellers had spent their summers and winters expanding their warrens like worms tunneling through soft cheese.

Here, inside the mountain, a whole other civilization thrived - a civilization unknown to the Vampires and the Dragons and all the various pretenders and idle worshipers who served them in their glittering halls. Secret passages led down to the roots of the broken canyons, wove their way even deeper than that, tunneling down to huge underground reservoirs and the rivers that fed them. Here, hidden from the Eye of God, and hidden from the Regency as well, churned the machineries of human survival.

Using only a single red lamp for illumination, Lee-1169 brought Sawyer and Finn up through a series of narrow passages. The journey took several hours. They had to stop several times, once while Finn suffered another of his crippling spells, another time for rest and a meal break; a third time they rested at the edge of a vast black reservoir and filled their canteens. The inky water echoed with distant voices. The stillness of the chamber enveloped them with dark echoes.

They pushed on. Lee explained the necessity of this roundabout route. It would protect all of them if they did not know their destination or how they had reached it. They climbed up a seemingly endless ladder that paralleled a huge vertical tube. The tube throbbed with energy; it thrummed with mechanical life. Both Finn and Sawyer stared with awe and wondered about the energies it focused. They also wondered what would happen to MesaPort if a saboteur could wrap a section of the tube with explosives. They made a mental note to ask Lee about this later. Purely as a hypothetical exercise, of course.

At last they arrived at a long room carved out of the naked rock, with a ceiling so low, they could not fully stretch their hands up over their heads. It gave them a claustrophobic feeling. At one end of the room narrow windows opened out onto a view of Death Canyon. They could see the lights of the labor camp glimmering far below. Already a new crew of prisoners toiled under the slave bands. Sawyer shuddered at the memory. Had they really escaped from that terrible place only two days previously?

He turned around to see a group of four men entering the chamber after Lee. One of them stood so tall and spindly that he couldn't completely straighten up in this room. The man wore a red cloth wrapped around his head and carried a rod that looked like a walking stick. He entered the room at a crouch and moved directly to a stone bench, where he settled himself comfortably. The others arranged themselves around him. Even in repose he loomed taller than anyone else in the room. The man grinned down at the much shorter Lee, his expression an acknowledgment of the difference in their sizes. "Your apartment hasn't gotten any taller, my friend."

"I don't need the extra height," Lee retorted. "It would just take that much longer for the blood to reach my brain."

The tall man laughed, a large good-natured sound. "Tell me about your escape."

Lee pointed to Sawyer and Finn. "These two trackers, Justice Mertz, a Dragon, a dog-child, and others - we discovered the Alliance of Life lives everywhere, all the time. You spoke the truth, sir."

"No," corrected the tall man. "I spoke words. You discovered the truth of them."

Lee allowed himself a sheepish look at the correction. "I still have much to learn," he acknowledged.

"You will continue to do well," said the tall man.

Sawyer and Finn approached and joined the circle. Sawyer couldn't decide if the other men in the group acted as guards or worshipped as acolytes. He decided that they served both functions and kept himself wary. …

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