Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.
She opened the door, and he followed her out and down the stairs. They walked down the street toward the big cavern crowded with buildings that Christopher had come to think of as “downtown” Razor Mountain. The few people they passed ignored them. It felt strange to be even slightly anonymous.
“So what’s this Secretary of Energy’s name?” Christopher asked. “What should I know about him? Or her?”
“His name is Cain Dolus,” Speares said. “I’d suggest you call him Mr. Dolus though. As far as important government officials go, I think he’s pretty laid back, but it wouldn’t hurt to be polite in your situation.”
Christopher almost replied with, “Thanks, Mom,” then thought better of it. It was probably best to not irritate one of only two people who had shown kindness to him since his rough landing. He realized he had begun to think of Speares as a friend, but he suspected his calibration for social interactions was a little broken thanks to all the loneliness and torture.
“I’m honestly not sure what else to tell you,” Speares said. “I don’t know why he’s taken an interest in you.”
“Have you talked with him before?”
“Sure,” she said. “I do work for the cabinet from time to time. But I don’t know him particularly well. It’s a relatively small circle of people who interact with them on a regular basis.”
“Sounds like a lonely job for them,” Christopher said. “Kings and queens of a tiny little kingdom.”
“Not even. They have bosses just like the rest of us. Only my boss isn’t the president of the United States.”
They followed the road into the big cavern, but this time Speares led Christopher down side streets, around the outer edge where other avenues led back into the smaller caves. The underground complex already seemed impossible to Christopher, but he began to realize it was even larger than he had initially thought. He wondered how far out all those caverns went, and what was required to maintain the structural integrity with a million tons of stone above their heads.
They took one of these side streets, and something about it struck Christopher as more bland than the others he had seen. This wasn’t one of the odd little neighborhoods with its own transplanted style. It was more like a warehouse district, a road lined with low gray stone rectangles in the shape of buildings. Some of them had wide roll-up garage doors that looked like loading docks, although Christopher wondered what the purpose was when he had seen no vehicles to load and unload.
“Are we meeting in a warehouse?” Christopher asked.
“No. But the higher-ups have their own private areas of the city, and the entrances tend to be in…nondescript areas.”
They stopped at one of the loading docks, and Speares banged on the metal door three times. For a moment, there was silence, then the door rattled and rolled up, revealing two men in uniform with submachine guns, lit from behind by bright fluorescent lights.
“This is where I leave you,” Speares said.
Christopher looked into the impassive faces of the soldiers, then back at Speares. He suddenly felt like a kid being dropped off at the first day of school.
“Thanks for treating me like an actual human being.”
She nodded. “I hope this works out for you.”
“If not, maybe I’ll see you around.”
Christopher stepped through, and the door clattered back down behind him, locking out the outside world. One of the soldiers waved him down the hall. The other followed behind as he went.
The hallway was similar to the maze of corridors outside his old prison cell. Their footsteps echoed ahead and behind. It led to a heavy metal door that retracted into the wall when the soldier swiped his hand over the reader. Beyond that was another door, and this one turned out to be an elevator. The soldier stayed outside while Christopher entered.
“Where do I go?” Christopher asked.
“Only one way to go, when you get up there, sir,” the soldier replied. He gave Christopher a slight nod as the doors slid closed.
Christopher counted to himself as the elevator went up. It didn’t feel like it was going particularly fast. There was no floor indicator and no buttons, although there was a locked metal panel in the wall that Christopher thought might hide some controls.
He stopped counting at thirty-three as the doors opened. On the other side was a short hallway, but this felt completely different. The walls were painted a soft cream color here, and adorned with little landscape paintings. The floor was carpeted, a pattern of overlapping squares in various shades of gray. There were baseboards of some dark red wood. The lighting was softer and warmer than the harsh fluorescents down below.
It wasn’t exactly opulent, but it had the feeling of a nice corporate office or private doctor’s waiting room.
Christopher stepped out, and the elevator doors slid closed quietly behind him. Upon closer inspection, he saw there were four of the little paintings, two on each side of the hallway, depicting the same scenery in four seasons. Ahead were a pair of plain wooden doors that matched the baseboards. They had been left open to an office. Christopher could see a big, old-fashioned wooden desk, a bookshelf, and a side table with a lamp and a bottle of liquor on it.
He walked forward slowly. It was oddly quiet, and he realized he had grown used to life underground where there were echoing stone surfaces everywhere.
He started when a man stepped into the doorway from inside the office. He was older and a little paunchy, with thick gray hair, neatly combed, and jowels beginning to show on his lined face. He looked up, saw Christopher, and smiled, but there was some strange emotion in it. Sadness, Christopher thought, or maybe exhaustion.
“So,” he said, “You’ve finally arrived.”
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