Razor Mountain — Chapter 30.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher stood before an array of screens. Some of them were tuned to the places outside his apartment: the hall that led to the long staircase, the balcony, the other, secret exits. Some showed areas of the city. Some showed the places above, where only his cabinet and their subordinates could tread. Some showed the places below, the military facilities, the geothermal plants, and all the areas that were generally off-limits to the civilian population. Once, this had been one of the few places in the city where he could be sure he was not watched by cameras. Now, even this sanctum had been invaded, with little gleaming lenses in the corners of most rooms.

There were several keyboards on the console in front of the screen. The keys were familiar. His hands moved across them and the pictures changed. He didn’t need to know what keys to press. His hands knew.

This was the center of the panopticon, where the head jailer had been long absent. Or perhaps he was the head prisoner.

He felt suddenly uneasy in the presence of the screens, as if the too-wide view of his little world would overwhelm his senses and he would lose himself. The irony wasn’t lost on him as he stepped out of the dark room, into the brighter hallway. The process of losing himself was already well underway. Visions of past lives still flashed through his mind   now and then, as something new bubbled to the surface.

He couldn’t escape the screens completely. There was another one on the wall by the main doors, showing the hall and the wide stairs beyond. There were blank screens in almost every room. They were all tied into the ubiquitous system that sent its nerves throughout the walls of his apartments. The phone in his pocket—a parting gift from Cain—could control all of them.

Cain had suggested he sleep, and Christopher knew it was good advice. He was exhausted, and rest would help him deal with whatever was happening inside his brain. It just felt unlikely while his body was vibrating like a plucked string. When he closed his eyes, moments from the past were projected onto his lids. Like an electric current, it was too much, but he had seized up. He couldn’t let go, so he had no choice but to let it flow through him.

Down the hall, he found his office, or at least one of them. The room was paneled in dark wood, with absolutely no stone to be seen anywhere. It didn’t matter. Christopher could still feel it. The weight of the mountain was always pressing down, no matter what clever decorations were used to hide it.

He perused the tall bookshelves along two of the walls. It was an eclectic mix, with many old volumes and even a few carefully preserved behind glass, but several shelves were filled with mundane modern works that had clearly been printed within the city. There were reports and statistics and other dull bookkeeping. Christopher wondered why he had bothered to have these things printed.

One shelf was filled with sheet music. Much of it was from beyond the mountain, again a disparate mix. Some of it was hand-written, and this, he realized, was his own work. Christopher had never been a musician beyond a few piano lessons in grade school. His mother had played sporadically. Even with memories and knowledge from God-Speaker bubbling through his thoughts, he had a hard time imagining the sound of the orchestra from the marks on the page.

What was more strange was how he felt, holding those pages of music. There was familiarity there, but little emotion. Did God-Speaker love music? Christopher couldn’t say with any certainty. Christopher got the impression that the old man felt almost obligated to have hobbies like this. After all, a person had to derive enjoyment from something. It was something with no real, objective measure of quality. Was this great music? Terrible music? Did it even matter? Christopher set it aside and moved on.

There was a large wooden desk dominating the center of the room. A wide screen, keyboard and desk lamp were the only things on its surface. The lamp had a timeless quality that Christopher liked. It was black wrought iron with a shade of stained glass in reds, oranges and yellows. The screen and keyboard looked oddly anachronistic, the sort of thing that would have seemed futuristic in the eighties or nineties.

Christopher wondered how powerful these computers actually were. This one was surely old by Razor Mountain standards. But how far ahead of the rest of the world was Razor Mountain? The buzz of the voices played perpetual counter-melody to his thoughts, and he knew that they could provide him with an understanding of electronics far beyond anything any human had ever built. Still, there were limits to what the small population under the mountain could realistically build. Advanced computers required incredibly specialized factories. For some things, Razor Mountain would have to seed knowledge out into the world, relying on the vast manufacturing capacity of the rest of the planet to produce what they needed.

He sat at the desk, and once again his hands knew what needed to be done to start the system and log in. Some things had changed, but most of it was straightforward. He found himself scrolling through messages, reports and data. He was tempted to scroll back to the day he had died, to see the chaotic flurry of information that would surely follow. Instead, he bounced between random things that had happened in the intervening years.

There were endless meeting minutes, reports and data logs. He noticed a report flagged as a severe problem. He re-sorted the reports by priority. A wave of red filled the screen. Cain had made it sound like the cabinet had kept the ship afloat while God-Speaker was gone, but it was clear that there had been plenty of leaks, and despite whatever patches had been attempted, the whole thing was taking on water. Plenty of things in the list remained unresolved. Christopher wondered how long they could have continued on without him.

Those would be problems to address in the weeks and months ahead. Christopher wasn’t prepared to work on any of those things now. He turned the screen off and stood up.


Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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