Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.
When Christopher had rested for a few minutes, they kept walking. The narrow residential street ran into a wider avenue within a much bigger cavern. There were a few buildings here that looked like multi-story apartments, but most of the buildings looked like storefronts and businesses. There was considerably more foot traffic here, and people on bicycles, but there was a distinct absence of cars, and there were no sidewalks. Everyone just walked in the street.
The ceiling of this cavern was high enough that Christopher had a difficult time estimating it by eye. The largest buildings seemed to top out at four or five stories, and the ceiling was well above them. Here, too, it was painted to look like sky, with a smattering of clouds here and there, but the illusion was broken by a web of geodesic support beams. Christopher also saw bundles of pipes in varying diameters running here and there along the walls or high across the ceiling. If he squinted, it almost looked like a vast glass ceiling with sky beyond.
It was like something out of science-fiction, and Christopher had the vague sense that he ought to feel more impressed than he did. But it wasn’t some gleaming futuristic metropolis of glass and steel. It all looked a little outdated and a little tacky, with too many layers of old paint and too many conflicting architectural styles. It reminded him of Las Vegas, the real city that never actually looked as glitzy as it was portrayed in the movies, and turned out to be built on the back of cheap labor and broken dreams, not just piles of money brought in by high-rollers.
The other thing that made it feel old-fashioned, regardless of how the storefronts actually looked, was the complete lack of chain businesses. There were no McDonald’s here, no familiar grocery or department stores. Across the street was Red’s Diner, and next to it was a place called Modern Chic that looked like it sold clothing. Further down, he saw a store simply called Furniture.
Speares distracted him by asking more questions about his journey from the bunker to Razor Mountain. He recounted his time in the wilderness and his interactions with the people he thought of as “the exiles.”
“What happened to Harold and Garrett?” he asked her, “and the rest of them, for that matter.”
“Those two will most likely have to face a court-martial,” she said. “I don’t know much beyond that. I’ll see if I can dig up some information, but it’s going to be limited. I’ll try to keep you out of those proceedings if possible. Hopefully your documented testimony here will be more than enough.”
They left the busy, large cavern and entered another one of the residential neighborhoods, but they didn’t have far to go. Speares led him to the door of a three story apartment, and they went inside. There was a little entryway, followed by a narrow staircase leading up.
“This might be a little rough on you,” she said. “I tried for a ground-floor place, but no luck. At least for now.”
Christopher took the steps one at a time, holding tight to the rail and getting both feet on a step before tackling the next one. He paused at each landing to catch his breath. Two landings per level, and three stories to the top. He felt like an old man. His whole body burned by the time he finished.
“You seem like you like to be self-deprecating, but you’ve held up pretty well considering what you’ve been through,” Speares said.
“Yeah, well, I think I’d like some more water and a bed to lie down in,” he replied.
“You’re in luck.”
The single door at the top landing opened onto a small, unremarkable apartment. It had a bathroom just large enough to contain a toilet, sink and shower; a bedroom with nothing but a bed; and a combination living and dining room with a small table, two chairs, and a simple kitchenette along one wall. There were two little windows—one in the bedroom and one in the living room—but they offered little light and a disappointing view of the stone-enclosed street outside. Most of the light came from recessed bulbs in the ceiling.
Christopher found a glass in the cabinets. There was a pitcher of water (and not much else) in the small refrigerator. He took his drink and sat at the table. Speares sat across from him, still holding her notebook.
“Who decides what happens to me?” Christopher asked.
“Your case will go before a tribunal. They’ll decide what happens, and how much…supervision you need. For now, you’re under house arrest.”
“So I go on trial?” he asked.
“Something like that.”
“When do I have to talk to them?”
Speares shook her head. “You don’t. They already have all the case information, including everything from Meadows. I’ll make my reports as well.”
Christopher frowned. “I get no say in what happens to me?”
Speares sighed. “I know it seems unfair, especially as an outsider. Those of us who live here know what to expect. The tribunal is not debating whether or not you can go back home. That’s not even a question. Part of it is secrecy, but it’s also to protect you from the bad guys. Even if you were willing to keep all the secrets you know, there are always going to be people out there trying to find out about this place, and if they get to you, they will do whatever is necessary to get you to talk.”
“I’m still debating who exactly the bad guys are,” Christopher said.
“I don’t blame you, but I’d suggest you try to be pragmatic instead of bitter. There are things we can change, and things we can’t. Work within the framework that’s available to you.”
“I’d like to at least make my case,” Christopher said. “You’re going to report to them. Tell them I want to at least talk to them in person.”
“That’s really not my purview…”
“Please. Like you said, I’m being pragmatic. This is the only opportunity I have to influence what happens to me.”
“It may not have the kind of influence you’re hoping for,” Speares replied.
“I’m willing to take that risk.”
“Well,” she said, “I suppose I could make a motion on your behalf. It’s only a request. Most likely they’ll reject it and make their decision without your input.”
“Then at least I tried.”
“Very well,” she said. She set the notebook onto the table and opened it. “Now, I have a few more things I want to go over before we’re done for today.”