Grey and white walls, pipes, icons marking the walls, stripes lengthwise on the floor in three colors, red, blue, green.

Where was she now?

Tory Ciarelli stopped for a moment to think, to revisualize what the maps had shown her. She held onto the metal rung of the ladder, not yet daring to put a her foot down to the floor. Yes, she’d found the hatch as expected, yes, had used her code breaking app to get through the security protocols. And was now, down three levels, seven hundred meters from the central hub, but on this level the markings had changed. This was it, the original base foundation of Cerberus Underhill, built a decade before by machines, robots, under remote supervision. Almost from another time it looked, certainly from before she was even born.

Still, Tory had studied enough of what she could find by sneaking access to her mom’s account and should be about seven hundred meters now from where she needed to be. The old lines that the second generation systems painted were still there, on one had bothered to remove them when they added the new coded guide system, that had to be it. So, all she needed to do was convert to what was above. She finally let go of the ladder and landed lightly a half meter down. Small and compact, Tory wasn’t exactly heavy, and in Martian gravity even lighter. It was a feather fall, really.

She glanced along the lines that stretched down the floor of the maintenance corridor ahead of her, then turned to look at where they came from behind her, calculating the direction she needed to go. Each had an arrow laser painted in every three meters. About ten meters ahead of her, the red turned left. Another ten and the blue turned right.

The instructions in the first gen maintenance guide came to mind.

One level two you follow the blue.

Tory shivered. It was colder down here, since this level wasn’t a place for people so much, more for robots so comfortable temperatures weren’t maintained. It smelled different as well and the odor made her scrunch her nose. The living levels of the complex were filled with people, colonists and Bornhere’s, the air seemed organic, scented. The air here had a rusty metallic scent to it with a hint of mold. She hadn’t added any layers, didn’t think about the temperature down here. Well, once she got to the hub, there would be p-suit, and they had built in heaters. The best she could do was keep moving to keep warm.

But the good thing was they’d never find her down here.

She wasn’t carrying her spreader with her, or anything else which could be tracked. Tory had also memorized the route to Cerberus Underhill’s transport hub meter by meter, had always been good with the kind of maze the CU was, and had the color chart to help guide her if for any reason she felt she was getting lost. That talent had kept her from being locked down back home on Earth, no matter where her parents were posted by the Ares Combine, and with any luck, that particular talent would help get her back there. Earth. Home. Real warmth.

Behind her somewhere, metal slammed on metal? Another hatch? The sound made Tory stop, glance back over her shoulder worriedly. Could that be someone who would spot her, tell on her, or was it just a robot sent to seal a crack, fix a circuit . She started back down the corridor, taking off in a lope fast enough to hopefully warm up and keep warm.

Tory wasn’t used to the gravity on Mars yet, not used to weighing only a third of what she was supposed to, and skidded around the next corner faster than she’d intended, light clumps of her hair slapping against her brow, her breathing starting to pick up from steady to a little ragged.

She avoided slamming into the wall, but not slowing down turned out to be a mistake Tory didn’t correct soon enough. Her breathing picked up. Before she knew it her chest was heaving.

The thin air here hated her and her lungs hated it right back. Low in pressure like on a mountain top, not the oxygen mix her body craved combined and this air carried had trace particles it down right loathed.

“You have to take it easy for the first few months,” the school medtech had warned her after rescuing her from her first attack with swift use of an oxyinjector. “Your body needs time to adjust to the atmosphere here.”

Tory slowed right down, but it was too late. She was now gasping for breath, stumbling down the passageway, trying to concentrate on slowing her desperate heaving chest and failing miserably. She was still loping, being carried by momentum as much as anything, tried turning around the next corner, hit the pipes along the wall with her shoulder, bounced back.

Three times since that warning she’d suffered an asthma attack, each as terrifying as the one before. One of the big excuses her parent’s has used to come here was the polluted air back home, the wonderfully rich and warm atmosphere of Earth her mother had constantly complained about Tory’s body loved. This air was too thin!

She wheezed, choked, stumbled to what looked like a bench sitting near a four-way intersection and tried to calm her lungs by force of will. That wasn’t working. No! She’d finally

Grey and white walls, pipes, icons marking the walls, stripes lengthwise on the floor in three colors, red, blue, green.

Where was she now?

Tory Ciarelli stopped for a moment to think, to revisualize what the maps had shown her. She held onto the metal rung of the ladder, not yet daring to put a her foot down to the floor. Yes, she’d found the hatch as expected, yes, had used her code breaking app to get through the security protocols. And was now, down three levels, seven hundred meters from the central hub, but on this level the markings had changed. This was it, the original base foundation of Cerberus Underhill, built a decade before by machines, robots, under remote supervision. Almost from another time it looked, certainly from before she was even born.

Still, Tory had studied enough of what she could find by sneaking access to her mom’s account and should be about seven hundred meters now from where she needed to be. The old lines that the second generation systems painted were still there, on one had bothered to remove them when they added the new coded guide system, that had to be it. So, all she needed to do was convert to what was above. She finally let go of the ladder and landed lightly a half meter down. Small and compact, Tory wasn’t exactly heavy, and in Martian gravity even lighter. It was a feather fall, really.

She glanced along the lines that stretched down the floor of the maintenance corridor ahead of her, then turned to look at where they came from behind her, calculating the direction she needed to go. Each had an arrow laser painted in every three meters. About ten meters ahead of her, the red turned left. Another ten and the blue turned right.

The instructions in the first gen maintenance guide came to mind.

On level two you follow the blue.

Tory shivered. It was colder down here, since this level wasn’t a place for people so much, more for robots so comfortable temperatures weren’t maintained. It smelled different as well and the odor made her scrunch her nose. The living levels of the complex were filled with people, colonists and bornhere’s, the air seemed organic, scented. The air here had a rusty metallic scent to it with a hint of mold. She hadn’t added any layers, didn’t think about the temperature down here. Well, once she got to the hub, there would be p-suit, and they had built in heaters. The best she could do was keep moving to keep warm.

But the good thing was they’d never track her down here.

She wasn’t carrying her spreader with her, or anything else which could be traced. Tory had also memorized the route to Cerberus Underhill’s transport hub meter by meter, had always been good with the kind of maze the CU was, and had the color chart to help guide her if for any reason she felt she was getting lost. That talent had kept her from being locked down back home on Earth, no matter where her parents were posted by the Ares Combine, and with any luck, that particular talent would help get her back to where she belonged. Earth. Home.

Behind her somewhere, metal slammed on metal? Another hatch? The sound made Tory stop, glance back over her shoulder worriedly. Could that be someone who would spot her, tell on her, or was it just a robot sent to seal a crack, fix a circuit . She started back down the corridor, taking off in a lope fast enough to hopefully keep warm herself.

Tory wasn’t used to the gravity on Mars yet, not used to weighing only a third of what she was supposed to, and skidded around the next corner faster than she’d intended, light clumps of her hair slapping against her brow, her breathing starting to pick up from steady to a little ragged.

She avoided slamming into the wall, but not slowing down turned out to be a mistake Tory didn’t correct soon enough. Her breathing picked up. Before she knew it her chest was heaving.

The thin air here hated her and her lungs hated it right back. Low in pressure like on a mountain top, not the oxygen mix her body craved combined and this air carried had trace particles it down right loathed.

“You have to take it easy for the first few months,” the school medtech had warned her after rescuing her from her first attack with swift use of an oxyinjector. “Your body needs time to adjust to the atmosphere here.”

Tory slowed right down, but it was too late. She was now gasping for breath, stumbling down the passageway, trying to concentrate on slowing her desperate heaving chest and failing miserably. She was still loping, being carried by momentum as much as anything, tried turning around the next corner, hit the pipes along the wall with her shoulder, bounced back.

Three times since that warning she’d suffered an pseudo-asthma attack, each as terrifying as the one before. One of the big excuses her parent’s has used to come here was the polluted air back home, the wonderfully rich and warm atmosphere of Earth her mother had constantly complained about Tory’s body loved. This air was too thin!

She wheezed, choked, stumbled to what looked like a bench sitting near a four-way intersection and tried to calm her lungs by force of will. That wasn’t working. No! She’d finally made the decision to try to find a way back home, to her home, her real home and she might not make it anywhere, she might die right here!

Calm down! Breathe! Please Breathe!

Go To Chapter Two

 

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Other serials by A A Roi updated with new Chapters  every Saturday on thenewscifi.com

The Promethead (Post-apocalyptic science fiction)

It has been more than two hundred years since the destruction of galactic civilization by the invasion of the Macros. Althea Ram, exile from a culture which survived the apocalypse, has been searching for answers amongst the lost worlds of the Consortia. Her past failures, pyrrhic victories and dwindling resources have lead her to plan a desperate transit to Elysium, a world which could provide her everything she needs. But the probability of getting there on the first try is very low. And she has no way of telling how dangerous her destination might be.

Because on any lost world, Althea must face dangers; hostile environments, the technologies once beneficial, now warped by Macro control, the decendants of human survivors – turned violent and suspicious by the Macro threat, and even herself, driven by needs she barely controls, or understands.

***

Up In Space (Scifi Comedy)

Iain Compton never planned to be abducted by an alien spaceship.  It just… happened.  And now he’s been awakened 22,000 years in the future and half a galaxy away by a pair of oddly human seeming beak nosed aliens and a space ship A.I. that seems to have more than a few screws loose. Oh, and then there’s this gorgeous alien woman who he probably shouldn’t trust at all.  His plan is to find a way home to Earth, even if its unlikely to be remotely the same; to find a better class of companions among an often strange and inexplicable galactic community, at least one who won’t use him or sell him out at the first opportunity; and to do something about the parasites in his brain who are supposed to connect him to a library the size of the galaxy, but seem to only be telling him that almost everyone and everything he comes across wants to kill him.

But at least he can still send tweets.

***

Call it a Mission (Contemporary Supernatural Mystery)

Palantine and Co. is an unusual company that does its work in an unusual field. But it’s attractive enough to out of work Gary Bellamy, and offers decent pay and a good benefits package. But there are a few things a little strange about the local office. The CEO is perpetually out of town, apparently in search of ‘Enlightenment’. His co-workers are involved in research and investigations involve the likes of Bigfoot, ghosts, walk-ins and other supernatural phenomena, for who its not quite clear. It all seems a bit dodgy to Gary but again, good benefits package.

Ephram Palantine is having problems of his own. His search for Enlightenment hasn’t been going all that well, has lead down some rather bizarre rabbit holes. It’s about to get a lot worse.

The employees of Palantine and Co. are themselves hoping their new hire is exactly what they need. Otherworldly phenomena is on the rise. A seven year old girl has gone missing in northern Michigan, and they are sure it involves something that happened to Gary when he was a boy, thirty years ago, not to mention that there have been sightings of same identical dead man on a Lake Erie beach now for several decades. Some might call what Gary and his co-workers are about to get involved in to protect humanity from a world whose borders with other realities are fraying at the edges, incredible and perhaps even insane. Some might call it a mission.

***

23 Pangbourne Place (Alternative World Urban Fantasy)

It has been almost thirteen years since a terrible inferno took the lives of Johnny Smith(formerly Hutchison)’s friends and fellows trying to enact a dangerous spell to raise The Devil to grant them special powers. Things didn’t turn out so well, as Johnny was the only survivor.

Since then he has made a special effort to keep himself out of the limelight, ultimately ending up as a the building manager for the apartment building at 23 Pangbourne Place. But nothing has been forgotten, and Johnny is about find out that forces from Hell still have him in mind for their machinations. The question’s are, can he wriggle out from their grasp? Can he keep occupancy at 23 Pangbourne Place at 100%? can he keep his vampire lawyer’s lover’s hands off of him? Are the gargoyles who serve as building security out to get him? And can he face up to what he did in the past, thwart his dark destiny and help his Catholic girlfriend prevent her grandfather from turning into a zombie? Yes, he is going to be a very busy guy this November…

***

Black Cloak White Art (High Fantasy)

It has been eighty years since the since the last Conjunction of the Three Realms and the accompanying Riven War wrecked havok on the world of Aethros.  Since then the Wizards of the North have worked hard to reshape thier identities, forge the Alliance of the Thirteen Greater and Lesser Kingdoms and prepare for the next conjunction, barely more than a decade away.

But under the twin suns, one hot one cold, something is not quite right. Greyslan Amberglass, veteran of the last conjunction and one of the masterminds behind the new orders of magic has begun to discover that the plans he helped enact aren’t quite turning out as expected.  And the new generations of Wizards have their own ideas of how to defend against inevitable conflict with the worlds above and below.

To uncover these growing conspiracies, he sets out into the new world he helped create, searching for answers and uncovering threats to the lands he vowed to protect.  And this starts with the theft of a set of Arcory Stones, created in the last act of his mentor Arcory, Master of Demons, Victor of The Riven War.  Where it will end, there is know way yet to know…