Below the surface, p.1
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Below the Surface
BELOW THE SURFACE

  BY

  MICHAEL CORSO

  OTHER WORK BY MICHAEL CORSO

  SHORT STORIES

  The Age of Earth and Water

  A Rift in Time’s Regard

  Under the Willow Tree

  BOOKS

  The Fear Within

  The Adventures of James Squirrel

  Copyright © 2016 by Michael Corso

  Source material for cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to others. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  If you would like to contact Michael, please write him on Twitter @7MichaelCorso or on his blog, www.MichaeloftheBooks.wordpress.com

  CONTENTS

  Other Work by Michael Corso

  Beginning

  Middle

  End

  About the Author

  Rapid footfall echoed throughout the abandoned subway line. A young man ran through the grime and garbage lining the old tracks. “Leave me!” he yelled behind.

  Under the failing lights, a pursuer made chase. “Stop!” The voice of a young woman rang. “I’m alone! You have to listen to me!”

  Just as the young man was about to turn a corner, he stopped abruptly. Surprised by the sudden halt, the chasing girl slipped and fell on an old plastic bag, cursing as she hit the cold cement.

  “Why should I listen to you?” The young man demanded. “You got me arrested, Kamber!”

  “I also helped you escape,” Kamber replied, grimacing from the ground.

  “And you think everything’s great now, huh?” He said, red-faced. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

  Kamber stood slowly, rubbing her hip as she rose to meet his eyes. “Because you’re the only one who knows the truth. The Sub-Surface Congress and Sustainability Committee still have people believing no one can live on the surface.” She paused, placing her pale white hand on his tan cheek. The young man shied away from her touch. Kamber retracted her hand, obviously hurt. “But you have, Samuel. You lived there for over two years. You’ve seen the sun,” she said admiringly.

  “So what? Now you believe me?” Samuel chided.

  “Now I have a reason to,” Kamber said quietly.

  Samuel eyed her seriously. He gazed over his shoulder. The old mining district was mostly unoccupied. Still, scavengers and recluses often strayed through the obsolete sectors. “Come with me,” he said. Samuel followed the wall down thirty feet until they reached a long unused mechanic’s closet. Dust an inch thick covered locked up machinery behind a steel cage. Samuel closed the door and tried the lights. It took about fifteen seconds, but the power finally cycled up.

  “I know you wouldn’t have come back unless you wanted to help us,” Kamber started in. “We have to challenge them publicly, while in session. It’s the only time they’ll have an audience.”

  Samuel paced, stirring the dust into a cloud at his feet. “I’ve been accused of treason, theft, and espionage. Now you want me to go back and what…get myself murdered too?”

  Kamber shook her head. “They wouldn’t do that.”

  Samuel was steaming. “You think they haven’t already done it!” he said angrily while trying to keep his voice down. “If this fails, we will both be thrown in prison, probably worse. They won’t give up control of their world so easily.”

  A mischievous spark came into the Kamber’s eye. “They won’t have a choice.”

  She brought from her pocket a small digital screen. Samuel caught his breath as the screen came to life. “Is this…?”

  “Stole it from my father the day you escaped custody,” she confessed. “You were right. Now we have proof. No wonder they outlawed all digital civilian tech. A secret like this would be too easily compromised.”

  Samuel stared at the screen. “Sorry I ran from you. I thought you were still with SusCom. I didn’t know whether I could trust you.” With a hint of dread, he asked, “When do we do this?”

  “In two days. That’s the next time they’ll have an open session.”

  Wearily, he whispered, “So soon.” Samuel shook his head. “It’ll be almost impossible to get back into the capital now. There will be increased security in the Hub after my escape and especially once they find out you stole that device from your father. We’ll need a miracle to pass the city wall, and even more so to get through the capital unseen. Plus, we can’t just waltz into the Parliament Building. Everyone will be looking for us.”

  “Leave that to me,” Kamber replied. “If we can make it to the wall, I can get us to Parliament. The Capital is my home. There are dozens of secret passages in and out of the Hub Center reserved only for government evacuations. I used to play in them as a child. They’re never occupied. The only problem will be getting through the Outer Hub. They will have plastered your face on every civilian view screen in the system.”

  “I guess we’ll just have to stay hidden,” Samuel shrugged. “Are you sure you can get us through the Capital?”

  “Absolutely.”

  Samuel took a long breath, exhaling slowly. “Maybe we can bribe someone to smuggle us to the wall. All right. I’m in. But we need rest tonight. A lot has happened. I need to go home before we leave tomorrow. Get food. See my parents. Come on. I’ll show you the way.”

  Samuel nodded for her to follow as he opened the door to the dank rail tunnel outside. He turned to the path ahead and Kamber fell in close behind as they descended deeper into the ancient tunnels beneath the earth.

  After many twists and turns, inclines, and narrow passageways through dark forgotten sectors, they arrived to a thick rusted metal door with a locking turn-wheel. The distant rumble of machinery permeated the stone and steel. With a hard turn of the wheel, the door unlocked, and the pair entered.

  Samuel pushed a button on the stained cement wall. The room illuminated with yellow incandescent light. The musty smell which pervaded the abandoned corridors outside was strangely absent.

  “Breathe the only fresh air you’ll find below the surface. My father set up a pump to bring the air from up top. An insane idea at the time, which was why he did it in secret.”

  Kamber took a deep breath in through her nose. “It’s amazing.”

  “This was originally the control room for the eastbound rail lines before it was abandoned in the late thirty-twenties. My father discovered it and built our home here after my mother died in a mining accident. Dad always said he would never work for a government mining company again. That was when he started his own independent mining operation far from the Central Hub.”

  “What was he like?” Kamber inquired.

  Samuel laughed softly. His gaze drifted over to a picture sitting on a stone table. In the photograph stood a man and woman dressed in plain clothing. A small boy was smiling in front of them, waving to the camera. “He was great. When I was a child he used to tell me all the time how one day people would leave the underground and return to the surface. And when everyone started reclaiming the land we would find a small place next to the ocean and live the rest of our days as fishermen.” He turned somber. “That was before mom. He did everything to make me happy, even taking me to the Crystal Caverns on my tenth birthday. I miss him.”

  Kamber took Samuel’s hand. “I’m sorry.”

  “It’s all right,” Samuel replied. “But there’s something you have to know before we enter the Capital.” He paused. “It has to do with a connection
between your father and mine. Something I should have already told you.”

  ♦

  The next day Samuel and Kamber started the long journey back to the Central Hub, passing by water replenishment plants, geothermal heat generators, miles of UV farms, and endless hydroponic fields. Most of the tunnels were empty. People feared the off-roads away from the cities. The industrial sectors were difficult to police due to the many forgotten passageways which were dug in the early days of The Decent. When the couple did encounter workers or transports, they kept their heads down and their faces covered with hoods.

  After many long hours of walking and hiding on the back of electric railcars, they stopped for the night. Samuel knew an old coal mine shaft off to the west. They had to crawl through a tight strip, but it soon opened up to a large round room. Led on only by flashlight, they settled in along the far wall so to keep an eye on the entrance. Though they were both exhausted, it still took a long time for sleep to find them.

  Hours later after the duo had finally drifted off, a grating sound scraped across the pitch black cavern. Samuel stirred, and an unseen figure paused in the dark. Not wholly awake, Samuel did not think to click on the flashlight to investigate. He nestled up against the wall once more and closed his eyes. But out of the darkness, Samuel was forced to the floor by strong hands, his arms pinned behind his back.

  “Kamber, run!” Samuel shouted.
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