I felt bad that we had to push back our release so here Â is the second chapter of the next book. Â Its unedited, so be kind.
Scene: a dreary one
Place â€“ Mountain facility
Samantha sat bolt upright and screamed, long, hard and without throwing her hands up to shield herself from an imaginary crashing landing.
She let her hands fall to her side when she understood that no impact was eminent. She breathed deeply in and exhaling in a haggard fashion. A dream. A dream of the day that she and Richard fled Academy City 676, though the last part was a recent addition. Crashing and falling off the cliff probably meant something; some sort of projection of her inner thoughts or feelings, or manifestation of her inner fears. Whatever the explanation, the nightmares were becoming more vivid, more real and oh how they scared her.
Sam swept the back of her hand across her forehead, wiping off the sweat. Her face felt hot and her pulse was racing. She slowed her breathing and slowly felt the tension drain from her body. She fell back on to her bed and sighed. It was getting really old waking up to her flight or fight response.
Sam got out of bed. From experience she knew that any further attempt at sleep would be fruitless. Her feet touched colored decorative title, which was freaking freezing. She half ran half skipped to her bathroom stripping immediately once she passed the doorâ€™s threshold. She showered taking much longer than she would have normally, her mind rolling back to the same tired topics.
This â€œsafe house,â€ a phrase coined by Richard, featured a seemingly endless hot water supply. It took a lot to clean water nowadays with all the fall out from the Great War and while heating water was relatively easy top side because of the solar cells. Sam had difficulty seeing how that helped here. The Rocky Mountains kept a few secrets close to the chest it appeared. Not that she was inherently wasteful. She knew what the basic necessities cost but seeing as she was being held in this place against her will, the jack-hole, Richard, could eat the cost for all she cared.
Sam jumped out of the shower, toweled off ignoring the help droid that was ever ready to assist her, and threw something on from the mountain of cloths located in her roomâ€™s walk closet. Clean and dressed, Sam took a series of passages from her quarters into a side room just off the main hallway of the underground complex.Â The side room was quite familiar, a place of discernment and reflection. A place she of mediation where she steeled herself to continue. Sam took a deep breath. She really hated this part.
The main tunnel of the underground complex (tunnel is a better word than pathway) stretched for hundreds of yards creating a scene and atmosphere straight out of the horror virtual theater experience.Â Poor lighting and unexplained noises played off each other feeding relentlessly into Samâ€™s own paranoia. The eerie feeling of being watched and the clip-clap of her shoes on the hard floor unnerved Sam and without fail she ended up running a portion of the massively large tunnel. At a dead spirit, before long, she was passing intersection after intersection of other tunnels, other pathways which led to the recesses of who knew where deep under the mountain.
Sam only stopped after she reached her destination. A well light, nicely furnished area of the underground complex that served as a sort of unofficial common room for the basesâ€™ only two occupants. Sam turned a corner into the main corridor of the common area.Â Richard was just leaving the mess hall, a cafeteria size room, which at one point, probably feed hundreds of people at a given time. Sam ran up to Richard.
Richard barely looked at her as he passed.
â€œCome on Rich, I know youâ€™re the new mysterious type, but couldnâ€™t you at least sit with me? Youâ€™re forgiven for lying. Please? Seriously I want you to. I like the new and improved Richard.â€
Again nothing. Apparently he didnâ€™t care if he had been forgiven.
â€œYouâ€™re not still mad about me trying to escape are you? I promise you I wonâ€™t do it again. So please just come and eat with me. Please.â€
She watched him until he turned a corner at the end of the hall. He disappeared for her view into a section of the complex that she wasnâ€™t allowed in. She kicked the door as she went into the mess hall. Richard wasnâ€™t still mad about her little escape attempt was he? That was weeks ago. Sam felt her teeth grind and rung her hands in frustration.
â€œIt looks like weâ€™re going to be held up here for a while.â€ Richard told her a few hours after they arrived at their underground safehouse. â€œSo we need to set some ground rules.â€
Sam remembered protesting. â€œWait why are going to be held up here for a while? I donâ€™t want to live under a mountain in the middle of nowhere. What am I a Hobbit?â€
Richard glared at her. â€œFirst hobbits donâ€™t live underground and second, please try not to do that annoying thing.â€
â€œWhat annoying thing?â€
At the time, Sam glared a glare that potent enough to put down a tiger, if they werenâ€™t extinct of course.
â€œBack to the ground rules, most of what you need to know is in this bookletâ€ Richard handed her a rather thick packet, â€œI only make mention of one in rule in particular; you can go anywhere within the complex except for the western access tunnels. Just stay clear of there, for your own good, do you understand?â€
She had nodded though really she had only taken in a few of his words.
â€œGood,â€ he said, â€œwelcome to the Cheyenne Mountain Site.â€
If she had known to what she was agreeing, there was no way sheâ€™d willing have said yes.Â Richard appeared to live in the western access tunnels and spent the majority of his time there. He emerged from time to time mostly when she least expected it, to accomplish whatever happened to be on his agenda at the time, usually to eat and then disappear again, without a word. Not a single, sinking word.Â Sometimes she would go days with seeing him, without seeing anyone, and thus was left to her own thoughts and internal brooding. It was an extremely lonely existence. A few weeks ago she had enough and tried to escape. Well trying was a bit of exaggeration. The word implied that she actually did something. Really she simply walked down the main tunnel out the main entrance. Little did she know that she was in the middle of the Rocky Mountains without a single person as far as eye could see. Being on the top of the mountain. She saw really far. Richard was sitting a rock just watching her. He was not happy with her.
Sam entered the kitchen area of the mess hall and made herself some food. Unenthusiastically, she sat down to eat. The food tasted bland, like her existence. She wished there was a window down here; some natural light would be appreciated. Wishful thinking. That wasnâ€™t going to happen, not in the belly of the mountain. But the dream of it was a welcome change.
It should have been a surprise, this underground base, it should have come as a shock, but alas Sam found herself nodding as Richard pulled Dice Danni Dysonâ€™s motorcycle into the ridiculously long tunnel that preceded the entrance.Â She should have been even more surprised when the tunnel opened into a huge cavern and not some sort of path or forgotten highway, through the mountains, the Rocky Mountains, one of the few names that was not changed after the war, probably because barely anyone lived in this part of the country.
It didnâ€™t surprise her that Richard had a secret retreat, that seemed like something he would do, whether he be fat Richard or new super Richard, but the sheer size, complexity, shoot, the existence of this elaborate hideout seemed a bit much, even for Richard.Â Suffice to say that the huge underground complex was a shock.
Sam wasnâ€™t given the chance to protest the new digs. Richard simply moved in without hesitation like this was normal, an everyday thing. She wished she knew then what she knew now. If she did her stay her would have been short lived. She did not did not know and she did not run away however, and now, because of that ignorance, she was living deep within the mountain and the only thing Richard said to her with any amount of regularity was â€œstay away from the western access tunnelsâ€ Big fat jerk.
Still, while she was incline to disobey him, super Richard could be down right scary so she didnâ€™t dare do this. Richard was, and she never thought of saying this aloud, especially about Richard. Richard was dangerous.Â It perked her interest and had her wondering. What was he doing down there?
Probably looking at porn. She giggled but found that she really didnâ€™t find that thought all that comforting. Still the memory brought back to mind a conversation with Coda and Cammie and Codaâ€™s book, Pervert 101, How to Get Caught in Voyeurism. Not his title, one of Samâ€™s own creation, but the book fit. That was the day that her hell really started, the day she found the box everything in her life went ape-crap crazy. She didnâ€™t find that she dwelt on it though as what she really remembered from that day, from that time, was Adam. Sam found that she was thinking about Adam a lot lately. Adam was just as mysterious as Richard, but Richard didnâ€™t like Adam, did not trust Adam. At the time She dismissed as simple jealously. That obviously wasnâ€™t the case. But if not jealously then what? Perhaps it was because Adam had known all along what Richard was and Richard didnâ€™t want his little ploy broken up. That would explain some things.
That answer didnâ€™t make a ton of sense. It figured. Richard being â€œsuper Richardâ€ didnâ€™t make a lot of sense. Why was he at the school? Why did he bring her with him? Why not just kill her, take the box and be done with it? That would have been the easy way out. Beyond none of the answers to these questions having any sort of logical line of fact, analysis and conclusion. There was a more fundamental problem. In reality, none of the questions really made sense.
Sam pushed her hair out of her face and found streaks of wetness. She banished all of it, the questions, the concerns, the hurt feelings, away from the forefront. The last thing she wanted to think about was home, her mom, Cammie, Codaâ€¦Adam. It was too painful, too lonely. It also made her painfully aware of the seriousness and extent of her current predicament. Instead of being with the people she loved, she was terrorized by reality of a fake Richard, locked up in some fate-forsaken mountain, functionally alone and losing her mind. Truthfully, she didnâ€™t even know how long she had been gone. Was it days?Â Weeks? Months? Sam wasnâ€™t sure and Richard made it clear that V-space was off limits; no contact with her friends and family, no leaving. Thatâ€™s all he said. No explanation, no comfort, no time frame–no nothing. It cut her deep. She thought she was going to die and he simply did not care. The tears on her face thicken. She wanted things to back to normal.
Normal. She thought If only I could go back to being â€œnormalâ€. Sam knew that things could never go back to how they were. Not so long as she had the box. The stupid metal curse has given her nothing but trouble from the moment she touched the dumb thing back in the lake. What was more frustrating knowing than that the box was responsible for all the hullabaloo she was currently experiencing was boxâ€™s persistent tendency to hide anything about its origin or purpose. Sam knew it was special; of that much she was cognizant. The physical and emotional effects the box invoked left and lasting affect on her. The first time the box acted up, really manifested the incredible, was right after the Slavers attacked she and Cammie. Sam still remembered the strange pull, like her hands were metal and the box a giant magnate, weeks after the incident After the bazaar circumstance of awaking in her bed with P.Js and all; the box called to her, it weighted heavily on her mind since.Â Sam shuddered involuntarily; more stuff she did not want to think about.
The down time in Richardâ€™s underground lair/prison gave her an awful lot of time to think and this was one of the subjects her mind invariable settled on. Time made things clear for her. Things that remained hide suddenly became obvious though they did not give her the whole picture. They helped.
Time allowed Sam to recognize, to understand that the strange mental stress she experienced in full force the night of the slaversâ€™ attack, was a sensation that she had been experiencing for more than a year. The revelation was bitter sweet as all the knowledge did was create more questions, questions that stood un-answered and would remain so without more information. Fortunately she knew someone could probably answer all her inquires and more; it was just getting him to talk.
Sam wiped away some of the lingering tears at the corners of her eyes. It was time for her to start taking her life into her own hands, and starting today she intended to do just that.
Adversity can do different things to people. Some buckle under the pressure of whatever storm they are attempting to weather; some transverse the darkened clouds until the end just to be broke in some ironic twist of fate. Some still over come all adversity and become wise. In Samâ€™s case of adversity, the verdict was still out on what she was willing to do in the face her tribulation and it was about time she found out.
Sam picked up her plate rocking the bits of half eaten food, scrapped them, cleaned them and put them away. Once the kitchenware was safely stored she walked to the back of an old walk in freezer, it was one that wasnâ€™t functioning, and picked up a backpack. She placed the bag on her back threw on a ball cap.Â Sam walked back out of the kitchen and turned off the lights to the dining hall. The place went black briefly before a group of ground level floodlights flickered and doused the edges of the walls with soft luminescence. Sam tiptoed to the hallway and peeked her head out. She was alone.Â She called out just to make sure.
Her voice echoed; the only sound was the reverb of her own tones. She spoke again, this time a little louder.
â€œRichardâ€¦are you there?â€
Again, no answer; Sam closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It was time. She took a step and then another and then a third. She took two more and stopped. Still nothing. No Richard, no sound, no nothing. Sam took off this time at a brisk pace heading for the western access tunnels and hopefully, some answers.
Finding Richardâ€™s little hiding spot was easier than she anticipated. The western access tunnels were just as large as her living area but far less confusing. In contrast to where Sam slept, the western tunnels made up several large caverns instead many rooms. Sam imagined that at some point this area of the underground complex was used for a variety of purposes like storage and what not. There was no way to know for sure however. This was exactly what Richard was using these spaces for, so it made sense.
The first room was part mechanic shop and part garage. There were dozens of vehicles there; many Sam recognized; many she did not. She hurried past it trying not to make any noise – still no sign of Richard.
The second room had weapons and lots of them and again some familiar and others foreign. Sam recognized, a couple of dissembled pulse pistols, unloaded rapid discharge plasma launchers, arm mounted flak cannons and to Samâ€™s distaste an assortment of Jadian light shivs; the list went on. Like the initial garage with all the vehicles, there were also many weapons that Sam didnâ€™t recognize but could guess. Suffice to say that there were many guns, explosives and launchers from another time and era.
The armory transitioned into the strangest of obstacle courses. By far the biggest of the caverns yet seen, this room was a sort of odd nature preserve abound with heaps of rocks, piles of sand, giant trees surrounding a fairly convincing artificial river whoâ€™s current lead deeper into the mountain and out of sight. This room baffled Sam mostly because she couldnâ€™t for the life of her understand what this room was for as each explanation felt just as unlikely as the one before it. Was it here for the scenery? That seemed doubtful, if his actions were any indication, new Richard was hardly the nature worshiper. A new fangled power supply of some kind?Â Improbable as well, though that explanation answered at least one of burning questions and resolved one of the mysterious of the underground facility; namely, where the heck did this place get its power? It was feasible that Richard was using these materials in some sort of experiment as well. That sounded like something old fat Richard would do but alas new Richard was altogether a different beast, who knew what he did in his free time.
A resounding click right behind her head made her freeze. She was not alone. She fought the impulse to spin on her heel. She waited.
His voice came in a whisper.
â€œIâ€™ve seen intoxicated elephants move quieter than you.â€
Sam didnâ€™t turn around. â€œElephants are extinct; shouldnâ€™t you know that or was you being a genius a lie too? And isnâ€™t the expression â€œmore quiet not quieter?â€
â€œI assure you Iâ€™m every bit the genius you think I am. And as a general rule, no, adjectives with three more take syllables use “more” and “most” instead of the more popular â€erâ€ and â€œestâ€. Now what are you doing here and be careful of your answer or I might just shoot you?â€
Sam felt her patience break. He just threatened to shoot her! Stupid jerk-off! Sam turned to face Richard.Â â€œThen shoot me.â€
Richard glared at her but thankfully he didnâ€™t shoot.
â€œYou heard me, shoot me. Come Rich, where is all your bravado now?â€
Still Richard said nothing though Sam could feel his irritation. â€œYou know when you were fat Richard you were a lot better at controlling or emotions.â€
Sam saw the muscles on Richardâ€™s hand tighten momentarily and then release. He lowered his gun.
â€œNow thatâ€™s better, super Richard. I know youâ€™re not going to shoot anyone; you canâ€™t do anything without permission. Isnâ€™t that right Doughboy?â€
Richardâ€™s face remained passive but Sam knew she was still driving him crazy. This was more a feeling than anything else, but she was just as sure. The use of his call sign surprised him—he was even a little impressed.
Richard again didnâ€™t say anything but twisted in the opposite direction and preceded to walk away. His abrupt action startled her but Sam strived to not let it show. Richard stopped a few feet away.
â€œLeave Sam, now.â€
â€œNo Iâ€™m not going anywhere.â€
â€œIâ€™m serious Sam, do as I ask or do you not remember the number one rule I told you?â€
â€œOh no I remember, Iâ€™m just ignoring it.â€
â€œWhy are you being so difficult?â€
â€œMe difficult? Oh Iâ€™m soooo sorry did I interrupt your quiet time; forget that I was stolen away from my home, Iâ€™m unable to check on my mom and all my friends might be dead and the added bonus the best friend Iâ€™ve ever had is a total and complete fabrication. All I want is some companionship you jerk? Even if its you. IS that really so much to ask?â€
Richard resumed his retreat but Sam wasnâ€™t going to let it go that easily. She followed him.
â€œYou canâ€™t be here Sam, you need to leave.â€
â€œI already told you that Iâ€™m not goingâ€”â€œ
â€œThe stuff you asked for arrived.â€
Samâ€™s mouth clamped shut. â€œWhat do you mean the stuff that asked for?â€
â€œI mean the items you asked for they are up stairs if you put your mind to itâ€”â€œ
Sam wasnâ€™t listening but already spiriting back towards the way she came.