Raine ran along the tunnel, feet near silent on the cold concrete floor. Even as sensitive as her eyes were, it soon grew too dark to see. She activated the sonar implant in her auditory center, using the echoes of her footfalls against the hard metal walls to map out the area around her. The tunnel was rounded, like a tube, but flattened on the bottom to create an even floor. There were no pipes or wires running through the tunnels, just stark unlit passages that stretched across the entire city.
Why are these tunnels even here? she wondered as she ran. It doesn’t seem like a maintenance tunnel, and it’s clearly not for sewage.
An irregularity in the wall ahead caught her attention and she stopped. The tunnel fell silent and she became blind as she no longer had her footfalls to rely on for sonar data. She didn’t dare to turn on her Terahertz radar. The Ophanim would almost certainly sense it, even through the bedrock.
Raine ducked low and cautiously approached the irregularity she had spotted. From the brief glimpse she had gotten, it was some kind of indentation in the wall. Probably just an intersection, but I can’t risk it being something else. Raine clicked her tongue and used the sound’s reflections to get another glimpse of the indentation. It was roughly rectangular, with a circular protrusion in the center. A door? She crept closer and felt the surface with her hands. Yes.
An image flashed through her mind as a neural path reformed. I’ve seen a door like this before, she realized. A metal door set into the wall of a tunnel, stamped with the words “Junction 96.” She remembered opening the door, expecting to find the generators which powered the city. The gravity generators which sustained the city’s impossible architecture had to be powered somehow. Instead, she found-
She remembered it all at once. She couldn’t find any trace of the memory in her cortical stack, where all of her memories should have been backed up and stored. Maybe Metatron can’t change what I store in my own brain.
Row upon row of Angelus, Cherubim, and other models she had never seen before lay dormant in the darkness. Hundreds of them, and if the number was to be believed, there were at least 95 more rooms like it. Beneath the city, Metatron had an army large enough to invade anywhere in the world.
She had to spread the word of this. To allow more of the world to come under Metatron’s tyranny would be unthinkable. She had backed quietly out of Junction 96, turned, and come face to face with a Cherubim.
After that, her memory was blank. That means there are Cherubim in the tunnels. I need to move.
Raine resisted the urge to peek through the door and started back down the tunnel. She passed several more doors like the first before she heard something moving in up ahead. She froze, listening for another sound. Moments later, she heard it again.The shape of a huge-shouldered man lit up on her sonar- a Cherub.
I could fight a Cherub, Raine thought, but not the backup it would call for. I need to hide. Moving quickly, she ducked into the nearest doorway and shut it behind her as quietly as she could.
They have to know I’m down here, Raine thought as she waited, ear pressed to the door to listen for the footsteps. But this is the only patrol I’ve encountered. That doesn’t make sense. They should be combing the tunnels for me by now.
The footsteps passed, and Raine waited for another minute before she crept back out through the door and started running back down the tunnel. She had to hide from three more patrolling Cherubim as she made her way through the tunnels, unease growing. This is too easy. I’m almost under the Administration Tower now. She stopped and looked into the darkness behind her. Her sonar showed something just on the edge of hearing, a faint glimmer of noise. A moment later, the tunnel was silent, but still the hairs on the back of her neck rose. Is this just another trap?
She forced herself to continue despite her instincts, and soon found herself at an entrance to the tunnel system that was much larger than the one she had entered through. The tunnel slanted upwards towards a large gate lit from above by a strip of lights. If my estimates are right, I should be right under the central pillar. I guess this is it. Raine walked up the incline towards the gate at the top of the ramp. Without warning, it started to open. Raine dodged back around the corner.
“‘Come in,’” said a familiar voice from beyond the gate. Metatron.
Only then did Raine hear what had been following her down the tunnel. It moved with a sound like falling rain, blending into the background noise from her blood flow. She whipped around. The creature’s spherical core drifted evenly down the tunnel, supported by an impossible number of long, spindly legs that gripped the floor and sides of the tunnel equally.
Is that an Ophanim? It could have been following me the whole time and I would never even have known.
“‘Please, there’s no reason to lurk,’” Metatron said. “‘I’m a patient person.’”
Having no alternative, Raine turned and walked up the ramp. The Ophanim followed her up the ramp with its silently undulating stride.
“‘There’s a good agent. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered to give you free agency at all. More trouble than you’re worth, sometimes.’”
<<Fuck you,>> Raine responded in Japanese.
“‘No need for vulgarity, Rhamael,’” said Metatron as Raine crested the top of the ramp. Metatron stared down at her with pearlescent white eyes. Power conduits and data relays trailed from the back of her head into the floor and ceiling, chaining her to the building. She was young. Far younger than Raine had expected. A host of Seraphim ringed the audience chamber. Apart from the featureless metal masks covering their faces and the cables and tubes running from their spines to the walls, they appeared human.
“‘Did you know that I could learn Japanese whenever I want?’” Metatron said. ‘“It would be as easy as opening up a subroutine. Barely even a thought.’”
Raine spat towards Metatron. There are no Cherubim. If I’m fast, I could kill her right now.
“‘I can guess what you’re thinking. Well, I don’t have to guess, but it’s more interesting this way,’” Metatron continued. “‘Do you want to know why I did all this? Because it was easy.’”
Raine threw herself towards Metatron, but before she could cross half the distance, the masks on the Seraphim’s faces split down the center and opened. Raine fell, muscles refusing to obey. To her eyes, the Seraphim’s faces appeared as circles of blurred and distorted light.
“‘I have an agent in the United States looking for someone I need. They tell me they’ve found him, but failed to deliver. You have been a reliable agent. Perhaps you can do better.’”
<<Estimated time elapsed since last brain activity: 153 hours>>
Raine opened her eyes and saw the sky.