Corporeal Passage: Chapter 18: Tera
by Jeff RandThe shaft that had just seconds ago housed the pillar and its waterfall now forced the trio to drop at least 20 feet into the darkness. Ethan expected a hard landing that would cause some bodily harm or death. However, once again he had a soft landing on his feet. Ron quickly escorted him and his son into a small alcove, at which time, the rock pillar rose from the floor, and Ethan presumed that it was now protruding into the atrium, resuming its waterfall function.
"We should be safe here. Eli's house has some unique features that will keep us hidden from the authorities," said Ron, as the small room beneath the atrium became illuminated."
"I had the impression that he was an important person. Why would he be in trouble with the police?" Ethan inquired.
"True. Eli is what you would refer to as a scientist. In fact, he is now the project lead. However, he did not want to keep you imprisoned in Zero Node. The others were not of the same mind, and you were to be kept there under observation."
"I had the impression that you were never to be released."
"Then where are we?" questioned Leu, now noticeably frightened. "I thought we were friends. What happened to Danielle and Markie?"
"We really are your friends. Like me, Markie and Danielle had been under quarantine and are now released."
"Why can't we be free too?" continued Leu.
"It is not that simple. Those of us born in Zero Node can trace our lineage to this place. You and your father pose a risk."
Ethan was visibly distraught, "The question remains. Where are we?"
"I am not sure I can give you a good answer," said Ron, struggling with his thoughts. "I am still trying to learn this new language and customs. But as near as I can figure, they call this place 'Tera.'"
"OK. Then how far down did we go?" asked Ethan.
"A little more than two tads," Ron replied, referring to the drop from the atrium.
"I mean how far did we fall into the core of the earth?" Ethan inquired, certain that the corporeal passage was just a tunnel into the center of the earth. "I guess no one realized that there would be a habitable zone beneath the mantle."
"I am sorry I cannot offer more explanation. I had trouble understanding Eli." With that unsatisfactory explanation, Ron touched the wall in the small alcove to open a passageway.
Ethan and Leu followed Ron through a short tunnel. They entered a long room with tall chairs and high tables opposite a wall with hundreds of cylinders behind a glass wall filled with a variety of liquids and solids. At the end of the room, there were devices on the table that appeared to hold the cylinders for some unknown purpose.
"What is that of every hue in these vials?" asked Ethan.
"This is the galley. Each of the cylinders contains food. You will make your selection and place the cylinder in one of the kitchen robots. Based upon the contents, the device will decide the proper preparation techniques and serving temperature according to your personal preferences. You will notice the half bowls jutting out from the wall at the end of the case. Here you will spit into the bowl while facing the wall. The device will analyze your saliva, take your temperature, and examine the surface elements on your forehead. When the analysis is complete, you will see a flashing light. Then you will see a light of the same color flashing on a kitchen robot. Place the cylinder there for the device to prepare your meal."
"I know you can't read the labels as to the contents, but I think you will be pleased with your meal. Eli has set this bunker with food to feed his family for at least a hell freeze." continued Ron.
"Does Eli use the Universal Measurement System?" asked Leu. "I thought it was created just for Winter Camp."
"No, but his measures are of similar logic, although I must convert his numbers to base ten for you to understand. I am sorry that I am less familiar with the crude system you've used in the United States outside of Winter Camp. I found the UMS to be much more practical after the Infinite Wisdom shared it with us in Zero Node."
Having just had dinner, Ethan and Leu opted not to test the kitchen robots and were eager to understand the threat outside. Ron obliged their need to explore the bunker by opening a passage at the end of the dining area. They entered through one side of an octagonal shaped room. This room featured tall desks and a few other furnishings. The ceiling glowed with subdued depictions of fireworks. Ethan was surprised to find shelves holding actual books. When he selected a volume, he could not understand the strange symbols, though they were like some he observed in Zero Node. Ron was not much help in deciphering the text, but explained that the book was oriented right-to-left rather than left-to-right.
Ron directed attention to what he described as a game table. It was an octagonal design with a small wooden construction in the center. Several oddly shaped wooden pieces were placed near the edges on two of the sides. Ron called the game "cubus," which he described as a three-dimensional challenge for up to eight players much like the two-dimensional game of "tetris."
Each of the seven remaining walls in the large social room had a passage to another room. One served the purpose for depositing body wastes but had no bathing accommodation other than a sink. The other six led in into small sleeping chambers. Since both Ethan and Leu had been awake for many hours, they were quite ready for some sleep but frowned at what was offered.
Each chamber featured a long narrow platform surrounded with clear glass. When Ron opened a tube, he indicated that it was a bed. Leu felt the covering. If it was a mattress, it was barely ¼ inch thick. The so-called pillow was another hard structure with this thin covering, rising just two inches above the platform.
"How can we possibly sleep on these boards?" asked Ethan.
"I think you will find them quite adequate. This is how it is done in Tera." responded Ron. "Oh, and I should add that you will sleep naked."
"During your rest, once the chamber is closed, the temperature will be adjusted to your comfort level, and you will be given a hydrosonic shower."
"What if I have to pee?" asked Leu.
Ron pointed to a control panel inside the chamber, "You will note the two buttons on the panel. There is one with a mark that looks like an "H" and one with a square "Y." These are the symbols for female and male. If you need to express your bladder, be sure to push the "Y." The system will take care of the rest."
"If you want some entertainment," Ron continued. "Then push the button that looks like an eye. Eli has it set for a special movie of cultural significance. However, I think you will enjoy it. And one more thing, put all your clothing in the slot at the end of the chamber. It will be laundered during your rest."
"What about my shoes?" Leu inquired.
"They will be cleaned. Even the aglets will be repaired, if necessary."
After visiting the more familiar toilet and cleaning their hands and other parts without needing any water or toilet paper, Leu and Ethan went to their separate rooms, while Ron remained in the social room. Ethan followed instructions and placed his clothing and shoes in the slot for cleaning. Once he entered the sleeping chamber, he was surprised how comfortable it felt laying on little more than a board. He felt so light that he could sleep on a bed of nails, if needed.
Once Ethan was laying in his bed and closed the covering to the chamber, he pushed the button with the eye symbol to see the video. Instead of showing a movie on the top of his chamber, he saw scenes from the house above as the system scrolled through a series of cameras. It was a security system. He recognized Eli and his family, but saw the others for the first time. There were two tall (men he assumed) dressed in purple uniforms. He spent some time observing their activity. Apparently, they were inspecting the premises, looking for the escaped prisoners, he assumed. Having already spent some time in a fruitless inspection, Ethan was not surprised when they left. Eli's bunker was serving its purpose well.
Ethan pushed the eye button again and it began to run the movie. Expecting an unusual cinematic experience, Ethan was surprised when he recognized Robin Williams starring in "Moscow on the Hudson" as a comedy of cultural clashes. Even the dialog was in English, although closed captioned using the strange language." Ethan watched a bit before drifting to sleep.
Ethan woke feeling clean and refreshed after an unknown period sleeping on the hard, but remarkably comfortable bed. He didn't remember expressing his bladder during the night, but felt little need to do it now. He found his clothing clean and tidy in a small cubbyhole in the wall. The aglets on his shoelaces were in pristine condition. When he left his room, he found Ron and Leu at the game table playing cubus.
"It is about time you got up old man," remarked Leu.
"Good morning son, or I guess it is morning."
"Close enough," said Ron. "How about breakfast?"
Leu chose a vial containing a blue gelatin and placed it on a kitchen robot after the system determined his personal culinary needs. Ethan chose a container that appeared to hold globules of meat. When the kitchen robot finished Leu's meal preparation, he poured it into a bowl. The mixture had turned green in a concoction of a vegetable stew. On the other hand, Ethan found himself feasting on an eel-like creature.
Ron did not eat breakfast. Perhaps it was too early for him. He preferred much longer days and had not slept. "We can return to the surface now. But we must be careful. I am afraid your lives are in danger," he said.