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Chapter 15

Lorraine past Creed on the edge of town and frowned as his normally pristine appearance was smeared with stains of mud and... she couldn't identify the other stains on his clothing and Lorraine decided that it was probably better she didn't know. Her attention was divided between the figure of Creed and his bodyguard making their presence felt in town as they stalked toward Creed's dome and the image of a councilor rushing down the causeway toward her. "Tobias! Tobias! calm down!" she called as he slowed to a stop close to her. He rested his hands on his knees and spoke through pitted breath.

"Madame...we have a situation in Watchtower One" he panted. Lorraine's eyes were drawn to the tower which dwarfed the town.

"What kind of situation?" she asked.

"That girl...Lotti, Madame. She's in the Watchtower"

"Has Michael been informed?" she whispered in hushed tones.

"Not yet Madame..."

"Good, I don't think he need be alarmed by this news. After all, what harm can she do up there?" she asked and forced her eyes away from the tower.

"But Madame..."

Lorraine held her hand up and stopped the councilor in mid-sentence, "No! Tobias and that's final. She can poke around in the tower all she wants, but she will find nothing incriminating against us"

"Very Good, Madame" purred the councilor and bowed low as Lorraine moved past him.

"If you could inform Michael that I have delivered the package to the mine and I am returning" He nodded eagerly and took her prompt reply to excuse his presence and he rushed off ahead of her in the direction of the central dome. Lorraine trailed behind and her eyes strayed once again in the direction of the Watchtower before she moved in the direction of the town.

Lotti sat in the control tower of Watchtower One with sheaves of paper spread before her at the small work unit. In truth, there was not many pieces of paper but in the confined space a small amount intensified tenfold. She waded through the figures and diagrams under the constant supervision of the tower Commander who kept handing her print out after print out and after looking through the figures, she duly nodded and placed the paper on the growing pile. She was hoping that neither of the men would push to question her about the information she was examining, for in admission she had no idea what half of the text meant. Figures and diagrams marked and danced across the page and Lotti continued to flick through the paperwork. "Can you show me the weather before the storms started?" she asked.

"We haven't really a lot of data from that stream" admitted the Commander, "The towers were constructed as a primary communication network as we designed to expand the colony further than the perimeters that exist at the moment" Lotti nodded as she listened, "we only began to monitor the rainfall when it became a regular occurrence".

"Could it be seasonal? I mean...what if this was winter...or autumn"

The Commander shook his head, "No the season's here run very much in conjunction with our own. It was one of the reasons that attracted the council".

"Surely, though...if that's the case then the weather must correspond with Earth's"

"They do" agreed the Commander, "But at the beginning the rainfall which we experienced was normal...I mean it didn't kill anyone"

Lotti turned her attention back to the charts and flicked through several pieces until she came to one with a series of dates running across the top. "Could you show me...where the rain became deadly?" The Commander nodded and pointed to a date on the paper.

"May Seventeen...Earth date" he said.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes..." he replied, "As you can see from this graph..." he indicated to a sudden high peak on the paper, "we experienced a sudden bout of high rainfall...here, here, here...and so on" his finger flicked over the paper as he spoke and Lotti watched as the Commander pointed to several high marks plotting a regular rainfall across the page.

"The other marks?"

"Normal weather fluctuations" he stated casually. "If you look, then the rainfall can be determined through these high points" he moved some of the paper to reveal further graphs, "Since the first date we regulated our existing systems to analyze the atmospheric pressure to determine to extent of weather forecasting"

"The rain..." started Lotti, looking at the paper, "May seventeen you say?" The Commander nodded unsure of his actions. "Was this when seem Eight was discovered?" she asked innocently.

"Err...don't know about that Miss. We're just tower guards" he explained uncomfortably.

"What do you know about Seem Eight?"

"Nothing Miss..." stammered the Commander, "Do you mind...I have duties to attend" he indicated to the monitors behind him and the nervous glances of the compadre at the controls. Whatever he knew, he wasn't going to tell her anything but from his actions and those of the council she felt there was something in the colony which nobody really spoke of.

Lorraine slammed her hands down hard onto the table, "What the hell is she doing?!" she demanded.

"Honey..." began Michael.

"Don't you honey me" she warned. "They were just supposed to come, have a look around and award us additional help and finance...not this...this...circus!"

"Lorraine..." she threw him a venomous glance as he sat in his chair holding the small box of Oxygen sticks out in her direction. She took one from the packet and drew heavily on the pure clean air. "We should have known..."

"How!" she demanded, "just tell me how?". Michael sat strained at her and his face broke out into a wide smile. "Don't give me that look" she warned as he patted his knee. Lorraine shook her head and turned away from him and stared out through the doorway into the causeway beyond the dome.

"Honey..."he cooed, "Come give me some sugar" he grinned as he spoke, but his amusement did nothing for Lorraine's mood.

"Don't be disgusting" she said harshly, "this is neither the time nor the place" She turned and smiled briefly allowing her mask to fall slightly, before her sense of annoyance returned. "You know what this means for us" she said, "if they dig to much..."

"You worry too much..." he whispered, "they'll find nothing...except for a colony which is stable and in need of Earth assistance from the perpetual weather. We'll be offered finance and aid packages...then they'll go"

"I wish I could be certain" she admitted as she walked to his chair and pushed the door to their office closed as she moved into the room. She perched herself on his knee and kissed him hard, allowing her hands to run over his body.

"Promise..." he whispered as he burrowed his face into the soft skin on her neck. She allowed herself an indulgent moan as he stroked her breast and lowered his hands down her body. She looked down at him with tears welling in her eyes, "not again" he breathed as his fingers worked at her buttons.

Lorraine closed her eyes as she allowed him access to her clothing and he slipped his hands between her breasts, while nibbling upon her milky white neck. "I wish..." she whispered into his ear, "you weren't paralyzed from the waist down...". Tears formed in her eyes as she let him fondle her breasts and she allowed her hand to run through his greying black hair.

The main pathway leading into the heart of Prosperity split into different directions, with splinters of the main path leading to various staging and work areas. The Reverend Aston James walked behind Banjo and cast his gaze around the mine workings and from his position he could make out several openings within the rock face. He stood and watched for a moment as buckets past overhead travelling a vast network of cables, emerging from holes crafted into the ground itself and disappearing into the distance where they lowered to the floor and tipped their contents across a long flatbed. Trolleys and carts moved along rails, covered in mud with full and empty loads, moving in and out of the mine. From his vantage point, Aston could see the sideways glances and suspicious looks thrown in his direction as he stood on the pathway staring down into the mine workings. No doubt word had spread around the colony that he was here, there would be no way in such a small community that people wouldn't have heard.

"Reverend..." Banjo spoke quietly by his side and Aston noted the usage of the word Reverend rather than Father and diverted his attention away from the mine to focus on Banjo. "If we could..." he indicated down a steep meandering path leading through the heart of the mine and disappearing into the bowels of the ground.

"Of course" Aston replied and indicated toward Banjo to lead the way.

"Before we go any further, do you mind taking a helmet" Banjo pointed toward a small hut standing just off the path.

"Please lead the way..." said Aston and followed Banjo toward the hut, where Banjo opened the door and ushered the Reverend inside. Light flooded the wooden confines of the hut and across the walls and floor of the hut Aston could see pegs of overalls hanging from the sides of the hut, while scattered across the floor lay a series of boxes. Banjo moved through the boxes and Aston could see from the doorway they contained various items used within the mines. Items ranging from lights and helmets to axes and explosives spilled from the top of the wooden boxes and Banjo pulled a standard white helmet from the inside of one of the crates. From another he pulled a small light and strapped the device around the helmet, before handing the headwear to the Reverend. Aston nodded and placed the helmet over his bald head and fastened the strap around his chin. Banjo watched as the Reverend prepared the helmet and looked past his shoulder out of the hut and into the heart of the mine. He still doubted he could compete the task given to him by Creed and sighed heavily as he lifted a blue helmet from the box and placed it over his own head. Did he have the strength? seeds of doubt floated inside his mind, but every time he struggled with his conscious the thought of Cass flooded his memory. The thought of her standing bound in the darkness of Creed's dome...the image of her scarred his mind and the look on her face would stay with him a motivate him to do...

"Mr. Jax..." the words of the Reverend shook him from his revere, "is everything alright" Banjo took an involuntary gulp and felt his Adam apple stick in his throat and produced a loud rasping cough. Did he know? Could he tell? Banjo had no idea and nodded dumbly toward the Reverend and pushed his way out of the hut into the sunlight. His eyes flicked to the sky...not a cloud in sight and moved down the slope toward the opening of the cave system.

"This path..." Banjo started, "leads directly into the central cavern"

"Do all of the paths lead to the same place?" asked Aston.

Banjo shook his head, "No...as you can see" he said pointing across the rock face as he spoke, "we have several openings built into the rock. Each opening leads to a specific area, with only a few leading to the central cavern" he explained.

"What's significant about the central cavern?"

"Nothing really..." said Banjo shrugging, "It’s just the largest of all the caverns we found. We call it the central cavern as a reference point because of its locality within the mine system"

"Tell me about the mines"

"We currently have eleven open shafts leading to mining operations present within ten areas. The only closed section if Seem Eight, that was closed early on during initial operations"

"Why? could you elaborate"

"I think it was closed because it was unsafe or something..."

"And not because of the low mineral deposits?"

"Could be" admitted Banjo after some thought, "We just mine where we're told"

"Who closed Seem Eight?"

"The council" explained Banjo. "They give us the instructions where to work and expectations over daily quotas".

The pair walked down a steep slope toward a small opening set below the main workings. "Is this the way to Seem Eight?" asked Aston.

"It is the most direct route...and probably the most precarious, so be careful and follow my exact footsteps" he warned. "Some other tunnels can lead to the Seem, but I figured you might want to get there as quickly as possible". The Reverend nodded and tentatively stepped down the crude stone steps leading to the thinning opening in the rock face. The path snaked away for a moment in a slight downward spiral, before rounding on itself and the pair followed the winding path in silence until they reached the yawning chasm at the foot of the path. Banjo steadied himself on the metal barrier at the base of the path and looked directly at Aston. "You ready?" he asked. The Reverend looked past him into the darkness beyond and nodded.

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