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Chapter 42: The Hangar

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Ehioze marveled at the tunnel that rushed past them and then disappeared.

A minute passed, then two, as they traveled in the dark. Hangar, thought Turtle again. Hangar.

Still they moved in the dark. Then the barest hint of light, like a

cloudy sunrise, surrounded them. As if they were passing through a glowing fog, the train cut out of the dark and into the light.

The train shuddered to a stop in a wide-open space nearly as dark as the tunnel itself but still lit by the miasmic light. The train doors opened, and they got off, lugging the portable door down the two steps and onto a floor that felt like it was made of crushed rock but was still strangely solid.

A dull glow came from parts of the huge room, and Turtle realized the Nayzuns were glowing. Their bodies casting a dim ghostlight on the edges of the room. They were listening, decided Turtle, as they stopped and looked at him. Something called from the tunnel behind them. It was a howl, almost, like metal twisting and breaking, like the whole tunnel was caving in. The heads of the Nayzuns all turned to look.

A Nayzun moved toward them.

"411?" asked Turtle over the roar.

No, the Nayzun said. Its voice was higher, strangely strident. It

almost hurt Turtle's ears.

Ehioze stood staring in shock.

Come, said the Nayzun. Leave the artifact.

"This?" asked Turtle, motioning toward the portable door with his head. The Nayzun seemed to nod almost imperceptibly. They settled the door into the grit on the floor, and it sank into the ground and righted itself.

The Nayzun led Turtle and Ehioze into darkness, into a huge room full of old trains. Somewhere in the distance a piece of wood cracked, and somewhere closer someone was raking something smooth. The ceiling was too far away to see, and there were no walls, for they, too, were too far away from them to apprise. They could see only a floor of gray cinders that let up no dust as their sneakers dented the surface. Shallow tracks, the kind streetcars ran on, crisscrossed the floor into the dark distance, and every minute or so a new train would roar by on a distant track, sometimes close, sometimes far away, howling in the dark, the headlamp like a lonely campfire on a wide plain.

Turtle shuddered. The Nayzuns were in the dark, but they never saw the stars.

Somewhere above them was movement, and when Turtle's eyes became accustomed to the gloom, he was able to make out a Nayzun hoisting a train. He was cranking it by hand, his platform suspended by chains that were connected somewhere high over head. His long arms turned the crank slowly, raising the old train inch by inch. Something fell on Turtle's face, and he lifted his hand to see what it was—sand.

That train was broken by you humans, said the Nayzun. He gestured for Turtle to come forward. They shot through it with their guns.

As they moved through the gloom, Turtle could pick out other Nayzuns working on other trains. A pair of them had driven a train car onto a round platform and were turning it to head down another track. Amazingly, for all the work going on around them, the Hangar was quiet. Only the passing trains and the occasional clink of metal on metal disturbed the silence.

"All this for something no one ever uses?" asked Turtle.

The Mytro is used every moment of every one of your days. Your kind has ignored it for centuries, but there are others who use it in ways you have not yet imagined. Your planet is only one of the many terminals.

The Nayzun gestured with his long arm to an empty spot on the

ground. Two tracks merged there, crossing over each other. Stand there.

"Where is 411?"

He is elsewhere.

Ehioze and Turtle stood at the crossroads. They waited. There was clanging in the dark, and a light began approaching them from their left side ... then the right. Then from all sides. Trains were coming down all four tracks, aiming for them in the center. Turtle turned and grabbed Ehioze.

Stay there, said the Nayzun.

"But—"

Stay, clanged a loud voice that surrounded them. The lights bore

down on them, closer and closer. The clanging grew enormous. Then it stopped.

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