Chapter III

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Cenerea, 3rd planet from the star Letria. Regalius, The Homeland, Central Region,

Just Outside Of The Capitol City, Mount Smith Secure Facility,

Five Cenerean Years Ago

            "Welcome to the Mount Smith Secure Facility, Mr. Levant," Madame General Browne said as she met the young man at the upper level security checkpoint. She turned her attention to the Homeland Defense Forces (HDF) Officer waiting with her new Military Scientist. "He's with me, soldier," she said.

            "Yes ma'am, Madame General!" The security guard said as he snapped to attention, greeting the short woman with a sharp salute.

            "Carry on," she commanded.

            The HDF guard dropped his arm, did an about face, and then returned to his post at the entrance of the installation.

As Jay followed the short angry woman through the large open area of the facility, he began taking note of the darting eyes and fearful glances his guide received as they passed. He found it very disconcerting. The pair passed through a handful of thick, riveted doors until Jay began to notice the amount of Homeland personnel had trickled to only the occasional uniformed officer here or there. They turned to their left and entered a large tube that began with a long slowly sloping ramp marked in yellow and black stripes. Jay shadowed the general down the dull gray concrete corridor. Once at the end, he watched the woman wave her hand over an awfully familiar security panel, a device of the same manufacture as the one next to the front door of his house on Darvon Street. Definitely Harold or Wendy's design, he was sure of it. The panel lit green and the shiny door slid away, permitting them to walk through.

"C'mon, Jay, let's go get you acclimated to your new work environment, after all, you will be spending an inordinate amount of time down there," she said with a grin, gesturing for him to enter the opening doors. "After you."

"Down there?" Jay wondered to himself. They stepped into a large round elevator. Jay noted it was big enough to house a U-64C mech unit or two and assumed that was probably intentional.

"What floor Madame General Browne?" inquired a very human-like voice, one awfully similar to Geneticus'.

"Thirty, Genesis, let's go," the woman barked and the elevator quickly began to descend.

Jay was taken aback at the sound of the name and the voice. However, when the rather sophisticated A.I. system addressed him directly and in a very familiar, cognizant way, he became even more alarmed.

"...and how are you today, Mr. Levant?" it asked.

"Um, very well, Genet...erm, Genesis. I apologize. Did I say that correctly?" Jay was now hoping this thing couldn't read minds.

"Yes you did. I do recall my later revision had a similar name. Was that what you were going to call me?"

The general shot Jay a very pointed, inquisitive look.

"What was this revision's name, Genesis?" Jay asked, hurriedly attempting to smooth over his verbal accident. The woman looked back down at the floor.

"It was..."

"That will be enough, Genesis! Thank you," injected the fiery old woman. "...and you, Mr. Levant, can interact with that fucking device on your own time! I have more than had enough of artificial intelligence machines and their prattling to last a lifetime."

The A.I. and Jay replied, "Yes ma'am," in harmony.

The elevator doors opened and Jay stepped into the largest, and quite possibly the noisiest, enclosed space he had ever been in. He imagined it might even be the biggest on Cenerea, almost as if the Homeland had gutted an entire mountain and built a city inside of it. Workers and soldiers were everywhere. Automated gray machines feverously flitted about conducting what appeared to be routine maintenance or deliveries. Several beeping, large yellow and silver trimmed transport units carried massive crates and palettes of armaments or other machinery across the large busy floor of the cavernous underground facility. Their amber warning flashers glimmered from the chromed safety railings lining the several circular levels rising high above Jay's head. Floors so high, that when the young man glanced up to view them, the sight nearly gave him vertigo.

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