The ladder led down into a subterranean room that, while seemingly ancient, was filled with technology that Maite could never have imagined. The walls were brick, their edges work with age. Bits of mortar flaked off. Maite wondered if the walls could actually support all of the massive infrastructure she had seen above them. The ceiling was high and curved, with arches sweeping across. Maite couldn’t tell if they were decorative or functional.
Lights hung down from the ceiling, illuminating desks and chairs that were filled with people. If Maite hadn’t known better, it almost looked like an office cubicle. Most desks contained someone madly typing away on empty air, or gesticulating on invisible screens in front of them. Others were huddled around what seemed to be some kind of coffee maker. At the far end there was a larger desk with chairs arranged around it. Maite could see someone stand up from behind the desk as she descended the ladder. In fact, all eyes were turned to her.
Her feet hit the ground and she stepped aside as her guide came down next to her. “Over there,” it whispered, pointing to the large desk. The man who had taken Kepa was already leading him in that direction. Maite nodded and followed, keenly aware of all of the people watching her. She noticed that most didn’t wear the flamboyant costumes she had seen on the surface. In fact, most were covered in non-descript robes that hid most of their features. She couldn’t even tell which were male and which were female.
The man half carried, half drug Kepa to the large desk and laid him more gently than Maite expected in one of the large chairs encircling the desk. The figure Maite had noticed before moved around to greet them. “Kaixo!” she said, a smile spread across her puffy face.
In contrast to all of the others in the room, this woman did not wear a cloak, though she was not dressed in any spectacular garb. She was overweight, her clothes, a relatively simple ensemble of a white button-down shirt and black pants, were a little tight against her large frame. Her hair had gone grey with age, though there was a twinkle in her eye that Maite instantly recognized.
“Marina?” she gasped. Kepa, still distracted by his non-functioning leg, looked up, smiling in recognition.
“Marina?” repeated the shadowy figure that had ushered Maite through the tunnels and now stood by her side, shaking its head. “This is Olatz, our leader. Show some respect.”
The woman called Olatz winked at Maite before turning to the figure next to her. “No need to be rude. I’m sure they are a bit disoriented, after all of the commotion. Give us a moment, would you please?”
The figure turned seemingly to look at Kepa and then Maite, though Maite couldn’t see into the hood to actually discern any features. With a huff, the figure and the man that had helped Kepa gave a nod to Olatz before leaving.
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