The corridor was sterile and lifeless, flooded with dull fluorescent lighting and a stale musty smell. Girders and pipes ran along the roof, the walls were slathered in a thick latex paint, and we were walking over faded concrete tiles.
Even if this was a secret tunnel, the tackiness of it was perfect for Glebe. It felt exactly like we’d been transported into some kind of late 70s public work, although like a lot of things these days, it felt… uncannily perfect for what it was trying to be.
The several hundred metres we’d walked down the tunnel had been in silence, all excitement having left us after the lecture we’d just received.
I kept my eyes down, counting the concrete tiles we walked over. The chips of paint and flecks of corrosion were too uniform and with the level of inspection I was giving it to avoid eye contact with the others, it was pretty easy to spot the signs that someone had just dragged some textures through it when they were making this tunnel instead of it being from the decade it looked like it belonged to.
Lucija marched forward, occasionally flitting back to one of us to try and perk us back up. Given how deliberate her lecture had been, it was hard to guess why she thought it would work and we’d just move on.
I wasn’t sure if this was just how she was as a person, or if she thought she’d overstepped the mark but I couldn’t shake the feeling that what we felt now was something that she’d fully intended.
It wasn’t long before she was out of small talk attempts, and could only give us observational facts about what we were heading towards.
“None of the wires above are connected to anything, but the tubing is actually cycling the air. I’m led to believe it’s easier to actually do it rather than try to make it look like we’re doing that.”
“We would have just passed under the Crown Market?”
“We’ve purposely kept corridor perfectly clean, but I think we’re throwing litter in the others and letting them scum up.”
It was hard to focus on such trivia when all I was thinking about was the warning we’d just been given was that everyone telling us what we were in for had been trying to mislead us, but eventually she stumbled on to some details that I wanted to know.
“The floor plans designed this tunnel to run for 1400 metres, but I think it’s slightly longer than that. In the Handbook, there should be some small maps that show where these tunnels crisscross, and how you can easily get to the Terminal provided you’re in town.”
“1.4 kilometres?” Jean did the maths out loud.
“Yes, it should be a ten-to-fifteen minute run.”
“Ten-to-fifteen minute run?” Saint echoed with disbelief at the run part.
“Yes, there is some expectation you’d be able to do that,” Lucija waved away his disbelief.
That didn’t bother me. I’d skipped over that and was focused on the implication that this strange, tacky tunnel crossed the city. It just seemed so… unnecessary for a television show.
“This tunnel network was made to be the most efficient, at least outside of the normal legal snafus, not really for you to be comfortable.”
“You said… the Terminal? Is that a… place?” Grace asked eagerly.
Lucija’s long black hair flicked dramatically as she turned and the smile on her face showed that she thought she’d found something we’d all perk up about. Everyone else was paying her more attention than they had been so I guess she was right.
“It is the place as far as operational matters are considered, but it’s also not something that will ever be shown on the show. That probably makes it sound more impressive than it is, it’s actually a fairly small installation given what it can do.”
“And what exactly is it?” Grace pressed.
“Trust me when I say it’s not worth the headache of me trying to explain the part you desperately want to know and getting the technical issues wrong before this has all started, or the headache of stealing Yuca’s bit. He’ll reveal the magic once we’re there.”
Lucija’s long shrug said it all. She really wasn’t going to talk about us being superheroes right now.
It was clear to me that she would have left the conversation alone there but as she was studying our reactions to another conversational deadend, she seemed to decide that this was going to be her one opportunity to keep us talking like we hadn’t been for most of this walk.
For my part, I just wanted to hear what the people in charge of this had to say about what was going on. I wasn’t annoyed at her or trying not to talk to her, I just wanted her to stop alluding to things that we would know without telling us them.
There were a lot of unknowns about this and I’d known that going in, but we hadn’t even made it through the first day on the set and people were already backtracking from things they said and I just wanted people to talk about what we were now contractually obliged into.
“You know how these days it’s all roads lead to the Exchange? Well for this show, it’s really that all roads lead to our Terminal. We’ve tried to make it so that if things become serious, there is no chance any of you could be caught out in the wrong place at the wrong time. These designs, and the fact that they pulled them off, it really is the way they were able to get the greenlight for this show.”
The way she said they made me think that Lucija didn’t count herself as one of the ones who made this idea happen. I wanted to think of a way to ask about that, but there wasn’t really an easy way I could think of to just start in on that idea.
“Terminal will be our base of operations, and where you’ll report for all superpower related activities. There’s also training facilities and my own word of advice about here? It’s somewhere that nobody in the show production can follow you, so if you need space from the show, this is somewhere you can come.”
Now that was good to know.
“How many people work there?” Saint asked.
“Twelve, discounting you four, and anything to do with production from Netflix. Only seven are technically employees of the company proper, five of us are in contracted arrangements.”
“Sorry, you don’t work for the show?”
“Wait, you don’t work for this…?”
I’d been ready to ask so I got in first with the question, Jean asking the same question right behind me.
“The startup behind the idea is small and focused on the tech. As part of their legal obligations in the government contracts, they are required to finance specialised positions for security and political purposes. I am on secondment from the DoD, so no but yes, I work for the show. Just as the others are from their areas of expertise. I’m sure that’s all incredibly boring for you so we don’t have to talk about the employment arrangements.”
While she gave a bit of a knowing smile that it wasn’t boring, it wasn’t like the other points she’d teased. It was terser as she shut down the conversation, and Lucija sped up a little bit in her walk.
I wouldn’t have appreciated the new kids on the block asking her about the state of my employment either.
I was trying to think of how to ask more questions about the arrangements that wouldn’t be offensive. I would have loved to know any of this going in to signing the contract that I would be on this show.
I’d always felt like I had no real idea of what was behind the scenes, but I’d thought it was just be a television show that the government had agreed to look the other way when it came to the normal drug use.
Every time that was being challenged in just the first day, it was some allusions towards a huge structure and a refusal to talk about that structure. I’m really hoping things will get clearer after today.
“How big is the Terminal?” Saint happily changed the topic before I’d thought of a clever way to ask more questions.
“Hm,” Lucija stopped marching for the first time in the last ten minutes while she thought. “Good question. Maybe ten rooms? It’s functional, but they’ve done what they can to reduce the footprint to make sure it stays hidden.”
We all stopped when she didn’t start walking.
“We’re about to arrive,” she announced to us.
I glanced around, catching the others’ eyes as we tried to see an end to the tunnel that didn’t appear to exist.
Lucija casually glanced up and we all followed.
The mess of exposed tubing and structural beams that the roof was made out of suddenly turned inwards, and sleek steel panels had appeared across the roof. It wasn’t a subtle change but it was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it.
“The entrance will always be on the left when you see the roof change. Most of them have some kind of obvious thing to use to open the door, but this one is a bit different since it’s basically your front door. This one should open automatically provided its your biometrics, just like the door in the house. Does anyone want to walk ahead until it triggers?”
Nobody really jumped on the offer but Saint stepped forward.
“I’m picturing a Jurassic Park gates moment, so I’ll do it.”
“It’s more of a sliding door,” Lucija corrected him with a polite laugh.
“Hey, how can it always be on the left?” Jean asked while we all awkwardly watched Saint walk forward.
“What do you mean?” Lucija responded without turning to him.
“If we came the other way, this door would be on the right.”
“Yes, I suppose it would be.”
“So how is it always on the left?”
“It’s not really,” she conceded and this time turned to him. I saw slightly raised eyebrows and a bit more of a classic teacher look on her face. “This isn’t some maze, but there is the correct way to walk. Every random staircase, fire escape, ramp or whatever leads to this place is designed to dump you so you’re heading forward and not turning. It’s a square, so it works, but you could do it differently if you wanted – ah. There we go.”
There was a slight hiss, and the sound of something rolling as four wall panels suddenly moved away from right next to Saint. He’d been walking slowly since he knew something like that would happen but I saw him flinch as it happened.
He wasn’t that many metres in front of us, and we all ran forward to look in through the door and at the Terminal that had been alluded to. As we caught up to him, I could hear Saint lowly humming the song from Jurassic Park.
“Well, welcome to the Terminal.”