This is chapter 12 of my novel, Foreign. I post a new chapter each Friday at noon. If you’d like to catch up on the previous chapters, you can check out the archive by clicking here. Tell your friends about the adventure of Mark and Justin!
After spending days trapped inside dark, dank quarters or white, sterile rooms, the slivers of blue sky were overwhelming. Mark found himself still squatting right next to Justin, on a large roof top. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Dude! We actually made it out of that hell hole alive!”
Justin agreed. “I know! I totally thought we were screwed there at the end. And look where we are now! Where are we?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t care!” Mark exclaimed.
They both sat down and burst out laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. Just seconds ago they were cornered by countless guards, certain they wouldn’t survive the encounter. Now here they were, surrounded by tall buildings, looking up at the clear blue sky. In fact, it was a deeper blue than they had ever seen, and the buildings looked taller than any they had ever seen before.
They eventually stopped laughing and began to take in their surroundings. Mark asked, “Dude. Where do you think we actually are?”
“I dunno.” Justin said while he scanned the skyline. “I’ve never seen anywhere like this.”
There was a soft, steady sound of wind in the background, like they were a few miles away from a highway with moderate traffic. There were so many buildings, that Mark couldn’t see the horizon anywhere. No matter where he looked he saw more buildings. Some went hundreds of feet higher than where they were. He stood up and walked near the edge of the roof, hoping to get a better view. There was a railing at the edge. He leaned over it to look down and instantly staggered back from the rail.
“What is it?” Justin said.
“Go see for yourself!” Mark’s head was swimming.
Justin cautiously walked to the railing and peered over the edge. Just a few inches of metal were the only thing separating him from a drop that was so long it might as well have been bottomless. Whatever building they were on must have been miles high. Beneath them were hundreds of other buildings, lit up by bright neon lights and the traffic patterns of numerous aircraft. He looked up and saw how much higher many of the buildings went and then looked side to side again, seeing buildings surrounding him.
“This place must be huge! Think of all the people in these buildings and those airplanes. Airplanes! In a city!” he blurted out.
“Millions,” Mark guessed, “like Tokyo times ten. Maybe even a hundred if you really think about it. Dude, where are we?”
“I have no idea, man.” Jacob shrugged.
“Maybe our suits know. “Mark suggested. “Corti, where are we? Where did you take us to?”
Corti answered, “You are near the main entrance to the Imperial Plaza.”
“Imperial Plaza for whom?” Mark asked.
“Why, the Empire of Tiellandra, of course.”
“Where is Tiellandra?” Corti’s answers only made Mark more confused.
“It is the northernmost continent of Zearyth.”
“You mean we aren’t on earth?” Justin interrupted.
In a matter of fact way, Corti simply said, “No.”
That one-word answer had a drastic and immediate effect on both Mark and Justin. They suddenly felt alone and helpless. Whatever sense of hope or joy they had from escaping their prison had vanished like a vapor. Everything around them seemed bigger, more foreboding. This was a completely foreign world. They were two B-average college students from suburban America in a foreign city that was bigger than anything they had ever imagined, in a foreign continent with a foreign culture, on a foreign planet.
Mark and Justin were terrified.
Justin was the first one to speak, “We need to leave. Who knows how long it will take for those freaks to find out where we went? But I don’t want to be here long enough to find out.”
“Ok, but where do you suggest we go? I wouldn’t even know where to begin looking for a way out of this place. And what would we do once we leave?” Mark was skeptical.
“All good points. I don’t know where we’ll go, but I do know that staying here won’t end well. My guess is that we need to find a way to go down. These buildings have to have a base somewhere. Maybe then we can find a way out of this place.” Justin didn’t look confident as he explained his plan, but at least it was a plan. It was more than Mark could claim.
They stood up, ready to make their decent into the unknown. As they searched for a way off the rooftop platform, they found no doors leading down into the building. However, they noticed that the platform was adjacent to another building that rose even higher. The more they studied it, they realized that maybe they weren’t even on a rooftop, but were on a platform that was connected to many buildings. The platform continued around the corner and out of sight past the building wall. They approached the corner and peaked around it.
It was amazing that they hadn’t been able to hear what they were looking at. Peeking their heads around the corner, they saw a bustling city square. The platform on which they were standing continued a ways until it flanged out into an open area the size of the Washington Mall. Little people were walking everywhere. Some were taller than others, but they all generally looked smaller than normal humans. There were some family units, some in the black Tielsuits, and others who walked with a sense of purpose.
About half way down the plaza was a giant statue. It looked like a stainless steel version of the Statue of Liberty, only it was of a man standing proud in a type of jumper or unitard.
“Dude, look! You can see his giant bulge! It must be like 50 feet long!” Justin pointed out.
“I wonder if there was any artistic embellishment.” Mark gaffed.
“I don’t get it. How do they all act like they’re on the ground when we’re so high up? It’s like this place has layer upon layer.” Justin was baffled.
Mark replied, “Beats me. It’s amazing that things don’t cave in on themselves. But seriously, how are we going to make it through all of this without getting caught?”
“As long as we don’t do anything obviously stupid, we should probably be ok. We look like the rest of them.” Justin tried to assuage his doubts.
“Yeah, but what if people talk to us? What language do they speak? How will we be able to answer?” Mark was getting overwhelmed.
“I think they will understand us, right Corti?” Justin asked.
“Of course, Justin. Everybody has a unicom so they will understand words spoken in any language. The unicom law was implemented at the formation of Tielmetra,” Corti explained.
“Wait, seriously? So everybody can understand each other even if they speak different languages? How does that work? How do children learn languages?” Mark doubted.
Corti responded, ” In the home, children learn to speak from families without using a unicom, but it is against the law to leave the house without one.”
“That’s handy, I suppose. So you’re saying that we can say whatever we want through these suits and anybody outdoors will be able to understand us in their own language?”
Corti reassured, “Of course, Mark.”
“Ok. So they won’t catch us by our speech, but won’t those other guards see that we aren’t broadcasting our position and report us? Mark still wasn’t convinced.
“There is a chance that others will notice that you aren’t broadcasting location and usage statistics, but you won’t necessarily be the only ones to do so. People will often cease broadcasting vital information when they are off duty, traveling to their domiciles.” Corti elaborated.
“I guess that makes sense. Corti, do you have any map data that can help us find our way out of here?” Mark questioned.
“I do not have that kind of Tielmetra map data. I can tell you the coordinates of specific locations or buildings, but I cannot give you directions out of Tielmetra because there is no official way to walk out of the city. However, you would be able to find the information you need at the Imperial Hall of Records. There you would be able to find infrastructure maps and discern if there is a way to get into the pit or out of the Tielmetra completely. The Imperial Hall of Records is located in the Imperial Plaza, near the Statue of Tiel Emperor Zoan.”
“The pit?” repeated Justin.
Corti responded, “Lower Tielmetra, colloquially referred to as ‘the pit,’ is the lower third of Tielmetra where the support citizens live and work. There is no known official way to enter it from Upper Tielmetra.”
Feeling properly convinced that this was their best course of action, Mark and Justin left the cover of the corner, and walked toward the edge of the Imperial Plaza, approaching a sea of foreign people who might or might not be hostile. The commotion around them made Times Square on New Year’s feel tame. People were walking and talking into thin air while flying vehicles zoomed in all directions. It was total pandemonium.
There was one thing they didn’t hear in the midst of the commotion: after a bright, screeching flash, two guards in black suits appeared on the same platform where Justin and Mark had just been.
For chapter 13, click here.