206 Cacophonous Song
As Zoey and Max progressed through the city towards their destination, they became increasingly aware that something was indeed happening. Whatever Serene had done was waking the city up.
The noise of machinery and grinding of mechanical structures echoed loudly through the halls and chambers. Smoke and the smell of burning oil would sometimes blow through the rooms they passed through, and Zoey was seeing more and more of the mechanical infrastructure in the walls starting to come to life.
What the result of all this would be, Zoey could only speculate, but the chances that it would be beneficial to herself and her crew was close to zero. She had to get to Serena first and stop the process, at least until she knew more about what was happening.
Since the city was now coming alive with a large amount of mechanical protest, Max and Zoey's path to where Saigo waited for them became more dangerous. Leaking conduits poured boiling hot oil onto the floors that they had to cross, and large mechanical pistons and crankshafts swung dangerously close to them while they walked.
Even more worrisome was when a mechanical section failed in some way, often resulting in complete destruction of the surrounding area when the hydraulics burst and the massive moving parts tore apart the vicinity.
Max and Zoey were forced to stay constantly on guard while they moved, doing their best to traverse the dangerous areas as fast as they could to avoid disaster. Both of them let out sighs of relief when they finally passed into an area and saw Saigo and his group waving to them directly ahead. They had managed to make it in one piece.
The area they had arrived into was a unique one. It was a massive open shaft open to the lightening-split sky above, and to the deep darkness below. The open whole was spanned by a metal bridge that had three exits. Max and Zoey had entered from the middle, directly ahead was where Saigo was, and to either side left and right there were additional exits.
For Zoey, the sense of vertigo was unsettling when they passed over the bridge to the center. Max seemed to be unaffected by the void beneath them, but Zoey would have felt more comfortable with Viridi by her side. Nothing like a winged cat-dragon hybrid to make one feel safe.
As they approached, Saigo's eyes looked them both over, but he mostly was making sure that Max was OK. He was his only grandson after all. He was relieved to see that aside from being a little messy, they seemed to be alright. There was something different about Max though… Something about the boy had changed...
"Is she in there?" Zoey asked as she arrived, tilting her head at the large metal door that was the focal point of the three bridges.
"Yes, whatever she did in there started all… this," Saigo replied, gesturing to the raucous machinery that could be seen in motion on practically every surface they could see.
"We tried getting the door open, but the thing won't budge. I've rarely seen metal of this quality before, and certainly not in this quantity."
Zoey examined the door, noting that it appeared to be some sort of heavy-duty seal, intended to keep what was outside on the outside, and what was inside on the inside.
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"You all head to the surface, the route is on your Eve. I'll do what I can here." Zoey said to them as she started to examine the door's outer seal, looking for a way in.
Saigo complied, ordering his men to head in the direction their Eves indicated. Before he left, however, he noticed that Max was not coming. Concerned for his grandson's safety, he looked questioningly at the boy, not willing to leave him behind in such a dangerous place.
But what he saw when he looked in Max's eyes calmed him down. He saw conviction, a resolute look in the boy's eyes, a purpose and a goal, one that clearly he had the determination to support.
Saigo was surprised, but gladdened by what he saw. Many men would go a lifetime without finding purpose, without learning the benefits of having conviction in their lives.
The ancient Asurai texts had taught that a life without purpose or conviction was one devoid of meaning, and as such would fade with the ebb and flow of time.
But those that found that purpose, that conviction, they were the ones that would be remembered by those that came in their wake. They would be the pillars that the next generation would be built upon.
With his troubled mind reassured, Saigo gave Max a traditional Asurai salute by placing his left fist in his right palm with a resounding smack, then headed off with his men to the surface, leaving Max and Zoey behind.
Meanwhile, Zoey had pulled out her second canister of gnat-sized spider drones and set them free, using her interface and some mental instructions to order them to crawl into every crevice and crack they could find around the door and the surrounding construct to see if she could get a look at whatever was inside.
She wanted to see what was in there, and what exactly Serena was doing, or had done. Behind her, the city was still coming to life, the cacophonous mechanical sounds getting louder and louder as it threatened to drown out everything else through sheer volume.
Zoey knew she didn't have much time to figure out the purpose of this flying city before it was too late to stop it at all.
Whatever it was, Zoey preferred to know for sure before she allowed it to take place.