Offspring Ch. 021byTalemaster©
I timed it to arrive in the park about half an hour before the humans left to commence the early shift. The car I had used to get here was still where I had parked it, the light on top indicating it was fully charged. I retrieved my camera and went to the vehicle as everyone was leaving. Again I tagged behind the column, driving slower than the rest to increase the distance between me and the last car in the column. They were soon out of sight.
The sea was at my right, the port straight ahead. In nearly every port city the central business district is close to the port facilities. It is part of the evolution. The port is the reason for the city and the traders want to be close to the action. The suburbs come later. This meant that logically the CBD should be to my left. I turned left at the next intersection.
Within half a mile the character of the buildings changed. Warehouses gave way to multi story buildings. The buildings got higher the further I drove. Space had been at a premium here, I was getting close. The road came to an abrupt end. In front of me was a set of steps going to an open area about ten feet above. To the left and right of the steps were arches leading into some sort of underground structure. Somewhere to park vehicles, I guessed.
I was right. When I drove through one of the arches I arrived in an enormous underground car park with charging rails. To my surprise there were a number of cars like mine plugged in, some showing they were fully charged. There were people here, best to lie low. I parked the vehicle as far away from the others as I dared, picked up my gear and went exploring. It was still early. There wouldn't be too many people out and about just yet.
I retraced my steps until I wound up at the stairs. Carefully creeping up, I found myself looking at some sort of mall, about two-hundred feet square, surrounded on all sides by twenty-five story buildings, all identical in design. The floor was paved with pastel coloured tiles, arranged in a pleasing geometric fashion that converged on an island of greenery in the centre of the square, some fifty feet in diameter, featuring a fountain. The buildings themselves were unimaginative, except for the colourful, inlaid facades, reminiscent of Islamic architecture. On one end of the mall was a thirty foot gap where the steps led into the square from the level below and an identical gap on the opposite side. Apart from that the buildings were joined. All had glass fronts on the ground level, perhaps shops of some sort. Several buildings on the far end had tables and chairs outside, presumably outdoor dining areas. If that's what they were, there had to be a lot of people working here as they could easily seat hundreds.
The place was clean and well tended. There was a group of humans at the other end walking in my direction. Some Oktonians were working near the fountain trimming vegetation. I felt uncomfortable. At any time my presence could be discovered. I needed to know more about this place before proceeding. I filmed as much of the square as I dared, not moving about much, downloaded the recording, placed the camera and went back into the underground garage where I shoved the memory module up my butt and went home.
Feng was delighted when I showed him where I'd been. I asked him how his lessons were going.
"I'm still trying to get more control," he said. "I'm not quite ready to travel without the focus on sex. Don't forget it took you months to get that far. I don't want to take unnecessary chances. Once I can do that I should be able to meet you in the city. Give me a while longer and we can go exploring together."
The next few days were uneventful. I kept making short trips to the square, gathering my recordings and repositioning my camera, staying no longer than I needed to. At the end of a week I had a reasonable picture of what I was up against.
There was a hive of activity in some buildings while others appeared to be vacant. Because of all the coming and going it was difficult to estimate just how many people worked here, somewhere between five hundred and a thousand, not counting the Oktonians.
More than half were younger people wearing lab coats, behaving like post graduate students on campus. The rest were older people, some in lab coats, some wearing business suits, moving about in a more dignified manner. There were also a few humans in overalls. This was no place of business. It was either a research facility or a university of some sort, possibly both. About a third of the people were women.
They seemed to live in the buildings with the outdoor dining areas; hostels or boarding houses of some sort I guessed. One of these places appeared to house exclusively Oktonians. No shortage of servants here. Again there was no perceivable social interaction between humans and Oktonians. In the middle of the day there was a lot of movement over a two hour period. People would stream out of their places of work and head for the park or the dining areas and return to work a while later. Lunch break!
It was Feng who spotted it.
"Look at this chick," he said, pointing at the screen, "what do you reckon she is up to?"
He spun the recording back. It was lunchtime. People came out of the buildings, singly and in groups and headed for the dining areas.
"Now watch," said Feng and pointed to one solitary figure who headed in the opposite direction. The girl stopped at the glassed front of a vacant building, adjusting her hair.
"She is checking in the reflection if anyone is observing her," commented Feng. Seemingly satisfied, she opened a glass door just wide enough to be able to slip inside the building and was lost to view.
"Now watch this," said Feng. He fast forwarded the recording until he reached the spot he was looking for. He stopped the recording and pointed to the screen.
"You can just make her out behind the glass door. She is watching the outside."
Sure enough there was a vaguely discernible figure behind the door. Feng started the recording up again and after a minute or so the door opened a little and the girl slipped out, stood for a few moments in front of the glass pretending to adjust her hair and rejoined the crowd returning to work.
"Whatever she is up to, she isn't meant to be doing this. And it isn't the first time. I noticed it in one of the earlier recordings but the camera angle was different and I couldn't be sure. What do you think she is doing in there?"
"Maybe she is meeting a lover," I replied.
We went carefully over the whole recording this time but it seemed no one was following her or leaving the building afterwards.
"If she is doing whatever she does on a regular basis this might well turn out to be to our advantage. If I can catch her doing something illegal I might be able to get a lot of information from her without fear of exposure. I can tell her I won't inform on her if she answers my questions. It's what we need, a contact in her society."
Feng agreed with me and we decided to concentrate on her and her doings.