As Ellie had said, the door did indeed have the words 'Authorized Personnel Only.' They were painted in yellow on the steel fire door, and an array of impressive locking mechanisms were installed along one side.
"Do you think we can open it?" Ellie asked.
Harry gave it an experimental tug, with no results. "Well, that was fun," Harry said. "Do you want to go find a table and start on Algebra?"
They turned and began walking away, but stopped in their tracks when they heard a loud clunk and the low groan of a heavy door opening. They whirled around and saw a woman wheeling a steel cart out of the door. Harry walked back to the door, feigning nonchalance, and caught it just before it closed. He held it open for Ellie, who slipped through with wide eyes and a mischevious smile. Harry took one last look around for witnesses before following.
They stood in a grey concrete corridor, with dozens of pipes running along the left wall. The hallway was dank and dimly lit. The rhythmic sound of dripping water echoed through the halls. Hesitantly, they moved forward until they reached an intersection. An identical corridor went off in a different direction. Harry looked at Ellie for guidance, but she simply shrugged. He chose the new corridor and they set off again.
"Where's that dripping noise coming from?" Harry asked.
"They must have a memory leak."
After another minute or so, Ellie tapped Harry on the shoulder and pointed at a steel door on their right. It had a metal plaque on it which read "ARITHMETIC LOGIC UNIT." Several pipes crossed over from the left along the ceiling and entered the room just above the door.
"Look for a door labelled 'control unit,' " Ellie instructed. Harry nodded and they kept walking. They followed dozens of other corridors, sometimes going around in circles, but after a while, they both began to get a feeling for how the rooms were laid out.
"Voices!" Harry whispered suddenly. "I hear voices." They both froze and listened intently. The voices were nearby, but didn't seem to be moving any closer. Harry tip-toed to the next intersection and peered around the corner. The voices were coming from an open door a few metres away. From his vantagepoint, Harry was able to make out what they were saying inside.
"Everything is taking place exactly as planned," one voice explained.
"Excellent," said a different voice. "Are we still on schedule?"
"Yes, the Davis Centre will become fully operational at the stroke of midnight in one week. Nothing can stop us now!"
"Don't get cocky. No plan is fool-proof, and as you know, the Davis Centre is running on Windows."
"Yeah, about that. I would have written it for Linux, but it's so hard to get drivers..."
"No excuses! You will succeed or you will die!"
"I understand, and I will not fail. Only one more week until we unleash the most powerful force the world has ever known!" Both voices broke out into maniacal laughter.
Eventually, their enthusiastic revelry petered out, and the first voice asked, "Want to go to Timmy's?"
Harry and Ellie quietly backed away and ducked into a dimly-lit alcove just as the two men walked around the corner. Harry pressed himself up against the wall and held his breath. He saw the two conspirators walk away. Professor Xema was one of them.
Bradley N Smith