For jeriendhal‘s prompt “You mean it was supposed to have a key?” First, an Addergoole Year Nine – Ceinwen and Thornburn, then a Planners.
“There’s no lock.” Ceinwen sat in front of the mirror, staring at the plaque Thornburn had put around her neck. She’d known that when he sealed it there, but today, with classes just moments away, it seemed more real, more permanent.
“No, there isn’t,” he agreed. He was giving her space this morning, letting her feel her way around this new relationship. What part of her wasn’t busy hating him appreciated the room.
“There’s no way to take it off,” she said, trying not to panic.
“No, there’s not. I will take it off you when I free you.”
She wrapped her hands both around the damned thing, tugging on it, even as the pulling pressed it against her windpipe. It wouldn’t budge. “Why isn’t there a lock? If there was a lock, there’d be a key!” She knew she sounded hysterical, and wasn’t sure she cared anymore.
He wrapped his hand around her wrists gently. “You mean it was supposed to have a key?” he teased.
“It was supposed to have a way out,” she whimpered.
Bauer was particularly proud of the work he’d done on the vaults.
Sure, Elder Jasmine had sent him here, to work with Elder Oliver, mostly to keep an eye on a man who was past his dotage and into “how is he still standing upright?” But Bauer was every bit as much a member of the Family as Jasmine and Oliver, albeit a bit (eighty years, in Oliver’s case) younger, and with fewer descendants by an order of magnitude or two. Even if he was here to spy, he couldn’t help but do his best work, too. Besides, the Family might need it. That was what this was all about, right? The Family, the world, might someday need this planning.
So he’d put everything he had into the security on the vaults, even if he had no idea what was in them (All of the elders were secretive, but Oliver took it to extremes. Bauer wasn’t sure he told his wife what he’d had for dinner). They were supposed to withstand a nearby nuclear blast, but none of that meant anything if squatters and other intruders could just waltz in. So Bauer made them secure. So secure he was pretty sure his own wife wouldn’t be able to make it in, if he hadn’t given her the back door (Family was Family, but a wife was a wife).
He worked with the contractors (a different team for each section, and a few pieces he did on his own), under minimal supervision from Oliver, who just wanted to be sure the vault doors were always closed, for eight months. They set up locks and labyrinths and puzzle traps, all designed to funnel the unwary back out somewhere far from the central vault. They encoded everything in Bauer’s own complex cipher, and then
finally he brought his aging boss to the front door of the new catacomb, where even the lock was encoded.
“Impressive,” the Elder creaked. “Sturdy, and the ciphers here look to be uncrackable without the key. So give me that for my office file, and we’ll call it a job well done.”
Bauer couldn’t help it. He grinned at his difficult uncle. “You mean it was supposed to have a key?”
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