"What is this place?" I asked.
I'd slept for twenty four hours. Showered and put on clean clothes Sissy'd given me. They were dirt-brown overalls like maintenance men wore and came complete with a utility belt but no tools.
"You're inside Townsend Mountain," said Sissy. "Creepiest place in the whole USA. Home to everyone at one time or another from from gold diggers to Civil War refugees, bootleggers, secret government scientists and underground UFO chasers. They all came and went is what my daddy says. Too scary to stay in for too long."
Three days ago I would have said she was crazy, but after what I'd seen in that time I was ready to believe anything.
"You want to explain that?"
"No," she said. "You got to ask my dad about that.
She'd said earlier that the inside of Townsend Mountain was honeycombed with miles and miles of tunnels. She didn't know where they all went. Not even her Daddy Mark knew that. What she'd made completely clear, however, was that some tunnels were safe, and some were dangerous. Some tunnels people could go in, as she said, but they never came out.
She'd shown me eight or ten rooms that fit the description of abandoned government laboratories and offices. The desks were still in place with papers scattered around the room like everyone left in a hurry.
"If the government was one of the groups that used to be here, aren't you afraid they'll come looking for us? Looked like they were SWAT-teaming the whole forest when the helicopters started coming in."
Sissy shook her head.
"They long since forgot about this place. And they'd never get past the AI. Besides, we won't be here that long. Daddy will come and get us."
"How can you be sure the government doesn't have records of this place they can pull up on computers?"
"They haven't been here since World War II. Whatever they were doing down here didn't turn out too well, according to daddy. They left so quick they left everything here. Sealed up the shaft they thought was the only way in. Daddy says not all of them made it out alive."
"How could he know that?" I asked.
"Daddy knows a lot," she said.
"Yeah, but how does he know so much?"
I watched her carefully. She didn't hesitate at all before answering. She spoke with the easy innocence of total conviction.
"'Cause he's a Mozer. Mozer's been guarding Townsend Mountain's secrets since the Civil War."
She was sitting propped on a dull green government issue desk. Had her legs crossed and was wearing ripped jeans that looked like they'd been a tight squeeze to put on. Flannel shirt tied in front at the bottom and a khaki jacket thrown over one shoulder. It it wasn't for the rifle she'd have looked safe enough.
"What secrets?" I persisted.
"Wouldn't be secrets if I told you, now would they?"
"Fair enough. When's your dad coming?"
"A while," she said.
"What do we do in the meantime?" I asked. "Go exploring?"
"No. That we will not do. There's tunnels and cave that don't need anybody walking in them. And there's doors, big strange doors made out of peculiar metals. Nobody should ever open them. Another thing, there's round hole some places in the tunnel that if you ain't careful you could drop right in."
"How deep are they?" I asked nervously.
"Don't know. Nobody ever went after anyone that fell in."
She was looking past me when she answered, staring at a memory she wished she could forget.
"Cause they might lead down to where they are."
"They?" I asked.
"The mechanical soldiers," she said. "There's hundreds of them. If you look in through their crystal heads you can see the dead people trapped inside."