UNITED STATES—Former Detective Zorba from the Underground Cities and his captors continued to the end of the intriguing storeroom full of Jurassic technology. In addition to the wind-up phonographs, there were even a few nicotined screens piled up from the late-20th century. Computer screens? That raised Zorba’s eyebrows.

“What year did you say this was?”

“The year 100 Twelvetrees.”

“You don’t say…Doesn’t the Leader’s rule start 25 years ago.” Zorba had adopted their use of singular present verbs to express everything. Part of him bristled at stooping to their primitive level.

“We asks, you answers,” said the plaid-shirted brother with a couple teeth blacked out.

Zorba was thinking about the 80s Apple MacIntosh screen that would surely constitute forbidden technology according to the vehemently non-technological rules of “up there?”

The cornerstone of “up there” society, as presented by travelers’ accounts and clandestine documentaries, was total loyalty to the ideal of technophobia. One of the leader’s screeds referred to Thomas Edison as the devil.

He knew he hadn’t thought of it before: in the Underground Cities there were rumors that an unknown number of people from “up there” were camouflaged as ordinary workers and citizens. But Zorba’s ample experience on the streets of that virtual environment, with its programed variations of climate, sun, moon, cloud and artificial wind, had never unearthed one iota of evidence to back up what was, essentially, a myth.

“We has people infiltrated down there,” said Jake Twelvetrees as if he’d read Zorba’s mind.

“In the Underground Cities?” said Zorba, finishing the other’s sentence and noting that Twelvetrees was starting to display more sophisticated vocabulary.

They reached the end of the storeroom, where there was a small door. Zorba had to stoop to not hit his head on the frame. There was a clean, dry room with windows open onto the endless wheat plains. Its walls hadn’t been painted for awhile; they were stark and dingy.

There was a smell of buffered tablets and medication in the air: soon confirmed by a nightstand loaded with vials and jars of medications.

Zorba noticed first a woman standing in same plaid shirts as the rest and similar jeans, which seemed a departure from the clan’s fashion ethic. She was distinguished by a worn leather briefcase at her side. Glasses, one with a cracked lens, rested on his pointy nose.

Behind her, on a bed with silken blankets, lay an adipose figure with the face of a tired turtle, dressed in extravagant robes, rich brocade embroidered with goldenrod flowers and spanned by sherry-colored velvet. The papal extravagance in this figure’s attire contributed to an impression of androgyny…

To be continued. . .

Graydon Miller is the author of the acclaimed story collection “The Havana Brotherhood.” https://amzn.to/29ak9Nr