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The main passage lay back the way he came and he would have to pass whoever was out there to get to it and this visitor was not going to greet him with affection.  Fortunately, the architects of the Old Fortress laid out the barracks in keeping with the old tradition of separating the officer from the common soldier.  Since they considered commanders as part of the officer class, they built a narrow hall connecting all of the commanders quarters.  This allowed the officers to meet in private but still have quarters near their men.  They divided the barracks into sections of 50 rooms, two soldiers to a room with 25 rooms on each sided of a hall and the commanders quarters at the end of each hall.  A great corridor joined each of the “halls of hundreds” and a narrow hall joining the quarters of the commanders of hundreds.

Mancuso used this narrow hall to bypass his visitor slipping silently through the rear exit.  To his left he passed dozens of commander quarters until the narrow hall opened up to the officers’ dining hall.  Here he became more cautious keeping to the shadows because the openness of this place made him vulnerable to observation or attack.

No attack came as he crossed the dining hall.  He noted that this room was by far the most damaged with a large hole in the ceiling high above allowed weather, dirt, and seed to take their toll on the floor below.  The mountainside did not offer shelter to this part of the building, since it was not underground.  A dome ceiling decorated with mosaics of heroes and princesses used to be overhead but now, he noticed, more of the roof lay on the floor than overhead now.  What apparently started as a small crack in the vaulted ceiling opened up over time to a gaping hole.

Again he chose an exit that was less known and would allow him many routes of retreat in case he was cornered.  A large tapestry used to cover an archway.  It was from behind tapestry that servants used to run errands, but now only its sodden remains lay before the exit.  Just as he exited the dining hall through this small passage he thought he caught a glimpse of a shadow moving at the end of the hall far to his left.  He did not look back but quickened his pace and heightened his senses.  Down this small corridor he flew, a turn right here, a turn left here, down a flight of stairs through a passageway, to a large room that had once been used for storage.  He ran to the east wall and located a light fixture on the wall.  He turned it to the left, right, and back towards center.  A portion of the wall opened revealing a long, straight tunnel.  He slipped through the opening as an unseen counterbalance eased the heavy wall around its pivot.  Once inside, he spotted the hand crank and brake lever below long-dead electronic controls.  He pulled back on the brake lever, locking the wall in place.  He released it and started turning the crank.  His heart leapt when saw lights coming down the hall outside the room he just left. He turned the hand crank furiously like a ship’s captain trying to avoid an iceberg collision.  The door shut just before the light bearers entered the room.

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Copyright 2000 by Darrell A. Newton, All Rights Reserved.
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Last updated: March 06, 2001.