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Over the weekend, he scanned all the materials into his data-file, not spending any time to digest the contents.
He was concerned Security monitoring would pick up his heat imprint or notice the download activity. The next
day he returned to the library and his good fortune continued. While returning files to the archive room he saw,
propped up against the corner wall, a very colorful advisement which he had never noticed before. It read,
“THE GREAT ALLEGHENY PASSAGE GRAND OPENING, MAY 1, 2008”. He looked closely at the
smaller print. It described the opening of a new trail that would go from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. He
remembered another cabinet he had seen before that was labeled “Allegheny Passage”. He found it along a side
wall. Kurt opened the top drawer and discovered maps and mileage descriptions of the trail through the
Allegheny and Laurel Mountains into the Potomac River valley of Maryland. Its final destination was still
Washington, however, this was now the capital of the new country of Columbia. He could not believe what he
was looking at. He instantly realized that in these two days, he may have found the solution to leaving Atlantica.
His plan would be to leave as soon as possible. He knew once he left, Security would become aware of his
absence. At that point they would download his work and personal data activity looking for clues as to why he
left and where he was going. Normal travel routes would be impossible for him to use. The trail was his escape
route and the Aquifer data that he previously retrieved saved could possibly be used to barter in Columbia for
passage to Europe. He was aware that Columbia had been trying, unsuccessfully, to gain water access from
Atlantica when the Aquifer opened early next year. Kurt would begin his hike on the old trail to Columbia. He
thought of the journey ahead and the irony that the trail, opened in 2008, designed to go from Pittsburgh to
Washington, D.C., was his escape route in the year 2050. He knew his decision was dangerous, but absolutely
necessary for him to achieve his goal of freedom.
Kurt was leaving the library for the last time. He walked down the wide, marbled steps rolling in his hand, the
silver capsule that contained his family history and the Aquifer data. He hoped that its contents would be
sufficient to convince Columbian authorities to grant him air passage. He hadn’t studied the data in detail but
one thing struck him as he remembered his first sighting of the documents. On the last page was his father’s
signature as Chief Engineer and the notation that “This System Is For All The People of Our Hemisphere”.
The underground water system had been built by the United States government with the capacity to collect,
deliver, and recycle water to most of the land mass of the United States. Because of a combination of factors:
global warming, solar activities, and natural hemispheric changes in wind currents, the precipitation zones in
North America had drastically changed over the last fifty years. Beginning early in the century, the Northern
Appalachian mountains began to receive annually more precipitation than any other region in the Northern
Hemisphere. The United States recognized this drastic change. Concurrently other areas of the Country were
becoming drought ridden. A massive project to create the world’s largest manmade aquifer system was
designed and construction began in 2022. This system would capture and retain water from the various rivers
and streams in the Appalachian area; six new retention lakes would be developed; a huge underground storage
capacity would be constructed combining newly discovered caverns and lined abandoned coal mines; and a
reverse conduit system that would return water to be recycled. It was the largest government project in world
history. It was close to being completed when the United States ceased to exist and the country of Atlantica,
within whose borders the Aquifer System was located, gained control of this state-of-the-art system.
Leaving the library, he looked across the empty street and could make out against the fading light, the ghostly
outline of the gothic Cathedral of Learning, once the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh. It looked like a
forty-four story castle in the sky. Kurt knew the story of its building and that funding was assisted with pennies
donated by the children of Pittsburgh over one hundred twenty years ago. Tonight, it rose straight into the
darkness. To Kurt it looked as if it came from the days of medieval England, instead of the days of the First
Depression Era in the United States. A few lights were sprinkled about its base, but from there, all the way to
the top, it was dark. He recalled as a young boy how the building would be a blaze in white light. In recent
years, it had sadly reminded him of an abandoned cathedral in disrepair.
Five years ago, the Alleghenia Administration moved the University System to a new campus along the
Monongahela River Most of the buildings in this area were now government facilities like the Library where he
worked. The Cathedral remained, too huge to move and too beautiful to destroy. To the old timers that remained
it was a symbol of a city and an area that had created the industrial power of the defunct United States. The