They ran down a rickety pile of wood that was a close approximation of stairs. Chong was impressed at how fit Ford was. He found himself running out of breath trying to keep up.  After a hundred meters or so, the stairs ended in a flat dirt-floored room. Ford opened an old metal door and they found themselves in a tunnel. an old set of train tracks could be seen below the ledge they stoo don.  Ford motioned Chong forward into the gloom. Eventually Ford pulled out an LED torch and gave them some light.  Chong sighed in relief.  He was afraid of slipping off the ledge down onto the train tracks.  It wasn’t far but given the darkness he could have twisted an ankle, or worse broken a leg, or split open his head.
They passed an old sign that said ’19th Street’.
“Is this an old transit system?” asked Chong.
“Bart,” barked Ford. Chong could hear him breathing heavily finally, something Chong had been doing since halfway down the stairs.
“Who’s Bart?”
“Bay Area Rapid Transit.  Dates back to the late 20th century. Used to connect this whole area together with underground and overground trains. They’ve long since dismantled the system, but the tracks are still here, at least underground.”
“So what do we do, just hide out here?”
“No, too dangerous.  The cameras and sensors don’t reach down here.  What little crime there is in Oakland flourishes down here. I use it as a route to get places unseen.  Hence it’s attraction ot the criminal element.”
Ford jumped down onto the tracks and held up his hand to help Chong down.
Up ahead, Ford’s torch showed a glint of metal.
“What’s that?” Chong squinted ahead.
“It’s called a rail rider. I bought it from a hobbyist.  They use them to explore the tunnels.  It’s sort of like a motorbike, but grips a rail for it’s motion. It’s  a two seater.  Pop the hatch and climb in back.
The rail rider looked like a silver oblong capsule fromthe outside. Chong could just make out the change in tint where the front windshield must be.  He found the pop latch for the back seat and climbed in. Ford was already strappin into the driver’s pod.
“We’ll go about halfway down the tunnel and exit through service grate.  That’ll take us under a neighborhood just north of Lake Merritt.  I have a place there.  I rarely use it but we can stay there unobserved for awhile. Even if the UMC comes door to door looking for you they’ll have a hard time searching this place.  It’s got multiple apartments all behind double locked doors. Not an ounce of electronics in the place but damned secure all the same.
They took off down the rails and Chong hoped hard that ford wasn’t really a delusional old man.  Chong couldn’t see much anyway being in the passenger pod, but what little he could see was inky blank.  Ford must have noticed something because they slowed to a halt. Chong saw a dim bit of light from a grating once he got out of the rail rider. They climbed up steel rungs covered in muck and rust and pushed up out of the grate.  Chong half expected to see UMC guards there and was wondering what exactly he’d say if he met them.  Most likely they’d assume he was being forced to do whatever he was doing.
Ford helped him up onto a narrow ancient street paved in asphalt. It was a residential area with a mix of big apartment buildings and smaller houses. Ford led them up to an imposing grey block of apartments. Chong saw him pull small piece of metal out of his pocket, insert it int he fornt door and open the door.
“What was that?”
“This my friend,” he said holding up the metal, “is an honest to goodness key.  Not the encryption kind that’s more metaphor than item in today’s locks.  This is what the encryption is named after.”
Chong looked at it puzzled. “Can’t they just stick metal in themselves and open it?”
“has to fit.  You can pick a lock, but then you can break encryption too.  And there are so few mechanical locks these days, nobody’s learning how to pick locks.  It’s actually quite  a bit safer that way. ”
Ford pulled out a different metal key and opened another door that led into a dark stairway.  These stairs were solid and seemed to be made of metal unlike the rickety wood they’d taken down to the train station. One flight up, Ford pulled out a third metal key and opened another door.  It led into a dark hallway with several doors unevenly spaced along it. Ford went down a hallway and into a door at the end using a fourth metal key.
“I see what you mean about the security,” remarked Ford. He doubted even the UMC elites could break through four ancient mechanical locks very quickly. Ford’s apartment was as old as the building itself, sparsely furnished but quite comfortable.
“All I can offer you is water I’m afraid, said Ford from the small aisle of a kitchen. “As I said I don’t spend much time here, so don’t keep much perishable.”
“That’s fine,” chong said still looking around at the apartment’s fixtures.  It had a large window that looked out into a private courtyard that was overgrown with weed and a couple large trees.
“You were saying when my army so rudely interrupted us trying to rescue me?” prodded Chong as Ford brought him a cup of water.
“I don’t know how they foud you unless you’re tracked.  Are you?”
“Simple RFID, but difficult to pin down in that time.  They must have had help.  It should have taken them a couple days to narrow down my pellet’s signal.”
“My brother.”
“Yes, Minister Narang.  He’s my half brother and full annoyance. He doesn’t know about any of this and he’s determined to bring me back to the right ways of thinking. I’ve tried to explain, but I don’t want him to know.  I don’t want to implicate him.”
“But you shot him!” Chong exclaimed.
“One of me did yes,” Ford nodded. “He’s hard to control that one.  But he’s worth it.  He didn’t kill Narang, and right now he’s probably just finished cleverly hiding all my cloning work.  Your UMC boys and girls will find nothing.”
“and my part in this?  I’m still curious.”
“Of course. Well I can;t have you examine the cloning machines right now, so on to the second part. I believe I know several of their main operations centers. They know about me.  They think I’m still on their side but I’m rogue and compartmentalized.  If I get near them they’ll disappear. I’m only to make contact with them in  avery specific way after I’ve completed my task.  Or that’s what one of my clones tells me.  The one actually sent out to kill me and you.  The one you’ve met. I believe him.  It’s funny how well you can read someone just like yourself. In fact the shock of finding out he wasn’t me is what led him to join me.  Anyway, I Get sidtracked at my age. I can’t get near them but you can.”
“You don’t think a big old Presidential convoy into town would make them scatter?” Chong was skeptical.
“Yes it would, but that’s not how we do it. You’re going to go off on a tour.  you need to go off on that tour, or appear to.  Then I’ll guide you to the centers.  One of them is on the Moon. You’ll scout them and assess them, posing as a potential member.”
“And they won’t recognize the President of the Moon?” Chong shook his head.
“No they won’t and here’s why. You don’t look the same in person as you do on video.  And you’ll be on video touring, so they’ll know it isn’t you, because it couldn’t be you.”
“So how do I pull that off?”
“We clone you.”
“Ahh no.”
“It’s the only way.”
“No way.  I’m sorry, but we’ll have to do better than that.  I understand what you’re up against.  What we’re up against, but the cloning has to stop and we don’t make it better by making another clone.  Especially of me.”
“If you have a better plan I’ll hear it.”
“I’ll need more of your whiskey for that.”
“That I do keep here.”
“I thought you might.” Chong gazed out the window into the garden. Their had to be a way to do this without any more cloning.  Ford’s plan could work but was there a better way.  Yes.  There was.