Authors: Dayton Grey
During the trials, he counted down the minutes until it was over so they could rush back and talk to Allea. As soon as they saw her they knew that Phase 2 was successful. She was grinning from ear to ear and had a black bag slung over her shoulder with something bulky in it.
“Let’s get home quickly,” she said softly, even though no one was in sight.
“Allea,” Sabien said with a snicker. “
caterpillar is in the cocoon? Metamorphosis?
What in the world kind of code-language is that?”
“WHAT?” Kumuki cried.
Geon laughed as Allea blushed and scratched her head as she tried to answer him.
“I don’t know. I’m new to this…
… behavior! I was trying to keep a low profile in case we were being monitored.”
“Well,” said Geon. “Uncrackable idioms aside, you did an amazing job. Is that it? In the bag?”
Allea nodded as they boarded the Glidewing. Once back home, she showed them how the device worked and they were all impressed. Now the only thing left to do was wait.
“Guys. I think that being such a momentous night, and that we don’t really know the outcome, maybe we should try to spend as much time with Mama V as we can. You know?”
The others nodded at Geon and they had dinner together and joked and laughed with Mama V with the same spirit as usual.
For Mama V’s sake, I hope this goes to plan,
Geon thought to himself.
She is truly a wonderful woman and we all owe her everything. Hopefully, what we learn today will help us and help her somehow.
“Okay, my little ones. You go to sleep now. Mama V is so tired. I vant you all to remember Mama V love you okay?”
“Okay, Mama V!”
As they got up, Mama V reached and grabbed Geon gently by the arm, holding him back from the others. Quietly she said, “Geon baby, is everything okay? You seem…
“No everything is fine Mama V. I’m just… jus—”
“Don’t vorry, okay. Mama V have so much faith in you. Alvays remember dat, okay? And remember to trust your heart and think for yourself okay?”
Geon nodded his head and wondered if Mama V had any idea about the things they were getting involved in.
She doesn’t seem aware of it, and yet, something about her… the way she looks at me… it’s as if she knows something.
Geon headed to the bedroom but turned back suddenly and put his arms around Mama V in a tight embrace. Mama V happily squeezed him with all her heft and might and chuckled, “Dat’s my boy,” as he headed to the podroom.
“Get some rest, G,” Sabien said as soon as Geon walked through sliding doors. “We’ll leave in two hours. And it’s going to be a long night.”
Allea was sitting in her pod and scanning through the aqueduct blueprints one more time. Kumuki was sitting on the side of his pod with multiple pairs of socks around him and pulling them on one on top of another.
“Kumuki. Are you sure you need
pairs of socks?”
Kumuki frantically nodded his head. “It’s gonna stink down there!”
Geon looked at Sabien who just shrugged as they both got into their pods and set the timer for two hours.
Just rest now, Geon. This is all happening tonight. It’s really happening.
Like all nights when there was something important the next morning, Geon couldn’t sleep. He was anxious, worried, nervous, scared, and most of all,
. All the different options and scenarios played out in his head. The lights were dim in the room now, with only the glow of ambient lighting from the pods. Geon checked his timer over and over until finally it was time. The pods all slowly opened and they all stepped out.
Allea handed Geon a long black thin bag that strapped around one shoulder, and crossed his body to his waist and back up again across his back. It was heavier than he expected and fit tightly around him. She handed a second one to Sabien. She quietly whispered, “I’ve packed a few items for us in yours, Geon. Food rations, tools, a small amount of gasoline concentrate, in case the boat doesn’t have any, and a couple illuminabands. And, Sabien, yours has the duplicator.”
“Okay, team,” Sabien whispered. “We need to move fast and stay quiet. Kuki, that means you. No communication until we get into the aqueduct entry point. Got it?”
“One more thing, guys,” Allea said, tapping some buttons on her cuff. The stealth program. All I have to do is run it and it will duplicate on your LifeCuffs, too. One sec… okay. We’re all set. Let’s go.”
They quietly tiptoed out of the podroom and down the hallway to the front door. As they passed Mama V’s room, they could hear the faint sounds of her snoring from within. Barely breathing and moving slowly, they stepped out of the door and into the cold, crisp, black night.
Geon looked up at the sky and saw that even the moon was hidden behind the permamist, casting only a small glow to guide them. It was darker than he remembered nights being and there were no stars to be seen. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, they walked silently in a line along the path to the city. It was completely quiet. There were no familiar sounds that Geon remembered… of cars, people, animals. There were no sounds of life. Geon could see his breath in front of him as he followed Allea. In the distance, he could see an ORB slowly blinking yellow.
They walked for about fifteen minutes when Allea finally signaled for them to stop. She motioned down to the ground nearby and the three boys came over to see. Sitting flush in the ground was a small metal square. Geon has seen and passed many of them in the last week or so, but never paid much attention to them. They lifted the heavy cover up and placed it to the side and one by one, climbed the ladder down into the dark chasm.
As they quietly descended, the air became damp and pungent. Geon couldn’t see anything around him and he felt his other senses heightening.
Maybe this was a mistake
, he thought to himself as he crinkled his nose. Kumuki seemed unaware of the putrid odor. They climbed down much further than Geon expected to. The sound of water dripping around them echoed through the dark space. Once at the bottom, Allea turned on an illuminaband and pulled it around her head and gave one to each of them to put on as well. Instantly, the bands began glowing and cast a beam of light in front and to the sides of them. Geon could see that they were in an old stone-lined tunnel, with a thin layer of murky liquid on the ground below them.
“This way,” Allea whispered, heading down the tunnel. “Let’s move quickly.”
She guided them around the snaking labyrinth with her hologram blueprint shining in front of her, the four of them splashing rank seepage in every direction. They walked for what seemed like hours before she finally slowed them down and motioned to keep quiet.
“Do you hear that?” she said tensely, her eyes wide open.
Geon nodded. It sounded like voices to him.
They turned off their illuminabands and slowly proceeded toward the voices. As they reached the corner of the tunnel, Sabien motioned for them to stay and carefully crept to the edge to take a closer look. They could clearly hear voices now.
Who else was down here
We need to get out of here!
A man jumped out of the shadows and grabbed Sabien by the collar.
“WELL, WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE! FAWN! GNU! COME TAKE A LOOK!”
Another man and a woman came running around the corner and grabbed Geon and the others. The second man was large and strong and grabbed both Geon and Kumuki at the same time, one in each enormous hand, their collars tightening around their throats. Geon felt himself gasp as they all struggled to break free.
“LOOKS LIKE WE GOT SOME INFILTRATORS! YOUNG ONES THIS TIME, EH? DIDN’T KNOW CARE WAS RECRUITING LITTLE CHILDREN NOW!”
“CARE?” Sabien shouted, still jerking to break loose. “We aren’t with CARE!”
“AH THAT’S WHAT THEY ALL SAY ISN’T IT!”
“It’s true!” Geon added. “We don’t trust CARE!”
“We HATE them!”
Suddenly everyone got quiet and looked at Kumuki and then at each other. Sabien stopped struggling and the large man loosened his grip on him.
“Well, if you’re not with CARE, then who are you, and what are you doing down here?”
“Well,” Geon said. “We were… we ar—”
“We’re just exploring,” Allea interjected. “I’m doing a project for school to study the potential energy harnessing power of improved waste management and water runoff, and we wanted to get a firsthand experience. We had to break curfew to do this.”
The four of them immediately let go of Geon and the others. Geon could see now that they were dirty and covered in filth, their clothes tattered and torn.
“Ah, it’s nothing, Yusev. Just some crazy kids. Stay out of here, you hear me? This is no place for you kids.”
“No problem,” Allea said, motioning for them to walk away.
Geon was overcome with curiosity, though and turned back toward them. “Who
you guys? And what are you doing down here?”
The man who grabbed Sabien turned back toward them and stared at Geon for some time before finally answering. “We are a collective group known as the Stand. Also known as Dissenters. Or as CARE calls us… grubs, on account that we hole up in these underground tunnels. We refuse to live under the oppression that you live up there, so we live down here, by our rules. And my name is Yusev.”
The lady stepped forward and introduced herself as Fawn and the large second man as Gnu.
Geon nodded and responded, “So, you guys live…
Down in these…
“Hah! It’s not as bad as it seems,” Yusev said with a smile.
“It’s worse,” Fawn replied with a smirk.
“Well,” Yusev continued, shooting a glare at Fawn. “We don’t have the luxuries that you all have up there…”
Geon thought. I
never really thought that a simple shower could be a luxury.
“…What with your fancy clothes and floating vehicles. But that doesn’t matter. We refuse to live by CARE’s rules. They don’t care about you. They care about order and control. They care about their own survival. Haven’t you kids noticed that things seem off?”
Geon and the others nodded but no one mentioned anything about what they were really doing down in the tunnels.
We don’t know who we can trust right now
Best to just keep the truth to ourselves. Who knows if these guys are telling the truth or not? For all we know, they might work for CARE.
“So, yeah, we live here. We go up top to get food and supplies when we can, but you would be amazed at how much we find down here too. There are relics from every part of the world piled up around here. Anything you need, we can find or get. And we don’t use credits like you guys. We trade for necessities. Food, supplies, vitamins. We might even have something that you need for that little project of yours.”
“Thank you but unless you have a parabolic antenna, I think we’re okay,” Allea said with a sigh.
Yusev looked at her and smiled, stroking his chin slowly. “A parabolic antenna, you say? That might be something that can be arranged. But something like that would be very costly. We need another high-capacity reverse osmosis water filter. Clean water down here is a necessity to stay alive. If you can get one, I think a trade can be arranged.”
“Unlikely,” Allea said with a dejected frown. “But thank you for the offer.”
“Of course, aside from that, the only other thing you need to know about, is down here we take care of each other.”
“Are there more people like you here?” Allea asked, a concerned look on her face.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Yusev answered. “In these tunnels, in this sector, hundreds more. And in tunnels in every sector, hundreds and thousands more.”
There’s an entire world down here.
“But enough about us. You kids have seen enough and you better get moving else you find yourself in real trouble with the wrong people. And I don’t mean us.”
They turned and walked away as Allea found them an alternate way to get them back on track. Once out of earshot, the four of them exploded in quiet shock.
“Can you believe this?” Sabien said in a loud whisper. “CARE must know that they’re down here. And they don’t care? This is insane!”
“GRUBS!” Kumuki screeched.
“Totally insane,” Geon added. “They live down here like animals. But then again, you heard them. They live under their own rules. I mean, I don’t know what to think.”
“Guys, I know this is a lot to handle and really unexpected, but I think we need to allocate this discussion for another time and focus on our mission right now. We have a limited amount of time and if you want to proceed, we need to stay on track.”
“She’s right, guys. Let’s do it,” Sabien said.
“I’ve rerouted our path to avoid the Dissenters, but it will take us a little extra time to get there. Then again, who knows what else is lurking in these tunnels.”
“Okay, Ally. Let’s all keep a watch out, keep quiet, and be careful,” Geon said.
They continued on through the aqueduct for another thirty minutes or so, making turns and going up and down through angled junctions, until finally, Allea signaled them to stop.
“Okay, guys, we’re here. Directly beneath the MOOH. Now I just need to transmit the security program Helano created. It’s basically a spectrum of different override programs, since he didn’t know exactly which type of security we would be needing.”
“Great,” Geon said. “Is everyone ready?”
“Hang on, G. There is one thing I didn’t mention about the program. Helano said that his program could only override the MOOH security for a short period of time. After that…”
“What happens?” Kumuki nervously inquired.
“Well, after that, the motion sensors in the MOOH turn back on. So we can’t be there, otherwise we will trigger the sensors and then the cameras will turn on.”
“Okay. This is manageable,” Sabien said. “How long do we have?”
“Oh my God!”
“THREE MINUTES?” Sabien loudly whispered. “This is
! That’s not possible! Why didn’t you tell us that earlier? We wasted all this time! It can’t be done!”