Authors: Dayton Grey
“Oh my God,” Geon added. “I don’t know… it seems…”
“Geon,” Allea said sternly, looking straight into his eyes. “Trust me. It
Geon looked at her and thought about it.
I have no reason not to trust her. She has always been good with numbers and wouldn’t steer us into danger.
“Okay, Guys. Sabe, Kumuki, I trust her. We can do this. Right, Ally?”
“Yes, we can. Listen, I ran hypotheticals ahead of time. The key is on the other side of the museum, so we need to get there, scan it, and get back. We can create the duplicated key once we’re safe back in the aqueducts. Scanning takes about thirty seconds, but we have to make sure to hold the device still, because we aren’t able to take the key and put it here on the device. So we will have to hold the device up to the key.”
“Okay so that leaves us two-and-a-half minutes to get to the key and get back. That sounds doable,” Geon added, feeling more relieved. “I’m setting the three-minute alarm on my cuff. Sabe, are you good with this?”
“I’m good. Just try to keep up with me, G.”
“Okay, is everyone ready? I’m turning on the security override… NOW.”
Sabien and Geon pushed the square metal cover up and to the side and it hit the floor with a loud clank.
The four scrambled up into the museum and frantically jerked around, trying to find their bearings.
“Which way?” Geon asked.
“This way!” Sabien harshly whispered, grabbing Geon and pulling him in the direction of the key. They ran down the hall and to the right, flying by the relics and displays they saw only a week earlier. It was dark in the museum, but Geon could still make out some of the items he had seen during his visit.
Somehow it all looks spookier now,
“C’mon, Kuki! Ally, are you okay?” Geon asked, keeping his eyes fixed forward.
“I’m fine, keep going!”
A few more turns and finally they could see the display with the key at the end of a short hallway. Geon looked down at his timer and saw that forty-seven seconds had passed.
Keep moving, we’re doing okay.
He grabbed Sabien’s bag and unzipped it, pulling the duplicator device out.
“Ally, turn it on!”
Allea punched some buttons quickly and then instructed them to hold it steady right in front of the glass case with the key. Kumuki was holding one side, Sabien on the other, and Geon supporting it from the front.
“Whatever you do, don’t move,” she said. “We have one shot at this.”
An array of lasers shot out of the side of the duplicator and toward the key. It instantly seemed to recognize the key as the target object, as the lights flew around it, measuring and copying every angle and crevice.
Geon moved his eyes down to his LifeCuff without moving his head.
One minute gone.
“Two minutes left,” he said. “We’re doing well.”
Each second passed as Geon’s heart raced. He felt his face and head itching and his arms hurting from holding them so still, but he tuned everything out and kept everything still.
“Almost done scanning,” Allea said. “Five seconds. Four… three…”
Geon felt the device moving in his hands. He stopped breathing and looked over to Sabien, who looked at Kumuki. Not knowing who was moving it, Geon tried to stabilize the device.
It was too late. The duplicator beeped and stopped scanning.
“Oh my God, WHAT HAPPENED?” Allea shouted. “It didn’t capture it. We have to go!”
Geon looked down at his cuff.
One minute and nineteen seconds left. We can do this.
“Guys wait, we can do this. Quickly! Allea scan it again, I calculated and we can make it!”
“THERE’S NO TIME!” Kumuki yelled.
“Enough,” Sabien said. “Allea. Scan it.”
Allea nodded and turned the scanner back on as they held it as still as possible. Geon looked down at his cuff once more. He looked up at the others and without moving his body, head or lips, quietly said, “Guys. We will have exactly thirty seconds to run like we’ve never run before.”
“Oh no,” Kumuki said, keeping his lips and body still.
“We can do it. Me and Sabe will finish the scanning. Ally, Kumuki, I want you two to get a head start when I say so, okay?”
They agreed as Geon looked at Sabien with a smile. “We’ve got this, right, Sabe?”
Sabien smiled back and said, “No problem, G. How long do we have?”
Sabien sounded calm but Geon could tell that he was nervous. He could feel his own heart pulsating through his skin, and small beads of sweat beginning to form around his temples. He looked down at his cuff once more.
“Forty-one… forty… thirty-nine… Allea?”
“Almost there,” she said, looking at the duplicator. “Almost… five… four…”
“Ally, Kumuki. RUN! Sabe and I can finish it!”
Kumuki slowly let go of the device and he and Allea took off running as fast as they could back to the exit point. Geon looked up at Sabien as they held their breath, waiting for the final beep of the scanner.
The world around Geon became slow again. In his mind, in an instant, he planned out his next three movements with the maximum amount of efficiency possible. He could feel his body surging with energy, storing it to explode for the next thirty seconds.
Let go of duplicator. Spin back. Push off the ground HARD.
In an instant, he and Sabien were hurtling through the museum at a breakneck pace. They weaved in and out of each other and the displays around them, gracefully avoiding many by just inches. Sabien held the duplicator in one hand, cradled under his arm, as he led the way.
“How long, G?”
They continued running as fast as they had ever run around the maze of hallways, all the while planning out each move in advance.
This is a lot like JetSurf
, Geon thought to himself, his heart pounding in his chest and his lungs already burning like fire. They flew around the exhibits and turned corners as sharply as they could, missing collisions by miniscule margins.
Finally, they could see the end. Allea was halfway down into the hole in the ground, looking up at them.
“Give me the duplicator when you get here, Sabien!”
Sabien put his head down and burst toward her. Geon looked down at his LifeCuff one last time, and began counting the seconds in his head.
Six… five… four…
Sabien tossed the duplicator to Allea and jumped down into the hole, nearly slipping off the ladder on the way down.
Geon could see that he was only about ten feet from the hole but that it was going to be close.
I have to go for it!
He pushed off hard one last time and threw his body down on the ground, feet first toward the hole. He winced as he slammed into the solid floor with his shoulder and hip, but the slippery floor provided a perfect surface for him to slide on. His body went careening toward the hole just as the timer on his cuff went off. His legs flew in and his entire body followed, grabbing the sides of the hole just to keep from falling all the way down. Sabien was already there hanging on to the side of the ladder as Geon came in. He grabbed Geon and stabilized him on the ladder and they quickly and quietly grabbed the cover and slid it back into place with a deep, heavy thump. They waited, motionless, holding their breath, listening for the sound of an alarm to go off. There was nothing.
“Oh my God, we did it.”
Allea was beaming at the bottom of the ladder as she tightly held on to the duplicator.
“You guys were amazing,” she said as she grabbed all three of them in a group hug.
“You too, Ally,” Geon said, trying to catch his breath. “That was…
is you making us rescan the key again,” Sabien said with a smile. “I was halfway back home already when you said that! What were you thinking?”
“I dunno,” Geon said with a shrug. “I just knew… I knew we could do it. And, I knew… we
to do it.”
The four walked away from the entrance and around the corner and then stopped as Allea turned the duplicator on and placed it on the ground.
“Now we see if it worked.”
She turned it on and they all watched as the dark liquid came pouring out into the key-shaped mold. After only a minute, the machine turned off and Allea reached down and carefully pulled it out. It looked exactly like the round, metal key from the museum, except that it was smoother and had a dark bluish-black tint to it. She passed it around so they could all hold it.
“It’s not as heavy as I thought,” Sabien said. “Hopefully it will hold up when we try it.”
“Hope so,” Geon said softly.
They put the device away and followed Allea toward Oden Bay. After an hour of walking, they all stopped and took some snacks out of Geon’s bag, including purple drinks and energy-supplementing balls called AlgaBytes.
?” Geon said as he chewed on the gummy balls.
“Exactly,” Allea said.
Sabien looked at Kumuki and shook his head. “To be in your head, for even a day. I wonder.”
Kumuki looked back at Sabien with a confused expression and then smiled.
Geon offered Allea some of his AlgaBytes. “So, how much further?”
“Well,” she answered, checking her schematics on her cuff. “We’re making pretty good time but we need to pick up the pace a bit. We lost some time with the Dissenters and we need to Aurora and back before it’s light out. I would say another forty-five minutes and we’ll be at Oden Bay. Let’s get moving.”
They got up and quickened their pace. Geon felt revived from the break and snacks and was excited to see what this next phase would bring. He wanted to know more about Aurora and her world, but worried that the key might not even work on the boat.
One step at a time, Geon. You’ve come this far already.
Soon, they reached the location and Allea carefully led them out of the exit, which happened to be a large, open, overflow pipe near the water. As Geon stepped out into the misty night, he could clearly see everything in plain view, his eyes well-adjusted to the darkness from the aqueducts. They were standing near a large semi-circular bay, protected by rocky cliffs on each side. In the middle, where they were, the ground was only slightly and gradually higher than the water level. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocky sides interrupted the silence of the night. Behind them, Geon could see there were a couple small prefab structures. One of them had the CARE logo on a sign in front. Down in the water, there were some PMVs and what appeared to be an old hydroid, all floating near the edge of the jagged coast.
“This way,” Sabien said, leading them down and toward the right.
As they passed a few more PMVs, Geon finally saw what they were looking for. A small metal boat rocked gently in the water in front of them. Geon could see that it had a round steering wheel and two seats in front and a bench-style seat behind them. It looked old and the finish was weathered and rusted, but it appeared to be waterproof. Next to the boat was a small floating platform jutting out from the rocky beach.
“The moment of truth, guys,” Geon said, pulling the key out of his bag. They walked to the platform and slowly climbed into the boat. Geon felt a rush of excitement surge through his body.
Please work, please work, please work.
“Go ahead, Geon. You do it,” Allea said with a smile. The other three leaned forward in anticipation as Geon slowly pushed the key into the slot. At first it didn’t go in all the way but with a slight jiggle, it found its way in. Taking a deep breath and exhaling, he turned the key.
Suddenly the boat came to life with a loud crank and began making a high-pitched wheezing noise. The engine didn’t start. Geon stopped turning the key, feeling worried.
“Again, G,” Sabien said. “Allea does it have power… err… gas?”
Allea checked the gauges and confirmed that there was sufficient gas in the tank. Geon turned the key again, and again it came to life and began wheezing. Still nothing.
C’mon, you stupid old relic.
Geon turned the key once more, this time more forcefully, and suddenly, the entire boat shook and the engine burst alive.
“YES! You did it, G!”
Geon laughed as they all quickly celebrated with back-fives.
“Okay,” he said. “Just as a disclaimer, I’ve never driven one of these. I’ve seen it done though. Ally, a little feedback please?”
“According to the manuals I downloaded online, it’s fairly simple. The wheel turns the boat and you have forward and backward throttle. That’s it. Keep the speed slow, though. It’s a little choppy out there and we want to stay as quiet as possible.”
Geon nodded and backed them away from the platform, slowly turning the boat around. It was easier to maneuver than Geon expected, but he had to account for the lack of brakes. It felt good to be at the steering wheel. Looking ahead, Geon could see where the two cliffs came together, closing off much of the bay from the Open. The sea beyond the bay was dark and intimidating. He overcame his fear and told himself that there was something very special waiting for them on the other side.
“You guys ready?” he said. “Ally, show me the way.”
She nodded as they all took their seats and Geon slowly accelerated away from Oden Bay and toward the Open, where they would shortly be entering into the red zone.
The cold wind stung Geon’s face as the boat headed further out into the open water, and the twinkling yellow lights from the ORBs on the mainland faded in the distance. As the boat bounced up and down over crossing tides, the salty frigid waters sprayed his skin and hair. He ran his tongue over his lips and puckered at the taste of it. He was overcome with fear, anxiousness, and the intoxicating sense of freedom. He smiled to himself, realizing this was the most alive he had felt since he woke up from his coma. The thought that they might be unearthing a mystery delighted him but the dangers involved terrified him.