Author’s Note: Welcome to another week of Paradise, a science fiction work-in-progress. If you have just stumbled upon this site, each week new chapters are posted as they are written. This is a first draft so please keep in mind that there will be mistakes and possible inconsistencies.
Last week, the chapter ended with Menton jumping into full flight mode. Let’s see what happens next.
Read the story from the beginning by clicking here.
Everything blurred past me as Menton bounded along down the hall with gazelle-like strides. She had seen or heard something to make her run but wasn’t willing to take the time to clue me in. She was running in the same direction we had been walking, so at first, I wasn’t sure if she was running to safety or running into battle.
The wait for an answer was short as just as swiftly she swung me down from her shoulder and set me down against a wall.
“Don’t make a sound and don’t move,” she commanded me. In another second, she had bounded so much further down the cave that I couldn’t see where she went.
My headlamp was still shining, but the cave was wider where I was sitting and the light did not penetrate the dark far enough for me to see the opposite wall. A chill caressed my spine as I imagined what could be in the dark.
The shriek of weapon fire soon startled me into the reality of our situation. The orange light flashed in quick bursts far ahead of me in the tunnel. Frantically, with my heart in battle mode, I began to search the wall behind me for an opening. I was sure there was a reason why Menton had put me down where she did.
Crawling forward a little, I did find another opening in the rock. It was a little bigger than the last one I had to crawl through and not near as long. My head was clear of the wall before my knees had entered the opened.
It was dank and musty on the other side. Water was running down the far wall and in a stream that cut a path at the base of the wall. The “far wall” is a bit of a misnomer because the opening was so small I could almost reach it from where I stood. A quick inspection of the other three walls revealed nothing but a few cave crickets. I huddled close to the entrance after taking off my chest plate armor. The only weapon I had been carrying had disappeared during Menton’s epic sprint. I decided that if anything stuck a head or anything else through the opening that my armor would be enough to chop its head off.
Weapon fire continued far up the cave but the sound was muffled from my new vantage point. Moments later the firing stopped and an eerie silence enveloped me. There was some comfort in the trickle of the water running down the wall even if the water might be poisoned. At least I wasn’t in total silence.
It seemed like a long time before I heard movement outside the opening. I readied my shield to bash anything the came through.
“Roman?” came my name in a whisper. A wave of relief washed over me as I realized it was Sam’s voice.
“Yeah, it’s me. It’s safe now. You can come out.”
I clung tightly to the shield as I slithered back out of the opening. Sam was the only one there to greet me.
“Where are Benjamin and Menton?” I asked, fearing the worst.
“Up ahead,” she nodded. “Don’t worry, they are fine. Whatever was here is gone now.”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here getting you.”
“Nice,” I reproached her.
“Of course, I’m kidding.” I was looking at her but I was sure she was smirking at me.
“I lost my weapon,” I told her, changing the subject. “It must have fallen when Menton was carrying me.”
“Menton has it,” she informed me.
“Menton has it?” I was incensed. “What was I supposed to use to defend myself.”
Sam laughed out and then caught herself because she was still trying to be quiet.
“Roman, she knew this part of the cave was clear. She took her stance at a bottleneck to make sure nothing got past her. You were never going to need your weapon.”
I wanted to put faith in her words but would have felt more secure with some form of defense in my hands.
Menton and Benjamin were standing guard at the choke point.
“Did you see anything?” I asked them.
“We never do,” Benjamin replied. “And that’s the problem.”
“So, what do we do?” I asked.
Menton turned to me and I was sure there was a hint of disapproval in her eyes.
“Um, General, sir,” she started, “I don’t hear anything. It should be safe to move forward.”
“What did you hear?” I wanted to know, still unsure as to how she knew there was trouble ahead.
“Enhancements,” Sam muttered, gesturing to her ear.
“Ah, okay.” I dropped the subject.
Our pack trudged forward and soon came to a large metal sliding door. It took all four of us to slide it open far enough that we could get through it. On the other side was the interior so large that I couldn’t see the other side.
“Where are we?” I asked just inside the door.
“They used to build airplanes here for the military,” Sam informed me. “Everything has been long since scavenged, though.”
For reasons that weren’t clear to me, Sam insisted we close the sliding door behind us. The stubborn door insisted on the strength of the four of us combined before it was willing to budge. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if one of us did not make it back from our mission.
The hangar led to a number of builders that once had been a military base. Every room and hallway was strewn with debris and years of collected dust and cobwebs. I couldn’t help but notice that every so often there was a glass box on the wall with a red button inside.
“Sam,” I finally started, “what’s the deal with the red button.”
“Blast doors,” she told me. “They still work as far as I know.” She pointed to a metal seam that ran vertically up the wall near one of the buttons. “Press the button and a metal door instantly seals the corridor. Be careful, though,” she warned. “The doors are propelled by explosives. If you are not clear before you push the button, you will lose a hand or worse.”
I made a mental note, “Stay away from the red buttons.”
Deep in the base, we entered a small room just big enough for the four of us to lie on the floor.
“We’ll stay here tonight,” she told me. “Nothing can get into this room once we seal the door. Tomorrow we meet our help.”
“Who exactly are we meeting?” I asked her.
“You don’t want to know,” was her only reply.
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Exhaustion pulled me quickly to the floor. It seemed like I had no more than closed my eyes when there was pounding on the door. My heart began to race, but Sam was confident that the Plax would not knock and she sprung open and opened the heavy door.
Standing outside the door was a mountain of a man that would have made even Peadar appear small. With a sour grimace on his face, he only said two words, “Let’s move.”
I was able to learn that his name was Chet before his harsh stare told us that he did not want any talking. Not far from where he had found us, we came to what appeared to be a dead end. The wall in front of us began to move and gave us a view of a long, downward sloping corridor. We walked down the corridor for at least twenty minutes before we reached a door. Along the way, there were the dangerous red buttons every fifty feet or so.
The room we entered was large. At least thirty people turned to look at us as we entered, and the room fell silent.
“Volunteers?” Chet barked out, and all the hands in the room went up with the exception of the four of us from the bunker. There was a distinct impression that “volunteer” did not carry the meaning we were used to. Something told me it was going to be an unforgettable day.
Author’s Note: Thank you for coming along with my on this journey. I would love to hear your thoughts.
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