The Agora Files – Part I – Online Edition – Chapter Fourteen

We run like this for a while, stopping every five to ten miles or so to rest in another group of abandoned cars. This is what I’m used to, the running for miles on end in relative solitude.

Honestly, I could run like this for ever. My shadow stretches pretty far ahead of me, meaning the sun is getting lower in the sky to my back. The music stops. Both Eve and I stop running in our tracks.

“You two are almost there. Only another 3 miles until you reach your destination” I look down at my GPS and see it’s actually 2.93 miles.

“Really?” Eve asks. “Already?” I feel the same. I’m energized, even with my lack of rest over the last couple days.

“That’s why I stopped you. You’re making great time and now that you’re in Wyoming, you’ve got a ton of flat land ahead of you. It wouldn’t hurt to use that to your advantage. So I did a bit of research.”

“Yeah?” I ask.

“Well, you think you’ve got another 30 miles in you before stopping for the night?”

“Easily,” Eve chimes in quickly.

“Definitely,” I agree.

“Perfect. Lyman, Wyoming is just within reach and if the–”

“You know about Lyman?” Eve jumps in.

“Is it true?” The Geek asks. His voice squeaks in excitement.

“Depends on what you know.”

“Can someone let me in on what’s in Lyman already?” I ask harshly.

“Sure,” The Geek responds, “Lyman was one of the original rebel bases.”

“It was actually the first and only rebel base for ages,” Eve explains. “That’s why the retired rebels are based out in SLC. Far enough away to keep them safe, close enough to make it easy to transport them when it’s time.”

“Cool,” The Geek responds. “So, if the story is true, Lyman became so big that they finally got up the balls and seceded.”

“Succeeded in what?” I ask, still feeling lost.

“No, seceded, Cyrus,” Eve seems disappointed in my misunderstanding. “It means they declared themselves separate from the rest of the country.”

“Ah,” I fake understanding.

“Right,” The Geek continues. “Anyways, so, obviously the government wasn’t a big fan of the idea that any city can just leave the nation whenever they want, so, they stopped it.”

“Stopped it how,” I ask, still feeling really dumb.

“They destroyed it, Cyrus,” Eve says quietly.

“If my sources are correct, destroyed is an understatement. They nuked it. Lyman was nothing more than a crater after they got done with it. In fact, you can look on any map. Lyman, Wyoming officially doesn’t exist.”

“So, why would we want to go there?” I ask. “Sounds like the last place we’d want to be.”

“Since Eve hasn’t corrected me on anything yet, I’m guessing my info’s pretty solid, which means, the rebels rebuilt. Doesn’t sound like the new settlement is all that big, but small might be better for us anyways.”

“Small is an understatement,” Eve adds. “Last time I was there, there was only one family left. The land is absolutely worthless. They can’t grow anything and there’s still too much radiation in the air for a healthy living situation.”

“So, why do they stay out there?” I ask, then thinking again of the situation, “And why do we want to go?”

“They stay because of what Lyman means. It was, for a long time, the symbol of the revolution, the one place where we were actually making a difference, where our voice could be heard. When it was destroyed, well, it was a very difficult day for the movement, to say the least.”

“Doesn’t seem like a very good reason to risk their lives to me,” I reply glumly.

“Maybe not, but just having someone still there, in this city that the rest of the country believes doesn’t exist anymore, it means that in some small way, we have won.”

“Okay. So, has it made a difference? You know, in the moods of the rebels?”

“I wish. Most people don’t even know Lyman ever existed.”

“So, the rebels have kinda nuked Lyman, too, huh?”

“Yeah,” Eve drops her head. “I guess you could say that.”

“So, should we go find out what’s in Lyman?” I ask.

“The train tracks are only going to be worth following for a couple more miles,” The Geek answers, “and then they head north. Keep heading east and you should be fine.”

“Sounds perfect,” I say.

I head off and Eve follows slowly. Teenage Wasteland by The Who. It seems like The Geek has decided to be a snot to Eve this time around. Oh well, it’s a good song all the same.

Approximately five miles later we find ourselves in front of a tunnel leading through the hills. I hate tunnels. They’re dark, they’re filled with people, and, worst of all, there are very few ways out if something should happen. The SPs are the least of your worries in a tunnel. Eve seems to be thinking the same thing.

“Geek, how much time would it add to go over?” I ask, trying not to let my lack of confidence in the situation show.

“Over the hills?”

“Yeah,” I add. “You know I don’t like tunnels.”

“Me neither,” Eve agrees.

“Well, let me see.” I hear The Geek typing again. He appears to be doing so slowly, as if to say this isn’t an important dilemma to him. “The tunnel’s about a mile and a quarter long. Going through would take almost no time at all. Going up and over, it’s not the best terrain, could easily double, if not triple the amount of time it takes to get to the other side. That’s why they built the tunnel in the first place, you know.”

“We could find a place to hang out for the night in the hills,” Eve offers, her eyes never leaving the mouth of the tunnel.

“There’s not much in the hills for cover,” The Geek adds. “Just go through the tunnel and get it over with. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Now that you’ve said that,” I grimace, “I guess we’ll be finding out soon.”

“What do you think?” Eve asks.

“The Geek’s right, going over could be just as dangerous as through, not to mention it might mean the difference in making it to safety for the night. Adding the incline to our run could exhaust us pretty fast, making the rest of the run to Lyman impossible. I can’t believe I’m saying this,” I pause, letting a loud sigh escape my mouth as I run the risks through my head before I finally, and uncomfortably, say, “Let’s go through.”

“Are you sure?” Eve asks.

“Like The Geek said, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“I don’t even want to know. Alright, you’re the boss,” she says as she takes a deep breath. “See you on the other side!” Without even giving me a look, she runs into the tunnel, dust kicking up behind her. I exhale slowly before I follow.

Headphones are around my neck and my every sense is as alert as I can make it. I feel a cold grip on my heart telling me to turn back. There are very few things in this world I am afraid of. Tunnels just so happen to be on the top of the list.

It is intensely dark in here. I can’t see my feet. I can barely make out a faint glimmer of light at the other end. Panic overwhelms me as I look behind me and see the light fading. I try to reassure myself by envisioning what is actually in this tunnel with me. Train cars, obviously. And drifters.

As I think of them, I find myself aware of them. The constant groans and grunts coming from below me cause me to jump at every step, uncertain what they might be thinking as I make my way through their domain. I instinctually quicken my pace, stepping on several people as I make my way.

It sounds like Eve’s doing the same, from the sounds just ahead of me. The path is almost fully blocked now by a series of abandoned train cars, causing us to be pushed up closer to the tunnel walls. This also means we’re running into a lot more for human-sized obstacles.

At the speed we’re moving, it should only take five minutes to get from one end to the other, but it already feels like we’ve been in here for weeks. The fear has completely taken over my mind and I can’t think of anything else. If I don’t get out of this tunnel soon, I’m concerned my heart will explode from how fast it’s beating. I stretch my arm back into my pack and pull out my Taser, gripping it tightly against my chest as I continue forward.

I hear a short scream from ahead followed by a thud. A few steps later I find Eve, lying on the ground, struggling to get away from a man who is treating her foot as if it were gold. She screams in fright as I grab her hand.

“I’ve got you,” I whisper, fingering the trigger on my Taser before I remember that it could shock Eve as well, since she’s still making contact with the man.

Instead, I swing my leg forward and stomp down as hard as I can directly below his waist. He yelps in agony as he releases his hold on Eve. She falls forward face first onto the ground.

I help her to her feet and keep my grip on her hand, pulling her behind me as I take the lead and sprint toward the exit of this hell. She stumbles behind me, but we can’t stop now.

“Go,” she yells, “I’ll keep up!”

The tunnel is getting more crowded as we near the exit. I squint as the light at the end of the tunnel blinds me. Eve releases her grip on my hand and I move even faster, happy to know I’m no longer trapped in here, until I hear a bloodcurdling scream come from within.

“Cyrus!” Her shout is cut short as though someone has covered her mouth. I turn to look, my eyes struggling to adjust. I can just barely make out a dark blur.

“What’s happening?” The Geek yells through my headphones.

I squint my eyes further and the blur begins to take focus. First I see the wide-eyed expression on Eve’s face, then I notice the large man who has his hands wrapped around her, one on her mouth, the other on her neck.

“Eve?” I say as I walk forward slowly, sizing up the man as I do. He blends in well with the rest of the tunnel, being one of the dark skins and wearing all black. I can’t see much, since I’m still trying to get the stars out of my eyes, but I know I don’t stand a fair chance against this man if it comes down to it.

“Stay back,” the man yells, tightening his grip on Eve.

“Okay,” I say, taking a step away from the pair. “Anything you say, man. You’re in control.”

“That’s right. I am,” he yells.  His voice sounds shaky.

“Okay, so, since you’re in charge. What do you want? We don’t have much for money.” I have my Taser hidden behind my back, finger twitching against the trigger as I weigh my odds.

“Eve here knows exactly what I want, don’t you girly?” he says quite menacingly. “You two are worth quite a bit of money now, aren’t ya?”

Eve manages to free her mouth and yells. “Run, Cyrus!” The man quickly recovers and she is silenced once again.

“You could run, Cyrus, finish your little job or whatever. But I have the feeling that won’t happen, will it?”

“You want to talk about the bounty? Then let’s swap. You take me and let Eve go free. She’s not worth anything anyways.”

“Did you hear that, Evey? Your new boyfriend says you’re not worth anything.”

I inch my way closer to him as he turns his attention to Eve. I’m not sure what’s going on with this guy, but I really want to end it as quickly as possible. If he’s really here to collect the bounty, it’s possible the SPs aren’t very far behind. And the horrors they have waiting for us are a hundred times worse than anything this guy has planned. His focus is completely on Eve now.

“We had good times together, didn’t we. Eve? Didn’t we?” he repeats, shaking her body as he does.

I’ve made it halfway to them, but I doubt I can get any closer without him noticing. Is it possible I can get to him before he can do anything to Eve? Even if I do make it there before he can react, will I be able to overpower him? I don’t see a weapon in his hands, but I don’t trust my eyes enough to think it’s not possible

I hear a loud grunt followed by a squeal and see Eve running toward me.

“RUN!” She screams. I pause long enough to see the man recover from what appears to have been an amazing sucker punch to the kidneys. He looks up at me and I get my first clear view of his face. The only things I need to see before I turn to run are his eyes.

I run, unable to catch Eve. She cuts sharply to the left. I follow. A glimpse over my shoulder shows me he hasn’t forgotten about us. I now see the sun reflecting brightly off a knife he’s brandishing in his left hand. He doesn’t have the speed we have, but the look in his eyes says he has the dedication, and we’ve been running too much today to have the stamina to keep us ahead of him for long.

I turn back to look at Eve has she hops over the door of an open-top jeep. On the side of the truck I see the words CITY OF LYMAN and I freeze.

Go to Chapter Fifteen

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