We lie there for several minutes with nothing but our ragged breaths filling the silence. Suddenly, Eve jumps to her feet, fully alert.
“We’ve gotta move!” she screams.
“What do you mean?” I ask. “We made it.”
“But they can see us. The drones!”
“No they can’t.” I shrug.
“If we can see them, they can see us.” I look down and see the entire forest is flooded with blinking red lights and silvery floating orbs.
“Right, except, don’t you remember the whole weird camouflage thingie this lab or whatever has? Believe me, we’re safe. When you climbed in the hole up here, you disappeared. It looked like you were climbing into a doorway made out of air.”
“Really?” she says, huffing as she stands there and stares me down.
“Yeah really. Why would I lie about something like that?”
“I don’t know. But you’re sure, right?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. I mean, I’m mostly sure. Look, I don’t really know how this all works or anything. But, I’m pretty sure if they were going to see us, it would have happened when they got here five minutes ago.”
“We’ve been up here for five minutes?”
“Yeah, enjoy your little nap?”
“I guess I must have.”
There’s a silence in the air as Eve works through the information she’s been given.
“This is really weird, right?” she asks. “It’s like we’re standing on nothing.”
“Yeah,” I answer. “I’m surprised you’re even able to stand. I’ve tried a few times since we got up here, but keep losing my footing.”
“You and your stupid issue with heights.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know I jumped out of a plane yesterday. Or today? Maybe it was two days ago? I’m really having a hard time keeping track of time.”
“Yeah, I don’t believe you.” She feels around on the ground ahead of her. “Where do you think this goes?”
“I guess that depends on what this is. For all we know, we could be on a little ledge on the side of the building which only goes on for a few feet.”
“I don’t think so,” she answers. “Don’t you notice the air?”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s no wind, no nothing. It’s stagnant in here, like a room which hasn’t been opened in years. I think we’re inside.”
“Inside? Inside what?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m looking for a wall.” She continues wiping her hands across the floor.
“That’s crazy,” I reply. “Why would they have a room which looks as though you’re in the middle of the air?
“Maybe, they want to screw with whoever might get in here, in case they shouldn’t be.”
“Okay,” I reply uncertainly. “But what purpose would this room serve, assuming it is a room.”
“Aha!” She runs her hands along the air to her side until she reaches a standing position. “Found the wall!”
“Great. What does it mean?”
“It means, we can follow it to see where this whole thing takes us. No sense in standing still.” I crawl beside her and use the wall for support to get into a standing position.
“Okay. Lead the way.” I gesture my hand out in front of her.
“I’d be delighted to.” She steps forward. She bounces as she walks through the nothingness, all the while keeping one hand to the wall and one out in front of her.
“So, pretty weird day, huh?” she asks.
“I don’t know. Feeling pretty standard now. Doesn’t feel like things will ever be normal again.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. Yesterday I was in prison. Like, real prison. You have no clue what that’s like.”
“What do you mean?” I ask. “I was in prison, too.”
“Yeah, but like only for a few hours. I was there for almost a week. Besides, you weren’t being interrogated. You don’t know how nice you had it.”
“How nice I had it? I ran through the city of Boston on foot being attacked by every single person who was capable of walking. There were even a couple guys on scooters who I’m pretty sure couldn’t walk, so, you know, disabilities didn’t even stop people from attacking me.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says angrily, making a sharp turn to the right. “Sounds horrible. Much worse than having a group of soldiers blindfold you and torture you for information. I’m sorry I even considered questioning what you’ve gone through.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, my head turning toward the floor. “You’re right. I hadn’t even really thought about what all you must have gone through. I shouldn’t have—“
“Seriously, don’t worry about it,” Eve stops me. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“No, you should have. I left you because I wanted to keep you safe, but I didn’t even think about what might happen to you if you were captured.”
“Cyrus, I wanted to be captured. I tried to get caught.”
“I know, but still. I knew there was a possibility it might be something you would do. I wanted you to be safe. I didn’t think…” I trail off.
Eve stops in her tracks, looks at me, and grabs my hand. “Cyrus, look at me.” She lifts my chin with her other hand. “You don’t need to worry about me. I’m a big girl. I knew what I was signing up for when I came along with you. Besides, I’m the one who got you involved in all of this, remember? I should be the one saying I’m sorry to you.”
“That’s right. You never explained why. Why you would have chosen me over anyone else.”
“You’re right. You do deserve to know.”
“You’re not going to tell me you’re working for some sort of other type of secret organization, are you?”
“No.” She laughs. “Nothing so convoluted. If anything, it’s stupid.”
“So?” I ask softly.
“I’ll tell you, okay, but you have to promise me you’ll understand I didn’t realize how big of a deal this whole run would be. I knew it wasn’t a normal run, but I had no idea of what it really was. Not back then at least.”
“Okay,” I say tentatively.
“Ever since our time in the Canyon, I’ve…Well, I’ve had a hard time getting you out of my mind. I’m not trying to say I’m obsessed with you or anything, but how you sacrificed yourself for me… It’s a hard thing to forget, you know?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I can’t say I haven’t thought about my decision a few times in the past.”
“Right, so, it was really the only time we’ve ever really, you know, hung out. We’ve passed each other along the way a couple times, I know, but really, well, it was our moment. The one moment we shared.”
“I know. I don’t know how to say this, Cy.”
“You can tell me.”
“But, it seems so stupid now.”
“I promise I won’t laugh.”
“I know, but…”
I grab her other hand and place it against my heart. I begin speaking in a deep voice, straining to sound as serious as possible. “Eve, I haven’t stopped thinking about you since the moment at the Canyon either. I didn’t know why until a few days ago, but I do now. If I had known this run would have involved spending time with you, I would have chosen it from the start. Sure, I may have tried to ditch you a few times, but it’s because I really didn’t know how to deal with the feelings having you around caused me to feel.”
“Cyrus, I should really—“
“No, I’ve already started, I’m going to finish,” I say before taking a deep breath. “Eve Gardner,” I say with confidence. “I think I might like you.” I break into a huge smile.
Eve chuckles lightly.
“What?” I feign feeling hurt. “You think it’s funny?”
“No,” she says, her face taking on a much more serious look. “I think it’s perfect.”
“Look, I get it, alright. Obviously there’s something between us. Let’s not get all serious and stupid about it, okay?” I ask. “At least not when we’ve got a whole ton of folks ready to cart us off to jail or the chopping block or whatever.”
“No buts. I don’t want to seem insensitive to this romantic moment we’re having or anything, but we’re standing ten feet up in the air and I would really like to find a way back down to solid ground.”
“What?” Eve smirks, stomping on the invisible floor beneath us. “Seems pretty solid to me.”
“Sure doesn’t look solid.” I grimace as the whole thing shakes in response to her pounding foot.
“Fine.” She grabs my hand and pulls me forward. “But don’t think you’re getting away with ending this conversation so easily. If you weren’t so tense, I might have been tempted to make our stay up here a little longer.”
“Eve, if you make me stay up here any longer, I promise you I will take back everything I said and give myself up to the SPs.”
“Don’t worry, it can’t be much farther now. Look, the lake’s up ahead.”
“Great,” I groan. “Just what I need. An invisible tunnel over a lake. This is starting to feel like Canada all over again.”
“Oh, come on,” Eve cheers and speeds forward. “You’re always so afraid of everything. I thought you were supposed to be the fearless Cyrus Rhodes.”
“I am. As long as I’m on solid and visible ground.”
The water line nears and passes as we continue forward. Eve slows as we pass over the water.
“That’s weird. They can’t have the tunnel go over the lake.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“Because doesn’t the seaplane take off from this lake? It seems mighty dangerous to have an invisible walkway right in the middle of where your plane takes off.”
“Oh,” I mutter. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I put my hands out around me, now fearful I’ll be face-planting against a wall at any moment.
“Oooh,” Eve says excitedly. I bash my face against an invisible solid. Apparently having your hands in front of you isn’t quite enough to keep from injuring yourself. Note for the future, I guess.
“Okay,” I say, rubbing my aching nose. “Now what?”
“I don’t know.” Eve feels around. “I had kind of figured the walkway might turn to go along the building, probably to have a doorway in at some point. Instead, this is a full-on dead end nowhere near the part of the lab we were in.”
“Could we maybe climb out over the top?”
“From how stale the air in here is, I’m guessing we’re closed in.”
“So, the only option we have left is to go back, huh?”
“Or down!” Eve says, clapping her hands before feeling around on the ground below us.
“What are you doing?”
“Don’t you remember, Cy? Where we came up, there was a trapdoor. Maybe that’s the case here!”
“Yeah, but there was also a tree to climb down on. We’re standing 10 feet above nothing but water.”
“Ah ha!” Eve shouts as a whirring noise sounds. A black square appears in the middle of the air at our feet.
“What the–” I begin to ask.
“You got something we could drop into it?” Eve asks. “You know, to tell how deep it is?”
“I’m still trying to figure out what it is. How is there a hole in the middle of the air?”
“Come on, Cyrus, think about it. The only reason we’re standing in the middle of the air is because the weirdo camouflage they’re using is active in here. Obviously it’s not active inside the hole.”
“But won’t that mean we’ll be visible to everyone outside if we go in it?”
“Not necessarily. You didn’t notice any weird black columns stretching up out of the water when we were on shore, did you?”
“Right, so, more than likely, the camouflage is still turned on outside this column, just not on the interior. Probably because it would be too dangerous to climb down. Now, come on and give me something to throw so we can see how far down it goes.”
“But won’t it hit the water?”
“Not if wherever this leads is under the water.”
“I’m not going back under the water.”
“There could be an invisible boat,” she offers.
“What if there isn’t?”
“That’s why I’m asking you if you have something we can drop down to the bottom. So we can see how deep this stupid thing is.”
“Okay,” I relent. “Fine.” I rummage around in my pockets, which are completely empty. I pull out the insides to show Eve.
“What about in your bag?” she asks, gesturing to my pack.
“I think it’s still on the seaplane.”
“Okay.” Eve shrugs. “I guess we go down then.”
“Without knowing where we’re going?” I recoil.
“Um, we know we’re going down.”
“Yeah, but to where?”
“Weren’t you the one complaining about being up in the sky? Can you get it together for a minute and be the cocky runner you used to pretend to be.”
“Hey, I wasn’t pretending. I’m plenty cocky.”
“Great, then get your cocky butt down that hole. Or am I going to have to go first?”
“Jeez,” I groan yet again. “Fine, I’ll go first. But you owe me.”
“That’ll be a first.” She smirks.
I glare at her, take a deep breath, close my eyes, and jump into the hole.
Go to Chapter Twenty