I instantly realize how bad of an idea this was. Bouncing from side to side on this narrow tube, I find my plummet much more frightening than the hole itself. It’s dark in here, so I can’t see what’s coming, but I tense up anyways as I await the cold splash to surround me when I hit the water.
My shirt catches on something, causing my momentum to slow as it rips before–BAM! I hit hard cold earth, landing on my feet, which causes me to fall to the ground in agony.
“Are you okay?” I hear echoing down to me. I look up and see the tube I had gone down has now lit up. I see Eve’s face staring down the hole at me.
“Yeah,” I moan in response. “Wait a second and I’ll see if I can’t find something soft for you to land on.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Eve replies. “I’ll use the ladder.”
Ladder? Jeez I’m stupid.
“Okay,” I recover, “but it’s much faster my way.”
I hear her grunt as she climbs into the tube and makes her way down. Within a matter of three minutes she’s down beside me, brushing herself off as she looks at me with a smile.
“What?” I ask incredulously.
“You know what.”
“Hey, if I had known there was a ladder, I would have used the ladder.”
“If you had even taken a second to feel around inside the lip of the thing, you would have found out there was a motion activated light in the tube, which would have made the ladder quite visible.”
“Fine.” I look around us, taking in our surroundings. “It’s dark down here.”
“Yeah,” Eve agrees. “I wonder if the SPs have ever found this place.”
“Who knows?” I shrug. “At this point, all I care about is they don’t find us.”
“I’m with you. Any clue on how to get some light in here?”
“I haven’t been able to find a wall to look for a switch.”
“There’s got to be some way to turn the lights on,” Eve says. Her voice echoes through the cavernous room.
Immediately after she says it, clicks sound all around us and the area is illuminated.
“Whoa,” I say in surprise. “Guess the motion sensors must have been delayed, huh?”
“Maybe.” Eve shrugs.
“Alright.” The room continues on in every direction for as far as I can see. There is no discernable reason to choose any one direction to go, as the entire place looks completely empty. “So, which way do we go?”
“You’ve got me,” Eve replies.
“Which way did the lake go? Maybe our exit’s on the other side?”
“It went pretty much directly south. Your GPS still get directions from down here?”
“I don’t know.” I look down at my music player and turn the display over to the map setting. Generally it has an N with an arrow next to it in order to designate which way is north. The N is still there, but the arrow is not. “Um, I guess not.”
“I suppose I could climb back up and see which way the lake was.” Eve grimaces. “I have to admit I got turned around on the way down.”
“I can’t even see the hole anymore. Looks like someone turned its lights off.”
Immediately after I say it, the room goes dark.
“What now?” Eve says, sounding scared.
“I knew it was too good to be true. Think the place runs on batteries?”
“You’re stupid,” she grunts. “Come on. Let’s find some way to get the lights on again.”
The lights click back to life.
“That’s annoying,” I say with a bit of a smile. “Maybe it’s the slowest strobe light ever?”
“Or maybe,” Eve says, her eyes lighting up as she thinks. “Lights off!”
The lights turn off.
“Lights on!” she yells cheerfully and the lights return. “They’re voice activated!”
“Cool.” I shrug. “So we figured something out.”
“Hey, if the lights are voice activated,” Eve continues thinking, “perhaps there’s more we can get to happen by speaking aloud. It seems silly to have a computer or whatever set up only to hear people when they want to turn on the lights.”
“Okay, so, you mean like, ‘Make me a sandwich!’” I shout to the void. Nothing happens.
“You can be so dumb.”
“Hey, you never know. It could have been one of the things and you would have felt stupid.”
“Right,” she says. “Let’s think this through before going through every possible combination of words. So, this is a secret cave, right? A place which seems to be separated from the actual secret lab for some reason.”
“Okay, so, you’re thinking we would say something like, ‘Find secret lab!’” I shout to the emptiness. Again nothing happens.
“Chill out, Cyrus. I’m sure whoever set this up wanted to make it incredibly hard to figure out what exactly this whole place was for. The only question we have to answer then is: what is this place here for?”
“Maybe it’s a secret exit?” I ask. A circle of blue lights appear around my feet and a single line of the lights peels off from the circle and heads into the distance. I look at Eve questioningly.
“Fine, you were the one who figured it out. Good work.”
“Don’t forget it,” I beam. “After you,” I say, making a big show of gesturing her forward.
Eve gives me a playful scowl before following the lights off into the distance. Interestingly enough, each footfall I make causes the circle of lights to reform around me. As we get further along on our trek, the lights seem to faintly change color. It seems like the farther we get from where we started, the more red the blue becomes. I find the lights mesmerizing. Eve, on the other hand, seems unimpressed.
“This seems like an awfully big thing to build for a secret exit.” As she says it, a circle of lights appear around her feet as well, complete with her own line leading off into the distance. Our lines appear to become one not too far from where we stand. “They could have set up any number of ways to get out of the lab in an emergency, you know, like rocket-powered escape pods or something.”
“Maybe they were afraid rocket pods would be too obvious for the people down below.”
“You know what I mean. Why is this room so big if it’s only a secret exit?”
“I don’t know. Maybe fire safety?”
“I think there’s something else going on down here, something big.”
“Does it really matter?” I ask. “Maybe they use this space to build things like the seaplane. They couldn’t have built it above ground, right?”
“They still wouldn’t need a space nearly this big for such a little plane.”
“Fine, so there’s some big secret we don’t understand,” I grumble. “Like it’s the first time that’s happened, even today. Maybe when we get out of here we can get The Geek on the phone or, you know, call Bruno.”
A click sounds through the air, followed by a dialtone, quickly followed by several other tones before a ringing fills our ears.
“You can’t be serious.” Eve’s eyes widen.
“Hello?” Bruno’s voice echoes loudly.
“Bruno?” Eve yells into the air.
“Eve?” he replies. “Where are you? I thought the two of you had been captured!”
“We’re down in the secret cave,” I reply. “You know, the big dark creepy room hiding under the lake. Better question is, where are you? You told us the SPs were coming and then just disappeared!”
“Sorry about that. Totally my bad. I thought we had more time, went off to grab the plane, but the SPs got here before I could even get the thing in the air. How in the world did the two of you manage to get yourselves into the bunker?”
“A whole lot of luck, I think,” Eve answers. “Seems to be the way Cyrus operates best.”
“Hey,” I feign annoyance.
“And you managed to get the base to call me? How did you even know the system was set up for phone calls?”
“Luck again,” I answer.
“If you’re so lucky, what about the secret exit? Have you found it?”
“Yep, I did.” I grin proudly. “Heading there now.”
“Perfect,” Bruno answers. “How about the golf cart?”
“Golf cart?” Eve asks. I hear a thudding noise in the distance.
“Ah, yeah.” Bruno chuckles. “Now that you’ve said it, I’d guess it’s on its way. It’s mighty fast. Should be on you any second now.”
I hear a faint whirring noise and spin on my heel to face it. An empty green vehicle is headed in our direction, looking as though it should be carrying a caddy and a set of golf clubs.
“Well now,” I say grandly. “This is traveling in style.”
The vehicle stops directly in front of us and we both clamor for the driver’s seat.
“Hey, I’m the one with real driving experience,” Eve argues.
“What are you talking about? I’ve driven in the middle of a war zone.”
“No you haven’t.”
“It was kind of like a war zone in Boston. You missed it. I was amazing.”
“Whatever,” Eve says, shoving me roughly aside and placing herself within the driver’s location. “I’m the one with the license.”
“There’s no reason to fight. The cart drives itself.” Bruno’s bodiless voice echoes. “There’s not even a steering wheel.”
He’s right. There isn’t. With that being revealed, I somewhat happily place myself in the position which would traditionally be called the passenger side. Of course, if no one’s driving, both sides are passenger sides, right?
“Glad to see you can give in on something,” Eve huffs.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Alright, kids,” Bruno cuts in. “You’ll want to direct the cart to take you to the exit. I’m not too far away. I’ll pick you up on the other side.”
“Okay,” Eve answers. A beeping sound fills the air and the noise accompanying Bruno’s voice is silenced. “I guess he must have hung up.”
“Cool. Alright, so…take us to the exit!” I shout to the golf cart. It doesn’t move.
“Probably would have been a good idea for us to have gotten the voice directives for the cart before he hung up,” Eve grumbles. “Cart go exit.”
“Secret exit?” I ask. The circle appears around the outside of the cart, but the cart stays motionless.
“Go to secret exit,” Eve offers. “Golf cart to secret exit.”
“Exit exit, go to the secret exit.”
“Please go to the secret exit. Jeez,” Eve groans. “How do you set the destination on this thing?”
“Destination unrecognized,” says a female voice coming from somewhere on the dash of the golf cart.
“Right.” Eve smiles. “Should have known I’d get it by accident.”
“Please state the nature of your accident,” the golf cart says.
“This thing is stupid, isn’t it?” I laugh.
“It’s not stupid. It has certain key words it’s programmed to listen for. ‘Accident’ must be one of them.”
“Please state the nature of your accident.”
“Another one is destination.” Eve looks at the dash expectantly. Nothing happens. “Seriously?” she screams.
“Set destination?” I ask.
“Please state your destination.”
“Exit,” Eve says confidently.
“Come on!” Eve yells.
“Set destination, secret exit,” I offer.
“Destination set,” the cart says cheerily and takes off quickly in the direction we had been headed.
“I hate computers,” Eve grumbles.
“Just gotta know how to treat a lady.” I smile.
“Yeah, like you have that skill.” She crosses her arms and puts her feet up on the dash.
A bright light appears in the distance, accompanied with the faint sound of white noise. As we near, the sound becomes familiar.
“Water!” Eve shouts.
“Great,” I mutter. “Is that supposed to be a good thing?”
“I don’t know.” Eve smiles and looks at me. “But it’s something, at least, right?”
As we approach the opening at the end of the cavernous room, it becomes apparent the water is a waterfall covering the exit. Gallons upon gallons of water are rushing across the rather small, but brightly lit opening. I can’t help but groan as I recognize what’s happening.
“What?” Eve asks, hearing my unhappy noise. “Getting flashbacks?”
“A little.” I frown. The cart stops within feet of the waterfall, close enough to cause water droplets to splash against my face within the comfy interior. I unhappily remove myself from the vehicle and approach the backside of water.
“Okay.” Eve joins my side. “What do you think we do next?”
“Run away? Set up camp here? Anything but this?”
“Please define the nature of your camp,” a voice echoes through the hall.
“Cancel command,” Eve shouts with a hint of a question.
“I wonder how many commands we can try before figuring out what all they fully intended with this cave?” Eve smiles.
“Incoming call from Bruno,” the disembodied voice announces.
“Answer call,” Eve says, sounding dejected. “Hey Bruno.”
“Hey kids, you at the exit yet?”
“You mean the waterfall?” I say accusingly.
“Great,” Bruno cheers. “Computer, activate exit plank protocol.”
“Plank being deployed,” the voice states as a light rumbling shakes the ground beneath us. The sound of the water changes. I walk toward the falls and find a platform has been extended from the end of the cave structure out through the wall of water. However, the water is still pounding away against it.
“Alright kids, I see the platform’s out. You’ll have to come on out to the edge for the pickup.”
“The pickup?” Eve asks.
“Yeah, I’ll do a fly by and you’ll have to jump on.”
“Jump onto a moving plane?” I say incredulously. “I’m pretty sure that’s not even possible.”
“No, you’re right,” he laughs. “Thought I’d see how far you were willing to go for the cause. No, you’ll have to take a dive. I’ll be waiting at the bottom for you and we can take off from there. I’m landing now.”
“Jump?” I say, my voice raising a pitch.
“Oh, come on, Cyrus. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Why does everyone keep asking that question?”
“I promise you it’s perfectly safe,” Bruno says cheerfully. “Normally we’d be able to set up a raft and everything to take you down the falls, but time is of the essence here. The SPs are sure to hear the plane and we need to get out of here before they decide to come check it out.”
“Be right down.” Eve approaches the waterfall.
“Can’t you at least turn off the waterfall for a second or something?” I ask, wishing this would all somehow go away, thinking how going back with the SPs might not be the worst outcome possible here.
“Stop an entire waterfall for only a couple seconds?” Bruno laughs. “And somehow not alert the SPs to where we are? I don’t think so, kid. I’m making enough noise with the plane as it is. We are able to slow the flow a bit so it isn’t as dangerous, which I already have.”
“Great,” Eve says, right at the edge of the water, her face covered in droplets of the stuff. “Let’s go, Cy.”
“I don’t know,” I say, inching away from the platform as I do.
“Come on, Cyrus.” Eve grabs my hand and pulls me forward. “We’ll do it together. One, two three!” She says this all so quickly I have no chance to respond and before I know it, she’s run out into the waterfall. I follow along behind, her grip on my hand so firm that if I don’t move my legs, I risk falling off the edge of this cliff, which is what I’m already trying not to do.
The water hits my face and almost causes me to fall to the ground because of its weight. Eve keeps pulling me forward, until finally, the water clears and she disappears, her hand slips away from mine. I’m left staring out into the empty sky. The water bats against my back as I look out upon the scenery. I’m not entirely sure how we got here, but we seem to be on the side of a mountain, looking out into the horizon. Just underneath the setting, or is it rising, sun I can make out a city’s skyline. Could it be Boston? It seems like it was ages ago when I was there, racing for my life, taking every chance I could to finish my run and finally rest.
And here I am, standing at the edge of the world, nothing but a simple piece of wood or metal or something between me and the ground. I realize I haven’t looked down yet, haven’t seen how far the fall is. I look below and see I’m easily forty feet from what appears to be a rather small pond. How could this much water be pouring into such a small little body of water?
I can’t jump into that. I can’t do it. There’s no chance. I may have jumped out of a plane earlier today, yesterday?, but that was to save Eve. She’s safe now, or at least she was before she disappeared off this piece of metal. All that happens if I jump off of here is I will die. I know it. There’s no other way.
The board begins shaking and the water starts to push in against my back. The board’s going back in. I can just make out a loud crashing sound over the noise of the water, which I recognize as the sound of doors shutting. They shut the doors to the cave and are pulling in the platform!
A sudden sense of calm washes over me as I realize they have given me no choice. I step to the edge of the platform, close my eyes, and allow myself to fall forward.
Go to Chapter Twenty-One