The Agora Files – Part II – Online Edition – Chapter Thirty-Four

I open my eyes and find myself crammed into a dark, musty, hot corridor of metal.  I can’t see anything, as my eyes are still adjusted to the bright sky I had been plummeting through a second ago.

“Cyrus?” The Geek says from behind me.

“Geek!” I exclaim.  “Where are we?”

“The air ducts, but not for long.  Miss Nile will figure it out any second now, unless she decides to not make sure you’re pancaked on the sidewalk below.”

“Eve?” I ask.

“Here,” she says weakly. “But you could have warned a girl about your plan before having her tossed out a sixty story window.”

“Sorry,” I mutter.  “I assumed you had your ear piece on.”

“I got rid of it the second I got nabbed.  Couldn’t risk her finding it and being able to listen in on you two,” she sounds shrill.

“I’m sorry,” I repeat.  My eyes have begun to adjust to the darkness and I can make out The Geek’s red and sweaty face.  “So, where exactly are we?”

“Right around the sixtieth floor,” The Geek answers.

“You climbed up to the sixtieth floor?” I ask incredulously.

“What?  You think I’m not capable of climbing that far?”

I laugh in response.

“Fine, when I realized I was going to have to teleport you, I put in the order to move me, too.  Figured it couldn’t make things any worse.”

“Bruno and his daughter!” I shout.  “They’re still in the building, we need—“

“Don’t worry, I teleported them back to Pewaukee.  Although I can’t believe you’re concerned about them after what he turned out to be.”

“I’m not saying I’m happy about it,” I reply, “but the guy just got his daughter back.  He at least had a reason to be a terrible human being.”

“What’s the plan?” Eve asks.

The air is quiet for a moment before I realize she might be talking to me.  “Wait, are you asking me or him?”

“Either of you,” she replies.  “Or are we flying by the seat of our pants again?”

“Look,” I begin, “we were here to stop the bombs, right?  Sounds like those bombs aren’t as big as we thought and according to Miss Nile, they’re unstoppable.  If you ask me, it seems like we’ve done all we can and should head off on our way.  Really quickly, considering the bombs.”

“Not that I agree with you on how we should ignore the murdering of anyone, but what about Miss Nile?” Eve asks.  “We can’t really let her take over, can we?”

“Why not?” I reply.  “We’re not even going to be in this country anymore.  I say let her have whatever she wants as long as we can get out free.”

“You did catch she’s not interested in merely taking over the United States, right?”

“Do you really think she’s going to let us get away freely?” The Geek asks quietly.

Again a silence fills the air ducts.

“Okay,” I say roughly, “so what are you suggesting we do?  Kill her?”

“I don’t know,” The Geek recovers quickly.  “I mean, no, of course not.  But we have to do something, don’t we?”

“We can’t really kill her,” Eve says.  “Can we?  Murder is wrong, right?  Even if the person is completely evil.”

“I tried to kill her,” I add.  “I kind of tried to kill her, you know, when we fell out the building.  She’s not dead.  I’m not sure we could kill her even if we tried.”

“Well,” The Geek says slowly, “I do have one idea on what we could do.  It would mean we would lose any possible chance of stopping the bombs, but it should work.”

“From what she said, we wouldn’t be able to stop the bombs even if we knew where they all were,” I offer.

“What are you thinking?” Eve asks.

The room lights up brightly, sparkles fill my eyes.  Suddenly I’m back in front of Miss Nile, who looks exceptionally angry that she had to teleport me back into her presence.

“You dare think of killing me?” she spits in my face.  “I thought you knew who I was, what power I held.  If you think something as stupid as throwing me out of a building will kill me, you are sorely mistaken.”

She lunges at me.  Her hands go to my face as she presses her thumbs into my eyes.  I’m instantly brought to my knees from the pain.

“Cyrus, get free of her and tell me when you’re clear!” The Geek yells through my ear piece.

I flail wildly, but only manage to slap her sides, which seems to cause her to press even harder into my skull.

“Cyrus!” The Geek yells again.

The pain is excruciating.  I can barely think.  I’m already laid out on my back and she begins twisting her thumbs deeper.  I claw at her hands, but still nothing seems to make a difference.  Finally, she releases her grip with a cackle.

“On second thought,” she reflects, “I want you to see what I’m going to do next.”

She swings her leg and kicks me in the gut.  Pain surges throughout my body.

“Free,” I yell out.

Again sparkles fill the air.  I can’t tell if it’s from being nearly blinded or something The Geek is doing.  Miss Nile’s face fills with terror and frustration before it disappears from view.

I realize I had stopped breathing and gasp wildly for air as I try to determine our current location.  It’s dark in here, so I assume we must be back inside the air duct.  It seems different.  Cooler, more cramped, and ultimately, more lacking of air flow.

“Where?” I say, blinking wildly.

“I don’t know,” The Geek answers.  “Not in the tower anymore if that’s what you’re worried about.  I was working fast so I didn’t have any sort of location already scoped out or anything, and I was still working on getting everything else together, so—“

“Eve?” I cut him off.

“Here,” she says quietly.

“Where?” I repeat.

“I don’t know,” The Geek repeats, “but aren’t you at all interested in what I did?”

“Sure,” I sigh, “I guess.  Did we win?”

“In a sense.  I cut her off.  I cut out the entire system she was using, the entire data infrastructure which ran her empire.  I used it against itself and formatted everything surrounding it.  She doesn’t even have access to the building which houses those computers anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, feeling angry I even have to.

“I took away her power.  The system she used to do everything, the system I was using.  It’s gone.  No more.  Kaput.”

“Whoa,” I say weakly.

“Whoa is right,” The Geek replies grandly.

“Does that mean we’re cut off, too?” Eve asks.

“The software’s not there anymore,” The Geek answers.  “No one can get into it. It no longer exists.”

“So, what if this place we’re in is, you know, the middle of SP HQ or something?” Eve asks.

“Then I’d have to say we’re probably pretty screwed,” The Geek answers.  “I used one of the coordinates on Miss Nile’s speed dial list, you know, some place she goes to often.”

“So, we could be in a whole lot of trouble,” Eve suggests.  “Could we be back in the tower somewhere?”

“Well,” I begin, “there’s really only one way to find out.”

“That’s precisely what I was going to offer as an idea,” The Geek replies.  “Only question is, where’s the doorknob?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s the thing I’ve been feeling pressing against my back,” Eve answers.  She presses into me as she makes to turn around and open the door.  The room fills with light from the now-open doorway and we exit from a small pantry, a place with really only room for one person.

The three of us tumble out into the larger room and find ourselves inside a large kitchen.  The cabinets in here look like something you might find in an old house, wooden and white and covered in glass to allow the user to see inside.  Yet everything else looks more like what you would find in a commercial kitchen, stainless steel countertops, beautiful gas ranges, hundreds of pots and pans hanging from a railing suspended from the ceiling.  Whoever created this kitchen obviously not only has a love of cooking, but also has a need to feed a lot of people.

“What is this place?” Eve whispers.

“Um, a kitchen, right?” I ask stupidly.

“Right, but whose kitchen?” she asks.

“Someone rich,” The Geek replies.

A thin bald man with brown skin walks confidently into the room.  He’s wearing a white shirt, which looks like something a chef might wear, and checkered pants.  He’s whistling to himself as he enters the room.  He stops in his tracks when he catches sight of the three of us, looking ragged, tired, hungry, and possibly mad, standing in the middle of his kitchen.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.  The tone of his voice is a perfect blend of anger and fear.  I see him side step toward a drawer behind him.   His eyes never leave us as he pulls it open and removes an eight inch blade.  He holds it in front of himself expertly, showing us quite easily he knows how to use it, while the terror in his eyes shows us he’s willing to do whatever necessary, should we prove dangerous.

There is a door behind us which appears to lead outside.  I grab both Eve and The Geek’s hands and pull them toward the exit, pushing through to the exterior of this beautiful building as fast as I can, not even giving a glance behind me as I do.

We enter a lush green garden, perfectly manicured and covered in life, even during the fall season we’re in.  Bright pinks and yellows fill the area between the green.  The smell of growth is thick in the air.  I almost stop to literally smell the roses before I hear the man approach the doorway and yell out.

“Stop!  Someone help!”

Again I run forward, pulling Eve and The Geek behind me.  However, it isn’t long before Eve takes the lead.  Luckily for us, The Geek seems to fully recognize the situation and is keeping a good speed, even if it’s slower than my standard pace.  I try to stay back with him to keep him from losing us.  Eve realizes we’re behind her and slows to let us catch up.

As we distance ourselves from the building, I can’t help but glance back at the majestic estate connected to the fragrant garden and opulent kitchen.  A massive white building with beautiful stone columns rises above us.  I’m certain I’ve seen this building before.  I know I have.

I’m jolted to life as the air around us fills with the sounds of numerous sirens.  A flurry of activity erupts from all ends of the large yard.  Across the grass, about a hundred yards from us now, I see a line of people nearing a great water fountain, all headed in our direction.  Not knowing what else to do, I switch directions and head toward the trees.  Through them, another large group of people begin congregating to stop us.

Eve skids to a halt and I quickly follow suit.  The Geek, however, continues running toward the west.  He seems to be altering his direction slightly and is headed back toward the building we’re trying to escape from.

I bolt after him yelling.  “What are you doing?”  I notice Eve is hot on my heels.

“Don’t you know where this is?” The Geek asks me.

“No, of course I don’t.”

“It’s the White House, Cy,” Eve answers.  “You know, where the President used to live.”

“Okay, fine, but wouldn’t that mean we want to get further away, not closer?”

“We would, except we’re currently being flanked by the Secret Service,” The Geek explains.  “That means there’s only one other way out.  The tunnels.”

“What about the sparkle teleport thing?” I ask, realizing the men and the building are about to be right on top of us.

“I told you already,” The Geek scorns, making a sharp turn to the right, “I deleted the program.  No one, not even us, can use the teleporter.”

He deftly leaps over a row of hedges and lands on the stone walkway alongside the building before rolling forward and crashing through the glass doors on the other side.  Glass shatters around him, but he jumps to his feet and deftly enters the building.  I can’t help but wondering if my brother’s somehow been taken over by a pod person.  Or maybe there was a simulator for action hero acrobatics he decided to take.

I hazard a glance at Eve before entering.  She bolts in without even a second’s pause.  I hastily follow suit.  Once inside, I see they’ve cut left down a long hallway.  I speed up and am directly behind them within a matter of seconds.  I can’t help but think those hordes of people outside have to be just as numerous indoors, even if the President doesn’t live here anymore.

A loud crashing shakes the floor beneath us.  I turn and see the building crumbling apart above us.

“What’s going on?” I scream.

“The bombs?” Eve explains with a question.  “Maybe when Billy shut down the machine, it set them to go off early?”

The Geek leads us down yet another hall to the left.  The smell of smoke, fire, and panic fills the air as many more men dressed in dark suits now pass us in the halls.  They no longer appear to care about our presence, or they are at least not as concerned as they are about how the entire main portion of this big old house seems to be falling in on itself.  The hallway makes a sudden curve and The Geek finally takes a moment’s pause, looking at the doors to the right of us in question.

Before I can ask what’s going on, he chooses a door and slams his shoulder against it.  It flies open effortlessly and he falls into the next room.  I join him and find myself inside a circular room, well, not quite circular.  The walls are an elegant off-white and in front of a series of windows on the other side of the room sits a gorgeous wooden desk, which The Geek is already standing behind and tearing apart.

“What are you doing?” Eve screams wildly.

“Looking for the button!” he yells in return.  “It’s got to be here somewhere!”

He continues crazily pulling on every drawer and cabinet, flinging out the stuff inside of each one which will open to him, attempting to tear apart each one which won’t.

I bend over and look down at the front of the desk.  A bird with its wings spread wide is the centerpiece of the whole attraction.  A series of stars are laid out above it as well as some wording I can’t quite make out due to it being covered in dust.  I wipe my hand roughly against the surface and the whole thing pushes inward.

A light turns on inside the newly opened cabinet and on the opposite side of this almost invisible cavity, I find one simple button.  I smile as I press it.

The floor beneath me rumbles as the entire thing sinks into the ground.  The Geek and Eve join my side as the round-ish office disappears above us and we enter what appears to be a rather stark underground hallway.

“Good work,” The Geek says before he bolts off deeper into the tunnels.  Eve follows immediately behind him.  I look around briefly before deciding I’d rather not get left alone down here and follow suit.

“Do you have any clue where you’re going?” Eve asks, her voice echoing off the brown metal walls down here.

“Not a clue,” The Geek replies.

“Can someone please tell me what’s going on?” I plead.  The Geek and Eve slow their running to a brisk walk as they look around for signs which would indicate where we are headed.

“We’re running from the Secret Service, Cy,” Eve answers, “who no doubt now believe we are the ones who bombed the White House.  And seeing as that was probably one of the many bombs Miss Nile has set up all across the nation to take out high ranking dignitaries, there is a really good chance they think we’re responsible for all of them, or at least think we know the people who are.”

“Great,” I say scornfully.  “But that still doesn’t really explain what we’re doing right now.”

“We’re getting out of here,” The Geek replies.  “And we’ve got to do it quick.  I’m not the only one who knows about these tunnels and with all those folks trying to escape the burning wreckage above, we’re bound to run into someone else down here.  You can bet they won’t be too happy to see us.”

“But where are we going?” I ask, feeling confusion give way to my fear of tunnels.

“There are all sorts of rumors about where the tunnels lead,” The Geek answers.  “Some say CIA headquarters, others say Camp David, the Capitol Building, or even as far as SP HQ in Boston.”

“You realize none of those places are ones we want to be, right?” I ask.

“I’m pretty sure there is absolutely no place we want to be found right now, Cy,” Eve defends.

“Perfect,” I reply, “so why don’t we stop for a second, give The Geek a chance to keep his heart from exploding and come up with a plan instead of running wild?”

“Because right now we are directly underneath a building everyone thinks we blew up, using the exact tunnels a majority of them are certain to use to get to safety.  If we don’t get out of here fast, we might not ever get out.”

“But if we don’t go about this smartly,” The Geek says, sounding as though he might be defending my idea, “we could end up in a much worse place.”  As he finishes his sentence, he stops and immediately falls to the ground against one of the walls.

That’s when I notice the blood streaming down his face.

“Billy!” Eve screams.

“Don’t worry,” he says, waving her away.  “I got cut by some of the glass when I plowed through the glass door.”

“That’s not nothing.”  Eve kneels by his side.

I pace back and forth, ears alert for the sounds of anyone coming near.  Our echoing voices seem to be the only sounds of people in these halls.  In the distance I can also make out a loud rumbling, which I’m guessing is related to the crumbling building overhead.

I look back at Eve and The Geek and see she is tenderly removing large fragments of glass from all over his body.  I have to admit, I’m impressed.  I had always imagined the kid completely freaking out when placed in the line of fire, collapsing under his own weight if ever required to do any form of strenuous exercise.  But here he is, the man of the hour.  Not only did he manage to save us from Miss Nile, a building which was being blown up, and a host of men with guns, but he got injured along the way and is keeping a brave face.  I feel mighty proud.

“We should probably get moving,” I say urgently.

“I thought you were the one who wanted to sit around and discuss strategy.”  Eve glares at me as she runs her hand across The Geek’s back looking for more glass.

“I was, but that was before I realized this whole complex might be about to come down on our heads.”

“We should be okay,” The Geek says weakly.  “These tunnels were made to withstand all sorts of attacks.  The collapsing building shouldn’t be enough of a problem to be concerned about.  Not yet at least.”

“Okay,” I say, hesitantly sitting on my haunches in front of him.  “I’ll allow us a few minutes to think things over.  What do we know about these tunnels?”

“Very little, to be honest,” The Geek frowns.  “I had only guessed there would be an entrance from the Oval Office due to how it was one of the places the President was most likely to be.”

“You’re running on a hunch?” I ask.  “I like it.”

“Right,” The Geek smiles.  “The only thing I know about them is how the rumors revolve around the idea that some of our more, um, friendly presidents would use the tunnels to get out and visit a mistress without the first ladies knowing.”

“If that’s the case,” Eve joins in, “then there’s a good possibility these things exit into some place hidden, you know, not a place like SP HQ or the Capitol building.  Some place where the President could get out without anyone knowing about it.”

“But where would that even be?” The Geek asks.  “D.C. used to be one of the most touristy spots in the nation.  Everyone who came here was hoping to get a glimpse of the President.  Can’t be too many places he could get around secretly.”

“You’ve got me,” Eve replies.

“More important than where it is, is how we could find it.  These tunnels all look the same to me.  How would a random president even know how to get through these tunnels to his hanky panky lair?” I ask.

“Well,” The Geek replies, “you’d have to guess it would be something he could do without asking around for help, right?  He wouldn’t want to hire someone to come down and paint arrows to his secret exit or anything.”

“Right,” Eve nods.

“So, what might any random president have on hand which they could use to indicate which turns to take to get out of here to where they want to go?”

“A pen?” I offer.

“You’re not going to get much of a lasting mark on these walls with a pen,” The Geek says, pounding on them.  A metallic clank sounds as he does so.

I jump to my feet again and begin inspecting the walls.  Nothing seems out of place.  No paint, no chips cut out, no stickers, nothing.

“Wait a second.”  I notice one item which seems out of place in this otherwise immaculate underground tunnel.  “Why would there be rocks down here?”

“Rocks?”  Eve stands and joins me.  Inside the junction a few feet away from where The Geek sits is a single rock propped against the wall.

“What do you see?” The Geek asks, not seeming too rushed to get up from his seated position.

“I think we found our trail.”  Eve smiles.  She speeds down along the wall the rock is propped up against.  She goes almost a full thirty feet before stopping and yelling back to us.  “I found another one!”

“Well,” I say to The Geek as I offer him a hand.  “You ready to do some more running?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” The Geek says, grunting as he returns to his feet.

“Let’s go!”

Go to Chapter Thirty-Five

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