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The room shakes and wobbles as it descends. The clanking and grinding of the lowering mechanisms accompany us as we crawl deeper into the oil mine.
I quietly tell Annaliese to stick to the side and crouch with her gun ready. I do the same. Neither of us knows what to expect when the room reaches the bottom. Certainly there must be guards on the floor of the mine and I would bet anything that the space where this room stops is guarded as well.
We wait with bated breath as the room continues its climb downward. I steal a glance at Annaliese, her eyes wide behind the plate of my visor. A trickle of sweat snakes down my back, the hairs on my neck again bristling with uncertainty.
With a clunk and a jerk the room wobbles and then settles. Again I glance in Annaliese’s direction, her focus is locked on the door, her gun held high and ready. I steady my sight on the doors as well and take a breath waiting for the doors to open.
The doors shift and then glide back opening into a brightly lit area. A small group of guards are gathered close to the open doors, a couple of men are facing the open doors, and the others have their backs to us as they watch the area around.
There are too many men to take by surprise so I don’t hesitate to tighten my finger around the trigger of the rifle. Nearly simultaneously I hear the bark of Annaliese’s gun. The men in front drop. The others with their backs to us turn into more bullets sent flying from our guns. In a running crouch I leave the metal room and stand among the fallen guards my head on a swivel as I search for unseen threats before they see me.
A bullet crashes past my foot from above. Diving to the side I roll over to a stack of crates near by and search above me. My gaze travels up, all the way from the cliff building. There, lying in the open doorway are more of the Prophet’s men raining bullets down on us.
I panic. Where is Annaliese? In the brief meeting with the mine guards I had forgotten about her. My eyes travel back toward the metal room. There she hides just inside the doors.
“I’ll try to stop them and you hurry over here.” I call to her. Before she can answer I lift the barrel of my rifle and fire a few bullets almost straight up at the men hanging out of the building. My bullets are off target but close enough that the men duck for cover.
Annaliese rushes over. She ducks her head low as she runs.
“Wait here.” I say and foolishly dash back to the fallen men by the elevator collecting all the guns I can scoop up in my venture, my body braced for the strike of bullets from above.
Carrying the extra guns by their straps I duck back behind the cover of the crates. I passing Annaliese a few rifles to carry, the two of us work our way around the stack of crates and move farther away from the metal room. All the while my eyes comb the area ahead of us for more guards.
The black damp ground diffuses the lighting in this dark, pungent smelling area and the towering stained metal machinery stretches out all around us. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of movement as it dashes out of sight like a spectre in a nightmare.
Swivelling my head around I see more human shapes as they slip into hiding among the groupings of machines and piles of rock and debris. The air is thick with the mixture of oil and volcanic fumes, my throat burns, my eyes water.
Glancing back up at the cliff building I watch as the elevator we just left as it slowly climbs back up toward the cliff building. Staying low I nudge Annaliese and motion deeper into the oil mine.
The two of us move wearily at first as we distance ourselves from the bottom of the elevator shaft working around machines and rocks, my eyes constantly roaming trying to spot the Prophets guards before they find us.
A few hundred feet from the elevator we round a pile of oily waste and holding our breath we peer around the mound to watch the area we had just passed. No one is following us yet.
We hear the sound of feet on the rocks behind us. Tensing with my hand on a rifle trigger I spin around. Staring back at me is the dirt stained faces of a small bunch of men and women. Their robes stained and tattered, their faces haggard from the conditions of living in the oil mine.
More sounds distract us. Small pockets of haggard looking people surround us, none of them that I can see are wearing the robes of the military guards. I slowly spin on the spot my gun at the ready in case they rush us.
Without a word some of the members of the group behind us beckon for us to follow. I peer down at Annaliese. She shrugs and motions with her head as she hesitantly steps in behind to follow. I glance back at the others who had us surrounded before I move. Most of them have melted back into the dark surroundings.
With a fast gait the miners move effortlessly through the mire of rock and metal leading us deeper into the labyrinth of the oil mine. The soles of our boots crunch as we pass over uneven footing, and slurp through puddles of thick oil that are camouflaging holes in the trail. As my foot finds such a hole the slick footing throws me off balance. I twist and stumble, the guns I am carrying collide with a metal frame as I trip and fall to the ground.
One of the men who found us stops and lends me a hand up. My robe is saturated with grime and oil residue. Reaching down to pick up the confiscated rifles I pass them to the man who helped me as I collect them. Picking up the last gun, I straighten up.
The man I have passed the guns to stares from me to the guns and back again. I don’t know what he is thinking but I stand before him unarmed. He selects one of the rifles and passes it back to me, the other guns he redistributes to the small group accompanying us.
I nod my approval and he turns and we continue moving. The leader of the group stops at the end of the path and holds up his hand. The path opens into a wide clearing. In the middle of the clearing stands a platform with a metal tower in the center. Men and women are on the platform bustling about among pipes and levers and cables.
“That’s an oil derrick.” The leader notifies me as if he can read my mind. I continue to stare at the metal tower as he leads on turning and walking close to the piles of debris surrounding the opening. At the next break in the debris we leave the opening and walk down a tunnel like path leading toward the canyon wall.
Holes in the wall appear as we walk closer. The lights of the oil mine fade as we close in on the wall. Annaliese and I follow the group into an opening in the wall and after several twists and turns we arrive at the entrance to a large cave.
“You can rest here for now.” The leader tells us. Annaliese tugs at my visor and pulls it off her head to hear the conversation better.
“Don’t the guards know about these caves?” I ask. The leader shrugs as he turns to his fellow miners.
“They don’t need to. Other miners down here will eventually lead them to you.” He says apologetically. “Our survival down here relies on the food and water the Prophets send down for us every day.” The leader tells us in an explanation of how life in the oil pits work.
“Every faction of life in the pit is controlled by the city. Water is pumped down from the surface and food and other supplies are lowered into the hole by the guards operating the elevator.
“Any sign of an uprising is stemmed by the refusal of the life necessities. The food allotted is barely enough to survive on; water is rationed, as are other supplies. Down here life is hard and the work is harder. We have quotas to fill every day and if we fall behind then the punishment is smaller and smaller rations.
“Most of the people imprisoned here are suffering but they are not ready to admit defeat and die, so if it’s between hiding you or eating I am afraid they will eagerly help the Prophets recapture you. I am sorry.” He finished.
“Is there no way out of here?” I ask almost as a rhetorical question, these people would have had years to exploit any means of escape if there were. The leader smiled.
“You two came down the only way back out of here.” He kicked at some rocks on the cave floor. “And no. Even with the guns we can’t force our way into the elevator.” “The controls are at the top of the cliff and even by capturing the guards at the bottom the guards at the top will never allow it. The guards at the bottom know that their lives would be forfeit before the elevator lowers under threat.”
“I was told that there is a chute that pumps air from the surface. Is there no way to follow that to the surface?”
The leader gawked at me like I was a simple child. “I am sure a person could find a way up through it…you would freeze to death by the time you climbed a quarter of the way up.” Then for the first time I think he noticed my heat suit under my robe. Then he furrowed his brow as he stared Annaliese in the face.
“You…you’ve been on the surface before, haven’t you? So even if you could climb to the top what would you do, you probably couldn’t survive up there for long.” He paused as he struggled with his next statement. “…I used to be one of the Prophets men selected for surface excursions. There is nothing around for miles and miles but snow and ice and blizzards.” Then turning his attention back to Annaliese.
“Are you not the daughter of the High Prophet?” He asked in amazement. Her answer was lost as raised voices echoed through the tunnels leading to the cave we were hiding in.
“Do these caves lead anywhere?” I urgently asked.
“Eventually to the lava rivers but the air and heat will kill you as fast as the cold on the surface will.”
“We’ll take our chances.” I boldly replied.
“No.” Annaliese protested. She pushed my visor to me. “Both of us will not be able to escape but with your suit and visor you might have a chance.”
“I won’t leave with out you.” I say stubbornly fully intending to stand my ground. The voices in the tunnels grow louder, shadows appear across the opening of the cave. Annaliese steps closer to me and smiles.
“Good luck Mike.” She says and before I know what’s happening she raises her hands and shoves me backwards. I trip over a pile of rocks and fall into the mouth of a smaller side tunnel down a slight incline. Clambering to my feet I hear the voices from the tunnel as they enter the big cave.
“Shit.” I exclaim in my head and fall back into the waiting shadows of the tunnel.
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Thoughts of escape are momentarily forgotten as we stand by the iron rail transfixed by the sight of the large bowl carved out below us. The layers of lava rock have been removed exposing deeper rings of bedrock. Machinery and men below claw at and scrap away the ground in search of oil deposits.
Large dinosaur looking metal structures lift and lower, their large steel wheels rotating in a macabre symphony, scraping, straining steel grinding and squealing adding to the rhythm of the eerie scene.
Small human figures move among the machinery, their voices rising up with the cacophony of earth drilling equipment. Mixed with the sounds of man and machine come the strong stench of exposed oil deposits and damp rotting earth.
The noxious fumes of the nearby molten lava mix with the sweltering heat and volcanic ash in an assault our noses. If there actually was a hell waiting in the after life like the one the elders back at the Capital spoke of, I am positive that it would resemble the Adams Mountain oil mine.
The thick choking atmosphere breaks through my trance. Out of the corner of my eye I glance Annaliese trying to use her robe to stop the intrusion of fowl air from overtaking her. Without thinking I peel my visor off my head and against her protesting brush back her hood and pull my visor over her head then adjust the air scrubber.
Annaliese stops protesting and looking into her face I notice the pupils of her eyes growing larger as her face looses colour. At first I am not sure what is happening to her but then she raises a finger and motions behind me. Rotating my head I see two guards walking in our direction from the cliff building.
“How good are you with that gun?” I whisper. She shrugs and gives me a weak smile. “When I give you a signal raise the gun and shoot.” I instruct her as I spin on my heels and start walking to meet the two. I use my body to shield Annaliese’s actions from the sight of the approaching guards.
I raise my hand in greeting and when I have moved several yards away I holler for Annaliese to fire as I drop to the ground. Bullets sing overhead. The two men from the cliff-building take a second to realize what is happening. One twists as a bullet bites into his shoulder, the other dives off to the side dropping his rifle in the process. The diving man comes to rest against the metal railing protecting the cliff.
I bring my gun up in front of me and I pull the trigger. My aim is not true but with the two of us firing the guards are trapped and unprepared.
A banging on the locked door to our side joins the myriad of sounds. Risking a quick glance I can see the door shaking in time to the pounding, the bound guard I had left jammed against the bottom of the door preventing the door from opening.
“We have to move.” I yell back at Annaliese then jump up from the ground and push ahead, the rifle held in front of me covering the stunned guards. Without looking back to see if Annaliese is with me I cover the distance to the cliff building with a few quick long strides. The guard Annaliese shot is lying on the ground clutching his side, his buddy remains pinned against the rail with nowhere to go.
Closing in I kick the fallen gun aside and stand covering the two guards. Annaliese arrives by my side.
“Grab their rifles.” I ask her while motioning the two fallen men to stand then I point back toward the building. “Move.” I bark at them. I dare not risk another look back at the door to the mine but the hair on my neck bristles as I half prepare myself for shouts from that direction and a shot in the back.
With added urgency I shove one of the guards to speed things up. Following close behind the men enter the building. Stopping by the door I close it and lock it before I look around. We find ourselves standing in a single room building with a spacious interior, the walls are built out of rock and reinforced with steel, a window is set in the wall facing back toward the entrance of the mine.
A table with several chairs is set off to the side, some counters run around the exterior walls and at the cliff side of the building are two steel doors overlapped at the middle. On a console to the right of the doors levers and buttons protrude dotting the surface.
Pushing the guards toward the chairs I shoot a confused look at Annaliese.
“Is there no way down into the mine from here.” I ask her. She nods toward the overlapping doors.
“There is an elevator behind the doors that lowers on pulleys.” She tells me. What the hell is an elevator I want to ask her but decide against it, I have enough on my mind at the moment.
She whirls on one of the guards. “Show me how to use it.” The guards remain still. I raise my rifle and shove it into the chest of the wounded man.
“Now.” I threaten. “Or we will figure it out over your dead bodies.” Nervously the guard walks past Annaliese and describes the buttons functions to her. When she figures she can operate the elevator she nods and gestures for the guard to join his partner.
“Do you think you can work that?” I get the same shrug she gave me when I asked her about the rifle. “Sit down.” I tell the guards and follow them over to the chairs. The wounded guard seats himself first, the other moves slower. I stare the man in the eye running my mind over ways to subdue these men. The wounded guard moans, his attention is occupied by the bleeding and pain caused by his wound.
The second guard looks nervously between his wounded partner and me and then back to his partner. As he glances away from me I swiftly swing my arm that holds the butt of the rifle driving it into the side of his face. The guard crumbles onto the chairs and I quickly do the same to his partner.
I grab a chair from the table and jam it under the door lever then take a quick glance back to the entrance door. I can see the door slowly starting to open.
“We’ve got to go.” I rush to the overlapping doors waiting for Annaliese to show me this elevator. I watch as she presses buttons. A whirring sound can be heard behind the doors and then they slide apart revealing a small metal room.
“Move to the back.” Annaliese tells me then hits another button and rushes in to join me. I stand with my back tight against the wall; Annaliese stops in front of me. The doors slide closed and we wait.
The metal room shakes and with slight hesitation I can feel the room lowering. Slow at first and then it gains speed. Not really fast but quick enough or at least I hope it’s quick enough before more of the Prophets men storm the door of the cliff building.
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“Follow my lead.” Marcus whispers to us as he takes a quick step behind Annaliese and myself.
He calls back to the guards. “Over here.” He waves, purposly calling attention to us. “I found these two sneaking around this alley.” He shoves us from behind moving us forward to meet the military guards.
The guards watch warily as we approach. Their raised guns slowly lower. My heart beats rapidly at the thought of being returned to the cage. Annaliese’s gaze swivells between Marcus, the guards and me as step by step we close the gap.
“Stop.” Marcus instructs us as we come almost face to face with the two guards. Stepping around from behind us, Marcus stops to the side of the men drawing their attention.
I had no idea what he has planned but seeing the opportunity I rush the guard on the right, my one hand clasping the other man’s gun hand, my shoulder ramming into the guy’s chest knocking him back into the wall of the building.
We struggle. The guy is strong but I can feel my adrenaline spike from fear and the thought of recapture. Raising my right hand I drive a fist into the man’s gut knocking the wind out of him.
He doubles over into my raising knee. A sickening crunch follows as the guard’s hand releases the gun and he topples to the street. Swiftly retrieving the gun I whirl around in time to see the butt of Marcus’s rifle connect with the other guards face.
The two of us stand staring down at the fallen men. Marcus relieves the other guard of his weapon and passes it along with his own to Annaliese.
“Help me peel their uniforms off.” He said to me in between gasps of air as he bends over to pull the robe off the guard he clubbed. With the military robes removed the two of us drag the guards back into the shadow of the building they emerged from.
Marcus rumages under his robe and produces a knife. Slashing and cutting at my discarded brown robe he cut strips and passes them to me.
“Tie their hands and feet and gag them.” He rapidly calls out as he continues cutting strips from the cloth. Our work is hastened from the fear of being discovered by other guards patrolling the streets.
With the stolen guns in hand and donning the military robes as disguises we leave the area at a brisk walk, sticking to the deeper shadows of the buildings, Marcus walking a few steps in front of us to scout for any other unwanted company.
“A few more blocks.” Marcus states as he points ahead of us; his breathe is still laboured from the brush with the Prophets men and the tension we are all feeling. We move as quickly as we dare while maintaining all the caution we can afford.
At an intersection in the road, he raises his hand signalling us to stop. Annaliese and I wait and watch while Marcus peers around the corner, what he is watching we have no idea but he remains silent and unmoving. Something around the corner is obviously troubling him.
After several minutes he returns to us, his face a readable map of what lies in the path of our escape. Marcus shakes his head and in a hushed voice almost imperceptible to my ears he relays what he saw.
“The door to the oil mines lies just ahead.” He starts, “The problem is there is a sizable group of the Prophets men clustered around the entrance.” I find that I am holding my breath as I wait for him to tell us what he is thinking.
“The only way through is to draw their attention away from it.” He hesitates.
“There’s not another way into the mines?” I ask. Surprising the first two guards was more luck then we deserved but to my thinking trying the same trick against a larger group would require more luck then the three of us had. I search Marcus’ face and I know he is thinking the same thing.
He shakes his head. “The wall separating the mine from the city is solid steel embedded into the rock cliffs, the door is the only way across.”
“What can we possibly do to distract them? There has to be a solution that doesn’t involve us splitting up.” I plead, not willing to give up. “We could try and shoot our way past them but that would no doubt draw every guard in the city down to this area.” I think out loud.
“No. Shooting has to be our last resort. Give me a minute I’ll think of something.” “There has to be a way.” He adds.
The three of us have shrunk into the shadows as we try to figure a way past the men blocking our only chance of escape. Suddenly Marcus stands up as an idea sprouts into his mind.
“On my signal you two run for the door.” He tells us.
“What are you going to do?” Annaliese ask, her voice laden with worry.
“I’m going to create a diversion, draw as many guards away from the door as I can.” He replies leaving us before we can protest. He creeps back to the edge of the building where the streets meet, pauses a second then disappears from our sight.
Grabbing Annaliese’s hand the two of us rush to the corner, stopping to peer across the street Marcus just entered. Clinging tight to the buildings wall we watch as he scuttles down the side of the buildings getting ever closer to the gate. Two-thirds of the way down the next block he runs across the street to a break in the buildings on the other side and into the opening.
I feel Annaliese’s breath on my neck as the two of us remain hidden behind the corner wondering what Marcus has planned. He suddenly reappears hollering toward the guarded gate.
“Here.” He cries and waves his arms frantically until he has the guard’s attention. “Over here. Hurry, over here. I just saw them run down the alley and around the corner.” He jumps and points down the alley then when most of the guards have left their post to head in his direction Marcus takes off running back down the alley and out of our sight.
Annaliese’s gasps as she witnesses Marcus’s ploy. I keep my eyes on the door. All but one of the guards has gone chasing after Marcus. Standing up quickly I turn to Annaliese whispering instructions.
“Stick tight against the building. We will only have one chance so we need to creep as close to that guard as we can while his attention is focused on the alley Marcus disappeared down.” I slide around the corner pulling Annaliese with me and then move as fast as I can in the cover of the building. The distance from our hiding spot to the door is not far.
The whole time we are on the move, my eyes are fixed on the guards face expecting him to notice us. His gaze continues toward the spot his comrades disappeared to in search of Marcus. Still holding Annaliese’s hand we close the gap. Twenty feet away and the guard’s attention is still turned away from us. Fifteen feet. Thirteen feet.
About ten feet out the guard swivels his head and looks right at us. Confused at the sight of us running straight at him causes a delayed reaction. I let go of Annaliese’s hand and without pause I charge right at the surprised guard.
Using the advantage of my momentum and his confusion I lower my head and charge forward ploughing shoulder first into his chest. My rifle flies out of my hands as the force of the collision carries us both backward until we hit the wall at an angle. I hear his breath rush out of his mouth as he is pinned between the weight of my body and the solid wall behind him.
I trip and fall away from the guard. He regains his footing first and grabs for his weapon when he suddenly stops, staggers and then falls in my direction.
Annaliese is standing behind the spot vacated by the fallen guard with her hands still in the air, facing me, her stolen rifle clutched in her hands like a club. I nod my thanks to her as I scramble to my feet, quickly I dust off my robe and retrieve my gun.
I hurry to the door and try the handle. Locked. The door will not budge. I rush back to the fallen guard and search for a key. Digging through the pockets in his robe I fail to find a key of any kind. I roll the man over onto his back. As I do a chain slips out from beneath the collar of his shirt. I grasp at the chain and pull. A key slides out and I quickly yank my fist back snapping the chain.
I raise my hand in triumph and show my find to Annaliese then I hurry back to the door to try the lock. The key turns smoothly, we listen to the lock click open. Twisting the handle I swing the door inward slowly, I prepare myself for another guard on the other side. Stopping to have a look around I see a vast cavern bathed in bright lights.
Noticing no other guards I pass Annaliese my rifle and rush over to the prone guard. Motioning for Annaliese to go ahead of me I drag the man through the doorway. When we are through I close the door and lock it before quickly glancing around again to reassure myself that my actions went unobserved.
I remove the guard’s robe, tearing it into strips to tie the man up as we did with the other guards and then roll him tight against the bottom of the door. Reclaiming my gun I raise it and drove it into the guards head a couple of times. Panting from the excursion I straighten up and glance at Annaliese then around the huge cavern containing the oil mine.
I stand still and look over the interior of the large cave. Not too many feet away to the left of the door stands a solid wall of craggy lava rock. The wall runs all the way to the underside of the cavern’s ceiling. Opposite the door, about twenty feet away is a metal rail. On the other side of the rail the stone shelf we stand on drops off.
My eyes follow the rail as it runs to our right, several hundred feet away from the door is a building extended over the edge of the shelf with large braces angled from the buildings underside back toward the rock cliff.
With my focus on the building I walk away from the door toward the metal railing. The hole on the other side of the rail is massive; I can barely make out the far side even with the bright lights that light the cavern.
Annaliese follows close behind me as I near the rail. Convincing myself that we have gained entry to this side of the wall without being noticed, I turn my head as we reach the rail and together we look down.
As one we both let out a gasp as we grip the metal rail and stare at the site below us.
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Marcus wheels around and looks at us with an expression of concern covering his face.
“He’s right. It won’t be safe here for the two of you much longer.” Turning his attention back to the young man who came to warn us.
“Go back up the tunnel and warn us if you hear or see the guards coming.” Marcus instructs, the man quickly leaves our small gathering and bends to scoop up his discarded military robe on his way out.
“What are you thinking?” Annaliese asks him.
“Grab some supplies.” He replies. “We’ll have to stick to the tunnels for as long as we can…from there…I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out as we go.”
I stand back and watch as Annaliese rummages through sacks stacked against a wall assembles a collection food and water and places them into a smaller sack. When she is finished she returns to our side.
“Do these tunnels run under the whole city?” I ask.
Marcus shakes his head before replying. “No. They’ll keep us out of sight for a while but we will eventually come to a dead end, there we’ll have to ascend to the streets.”
I relieve Annaliese of the sack of supplies she has packed. Marcus passes me a flashlight as he takes one last look around the room then proceeds to check the hall leading from the hidden room before signalling us to move.
We follow Marcus for a short distance down the tunnel before he ducks into an intersecting tunnel that leads us in a different direction away from the original entrance. The lava tunnels change from a comfortable open space to where we have to squeeze and crawl through further sections.
The three of us hurry through the labyrinth of sharp lava rock tunnels in silence. How Marcus knows where each tunnel leads and what direction to follow is beyond me. He leads us past tunnel after tunnel walking in some, crawling through others.
The stale air is laced with the smell of sulphur from the volcanic rock. The confined spaces grow humid and tight but still Marcus leads on at as fast a pace as we can manage.
Coming to a halt in a closet sized cavern Marcus paces for a second in the little space before talking.
“We are going to have to surface not far from here. These tunnels end under a street a few blocks away from the entrance to the oil mines.” He says while staring into Annaliese’s eyes. His face is contorted with apprehension.
“Is that were you are leading us?” Annaliese asks with an evident note of surprise.
“There’s no where else to go.” He diverts his eyes. “You know that your dad will have the city torn apart for looking for you two. The people in this city are too scared of him and the rest of the prophets and most would never consider helping or hiding you for fear of retribution. Even for a short time.” He adds.
On our journey Marcus had summarized a brief history about the small resistance that had been growing in the city against the iron-fisted rule of the prophets. A large portion of the people of Adam’s Mountain resented being over lorded and this resentment had been festering for years but the majority of town folk were too afraid to act fearing being sentenced to the oil mines.
The city people would guardedly grumble to their closest friends and then look at their neighbours while suspiciously wondering if they were spies for the Prophets. The distrust that rippled through the community helped the Prophets maintain rule.
“Can’t we leave the same way I was brought here?” I implore.
“No. The path ends not far from the city. A giant crevice makes it a dead end. Several people have died trying to cross it.”
“Then how about along the lava river, surely we could follow it away from here.”
“It closes up farther past the city, besides, the heat from the river would kill you before you travelled very deep into it.” Marcus releases a quick breath. “Your only hope is to climb through and cross the oil mine and try for the air chute, it will take you to the surface.”
I gape at Marcus, confused by what he is saying.
“The surface.” I repeat as I try to comprehend his words. “Annaliese doesn’t have a thermal suit like mine. I don’t know this place at all, but I have to believe there is another choice. She would not survive out there, not even for a short period.” I argue. In my mind I am frantically searching for a plausible solution. “Hell, I don’t even know if I could survive on the surface without a sled full of luck.”
Annaliese gently touches my arm.
“They will kill you if they catch you.” She states matter-of-factly. “We don’t have much of a choice.”
“What will happen if they catch you?” I search her face for answers as I ask.
She turns to look at Marcus; the two exchange a knowing look.
“I’ll be alright.” She mumbles, but her face pales in the glow of the flashlight.
“How about you Marcus? If your friend talks they will know that you two helped me.” There is obviously something they aren’t telling me. I push further, “I am not going another step until you guys level with me.”
“Dissidents get sent to the oil mine as punishment.” He quietly confirms. “I can avoid them, Annaliese should be okay…her father is the High Prophet.” He says without sounding convincing.
“So the only real option we have is if the three of us leave the city? That is the only option I will accept. If the three of us can’t escape then you two should turn me in and tell Annaliese’s father that you recaptured me. I won’t let you take the fall for me you don’t even know me. This is insane!”
“Let’s get away from the city and try to cross the oil mine then we can worry about what to do after.” Marcus declares. “We need to get out of these tunnels. If they start searching down here we’ll be trapped and we won’t have any choices.”
We continue, Marcus in the lead as we snake through the tunnels. Suddenly the beam from Marcus’ flashlight highlights a solid wall of made of rough, sharp rock that appears to have footholds chiselled in it.
“Turn the lights off.” Marcus whispers as he set a foot on the rock ready to climb. In the blackness Annaliese and I wait. The only sound comes from Marcus’s feet in their search for the footholds as he works his way to the surface, only to be punctuated by intervals of the sound our nervous breathing makes.
The scraping of metal signals his arrival at the top of the climb. Then a light flashes back down lighting the wall and the floor.
“Its clear. Hurry, climb up.” He urges as he shines his light for us to see our way up the jagged wall of rock. I motion for Annaliese to go ahead of me, then with caution I follow her to the street above.
Marcus helps her climb out and then lowers a hand to assist me. Out on the street we wait while Marcus gently replaces the cover hiding the tunnel’s entrance then we all creep to the side of the alley we have emerged into.
In the shadow of a building we wait while Marcus adjusts his military disguise. When he is finished he whispers for us to follow and leads the way to the end of the alley. Abruptly stopping he points.
“We’ve got about another six blocks until we come to the entrance of the oil mine.” He describes. “If we are lucky enough to cover the distance undetected we will have to find away around the mine’s guards and down into the pit before we can cross it.”
He has already explained to me how the mine was the most guarded part of the city, not so much to keep city dwellers away, no one in the city was overly eager to see never mind venture into the pit he has depicted, but to insure the dissidents sentenced to a life of labour in the mines have no chance of escape. He did add that the Prophets were extremely protective of the mine. Without it the city would surely perish.
Giving us the signal to move from the mouth of the alley we stealthily creep along in the buildings shadows, our target the start of a new alley that will lead us on a direct route to the mouth of the oil mine.
Ten strides away from the alley we had just departed a stern voice calls to us.
“Identify yourself.” Two guards appear at the far end of the block stepping out of shadows and raising their guns. The three of us stop dead in our tracks.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.