Silence shouted all round them in the form o’ ringing ears. Though there wasn’t s’posed to be sound, the thick crunch o’ their ridged feet gainst the bumpy, caked ground still slunk into their helmets. This milky-white ground stretched its arms ’cross all sight, bulwarking the flood o’ cola-black air, as well as any other signs o’ anything else.
It must be here somewhere…, thought Autumn.
Autumn wasn’t sure if ’twere the weaker gravity or just here impatience, but her steps streamed forward without pause or sweat. Quite the opposite: despite their thick suits, gelid air still found a way to seep inside, tickling their bones. Pressing their bodies together offered no protection.
Though Edgar @ 1st admired the peaceful sight o’ the speckled-star sky, he began to become impatient, too, though due to a direr reason: the farther they ventured, the mo’ his marrow filled with fear. ’Twas the unfamiliar atmosphere that excited his senses that now forebode danger. The awe-inspiring face o’ the galaxy now looked awe-inspiring ’nough to devour them like crumbs in the middle o’ the sea.
’Ventually, his mind devolved into shouting, ¿Where is it, already! ¡It shouldn’t take this long!. But no matter how much he’d think, It has to come in the next few minutes. It has to…, it wouldn’t.
Edgar’s fears became so thick that they engulfed his sense o’ direction or time till his attention was ground to the ending groove o’ a record, only to be freed by a single encantation from Autumn:
Augh. There it is. That took for-fucking-e’er.
& indeed, from the distance they could see slowly rising o’er the horizon like a shark a boxy set o’ buildings & tubes connected to the ground, light in color like the ground, but not as bright. As they neared, they saw that ’twas mo’ off-white, as if ’twere trying to fit in with the moon, but not quite succeeding.
Autumn’s attention immediately locked onto the black etching on the side o’ the biggest box: the words “Chamsby Industries, inc.” next to a stylish $.
However, she knew nothing valuable was inside — nothing but dull-gray tools & plaster walls. All o’ the gold was far ’neath them. That was why Chamsby himself was digging downward, after all.
A meter or so past the factory they could see widen out from the horizon craters splashed with dark gradients from shadows. Splashed o’er these shadows were white gradients o’ light spreading out various holes, ’hind which were medleys o’ buzzes & knocks.
But Autumn wasn’t prepared to enter from these. That was like an ant walking directly into an eater’s mouth. No, Autumn knew that the best way to get gold was through bronze & knew that in order to reach the milky gold below she’d need to use the dull shovels inside the factory.
So they did, in fact, sneak into the plaster factory through pipes unused for years by anything but cobwebs &, after confirming that ’twas empty o’ outside sentience, grabbed the best shovels Autumn could find ’pon cursory search. ’Course, all the diamond shovels were either taken or hid. They’d have to suffice with regular metal.
They stepped back out, feeling the stale cold curl round them ’gain. Autumn gazed @ the wide stretch o’ white chocolate till she decided ’twas all the same & stepped on a random spot & began digging. Edgar followed.
Neither spoke as they dug. Autumn had nothing to say; but though Edgar did, — or a’least wanted to end the dull ringing o’ silence desperately — he feared to do so. He couldn’t ’splain why: ¿would the stiff air suffocate his words the second they tried ’scaping his throat? ¿Would the bad air infect his lungs? Either way, his larynx wouldn’t operate, as if physically blocked.
So they dug, shard by shard, in silence, so gradually that it didn’t seem that they were sinking so much as that the dirt was always @ its current level & Edgar just misremembered. ’Gain Edgar’s impatience o’erwhelmed him, & ’gain he couldn’t understand why. ’Twas an allergy: his calcium simply itched in this sterile space. Like the trip here, this ordeal would ne’er end; & like this new ne’er-ending ordeal, the ne’er-ending ordeals would ne’er end coming.
But it did eventually end — & though Edgar for hours had felt on the edge o’ collapse, his pieces stayed glued together to the end.
They each pressed a button on their suits to make their helmets slide back into their suits. Autumn turned to Edgar & wrinkled her nose @ him.
¿You all right?
Yes, replied Edgar, though his breathless speech & vibrations probably belied this claim.
Through the white chocolate they found a hallway so long they couldn’t see its end, filled with stacks o’ Styrofoam boxes, some o’ which they had to climb o’er, & bordered by dusty, round glass that revealed only solid walls o’ pockmarked white chocolate, said hard chocolate’s cracks oozing with molten brown milk chocolate, ’hind them. Edgar felt his boots become e’en colder @ the touch o’ this alien smooth metal floor, in contrast to the warmer naturally uneven chocolate surface. The sound o’ each ¡Tunk! @ each step only made him shiver mo’.
Edgar was so distracted by this that he was startled when he felt Autumn’s thick, rubbery gloves grasp him tightly by the arm & yank him to the side, ’hind a box. He looked up @ Autumn & saw her eyes flick upward. He peeked just ’bove their box & barely saw in the distance a moving white blob vaguely in the shape o’ a person.
Autumn whispered right into his ear hole,
If that guard sees us, it’ll shoot us with its laser, & .
kill a motherfucker
Edgar shivered, visions o’ repeating the hours o’ silent digging cycling his mind.
But he said nothing. He waited for Autumn to act, which he could see her planning to do by the stiff crouch she held herself in. Both tried their hardest not to accidentally touch their Styrofoam fort & emit that loud squeak that Styrofoam always makes.
When the guard passed them, stopped, rubbed its shiny, Apple-white chin, & said,
BEEP BOOP. BEEP BOOP. MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE NOTICED THOSE 2 HIDING ’HIND THE BOX CLEARLY IN THE CORNER O’ MY EYE AS I — Autumn tackled him from ’hind as she pulled a screwdriver from her pocket, & while she held the droid down, unscrewed its laser hand from its regular, laserless arm. Then, ’pon lifting its hand in her hands, she took the laser gun its laser hand was holding & tossed the laser hand ’way.
BEEP BOOP. BEEP BOOP. SHIT IS BECOMING IMMENSELY TRUE, FELLOW COGNIZANT FIGURE.
Autumn thought o’ a witty 1-liner as she shot the droid dead in the back o’ its head with the laser, causing the back plastic casing to explode into plastic & silicon shards. She didn’t say said 1-liner, ’course, ’cause talking ’loud would only attract mo’ attention with no gain. Still, she thought that if you’d heard it, you’d think ’twas quite clever.
She returned to their hiding box, where Edgar was still sitting, & waited for any guards who might’ve been alerted by the loud laser shots; but the next 10 minutes expired with only silence.
Autumn took Edgar’s arm & led him out, only to stop with a jerk & shove them ’hind ’nother box just a meter ’head. As Autumn leaned o’er their box with her laser pointed upward & an eye closed, Edgar looked upward, expecting to see ’nother guard; ’stead, he faintly saw a tiny white box that appeared to be a camera with some black attachments that probably held it to the ceiling.
After a minute or so o’ slightly moving her arm, Autumn clicked the trigger, causing a sharp swish sound to run ’way from them. Edgar had li’l time to think ’bout it, for ’twas followed by a louder scream that sounded full o’ saliva. Edgar fell backward as he saw the camera spread its black flaps & come toward them, swooping downward & upward in parabolas, flapping its black flaps. ’Twas as it neared that he noticed its flaps were shaped like bat wings & that under its lens was an opening shaped like a mouth with a sharp fang @ the top.
It continued to cry out as Autumn pumped beams @ it, many o’ which missed. As it came closer, she began to sweat mo’ & shoot mo’ rapidly.
While still a meter ’way, it collapsed after being hit by its dozenth shot, throwing both plastic shards & sparks as it hit the steel floor.
I don’t think these 2 were completely computerized…, Autumn muttered a decibel ’bove silence.
They reached the end without any mo’ threats, save the bulb-shaped glass door tinted cyan. They both stared @ it for a while, but Edgar couldn’t see any lock or control panel.
Autumn hesitantly held her hand out & touched it, only to jerk it back a millisecond after. Nothing happened. She put her hand on it & kept it there. Then she stepped closer to it & felt round it, pressing forward, trying to pull back, & pushing her hands in all directions gainst it. It appeared just as solidly still as e’er.
Finally, she muttered,
Fuck it, & then raised her laser & shot @ it, causing it to shatter into pieces. As it did so, she yanked Edgar ’hind a box, but like before, nobody came in response to the noise.
On the other side o’ the door they found a vertical shaft that seemed to go on forever, fading into impenetrable darkness kilometers ’bove. Toward that zenith were strewn numerous metal floors.
Autumn, who had also been staring upward, whispered,
Too high for us to reach, probably, & then looked back down @ the door @ the other end, just in front o’ them in this tight horizontal space. This door was shaped just as the last 1, but red-orange. After a second or so, Autumn shrugged, & shot @ it; but this time the beam harmlessly sizzled to air without e’en cracking the door. She shot a few mo’ times without seeming to damage the door a pint.
Guess I need a better gun, Autumn quipped.
Then she slapped her forehead & whispered,
I’m an idiot. We’re on the moon. We can jump super high. We can reach those platforms ’bove.
When Autumn leapt, Edgar saw, indeed, that she reached far higher than usual — high ’nough to reach the next floor easily. After watching this, Edgar tried it, too, & found he could reach the same height.
’Twas as he was just reaching the platforms just ’bove that he saw a spike shooting toward him, just passing below his jump. Looking ’head, he saw a shiny silver hedgehog-looking creature, whose shell was sucking in a spike just before shooting ’nother. In front o’ it was Autumn, who kept jumping o’er each spike, while shooting @ its li’l snout, barely protruding from its shell.
After having to dodge 2 mo’ spikes, Edgar saw 1 o’ Autumn’s shots cause the monster to halt with a screeching buzz & emit smoke. Autumn continued to watch it as she returned her laser to her pocket, frowning.
Then she looked up & round them, @ all 4 directions. Edgar guessed she was focusing on what he was: ’nother cyan bulb door on each side.
As Edgar was looking round them independently, he heard a crash & swung his head forward only to see Autumn with her gun pointed @ a now-shattered cyan door.
Hope this is the right way, muttered Autumn.
Looking @ the odds, probably not.
Past that door was ’nother long hall like the previous, but this time with holes in the cracked floor. All Edgar could see o’ the holes was darkness; & he was not yet curious ’nough to step closer for a better examination.
Hmm… Don’t know if it’s worth the risk to cross. Could lead to a dead end, said Autumn.
Then ’gain, the fact that it’s so dangerous makes me think it’s mo’ likely that this is the right way. Chamsby wouldn’t want it to be too easy.
After a short pause, Autumn added,
Wouldn’t hurt to explore mo’ & come back if the other routes turn out to be duds.
This time ’stead o’ trying 1 o’ the other 3 doors, Autumn led Edgar farther upward, & upward… & upward, till both found, to their surprise, a floor that was too high for them to reach.
Autumn scratched her head.
¿Who designed this base? I could understand if ’twas completely impossible to get anywhere, but the fact that we can reach some areas, but not others, leads me to believe there’s some puzzle ’hind all this.
She turned back to the room round them.
O well. Just means we have less choices we have to worry ’bout.
She shot out the door that happened to be in front o’ her & led Edgar inside. This time they found a perfectly healthy hallway without holes or cracks.
It’ll be impossible to find our way through this maze when everything looks the same, muttered Autumn.
I have to give them that credit.
As they crossed the hallway, Autumn tightened her eyes. Edgar, too, looked all round him, but couldn’t see any monsters.
They didn’t have long to look: in a flash the lights went out. Edgar shivered in the chill he felt deepen round him. Autumn immediately slid her pack off her shoulders & ducked to dig out her flashlight, but froze ’pon seeing tiny red beads o’ light puncture the darkness. Autumn closed 1 eye as she tried aiming her gun @ it, & then began shooting. She swore as she noticed the eyes remain unfazed.
She fiddled with her pack ’gain, in search for the zipper, when she heard Edgar whisper in a quaking voice,
Autumn…. She looked up to see the red eyes leaping for her.
She tumbled backward by reflex, but not quickly ’nough to avoid the tiny needles that punctured her arm. She could feel the membranous mass attached to them throb as blood ran from her arm into it, numbing mo’ & mo’ o’ her arm’s nerves.
She aimed her gun right ’bove her arm & shot, but heard nothing but muffled thumps. The creature wasn’t interrupted @ all.
¿What the fuck is this bullshit? ¡I’m aiming it right @ it! ¿How the hell could they miss?
But she could tell by the thumping sounds that she wasn’t missing it. That was the worst part.
If I don’t do something soon, I’m dead anyway, so I might as well try…
She grabbed round the air in front o’ her till she felt her fingers squeeze o’er what felt like a balloon made o’ wrinkled tinfoil & full o’ heavy air. She tried to push it off with her full strength, but only felt its teeth scrap mo’ harshly gainst her skin like bramble thorns.
¿Did you get it?, whispered Edgar.
Please help me push this thing off me, Autumn whispered back.
Hearing the weakness in Autumn’s voice, Edgar replied with rising tone & volume,
¿Where is it?
It’s right on me, Autumn said quickly.
Here, dig through my pack & get out my flashlight to see.
’K, she heard Edgar say, not so much as a whisper as a sharp exhale. She then heard the sound o’ loud zipping & the soft clunking o’ objects gainst each other.
After a minute or so, Autumn winced under the sudden flash o’ the flashlight. She struggled to focus her vision on the blurriness in front o’ her, only to notice the relief she felt in her arm. ’Pon regaining most o’ her sight, she saw that there was nothing in front o’ her or on her arm. She rubbed her arm; & though part o’ it felt a familiar rawness, she recognized it as a purely spectral form.
Hmm… Maybe some o’ those clattering sounds were the creature fleeing.
I-I don’t see it, Edgar stuttered.
It’s gone. Thank you, Autumn said as she returned to her feet.
It seems that light is the creature’s weakness. Makes sense, since it only came out when the lights went out.
¿What made the lights go out, anyway?, asked Edgar, shivers still in his voice.
Someone who wants us gone, probably.
Autumn’s knees began to wobble under her stance as she felt numbness flood o’er her. Gainst her will she began to stagger backward till she fell into a sitting position. Her whole body felt the wasplike pinches o’ exhaustion. She yawned repeatedly.
¿Are you all right?, Edgar asked as he reached a hand out toward her.
’Tween yawns, Autumn replied,
Too much blood loss. Listen, you’ll have to watch o’er me for a few hours. ¿You know how to use this gun? She held up her gun, her eyes listless & staring @ nothing.
Edgar’s voice rose.
¿What? ¿What’s wrong?
There’s nothing I can do. I have to sleep.
& with that, Autumn lay down on her side, curled up with her eyes shut tightly, & lost consciousness.
Autumn woke from an opaque clatter from outside. She spent half a minute sluggishly sitting up with half-lidded eyes before the alert system in her mind woke as well.
She turned to Edgar, who was already staring @ her with caved-in eyes.
¿How long has that been going on?, she whispered.
It just started, he whispered back.
Autumn climbed to her feet.
We’d better find a hiding place in case they come in.
Edgar turned his head ’long with Autumn.
I can’t find anywhere where we could hide.
Maybe they’re only on 1 side o’ this room — doubt it, though. Let’s move to the middle to maximize our distance from either side.
There they waited, Autumn with her ear to the rusty wall for the next 10 minutes, after which time Autumn whispered,
I think they might’ve left — ’less they already know we’re in here & are trying to be quiet to fake us out. But if that’s the case, we’re trapped, anyway, so we may as well risk leaving.
Autumn turned her head ’tween the 2 sides for a few seconds before heading toward the 1 opposite that whence they entered. ’Twas as she did so that she realized with a slight brain ache that she’d have to noisily shoot the door open.
& ’twas as she entered the next room that she realized the mistake she’d made; for that room was not ’nother vertical shaft full o’ monsters, but a cubic room full o’ computer equipment — & @ that computer equipment was Lance Chamsby, now staring @ Autumn with balloon eyes.
The next second he swung round & typed a command on his computer. Autumn looked up to see a crane o’ hard metal hovering ’bove them. Autumn tilted with her hands clasped to her pack just before the crane fell & clamped o’er her.
Lance stood, his face o’ fright replaced by that o’ triumph.
I figured I’d find you snooping round my property. Socialists can’t live ’less they busy themselves bothering the productive. Let me guess: you’re after stealing my rich, black-hole chocolate core o’ my moon purely to feed your gluttonous envy.
False, said Autumn.
A liar, too — ’nother common trait from a thought system that rejects true thought.
Lance waited a second, & then added,
& the way you can’t e’en respond proves the thoughtlessness o’ your… I don’t e’en know what to call it. Certainly not morality.
Autumn continued to tap her fingers gainst the crane.
Well, since you’ve admitted the inferiority o’ your beliefs, allow me to attempt the impossible & perhaps teach you a modicum o’ true thinking & perhaps by some fantastical miracle you’ll absorb some o’ it & become a smidgen closer to a right-thinking human. I shall ’splain what I plan to use my black-hole chocolate that you shall ne’er dirty with your paws — Lance glared when he saw Autumn smirk —
most certainly not ’cause I’m a villain as your warped thinking may lead you to believe, but, quite opposite, precisely ’cause I know my deed is the noblest & am prepared to proclaim my intent as loudly & publicly as I can.
What I plan to use this black-hole chocolate for is as the objective currency o’ this new society I’m building — 1 free from the corruption infesting earth. With this currency I shall hire the best & the brightest from your poor earth & with their service I shall build a world truly fit for true humans, ¡built on property, rationality, & justice — man’s highest principles!
Autumn couldn’t stop herself from saying,
I admire your brilliant plan to create a profit-building venture revolving round a currency tightly limited to a scarce, nonrenewable resource which you already completely monopolize — presumably by giving said currency ’way to workers to make stuff so they can give it back to use that stuff they made. Either the workers will have to supply their own materials, in which case you did nothing & there’d be no rational reason for the workers to work for you, or you provide the materials so you can get the same amount o’ black-hole chocolate back, screwing yourself o’er — ’less your goal is to get stuff @ surely a higher price than you could get on earth, considering the lower scarcity o’ goods & labor on earth. ¡Awesome! ¡You stick it to that communistic mathematics!
Lance had already started crossing his arms in the middle o’ Autumn’s rant.
Go right ’head & amuse yourself with such ignorant thoughts, said Lance. Then he turned & began walking ’way.
Since I know my goals are noble & true, I know you’re no true threat, & thus will just leave you there to stew in your mediocrity. Hell, if you’re lucky, maybe you might learn something ’bout yourself & turn o’er a new leaf. Doubt it, though.
After Lance disappeared from view, Edgar turned to Autumn & asked,
¿How’ll we get out now?
Autumn only replied with,
Don’t know. Have to think ’bout it mo’.
Her thick-rimmed pupils slid all o’er the room while her head stayed tilted. Edgar watched her closely, but said nothing. He remembered her advice that snugly fit his own experience: that the most craftily planned action was a bad action not taken @ all.
Edgar’s suspicions only increased when he saw Autumn’s tilted head plop all the way o’er to the side & saw her eyes slowly close & her breathing become slower. This time Edgar let himself glance round them, but with fear in his face. Every so oft, he’d turn back to Autumn with a worried expression.
This proceeded for ’bout 20 minutes, which only fueled Edgar’s anxiety. Though he knew ’twas irrational o’ him, he couldn’t help thinking, O, ¿can’t you just hurry & do your plan, already?
So ’twas with a relieved shock that he greeted the sound o’ squeaking metal right ’side him & turned just to see Autumn slam her boots onto the steel floor. She looked up @ Edgar & put an index to her sealed lips.
Then he saw her quickly tiptoe to the computer on the other side o’ the room. There she stood standing o’er the keyboard & monitor, staring @ them intently. Then she sat down & began what Edgar could only assume was some work to get them out o’ there. From so far ’way, he could only see the slight flash o’ subtly changing colors on the monitor, as well as Autumn typing, using the mouse, & pausing — either to gaze tightly @ the monitor or to lean her head on her upraised right arm with her head leaning toward the ceiling & her eyes spaced-out.
Though Edgar tried to calm himself, the hour or so he remained locked down, muffled by his uselessness & the world refusing to give him e’en a sign that things would improve, he began to truly doze off in tiredness from so much sadness — so much so that he was jolted when he felt the tight metal squeeze round him to which he’d become accustomed release him to the ground, filling him with an uplifting feeling o’ so much airiness & freedom.
Though Autumn did look back @ Edgar & nodded, she immediately turned back to the computer & continued working. With nothing better to do but stand in the middle o’ the room & continue feeling anxious, Edgar tiptoed toward Autumn. However, before he made it to her, he heard sirens begin to blare:
ERROR #4206: SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY HAS BEEN REGISTERED. PLEASE PROVE YOUR IDENTITY BY ANSWERING THESE SECURITY QUESTIONS WITHIN THE NEXT MINUTE.
Edgar knew Autumn had been startled by the way she couldn’t stop herself from muttering,
Shit, & the slight wobble in her movement o’ the mouse pointer onscreen. However, she steadily filled in each query box, only pausing a few seconds ’tween each to check them. When what must’ve been most o’ the minute had passed, Autumn took a deep breath & hovered o’er the “Submit” button…
Red lights flashed, accompanied by heavy beeps that strummed throughout the walls. A message boomed,
SORRY, THE INFO YOU SUBMITTED WAS INVALID. THIS BUILDING WILL NOW SELF-DESTRUCT IN 6 MINUTES FOR SAFETY MEASURES. PLEASE VISIT WWW.FALCONSECURITY.COM/SUPPORT OR CALL (774) 012-4423 FOR MO’ ASSISTANCE.
Autumn didn’t wait for the message to finish before jumping out o’ the chair, grabbing Edgar, & yanking them toward the door through which Lance had exited — which Edgar now saw was open.
¿How’d the door open?, asked Edgar with labored breaths.
That’s what caused the alert in the 1st place, said Autumn.
On the other side o’ said door was a long hallway infested with 3 sentries. This time Autumn didn’t bother hiding ’hind any o’ the convenient Styrofoam crates, but dashed straight through, only bothering to hop to the side when she saw a laser bullet aim for her. She failed to dodge 2 lasers, giving her burns on her elbow & cheek, but without doing any serious damage.
But @ the end o’ the hall she saw not a straight doorway, but a 3-pronged fork going left, right, & straight. She muttered,
Fuck. I don’t have time for this.
But that’s the goal, innit.
By pure intuition, she turned leftward & found a pit o’ glowing yellow acid simmering sickly, closed by a bridge o’ cracked blocks. No time to hesitate. Autumn charged forward, dragging Edgar ’hind. As she went, she could feel the cracked blocks rumble under her feet & could feel the massive heat rise quickly from the acid just below.
Won’t be time to stop, she thought as she stared @ the red door ’head o’ them. She pointed her gun @ it & shot it open, & then ran inside.
There she saw a room whose walls seemed to be constructed entirely o’ silver-steeled scraps covered in stitch-like bolts. Though ’twas thin, it rose farther than they could see, & its middle was swarming with short girders — less half a meter, all o’ them.
Rolling her eyes so hard that e’en her head was thrown back, Autumn thought, Well, if the goal is to waste my time…
& the best part is, I can’t just leave Edgar ’hind as if I were collecting an item.
Edgar clearly realized this, too, judging by his twitchy frown.
Edgar, hop onto my back.
Edgar swung he head to her.
¿What? ¿You sure that won’t weigh you down?
Not too much — we’re on the Moon, ¿remember?
If you say so…
Autumn dropped to her knees so Edgar could climb onto her back, & then stood & took a deep breath while she quickly scanned the platforms looming ’bove.
Sometimes I wish I could see me & these platforms from far off to the side, @ a flat angle — ’cause it’d be a lot easier to see how these platforms relate to each other than @ this warped perspective.
She hopped to the nearest, & then went up from there, keeping her arms tight in case she needed to grab onto the edge o’ a barely-missed platform. @ 1st she felt her nerves bunch up @ the awkwardness o’ the slowness @ which she moved; but when she became used to it, she found it made the climb much easier than what would be under normal gravity.
However, the antsiness didn’t go ’way completely: e’en if making the jumps were easier, they were also slower, & the clock was still ticking down…
I s’pose it’d be absurd to expect this antagonistic area to a’least tell me how much time I have left before it scatters my atoms everywhere — maybe a li’l digital clock hanging somewhere on the north wall there.
& the slowness did flip to a hindrance a li’l when she did miss a platform, & slowly floated downward to whatever platform was below her — if there were 1. Luckily, o’er the 4 times she fell, she ne’er fell mo’ than 5 meters before reaching ’nother platform. Still, every fall was like a jab in her temple with a screwdriver — which wasn’t helped by that ear-blasting siren constantly screaming & the seizure-inducing red lights flashing & flashing & flashing; & there was li’l way to maneuver in the air while falling — ’nother pure fantasy that Autumn ne’ertheless wished for.
This only fed the urge to go mo’ quickly, which would only make her make mo’ mistakes. Thus ’twas lucky that gravity forced her to slow down, e’en though her mind was screeching @ her muscles to move mo’ quickly.
Ne’er mind it. Just look carefully @ where you’re going.
She had become so accustomed to Edgar’s light weight clinging to her back that she felt a constantly-nagging fear that she’d lost him somewhere. Only when she stopped & could hear Edgar breathing softly in her ear could she assure herself.
Might as well enjoy it while I can… Autumn thought as she felt sweat drip down the side o’ her face… Might be the last time I can.
& yet, before Autumn knew it, she saw the ceiling appear right ’bove her head & saw ’head o’ her a cloistered tunnel with walls not o’ steel, but o’ rocky walls greenish-blue.
Watch this be full o’ some crane or something that’ll delay us just before the exit.
But the tunnel was empty, save the end, which was blocked off by a round door made o’ hard westeria metal, bolted down with thick rectangular bars. ’Pon reaching it, they saw that its middle held a small square digital monitor with low-res text.
Autumn’s brows rose while the bags under her eyes hung downward.
You’ve gotta be kidding me…
FOR SECURITY PURPOSES, WE MUST ASK YOU TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS BEFORE WE ALLOW YOU TO OPEN THIS DOOR.
Autumn felt her heart lock up as she heard a click, & then felt it release & let in so much air when she saw the door slowly slide open. As soon as there was a crack big ’nough to squeeze through, she did so with both o’ themselves & charged out down the rocky wilderness without looking back.
’Twas only when they heard the sound o’ a million steel drums being smashed gainst each other @ full force ’hind them that they allowed themselves to stop, settle their breaths, & look back. There they saw Chamsby’s rusty rectangle replaced by a mangled mound o’ scrap; & from the crevices ’tween it & the ground rapidly spilled a thick liquid that looked like lava, but a deep black color, with streaks o’ white from the sun’s reflection.
Autumn stepped backward slowly, but was accelerating as she saw how quickly the liquid was smothering the gap ’tween them.
If there’s ’nough o’ that to cover the surface, we’re screwed, Autumn said without taking her eyes off it.
We’d better hope it’s safe.
¿What is it? You don’t think…
That’s what it looks most like. But it could still be scalding to the touch.
¿Can you feel any extra heat?, asked Edgar.
Can’t tell. Being out here is so much colder that I probably wouldn’t notice the difference. But look — Autumn pointed ’bove the liquid:
They were running @ this point; the liquid was that quick & getting that close. However, Autumn noticed the gap begin to grow ’gain &, ’pon looking mo’ closely @ the edge o’ the growing puddle, saw that ’twas decelerating. She glanced o’er her shoulder, but saw just empty ground.
If this stuff doesn’t devour us, we may have to wait a few hours before he can safely gather it.
We’ll have to hope Lance doesn’t find out before then… if he wasn’t… in the explosion… Edgar began to twist his wrists together.
I can’t imagine he didn’t hear such a loud alarm & didn’t have some preparation for it. Surely he would’ve expected it, too, considering he’s in charge, said Autumn.
I’d actually be mo’ worried ’bout any o’ his henchmen. Good thing we didn’t see any; maybe Lance came ’lone.
Those were the last words to reverberate through the atmosphere for the next few hours as Autumn & Edgar waited silently in their spaceship, watching the still-bubbling ooze simmer in the empty void in which they found themselves.
But before Autumn could finish plugging in all the inputs, she & Edgar were suddenly ripped apart from an immeasurable invisible force with thermometer-busting heat. The sharp pain lasted for only a few seconds, & then settled to emptiness.