“GUYS!” FALCON SCREAMED over the chaos, “We have to get them out of here!”
Kael yelled in return, “Well, how are we gonna do that when every Watcher of NeverSeen is trying to slit our throats?” He hook-kicked his attacker and shot another arrow across the room. A shock wave pushed everyone to their knees with perfect timing, as another series of arrows and bullets pummeled the wall behind their fort of boulders and pockmarked pillars. “Emma’s Army” was lucky enough to have the low ground in this cavern.
A sudden pause in battle to reload left both sides staring at the ceiling. There were red lights everywhere and loud noises. “There’s your answer,” panted Wayk as he held his shoulder. He’d been badly hit, and his breaths came in hisses between his teeth.
All the kids and prisoners, several dozen of them, were huddled in a small trench between stalagmites to avoid being shot. They started screaming, not in horror, but delight as fresh, cold water began racing under them. A second shock wave blasted them, and part of the roof caved in, sending rocks tumbling past the boys’ meager shelters. The soldiers raised their weapons again to fire, but several suddenly dropped with a great splash.
“Die, you filthy cowards!” bellowed Tracer as he stomped his soaking way into the middle of the room and took shelter behind a stalagmite. “Where’s the exit?” he growled at Raven, reloading. He fired his rounds at the soldiers on the other side of the trench and turned around, eyes blazing. “Well?” he demanded.
“There isn’t one,” said Wayk, shooting a few soldiers with a handgun as he stumbled over to Tracer. “There’s no way out.” “We’re hosed,” added Raven casually, as he fired a volley of well-placed shots at the Guards.
“Ninety seconds to self-destruct,” said the alarm system. A loud boom sounded down the tunnel, and the children shrieked as the water rose. The soldiers looked around and backed away into a hidden tunnel, fired at them one last time, and shut the door. Gator sloshed over and pounded on it, but it was sealed shut. The water lapped at their knees, and the kids started crying and climbing onto rocks as it reached their sensitive wings. Tracer frantically looked for a way out. “There’s gotta be a way!”
Kael stood staring up. “Found it,” he said. “There’s just one problem. It’s up there, and there are no more stairs.” He pointed to a small crevice at the edge of the ceiling, glowing red under the emergency exit light. Fragments of stone steps jutted out from the wall, but ended about ten feet short of the top.
“Well, that’s just great,” sighed Gator.
Raven helped a tiny girl onto a rock face jutting out from the wall. “We can make it.”
“And just how are we going to do that, Raven, when none of us can fly?” Wayk snapped, struggling to tread water. Whenever it hit his shoulder, he grimaced, and the water turned red.
“With this.” Raven splashed the water swirling around him. It was gushing in faster than Wayk had realized, and shortly they were dodging the undamaged stalactites nearing their heads.
“Sixty seconds to self-destruct.”
Falcon swam to the crevice’s edge and hauled himself out. “Come on, let’s go!” shouted Raven, pushing a group of smaller kids to the edge. Tracer grabbed the collars of two distressed boys and towed them over as well. As space at the cliff’s edge filled up, Falcon led a group of teens further back. Something hard bumped his knee. “Ouch! What was that?” he shouted to nobody in particular. Water was now sloshing around their ankles. Someone replied, “It’s a giant boat! Get in!” Orange light erupted from the staff as Raven guided the remaining groups towards Falcon and the vessel. Working in pairs, they packed the youngest kids together like sardines in one seat, then another. Some tried unsuccessfully to keep it from lurching. Yelps that the boat had started moving downstream arose. Progress stalled.
“There’s too many.” Gator surged through waist-deep water to Falcon. “We can’t get them all in.” He grabbed the boat edge to stabilize it, dragging his feet. Tracer held the other side as he tried to anchor it.
“Five seconds to self-destruct.”
“Wanna bet?” asked Raven. He raised the staff like a baton, and everyone not in the boat was floating above it.
They fell in, between seats and on each other. Falcon felt the boat pick up speed.
Raven shouted from the bow, “Hold on!”
The boat tipped forward and shot down the trench into darkness.
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