Bleariness chased from our brains, we set forth on our mission. Shades led us through the forest for about ten or fifteen minutes and across a meadow of tall grass. At first I thought maybe she was lost, the way she looked around every minute or so, but after a while longer, she pointed out the back entrance from the grove we’d hunkered down in. The door had a very convincing appearance of being unattended and left for rot and ruin, as would be required to deceive the people and keep them from asking questions. A few interesting rock features and plant formations indicated otherwise.
“Camouflage,” Shadela confirmed. “I literally ran into one of these guys once before I realized he wasn’t a log. Barely got away alive.” Half a minute of planning and a swift attack rendered the Guards unfit for duty. Wayk, Falcon, and Tracer helped Shades hide the Guards in the bushes. She took their pass cards and weapons, handing them to Gator and me, and tied them up with some of Kael’s rope. Since they just had a shift change, they wouldn’t be expected to report in for at least an hour. We didn’t need longer than that.
Gator took one of the passes and waved it in front of the door. A light appeared, flashed the card, and disappeared. The door ka-chunked open from the inside. Kael grabbed the door handle, motioned a countdown, and opened it.
Inside was a dark staircase leading down a passage we couldn’t see. I readied my bow and crept around to the bottom. A strange rolling noise echoed in the hall. There was nobody down the hall, though there were some odd cracks in the wall.
I waved with two fingers to come down, and we moved down the hall. Kael shut the door behind us, but made sure not to close it all the way in the event we should lose the pass cards and be trapped in there. The cracks in the walls, we discovered, were actually openings to rooms, but the rooms just had odd materials in them. We checked them out one by one. Shadela had taught us “the ways of the Order.” The Guard order, anyway. She’d picked up more from her dad than any of us had from ours. All guys had to have some form of military service to be a contender for any other kind of work.
I told my head to shut up and focus. My heart pounded inside my chest. My hands were covered in sweat, and my fingers twitched involuntarily, ready for some kind of target, anything, that would alert me that this was it and after that nothing else. I couldn’t stand waiting in the darkness, but we couldn’t afford anything more than the torch at the end of the tunnel.
The rolling sound came back, and a little kid in a brown suit driving a metal cart full of metal stuff went by on the track. He was small and dirty, but I couldn’t save him right then. I was looking for Raven, but however many more there were, I would do my best to save them, too. They had a future. I didn’t.
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