Kent was lying in bed working on his tablet computer when there was a knock on the hatch. Startled Kent slowly placed his tablet down and crept towards the hatch. The knocking came again. He put his ear to the top of the hatch and heard the unmistakable voice of Kelly calling out to him from the other side. Slightly bemused Kent undid the bolts and opened the hatch. Out sprung Kelly with her characteristic smiles and enthusiasm. She was wearing her gym gear which fitted tightly over every part of her fit body. Kent found himself having to make an effort to stop his eyes from wandering away from her face. Kelly noticed Kent’s struggle to remain focused on her face and giggled internally to herself..
“Kelly, what a surprise to see you, can I do anything for you?”
“Not really, I was in the neighbourhood so I thought that I would drop by,” said Kelly in her enthusiastic tone of voice.
Kent frowned, “it’s not a good night for spelunking down there. There is rain forecast tonight. Those tunnels are deadly in the rain.”
“Oh, I won’t be long, unless you think I should play it safe and stay here for the night?” Kelly bit her lip anxiously. Concerned she’d played her cards too soon.
Kent blushed involuntarily, “well actually I am expecting Suvarin to stay the night here. So there wouldn’t be enough room.”
“Oh!” Gasped Kelly with embarrassment, “are you two a couple?”
Kent shook his head, “No. We’re just friends.”
“But there’s only one bed here.”
“Yeah, I should find another mattress for her, she’ll probably be staying around here for at least few more days.”
“So nothing goes on between you two when you’re sleeping in the same bed together?”
“Nothing, besides sleeping.”
Kelly smiled impishly and stepped forward, “No cuddles in the night?”
Kent blushed embarrassedly and started to raise his hands in front of himself defensively when an alarm exactly like the one that had been on Suvarin’s phone went off. Kent quickly seized his tablet and started decrypting the message. Kelly looked at the intense focus on Kent’s face.
“What is it?” asked Kelly.
“It’s Suvarin, she’s on a mission for the order. Someone was badly injured and urgently needs blood. She managed to acquire the blood and then Nix tried to stop her. She managed to elude him by hiding underneath the hospital. Where she’s gotten lost and trapped in the tunnels.”
“Well let’s go and get her!” Kent’s face had drained of all colour, “What is it Kent?”
“The weather forecast, it will be raining soon, if she’s down there she’ll drown. If we don’t get the blood she has then another person will die too. If I get trapped down there with her, I will die too.”
“Then let’s hurry, I will help.”
“If you come too then we may have four dead people.”
Kelly threw a torch over at Kent, “nonsense, let’s get moving, show me the way.”
“You shouldn’t come, it’s dangerous enough as it is.”
“Are you willing to waste the time we need to save her arguing with me about this?”
Kent growled, ran over to the hatch and heaved it open with a burst of strength that caught Kelly by surprise. She hadn’t though the skinny man was capable of such exertion. He grabbed a wrench from off the wall and disappeared down the hatch. Kelly followed close behind him. Kent didn’t bother to close the hatch, he darted down a tunnel running at top speed. Kelly could hear the sounds of his feet quickly fading away into the darkness.
“Oh no you don’t! I’m coming with you!” Kelly sprinted after him.
Kent moved through the tunnels with a speed and agility Kelly had never imagined possible. He ran over smooth round surfaces with gravity defying grace. Kelly was fast and nimble from years of gymnastic training, but she struggled to keep up with him: often splashing into pools of water getting soaked through. Kelly thought Kent was too far ahead to catch up when he got stuck trying to climb up over a levee. Kelly arrived to find his feet dangling from a side pipe grunting trying to pull the rest of him inside. Without waiting Kelly cup one of his shoes in her hands and hoisted him up.
Kent disappeared inside the pipe but she heard a faint, “thanks!” echoing out from above her.
Realising that he wasn’t going to turn around and help her up Kelly ran up one side of the round pipe and ran down and back up the other as fast as she could. The extra momentum gave her enough lift to jump up onto the cavity. She made it easily but hit the concrete with such force that she bruised herself in the process. Ignoring the pain she pushed herself forwards after him. The tunnel did not extend more than one hundred metres and opened up into a concrete room the size of a typical bedroom. Five of the sides of the room were concrete, but one was an angled cage of steel bars.
She found Kent with a wrench in hand twisting a nut holding a section of the steel bars in place. Kelly looked forward to see what was on the other side of the bars: the light was poor now but she could just make up a large basin full of dirt surrounded by slopping concrete walls. She put her hand through the bars and felt the drizzle of rain on her skin.
“It’s started raining! How much farther to the hospital?”
Kent didn’t answer at first, he was focussing on removing another nut, “We need to run across this flood retarding basin here and take the tunnel on the far side to the left. We follow the tunnel down for about one and a half kilometres until we reach a rectangular chamber with five tunnels branching off from it. We take the second tunnel on the right. This leads straight to the hospital tunnels.”
“Cool so we’re less than ten minutes away from Suvarin.”
“It’s a maze of very old crumbling tunnels down there. Lots of cave-ins and small brick tunnels, they are oddly shaped and impossible to run through. It will be difficult to find her because even if we can hear her we can’t trust our ears to give us the right direction.”
“Right, no problem, I am ready for this,” announced Kelly bravely, “how long before the rain starts flooding the tunnels?”
“Not long at all. You should just climb up out of this basin; it is safe in the tower up there.”
Kent pointed to a small tower on stilts near one edged of the basin.
“I removed the padlock on the door long ago and replaced it with one of my own. The key is hidden in a key safe welded to one of the stilts. Go to that tower and open the key safe using the combination 3 – 5 – 9. Then use the key to get a rope out of the tower and bring it back down to me while I am unscrewing the next hatch. I suggest that once you bring me the rope you go back up there and wait for me to return with Suvarin.”
“And miss out on this adventure! Not a chance! It’s you and me on this one, Kent.”
“Kelly, this isn’t a fairy tale, people die on adventures all the time.”
The tone of Kent’s voice blotted out Kelly’s enthusiasm. Kent removed the last nut and kicked the steel bars away to reveal a hatchway they could climb through. Kent immediately set out running across the basin, Kelly ran for the tower and found the keys and rope insude as Kent has described. The rain was starting to set in harder by the time Kelly had brought the rope to Kent. However, she had come this far, she wasn’t going to turn back now. Kent finished opening up the next hatch and jumped through into the tunnel, Kelly followed behind him.
The water level in the tunnels was normally only about one or two centimetres high, now it was a good five centimetres already. Kent ran along the sides of the tunnel above the water line, frequently jumping to the other side in order to keep his balance. Kelly was quickly learning how to move through the tunnels like this and was keeping up with him. Then she slipped on a wet patch and fell into the water. She tried to get back up but the current of the water was so strong it just knocked her back down again. She pulled herself up again and started sploshing after Kent. She was glad that she was wearing her gym gear, if she had been wearing a jumper she might have been too heavy to push back against the current. Moving water is a powerful force in nature.
The pair stepped into the chamber with five tunnels branching off in different directions. Kelly had to shout for Kent to hear her over the sound of the water pouring into the room. The ground was concrete, but very slippery as slime had grown into the small imperfections on the concrete surface making it impossible to know if one’s foot was on a steady surface or not. The two waded across the chamber to the tunnel leading to the hospital. All the tunnels they had come through thus far had been round concrete pipes, large enough to stand up in. This tunnel was made out of red brick, shaped like a balloon, and the ceiling so low that one had to stoop to make one’s way through it. The two of them struggled through this narrower older tunnel until it opened up into a blue stone room with several other balloon shaped tunnels feeding into and out of it.
“Ok Kelly, we are now underneath the hospital. Suvarin is somewhere down one of these tunnels.”
Kelly gasped, “But Kent, there’s so much water and it’s building up so quickly. We don’t have much time to explore all these tunnels. What are we going to do?”
Kent looked at her soberly; the despair was written all over her wet and dirtied face, “Adventure isn’t all that it sounds like when you are actually experiencing it. The problem with adventure tales is that we hear more about successful adventures than unsuccessful ones if only because the tales have to be told by someone. That someone is usually the adventurer lucky enough to survive.”
“We’re not going to find her in time are we?” cried Kelly her voice laced with panic.
Kent shook his head and took out his phone and held up the display, there was a small compass and pulsing green circle labelled ‘Suvarin’.
“Everyone in the Aeshir has a set of apps on their phones just for our own personal use. Including a distress beacon app. I we can track her using the signal her phone is sending out. According to this she is somewhere down one of these two tunnels over here.”
Kelly smiled bravely, “So we just have to explore them both!”
Kent shook his head, “there isn’t enough time, we need to choose one.”
“We can take a tunnel each!”
“No, it’s too dangerous with this much water around,” Kent handed Kelly an end of the rope he had been carrying, “We need to stick together, tie this rope around you so if one of us gets washed away, the other person can pull them back to safety.”
Kent led the now tethered Kelly up one of the tunnels.
“Are you sure this is the right one?”
“No, but let’s be quick about it anyway.”