#8: The ‘Nell’

Later that night, the agents enter the valley.

********************************************************

Mud looks back at the group. “Ok, we should be at the hide out in an hour if we move fast.”

A half hour passes before our team approaches a large building. It’s dark and rather wet inside. Unlike the boat though, this place does not give me the chills.

“Nice place…” I comment, mostly to myself.

We stop when Mud does. The boy reaches into his bag and brings out six gas masks and flash lights. As he hands out the items he also gives us a warning.

“Watch your step in this place. It’s been ready to crumble apart for decades.”

“Shocker,” My voice is full of sarcasm.

#5 seems fascinated by the building. “What is this place?”

I listen closely to Mud’s answer. My friend and I love to study the ancient civilizations. We’ll spend hours pouring over books and pictures and learning the languages. Some would say knowing a dead language is pointless, but we found a use. We use it to communicate while we are on the field. That way the enemy has no chance of understanding us.

“It was like a market,” replies Mud, “Ancient people would fill the hallways and spend hours here, looking at things and buying stuff they liked. I think it was called the ‘nell’.”

I make a mental note to double check that when I get home, but, for now, I slip on my mask and say, “Interesting…”

“Follow me,” Mud orders as he walks into the building.

Our footsteps echo through the empty ruins as we pass the big, empty rooms. We come upon a large room. It’s filled with old tables and chairs, some of which have little boxes on them. We squids continue to the next level, going up a flight of stairs. Up here, the floor is literally falling apart. Big holes litter the second level.

One bad step and a squid would fall thirty feet to the first floor.

I look over the edge of one of the holes before backing away. #1 does the same. “Woah.” My fear of falling makes me feel sick. “How old is this place.”

Mud shrugs his shoulders. “To be honest, I’m not sure. But if I had to put a number on it… Maybe 1000 years old. Maybe more.”

#5 lets out a disgusted grunt. “It smells horrible in here!”

“What you smell is mold,” explains our guide. Mud glances about. “The place is literally rotting away, making the air toxic. That’s why I gave you the masks.”

“Oh man…”

#4 breaks up the history lesson. “Uh, guys?” His voice is full of fear. “A little help here?”

Upon looking we see the floor beneath agent #4 is starting to crack and crumble apart. It will only take seconds for him to fall forty feet to the bottom floor.

“Oh my gosh!” I cry. Then I act without thinking, hurrying forward and pushing him out of danger just before the floor caves in… only one problem. Now I’m falling!

“LAY FLAT!” I hear Mud yell at me, and I try to obey, but it’s kinda hard when the floor is crumbling.

#2 quickly uses her charger to spray a path for me. “Swim girl! Swim!” Mud pulls out a rope and throws it to me.

I swim as best I can, the floor crumbling behind me as I go. Then the floor under me falls. Just barely, my hand grips the ledge so I am hanging by one arm. The floor can be heard cracking. I try to grab the rope.

“Grab the rope! Grab it!” All the others are shouting, trying to help in a verbal sense.

“What do you think I’m doing?!” I gasp. I’m falling that’s what I’m doing. The ledge I’m holding is crumbling under my hand. Then the frays of the rope touch my fingers. My hand barely snatches it and wraps around it.

A big chunk of the floor, what I was gripping a moment ago, falls away. A piece of it grazes my shoulder on it’s way down, but I don’t let go of the rope. Agent #1 and Mud pull me to safety.

#5 puts his arms around me and pulls me into a tight hug. Mud’s hand is gently on my arm and he examines my shoulder. “Are you alright?” Mud asks.

I don’t answer, but, instead, look back at the gap. A shiver runs through me. Then I look back to Whitemud and #5 and the three girls. “Where’s Four? Is he ok?”

“Behind you,” answers #2, “on the other side of the gap.”

I look and, sure enough, #4 lay on the ground on his back, arms spread out over the floor.

“You ok?” My voice is weak.

#4 shoots a thumbs up straight into the air. “I’m just winded,” he answers.

Relief washes over me. “Thank goodness.” Mud straightens up and I sink into #5’s arms, letting him hold me while I try to regain control of myself.

#6 breaks the quiet. “How do we get him across the hole?”

I look up. “Ummmm…”

Mud takes his weapon and shoots a line across the wall. “Just swim along the wall,” he tells #4 simply.

My face darkens. “Good idea… as long as the wall is stronger than the floor.”

#6 nods. “She has a point!”

Mud looks over at me. “Do you have any better ideas.”

My mouth opens then closes then opens again. “No… super jump? … yeah, no.”

“He will hit the ceiling if he tries that,” notes #1.

#4 stands up and stretches. “Guess I’m going for it.”

I swallow. “Ok…”

#4 jumps on the wall and swims all the way to the other side, landing right in front of the agents. After a moment of silence #6 says, “Well that was anticlimactic.” The rest of us agree.

Mud smiles and motions us to follow him. “Come on. We’re almost out.”

#5 helps me to my feet. We set off again. As we walk, Agent #4 comes up beside me.

“Hey #3,” he says quietly, “thanks for saving me back there. I just couldn’t move. It was like my legs just froze.”

I smile. “No problem. I know how that can feel. I’m glad you weren’t hurt.”

He seems surprised that I know what it’s like to freeze in fear. I don’t think he’s ever seen it happen to me…

“Really?” he asks.

I look ahead as I remember my previous battles. “Yeah…”

Minutes later, our team exits the building.

#2 rips off her mask and runs into the light. She spins happily, her arms wide open. “Fresh air at last!”

The rest of us pull off our masks too. Mud looks very pleased.

“That short cut just saved us three hours,” he tells us, “so we should be at the hideout by late afternoon.”

“Nice,” I say.

As we begin walking again, #5 joins me by my side.

“You ok?” he asks quietly.

I nod. “I’m fine. Though, I am a little shaken.”

“I was so scared when you started falling. Please, please be more careful,” #5 begs.

I grin up at him, then turn around and walk backwards. My hands are behind my head. “Come now, #5, have a little faith in me. I’m not gonna try and throw my life down a gap.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Unless it means you save someone else?”

After thinking about that a moment, I nod. “Yeah, but that’s our job isn’t it? We’re supposed to risk our lives to save others. All part of being in this stupid agency!”

With that, I turn around and dash to catch up with #6, leaving #5 to think about what I had said.

Previous Chapter ~ * ~ Next Chapter