Sunday, January 19, 2014

TRAPPED Sunday Serial Part Seven

Part Seven

Amber freezes.  She drops her phone, and it makes a big clattering sound on the ground.
Then suddenly, I’m aware of footsteps.  Stampeding.  And girls’ voices, shrieking, Kenneth Pearson!”
I glare at Mr. Bored.  “I cannot believe you’re famous!”
I cannot believe you’re blaming me for being famous!” Mr. Bored says.  “I mean, how can they help being all over me?”
I give him another Glare Stare.  Then I turn to Amber.  “Amber, what do we do?”
Amber shrugs as she picks up her phone.
Is anything bad going to happen if we go down the tunnel?”  I really, really don’t want to face those screaming girls again.  And, from the look on Mr. Bored’s face, neither does he.
KENNETH PEARSON!”  The noise is getting louder and louder.
Amber says, “It depends if we get on my uncle’s bad side or not.”
Your uncle?” I exclaim.
Amber shrugs.  (It’s really starting to annoy me.)  “Uncle Fred.  Slick’s dad.  He’s helping me by going undercover and sabotaging everything.”
Why don’t you tell me anything?” I say, annoyed.  “It would help a lot to know!”
More screaming.  Then I heard stampeding.  
I put my head to my forehead.  Then I turn to Mr. Bored.  “What should we do?”
Mr. Bored has a lazy expression on his face.  “Whatever you want, boss.”
Then he snaps to attention.  “I’d really like to avoid, you know, getting killed by a bunch of stampeding fangirls.”
I weigh the odds.  Stampeding fangirls versus enemy territory.  I’m leaning towards risking the stampeding fangirls, but just then, the voice blares up again.  “AMBER TALINA SHARPINA HARTTMAN!”
It’s a woman’s voice, and Slick totally goes berserk.  “Mommy!” he cries, and dives through the tube.
Mr. Bored and I look at each other.  “Let’s go, Amber,” I sigh, tucking my legs under the tunnel.  “Let’s go.”

The tunnel is dark and slick, and there’s a slightly musty odor.  After a full two minutes of sliding, I’m beginning to get nervous.  What’s going on?
Then suddenly I shoot out and land onto a soft memory-foam-type pad and blink in the sudden brightness.
Helloooooo,” Slick says, getting right up in my face.
I relax.  “Hi, Slick.”
Mommy, this is Echo,” Slick says, pulling me up and pointing to me.  I find myself face to face with a pretty red-haired woman in a full black bodysuit.  The rest of the room is dark, except for a spotlight on the huge pile of mattresses and futons.  
The woman doesn’t smile.  “Hello, Echo,” she says.
Actually, my name is--” I begin, but just then, the lady pulls me down from the twenty-one mattresses and says in my ear, “Who are you and what do you want?”
Her breath is hot and wet and smells like wintermint.  I gulp and try not to breathe.  I hate the smell of wintermint.
Yoo-hhoooo!” Mr. Bored calls out, peeking over the pile of mattresses.  The woman relaxes her grip for a moment as she looks up, and I pull away.  “I’m--Echo,” I say, gritting my teeth and looking up at Mr. Bored, “and I’m with Amber.”
Her face doesn’t change, but she doesn’t grab me again, so I’m assuming it means that we’re cool.  
Mr. Bored sails down.  “I’m Kenneth Pearson,” he says, flashing his award-winning smile at the woman.
The woman says, “I’m Martina Kennedy, Sylvester’s mother.  Where’s Amber?”
Before I can register the fact that Slick’s name is Sylvester, Slick and Amber jump down.  Slick lands perfectly, while Amber falls flat on her bottom.  I wince as she sits there, stunned.  
Then she bounces up with a smile.  “I’m fine!”
Whoop-de-doo,” Mrs. Kennedy says sarcastically.  (I decide right then and there that I’m going to like this lady.)  “Amber, what are you doing, bringing civilians into this mess?”
Actually, I’m--” Mr. Bored begins, but Mrs. Kennedy snaps her fingers in his face.  “Be quiet, Mister Pearson.  I don’t need your resume,” she snarls at him.  “I need a man!  A fighter!  Not some gawky kid who barely knows how to act.”
Mr. Bored looks like he’s about to say something, but then he clamps his mouth shut.
We’re part of a rebellion here,” Mrs. Kennedy says in a low undertone.  “A rebellion where people take everybody seriously.  Do you understand?”
I shift from side to side.  “Understood, ma’am.”  I don’t usually say ma’am, but in this case, it seemed appropriate.
It was a rhetorical question, Echo.  All I needed was silence.  Now, my husband was leading your parents’ nasty henchmen away from us, Amber.  We need to take advantage of this and go shut down their main computer, because that's how they're communicating with one another. As we speak, the conspiracy associates are trapping everybody in the park.” Mrs. Kennedy looks fierce as she pauses for a breath. “Kenneth and Echo, you are going to go and shut down the computer.”
I blink. “I don't know how to shut down computers. And besides, I'm not going with Mr. Bored.”
Mrs. Kennedy clenches her teeth. “Do you know how to set off a bomb and escape alive?” she asks in a menacing tone.
I gulp. “Um, nope.”
“Then you are going with Kenneth to shut down the computer.” Mrs. Kennedy pulls a little object thing and hands it to Mr. Bored. “Kenneth, I trust you know how to shut down a computer.”
“Of course. I was born with the knowledge,” Mr. Bored says in a free-and-easy way, shrugging. He takes the object. “Plug this into the port, right?”
“It's embedded with a virus,” Mrs. Kennedy says. “You'll disable their communication system, which should give us a temporary break, because Amber's parents are fool enough not to have a backup system.” She snorts. “Then I'll use my contacts in the Army and have them come over and help us.”
I'm sure my eyes are as big as saucers. “Army?”
Mrs. Kennedy stares at me, hard and long. “Echo, if you're going to earn back the right to be called your real name, you're going to have to stop acting like your nickname.”
I swallow the copious amount of saliva that's gathering in my mouth. “Yes, ma'am.”
“Good.” She leans back, satisfied. Then she walks toward Mr. Bored, who leans back slightly. “Don't you dare lose that drive.”
Then, in a flash, she's by Slick and Amber. “We are going to hold off the henchmen currently heading here. Go down that tunnel and follow the green lights—only the green lights, no matter what anything may seem like.” Her expression is stern and distrustful.
In the distance, we hear thumping and shouting.
“Also. One more piece of advice. Stay together.” She leans forward and zeroes in on my eyes. “Echo, Kenneth will need you. Kenneth, Echo will need you.” She stands up. “GO!”
Mr. Bored and I look at each other, then begin sprinting as fast as we can toward the black hole in the wall.
As soon as I slip into the darkness, my eyes find the flashing green lights along the rounded wall.
“We follow those,” I say, pointing to them.
“No, duh.” I can't see Mr. Bored, but I know for sure that he rolled his eyes.
“Do we keep running?” I ask.
“I think that would be advisable.” Mr. Bored sounds as if he's about to die from an unseemly bout of sarcasm.
Then, “Do you think we're dreaming?” I ask.
Mr. Bored snorts. “Are you actually trying to uphold a decent conversation with me, Echo?”
“No,” I say, “I'm just trying to figure out if this is all real.”
“Why wouldn't it be?” he answers, sounding not in the last worn out. Me, I'm trying my best not to pant.
“Maybe it's just a multimillion dollar front that they're doing to initiate us into a supersecret spy society,” I suggest.
Choked silence from his end. I hear sounds of snickering.
“Whatever,” I say with a sigh.
“What do you do when you're not joining conspiracies?” he asks.
“I read. I watch movies. I do stuff.” I shrug, even though he can't see me.
The floor is dipping away from us, and it's getting slicker and slicker. “Oh no,” I say. “What's going on here?”
The only answer is the splish-splashing of my twenty-dollar sneakers and the sounds of Mr. Bored's grunts.
“Great. We're in the sewers,” I hear him say.
My heart grips with terror.
“No. No, no, no, no. How deep is the water?” I say, trying to calm my breathing down.
“About to my chest, although that's, like, over your head.” Mr. Bored has stopped, and I almost trip over his kneeling form. “There's the red lights way, though.” In the dim light, I see him gesture to our right. There's another tunnel, full of innocently-blinking red lights.
“We have to follow the green ones,” I say, and far behind me, I can hear shouts. “They're after us.”
“We'll just have to swim, then,” Mr. Bored says. He plunks into the water. “Ugh. There's, like, seaweed here.”
More fear. I feel it clutching at my heart, waiting to jump. “Um, Kenneth?”
“Yes?” he shouts back. His voice is loud, echoing through the tunnel. He's already swum a few strokes. “What is it?”
I take a deep breath.

“I can't swim.”

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