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Here’s what happened in my last post Chapter 2, Pretty Cool, Huh? Emily has her first day at the Arcadia School of Experiential Learning. It’s where she meets Kit and Süchō.
Now, on with the story!
Who Wants Ice Cream?
Emily heard, Get everyone out of the way! I’m being chased!
Emily recognized Cera’s voice immediately. Even though she had met her only once before, she knew, without a doubt, it was her. She also had an overwhelming feeling of fear, more than she already felt. She realized it must be coming from Cera, so she didn’t hesitate. She jumped up and yelled to everyone, “Get away from the entrance! It’s Cera, she’s in danger and something’s chasing he!”
Before anyone else could react, Cera bursts through the cave entrance.
Lou was the first to react. He grabbed Maria and pulled her out of the way and laid on top of her as one of Cera’s razor sharp claws gouged a chunk out of the concrete floor right where her head would have been.
Yuki’s glasses reacted faster than she did. The software noticed a pattern in Cera’s foot placement then highlighted the spot Yuki should move to. Unfortunately, it was ahead of her, so she had to leap towards Cera which seemed counter intuitive, but because of her training, she did it anyway and ended up safely out of the way. Kit had grabbed her leg, so he was pulled along with her as she jumped. He flattened himself along her leg as Cera ran by.
Cera was able to get a sense of where Emily was standing as she ran through the tunnel. When she got close to the entrance she yelled to her, Do! Not! Move!
Emily did what she was told; she stood perfectly still, except for closing her eyes. She felt the ground around her rumble as Cera leapt over top of her without touching a hair on her head.
Everyone heard Cera say, I’m going to try and get him to follow me past you and into the upper garage.
Cera jumped halfway up the wall, stopped, then turned back to look at the entrance. Emily, there’s another serpent chasing me!
Emily’s voice trembled as she asked, Another serpent!
Still watching the cave entrance Cera responded, Yes, my older brother, Ulanji. He’s very angry at me for leaving his side. I don’t want him hurting any of you because he thinks you’re the ones that want to harm me.
Everyone had heard what she said, so when a distant roar echoed through the cave, they all spun around, afraid of what would be coming.
Cera said, He’s at the end of the tunnel. He sounds like he’s not sure if he should follow me any further.
Maria said with a hint of hope in her voice, Maybe he won’t come in after you?
No, he’ll come in. Right now, he’s afraid, he thinks it’s a trap. But he won’t stay out there for long. He has too much pride to do that.
Yuki asked Cerra, Why is your brother chasing you exactly?
He’s trying to stop me from finding Kukulkan, my mate. He’s worried I’ll get captured by the same people that captured him. He doesn’t trust humans.
There was another roar, much angrier than the first. It was followed by the thundering sound of something heavy running through the tunnel towards them. They all took a step back as a large wave of water washed over their feet.
Cerra yelled, Everyone hide, I’ll try to get him to follow me out of here!
There weren’t too many places to hide at the mouth of the cave and the darkness made it almost impossible to see. Lou’s eyesight was much better than any of the others’ even with their night vision glasses. He did a quick sweep of the area then said to Mari, “There’s a spot under a slab just to the left of us, you can fit in there. Yuki, look to your right, I think there’s enough room for you and Kit to squeeze in behind that column. Emily…”
I’ve got her. Athena had made her way down from the upper level of the parking garage and was standing next to Emily.
Surprised to hear her, Emily turned to her and said, I didn’t even hear you or see your blip come down.
My stealth mode is active. Athena said, Follow me, Ulanji is close. She disappeared into the dark.
Unable to see her, Emily panicked. Where? I can’t see you! I don’t see where you are!
I’m over here. In her glasses, a red outlined formed around a slab of concrete leaning against the far wall.
Oh, okay, I see it now. She breathed a sigh of relief then carefully made her way over to it, careful not to trip on any of the debris. She peered behind the slab. It’s kinda small. She squeezed in behind it. This isn’t going to work, there’s no room for you Athena! What are you going to do, he’ll get you!
I’ll be fine. Stealth mode, remember?
Yeah, right, stealth mode. I hate stealth mode. She started to make her way towards the slab when Ulanji leapt through the entrance and skidded to a stop. Athena noticed that he was about twice the size of Cera.
He let out a roar and swept he huge head back and forth, searching the entrance for Cera. He saw her clinging to the wall above him.
She yelled, Ulanji stop!
No Cera, I won’t! You’re in danger! I can sense the humans; I know they’re here!
Ulanji, no one is trying to hurt me! The humans have come to help me find Kukulkan, not to capture me. Please, stop being so angry. They can help you too!
You can’t be sure! There is no way to be sure and I don’t need their help!
Athena had moved away from Emily in an attempt to distract Ulanji from her hiding spot. She’s right Ulanji, they are not here to hurt her or you. They’re here to help.
Ulanji whipped around to face Athena who had made her way to the cave entrance. Why should I believe you metal cat? You work for them, you’re just as bad as they are!
Cera pleaded Ulanji, listen to her!
No! Come with me Cera and stop this foolishness!
Foolishness! I’m trying to save Kukulkan!
He can handle himself; he doesn’t need you getting caught too. Who knows what they would do to you! Think of Kaida! She’ll have no one if you’re gone!
Don’t bring my child into this!
Yuki came out of her hiding spot.
Athena yelled, Yuki, no!
Ulanji whipped around to face her.
She looked up at him and said, Kukulkan’s not alright. He’s spoken to me. He’s in trouble.
Spoken to you! How dare you say something like that! He would never talk to you or any human!
Yuki took a step forward. It’s true, he has… In a flash, Ulanji grabbed her and pinned her up against the wall.
Athena had made her way to Ulanji’s side. A compartment door on her side flipped open. Release her! Now!
Stay out of this cat!
There was a hiss and a puff of smoke as something launched from within the compartment. Two projectiles flew toward Ulanji and imbedded themselves in the wall on either side of the leg that held Yuki. A wire connected the two tightened, pinning Ulanji’s arm to the wall.
Kit took the opportunity to run through a small opening in a large metal door that had been hidden in the darkness.
Ulanji roared in anger and yanked his arm free pulling out the two anchors. He whipped his tail toward Athena, hitting her, sending her flying. She hit the wall, rolled, then jumped to her feet. Another compartment door flipped open.
Emily couldn’t stand to see Athena or Yuki hurt, so she jumped out from behind the rock and yelled, Stop! You’re hurting them!
Watching from under the slab, Lou said to Maria. I need to get to Yuki, but I’ll need a distraction.
Leave that to me.
Okay, but be careful. On three. One, two, three.
Maria pulled herself out from under the slab and ran in front of Ulanji. Hey Ulanji, you big meany, over here! Because she didn’t have her glasses on, she tripped over a rock and went sprawling to the ground.
Ulanji grabbed her too then noticed Lou running toward Yuki. He flung his tail, hitting him in the side and sending him to the ground. He lay there motionless.
Maria cried out, Lou!
Emily ran over to him and knelt beside him.
Athena made a move to charge Ulanji.
Ulanji noticed the movement. Stop or I’ll pierce them with my claws. He looked at them and tightened his claws to within inches of their bodies.
Cera jumped down in front of Ulanji and roared. The plumage on her head quivered and she shook her wings at him. It was an impressive display of her power.
Ulanji looked at her for a second and pulled his head back as if he was intimidated but, instead he threw his head forward, opened his mouth and roared back at her. Twice as loud as hers was. The walls shook and bits of rock tumbled to the ground.
Cera, in a rare display of fear, backed down.
Suddenly, everyone’s attention was drawn toward the door that Kit had scurried through. A loud, repetitive thumping could be heard.
Ulanji looked to Cera. See! What did I tell you! They’re coming to get us!
The thumping was so load and so close it seemed that whatever was making the noise was about to burst through the door!
Ulanji yelled out, Cera! Go, get away from here!
Suddenly the noise stopped.
Movement from the lower corner of the door grabbed their attention. Everyone watched as two little white paws came around from behind the door through a hole and grabbed the edge. Slowly, Kits body appeared as he pushed against the heavy solid metal door. Amazingly the door started to make a loud screeching noise and move slightly forward then stopped. Kit slumped to the ground, looked back into the hole, and said, “That’s all I’ve got. Your turn.”
There was silence for a second then the sound of pounding on the other side of the door. A hand burst through the rock right next to it; debris sprayed into the chamber. The hand grabbed the edge of the door.
A second hand smashed through the rock on the other side of the door grabbing it the same way as the first. There was a pause then the door started making a horrible screeching noise. It sounded like a combination of fingernails on a chalk board, plus an aluminum can crushing and a giant pig squealing.
The door was literally being squeezed together; the noise was deafening. The girls had to cover their ears. Kit jumped into the room just as the door was pulled inwards, ripped off its hinges. It disappeared behind the dust and debris that fell from the surrounding wall.
A black robotic leg stepped into the room. Light flowed in from behind as the dust swirled. Then a large, black metal head appeared. It looked around the chamber as a large hand waved the dust from the air in front of it.
“Am I interrupting something?”
In unison everyone said, “Tau!”
(That included Ulanji, just not as enthusiastically.)
Tau stepped into the room. Ulanji was the first to regain his composure. Don’t come any further Tau. I’m warning you!
Tau kept walking and said, “That’s enough Ulanji. Put them down. No one’s here to hurt anyone else. Believe it or not all these young ladies are Keepers and they’re here to help.
Ulanji looked at Yuki and Maria, still grasped in his claws. Keepers? He looked at Tau. You can’t be serious, they’re just children!
“Exactly, and look at you, a grown serpent treating them as if they could do you some sort of damage. Release them.”
“But, Tau, I was only trying to protect Cera.”
Cera stepped up to him. I understand that Ulanji, and I appreciate your kindness, but I don’t need to be protected. Now let them go, please!
He shook his head slowly back and forth in doubt of what she had just said. In a whisper he said, How can you be so sure? He placed Yuki and Maria on the ground. Kit ran to Yuki. She scooped him up and said to him, “I thought you baled on us before.”
“Nah, I saw an opportunity, so I ran to get Tau.”
She stroked his head and said, “That was very brave of you!”
With confidence and a complete lack of modesty he responded, “Yeah, I know.”
Maria ran to Lou who was just starting to get up. She helped him up then gave him a big hug. “Are you alright?”
Still a shaken, he said, “Yeah, I’m fine. I guess.”
“You’ve got to stop trying to be the hero, you’ll get yourself killed, then what will I do?”
“Well, somebody has to look after your sorry butt.”
She smiled, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Athena was sitting back by the wall watching everyone. Tau came up and stood next to her. Without looking at him, she said, “What took you so long.”
“I took the wrong tunnel.”
She looked up at him. “You got lost?”
“Well, yeah, sort of. Luckily Kit found me.”
“How did you get lost? You had the tracking device Mr. P made?
“Um, about that.” He looked down at her. “I kinda dropped it in the water.”
Athena looked up at him, “That makes two devices lost in one day. I expected better of you, Tau.”
Tau shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah, I get that every now and then but I’m okay with who I am, so…” He left Athena and then stepped over to Ulanji and said to him, “Look, I’m pretty sure Cera’s coming with us here to go find Kulkanan…”
Maria said, “Wait, you just said ‘us’! You mean like us, us? She motioned to everyone with her finger.
Tau shook his head up and down and said,” Yes, us, us.” He motioned to everyone with his finger just as Maria had.
The girls looked at each other and smiled.
Tau continued, “As I was saying, we could use all help if we can get, if you want, or you could head back. It’s your choice.”
Ulanji looked at Cera then at the girls. Um, I guess I’ll come with you. He rubbed his arm then pointed at Athena and said, But that cat has to promise not to use any more of her weapons on me! That wire thing hurt!
Cera shook her head. You’re such a whiner, unbelievable. And hey, don’t you have something to say to everyone?
I don’t know, I mean, what’s to say?
Oh, how about, maybe, something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry for almost killing all of you!’
Ulanji dropped his shoulders and hung his head. Yeah, I guess. He quickly added, But I didn’t try to kill everybody!
Okay, okay. He sighed. Sorry everyone. I didn’t mean to act like I was going to kill you. He paused then added, Cause I wasn’t, no matter what it looked like, so, no hard feelings?
Tau saved him any further embarrassment by saying. “As horrible as that apology was, I’m sure they’ll get over it but, right now, we need to get moving.” He headed for the broken-down doorway.
Yuki pointed to the ropes and said, “Wait, what about the ropes? Don’t we need to get hooked up again?”
Tau kept walking and said, “Nah, it’s a lot easier this way.”
The girls looked at each other. Yuki said, “Wait, you mean we could have come in that way instead of having to repel down this wall in complete darkness? Why didn’t you tell us that before?”
“Hey, that’s why it’s called training, no one said it was going to be easy. Besides, look at all the fun you just had!”
They all groaned and headed for the door.
Kit caught up with Tau and said to him. “Don’t you think you better tell them that what happened here is nothing compared to what they’ll have to do on their next mission?
“Nah, I don’t think so, there’ll be plenty of time to tell them later.” He turned around and yelled to everyone, “Who wants ice cream? My treat!”