Glad you could join us for the next underground episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…
I should’ve left his damned wings behind. Sini kicked herself for giving in to that moment of triumph, that thrilling instant of complete domination. It isn’t like he could’ve put ’em back on. Yet ripping them off hadn’t been enough; she had to take them as a trophy. But I can’t leave ’em right here for those bastards to find.
Pulling the brush back to expose the tunnel mouth, she shuddered — not only to rid herself of the lingering sensations of grasping claws and strangulation, but also to steel herself for what she was about to do.
She strained to see beyond the shadowy entrance. Yes, we practiced this, but I don’t care what Sirehta says — it’s not natural, she argued with herself, cringing at the prospect of crawling into a dark, suffocating, dirty underground tube, knowing she had no real choice. She had to get back to base unseen. She shoved the wings in first, then stepped inside.
With enough room here to drag the brush back across the opening and turn around, the passage narrowed quickly. Grateful she was slender enough not to scrape the sides as she hurried along trailing the wings behind her, she couldn’t dispel the illusion she was being crushed. Her breath came faster and faster in shallow pants, panic threatening to explode out of her chest as specks of light started sparking before her eyes.
“Calm down,” whispered a voice ahead of her, startling her so severely she reared back, clunking her head on the ceiling.
“Ow! Who’s there?” she hissed.
“I’m a member of the Alliance. My captain sent me down here to make sure you got out okay.”
“I’m fine,” Sini lied, letting her unseen escort lead the way.
“Well, they were worried about you.”
“Why? I can take care of myself.”
The hoarse whisper in the dark had an aggravated edge. “I’m sure you can, but you’re breathing so loudly any Listener up top could hear you.”
“Sorry for breathing,” Sini said, rolling her eyes for no one’s benefit but her own.
They crawled along in silence for a while. When her escort spoke again, the edge was gone. “Coming down here was hard for you, wasn’t it?”
Sini dismissed the overture. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Yes, you are,” the other one reiterated, “and it took real guts; makes me glad you’re on our side. My name’s Viola. What’s yours?”
“Sini,” she answered. “Look. I’m sorry I’ve been kind of a brat, but I’m a Flyer, and coming down here is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
“Then you should feel really good about it,” Viola said, “because most Flyers never even try. Besides, here we are. You made it.” She pushed a bit of bark aside and fresh air streamed across the portal.
Seeing her guide for the first time, Sini’s jaw dropped. “You’re a bee.”
“I am, but I’m solitary, not unique. If you have to do this again, I can offer some advice: Being underground takes a special mindset — you just have to decide to trust the structure. You can’t do anything about it while you’re down there, and worrying isn’t going to make the job easier.”
Sini shook her head as she hauled her dubious prize out of the hole. “I don’t know—“
Viola jumped. “What the heck are those?”
Sini groaned. “I shouldn’ta brought ’em with me. I took ’em off one of the General’s goons.”
“You tore the wings off a Flying Stinger, and walking through a tunnel is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” Viola stepped back to look Sini up and down. “Girl, I don’t ever want to be on your bad side.”
An Alliance soldier joined them. “Bog has arrived.”
To be continued. . .