“I hit it with the sonics. I’m guessing I didn’t damage it enough that I could punch through it myself yet. How did you get here?”
“Earthmover sent me down here right after he sent you.”
“Whoa. What happened?”
She paused for a second. “I told him that he shouldn’t have done that. Loudly.”
Nodding, I said. “That seems excessive, but I basically didn’t do anything except try to explain what was going on.”
Her shoulders drooped. “He had a little more reason. I shifted. I didn’t mean to, but it happened.”
“I can see how he might take that wrong.”
She sighed, but then said, “I know. I wasn’t going to hurt him, but sometimes it’s hard not to shift. Anyway, he was afraid. Terrified, I think. I could smell it, and I can’t blame him. He probably saw Night Wolf in action.”
She leaned back, checking the hall each way before stepping backward, out of the cell. “We should go. It’s such a mess. “
I followed her out, walking across the pile of rubble. “How did you find me? I suppose it couldn’t be hard given your senses.”
“It was harder than you’d think. After I got sucked into the floor, I ended up in a cell like yours. At first I wasn’t sure what to do. I was afraid I was going to get kicked out of the program, so I just sat there, worrying. But then I realized that Earthmover didn’t have any right to do what he did. I got really angry, and then I broke through the wall. The problem was that I couldn’t find you, and I couldn’t smell you.
“I thought I might have smelled you half a dozen different times, but when I got to the spot where you should be, it was only another cell. One of those times, I realized I’d come back to the same spot already. I smelled myself, and something else, and I didn’t know what the something else was.”
She shook her head as we walked down the hall. A line of cells identical to mine ran in a row on either side of the hall. The breathing holes were the only sign of where a cell started and ended. Judging from the depth of the breathing holes, Earthmover had to be seriously worried about people’s ability to break rock.
Also, he evidently had a need to imprison a lot of people at one point. His career overlapped with fighting the Abominators and their servants, so maybe these cells were used to store prisoners from that fight.
Haley, meanwhile, continued to answer my question. “I guessed it might be a fairy, so I made a big show of giving up, and going back to my cell. Sometime after that, I heard more voices, and I smelled Adam and whatever was down here with me. I followed them from a distance, and I finally found your cell.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Did you see a way out on the way?”
She shook her head. “I was hoping we might be able to follow them out.”
“That makes sense. Do you know where they are?”
“I know where they were.” She touched her nose. “We’re going to have to hunt them as quietly as possible—which means we can’t talk. I’ll lead. I’ll make hand signals to tell you if you need to stop or go forward, and sometimes I’m just going to have to go forward alone. You can see hand signals in the dark with that suit, right?”
She held out her hand, palm out and toward me, followed by waving me forward.
“Not a problem.” Her hands were blurry around the edges when she moved them, but it didn’t stop me from reading them.
What followed wasn’t particularly fun, but was nerve wracking. We walked through a gray world of endless identical rock passages, sometimes around corners, sometimes up stairs. Every once in a while Haley would hold up her hand to halt me, and she’d go ahead by herself.
That left me waiting alone amid flat rock walls and breathing holes to cells that probably didn’t contain anything—well, not anything living at least.
When she came back, she wouldn’t even say anything. She’d simply point forward. She could have used her phone, but she didn’t want to spend time typing. I supposed I couldn’t argue with that.
The last time she came back, she smiled, and talked out loud. “We can get out. They’re actually gone, and I found out where they went.”
We walked up a short flight of stairs, walking into a room. It wasn’t more than ten feet wide in either direction, smaller than my dorm room in square feet. That wasn’t a true measure of the room’s size though, because it had no ceiling.
It rose upward hundreds of feet for sure, but that was all I could get back for an estimate.
“You don’t have a rocket pack on that suit, right?”
Still staring upward, I said, “No.”
She frowned. “Then I’m going to have to do this myself.”
I looked at her. “Are you sure? That might be one thousand feet high. It’s a long way to fall.”
She shook her head. “I can do it. I’m good at climbing. That’s one of the things my body is built for.”
I couldn’t argue with that, but I wanted to. “You’re absolutely sure?”
“You can’t climb up there, but something’s going to happen. We know it, but no one up there does. I don’t think I have a choice—unless you’ve got another way up.”
I touched the key combination that opened up my faceplate, and it folded in to the sides, plunging me into darkness. The air felt cool against my skin.
Haley guessed at my intention, and put her arms around my armored waist as I put my arms out and pulled her in. We kissed.
After a moment, she said, “It’ll be okay.”
“I hope so.”
She let go, and so did I. I clicked and the faceplate reassembled, allowing me to watch as she took two steps, jumped, and hung on the wall. Then she crawled upward, one hand or one foot at a time. She didn’t fall.
I watched until she became indistinguishable from the wall. After that, I waited.