Hive 18-IV

The Fool, Or The Fool That Follows.

“Oh,” I said, disappointed. “Is that all? I was hoping for something big.”

Kai spun on me. “Are you kidding me? Giant underground secret network of tunnels in the sewers, and your only reaction is 'is that all?’?!”

I shrugged half-heartedly. “I mean, yeah, it's a big deal, but it's not like I didn't already know about it.”

“How?” For the first time, she actually seemed to have lost her composure a little.

“Well, the last time I dealt with… those people,” she definitely noticed the pause, despite my best effort, “I managed to follow them, and they'd set up a little base in one of these tunnels.”

“Oh.” She deflated. “That makes sense.”

“Yeah, I should've actually expected that they'd still be using them. It does make sense.”

These tunnels looked a lot like the ones I’d seen already; square concrete pathways with no lighting. This one did seem to branch and twist a lot more, though, and there were even a few turns not at 90 degrees. Kai led the way, starting confidently, but quickly growing less so the more we progressed, eventually getting to the point where she was almost stopping completely at every corner.

“Does it?” she asked. “If they were already here, then the entire location is, like, compromised, isn't it?”

I frowned. “Maybe. But it wasn't here here, just,” I waved, “you know, general here.”

“Well, I can tell you from my side of things that if a building’s been discovered, you don't move down the block. It's weird for them to not do that.” She paused. “Unless they're stupid.”

“That's not outside the realms of possibility,” I muttered under my breath, remembering Green Cloak’s behaviour last time.

We rounded another corner, the last vestiges of light fading as we did, and a thought struck me. “Wait. There's no way at all that through that market was the only way to get here. The tunnels would be completely useless if they only had one entrance slash exit. So why did you bring me in through there? Especially if it's such a big secret.”

Very slightly, Kai stiffened. In the darkness, it would've been easy to miss, if I hadn't already been watching her. She acted like she hadn't heard the question. “It's just up here. This bit is probably going to be a little uncomfortable, though.”

“Uncomfortable? Why?” She stopped, turned around, and pointed to something on the wall to her left. I leant in, trying to get a better look. “Oh.”
About a foot and a half tall, six or so wide, a small crawlspace was built into the wall. I crouched down, peering into its depths, but all I could see was black. “You're kidding me,” I said flatly.

She shook her head. “Sadly, no. They're just on the other side of this.”

That made some sense, I guess. Green Cloak was a teleporter, after all; they wouldn't have to deal with the inconvenience. I, though, would. “Why does this even exist?”

Kai shrugged. “Why does any of this?”

“Hmm. Fair point. Better question, then: why do you know about it? About any of this, actually?”

“I use the tunnels to get around, sometimes. Plus… well, it's pretty cool, isn't it?”

I surprised myself and laughed, a little awkwardly, but sincere. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.” I stood back up, and gestured to the hole. “You first.”

She dipped her glasses and gave me a flat stare. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Don't think I didn't notice that dodge; I'm not going to climb into… well, it's basically just a hole, with no other end in sight. For all I know, this is a trap.”

She groaned, and muttered something under her breath, too quiet for me to hear. All I managed to catch was the word 'lucky’. “Sorry, what?”

“Nothing.” I squinted; with the low light and her darker skin, it was hard to tell for sure, but it almost looked like she was… blushing? No, I must've been imagining it. “Fine. Don't mind that I'm helping you out of the goodness of my heart, let's play the paranoia game.”

She did seem genuinely hurt, a little, but she'd also already demonstrated she was a pretty good liar. Still… I sighed. “Sorry,” I said, dropping to one knee and staring into the hole again. “Together?”

She bit her lip, but nodded, lowering herself down. “Fair enough.”

And so together, shuffling forward in a pseudo-army crawl, we moved through the strange crawlspace. It wasn't actually as uncomfortable as I'd been expecting. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't fun, but I could fit through without the claustrophobia-inducing sensation of the roof pressing down on my back. I did hit my elbows a few times, which made Kai laugh. She'd removed her glasses for the first time, and given the narrowness of the passage, she was teetering on the very edge of being uncomfortably close. If it narrowed further up, we'd be pressed up against each other, and… uh, moving on.

After about a minute of shuffling forward, with no light up ahead, I let out an exasperated groan. “I know that this is supposed to be easier than travelling the streets, but surely it's not worth this.”

“This isn't one I use to get around,” she replied, slightly out of breath. “I was exploring when I found it.”

“And you just decided to crawl through a tunnel with no clear end in sight, to explore?” Light, up ahead, faint but growing brighter.

She grinned. “Let’s just say I didn't find it from that side.”

And then we were at the end of the tunnel, and I found myself on a ledge, looking down into a cavern.

Really, there was no other word for it. It was clearly artificial, don't get me wrong, a square box of concrete, but it was still cavernous. Light filtered in, weak and reedy, from some grates up above, casting odd shadows on the floor below. A good ten metres below where we currently lay, a decent ten meters or so, a stream of sewage ran through the space, splitting into a t midway and then disappearing back into pipes identical to the one it had come from. The smell was surprisingly mild, considering it wasn't a small amount of… liquid. Grated bridges covered the pipes in certain places, creating paths, and on one side of the long part of the t, stood Green Cloak and her band of thugs.

“You really still think she's in charge?” I asked myself. But it was a small part of me, and it was quickly ignored and forgotten. Because standing on the other side of the t were five figures in combat fatigues.

“Oh,” whispered Kai. “That's new.”

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