Challenge: Write a 3,000 word piece in the Action Genre
Actual Word Count: 3,000
Submitted on March 04, 2012
"Mom, find me!" The message was simple but desperate. There was no telling what danger Jonathon had managed to get himself into this time. Darcy shook her head, her anxiety abuzz as she peered into the dark tunnel.
This was the only entrance into the fortress. All of the rest were heavily guarded. She was ill equipped to deal with all of those guards, and so she would have to avoid being seen at all costs. This was the only way. She heard a noise above her, a slight whirring as the propellers of a helicopter began to turn. She thought she saw Jonathon's face pressed against the window, pleadingly looking for any sign his mother was out there and she saw him.
"Are you going in, Darcy?" Corrine asked over her shoulder. The tall blonde stood off to the side, looking skeptical of the small tunnel Darcy insisted would have to be her entry point.
"I think so." She responded grimly. The air smelled hot and stale as it emanated from the small space, and Darcy wondered if she would make it back out alive.
"Good luck. You're a braver soul than I am."
Darcy nodded before she got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the pipe, feeling like a fat hamster in a tube. She moved slowly and quietly through the small access. Peering around corners, and moving forward when she was sure it was all clear. It would take forever to get to the top. The advantage she had, was the enclosed space echoed the footsteps of the multitudes of guards patrolling all of the accesses. If any of them saw her, they would swarm and block her in. There was no escape route. If she was seen it was over.
One young man was onto her though. He knew her game. He charged around the corner with a shout, and pulled his weapon. She cried out with pain as she covered the place where the bullet grazed her arm and she stumbled backwards into the tunnel. A noise distracted him, and he gave her one last look, his blue eyes solemn and his round face set with a vindictive glint. "I'll be back for you," he shouted, before turning on his heel and running towards the source of the distraction. There was a fire fight somewhere above her head. The sounds of gun-fire echoed through her tunnel. It was a revolution. Someone was trying to storm the fortress and all of the guards were occupied trying to defend it. It would be the perfect distraction for her to be able to get to her son. There was no time to worry about the arm now. She had to get her son and get to the rendezvous point within the next 15 minutes. It wasn't a large window to work with.
"It's just a flesh wound," she murmured to herself.
The tunnel opened into a T-Juncture, and once again, Darcy found herself crawling back into the shadows, as two rival groups rushed together in front of her, brandishing their weapons and opening fire. She closed her eyes against the violence before her, as these young guards took bullets and fell down, crying in pain, and laughing vindictively by turns. There was no telling which side was winning this battle. All of these young guards looked like they should be fighting together instead of against each other. As she listened to their conversations and taunts, in some cases directives to each other, it seemed there were divisions along what the rules of engagement were, and what the fight was about. Some of them protested they hated the rules of the current regime and they refused to live by them. Others were fighting for their friends. It was complete and utter chaos, and all Darcy could do was melt back into the shadows, and hope not to give them all a common enemy. She pulled her sidearm and made sure she was locked and loaded. The altercation died down and the wounded limped away as the heat of the battle echoed further down the tunnel, the victors in hot pursuit of the losers.
The firefight above her head continued. The shouts and gunfire echoed through what seemed like miles of tunnel, funneling it into her ears. It was going to be nearly impossible to make it to the top. She nearly hit her head when she gave a startled jump at a tap on her shoulder.
"You're not supposed to be in here," a young girl with big brown eyes said to her. "You're one of those people. The rules are you can't be in here."
"Are you going to shoot me?" Darcy asked her with concern. She brushed a sandy lock out of her eyes so she could see her more clearly.
The young girl shook her head. "I don't shoot people," she said. "I'm just trying to get to the helicopter."
"Me too," Darcy replied. "My son's there and I have to get to him. I have to do it very fast too, or we'll miss our ride out of here."
The young girl nodded a brown ponytail shaking as she did. "Do you know the way?"
"I think so," Darcy replied. "I'm going to let you by. I don't want them to see me with you because they might shoot you if they do. But do me a favor. Don't tell anyone you saw me. O.k.?"
"I won't," the girl promised, sneaking around Darcy. She looked back over her shoulder. "I hope you find your son in time."
"Me too. Good luck!"
The girl continued onward and Darcy listened for the next skirmish she might happen upon, but it sounded as if most of it was above her head, the very place she had to get through to find Jonathon. She closed her eyes and remembered the times she'd buried her nose in his soft hair, and kissed his cheek as he was sleeping. She had to find her baby. This rabble would not be allowed to keep her from him.
But she was still at the juncture, and it was dark. A sort of a blue glow seemed to be emanating from the smooth hard walls. It smelled strange in these tunnels, like old socks and aging plastic. The echoes were the worst though. It made it so difficult to pinpoint where the guards were. She couldn't remember if she was supposed to turn left or right. She double checked her weapon... locked and loaded, and she turned the corner sharply going right. "I didn't sign up for being James Bond today," she thought out loud. As she did another young man, a chubby little fellow jumped out in front of her and yelled, "Boo!"
Darcy startled again, but could say nothing before the young man turned and ran the other way down the tunnel, laughing hysterically. The poor thing must have been one of the researchers driven mad by the place. She'd heard these confined paces and lack of light and fresh air could do that. And she knew the food wasn't the healthiest either, or so the news had said. She just hoped he was crazy enough no one would believe him if he mentioned he saw her. The young girl had been right. Darcy was in more danger in this fortress than her son ever would be. She was one of "them" and "they" were not allowed, but no rules, no matter how large they were posted would keep her from her son. She heard his distressed words over and over again as she continued down the tunnel, "Mom, find me!"
"I'm coming, baby," she said with determination. "I'm coming."
Screams and shouts seemed to erupt all around her at once, and more gunfire echoed through the tunnels. She might go crazy herself as it felt like all the noise echoed and bounced off of the inside of her skull. She took a deep breath, feeling like the tunnel was closing in all around her. How long had she been in here now? How long did she still have left? She couldn't be sure. This was taking way too much time. She had come so far. She looked down at her watch. "Five minutes," she said aloud. "I've been here five minutes and it seems like it's been an eternity." The tunnel ended in front of her in another "t." The damned place was like a maze. "Do I go right again, or do I go left?"
She decided on going right. This tunnel emanated a green light, and the smell of old plastic and socks only got stronger. The green tunnel was empty. Maybe that was the key. Maybe these tunnels were color coded, and she could use the code to find her way out once she located Jonathon. She continued down the length of it, not seeing a soul, but deafened by the echoes of all of the skirmishes going on in the rest of the structure. She began to wonder if she could trust her senses to pinpoint where the guards were located. The echoes were so disorienting. She was sure that was the intent of the architects when they built the thing. It was designed to keep "them" out, to induce a maddening sense of claustrophobia for "them."
She came to the end of the tunnel, almost certain she could hear Jonathon in amongst those echoes calling, "Mom, find me!" There was a ladder in front of her that seemed to go straight up to impossible heights. There was light up there, and maybe it was a way to the helicopter, but it would leave her terribly exposed. Darcy decided she would have to chance it.
She began making the climb; the ladder seemed to visibly stretch longer in front of her as she looked up. "Oh just don't look down," she told herself." But looking up was almost worse, vertigo began creeping up on her, and she was afraid she might faint from the dizziness. The air seemed so stuffy and only the promise of light and finally reaching Jonathon kept her climbing upwards. She gasped as her foot slipped on a wrung appearing much too small to support her weight.
"What do you mean one of 'them' are in here?" She heard a male voice echoing through the green tunnel below her. "'They' aren't allowed in here! We have to find her!"
"I scared her really good," another voice answered. Darcy imagined it belonged to the seemingly mad chubby fellow.
"This isn't her 'game.' She's going to spoil everything. We need to find her and make her get out."
Darcy carefully and quietly continued to climb as the voices chased her up the tunnel ladder. If she was discovered by the person speaking to the slightly crazy one, her game was up. Everything would be spoiled. She wasn't trained for this sort of thing. But then she hadn't received any training for the rest of the job either. There was no manual for this one, and she hadn't complained about it when she signed on. She couldn't complain about it now. Well she could, but no one would listen.
"I bet I scared her into going the other direction," the crazy one said, his voice echoing up the ladder and out into the light.
"Let's go check," the other one replied. Darcy breathed a sigh of relief, and she made the mistake of looking down. She sucked in a sharp breath, when she saw the face of the big eyed girl she'd seen earlier.
"You better hurry up," she said to Darcy. "They're looking for you now, and it won't take them long to find you."
"Will you stall them for me?"
The girl looked hesitant. "They might kill me."
"I know," Darcy said sadly. "I have to get to my son. Will you help?"
The girl nodded, and she disappeared back into the green tunnel. Darcy tried not to think of all the horrible things sure to befall the girl if they discovered she was working with one of "them."
Darcy finally reached the top of the ladder and cautiously poked her head above the surface. The helicopter was two more levels up. She groaned, despairing there would be more tunnels to go through, but if she was going to get there it had to be now. There were no guards between the ladder and the tunnel and only two guards were at the helicopter. The propellers whirred steadily, as the aircraft waited for take-off. "The leader must not be ready to escape with his hostages yet."
Below her the cacophony continued from the fighting guards, and Darcy scurried out of the opening and kept low to the platform as she made her way to the next tunnel. All her work would be for nothing if someone saw her now. She took a deep breath, relishing the breath of fresh air before she ducked into the next tunnel leading her closer to Jonathon. A red glow seemed to warn of danger as she entered. Here the heat of the battle seemed far off. "Mom, find me!"
Jonathon's voice was clear this time. He was close. Darcy started hurrying to make her way to him. They had five more minutes to make it to the rendezvous point… five… or they would miss their extraction from this god-forsaken place. She longed to get out, and get her son back to a place where there was no "us" and "them," just family.
She got to the end of the tunnel to find another short ladder. Above the opening she could see the helicopter propellers turning in anticipation of take off. She could hear two of the guards talking with each other about a card game through the opening. She wasn't sure how she would get around them yet, but she was sure she would think of a way. She dug in her pocket wondering if she had any coin to bribe them with. She made the short climb up the ladder and poked her head out of the opening.
A young blond man noticed her right away, his green eyes disbelieving as they took in her face. "It's one of 'them,'" he said to his companion. His dark haired companion looked over his shoulder and shrugged.
"So what? Are you going to counter my attack or not?"
The green eyed youth turned back to the brightly colored pile of cards in between them. "Pass," he replied simply.
Darcy decided it was now or never. She hauled herself up out of the opening and strode towards the yellow helicopter. "It's one of 'them!'" she heard a shout. The voice belonged to the one who had been talking to the crazy one. "How'd she get up there?!"
The game was up. Darcy pulled the door of the helicopter open to find Jonathon huddled inside. "MOM! You found me!" He sprung into her arms and wrapped her in a hug. She held him close and breathed in the scent of his hair.
"How are we getting out of here, John?"
"Over there," he pointed past the card players. Below them the din was rapidly growing. The fortress had been invaded by one of 'them' and the whole thing was abuzz like a great hive of bees coming to life. "There's the escape hatch, Mom!"
Darcy strode towards the opening of the tunnel her son pointed out, trying not to pay attention to how it seemed the entire structure was shaking as the guards began swarming to the top, the alarm now raised. She looked at the tunneled chute leading sinuously down into a sickening yellow glow. There was no telling what they would encounter at the bottom, but there was little other choice at this point. So she wrapped her arms tight around Jonathon, sat and began the long descent down on her posterior. They hit the bottom in a great shower of debris enclosed with nets. She scooped Jonathon up, spotting a breach in the containment, and they broke free. Two minutes to make it to the rendezvous point. She helped Jonathon don the shoes she had waiting for him, knowing he wouldn't have been allowed to keep them when he entered the fortress. She quickly helped him into his coat and snatched her own personal belongings, racing to get her own shoes and coat on, before they ran to exit the building entirely. She was so glad to be out of the tunnels.
Rain poured outside and Darcy tried to shield Jonathon from it. She shivered against the chill, and counted her blessings for their narrow escape.
The dark minivan Darcy expected pulled up to the curb. They made it to the extraction point in time. The side door opened and she helped Jonathon into his seat. "You're a great spy, mom." He smiled up at her.
She nodded solemnly. "Thank you, son." She made her way around the side of the vehicle to get in the front seat. She peered into the glass windows of the building they'd narrowly escaped, as her fiancé began to drive. Children climbed too and fro on the plastic fortress, brandishing fingers and firing invisible bullets. One young man shook his fist at her, threatening if she dared infiltrate their secret place again, he would not let her escape so easily next time. Above the entrance in big bold letters was posted, "Kids Only. No Adults Allowed."
"How was ‘McMackey’s’ today?" Corbin asked as he turned out of the parking lot. They would go home now, where there was only warmth, and no "us" and "them."
"It was war in there. We barely made it out alive.
Corbin glanced at Jonathon in the rear view mirror, to see their son nod at him solemnly. "I see," he chuckled. “Glad you made it out of enemy territory in one piece.”