MLM – Chapter 16

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They emerged from the tunnel, the lights from the Upper level twinkling down on them.
Whew. Lasko laid Sharp down on the ground, and then sat down himself, resting his tired legs.
Now what, he wondered. Lasko had no idea where they were.
He looked around, trying to find the gate. After a few seconds of searching, Lasko spotted the tower, a mass of blackness against a backdrop of a faintly lit mechanical sky.
The sight was truly breathtaking, and Lasko found himself losing himself in the enormity of it all, temporarily forgetting that he was lost.
Then he noticed Tunnel staring up at the sky as well, the boy’s tired face lit up by the faint light.
“Do you know how to get back home?” Lasko asked him, not expecting anything.
“Yup.” Tunnel nodded. He tilted his head at the sky, before pointing off into the distance. “We gotta go that way.”
Lasko was surprised, and a little bit skeptical. “How do you know?” He asked cautiously.
Tunnel moved his arm up to point upwards. “The lights. There’s a pattern that Leonard calls the purple circle. We’re right underneath that now, so home must be…” he then pointed at a cluster of lights. “Home must be over there. We live somewhere under the close white lights.”
“Wow… that’s like star navigation.”
“Tunnel, you don’t know what stars are?”
The boy shook his head.
“Do you remember what outer space is? With the moon?”
Tunnel nodded slowly.
“Well stars are in outer space too. They’re just like the sun.”
Tunnel didn’t say anything, although it was dark, Lasko could sense that the boy didn’t really get it. Looking around, he found a patch of ground that was reasonably clear of debris.
“Please bring the light over here,” Lasko asked Tunnel, and as the boy came over, the man picked up a nearby piece of metal scrap, using it to draw a circle in the dirt, and then another circle around it. “This is the hexes, and this outer circle is Upper, OK?”
Tunnel nodded. Lasko drew two more circles, one smaller circle next to the earth, and then a large one further away.
“This big one is the sun, and this one is… Moon City?”
Tunnel’s eyes brightened. He sat down next to Lasko, who continued to explain. “Well Upper is just one planet, and around the sun there are a bunch of planets, just as big or even bigger.”
Then Lasko stretched out and drew large circles as far as he could reach. “Stars are suns on their own, except that they are really far away. And they have their own planets and moons.”
Then Lasko pointed at the glittering metallic sky. “For each one of these lights, there’s a huge star somewhere, with more planets like this one, and more places like Moon City.”
Not technically accurate, Lasko thought to himself, but hopefully the young boy would get the idea. He glanced at the young boy, who was trying to process the information with a furrowed expression.
Then a look of awe came over the boy as he stared at the sky of Upper, finally grasping the idea. “Whoa…”
Lasko felt pretty good about himself. He wasn’t sure why, but something about Tunnel’s expression of amazement was really gratifying.
There was a rustle, and Lasko and Tunnel turned quickly, half-expecting another giant rat. It was Sharp, who after 10 hours had finally woken up.
“Where are we?” he said sleepily, getting sluggishly to his feet while rubbing his eyes.
Tunnel jumped to him instantly. “Sharp, do you feel ok?”
Sharp nodded. “Yea, I feel ok.” he said grumpily. “I’ll get that Pusher back if it’s the last thing I do…”
He looked at the sky, scanning the lights like Tunnel had done. He frowned. “We’re far out. We’ve never been this far out before. How’d we get here?”
Lasko explained briefly about Leonard’s helping them flee Vance’s crew via the underground passageway. Sharp was only mildly surprised.
“That old rat has tons of secrets. Leonard only tells them when he has to. Vance won’t ever be able to beat that old fart.”
Remembering something, Tunnel went to the pack, and quickly finding the object, brought it to Sharp. “Look at what Leonard gave me!” Sharp’s eyes bugged out.
“He GAVE you this?” Sharp asked incredulously. It was the stuffed teddy bear.
Tunnel nodded. “He was being a little weird, but Leonard said that he owed us for the whole Vance thing.”
Sharp was still suspicious, examining the bear carefully. Finding nothing wrong with the stuffed animal, Sharp handed it carefully back to Tunnel.
“If he owed us, should have given us something better than a toy.” he grumped.
Tunnel’s excited expression began to falter a little, but Sharp finally waved his hand in dismissal.
“Good for you, Tunnel.” He cast an evil eye on Lasko. “Something tells me that it’s not all Leonard’s idea, anyway.”
Tunnel didn’t pick up what Sharp was implying, happily putting away the bear after getting Sharp’s approval.
But Lasko felt himself sweat a little bit. That was close, but luckily Sharp was… sharp. His head injury didn’t seem to have left any lingering effects. Sharp didn’t press the issue, instead grabbing his utility belt and strapping it on.
“Have you guys slept?” he asked, fingering his empty knife sheaths with a peeved look. Tunnel shook his head. “Well, then let’s camp here for now. You guys sleep, and I’ll keep watch. When it turns bright out, we’ll move to get back home.”
Tunnel nodded, the tired boy yawning loudly, and he plopped on the ground.
Lasko realized that the two of them had been awake for nearly 24 hours. With that realization, his body felt incredibly heavy, and he laid down as well, nodding his thanks to Sharp.
“Be careful of the rats.” he yawned.
“I’ll be fine. If I can take on two thugs, I can deal with a small rat or two.”
It’s not the ‘small’ ones I’m worried about, Lasko thought, but he was too tired to say anymore, only letting out a grunt. Tunnel sat up and scooched over to Lasko, leaning against the man, before lying back down. The small boy fell asleep almost immediately.
Lasko was also already nodding off. The last thing that Lasko saw before falling asleep, was the image of Sharp beginning to cut pieces of metal from some nearby scraps of sheeting.