MLM – Chapter 23

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Lasko picked up a piece of scrap metal, sticking it into the dirt, so that it jutted into the air a bit unnaturally. Then the man continued to walk along the small path, carefully scanning the piles of trash for wheels, or otherwise something that would help PiRA’s mobility.
After about five minutes later, he made another mark, this time using a blow torch from his waist to scorch an ‘x’ mark on a nearby metal sheet.
Lasko was ‘blazing’ the trail, a technique that he had somehow remembered from his distant past, and also simultaneously marking sections of the surrounding area that he had searched.
Even though he always had a general idea of where he was, (thanks to the towering obsidian pillar in the sky), once he entered the range of tall hills and mountains of scrap, finding his way back home was a slightly more complicated matter.
Marking the path that he took seemed like a pretty good solution.
Now all he had to worry about was finding the parts for PiRA, and also making sure to stay out of sight of any of Vance’s goons that may be searching. He wasn’t too worried. Sharp had already ruled out the possibility of Vance using vehicles this far into the mountain range, and any flying devices were all apparently shot down by Upper when spotted.
Even if they could search using vehicles, the vast amount of ground they would cover made Lasko feel pretty confident that they wouldn’t be found. The thousands of misshapen scrap metal mountains that surrounded the gate all formed ‘natural’ crevices and valleys, which made excellent hiding places. It would be doubly difficult to find a person hiding amongst the trash.
No, Vance’s men would have to search by foot, and that chances that they would be discovered were slim.
Besides, they weren’t even looking for Lasko, they were after Sharp and Tunnel. Lasko had only been awake for a few days, after all. The number of people who knew what he looked like were pretty much limited to the three people that had attacked them. To everyone else he would just be a ranker.
Lasko had been searching the nearby mountains for about three hours, so he figured that he was roughly twelve miles away from the home. He had planned to take a couple days out in the ‘wild’, depending on his success on finding suitable parts, so he had packed plenty of water and food bars, which were in the pack that he carried on his back.
The careful man had brought extra just in case, but he only intended to stay out one night at most. It wouldn’t be good to leave the PiRA alone for too long, who knew when it would run out of energy.
Suddenly, completely out of nowhere, a boom sounded, and a wail erupted from the skies, vibrating the ground.
Lasko looked up at Upper confused. The wail sounded again. What was going on? Then Lasko squinted his eyes. For some reason, it looked as if dark rectangles were appearing on the surface of Upper.
He widened his eyes, they weren’t dark spots, they were openings! Gigantic doors were opening up. As Lasko watched in amazement, specks began tumbling out of the holes. The trickle of specks gradually turned into a stream, falling from Upper, it was as if the heavens had opened and waterfalls of scrap began pouring down. Lasko blankly looked at the astonishing view, but something was gnawing at him. He looked up directly. To his horror, there was a dark hole situated directly above him.
No way. He watched as the specks got closer and closer… and larger and larger. He was going to be smashed. He had maybe seconds before the pile hit. He began to sprint wildly. He took another glance up. No good, he was still well in range. The surrounding area began to darken, the thick cloud of scrap beginning to crowd out the light.
Is this it? Am I going to die?
Suddenly, Lasko spotted an opening in a nearby hill of junk flash back. Skidding to a stop, he doubled back. He couldn’t see all the way inside, but it was the only shot at surviving a sure death by falling garbage chute. Peeking up at sky, he could make out the individual pieces of junk flying down. With a yelp, he dove into the small opening, and began crawling as deep in as he possibly could. Only a few seconds later, there was an immense crash, and the ground, the walls of the hole, all began to shake and rumble, as the pieces of garbage began to impact the ground.
Lasko just hugged the ground, praying that the cave wouldn’t collapse under the pressure.
After an hour of the constant barrage of falling trash, finally the impacts started to decrease in frequency. After they finally stopped, Lasko had to courage to lift his head. It was dark, he couldn’t see a thing, reaching down to his belt, he pulled out a light, and began examining the cave.
Currently he was in a section that was approximately three feet tall. Further down the tunnel, it looked like was getting wider.
Screw that. This is a giant rat hole if he ever saw one. No way Lasko was going any further down the hole. Turning around, he began heading back the way he came.
To his horror, however, the entrance was gone! It was completely blocked off by dense pile of scrap. The new influx of trash must have caused it to cave in. Lasko tried to push at it, but it wouldn’t budge. Pulling out his new cutter, he began slicing away at the blockage. After cutting one, there was a shift in the trash, and suddenly even more of the passageway began to cave in. Lasko, by scooting back desperately, was just able to prevent himself from getting buried.
That was stupid, he thought to himself. It doesn’t look like I have any other choice but to continue further in.
Lasko crawled down the widening tunnel, berating himself for his stupidity. Why didn’t I just stay at the hut. No, I had to be all Indiana Jones.
A realization occured to him that made him halt crawling. Did Sharp and Tunnel know this was going to happen? This couldn’t possibly be why they told me to stay at the hut, right? Surely mountains of trash falling from the heavens warranted at least a brief mention. Could this have been Sharp’s attempt to get rid of him?
Appalled at the thought, he kept crawling. No, Sharp had indeed warned him to stay at the hut. And who knows, perhaps they didn’t know. In any case, there was no point worrying about it now. What was most important was surviving the problem in front of him currently.
He paused briefly to look backwards. Lasko had crawled quite a significant distance. He must be well inside the mountain by now.
The tunnel kept getting larger and larger. After a couple minutes of crawling Lasko was able to get to his feet and walk on slightly stooped. Then all of a sudden the passageway enlarged drastically, opening up into a large dark chamber.
Wow. He shined the light around. The oval chamber was about the size of a room, maybe ten to twelve feet high. It was large enough that he didn’t feel claustrophic, but the jagged pieces of scrap metal sticking out of the ceilings and walls didn’t exactly make him feel comfortable.
He felt a breeze coming from somewhere, and he got excited. An exit? He searched around for a bit, and he found the source. A small sized opening near the back wall. Another giant rat sized hole. Fighting the urge to not go near it, he crept closer, and flashed his light inside the hole, revealing a set of larger tunnels.
There was a skittering noise. Lasko almost dropped his light, and backed up quickly. No way he was going down there. He quickly began kicking loose scraps and junk in front of the hole, covering it. After the hole was mostly covered, (left it slightly open for air) Lasko let out a shuddering breath, (there might have been a sob mixed in,) and sat down on the ground.
Suddenly feeling extremely tired, he scooted backwards, aiming to lean his back against the wall, when he had checked before, this portion of the wall seemed particularly free of jagged edges. Then his back touched something that gave a little bit.
Huh? He reached his hand back, and touched something soft.
And furry.
He heard a faint growl, and his blood ran cold. Throwing himself forward, he quickly put as much distance as he could between him and the animal. With trembling hands, he shined the light on what he must have touched. At first, he just saw a mass of darkness.
Then the mass moved, shifting slightly, and Lasko fought the scream that rose to his mouth.
What WAS that?! It was much larger than the giant rat that he had seen in the tunnels, at least 5 times larger… The mass didn’t move again, and Lasko began edging towards the entrance. Standing in the opening, he prepared himself to flee.
But the mass didn’t move any further. Lasko stood there breathless. One minute, two minutes. The sweat on his body had turned cold a long time before Lasko wondered if the mass was actually going to move.
Curious, he spoke quietly.
No movement. He tried again a little louder.
“Hello, hello!”
Still nothing. He risked a shout, getting ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble.
The mass of darkness remained absolutely still. Finally, Lasko picked up a piece of scrap metal, and tossed it lightly. It bounced off the wall above the mass with a clang, and after a full second, finally the mass shifted, turning around to face the source of the noise.
Two glinting eyes flashed, lit up by the shaking light.
Lasko froze, just about to flee down the tunnel, but something stopped him. There was something oddly familiar about the beast. It can’t be, it’s too big…
He looked carefully. Yep, there was no mistaking it. The elongated jaw, the pointy ears…
It was a dog. Except the sheer size of it made it completely unlike any dog Lasko could think of. What breeds of dog grew this big? Maybe a Saint Bernard? But it looked more like a Doberman Pinscher than anything else… This dog could probably give a bears a run for its money.
These were the dogs that Sharp was talking about? Lasko pictured entire packs of dogs this size. A frightening thought. What happened in the future that made animals grow this large? It was completely shocking.
Lasko and the dog stared at each other for a long time, the dog with its solemn eyes, and Lasko with his fearful ones.
Finally the dog put its head down slowly, resting its head on the ground. It still faced Lasko, but its eyes were half shut.
Lasko felt better, even though he was still frightened. It didn’t look like the dog wanted to kill him now, but maybe things would change in a half-hour.
Then Lasko noticed something that seemed really odd. The dog seemed to have shortened limbs.
Was the dog lying on them? When Lasko took a closer look, he realized that the dog was missing the bottom half of its hind leg. His eyes moved to the dog’s front leg. It was a little hard to tell, but after looking carefully, its front leg was also a stump.
The dog was injured. That’s why it wasn’t attacking. Gratified, Lasko slowly sat, his knees weakening after the burst of relief. It didn’t seem like he would have to be afraid of the monstrous dog, just the monstrous rats…
Lasko smacked himself, frustrated. What did he have to be relieved about? He was buried inside a mountain of trash, trapped together with an injured dog the size of a bear, with his only way out being an immense labyrinth of tunnels infested by mutant rats.
He was totally screwed.