It was after dark when we reached the edge of the forest. Christopher helped me get the helmet off my head, “So this is it?”
I nodded, as I dropped my backpack next to the bike, “Yup, follow me!” I led him to a small shack a few hundred feet away from the road. I opened the door and slammed it shut behind me. I heard static on the communicator, knowing the shack was doing its job, “Listen!”
Christopher yanked the communicator out of his ear, “What the hell is with this place?!”
I grabbed his face with my hands, “Listen, I need you to strip down to sky clad before we can leave.”
“What’s the meaning of this?” He growled at me.
“I built this shack when I knew that he tagged me with a locator. The walls are made to prevent signals from entering and leaving. I know he put a locator on every piece of clothing you are wearing, along with a microphone. That’s why nothing electronic will work here.”
He seemed to understand, “That’s why he was so happy to give us these clothes…”
I pulled off my jacket and set it on the chair. My coat only had the locator and if it was seen that we both entered, we could fool him. I turned around when I heard him fumble with his clothes in the dark. I found a dresser full of normal clothes and pulled out everything a male could wear. I set them on top of the dresser. “Christopher, I’m going to be right outside. I left you clothes on the dresser that are safe. Keep your old clothes in this shack. Please understand, anything he gave you, you need to leave here.”
“I understand.” He mumbled irritably.
I nodded, though he could not see it. I opened the door and walked out of the small shack. I leaned against the wall, allowing myself to think, “Ok, I get into the Ruins, find the others, get them out and save the accused men of their fate of prison… How much will the professor have them do to get their freedom…?” I switched my glasses for the sunglasses and smiled as the list I said appeared on the screen.
I heard the door open and Christopher step out. His clothes looked the same, but were off a little from before. I knew he had done what I asked. He looked at me, as if he noticed me for the first time. “In the moonlight…” He shook his head.
“I know I look like the snot-nosed brat you saw this morning. Can we get going?” I knew he was talking about my glowing light skin, but I always denied it to anyone.
“Going? I thought it was here.”
I looked at the ground, “It’s not. I only said it for the microphone and so we could drop the locators. I’m sorry.”
“You swore not to lie!” He shouted at me.
I winced but stood my ground, “You just said when we got down there that I couldn’t lie. When we get down there, you will understand why I can’t have him find it. I swear it, you won’t be led on another goose chase.”
“This had better be good.” He growled, but he would not allow this to stop him helping me. He got on the bike and waited for me to get on.
I grabbed my backpack, put it on and then looked to the helmet. I set it on the ground; “I’m ready,” My voice was quiet, even to my ears.
“No helmet?” One of his eyebrows rose.
“No need. We are heading to just outside the city…” I settled down into the seat and he kicked it on. “Christophe-”
“Call me Chris.” He spoke automatically as he started to the drive back to the city.
“Chris… What did the professor offer in exchange for your freedom?”
Silence met me for most of the journey until we saw the lights of the city up ahead. We reached the edge of the city’s view park and I tapped him on the shoulder, pointing to the west.
He turned the bike towards the west. “How did you guess?” He did not sound too surprised at my question.
“You ask too many of the right questions and too few of the wrong ones. They were fed to you by him. And we have go the rest by foot.” I told him. I looked at my watch as it beeped, December twenty-first two thousand twelve… Midnight…
“In exchange, he wanted the location of the entrance and for me to hush you about your theories.”
“They aren’t theories…” I mumbled as he slowed to a stop. “It is the history passed down to me from my parents whenever we visited the Ruins.”
“Where am I going?”
I pulled the sunglasses off my face and handed them to him. “Follow the light.” I grabbed my normal glasses from my pocket and put them on, as he took the sunglasses from me.
“What the?!” I turned and saw the look of shock on his face.
“It’s getting used to you. Tell it to calm down and show you the light.” I smiled; I was glad to know I still had an upper hand in technology.
“I can’t believe I have to tell a pair of computerized sunglasses to chill…” I watched as his eyes adjusted to them, “Please calm down… I just need the light.”
I turned back to the path, knowing the journey by heart. We left the bike there as we walked across the manicured park landscape towards a small forest of trees. We weaved our way through the pines until I found an old gnarled poplar. I turned towards the south, went forward six paces, and stopped. “Here.”
“The light continues passed that.” He told me, reading what the computer was telling him.
“That one caved in years ago. There were a group of entrances here, but this one is the only one left.” I sat down on the ground and crawled through a small cave at the trees’ roots. “Follow me.” I crawled further into the cave, I heard him follow me. I reached an area that opened up to a space large enough to stand and walk in.
I helped Chris out the last few feet of the opening and he stood up with me. “This is…” His voice echoed through the cavern.
I put my finger to my lips and walked a few feet to the far wall. Carvings in the wall told me what I was taught by my mother and father. I sang small song softly, my voice echoing and creating a resonance with the door. The door lit up and the wall slid back into its porthole. I grabbed Chris’s hand, led him through the door, and sang the same song, but backwards. The door closed behind us, shutting us into the darkness. “Tell the computer to activate flashlight.” I let go of his hand, before I got too used to holding it and not wanting to let go.
The sunglasses heard my command and sang to life, the bright light illuminating the narrow walkway. “Thank you computer.”
I heard Chris scoff, “Did it just purr?”
I shook my head, “Nope.” I lied to him as we walked forward. After about a mile of walking down a gentle slope, the tunnel began to curve to the side. I saw light up ahead and turned to Chris, “We won’t be needing the light anymore. And do you have your sunglasses?”
“I want mine back.” I smiled as I took off my normal glasses into my pocket and put on the sunglasses. The sunglasses’ screen lit up with a welcome message for me. “Are they on?”
“No, it’s dark as shit in here, why would I want to make it worse.”
“Suit yourself, but remember, I’m warning you that you might wanna put them on.”
I heard him grumble, “Ready.”
We walked forward to the curve in the tunnel, when I felt something wrong. “Something is not right…” I ran forward to the other side of the curve, but nothing looked out of place.
He caught up to me easily, but I could hear him trying to catch his breath. When he looked up, he gasped at the sight of an artificial sun rising in the east, the dawn in the Ruins. “This is beautiful.” We were both standing on a hill that overlooked the Ruins
I turned to Chris, “Something isn’t right here, we need to get to where the other set of Ruins are.” I glided down the slope of the hill above the Ruins to reach the edge of the city.
Chris followed me as I ran into the city, keeping up with my pace. “Stop!” He yelled at me, and I stopped for him. “They checked the other set of Ruins for the others. They didn’t find them.”
“Then they didn’t look hard enough!” I faced him, “I know McCall is behind this and he has no idea about the dangers of the night in the Ruins! If we don’t get over there before the dawn in the surface, they will be dead!”
“What dangers?” He asked calmly.
I shook my head, “To speak of Them is to call Them. The others know that it’s dangerous to be down here at night, but they only think it is because of they wouldn’t be able to see. We tried to set up lights on the other side, where the artificial sun’s light doesn’t reach, but They tore them down when we weren’t looking. They allow me because of my mother, but They do not tolerate outsiders.” I looked at the input of one of my security robots that roamed the other set of Ruins for me. “I found the others! We have to hurry!”
He nodded and we both ran across the Ruins towards the wall where the sun was still rising. Despite how huge the Ruins were, it only took us thirty minutes of a hard run to reach the wall. Chris and I were breathing heavily when we reached it.
I felt a brush of cobwebs on my arm and I bolted up. “We need to keep moving.” I told him, though my lungs were on fire. We walked away from the cobwebby feeling towards the rising sun. I felt for the hole in the wall that would activate the door. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck rising and knew the cobwebs were following us. I found the hole and pushed my hand into it, causing a section of wall to swing towards the other set of Ruins.
“Go!” I pushed him through, as the cobwebs caught up to me. I tore myself away from the webby feeling and jumped through. The door slammed shut and we were back into the known Ruins. I rubbed my head and realized that I had landed on Chris. I scrambled off him and apologized quickly. Thankfully, the darkness helped hide the heat that rose to my face.
“You said you knew where they were?” I helped him off the ground and turned away from him.
“Yes, follow me. Activate flashlight.” The sunglasses responded and the bright light led our way through the known Ruins. I mumbled to the computer in the sunglasses, “All bots assemble to sector 7-Q, building 12.” I heard a bot near us light up and start to move. “If we get separated, follow that bot to the others. They have been given the command to go to where the others are.”
“We better not get separated…” He mumbled.
I looked at the map on my screen and spoke, “We are in currently in sector 7-R near building 45. It’s about a hundred yards to where McCall has them.” The screen flashed red as the computer route me to Bot 13, the first bot who was on the scene. I caught a glimpse of the professor standing above the others, with McCall and twenty other men. I pulled my backpack off and rummaged through it. I grabbed another pair of sunglasses and handed them to him, “Put these on. You need to see what we are dealing with.”
He put them on and I waited until the glasses became used to him. We stood there, both watching Bot 13’s view to watch what was going on. Chris spoke, “They have everyone else… But why?”
“I don’t know. Do you recognize the other men?” I asked, hoping he would say no.
“Of course I recognize them…” He growled lowly, “Those were the scumbags who framed us.”
“Why is the professor working with them?”
“He knew…” Chris realized. “He set it up, the whole thing… He set up for us to meet at the bar, because I remember myself and the others getting a phone call to meet someone at that bar that night. The guy never showed, but we all met instead. He set up the crimes and how we were to get caught.”
“But why you all and why his own team?”
“That I don’t know…”
I watched as the professor pointed to the bot and said something I could not hear. “Bot 13, get out of there!” The bot tried to respond, but its wheels were caught in something. McCall picked it up and smiled maliciously into the camera. He pointed the camera into the pit that held the others. I recognized that pit instantly from the research I had done on the Aspharrium and from a long hated memory. “He thinks that is a slave holding pen…”
“What is it?”
I gulped, “That’s a sacrifice pit… See the runes around the sides? Blood causes those to activate and send the one standing on the dais to be sent somewhere else. But there had to be something about the blood that made it work… There were only four sacrifices in the time that the Ruins were created until now.”
“Where do they go?”
“I have no idea… The person never came back.”
“How do you know this?”
“Mum and dad were two of those who vanished. They disappeared right before my eyes.”
“Who’s blood did they use and why did they go?”
“They were forced by someone who knew somebody…” I tried to grab the memory, but it kept slipping through my fingers. “The blood was mine.” I showed his my wrists that had been cut open to fulfill the sacrifice, but not to kill me. The bot’s camera was then turned back to McCall and I knew the truth. “McCall knows what it is! He is going to sacrifice them all to send him to wherever the people go!”
Bot 13 was thrown into the pit, destroying the camera lens. “C’mon!”
We ran towards sector 7-Q, my mind racing to come up with a plan. We could not overpower them and I did not have anything that could protect the others…. Wait! I do! I stopped and grabbed something from my bag, “Chris, hang on!” He stopped but it was reluctantly. I grabbed out a bottle of lamb’s blood, and a pair of knives that my parents had always taught me to carry with me into the Ruins. I pulled out the stopper and pressed my thumb to the opening. I flipped the bottle over to get some of the blood on my thumb, without wasting any. “Chris, over here now!” I yelled to him, as I started to feel the cobwebs. He did as I asked and I placed a cross in lamb’s blood on his forehead. I then flipped it on my thumb again and put the mark on the back of my neck, under my hair.
“What is this stuff?” He reached to wipe it away.
I stopped him by grabbing his wrist, “It’s lamb’s blood. It’s the only thing that will keep you safe. Don’t remove it.” I dropped his wrist and put the stopped back in. “I have a plan, but it’s going to take using me as bait. I need you to make sure that everyone in that pit gets blood on them. It will make it so they cannot be sacrificed and it will protect them from the dangers.”
He nodded and took the bottle. He leaned in close to me, “Please be careful.” He gave me a quick kiss, before he gave me back the sunglasses. “I’ll take care of the others… Just promise me that you will not do anything too stupid.”
I smiled, “I promise.” I tucked the extra pair of sunglasses into my pocket and pulled off my backpack, “I won’t be needing it and if you can, get everyone out of that pit.” I handed him one of the knives, “That should be sharp enough to slice through their bindings.” I pointed to the left, “If you go that way, you should come up behind the pit. Stay low and find the hole near the pit that will activate a side door. Take that route when I have all eyes one me.”
He nodded and gave me another quick kiss. “Good luck, brat.” He smiled as I blushed a deep red. He went off to the left, as I went off to the right.
I easily climbed up a wall of an older building to above where they were. I took a deep breath in and shouted, “Hey!”
The professor and McCall whipped around, standing on a dais above everyone else, along with their twenty thugs. The professor shouted back, “Get down from there! You will break something!” I saw McCall say something to the professor, whose eyes widened. He turned back to me, “Her?! You need her?!”
I heard a tiny bit of what McCall was telling the professor. “She… last full blooded Aspharrium… Only her blood will do…”
I knew what he said, but I could not believe it. I could not be Aspharrium… Could I be…? They were not going to sacrifice the others… The others were bait for me… I threw caution into the wind as one of the thugs started to get bored and look away, “I know what you did, professor!” That snapped the thug’s attention back to me as I watched Chris activate the door and slide into the pit.
He laughed at me, “And what do you think I did, you little brat?”
I felt the cobwebs caress the back of my neck, “You set them up! You destroyed the lives of Chris, James, Alex and Marcus, as well as enslaved the minds of the rest of the team! What are you after?”
He laughed at me again, “You stupid girl! Did you ever think I cared for the Ruins? No, I want the power to control the world and I know how to get it! McCall told me of the legends of the Dreamscape. He told me all about the pit and how to activate it. He also told me about the Gods that will give me the power over time!”
I saw Chris finish putting the blood on the others and started to help them free of their bindings. The cobwebs behind me began to reach forward and I felt it hit me with a good amount of force. I fell from the building and landed on the dais between McCall and the professor. I heard screams from behind me as the twenty men were ripped to shreds around the dais.
I caught a glimpse of Them as They descended upon those climbing through the door and out of the pit. They had two long horns curling from the top of Their foreheads, muscular gray bodies, strong muscular arms that ended in claws, fur from the waist down, hooves for feet and a vicious set of teeth. They felt the blood and nodded at the omen of protection, before starting to devour the twenty thugs. “What are they?” The professor sounded horrified.
McCall grinned, “These are the Guardians. Lamb’s blood or the dais will protect us.” He looked down to me, “Why did They avoid you?”
I smiled, bluffing, “Because They are mine. They belong to me.” I felt satisfied that the twenty men were nothing more than blood splatters on the ground.
The professor turned to see the pit empty, “Where are the hostages?!”
I stood up, “Your game is over.”
McCall picked me up and threw me into the pit. “No, my dear, this is just the beginning.” He jumped down into the pit and held grabbed my hair. He pulled my head back and slashed my throat. Blood splattered on the walls of the pit, as he climbed out.
I watched through growing darkness the runes activate and glow the color of my blood. I felt something help me up as the professor and McCall stood on the dais. I looked to see it was a Guardian holding me up. I heard the soft whispers of this Guardian, You… I know you… You have the power to stop this… To stop this forever… I felt my hand touch the dais and the world fell away.