“Roger. Scanning…” Suddenly, the ground began to shake! For a second, I worried it was another giant worm monster, but this felt bigger. That had me worried and when the ground began to rise I almost running for my life. But there was nothing bursting through. No, it was the ground itself starting to rise. Like a solid platform it rose, higher and higher. I was beginning to worry if it would ever stop. When it finally did, we were more than twenty stories up!
“Now, what are we going to do?” Doc asked, surveying our new elevated position.
“We could have ALAN fly us down two at a time,” Mathilda suggested.
“Not just yet,” I said. “I think first we need to find out just exactly what we’re standing on.” I walked to the edge of the risen land with great care. I slowly poked my head over the side and looked down. Yeah, we were pretty high up. But, as I suspected, underneath us wasn’t just rock and dirt. It was some kind of building that had risen from beneath the ground. If the other buildings were the natural habitats of the people of this planet, then I felt confident in thinking that this building did not belong here. “I think we need to get down there. We need to find out what this building is, what it’s doing here.”
Even though Jamal was in the body of a dinosaur, I could tell he was giving me that look, that ‘here we go again’ look. “Ok, Frank,” he said. “Let’s do it. Let’s go needlessly exploring. But here’s one question for your big brain, how do you plan on getting us down there?”
“I will climb down there,” the Xian announced. “I am more agile than you humans with your bony bipedal form of transportation.” None of us argued with that. Even Tilly stayed quiet surprisingly. The Xian wasted little time and made its way to the edge of the platform. Using its many tentacles, it carefully climbed down into the structure below. After a few minutes, it called back, “All right. I am in.”
“Is it clear? Is anyone down there?” I asked.
“No,” the Xian replied. “I see no one. I believe it is safe.”
“Ok,” Jamal said. “Now how do WE get down?”
ALAN carried us down one by one. The top level was open to the air, no windows, no walls, only eight metallic columns that held the platform above us. In the middle of the metallic floor was an opening, but instead of stairs there was a spiral set of hand holds leading downward. Mathilda glanced down the hole. “I guess we should go down?”
The Xian made quick work of it. Mathilda also seemed to do use the hand holdes fairly easily. I had a little trouble but this new skinny body of mine managed it all right. Doc, not used to such athletics, had a little more trouble, but she did better than she would have before our little month-long trip into prehistory. Jamal in the body of a raptor didn’t even bother trying and instead rode on ALAN’s back down to the next level.
For Doc’s sake, and mine, we had to stop three levels down. I don’t know if either us could have climbed down any further. Unlike the first floor, the following floors were all enclosed, but none of them were segmented into rooms. Just one large open space. This floor looked like some kind of jungle gym with hoops and bars everywhere, presumably to climb on. We all chose to stand on the floor. “Where are we?” Jamal asked. “What is this place?”
“That’s a good question.” I looked around. There seemed to be few clues so far. I hadn’t even seen any computer terminals or access points. “We just need to keep exploring.”
Now, that we had had our little rest, we started again. ALAN picked up Jamal and flew down. The Xian began climbing and we all followed behind. We passed through the next level, which look much like the previous ones, but I had trouble keeping up with Mathilda. Suddenly, the well closed behind her. I looked up past Doc and the stairwell we had just climbed through was closed as well! We were trapped on this level!
“What’s going?” Doc asked, as she dropped down next to me.
“I don’t know,” I told her as I examined the floor. I could find no seams. No handles. No buttons.
“Are the others trapped? Or is it just us?”
I shrugged, again I had no idea. “There has to be a way out of here. We’ve got to assume that the others are trapped as well, that this isn’t just happening to us. We also need to figure out how much danger we’re in.”
“What kind of trap would involve sealing us up first? Gas? Can’t work on us, right? Not with the pills the future you gave us.”
“I guess that depends on the kind of gas and how much is pumped in, but there are other dangers. Like the worm things that chased us in here.”
Doc opened her mouth to speak, but whatever she was about to say was swallowed up by the sound of an explosion.” That was from below,” she said, taking a step back from the seal. “Do you think…?”
I met her eyes, which wasn’t easy as I was nearly a foot shorter. We both had the same mix of confusion, fear, and anticipation. In unison, we turned to the sealed stairwell just in time to the thing explode.
to be continued…