“Are you nuts?” Jamal roared.
I shook my head. “No. I’m serious. I don’t think we have a choice. I think that’s where the answers are, down on that planet.”
“I’ll stay up here,” Doc said. “I can work with the Xian to try to figure out what’s going on with this ship.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m no help down there. I’m not an adventurer. I’m a scientist. I’ll be more use up here.”
That made sense, plus I didn’t want to put her in anymore danger. She wasn’t supposed to be going on these missions. She got caught up trying to save Tilly from Freyja and now she’s been stuck in this craziness ever since. If I got the chance to send her home, I’d do it. Leaving her on this ship with the Xian should be the safest place for her. So we met the Xian in the hanger and told them the plan. “Don’t you think you should wait?” The Xian asked. “You could use the rest.”
“No. We’ll be fine,” I told him.
“Then I should come,” the Xian said.
“No. You stay here and help Doc with the ship’s systems. You brought us on to find out what was going on, let us do it. We can handle it.”
Before the Xian could say anything else, we confiscated a Xian transport and made our way down to the planet, Jamal, Tilly, ALAN, and me. Jamal wanted to leave Mathilda behind, but that didn’t carry much water. As she pointed out, she had been the one to repeatedly get us out of the dangerous situations we were finding ourselves in. Her new upgrades were proving very useful.
As we exited the transport, I had ALAN rebroadcast the frequency that had kept the worms away from the tower. It seemed to be doing its job, as we made our way back to where we had found the distress signal without any problems. “Ok, we’re back here. Now what?” Jamal said.
“We need to find out why we were lured here,” I said.
After a thorough search, Tilly said, “There’s nothing here, Frank. It must have been just a convenient place to stage an ambush.”
I nodded my assent. If there had been anything to explain our situation in here, it was gone now. “That doesn’t mean there’s not something down here. We just have to expand our search.”
We searched the city for several hours with no luck, but also no attacks, before ALAN announced, “There is a tunnel beneath the street.”
“Can you get us access?” I asked. The street opened up and a pod emerged. “I guess we should get in.”
“Of course,” Jamal grumbled. “Nothing can go wrong.” I gave Jamal a dirty look. He shrugged. “You expect me to be still enthusiastic about this? I’m in the body of a dinosaur, Frank. C’mon.”
We stepped into the pod and it closed behind us. “This is a bad idea,” Mathilda said.
“You want to get out?” I asked.
“No.” She grinned. “Don’t worry about me. If those goes horribly wrong, I’ll probably be the only one of us to walk out alive.”
“Not worried about your old man?” Jamal asked.
The pod began to move. “Sorry, dad,” she said. “Looks like it’s too late now.”
The pod began to drop and drop quickly. It descended further and further below the surface. How deep were we going to go? I wondered. Then suddenly, when I began to worry it never would stop, the pod finally began to slow down, then slowly came to a rest. “We’re here.”
The door opened to a deep chasm. There was no where to step out, just a sudden plummet. “It doesn’t look like we’ve reached the bottom,” Jamal said.
Mathilda looked down. “I don’t think I want to reach the bottom.”
I examined the pod. “It doesn’t look like we can go any lower.”
“So how are we supposed to get out of here?” Jamal asked. “Jump?”
Mathilda pointed up. “How about those?”
There was a row of rungs leading away from the pod. “It looks like these are the same people who built that rocket building.”
“What were they doing down here?” Jamal asked, then added, “Let me guess, ‘that’s what we have to find out’?” He sighed. “I can’t climb those.”
“Yeah, well,” Mathilda said, “I can.” She then began to climb up the pod toward the rungs.
“Tilly!” Jamal roared. “Will you…?” He shook his head. “I can’t believe it. I think she’s gotten even worse!”
“If you were stuck under Freyja’s thumb,” I replied, “you’d probably feel the need to rebel too.”
Jamal nodded “That don’t make it better.”
While ALAN took Jamal and flew him ahead to where there was supposedly a cliff, I began preparing myself to follow after Mathilda. A deep breath, I began to climb the pod, which was easy enough, then transferred over to the rungs and began moving forward. My new body seemd agile enough for this exercise, but I doubted its strength. At least I wasn’t still in my fat body.
As I swung along the rungs, I watched ALAN and Jamal disappear from view. Tilly was ahead and she kept getting further away. I tried to keep pace, but my arms started to hurt. My shoulders were burning. I just couldn’t keep up. My grip slipped! I was holding on by just one arm. I tried to hold on long enough for ALAN to come back. I didn’t know if I could make it. I tried to reach up with my other arm, but I just didn’t have the strength. It was no use. I was too far to go back and I couldn’t go forward. I was stuck there. I was just going to have to wait for ALAN to come back and get me, but my fingers were slipping. I could tell now that ALAN wouldn’t reach me in time. I couldn’t hold on any longer.
to be continued…