The Stone Man Underground Highway

“We need an army. Can you still create those rock creatures?” I asked.

“Rock creatures?” Na Fru seemed confused at first, then slowly nodded. “But it will take me months to create anything that is not merely a puppet. I’d be hard pressed to control more than half a dozen at a time.”

We didn’t have that long of time. In months, the General could have conquered the entire world. But a few puppets wasn’t going to be enough to defeat. “But you can still control rocks?”

“My people have that ability, as do I.”

“A frontal assault’s out, but maybe we can do something sneakier. Tilly, pop up a display of the Earth.” A holographic globe appeared above her arm. “We are here,” I said pointing at the globe. “We need to get here.” I pointed at Ramstov. “How long would it take you to get us there without anyone finding out that we were coming?”

“I could get there in half a day,” Na Fru said, “but you are organic and thus, weak and frail. If you wanted to survive the trip, it would take much longer.”

“Surviving is an important requisite for this mission. So that means we’re going to need to get some equipment. Oxygen. Some kind of heat shielding. Water…”

“Wait a sec. Let me get this straight,” Tilly said, interrupting my train of thought. “We’re planning on letting this…guy who has been ‘asleep’ for the past couple millennia take us across the world underneath the earth?”

“You’ve got a better idea, Tilly? It’s not like we can take Na Fru onto a plane with us. And it’s not like we could really get on a plane either with our almost complete lack of funds. Plus, going this way will allow us to bypass the General’s entire army. That’ll make things a lot easier, don’t you think?”

“Fine,” she huffed. “I can survive whatever he can dish out, but you will need a lot to not die down there.”

I didn’t disagree with that. And if Tilly needed to put me down to build up her courage enough to go along with this crazy plan then so be it. “So, then we should get to work.”

With no more arguing, Tilly and I left Na Fru alone. I glanced back as we left the cavern and he had returned to his seat. I was worried about him. He had agreed to my plan, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t succumb to his ennui again while we were gone. There wasn’t really much we could do about it, though. I was going to need Tilly’s help to get everything we were going to need. All we could do was hope he could last until we came back.

We tried to work as fast as possible, but it wasn’t easy finding something that would be able to keep me safe from all of the heat that would accumulate. We brought everything that we managed to scrounge together back down to the cavern. It was going to take a little while to put it all together and I figured underneath the surface of the earth was going as anywhere. Plus, it had the advantage of being in contact with Na Fur. The last thing I wanted was for his to think that we had abandoned him. Or for him to think about abandoning us. Neither option was particularly good.

It took us a couple of days to build a container I could be transported safely in. Na Fru ignored us the entire time we were working. No matter how loud we were he didn’t seem to notice. I began to worry he had returned to being a statue. But we left him alone until we were done, there was no reason to antagonize him. When we were finally finished, I roused Na Fru. He was not happy. When I told him we were ready, he seemed impatient to get going. As soon as Tilly and I were inside the cooling chamber, he tore open the earth and pulled us down into the pit.

It was a long trip. I tried to sleep through it, but it was very bumpy. It was also often quite hot despite all our best efforts. It was a pretty miserable trip all around. I started to question my decision making. Why had I agreed to this? Why had I come up with such a foolish plan? Unfortunately, no matter how many doubts I had about this plan, we were already underway. There wasn’t much I could do about it now. I had made my bed now I was going to have to cook in it.

I was awoken from my zombie-like stupor as we came to a sudden stop. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Tilly, maybe you should take a look?”

She started to get up when the container we were in shook again. We were moving. Upwards! “Is he surfacing?” Tilly asked.

“It feels like it. Where are we? We’re not in the middle of the ocean, are we? He’s not trying to drown us, is he?”

“Should I go check?” Tilly asked, but before she could, we came to a complete stop. “Uh-oh.”

I had the same bad feeling. “Take a look.”

She nodded and phased through the container. Tilly poked her head back in. “We’re not in the middle of the ocean.”

“Where are we?”

“Come on. Take a look,” she said, then disappeared.

I opened the container door and was relieved when cool air came rushing in instead of ocean water. But as hot air escaped, I realized this was not the air of outside. If we weren’t outside, then where were we? I could feel moisture in the air. There was an odor, a dankness. Where had Na Fru brought us?

to be continued…

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