Sandra leads them through the tunnels with Bart covering the rear. They’re armed with wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and knives. None of their weapons have any real reach, but it’s all they’ve got. It reminds Francis of the rebels he saw die. They were armed the same. Unlike the Cain Guards who he saw armed with batons and swords. If only they had weapons like those, he thinks as he follows behind Wayne, Denise behind him. They walk in single file until they reach the termination of the tunnel, a ceiling mounted hatch. Apparently everyone knows this is their destination, except Francis. He wonders why Sandra has led them if they all knew the way, but he doesn’t ask as he watches Bart leaves his position and climbs the ladder with his welding torch, while Denise and Sandra cover the rear now.
“Why have we stopped?” Francis asks Wayne.
“We’ve got to cut through. This hatch is sealed. Seems old Cain knew something like this would be coming one day.” Wayne answers with a sneer. Even mentioning the self appointed monarchs name makes him feel sick. The man touted as a saviour of mankind had turned into a tyrant willing to oppress all the people who had worked so hard to realise his dream. Cain isn’t a saviour, Wayne notes. No the ancestors and elders of Shamballah were the saviours; Cain is just a megalomaniac desperate to hold onto his power.
“Is that wise?” Francis then asks.
“It’s the only way.” Bart assures him as he lights his welding torch ready to cut through the hatch.
“It’s ok Francis.” Denise says trying to reassure the clearly frightened man. She understands his fear and feels it too, but it really is the only way. They’d walked these tunnels for countless hours but found this as the only way into Cain Tower. Bar trying to walk through the front door that is. But that would be suicide with all the Cain patrols outside, as well as the countless cameras covering every conceivable angle.
“This will put us up in Cain Tower. Ground floor, of course, but inside is still inside.” Sandra explains patiently as she watches back down the tunnel. She doesn’t like them being this exposed, but there isn’t much choice she knows as she hears the distinctive sound of Bart’s torch beginning to burn through the metal hatch.
Down in this tunnel the sound reverberates over and over to an almost ear splitting volume that numbs her hearing, which is why she knows she must stay vigilant. Denise to her left is doing the same, now that she is no longer trying to ease Francis’ fears. She too knows how important this is seeing as this is the only place that Cain doesn’t have his security system implemented. It had shocked Sandra to learn that from Angus and Wayne when they’d told her. It seemed like such an obvious oversight on Donald Cain’s behalf, but then maybe he’d never envisioned becoming a dictator. She wonders if his kind ever does, but she doesn’t know. She, like the rest of them, is too young to remember the world before the floods. Though, she knows tyrants are nothing new. She’d heard stories from her parents and their friends, but that had been when she was a little girl. Few people spoke of those days now. She couldn’t blame them. It likely brings them too much pain to think how far they’ve fallen and how much worse things have become. Is this all it takes? Sandra often wonders as she considers how easily the dominate species on the planet had nearly become extinct as a result. A single event doesn’t seem like it should be enough, but it was she knows.
“How we looking Bart?” Wayne asks wary of how exposed they are here. Something doesn’t feel right, but he doesn’t have a clue why. You’re just being paranoid, he tells himself.
“It’s thicker than we expected.” Bart shouts over his shoulder. His voice almost drowned out by a mixture of the noise of metal being cut and the mask over his face.
“Are we going to be able to get through?” Francis asks.
“Oh I’ll get through. Might just take a bit longer.” Bart answers without a thought as to who asked him the question. It doesn’t matter. He only cares about getting them through. That’s his job here and he refuses to fail.
“Wait I think I see something moving.” Denise announces suddenly. She can’t be sure but she could have sworn she saw a shadow move down the tunnel. She hopes she’s wrong. They all do. Bart doesn’t stop but Wayne, Sandra and Francis narrow their eyes as they peer down the tunnel.
“I don’t see…” Sandra begins and then she sees something move. At first however, she can’t make it out and then it dawns on her.
“Cain Guards.” Wayne declares before she has the chance to.
“What? How?” Francis blurts terrified. He wonders now whether coming with the rebels was such a good idea. What other choice did I have? He asks himself, but he gets no reply. The truth is he didn’t have much else of a choice and he knows it. He was always going to be better off with them than on his own.
“I don’t know. This isn’t right.” Sandra mutters with a shake of her head.
“Right or not, here they come.” Wayne declares stepping in front of Sandra and Denise with a long handled fire axe in his hands. He found it among the supplies in the maintenance area that they’d been calling home and decided it would make a better weapon than a couple claw hammers. One of which is now in Francis’ possession. The axe will give him better range, though it will be slower to swing.
The Cain Guards, though still far away, are rushing towards them. Denise has to admit she has never seen so many Cain Guards in one place. She didn’t even know there were that many, until Francis’ story. But even then she’d assumed he’d been exaggerating. Now she knows that he definitely hadn’t been and it worries her. The five of them will be no match for this many. Not with the weapons they have, which are tools. In fact, it is only really Wayne who has something in his hands that could even be called a weapon of much use.
“Bart?” Sandra shouts now having to contest with the pounding on heavy boots as well as the cutting of his torch.
“Almost there. Give me a couple.” Bart spits back. He hasn’t looked but he knows it isn’t good.
“We don’t have a couple.” Sandra retorts. The Cain Guards are much closer now and show no signs of stopping.
“Francis.” Bart bellows just loud enough for the young man to hear.
Francis hurries over to the ladder and looks up at Bart.
“Take over.” Bart orders.
“What? I don’t know how to use that thing. Why me?” Francis exclaims in response.
“Cause I say so.” Bart says as he finishes descending the ladder, so that he stands over the slightly shorter Francis.
“All you have to do is follow the line I’ve already cut. Hold this and just try and keep your hand steady.” Bart says explaining quickly how to use the welding torch.
“B-but…” Francis begins to never finishes.
“You have to. They’re going to need me.” Bart reasons with a concerned look.
After a few seconds Francis nods. Bart smiles, slaps Francis on the shoulder and then grabs the hammer from Francis’ waist as Francis begins to scale the ladder.
Bart knows he will need the hammer more than Francis will. He hopes the non rebel can do this. He isn’t sure it’s a wise decision, but it’s better than him continuing to cut the hatch while Francis fights. He doubts the farmer can fight. He doesn’t seem to have that kind of fire in him. Bart doesn’t understand it, but knows he doesn’t have to as he readies for a fight.
“What…Bart why aren’t you…oh please tell me you didn’t?” Denise offers confused when she realises that Bart is stood with her Wayne and Sandra and Francis isn’t.
“He can handle it. We need a fighter. He isn’t one.” Bart replies succinctly.
“No, he’s going to need some…” Denise begins. She is sure that Francis will need some help as she looks to the young man, Bart’s welding mask covering his face as he continues to cut through the hatch.
“No. We need you here.” Wayne interjects.
“But…” Denise tries to proclaim only for Wayne to simply shake his head.
Denise feels torn. She doesn’t feel right leaving Francis to cut through the hatch when he isn’t a welder and has no clue what he’s doing, but at the same time she knows that Wayne is right.
After a few moments of contemplation Denise accepts Wayne’s order and nods confirmation that she will stay with them.
“Not long now.” Sandra offers without thought. She doesn’t even realise that she’s said the words aloud, but she has.
“Come on. Come on. Come on.” Francis almost chants over and over as he flicks his head between looking at what he is cutting with the torch and the Cain Guards fast approaching. He is determined not to fail. Not just for his sake, but for all of them.
Suddenly he completes the cut. Francis manages, narrowly, to pull himself out of the way as the hatch comes clattering to the floor of the maintenance tunnel below him. The sound rings out drawing the attention of Wayne, Sandra, Denise and Bart.
“We’re through. Come on!” Francis calls seconds before he disappears up the ladder and out of sight.
“Francis!” Denise calls fearful for what might greet him on the other side.
“It’s clear.” Francis calls back as he sticks his head back into view a few brief seconds later.
“Go. Go!” Wayne orders with a roar.
Sandra, Denise and he race for the ladder when suddenly Wayne realises Bart isn’t with them.
“Bart! Come on. We’ve got to go!” Wayne bellows as Denise disappears up the ladder.
“Go. I’ll hold them here.” Bart proclaims with the hammer in hand, which he spins casually. He knows they won’t make it he no one stays behind to draw their attention and he’s elected himself to be that sacrifice.
“Bart. Don’t make me…” Wayne begins.
“You know I’m right. Just kill that bastard for me Wayne.” Bart spits moments before he turns and rushes headlong toward the Cain Guards. They are very close now but Bart roars defiantly with the hammer in his hand ready to strike. He knows he’ll die, but he’s going to take as many of them with him as he can.
“Wayne! We have to go.” Sandra urges Wayne who doesn’t want to leave the welder behind. It’s me who should be doing that, he thinks. I’m older. You’re still young. But it’s too late and he knows it as he accepts, his shoulders slumping in the moments before he throws himself onto the ladder and quickly scales its rungs out of the hatch and into the lobby of Cain Tower.
It doesn’t surprise him that it is decorated with exquisite paintings and statues that complement the plush furniture and solid stone floors that are ringed with glass.
“What about the hatch?” Denise asks.
“What about Bart?” Francis exclaims more concerned that one of their number is absent.
“I’ll sort the hatch.” Sandra proclaims as she rips open a panel next to the hole and begins to mess with the wires inside. If only there was one of the outside, Sandra thinks as she finds the right combination of wires, cuts and strips them and then fuses them together. The wires spark and a new hatch slides shut just as a Cain Guard reaches the bottom of the ladder and growls angrily up at her.
Sandra topples backward as the pounding on the thick metal begins to ring out.
“We still have the torch right?” Sandra then asks suddenly terrified that she has only bought them a few minutes’ tops.
“Yeah, but what about Bart?” Francis urges.
“He’s gone.” Wayne admits with slumped shoulders.
“Oh.” Francis responds his own shoulders slumping as he looks down at the resealed hatch. He had hoped there would be no more death, no more loss, but he’d been naïve to believe that and he realises that now.
“What now?” Denise asks.
“We’re in Cain Tower. The man himself is at the top. So that’s where we go.” Sandra offers as she climbs back to her feet.
“Is this tower empty?” Francis asks. He has no idea but he can make a guess, no. He prays that the response will be to the contrary however.
“No.” Wayne offers after a brief silence.
“How many?” Denise asks.
“No one knows.” Wayne replies honestly.
“Some say none. Others say hundreds. Could even be thousands. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough though.” Sandra clarifies.
“I think we should…” Sandra starts but never finishes as a thin blade is stabbed through the back of her neck. It skewers right through her neck, the tip of the blade jutting from her voice box which emits an audible wet groan in response.
Francis and Denise’s eyes go wide as Wayne spins round to see the blade withdrawn and Sandra’s body to topple to the floor.
Stood in the space behind where Sandra had been moments ago is Captain Lars Penbrook. He is wearing a snarl on his face. He can’t believe this scum has made its way into the sanctum of the great Cain. They are not worthy. They do not belong here. He will remove them. Maybe then, he thinks, he will get the honour of meeting the man himself. It causes a sick smile to carve its way across his face.
“Run.” Wayne spits. He knows Sandra is dead, but this Cain Guard will regret his actions, he swears that.
“Good idea.” Lars offers coldly as Cain Guards form on either side of him, all armed and awaiting orders.
“Wayne. Come on.” Denise shouts as she turns tail and breaks into a sprint for her life. Francis is close behind her. Wayne weighs up his options but elects that dying here would not be worth it.
“You’ll pay for that.” Wayne promises as he breaks into a run for the glass stairs, which he bounds up in pursuit of Denise and Francis three at a time.
“Captain?” One of the Cain Guards asks wanting orders.
“Leave them to me. Make sure this place is locked down.” Lars orders calmly.
“But Captain there are only three of them.”
“And that is precisely why I gave the order I did. Follow them and you’ll end up like her.” Lars spits irritated as he points at the body of Sandra moments before getting into the lift. He’ll head them off on one of the upper floors. It won’t take much. He is sure of it as the doors to the lift slide closed in preparation of the ascent they will make.
“Sergeant.” The voice of Donald Cain says over the helmet radio of the Cain Guard that had asked Captain Penbrook for orders.
“Yes sir.” The sergeant responds immediately.
“Pursue and kill those rebels immediately. I want them dead now.” Donald Cain says sounding irritated. The sergeant knows that the security system has allowed him to see and hear everything said by Captain Penbrook.
“Yes sir.” The sergeant confirms without hesitation moments before issuing the other Cain Guards with orders.