Here is chapter three! Please remember this is a rough draft, and as the author I own FULL copyright to it. This work may not be copied/shared in any manner other than a link to this blog. Thanks and enjoy!
It seemed to take forever for Eoin to have the strength to stand. Ally darted to his side then back to hover around the tunnel entrance, almost dancing with impatience. ‘Ready?’
‘Almost. Jeeze Ally, you’re like a kid with a new toy.’
She laughed at his exasperated tone and dashed back to his side again. He sat up now, one knee up, the other out straight as it finished healing. ‘Okay, okay! Help me up. WHOA! Careful!’
Seizing the offered arm, Ally hauled him to his feet so fast he stumbled. She caught him, unable to hold back laughter and impulsively kissed him. Before she could dart away, his hand snaked to the back of her head, holding her firmly as his lips claimed her mouth. Flushes of sensation bloomed beneath her skin where his hands touched, fast distracting her from the tunnel. He pulled away far too soon steel colored eyes warm with humor. ‘That slowed you down.’
Ally smacked his chest and screwed her nose. ‘Tease. C’mon!’
Hand in hand, they approached the cavernous circular entrance. The rounded shape of the hole they’d fallen down extended behind from where they’d landed and the heavy shadow from the heights of the walls meant it melted into the background, easy to miss at first glance. Ally watched for Eoin’s reaction, delighted at the flush that made the tips of his ears bright pink. He gaped and twisted, staring back at the hole they’d fallen down then turned back to the tunnel entrance.
‘It feels like,’ he paused mid sentence as he often did while his mind whirled away. Ally watched with an indulgent smile, envying his scientific/engineering mind. Though there was no reason she couldn’t understand the concepts he worked on, the genetic make-up of her hunter nature simply meant it didn’t compute with the ease and joy it did for him. She was born to hunt, to seek, and to protect. Eoin was born to design and create, to puzzle through things. While her instincts were essentially similar, she yearned to move, to cover ground, to see and meet all living creatures she could. Eoin could happily spend weeks in one of the labs back home while Ally considered the task odious to the point of torture. As a hunter, she was happiest in nature. It made their pairing all the more unusual, but the elders welcomed the unusual, for it brought the promise of change, of the long desired but yet to develop evolution of their species. ‘I think,’ Eoin began again before falling silent.
He blinked at Ally’s tone and looked at her properly, a wide smile spreading. ‘Sorry. I think it’s an exit, the hole we fell down. I’m not sure yet, but it feels appropriate.’
Ally looked into the pitch black depths of the tunnel then up the steep sides of the cavern. If you looked past the centuries of dirt and plant life that littered the sides of it, you could see a remarkably circular shape. Too perfect. She nodded to Eoin then dropped her pack to the ground and knelt to rummage through it. Removing a silver metal rectangle about the length of her hand, she placed her thumb into the indent on the top. Her eyes drifted as she focused then released a shock of electricity, directing it through her thumb. The rectangle metal hummed to life, sides sliding down to reveal a spinning silver ball suspended in heavy water. The torch began to glow, grower brighter and brighter, till they could make sense of where they stood. Eoin’s jaw dropped, Ally’s too as they both realised the enormity of the tunnel. ‘I’m thinking you’re right,’ Ally said after a long moment passed. The height of the tunnel appeared to match the width of the hole they’d fallen through, which made Ally curious. She set the glowing lamp down and walked back into the open space they’d landed in, peering at the rubble. Eoin joined her a moment later and his foot knocked a piece of sod aside. ‘Aha!’ Ally pounced on what it revealed, carefully easing the piece of rusted metal mesh from were it lay. ‘Look! This must have been over the top.’
Eoin delicately took the mesh from her, spreading his hands beneath. He had elegant hands, pale with long fingers. Ally’s hands were wide and strong, with chunky fingers and square nails. Night to day, just like their coloring. Often out in the sun, her skin naturally tanned to a deep olive, making her hair seem redder and her eyes startling in comparison. Eoin however had blond hair he wore short and pale skin that seemed to glow. He could tan, and turned golden while his hair would bleach almost white. It made them a striking couple. When she eventually reached full sexual maturity it would be interesting to see what their child might look like, but at only twenty five, it could easily be another ten years before that.
‘I think you’re right,’ Eoin interrupted Ally’s internal musings, and he straightened, holding the crumbling mesh high and peered at it. ‘But then this couldn’t have been an exit, unless they had a way to remove it easily.’ Eoin lowered his arms and dropped the mesh to the side, walking to the wall of the cavern. Ally followed, watching as he worked at scrubbing away a section of dirt, pushing at a long tangling vine that hung close. With a grumble of impatience, Ally wrenched the vine, ripping off a lengthy section that caused shale to rain down on them. Eoin jumped back with an exclamation then turned to eyeball her. ‘Really?’
Ally stared straight-faced at him, resisting laughter. ‘Tunnel,’ she said succinctly.
Eoin made a humph sound in the back of his throat and shook his head. ‘Fine. Tunnel first.’
She kept her straight-faced expression as he eyeballed her again, walking ahead to the tunnel. Seconds later she darted past, snatching up the lantern and bounced on the balls of her feet, raising her eyebrows at Eoin then grinned. He gave an exasperated laugh, reaching for her, his arm around the small of her back and plucked the lantern from her grasp. ‘Fine. But I get the lantern.’
‘Yes dear,’ she said teasingly.
Holding it high, they slowly moved into the dark.
Eoin squinted, letting his eyes refocus. The lantern gave off a bright clean light that spread in a three meter diameter around them, but the enormous height and width of the space meant they only pierced a fraction of the darkness. Releasing his arm from Ally’s back he walked to the left side, peering at the curved wall. With a sweep of his arm, following the curve, he realised that the tunnel was a proper circle, the same as the hole they’d fallen through. Giving more weight to his original hypothesis, but the mesh… Unless the mesh was to keep all that junk out, he thought suddenly, remembering how much leaf and soil matter had poured down with them. Still, it hadn’t blocked everything. The floor beneath their feet was dirt packed, and vines trailed in as far as the sparse sunlight reached. Reaching the wall, he extended a hand and stroked it then held the lantern high. Ally moved quietly behind him, making the most of her advanced night vision. ‘Ally, I think this might be pre Event.’ The words sounded doubtful, but the longer and closer he spent examining the wall, the more the idea made sense. Cool and smooth, the metal walls appeared seamless, but Eoin knew that couldn’t have been possible. He’d not seen so much metal in one place before. Usually they were scavenged centuries, millennia ago, to help rebuild. Stepping back to study the wall again, Eoin turned, peering at the entrance way. The slightest indent caught his eye.
Ally followed Eoin to the circular, flat bottomed entrance way. ‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘I think this might have had a door here once,’ Eoin said, studying the edges. ‘See this indent?’
Ally stared at where he indicated then slowly followed that slight indent up and around the top edge. ‘Perhaps,’ she agreed. ‘But where did it go? This place hasn’t been touched in forever.’ Eoin shrugged, a hand extended as he stared at the wall. Rolling her eyes in frustration, Ally reached out and plucked the lantern from his hand.
‘You can see. I want to explore.’
Wanting both hands free, Ally tugged the handle on the lantern, extending it so she could loop her head through, the LENR motor heating it just enough that it spread a pleasant warmth where it rested against her chest. Eoin joined her a moment later and they ventured in. Keeping to the center of the tunnel they walked slowly, looking for any signs of life or identification. Surely a tunnel this size served some kind of purpose. Ally considered Eoin’s thought that it might be pre Event. He’d brought back pre Event items before, and they’d made discoveries of pre Event sites together when she joined his meager team of one. With her hunter instincts she made a suitable partner, but it hadn’t thrilled her father. He’d expected her to settle down with another hunter, to stay close to home. Instead here they were, venturing forth across land many wouldn’t even know of, let alone consider traversing. An odd smell caused Ally’s nose to twitch. Metallic, which she assumed was the tunnel itself, and a strange chemical scent. It concerned her and she slowed her pace, reaching out to touch Eoin’s arm and turned to ask if he could smell it. A gasp of shock snaked out her throat. Dead center on Eoin’s forehead danced the red dot of a lazer light.