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“Get back here, Rat!”
“The police again?” I said to myself, “They’d really hate for me to finish my meal in peace, wouldn’t they?” I had been sitting against a wall in what us from the Tunnels call Dinner Alley. It’s where we generally don’t get caught so we can eat, but today it didn’t work so well. They’d found me…again. Maybe one day they’ll actually catch me. Won’t that be exciting?
I got up from the ground, still holding my dinner, which was of course some stolen bread. It’s not like I could pay for anything. I was pretty sure that was what they were after me for, but maybe it was something else. In any case, I took off running, because I’ve got a brain. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t work that great, but hey, it’s better than nothing.
“Stop!” they yelled after me. Sometimes I wondered if they really expected that to work. You’d think they could come up with something better than that.
“No thanks,” I called back to them. It sounded like two officers today, both slow. ‘What an easy escape,’ I thought, but then just as I was about to lift the grate and slip underground, an all too familiar face appeared under it.
“What do you think you’re doing here, Rat?” he said.
“I think I’m going to rip open this grate if you don’t let me in right now, Green,” I told him.
“Cops on your tail, eh Rat?” he asked, giggling at his own joke.
“You really love to waste time, don’t you? Let me in,” I demanded.
“Yeah, no,” he said, “You ain’t wanted down here.”
“And you are?” I replied, lifting an eyebrow.
“If I could fit my hand through this grate, I’d punch you,” he growled.
“Yes, I know, but you’re much too fat for that, aren’t you?” I said, “Now let me in.”
He spat at me and said, “No can do, Rat.”
“I see, you’ve got orders not to. I suppose it was Grand?”
“There he is” an officer shouted behind me. I looked back at them to determine how much time I had to play mind games with Green.
“Yup, he really hates your guts,” he said back.
“Yeah, since I didn’t already know that. Thanks for nothing, Green,” I said as I took off running again.
‘Now where to?’ I thought as I sped down the street. A few women screamed as I shot past them and a couple men tried to stop me, but I dodged their grasp with ease. I ran into a dark alley and did my best to blend in with the shadows, hoping they wouldn’t see me. The two officers walked up and down the alley a few times, before one of them said, “Gone again.” Then they exited the alley, taking one last look to be sure they had not missed me, which of course, they had.
I stayed there for a couple of minutes to give them more than enough time to be on their way before I left my hiding spot and sat in a little, lighted spot that must have been part of a yard. I sat by a garbage can and continued eating, figuring that I was actually with my own kind now.
I look up at the sky while chewing some of the bread. Still that nasty grey color and still clouded with smog and pollution. “Lots of airships out today,” I said, my mouth half full, “Wonder what’s up.” One of the airships let out an awful ringing noise that seemed to echo in my mind even after it stopped. “Those ships sure make attractive noises.” I took another bite of bread but stopped when I heard a rattling within the garbage can next to me. The can fell over, the lid came off, and a little boy came out. He was wearing rags and was basically just skin. I’m not even sure if bones were in there. He froze abruptly when he saw me, clearly fearing I’d hurt him.
“It’s alright,” I said, “I won’t hurt you.”
He relaxed a little bit and began looking through the alley. Occasionally he’d stop and pick something up, putting it in his mouth without even knowing what it was. Watching him made me feel awful, so I sighed and said, “Here.”
He looked at me real strange like I was speaking another language, but then he smiled and rushed toward me, eagerly taking the bread and biting into it. I decided to sit there with him until he was done eating.
“When was the last time you had bread, kid?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said between mouthfuls, “Been a while.”
“You should be careful, if you eat quickly, you’ll gain more carbs,” then I looked at him, “On second thought, eat faster.”
He nodded and did so. Soon the bread was gone and he said, “Thanks a lot, mister.”
“Don’t worry about. Looks like you’ve got enough to worry about as is,” I replied, “Got a home?”
“Nope. Got a name though,” he said.
“Oh yeah, what’s that?” I asked.
“A name? It’s what people call you, I guess,” he replied.
“Not what I meant, kid. I meant what is your name?” I said.
“It’s Wick,” he answered, “Or at least that’s what they call me in the Tunnels.”
“What’s a kid your age doing in the Tunnels?” I asked, quite surprised.
“Tunnels are all I’ve got,” he answered, hanging his head.
“I see,” I murmured.
“Where do you live, uh-” Wick began.
“Name’s Rat. I live in the Tunnels too,” I finished.
“Who’s gang do you belong to?” he asked me.
“No one’s. You?” I said.
“You don’t belong to a gang? How come?” he asked me.
“Don’t want to.”
“Oh, okay. Well, I’m part of Hearth’s gang,” he said.
“Hearth, eh?” I said, “Not bad. One of the better one’s I’d say.”
“Yeah,” he said, “She took me in when I was dying and gave me food. So I’m very thankful for her and I’ll do anything for the gang.”
“That’s good, just don’t get yourself hurt, okay?” I told him.
“I hope I do get hurt. Hearth told me that if I get hurt, it makes me stronger,” he responded.
“Well, I’d say you’re plenty strong already. Maybe not physically, but that’s not what matters to me,” I said.
“I don’t get it,” he said, looking at me vacantly.
“Yeah, I’m not sure I do either,” I laughed, “Well, Wick, I probably ought to go. Take care of yourself.”
“You too Rat,” he replied.
At that, I got up and walked off to find something to occupy my time. ‘What a kid,’ I thought, ‘At least he’s in good hands. Hearth is a good leader.’
After a while, I came across another grate. This time, a younger face appeared. I looked down at a teenage boy and asked, “Now just how many kids are they letting into the Tunnels?”
“As many that need a home, Rat,” he said.
“You know my name?” I asked, questioningly.
“Yes, and I know that you are a thief and that you refuse to join any gangs, but you still live in the Tunnels,” he said.
“Who are you?” I asked, feeling slightly bothered by this kid.
“They call me Ary. Short for Dictionary,” he said.
“Fitting,” I said, “Now, are you authorized to let me in?”
“Is that Rat you’re talking to, Ary?” came a voice from a little ways away under the grate.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, quickly and almost nervously.
“Well, let him in,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, pushing up the grate. I slipped inside and looked to where the voice came from. It was Hearth.
“Hello, Rat,” she said, “Get any dinner today?”
“Actually, I didn’t. I ended up handing my bread over to one of your men, er, boys, I suppose. His name was Wick,” I told her.
“Well, that was awful kind of you,” she replied.
“Don’t you think that you should feed him? The boy is starved. Said he didn’t remember the last time he ate bread. If that isn’t malnutrition, I don’t know what is,” I said.
“Wick needs to fend for himself until he is strong enough to steal,” Hearth replied, “Besides, he’s doing better than the men of other gangs.”
“Have you seen him lately? He’s skin and bones, if that! He needs some food,” I told her.
“If you think he needs food so badly, why don’t you get it for him, or better yet, teach him to steal?” she asked, sounding slightly annoyed now.
“He’s not part of my gang. Not my responsibility,” I answered.
“See, Rat, you always tell people what needs to be done, but are never willing to do it yourself. No wonder everybody down here hates you,” she said.
I simply turned to leave at that point. I had no interest in getting into an argument with Hearth over something she’ll probably take care of anyway. She didn’t stop me, so I walked to my private part of the Tunnel. Nobody besides me knew where it was, so I got to be completely alone there, which was both good and bad. Sometimes I loved to be alone, but other times, I really desired some sort of companion. I felt like, at one point, I had somebody that was always with me, but I can’t remember. ‘I’m probably just making things up,’
I thought to myself, before I arrived at my room as I called it. It wasn’t anything special; just a circular cavern I’d dug out and hid. I kept everything I’d stolen here, often wondering what the heck these things were used for, such as the collection of lots of papers with random symbols on them. I had
no idea what they meant and I figured I’d never find out. I also had a little blue box that could flip open and the inside would light up with a picture of two dogs. Every once in a while, the blue box would vibrate and light up and those random symbols appeared instead of the dogs. I liked the dogs a lot better. Then my favorite thing was actually a gift from some crazy old lady. I wore it around my neck on a string. It was a golden key. I didn’t know what it went to, but the old lady said that I was the one the hold the key, so I took it and now I always have it. It’s kind of odd, though, it gives me abilities that nobody else has. ‘The rat holds the key,’ I thought.
Then I thought back to when I got my name. It was a rainy day and I had taken a sandwich from this lady who was sitting outside. I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to take it, so I didn’t understand when a man in a black uniform ran after me, shouting, “Rat!” over and over again. After a while, I got away from him and sat down in a dry alley. Another man walked into the alley too and he sat down across from me.
“Howdy, stranger,” he said, “Where’d you get that sandwich?”
“A lady,” I told him while I ate.
“So you stole it?” he asked.
“I guess,” I said, “This mean man chased me, but I lost him.”
“I see. So what’s your name, buddy?” he asked, “I’m Tooth.” He smiled and I saw why. One of his front teeth was absolutely enormous.
“What’s a name?” I asked.
“Well, it’s what people call you. Don’t you have one?” he said.
“What people call me?” I repeated, “Then I guess, my name is Rat.”
“Nice to meet you Rat.”
I woke up alarmingly early the morning following that day I met Wick. All I heard were a couple of far off shouts and one booming voice that echoed throughout the Tunnels. “Looks like Grand got up early today,” I said to myself as I often did, “What a pleasant surprise.” I almost laughed at just how funny that was; Grand being pleasant in any way. What a joke.
I heard his rather thunderous voice over all the others that seemed to be bickering amongst themselves and they all quieted down, allowing Grand to speak. They sounded closer than usual. I’d say about 100 feet or so. Normally I couldn’t hear Grand and his gang, which was partly why I chose this spot as my home, but they were near then. A little bit too near for me to be comfortable. “Now just what does Grand think he’s doing over here?” I asked either myself or the shadows. Grand gave out one exceptionally loud shout and the others shouted at once after him. “For the love, we’re not starting a revolution here! Or at least, we better not be.”
Grand continued shouting, but I noticed a crescendo in his voice, which meant one of two things; he was taking an interest in music or he was getting closer. I leaned toward the latter option as the more reasonable of the two. That made me quite wary. The last thing I wanted was for somebody to find my secret home, especially Grand of all people, that is, if you could call him that.
He continued to get closer and closer and I tip-toed to the entrance, hiding in the shadows and preparing to eavesdrop. His voice was very close, sounding as if he were right on the other side of the wall, which I certainly hoped he was not. Then his voice stopped abruptly and I grew slightly nervous. But I was saved by a familiar voice.
“Grand, what made you decide to bless me with your presence this morning?” Hearth said, sarcasm dripping off of her words so much so that I almost laughed.
“Save your sarcasm for someone who cares, Hearth,” Grand replied, “Where is he?”
“Where is who?” she asked.
‘Oh, please don’t let it be me. I don’t want to deal with Grand this early,’ I thought.
“You know who,” he said.
“Do I?” Hearth asked.
“Rat, Hearth. Where is Rat? Tell me now or prepare to face my gang,” Grand threatened.
“Fraid I don’t know, Grand,” Hearth said, “And might I add that you are on my territory without permission, so you are in no position to threaten me.”
“What territory?” Grand asked.
“The territory we set up with the boundary lines,” she said.
“There are no boundary lines in the Tunnels!” Grand declared.
“Well, actually, there are boundary lines. We set them up April 24th 2467 and made them official and there for apply to all gangs in the Tunnels April 26th 2467,” Ary stated plain as the food we eat.
“What a load of crap! We never agreed to that!” Grand insisted.
“In fact, you did, sir, at the same time as all the others,” Ary continued.
“Who says I have to care?” Grand then asked, as snarky as possible.
“I do,” Hearth said.
“Oh really?” he said, trying to be intimidating.
“Yes.” Hearth was much more intimidating. A silence followed Hearth’s last word and it was clearly a baffled one on Grand’s part. If he had a brain, I’d bet he’d be racking it for a response to that. ‘What an idiot,’ I thought, ‘He can’t fight Hearth. He’d never win.’
“Well fine then. I guess me and my men will just leave then,” he said, talking as if that wasn’t what Hearth wanted. I heard the shuffle of their clothes as they turned and left, leaving Hearth, Ary, and I in peace.
“Thank God,” I whispered. After the coast was clear, I exited my room and went to the Surface to steal some breakfast, but what I found was far more interesting than a piece of burnt toast.
There was a crowd of people standing in a circle, shouting out questions to someone. As I approached them, my curiosity surfaced and joined the crowd, trying to see over people’s heads.
“Mr. Barry, what brings you here to Maw?” somebody asked.
“I had heard about some per say troublesome gangs here and decided to lend my talents,” a man said. ‘Boy, does he sound like government,’ I thought. I caught a glimpse of him as I went up on the shelf of my toes. He was a rather tall man with neat blonde hair and a nice black suit and glasses combo. He was surprisingly young looking and carried a brief case with him. ‘Yup, government.’
“Oh, Mr. Barry, just what do you plan to do about the gangs?” another asked.
“I’m going bring them to justice of course,” he said in a smooth, convincing voice.
“How will you do it?” somebody shouted.
“I’ll do it by any means necessary,” he said and just as he did, he looked directly at me, making sustained eye contact. His ice blue irises burned into my grey eyes. I felt threatened and like I ought to give out fair warning to the Tunnels, so that I did.
I ran to Hearth’s grate to tell her first. Ary was at the grate again and let me in without question.
“Where is Hearth?” I asked quickly.
“She’s in the left wing, I believe. Something wrong, Rat?” he replied, picking up on my hurry immediately.
I took off running toward the left wing, yelling, “Government,” behind me. Normally, that’s all the explanation one needs. I passed several members of Hearth’s fire gang before I finally reached the left wing where I found her sitting in a chair talking to Croc, the leader of the Earth gang, who was sitting in a chair opposite her.
“Rat, I’m talking to Croc. Hold on a minute,” Hearth said, rising from her chair.
“No, Hearth, this can’t wait,” I told her, “You listen up too, Croc. I’ve got bad news. Some guy from the government showed up today.”
“What?” Hearth said, her eyes widening.
“You can’t be serious!” Croc said.
“I assure you, Croc, I’m as serious as a rat can be on this one,” I told him.
“How did you know? Did he have a suit?” Hearth asked.
“Indeed he did. He also had a brief case and glasses,” I said.
“We’re sunk,” Hearth said, putting her hand on her forehead.
“Now wait a minute, we can handle some snot-nosed aristocrat. Are we a gang or aren’t we?” Croc said.
“I wouldn’t be so sure. He looked like a good threat. He might be able to pin the public against us,” I said, thinking aloud.
“If that happens we’re doomed. The only reason we can live here at all is because the public fears us,” Hearth replied. All went silent for what seemed like forever and a day, but eventually Hearth spoke up. “We need to call a meeting of the gangs.”
“Right, who all would come?” Croc asked.
“Everybody,” Hearth said.
“Even those heartless Ghosts?” he asked.
“Even them. This involves all of the Tunnels and therefore, all of the gangs. And you too, Rat. You were the one who saw him. We’ll need you there,” she said.
“Oh, I think I’m busy that day,” I said. ‘As fun as this meeting sounds, I think I’ll wiggle my way out of it.’
“We haven’t set up a day yet, Rat,” she said.
“You don’t want me there anyway, really. I’d just get in the way. You know, be under foot, just like rats are,” I said, trying to sound convincing.
“You’re coming to this meeting and because you tried to get out of it, you get to go tell the other gangs about it,” Hearth said.
“No thanks,” I said, “I like my head where it is, thank you very much.”
“You don’t have a choice,” she said.
“Actually, I’m pretty sure I do,” I replied.
“Rat, go tell them,” she said.
“God you can be pushy! No, Hearth, I’m not going to tell them,” I said, nearly shouting.
“Yes, you are,” she said, crossing her arms.
“I’d listen to her, Rat. She might accidentally swing her knife at your neck,” Croc said, grinning at me.
“Yeah, well, I’d rather lose my head to her, than Grand,” I told him.
Croc let out a short laugh and said, “Don’t blame you on that one.”
“Enough talking. Rat, go,” Hearth said.
“Why don’t you have someone else do it? Why do I have to?” I complained.
“Because I told you to and because I’ll stew you if you don’t,” she said, raising her eyebrows briefly.
“Rat stew, my favorite,” Croc said, jokingly rubbing his stomach.
“Fine!” I said as I stormed to go inform the other gangs of the meeting.
“Tomorrow at dusk,” Hearth shouted after me.
I took a sharp left, heading toward the Lightning gang first. I flew past Static, one of the lightning gangs grate keepers.
“Whoa, Rat! Where you headed in such a hurry?” he said after me.
I was mad and didn’t feel like answering him, so I didn’t. I just kept speeding on by everybody and turning corner upon endless corner before I finally got to the heart of their territory where I found their leader, Spark. He wasn’t a very tall man, but he wasn’t short either. He had dirty blonde hair, possibly literally, and was said to be the fastest man in the Tunnels.
“Hearth and Croc are issuing a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk,” I told him.
“What for?” he asked.
“We have to discuss an upcoming issue,” I said, not wanting to get him all fired up by telling him about this government guy.
“Alright, tell them I’ll be there,” he said.
Then I took off running again toward the Ghost gang. Nobody really liked the ghost gang because they never did anything. They always just sat there and watched everything unfold, but whenever they were attacked, the attackers never came back. ‘Let’s see if I come back’ I thought.
As soon as I arrived in their territory, I felt a chill down my neck. “Intruder! The rat is intruding,” said a voice from somewhere in the darkness. It was impossible to tell where it came from because it sounded like three different voices talking at once and almost hissing.
“I’m no intruder,” I said, raising my voice to make sure they heard me, “I’m only here to pass on a message from the Fire and Earth gangs.”
“The rat has a message, the rat has a message,” they or it hissed.
“There is going to be a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. You are expected to be there,” I said before muttering under my breath, “If you’re even here right now.”
“A meeting of the gangs says the rat, a meeting of the gangs. The memory will be there,” it said, referring to its leader.
At that I just turned and left, running back through the Lightning territory, headed for the water territory. “God they’re creepy,” I said to myself, “How is that even possible?” I kept running until I nearly ran into a rather tall and muscular man.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked.
“Watt, how nice to see you,” I said, backing up slightly.
“You just came from the ghost gang, didn’t you?” he said in a very low voice.
“Indeed I did, but that’s really none of your business, so I’ll be on my way,” I said, trying to squeeze past him only to be pushed back.
“Tell me why, Rat,” he demanded.
“I’m just going around telling everybody about the meeting tomorrow, don’t panic,” I assured him.
“Those ghosts are no good, Rat,” he said.
“Yes, I am fully aware of that,” I said trying to squeeze by again, but instead he simply pushed me into the wall with his shoulder and refused to let me move. ‘Blast these narrow tunnels.’
“Tell me why you were really over there,” he said.
“Watt, I told you, I’m telling everybody about the meeting,” I said.
“What meeting?” he asked.
“The meeting of the gangs,” I answered, “Hearth and Croc issued it.”
He eased up the pressure on me, saying, “Run along then.” That I did.
“Brainless oaf,” I said as I ran. Of course, I made sure I was out of ear shot. I’d rather not have Watt angry at me. He’s a bit too muscular for that.
Soon I had entered the reaches of the Water gang. I’ve always liked their territory, because somehow, they managed to tint the walls blue. It was nice to look at since all the rest of us look at a dirty beige and grey city all day and dark, lonesome tunnels all night. There’s a reason that the Water Gang has the lowest insanity percentage. These Tunnels aren’t too healthy for the mind.
I passed a large group of people, having to squeeze by them. A few of them looked at me, but made no effort to stop me. After all, I am nothing more than a rat.
I walked all over there territory in search of their leader, Well. He’s a good man, very kind hearted. Makes you wonder what the heck he’s doing down here. I’ve heard a rumor that he used to have a nice family, but they were killed by Grand and his toadies. So, Well decided to form a rivaling gang and oppose Grand in everything he does. ‘Good for him,’ I thought.
At long last, I decided that I wasn’t going to find him. I walked further, grudgingly knowing that I’d have to ask somebody. I hated talking to people. ‘Sure seem to do it a lot though.’ I soon found a young man with light brown hair leaning up against the wall.
“Where’s Well?” I asked as I approached him.
“I think he’s up on the Surface today,” he told me.
‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I actually wouldn’t have minded talking to Well.’ “Well, that’s great.”
“Who are you talking to?” he asked, clearly confused about something.
“You,” I replied, not understanding what was so hard to grasp.
“I’m not Well,” he said.
“I didn’t ask about how you were feeling,” I said, starting to get confused myself.
“I know you didn’t,” he said.
“Well, why did you say that then?” I asked.
“Because I’m not Well!” he said, half laughing, half angry.
“I’m sorry that you aren’t well,” I said. ‘God, are we even speaking the same language here?’
“Yeah, me too, he’s a great man,” he replied. ‘He?’ I thought. Then it hit me that I had been saying ‘well’ this entire time and he thought I was referring to Well. ‘That actually makes sense.’
“You guys don’t say well that much do you?” I asked.
“What do you mean? Of course we say Well. He’s our leader, so we should call him by name,” he said.
“That answers my question,” I told him, “Well, wait, scratch that, when Well gets here, tell him that there is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk, okay?”
“I will,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said, “Well, see you around.”
“I told you, I’m not Well!”
“Shut up! I know you’re not Well!” I yelled back at him. Then I took off again toward the Air gang.
Once I got there, I went straight to their leader’s ‘room’. The Air gang had a pretty organized system in the way of housing. They had built individual rooms for each of their members, of course, their leader, Gust, had the biggest room. I figured that they had to build rooms for everybody because all of them are too aggressive to share.
As I approached the ‘throne room’ I’ll call it, I discovered that getting to talk to Gust would be harder than I expected, for there at the door stood my favorite trouble-makers.
“Ew, it’s a rat,” Sirocco said playfully, brushing some of his blonde hair out of his eyes.
“I’ll go get the poison,” Zephyr said, referring to the Poison Gang. He was the taller of the two and had greyish blonde hair.
“You guys want them here just as little as I do,” I said.
“I don’t know, if you’re here, maybe we could start a war. What do you think, Zephyr?” Sirocco said.
“Oh, that’d be such fun! War, what a marvelous word!” Zephyr replied.
“Yes, yes, I’m well aware that war is all the Air gang is interested in, so no need to tell me again,” I said, hurriedly.
“Hey, now, that wasn’t very nice,” Sirocco said.
“Do you expect me to be nice?” I asked.
“Fair enough,” Zephyr said, “Now, what brings you here today, Rat?”
“I’d need to talk to Gust,” I told them.
“Oh, do you?” they asked in unison.
“Well, what if I said that’s not going to happen?” Zephyr said.
“Then I’d punch your nose and go in,” I said.
“Oh ho! Look at that, Rat’s resorting to violence!” Sirocco said.
“Better watch it, Rat. I could tie you into a knot if I wanted to,” Zephyr said.
“You think so? I sure don’t,” I told him.
“Is that right?” he said, pulling his arm back and clenching his fist. He tried to punch me, but I dodged his attack easily. I slipped on past him and Sirocco was too shocked to doing anything to stop me, so I entered Gust’s room.
“Haven’t you ever heard of knocking? And what happened to Zephyr and Sirocco?” the brown haired man before me asked.
“There’s a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. I’d suggest being there,” I said.
“Well, doesn’t that just sound like loads of fun,” he said as I left. I walked on past Zephyr and Sirocco. Zephyr cursed after me, but I was just happy to be getting out of there. The Air gang is not my favorite.
Once again, I continued walking and soon arrived at the Ice gang’s territory. I found their leader, Spear, talking to a man who was a lot shorter than he was, but that didn’t take much, Spear was quite tall. He was a very stern looking man with his snow white hair which was all too appropriate and his piercing light grey eyes. One of the most intimidating men in the Tunnels, I’d say.
I approached him and he looked at me in an almost frustrated way. “What is it, Rat?”
“There is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. Your presence is requested,” I told him.
“Alright, you can expect to see me there. Who issued this meeting?” he said.
“Hearth and Croc,” I answered.
Spear simply nodded his head and turned his attention back to the man he was previously talking to. I took that as a dismissal of sorts and continued walking down the tunnel and turned left, thinking to myself, ‘I may not like Spear that much, some of his decisions are…cruel, but he certainly is a man that I respect.’ I took another left turn and headed to the last of the gangs. ‘Oh, joy, the Poison gang. This’ll be interesting. I’ll have to be careful not to start World War III.”
After a few more turns and straights that I may have dragged out a bit unintentionally, I reached the Poison gang’s territory. I passed several people, each and every one of them giving me a dirty look or whispering something to somebody else. I couldn’t help but assume I was the subject of the whispering. I didn’t look at any of them, though. It’s not like I want to see that ugly bunch. I turned sharply and came face to face with Grand.
I looked up at him, for he was taller than I was. He had tanned skin and black hair, but you could only tell because of his eyebrows and mustache. The rest of his head was bald. He was frowning down at me, clearly trying to be intimidating.
“What’s a rat doing in here?” he said, almost growling.
“I’m here to tell you that there is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk,” I replied, staying calm and not getting angry just yet.
“You’ve been causing trouble, Rat,” he said, spitting some on my name.
“Yes, I’m sure, and as to not cause more, I’ll be going now,” I said trying to walk away.
“You’re not going anywhere, Rat,” he said from behind me.
“Oh, I really think I am,” I said, but just then several men stepped in front of me and I just knew Grand was right behind me. ‘Oh, this is bad.’
“Heard that you weren’t all that nice to Green,” Grand said, his eyes burning into my skull.
‘What a little tattle-tale,’ I thought. “About that,” I said, scratching my cheek where I had a scar.
“You know what happens to people who disrespect my men,” he continued. I turned around just in time to see his rather enormous fist flying toward me. I leaned to the right and dodged it, all the while trying to think up a plan on how the heck I was going to get out of here without fighting back and thus starting World War III.
“I’m not going to fight you, Grand,” I declared, although I knew I might have to.
“Well, I’m going to fight you,” he said, throwing another punch. I evaded his blow easily and looked for an opening in the tunnel that I could slip through, but there was not enough space for me. I’d have to fight. As Grand attacked for the third time, I dodged it by stepping back, being sure not to let the right heel of my boot touch the ground just yet. I held the key dangling from my neck with my right hand and then allowed my heel to hit the ground with a light clack. A dark purple and black circle rippled out from my heel, its tar like body wrapping itself tightly around Grand and his men. I slipped past Grand then, sprinting for the grate. I pushed it up and disappeared into the Surface, releasing my key.
“Let’s kill him!”
“We can’t kill him! Are you mad?”
“Then what do you propose we do?”
‘Such a heated argument,’ I thought, rubbing my temples, ‘And all over one man.’
I looked around the oval table I was sitting at. There was Hearth, standing out of her chair, with her hands placed firmly on the table. She had her auburn hair tied back in a ponytail today. I assumed she knew that there would be quite a bit of work to be done. Then to Hearth’s right, I saw Croc, calmly sitting in his chair with one foot on the table that was pushing him back so that the chair was resting on its hind legs. His light brown and very tattered cape covered the majority of the chair, but not his face. He very rarely put his hood up, hiding his short, dark brown hair and sunken in cheeks. Sitting next to Croc was Well. He sat on the edge of his chair, resting his elbows on the table with his fingers laced together, supporting his head. He was not planning on getting overly involved in this debate, but he was not planning on sitting out either, that I could tell. He scratched his head, ruffling his brown hair while he opened his mouth to say something that was never heard over the others. Spark was standing next to Well, waving his arms about, trying to get his point across I suppose. His face was slightly reddened from all the yelling he’d done. Directly across from me sat Memory, the incredibly creepy leader of the Ghost gang. He was sitting up straight in his chair with a large black cape covering almost all of his body and face. I could only tell that he was pale and was somehow enjoying this because he had a slight smile on his face. Spear sat to the right of him, acting as the voice of reason. I’d say he is the wisest of the leaders, possibly because he’s the oldest. Today his eyes were especially stern and seemingly very impatient. Then to the right of him was the glorious, or I suppose, grand, Grand. Do I even need to say anything about him? Gust sat next to Grand, swishing his light brown hair back every so often and offering snide and rude remarks all around. ‘He’s just trying to pick a fight’ I thought. Then sitting in between Hearth and Gust sat me. I felt quite unwanted even though I was requested to attend this meeting. While all the others bickered amongst themselves, I just sat there, feeling awkward. I just knew this meeting would be loads of fun.
“He’s going to ruin us!” Spark yelled out.
“Not if we kill him, he won’t,” Gust said.
“We’re not going to kill him, Gust!” Hearth shouted.
“Hearth is right. If we killed him, the people would rightfully assume it was us and attack,” Spear added.
“And?” Gust said, requiring more explanation.
“What do you mean?” somebody asked. I wasn’t able to catch who had said it.
“I mean, what’s the problem with that?”
“You’re sick!” Hearth declared.
“What, Hearth? It’s just a little war. Surely you of all people would love to see some fire,” Gust said.
“You!” Hearth began, leaning forward.
“Alright, alright, let’s be decent now,” Well said, trying to keep a fair amount of peace, “If we fail to reach a decision on this then the Tunnels are doomed.”
“Well is right,” Croc said, speaking for the first time at this meeting, “Let’s figure out what we can do and then we will weigh the consequences for each option.”
“I propose we wait it out and see if he is actually a threat and if so, fight him off by overwhelming him with our combined power,” Hearth said, pulling her chair closer to the table and sitting down in it. The others who were standing followed her actions as well.
“Alright, that’s one way,” Croc said.
“I propose we kill him,” Gust said.
“That’s another option,” he said, “Anybody else?”
“We could just leave him be and watch what happens,” Well said, “I’m not in favor of that, but it is an option.”
“What kind of option is that!?” Spark exclaimed.
“No, he’s right. That is an option. You may not like it, but others might,” Croc said.
“I don’t like it at all,” Spark said, almost pouting.
“Shocking,” Croc laughed.
“You’re funny, Croc,” Spark said rather venomously.
“In any case, we seem to have two realistic options. Wait it out and exterminate if needed, or kill him now,” Croc explained.
“If we wait it out, it’ll be too late and the Tunnels will fall,” Gust said, almost maturely.
“But if we kill him now, it will enrage the public and pit them against us,” Hearth said, resting her head on her fist, “We can’t fight the public.”
“And why not?” Grand asked.
“Because there’s children up there! Those people are innocent! We can’t kill them, it’s not right!” Hearth said, appalled that anybody would ask such a thing.
“They ain’t innocent if they’re fighting us,” Grand countered, “Besides, there’s kids down here too. We all know you take in any kid on the street.”
“That’s not true!” Hearth declared. ‘And it’s getting loud again’ “Right, Rat?”
“What?” I asked, snapping to attention.
“I don’t take in any kid off the street, right?” Hearth asked.
“Oh, let’s not drag me into this, please,” I said kind of quietly.
“Speak up, Rat,” Grand demanded.
“Um…I,” I began, trying to think of the right answer that would make everybody happy. “I don’t think you take in just any kid,” I said. Grand looked stunned and Hearth looked victorious. “But you do take in quite a few children.” Then they switched expressions, before fading into a mild one. ‘Phew, that was close.’
“Anyway, shall we put it to a vote?” Hearth suggested. Several of the leaders nodded yes or said something quietly to signal approval. “Alright, those in favor of waiting it out?” Hearth raised her hand along with Well, Spark, and Croc. Half. “Those in favor of killing him now?” Grand, Memory, Spear, and Gust raised their hands. Half. Before I even had time to think, all the heads that weren’t mine turned to look at me.
“Can I help you?” I asked with somewhat of an attitude.
“Ha, sure can. It’s a dead tie, Rat,” Croc said, laughing a little.
“And?” I replied. ‘Surely they don’t expect me to vote, too?’ I thought, ‘They can’t. I’m just a rat.’
“And you’re the only one who hasn’t voted,” Grand spat. ‘I thought wrong.’
“You can’t seriously expect me to vote,” I said, almost as a declaration.
“Listen, Rat. You’re the only one here who hasn’t voted, so we need your input as well. You have the exact same right to vote as we do,” Hearth said to me.
“No buts! Just do it,” she snapped. “Are you in favor of killing him or waiting it out?”
Suddenly I felt like I really was a rat and all the others were looming over me as if I’d just chewed my way through their wall. ‘This is not good,’ I thought, ‘If we kill him, the Tunnels will be safe for sure…but then again, how can I just let a man die? Even if he is our enemy, I can’t bring myself to kill him.’ I sighed deeply. ‘Here’s goes nothing.’ “I’m in favor of…waiting it out,” I said.
Grand immediately threw his hands upon the table, creating a huge thud. “This is ridiculous!” he boomed, “The Tunnels are doomed!”
“Even if they are doomed, this is the decision we reached,” Spear said with his arms folded across his chest and his eyes closed tightly as if he could block out Grand’s presence just by not looking at him.
“These Tunnels are going to fall,” he declared, “They will crumble into nothingness with all of you idiots in tow, whether it’s by the government’s hands or mine.” Then he stormed out of the room and started barking orders. ‘That went well,’ I thought.
Hearth sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Grand can be so difficult,” she said.
Croc laughed, saying, “Difficult is an understatement.”
Hearth adjourned the meeting and all of us went our separate ways with our minds clouded with worry and anger.
I rub the back of my head and sigh as I walked around the city. This whole government thing really bothers me. We’ve had people like him come here before, but this guy’s different. He looked right at me like he knew me. ‘What if he does know me?’ I think. I shake my head and dismiss the thought. ‘There’s no way.’ But still, there’s Grand in the mix now too. He may just be big enough, loud enough, and stupid enough to make a difference here. ‘This’ll get real bad real fast.’
I stop in front of an abandoned library. Vines are starting to grow over it like a present wrapped in ribbon and a bow. The windows are shattered and the walls cracked. I almost feel bad for it, but I don’t. Instead, I snort and say, “Shows how much people like…whatever it is they keep in libraries.” I turn my head to the left and then to the right, making sure I’m not being seen and continue on my stroll.
I pass the old bar, the movie theatre, the museum. All of them are being eaten alive by vines. But I guess that’s what happens on this side of the city. Nobody cares about it, so nobody does anything with it and it gets devoured. I like the buildings though. They remind me of somebody, but I can’t ever decide who. They’re old, damaged, and worn, but still alive. They still work.
Out of curiosity and boredom, I creep past the slightly ajar door to the museum and explore the interior. There’s a large circular desk in the middle of a very large room with an extremely high ceiling. Several banners are hung from the ceiling with different pictures on them. One of them has a skeleton of some animal I’ve never seen before. It has a really big head, with long, powerful looking teeth, and short arms. I laugh a little at how ridiculous it looks. The banners have some symbols on them, but I don’t know what they mean, so I disregard them and head into a hall full of animals.
They are all so still, I think they must be paralyzed or something. Hundreds of animals stand like statues behind a wall of glass. I tap on it, trying to get a large cat like thing to move. It doesn’t even blink. It just bares its teeth at me like it was before. “Why don’t you move?” I ask it. “You’re an animal. You’re supposed to move.” I don’t get a response to that either. Frustrated, I walk away from the big cat and stand in front of a very tall, dark brown animal, with really big horns protruding from its forehead. They don’t really look like horns though; they aren’t sharp. Instead, they’re rounded and curved in a shape that’s almost like a bowl. “How do you move with those things on your head? Isn’t it heavy?” I ask. Nothing. “Hey!” I hit my fist on the glass repeatedly, but still, not one of the animals stir. ‘They must be very well trained,’ I think.
I walk on, into a circular room with a whole grassy desert area in it. There are several animals behind a curved wall of glass. One of them looks like a horse, but it has a bunch of black and white stripes on it. Another looks like a really big cat, except it has long, darker hair around its neck. A third’s rather ugly looking with its dirty tan fur. It stands on its back legs and wasn’t very tall. I guess that it wouldn’t even reach to my knee. There’s a very tall animal with a ridiculously long neck. It’s skinny and has light, spotted fur. I don’t really know what to make of that one, but as I crane my neck to look at its head, I saw that this wall of glass doesn’t reach the ceiling. There’s at least three feet between them, so I climbed up, helped by a slanted stool with loads of words and pictures of it. I drop to my feet and I’m inside the desert. It’s different than I expected it to be though. It doesn’t feel any different from a city. It’s not any warmer and it smells exactly the same. “Aren’t you guys kind of cramped here? There’s so much space, why don’t you spread out?” I ask. None of them reply. “Hey, look,” I say, walking further into the desert, “there’s all of this space for- ow!” My head crashes against something hard, but there’s nothing in front of me. Puzzled, I turn around to the animals. “What was that?” You could’ve heard a pin drop in that desert. A smile creeps onto my face. “I see what you’re doing. You’re playing tricks on me. Think you can fool a rat, eh?” I turn back around to the rest of the desert and reach my hands out for the animal I’d run into. But it doesn’t feel like an animal. It feels cold and rough. I move my hands around and notice that it’s constant from one end of the glass wall to the other. “Wait a second,” I say, “this isn’t a desert at all. This is a wall. It’s painted, isn’t it?” The animals give me the silent treatment again. “Fine! If you’re going to be rude, I’ll just leave.” Then I realize that there isn’t a stool for me to use on this side of the glass. I climb on top of the animal with the long neck and leap across the top of the glass. I land on my feet, but stumble forward a few steps when I do. “Ha! Bet you didn’t think I could do that, eh, Long-neck?” The thing just rocks slightly. At least it moved though.
“What was that?” a hushed voice says from another room. I run into the room right next to the one with the fake desert and clamber over the glass. I land in a fake prairie with four horses. I climb on top of one and freeze, hoping whoever it is that heard me isn’t going to come this way and if he does, he believes that I’m supposed to be in here. Luckily, there’s another rider. He’s dressed like he’s from the 1800s. What a weird man.
“You go look in there,” another voice says from somewhere very close. After a few seconds, a man with a pistol enters the room and looks around. His eyes fall on me and bear into my skull. I try my best to remain as still as the horse I’m pretending to ride.
“Don’t remember the horses having two riders when I came here as a kid,” he says.
“Will you focus? If there’s someone here and we don’t find them, Grand’ll kill us,” the man in the other room says, sounding angry. ‘Grand?’
“Alright, alright, I was just mentioning it. Jeez,” he says as he walks out of the room. He’s still too close though for me to move.
“Nothing?” the other man pauses, “Alright, let’s go then.” They walk away, their footsteps heavy.
I very slowly and very quietly climb out of the fake prairie and tip toe to the door, looking around for anybody else as I do so. Then I squeeze through the door, being careful not touch it and potentially create noise. As soon as I’m out, I quietly take a few more steps and then I bolt off sprinting. I race by all the dilapidated buildings with vines taking them over and head straight for one of Hearth’s grates. I slip into the grate, startling whoever’s supposed to be guarding it. “Whoa, Rat! What’re you doing?” he calls after me.
I don’t answer him. I just keep running. I have to talk to Hearth right away. I run around corners and through long halls, desperately trying to get to Hearth. I know she’d be in the left wing at this point in the day, so I run toward that. As I turn the last corner before the left wing, I come face to face with Hearth, almost running into her. Alarmed, we both skid to a halt.
“Rat! What on Earth are you running around for?”
“Grand is making some kind of plan. He was in the old museum today,” I huff.
I simply nod, knowing that she didn’t say what because she hadn’t heard me, but instead because she couldn’t believe it. “Oh my God.”
“He had henchmen there too…and who knows who else.” She asks if I think that our special visitor found him. “Or Grand found him. Either one is terrible.”
Hearth bit the tip of her thumb in thought. “What are we going to do?”
“We need to tell the other leaders. This is a threat to everybody in this city,” I tell her.
“And what if they’re in on it? What if they find out that we know about Grand’s plan and don’t really like it?”
I hesitate, knowing she’s right. As much as I trust most of the leaders, you can never know just who is teamed up with whom. Technically speaking, I shouldn’t have told Hearth, but I did. For all I know, she could be allied with Grand. I simply say that she’s right.
She just nods absent mindedly, staring at a very interesting spot on the dirt floor. Judging by her gaze, something could’ve been coming out of the floor…and there is. A drilling noise fills the hall as a small lump of dirt grew and opened up to reveal a hole; it’s a hole with a man in it. He’s short and slightly fat with dark brown hair either naturally or from dirt. He wears a black coat with a tear at his elbows and has a light on a bent tube that’s attached to a metal ring around his forehead.
“News from the Surface. A group of revolutionaries has formed in the eastern part of Maw. They call themselves the Steamers. That is all,” he says in a monotone but with a slight lisp. Then he drills again and disappears underground.
I turn to Hearth, my eyes wide with shock. She meets my confused eyes and says, “That’s Mole. He’s a…friend, you could say.”
“You mean he’s a spy.” She admits that I’m right, but also mentions that he comes in handy at time like these. I mentally laugh at the phrase ‘times like these’ and think a little about how the city’s beginning to unravel. “How does he do that?” She just shakes her head and raises her eyebrows. “Revolutionaries, eh? Wonder what that’s all about.”
She places her fist under her chin and thinks for a few seconds before raising her head with a lit up expression. “Hey, Rat, were you planning on doing anything today?” I answer no, but say it skeptically. I’ve learned over the years that Hearth never asks if you have plans unless she has some for you. “I see, I see. Well then, since you’re so curious about these revolutionaries, why don’t you go investigate?”
“Oh, no. I will not be pushed around by you again.”
“Please, for me?” she says, giving me her cutest, most innocent look. I almost believe it.
“No,” I say flatly. “Have that Mole creature do it.”
She suddenly turns dramatic, placing her hand lightly on her forehead. “Oh, but Mole isn’t quite there like you are, Rat. He’s spent a bit too much time underground, I think.”
“Flattering me won’t work, Hearth,” I say as I cross my arms.
“Fine, fine. Maybe I’ll just tell you to do it then.”
“Will you?” She says yes. “And if I say no?”
“Rat, go investigate those revolutionaries. Now.” I tell her I’ve got no intention of following up on that. “Rat. Go.” I shake my head side to side.
“Alright fine! Have it your way!” I turn to leave but not before she gets the last word.
“Oh I will.”
‘Stupid woman. Why can she always push me around like that? I don’t get it!’ I think as I climb the ladder to the Surface, grumbling. I storm toward the museum again before I realize I have no idea where these people would be. ‘What was it Mole said? East town?’ I turn in a full circle. ‘Which way’s east again?’ I scratch my cheek and frown. “This could be a problem.”
I decide that forward is as good a direction as any and head off. Passing the dilapidated buildings again makes me feel kind of down, but at the same time I feel young. All of these buildings are dead, but I’m still alive and well. Why didn’t they survive like me? I walk and walk until I swear I must be nearing the edge of the city but sad, beat down buildings just keep coming. Eventually, after what seems like hours, I reach an enormous stone wall as the sun begins to set and the sky turns light orange. The wall looms over me like some kind of imposing demon. It’s a giant staring down hungrily at its prey. And I’m the prey. “Interesting,” I say, “Why do they feel the need to trap us in here?”
I dismiss the thought quickly when I hear the rapid firing of a gun, followed by a low hardy laugh. Crouching down low, I shuffle toward the front of a building. I straighten my back and peer around the corner of the dead tan shack. My jaw drops at what I find. A man is standing in the open grass, holding his arm up and examining it. He’s a fat man with greasy black hair and boots of the same color. He wears an oil stained wife beater and loose grey pants with a yellowish tan apron over them. His arm is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s grey and has several gun barrels rather than a hand. It’s a machine. A young girl approaches him from behind the shack with a wide smile on her face. She has light brown hair that goes no farther than her chin and wears a black bomber hat. She has tight brown pants and a tan leather jacket. On her feet, she wears knee high black boots. She doesn’t look any older than 16.“It worked perfectly! Oh, you’ve done it, Dad!” she says excitedly.
“Your Dad’s made a breakthrough, Katie. Those Surfacers won’t doubt us again!” he says proudly. “Now where’s your gun? We need to make sure it’s in top shape.”
She turns and faces me, reaches to her side where a gun holster rests on her belt. “It’s right,” she pauses, her eyes meeting mine. I flinch and clamber on top of the building. “Here.”
Bang! A few shingles are blown off of the roof near the edge. “Think you can spy on us, eh?” the man says. A rapid succession of bullets follows his words and countless shingles are blown to bits. I hold my ground, lying flat on my stomach on the roof. I know that escape is impossible. They’ll shoot me. So what do I do? Bang!
“Hey! We know you’re there so why don’t you just show yourself?” the girl named Katie shouts.
I bite my lip, knowing that what I am going to do will probably get me killed, but what other option is there? I stand up slowly and look down at them. The girl’s eyes go wide. The man raises his gun or rather his arm and takes aim. “Wait! Don’t shoot!” Katie yells, rushing over to her father.
“What, Kate? He’s a spy.”
“Look at him. Dark brown hair, dusty green pants, brown boots, black shirt, torn up green cape? Ring any bells?” After receiving a blank look from the man, she rolls her eyes and says, “He’s Rat, Dad.”
“What?” The man turns to me and seems to analyze me. “By golly, he is!” He lowers his arm and says, “Come on down, Rat. We won’t shoot.” Hesitant and very confused, I hop off the roof, landing gracefully on my feet. I ask them how they know my name.
“You’re famous around here! We all respect you!” Katie declares.
“Where is here and who is we?” I ask.
“Where is the Autobody and we is the Steamers. Have you heard of us?” the man asks, smiling a wide and dirty smile. His voice is rough like sand paper.
“Steamers? You’re that group of revolutionaries,” I say, trying not to give away the fact that I’m here to investigate them. Katie squints and demands to know who told me that. “I, uh, I heard it from a mole.”
The man laughs loudly and seems to shake the earth, but I stay on my feet. “We’ve gotten stranger answers around here, haven’t we?” Katie nods in agreement. “Nice to meet ya, Rat. The name’s Brian, but they all call me Clank here.”
“Don’t suppose you’re good with machines?”
“Hahaha, what tipped you off?” He elbows me hard in the ribs with his metal arm. It feels as though he’s bruised the bone inside my abdomen. “The arm? The name? The get up?”
“A combination, really,” I say, rubbing the spot where he jabbed me. “So this Autobody, what exactly is it?” Clank says that it’s where all the Steamers live. They set up a camp just a few days ago. “And what exactly are Steamers?” I ask.
“What are Steamers? What do you live under a rock?” Katie says. I raise my eyebrows at her in question. “Oh, right, you’re from the Tunnels. Well, here. Just let me show you.” She grabs ahold of my lower arm and drags me off in the direction of a rare row of pine trees. We slide through them, needles poking at our skin and arrive in an immense, open field. Several tan and patched tents are set up with people rushing in and out of them. Many of them carry some sort of material, mainly metal, or tool. Almost all of them are either teenagers or young adults. All of them wear clothing similar to Katie and Clank. Dark boots, tight pants for girls, looser pants for guys, jackets, gloves, some long, some short, some of them wear flight goggles, some wear bomber hats, some wear pulled back metal masks. A few people glance at us but carry on with their business. Clank goes off somewhere toward a large, seemingly troublesome machine and sets to work. “See?” Katie says as she drags me through the cluster of tents. “These are Steamers.”
Machines are everywhere. Parts of them scatter the ground like the aftermath of a horrible battle. At almost every turn, there’s somebody pounding away with a hammer or drilling holes in a sheet of metal, but most of all, people are tinkering with things, not really having much of an effect and I don’t think they mean to. “You’re inventors.”
“Correct,” she says, “We make everything here out of metal and steam. Pretty neat, eh?” she says, gesturing to a small airship taking flight. The thing is literally a boat taking flight with metal wings attached to the sides. It looks like a kid’s toy, but I know it’s not. Or do I? Do I really know anything here? I decide not as a man rides by on a gold machine that resembles a spider and walks like one too. It shoots steam out of the spouts on its body every so often.
“Check it out, Katie! Finally got it done!” he shouts over the incredible noise of the thing. She shouts some sort of word that I can’t understand. I mutter the word amazing and don’t expect Katie to hear me, but she replies to it. “Glad you like it. It’s not much, but hey, it’s home now,” she says, sounding almost sad.
“Why are you guys here? You’re great inventors. Why don’t you make money in the city?”
Katie furrows her eyebrows and balls up her fists. “Because that city is corrupt, that’s why. They banish people to the Tunnels saying they ‘disrupt society’. The only reason they disrupt anything is because they’re not accepted. The Surfacers only want the normal and only the normal belong. None of us here are normal so none us belong and we’re sick of it. If they want our talents, they can accept us for who we are. And they can accept your people too.”
“You do realize that gangs live in the Tunnels right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t care. There’s good in everybody. Take Well, for instance. He’s a great man, but he’s the leader of a gang. Your social standing means nothing to us Steamers.”
“Hm. Can’t say all of us are as pure hearted as you, but it’s good that you think that way. We need more people like you in this godforsaken city. But what do you plan to do to change things?”
“Uh, that we don’t know…yet. We will. With so many great minds here, how could we go wrong? We’re Steamers! Even though we don’t know what the heck we’re doing right now, if you ever need us, just call,” she smiles.
“Will do. I ought to be heading back to the Tunnels, though. Don’t want too many people to know who I am.”
“Right, a hidden identity is all a thief has,” she says, “It was nice to meet you, Rat.”
“Nice to meet you too. Take care of yourself, Katie.” I turn and wave over my shoulder as I walk in the direction of the nearest grate. “Work on that revolution of yours.”
“You can count on that one!” she calls back to me.