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The Underground: Part 1
I’m falling…again. I just jumped from an adjacent tree and just so happened to land on a branch that , apparently, didn’t like holding full grown people, so it broke. Luckily there happens to be a giant mushroom at the bottom of the fifty foot tree to break my fall. The mushroom glows a brighter blue as I hit it and fall to the ground much softer than I would have. I lie there and watch the branch as it swings from its broken bow and breaks. Its fall seems slow, silent and graceful right until it stabs and plants itself next to my head. Good to see my luck is holding up.
I sit up and take in the surroundings that my tree travelling has brought me to. To my right sits the mushroom, now faintly glowing a comfortable light blue. Small rays of light pierce through the thick trees and trunks and hit the thick grass as small, lighter spots that make the ground look textured. To my left sits a large boulder that has been half taken over by moss so that it looks like a man’s head with a bald spot in the middle. Around me, more mushrooms glow different colors and more rocks sit covered by moss. The ground is completely flat, not a single hill or mound. Small bushes grow around the trunks of the larger trees. Well this place is new. I stand up, look down at the branch, and rip it out of the ground.
“Best.Walking stick. Ever.” I say quietly to myself as I straighten my bag on my shoulder.
I begin walking around the rock and rip off some of the moss on the side. It’s soft. Really soft. Wow! I rip off a huge sheet and fold it up in my bag next to my pillow, tarp, and water bottle. I pull out the water bottle to take a quick drink when a drop falls on my hand. I pull the small piece of moss out of my pocket and wipe the drop experimentally. Not a drop is soaked in. Fine by me, this will make a good blanket, maybe a shelter cover. I continue to pull the stuff off of rocks as the rain continues to come harder. I gather enough sticks and moss to make myself a small shelter up against a rock that I begin to fill with my things. I set my brand new, top of the line moss blanket on the floor and cover it with my blanket. My pillow is placed on the end to my right. I propped two sticks up against a huge boulder with an outcropping on the side to put the moss over and hang my lantern on the end further from my pillow. I head under the small piece of rock that my sticks rest against and begin to flatten the grass that is under the outcropping of the top. I use what dry wood I have left to make a small fire and settle down into my makeshift bed for the night.
In the morning it isn’t raining anymore so I take down my shelter and pack my things to continue travelling. I’ll have to find a way to get back into the trees to keep travelling efficiently. I decide to walk towards the direction of the rising sun and try to find a shorter forest. Not that I don’t want to stay here, there just isn’t enough to do. I notice that many of the bushes around the trees have small berries on them. After a few hours, I have gathered enough of these to make a small meal and sit down on my blanket to eat.
Not a thing stirs in the forest as I watch the treetops for movement. It’s so quiet that I’m stunned into silence. The wind even seems to die down in the woods. Suddenly it seems ten times quieter and I hear silent and seeming distant voices all around me. Small voices fill the forest with inaudible singing and the grass quivers and dances with the sound. Then it’s silent, completely silent. The wind now seems to make a parade of sound as it sweeps through the forest and disturbs the trees. What was that? I stand up and look around for the source of the noise. Nothing…well that’s weird. I pick up and fold my blanket and continue to move to the east. The mushrooms seem to get bigger and brighter as I walk along and the trees seem to become taller, wider, and denser in the leaves, blocking even more light. This was the wrong direction to go for an escape through the trees. If I had gone west I might have found a shorter forest, but it’s too late now, I have to keep going.
I decide to find a new shelter for the night before it gets too dark and begin looking for a place to build it. I find a huge rock and begin looking around it for a good place to build my shelter. On one side I find a small opening that I could slip into and rest in comfortably. I crawl in and find that I can sit on my knees without crouching down at all. I prop a stick on the wall to put my lantern on and set up my moss and blankets just like last night with my pillow away from the opening. I lie down and stare at the ceiling until my eyes become heavy and I slowly drift off to sleep. I wake up and collect my things for another day of travelling. I hate traveling on the ground, I feel too vulnerable. As I walk the forest seems to become livelier. The breeze feels a bit stronger and there are birds chirping and flying in the tops of the trees. It seems weird to see anything move anymore, but it’s still comforting to know that I’m not alone. The berries from these bushes are not completely satisfying my hunger anymore as I watch the birds in the branches and I’m craving a meal of meat. Unfortunately I have no way to capture the birds and no creatures crawl across the ground for me to catch. I continue to pick and consume the berries on the bushes as I walk and am lucky enough to find a bush that actually grows apples. This somewhat aggravates me because apples are supposed to grow on trees, thus allowing me to climb out of this cursed forest. I pick some of the apples and glare at the bush for a few minutes before I continue walking.
Of course, you don’t want to hear me rant about the days of wandering through the woods. Instead I will tell you that I continue to walk around the forest for a total of about fourteen days and eventually find an area of forest filled with small squirrel/mole creatures that actually taste very good when roasted over a fire. I had just started roasting one of these sqoles before bed when I hear a tree trunk snapping. What!? I run out of my moss and stick tent and look around for the source of the sound. The birds fly to the east as I hear yet another tree fall. I quickly gather my things and run towards the sounds. I run and a shadow passes in front of the moon through the trees. I jump backwards just in time to avoid being crushed by a huge tree. I scramble back as the log slowly rolls towards me after the fall. I look up at the full moon through the new hole in the canopies. I stand up and squint through the darkness of the forest in search of whatever is launching the trees into the forest. I look and scan the darkness until I spot two floating bright red lights. The two lights shine on me and bathe me in red light. I hear a mechanical whirring sound and another tree covers the moon. I turn tail and run to the east with the tree landing behind my heels as I jump over the remnants of my fire. I look back and see the red lights getting smaller as the distance between me and them increases. I look forward again and my ears are pierced by a sudden high pitch sound. I fall on my side, cover my ears, and yell in pain until the sound stops. I look up, dazed, and see a small set of gentle, blurred blue lights coming towards me as I lose consciousness.
I wake and find myself lying on a flat long boulder with a pillow on my head. It’s cold. I sit up, blink the stars out of my eyes, and look around. The prison cell sized room is dimly lit by a small green mushroom in the corner. The ceiling is covered with small stalactites and the stone floor seems perfectly smooth. The stone walls have small rows of random symbols carved into them and there’s a small wooden door on the opposite side of the room. I turn and put my legs over the side of the bed and let the dizziness fade from my head before I stand up. I notice my shoes have been removed as my feet touch the cold floor. I walk over to the door and look down at the knob. It’s really low, maybe a little more than two feet off the ground. I attempt to turn it and open the door. Locked! Where am I? I look around again and see my bag lying next to my makeshift bed. I walk over and check that all of my things are there. Everything’s there, but it’s all jumbled as if someone hastily threw it in. I spend a half hour reorganizing it and find a small piece of bark at the bottom. I pick it out and examine it. Symbols similar to the ones on the walls are etched into one side. A closer look reveals a thin, more curved form, of the symbols etched at the bottom of the bark. Must be some sort of note…maybe with a signature. Too bad I’m not learned in this form of writing. I place the note on my bed and pull out my blanket and some of the moss. I place the blanket on the stone, lie down, and cover myself with the large moss sheet. I let myself fall into a shallow sleep.
I wake again to the sound of door hinges creaking. I look to my left and see the door swing in and hit the wall. I sit up, pick up my bag and venture out. The second my foot has cleared the door, it slams shut. I look back at it and see nothing through the darkness of the room I am now in. I turn back around and begin walking forward with my hands out in front of me. Almost immediately I find the opposite wall and feel wood on my hands. I must be in a hallway. I feel the door and find the handle, also low. I grasp it and swing it into the new room. A room identical to mine sits on the other side of the opening. I close the door and turn to my right. I begin feeling my way along the wall, lifting my legs high as I walk to avoid tripping. I walk for what feels like hours before I feel a slight upward slope under my feet. I continue to walk on the upward slope until I hit a corner. I keep feeling for about another yard before I feel a rod going up and down. I feel the rod and find another perpendicular to it. A ladder! I grab the rung and begin climbing. The rungs feel extremely close together for my height, but I can still climb them to the top. I continue to climb until my head bumps into a wooden ceiling. I almost let go in surprise and release only one hand to scan the surface. I move my hand across until I find the edge where the wood meets the stone. I run my fingers along the edge until I find a small piece of metal attached to the stone and wood. Hinges! I reach across to the other side of the hatch and find the handle. I push up and am hit with the light of the large mushrooms that line the three paths that branch from the hatch’s point. The stone ceiling still hangs over me and is covered with bigger stalactites than the chamber I just left. I climb out of the hole and slowly close the hatch. I stand and look at the different paths. Each one is more like a hallway, with walls on each side and the mushrooms on each side. They split in a perfect T with the top of the t towards my back. I decide to go straight and silently begin to walk forward. I still don’t know if my captors are friendly or not. I reach in my bag and pull out a small knife that I use to skin animals. It won’t do me much in a fight, but it’s still something. I continue down the corridor, looking behind me every once in a while to make sure I’m not being followed. Another few minutes walking brings me to an intersection. I look both ways but see only what I see now, corridors. On a gut feeling I turn right. I walk for another few minutes before I can see a large door through the dim light. I walk up to the nine foot tall double door and look down at the handles. It’s just as low as the others, with a knocker at normal knob height. I put my hand on one side and push the door gives way and I fall on my front, almost stabbing myself with my knife. I quickly stand up and point my knife in front of me. I almost drop it in surprise.
The room I stand in looks almost like a common home’s family room, except for the elaborate furniture and paintings on the walls. This room is actually lit up by a miniature fireplace with more elaborate designs on the wall above it. Standing in front of me are three of some of the most bizarre looking creatures that I have ever laid eyes on, and I’ve seen some pretty weird things. From the neck down they appear to be miniaturized people. Their faces are somewhat round and pale and the tops of their heads are covered with what look like mushroom caps. Two of them drop what appear to be small wooden tea cups and stare at me in surprise. The third drops his cup and lunges at what appears to be a sword on the wall. I watch as he yanks the device off the wall and points it at me. He yells something like, “Prod yu lam mu sena um cha!” He yells in a rather tiny, throaty voice. He looks at me as if he just issued a threat, which, judging by the pointy thing he’s pointing at me, he did. I drop my knife and raise my hands. The mushroom guy’s two friends cower behind their chairs like I’m some animal poised to attack.
“Whoa!” I say slowly as I put my bag on the floor and put my arms back in the air. “It’s okay,” I say, “I mean you no harm.”
He looks back at the others, “Tars puttya tuf wa!” He says and brings his gaze back to me. The others pick up their little wooden cups and put them on a small wooden tray. Then they begin hastily walking towards a door in the back that I hadn’t noticed before. Before they close the door behind them one of them turns and says, “Shoo ma mu lep?” in a questioning tone.
“Chee!” he responds rather enthusiastically. The others leave the room and the one with the sword seems to lower his guard.
“Sa yu.” he says as he gestures towards one of the small chairs. I assume he’s inviting me to sit down and I leave my knife and my bag behind as I step towards the tiny seats. I look down at them and decide to sit on the floor to avoid breaking them. He takes a seat at the largest of the chairs and looks at me. Suddenly he jabs his hand at me and holds out his palm as if telling me to stop. I stare at his hand until he gives an exasperated sigh and smacks palm hand with his other palm as if it was extremely obvious. He puts his hand back out and waits for me to react. I give him a high five and he smiles. I watch as his eyes roll into the back of his head and roll back.
“Hello.” He says in a throaty, froglike voice that makes him seem childish.
“Um…hi?” I respond, beginning to get a little nervous.
“What is your name?” He asks.
“Uh…I’m Daniel.” I say.
“I am Shane.” He says. He seems somewhat enthused as he speaks my language. He sits there and stares at me as if waiting for me to say something.
“What are you?” I ask before I can stop myself. I cringe as I wait for him to be offended.
He reads my expression. “Do not worry, I was about to ask the same thing.” He says, smiling. This feels awkward. Two minutes ago we were pointing blades at each other. Now were sitting in the guy’s living room with him trying to start a conversation.
“Well, if you really want to know, we call ourselves humans.” I say to him.
“We know ourselves as moomans.” He says. We sit in silence with him smiling at me and me awkwardly looking around the room. He’s still holding his little curved sword which I now realize isn’t much longer than my knife.
“What do you call that?” I ask as I gesture at the sword.
“We call this a lam.” He says.
“May I see it?” I ask and hold out my hand. He shakes his head.
“No, I still do not know if you are to be trusted.” He answers, the smile fading from his face. I wait a few seconds before I ask my next question.
“Where am I?” I say as I look around the room.
“You are in the great city of Adafonga, capital of Hurricanna.”
“Hurricanna? Is that a country?” I ask. He looks at his lam and thinks about the question.
“Yes, I believe so.” He says, his smile returning.
“And…how did I get here?” I ask.
“I believe you were brought in by the gatekeepers during-“He’s cut off midsentence by a knock on the front door.
“Lem se on, on thel man fo yu sterma Gastra!” yells a voice through the door.
“Moc on” says Shane and the doors burst open as five more of the moomen come running in with lams drawn. They all have small armor and thin sheets of metal with holes in them over their domed heads. Shane puts out his hand and one of the guys with a glowing red top slaps it. His eyes roll into his head and roll out and turn towards me.
“I am Gama Gooma.” He says with a look of authority.
“I guess that means you’re the leader.” I say. He looks at me as if offended and disgusted at the same time.
“Did I not just tell you that I am the Gama of this city?” He says, raising his voice.
“Oh! Yeah, sorry, silly me.” I say with a smile, still confused as to who this guy is. “So, do you happen to know what I’m doing here?” I ask him.
“We captured you three days ago. You were outside our front gate and the guards brought you in.
“Three days ago!?” I say, shocked. “I thought I’d only been here overnight.
“You obviously have a bad sense of time.” Says the Gama.
“What did you guys do with my shoes?” I blurt out before I can stop myself. He looks at my feet as if just noticing they are bare.
“It wouldn’t be very comfortable to sleep in those.” He says, as if it’s obvious.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I say as I roll my eyes.
“Would you like them back?” asks the Gama.
“Yes! Yes, I would like to have my shoes back!” I say, raising my voice.
He turns to one of his comrades.
“Mu mi vocs.” He says to the one with the glowing blue top and he rushes out the door. Gooma turns back to me.
“So, what is your name?” he asks, tilting his head.
“Daniel, Daniel Rogers.” I say.
“Watch your mouth!” He says. Looking offended.
“Oh! Okay.” I say as the little blue dude comes back with my sneakers.
“Vocs!” he says, gasping for air as he hands them to me.
“Thank y-,” I stop myself, “How do you say thank you in your language?” I ask as I turn to Shane.
“Tank yur.” He says with a smile.
“Thanks,” I say, and turn back to the blue headed dude, “Tank yur.”
“Yu ga.” He says back, a smile now spreading across his face. Gooma continues our conversation as I pull some socks out of my bag and put on my shoes.
“What were you doing over our city in the middle of the night?” He asks as he stares at my shoes. I shudder as I think about the lights in the night. I tell him my whole story, from falling out of the tree to seeing the red lights to blacking out by their gate.
“So you are a traveler?” asks Gooma, looking somewhat shocked.
“Yeah, I’m always jumping around from place to place.” I say with a smile. Even Shane seems somewhat surprised by this.
“You have no home?” asks Shane.
“No, I-I’ve never really fit in anywhere.” I say. I’ve never thought about this. Getting kicked out of the last three towns I’ve been to for various petty crimes has kind of reinforced my theory. "Yeah…I'm not exactly the social type." I say, scratching my head.
"Is that why you travel alone?" he asks
"Yeah, I guess." I answer, still scratching my head.
"Please follow me." he says, and gets up to leave.
"Wait! Where are we going?" I ask.
"To Adofonga, our great city." he says, and walks out the door. I stand up to go, but Shane grabs my arm.
"Wait, you must be careful. Gooma has been known to be deceitful." he says, his face grave.
"Don't worry; I've picked up a few tricks over the years." I say and smile. He smiles back as if slightly comforted by these words.
"Hurry, my patience is limited." hollers Gooma from down the hall. I grab my bag and hurry out the door. I catch up with Gooma and look down at him. Two armed body guards with blue and orange heads walk by his side.
"So Adafonga is the capital of your country?" I ask. Just like Shane, he thinks about this for a minute.
"Yes, it is." he says and looks back ahead. I assume this ends our conversation and continue to walk. We pass the hatch in the floor and turn right down one of the passages that I decided not to follow. We walk for another five minutes before we turn right again. I catch my breath as my eyes process what sits before me.
The passage expands by maybe twenty times and large crossbows sit on platforms that sit on the wall. Instead of mushrooms, actual torches line the walls, creating a much more comfortable yet intimidating light. At the other end of the corridor sits a large, metal wall. Large gates, maybe fifteen feet tall and twenty feet wide sit in the middle with ten armed guards on each side. A gap separates the top of the metal wall from the ceiling. Large crossbows also sit on top of the wall and they point at us as we turn the corner.
"Tands wond!" yells Gooma to the guards. The guards all stand at attention and put a closed fist over their hearts.
"Gama Gooma!" they yell as soon as they can see Gooma's face. He nods at them and the gate slowly opens. This place has too many surprises because I need to catch my breath again.
Inside the gates resides a huge cavern. Large buildings reach up to the ceiling, maybe 200 feet above the floor. The center is taken up by a large cylindrical stone pillar. Windows and ladders cover the side and many of the small moomen climb up to various doors and enter. More, less grand, pillars are spread throughout the city and surrounded by the smaller homes and businesses.
"How many of you live down here?" I ask.
"I believe the number is somewhere around 500,000 in your language." answers Gooma, smiling at the shock on my face. "We've lived under the earth for centuries, digging tunnels and building cities."
"Why don't you live on the surface?" I ask.
"The Mechanic." he says. Obviously explaining everything.
"And…who might that be?" I say.
"The one who builds," he says, "he creates the machines that prevent us from leaving the forests above."
"Machines?" I exclaim. "Some of them wouldn't happen to throw trees, would they?"
"Possibly, he makes many contraptions. Some even find their way into the underground, causing mayhem and destruction.”
“Why don’t you guys fight back?”
“We cannot find him. He lives underground, but he is too deep and well hidden to be found.” Says Gooma, his face grave.
“So you just hide?” I guess.
“Yes, there is nothing else we can do. We do not have sufficient warriors to escort the entire country from the woods.” He says.
“Oh. Well that sucks.” I say.
“I do not understand what that means.” He says, looking confused.
“Oh yeah,” I smile, “you guys don’t know slang. It means that’s bad.” I say.
“Thank you.” He says and looks back ahead as we walk into the city.
Many of the moomen bustle around carrying packages and riding on strange looking mules with the heads of goats. They all wear simple clothing, old pants and simple plane t-shirts. They speak their own language, giving me a headache as I walk through their city. The all sell fruits and various colored mushrooms as what seems to be food. Some of the venders sell meat, but only the seemingly best dressed seem to buy it, so I guess it must be pretty expensive.
"What do you guys use for currency?" I ask.
"Stones." says Gooma.
"Like, just any stones?" I say.
"No, only the rarest and most valuable of stones." As he says it, he pulls a small green gem from his pocket and walks towards one of the venders. He points to a large green mushroom hanging on the wall and the guy behind the counter pulls one out of a small cloth bag and hands it to him. Gooma gives him the gem and we continue to walk towards the main pillar.
He bites into the mushroom. "Would you like some sweet shroom?" he asks.
"No, thank you. I'll pass." I say, barely holding back my stomach as I watch him take another bite out of the disgustingly bright green mushroom.
"So, where are we going?" I ask, looking at the pillar that must only be about 200 yards away.
"To the capital building." he says and points at the pillar. "We are going to have a council to decide your fate.
"Oh!" I say smartly. We are silent the rest of the walk.
When we reach the tower, the three moomen begin climbing the ladder.
I put my hand on the first rung.
"Stop!" yells the Gama. "You go through the lower door." he says. I look down and see the small door at the bottom of the pillar.
"Whatever you say, boss." I yell back, smiling. I open the door and peer inside.
A long stone table goes through the middle of a large room. Simple wooden chairs line both sides and a larger chair sits on the end further from me. Torches line the wall and a single large glowing mushroom extends from one wall. More of the strange symbols go across the walls, seemingly unfinished. A small stool sits at the end of the table closer to me.
I walk in and look at the stool. It's only the size of my leg, with a little round top supported by four short legs. I decide to sit on the floor next to it. I wait for probably about fifteen minutes, though it felt like hours, before a door opens in the back. An orange topped mooman enters through the doorway in the back that I hadn't noticed before.
He looks at me curiously as he sits in the big chair at the end of the table. Suddenly the door burst open again and twenty more of the little men, including Gama Gooma, walk in, all of them with different tops and chattering loudly. They all fall silent as they see me sitting at the end of the table.
“Welcome, Daniel” the orange head says as he looks down at a piece of bark in his hand, “I am Brooda, Chooma of Adafonga. This council has been gathered to discuss your position and fate in our city.”
“How do you know English?” I ask. He looks up from his piece of bark.
“Your language has been transferred to the entire council by courtesy of Gama Gooma.” He answers. “Please do not interrupt while we discuss our verdict.” He says, looking somewhat annoyed. “Now, what do each of you believe we should do with this creature?” he directs at the council. The room immediately fills with yelling and arguing. The only ones who sit silent are Gooma and Chooma Brooda.
“SILENCE!” yells the Chooma and the whole room goes silent. “We must decide the verdict within the day.”
“I believe we should simply keep him in the cells.” Says one.
“Let him make a living for himself in our city.” Says another.
“Interrogate him; see if he is an accomplice of the Mechanic.” Says one with a poka-dotted orange and red top.
“No.” says the Chooma, and the room goes silent again. “If he can prove himself, he may stay. Let him destroy one of the Mechanic’s machines, only then I will let him stay in my city.” He says as a smile spreads across his little round face.
“Wait!” I say, “What if I found the Mechanic?”
“What! Such a thing is impossible; we have spent centuries looking for him without success.”
“I have a plan; I just need the right tools and people.” I say. The Chooma leans forward in his chair.
“What might your plan be?” He asks. It takes me a few seconds to gather the words.
“Follow the machines. Find where they’re coming from. He can’t build the machines from across the woods.” I say. The council discusses this in their language. A lot of nodding and hand gestures later, they all look back at me.
“We have decided to let you find the Mechanic. We will let you take a team of five to help you along the way. Until then, we will find you a place to rest.
They put me in a small house. And when I say small I mean small. I have to tilt my head to the side and bend my knees while I walk to avoid scraping my head on the ceiling. None of the furniture is big enough for my use, and there’s no carpet for me to lie on. I resort to my moss and blanket again as I wait for the council to bring me back to the capital building. I think about the mess I just threw myself into. I’m probably going to get myself and five other people killed. Great!
I’m disturbed by a knock at my door. I look at the clock on the wall. I’ve been sitting here for three hours! I hastily stand up and bump my head on the ceiling.
“Ow!” I yelp. I quickly crouch and walk to the door. I recognize the council member who wanted to put me in a cell as I open the door.
“They are ready for you, please follow me.” He says with no apparent emotion. I follow him back to the capital and we enter through a door on the opposite side of the last one. Inside is a long room completely made of stone. Wooden shelves line the walls and a small door sits in the corner opposite of me. The shelves are filled with various glass beakers and smoking wooden bottles. One end of the room has a stone operation table, making the room look like the lab of an evil scientist.
“Hello.” Says a small voice from the door. I turn and see, standing in the doorway, a smaller mooman. He clutches a small lam at his side and he is wearing minimal armor. “I am Hinga, I am here to help you pick out what tools and weapons you would like. I am also coming on your quest.” He says with a smile. “Let me equip you with a proper sized lam.” He walks to the door and the back and I follow. Inside is another room almost identical to the last, except for the fact that walls aren’t covered in chemicals, but with weapons. Spears and lams cover the walls. Shields sit piled in corners and suits of armor sit on manikins around the walls. Hinga walks to a large lam on the wall, pulls it down from its rack, and hands it to me.
“Does that feel comfortable?” He asks. I lift the sword in a fighting stance and swing it around a bit.
“It’s well balanced, this is a pretty good design you guys have here.” I say.
“Yes, we have some of the lightest metals in the country at our disposal.” He says, smiling.
“I’ll take this, what else have ya’ got for me?” I ask as I put the weapon in the sheath he hands to me. He walks back into the chemical room and I follow again. He grabs a small wooden bottle with red smoke coming out of the top.
“This is a very complex formula that is extremely explosive. You may use the small containers we have to throw them at your enemies, Possibly injuring or killing them in the process.” He says as he hands me the bottle. He hands me a small cap and I cover the top.
“Do you know when they plan on sending us off?” I ask Hinga. He sighs and sets down a small beaker with a glowing green liquid inside.
“Tonight, you still need to pick your fighters. Gama Gooma insists that he come along.” He says. I remember what Shane had told me before I’d left with Gooma, about him not being trustworthy. But I guess I have no choice but to accept.
“How will I be choosing my team?” I ask him.
“Only four volunteered, so all you will need to do is eliminate the candidate that you don’t want.” He says as reaches for another wooden bottle. "Now, this liquid does not explode, but it erodes." He says, carefully holding the bottle with only his fingers. "Let me demonstrate." He walks over to a large block of metal sitting in one corner of the room. He tips the bottle and lets loose a few drops of a steaming blue liquid. The second the liquid touches the metal you can hear the metal bubbling and see the hole deepen inches every second.
"Wow! That might hurt." I say, "How do you keep it from getting through that bottle." I ask as I gesture towards his hand.
"We coat the inside with the sap of the glowing mushrooms." he says.
"Wait, mushrooms have sap?" I ask.
"The glowing ones do."
"Oh,…okay. So how do we know the Mechanic doesn't have that." I ask, gesturing towards the bottle again.
"We do not know, but we hope." He says with an encouraging smile.
"Better than nothing, anything else you want to show me?" I ask with a smile.
"No, not at the moment. Shall I join you with the Gama to choose the rest of your team?" He asks.
"Yeah, I'm interested in seeing witch of you are willing to let me lead you to your potential death." I say.
"Right this way please." He says as he walks out the door.
Ten minutes later finds us back in the council room. I stand at one side of the room next to Gama Gooma. The table has somehow been removed and four moomen are lined up against the long wall. The one to the very left is my new definition of mooman buff. He's about a head taller than any of the others I've seen, carries a sword as long as my arm on his back and a knife on his belt. He wears a green muscle shirt that has words drawn on the front in moomish.
The one to his right is small. He carries two smaller swords crossed on his back and a really big hood covers his face with a shadow. Creepy.
The third one is simple. He has an orange dome that is actually glowing right now. He also carries a normal sized sword at his side and a bow over his shoulder. A quiver of arrows crosses the bow and he has a simple plane black t-shirt and what appear to be khaki pants. He smiles and waves as I look at him.
The fourth one is fat, just fat, nothing else describes him.
"You three." I say as I gesture at the three on the left. "Not you." I say as I point at the fat one. He sighs as if relieved and walks out the front door. I look at the one on the very left.
"What's your- wait, do you guys know English?" I ask, cringing.
"Yes, we have been learned in your language." Says the casual one, tilting his head.
"What's your name?" I ask, and point at the big guy.
"Jumba." he says, and crosses his huge arms.
"Yours?" I say as I gesture towards the middle one.
"I am Munta, hunter of squirrels." he says mysteriously from under his hood.
"And you?" I say to the third.
"I am Quinta." he says and smiles again. I look at the Gama.
"Have you had all these guys' backgrounds checked?" I ask him, "'Cause I don't want one of them stabbing me in the back when I need them."
"No, we did not have time to check any records." he says.
"Well that's reassuring." I say, rubbing the back of my neck. "Oh, well. Are you guys ready to go?"
"Yes, we were told to pack before we came here." says Quinta and looks around as if expecting to be contradicted.
"Okay, good." I look at the others, "Do either of you talk?" I say, gesturing towards the other two.
"No." says Jumba.
"Yes, but I prefer to remain silent." says Munta.
"Well you'd better communicate better if we get into a fight." I say as I struggle to keep my voice from rising slightly. I don't know why, but this guy makes me nervous, almost angry. Munta looks up and the light hits his face. His nose is pressed almost flat against his face and his eyes are only but slits under his forehead. He is much skinnier than any of the other moomen that I've seen, which ironically actually makes him appear more human. His dome is a dark purple and casts a black light, almost making his pale skin glow.
"You will prefer me to remain silent." he says tilting his head to the side.
"Not if it doesn't help!" I say as my temper rises.
"It will." he says and allows his hood to cover his face again.
"Fine, go grab your stuff." I say as my temper begins to cool again.
"Good." says Jumba.
"As you wish." follows Munta.
"Yes, sir!" says Quinta rather enthusiastically, he puts a closed fist over his heart in salute and follows the others out the door. I turn to Gooma and whisper:
"What's with Quinta? He seems a little…enthusiastic."
"This is the first quest he has ever embarked on. If he succeeds, he will be accepted into the Hurricanna army. He's a very spirited individual, though we do not know if that will be good or bad." He says. I think about what he said for a second.
"So…you're telling me that I just recruited a guy with absolutely no combat experience?" I ask, my voice raising slightly again.
"Yes, that is exactly what I just told you." He says.
"Thanks." I say as I roll my eyes, "That's extremely reassuring."
"Really?" He asks as he wrinkles his forehead, "I would not think such."
"No…I guess you wouldn't." I say as I turn back to Hinga, who has been dutifully silent the whole time. "How long 'till you have everything ready?" I ask him.
"Just a few more hours before I'm ready, one of my favorite solutions needs to sit a little longer." He says as he steps out of the corner, "I will also check reports to see where our enemies come from most often. That is your plan, is it not?"
"Yeah, just tell me when you're ready." I turn back to Gooma, "You wouldn't happen to have someplace I can train with this lam, would you?"
"Yes, you can go the sparring arena, only a few buildings from here, there will be plenty of new recruits for you to train with there." He replies.
"Tank yur." I say, and Gooma smiles. He doesn't seem so bad. I walk to the door and pull it open. As I step out into the open, I realize this is the first time I've walked the city on my own. I look around as I wait for somebody to get me, but no one shows. I shrug and look around. I take a wild guess and turn left as I begin to walk down the street. I continue to walk through the congested streets until I reach a large coliseum like building. Anxious, I walk up to the guarded gate and look down at one of the guards.
"May I come in?" I ask the one on the right as I gesture towards the door. A smile spreads across my face as he puts his tiny fingers on the handle.
"Sema!" he says and quivers as he pushes open the door.
"Tank yur." I say to him as I crouch through the opening. He nods to me as he shows a forced smile. Inside is just one large, round room. The floor is the common stone and the ceiling opens up to the cave above. Large stone walls rise up in all directions, some small doors appear every now and then. One quarter of the arena is taken up by a small obstacle course, filled with tiny hurtles and climbing walls. Another quarter is taken up by straw stuffed sack dummies on sticks. Most of the moomen practice various moves on the dummies while some are instructed by others. I walk up to one of the moomen as he steps away from a recruit.
"Could you show me a few moves, I've got about…" I glance at my wrist and realize I have no watch, "…two hours." He puts his hand in the air in the same fashion as the others. I slap it and his eyes temporarily roll into the back of his head.
"Certainly, although that is not much time for a decent session, I will do what I can." he says.
"What's your name?" I ask.
"I am Hidsroo." he says.
"Pleased to meet you." I say and put out my hand to shake. He stares at my hand as if confused.
"What-?" he says as he points at my hand.
"Never mind!" I say and put my hand back down, "Now, what've you got to show me?"
We spend the next hour going over various moves. The lam isn't much different from a typical sword, and I've had plenty of experience with swords. He also shows me why the sword is designed with its curved blade. He explains that it allows the user to more easily pull it from his scabbard and it allows more athletic users to sort of swing on larger opponents. It makes sense for someone like Munta, small and fast. But I guess I could pull it out a little faster. He pairs me up with another recruit and we spar for awhile. Before long, Hinga is standing by my side.
"We are ready, sir. Come along please." He says before walking towards the door. I thank Hidsroo for his help and follow Hinga out the door.
"What were you boiling up at the last minute, anyways?" I ask him as we walk back the capitol building.
"A simple but time consuming chemical." he says and takes a deep breath, "It enters your blood stream and stimulates the mind, causing extreme confusion."
"Sounds good, but how will it help us against the machines?" I ask.
"It will not, but we do not know what the Mechanic himself can be capable of." he says with a challenging smile.
"I guess, what directions did you pull?"
"The machines tend to come from the south, from the thicker woods." he says, "I cannot be completely sure, but it is all we have."
"Better than nothing, I'll grab my things and we'll meet back in the council room, eh?" I say.
"Of course, I will see you there." he says before walking around the capitol building. I go inside the front door and look around. The table has been replaced and my newfound teammates sit around the sides. Jumba's picking his teeth with a knife, Munta is playing a small flute that makes a dull, humming sound, Gooma has his head resting on the table, and Quinta is looking at what appears to be a scroll. He quickly rolls it up as he sees me come into the room.
"Are you guys ready?" I ask them.
"Of course, sir." says Quinta as he springs from his chair, "Shall we be off then?"
"Yeah, grab your things. Hinga will be here in a minute with our chemicals and stuff." I wait for another five minutes while the others check their equipment before Hinga comes in with a large pack over his shoulders. He looks at us before saying:
"Well what are you all looking at? let us go."