The Underground: Part 1
Getting preparedThey 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."