Thanks for the feedback guys. I'll try to update this every Sunday or Monday. I have not really decided, and my last few Sundays have been kind of busy, so it will most likely be Mondays.
Hope you N+Joy
Part Two — Identity Unknown
~ The Middle of Nowhere, NM, — 9:00 pm ~
Michael awoke to absolute darkness.
Swearing severely in his head, he did a swift check of his body to make sure he was still all in one piece. Other than a slight tenderness in the back of his head where he'd banged it against his seat a little too hard, along with the mild feeling of being shaken up, he felt relatively fine. He shook his head, trying to recall what had happened before he’d blacked out. The last thing he remembered was driving his truck with the sinking suspicion that something was not quite right. Then there’d been the sudden sensation that he was falling downward, and the loss of control over his truck.
Well wasn’t that just fucking ducky.
Instinctively, his mind fell back on his military training: establish your location and analyze the situation.
Readjusting his glasses, which had slipped down around his neck, and making sure they hadn’t been damaged, Michael attempted to get his bearings. As his vision cleared and he became more aware of his surroundings, he consoled himself that he was still inside
his truck. That was a good sign, at least. It meant the force of the crash had not been strong enough to eject him from his vehicle. Better still, with all of the explosives he had with him, he was lucky the impact of the crash had not been strong enough to set anything off. Otherwise a slight tenderness in the back of his head would have been the least of his worries. More like he’d be missing
the back of his head.
But putting that small, albeit lifesaving victory aside, there was still the matter of determining the status of his current situation, how much damage had he taken, and how much trouble he was truly in. Judging by the uncomfortable feel of things, it seemed his truck was slanted at an awkward angle. Since it was now dark outside, he was unable to see as clearly, but as far as he could tell, he was lodged in a downward facing position, the only thing keeping him upright being the seatbelt strapped across his chest and around his waist.
Michael sat silently and motionlessly, determining his next move. His options were extremely limited. He could stay put and hope that he wasn’t noticed down here. But that wouldn’t fly. He was uncertain of how much damage his truck had taken on, and had no way of assessing it in this darkness. Aside from that, there was bound to be Mutated lingering around in this darkness. He could be swarmed, and his truck overwhelmed within no more than a matter of minutes.
His other option was to climb out of the truck and boot it until he could find a place to wait the night out, then come back in the morning to check on his truck, and see what he could do about getting it up and moving again. This also was not a very desirable option. He didn’t like leaving his truck under such uncertain circumstances, and he especially didn’t like leaving his equipment behind. And he would definitely have to leave at least most of it, as there was no way he could take it all with him.
Making a move had its disadvantages, but staying put could be even more risky. Either way, he was in a real shithole of a situation. As a sort of last ditch effort, Michael reached out in front of him and flicked a switch on his dashboard on and off. It was the switch that controlled the high beams that were mounted on the outside of his truck. Just as he expected, nothing happened.
“Damn,” he sighed. He couldn’t be a sitting duck. That was completely out of the question. Which left him with only one option.
It looked like he would be booting it.
It was never wise to go out at night. That was common knowledge in this Mutated ravaged world, and something Michael was all too aware of. But as the saying went, desperate times called for desperate measures. Right now, trekking outside in the dark of night in the middle of nowhere was a particularly unavoidable desperate measure. But at least, if nothing else, he was heavily armed, and ready for whatever was dumb enough to think it was ready for him. If there were Mutated out there waiting for the chance to prey on anyone stupid enough—or in his case, unlucky enough—to have to travel at night, he was going to put up one hell of a fight against them.
With a large black duffel bag slung over his left shoulder, and a flashlight strapped onto his belt, Michael climbed out onto the rear of the truck, which at the moment was actually its highest point, using it to get the height he needed to reach the top of the trench with his grappling gun, and pulling himself up the rest of the way. Needless to say, he was pretty damn pissed by the current state of events. Never mind that his truck was now completely totaled because of it, he still had no clue why there was a twenty feet deep trench dug in the middle of nowhere to begin with.
But aside from the hole, Michael still had greater issues to deal with. Although he hated the idea of leaving his truck behind in its current state—more specifically, he hated leaving his motorcycle—he didn’t really have any other choice. Climbing with his bag was difficult enough. He was barely able to maneuver with the few things he’d been able to fit in it. There was no way he’d be able to hall a bike behind him as well. Plus he had the added disadvantage of climbing without the aid of his light. He was lucky enough to have not been spotted so far. Once he turned his light on it would signal his location to any Mutated that were waiting in the dark. Since he was in such a vulnerable position, it was better to climb sans light and wait until he reached solid ground before making any move that would risk drawing attention to himself.
If he had been a religious man, Michael would have sworn God, Buddha, Allah, Kami or whatever the fuck deity was running this freak show was getting one hell of a big ass laugh out of all this right now. But since he had never been particularly vested in a “faith” of any kind, he'd deal with his fate the same way he dealt with the rest of his life: one god damned problem at a time.
When he reached the top of the trench, Michael pulled himself up and brushed himself off before reeling his grapple back in, and storing it away inside of his duffle bag. Unfortunately for him, the fog that had surrounded him earlier seemed to be concentrated even heavier on the other side of the trench, making it nearly impossible to see what was in front of him, and rendering his flashlight virtually obsolete. He'd give kudos where kudos was due. The fog made an ideal mask. It hovered over the trench perfectly, making it easy for any unsuspecting traveler to fall—or in his case drive—straight into. It was an ingenious trap, and he’d fallen right into it.
So who had set it?
Michael knelt down and placed his hands flat on the ground. Keeping his body crouched low, he began walking forward, dragging his hands across the dirt as he went. Dirt and rock. There was not the slightest sign of grass or pavement. Wherever he was, there was no road as far as he could tell. He let his duffel bag slide down off of his shoulder and sat it down on the ground beside him. Unhooking the flashlight from his belt, he flashed it into the darkness of the bag. All he could really see was fog, but feeling around aided his search a bit. Though he’d had to leave most of his larger items back in his truck, the items he was able to take with him would have to be enough to hold up a front for now.
He took out his autoloader shotgun and strapped it on his back, then retrieved his favorite weapons, two 50-caliber magnum revolvers he’d named “Midnight” and “Sunrise”, since they were specially maid weapons sporting ebony and gold colorings respectively. They were heavy as shit for handguns, weighing almost five pounds apiece when loaded, so wielding two at a time was no easy feat. However, they were the most powerful handguns in Michael’s arsenal and he’d become an expert at handling the extra weight with little problem. Given this particular situations, Michael was not taking any chances with anything less powerful. Along with the guns, he’d also brought out his peacemaker, a large bowie knife he made sure to never leave home without. After retrieving everything he needed for the moment, Michael tossed his useless flashlight into the bag, along with his grappling gun, and reserve supply of explosives, which included dynamite and C4. He closed the bag up and shouldered it.
Now he was ready.
He continued on into the darkness of the fog, tossing his knife down in the dirt in front of him to spot for ground. Apparently one never knew when there might be a big ass hole in the ground around here to fall into. As he moved along, he noticed that the fog seemed to be becoming denser and denser, leading him to believe that he was drawing closer to the source of it.
Once more he tossed his knife down into the ground, listening for the sound of the blade sticking into the dirt. “Hm,” he mused. Kneeling down on one knee, with his right hand he pulled his knife out of the ground, then placed his other hand on his left side holster for one of his guns.
“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” a voice cautioned from his left side. Immediately Michael let the bowie drop to the ground, freeing his right hand. Ignoring the warning, he clasped his left hand completely around Midnight and trained his weapon towards the sound of the voice. Unfortunately, the fog made it impossible to see who was out there.
“It’s not nice to go pointing guns at people before properly introducing yourself,” the voice said. “But since you’re so friendly, I feel kind of obligated to let you know that you’re being flanked.”
Without the slightest bit of hesitation, Michael’s other arm shot out to his right, training Sunrise on his other side. “Then it’s a good thing I came prepared. Who the hell are you?”
“Hmm, don’t you think we should be the ones asking you that question?” the voice answered.
Getting back to his feet slowly, Michael closed his eyes and shook his glasses off. Keeping them on made little difference if he couldn’t see two feet in front of him anyway, and the sight of the fog was distracting his eyes. Mentally he ran through the things he could tell about his unexpected company. The voice on his left belonged to a woman. She couldn’t have been standing too far away from him. Perhaps a few feet at the most. He could also now sense the presence on his right side. It had come upon him more slowly, but now he knew it was situated no more than about ten or so feet away either. He had to admit, whoever these people were, they were pretty damn good to have gotten so close to him before he noticed their presence. Militarily trained perhaps? “You’re armed,” he guessed.
“‘Fraid so,” the person on his right finally spoke. This voice belonged to a male. “So if I were you, I'd put the guns down and step away from the knife.”
Michael smirked. “But you’re not me.”
“Oh?” the woman laughed. “So is you plan to shoot blindly into the fog then?” she asked, an air of genuine curiosity in her tone.
Michael shrugged. “I was thinking about it. You still haven’t answered my question, and your friend just gave his position away. I think that upped my chances of hitting both of you to around ninety-five percent.”
The male voice laughed. “You’re pretty sure of yourself, huh? Well then tell you what, how about we play a little game of blind quick-draw? We'll both shoot, and see whose bullet hits their target first.”
Michael laughed at the man’s challenge. “We can play that game if you want. I don't see the merit in it, but if you want to let me kill you that's fine by me. Personally, I’m not really a fan of splattering human guts, but hey, it's your choice.”
“Why you cocky peace of sh—”
“Kyle, cool it.”
Michael’s aim almost faltered.
A third voice, seemingly from nowhere, had just cut in on their little conversation. It sounded like the voice was coming from directly behind him. But that meant… He opened his eyes.
The sound of the woman's laughter rang out into the fog. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say we were flanking you? I meant surrounding,” she said on the end of her laughter.
Son of a bitch.
As if on cue, Michael felt the unquestionable pressure of a gun being pressed against the back of his head. “I think you’d better drop you’re weapons,” a quiet male voice spoke from directly behind him. The voice was slow and calm. “It’s obvious you’re not one of the Mutated, so I’d rather not kill you, but I don’t really take kindly to people threatening my men.”
“Ah-hem,” the woman cleared her throat in an obvious indication of her sex.
The newcomer ignored her and didn’t turn his attention away from Michael. “Drop them now,” he ordered.
Michael sucked in a sharp breath and breathed it out as a hard sigh through his nose. It seemed these people, whoever they were, had just managed to get one over on him. Slowly, he sat his revolvers down on the ground, noting that the gun at the back of his head never lost its place.
“Shotgun and bag too,” the man added.
Gritting his teeth, Michael let the strap of the duffel slide off of his shoulder, then took off his shotgun. As he rose back to his feet, the gun rose with him.
“Walk forward and put your hands out in front of you.”
This time Michael didn’t move. “Why? You wanna’ get frisky?” he asked mockingly. He’d never been one for following orders blindly, regardless of how much the situation was lacking in his favor.
“Do it,” the man repeated just as calmly as he had the first time.
Ignoring the man’s orders once again, Michael took a few seconds to go over his options. Judging from their assuredness, he would wager these people could see a lot more clearly in this fog than he was able to. “Sorry bud, I don’t swing that way.”
The man let out a sigh that sounded as if he was more annoyed than actually angry. “I can check you for more weapons now, or I can knock you out and leave you here. Then you can wait for the Mutated to check you later. Somehow I doubt they’ll be checking for the same thing.”
“Knock me out, huh?” Michael chuckled softly. “Well, you could damn sure try.” This guy had guts, he’d give him that. But he was highly overestimating himself, and grossly underestimating Michael.
“Speaking of Mutated,” the woman interrupted before any more words could be exchanged between Michael and the man pointing a gun at the back of his head, “Alex says we’ve got company on the grid outside of the city. Looks like they’re coming our way.”
“Damn,” the man behind Michael swore. Even so, his voice retained an evenness that contrasted the profane word. “They were able to get on the grid?”
“They’ve probably been tracking our new friend here,” the female continued, obviously referring to him. Michael smiled. Unlike the man behind him, her anger was apparent. “I told you we should have torched him as soon as he crashed here.”
His smile fell away. ‘Torched him’? What the hell was that suppose to mean?
The man behind him laughed. “One murder at a time, Maria,” he said, then turned his focus back to Michael. “I guess we’re going to have to take this party inside. Kyle, grab his stuff. You, walk.”
“Inside where?” Michael asked without moving a muscle.
“Walk,” the man ordered again without answering.
Again, Michael contemplated his situation. He was dealing with four Stranded: Kyle, Maria, someone named Alex, and one as of yet unidentified male; the unidentified male being the obvious leader of their little party. The three who were upon him now were armed, but not particularly hostile at the moment. They were obviously familiar with this area, and knew that he’d crashed his truck here, which meant they were most likely the source. Honestly, he didn’t believe the trio to be a true threat to him, but he couldn’t be one hundred percent sure of that. Nor could he be sure that there weren’t more of these people lurking in the shadows somewhere. For the moment his best option was to do as they said and let the rest unveil itself, but he would definitely be on his guard.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
There was a prolonged silence before any of the three of them spoke again, and even then it was not to answer his question. “Maria, take our guest through the city. Go straight to the tunnel and on through to the Village. Kyle and I will make sure we don’t pick up anymore tails from outside.”
“Woo,” Kyle whistled as he picked up Michael’s bag and shotgun. “What are you, some kind of one man army?”
“Something like that,” Michael answered vaguely, then winced when he heard what sounded like his bag being tossed through the air and hitting the ground with a loud thump. “You wanna be a bit more careful with that, buttercup? Dynamite tends to detonate pretty easily.”
“Dynamite?” Kyle questioned in surprise.
“That's right,” Michael answered agitatedly. “And I wasn't planning on wasting it on a curious moron with lumberjack hands.”
Maria interrupted before Kyle could take offense. “Alright, señor explosivo
, we get it. Right now we really need to get going.”
“Maria's right,” the man behind Michael said. Suddenly he felt the pressure of the gun at the back of his head disappear. “Cover her, and she’ll get you someplace safe.” Next he felt his revolvers and knife being placed back into his hands. But it was the sudden drop of the hostile atmosphere that came with the removal of the gun that really surprised him.
“What, so you trust me now?” he asked, balancing the familiar weight of his weapons in his hands before holstering them.
“Not really,” the man said. “But you’re not a Mutated, you haven’t gotten yourself killed out here, and I assume you actually know how to use these things?” The last was voiced as an obvious challenge.
Michael put his knife away then reached down to pick up his glasses, placing them back over his eyes. “I don’t use them as knitting needles if that’s what you mean,” he said flippantly. “What about my shotgun?”
The man chuckled. “I think I'll hold on to that for now, if you don’t mind.”
“And I assume you
know how to use one?” Michael challenged back.
The man didn’t answer. “What’s your name?”
Michael smirked. “You first.” It was his turn to play the aloof game.
Even though his back was still to the man, Michael could tell that he had taken a step forward, almost closing the barely there distance between the two of them. “Max,” the man answered with his name.
Michael turned around, making no move to back away. Through the mask of the thick fog, he could make out the shape of a man standing in front of him, but could not distinguish any clear features. He gave his name.
Maria cut into their little dance. “And I’m Maria, and this is Kyle. Now that we all know who we are, you guys can either stand here weighing each other’s balls all night long, or we can get a move on.”
Kyle snickered as he came to stand beside Max. “Maria’s right, Max. We really should get moving. I’ve got a hot date tonight, if you know what I mean.”
“Right,” Max said, laughing a little himself. “Kyle, you're with me. Maria?”
“I’m on it,” she said, then handed Michael something that upon closer examination, or at least as close of an examination he could achieve under the thickness of this fog, felt like a pair of night vision goggles.
“What are these?” he asked.
“They're foggles,” Maria answered.
“Foggles?” Michael snorted. Dumbest name ever.
“They’re so you can see where you’re going, Einstein.”
Michael attempted to further examine the foggles through touch alone.
Max cleared his throat, drawing Maria’s attention back to him. “We're leaving now. Kyle and I will meet you back in the Village as soon as we can.”
“Okay, I’ll see you then,” she said, “Don’t get yourself killed, Kyle.”
Kyle laughed. “Thanks for the heartwarming sendoff, sis,” he answered, following Max through the fog.
Michael was still examining the glasses with his hands. “Foggles,” he said again. Seriously, the dumbest
name ever. “What the hell are foggles?” He’d never heard of anything like them, and he was military…well ex-military.
“Their custom night vision goggles made specifically so that you can see at night and under extreme fog,” Maria explained.
Well, that explained how the three of them had been able to see so well, while Michael could barely see two feet in front of him. He tossed them back to her. “Don’t need ‘em,” he said. “Just lead me out of this fog.” It was annoying conversing with voices that belonged to people he couldn’t see in front of him, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He looked around, straining to see through the fog. He could barely make out the silhouette of the two males who were already headed off in the direction he’d come from, and he still could not make out the woman in front of him.
Maria frowned, taking the foggles back. “Fine, suit yourself. Follow me if you can, and try not to slow me down.”
Michael almost laughed. He didn’t think he’d have any trouble with that. “Just lead the way.” Even though he had no idea where they were going, or what this “tunnel” was, he didn't have too many reservations about following her. Call it a hunch, or a whim, or whatever, but something told him that these people, whoever they were, were for the moment if not his allies, at least not his enemies. Besides, until he was able to get his truck out of that damn trench, he didn't really have any other choice but to trust them.
The two of them continued on in silence, making their way across what to Michael appeared to be vast nothingness. However, this Maria woman seemed to have a pretty clear idea of where she was going. Finally, after a few minutes of traveling they came upon an automobile. “Get in,” Maria ordered.
The fog was still pretty heavily amassed at their current location, but Michael was able to navigate his way to the passenger side door and enter the vehicle. “What’s with all the fog?” he questioned.
“I guess you could say it’s kind of like a smokescreen. The enemy can’t attack what they can’t see.”
So then they were the source of the fog as well. He had already assumed as much. “The enemy being the Mutated?”
“Among other things.”
Michael snorted. He supposed he fit under the category of ‘other things’.
After that brief conversation they drove in more silence until they reached an area that looked as if it used to be a city. Most of the fog had dissipated and Michael could finally see clearly again, but the area was still dark.
Maria stopped the car and pulled over to the side of the road. “We walk from here,” she said, getting out of the vehicle.
Michael followed behind her, blinking several times to let his eyes adjust to the sensation of suddenly being able to see again. Without the hindrance of the dense fog, he could now fully make out the woman in front of him.
She had a lithe body with a slender build that was neither horrendously large nor breakably slim. She wore a green tank top that had faded writing printed across the chest, along with a pair of fatigue shorts that stopped just past her calves, and seemed too wide in the legs to have been made for a woman. Her feet were adorned with a pair of brown knee-high combat boots, and her blonde hair was pulled back tightly in a long braid that fell low behind her back. The foggles she had obviously been wearing earlier now rested on top of her head, and as confirmed before, she was armed with a 9.millimeter pistol in her right hand, and a rifle strapped on her back.
Michael eyed her intriguingly, paying more attention to her weaponry than he was to her physical appearance. “You're a sniper?” he asked, eyeing her high caliber rifle.
“When I need to be,” she shrugged nonchalantly. “Come on. We need to get to the tunnel.”
Michael followed her. “And what exactly is this tunnel you all keep talking about?”
Maria placed one hand on her hip and looked him up and down obviously. “You really did just stumble blindly onto us, didn't you? You have no idea where you are.”
Stumbled blindly? Michael almost laughed. Still, he didn't know what to think about the implication of what she was saying. “You say that like I should have been looking for you.”
“Most people who come to this place are.”
“And where exactly is this place?”
“I guess you'll just have to wait and find out. Come on. We’d better get moving.”
There were street lights located around the area. Some were lit, while others appeared to be burned out. Odd. The way they were scattered about seemed completely random.
“This is the inner city area,” Maria explained. “The path is lit, so we shouldn't have a problem with Mutated.”
“Path?” Michael asked.
Maria pointed to one of the lights. “The lights mark the way around the city. There are several all around the area that we use to get around at night,” she explained.
“You mapped the city with lighted paths,” Michael mused, understanding beginning to dawn on him.
Maria nodded. “Paths to the tunnel and a few other areas we've explored. But there are still quite a few dark areas, and we have no idea where the Mutated nest here in the city, so we never use the same path coming and going. Also, we don't light any of the paths during the daylight, and we never light the grid since we don't want any more Mutated making their way into the city.”
Michael frowned. There was a whole lot she’d just said that he didn’t quite understand. Paths, grids, lights, and tunnels. It all seemed incredibly intricate and annoyingly complicated. But as far as he could tell, there was a whole method to these people’s madness. “What’s the grid and tunnel?” he asked.
Maria sighed. “I’ll explain more about them when we get to the Village. Just keep your eyes opened. None of the Mutated should bother us as long as we're on the path, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there.”
Michael followed her quietly, marking the path they took in his head as they went along. It was a complex trail that curved down streets, around corners, past alleyways, and even through some buildings. It would be a difficult path to follow if you didn’t know where you were going.
“An invisible path,” Michael whispered under his breath. Damn, these people even made something as simple as walking down the street into something complicated.
“Come on. The tunnel's just up ahead,” Maria urged.
Michael continued to follow closely behind her until the two of them came upon a dead end. “What the hell?” he questioned, staring at the large brick wall that hindered their path.
Ignoring his confused statement, Maria touched a hand to her ear. “Alex, we’re outside of the tunnel,” she spoke aloud, then paused a moment as if she were listening for something. “Thanks Alex.” She turned around to face Michael. “This is how we get to the tunnel.”
Michael looked from Maria to the brick wall behind her. “It's a wall,” he said unenthusiastically.
Maria shook her head. “Not just a wall.” She leaned in and pressed hard against it until the spot in front of her gave in into a circular pathway.
“Holy shit,” Michael breathed, as he looked into the blackness of the hole that had just opened up in front of them. What the hell was this place?
“It's simple camouflage,” Maria explained. “Any uninvited guest would assume it was just a regular wall. The wall can only be unlocked from the inside, and even then it's virtually impossible to find the entrance if you don't already know where it is.”
“Who built this structure?” Michael asked. He had no idea there was still this type of technology in the world.
Maria didn't answer that question. Instead she said, “Honestly, you've never heard of the Village?”
Michael just shook his head. “Never.” No one would ever accuse him of being a sociable person and for the sake of his work—as well as that of maintaining as few personal attachments as possible—he tended to avoid the company of other Stranded. So he wasn’t exactly up to date on current colonization areas or havens. He figured there were a few developing around the world, but he didn’t suppose any of them would be as advanced as this one.
She continued staring at him.
“What?” he asked, growing more agitated by the way she was leering at him.
“Nothing, I'm just surprised. You seem...”
She shook her head. “It's nothing. Come on, let's go.”
He looked into the mouth of the dark hole. “There's no light.”
“Just trust me,” she said, walking into the tunnel.
Michael scoffed at the nonchalance of that statement. That was a lot easier said than done.
He remained rooted for a moment, watching as she entered into the darkness with no hesitation, then—with a hefty dose of skepticism—he followed her inside.
The tunnel entrance closed up behind him, sealing the two of them inside of the darkness almost as soon as he stepped foot inside. Michael didn’t like it. The darkness had been his enemy for going on more than a year now. Longer actually. Standing in it without reservations was a foreign practice for him.
“Alex, we're in the tunnel,” Maria spoke aloud once more.
Michael felt her take his hand as she started moving forward. “Who's Alex?” he asked.
Before she could answer, a loud voice projected over what Michael could only assume was some sort of PA system.
“Great. No run-ins I hope.”
“Nope, we didn't come across any Mutated. I don't think any newbies made it into the city and none of the horde ventured onto the path,” Maria answered, not bothering to answer Michael’s question of who ‘Alex’ was. “Max and Kyle are still clearing the grid of all the tails. They should be here soon. But I’ve got a civilian…” she paused and gave Michael a once over. “Sort of,” she added, as if deciding the word ‘civilian’ didn’t quite fit him.
“I’ve got Kyle in my ear now. He says they found about half a dozen Mutated on the grid, but haven’t spotted anything else. They’re on their way back.”
“Oh, only half a dozen? How wonderful,” Maria said sarcastically, glaring at Michael accusingly.
Michael glared back unapologetically.
“Can you hit the lights for us, Alex?” she asked, ignoring Michael’s unremorseful gaze.
Within a few seconds the tunnel was illuminated in a bright light that spanned from the wall where Michael and Maria had entered, all the way through into the darkness in front of them.
“Thanks Alex, I'll see you in a bit.”
“See ya soon.”
Seemingly done speaking to Alex, Maria focused her attention back on Michael. “Welcome to the tunnel,” she said, extending her hand out in front of her.
Michael stepped forward. The 'tunnel' actually looked more like a dry sewer. A circular sewer covered with small pocket holes that exuded beams of light. If he listened carefully, he could clearly hear the sound of water running somewhere throughout the tunnel walls, but there was no visible water to speak of. Meaning there was most likely some sort of water pipeline nearby.
“Where does this lead?” he asked, taking a quick look around.
“To the Village.”
“And that's where you live?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
The Village. That was an interesting name. It implied that more than just a handful of people lived there. Michael wondered just how many people there were in this Village. He assumed there were more than just Max, Maria, Kyle, and this Alex person. Everything he'd come across so far was far too advanced to have only been constructed by such a small number of people. In fact, it would take at least an army of Stranded to set this entire system up. Not to mention some pretty elaborate technology. He definitely needed to see this place.
Michael looked back at Maria, who was standing behind him silently. She folded her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. “Well then?” she asked.
Ignoring her clear impatience, he stared into the mouth of the lit tunnel before him. Michael didn't know what was on the other side of this tunnel, but he knew there was only one way he was going to find out.