|Under the Surface
Author: Fribe PM
Cory vows to track down and capture the powerful and mysterious man who framed his brother, through any means or worlds necessary. Part 3 of 6 in the Extra-Ordinary series. COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Fantasy - Chapters: 28 - Words: 44,324 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-25-13 - Published: 12-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3084208
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 26: Rising Pool
"You did what?" Aubna shrieks at him, enraged. She'd only wandered onto the scene for the closing act, but saw enough from the shore and had heard his sobbing monologue on his walk in.
Cory crawls towards her, and she crouches down to receive his wet, scared embrace. "They're gone! They're both gone! I didn't have a choice!"
Aubna hushes. "You mean Erika and Natalie, or-"
"Doesn't matter." Cory releases his death grip around her knees and falls back to the pavers beneath him, lying on his back, hands across his face.
"You're…Cory, you're stuck here. If he doesn't come back, you're never going home." She feels strange announcing this, assuming he's had the same thought. "Did you think that through? Do you not care?"
He opens his mouth to shout back at her, but loses grip on a sentence. What comes out instead is a low growl. "We're going to war."
"With who? The guy you just gave it all away to?"
Cory stands up sharply and gives the area a look around. They're still alone in their plaza, but around the rest of the park and across the lake, figures are coming into view. Their private party is over, the chance window of emptiness in a busy city park ends. He stalks back to the water and picks up the handgun he'd dropped on his trudge back out of the lake.
"Jack gave me a good idea of where to start looking." Cory approaches Aubna, muzzling the gun away in his waist, beneath his shirt. He looks her in the eyes, speaking low and precise. "Aubna, I'm going all in, and I don't know what that's going to mean. Might lose control and get messy, I don't know. I've got," he pauses briefly to catch his breath and look away, "got the feeling this is heading downhill. Dark places. You can either come with me now, or go home," he orders.
Aubna is startled by his bluntness. "Cory, this isn't your world, you can't go off alone."
"It's not your world either anymore! There's freaks running around firing bullets made outta magical I-don't-even-know-what! That something you learned in school, is that something that goes on every day over here in Normal Land?"
"What, you don't think I'm scared?" she shouts back with venom in her tongue. "You don't think I'm scared too? Life might not scare me anymore, but that's back in the real world! You're right. That place doesn't exist right now, so we're sticking together until we find the way back, where's there's no more horrible surprises and friends being shot into black holes. I don't feel safe there on my own either, that's what I meant."
The near-fight comes screeching to a halt. Cory drops his guard and his attitude back down. "So, uh, you're coming with me then?" Aubna nods back at him. "Great. Let's go figure out who gets their ass kicked first."
Aubna and Cory make a beeline for the Oaks-branded establishment infiltrated earlier, and plan their attack in this time in broad daylight, in front of the newspaper boxes.
"Have you ever shot a gun?" Aubna asks meekly.
"Well, uh, no," he admits, reaching for the gift from Jack at his waist.
"Hand it over." She makes a clapping motion with her right hand. "I was an ace with the rifle at camp. Stronger than me, anyway, that makes us equal. So what's the plan?"
"Plan?" Cory repeats, passing the gun over to her, "the plan is that we go bust that place up and find Vero. He knows where this brother guy they all whisper about lives. He's the prize."
He runs across the street towards the front door of the building, leaving Aubna behind, standing on the sidewalk with a handgun. In broad daylight. She squeals, and follows him across the street, between cars, and up to the door.
They charge inside as a unit, ready to annihilate anything in their path. The main room of the building – under construction, of course – is empty.
"The bathrooms!" Cory orders, thinking back to the path Erika had described to them from her investigation. Through the door to the needlessly large restroom, to the discovery of the secret door behind the ventilation panel, and up the staircase leading to the brains of building on the second floor.
Cory scales the steps two at a time, shouting the whole way up. "Get out here! Get out here before we drag you out!"
Days ago I was too nervous to even come in here by myself. Things change quickly!
The master door at the end of the hall that Erika had snuck into is closed and locked this time around, but the side doors are far less secure. Upon hearing their approaching ruckus, one opens, and the MM hench Argol pokes his head out.
"Get on the ground!" Aubna hollers, swinging the gun in his direction.
"Hey, hey, hey, I don't know anything!" the hired man pleads as he hits the floor. "It's not me!"
"You're right, it's not you. Where's Vero?"
Compared to previous situations, Argol is incredibly nervous. By himself, he's not much of a threat. He doesn't seem to recognize Aubna or Cory as they bear down upon him.
"I-I'm just the code cracker, honest!"
"I don't give a damn who you are," Cory thunders, frame seemingly growing with his anger. Mouth writing checks that in normal circumstances his muscle might not be able to cash. "General Vero, whatever the hell his name is. Where do we find him?
Argol sings like a bird. "Rising Pool Dam! Rising Pool Dam!" he stutters, directing it more at Aubna, who was the gun aimed ahead of her furrowed, intense face.
"That's where he is? Aub?"
"North of the city, it's the marsh complex, we can get there."
"Rising Pool Dam, got it!"
It's enough for Cory; he turns to run the other direction, ready to follow the new lead. Aubna leans in closer to Argol. "So what do you do around here, anyway? You go around robbing banks, rifling through mansions? Is that your game, is that what this place is all about?"
"They keep us compartmentalized, you have to understand! I only know what I've been told, I'm the code cracker, the safe cracker!"
It's clear that he's not the brains of the operation, and Aubna is satisfied. She turns to leave, but delivers a final warning on her way out. "Don't think I forgot about what you did. Arbor House. You ripped off my friends, I think I'll make sure they hear about it."
They meet up as they dash back through the ground level before potential backup arrives to remove them.
"Pretty badass," Aubna breathes.
"So you know where this dam is?"
The sun is setting by the time they reach the particular dam mentioned, one in the series of levees and drainage works that held back the waters of the massive marsh north of the city. It's a small dam, isolated from the road system.
A small concrete watchtower is perched halfway across, looking down at the muck beneath the spillway of the dam and the paths that led to its span. Judging by the fact that they weren't shot at as they approached the tower from the side of the dam, Cory assumed that it was empty, and that they'd been had.
Climbing the steps up to the guard booth at the top provided an unexpected surprise; the other, more menacing and dangerous hench they'd dealt with in the past, Augus, is fast asleep at his perch. Leading the way up the loud stairs, Cory motions for Aubna to stop and be silent.
"Gun," he whispers, "let me have it! Quick!"
He takes the handgun and grips it tight in his right hand, swinging over the railing above the last two stairs and stepping down onto the floor of the snug guard stand. Augus is asleep in a chair, full uniform on, head nodding against a pillar. An assault rifle lies on the floor by his feet.
"Click," Cory says out loud, pointing the gun at the face of the enemy.
Augus's eyes shoot open. "You-"
"You, yeah, don't try anything. I'm not afraid to blow your head off, man," Cory threatens. His eyes dart down to the rifle. "Don't try anything, kick it over here. The rifle. Kick it over."
"Oh, you're gonna pay, kid," Augus hisses as he follows Cory's command, handgun pointed only a few feet in front of his head. "You're in-"
"I really don't care today." Bending over carefully, Cory takes hold of the end of the assault rifle, and tosses it over his shoulder, out the open windows of the guard tower, where it falls and tumbles down the spillway below. "General Vero," he says, again leveling his gun. "Where is he? If he's not here, tell me exactly where."
Augus doesn't make a move, but his threat level drops. "Oh, I'll tell you exactly where he is, kid," he snickers. "He'll kill you there if I can't here."
"I'll deal with that then. Where is he?"
The gangly man smiles and spreads his arms wide. "Windeyo Town Windmill. On Echo Plain. Go have at him, kid, he's all yours. Beat him on his own turn if you can."
"Thanks for the advice."
Cory steps backwards, careful not to turn his back on a man whose capabilities he didn't know. For all he knew there was a second weapon stashed up in the hideout. Still holding the gun – still unused – he backpedals down the sharp flight of stairs, bumping into Aubna on the way down.
"Run like hell," he advises her, and heeds his own advice when they're back on the dam's pathway, sprinting ahead without looking back.