Chapter 35 – Squeak Squeak
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Being the strongest amongst us, Rocky ripped the cover from the manhole, tossing it aside with a smug face.

I had the urge to tell Rocky that the manhole cover was relatively loose and almost made entirely of aluminum since I would often use it to access the tunnels, but I withheld the information to allow him a couple seconds of glory. 

Rena and, the now awake, Agne seemed impressed by Rocky's show of masculinity.

"All in the arms…" Rocky bragged, flexing the muscles he had built from fighting almost every day.

Admittedly, there was a lot to see, unlike myself.

I felt a bit jealous since I couldn't exactly remove my skull and show them the flex of my brainpower.

Everyone was a bit skittish except Rocky…

Rocky only got skittish when there was nothing to do, so living on the edge put him at ease if anything else. 

Rena walked past Rocky, intending to check out the manhole below, but I grabbed her just before she peeked inside.

I thought it was a pretty obvious rule in the slums by now – Don't go sticking your head in dirty holes. 

Seeing Rena's upset face made me realize that both she and Agne didn't grow up in the slums per se.

They were probably kept inside all the time, which gave them a certain 'cleanliness' that both I and Rocky lacked.

That would become useful if we ever reached civilization, but right here in the slums, 'cleanliness' means just not dirty yet.

Rena remained unconvinced with a defiant look on her face until I gestured for her to look closer at the manhole…

And then she saw it - the green fumes rising from below.

All that was left was a skull and two crossbones to convince her that the tunnels were fucked up in ways she could never imagine.

Ironically, that was exactly what made it the perfect place to hide.

You literally had a 50-50 chance of survival, and nobody was about to waste time and considerable resources searching the tunnels for someone who was probably already dead.

Rena's face turned pale, and even Rocky had to suck a breath of cold air. 

The tunnels were not a place just anyone could breathe easily, but my lungs had adapted to the fumes after years of taking the route.

Rocky could probably handle the toxic air…

He had been sucking gas out of old cars from the junkyard almost as long as he has been alive…

If Rocky didn't have strong lungs, then nobody could claim to.

However, Rena and Agne would probably just puke and faint from the vapor alone.

Smoking a cigarette was bad in the past, but the tunnels instantly made you feel the heaviness in your lungs…

It didn't accumulate, it was just there as soon as you entered. 

I pulled a couple rags from my pockets and gave them to Rocky, Rena, and Agne respectively.

"Spit on it, more preferably piss on it, or just wet it somehow…" I instructed, hoping the advice would spare them a similar experience to when I first came out of the bunker "The gas is toxic so don't breathe it… also, you won't be able to see much so just follow my steps exactly…"

"So we have to trust you with our lives?" Rena inquired, a mocking tone in her voice.

"I trust you with my balls..." Rocky interrupted, voicing his support for me in the most disgusting way possible.

I sighed "I would prefer you trust me with your life…"

"My Balls are my life…" Rocky defended boisterously, hoping to lessen the stress on Agne and Rena.

"Then you can keep your life too!" Rena snorted, wrapping the wet rag around her face, and then wrapping one around Agne's face.

Though she seemed disgusted by Rocky's joke, I could see the relief that came along with normalizing both Rocky and me.

The last thing you needed when fighting for survival was the liability to know they were a liability because that would make them unpredictable.

A couple minutes later after we were finished with the preparations, I walked to the manhole and folded my arms, rotating twice to demonstrate the proper stance to Rocky, Rena, and Agne.

"Ready?" I asked, doubtful that Rena and Agne would make survive beyond this point, but then again, I never expected to survive this long either.

Granted, I do have some killer panic attacks that instinctually warn me of danger, and a crazy voice in my head that makes me… well, crazier.

I hopped in the air, spun, and dove into the manhole like I had a thousand times before.

I had no fear of falling into the toxic waters below because the safe routes designed by my parents were terrifyingly safe most of the time.

Before I could touch the toxic water of the tunnels, a soft air pressure cushioned my fall, pushing me a couple feet to the side, just enough to roll onto the concrete walkway.

The moment I managed to hop to my feet, I could tell that a group of Hunters had recently entered the tunnels using this exact same entrance.

Obviously, someone had knowledge of my safe routes, but witnessing someone cook an omelet doesn't mean you can also cook an omelet.

Rocky was the next to hop through the manhole, pushed in my direction by an air cushion and I barely managed to jump out of the way before a collision.

Sadly, I wasn't so lucky for Agne…

My body moved on instinct to wrap around her when she came rolling, preventing any injuries from assaulting her fragile body.

Another headache assaulted my mind, shaking the very foundations of my existence.

'One… One… One… One… One… One… One… One…'

Like the voice of the devil, I could hear the whisper of temptation splitting my mind apart, shouting a number that meant absolutely nothing to me.

I stood with Agne in my arms, hiding the trippy look on my face, and quickly darted to the side using my spatial awareness since there was limited light available.

Rocky was quick to stand up next, snatching Rena out of the air with his muscular arms like it was nothing.

I had to remind myself that sometimes Rocky was just cooler than me…

Agne glanced up at me expectantly, and I dropped her to the floor immediately.

"I can't princess-carry you like Rocky, so don't expect me to…" I grunted, grabbing Agne's hand, and then Rocky's, who proceeded to grab Rena's hands.

"Turn left…" I whispered, leaning my body to the left in search of the usual tunnel.

Five minutes of walking later…

For some reason, the journey seemed a bit longer than I was used to, but I guess my pace was naturally slowed to compensate for Rocky and the others.

I was also cautious of whoever was sent to retrieve Aurora…

The 'Adults' would not enter the tunnels of the Sewer System without a clear plan in mind, so it was all but guaranteed they had reached close to the bunker.

Though, whether or not they would be able to enter was the main question…

Rocky was the first to notice the indistinguishable mumbles of humans within the tunnels…

Occasional snarls would overlap with the whispers, but it was still there.

"Lookouts…" Rocky whispered, retrieving his dagger from its sheath and checking the toes of his shoes, ready to gut a couple people or run when things look bad enough.

Rena and Agne shuffled about in panic, but I just pulled everyone along as we continued the journey into the depths of toxic darkness.

I retrieved a piece of meat from my left pocket, tossing it left as I spun my body right, issuing the order like a mantra "Turn Right."

The turn was a bit abrupt and the passage was narrow so Rocky momentarily lost his footing, pulling Agne and Rena a bit off-course with him.

Thankfully, he possessed a survival instinct that bordered on supernatural so he was quick to recover, clutching my hand with a strong grip that made me wince.

I picked up the pace a bit since I knew what was coming next. 

"AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"

"AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"

"AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!"

A couple seconds later, we were greeted by the noise of people being ripped apart.

"What the fuck?" Rocky grunted, attempting to pat my shoulders but missing due to the limited lighting.

"My parents designed this place in such a way that any deviations from plotted safe routes would be a death trap…" I mentioned, pulling everyone close as we gathered on a circular platform.

We heard the noise of rushed footsteps trailing in our direction…

I knew it was probably a mix of Rat-Olfs and the surviving men who were running from the creatures.

Honestly, I was more afraid of the noises than the people who were coming to kidnap Aurora and possibly kill me.

Noise in the Sewer System was a quick way to donate your meat to a hungry cause, and I am not just referencing animals here. 

"Clockwise rotation 12'O clock direction…" I murmured, digging my feet into the circular platform and pushing as hard as I could until it faced the correct direction.

Several silhouettes burst into the corridor, raising their weapons to take aim at the easy target.

Three Rat-Olfs chased behind the wounded and battered mercenaries, but they had obviously decided to take us with them.

Not a moment too soon, spikes jutted out of the tunnel wall, piercing everyone where they stood.

The only location safe from any spikes was the circular platform upon which we stood.

"Your parents are fucking crazy…" Rocky cheered, the thought of suicidal mission was just elevated to 'Possible to complete' in his mind "They did all this to keep your sister safe?"

I frowned, not sure how to respond but I guess honesty was the best policy.

"As far as I can tell… my parents redesigned some of the traps but they didn't make the traps… it was here when they started building…"

"Who would make traps down here?" Rena questioned, suspicious of my every move.

Being a young, beautiful, girl in the slums was not easy so I didn't blame her.

I already caught Rocky examining her a couple of times, probably thinking about the price we could fetch for her if we ever got out of the slums.

I hopped off the circular platform, pulling everyone along with me as I provided the answer I knew they wouldn't like.

"These traps were not made to keep people out, but to keep something inside…"

---squeak---

---squeak---

---squeak---

I felt something brush across my shoulders, and then the squeak of shoes fading into the distance…

"Rocky?"

"Rocky?"

I pulled Rena's hand into my own, and pushed Agne behind me as I peered into the darkness behind…

Thousands of small red eyes peered back through the darkness and I instantly understood where Rocky had gone – anywhere but here.

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