Chapter 7

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"I hear mooing," Alex announced about an hour later from the tunnel entrance.

"I see mooing!" Lupe added a second later, peering through Burt's binoculars. She glanced back to the others. "I think our tunnel days are about to end."

Tyler felt a rush of relief at those words, eager to leave the confines of the tunnel and get away from the rather painfully evil sounding threats coming from Rosalita. To say she was upset would be an understatement and he didn't want to wait around to see what the translation was.

The sound of stampeding cattle grew louder as their rescuers drew closer, leading the herd straight past the basin. The air was filled with terrified bellows and hungry screams as the spiders gave chase to the sudden multitude of prey. Moments later Roger and Larry pulled up in the scientists' minivan and the group clambered in.

"'Bout time you got here," Rosalita muttered darkly as they sped off, pointedly ignoring the death scene of her poor cows.

"Yeah, sorry," Roger apologized. "We had a bit of a hard time getting your-...uh, getting ready."

Burt cleared his throat to break the awkward silence that followed. "So how's everyone at the bunker?"

"Fine," Larry replied. "We had a few Cheeder-moles pass by during the night but they didn't bother us."

"Cheeder-moles?" Lupe asked, eyebrows raised. "What kinda name is that?"

"A Norvel name," Tyler sighed.

"It's a good name!" Larry said defensively.

"How 'bout Crawlers?" Alex suggested.

His cousin rolled her eyes. "How does that make any more sense?"

He shrugged. "Tyler said they sort of crawled when they hunted."

"Well, it sounds less ridiculous," Burt commented. Larry shot him a look of disbelief at his betrayal. The survivalist just shrugged.

"Whatever. Right now all I want is to wash all this dirt and sand off me," Tyler said, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

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"Okay. How's that? Better?"

Tyler shrugged his shoulders experimentally, the weight of the hazmat suite still feeling strange but not quite as restricting. "Yeah."

Casey nodded and helped him into the canister of toxic spider poison that Twitchell had been "nice enough" to bring them before racing back to his normal life. Roger was tinkering with the small radio in the helmet to make sure it worked while Burt kept vigil near his truck, which was parked only a few feet from the tunnel.

"Oookay, I think you're ready," Roger said, giving the helmet one final glance before handing it to Tyler. "Can you hear me?"

"If I said no, could I get out of this?"

"That's the spirit," Roger patted him on the back before turning back to the truck.

"Don't worry, Tyler, you'll be fine," Casey assured him with a smile. He just grunted.

"Okay," Roger returned, carrying one of Burt's guns. "Ready?"

"I guess," Tyler replied, falling sort of enthusiastic.

"Be careful," Burt warned.

The trip through the tunnel seemed to go faster than the first two times Tyler had travelled it. He hated time's rules. Can't wait=forever and Never please=span of two seconds.

The Crawlers were gathered at the center of the basin, milling around lazily or snacking on the remains of Rosalita's cows. Tyler would have to walk out a ways from the safety of the tunnel before he could reach any of them with the sprayer.

Roger posted himself just outside the entrance. "Good luck," he whispered.

Tyler took a steadying breath and began inching his way out, moving slowly to avoid being spotted before he could finish the job. As soon as he was close enough he turned the nozzle and started spraying the creatures within reach. A few chattered quietly and moved away but for the most part they ignored him completely.

The next moment, Tyler suddenly found himself falling, the blue sky disappearing above him as Roger's cry echoed in his ears.

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"Roger? Roger, come one, wake up," Casey coaxed.

Brown eyelids lifted slowly, blinking in confusion. "Case?" Roger's voice was a weaker than he'd expected.

"I'm here. Don't worry, you're safe. Burt got you out of the tunnel after you got bit. I gave you a vaccination against the poison, thankfully it wasn't too different from the original Black Widow. But you're gonna be weak for a few days, so just rest, okay?"

Roger just gave a small nod before closing his eyes again. Casey sighed.

"How is he?" Burt asked, leaning over the side of the truck bed.

"He'll be fine. Have you found Tyler?"

Burt's lips drew tight and he shook his head. "Roger said he fell, but I can't see any holes in the ground anywhere. At least not from the tunnel. But those damn Crawlers are too riled up to risk walking out."

Casey let out a shaky breath to try and calm her nerves. Everything had been going so well. Just their luck it wouldn't last though. The Curse of Perfection.

"How long 'til the poison starts affecting them? Casey?"

"Oh. Uh...an hour? Maybe less."

Burt nodded. "Then we'll wait for now. Hopefully the oxygen supply in his suit is still working, it should last." He stood up, grabbing his gun and heading towards the top of the cliff. "I'm going to keep a lookout, you keep trying his radio."

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It was dark when he awoke. For a moment he wasn't sure where he was, only that the place was dark and uncomfortable. Then the memories came rushing back and he momentarily panicked when he remembered that he was underground. Something moved though, that made him freeze. Several somethings. A lot of somethings.

Fumbling for the flashlight he'd used in the tunnel Tyler turned it on. He was surrounded by dirt but luckily his suit's oxygen hadn't been damaged. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. Not that he was claustrophobic, but being buried alive was freakier than one would originally suspect. Sure, it sounded scary, but experiencing it was much, much worse.

The something moved again and Tyler jumped, shining his light around quickly. He couldn't see anything but dirt. Wait.... "Ohhh God," Tyler whimpered, dropping his head back and closing his eyes. Crawlers. Tiny, baby, newly hatched, Crawlers. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny, little Crawlers.

He officially hated his life.

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