Dangerous and Different

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They danced until their faces hurt from grinning, lungs filled with contagious laughter. Lee didn't remember ever feeling this light. She didn't need alcohol to strip her inhibitions away. Being with Alex let her do that all on her own, and Lee gladly let herself drift into the atmosphere like she was tied to a helium balloon.

Still grinning like fools, the two took their leave after a few more drinks, weaving their way into the younger tunnels with hopes of listening to the tail end of Phantom before Alex returned Topside. It would have been a lovely way to end the evening had the cage lights illuminating their path not suddenly strobed, plunging the tunnel into revolving intervals of darkness.

Shit! Lee spun in place, eyes on the walls.

"Is the power going out?" Alex squinted, using a hand to steady herself against the wall.

No. That's an intruder alarm, Lee explained in a rush, taking Alex by the hand and pulling her along at fast clip.

"There's an alarm for that?"

We have sentries in the tunnels who keep watch for trespassers. Sometimes a homeless person strays too far and gets lost. Sometimes it's a gang. If the silent alarm is going off, it means a large group has managed to get past a sentry and into the main tunnels. We need to hide.

Adrenaline of a darker kind taking the place of the effervescent happiness she'd been floating in minutes ago, Lee took a hairpin corner and found the skinny silver pipe she'd been searching for. Putting her ear to it, Lee closed her eyes and listened to the messages already spitting through the metal. People were scrambling. But where...

Intruders in lower tunnels. Spotted heading south. Near Bismark.

Of course, they were in their tunnel. Of course.

Lee tapping, she responded, using a small wrench she always kept on her person. In Bismark tunnel with companion. Need assistance. Send Goliath.

We need to hide. Lee slid along the tunnel wall, looking for something with both eyes and hands. She found it in a carved series of numbers that told her which pipe segment she and Alex were currently standing in. They can't see us.

"They might not be violent," Alex tried to reason, but even she didn't sound sure of her words..

Towards you, maybe not. Me? Lee swallowed the fear threatening to crawl out of her sour stomach and choke her. People individually weren't scary. She could handle one-on-on even if the situation went south. But groups were another matter. Groups were seldom dictated by rationality, and Lee knew enough about the Topside world to know better than to let a group see her. I don't want to take that chance. We're also two women alone in the tunnels. That's not a good combination.

It was like Lee could see Alex's stomach drop at the same time her face lost its color. What was more dangerous than a pack of adolescents with anonymity and the distinct lack of incrimination on their side? Lord of the Flies wasn't far off the mark.

Without any indication of where exactly the gang had been spotted — the Bismark tunnel extended for half a mile before branching off in several directions — Lee led Alex as quickly and as silently as possible towards one of those branches. If they could get to a divergent hatch, they would be home free. But plans rarely worked so seamlessly.

Not more than a hundred yards ahead, the echoing whoops of possibly a dozen bodies drifted toward them. Lee felt her heart make the leap into her ears and wondered if this was what Indiana Jones felt running through the temple with a boulder chasing him. Before the gang fully descended, she spotted their saving grace and unceremoniously shoved Alex into a tight alcove between pipes, using her bulk and dark clothes as added camouflage. Unless someone took the time to really look, they would only see darkness...or so she prayed.

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