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Tunnels 03, Freefall

Tunnels 03, Freefall

Titel: Tunnels 03, Freefall
Autoren: Roderick Gordon , Brian Williams
edge of the Pore and, one after another, stepped straight into it. None of them gave as much as a cry. And none of their comrades in the area stopped what they were doing to watch as the three soldiers hurtled down into the abyss.
    "Rough justice," Cox said.
    "We demand nothing less than excellence," the old Styx replied. "They failed. They were no use to us any longer."
    "You know, the girls might just 'ave survived," Cox ventured.
    The old Styx turned to give Cox his full attention. "That's right -- your people really believe a man fell down there and lived, don't they?"
    "They're not my people," Cox grumbled uncomfortably.
    "Some myth about a glorious Garden of Eden waiting at the bottom," the old Styx said playfully.
    "Load of guff," Cox mumbled, and began to cough.
    "You've never thought of giving it a try yourself?" The old Styx didn't wait for an answer, clapping his gloved hands together as he swung around to his young assistant. "Send a detachment to the Bunker to extract samples of the Dominion virus from the corpses there. If we can re-culture it, we can keep the plan on track." He cocked his head and smiled evilly at Cox. "Wouldn't want the Topsoilers to miss their day of reckoning, now, would we?"
    At his Cox exploded with a cackling laugh, spraying milky spittle into the air.

    * * * * *

    Chester refused to allow himself even a second's rest. Whatever it was that had him in its grip, it felt oily next to his skin, and as he continued to struggle he became even more certain it was the source of the foul stench. While he was straining to get his second arm out, his other shoulder came free, and then, all of a sudden, the top half of his torso was clear. He roared in triumph as he sat up with a loud sucking sound.
    He quickly felt around in the pitch black. He was completely hemmed in by the rubbery substance, and he found he could just reach the very top, where it seemed to level off. He tore off small strips from the sides around him -- it was fibrous and greasy to the touch, and he hadn't the faintest idea what it was. But whatever it was, it seemed to have absorbed the impact of his fall down the Pore. Crazy as the idea appeared, it was probably the reason he was alive now.
    "No way!" he said, dismissing the notion. It was just too far-fetched -- there must be another explanation.
    The lantern that had been clipped onto his jacket was nowhere to be seen, so he quickly checked through all his pockets for his spare luminescent orbs.
    "Blast it!" he exclaimed as he discovered that his hip pocket was torn and the contents gone, the orbs with them.
    Talking rapidly to himself to keep his spirits up, he attempted to get to his feet. "Oh, give me a break!" he wailed as he found his legs were still firmly wedged in the spongy material and he couldn't get up. But that wasn't the only thing holding him in place.
    "What's this?" he said, as he discovered the rope tied around his waist. It was Elliott's rope, which they'd used to daisy-chain themselves together at the top of the Pore. Now it was restricting his movements -- to his left and right it was firmly set in the spongy material. Without the use of a knife, he had no option but to attempt to unpick the knot. This was easier said than done because his hands were drenched in the oily fluid and kept slipping off the rope.
    With much fumbling and cursing, he eventually managed to undo the knot, then enlarge the loop around him. "At last!" he bellowed, and with a sound like someone finishing a drink through a straw, he extricated his legs. One of his boots was left behind, stuck solid in the material. He had to use both hands to tug it out, putting it back on before he scrambled up.
    It was at that point that he realized how much every part of his body hurt -- as if he'd just finished the toughest rugby match of his life, perhaps against a squad of particularly belligerent gorillas. "Ow!" he complained as he rubbed his arms and legs, also finding that there were rope burns around his neck and on his hands. With a loud groan he stretched his back, peering up above to try to make out where he had fallen when the air had been rushing against his face so hard he could hardly breathe, he didn't really remember very much until Bartleby had brought him to by nuzzling his ankle.
    "Where the hell am I?" he said repeatedly, remaining in the trench. He noticed a couple of areas of very dim illumination -- although he didn't know what was causing them, the relief from the

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