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Tunnels 03, Freefall

Tunnels 03, Freefall

Titel: Tunnels 03, Freefall
Autoren: Roderick Gordon , Brian Williams
    "Biggish deal," Will muttered.
    "Of course it's a big deal!" Chester shook his friend by the shoulder. "C'mon, Will, you're the one who always kept us all going, dragging us after you, the loopy one who--" Chester paused to draw a quick breath in his excited state, "--who always had to see what was round the next corner. Remember?"
    "Isn't that what got us into this mess in the first place?" Will responded.
    Chester made a noise halfway between a 'hmmm' and a 'yes', then shook his head vigorously. "And I want you to know..." Chester's voice quivered into nothing as he averted his eyes and fidgeted with a piece of rock by his boot. "Will... I was such an idiot."
    "It doesn't matter now," Will replied.
    "Yes, it does. I was acting like a prize muppet... I got so fed up with everything... with you." Then Chester's voice became steady again. "I said a lot of stuff I didn't mean. And now I'm asking you to do your exploring, and I promise I'll never ever complain again. I'm sorry."
    "That's okay," Will mumbled, a little embarrassed.
    "Just do what you do best... find us a way out of here," Chester urged him.
    "I'll try," Will said.
    Chester fixed him with a look. "I'm counting on it, Will. All those people on the surface are too. Don't forget, my mum and dad are up there. I don't want them to get the virus and die."
    "No, of course not." Will replied immediately, as Chester's mention of his parents brought the situation into sharp focus for him. Will knew how much his friend loved them, and their fates and those of many hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of people might be sealed if the Styx plot went ahead.
    "Come on then, partner," Chester urged, offering Will a hand to help him up. Together they stepped through the waterfall and out onto the rubbery surface.
    "Chester," Will said, becoming more like his old self, "there's something you should know."
    "What's that?"
    "Noticed anything weird about this place?" Will asked, giving his friend a quizzical glance.
    Wondering where to start, Chester shook his head, his mane of curly, oil-drenched hair whipping about his face and a strand catching in his mouth. He plucked it out immediately with a look of disgust and spat several times. "No, other than this stuff we landed in smells and tastes bloody awful."
    "My guess is that we're on a dirty great fungus," Will went on. "We've ended up on some sort of ledge of the stuff -- it must be sticking out into the Pore. I saw something like this once on television -- there was a monster fungus in America that stretched for more than a thousand miles underground."
    "Is that what you wanted to--?"
    "Nope," Will interrupted. "This is the interesting thing. Watch carefully." The luminescent orb was in the palm of his hand and he casually tossed it five meters into the air. Chester looked on with stunned amazement as it seemed to float back down to Will's hand again. It was as if he was witnessing the scene in slow motion.
    "Hey, how'd you do that?"
    "You have a go," Will said, passing the orb over to Chester. "But don't throw it too hard or you'll lose it."
    Chester did as Will suggested, lobbing it upwards. In the event, he applied too much force and the orb shot some twenty meters, illuminating what appeared to be another fungus outcrop above them, before it floated eerily down again, the light playing on their upturned faces.
    "How--?" Chester gasped, his eyes wide with amazement.
    "Don't you feel, er, the weightlessness?" Will said, grasping for the right word. "It's low gravity. My guess is that it's about a third of what we're used to on the surface," Will informed him, pointing a finger heavenwards. "That -- and the soft landing we had on this fungus -- might explain why we're not as flat as pancakes right now. But be careful how you move around or you'll send yourself spinning off this shelf and back into the Pore again."
    "Low gravity," Chester repeated, trying to absorb what his friend was saying. "What does than mean, exactly?"
    "It means we must have fallen a very long way."
    Chester looked at him uncomprehendingly.
    "Ever wondered what's at the center of the Earth?" Will said.


    As Drake stole along the lava tunnel, he thought he heard a noise and froze, listening intently. "Nothing," he said to himself after a moment, then unhooked his canteen from his belt to take a drink. He swallowed contemplatively, his eyes peering at the gloom of the tunnel as he began to reflect on what had happened at the

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