The Winds of Power - The Sleeper Prophecy

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Training Begins

~ Chapter 5 ~

‘Training begins’


Cosmo had fallen asleep almost before his head touched the pillow. Aiden lay thinking. What had Sarah-Jane seen that scared her? Did she see what was lurking out there waiting for him? Did she see him die? Unable to sleep, he flicked through the pictures on his PDC, wondering what his parents would think of him travelling into deep space, and wishing he could turn back time.

He woke to a beep from his PDC. It was seven o’clock. Doctor Peasley had told them to be waiting outside the training room in their training clothes at seven thirty sharp. With Cosmo still sleeping, Aiden studied the shower cubicle. There were no taps. He undressed and walked in.

“Wash!” he said, and waited. Nothing happened. “Shower!” he tried next with the same result. “Clean!” he said desperately, and from the sides of the cubicle little nozzles poked through the walls and warm air gushed out, flowing over his body. The floor slowly turned and after completing two full rotations it stopped and the nozzles retracted. Not sure if he was clean or not, he stepped out and got dressed. The baggy pants and top were surprisingly comfortable.

Cosmo proved difficult to wake. Aiden tried calling his name several times, each time louder than before. Even the command ‘lights on’ did not help. Finally, Aiden pinched him on the arm.

In no time Cosmo was ready, grumbling as he removed his lucky stud from his eyebrow. He was not a morning person. The tasteless breakfast bars did not improve his mood.

They entered in the training room just before the girls and right on seven thirty. In addition to the long thick mats under the path, the room now had a glossy white rectangular six-seater table and four high-backed moulded chairs off to one side. On the table were four water bottles and two large piles of papers. The illuminating strips on the walls shone brightly. Still no light pierced the black ceiling.

Steeling himself, Aiden made his way over to Sarah-Jane. “Sare, about last night...”

“I’m fine,” she said, avoiding eye contact and hurrying towards Doctor Peasley.

Amber pulled Aiden aside as he started to follow. “What’s happening?” he demanded. “Why won’t she tell me what she saw?”

“She won’t even tell me. She’s very upset. I think we just need to give her some time. ”

Doctor Peasley looked them up and down. Cosmo made a pitiful attempt at pulling down his sleeve to cover up his leather wristband. Doctor Peasley eyed him disapprovingly.

“I can’t take it off,” he protested. “I’ve had it for years. It was a present from my Mum!”

Doctor Peasley drew herself up to her full height and raised her finger, but just then Bajool, Ogmore, Doctor Hudson and a small hairy creature entered the training room. Cosmo was spared.

The hairy creature was only waist high to Aiden and just above Ogmore’s knee. He had no neck to speak of and the only place not covered by long tawny hair was his wrinkly brown face. Aiden couldn’t even see his feet through all the hair. He had the same misty eyes as Bajool, but silver.

They bowed their heads.

Bajool introduced them to the hairy creature, named Kydra, and left. Ogmore stood against the wall. Kydra shuffled forward.

“I am a Swee, and I will be instructing you for the first phase of your training,” he said, in a high pitched voice. He paused, and his pointy ears twitched. “Kneel!”

They glanced at each other and knelt. The doctors retired to their chairs. Kydra, a little taller than them now, shuffled amongst them.

Whilst Kydra’s height and resemblance to a hairy tree stump was not physically intimidating, his steely silvery eyes gave him a commanding don’t mess with me air.

“You are not so tall are you?” he said with a twitch of his ears and flashing a wicked smile at them. Cosmo raised a questioning eyebrow to Aiden. “Height has a universal appeal,” he added. “It has no intrinsic value yet it is valued. You need to see things for what they are, not what they seem to be. Aiden, do you think you can take the path around the room?”

“Yes, Sir,” he said awkwardly.

“My name is Kydra, not Sir. Proceed then,” he said, waving Aiden towards the path.

It seemed innocent enough, a footpath two inches thick jutting out from the wall like a ledge. The edges were smooth, and though it stretched right around the room, it was seamless. It was high enough that Aiden thought he might just be able to touch the path if he jumped. He strode up the ramp and paused at the top. It was spongier than he had expected. He could sense something strange. He stepped onto the path warily, conscious of everyone watching him. Cosmo would love this, he thought. The path quivered beneath his feet. It felt alive. He moved carefully, hugging the wall as he went. The wall was rubbery and vibrating. He stared unbelievably as a protruding knobbly part of wall, knee high in front of him, merged back into the wall. In the same instant another knobbly bit shot out in front of his face, almost knocking him over. All along the wall, Aiden could see it now bulging and bending. Some movements were slow and others fast. Was it alive? He inched forward. The path was now changing its undulations and width beneath his feet. There didn’t appear to be any pattern and it was all he could do to stay where he was, let alone move forward.

“Come on, Aiden, you can do it,” Cosmo yelled.

“It keeps changing,” he yelled back, wobbling. Deciding there was not much else he could do, he dashed forward. Instantly the path shrank. He jumped sideways, flattening himself against the wall, and edged along the narrow ledge balancing precariously on his toes. He knew he couldn’t last much longer, and as if reading his mind a portion of the wall shot out and thudded into his side, sending him crashing onto the mat below.

Amber reached him first. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he muttered. “The mats are soft.” He stood up, feeling sure the wall had bruised his ribs.

“Thank you, Aiden,” said Kydra. “You have taught everyone a valuable lesson. You must sense your way along. Once we have completed phase one of the training you should each be able to take the path without incident. It is time we started your training.”

They looked eagerly at Kydra. His ears twitched.

As instructed, they ran around the room. At first the boys led in the laps, trying to outdo each other with the girls jogging along behind. Sarah-Jane ran effortlessly behind, and Amber huffed and puffed. They gave her brief words of encouragement each time they lapped her.

After countless laps of the large room they commenced hopping. With their legs getting harder to lift, and Aiden’s ribs aching dully, the boys slowed down. Sarah-Jane was now alongside the boys, hopping as if it was the most natural way to get around. After hopping for what seemed an eternity, Kydra had them jumping as high as they could from a standing position before moving them onto sit-ups, and then more laps. They welcomed a two-minute water break before grudgingly returning to do further circuits.

It had not escaped Aiden’s attention that the doctors were having a more relaxing time. They were scanning reams of paper and busily taking notes. They raised their heads from time to time to give occasional encouraging nods and smiles.

They lay on the mats, chests heaving, as Kydra shuffled amongst them. Wiping the sweat off her glasses, Amber attempted to ask him a question, but couldn’t muster enough breath to speak. Doctor Hudson hurried over with her puffer, which she gratefully used twice.

“Now we need to work on your breathing.”

Lying on the mats, Kydra had them focus on every breath, feeling the rise and fall of their chests. Aiden no longer thought he had bruised ribs. He was sure they were broken. The breathing went on for so long that, even with the pain, he felt he was in danger of falling asleep.

As they took long deep breaths, Kydra asked them to recall their earliest memory. After several minutes, Aiden remembered grabbing a packet of chips from his stroller in a shop. He didn’t know his age, but it was young and the hot chilli flavour was something he would never forget. Next, they had to recall the time when they were at their saddest, then their angriest and, lastly, happiest. Aiden was relieved they didn’t have to share these memories. It was bad enough to re-live each one by running through it in his mind, exploring the depths of the emotion. He could hear Amber snivelling and sobbing at one stage, and Cosmo chuckling at another.

Relief flowed through him with the announcement that they would now break for lunch. Emotionally and physically drained, and craving food, they collected their food bars and collapsed on the couches, dreading the afternoon’s session. None of them felt their taste buds were being satisfied. Aiden did not have the energy to confront Sarah-Jane over the reading the previous night, and decided to leave it until dinnertime.

The boys dragged themselves off the couches to refill their drinks.

“I think I’m in heaven,” whispered Cosmo, glancing back at Sarah-Jane. “By the way, I bags Sarah-Jane. You right with that?”

“You can’t bags anyone,” said Aiden, incredulously.

“I just did. I saw her first. Besides I think you and Amber would make a good couple.”

Aiden doubted he had any chance of Sarah-Jane being interested in him. “Let’s just see what happens,” he said, reaching past Cosmo for a drink.

Cosmo grunted. “What’s that?” he asked, looking at Aiden’s wrist.

“It’s a Personal Digital Companion.”

“Never heard of one.”

After explaining its main functions, Aiden passed it to Cosmo.

“Wow!” exclaimed Cosmo, going through the menu in awe. “You’ve got heaps of movies on here. I never get to the movies – can I watch some?”

“Yeah, I’ve got the latest Whipping Boy release and the latest action movies. Just don’t ask me for a choc top and chips!”

They returned to the training room where Kydra seemed to take pleasure in announcing they were to do another physical workout before returning to their breathing exercises.

“When do we get to the interesting stuff?” Cosmo huffed.

“When you are ready,” Kydra chided, his silvery eyes freezing into a penetrating stare. “You need to be in control of yourself, to know your strengths and weaknesses, and understand your motives before you can properly control the powers within you.”

“Why do we need to exhaust ourselves?” Amber protested.

“If you are exhausted you do not have the mental energy to dwell on unimportant things. You will focus your energies on the task. Now start running – forty laps!”

After exercising to the point of exhaustion again, followed by another long session on their breathing, Kydra asked them to hold a single thought, any thought, for as long as possible. Aiden’s mind kept flicking from his first encounter with Sarah-Jane to memories of his parents and that fateful day, his failure, his worst birthday ever.

By three o’clock they were ready to refuse to move another muscle, and were relieved when Kydra announced they had finished for the day. Amber’s frizzy hair was now matted, her glasses misty, and her face red and blotchy. Even Sarah-Jane’s makeup had run so much she resembled a panda bear. Their relief was short lived as Bajool entered and announced they now had voice exercises to perform. These exercises involved repeating a sequence of unusual sounds in a recurring pattern. Only Amber managed to repeat the sounds by the end of the session.

Eager to get to the recreation room, they were devastated to hear Doctor Peasley tell them they had two hours of schoolwork to do in their quarters.

They gaped at her in absolute astonishment.

“But I’ve finished my term... I’m on holidays!” moaned Aiden.

“Yes, and Cosmo and Sarah-Jane are in the middle of their school year,” Doctor Peasley declared. “Have you heard Amber complain?”

Amber, for once, was lost for words.

“One in, all in, Aiden,” said Doctor Hudson. “Think of the start you’ll have over the others when you get back.”

Lacking the energy to protest further, Aiden snatched his water bottle and trudged off to his quarters. Dragging their feet, the others followed.

Sure enough, on each of the desks in the bedroom were a folder and a complete set of reference books. The boys plonked themselves down. Aiden had maths to do and Cosmo English.

“This sucks!” Cosmo growled.

“Tell me about it,” said Aiden darkly.

After struggling through their work for two and a half hours, they collapsed on their beds.

“I’m starving,” said Cosmo, his stomach making audible rumbling noises. “Can you get me two bars and a drink from the rec room?”

Aiden stared at him – he couldn’t be serious.

“Go on,” Cosmo pleaded. “I’ll do it tomorrow!”

“All right! All right!” said Aiden, feeling starved himself.

He brought back four bars and jugs of orange juice and vitalise. They sat in the viewing room, eating and staring out into space. Aiden looked uneasily at the stars hoping that whatever was out there stayed away.

“I thought it would be more exciting than this,” said Aiden.

“Me too. At least the girls keep it interesting. When do you think we start the real training?”

“Don’t ask me. I can’t predict the future,” Aiden snapped. “Ask Sarah-Jane!”

“I’d forgotten about that,” said Cosmo.

Aiden wished he could have forgotten about it as well and took his first sip of vitalise. He winced at the bitter taste and then marvelled as a warmth flowed through his whole body, leaving him refreshed.

“Try this,” he said. “It’s magic!”

“Magic?” said Cosmo puzzled, as he poured himself a glass.

After an initial contortion of the face, Cosmo stared at the glass. “That is magic!”

Aiden poured himself another drink. “Heaps better than that disgusting cleansing tonic.”

“Yeah, taking that every day for a week nearly killed me. It was revolting. Huddo said I had to, that we couldn’t risk bringing any viruses on-board. If that didn’t kill all the bugs in my system, nothing will.”

There was a knock on the door and Doctor Hudson poked his round face into the room. “Boys, the girls have turned in. Are you ready?”

They nodded. “Have you tried the vitalise, Sir?” asked Aiden.

“Yes, it’s a good drop. Don’t have too much though. Gibber said it can make you giddy. I’m turning in myself, so drop your schoolwork to me in the morning. And remember, it’s a seven-thirty start. Goodnight boys.” The door shut.

“Did you notice,” said Cosmo, easing himself into a reclined position with his big feet dangling over the couch’s arm, “Sarah-Jane even managed to make the training outfit look good? Oh, and I’m still calling dibs!”

“Yeah, I noticed,” said Aiden, shaking his head and not acknowledging the dibs. Right now he was more interested in what Sarah-Jane had seen in the Tarot. “I suppose we should send a message home.”

Cosmo grunted in agreement. They pulled out their miniature digital disk recorders and recorded short messages. Aiden told Aunt Del and Drew the training was exhausting, the food bland, and about the injustice of having to do schoolwork during his holidays. He told them about the various beings they had met: The Buwah beasts, the Swee hairballs and the Mulgoa lizards. He showed them Cosmo, and promised to get pictures of the aliens on disk tomorrow. He did not mention Sarah-Jane’s reading.

Cosmo finished his MDD message and, too tired to watch any movies, went to bed. Aiden also went straight to sleep.

Aiden woke to his PDC beeping. He dragged himself out of bed, flinching at the pain in his ribs, showered, dressed, called ‘lights on’ and pinched Cosmo on the arm. He picked up both MDDs and their completed schoolwork and knocked on Doctor Hudson’s door.

“Sir, I have the schoolwork here and our MDDs,” he said loudly.

The door slid open. Doctor Hudson stood in his bathrobe cleaning his teeth. Aiden noticed piles of papers stacked haphazardly on the table behind him. Amongst the mess of papers were two open bottles of wine and two used wine glasses. Up against the wall were several crates, one open and revealing a number of wine bottles.

“Thanks, Aiden. I’ll see you in the training room in fifteen minutes.”

“Sure,” said Aiden. He returned and pinched Cosmo again.

Cosmo groaned. “I’m up! I’m up!” he said, raising himself out of bed. Aiden was beginning to feel like his big brother.

As Cosmo dressed, Aiden told him about the wine glasses.

“You’re kidding. Huddo and Old Parsley - I would never have believed it!”

“I didn’t see her, only the glasses,” Aiden corrected.

“We’ll see if the girls know anything,” said Cosmo, suddenly leaping up and pushing Aiden towards the door. “If we don’t hurry we’ll miss our bacon and eggs.”

They ran to the recreation room, grabbed a couple of bars, gulped down their vitalise and arrived in the training room one minute late to the watchful stare of Doctor Peasley.

Much to everyone’s dismay, the day followed the same pattern as the day before. After exercising themselves to a standstill, they performed breathing exercises, during which Cosmo fell asleep.

There was little time for talking. Aiden was trying hard not to do anything silly in front of the girls, while Cosmo was trying his best to get their attention. Cosmo’s constant presence near Sarah-Jane was starting to unnerve her, as were his antics as class clown. Doctor Peasley at one stage interrupted the session to reprimand Cosmo severely for walking on his hands and pretending his feet were having a conversation. Aiden could not blame Sarah-Jane for being annoyed with Cosmo, but he did make training bearable. Cosmo was now referring to her as Miss Purr–fect, but not so she could hear.

During the change-over between the memory tasks and the next exercise session, Amber asked about premonitions.

“Seeing the future is one of the higher powers, and there are three levels,” Kydra explained. “The first level is the sensing power, where you can sense what is coming next. Most magwans have some form of this. It can take the form of knowing when danger is present, detecting the presence of other beings, or sensing the past, present or immediate future. The next level is the seer power. This is the ability to see into an individual’s future. When sensing the future the seer cannot see with any clarity their own future; only the future of others.

“Seer premonitions can be dangerous,” he cautioned. “They are the most intricate of powers as they rely on an accurate interpretation, and they are only true at that moment in time. Having knowledge of the future often changes the future, so most seer premonitions do not come to pass.”

“I predict we will have a brown bar for dinner tonight,” Cosmo interjected. Aiden and Amber smirked. Sarah-Jane frowned.

Kydra regarded Cosmo briefly and continued. “The last and rarest of powers is the prophecy power. Those with this power can predict events with a cosmic impact many years in advance.” He refused to answer any more questions.

Lunchtime came and went. None of them felt they had rested. Aiden plodded back to the training room, annoyed he had not had time to ask the girls about Old Parsley’s movements last night or to get any answers from Sarah-Jane. It also hadn’t escaped Aiden’s attention that Sarah-Jane went to extraordinary lengths not to touch or speak to him since the reading.

“Let’s form a union and demand a one hour lunch,” Cosmo whispered as they entered the room. “This thirty minute caper sucks!”

“I’m with you, brother!” Aiden rallied.

The doctors were already sitting at their table, pouring over charts and whispering. Resentment flowed through Aiden. The doctors got to sip their coffee, reading and taking notes on who knows what, wandering in and out as they pleased. The four of them barely had a minute’s rest.

The afternoon held no surprises. More exercising, breathing and memory searches, and Aiden’s least favourite - Bajool’s vocal exercises. Aiden was not sure his vocal patterns had improved. His mouth was, however, sore and was possibly a new shape. Matong had briefly appeared and spoken to Kydra. He gave them a disapproving stare, and Aiden was sure the lizard’s piercing red eyes had narrowed further and lingered longer on him. It sent shivers through him. Gibber also popped in, lifting their spirits as he gave them a friendly smile before talking in a hushed voice to the doctors, and then leaving. It was as if they were planning something secret.

After another gruelling day, they finished off a couple of hours’ schoolwork and changed clothes before meeting in the recreation room for dinner. The boys turned up wearing jeans and t-shirts. Cosmo’s t-shirt looked like its previous owner was a family of moths. When Sarah-Jane arrived, Aiden decided she must have packed an iron. Her silk blouse and pleated skirt were flawless. Amber was a different story. What Aiden initially mistook as a white painting smock covered in bright splodges of green, yellow and orange, he now realised was a dress, and probably one of her own creations. With neither of the doctors present, the four talked openly for the first time since the reading.

Much to the disappointment of Cosmo, the girls did not believe anything was happening between the doctors.

“They’re both widowed,” said Amber. “But I can’t see those two together, can you?”

“Widowed? But Doctor Peasley wears a wedding ring,” said Sarah-Jane.

“Yes, she wears it to remember him by. He died kind of suddenly,” Amber said softly.

“Oh, like my Dad,” said Sarah-Jane.

Aiden could feel Sarah-Jane’s pain. Losing a parent was something they shared – but at least she still had one.

Sarah-Jane took a deep breath, and then looked apologetically at Aiden. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have run off during the reading, it’s just, I’ve never seen an image before, just by touching someone, and... your left arm... it was missing... you had a stump at your shoulder, and there was lots of blood. I don’t how or when this might happen, but I think it was on the ship.”

“Thanks,” said Aiden half-heartedly, rubbing his left shoulder and thinking this did not give him any clue as to what he should avoid. Could this be part of the trap that he felt awaited him in space. At least he didn’t die, and having heard Kydra’s explanations on seer predictions he was partly comforted its certainty was questionable.

“There’s something else...” said Sarah-Jane slowly. “I don’t know how to describe it but... you’re not safe.”

“What do you mean not safe?”

“It’s more than your arm. It’s like a darkness closing in on you. I don’t know exactly - I think you should go home.”

“Go home! That’s a big call,” said Cosmo.

Aiden swallowed. Although he also had sensed the threat out there it sounded worse now someone else had sensed it.

“I’m not going home before I’ve learned to heal,” he said decidedly. “Could you touch me again?”

Sarah-Jane reached over and touched his arm. After a few seconds she withdrew her hand. “I didn’t see anything,” she announced happily.

“Does that mean the future’s changed?” asked Cosmo.

“It may or it may not,” said Amber, eyeing Sarah-Jane.

“You’ll have to be careful, Aiden,” cautioned Amber, sounding a lot like his mother, “and you must tell Kydra.”

Aiden promised he would.

They rested in beanbags and talked about the training so far. With the exception of Sarah-Jane, they decided Kydra was like a chihuahua – vertically challenged with a vicious bark. They unanimously agreed Matong was evil.

Throughout the evening Doctor Peasley would occasionally poke her head into the recreation room, and then leave.

Amber proved to be a captivating storyteller, recounting tales of her life in Christchurch and the picturesque scenery of the South Island. With all the abseiling, white water rafting and pristine mountains it sounded like an adventurer’s paradise.

A tear formed in Amber’s eye. “I know we’ve barely left, but I miss home already. My Mum will be going crazy.”

Sarah-Jane’s face stiffened. “I don’t really have a home anymore. I don’t expect they’ll miss me too much.”

There was silence. Sarah-Jane added. “Mom has a new life now; they need their space, you know.”

“Space!” said Cosmo. “Try having four big brothers. There’s no space at our place. We have to take turns breathing!”

Amber laughed and Sarah-Jane smiled. Cosmo had them smiling again with his nickname of Old Parsley for Doctor Peasley.

With the nine-thirty curfew upon them, they left the recreation room. No one was looking forward to tomorrow’s training.

Aiden walked with his arms tight against the side of his body.

“Relax Aiden. I don’t think anything’s going to leap out and rip your arm off,” said Cosmo.

Aiden smiled weakly back.

“Did you hear that?” asked Amber.

“Hear what?” said Cosmo.

“It was a sort of grating sound, scratchy.” Then they all heard it.

“It’s coming from behind there,” said Cosmo moving towards a door.

“Don’t!” said Sarah-Jane, as Cosmo’s hand reached for the oval opening. “You don’t know what’s in there.”

Cosmo hesitated and shrugged. “I think it’s just a cleaning cupboard anyway.”

An ear-piercing screech had them hunching their shoulders and clasping hands over their ears. A long painful wail followed.

“That was from level three,” said Amber, her eyes looking up. “It sounds like an animal’s in terrible pain.” She gripped Aiden’s arm.

“Not any animal I’ve ever heard of,” said Cosmo.

“You awake?” asked Cosmo.

“Yeah, I guess so,” said Aiden, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “You been awake long?”

“No, you woke me up... sounded like a bad dream.”

“Sorry,” said Aiden as faint recollections of the dream came to him. He was falling into nothingness, calling for his parents. A feeling of hopelessness filled him. He was glad to be awake.

Cosmo sat up. “It’s okay. Want to try the path?”

“What? It’s the middle of the night!”

“We’re both awake – got anything else to do?”

The idea of going back to sleep didn’t appeal to Aiden. “Curfew?” he asked.

“You’re not a lot of fun are you? Come on, we’ll be there and back in fifteen minutes, it’s not like we’re leaving this level.”

Aiden tossed back his bed covers. “Okay, you’re on.”

The door slid open and something scurried off. Aiden peered into the dark corridor unsure of what he had seen.

“Did you see a cat?”

“A cat?” said Cosmo, pushing past Aiden into the corridor. “I can’t even see my feet.”

“Don’t worry,” Aiden muttered.

They crept forward, peering into the gloom. Cosmo suddenly jumped back.

“What the hell is that?”

Gliding along the ground towards them was something black, as wide as a doormat, knee high in the centre and tapering to almost nothing on the sides. It was snorting.

“There are more of them!” shouted Cosmo, pointing at another two moving along the side of the wall.

They turned to run. Aiden leapt to the side, narrowly missing one of the creatures behind them. Before he could utter any warning, Cosmo tripped over it. The creature rolled straight over the top of him, its sides flapping and making a loud snorkelling sound as if it was gagging on something.

As it glided away Cosmo sprang to his feet. “It was sucking at my face,” he said brushing his face frantically, his eyes locked upon the creature. “It had sticky feelers going all over me. It was creepy,” he said, his whole body trembling.

One of the creatures reached Aiden, and he gave it a discouraging prod with his foot. It reared up. “HHGGGrrrrrrr.” Its sides flapped.

“Let’s get out of here,” yelled Cosmo. They turned and ran.

“They’re following,” said Aiden, seeing half a dozen black shapes in pursuit.

“There are more in front,” said Cosmo, skidding to a stop.

“In here,” said Aiden, thrusting his hand into an oval opening. They leapt into the dark room and braced themselves against the closed door.

“What are those things?” gasped Cosmo. “And where are we?”

“Lights on,” said Aiden.

Bright light filled the room. They shielded their eyes.

“Whoa,” said Aiden, backing away from the edge of the small platform with a sheer drop of two metres on three sides. Cosmo, still squinting, toppled over the edge.

Aiden dived to the edge of the platform. “You okay?”

A strange assortment of what resembled building material, broken appliances and even rotting vegetation filled the room.

Cosmo sat up and scrunched his nose. “I think I’ve found where they put their garbage. Isn’t this the room where we heard that scratching sound?”

Aiden surveyed the small platform he was standing on. It jutted out into a massive room. There were large holes high up in each of the walls with raised piles of rubbish directly below.

“Yeah, this is the room. You’d think they’d put railings on this,” he said stepping back.

“Would’ve been handy,” said Cosmo, picking an odd piece of something organic from his hair and tossing it aside. “You don’t think this is what they use to make the food bars do you?”

The rubbish at one end of the room bobbed up.

“Cosmo, there’s something in there!”

“What!” screeched Cosmo, as the waste bobbed up again. Something snaked its way beneath the refuse. “Pull me up!” Cosmo yelled, reaching up.

Aiden crouched down, leaned forward and clasped Cosmo’s hand and pulled. “You’re too heavy,” he grunted.

The thing beneath the rubbish moved closer. Cosmo scrambled to raise himself above the rubbish. Aiden pulled with all his strength.

“Argh! It bit me!” he cried, kicking wildly at the rubbish.

The door opened. Gibber pushed past Aiden and leapt into the pit. In one fluid movement, he scooped Cosmo up and threw him onto the platform. Then, in a single bound, he was standing beside them.

“Thanks,” breathed Cosmo, with his hand clutching his leg.

“It is only a scratch,” said Gibber.

It looked like a sizable bite to Aiden.

* * *

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