The trip though the sewer was easier then Derek expected. A thousand years of water had ridden it of all the unpleasantness a sewer usually contains. Everyone had gotten a pair of large goggles and an air tank. On one side of the goggles there was a built in flashlight, which was handy as not a single drop of natural light penetrated this deep.
The sewer did give Derek a creepy feeling though. Moss grew on decayed plastic, and there was more vegetation on the floor of it then you were supposed to see in a man made tunnel. There was also the fact that if they were to suddenly run out of air they would be dead. The sewer was two hundred feet under water, and if you broke through the roof you would have just enough time to remark “Well there's a lot of water out here too,” before being crushed to death by the pressure.
Navigation was not that difficult. Fate had given them directions to a building he thought might be close to where the Leviathan was, and Zoey had memorized them. They bounced off the floor to propel themselves forward and touched the wall so as not to get confused as to which way they were going. The breathing masks had a shortwave radio in them, so they could talk to someone close by.
“Creepy down here,” Zoey remarked.
“Definitely,” Derek agreed.
“You'd think we'd be used to going on suicide missions by now,” Zoey remarked, her voice somber.
“I don't think it's the type of thing you get used to,” Derek said. His Great Foundry uniform, which had been through so much, was now soaked through, he realized.
There was a long silence. “Derek? You still there?” Zoey asked.
“Yep, wouldn't miss this for the world,” he said. They both laughed. It was a nervous laugh, more of necessity then amusement.
“Derek? What happened in there?” Zoey asked.
“Long story, I'll tell you later. If we survive this...” Derek trailed off.
“It's a date,” Zoey said surprisingly cheerfully.
“Date!” Derek shouted, way too enthusiastic. He had a sudden urge to smooth out his hair, in spite of the fact it was floating free in the water. “I didn't think you really-” He was interrupted as a harpoon flew through the water and grazed his arm, sending a streak of warm blood into the water.
Barely audible thudding sounds were the only indication of the coming attack. More harpoon glinted through the water, most of them missing. Zoey got smacked by the only exception.
“EER!” she screamed, drawing her knife. “Find who shooting those!”
They flashed their lights around and caught shadows flashing through the water. Suddenly a shadow appeared right in front of Derek, brandishing a knife. Derek let out a cry of shock before grabbing the figures arm and keeping the knife away from his chest.
Suddenly he was locked in a deadly underwater melee full of biting and kicking. It was strangely silent, with no screams of pain or tearing of skin. It was odd. Desperate panic filled Derek as he fought back, and blood clogged the narrow pipe, but it all had no soundtrack. It was like watching an orchestra play but suddenly going deaf. You knew what sounds were supposed to be made, but they didn't reach your ears.
The only sound was Zoey's voice. “Derek, behind you!” she screamed, and Derek jammed his knife back to pull the guts out of another Sphere soldier, for that is who they were fighting. Water Corp, trained and equipped for underwater fighting. Derek wasn't sure how many of them their were, but there must have been plenty.
“We've got to get out of here before we're swarmed!” Zoey exclaimed as she dodged a harpoon and dug her knife into a soldier's neck. “If I remember Fate's map the nearest exit is a hundred feet away!”
“Go! I'll hold them off!” Derek ordered while kicking away another dead soldier.
“Ten seconds!” Zoey shot back, “Then you follow me! Got it?”
Fine, Derek thought, One-one thousand...
He whipped his knife up and caught a soldier above him in the neck.
A soldier came up from below and he kicked the guy in the face. At the same moment he swerved to avoid a harpoon by inches.
A guy came up with a harpoon gun loaded. Derek flipped the gun around and stabbed him in the neck with the point, and then pulled the trigger. The water around him was clogged with blood.
Suddenly he was seized from behind. He instinctively lashed out with his elbows, but his captor kept hold of him. A hand grabbed his mask and pulled it from his face, and suddenly he couldn't breath.
He lost count as mindless panic welled up inside of him. There was no air! Where was his mask? Something hit him in the stomach and drove the remaining air from his lungs. No air! None, just a cold blanket of water closed in around him. His arms stopped failing. Blackness crawled into the corner of his eyes.
The last thing he saw before the dark was a giant's hand reaching out to grab him...
“Breath! Derek breath!”
“Come un Nice Man! Yoo needs da air!”
Derek was having a horrible dream. He was dying, trapped in a pipe in a dead city, killed by his own people. He was at an intersection between death, unconsciousness, and wakefulness. It was at this point he realized for the first time that he was a traitor.
There was a pressure and he was pushed back into wakefulness. He was staring into the face of a hideous monster. A monster he recognized. “Giba?” he asked slowly, coughing up water as he did so. “How did you...”
“Swime!” Giba said with a winning smile. “Giba suid he ward and I did!”
“How did you get into those tunnels with no air?” Derek asked, slowly getting back his breath.
“Giba has larger lungs then most,” Zoey said. Derek suddenly noticed her. “He can hold his breath for hours if he needs to. You would have died if he hadn't gotten you out of there. It cost him too.”
Derek realized that Giba was covered in assorted cuts. Several harpoons were stuck in his back. One would have been enough to kill most people, but Giba seemed unaffected.
“Where are we?” Derek asked.
“The Ardenburg Center for Explosives Research,” Zoey said.
“Huh?” Derek was caught off guard by the bizarrely specific answer.
Zoey pointed behind her. They were in what appeared to be a large entry hall slash waiting room. The floor was made of dusty marble, and scattered around the room were plastic chairs that looked like a stray breeze might collapse them. There was an old coffee table, but the only thing left of the magazines that were once on it were the rusted staples. There was a large desk at the end, a rusty lump of metal that had once been very intimidating to walk up to. There was the remains of a computer on the desk, and the remains of the person who'd been operating it. On the wall over the desk there was in big bronze lettering: The Ardenburg Center for Explosives Research.
The air had a frozen stillness. It was as if every molecule was frozen in place, and the only disturbance came from their intruding presence. Derek got a chill that ran right down to his bones. This was a place of a dead civilization.
“What do we do now?” Derek asked, looking to Zoey for leadership.
“I think we're still underwater,” Zoey said, “But the lower levels of this building were never flooded. Our best bet is to go up until we reach the top. Were can scout around from there. Feel up to it?”
“Never better,” Derek answered, hauling himself up off the floor. “You know, if this place is an explosives laboratory, do you think they have any samples? Could be useful.”
“Yeah,” Zoey said, “We should be on the look out for some as we go.”
It was strange going through the old collection of metal and dust. Some of the hallways were so wide that Derek felt as if he should be outside. Aside from their footsteps and the occasional drop of blood from Giba's wounds there was no sound, and no movement. The air remained stagnant, ancient and dusty.
The building was of incredible construction, as there were barely any collapses that Derek saw. The stairs were still quite usable, and in relatively little time they were nearing the top, although they had yet to see a window.
It occurred to Zoey that she should check the tracking knife. She opened the handle and was momentarily confused. One of the dots was quite close to her, and that of course was Derek. Two were perhaps a thousand yards away, so close together she thought it was just one signal for a moment. One other was much closer, so close she glanced up to see whoever was carrying it up. But she realized that person must be on another floor of the same building. There should have been another dot, but there wasn't.
“Wha!” Derek exclaimed, startling Zoey.
What had made Derek utter the cry was turning a corner to see the doctor staring him in the face. The man's face was red and his mouth hung open, gasping for breath. In his hand he held a tracking knife, slick with blood. His clothing was soaked.
“Thank god for these knives,” he exclaimed, panting. “I thought I'd never find you.”
Zoey rushed over to steady him before he keeled over. “What happened? Where are the others?” she asked.
“We never had a prayer of getting to those explosives,” the doctor explained. “They were on us in a second. I think Clooney and Fate are dead. Kurt might have gotten away, but he was bleeding.”
“Damn it!” Derek swore. “What do we do now?”
There was an explosion from lower down in the building. A harsh shouting of orders followed. “They followed me,” the doctor said with horror.
“We've got to keep moving,” Zoey ordered. “We get to the top.”
They raced up more endless flights of stairs, pursued by muffled footsteps and shouted orders. They moved as fast as they could, but the building was being entered by the Sphere troops from all angles. They entered at the water level and climbed up the stairs, but that was not all. If there had been a single window they could have seen the structure of the building crawling with more soldiers. They used magnetic handholds to climb up the sides, searching for an opening.
One man brought a laser cutter and cut himself a small hole in the side. He crawled in and set up to ambush the small band as they came around the corner. Giba, leading the charge up, took two shots to the chest and then smashed the soldier into a wall. Derek picked up his rifle and some ammunition, covering the rear.
The four ran until they hit a dead end. It was a small room, and the only way out was the way they came. The only thing in the room they fled to was a small metal desk. Beyond it there was a private elevator.
Zoey glanced at the elevator. “Derek! You open that lift! Me and Giba will cover you! Doctor, help Derek!”
Zoey looked through the desk for any weapons, but found none. Giba ripped it off the ground and used it to blockade the door, which was of solid metal construction, just like everything else in the building. Zoey stood facing it, holding up the rifle to shoot the first person that got through. Giba stood to one side, ready to bring down a fist.
They heard shouting as their pursuers came to a stop at the door. Then one voice shouted over all the others, a voice that Derek knew.
“Get that door open!” Colonel Cornwell shouted. A spray of bullets impacted against the door, but did nothing. “Smash it down!” Something heavy crashed against the door and left a large dent.
“Well this will last about ten seconds once they get that door open,” Zoey said to herself. “Derek? Hurry up.”
Derek sorted through wires, trying to figure out which ones needed to be connected. “The main circuits are fried. I'm trying to find the backup.” Anything but the backup would fry the system and make the elevator inoperable. Then he saw it. The blue wire. The blue wire that was always the backup, right?
The door was bashed partway open and Zoey fired a few shots, and a Sphere trooper found he no longer had a hand. Giba brought his fist down and smashed a soldier's head, crushing his helmet like tissue paper. “Derek?”
Derek hesitated for a moment. Why would the rules of the Sphere apply to a system from a thousand years ago? He could not afford to be wrong. If he was they were dead.
“Derek!” Zoey screamed, emptying the guns clip and reloading. “Get that elevator working now!”
Blue wire. It was always the blue wire. He connected it up and the elevator doors opened. “Got it!” he yelled. The doctor rushed in first, Derek moments later. Zoey emptied one more clip while spraying fire. The moment after she entered the doors closed.
The elevator moved upward, and Derek breathed heavily, exhausted. They all were.
“We left Giba!” Zoey cried.
It took a lot to kill a big mutant. In his time Cornwell had seen them take a full belt of machine gun lead. He'd seen them survive being run over by tanks and being crushed by trees. But he'd never seen one like Giba.
He had seven harpoons sticking out of his back. The blood from his cuts was collected into a pool on the floor. And still he fought on. Ten of Cornwell's men lay dead on the floor. But finally he had been brought down. He was down on the floor, barely breathing.
“You can't stop us big mutant,” Cornwell said, leaning down to talk to him. “You are nothing. The Sphere will rule the world one day, and your kind will be exterminated like all the scum you are. Because that's all you are. Impure, savage scum, impeding progress at every turn. What do say to that scum?”
Giba looked at him with his childlike eyes. “Giba not savage. Giba not impure. Giba not scum. Giba is Giba, and dats all I's ever be.”
Cornwell sneered and pulled a shotgun off his back. It was a personal favorite weapon of his, and he used it when ever he could. And he placed it on Giba's head and pulled the trigger.
And so passed Giba.