Mary stuffed the last of her luggage into her bag, hiding her two mana gems under a layer of clothing. Turning, she took a final look at her barren apartment. It was nothing impressive, just a few rooms connecting to her bedroom, where almost everything was, but it was hers and she was sad to see it off so unceremoniously. Sighing, she turned and opened the door to the adjoining hallway outside of her apartment.
Waiting for her was a young, scarred man she had not bothered to remember the name of, standing there with a perpetual frown on his face. He grunted when he saw her, “You got everything?” he asked in a gruff voice not fit for such a young face.
“Yes, yes, I have everything,” she responded. Pulling one of the mana gems out of her bag, she tossed it to the waiting man, “Here, the water mana gem from Richard. Did he survive, by the way?”
The man simply shook his head while shrugging and went to leave. Mary sighed, following him. Eventually, after a series of twisting hallways, they left the building from the roof access. Four metal discs floated off of the man’s back once they reached the edge of the roof, two sliding under his feet and two sliding under hers. With a slight lurch the discs picked them up and brought them into the air, soon carrying them across the roofs in the night.
Looking up at the moon, which had just reached its zenith, she spoke in her mind, [So, where do we go from here?]
[I’m not sure,] Abe replied with a sigh, [If possible, I would like to get the hell away from those psychos calling themselves freedom fighters.]
[I…] she thought to him, [I get that, but what about taking down the Purists? How can we do that without their help? I mean, the only reason we aren’t planning anything completely crazy is that we need them.]
[Look,] Abe said, pausing to think, [If the way of this world is as you said it, then all we need to do is cut out the rot at the root. What about this: we raid some sort of information bank, office, or the like, and we use that to take out key leaders of the Purists? A bit rough around the edges, but we have to take what we can get; besides, we have an edge up compared to just a few days ago. Think about it, we have enough resources to do it and if we get something valuable, we can trade it to the Tunnel Rats for a non-aggression pact.]
Mary mulled over it for a while. She was almost entirely convinced about how bad both sides were after seeing what the Tunnel Rats did to Cody and Rick, but she was unsure if she could bring down the Purists all on her own, no matter how many weapons she had. Abe’s suggestion, however, was enticing. He had come up with a viable plan of attack on the Purists that could lead to any number of ways to oust the Purists. [Yeah,] she said with resolve, [That could work. We just need an excuse to go after it.] If their plan worked, then they could throw off the shackles of the Tunnel Rats and still fight against the Purists.
[I have another idea,] Abe said, [I think we should work with Huk on this.] Mary’s eyes widened a bit at his suggestion.
[You’re saying you trust Huk, the one you were so distrustful of earlier? What changed?] she asked perplexed, but making an effort to not show it.
[Well, you weren’t awake for it, but Huk talked to his friend, Fuel, about it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like the whole situation, and what it’s doing to the people who join the Tunnel Rats. If we ask him, he can just say to the rest of the Tunnel Rats or the officers or whoever else that he sent us on an important mission of some kind.]
Mary subtly nodded, [Okay, that works for me then. If we can get him on our side, then we’ll have an easier time leaving them. The only thing left to look for is a target. Don’t tell me you have an idea,] she mentally laughed.
[I may have many ideas, but I’m no psychic. We’ll need Huk’s help with that. We’ll also need help with knowing what we should keep from whatever place we raid.]
[Agreed.] With their plan set, they chatted about mundane things like what animals existed in either Abe’s or Mary’s world or what kind of food was the best until they reached an edge of the slums that bordered the ocean. Facing the cliff, the man did not hesitate to lower their discs off the edge.
After a few moments of decision, they navigated into a tunnel, hidden from the ocean winds. They landed in a small entry room where two guards stood with their weapons drawn. They did not pay the guards any mind and walked through the entrance behind the guards. After a small while of navigating wide, winding tunnels, they came upon the Tunnel Rats’ main headquarters.
In the large cave, dug out of the high cliffs of the island, hundreds of large buildings sat, protected from sight. Houses made from rock and stone littered the cave, placed in whatever spot the builder fancied. Paths were carved out from the paths that ran this way and that, more or less connecting every building to each other.
The man who had been escorting Mary took his leave without another word and Mary walked over to a small cluster of houses near the center of the underground town and entered the house in the middle of the cluster. Inside, Huk was lying on the couch while Fuel was sitting in an armchair next to him, using an enchanted rod to heal his wounds.
Mary walked over and pulled up a chair, sitting next to Fuel as she did her work. “I heard. It… didn’t go well, I assume?”
He shook his head, sighing, “No… it didn’t. Thank whatever gods still watch over us that Richard wasn’t there. If Gina’s boyfriend got killed under my watch, there’d be nothing to bury,” he said. While Mary was tempted to laugh at the seeming joke, she realized that he was entirely serious. With a sigh, he turned to her for the first time. His eyes were filled with a sadness that she had not seen from him before. Sighing again, he looked her in the eyes, “I see you have everything from your old place. Are you moving into this house or another? Me and Fuel live here, mostly because it’s easier to deal with business that way,” he offered. Thinking on it, she nodded.
“Sure. That’ll make everything easier. Do you have an empty room?” she asked, nodding to an adjoining hallway. He nodded, telling her to take the room at the end of the hallway. She walked into the room and found it to be entirely normal. Nothing made it stand out, but there was nothing wrong with it.
After dropping her bag off, she returned to the living room, where Huk was still lying on the couch and Fuel was still nursing his wound. She sat on her chair and sighed, “So, how’d that happen?” she asked, drawing Fuels attention from her work.
“The Order Leader,” she responded ruefully, “He led a whole pack of crusaders to the evacuation. They knocked out the boat and… well, there’s a reason why people are trapped on the island. They’ve got a whole fleet of subs out there, you see, and the survivors were hunted down. Out of the couple hundred, only fifty survived. They were all taken here, so they’re safe, but most of them lost family or friends. Anyway, Huk fought the Leader and the bastard got a lucky shot off. He’ll heal, but it’ll take a few hours.”
Nodding, Huk turned back to Mary, “So, did you have something, or are you here to chill out?” he asked. His voice was a little tense, but it may have been from the pain.
Mary looked between them for a moment, “I want to raid the Purists,” she said with resolve.
The two sat in silence for a long moment before chuckling in unison. While Mary and Abe were left to wonder why they were doing so, Huk grinned and explained, “Look, most of the time, we aren’t able to spare anyone to raid them; we need the troops to defend safehouses and perform other missions. If you want to raid them, you need to know what you want first.”
She nodded in understanding, “I know. What I want is information about their leaders, current activities, any type of info. With it, I can plan some other things like assassinations, theft, and other stuff. But it all starts with info,” she laid out.
Huk and Fuel worked their jaws for a while, but soon sighed, “Alright,” Huk said, “I can say that you’re doing that, but the problem is your targets. You can either go after the military base on Olsvania Minor, or you can go after a government building in the middle district. Either way, you’re not going to be able to get into either of those places with ease.”
“Yeah,” Fuel added, “But there is one way I can think of,” she said thoughtfully. Both Huk and Mary looked at her with interest. She sighed and explained, “Alright, so in the last decade, the government switched from paper information storage to digital. Unfortunately for us, they were smart enough to build up a powerful defense in case of attempted theft, and the Purists likely took it a step further since their rise. There is likely, however, a way to get in if you try to hack it while connected to an important person’s computer. Coincidentally, there’s someone here with just the skills for that.”
“Great! Let’s get going then!” Huk tried to sit up, but Fuel pushed him down.
“No. We can do it tomorrow once you are healed and the guy is actually awake.” Fuel left no room for negotiation; Huk sighed and agreed while Mary was giggling in the background.