by Rylee Morgan
There are seven things you have to know before working at The Underground.
No.1 Security is tighter than anything.
“The safe word is cantaloupe,” Graves informs me, he’s stood at the front of the room, going over the layout of the gala, and explaining everything in very precise detail. It was Monday morning, and I was tired. Arvel Howells, otherwise known as this city’s biggest Villain, was planning on destroying everyone in that building tonight if he couldn’t get his hands on The Painting Of Rosa, an Italian heirloom. It was my job to stop him and his bombs. “Once you get to the gallery room, you should be able to turn everything off.” I nod along, going over the plan again and again in my head until I could recite it in my sleep.
No.2 You have to be quick on your feet, most of the time quicker than humanly possible.
The ballroom is gorgeous, gold detailing is everywhere, along the marble pillars and framing the dome roof covered in mythology paintings. The windows are large, old and lets in very little light, the entire room casted in a soft orange glow from the candles.
Elegant dresses and suits decorate each person as they twirl in and out of the room and around one another, small buzzing chatter echoes along the tall walls and my eyes strain to place everyone.
Everyone has come with a partner, sticking so close to their sides that you would think that they’re one person. Around the room sits tables and candlesticks, wine glasses with fizzy bubbles, and small hors d’oeuvres that rest on silver platers.
On the other side of the room is a large, elegant staircase leading to where I hope I need to go. I march forward, dancing from partner to partner, smiling politely and saying very little, my face disguised with a simply black mask, until I’m standing on the first step of the stairs.
No.3 Not everything is what it seems, things change, and information is left out.
Arvel was meant to be here tonight, but for the life of me I cannot seem to find him. The one thing Graves had drilled into my mind was to avoid Arvel. How was I meant to avoid a man I couldn’t locate?
The stairs take no time to climb and the room where the explosives are meant to be located in doesn’t seem to exist. Instead, a library stands in its place, filled with books that don’t seem to have been touched within the last ten years, an old globe, and an even older desk that is covered in a thick layer of dust, the letters left on it half wrote and faded.
This was not in the plan.
No.4 The H in C.G.C.V.H stands for Hero.
A while ago, Othello and his friends had tried to burn down The Underground after realising that their organisation was corrupt. Classified Governmental Control of Villains and Heroes, The Underground had left out that last bit, and had put their entire facility on power Blockers as well as working with one of the biggest Villains in Vae.
They managed to burn down the facility, and saved thousands of lives, but what they didn’t know was that The Underground wasn’t a single facility, there were three buildings all over Drake Rune. I work of one of them, but as soon as news about The Underground in Vae burnt down, I was tested for Blockers.
There are none in my system, my powers work just fine.
This is important to know.
No.5 We wish to protect each of our members equally. Every mission is assigned based on skill and probability of survival.
Each room I enter and exit from presents me with no clue as to where the explosives might be, instead, I am more confused than ever. The plan had been delicately crafted, assigned to me based on my powers: absolute knowledge. I could remember everything I ever learnt, and to defuse a bomb would require my skills, but I would have to find the bomb first of all, and I quite frankly could not.
Instead, I stumble upon the painting that Arvel was looking for. It was hidden up in a study, the doors tightly locked, behind thick blast proof glass. It took me no time at all to pick the lock, and now that I’m standing there, staring at the painting, my heart begins to race.
If I couldn’t find the bomb this entire building was rigged to explode.
If I couldn’t find Arvel I couldn’t stop him from blowing up the building.
There was nothing in the plan for this.
No.6 Be clever, your life depends on it.
Below me I can hear the laughter and chatter of the entire ballroom, I slip back out of the door, locking it behind me and hurrying down the hallway.
I’m an idiot.
If Arvel needed to blow up the building, the bomb would have to be in the lower portion of the building, not in the upstairs. I watched Heathers far too many times, for this knowledge to not be ingrained in my mind. On the floorplan there was a hidden door under the stairs that lead downwards, if Arvel wanted to destroy everything, the bomb would be hidden there.
This entire mission was a set up.
“Francis,” a posh voice echoes above all the others. Arvel was at the base of the stairs. The one man I needed to avoid, and he had found me.
“What on earth are you doing here?” He had a champagne glass in his hands. I stare at it.
“I think you know already.” The chances are I was sold out, this was a suicide mission. They wanted me out of the organization.
“One minute Francis.” Arvel smiles, stepping around me and heading back up the stairs. That was not enough time.
Picking the lock proves to be more complicated than I thought, nothing I was doing was working, and in a fit of panic, the pick snaps off in the lock. If there was a basement there had to be an access point from outside.
It was freezing outside, and raining, my suit was no help, and I drop the jacket off at the desk before pushing my way outside. I needed to be able to move for this.
There was a very low, very narrow window hidden behind some tall grass that takes me all but a second to pull open, whether or not my body would fit was beyond me, but I try anyway.
It’s nearly pitch black in this room, every once in a while, I stumble and trip up on something. I take a deep breath close my eyes and try and remember the floor plans.
The bomb was nothing I had ever seen before, it was complicated, too many wires, too many switches. I can’t find the safety cap. The lights keep flashing at me.
My hands are frozen, my fingers numb, I was only outside for a few seconds and I can barely move my fingers, the bomb is still blinking, bleeping, flashing ugly red numbers at me.
Someone upstairs is shouting, someone else is screaming. I can’t think.
The sound has changed to a more panicked monotone beep. I hold my breath and switch the cap off flicking one of the switches.
The blinking stops. The timer runs out and there’s nothing.
In a matter of seconds, I’m on my feet rushing out of the door. I only had moments to stop Arvel, and even then, I might still miss him.
I’m dripping wet, running from the basement like a mad person, the ballrooms floors’ are slippery, and the stairs are impossible to climb. At the top of the staircase, I pull the gun tied to my waist free and hurry down the hallway through the gallery and to the other side.
I didn’t need to stop Arvel so much as save the painting.
The study comes into view and as I reach the door, my hair falling into my face, water dripping from my arms and soaked through my shirt, my heart racing hands shaking, the door swings open. I stumble to a stop, raising the gun.
No.7 one of these rules is a lie.