The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
17
Into The Dark We Go...
Archer moved through the jungle cautiously. Sweat made his hair stick to his neck and he hiked his backpack up a little, glancing around and seeing nothing out of the ordinary. But something was off. He could feel it. The air was too thick, the sky too dark and it was too silent.
He spied the sun through the tree-tops, and though it burned brightly the light was filtered by the trees throwing shadows everywhere. And if he stared at the shadows long enough they moved. They became things. Scary things.
Archer gave his head a quick shake. Cook was always saying how imaginative Archer was. But thing of it was? Right now, visualizing all sorts of bad things wasn’t exactly the way he wanted his brain to work. Once more he peered into the thick vines that ran along the jungle floor. They rose like snakes, entwined around the trees.
He was cold and how weird was that? Here in the middle of a hot jungle. A shiver rolled across his shoulders and he jerked a little when Del’s hand tapped him on his arm.
Archer glanced back and came to a stop. She put her fingers to her mouth, as if to say ‘shush’ and pulled out her weapon.
Archer nodded, his hand gripping the old electron in his hand. He hoped that he wouldn’t have to use it (and if he did have to, he really hoped that it would work).
The two of them stayed as still as statues and after a few moments Archer’s leg began to cramp. He inched forward a bit and then froze when he heard a snap in the jungle. Was it ahead of him? Behind him?
Whipping his head around, he searched everywhere and with his heart almost beating out of his chest, he prayed that the beast from a few days before wasn’t anywhere near them.
Or the pirates for that matter.
Again he thought of the crystalized creepy-crawlies and shuddered. Was there anyplace safe on this planet?
Del moved sideways, her feet silent as she skirted the area around them. She paused near the base of a very tall tree and Archer noticed a row of the red and purple spider-like creatures. They moved in unison down the tree, marching like soldiers, their steps slow and sure. They weren’t scared and he relaxed a bit.
But then he heard a snap once more and this time it came from above. He glanced up, saw a flash of purple and yellow, a bit of fur, and grinned.
“It’s okay, Del. It’s just Bruce.”
“Bruce?” she said, whispering fiercely, eyes trained on the trees.
“Yes,” came a voice from above, mimicking Archer. “It’s just Bruce.”
Archer moved to the foot of the tall tree and Del followed him. Several feet above them, lounging on a long branch sat Bruce the cat. He rose slowly, back arched as he extended his paws and then with a big yawn, he jumped to the ground.
“Where have you been?” Archer asked, more than a little curious.
“Here. There.”
“Everywhere!” Archer said, half jokingly.
“Yes.” Bruce blinked slowly.
“Oh.” Archer didn’t really know what to say to that.
“The pirates know about Del and the prisms and I sent Dash to—“
“I know,” Bruce replied, whiskers trembling a bit as he stretched out his paw and began to clean it. He paused and glanced at Archer and Del. “Dash is returning to you and should be here at any moment. No sooner had the words fallen from Bruce’s mouth, when the familiar whirr and beeps of his bot could be heard.
Archer barely had time to glance up when he spied his robot zipping through the trees, going so fast he was nothing more than a blur.
Dash paused, floating a few feet above them, his lights flashing and changing colour.
“Dash,” Archer said running toward the bot. “What did they say?”
Dash moved until he was level with Archer’s head. “They’ve agreed to a trade.”
Del slumped over, her hands on her knees. “Oh,” whispered. “Thank-you,” she whispered.
“Are you all right?” Archer asked, patting her back.

“No,” she said. “I mean, yes, but I’m still scared that they’re going to hurt him.”
“They won’t,” Archer replied.
Dash beeped. “Archibald. I must disagree. There is a sixty-five percent chance—“
“Not now, Dash. I mean it. Not another word.”
For a few moments the only thing that Archer heard was Del’s hard breathing. He knew that she was feeling scared and mad and confused, but he didn’t know what to do to make her feel better. How could he? He had no idea what the future held.
“Stay strong, Archer,” Bruce murmured, flicking his tail back and forth. “I have faith in you. Your father has faith in you.”
Archer’s throat got all tight and funny. He was barely able to speak. “My father? You saw my father?” He thought of his holo-picture and wanted to grab hold of it. To look at it. To remember what it felt like to be with him. To see his father’s eyes crinkle when Archer made him laugh.
Bruce was silent for a few seconds and then nodded. “Briefly. I was not with him physically, but I was able to connect to him in a dream. He’s trying his best to come back for you and he knows you’re strong enough to survive until he does.”
A big lump clogged Archer’s throat and he couldn’t speak if he wanted to. He kept patting Del on the back, but closed his eyes because suddenly everything was too much.
“I don’t know if I can do it,” he whispered eventually.
Bruce snorted. “Of course you can. But before you can accomplish anything you must put one foot in front of the other, no?”
The cat was right. Archer had to keep moving forward or he’d sink.
“Yes,” he said pulling back from Del. He exhaled and glanced at his bot. “When did you tell them we’d arrange a swap?”
“As instructed,” Dash replied. “Tomorrow afternoon near the clearing by the ship.”
Just then lightening streaked across the sky and rain began to fall. From where, Archer had no clue, because he couldn’t see clouds anywhere.
“Ah,” Bruce the cat murmured. “Right on time.”
“You knew it was going to rain?” Archer asked in surprise, pushing away a big chunk of wet hair.
“But of-course,” the cat replied. “We’re near the cave, are we not?”
Archer glanced around, eyes wide. They were. They were standing in the clearing outside the cave. A cave whose opening wasn’t slammed shut anymore. This made no sense. He whirled around. One second ago he’d been in the middle of the jungle and now….
“How did you do that?” he asked the cat.
Bruce flicked his tail back and forth. “I don’t like rain. It’s not good for my fur.” The cat took a few steps toward the opening of the cave. It looked like a big gaping wound slashed into the rock.
“What say we go and explore?” Bruce said softly.
Archer reached for his lumen headgear and glanced at Del. “There’s some dangerous creatures in there so we need to stick close together.”
“Don’t worry about me,” Del replied. She scrubbed at her face, wiping away any traces of tears that were left and kept her sword out. “Let’s do this.”
She walked forward and disappeared into the cave.

Archer glanced at Bruce. “You are coming with us, right?”
Small pointy teeth grinned back at him. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Bruce followed Del into the black hole and then Archer did the same, Dash close on his heels. He took two steps and then there was nothing below his feet. Cold air rushed past him as he tumbled over and over and over.
When he landed it took a few moments for him to get his bearings, and when he did that icy cold fear he’d felt earlier was back.
He stared at the walls. They were moving. And high above him the long, tubes were spinning, faster and faster. He knew what was coming next.
He was on his legs in an instant, just as the first tube crashed to the ground. His lumen light bounced crazily as he began to run. He spied a tunnel to the right and it was moving. Changing. The opening getting smaller. With his crew close behind him he jumped through, yelling for them to follow.
Again he felt cold air.
And then there was nothing.
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