Did they belong to something good? Something bad? He felt like shouting at them. Who are you? What do you want?
But he didn’t. Instead, he kept quiet and focused. At least the wind chimes had stopped, because after the first five minutes or so he thought they were going to drive him crazy.
Archer followed Bruce, with Del at his side and Dash trailing behind them. A shudder rolled across his shoulders and he sneezed. Wincing, he froze and glanced at Del. His sneeze was as loud as a cannon shot.
“Sorry,” he murmured.
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied. “There’s only a band of nasty pirates after us and those eyes watching every step of the way.” She laughed, but it was hollow. “You can feel them right?”
She offered up a smile. “Who knows what else is out here.”
She was joking. He heard it in her voice. But still…
The tunnel widened the farther along they went and Archer wasn’t sure how long they’d been walking, but eventually he noticed that it wasn’t as dark. There was a glow up ahead. Shadows danced across the top of the tunnel creating monsters that leered down at them. And along the floor, the never ending mist swirled, moving faster and faster.
Archer thought he saw something moving in the mist and he squinted, trying desperately to see what it was. Trying desperately to keep his fear at bay.
“Bruce, hold up.”
The cat glanced back at them, his tail moving back and forth slowly.
Archer nodded to his bot. “Dash, can you scan ahead? See what’s up there? And while you’re at it, uh, can you please scan the immediate area too?”
His bot floated in the air, eyes red, beeps and whirrs loud in the quiet.
“Okay,” Archer said, relieved, though his eyes still tried to see through the mist.
“I will get a visual from up ahead and report back.” Dash floated down until he was level with Archer.
“Sounds like a plan. Just stay out of sight.”
Del punched Archer in the arm. “Stay out of sight? We’ve been watched ever since we entered this tunnel.”
“Well, I know that.”
Okay. Now he felt stupid.
“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play it safe.”
Dash disappeared and Bruce circled Archer and Del, his tail flicking in all directions. It reminded Archer of the deep space scope from his father’s ship. The one that could cut through the dark and the stars to peer into the unknown.
“How do you know we’re going in the right direction?” he asked, Bruce, watching the cat’s eyes as they slid here and there.
“I’m not entirely sure,” the cat replied.
“But you said…” Angry, Archer glanced at Del and then back to Bruce. “You said that we were going in the right direction.” He couldn’t keep the accusation from his voice, but he didn’t care. Archer was tired, fed up, scared and for the first time since he’d been left behind he wanted his dad so badly that he was going to cry.
He scrubbed at his face angrily.
“I said that we would be there soon,” Bruce rubbed his head against Archer’s leg. “Fear not little human. Our search is almost over.”
“That is something I’ve heard before.”
They waited for what seemed to a long time but Dash didn’t return and Archer was starting to get worried.
“Where is he?” Archer whispered uneasily.
“Should we go after him?” Del asked, drawing up her sword. It glowed in the dark and made the shadows above them more fierce than ever.
“I think we should move forward,” Archer said. “What do you think Bruce?”
“I think that sounds like one option.”
“And what’s the other?” Archer asked.
“We could wait for your robot to return.”
Archer frowned. “We’re moving forward. He’s been gone too long.”
Bruce’s face twisted into what Archer supposed was meant to be a smile. “Good. I preferred that option.”
“You’re weird,” Archer said.
“I’ve been told that before,” Bruce quipped.
“Oh, you did not just call Dash a tin can,” Archer laughed.
“I did,” Del said over her shoulder. “And you can tell him that when we find him.”
“I’m so going to,” he replied.
Uneasily, he exhaled. Archer wasn’t so sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
As the tunnel widened even more and the light became brighter, they started to move faster. His heart was beating hard, he could hear it in his ears, and his mouth was dry.Something wasn’t right.
Suddenly the tunnel opened up into a massive chamber and the three of them came to a complete halt.
Holy. Space. Balls.
There were fires burning in a pit about ten feet from where they stood. The weird thing? There was no smell of anything burning. But at least he knew where the initial glow had come from.
But it wasn’t the fires that concerned him. Or the fact that the only way around them was a narrow ledge that ran around the entire chamber. It wasn’t even the fact that he couldn’t see the bottom of the pit, so Archer had no idea how far down it went.
What concerned him was the fact that his bot, his beloved Dash, was caught in what looked to be a massive—
“Is that a…a spider web?” Del said into his ear.
“Why yes,” Bruce answered softly. “It would appear to be.”
“Great,” Archer murmured, swallowing hard as he looked at Del. “So where’s its owner?”
“I don’t know,” Del replied. “But can you see what’s behind the web?”Archer squinted his eyes. The web was covering the entire entrance to another chamber. It was lighter back in there. He thought he caught a glimpse of something purple.
“Okay,” Archer said. “I think we should get Dash down before whatever made this web returns and while we’re at it snatch our prisms and run.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Del said. “The only problem is…”
“How do we get there?” Archer answered for her. Dash had obviously flown over the large pit. But the three of them were going to have to navigate the ledge. And the ledge didn’t look very safe.
Bruce didn’t wait for them. The cat hopped onto the ledge, tail pointing forward and with a shrug, Del followed.
Archer took a moment. A) Because his balance wasn’t so good and B) He hated heights.
“Just don’t look down,” he muttered to himself. He glanced up at Dash and then followed the others.