Into the Dark: Five

Co-authored by Ciarente and Silver Night


Camille crawled slowly, counting.

She'd measured against one of the cartons Papa had stacked against the wall in the big tunnel he'd set up kind of like a room for him and Camille and Cia. Each left-right-left was half of a meter. If she counted every time she moved a hand and timesed it by six, she could tell how long each bit of the tunnel was.

Thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven, thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty ...

She stopped, and said the very worst words she knew, the ones she'd learnt the day Cia had gone into the water after the man fell in and the LES 'craft hadn't been able to pick her up until after she'd gone under Fifth Bridge, the ones that had gotten her paddled by Mama when she repeated them later. In her head, so Papa wouldn't hear any voice in the tunnels where she wasn't supposed to be.

Then she crawled back to the last turn, and started again. One, two, three, four ...

It was hard to concentrate on the numbers when she was a little bit scared.

Just a little bit. Not really scared. I'm practically grown-up!

Five, six, seven ...

It was easier to concentrate when she was mad, rather than scared. Camille concentrated on her mad.

Papa saying That woman, Amieta, she's been lying to you, cherie. To get you to like her and do what she wants. She's one of them, those Sansha, and they're all liars, trying to control people, change what they think.

The first time, Camille had tried to tell him how wrong he was. Ami's not a liar! She's my friend! And Cia's friend!

That had made Papa mad. Madder even than Camille's best mad.

The next time, she'd listened with her listening face and nodded and thanked him for explaining it.

Remembering it made her stomach feel funny, even if Ami had said it was okay when Camille had got Fisk's earpiece working and crept away into the tunnels to call her. You did the right thing, the smart thing, dear. I'm proud of you, ok?

Thinking about Fisk made Camille's stomach feel funny too. The earpiece had been covered in stuff she'd had to clean off before she could get the cover off and start fixing the wires and bits inside. Even looking at it made her remember what he'd looked like, lying on the floor of the shuttle. Once the earpiece was as fixed as she could make it, it had taken her a little while to make herself brave enough to hook it over her ear so she could call Ami.

But I did. Cia said I had to be brave, and I was.

She lost count again, and leaned against the side of the tunnel, hugging her knees to her chest.

Ami said Fisk was all right, she reminded herself. All of them. Because of the back-ups. Even Helmi. Because it wasn't really Helmi, who shot everybody, and let Papa in.

And Ami'll come and get us. She said. And find out why Cia's acting funny.

Why she isn't a pilot anymore, why the things on her neck are gone.

Camille fingered the earpiece in her pocket, wishing she could call Ami again. But I have to save it for emergencies. Every time I use it there's a chance Papa will find out. Only emergencies.

And feeling sniffly wasn't an emergency.

So she tried to remember, instead, what Ami's voice had sounded like. Camille? I got you honey. Are you alright? it's ok. I'll be there for you soon, ok?

Soon. Camille wanted soon to be now.

She'd tried to answer all Ami's questions, but she couldn't answer the big, important ones.

Where are you? Is Cia alright?

All Camille'd been able to say was I'm not sure.

She'd told Ami everything she could think of, about being able to hear a river and a church, about the boxes of food and supplies and the names on them ... but it was all just ordinary stuff. Just stuff like normal.

And she'd told Ami about the locked door, about the things she could hear from behind it when she crept down the tunnels to just the right spot. The woman saying We can't try again. There's already too much damage. And the man talking about traditional methods.

Papa saying Cia, you just have to tell me, and we can all go home. And Cia's voice. Fire can't answer questions. Cia had to go.

And crying.

And screaming.

Camille closed her eyes tightly and tried not to think about it. Cia was back in the other room when I went back there. She said she hadn't been anywhere. Maybe she hadn't. Maybe I imagined it. Maybe I fell asleep and had a nightmare. Like the ones I had after Cia went in the water that time.

It hadn't been a nightmare, though. I know her voice. I know what I heard. Ami beleived me. She said she'd figure it out. When she came and got us.

And when she comes she'll need to know about the tunnels. So I have to be able to tell her. I'm like rec-onny-sans. Like on the holo.

Camille wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Marines doing rec-onny-sans don't sit on their backsides crying like babies, she told herself fiercely. Fisk didn't. He was brave, like a real marine, even all shot up like that.

I wish I could have given him his gun.

It was hard to be a real marine, though, in the tunnels, especially since Papa had taken her jacket, the one that Mr Burke and his people had given her, with the Mordu's Legion stuff on it.

Come on, Cami, she told herself. What would Ami say?

She pretended she could hear Ami's voice. It's not clothes that make you a marine. It's what's inside.

Marines were brave. Like Ami. Like Fisk

So I'll be brave too.

Camille crawled back to the corner and started counting again. One, two, three...

She could hear Cia screaming again.

Trying not to listen, Camille crawled on into the dark.

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