An aging man quickly entered the tunnel. When it had been created was a mystery. The history of the place didn't interest the man now. He huffed and puffed heading deeper in. He didn't have much time.
"Doctor Blakguaard, I presume?" another aged voice asked.
"What?" The doctor asked in surprised as he turned around to find the source of the voice. He laughed a little as he addressed the newcomer. "Oh, it's you, isn't it? Jack Allen?"
"That's right," Jack confirmed.
"Was wondering if I would ever have the pleasure," Regis Blackguaard sarcastically remarked. The doctor had been in town for a few months, working on a brilliant scheme to get his hands on a compound that was in the tunnel under an establishment called Whit's End, allowing him chance for revenge on a select group of citizens for past sins.
"You can't get away, Regis. You know that. The police have this whole place surrounded. You will not be able to escape."
Blackguaard merely laughed in reply.
"I see you found my escape hatch in the middle of the woods behind this place."
Jack merely shrugged. "You're trapped."
"Not if I use you as a hostage," The doctor remarks as he steps forward threateningly.
"You and I both know that I won't go along with that."
The doctor stops. "Would you rather die then?"
"I'm not afraid to," the other man shrugs. "I'm ready for death. What about you?"
"Ah," Regis Blackguaard slowly counters, "I see. Jack Allen, faithful and strong to the end, stops the evil doctor and saves the world!"
"Not the world, doctor," Jack calmly replies. "I'm here to save you. Your soul. That's the only thing that matters right now. All other worldly things fade away in comparison." He motions to the detonator in Regis's hand. "Let's put that down and turn yourself in so you'll have time to redeem yourself."
Regis darkly looks up into the other man's eyes. "The flaw in your plan is thinking that my soul is redeemable. It isn't. I sold it years ago."
"Then you let it go cheap," Jack replies. "It's worth the life of Jesus Christ. To allow anyone else to have it is a sad waste."
"Well," Regis Blackguaard shrugs his shoulders, "as much as I enjoy talking about such philosophies, we have a real dilemma here."
"It doesn't have to be."
"But it is!" The doctor interjects. "Giving up is the only thing I can and never will do!"
"I'm not leaving without you," Jack states plainly.
"I will not be leaving with you!" the doctor counters. "Seeing as I have the detonator, I still have the upper hand here and nothing to lose. You see, Jack, I am terminally ill."
"Ruku?" Jack asks, remembering a conversation he had had with a friend earlier about the deadly virus at the center of this whole scheme.
The doctor nods. "Seems I was exposed to it sometime in the past. Pointless to die that kind of death." He lets his thumb hover above the detonation button. "I'd suggest you run."
"You don't want to kill me," Jack replies as he steps forward.
"Why wouldn't I?" Regis shouts as he steps away from the friendly face. The doctor makes up his mind. "Goodbye, Jack Allen!"
A touch of a button and the tunnel collapsed around the two men.
Karen heavily pushed against the front door after unlocking it. Stepping inside and closing the door behind her, she strolled across the room, dropping her computer bag and purse on the floor by the couch. She flopped down on the dark colored couch, sighing as her tired form relaxed in the midst of the comfortable cushions. She clapped her hands, activating the brighter light setting. The light illuminated the large living area of SteelGrate Manor. Comfortable seating arrangements were spread around the room. A large potted plant sat between the two large windows at the far side of the room. A large flatscreen tv sat atop the mantle over the large fireplace. It was a cozy place to spend time with family and friends. Right now, the tired adult wished for peace and quiet. However, it was broken by a new occupant in the room.
"You're home early," a strong masculine voice remarked.
Karen sat up to find another occupant of the manor taking a seat across from her. She smiled tiredly at her uncle.
"Long day," she replied. "Kids can smell Thanksgiving break around the corner. Hard to teach math to a bunch like that."
Jackson Marvel nodded in understanding. "That's part of what you signed up for when you decided to teach 6th grade math, darling."
Karen flopped back on the couch, closing her eyes. She knew that. When she decided to go into education, she had an idea about how kids would react. Some be willing to learn. Some me willing to do anything but learn. She still wanted to reach them all. But around the holidays, they were chomping at the bit to be elsewhere. Karen couldn't help but agree that sitting in a room learning to divide decimals wasn't as exciting as the prospect of Thanksgiving, family traveling to visit, and what foods would be prepared for the feast. She only had one more day to go before break began. 5 days without having to get up early to go educate young minds. It sounded like heaven. Her body relaxed at the thought, sinking deeper into the plush cushions. Her tensions were melting away ever so slowly.
"You got something in the mail," the man of the manor mentioned.
Karen's brow furrowed. Her Uncle Jacks never brought up what came in the mail. Unless...
She sat up, seeing her uncle holding a large manila envelop in his hands. Spying a silver glossy emblem of a quill attacking a curled piece of paper, she already knew who had sent this to her. She inwardly sighed. So much for 5 days of paradise. Motioning to be handed the envelop, she could only imagine what the StoryHackers had in store for her.