State of Nature: Book Three of The Park Service Trilogy

State of Nature: Book Three of The Park Service Trilogy by Ryan Winfield Read Free Book Online

Book: State of Nature: Book Three of The Park Service Trilogy by Ryan Winfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ryan Winfield
allow you to pass between the levels, but you shouldn’t need it. I’ve arranged for you to give a talk on Level 3 tomorrow that will be streamed to the other levels. Just seeing you back there should be all the reassurance they need.”
    Jimmy throws me a look. “You two done talkin’ yet?” he asks. “I’d like to get on with it already.”
    Hannah turns to face him.
    “And no funny business from you, Jimmy. Just keep your mouth shut and let Aubrey do the talking. You’re only going because he bargained for it, and if anything goes wrong down there, you’ll all be flooded before you can fart. You got that? And drowning isn’t a fun way to die, as you well know from rounding up the floaters when we came here after the wave.” Then she turns back to me and grins. “Good luck.”
    She twirls her finger in the air and a tunnelrat opens the subterrene hatch and calls something to another inside. The machine fires to life and winds up with a screech and whine that climbs in pitch until it’s almost deafening. Then it either passes beyond the frequency audible to the human ear or ceases entirely as the cavern falls silent again. The metallic cone glows, pointing into the dark tunnel through the open cavern doors, as if it were some manned missile preparing to dive into the earth.
    Jimmy and I are about to drop down onto the tracks and head for the hatch when I hear the professor shout.
    “Wait! Hold them there!”
    He comes bumbling up the path, juggling something in his hands as he mumbles profanities to himself. He’s breathless by the time he joins us on the platform.
    “Hold them,” he says. “I’ve got the bracelets ready.”
    “I told you we don’t need them,” Hannah replies.
    “Oh, yes, we do,” he insists. “I’ve been out there with these two weasels. We need the insurance.”
    Hannah takes one of the bracelets from him and looks it over. “Couldn’t you make them smaller?” she asks. “This will never do. It’s much too large and obvious. We don’t need to give these people anything new to wonder about.”
    “What about him?” the professor asks, pointing at Jimmy. “They won’t be looking at him. He’s just along for the ride, isn’t that what you said? These two might as well be Siamese twins, so shackling him is as good as shackling both of them.”
    “Fine,” Hannah says, handing him back the bracelet. “Put one on Jimmy, then. But only on him.”
    “You want me to put it on him?” the professor asks.
    “It’s your idea,” Hannah says.
    The professor inches toward Jimmy, his head held back as if to keep from being hit.
    “Let me see your ankle,” he says.
    “What’s that thing do?” I ask, stepping between them.
    “It’s an incentive,” the professor says.
    “An incentive for what?”
    “To come home, of course,” he answers. “If this isn’t back here to be deprogrammed in a week, it will detonate.”
    “Detonate?”
    “It’s just a precaution, Aubrey,” Hannah interjects.
    “No way,” I say, shaking my head.
    “I’m not giving you an option,” she replies.
    “So? I said no.”
    “Then no deal,” she says, hooking her hands on her hips. “It shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t plan on escaping.”
    “You’re crazy. There’s no way you’re putting that on him.”
    “Fine,” she says, turning her back and calling down to the tunnelrats. “Trip’s off. Come and take them back to the hole.”
    “I dun’ care,” Jimmy says. “Let ’em put it on me.”
    “Are you sure, Jimmy?”
    He nods and sticks out his foot.
    The professor steps closer, kneels, and clamps the bracelet around Jimmy’s ankle, locking it. When he goes to stand again, Jimmy feigns kicking him, and the professor throws his hands up and screams, lurching backward and falling on his ass.
    Jimmy and I laugh.
    “I wouldn’t be so brave if I were you,” the professor says, picking himself up off the ground. “I’ve got a remote way to detonate that thing.”
    Jimmy

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