4. Look Before You Run (Conclusion)

As their eyes adjusted to the bright light, Opa could see into a large round room about thirty meters across, the walls appearing to be made of mirrors.

“Marbles, sit. Don’t move.”

Opa glanced over at Marbles, she was sitting, her eyes were quivering, the differently coloured eyes constantly switching places, and her nostrils wide open. The walls were not made of mirrors, but were covered with thousands and thousands of metallic crickets. A soft buzzing filled the room when the crickets flooded to the floor. They became a river of metal which flowed around Opa and Marbles. The crickets streamed down the tunnel behind the bewildered duo and in a matter of seconds the room was dark and silent.

Opa squatted beside Marbles, rubbing her cheeks. “Are you okay girl?” Marbles eyes settled down and her tail started to wag. “Good girl, we are going to get out of here. I wish I could speak to Toby, he might have some ideas on how to get out.”

Marbles nose started to twitch and she got up and ran over to the far side of the room. She turned and barked. There was a small passage way, no more than a meter high, out of which flowed air.

“Good dog, Marbles.” Opa said.

Marbles started along the tunnel and Opa had to get on his hands and knees to follow her. The tunnel soon started sloping upwards at a steep angle and after following it for a few minutes they discovered the passage was blocked by a metal grate. Air was flowing through the grate. Opa shook the grating to no avail, it was embedded into the rock.

“X,Y, Z, Z, Y” said Opa, a smile on his face while he watched the grating. Marbles tipped her head sideways, looking up at Opa. Opa reached into the knapsack and came up empty handed. “This was a colossal failure, Marbles. We can’t go any further. We are going to have to turn back and explore the other tunnel.”

As they started back down the low tunnel, Marbles crouched low, growling. Opa shone his flashlight ahead but there was nothing to see. Marbles jumped up, eyes spinning, and ran down the tunnel while barking wildly. She disappeared, leaving Opa scrambling down the tunnel as fast as he could crawl. When he returned to the room that had contained all the crickets, he found Marbles sitting in front of a metallic wall which now covered the opening back into the main tunnels. Her eyes were still trading places, her nostrils wide open. Humming filled the room.

Opa examined the door and found it was made of those metal crickets, interlocked together to form a solid obstacle. He tried to push against the door but could not budge it. The harder he pushed, the more he could feel the wall vibrate. When he pushed with all of his strength, he shouted “Ow.” He quickly pulled his hands off the wall and found a shiny cricket hanging off his left hand. Looking closely, the cricket’s mandibles were embedded into his palm. He pulled it off, threw the cricket on the ground and stomped his boot on it. He ground his boot on the floor then lifted up his boot. The cricket scampered to rejoin the wall. Examining his hand, Opa saw a trickle of blood running down his palm. He reached into the backpack and pulled out a first aid kit and bandaged up the small wound.

Marbles walked across the room and started to push a rock about the size of a softball towards Opa.

“Good idea girl, I’ll push with the rock so the crickets can’t bite my hand.”

He picked it up and used it to push against the cricket wall. Opa’s hand shook as he forced the rock into the wall. It slowly disappeared and Opa had to let go of the rock when his hand was close to touching the wall. A thin slice of rock fell to the floor, just a few millimetres thick. Opa picked it up and found that the rock hand been ground away.

“Those crickets must have chewed away the rock, Marbles. Those crickets are tough. I wonder if that’s how Evil Fawn is digging the tunnels through the mountain?”

Opa stared at the unmoving wall of crickets then sat on the floor. He tore the last peanut butter sandwich in half, giving one piece to Marbles. Doing the same with a bottle of water before placing his head into his hands. They both sat for a long time in the humming room, the wall before them not changing.

Marbles lifted up her ears and turned to face the wall. Opa looked at Marbles before he heard a faint sound. It was Toby!

“Opa, Opa! Where are you?”

“We’re here, behind the wall of crickets” Opa shouted.

“I found you. Hang on, I am going to try to get to you.”

The wall became silent and then collapsed, the crickets laying in a pile on the ground where the wall was standing. Toby jumped over the pile of crickets and saw Opa and Marbles. Marbles jumped up and licked Toby’s face.

“Marbles, that’s enough. I sure am happy to see you and Opa.”

“Me too Toby.” said Opa, giving him a big hug. “We were trapped and now you’re here. How did you find us?”

“I just went to the last place where Marble’s tracking collar worked and found the vertical tunnel into the mountain. I figured you guys were down there and might need some help getting out. I had to get some gear first before I could rappel down to the bottom of the pit. Brought some tech with me as well. When I started down the horizontal tunnels, I spied those same silver glimmers that you had seen and when I caught one it turned out to be a cyborg cricket. I took out some gear and found a secret wifi network throughout all the tunnels. Figured that was how the crickets were being controlled. I searched a few tunnels but they always seemed to be a dead end. Eventually I came across the metal wall and found you.”

“Thank you for looking for us. How did you collapse the cricket wall?”

“I realized they were being controlled via wifi so I just set up a signal disruptor. Once the radio waves were blocked, they just crumbled. Easy peasy. You know, I think I can hack into them. Maybe we could control the crickets.”

“If you could, I would like to go back to the grating that blocked our attempt to get out. There was fresh air coming through the grating, it might lead somewhere interesting.”

“No problem,” replied Toby. He filled up Opa’s knapsack with crickets and they all headed up the low tunnel and stopped at the grating.

“Let’s give this a try.” Toby dumped all the crickets on the floor before taking a Raspberry Pi out of his own backpack. It did not have a display on it, just a clear plexiglass case which reveal the small motherboard. On the case were three coloured buttons, one green, another yellow, and a red one. Toby threw the Pi, then a battery pack and finally a usb cable at Opa. “Hook ‘em up and boot up the Pi. When it’s booted, press the green button. It will start up an open, unsecured network that I’m hoping the crickets will log into.”

Opa quickly did what Toby asked. When the network was up and running all the crickets woke up, spreading out over the floor and tunnel walls. Toby took a phone out of his pocket and joined the Pi’s network. He then selected an app titled “Terminal” and linked his phone to the Pi through an SSH connection. Toby tapped his screen furiously for about ten minutes.

“I think we are ready, Opa, all you have to do now is press the yellow button on the Pi case.”

“You sure, Toby? The yellow one?”

“Don’t be shy Opa, go on, press it!”

Opa pressed the yellow one. Immediately the crickets swarmed the metal grating and began to chew on the steel. There was a loud buzzing noise for a short while and then the grating fell over causing both Toby and Opa to jump out of the way as it slid down the tunnel.

“That was clever, Toby. Well done.”

“Thanks.”

“What would have happened if I had pressed the red one.”

“Don’t press the red one Opa. It was my fail safe in case I lost control of the crickets. Lets head up the tunnel. I’m getting hungry.”

The trio climbed further up the tunnel, the small group of crickets following them. The tunnel levelled out just before they came to more grating. Through it they could see a large room, the walls and floor lined with cedar planks. The room contained a large amount of computer equipment. Opa grunted when he saw the fawn, standing on his hind legs, looking intently into a computer screen. Opa gave the grating a gentle nudge and it fell into the room with a loud clang. The fawn turned around as Opa scampered into the room and charged at the fawn. A wall, about a meter high and formed of crickets, formed itself between the fawn and Opa. The two just stared at each other. Toby and Marbles joined Opa to face the Fawn and the wall.

The fawn laughed it’s hissing laugh and touched one of the computer screens. A door opened behind the three and the wall started to advance, herding the trio towards to door. Toby could see daylight at the end of the tunnel behind the door.

“Feel free to leave. Just remember, you were not invited here. Please stay away.” hissed the fawn.

Toby and Marbles ran down the tunnel to escape. Opa was breathing hard, staring down the fawn. The advancing wall pushing Opa back one step at a time.

“Opa, lets get out of here.”

Opa finally turned and ran down the tunnel with Toby and Marbles. They ran all the way down the mountain, the two ravens following them. They headed for home in Opa’s truck.

When they got home, Oma came out to greet them. “Are you three okay? You’ve been gone for a long time.”

“We are fine.” Toby said as Opa sputtered. “Opa had a good work out today. Did you know he’s learning to look before he leaps?”

“Toby, not funny.” muttered Opa.

“Come inside boys, I am just making up some pizza.”

“Yummies.” said Toby, “You make the best pizza in the world.”

 

Toby’s Suggested Links: SSH

Opa’s Suggested Links: Colossal Cave Adventure

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