[Carolee] Our group (SAWS) and another (Eggslap) completed the mix tape mission set by the Hollowheads, and gained entry to a password-protected database. Once inside, inhaling the information secreted there, we found a file labeled OPS, in which we were instructed to contact Terrance if we were interested in a special mission.
The call soon came and it was accompanied by mysterious instructions.
THIS OP IS NO FUCKING JOKE.
IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART / MIND / SPIRIT.
THE TERRAIN WILL BE RIGOROUS.
YOU WILL BE DIRTY.
YOU WILL BE WET.
YOU WILL BE COLD.
THERE WILL BE ACTUAL DANGER
THE SAFETY OF OTHERS WILL
DEPEND UPON YOUR ACTIONS.
KNOWING ALL OF THE ABOVE
CAN YOU FOLLOW THROUGH
SUNDAY 5/2 AT 11:24 AM?
We were further instructed as to the physical meeting location, and instructed to wear “disposable” clothing and sturdy, submersible shoes. We were not instructed to ensure we were not followed, but we all behaved that way regardless.
The six of us (Garland, Michael, Jenpop, Ashley, Rhea, and myself) met at the appointed time, Sunday morning, at a coffee shop. Garland was laden with tactical gear and video recorders; I was wearing rubber galoshes. After our experience at the Chapel of the Chimes, we were primed to act as a team. Soon, Jenpop received the text message that would allow us to move forward: the three-digit combination to a lock affixed to a nearby metal structure. Inside a small plastic bag, flattened against the hinge, was a map.
Lines and symbols delivered us down the path to the open mouth of a storm drain. Down into the water we went, everyone stepping into the same hole, soaking us to our knees. Into the tunnel we went, stopping to don head lamps, start video, turn on flashlights. It seemed to take forever, moving slowly as we did in the wet dark. Soon we started to hear noises; not just the thumps of cars driving overhead, but eerie howls and moans. Were those footsteps? What’s that banging? Interspersed with the geometric symbols and mathematical equations on the walls were exhortations: “LOOK BEHIND YOU!” The paths we were not to take were marked with the Nonchalance symbol cradling an X in its belly.
Despite the map and the symbols, we somehow got off course, deciding we were to shimmy through a half-moon brick hatch, down another level, wet all over now. The tunnels grew uneven, steeper slopes sluiced with rushing water. We inched downward, palms flat against old brick as a brace. A noise from up ahead would stop us all and Garland would silence us with a hand gesture, sneak ahead for reconnaissance, then motion us slowly forward. We were so engaged in the mission that, when asked at one point to show the map, my hand shook so hard it had to be held.
Finally, after what must have been an hour, we heard a voice at the end of what appeared to be a dead-end tunnel. Calling out our code word - “Hotstepper!” - we advanced, and Kelvin Williams crawled out into the muck.
Wild-eyed and shaky, he explained that he had no idea how long he’d been “down there,” asked for some water, and did we have any food? We gave him what we had and explained that we’d been sent by the Hollowheads to escort him safely back aboveground. He was clutching some kind of tactical briefcase and asked us if we wanted to see what was inside. Mindful of the sounds and warnings, fearing unseen goons, I suggested we wait until we’d left the underground, but was overruled. He cracked open the foam-lined case and showed us the crystal, the last thing needed to render the algorithm operational. It looked like rock candy wound up in wires, inside a jar. But what did I know?
In a guard formation, three behind and three in front, we led Kelvin out of the tunnels. It took us far less time to emerge; we’d gotten seriously lost on the way in (it turns out that smartphone compasses don’t work underground). As soon as we climbed up the bank and into the grassy meadow, as one of us was offering to buy Kelvin a sandwich, he interrupted. “That’s my ride,” he said, “thank you all,” and took off loping across the grass to a waiting pink art car station wagon.
That was it, we guessed. I dumped the water out of my boots, and then we all went to get Bloody Marys. We have not been asked to engage in any other special operations.
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