February 17, 2010
0925 Hours Local Time
While Jack's group were navigating the failed trap system, Zoe, Lachlan, Julius and Sky Monster were cuffed to the crates in the cargo hold of the QSST. Outside the cargo hold were four heavily armed Carabinieri, two standing near the door and the other two slacking off in the plane's posh lounge area.
Zoe was cuffed to the metal wall, Sky Monster beside her. Sky Monster was still out cold from the effects of a double dose of potent tranquiliser. Zoe noted that it had been at least half an hour since she'd woken up. With his double dose, who knew when Sky Monster would wake.
In front and to the left of Zoe was where the twins could be found. Cuffed to a crate and facing to Zoe's right, they seemed to wiggle every few seconds.
"What are you doing?" Zoe asked, perplexed by their unusual movements.
"Shh. We're picking the lock on Lachlan's cuffs." Julius whispered.
"Once we're out, we'll do you and Sky Monster." Lachlan added.
"No guys, I have a better idea…" Zoe muttered.
The two guards at the door peered at their comrades lounging in the expensive chairs of the plane's passenger hold. Why should they get to relax? They had simply declared that they would not be guarding the prisoners, for two skinny nerds, a girl and a sleeping giant didn't need the whole cavalry to hold them. A voice from inside got their attention.
"Hello? Um, excuse me, signors?" Zoe called.
The two soldiers turned and stepped into the cargo hold, perplexed by the little woman's communication.
"Buon giorno, um…I need to…to use the toilet…"
"Toilet? Usare il bagno?" One soldier said.
"Uh…si…usare il bagno…"
The Carabinieri looked at each other. They were soldiers, not hostage takers. They didn't know what to do if a prisoner needed to go to the toilet. But…if they took her to the plane's bathroom, perhaps they could have a little bit of fun. That'd show the slackers in the comfortable chairs.
"Si, puoi usare il bagno." The soldiers walked towards Zoe, images of what they could do flashing through their excited minds. One soldier knelt down beside Zoe, placing his gun to the floor at his side. The other stood behind, his gun arm relaxed, pointed at the floor.
When Zoe's cuffs were undone, the soldier responsible pulled her up by her arm, an expectant glint in his eye. The other soldier was staring at Zoe with the same look. Unnoticed by the fantasizing soldiers, two ginger-haired Scots stood up behind them.
Lachlan kicked at the nearest soldier's knee, effectively collapsing it. Julius grabbed the machinegun in his hand, pointing it at the soldier holding Zoe. As the soldier collapsed, Lachlan wrapped his arms around his throat, in what's known as the 'sleeper hold'.
The soldier holding Zoe moved quickly, reaching for his discarded gun. But Zoe's fist collided with his face and he instead went sprawling over it. Zoe swung her other fist and it impacted the man's solar plexus, winding him.
Zoe applied a sleeper hold to this man, just as Lachlan's passed out. Julius stepped over and pulled Zoe's man's gun out from under him and waited as he too passed out.
The two Carabinieri slacking in the front of the plane froze as two Beretta AR70s simultaneously touched their heads. Their guns on the benches beside the chintz armchairs on which they sat, they were helpless to fight back. The men raised their hands in surrender.
The twins holding machineguns to the soldier's heads, Zoe removed their pistols, stepped in front of them and pointed them at their owner's foreheads.
"Stand up and walk to the cargo hold. Now." Zoe ordered, surprisingly intimidating for a skinny Irish woman.
Afraid of the multiple guns pointed at their heads, the soldiers stood and walked slowly towards the cargo hold. The twins directed the soldiers to where their comrades now lay unconscious.
With a smile, the twins simultaneously whirled their machineguns around and struck the soldier's heads with the butt. They both fell to the ground in a heap. One did not move – he was unconscious. The other rolled on the ground in pain, bleeding from the back of his head. Zoe kicked him in the face and finished the job.
On the ground and still cuffed to the wall, Sky Monster woke. Looking at the pile of unconscious soldiers before him, he spoke:
"What the hell happened?"
Five minutes later the group were equipping themselves in the Sky Warrior. Everyone was grabbing whatever equipment they could carry into the distant area in which resided their allies – and their kidnappers.
Zoe and Sky Monster held Berettas, while the Twins held pistols, all conveniently liberated from the Carabinieri men. Sky Monster grabbed four pairs of night vision goggles. The Twins grabbed four sets of Kevlar body armour. Zoe stood perplexed in front of a shelf of diving gear.
"Sky Monster, shouldn't there be more pony bottles here?" Zoe asked.
"Lemme look." Sky Monster quickly browsed the nearby shelves and cupboards. 'Yeah, there's a few missing."
"Someone must have taken 'em. They must be some kind of watery area in there."
"Water - in the middle of the desert? Do you really think that they planned to encounter water?" Julius asked.
"Come on, bro. After everything we've been through you'd think you'd at least try to anticipate water. We'll grab a pony bottle each." Lachlan replied.
Not long afterwards, the group arrived at the entrance of the shrine inside Kantju Gorge. Applying their night vision goggles, they headed into the dark abyss of the entrance. Travelling faster than the much more cautious Mendoza, they reached the first cavern in a mere minute.
Looking around, the four spotted four quarter-circle ponds in the corners of the cavern, just as Jack's group had done not long beforehand. Unlike Jack's group however, they had no Lily to guide them.
"Split up and look in every one. Meet back here when you do. Sky Monster, take the far left one. Julius, you check far right; Lachlan, near right. I'll take near left." Zoe directed.
Every one said the same thing. A two metre wide tunnel, two metres down.
"Which one do we take?" Lachlan asked.
"Well…Jack would have had a way to figure it out; otherwise he wouldn't have been here. But none of us know anything helpful about Uluru. I say we take the far left tunnel." Zoe answered.
"You're just gonna guess? There could be all kinds of traps and stuff in those tunnels!" Julius protested.
"Well based on the way we've gone so far, if we go in the far left tunnel, provided it's straight we'll go deeper into Uluru. All the others go outward. It's our best choice."
"Hehe, what'd I tell you bro, gotta anticipate everything. It's pony bottle time guys." Lachlan laughed.
The group swam down the long tunnel, keeping oxygenated thanks to the miniature SCUBA tank-esque devices they held to their mouths. Over a hundred metres later, they emerged from the surface in a large pool of water.
"Hey Zoe, you saw the other tunnels in down there right? Just next to where we came out of ours?" Julius inquired.
Zoe paused in thought. "Yeah, I did. There was two other tunnels. There was four tunnels in the first room and there's three here. I think we went the wrong-"
"Shh. Do you hear that?" Sky Monster interrupted. The group looked around. Deeper into the room in which they now swam, on dry land, lay two animals. Through night vision goggles, the details were indistinct, but they could make out that the animals resembled dogs and they were enourmous.
"What are they?" Lachlan gasped.
"I dunno…but I don't think they're friendly." Sky Monster mused.
All of a sudden, on the other side of the room – beyond the animals – a large door started to raise. The grinding of stone on stone woke the smaller of the animals. Guided by some kind of primal instinct, it headed out through the door.
"We have to follow it." Zoe ordered.
"Are you serious? That thing could tear us limb from limb!" Julius balked.
"Do you see any other way forward? That thing is going through a doorway and we need a way forward. Let's go."
The group climbed out of the pool in the corner of the room, and quietly walked past the other, sleeping animal. Just in case, everyone had their guns drawn. They were most of the way through the room, when they heard an explosion.
The animal – in the centre of the room, ten metres away – moved. Seeing this, the group ran through the door ahead and saw in the room beyond a harsh source of light – the other animal, and it was on fire!
Looking beyond, Zoe spotted four people on the far side of what looked like a pyramid in the centre of the room. Four mutilated corpses littered the room. Three people quickly left view as they entered a small tunnel. There was part of a sentence uttered by one before leaving that Zoe caught – something about Muniz collecting his payment.
It was then Zoe saw three of the remaining people kneel down in front of the fourth. And saw the fourth point a gun at the tallest person. Zoe instantly knew that this person was Muniz, and knew exactly what his payment was.
She pointed her stolen Beretta at Muniz, not even knowing if she could fire the sodden machinegun. Praying her weapon would work, she shouted: "Your payment had been denied, Muniz!" He turned in shock as Zoe pulled the trigger.
Muniz collapsed, his gun clattering to the ground and his hand clasped around his bleeding neck. Zoe ran past the flaming canine and up to the three people kneeling on the cold stone floor.
Throwing her arms around Jack, Zoe whispered: "Aren't you lucky I happened to pass by?" Jack was speechless. All he could do was continue to smile and embrace his wife. Death would not part them today.
But gunfire erupted in the distance and the Twins came sprinting up to the group. "Zoe! We gotta move! The other thing's awake!"