Chapter Twelve

Tanya glanced at the President. The atmosphere in the room was getting heavy, and she had to do something, fast. "Riley, let me see the light," she said, and he handed the lighter over. She scanned the room, at which point she noticed the chest against the wall. She walked over, opened the chest, and said, "There's our way out."

Riley leaned over her shoulder. "Doesn't look like a way out to me," he said.

"Well, let's jump in. I'm pretty sure it's a way out." She flicked off the lighter and passed it to Ian before leaping down the hole and stumbling a little on the landing. Pretty soon, the others followed.

"Is this more tunnel-y goodness?"

"I should hope so."

"This better be worth it," the President snapped. "I don't have all day."

"Neither do we," Tanya replied with the same snappish tone. "The more we talk, the more oxygen we use, and right now, I don't know how much longer eight of us will last, so shut up and follow me."

She reached out for the wall and walked along it, the seven others following behind her. "Pretty creepy hiding place," Riley whispered.

"That's part of the point, I think."

"Can I haunt this place a little?" Shaw's voice asked in Tanya's head. "It's creepy enough."

Tanya shook her head, mouthing, 'Not yet, in time.'

She kept walking, paying some degree of attention to how her perception changed without full use of her eyes. The echo of the group's footsteps became more clear, and eventually, she used it to keep track of how long they'd been walking in this tunnel.

A pair of footsteps behind Tanya was picking up the pace a little, making her more nervous than she needed to be, but she took a deep breath and carried on, telling herself that at least there had to be an opening at the other end of this tunnel.

The footsteps advanced, faster than before, and Tanya found herself not only turned one hundred eighty degrees, but also kneeing the President in the groin. "I hope no one finds out about this," she said, running a hand through her hair. Riley reached for her, and she added, "Go, run! Get out of here."

The President stumbled to his feet, and Tanya backed up a few paces. There was some shuffling, and Ben asked, "What's going on?"

"Just go, run, get out of here. Follow your friend," Tanya replied, pushing Ben onwards. She could tell by the rhythm of the few footsteps he'd taken that he'd stopped and looked back, so she repeated what she said, giving him another hard shove, and he ran. She winced at the hideous crack of someone's head hitting the tunnel wall, and she asked, "Ian, what's going on?"

Ian rested his hands on Tanya's arms. "It's going to be alright," he whispered. "We're safe now."

"And...and...you...you're boys?"

"Yea, we're fine," Powell said, and Tanya heard two other noises indicating some form of agreement.

"How do I know one of you isn't the President?"

"Why would I knock a guy out and then pretend to be him?" Victor asked.

"Hey, don't look at me," Phil added.

"Alright, let's go," Tanya said.

NTNT

"Oh, Riley, there you are," Ben said as soon as he caught up to Riley.

"Ben, look at this," Riley replied, gesturing to the room beyond.

"Riley, I don't see anything."

"Listen. It sounds like a way out." He tapped on the wall, and Ben had to admit, the echo did sound different, which was, in its own way, promising.

A moment later, Ben noticed a light coming from behind, and when he turned around, he found Ian, carrying the lighter, Tanya, Powell, Phil, and Viktor walking up to meet him. "Where's the President?" he asked.

"Unconscious somewhere down the tunnel," Ian replied with a slight head tilt. Ben knew better than to say anything. "So, what do we have here?" Ian asked, taking a step to the edge of the tunnel. The light given off by the lighter was just enough to reveal a rectangular object on a podium. The object was covered in gold and inlaid with various large, garish jewels.

"What is that thing?" Tanya asked.

"I'm not sure, but something tells me it's better left down here."

"Okay, can we get out now?" Riley asked.

"I assume we'd better."

"Wait, you're not going to take that with us?" Ben asked. "What if-?"

"There are no 'what if's when dealing with these sorts of things. I already told you, this thing's better off left down here."

"Alright, enough talk. Let's go," Tanya said, walking into the room with a direct avoidance of the podium. The others soon followed.

NTNT

"Well, that was anticlimactic," Riley said. Tanya smiled and glanced out the nearest window of the plane.

When she looked back at Riley, she asked, "And what would've been climactic enough for you? A huge room full of treasure?"

"Well, as cliche as that sounds, yeah."

"Remember my speech about treasures that were one item?"

"Yeah."

"Then I believe that's what we found. I'll have to decode the rest of Daniel Howe's journal and see if there's anything in it that will help us figure out exactly what we found, and if we see a need for it, we can go back for it and figure out what to do with it. Does that sound good?"

"Yeah."

"Alright. Now, I hope the police find the President, before anything happens to him."

"But then he'll still try to go after us."

"My second hope is that he leaves us alone so we can focus on other things. Remember, the hunt is technically finished."

"So why do I get the sense that there's still stuff we have to?"

"Because there is."