Chapter XXVIII.

18 Apr

Bato Mentin guided his two companions through narrow walkways and tunnels, till they reached an isolated side chamber where they could rest in comparative safety.

The three of them leaned against a diabase ledge in the dim brown light from a ceiling tube.

It took Dey only a short while to explain to Veta what had happened. She trembled with evident rage. “What will that cur called Taval Renda do to the Founder if he captures him?” she asked with trepidation.

Bato was the one who provided an answer that relieved her somewhat.

“Renda doesn’t dare harm him, because the miners would not stand for anything so vicious. I suspect that he will be kept prisoner, but replaced as president of the Miners Organization.”

“That has been the plan of the schemer all along, hasn’t it?” said Dey.

Mentin nodded that it was.

“But how can we rescue Garen Slyn?” continued Dey with nervous excitement. “How can even we get away from those who may be pursuing us still? Is our situation a completely hopeless one?”

“There are a multitude of mazes inside Mount Dysprosium. The only chance of their catching us is if luck happens to be on their side. Otherwise, we will be safe where we now are.”

“Does that mean that we must wait down here with no possible alternative exit?”

Bato considered a few moments before answering him.

“No. There is one thing we could do that no one above us would ever think of. But there would be great risk to us if we tried it.”

Dey became animated. “What are you thinking of?” he asked.

“Dysprosium is not the only mountain around here containing mines. There are many very deep shafts that have been drilled in search of radioactive minerals. I know where significant amounts of euxenite and pitchblende are obtained that cover the costs of the labor and equipment used in their excavation.”

“But how can such locations be reached if slide rock separates us from them?” said Dey with despair in his voice.

The large man suddenly grinned as his mind thought of an answer to that question.

“I suspect that there exist what are called transeptals and transversals by mining engineers. Those are extremely narrow crossovers from under one mountain to its neighbor. They are made into regions where promising lodes and veins come together. Most of the time such excavations are merely hopeful and promising explorations. They save the effort of having to come straight down from the surface of the mountain with a completely new shaft. They are often abandoned and forgotten, though.”

“But how can we ever find such a passage from out of the bowels of Dysprosium?” frowned the writer. “They may exist, but how can we ever learn where they are?”

Dey and Veta looked expectantly at their guide to safety. Did he have a solution to the problem? What was he thinking of?

“I have been pondering the matter since we stopped here to rest,” confessed Bato Mentin. “It won’t be easy, but there are certain signs that can be of significant help.”

“What are those signs you speak of?” anxiously asked Veta.

“There is usually a steep winze from one level to another somewhere in the transeptal. A sign of such an incline up or down might be indicated by a sharp angle in a vein, one that is called a hade or gangue. If I see the right kind of deviation from the vertical in a rock face, I can take that as a good indicator of crossing over.”

“You believe that can lead us out of this mountain, then?” queried Dey.

“We must try out the plan and see where it takes us,” argued Bato.

Renda marched into the conference room briskly, not looking at the assembled members of the Central Crew. A small inkwood rostrum had been placed in the focal pit for him to use. As the acting president, he was taking upon himself all the powers he could make a claim to. There was no one in the room who dared to oppose him now. He addressed the meeting with bold confidence, in a tone of coming triumph, despite present difficulties and problems.

“Companions of the Miners Organization, the latest reports received are not too good. It appears that the fugitives have escaped into the lower shafts, taking the Founder along with them. Until this entire group is captured, we can reach no conclusions about the relations that may prevail among these individuals.

“For now, it is best for us to proceed as if they are all voluntary members of their small party that seems to have disappeared underground. But rest assured, we shall capture and punish these senseless people.”

Taval paused, drawing a deep breath before going on to another important matter.

“As your acting president, I have been the recipient of incoming reports from all regions of the Mineral Mountains. The tracker line workers have been loyal in bringing the latest news to us inside Dysprosium. But our miners’ movement is on the defensive everywhere. The government and the army commanders are using all their tools of repression in an enormous campaign to destroy us. There is no mercy shown to any miner falling into their hands. Our situation is growing ever more desperate. Therefore, we must turn to our final weapon, a general rising throughout all of Landia. That will be our way to victory. There can be no other.”

Excited shouts arose from the circle of listeners.

“If we refuse to take the initiative, our enemies may succeed in destroying all of us in the movement. That must not be allowed to happen. So, I implore you to approve a call for a general revolt and uprising against the present government. The miners and their organization must take all power into their own hands. Otherwise, every single one of us is doomed.”

One voice broke through the general murmuring noise. “What about Garen Slyn?” asked a district leader from the floor.

“We shall deal with the man when he is found,” replied Renda. “Until then, we have to go forward on our own, rounding up everyone involved with his sudden flight away from us.”

The entire group fell silent.

“Let us, then, vote on the proposed miners’ revolution,” called out Taval Renda, the self-appointed leader of the now radicalized movement.

Bato Mentin, in front of his two companions, was the first to catch sight of a familiar white-haired figure.

“Garen!” he murmured with rapturous surprise in his voice.

The escaped group of three hurried to where the Founder stood.

“I was warned by Beryl that there was danger to me,” explained the latter. “She said that Taval Renda was going to try to remove me from office and take over himself.”

Bato gave him a brief report on what happened at the meeting of the Central Crew, then went on to describe his plan of escape from the mountain.

All eyes centered on the Founder. Everyone waited to hear what he might decide. “Let us go forward as you plan to,” said Garen Slyn to his three allies.

It was a difficult climb through the winze which was dark and narrow.

Bato Mentin led the way, the group linking hands together. Garen Slyn, then Veta followed him. Dey was the one bringing up the rear of the small formation.

Several stops for rest and breath became necessary as they slowly advanced.

“Not too fast,” whispered the large man leading the way. “We will make it with success if we are patient and careful.”

Once in a while, loose stones slid down onto the floor of the inclined gangue.

The four fugitives lost all sense of time.

Dey felt the pulse of Veta Vermilion beat with excitement as he held her wrist.

Are we going to come out of this victoriously? he asked himself.

The writer suddenly made a vow to himself. It involved the young woman whose hand he held in his. He formulated in his mind the words he meant to tell her. Dey felt an emotion that had previously been almost unknown to him.

He knew what it was and what to call it. There was no use in being shy or reluctant about his feelings for Veta. He did not wish to repress and bury the emotions that he felt toward her. It was a strong, living force.

All at once, Bato stopped walking. Everyone else did the same.

They had reached the entrance to a vertical shaft of a neighboring mine.

Within seconds, Bato had the door to a lifter open.

Driven by excitement, the four of them rushed into the mechanism. The lifter ascended with acceleration when Mentin set the controls in operation. The four rose at top speed, then quickly braked.

The lifter door opened and they exited rapidly.

A team of men in dark business suits stood around the way out of the mine.

Veta and Dey both recognized their leader as the little man they had encountered before, the Clandestine agent who had been tailing them.

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