ISBN 9789899734890-24

2009 Words
'Declan, it's time you took a break. Your eyes must be getting sore.' 'I'm fine, Ellie, I'm fine,' he said as he continued to scroll through the thousands of files. 'No, I can see perfectly well that you're not. You're like a zombie. Please, let me take over for a while. Go and have a cup of tea, get some air. Anything, just take your eyes away from that screen.' Declan relented and stood up, stretching his arms and legs and yawning loudly. 'Alright, alright. I'll do as I'm told,' he grinned as he gently patted her back as she took his seat. I'll come back in an hour.' 'Make it two,' she muttered without looking at him. He shook his head behind her and walked out into the main archive where all the students were busy working away. Noticing a man he assumed to be Barber, sitting at a desk at the back of the room, he walked over and introduced himself. 'Hi mate,' he said holding out his hand. 'I'm Declan. I'm guessing you're Barber?' Barber pushed back his seat and stood up, shaking Declan's hand and nodding. 'Good to meet you, Declan. No luck yet?' he asked. 'None whatsoever. Weird, really, considering we've been in the same city for so many years.' 'London is a big city, a highly populated city,' Barber replied, brushing his hair back from his face, making several of the girls swoon quietly to themselves. Declan laughed. 'What?' Barber asked. 'You've got quite a few admirers,' he said as he raised an eyebrow and looked at the students. 'But I'm guessing you're used to that.' Barber grinned, revealing a set of gleaming white teeth. 'Comes with the territory,' he laughed, 'But I would never take advantage,' he quickly added. 'Not to worry, mate. I can see these girls are safe with you, well most of them anyway,' he said as Barber's gaze drifted across to Lana who was sitting cross legged on the floor reading her files intently. 'She might look like she's hard at work, but she's busy day dreaming,' Declan added as Barber looked up at him with his eyes wide. 'Don't worry, your secret's safe with me. Just one thing though,' he said as he leant forward. 'You hurt her, and all hell will come down on you, get it?' Barber gulped and took a step back, nodding. 'I can see we're gonna get on just fine then, mate,' Declan said smacking him hard on his shoulder and grinning at him. 'Right, I'm off for some fresh air.' And with that Declan took off out of the archive room, leaving Barber standing there alone, unsure about what had just happened. oOo Several hours later, Wilbur appeared in the doorway, followed by numerous kitchen staff, all carrying plate upon plate of food. The smell of hot chicken sandwiches, cheese toasties, sausages rolls and the sight of the appealingly colourful salads made the students scramble to their feet as they rushed over to the tables which had been assembled down one side of the room. 'I'm starving.' 'I'm so hungry.' 'Gosh, I didn't realise I was so hungry.' Emma waited patiently for the others to help themselves before she and Diarmuid stood up and stretched their legs. Before she even had a chance to see what was available, her boyfriend was already tucking in to a jumbo sized sausage roll as he placed several sandwiches on his plate. 'Ooh, it's still warm,' he said with his mouth full. She laughed and placed a salad sandwich on her plate, adding a heaped spoonful of potato salad. Grabbing a couple of bottles of water, they headed back to the floor where their files had been left. 'Lana, aren't you eating anything?' she asked as they sat down. 'Not hungry,' her sister replied, chewing, instead, on the end of a pencil. 'Well, I don't think that's very nutritious,' she smiled. 'What?' Lana asked as she sat back and looked down at the implement. 'Oh,' she chuckled. 'I guess not.' 'Really though, Sis, you should get some food down you. It's been ages since you ate.' 'I guess so, but I've just been reading this and, I don't know, there's something about it. I dunno. It's probably nothing. I'll go get a sausage roll,' she mumbled as she glanced at what they were eating. As she stood up, she started walking over to the table when her legs buckled beneath her and she fell towards the ground. But instead of feeling the thud of the cold, hard tiles beneath her, she felt the gentle touch of someone's arms. Sighing, she looked up at Barber's smiling face moments before she blacked out. Shivering, Lana opened her eyes to find herself in a long tunnel. She could hear the distant sound of what appeared to be the London Underground, but she couldn't be sure. A faint familiar smell drifted beneath her nose but she couldn't quite place it. Looking down the tunnel, she made a brief decision which way to walk and began to slowly tiptoe along it. The only sounds were her footsteps. It was cold, really cold. Shivering again, she wished Emma was there to warm her up. But you're not really cold, Lana. You're just imagining it. This is just a dream isn't it? The sound of tapping made her stop. When it stopped, she began to walk again, speeding up until she was running through the tunnel. It veered around a corner at the end and that's when she came to an abrupt halt. There, sitting around a table with a group of creepy looking characters, was Mr X. She recognised him instantly from the sketch. It was the Skull they'd been looking for. She gasped loudly and stepped back into the shadows, watching as they spoke. But she couldn't hear what they were saying. The tapping was getting louder. Louder still. 'Lana... Lana... Lana...' said a distance voice. 'No!' she yelled, 'Wait!' Suddenly, she opened her eyes. Sitting next to her was Barber, he was gently stroking her hair and whispering her name. Her cheeks reddened as she sat upwards. He helped her and smiled. 'Are you okay?' he asked. She nodded, blushing. 'What happened Lana?' asked Emma, who was crouching on the floor next to the sofa, nervously tapping a pencil on the floor. 'Did you see something again?' Lana nodded and looked around to find Eleanor, standing above them, leaning on her stick. 'I saw him, I saw the Skull.' Eleanor's eyes widened and she moved forward to sit down. Barber immediately stood up to give her room. 'Thank you, Barber, thank you.' 'Tell us what happened?' Lana described everything exactly as she'd seen it. 'So he's below ground as well, by the sounds of things.' 'But I thought the Watchers controlled all of the areas underneath London?' Emma asked. Eleanor shook her head, 'No, dear. There are still plenty of tunnels that do not belong to us. He could be within any one of those. Is there anything else you can describe that might help us?' 'I'm sorry, I've told you everything I saw.' 'What about smells,' Barber suggested. 'Could you smell anything or hear anything unusual?' Lana smiled, melting as he spoke to her. After a minute or so, Diarmuid cleared his throat, bringing her back to the question. 'Erm... I don't think. Oh...' Her eyes lit up. 'There was something. There was a familiar scent but I couldn't quite place it. It was like, like... I don't know. Almost like plants of some kind.' Daisy, who had been curled up on the other sofa across from them, suddenly remembered something, 'It wasn't the smell from the warehouse was it?' 'Yes, Daisy that's it! It was the same smell.' 'It was how I imagined a Rainforest to smell,' Daisy added. 'That's the only way I can describe it.' 'I think we need to get into that warehouse.' Declan said what they were all thinking. CHAPTER 30 'I'm coming with you,' said Sammy as the Mentors gathered to discuss who would go to the warehouse. 'Why ever do you think we'd put you directly in danger like that, Sammy?' Eleanor asked. 'Because I can communicate with plants.' Eleanor raised her eyebrows and looked at Declan. He chuckled, 'She's right, you know. If those plants are alive, it would be useful.' 'If Sammy's going, Emma and I are coming too,' said Lana who had been listening in to the conversation. 'Oh come on, I can't put you in danger as well. Sorry girls.' 'But we've been there. We know that place. Let us come, please.' 'Declan?' He nodded. oOo Deep within one of the tunnels heading towards the river, were Declan, Rupert, Diarmuid, Sammy, Lana and Emma, as well as three other Mentors. As they walked through the semi-darkness, lights switched on automatically ahead of them, turning off behind them as they left the different areas behind. 'You scared?' Emma whispered to her sister who shook her head. 'No. You?' Emma hesitated for a moment and then shook her head. 'Okay, maybe a little bit,' Lana admitted. Emma smiled and Diarmuid tightened his grip on her hand. 'Don't worry, you two. We're only going in if it's clear,' Declan said from the front of the group. 'I'll look after you,' whispered Diarmuid into Emma's ear. She smiled as they arrived in front of some steep steps. Climbing them first, Declan pushed a hatch open, and stepped out into the daylight. He inspected their surroundings before peering back into the tunnel and nodding. The others followed. They were standing next to a bandstand, surrounded by an area of green grass. The river was close by. Declan pointed in the direction of the warehouse and they followed him as he crept around the people standing in the park. When he held his hand up, they stopped as he seemed to zone out for a moment, concentrating on something in the distance. 'What is it, Declan?' whispered one of the Mentors. 'There's someone in there.' Rupert stepped forward and walked to the front of the group. Looking across towards the warehouse, he focussed his entire energy on looking through the solid walls. 'There's three of them. They're moving some of the boxes out. Get back, they're coming outside.' They stepped back into the shadows until the three men disappeared back inside. 'What should we do, Declan?' asked Lana. 'We wait for them to leave. We're not taking any chances.' After about ten minutes, they watched as the small boat they'd been piling high with boxes disappeared down the river, with all three Skulls on board. 'Now's our chance,' Declan said as they followed him, running towards the largest warehouse in the vicinity. Breaking open the lock, Declan ushered everyone in. 'Keep a look out, mate,' he said to the eldest Mentor who nodded and stood, guarding the door while Declan turned his attention to the contents of the building. The others had already removed one of the boxes and were just about to open it when Declan put his hand on it. 'Boys and girls, we don't know what's inside, be careful. It could be noxious.' They nodded as they ripped off the tape labelled fragile and pulled the box open. Everyone took a little step backwards. When nothing happened they leant forward and peered inside. 'Oh,' Lana said. 'Looks like a dead flower.' 'It's not dead,' whispered Sammy as she carefully picked up the delicate plant and held it in her hands. Holding it up to her ear, she listened for a moment. 'It needs water,' she said. 'Can you find some water please?' she said more urgently. 'She's going to die if she doesn't get water. Emma grabbed her backpack and ripped the zip open, pulling out a small bottle. 'Here, Sammy.' Sammy took it and gently poured a few droplets onto the plant's roots and petals and then smiled. 'That's better,' she sighed. 'What is it?' asked Declan. 'She's from South America, but at the moment that's all I can tell you. She's very weak. She can hardly communicate with me until she returns to full health.' Declan nodded and rounded the g**g up. 'We've got what we came for. Let's head back.' Sammy placed the delicate plant back into the box, but not before pouring some more water onto its roots. She smiled as she closed it up and carried it outside. As she stepped into the sunlight, her ears pricked and she opened the box again.
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