Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain (8 page)

BOOK: Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain
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Enjoying yourselves? I'm sure you are. How can I be sure? Obviously, I am an excellent narrator and any narrator worth his salt
23
knows his audience, what they like and don't like, and delivers the story accordingly. For example, if this story were aimed at a group of whales, I would dwell more heavily on aspects of the tale that might interest them, like the flight over the ocean in the early chapters. As it stands, this book is for human children, so I glossed over that part and spent more time talking about Mimi, Parveen, and Hamish X. In fact, if the book were addressed to whales, I would probably not have called it
Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain
at all. The book would likely have been called
A Whale Sees an Airship Flying Over the Ocean and
Then Eats Some Plankton
,
24
,
25
which would hold no interest for you, a human audience. That is, I assume you are human. If you aren't, please put down this book and back away slowly.

So, Hamish X is in his strange comatose state once more. Mimi and Parveen have decided to follow the Royal Swiss Guards to the Hollow Mountain. The ODA are in hot pursuit. Everything is in place for a great second section. Let's get right to it, shall we?

Chapter 6

The airship
Orphan Queen
wove its way at low altitude through the dark mountains. On either side shadowy masses of rock soared into the starry sky. The front window of the craft was etched with frost, but the heater kept the cold at bay. Here and there, a scattering of lights in the blackness below indicated the presence of a town or village. Mr. Kipling was careful to avoid the inhabited areas, clinging to the edge of the mountainsides and flying as low as he dared. The treacherous crosswinds in the mountain valleys made the flying a challenge, but Mr. Kipling didn't complain, even though his ribs were obviously sore. He bore his pain stoically.
26

Mrs. Francis had taken the now inert Hamish X to his cabin and was watching over him, wringing her apron in her typical expression of worry. The boy was in a profound sleep, induced somehow by the knife. He hadn't so much as stirred since falling unconscious in the meadow. He lay
on his back, eyes flickering under the lids, breathing deeply. As a precaution, they had secured him to the Captain's bed using cargo straps that Parveen had managed to rummage up in the hold.

Parveen had recovered very quickly from the blast of the stun gun. He assured a fretful Mrs. Francis that, apart from a slight tingling in his fingers and toes, he was perfectly all right.

Aidan and his sister Cara stood on the bridge with Mimi and Parveen, gazing out into the night through the forward window that wrapped around the ship's wheel. Mountains loomed large as they powered through the snowy peaks. The other Guards were currently in the galley eating sandwiches thrown together by Mrs. Francis.

“Once again,” Aidan said, “I'm sorry our first meeting wasn't a little smoother, but everything seems to have worked out okay.”

Mimi sniffed. “Sure. Hamish X is out cold. I guess it coulda been worse.”

Cara rolled her eyes. Mimi glared at her. The two girls hadn't exactly hit it off. Mimi shook her head. “So. Where the heck are we goin'?” Aidan didn't answer and Cara merely tossed her hair impatiently.

It was the fifth time Mimi had asked and she still didn't have an answer. Mimi was at the end of her patience. She was worried about Hamish X, and these strangers hadn't volunteered much beyond their names. The girl in particular rubbed her the wrong way. She was too pretty by far. Pretty girls made Mimi uncomfortable. She stole a look at her reflection in the frost-streaked window and scowled. Compared to Cara, she wasn't pretty at all. Her nose looked like a hatchet blade and her unruly hair made her feel so … well, not beautiful, that was for sure.

“Alter course, three points to starboard,” Aidan said suddenly. Mr. Kipling frowned. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure,” Aidan said.

Parveen looked up from the radar screen, his face outlined in the faint green glow of the console. “But that will take us directly into the north face of Mount Nutterhorn.”

“Just do it,” Aidan said.

Mr. Kipling shook his head. “We'll be killed.”

“Trust me,” Aidan said.

“Why should we?” Mimi's temper broke. She shouted at the strange boy, venting her frustration, “Ya show up in the middle o' the night, creepin' up on us in the dark. Ya won't tell us where we're goin'. Why should we trust ya? Gimme one good reason.”

Cara snorted. “Because you have no choice, that's why. So just button your lip. 'Kay?”

Mimi's face went bright red. Her fist clenched and she was about to blacken one of Cara's pretty little eyes when Parveen interjected.

“Fine,” he said. “She's right, Mimi. We have no choice. We have to trust them. Why would they want to steer us into a mountain face? They'd only be killing themselves.”

Mimi relaxed her fingers and with great effort let her anger drain away. What Parveen said was true. They had to help Hamish X, and at the moment the strangers were their only hope.

“Altering course,” Mr. Kipling called as he turned the wheel. The ship slowly swung to the right, creaking as the wind shifted.

In the forward window loomed the bulk of a huge mountain. Outlined in the faint moonlight, it resembled a giant pyramid carved of black rock. The mountain face
they approached was flat and sheer. Cloud wreathed the summit. Snow covered the peak, trailing away in a white plume blown by the wind. All in all, as mountains go, it was big, rocky, and looked very hard. Not the kind of mountain you'd really like to slam into. Come to think of it, most mountains are of that variety.
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Mimi watched the mountain get bigger in the window with growing unease. The wall of rock was now less than five hundred metres away. The wind was behind them, driving them quickly forward. She stole a look at Aidan and Cara. They seemed completely unfazed by the approaching impact.

“Four hundred metres,” Mr. Kipling said flatly. His fingers tightened on the wheel.

Seconds ticked by and the rock face loomed larger.

“Three hundred metres.”

Mimi involuntarily took a half step backwards as the black stone wall filled the window.

“Two hundred metres …” Mr. Kipling's voice crept into a slightly higher register, but he kept his hands firmly on the wheel.

“How strange,” Parveen said suddenly.

“What?” Mimi stepped behind him, looking at the screen over his shoulder.

“The mountain face.” Parveen had his face buried in the radar screen. “There's something weird about it. There is an area of lesser density. Roughly thirty-metre square.”

Mimi glared out into the night at the approaching mountain. The rock face looked like a rock face, deadly and massive. “What? What?”

Parveen suddenly lifted his eyes to the window. He didn't look alarmed. Rather, he raised an eyebrow and nodded. “A gate!”

Aidan smiled. “I love this part.”

The black wall of rock was only metres away. Parveen didn't look worried in the slightest, so Mimi forced herself to take a deep breath and relax. As they approached the rock face a rumbling began, audible even inside the sealed bridge. The rock wall ahead of them shifted, swinging like a massive door on a hinge.

“That is amazing,” Mr. Kipling said, awestruck.

The airship swept past the doorway into a tunnel.

They were enveloped in warm, golden light. The tunnel, carved out of the solid rock, was easily wide and high enough to accommodate the
Orphan Queen
. Banks of lights shone down from its walls. Far below, a pair of metal rails ran along the ground.

“That gate must have weighed tons,” Parveen said, impressed. There was a rumble as the door swung shut behind them. “The engineering involved boggles the imagination.”

“Completed during the reign of King Leopold in the late nineteenth century. It always blows my mind, no matter how many times I see it,” Aidan laughed.

“It's easy to blow such a small mind,” Cara cracked. Aidan ignored her.

“Ya coulda told the rest of us it was gonna open,” Mimi snarled. “I darn near wet my pants.”

“Are you sure you didn't?” Cara asked sweetly. Mimi glared at her.

“Cara! Zip it!” Aidan snapped. He fixed his sister with a stare.

Cara rolled her eyes, looked out the window, and mumbled, “I'm older than you, you know.”

“Keep it steady, Mr. Kipling, but drop our speed to slow ahead.”

“Steady as she goes,” Mr. Kipling answered. “Slow ahead.”

They sailed along the tunnel for several hundred metres. Ahead, a circle of bright light grew larger. The ship flew steadily towards the golden opening, emerging at last into a vast chamber. The chamber was a cavern carved out of the Nutterhorn's natural rock, easily four kilometres across and at least one kilometre high.

The
Orphan Queen
powered out into the chamber. As they passed through the gateway they saw below that the rails ended in a stone pier. The entire floor of the chamber was a vast lake, steaming gently in the golden light from some source up above. On the surface of the lake little boats floated, pushed along by small motors. Some drifted easily on the placid surface. Others made their way towards the stone pier where several boats were already moored. Children transferred boxes from the boats onto the pier and others loaded the boxes into small rail cars resting on the rails that led into the tunnel. When the children saw the
Orphan Queen
pass above, they stopped working to wave at her. Aidan and Cara waved back.

“This is an artificial lake fed by underground springs,” Aidan explained. “We farm fish here and it also supplies our water needs.”

“Artificial? You built this?” Parveen was amazed, pressing his face to the windscreen to look down at the expanse of water.

“Not me. King Frits. The Eleventh King of Switzerland designed and built it during his reign.”

As they moved out into the chamber they saw that the walls were covered with glittering mineral deposits. Scaffolds were built into the rock to allow groups of children access to the cavern wall. The children were busy with drills and picks, prying chunks of rock away and throwing them into chutes that led down to bins at the foot of the wall. Conveyor belts whisked the rock pieces away to small stone buildings located around the base of the wall.

“We mine most of the raw materials we need to live here inside the rock.”

Mimi peered closely at the scaffolds. They were far away, but she thought she could see small furry shapes moving among the children. “I must be tired.” She rubbed her eyes and looked out in the direction they were headed. A pillar came into view. It was incredibly tall and thin but the mist from the water made it hard to see.

“What the heck is that?” Mimi pointed ahead of the ship where the tower rose out of the water.

“The elevator,” Cara said. “And the Stair, of course.”

They drew closer and saw that the tower sprouted from a wide stone base that was circular and carved from the native stone. Little boats bobbed all around it. The cylinder disappeared into the ceiling. A staircase twined around the cylinder. Here and there, a child walked up or down. On the outer edge of the staircase was a bright blue tube.

“The staircase is there in case the elevator breaks down or has to be serviced,” Aidan explained.

“Yeah, but what's the blue thing?”

“A water slide.”

Parveen and Mimi looked at each other. “Awesome.”

“How high is that thing?” Parveen asked when he could
speak again. They were cruising straight for the structure. Droplets of what looked like rain beaded on the windscreen and the upper end of the elevator was lost in cloud.

“It runs through the entire mountain.”

Parveen was about to ask another question, but Aidan held up a hand. “You'll see the whole thing soon. Don't worry. Let's bring this ship in to dock. Head for the base of the elevator, Mr. Kipling.”

Mr. Kipling hesitated, looking to Parveen. The little boy nodded. “Do as he says.”

“Aye, Captain.” Mr. Kipling swung the wheel. Mimi flipped the trim levers and the ship began to lose altitude.

Soon a circular platform emerged from the mist. A crowd of children, all wearing loose, brightly coloured jumpsuits, stood waiting there. As the ship came closer they waved their arms and hopped up and down excitedly. When they were close enough to make out individual faces, Parveen and Mimi saw that the children represented a cross-section of every race and culture on earth. Some had brown skin, some yellow, and some pink. They were tall and short, male and female, toddlers to early teens. Such a wide range of differences, and yet they had one thing in common: they were all smiling.

“Stop her here, Mr. Kipling,” Aidan said. Mr. Kipling flipped the levers that cut the power to the main engines. He manoeuvred the ship with smaller shunting engines, guiding the
Orphan Queen
expertly to the edge of the platform. The children on the platform leapt up and took hold of the mooring ropes that dangled from the nose of the airship and pulled her down. In minutes, the ship was tied to metal rings on the edge of the platform.

BOOK: Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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