THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

The Second Climb

The day of the second climb everyone, except Brittany, who was at the first climb was there, only this time Briana, Megan, and Philip would be climbing with Connor, leaving only Liz, Trish, Naomi, and Freddy to watch the climb. Connor and the other climbers had asked that no one else be there to attract as little attention as possible.

Connor led, since he already had a good idea of the best route, followed by Briana, Megan, and Philip. Connor climbed easily, Briana struggled but managed to keep up, Megan was a surprisingly good climber and Philip climbed just as he said, as if he were simply walking uphill. When they reached the ropes Connor had left from the previous climb they quickly reached the ledge from which Connor had opened the crack in the roof above.

Connor pulled himself through the opening then reached down to help Briana through. Megan was right behind her and Philip gave her a boost from behind and had no trouble pulling himself through.

When they were all on top, they crouched down and used Connor's binoculars to look at the strange building. They examined the ground between them and the building and looked for anyone that might spot them. There was smoke coming out of the chimneys but they didn't see anyone at all outside.

The building itself was a low sprawling stone structure with no apparent plan. It was very long and looked like it was laid out in a haphazard zigzag. There were only three tiny windows that they could see.

They were about fifty yards away from the building. "We'll have to get closer," Connor whispered to the others.

"I'll lead," Megan said. "I'm the smallest and least likely to be spotted, and I can move silently. Wait 'til I get to the building and I'll signal if it looks clear."

Megan moved off quickly keeping herself low. She didn't make a sound.

When she reached the building she went around the end, disappearing for a moment, then reappeared waving the others on.

When the others reached Megan she said, "there is something like an alley on the other side between this building and another building exactly like it. The alley is covered and looks like a tunnel."

"I'm going in," Connor said. "We're not going to find Brittany out here."

The alley was like a zigzag tunnel following the shape of the buildings, and the further they want the darker it got. They hadn't gotten very far when Megan said, "There's a light ahead."

There was indeed a light ahead, a square yellow patch from the left spread across the tunnel and onto the opposite wall on the right. The four of them pressed themselves as close as they could to left wall and slid along it slowly approaching the source of the yellow light. When they reached it they saw what appeared to be a doorway, but there was no door; it was just an opening into a huge room.

Connor had been leading and peeked around the edge of the doorway.

"It's Trashers and they have Brittany. She's tied up but has one hand free, with which she's eating, and the Trashers are all watching her." Connor whispered.

"How many of them are there?" Philip asked.

"Looks like six or seven," Connor said.

"If we rush them, we do have surprise on our side," Philip said.

"Six or seven is all I saw," Connor said. "There could be fifty more just waiting for us to try something."

"What's that?" Briana asked just as they all noticed the sound of voices approaching the next bend in the tunnel.

From the sound of the voices there must have been at least a dozen approaching. They knew they would have no chance against them and those in the room.

"Let's go," Phillip said. "They all began running just as the approaching Trashers came around the corner of the tunnel. The Trashers began yelling and running after them.

They raced across the field between the building and the cliff edge. Philip reached the opening in the cliff first but stood leaning over it to help Megan, then Briana down to the ropes. The Trashers were just a few yards behind Connor, whom Philip also helped down.

"C'mon, Philip," Connor said letting himself down by one of the ropes.

"I'll hold them off as long as I can," Philip said, as he began shooting at the approaching Trashers.

Connor kept urging Philip to start down. He heard Philip fire two more times, then there was silence. Then he heard voices and knew the Trashers were approaching the edge of the cliff. He started repelling down. Megan and Briana had reached the end of the ropes and were climbing the rest of the way down as fast as they could. When Connor reached the end of the rope and started climbing down he heard voices both above and below him. He knew the voices above were the Trashers, but did not know what the voices below were saying.

Two ropes suddenly cascaded by Connor just as he was at the end of his climb. He now could hear the others yelling, "the Trashers have Philip."

Everyone gathered around Connor when he was down. Those who had remained below during the climb could see what was happening on the edge of the cliff which the climbers could not see. They saw the Trashers grab Philip and carry him away. They could also see that he was alive.

Megan had been crying and was still obviously upset, but had regained control when she realized Philip was alive. She was sure the Trashers had killed him.

"He saved our lives," Megan said. In spite of herself tears welled up in her eyes again. She wiped them and said, "This won't do," she said. "If we're going to save them, I have to be strong."

Briana hugged her. "Not right now, Megan. We'll save them but we've done what we can for now. It's right to feel hurt when the one you love is hurt."

"Thank you Briana. I'm just glad he's still alive."

Connor had been silent all this time and it was obvious something was bothering him.

"What's wrong, Connor," Briana said.

"I should have made him go first," he said, "or at least stayed to help him."

He then turned to his sister and said, "I'm sorry. It's my fault. I shouldn't have let him come. I should have done something."

"If he hadn't come we'd all probably have been caught," Megan said.

"You did what was right," Briana said. "Sometimes things we don't like happen, even when we do what is right. If you had done anything else we would have lost you too. If it wasn't for you we wouldn't know where Brittany is. If you were caught or killed, do you think anyone else would be able to rescue them?"

"Of course someone else could rescue them," Connor said.

"Connor!" Briana said taking him by both shoulders. "But, would they?"

"You're right, Darling. Thank you!" he said. "I'm sorry." He hugged her, then he and Briana both hugged Megan.

***