The moment they heard the word "run", they all ran. They looked neither left not right. They just kept running. They had to put as much distance between themselves and Omnius. They did not want to spend the rest of their childhood serving a megalomaniac machine. They had run for close to half an hour when they finally stopped to catch their breath.
"Welcome to the Ominus' employee quarters." Rattus stood in front of them, a sly smile forming in the corner of his lips.
"Did you think the ones before you have never tried to escape? You thought Omnius did not know what was going on in your puny minds?"
"How did you end up exactly where exactly where you were trying to run away from?"
They just stood looking at him with their drooping faces.
He continued on. "In this place, all roads lead to Omnius. No matter which direction you run, you will always end up where Omnius wants you to be. Enough talking. Come! Let me show you to your bunks. You need to get up early tomorrow morning and start on your tasks. Twenty years service has been promised to Omnius and every minute of it shall be called to account."
They were lead to a large hall with rows of three tiered cots lined up from end to end. People of various ages, genders, nationalities lay asleep completely oblivious of the newcomers. They were lead to the end of the room where stood four empty cots. Rattus motioned them towards the bed.
In a few minutes they found themselves all alone.
"What do we do now?" Ajay was all a bunch of nerves.
"From what Rattus says, escape seems impossible." Ramya always had the penchant for stating the obvious.
"Maybe he is lying. We should try to break out again." Vinod as usual was the enterprising one.
"No. He was not lying."
They turned towards the new voice coming from the bed next to theirs. A skeleton of a man lay there. He had shabby matted hair and a long shaggy beard - a Jesus of sorts just before his crucification. An older one at that. As Jesus would have looked if he had been crucified twenty years later than he had been.
"Sorry if I startled you. Let me introduce myself - I am Pashumathy Madanapalli Vamsi Ramakrishna"
"My name - I am Pashumathy Madanapalli Vamsi Ramakrishna"
"Do we have to call you that entire thing?" asked Navneeta.
"You can call be Krishna or Krish."
"So what were you saying?"
"That Rattus was right. There is no escape from here. I would know. I have been here for 42 years."
"42 years? That is really a long time. Didn't you get released after serving out twenty years? Didn't Omnius keep his promise to you?"
"Yes and no. "
"What does that mean?" asked Ramya. "How can the answer be both yes and no?"
"Well, my dear, that is how life is. There are no black and white answers. More so with Omnius. He is the master of the grey area."
"We don't understand what you are saying. Can you please elaborate?"
"It is a long story my dear girl. A long long story! I need to start right at the beginning from before I landed up in this accursed land."
"Yes, please do," said Ramya, who always like a good tale.
"You kids! You would stop to listen to stories when we are in such grave danger! I should have never ventured out with kids."
"Come on, Grumpy. We are trapped here with no clue how to escape. We have to gather all the information we can find. Maybe his story will give us some ideas on how to escape."
" Achooo! Achoooooo! I agree with Happy. Achoooo!"
Suddenly the room was filled with a pleasant smell like burning incense. It kind of seemed to clear their minds. "Smelly?"
"Were you with us all this while, Smelly?"
A large ginger cat began to materialize in front of their eyes.
Vinod suddenly spoke up. "I think Omnius and Rattus may not have seen Smelly. Maybe he can escape."
"But how will that help us? Or him? We will continue to be trapped here and he in our world."
"But he can get help, Ajay."
"Do you forget he cannot communicate with anyone?"
"He can communicate with Brock. Maybe Brock can dig us out the way he dug us out of the land of Odors."
"I don't know. Will he even understand?" Ajay still sounded doubtful.
"Why do you always have to be such a wet blanket, Ajay. We can at least try. I think it is a very good idea, Vinod."
Completely ignoring Ajay's angry glare, Ramya continued, "Navneeta - I think you can communicate best with Smelly. Why don't you try telling Smelly to return to our land and bring back Brock."
"Let me try." Navneeta turned towards Smelly. "We are in trouble, Smelly." She tried to fill her mind with strong emotions of worry and fear.
Smelly purred and rubbed against her legs. "We need your help, Smelly. You are the only one who can help us." She stoked his fur gently and tried to fill her mind with feelings of pleading and helplessness.
"Bring Brock here." She tried to form an image of Brock inside the hall as she spoke.
The cat did not move. She tried to form the image of Brock more clearly. "Please bring Brock to us."
The cat nodded its head and slowly began to disappear, body first. The head hung in thin air for sometime and then completely disappeared.
The old man spoke up. "What was that thing with you?"
"Ours is a long story too. You tell your story and we will tell you ours while we wait for our friends Smelly and Brock."
The Magical Cave I: A Cave in the Hills <<<< The Magical Cave XII: Omnius >>>> To be continued.......