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Chapter 10 - Lure

"Somewhere in this darkness
There's a light that I can't find
Maybe it's too far away
Maybe I'm just blind..."
--Three Doors Down, When I'm Gone


Although the subway ride from the ice cream bar to the park was only five stops, it seemed to last forever as they roared through the endless maze of underground tunnels below Domino City to the end of the subway line. The pain burning through Yugi's sides and chest subsided slightly for the most part, but at times brutally intensified such that Yugi doubled over, trying to suppress any agonized groans that attempted to work their way out of his mouth. Téa sat beside him, silent and troubled. Her arm had remained protectively around Yugi's shoulders even after they had sat down.

Yugi winced at another searing influx of pain. "It feels like I'm being tortured," he said tightly.

Téa looked gravely at him, but said nothing.

The subway screeched to a halt at the Empire Park subway, and deposited Yugi and Téa on the Northbound platform. They struggled up the long flight of stairs, having to stop halfway as Yugi hunched over another attack of extreme pain that would have sent him tumbling to the bottom had Téa not been supporting most of his weight.

They emerged from the stairwell into the murky half-light of dusk. The sun had hidden behind the cityscape, pursued by a stormy, black army of angry clouds that blotted out the sky, which would have been moonless. The park was two blocks from the subway station, and they began their slow progress down the narrow sidewalk that ended after one block in favour of a sandy shoulder that hemmed both sides of the cracked asphalt road. Beside them, looming darkly above the trees and bushes surrounding it, was the old Empire Mine headframe.

The Empire Mine had at one time been an active and prosperous mine in Domino City, mining, for the most part, gold. The Empire Park had been its contribution to the city: a vast, 100-acre expanse of trees and grassy hills and lawns that allowed the people of Domino City a place to picnic, camp and hike right in the heart of the pulsing metropolis. The mine had long since been closed, and the once busy headframe now stood silently as a darkened reminder to the people of the reason the park was there. As they walked past the cold, grey concrete edifice, Yugi slowed his already painfully slow steps.

"What's the matter?" Téa asked quickly.

Yugi's violet eyes never left the tall headframe.

"I... I don't know..." he said slowly.

"The park is just one more block, Yugi," Téa said briskly, trying to hurry him along.

Yugi stopped walking.

"She's there," he said softly.

Téa stopped, turning to look slowly at the dilapidated, old building.

"What do you mean?" she whispered, even though she had a nasty feeling that she knew.

"The headframe. We have to go to the headframe."

Téa closed her eyes. I knew it...

"Yugi, that's private property! We're not allowed in there..."

"Neither is Cora," he answered. "But she's there."

"How do you know? I thought you and Yami were... were..."

Téa trailed off. Yugi just looked at her.

"I don't know," he answered finally. "I just know she's there..."

Téa exhaled slowly, pursing her lips. Whether or not Yami was there, Yugi's sixth sense was obviously working just fine.

"Well, then," she said, "I guess we go to the headframe."

Taking a quick glance around them to make sure they were indeed the only ones on the road, they scurried through the grassy trench on the side of the road, and ran as quickly as Yugi's unseen injuries would allow to the chained, tall fence that surrounded the Empire Mine property. The fence plainly displayed many large, white signs with red words like: "Private Property - No Trespassing" and "Danger". Téa could make out how old and decrepit the building looked now, and at this point she really wished she had never watched a horror movie.

The derelict mine stood alone amid the green bushes and trees: a stark monolith against the dying strip of magenta draining out of the western horizon, its worn, grey visage staring bleakly down at them. As they drew closer, the shadows revealed the dusty shards of broken glass rimming the darkened windows. The old building's few windows had been target practice for many neighbourhood kids with rocks until the City had placed the barbed-wire fence around the grounds. Of course, the more persistent of the kids had always managed to find a way into the grounds, and since Tristan and Joey had boasted their technique many times to Yugi and Téa, it was only a matter of moments before they had conquered the fence and stood within its boundaries. More shattered glass peppered the ground around the base of the building. It crunched under their feet as they made their way to the bolted door at the foot of the headframe.

The headframe itself - the tallest of the few structures remaining on the mine property - had been the housing for the long cables that raised and lowered the cage (and the miners within it) deep into the rocky earth. The cables were long since removed, but the small openings far up the side of the headframe gave proof that they had once been there. And within the concrete walls, the large wheels and gears of the old mechanism were still in place.

Téa pushed lightly against the door.

"It's locked," she whispered. "What a surprise."

Yugi shot her a look, then scanned the flat sides of the concrete building.

"There's got to be a way...oh! Look!"

Téa spun in the direction Yugi was pointing to see the bars riveted to the side of the building that ascended to a small, wire basket, which they supposed at one time housed a floodlight, but was now just an empty cage. The ladder was within reaching distance (they hoped) of one of the broken windows.

"Let me go first," Téa said, and before Yugi could protest, began pulling herself up the rusted bars.

As she drew alongside the window, she realized it looked a lot farther away from the ladder than it had looked from the ground. And the ground looked...

"Well? What's the hold-up?"

The loud whisper came from right below her, and Téa started, almost letting go of the ladder.

"What are you doing up here?" she hissed at Yugi, who was one rung behind her.

"We're breaking into the headframe, remember?"

"I was supposed to go first!" she flared. "You're supposed to be hurt! And would you not use that phrase 'breaking in'? We sound like criminals, or something!"

"We're supposed to go together. This is criminal - and would you just get a move on before someone sees us?!"

Téa glowered at him, then flung an arm out, catching the edge of the window. Her nails scraped against the cold, rough edge and some dust flaked down as she found a marginal grip. Then she flung a leg out, catching the window on the bottom edge of the frame, and more flakes of concrete skittered down to the ground that seemed to look very far away. Spread like an 'x' between the ladder and the window, she felt the cold concrete pressed against her cheek, felt it through her damp, sweaty t-shirt, and the evening air gave her back a chill caress. She swallowed hard as she realized she had reached the point of no return - either she would pull herself into the window, or fall.

Gritting her teeth, she pulled hard with the arm and leg perched on the window frame. A sharp pain sliced across her inner thigh, and she winced, but she continued to drag herself across the concrete wall, her t-shirt catching and pulling on the jagged areas of the weathered, cracked surface, and she managed to pull the other half of her appendages onto the window frame. Careful of the broken glass, she picked her way to the centre of the open window.

Yugi, meanwhile, was trying to reach across the expanse of concrete to the window frame - which was harder for him, since he was smaller than Téa. Seeing him, Téa shuffled back towards the edge of the window.

"Here," she said, reaching towards Yugi, "take my hand."

Yugi reached out with his left hand - and the unseen wound on his left bit sharply into his side.

Yugi contracted, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain.

"Yugi! Are you all right...?" Téa's worried whisper floated into his roaring ears.

"I'm fine," he winced, forcefully straightening out.

Did you hear that? Yugi told his quivering muscles. I'm fine...

Bracing himself, he reached again for Téa's outstretched hand. This time though, thankfully, the pain remained dormant and he grasped her hand tightly, hoping it wouldn't slip out of his hand because of the sweat. Both of them straining and trying not to look down, Yugi imitated Téa and swung his leg over to the window frame, barely catching it with the toe of his running shoe, and hearing the rainfall of gravel skitter down to the bushes below. Téa pulled hard, and Yugi pushed away from the security of the metal bars of the ladder. He grabbed the edge of the window with the fingers of his other hand, and pulled his other foot off of the ladder about halfway to the window. He tried to catch the toe of his running shoe on the flat concrete wall, and the foot slid down about six inches before he stopped it. With Téa's entire weight pulling him towards her, Yugi repelled his foot off of the wall, and brought it to the windowsill to join his other leg. Shaking, heart pounding, and breathing heavily, he finally stood in the window beside Téa.

"Okay?" Yugi asked. Téa nodded grimly.

Ducking down under the black bar across the centre of the window, they dropped into the building.

They landed with a thud on a floor that was coated with a spongy, brownish grey sludge that emanated an unpleasant odour. In fact, as their eyes became adjusted to the more subdued light of the interior of the headframe, they could see that the sludge was everywhere - on the stairs, on the railings, on every inch of ground, like some sort of very repulsive carpet.

"Phew - it stinks in here," Téa commented from behind her hand, which had risen to cover her mouth and nose.

"Yeah," Yugi agreed, his nose wrinkling. "You'd think it wouldn't, since there's hardly any windows left."

"And what's this crud all over the ground?" Téa asked, regarding it with much the same face as Yugi's.

Yugi shot a sidelong glance at her.

"What do you think it is, Téa? Just about every pigeon in Domino City lives up there," Yugi indicated the lofty height of the building with his eyes. Téa stared up, then back at Yugi, her expression falling into a horrified disgust.

"What, you mean...? Awww, yech!"

Téa was doing a kind of high-step, looking ruefully down at her new white cotton shoes. If he hadn't been so upset and suffering so much pain, Yugi would have laughed. As it was, however, Yugi simply looked up the grunge-covered, metal stairs that wound their seemingly endless way to the top of the aged structure.

"I think," Yugi said wearily, "we have to go up."

With one last, wretched look at her shoes, Téa once again helped support Yugi as they began the precarious climb to the top of the headframe.


* * *

 

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