C4

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C4 - BURIED ALIVE

They'll never stop looking for Mike and Jill.

With six hundred square miles of area, the Hanford nuclear reservation was large enough to require town names to identify places within it, mostly women's names, but the "towns" where often just large electrical substations or a cluster of empty warehouses connected by rusty railroads. Despite Robyn's suggestion, Mike and Jill had been steered slightly away from the Mulberry trees along the river by a cyclone fence and entered a more elevated zone of gravel pits connected by a maze of unpaved roads.

As they walked, Jill tried to guess what Mike's talent was supposed to be. She already knew she was clairvoyant. She was a sort of telephone service for the five Pharmadigm test subjects, and it had already paid dividends.

Jill stopped long enough to physically embrace Mike. "Open yourself up to me without reservation and I'll try to find out what you can do."

What happened instead was that she sensed she had copied Mike's talent somehow. But she still didn't know what that power was.

Resuming their walk, they veered off the gradually ascending scrub-brush plain into a half-mile long trench intended to hold contaminated water from the Q West reactor before it had been destroyed. When they had walked about halfway down the ditch, which was only wide enough to hold perhaps four cars side-by-side, a pair of headlights appeared ahead and turned to line up directly on them like searchlights.

Mike and Jill threw themselves flush against the gritty trench walls. They could feel the cool moistness of the face of gravel, and a flinty smell. The tiny rocks were somewhere between sand and small pebbles in size, and they were held together loosely by a sheen of underground moisture.

Mike thought about climbing straight up, but it would be useless to try because the gravel face was clearly unstable. In some places clods of dirt and gravel were actually overhanging, easily knocked down by the brush of a hand. In other places a single scrape would unleash a miniature slide of loose gravel, with the tiny rocks piling around their feet. But that fact itself gave Jill an idea. She began scraping the walls of the trench and deliberately pulling the gravel down over herself.

A third light mounted on the windshield and hand-operated by the driver was sweeping methodically up and down the slopes of the gravel pit as the vehicle slowly advanced in the dark.

Jill knew she could hold her breath for almost a minute, but with the change she now felt after hugging Mike, she felt she could do it for much longer, and suggested the same idea to Mike. So they scraped at the walls of the trench until enough gravel had collapsed to leave only their heads and one of their arms free. They hyperventilated to get as much oxygen in their bloodstream as possible. Then, as the white DoE jeep approached very closely they held their breath and completed their self-burial, hoping the policeman was too intent upon studying the sides of the trench to glance at the little ongoing rockslide ahead. Since the newly-dug trench was pretty unstable anyway there were many such piles of gravel along the walls.

+I think that's long enough+ Jill said to Mike without using audible words, after what seemed an eternity. But neither one felt out of breath.

They pushed through and tentatively took a breath after five minutes buried alive. They were careful to avoid loud gasping because the jeep was still fairly near. But the red glow of tail-lights meant that it had passed by.

In fact the driver had not even given the brand-new little rock slides a second look. He was checking the nooks between the landslides where he figured someone could try to hide. Jill and Mike patiently and quietly recovered. The crisis of the first security sweep had passed.

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