Outcome of Chapter 20 Plot Hinge: 82% of voters picked the correct password, SOLSTICE. As a result, Will and the others are going to escape the booby-trap chamber unharmed. Since this is the second-to-last chapter, I’ve made it a long one as there’s a lot of action to get through! Enjoy!
Donovan Isaiah shrugged off the cloak and lingered a moment beneath the archway. The once-smooth clearing was now a shallow crater filled with a jumble of rocks. Beneath those rocks, in the chamber below, lay five people he had just sent to their deaths.
“Dammit,” he whispered. It was one thing to attack the Medoras and Coyote Jack—they knew what they had signed up for. But William Dalton and Tina Keller—those two didn’t deserve this.
But… he had a job to do.
Sighing, Isaiah turned and headed down the gold-gilded pathway deeper into the jungle toward the mountain. No time to get soft now.
Arriving at the base of a giant cliff, the Man in Charge continued through a narrow crevice. The pathway wound its way up the mountain and Isaiah broke into a sweat. Though winded from the exertion, it was the view he had when he reached the summit of the trail that really took his breath away.
From his mountain perch, Isaiah could see a lush, green valley nestled in the mountains to the North. And there, at the far end of the valley a walled city rested: the Lost Golden City of Ma’chavu. Even at such a distance, Isaiah could see the sunlight glinting off of the gold structures within those walls. Although its once-proud towers and pyramids had crumbled somewhat over the ages, the ruins still conveyed a sense of strength and dignity.
Donovan Isaiah thought back to the first time he had seen the city. It had been a while. Fifteen years in fact.
15 years ago…
Before he had been Agent Donovan Isaiah, head of security for the Windigo Group, he had simply been Donnie Isaiah, a gun-for-hire in Central America. Young, brash and demonstrating a real knack for mercenary work, he took any job he was offered.
The one he should have refused nearly killed him.
A group of thugs and pirates had been wreaking havoc in a stretch of the Caribbean Sea for several months, amassing a small fortune. A rival crime family hired Isaiah and a crew of other mercenaries to intercept the pirates after they robbed their next victim.
Codenamed Pirate’s Purgatory, the mission was simple enough: rob from the robbers. It was a good idea in theory: rather than trying to rob a dozen ships, let the other guy do the heavy lifting for you and then just take everything from him.
Things didn’t go as planned. The pirates ended up being far more heavily armed than Isaiah and his fellow mercs had been told. A vicious battle at sea ensued, that resulted in Isaiah’s ship being blown to pieces. None of the mercenaries survived.
None save Donovan Isaiah. And only just.
The next morning Isaiah woke up on the beach of some deserted island. Rolling onto his back as the surf crashed into him, Isaiah looked down at himself. Most of his clothes had been torn off in the blast and deep, oozing holes peppered his stomach and thighs. Shrapnel, he thought, laying his head back down. Barely able to breathe, let alone move, Isaiah resigned himself to death.
Chief Acalan had other plans.
The Chief and his fellow tribes’ people brought Isaiah from the beach and into the city of Ma’chavu. There he stayed for seven days, slipping in and out of consciousness, as the Ma’chavus worked tirelessly to keep him alive.
In time, Isaiah stabilized. Chief Acalan allowed Isaiah to stay for the next two months while his wounds healed under their care and protection. During that time Isaiah learned about Acalan’s people and the island they had called home for centuries.
When healthy enough to travel, Chief Acalan outfitted Isaiah with a seaworthy boat and bearings to get him back to the mainland. Before he cast off though, Chief Acalan pulled Isaiah aside. In exchange for saving Isaiah’s life, the Chief asked for just one thing: keep the island secret.
As he sailed toward the fog that surrounded the island, Isaiah looked back at the people lining the shore. He vowed to honour Chief Acalan’s request, no matter what. He had a life debt now. And Donovan Isaiah was a man who paid his debts.
10 years ago…
Isaiah devoted his life to the protection of the Ma’chavu secret, learning everything there was to know about it and covertly sabotaging others’ attempts to find it. So when he heard through his channels that the Windigo Group had started research into the Ma’chavu legends, he knew what he had to do.
Given his exceptional talent, Isaiah proved himself as a valuable asset and quickly climbed the Windigo ranks. Before long he was their top agent, working closely with its leader, Irene Bellakov, and getting access to classified materials.
For the first few years, Agent Isaiah had little trouble sabotaging the Windigo research. A missing file here and there. A sprinkling of misinformation planted from time to time. But things changed when Bellakov hired Carlos Medora. Medora brought with him a wealth of knowledge and security measures tightened around the Ma’chavu project.
Unable to resort to his usual tactics, Agent Isaiah opted for a more subtle approach. He began whispering into Bellakov’s ear about how Dr. Medora couldn’t be trusted. The planned worked and before long she had the doctor fired. What he hadn’t banked on was the ingenuity of him and his daughter, Isabella. Before Isaiah could get access and corrupt File 92, the Medoras had stolen it from under his nose.
Ever since that time, Isaiah had been trying to destroy the research, all the while maintaining his cover as a loyal Windigo agent.
Agent Isaiah turned his gaze to the south, to where the yellow dinghy Mr. Dalton and the others had arrived in bobbed in the water. There was a problem however. It was no longer the only boat on the beach. Twelve black and red lifeboats lined the shore with more than 50 people getting out of them.
The Man in Charge pulled out a set of binoculars. Heavily armed Windigo agents, most of whom he had personally trained, stormed the beach. And there, stepping out of her lifeboat, was Irene Bellakov herself.
White hot anger burned through Donovan Isaiah. He had failed Chief Acalan. The secret was out. The question now, however, was how hard would it be to put it back in?
Isaiah hurried down the path toward the city ruins. He had work to do.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the tunnels beneath the city…
“We’re almost there,” Will said, seeing light at the end of the rock-hewn corridor. Although they had found the escape tunnel quickly enough, their progress from the booby-trapped chamber had been slow. Isabella had badly twisted her ankle when they fell into the pit and this meant limping ahead at a snail’s pace.
Although there were no steps or staircases in the dark and dusty passageway, Will had the feeling that they were moving upwards toward the surface. Some time later they heard the faint sound of banging overhead. A few minutes later the banging became louder, confirming Will’s suspicions that they were indeed climbing. After a while the noise stopped completely.
The light at the end of the corridor was coming from sunlight shining through a stone grate on the roof of the tunnel. Unsure what lay beyond, Will signalled the others to be quiet and listened for any movement above. There was none. Waving Coyote Jack over, the two men strained with all their might to lift the ancient grate. It finally budged and they slid it to the side.
Will climbed from the passageway and into a brightly sunlit temple. The room was huge, its high roof held up by massive pillars staggered throughout. Large golden statues decorated the many alcoves in the walls.
Something else commanded Will’s attention however. “Oh my god,” he said as Coyote Jack followed behind him.
“What is it?” Tina asked, popping her head out of the hole. “Oh my god,” she echoed.
Fifteen or so dead Windigo Agents littered the temple in every direction. The white stone walls were pockmarked with dozens of bullet holes and splashed with blood. Will realized what all the noise had been about.
Isabella climbed out behind Tina and looked around, stunned. “There must be a dozen dead Windigo agents here,” she exclaimed.
“Eighteen, actually,” a hard voice said from across the room causing them all to jump. Will whirled around to see where the voice had come from. There, slumped against one of the pillars, sat Agent Isaiah. His arms lay limply on either side of him, a gun in each hand. Blood trickled from his mouth and his shirt was stained red.
Will rushed over to him, ignoring Isabella’s warning otherwise. “Hello, Mr. Dalton,” the Man in Charge said, his face pale. For the first time, Agent Isaiah’s eyes had lost their fire as he looked up at Will. “You’re a tough bugger to kill, aren’t you?” he said with an affectionate chuckle.
Tina squatted next to Agent Isaiah and began inspecting his injuries. She looked up at Will. The look in her eyes told him that things didn’t look good.
“I’m sorry Acalan,” Isaiah mumbled, tears welling up in his eyes.
“What happened?” Isabella asked, after kicking Agent Isaiah’s guns away.
“Ask your boyfriend,” Agent Isaiah said simply, a flash of that former fire reigniting in his eyes as he looked to Coyote Jack.
Isabella turned around to find Coyote Jack standing there with his gun pointed at them. “You led them right to us?” she said, realizing the man’s betrayal.
“Oh don’t look so surprised,” Coyote Jack said, smiling smugly. “You’re a bloody idiot if you thought you’d keep this place away from Bellakov.” He slowly backed away toward the temple entrance.
Isabella drew her own gun and pointed it at Coyote Jack. “You sick son-of-a-”
“Let him go,” Agent Isaiah interrupted.
“Let him go??!!” Isabella choked. “Why the hell would I let him go??!!”
Coyote Jack’s smile broadened and he gave Isabella a wink. But then, as his back foot crossed the entrance’s threshold, a giant slab of rock came crashing from the ceiling, crushing Coyote Jack like a bug.
“That’s why,” Agent Isaiah said.
Agent Isaiah was getting paler. “Irene Bellakov is on her way,” he explained. “And she’s got a small army of agents with her… Minus her little scouting party here.” He nodded to the corpses he had already taken out. “I’m sorry. I tried to stop them.” Fresh tears welled up in his eyes and he banged his head against the pillar. “Too many.”
“Then it’s too late,” Dr. Medora said. “We have to get out of here before they find us.”
“And go where?” Tina asked, wrapping Agent Isaiah in makeshift bandages she scrounged together from the dead agents’ shirts. “They’ll have the beach covered.”
The temple grew quiet. “There is a way,” Agent Isaiah said finally, the fire returning. “Sink the courtyard.”
Will furrowed his brow. “What are you talking about?”
Agent Isaiah swallowed, trying to work up moisture to speak. “Stall them at the courtyard. They’re headed there now. It’s a collapsible floor. Like the one in the clearing.”
“Thanks, by the way,” Tina muttered.
Agent Isaiah ignored her. “The trigger. It’s at the top of the North Tower. If you can get them all in the courtyard and flip the switch… we’ll bury the bastards.”
“How much time do we have?” Isabella asked.
“Probably not enough,” Agent Isaiah answered matter-of-factly. “You’ll need somebody fast… But it’s a suicide switch. The tower’s rigged to collapse too once its triggered. Whoever’s doing it won’t have much time to get out.”
“I’ll do it,” Isabella said.
“Not on that ankle,” Will replied. Agent Isaiah looked up at him, giving him a near-unperceivable nod.
Tina stopped working on Isaiah and looked at Will, realizing what he was suggesting. “You can’t be serious?” she said. “Will, don’t be an idiot, we’ll find another way.”
Will turned away and hung his head. There was no other way. They had to stop Bellakov. Tina and the others would all be killed if the Windigos got through. “I’ll do it,” he said.
He turned back to see Tina with tears in her eyes. “Don’t,” she whispered, pleading.
Will walked over to her and held her face in his hands. “Piece of cake, neighbour,” he said, leaning in and kissing Tina on the mouth. Tina kissed him back and pulled him toward her in a tight embrace.
“We’ll hold them in the courtyard as long as we can,” Isabella said, gathering weapons from the dead agents and handing them to her father. She shoved a gun into Tina’s hand who was still staring into Will’s eyes.
“Let’s do it,” Will said, still staring too.
Plot Hinge: Will’s life — The Spartan Race
Next week is the finale of RUN, meaning this is the story’s last Plot Hinge. To mark its significance, we’re making it a big one. Irene Bellakov and the surviving Windigo Agents are heading for the courtyard as they try to claim the city of Ma’chavu as their own. To stop them Will needs to activate the collapsible floor by running to the North Tower and flipping the suicide switch. He’ll then have to be get out of there in a hurry or else he’ll be buried with the rest of them.
To decide the outcome of Will’s race to save his friends, we turn to another race. On Sunday, June 24th, I will be participating in the Toronto Spartan Race. The Spartan Race is an obstacle course challenge where participants climb under barbed wire, climb up ropes and scurry over walls. I ran in last year’s event and finished the course in 37 minutes. We’ll use my performance this year to determine Will’s fate.
- If on Sunday, June 24th, I, Josh Martin, complete the Toronto Spartan Race in less than 37 minutes, then Will is going to be fast enough to escape the North Tower before it collapses on him.
- If however, it takes me more than 37 minutes to complete the Spartan Race on Sunday, then Will is not going to be fast enough to escape the North Tower and will be killed.
The stakes couldn’t be higher and I’m very nervous. I’m going to do my best on Sunday to keep Will alive. It’s time for me to run.
The finale of RUN goes live next Thursday, June 28th. Be sure not to miss it and thanks for joining me on this awesome storytelling adventure!