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Sewer Rats

De
112 pages
Every Saturday Jim, Mickey and Lisa battle in paintball wars held in the city’s storm-drain system. The new kid, Carter, wants to join their club, the Sewer Rats. Lisa doesn’t want him in the club. She devises risky tests for him and puts him in the path of danger at every opportunity. But the tunnels under the city are dangerous enough on their own, and soon the kids find themselves trapped and terrified as the tunnels fill with water.
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S e w e r R a t s
Sigmund Brouwer
Sewer Rats
Sigmund Brouwer
Copyright ©2006Sigmund Brouwer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Brouwer, Sigmund,1959Sewer rats / Sigmund Brouwer. (Orca currents)
isbn 9781551435275(bound)isbn 9781551434889(pbk.)
I. Title. II. Series. ps8553.r68467s48 2006 jc813’.54 c20069004706
First published in the United States,2006 Library of Congress Control Number:2006921143
Summary:A group known as Sewer Rats take up the challenge of an underground game of paintball.
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela Cover photography by Dayle Sutherland
orca book publishers poBox5626,Stn. B Victoria, bcCanadav8r 6s4
orca book publishers poBox468 Custer, wa usa 982400468
www.orcabook.com Printed and bound in Canada.
141312117654
C h a p t e r O n e
If you ever visit a sewage lagoon, you’ll discover what I did. It only takes one good sniff to know it’s better to be on the outside, looking in. Sewage lagoons are worse than nasty. Put it this way. Everything you ush down your toilet goes to the sewage lagoon. That should explain enough.
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If you think the contents of one ush is bad, imagine all the toilets in your city îlling a pond. If you look close— and you don’t want to, trust me—you can even see wads of mushy toilet paper oating in all the brown goop. Of course, kids aren’t supposed to be near the lagoons. There are high steel-link fences to keep people out. On both sides of the lagoon are holding tanks as big as houses. And between those tanks, walkways with guardrails cross over the lagoons. The new kid, Carter Saylor, was ready to walk above a sewage pond. He wasn’t going to use the walkway. His plan was to balance on the guardrail with all the brown goopy stuff right below. I was happy to be on the outside with my friends, Micky and Lisa. We leaned against the fence, and it bent inward with our weight. I had my fingers
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wrapped around the linked steel. The sun felt good on my back. “He’s nuts,” I said. This was so obvious that Micky and Lisa didn’t reply. Carter pushed off the walkway and onto the rail. He had ragged blond hair almost to his shoulders. He wore black jeans, a black T-shirt and black Nikes. “Carter must want to be a Sewer Rat real bad,” Micky said. “I never thought he would agree to this.” We weren’t an ofîcial club. But we were known as the Sewer Rats, along with a couple of other kids at school. We fought paintball wars against kids from other schools. But we call them tunnel wars, because we have our paintball îghts in the huge pipes of the city storm drain system. Micky takes challenges from kids at other schools who have heard about us and sets up each new war. In the six months since
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we began, we haven’t lost once. It helps that the Sewer Rats know the tunnels better than anyone else. “He’s stupid,” Lisa said, staringat Carter. Her voice was angry. “Ugly and stupid.” I half turned my head to look at her.“Get your eyes off me,” Lisa told me. “If I want to think he’s stupid, I can. And I can say it too. Unless you want to make something of it.” I’ve seen Lisa punch guys full in the mouth. “Nope,” I said. “He might be stupid. But I’m not.” Her frown told me it would also be stupid to ask why she hated the new kid so much. All Carter had done was ask us if he could join the Sewer Rats. Normally we’d let kids try a tunnel war. If a kid wasn’t scared to be alone in the darkness below the streets, they could join.
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But Lisa had told Carter that all Sewer Rats passed a test at the lagoons. This test: sneaking in and walking the guardrail above the toilet stuff below. “St upid or not,” Mick y said , watching Carter carefully, “you’ve got to admit he’s got guts.” Carter was in plain view on the guardrail. A security guard might notice him any second. His arms were stretched wide as he balanced himself, taking one careful step at a time. “Guts? I hope he gets caught,” Lisa said. “Or falls in.” Her tone made me wonder if there was something I didn’t know about Lisa and Carter. Maybe Carter had made the mistake of asking her out. Maybe he wanted to join the Sewer Rats because he wanted to impress her. That would have been dumb. Lisa didn’t like guys in that way. Everyone in school knew that. Except for maybe the new kid.
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He was now halfway across, walking the guardrail like it was a tightrope. I thought of the brown toilet stuff in the pond below him. I thought of what might happen if a security guard came by. I started to get a scared feeling in my stomach, a ball of spiders that makes me want to throw up. The same feeling I get every time I go into the tunnels for a paintball war. Zantor, soldier of the gala x y,I whispered in my head.Zantor has removed all emotion as he watches the rookie soldier battle the alien swamp. By creating this pretend world,I was able to make the ball of spiders stop wriggling in my stomach. I did this whenI was scared—in school before a test, and in the tunnels. Scared as I was in the tunnels, there was no way I could let Micky or Lisa know it. Ever. The Sewer Rats were my
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only friends. I was more afraid of losing them than I was of the tunnels. Zantor smiles.The swamp test pro-vides amusement for galaxy soldiers. The spiders of panic in my stomach stopped wiggling. Lisa stepped back from the fence. Sounds of nylon and zipper told me that Lisa was opening her backpack. She began to dig through it. I didn’t take my eyes off Carter. “What’s this?” Micky said to Lisa a few second later. “What’s it look like?” she said. “A violin?” I înally looked over. Lisa had an airhorn, the kind that uses pressurizedair to make noise. Loud noise. “Think he’ll be able to handle it?” Lisa asked. “You wouldn’t,” I said. “Want to bet?”
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