"That's a good question, Professor." Now it was Ellie's turn to bend down and peer into the shaft. "This goes on for quite a way. My light doesn't reach the end."
Bodil leaned forward again to try and see what Ellie was seeing down the shaft. As she did so, she put a hand on the cable for support.
It took a second or two but then Bodil gasped and both women immediately stood up. Ellie looked at her.
Bodil looked at her hand, then at Ellie.
"The cable. It's... Warm."
"What? Warm? How?"
"Touch it. It's warm."
Ellie placed the palm of her hand against the surface of the armoured cable.
She was about to say that she couldn't feel anything but, in the time it took for the thought to form,
the sensitive thermoreceptors in the skin of her palm picked up the small yet definite increase in temperature after the initial reaction to the cold metal.
Ellie snatched her hand away and looked at the cable suspiciously.
"Why is it warm?" She put her hand back onto the surface of the cable. "Never mind, I was thinking aloud" She looked up from her hand into Bodil's face. "It's got power running through it."
While Ellie used her cupped hands to call everyone to join them, Bodil knelt down by the shaft.
By pushing her torch as far into the narrow space as she could and at the same time jamming her face right up to the entrance, she thought she could just make out an edge at the far end.
The more she looked, the clearer it became. There was an opposite opening to the shaft maybe fifteen to twenty metres away. Behind her, Ellie was explaining what they had found.
"But that's impossible." Hobbes was saying as Bodil stood up and brushed the centuries-old crap from her sleeve.
"We don't have a facility that can generate anywhere near enough power to require a cable that big. That cable must be fifteen centimetres thick at least."
"Mister Hobbes, I'm not so much interested in where the power is coming from as I am in finding out what it is down here that needs that much power."
Bodil recognised her cue. She used her thumb to gesture over her shoulder in the direction the cable burrowed into the wall.
"Well, whatever it is, it's about twenty-something metres away in that direction."
After a short discussion, Ellie sent Hobbes and Weis to check out the eastbound tunnel that sprouted off from the workshop area for any sign of a door or tunnel or anything leading off south.
Meanwhile, she, the professor and Gregor, would check back along the tunnel they had originally come up for anything leading off north. They were to meet back here in half an hour.
"Then can we eat? My bleedin' belly thinks me throats been cut." Weis' concentration on more immediate needs made everyone smile.
And despite her excitement about finding the cable, Ellie's own stomach was complaining too.
"Yes, Weis. I think that would be an excellent idea. When we get back, we eat."
When they did get back, it was for both teams to report nothing found. No side tunnels, no doors, secret or otherwise and no mysterious fire main either.
"Right, good. As I expected." Ellie was nodding. "That means we only have the one place left to look."
They followed Weis up the stone steps. At the top, five torch beams spread out to illuminate what waited for them.
It was another concourse, smaller than those at the other station but in a lot better condition. No drips or hanging plants coming down from the ceiling.
No fungi created modern art on the walls. It even smelled dry and dusty. Weis held his hand up for silence and they listened.
"Does anybody hear anything?" he whispered.
Everyone strained their ears, eyes wide and worried. Ellie took a step forward so that she could hear better.
Seeing his boss move closer to potential danger, Gregor slowly slipped his hand into his jacket and wrapped his fingers around the comfortable non-slip handgrip of his preferred pistol.
Hobbes, seemingly without moving, somehow managed to find himself behind the bodyguard. Bodil swallowed. She moved her head next to Weis', ignoring the smell, and whispered.
"I don't hear anything."
Ellie turned to Weis, shaking her head.
"Nor do I. What is it, Weis?"
Weis boldly walked forward into the open space.
"Nothing," he said in his normal voice. "I just wanted to make sure no one was hearing something I wasn't".
He turned to face the others, his face smiling and innocent.
"What do you reckon? A good place for lunch then?"
Ellie stared at Weis with a mouth as tight as a cat's bum. Bodil stared at him with a slack-jawed look of disbelief.
Hobbes remained hidden behind Gregor, and it was only Ellie's giant minder who managed to raise a smile as he took his empty hand out of his jacket.
But Weis missed all of this because he was already on his knees, his pack open, and was rummaging through its contents for his teabags.
It was only when Bodil was devouring her prepacked, canteen made lunch that she realised just how hungry she was.
Looking around at the others, it was evident that she was not alone in that thought. Hobbes, the field archaeologist, however, was really going at it.
In fact, watching him stuff the food into his mouth was a little bit, well...
Hobbes noticed the look he was getting from the professor. He swallowed what was in his mouth, it took a couple of attempts, but he managed it.
"Forgive me, Professor Hill. I'm not normally this piggish, but I want to take the chance this little break is providing to have another look around the rooms here.
Before, I was mainly busy with the workshops down there and didn't get to spend anywhere near enough time up here as I would have liked.
" While he was saying this, Hobbes was already getting up and taking his notebook from his pocket.
The others watched him. Ellie turned to the ranger.
"Weis. Go with Mister Hobbes please."
"What? Me tea'll go cold! Can't it wait?"
Ellie gave him a small smile.
"Your rules, Ranger."
Sighing, Weis drank the remains of his scalding hot tea as fast as he could. He stood up, wiping his mouth with one hand while picking up his rifle with the other.
"Okay Mister 'Obbes. Tell me where you want to go, and I'll check it out."
While the two of them disappeared into the darkness with only the bobbing beams of their torches showing their position, the remaining trio carried on with the rest of their meal.
The comfortable silence was broken by Professor Hill, who had a question she had been longing to ask since before they had descended into the earth.
"Why does Mister Hobbes call you 'Miss Troy'?"
Ellie had just picked up a plastic-wrapped packet of biscuits that the nice people at the base canteen had thought to include in their packed lunches.
There was the slightest of pauses on its journey before Ellie used both hands to pull the wrap apart.
"Well, he's either mixing me up with Alicia or, more likely, he's just assumed that I'm a Troy. Both of these happen fairly regularly."
Ellie looked through the small selection of, mostly broken, biscuits.
"A Troy? Professor, I've changed my name so many times over the years. I'm sure I may have used the name Troy at some point."
Bodil got the message that she wasn't going to get a straight answer to this. She glanced at Gregor.
Gregor stared off into the darkness, paying no attention at all to the conversation between her and his boss. His face was a mask any poker player would be proud of.
Bodil gave up and changed the subject.
"Poppy seems nice. You and Gregor seem very fond of her. Does she come..." The words 'to Earth' seemed too strange to say out loud. "... here often?"
Bingo, Bodil thought. Asking about Poppy brought a smile not only to Ellie's face but Gregor's too.
"No. You saw Poppy on her first visit Professor. All that concrete though, not the best introduction to Earth was it?"
"I guess not. So, if she hasn't been here before then..."
"Then yes, Gregor and I, and Alicia," Ellie's grin broadened. "And Victor, have all been into space."
A tingle shimmied down Bodil's spine. The next question was automatic.
"What is it like, in space?"
Ellie looked at Gregor and then laughed as the big man rolled his eyes. She turned back to Bodil.
"When you are in space, and your home planet is turning above your head, so close that it seems you can reach out and touch it, space is incredibly beautiful.
But, when you have nothing to look at but inky blackness for days on end, space is stunningly boring."
Gregor's low rumble made a rare addition to the conversation.
"It's not so boring when your duties suddenly involve being nanny to Poppy while everyone else is locked away in secret meetings. I will show you the scars maybe."
"Poppy adores Greggie. Unfortunately, she is only a kit, so she tends to show her love with careless claws."
Bodil remembered the image of Poppy climbing all over Gregor until he got her under control. That suit was pretty much ruined by the time he plonked the struggling Poppy down on the table.
"So, where did you go?"
Ellie stared at the professor from behind her impenetrable dark glasses.
"Places you couldn't imagine Professor... And somewhere you probably can."
"The space station in orbit around Mars is over half-built already. That by itself is an incredible sight. I hope you get to see it one day."
The possibility that she might experience space flight for herself was something Bodil had not ever considered."
"You think that would be possible?"
"I don't see why not." Ellie started to say something else but then paused, considering Professor Hill for a moment before a tiny smile signposted her decision.
"Mars has archaeology too, you know."