SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 36 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 36 of many) postapocalyptic stories

ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Open sesame!

SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 36 of many)

Ellie's words sent the archaeology professor's tingles into overload but just then approaching torch beams signalled the return of Hobbes and Weis,

and a hand gesture from Ellie ended further conversation.

The archaeologist and the ranger came to a halt in front of Ellie.

"We think you should come and see this," Hobbes said, his excitement showing.

Weis just stood cradling his rifle and sucking on his teeth.

Bodil looked from one to the other then back to Hobbes.

"See what?"

Hobbes put out his hands as if to stop any further questions.

"It, it might be nothing, but I can't explain it any other way than to think that it might be linked to why you are here."

Ellie and Gregor were already shovelling the remains of their meals back into their backpacks. Bodil quickly joined in.

Weis, muttering under his breath, did the same but with rather more reluctance. Hobbes, having scoffed down his food already, just picked up his own pack and slung it over his shoulder.

Then he waited, with remarkable patience, Bodil thought, for an archaeologist who has just made a find.

When everyone was ready, it was Ranger Weis who led them back towards the station office area.

They passed by several derelict offices and other interesting looking rooms until Weis showed them into one with steel doors with corroded electrical switchgear inside.

Several square cabinets with dust-covered dials, in some cases hanging by the last slivers of copper wire, broken lenses of long since faded indicator lights and large,

dangerous-looking levers that were the actual breakers themselves.

Ellie grabbed Hobbes by the arm.

"You've found where the cable comes out?" She looked puzzled. "But it was running in the opposite direction."

"No. Not at all. These circuit breakers are far too small to handle the voltages from a cable like that. No, these are much more domestic."

Bodil examined the rusted switchgear understanding that, after so many centuries, everything would be fused into one solid lump of rust.

"Then what are we looking at Mister Hobbes?"

"Show the professor please Weis. You're closest."

"Ere Prof," Weis said, squatting down in front of one of the bottom-most cabinets.

Bodil assumed the same squatting position next to Weis and added her light to the ranger's. Whatever it was, she still wasn't seeing it. Just rust.

"Look." Weis pointed, his finger hovering over the rusted base of the lever. "See? Around the lever bit, the rust is darker."

Bodil saw it. All around the bottom of the lever, like a bloom of blood around an arrow, the rust was darker than anywhere else.

Weis rubbed at it with his already filthy finger and then held his finger in front of Bodil's face.

"Sniff it, Prof."

Bodil tentatively sniffed at the finger. It was faint, but...

"Oil." She slowly climbed to her feet. "And not seven-hundred-year-old oil either because that would have evaporated long ago." She turned to Ellie.

"This has to have been done when whoever 'they' are were here."

"Bugger still won't move though." Weis butted in. "Me an' Mister 'Obbes both 'ad a go. It's stuck solid."

Ellie folded her arms and smiled.

"Is it now? Greggie? Be a dear, would you?"

Gregor pushed his way into the confined space and Weis, and Bodil were both eased aside like flotsam on the bow wave of a ship.

The giant looked at the lever, spat on his hands and bent his back. Then the whole lever disappeared into the fist of Gregor's right hand.

There was a second or two of rusty resistance and then the metal squealed as seventy-something years of corrosion gave up trying to hold the switch mechanism in place.

There was a bright spark, seen through the holes in the case, from inside the cabinet. Gregor released his hold and stood up, grinning. Everyone was grinning.

"Well do..."

From outside came the distant, slowly climbing whine of motors followed by a long screech like a giant fingernail against a blackboard. The darkness outside the switch room slowly got brighter.

"Now that's interesting," Ellie said, quietly.

All eyes turned to look at her.

"Shall we go and see what it is?"

With weapons cocked, Gregor and Weis cautiously led everyone back the way they had come and in the direction from where the new light source seemed strongest.

They rounded the last corner into the concourse and stopped. With the new, but still dim, lighting they were now able to take in the whole of the concourse.

Both men surveyed the space along the barrels of their weapons before Weis finally announced it clear from any threat, or "seems safe-ish" as he put it.

Still keeping an eye on the gloomy shadows, the five slowly walked back to where they had been sitting eating just a few minutes ago.

As they got closer in the lessening gloom, they could see that two large and hitherto unnoticed doors had opened up directly opposite the stone steps they had used to get up onto the concourse.

Very slowly now, with Gregor and Weis still on point duty, they edged into the full brightness of the light spilling through the doorway.

Disappointingly, all that faced them was another set of stone steps going down into the fully illuminated depths of whatever waited for them. They came to a halt.

While Little and Large continued to cover the top of the steps, ready for anything nasty to come flying, leaping or even slithering at them, Bodil,

Ellie and Hobbes stepped out from behind Weis and Gregor.

Ellie moved forward to stand next to her bodyguard. Still staring ahead, she stage whispered out of the side of her mouth.

"You make a lousy window, Gregor."

Also still staring ahead, Gregor copied Ellie's whisper.

"Sorry, Miss. Would you like to ride on my shoulders... again?"

The suppressed chuckles of the others relieved the tension.

"So, are we going down?" Bodil asked no one in particular.

"It's why we're here, Professor," Ellie answered. "Greggie, Ranger, after you please."

Weis checked the safety was off.

"I always thought 'going into the light' was supposed to be a bad idea."

The steps led down to a stained and cracked concrete floor. Bodil nudged Ellie as the 'fire main' came into view.

No longer painted red it, and the other, smaller cables that accompanied it, also showed much fewer signs of age.

Descending the last step, the party found themselves in a short corridor with a doorway leading off on both sides and ahead opening up into a much larger chamber.

Just before the cluster of cables they had been following reached the doorway on the left, they sloped suddenly downwards and disappeared below ground level.

Gregor and Weis each checked a doorway, stepping over the collapsed remains of the wooden doors to do so.

"Clear." Then. "Clear" from the other side and the two men reappeared. "Office," Gregor reported.

"Fuck knows," Weis muttered, imitating Gregor. "Shelves and shit." and then adding a belated "Pardon my language."

With Gregor and Weis now sticking to their own side of the corridor the party edged forward to the end and then stopped.

The roof and most of the far wall of the chamber was natural rock, indicating that this cave had been here long before man had decided to fancy it up with his concrete and tiles.

About half of the overhead lights in the chamber had failed at some point in the seventy years since anyone had been here, leaving the chamber ominously dim and full of shadows.

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