SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 41 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 41 of many) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 41 of many)

Chapter 10

Bodil soon came to realise that carrying a sizeable lump of metal around quickly makes your arm ache. She tried switching it from hand to hand, and that kind of worked for a while.

Then she tried sticking it into the waistband of her pants like she had seen it done in movies but that didn't work out as well as she had thought it would.

Either she didn't push it in far enough, and the weight of the bullet filled grip made it so top heavy that it fell out,

or she pushed it in far enough to stop this but then had to keep fishing it out of her underwear after a few steps because it had slid down inside her pants.

In the end, she just gave in and put up with the dead weight at the end of her arm.

The journey back along the tunnel to Holborn Station was slow.

Not painfully slow, although Gregor might argue with that she thought, but slow enough so that Weis and Hobbes were having to stop and wait for the rest of them to catch up.

When they did catch up Bodil would sometimes hear the end of a conversation the two were having while they waited.

The latest snippet she had overheard was Weis describing a carrion worm as being '... just a tail that tapers up and up to a bloody great 'ead full of teeth.'

After they had waited for Gregor to catch his breath, they had set off again. Weis and Hobbes moving forward to check ahead while Ellie nursed Gregor along at the giant's own pace.

Bodil brought up the rear as before. But now, thanks to Ranger Weis's eloquent description, she had a disturbing mental image of what might be silently slithering up behind them in the darkness.

Suddenly the pistol in her hand no longer seemed quite so heavy.

The steepness of the incline, where the escalator used to be that carried people up to Holborn Station's Central line concourse, took a lot out of Gregor.

As soon as the steep climb was over they decided to take a break and eat while Gregor recovered his strength. Weis and Hobbes patrolled ahead and checked the rest of the concourse.

Ellie had Gregor sit on a lump of fallen masonry while she checked his bandages.

Although it would be about four hours before the foam started to decay and need changing,

Ellie was concerned that the journey may have torn the bandage free and allowed the wounds to open and bleed.

Bodil, meanwhile thoroughly checked back down the escalator troughs just to make absolutely sure that nothing was slithering up to eat them.

Once satisfied that this was unlikely, she rummaged through all of the packs for food and water. She even dug out Weis' little kettle, filled it and set it to boil.

"Will you damn well hold still?!"

Bodil turned her head to see Ellie, crouched down next to Gregor with her hand disappeared up under the blackened bandage. Gregor was wriggling and flinching away from his boss's touch.

"You are tickling! How can I not move when you are doing that?"

"I'm trying to feel if there is any fresh bleeding."

"If I was bleeding, I would be going 'Ow ow', not 'Ha ha'.

Ellie pulled her hand out from under the bandage. She checked her fingers for blood, then sniffed sulkily.

"Fine then. Don't come running to me when your insides fall out." She stood up, wiping her hands on an antiseptic wipe before sitting down again to help Bodil with the food.

Gregor rearranged his shredded clothing as best he could, muttering under his breath all the while.

Ellie winked at the professor.

"The bandage is holding up. We'll get some food into him and replace some calories."

Between them, they divided the remains of their packed lunches into five equal paper platefuls of food. Then Ellie tipped most of hers onto one of the other plates before passing it up to Gregor.

"Here, eat. As I'm nursemaiding you I might as well nanny you too."

Gregor took the plate and then wagged a finger at Ellie.

"You're not too much bigger than Poppy you know, little miss."

Ellie, grinning, turned back to Professor Hill, who was already tucking into her food. Bodil swallowed what was in her mouth.

"What was that all about?"

Ellie reached for her almost empty plate.

"Nothing. But it's good that he's making jokes."

Weis' kettle started to boil just as two torch beams came around the corner and headed towards them.

Weis and Hobbes sat down cross-legged opposite the others and Weis immediately set to work brewing his tea.

This left Hobbes, after realising that the ranger was much more interested in getting is tea to just the right strength, to report on their reconnaissance.

"The concourse is clear. The only sign of activity is what we made ourselves on the way down.

" He jammed several broken biscuits into his mouth and continued to speak around them, spraying crumbs as he did so. "No sign of any worms either.

" He used another biscuit to emphasise his words by jabbing it in the air towards the others. "Which means, that the one we found didn't come from up here... which is good.

" The biscuit joined the others in his mouth, turning his face into a pretty good resemblance of a hamster.

Weis finished stirring his brew until he was satisfied with the shade of brown and then lifted the two tea bags out with the spoon.

Then, to the surprise of the others, he stood up and carefully carried the steaming plastic mug over to Gregor.

"'Ere you go, big fellah. Get outside of that and you'll be on your feet in no time. Ain't much a good cup of tea can't put right."

Gregor took the mug with a nod of thanks and sipped at the scalding liquid. His face relaxed into a contented smile.

"It's good."

"No need to sound so bloody surprised. It's tea, of course it's bleedin' good."

Weis resumed his place to cheerful laughter and set about making another brew.

The last of the food was finished and the party set off again. Pretty soon more and more foliage started to appear and the humidity started to rise.

Ranger Weis stopped everyone to remind them that they were once again entering the preferred climate for the giant London Ticks.

Consequently, weapons were rechecked and caution cranked up a notch or two.

Mister Hobbes became increasingly twitchy. His torch beam flashed around erratically and everyone was becoming nervous.

Not just nervous about meeting ticks, nervous instead about Hobbes accidently shooting someone.

Ellie called a halt with the excuse of checking Gregor's bandage. During the pause, she exchanged a meaningful look with Ranger Weis.

"Mister 'Obbes." Turning, Weis greeted the archaeologist cheerfully. He put an arm over the shoulders of the taller man and steered him a few steps away from the others. "Listen, mate.

We're gonna be going up that escalator where we had the run in with all them bugs.

" He saw the archaeologist swallow and look up the tunnel as if expecting to see hordes of the pale insectoids hurtling out of the darkness at any second. Weis squeezed his shoulders.

"Now, what wiv the big fellah out of commission as it were, I'm gonna need you to do like what he was doing before."

Hobbes dragged his gaze away from the blackness to look at Weis quizzically.

"Wh... Erm, what do you mean?"

"Well, I'm going to go on a bit in front with old Joanna here." He lifted his rifle so Hobbes could see. "So what I need you to do is to keep your torch shining on me all the time see.

That way I can concentrate on what's up ahead without 'avin' to worry about anythin' creeping up behind me... cos you'll be watching out for me, won't you?"

Hobbes thought about it, realising that by doing what the ranger suggested it would mean that Weis and his rifle would be between him and any danger from the hideous ticks.

He nodded enthusiastically.

"I can do that Ranger. I won't let you out of my sight. I promise."

"Good man," Weis said, patting Hobbes' shoulder. "Good man." Then he pulled Hobbes down to head level so that he could whisper. "The thing is though Mister 'Obbes.

" Weis melodramatically looked over his shoulder at where Ellie and Professor Hill fussed around Gregor. Then he turned back and pulled the archaeologist even closer.

"The thing is, it would be better if you didn't keep your weapon pointed at me too, 'cause then the others might start thinking that you actually expect something to be behind me." Weis smiled.

"An' we don't want them two ladies getting all jumpy now do we?"

Hobbes was listening very carefully and eagerly agreeing to the logic of Weis' words.

"Yes, yes. I see. Don't you worry Ranger. I'll do my bit."

"So, no pointy pointy with the gun Mister 'Obbes. Okay?"

"Oh absolutely. No pointy pointy. Erm, what if I do see a bug."

Weis used the same voice he used when one of the Gu-Nar walked into camp one day with one of Weis' carefully laid, and still very much armed,

booby traps proudly hanging from a thong around his neck.

"If you see a bug, and it's going for me, I want you to shout very loud. What I don't want you to do is to try and shoot it." He waged a finger in front of Hobbes' nose. "Okay?"

"Okay, got it. Erm, what if I see one and it's coming towards me?"

Weis looked at Hobbes unblinkingly.

"You feel free to blow its bloody 'ead off Mister 'Obbes."

Right. Yes. Got it."

"Good man." With a last pat on the archaeologist's shoulder, Weis turned back to the rest of the party.

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