Chapter 60: Tight Hole
“Cybele, any particular reason we are following a tiny robot?” Kate asked staring down at the slowly moving and slightly bent steel box buttering its way along the sidewalk.
A voice chirped out from the radio Cybele had attached to her hip, “It’s the automated seismographic monitor system we discussed. We are going to extrapolate from the data using finite-interval spectral seismic ambient noise, correcting for known sources of interference and the like, to get a map of vibrational hot spots and…”
“Atasi, I love you, but I spent 12 hours yesterday explaining everything about myself in EXCRUITIATING detail” Kate sighed trying not to remember the eternal experience that was the debrief she endured after her talk with Cybele on the roof, “I think that bulldog needs even less sleep than I do, and he would NOT take ‘I don’t know’ at face value. Please forgive me for zoning out a bit at the briefing.”
The voice on the other end stammered a bit sounding flustered, “Ah , well. Ya. Right that. Uh.. w-well we.. are… have you.. uh… when you arrived did you notice …”
Cybele gave an exaggerated eyeroll and pressed the talk button on the radio handset, muting Atasi’s remote connection, and taking over, “To head off this episode of ‘total drama apocalypse’ let’s cut to the chase. There’s been increasing earthquakes all over town, different places, and different intensities. They sent out a bunch of cops to do this with other seismograph kits here and there. Nothing’s come of them yet, but we are looking into it and since I’m a field agent, so they gave me a kit too.”
“You’re just tapping a tablet every time the moving box beeps”
Cybele groaned, “Don’t I know it, but its ‘too expensive’ for a rando and this city is still ‘dangerous’ even though we aren’t going to the infested zones. So, they sent armed people to babysit the box of bolts”
“And they don’t send law enforcement out alone, hence me?”
“Ya. That and I MAYYY have run my normal partner a bit ragged so he’s resting with that kitten of his.” Cybele said with a slight guilty tinge on her voice, “I thought a Military boot would have had more stamina than I do, especially with the leg.”
“You know Cybele, he probably does. Or did. I have more stamina than the norm so given what you…”
Cybele held up a hand, “I really don’t want to talk about that. Enough nonsense to deal with without worrying that I’m ‘changing’ into one of you.”
“Well, we have hours to do literally nothing else but walk slowly behind a moving box… I can’t imagine you want to chat about the passersby any more than it?”
That elicited another eyeroll. They had been at this for awhile already and the small talk that inevitably pierced the eternal boredom was drawing eyes. Initially concerned and curious looks as Agent Cybele Nyx was animatedly talking to no-one. The looks then switched to shock when the ‘no-one’ responded plainly audibly. It had become a very predictable set of reactions.
“Speaking of passersby” Kate continued, “Lots of people out for a robot zombie apocalypse aren’t there?”
“Safe district. Military actually controls most of the city, people can’t leave because enough is infested to make travel a bad idea, but day to day nothing unusual is happening in safe areas. Supermarkets are getting air drops and the enemy hasn’t bothered to go after power or water for some reason so life goes on I suppose.”
“Speaking of I should probably…” Kate trailed off before trotting to a power hookup on the side of a building and placed her hands on it for a feel. The grid itself was lively, connections to the rest of the city pulsed and reported that the city was in pain, but the ongoing sort after a large injury, nothing acute signifying anything new.”
“How DO you do that?”
“Its like I push a part of my ‘self’ into the grid and have a look at how she’s feeling”
“The city’s a woman?”
“Either way that’s not really ‘how’ in a meaningful sense.”
“Ya I know. I don’t know the words. Your language doesn’t have them, and I don’t know any other.” Kate shrugged.
“You shimmer when you do it, like an extra light, but not a real light.” Cybele gesticulated her hands trying to explain, “The sort of invisible light like what came out of that damn portal, but less creepy”
“Speaking of light” Kate pointed at Cybele’s hip, “I think Atasi wants to reconnect.”
“Fine, but lets not send her into another stammering fit.”
“Ya” Kate shook her head and looked at the radio, “Why did she get all flustered? I just wanted her to go easy on the super-techno-jargon.”
Cybele, raised an eyebrow, “You do realize calling out her big words wasn’t what flustered her right?”
Before Kate could reply, Cybele had pressed the button or accept the connection, “This is Special Agent Nyx, field commander of the Irregulars, who is…”
“It’s me it’s me”
“Atasi you would use the proper… ah never mind, what it?”
Kate and Cybele looked at each other, “Pardon?”
“Atasi…” Kate said looking down and bouncing a little, “The sidewalk is pretty solid here from where I’m standing, and I am the one standing on it.”
“Well, there’s a big void under you, a cave or something. Shouldn’t be there.”
“How do you know?” Cybele asked.
“One. They don’t build on big caves, they become sinkholes and swallow buildings. Also Two. I got a geological map of the area curtesy of NGMDB so I DO know what SHOULD be there, rockwise.”
“Impressive” Kate said, “But my sword is not a concrete drill, I can kind of control machines but not sidewalks, sooo I’m not sure what to…”
“Sewer entrance here” Cybele said ripping a manhole cover off its hole altogether too easily for a woman of her build, “Would getting closer help get more data?”
“Probably” Atasi said.
Kate groaned, on the one hand she was becoming more sure that she was right about Nyx which was interesting and exciting news, on the other she was starting to suspect that she might have to crawl down a manhole, which decidedly was not. Anything that prevented her from spreading her wings was an experience to be avoided.
“Must we?” Kate asked.
“I’ll set up a signal repeater, so my radio works down there and call for some supplies.”
“I’m not going down there without gloves and better flashlights than my normal one and my celestial ‘partner’ isn’t going down there barefoot” Cybele glanced down momentarily, “Or for that matter bare… everything. You’re getting a suit on.”
“If I must, Nyx” Kate groaned a bit louder than was really necessary and switched back to more formally using Cybele’s last name. She didn’t like any part of that suggestion. Wearing anything other than her sword made her visible and restricted her movement and basically wasn’t much use as defense given her already impressive resilience. Going underground was also unenviable. “I really don’t like the idea of squeezing into a tiny tight smelly hole.” She said fidgeting uncomfortable where she stood
“Got any other kinds of holes back home you’d prefer to squeeze into?” Cybele smirked, causing Kate to raise an eyebrow in confusion, both at what was evidently a joke she didn’t quite get, and the strange squeak she heard through the radio in response. She’d have to ask Cybele for clarification later.