Emiray looked over at Professor Gray and then back at Omar. “I suppose we should get going soon. Keep up the good work Omar.” Omar beamed at the praise and gave her what might have been a salute before motioning to his robot and head off in another direction.
“Professor Gray, do you want to rest a little longer before we start heading back up to the surface.”
“What, now?” He glanced at his watch before saying, “Shouldn’t we stop for the night. It took me two days to get down. This seems like a good place to stay after all.”
Emiray nodded, she could expect his professor to continue going if he had been walking all day. “Alright, although it should probably only take us a day to get back to the University District. Omar probably took the official paths but since I know this sector better then him we should be able to make the return journey much faster.”
Emiray moved over to R08 and pulled the blanket roll off of him and slipped the blanket out of the waterproof bagging. She glanced over at Professor Gray and tossed the blanket to him. “Here you can use that. I usually isn’t very chilly in the sector so I will be find without it.”
“No really, I couldn’t. This is your blanket, I can’t just take it from you.”
“The head engineer would be annoyed at me if I didn’t help any guests, besides I don’t usually use it anyways unless it is cold.”
Having gotten his agreement Emiray moved over to one of the cubbies in the wall and slide inside, making herself comfortable. R08 followed her and sat down next to the outside of the cubby. After a few seconds his eyes began to dim and then moments later they went out.
Professor Gray stood there is silent for a minutes watching the girl sleeping in the cubby. He had never imagined that any of the Belly engineers would be like her. She was young, too young, for the job. She could be any more then fifteen, maybe even younger. Yet, Omar had treated her with a great deal of respect and said she had been an engineer longer the he had been.
Gray had had a chance to speak with Omar at length on their way down. Some of their interests have overlapped, engineers knew a great deal about repairing machines and that wasn’t that much different then making them. Gray had gotten several new ideas about how to change his mental resonance chamber from his talks with Omar, resolving several electrical issues that he had been struggling with. If Omar thought of his girl as his senior then how good was she at the job.
He stood there hesitating. He slide his hand inside his coat pocket and touched the cold metal of the weapon had had hidden inside there. If she had kept Harold’s possessions then she must have the Euclidian Key on her somewhere. It would be over in an instant and then he could be able to easily recover the Key. Sure, he would be blamed for it since Omar knew he was with her but if it was for the greater good…
No, he released his grip and pulled his hand out of his coat. He moved over to the other side of the passageway and stretch out as best as he could, wrapping the blanket around him. If he dealt with her now then it would be virtually impossible to escape from the Belly before being caught. He would need to wait for them to leave before doing anything.
The Belly, Sector 36
Professor Gray woke up to the smell of something… cooking? He rubbed his eyes and scrubbed his stubble before sitting up and looking around. Emiray was sitting next to a small pot which was sitting on a small electric stove. Gray stood up and went over to the stove and sat beside Emiray. He didn’t really know what to say, it somehow felt unconfortable to watch somebody several decades younger them him cook.
Emiray scooped up some of what seemed to be a mix of mush and stew and handed it to him along with a spoon. “Um, thank you.” He said thankfully. All of the food that he had eaten with Omar had been on the go, Omar never seemed to stop long at any one stop and it had just been dried meat and stale biscuits with him.
He took a spoonful and tasted it. The flavor was fairly bland but it was warm and that made it good enough. He paused for a second while he was chewing. “Is there fresh meat in this?” He asked, quite puzzled.
Emiray nodded, “I managed to get lucky this morning before you woke up.” Gray continued to wait, hoping for a little bit more of an explanation, maybe of what type of meat this was. Eventually it became apparent that Emiray wasn’t going to elaborate and Gray decided that it would probably be better if he never found out what type of meat it was.
They had finished breakfast and had traveled several hours before Emiray stopped and knelt on the ground. She stuck out her hand and pressed her finger into a puddle of strange yellow goo. R08 moved up need to her and examined the goo with her.
“IS THAT…” Began R08 before Emiray said, “Yes, Rob, I think it is.” She rubbed the goo between her fingers, feeling it carefully. Gray moved up behind them and leaned over.
“Is something the matter?”
“Shush… be quiet.” Said Emiray and she glanced around, looking for anything out of place. Beyond the puddle of yellow goo nothing was out of the ordinary. She dropped her hand down to the belt strapped around her jumpsuit and pulled out a large knife. She spun it in her hand until the point was facing up.
“Quietly, walk over to the wall and keep for back to it.” She instructed Professor Gray. She however didn’t move, except for her eyes which flickers back for forth across the corder looking for the almost imperceptible flicker that should be there.
Gray began obeying her order, backing slowly up until his back was against the wall. “What is it? Is there something out there?” Ask Gray, fear beginning to tinge his voice.
Emiray didn’t waste the motion to nod. “Yes, somewhere nearby is a Black Crocodile. We can’t proceed until I have found it or am certain it isn’t around.”
“What do you mean? Wouldn’t a black crocodile be easy to spot?” Asked Gray, the light of curiosity beginning to flicker in his eyes. Strange things always made him interested and once he was interested he could stop asking questions until he had everything figured out. “And why would there be a Crocodile here in the first place.”
“Quiet” whisper Emiray as she tried to concentrate. “Black Crocodile is a misnomer. It is actually just a big lizard, more like a chameleon then anything else. They are practically invisible, blending in almost perfectly with their background. Dealing with one of the is said to be like fighting a crocodile in the darkness, thus the name.”
“I’ve never heard of them before, such a creature couldn’t possibly be natural, could it.”
“I once heard that they were an experiment in the University District that managed to escape. Some of them found homes down in the Belly. Even so they are rare and most engineers have never encountered one before. Several engineers have even died dealing with them.”
“Have you encountered one before.” Said Professor Gray, cold ice running down his spine. Suddenly he was very worried. All his work would be for nothing if the Euclidian Key was lost down here with their deaths. Their bodies might never be found if they died here.
Emiray didn’t respond. She was too busy concentrating on her surroundings. If she wasn’t giving it her full attention she would miss the almost imperceptible blur that showed itself when the Black Crocodile moved. Everything was silent for one long instant when she could only here the dripping on water.
Then she saw it. It was only for a moment but she saw the slight blur at the joint of one of the pipes where the type of the pipe change. Emiray didn’t waste any time. She took three long steps and plunged her knife forward. There was a feeling of pressure and the red blood began spilling over her hands. The thing began to trash under her but she released the knife and took several long steps backward.
Now that it was flailing wilding in near death it could be clearly seen. The lizard was at least three feet long with razor sharp teeth. All of the tiny scales were colored almost perfectly with the pipe it had been crawling along however with the rapid movement the illusion of invisibility was gone.
Emiray waited for the thrashing to die down before stepping back to the Black Crocodile and pulling her knife out of it. Now that it was dead the camouflage had stopped changing. There was a large sigh of relief from Professor Gray who took several steps away from the wall and stood next to the lizard corpse.
“Well, you manage to get it. Good job. Nasty thing isn’t it, and quite big. I can see why it is called a Black Crocodile.” He wiped the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his shirt.
“No, it was small. They are usually twice as big as this one.” Emiray’s concentration hadn’t wavered for a second since killing the Black Crocodile. This one had been small, it must have been a young one. Did young Black Crocodiles say with their parent or parents. Emiray didn’t think they did but that was different from knowing and she couldn’t take any risks when dealing with a Black Crocodile.