“It’s awfully dark in here,” Josie murmured unhappily. “I can’t feel the sun at all.” Or the trees, or the wind. There was a breeze, at least.
“But it’s rather warm,” Peter countered. “Or at least constant. It’s not a case of no solar heat, then, a burn-out planet.”
“It’s…” Aerich looked around disdainfully. “Rather dirty.”
Josie turned to look at him, trying not to laugh. He got so bent out of shape when he was laughed at. And, to be fair, the place was rather dirty. Untouched-feeling, stale, and the dim light only made it seem more so.
“Xenia and I will scout,” Cole declared, to no-one’s surprise. Xenia and he scouted, like Peter read instruments and Alexa Opened. Like Josie Knew. “You guys stay within a block of here, and see what you can find out.”
“Got it,” Alexa answered, crisp and professional like the suits she preferred. Josie smiled to herself, even though this world was making her a bit uncomfortable.
“They’re kind of cute, aren’t they?” Peter whispered, in a voice only for her ears. “G.I. Joe and Action Figure Girl?”
She swallowed another giggle. “They are,” she agreed, not admitting just how cute she could find them. “So, Science Man, why don’t we do our own exploring?”
She realized from the warmth suddenly coming off of him that there was more than one way to read her suggestion, and from the heat inside of her that she wouldn’t mind either one. But they were both professionals, of a sort. She cleared her throat, ready to backpedal. “That is…”
“We explore this world,” he agreed, rescuing her. “And then, later, perhaps…”
“Later.” She could hear his smile in his voice better than she could see it, but she could feel her own stretching her lips. “For now…” She dropped her mat on the ground and sank into a lotus position, hearing Peter move away, his instruments beeping softly to him, sending out an eerie glow.
Slowly, the glow faded from her awareness, and the beeping, Aerich and Alexa pacing out a perimeter, Peter reading the emanations of the world. Slowly, her senses stretched outwards – the Door, behind them, in a sturdy metal archway meant to last. Around the doorway, a building, still standing, tallish – about seven stories – made mostly of metal and stone. Around it, a block of similar buildings reached to slightly shorter heights.
She stretched further, tasting the dust in the air, the abandoned feeling of this place, the suggestion, beneath all the dust, of not quite abandoned, as if someone had left the light on, planning to come right back. Feeling Cole and Xenia, skulking around like thieves in the night. Feeling the edges of their world, a tall structure somewhere above. A roof. A roof above the entire city.
“We’re in some sort of created cavern,” Peter said at the same time. “And it seems like there’s another such pocket directly above this one. And above that…”
She stretched her senses, reaching for the power of the ground under her, reaching for the sunlight. “Ah,” she moaned, as the life and bustle and sunlight! assailed her, pressing in on her, talking to her in words she couldn’t understand, pushing into her. “And above that is the city.”
“Indeed,” he agreed. “Above that is where the people are.”
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