"Yeah . . . but you're stuck here, baring an emergency."
"This is an emergency." Ogly piled up pillows and leaned back, as close to sitting as the splint would allow.
Ebsa bit his lip . . . and stepped over to the fab and punched in the code for red wine. Stood where Ogly couldn't see what he was doing. He topped off his tube of joy juice, and dripped a bit back into the glass. "Since you're off duty. Not that you're going to get much of a buzz off a glass of wine . . ."
Ogly sighed. "How the hell do you get a fab to make wine? I swear, you are the oddest damned Teamer, ever." He took the glass and sniffed dubiously at it.
"How the hell can this knowledge not be part of the unofficial culture of Teamers?" Ebsa grinned. "I also know the code for really bad beer. Remind me to write them down for you."
"Whoo! This is good stuff!"
"Probably all the feel good pain killer spells Paer put on you. Don't try dancing around the room. It's actually barely mediocre, as wine goes."
"Hey. Well in that case she ought to bottle up and sell those spells."
"I'll tell her you recommended that." Ebsa jumped down and stepped over to the trailer
It was full of grumbly scientists who wanted out. "You've killed them all. Why didn't we have that powder?"
"Because no one knew they swarmed like this?"
Paer looked around from their comm station. "I sent Ogly's scan to Dr. Atly, he was duly impressed and said there was no rush to bring him back. Wxxo was there and said since there were so many more bugs here, you and I staying for a bit was a good idea."
"Good." Ebsa caught Yeahza's eye. "Shall we clear a space where we can work on the tires?"
"Good plan." He fairly leapt out of the trailer.
"Do you know how to do a push?" At his shaken head, Ebsa demonstrated. "It's just a small rectangular shield, like a bulldozer blade. You just push it ahead of you, barely off the ground." They shoved the dead insects out of the area between the trailer and crawler, and the ute. Swatted flying roaches that attacked them. Then rolled out the wheels and got to work.
They had both vehicles back in working order before the sun was high enough to drive the remaining insect into cover.
Paer marched out with a glass holding the dregs of wine. "Honestly, Ebsa, giving wine to an injured man! Now take this and put glyphs on all the tires and the whole ute."
Ebsa opened his mouth to say something about Ogly not being drugged . . . shut it and got to work. His fingers tingled a little, and Paer looked really, really, good and maybe they could evict Ogly . . . Did she notice that this wasn't just any wine? Or did she think I was smart enough to only use an illegal substance in life-or-death situations?
He used the last smears of the wine on the trailer's new tires, and rinsed the glass out.
"So, the ute can carry eight if you're feeling really, really, friendly?" Ebsa eyed the group. "Perhaps some of us ought to stay . . . "
A babble of indignant refusals cut him off.
"Right. Well, can the crawler get to the site? No? Well, then . . . "
With the back open and Ebsa, Paer, and Vee dangling feet over, it worked well enough.
Ogly was happy to stay and watch the camp. He appeared drunk. And happy.
"It was only one glass! Honest!" Ebsa winced away from Paer glare. Right, I remember feeling amazing after just one drink . . . well, there were a few more sips, here and there. I wonder what the alcohol content is, or if there's something else at work?
He braced himself as Yeahza swerved around heaps of bricks and stones, barely cleared ancient roads, eroded and collapsed here and there. Pipes? Or just washed out naturally? Sink holes?
They rarely exceeded a walking pace, but all the scuttling in the foliage was scuttling away, not toward them.
Ebsa rocked as the ute stopped abruptly.
"Look at the size of that thing!" Yeahza sounded appalled.
Ebsa craned his neck but couldn't see past the others heads. Something greenish . . .
"Bufo Alvarius!" Professor Coffee yelped.
They flinched and ducked as one. A shadow overhead . . . the frog touched down, turned enough to cock an eye at them, turned more, mouth gaping . . .
Ebsa threw up the rifle and started shooting. Vee hit it with the shotgun, Paer's 10mm joined in . . .
The frog collapsed.
"Yeahza, drive on. Please." Ebsa tried to scrape up some humor . . . "Unless anyone wants frog legs for dinner? They're fresh."
The ute jolted forward.
Paer elbowed him. "Behave."
Vee leaned around her to eye Ebsa. "He was kidding, right?"
"Probably. But don't count on it. He loves to cook, and I have witnesses him eating some really gross things."
Ebsa grinned suddenly. "You do realize that we're trapped in a Grade B Science Fiction Flick, don't you?"
That got a few snickers.
"Yeah, saw that one. I think they did three sequels before they ran out of absurdities. And they never did learn a thing about special effects." Yeahza slowed and turned. "That's where we're going, dead ahead."
A dome of rubble, almost a small hill. A building collapsed in on itself. Half a kilometer of rough terrain between them and the dome.
Ebsa eyed it. "It looks almost like it fell in large slabs, and could have free space underneath. And you noticed the radio static burst while you were tracking down a weak magnetic pulse?"
"Yep." The professor climbed out and stared at the dome.
"Right. First we're going to have a very good look at what we're dealing with. Especially we're going to see what is supporting what. We can remove a lot of the loose rubble, and see where the support looks reliable, and then remove rubble from underneath." Ebsa paced up to the building. "The foundation looks intact on this side."
"That going to take too much time."
"Collapsing the overburden into whatever space is in there and crushing that possible working machine would be very unfortunate for your career." Ebsa eyed the old man. "Not to mention the career of the poor fellow underneath it all."
Professor Coffee scowled. "Yes, well, we shouldn't have sent Ogly in so quickly. But we thought, just a quick look . . ."
"Right. Yeahza, you and Vee go that way around, with half the archeologists, Paer and I'll go this way with the other half."
Ebsa and Paer each had a shotgun slung across their backs, and the rifles in hand. Yeahza, roughly the same. Vee had only the shot gun . . . and lots of shells. He took one of the sacks full of bug bombs, Ebsa carried the other.
He studied the ruins carefully, how material had fallen, the glimpses of long slabs that could roof over spaces below, areas with lots of big roaches boiling out . . . He threw bug bombs onto the rubble pile, aiming for the crack the majority seemed to be calling home.
"Where are they all coming from?" Paer raised her gun, but the roaches were dying fast.
"There must be space, under the rubble. One! I really hope we don't need to go in through a big roach nest." Dr. Rich tried to peer into the crack from a safe distance.
"Yeah." Ebsa eyed the crack, jagged, twenty centimeters wide. enough rubble underneath that they could probably clear out space to get under the slab . . . Good thing I don't have claustrophobia. They walked on, noting possible entry points, and met the other group eyeing an almost vertical gap between two slabs.
Yrahza looked over at them. "This is where we went in. The earthquake . . . we ran for it, everyone got out safe, then that damned rock rolled down from the top, bounced off the edge up there and hit Ogly's leg.
Professor Coffee nodded. "We had to pry it off him." His eyes drifted back to the gap. "We couldn't find a way deeper in. We were going to clear the rubble, see if we could find a way to go further down."
Ebsa pulled power, and concentrated a small ball of light. Visible spectrum, this time. He tossed it in the gap, and the scientists all maneuvered to where they could see.
"It turns to the left and drops down . . . " Dr, Ajbo edged forward.
"Don't even think about it, Beau!" Coffee shifted uncomfortably. "I ought to be the one to take the risk."Ebsa snorted. "Nope. This is my kind of thing."