The Story of the Whos as of 3 31 15.pdf
careful, stay together, and do not disturb anything. I'll take any leftovers and go down the fourth tunnel.
Report back in fifteen minutes. If you're not back, we'll assume you're in some sort of trouble and go
look for you; don't make me have to do that unnecessarily. This has been a good day so far.”
There was some light chuckling as the group began to divide up; Thale walked over to Peter.
“Come with me?” he offered.
“Sure,” said Peter right away. He and Thale had been friends almost since Peter had joined, but
recently he had ignored Peter more and more in favor of the other senior members of the Expeditionary
Battalion. Peter was glad their friendship had not been entirely forgotten.
“Good man,” said Thale with a grin, “Be back.” He set off back into the crowd to find a few
other companions. Peter relaxed a bit, breathing in the damp, salty air. Off to the side he watched Abby
gathering her own group. She was barely two years older than Peter, yet she was already one of Nelc's
lieutenants, and was respected by most of the Expeditionary Battalion officials. Another aspect of the
Battalion that had attracted Peter was the ease of advancement, and he had ambitions. Admittedly one
could only do so much with a high rank in an all-but-unarmed paramilitary unit, but it served Peter's
purposes better than any real military rank. He would be getting weapons training in another couple of
months, anyway. It was required of all citizens, a requirement to graduate from school, to learn how to
use guns that the Wall ensured they would never need. Peter savored the irony, as he always made sure
to each time he thought of it.
From a distance, he realized Abby was quite attractive. Closer up, there was an off-putting
sternness to her face. But from back here, her slender figure barely illuminated by the darting flashlight
beams and the traces of sunlight that still permeated the cave, Peter realized she was pleasant to look at.
Some faint sense of guilt overcame him, but he shook it away. He respected her as well. There was
nothing wrong with a little objectification.
Thale's return startled Peter; he had two others in tow. Peter instantly snapped his head back to
Thale, but he seemed not to notice.
“We'll take the second on the left. Looks most interesting. The writing seems to be all over the
walls, but that one's the exception. We'll check it out.”
The others nodded, and followed Thale as he led them over to the cave. The other groups had
already left, except for Abby's, who was now integrating Galwin and his friends into her group. Peter
smirked a little; if they tried any of their errant mischief around her, she would give them quite a
surprise. Peter had once incorrectly tied a mooring knot for one of the air sloops; as a result it had tilted
suddenly and precipitously. Abby had been in charge that day; Nelc had had more important things to
do. The look she had given him made Peter wonder if he should be expecting a termination notice.
As the writings trailed off, shelves, carved into the cave wall, replaced them. A few pieces of
broken pottery lay on them; in one place was a lopsided pot, tilted at a strange angle. Thale went in first,
setting down a cloth bag as he did, drawing out a magnifying glass, and kneeling on the floor. A few
brown objects were strewn amongst the bits of clay; Peter picked one up between his fingers, only to
discover that it was iron, rusted almost beyond composition. Even in this dry cave, enough moisture had
gotten in to slowly dissolve the metal. He made to set it back down, but it crumbled to dust between his
fingers, and the two halves dropped to the floor.
“Peter!” warned Thale, “We weren't supposed to touch anything! Get a sample bag or something,
don't put your fingers all over stuff.”
A wash of guilt ran over Peter, but he reached into the bag Thale had set on the floor, and
withdrew a pair of tongs and a plastic bag, picked up a few pieces, sealed the bag, then hurried after
Thale and the others, who were already moving on.
The hallway ended in a strange chamber; though perhaps there were more of these, they did not
know what the other groups had found. The chamber seemed to be bathed in blue light, despite no
apparent source. Mushrooms covered the floor, the long tendrils of their thick roots – or mycelium, as
Peter was fairly certain they were called – reaching around the edges of the room. Something like an