The floor he lay on was slippery, frigid, the chill seeping in even through layers of thick clothing. Traejan had no choice but to endure it as he crawled and slipped along. New collapses had left less than a meter of headway through the passage – the only route left to the portal chamber. Straining, he reached forwards, shined a beam of light towards the wreckage ahead. There was a space. He grinned, then shivered violently while his teeth chattered. Frost showered again on him, but the floor didn’t shake – this time.
Grin turned to grimace; Traejan gulped down cold air. The claustrophobia came and went, memories of when he was a boy, squeezing through ruins searching for anything usable; anything they could repair, restore, trade.
Keep going Trae. You did it before. You can do it now!
He was only three levels down, still far above the portal chamber. Carefully, he pulled himself along the icy surface, exhaled to squeeze under the broken supports, shivered again. Through, he found the room to stand up again, get away from the heat-sucking floor.
The torch flooded the cul-de-sac with light. He eased himself up, hands feeling cracks all along the wall as he rose.
Heavy breaths coming out in clouds, Traejan pulled out and tapped his transceiver. It had begun to buzz with static. The images on his scanner kept fading in and out. Residual power? Radiation? Or simply a failing battery?
“Increase the power from your end,” he told Kyso over the radio link. “There’s something interfering with the signal.”
Kyso sent it again. The imaging cleared up, then solidified. Heat, he could tell from the graphs – not much – but it was there, burning steadily.
He paused the playback loop.
“You see it, don’t you?” he said, excited, validated. “Something is still radiating heat in the portal chamber.”
“No doubt then.” Kyso sounded excited for the first time since they left the resort.
“I can’t make out the shape though,” he cautioned, pouring ice water on the fire. “There’s no telling what the source may be.”
I’ll find out soon enough.
Looking over again, the plan of the port, confirming his location, Traejan smiled. The main lift shaft was only ten meters in front of him. He could take that all the way down to the bottom, all the way down to the portal chamber.
It was deep, dark – but brightened by his torch, looked clear of dangerous obstructions as far as he could see. Traejan carefully tied his rope, clipped it to his belt. He made especially sure that the ledge wasn’t sharp in the slightest. One fall down an elevator shaft was enough for a lifetime.
Kyso called again, to remind him of that. Traejan swore.
“Yes, I checked.”
“It’s better to be safe Trae,” the old man advised.
“Next time you call,” Traejan warned. “It’d better be for a good reason.”
Did the man think he wanted to die in a place like this?
Traejan turned around, tested the line, pulled it taut, gripped it tightly through his gloves. Then he stepped backwards, and over the edge.