Chapter 5 Slurpy
There was a distant rumble and Dustin and Olivia immediately ducked under an awning of branches woven together. Jake shook his head at their spooked looks, and waved for them to follow him as he ducked into another doorway across the road. No rain seemed to be imminent so they followed quickly.
"It's hard to lose those habits from the last planet," murmured Olivia as they glanced around the new room, looking for Jake.
The back wall of this room seemed to be actual rock, and Dustin wondered if they built the city into the crevasse of a chasm, or if something had happened. Too much damage from time and plant growth made it possible to figure it out just from a visual inspection. Jake was waiting for them by another hole in the left wall. Along the right wall a large fleshy plant lay in a shallow puddle of water.
"Stay away from it. It's dangerous," Jake warned as he ducked into the hole.
Black roots spread throughout the water, holding it high into the air. Its base was a good foot in diameter, and it had a bulbous growth on the surface. It pulsed as if breathing as they got closer, and Dustin wondered if it really were plant, or if it were some kind of hybrid. He was really tempted to get a sample to add to his PED.
"Come on, Dustin. We're not in a race for anything, we'll have a chance to get samples after we eat."
Nodding to himself, he followed Olivia through the hole in the wall.
They climbed more roots and branches, vines and stairway-remains, until they reached the top floor. Glancing back down, Dustin wasn't sure how many floors up they were. Jake pulled a hidden rope, and a part of the wall before them slid out of the way.
Inside were the remains of what had once been a living room. There was a couch in the middle of the room, reduced to rotten wood and springs, covered in a few hides. Along one wall, a T.V. stood on a stand, covered in so much grime that it would be impossible to watch anything if it could work. Against the far wall were two large windows, broken and open to the elements. Dirt that had blown in on the wind had piled up around the windows, and a thick healthy growth of plants occupied that side of the room.
Jake ignored all of it, turning to the right and heading down a hall. He pulled another rope, almost as an afterthought, as he passed it. The door behind them closed, locking them in. Dustin wasn't sure what the floor was made of, but it seemed very stable, despite its age. He wondered if the material the buildings had been made of were the only reason they still stood.
Stepping into the next room, Jake was sitting at a table, grinning and pointing at an actual wood burning stove. Based on the crap shoved into it, he had tried to start it up himself countless times, but never succeeded.
As Olivia started digging it all out with a metal poker she found, Dustin set his bag against the wall, and took the stick of fish. Jake watched in fascination, as he took a knife that was laying on the counter and after cleaning it, began to clean the fish.
"Why do you do it like that?" asked Jake, pointing at the first couple of cuts he had made.
"Well, I don't like to eat fish heads, so I cut them off. Also, these spines and fins don't taste very good."
Jake nodded as if that made sense. When he pulled out the guts, they came all as one single chunk. This fascinated Jake and he carefully examined it before getting a pan from a sink and sliding all of the discarded parts into it. As Dustin finished each fish, Jake would slide the discarded parts into his pan, until it was almost overflowing.
"What do you plan to do with that?" asked Olivia. She was sitting on a wooden stool by the stove, poking the fire that burned brightly in the oven.
"The slurpy gets mean if I don't feed it. It's been a while since I haven't found much to eat. This will make it very happy."
"Slurpy?" asked Olivia, partly amused.
"The monster plant on the bottom floor."
"Why do you call it slurpy?" asked Dustin, pausing as he cut the fish into smaller chunks.
"That's the noise it makes when it eats," said Jake. He started scooting the cut fish into a pan that might have been clean. Then he took it over to the oven and proudly placed it on top of the stove.
Olivia glanced at Dustin and he shrugged. There was a sudden flash of lightening, followed by a loud crash of thunder. Within minutes a downpour of rain lashed at the window on the other side of the room. They all watched it for a moment, until the sound of the fish sizzling in the pan, drew them back to supper.
"Does it rain like that often?" asked Dustin.
"Yea," said Jake, poking around in a drawer and pulling out a large metal spoon. He happily started scooting the pieces around in the pan, and flipped them so often it was a wonder they were able to cook at all.
Olivia watched in silence, but Dustin was having a grand time. He could imagine his own kids doing that someday. He had loved showing him how to clean a fish. Sneaking a glance at Olivia, he wondered if she would ever be willing to start a family with him, but he sighed as he turned back to slide the rest of the fish into another pan. They had to find a home first. This place was great, in that every second was filled with life or death situations, but he wanted a home where he could work on things, have air conditioning, and serf the web in search of ideas. Maybe even play a few video games.
As the fish started to get done, so they could eat, he turned to his bag. He was overcome with the need to tinker. Pulling pieces out, Jake almost fell out of his chair with a strangled cry.
"What are you doing with that??" he shrieked.
"I intend to take it apart and figure out how it works." Dustin showed him how it wasn't active.
Jake moved to the other side of Olivia to finish eating. He didn't seem to care for Dustin's hobby, much to Olivia's amusement. She took over cooking the fish as Dustin became lost in his tinkering.
The programming was spread out throughout the head and chest. He was glad he kept them together in one piece. Carefully removing certain components, he discovered that they were nanobots, too, only a different kind. As he reached for another component, there was a spark and he found himself on the floor, with Olivia over him, shaking him and calling his name.