Bodil, Ellie and Gregor stood and looked at Weis while Hobbes paced up and down looking unhappy.
“No.” Bodil said after a few seconds. “I don’t recall that she did, say, how big they were.”
Hobbes chose this moment to stop his pacing and join the conversation.
“I’ll tell how big they are…”
Weis rolled his eyes and shook his head but didn’t interrupt the archaeologist.
“… One was washed up in the estuary a while back. It was over six metres long and had teeth like that!” He held up his hand with thumb and finger stretched as far apart as they could go.
Now Weis interrupted.
“It was a four metre long adult male an’ they only get that big in the water. Ones that live in the ground don’t get that big.” He paused, his face trying to make a decision. “But okay, he was right about the teeth though.”
Everyone started shooting questions at the ranger all at once. That is until Ellie held out both arms for silence. After a few seconds she got it. Then she turned to Weis.
“What makes you think these carrion worms are down here? You never mentioned them when we killed all those bugs.”
“I’ll show you.” They followed Weis back to the platform area. “I never said anythin’ about them before ‘cause you don’t normally find ‘em this far away from the river. Even the ones that live in the ground like is pretty softish.”
Weis led them over to the ramp down to the track. He didn’t have to show them anything because it was obvious. Something, something big, had created a half metre wide unbroken track in the dust. The track disappeared along the platform into the gloom.
Ellie squatted down and touched the track with her fingers.
“So was it coming or going?”
Weis pointed out how the swirls at the edges of the track indicated the way it went. Ellie stood up and, together with the others, shone her torch along the platform.
Hobbes stepped closer to the ranger.
“Why do you think it’s gone that way when the dead stalkers are behind us?”
Still looking down the platform for the slightest sign of movement, Weis shook his head.
“No idea mate. Maybe it ain’t peckish right now or somethin’.”
Also not taking her eyes away from the far end of the platform Bodil, too, stepped up behind the ranger.
“How big do you think it is…” Her eyebrows clinched together. “What is your first name anyway?”
“Just call me Weis Proff. It’s less embarrassing.”
Bodil smiled and made a mental note to find out the ranger’s first name.
“Okay. Weis it is. So then, how big?”
“Well. It ain’t an adult, at least not a fully grown one. It might be a big juvenile, in which case we’re probably fucked. Pardon my language. If we’re lucky though it’ll be a young adult male.”
“Why, Weis?” It was Ellie from behind them. “I’d have thought a juvenile would have been easier to kill.”
“Oh it would sweetheart. Smaller teeth, thinner skin and dumb as wotsit. Thing is, if it’s a juvenile then Mummy isn’t far away. Maybe Daddy as well, not to mention three or four brothers and sisters. If it’s a young adult male though, then it’s gonna be on its Jack. Alone.”
Hobbes chimed in.
“When the males stop being juveniles they have to leave or the alpha male will kill them. They hole up somewhere until they find a mate and start breeding.”
“Anything else we need to know Ranger Weis?”
“Oh right, yeah. They’re blind and deaf. They hunt by smell mainly but are attracted by ground vibr… The electric! The busbars hum! That’s why it’s buggered off down that way, it’s investigating the switch room we were in.”
“We nearly went there.”
Ellie’s voice took on a note of command.
“Right then. While it’s busy with that I think it’s time for us to leave.”
Weis was already moving, heading for the ramp.
“Come on Mister ‘Obbes. You’re with me remember.”
Hobbes threw Bodil a dirty look but then followed Weis down the ramp onto the track.
Bodil watched Ellie and Gregor carefully navigate the steep slope. With one last look behind she double checked her pistol then turned and followed.
She wondered if archaeology was like this in the olden days.
((A bit shorter today. Partly because it is an end of chapter and partly because I wanted to do another picture.