The door was closed, the push bar mechanism rusted shut. She was able to worm a few vines underneath the door and as they moved up, she felt around. The door handle was stuck. Rust, maybe, or some other form of material. Either way, it was solidly stuck. Huffing, her vines shook as she brightened briefly then dimmed, and she considered just how important it was to get into the stairwell. "Well, if there's a better way out of here, then we'll need it. Right, Amee?" she asked. Amee, for her part, just stared at her.
Feeling something as she traced the outline of the door, she blinked, thinking. It felt like…like…hinges!! There were hinges on the other side!!! And if there's hinges, then she could take the door off of them! It proved harder than she thought, since the pins were rusted solidly shut. Which is when she shrugged, and simply ripped the hinges off at their weakest point, which was more rust than metal at this point. They made a chonk sound as they broke, and Januasai regarded Amee as she prepared to take the door down. Not wanting the noise to hurt the little Terran, she said, "Amee, cover…oh. Ummmm…nevermind."
She mimed covering her ears, and Amee just blinked at her, head cocked. "Here, like this", she said, as her vines pulled Amees hands up and settled them over her ears. "So the sound doesn't hurt your cute little ears", she said. When she let go, the little Terran put her hands back on the ground. "No…no, here", she said, and picked them back up. The moment she let go, the hands were back down. "Amee, please. I'm trying to help you", she said as she looked at Amee and pulled her hands back up.
The Amee didn't understand what The Jane wanted. It raised The Amees hands to its hearing parts, but then made noises and raised them again. The Amee couldn't hear like that, and The Amee wanted to hear. Needed to hear The Moving Food and The Flying Things and everything else. So when The Jane let go, The Amee put its hands down. The Jane became all glowey again, making noises, and The Amee hooted, looking away so the glowey wasn't hurty.
"Oh. Sorry, Amee", she said, ruffling Amees hair with a vine. Amee made this rumbling sound, but simply went back to staring at the door. Roots, but she'd have to be quick. She extruded two small balls of sap, taking a few minutes to let them solidify. Rolling them into what she hoped was the right shape and size, she approached Amee and held them out for her to see as she gently moved her back four feet more. “I’m going to muffle everything with this”, she said, and then she stuck them in Amee's ears, plugging them. Even as Amee squealed and shook her head, matted hair flying as she tried to pull the sap from her ears, Januasai was moving. Ignoring the almost physical need to help Amee be rid of this discomfort, Januasai took three steps forward, and slammed her bulk into the door. A rusty metal door was no match for a determined Affini. Very few substances in existence were. Rusty metal sheared with a tortured scream, and a thunderous crash filled the air as the door flew out of the frame, hit the other end of the stairwell, and bounced to the ground. Creating a few fans of leaves, Januasai tried to clear the clouds of dust and rust particles from the air, as well as the sharp pieces of metal from the ground. Amee was still crouched there, pawing at her ears, in between staring at her and the empty spot where the door was.
“Oh…I’m so, so sorry, Amee”, she said, walking over and taking Amees head in between two vines. The girl looked up at her, fussing, and Januasai was quick to hold her arms down, even as she carefully helped Amee get the sap out, making sure that Amee didn’t eat it. WHICH she tried to do.. “It was to help keep you from getting hurt from the noise”, she explained, even as Amee just stared at her. “And you don’t want to eat that, it’s not going to taste good. Trust me. I’m quite certain earwax tastes bad.”
The Amee didn’t understand what The Jane was doing. First The Jane refused to Open The Blocking Thing, and then The Jane put it somewhere. And put The Sticky Stuff in its ears, so it couldn’t hear but The Amee didn't get to eat, and then opened The Blocking Thing into The New Place. Amee stared, unsure what The Jane was doing, but certain that The Jane was a good The Jane. The Amee scampered forward and moved past The Jane into The New Place. Or tried to, since The Jane blocked it with the rope things and made more sounds.
“Amee, just wait. Roots, I know that you’re excited to see what's down there, but let's at least be a bit careful, hmm?”, she said, carefully walking in first. She was still amazed that Amee had survived for as long as she had. And to be fair, she had no idea how long that was, but it was long. But she was here now, and nothing was going to harm Amee ever again.
Walking into the stairwell was a combination of happy surprise and complete disappointment. The stairwell was intact. It just didn’t go up. Large clumps of lichen glowed on the walls, brightly illuminating the stairs that led downwards. Or what passed for brightly here. The stairs at least looked intact, and Amee hissed as she peeked in and covered her eyes.
The New Place was full of the Glowey Stuff, but it was too glowey. The Jane made more noises, but The Amee didn’t stop. It scuttled down the stairs, as quiet as an itsy-bitsy, then down more stairs. It could hear The Moving Food below, and it sniffed as it perched, waiting for The Jane who was making more noises. The Glowey stuff wasn’t so glowey here, it could smell The Wet, and that was good as it tucked itself into a corner, waiting. It wanted to see what new things were here, but it also wanted to wait for The Jane. Maybe The Jane would want The Not Moving Food.
“Amee!! Amee, wait!!!”, Januasai called, wondering how the little sophont had gotten so fast. OR the fact that she was going down the stairs headfirst and on all fours, which was a new thing. She’d never seen a Terran do that before. And the fact that she was almost completely soundless while she did it, even to her ears…’Well, that’s probably because she’s been hunting things that can hear even better than she can.’ She walked down the stairs carefully, making sure that her weight didn’t cause the stairs to collapse, and when she got downstairs, she was able to notice a few things. The first was that the stairwell had clearly been intended to go further down, since there was a four foot cut out that went further down before it was apparently abandoned. The second was that there was water in the hallway before her. Maybe about two feet of it, but the fact that it was there was a problem. There was water leaking in from somewhere. And that meant that one of those things could be down here. The third thing that she noticed was that this hallway was unfinished. The pipes and girders that made its infrastructure were exposed, in addition to piles of building materials neatly stacked in piles. The fourth thing was that she didn’t see Amee. ‘DIRT DIRT DIRT.’ Januasai moved forward, and then looked around for Amee.
Januasai found the little Terran hiding in a corner. Her body just blended in, the only issue being that her hair was bone white. Not that it mattered in the dark, to be fair. Her eyes glittered in the dim light that the lichen provided as she stared at Januasai. She stared as Januasai gestured to the door, and then sprang out from the corner as she moved over. Januasai still couldn't get over how fast she was. Bursting from inactivity to a full run instantly. She watched as Amee looked through the doorway, sniffing, then lowered her face, looking at the water, looking intently at it. “What is it? Is there something in there?”, she asked as she looked as well.
The Amee looked at The Wet, inspecting it. There were sometimes The Long Biteys in The Wet, and it had to be careful. The Long Biteys didn’t bite deep, but it was a hurtey, and then The Tasty Wet would call more. Seeing a telltale ripple, The Amee looked over, and saw a stack of The Thing in The Wet. Jumping over, it scrambled up the stack of The Thing, and then looked at The Pipe on the ceiling. Crawling and climbing up, The Amee stayed on top of The Pipe, even as The Jane made noises and then stepped into The Wet.
“Amee!! What are…oh. That’s…that’s actually pretty smart”, she said as she watched Amee get up onto the pipe in the ceiling. She had vines coiled beneath the girl, just in case she fell. Stepping into the water, she took a step and realized that there was something in the water. A few somethings, as she looked down. They were long, pure white, had stubby fins that moved quickly, and jaws that boasted what looked like a collection of needles. Teeth. No wonder Amee refused to get into the water. Lifting one up briefly, Januasai could see that they had no eyes, so they must detect prey in some other way. She wondered how many other dangers Amee knew about and had learned to evade. Brightening slightly as she put the wriggling fish back down, she looked around. The rooms were empty, bare ferrocrete and exposed wires and pipes. Clearly, they’d planned on expanding this level before they’d been forced to stop working.
The Amee watched as The Jane walked in the water. The Long Biteys swarmed around it, biting into the ropes that made up The Janes footses. The Jane didn't seem to notice. The Amee crawled on the pipe, using the sideways to see The New Place. They were empty, nothing in them except holes from The Moving Food. A roaring sound could be heard in the distance, and The Amee perked up, looking in that direction.
Januasai watched as Amee kept moving along the pipes, never slipping or losing her grip. Not even when she hung upside down to get around a support. Reminding herself that Amee had years of practice, Januasia began to slide her feet through the water, taking care not to harm any of the fish in the water. She’d seen such fish before, deep in cave systems on other planets. Creatures that had adapted to the dark and to their environment. She could feel them biting, attempting to bite, but their teeth could never penetrate her vines. She wondered, and decided she was going to try to learn how the ecosystem of the cave had been altered by the sophonts who created this bunker, and how Amee fit into that. She wondered if Amee fit the role of apex predator, but then realized that she didn’t. Not when that huge thing, or its ilk, lived in the water and could come onto land. Following the little Terran who had reached the end of the pipe even though there was more hallway to traverse, she looked around..
The Amee looked at the end of The Pipe that it was using to travel. There were no The Thing to climb onto, and it could see that The Long Biteys were in the water, and they would make The Hurtey and The Owie if it went in. Suddenly The Jane came up below it and began to make noise, waving. The Amee cocked its head, unsure what it was trying to do. Again, The Jane made the noises. Ignoring it and the noises it made, The Amee tried to see how much The Wet was there and if it could reach a The Not-Wet place when something grabbed it.