Summary: Gray and Tan finally run into some good luck, literally.
NOTE: This is a very rough draft with no editing at all (per National Novel Wiriting Month rules) and is presented for amusement value only. Think of it as a periscope into my writing process rather than a coherent story!
There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing. These snippits are also posted out of order, so please refer to the Outline to figure out where it’s supposed to fit.
Lost and Found
After the inital shock had passed, Tan set about investigating the door while Gray took stock of their inventory, which wasn’t much considering they had been on a day hike and not an extended search and rescue mission.
There was, of course, the basic survival kit that they took wherever they went, but it was meant to last the fourty eight hours needed for anyone to find them. The world was much smaller now, than it had been and rescue was only ever a helolift away.
“I don’t like it,” Tan sighed as he came out of his data processing zone, “but we have to keep going. We can’t get a signal out and the chances of them finding a way in before we starve are too low to stay here.”
“Did you want to run the numbers again?” Gray asked, absently poking the barrier in the hopes it had randomly vanished while Tan had done his number crunching. “We might have left something out.”
“Nothing that would move the probability curves enough,” Tan stood up and stretched, turning an already large dog into a giant wave of grey and tan wiry fur. “So we go.”
Gray was polite enough not to say ‘finally’ as she got to her feet, but it had taken an hour for Tan to finally work everything out to the point where the dog was willing to continue down the tunnel. It had been a very frustrating hour, but Gray knew better than to try and force Tan to do anything.
Gray had a flashlight, but since they didn’t know where they were or how long the darkness would last, she opted to let Tan lead the way instead. The human half of search and rescue teams wasn’t agumented like the dogs, humans hard turned out to be signifigantly harder to ‘upgrade’.
Tan might not have wanted to head into the tree, but once his nose was down and he was on the scent trail his doggier instincts took over and after a few minutes he was wagging happily as he trotted down the wooden hallway.
Gray kept one hand on the wall, to steady herself, and focused on following the lights in Tan’s collar. All the communications telltales were orange, but she kept an eye on them in hopes that whatever was blocking the signal thinned out enough for them to get through.
Gray wasn’t used to being out of contact with the rest of the world and although she found herself drawn to continue further down the tunnel, she was uncommonly nervious. Gray’s were the least regimented of the population, besides their hair and eyes their bodies and minds were left to chance— altough there hadn’t been a Gray born yet that wasn’t good at thinking outside the box.
Then again, it was thinking outside the box that had gotten them stuck inside the tree, so she was starting to doubt her own impulses, which was a first. And very disconserting.
‘Follow, follow, follow,” Tan was muttering happily to himself and Gray was too distracted to scold him for not minding his vocalizations. Tan was a prototype, something new that they were beta testing. Beyond the seizures, he was a genious at his job, and Gray was hoping for another when he came up for retirement.
Tan was so lost in the scent that he turned a corner and colided with a woman coming the other direction. The pair went down in a tumble of fur and curses, although Gray didn’t reogcnize the language.
“Sorry, sorry,” Tan scrambled to his feet, backing away as the woman bolted upright and backed away with an angry look and angrier cursing.
“Sorry,” Gray held up her hands palm facing the woman to show she was unarmed, Tan hopped behind her, looking as apologetic as a dog could manage. “Can you understand me?” Gray asked, trying to calm the lady down.
There was a pause, the woman tucked the last escaped lock of hair back into her braid and gave the pair a wary look. She said something that sounded similar in tone and question, but frowned when Gray shook her head and shurgged.
“Anything you recognize?” Gray asked Tan quiety.
“No, nothing even close.”
“This is bad.”
The woman snapped her fingers to get Gray’s attention and then pointed down the tunnel with a questioning look.
“Yes!” Gray nodded hopefully, “Can you open it?”
The woman made a shoing motion at them, back towards the door.
“We can’t get out.” Gray objected, “Can you open it?”
The woman huffed, frustrated.
“Ah, here,” Gray turned and made a show of pushing on the wall, then turning and pushing against open air. “Won’t open. See?” She looked back at the woman hopefully.
This time apparently she’d made sense because the woman nodded and this time guesstured for them to follow her deeper into the tunnel.
The tunnel itself ended a few turns later, opening into an enourmous open area easily a mile wide with various walkways and buildings piled on one another like a five year old had played at city designer.
All of the materials look odly organic, wood but not wood, with steel and copper that melded into and around it like vines. Gray and Tan both stopped at the sight, taking a moment to look around them and then up to what Gray could only assume was a vaulted ceiling curving seamlessly into the horizon.
“This isn’t a tree.” Tan pointed out, “I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t a tree.”
“Yeah,” said Gray softly, suddenly overwhlemed by the wrongness of it all. She could feel Tan shaking beside her, but thankfully it was fear instead of a seizure.
“Yul’tik Vesta,” the woman said, an arm wave encompasing the whole of the scene. She looked at Gray and Tan expectantly, then guesstured encouragingly.
Gray caught on after a moment and repeated what appeared to be the city’s name. “Yultink—”
“Yul’tik” the woman cut Gray off, polietly but firm.
Gray tried the ‘tik’ sound a few more times, then looked down at Tan for help.
“Yul’tik Vesta,” Tan repeated duitifully and the woman grinned happily at him. Gray decided not to try again, lest she manage to say soemthing horribly insulting in whatever language the woman was speaking.
The dogs ability to parrot her apparently meant good things, because the woman continued leading them into the city, this time with colorful and enthusatic commentary in an language neither of them could follow.
“This has been the weirdest day ever.” Gray whispered to Tan.