in an alien, demonic dimension.
Worth a try,
He pocketed the walkie as they moved along but left in a single earbud in case it came to life, on the chance that the high walls of the canyon turned out to be blocking the signal.
Ajay shouldn’t be left alone for too long out here. He’ll have fourteen kittens.
Yeah. They came across almost together. We’ll have to hope Nick or Coach found him first.
Will pointed toward the widening mouth of the canyon.
Let’s start this way. I can run ahead and check it out, see if I spot them?
Splitting up at the first sign of trouble in a place you don’t know, yeah, that’s a classic, West.
Okay, okay, we stick together.
Like duct tape on superglue.
They walked toward the end of the canyon that looked like the way out. The glassy surface underfoot proved slippery, almost like ice, broken up every few feet by sharp, jutting splinters of rock.
Watch your step,
Elise carefully touched one of the jagged splinters as she passed it.
These things are as sharp as a razor. Maybe I should just blast the whole place flat before one of us slips and gets impaled.
And announce we’re here to whatever ungodly hostiles might be in the area? That’s right up there with splitting up in the Bad Idea rankings—
Okay, okay. We get one stupid idea apiece. Low profile, play it smart.
We’ll be fine,
But he still felt absurdly exposed, picking their way through this steep ravine. Anyone or anything could be watching them from up in those rocky, broken walls, laden with a thousand hiding places.
Will’s hearing had finally normalized, and he noticed a dull flat buzz in the still air that went right through him, agitating his nerves and compounding the oppressive weight of the atmosphere.
As they walked along, Will tried to transmit a mental message to Dave, as he had many times over the last few months, hopeful that it might be easier to reach him now that they were in the same zone. He waited, tried again, but got back nothing in return. He made a note to send out regular transmissions, every few minutes or so, to see if the channel to Dave opened up.
How big do you think this place is?
It could be limitless. I mean, it’s not a “place” like we know it, in our sense of the word, right?
Elise looked over at him and squinted.
That kind of makes my brain hurt.
They drew closer to the wider mouth of the canyon, where a flat plain that looked like a vast, dry, rocky riverbed opened up ahead of them. The shards of sharp rock gradually disappeared from the lowering ground, which took on less of a glassy finish. Will stopped and blinked on his Grid, curious to see if it would function here. The familiar lines and hues of his enhanced sensory vision appeared, but nothing showed up as a heat signature and there were no signs of life. No small animals, no vegetation, nothing.
A strange thought occurred to him, and he shared it with Elise:
It doesn’t even feel real. Like the whole place was manufactured and they didn’t finish it.
I feel it, too. It’s creepy as hell. I’m really glad you’re here with me. I don’t know if I could handle this solo.
You could handle anything.
She looked away, an expression on her face he’d only seen once before. Eyes downcast, blushing…Had he actually embarrassed her?
“Let’s keep moving,” she said out loud. “They’ve got to be here someplace.”
Elise took the lead, striding out five paces ahead of him. She pulled a long serrated dagger from a sheath strapped to her right leg and held it expertly at her side, poised for action. Will blinked off the Grid and followed her.
“I’ve got a new technique I’ve been working on,” she said, not looking at him. “I think it may be kind of similar to that thing you can do.”
“How’s it work?”
“I send out these short bursts of sound, fast, hundreds of them in a series, and when they bounce back to me,