They couldn't break the door. Not even when Zed jammed the back of the chair under the gap at the bottom of the door and tried to lever it open. Exhausted, they sat down in the dim green of the emergency lighting inn silence. Zed stared at the wall. "I didn't know there was anyone else here," he said eventually.
"I wasn't always here." Bee replied slowly. "Before, I was...somewhere else."
"What was it like?"
"Noisier than here."
Zed kicked his feet against the wall. Then he stoped, and scrambled onto his knees to investigate. "There's a grate in the wall here, by the floor, look."
Bee felt around the small metal rectangle with her fingers. "So?"
"So, I can see through it to the other side, into another room. We can get it off the wall and crawl through."
"IF we can get it off the wall..."
"I can get it off the wall." Zed said with quiet confidence. He opened the medicase and removed the set of tweezers. He slid the end of one of the squared-off points into the slot in the first of the screws. It slipped out of place the first few times he tried to turn it, but the grip held, and soon he had the satisfaction of feeling the screw getting looser and looser. It toppled out and rolled around on the floor.
"Is that it off?" Bee asked.
"Just the first one. Another three to go."
Zed didn't say anything, but rooted around in the medicase for a bit. When he'd found what he wanted, he tapped Bee on the shoulder. "Here. Careful - the end's really sharp."
He placed a smooth, flat piece of metal in her hands. She ran her fingers along it to the point. "Ow."
The other end's flat so you'll get a better grip." Zed explained. "You can work on this side and I'll do the other." He showed her where the grate was fixed on to the wall and saw that she could find the tiny gap in the screw.
With both of them working, they got on much faster. Bee finished first. Once she knew what to do, she could turn the screws quicker than Zed could. She held the grate in place so that it didn't fall off the wall as the final screw clinked to the floor. Zed put down the tweezers. "You can take it away now."
Bee put the grate to one side and felt the empty space in the wall with her hands. "It's not very big," she said doubtfully.
"It's big enough."
Zed stretched his arm through the wall to the other side and felt around the opening there. Then he edged himself into the hole, twisting his shoulders round to fit through the gap. Once on the other side, he stuck his head back though.
"C'mon Bee, you can do it."
"Course I can," she said huffily, lying almost flat to feel her way through the space and shuffling forward.
They found themselves in a large room filled with open shelving units. All the boxes on the shelves were sealed shut, apart from one. Zed opened the top of it and pulled out a metal can wrapped in colourful paper. He turned it over to look at the base, and passed it to Bee.
"It's a food can," she said.
"They had them at the other place. It's what food comes in."
Food for Zed came three times a day on a flat plastic tray. He couldn't think why food would come wrapped in metal.
"It's to keep it from spoiling. Going bad. Doesn't taste nice. Makes you sick." Bee sounded pleased that she knew more than Zed about something.
"The picture on this one looks like the green stuff they give us sometimes," he said.
"What does it look like?"
"I just said."
"No, I mean properly."
Zed thought for a minute. "They're small and round. And green."
"What does green look like, smartboy?"
"Bright, um..I don't know, it just is."
Bee crooked a finger into the ring pull at the top of the can and yanked it open. She scooped a handful of the contents out and shoved them into her mouth. She held the can out to Zed. "Peas. They're peas, idiot."
Zed took another can from the box and copied her actions to open it. " Mm, this one's sweet." He passed the can to Bee. "I like this one. What are they?"
She tasted the contents of the can. "Cherries. Me too." She held the can back out, but jerked her arm back as they both heard a scuffling noise from the darkness at the back of the room.
"What's that?" she whispered.
Zed peered through the gaps in the stacked boxes. "I can't see anything..."
"Some use you are." Bee got into a crouch and waved at Zed to do the same. They tiptoed round to the other side of the shelves. "What can you see now?"
"It just looks like a pile of blankets. I can't see anything more without going closer." Zed looked longingly towards the door. "I can get through that lock in no time..."
"Don't be such a coward. It's probably just a rat."
"What's a rat?"
"They scuttle. And like the dark. And food. They bite babies sometimes too."
"We should leave it alone then. I don't want to get bitten."
"It won't bite you. Unless you're a baby about it."
Zed didn't know what a baby was, but he didn't want to be one. Bee didn't make it sound like a good thing to be. He took a step closer, and was going to take another when he froze. "It moved!"
"Where? Poke it."
"You poke it!"
Bee sighed. "Fine. Give me something to poke it with."
Zed looked around and siezed on a long-handled brush. "Here."
"Where am I poking?"
He moved the broom into position, and Bee shoved the end of it into the pile of blankets. Something within the pile squealed and scurried out towards them. Bee flailed the end of the broom around, hitting Zed on the knee. He cried out and grabbed the broom handle, jamming the end of it ender his arm for support.
"Did I get it? Where did it go? Can you see it?"
"No, you didn't get it. You got me!" Zed rubbed at his sore knee, keeping a close eye on the thing perched on top of the shelves, gripping at the metal and baring its teeth at them. "I don't think it's a rat though...I think it's one of us." He kicked at the blankets that had been formed into a sort of nest, and revealed empty cardboard boxes and scattered crumbs.
*** *** ***
Dee soon tired of swinging in the chair. The shelves on the walls only held solid blocks of paper all spoiled by black marks. There was a large sheet of clear paper on the desk, and a bundle of graphite sticks, but after he'd covered the first sheet with scrawling marks he got bored and instead fell to exploring the rest of the room.
One full wall was covered with large plates of glass in metal frames, with smudgy darkness beyond. He tried to break through the glass, but it was too strong. He raised a fist, and pulled it back to punch again, but caught sight of his own blurred reflection. He laughed, then frowned, making silly faces that were mirrored in the vast expanse of glass.