The next ruin they found was a stone tunnel leading down into darkness. They paused so Ellie could eat in silence. “Chirp, I’m sorry about before.” Chirp put a hand on her shoulder and chirped cheerily, “Alright, let’s get to adventuring, Sir Chirp!” He helped her up and they plunged into the darkness. Chirp’s eyes lit the way, and they moved through damp, dark tunnels. There were lines of metal running through deep trenches on the floor, and they followed these far into the system. Along the way they came across a large metal box with a clear front. Inside they could see wrapped bars of something. Chirp managed to pry the box open and they opened one of the bars to find it held nothing but dust. Whatever it had been had decayed over the centuries. It was disappointing, but Ellie laughed anyway and tossed the dust into the air. Chirp tried to replicate her motion, but succeeded in opening the bag in his own face, forcing him to flail about blindly until Ellie cleared his eyes with a bit of cloth. “Ya know, Chirp, I think I spend as much time rescuing you as you do rescuing me.” Chirp clicked impertinently and they started back out of the tunnels. The ground felt damper and they both found themselves sinking a bit in the mud. Chirp clicked nervously and gestured towards the higher ground but Ellie kept going forward. “It’ll be fine, Chirp, the rain is just making the ground moist.” There was a rumbling in the distance and they both paused to listen. “The storm must be heavier, we may have to camp out another night.” Ellie continued on down the tunnel and Chirp followed behind her nervously.
They were almost back to the entrance when the thunder rumbled again. They stopped to listen, but it kept going longer than it should have. Chirp was the first to notice water rising at their feet and grabbed Ellie moments before a flood of water hit. He managed to toss her up to the higher level as the deluge hit and he was knocked over. Ellie shouted his name over the roar and tried to spot him but there was no sign of him anywhere. The water subsided and left her staring down at the empty spot where he’d been.
Chirp sat up as soon as the water stopped pushing him, and looked around, clicking anxiously. He stood up clumsily, water still pouring off of him, and tried to recognize where he was. This was a new tunnel; there was no sign of the path they’d taken earlier. He thought he heard the echo of his name but couldn’t tell the direction. After a few clicks of deliberation he started to follow the water’s tracks back down the tunnels. His progress was quickly stymied by a second set of water tracks at an intersection and he stopped and clicked repeatedly. The flash flood would have taken the easiest route. He tried to search his memory for maps of this building but too much information was missing. He clicked sadly and stood there, staring at the spot where the tracks crossed, trying to think of something.
Ellie had fallen and scraped her knees twice trying to walk on the muddy trail. The water flow was pretty straightforward but she couldn’t be sure Chirp hadn’t been washed into a side tunnel and then wandered off and gotten lost. She scanned the side tunnels at the next intersection but saw no sign of him. “Chirrrrp!” She could hear her voice echo down the tunnels and began to feel despair set in. She didn’t know if water would hurt him, or if he could find his way back. For all she knew Chirp was gone forever; She wouldn’t have anyone to adventure with or talk to about that jerk Darvin who pulled her hair and hit her during the ball game. The sound of fluttering distracted her and she looked up. Weird flying animals she’d never seen before fluttered overhead; they were silent except for the beating of dozens of leathery wings. She watched them disappear around the bend and looked back the way they came. Something had spooked them, but there was no noise. She heard a clicking for a moment and held her breath, but it was just a few stragglers of the strange animals. It was probably just the storm spooking them, thunder was still shaking the tunnels occasionally. The water trail seemed to lead both ways, she decided to head down the path the animals had come from. It was getting darker and darker as she went on, the only light coming from her water-logged lantern. It had been lying, barely lit, a few intersections from where Chirp got washed away, and she had spotted it easily in the pitch-black. Ellie toyed with the wick gingerly, trying to bring more life to the flame. It flickered and nearly went out before she gave up. She called out for Chirp once more, hoping for a reply. This time she heard a strange chattering noise that could have been him, and hurried down the path the strange animals had come from. The light flickered and cast shadows on the walls, illuminating disused pipes and clusters of mold. The noise stopped as she approached and she froze. Something crawled over her feet and making her gasp, and shine the lantern down to see a tail disappear out of the light again. A cat-sized rodent came into the light curiously, then ran past her down the tunnel. She tried to swallow down her disgust and continued on. More rats moved past her, giving her curious looks and sniffs, or ignoring her as if she’d always been there. A new noise reached her ears and she stopped to listen. It was a whirring noise, abbreviated by the occasional click. No animal she’d ever heard of made a noise like that, but then she’d already seen a new creature once today. She pressed forward towards the noise, ignoring the voice in her head that was telling her to run back home. A few false turns later she spotted a light glow in the distance and hurried towards it. The glow turned into two blue beams and she froze for a second. Chirp always glowed yellow, not blue.
Chirp heard footsteps and looked up to see Ellie’s outline freeze, facing him. He chirped happily and took a step towards her; she backed up a step and held the lantern up. “Chirp? Is that you?” Her voice carried a resonance of fear and Chirp stopped, recalculating. He looked down at himself to see if anything was missing or changed enough to cause her to not recognize him, and finally registered the blue glow. He had to concentrate to switch the circuits back to his normal yellow glow. It had been so long since he’d had an emotion switch, he’d forgotten what would happen. Ellie seemed relieved when he’d fixed the problem, and stepped up to embrace him. “Good grief, Chirp, I thought I’d lost you for sure this time.” She paused and looked up at him. “What was that noise you were making?” Chirp hurriedly chirped and clicked an explanation. “Were you crying because you thought you’d lost me?” Chirp paused and finally chirped a yes. “You’re so silly sometimes, you know we’ll always find each other. You’re my knight after all.” She looked around thoughtfully, “I don’t supposed you know where my pack went, do you? Mom and dad will be mad if I don’t bring it back.” Chirp shook his head and she let go of him, except for one hand. “Well we’ll find it together then, alright?” Chirp clicked and nodded, leading the way back to where he’d washed up to start the search.