A shadow enveloped him as he kneeled, scanning the floor and walls of the cave, worn smooth by the passage of wind, water, and time. He turned his head sharply, looking back to the entrance of the cave, where a strange figure wobbled in the harsh chemical light.
'You find anything?' a gruff voice shouted from the entrance, echoing bizarrely off of the cavern walls. He stood and turned to face the entrance, his hands resting on his hips.
'Nothing except your fat head blocking my light.' He shot back acerbically, the shadow quickly disappeared.
'Sorry Ted!' The sound of footsteps approaching announced the arrival of a squat, portly man, whose nose twitched above a neatly ordered but quite large auburn moustache. He had to crane his neck to meet the eyes of the man who had been searching.
'Did you load the lorry?' Ted asked, brushing dust from his knees, the portly man nodded.
'It's all loaded and secure. You sure you want to leave so soon? We can't've searched every cave yet, surely.' Ted sighed.
'The board is withdrawing what funds we had, it's not like we have a choice.' Ted clapped his compatriot on the shoulder, 'no matter, we'll just find another backer. There has to be someone out there still interested.' The portly man harrumphed and stroked his moustache.
'I suppose, though we'll be hard pressed now our beloved King has declared his bloody crusade,' he stroked his moustache, 'knowing our luck the bloody admiralty will be handing out the bond forms as we speak, vampires they are.' Ted sighed.
'You know me, Don, I'm not one for politics.' Don's face crinkled in a smile.
'Aye, that I know.'
'Ah well, let's get this show on the road…' as he spoke, Ted saw the chemlight fall and heard the shattering of its crystalline lens. The sudden gloom sent his senses whirling. Beside him, Don whirled towards the entrance a shout of outrage on his lips. Before he could move, however, Ted grasped his shoulder.
'What's going on?' Don asked plaintively, Ted hissed at him.
'Keep your voice down, was there anyone out there that you could see when you loaded the lorry?' Don spluttered and fretted for a moment in consternation.
'Not that I can remember, it was pretty dark.'
'Shh, hear that?' Ted silenced his friend, straining his ears, he could hear a rhythmic tapping, metal on stone. He tried to think of what it could be, for it sounded like nothing he had heard before, almost like a squad of fusiliers in hob-nailed boots, marching in quick time. As he considered the noise he noticed it was getting louder, coming towards them. Soon he could feel a presence at the cavern's entrance, he squared his shoulders and spoke, gripping Don's shoulder hard.
'Who goes there?' his voice boomed in the dark, the tapping ceased.
'Fear not, brave searchersssss,' the voice hissed, Ted couldn't decipher an accent from it, but it had the sound of a man who had had his larynx torn open, all breath.
'What manner of being are you?' Don asked, Ted could imagine the portly scot's ears reddening as he felt the muscles under his fingers tense. He squeezed again, more to reassure and contain than to encourage Don's anger.
'Why sssir, you wound me.' A few tentative clicks chattered from the walls.
'Stay where you are,' Ted commanded in his most authoritative tone.
'I wisssh only to help,' the voice rasped. Ted felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
'Then give back our light,' Ted shot back. There were a few more clicks and clatters, and suddenly a much brighter chemlight than they had used burst to life, forcing the two men to shield their eyes against the glare. When Ted finally felt he could look he lowered his hand. The light was shadowed by a form unlike either man had seen before, and with clatters and taps, it made its way to them. They both stood in frozen horror as the creature made its approach. The harsh light glinted from the metal of its eight spindly legs, and from parts of its upper body and head.
As it reached them Ted became aware of the fact it towered over even his lanky frame. Attached to the mass of mechanics required to support the function of its legs, a human torso was crudely wired in. Cables and tubes ran from the control box into the man's – at least it looked male – stomach and chest. A glittering crystal optometric enhancement gleamed from the being's right eye, riveted permanently to its skull via a brass skull-plate that covered the right hemisphere of its head. It stooped down to eye level, its eyes shone magenta in the reflected chemlight. Ted almost gagged at the mixed stench of coal oil, metal and putrefied flesh. It grinned maniacally.
'Now gentlemen, ssshall we ssspeak faccce to faccce?'