A shower of rust fell on Hesiu just as he inhaled. Coughing and swearing he tumbled out of a vent, spitting gobs of iron oxide. Standing with care to avoid hitting his head on low hanging pipework, he made his way back to the derelict control room, picking up cables and circuitry he had prised from their housing earlier that morning. His head torch flickered. Turning it off to preserve the remaining minutes of light he stepped gingerly toward the faint light of day. Warped stairways creaked at his passage; the sound echoed in the dimly lit space. The cold glow of mid-afternoon fell through cracked security windows, the wire meshes inside of which turning to rust and causing diamond patterns to spread across the uneven flooring.
Hesiu stepped up to an old ransacked shell of a console where he had left his backpack and Thermos, the former of which he filled with his salvages, the latter he emptied into a crude metal tin which he drank from. The strong tea failed to remove the taste of iron. He sighed and looked out of the wide windows at the outside world. Concrete bunkers linked by collapsing walkways and a web of wires crumbled infinitesimally before his eyes.
In a few decades this facility will look like the rest of Helix Strip, he thought. Given a few hundred years perhaps, some green life would appear to cover the grey lichens and ruddy mosses; once the radiation had gone grass, ferns and trees would cover the bones of this power station. Turning from the view he strapped on his backpack, Thermos stowed inside and trekked back to the depot.
He retraced his steps amongst hulks of transformer and relay bunkers, feeling dwarfed and insignificant. A dusty speck in a dead place. He reached the empty depot where his bike lay against a column upon which was drawn a chalk map of the complex. The map was divided into many little squares, a little over a hundred, all told, about eighty of which had a little cross in them. Hesiu picked up the stub of chalk and scored off another square corresponding to the area he had covered today.
His foot tapped in agitation. Only twenty-three more zones to go, he told himself, and he hadn't found what he was looking for. Sure, the wiring and components he'd collected from here were essential to their work, but once he'd cleared out Helix Strip he had no idea where to look next.
He wheeled the bike out onto the service road and took the heaviest salvage from his backpack, zipping them into the saddlebags. The path he took looped in a wide anti-clockwise arc around the station, a good distance from the reactor. He took a right at every turn where the Geiger counter clicked too frequently, and in this fashion eventually reached the dusty highway leading away from Helix.