When the craft reached their destination, the Neutral refused to land until both Michael and Gabriella submitted to an injection.
"What's this about, where are we?"
"You need protection against damage from radiation. We are in the Chenobyl Exclusion Zone."
"So we didn't quite make it to Russia then."
"No. We are on the Ukraine/Belarus border, near the reactor site."
"What is in this injection?" Michael asked.
"Nanites, retrovirals. All designed to harden and repair the body against radiation damage."
Gabriella looked at Michael. "It's your call, the thread leads right here."
"Then here is where we go. Fine, give us the injection and take us down."
While they waited for the injection to sink in, Gabriella asked Michael a question. "Why would part of you be in this place? Do you have any connection to this place?"
"Not that I know of." Michael replied thoughtfully, "Though if someone wanted to hide something, not many places better than this. No-one comes here, no-one wants too and even if they did, they can't stay for long without severe risks. Modern technology makes cleaning up the place easier, but its a lot of work and other priorities have taken over. No-one likes clean up duty, so it's just been left here to rot. If someone wanted to hide something though, then that must mean that whatever it is I'm missing was stolen and stashed here."
"Stolen? But how and more importantly why?"
"I don't know."
The Neutral began to lower the craft after waiting a few more minutes and soon it was on the ground. Michael and Gabriella got out of the craft after it touched down and looked around. They couldn't feel the radiation but they were constantly mindful of the damage it was doing to them with every passing moment.
"Lead the way." Michael said.
"There's a slight problem."
"I thought we'd already established that wasn't a problem."
"Don't be such an ass Michael. I'm blind, completely. I can't see anything here accept us, the craft and the thread. This whole place is dead."
"What? Like the Crater?"
"No, I can see through the Crater area, like it's transparent. This place, it's like static, like fog. I can't see anything."
Gabriella suddenly felt something touch her arm and jumped, startled.
"Don't worry, it's me. We can do this together. You can be my eyes in the Aether, I'll be your eyes in the real world."
Gabriella nodded. "Okay" she said pointing her hand in the direction the thread was headed. "We need to go this way."
Michael guided Gabriella over the rubble. They had landed near to the reactor in the middle of the town that had been next to it, though he couldn't remember the name. Nature was slowly reclaiming the area, grass was growing, pushing up through cracks in the road, trees grew, albeit it in somewhat strange, twisted forms out from the tops of buildings. It was beautiful in an eerie, desolate kind of way, and deadly too. Rusted metal poles jutted from shattered concrete slabs where parts of buildings had fallen down. As they headed in the direction Gabriella was indicating they heard a distant crack and a rumble as the side of a distant building collapsed.
"It's okay, I've got you. I'm keeping my eye out and keeping us to the middle of the roads. No need to tempt fate."
Gabriella squeezed his hand and they continued on. After a few slight changes in direction at became clear they were approaching a building.
"Gabriella, it looks like you're leading us inside this building here, be careful now." Michael said as he helped her through the crumbling doorway of whatused to be a hospital.
"I'll try. We need to go down."
"We'll need to find some stairs, there is only solid floor here."
Together they explored the area and eventually found some stairs. After some tentative testing they agreed they seemed safe enough and descended into the darkness. Michael activated his implants and shifted his vision into nightvision.
"Michael, why would you be connected to something in a hospital in Chenobyl? What's going on here?"
"I have no idea. But whatever it is, I guess it's in the basement. This is starting to turn out like a bad horror movie. Wandering around in the dark basement of an abandoned hospital. I'm just waiting for the psycho killer or failed medical experiment to lunge out from the shadows."
"Not funny Michael!"
Michael chuckled. "Sorry. Do we still need to keep descending or is it on this level?"
"Deeper still, maybe two floors."
Michael made out a water-stained sign on the wall. According to the sign 2 more floors would take them to the bottom basement. He couldn't say he felt that comfortable about having several floors of crumbling concrete above him, but they were already this far. It was too far to turn back now. The began their descent annew and in ten minutes they were on the lowest level of the hospital. It seemed like it was a storage area, the place was littered with rusted and broken medical equipment and the corpse of the odd animal that had crawled down here to die.
"It's that way." Gabriella said, pointing at a wall.
"There's a wall in our way, we'll have to find a way around." Michael said as he guided her down a corridor and round a corner, nearly blinding himself in the process as his night vision suddenly lit up the inside of his head light a christmas tree. He stumbled from the shock and Gabriella cried out. Luckily he managed to stop himself from falling and steadied Gabriella by leaning against the slimy wall of the corridor. He disengaged his night vision. There was light down here.
In a room at the end of the corridor was a large tank of somekind surrounded by glowing diagnostics panels. As they approached, Gabriella pulled Michael back.
"What is it?"
"I can see something Michael, down where the thread leads. Something's alive down there."
"Well, we came here for a reason. We better go see what it is."
Slowly they stepped into the light.