Chapter 14

Geared up and suited up, Terna stood in her corner and watched as Roger went back to the rest of his crew. She noticed that the pace wasn’t as frantic as before, as if the weapons and ammunition had already been shipped.

She took a closer look.

Indeed the capsules were no longer filled with weapons, instead their contents now consisted of more ammunition and the telltale vials, syringes and patches that indicated medical supplies.

She growled. It hurt to know that people were taking hits for her while she was waiting around down here, ultra protected and suited.

There was a loud clunk and the echo of a boom. Smoke began to pour out, white and gray, from one of the feeder chutes.

“One of the bunkers is down. Close the vent!” Roger yelled, waving smoke out of his face. 

“Why didn’t they scrap the vent when they was going, hey?” asked a scrappy human kid, looked about thirteen. She cocked her helmeted head, interested in hearing the answer.

Instead there was another boom and a blow of smoke.

“Another fucking one? By the goddamn church, what are they using up there? Goddamn ninjas?”

Terna moved her head to see who was talking and was surprised to see the gray hair of an old and plump grandmother type, dainty spectacles perched on the bridge of her nose and somehow hanging on for dear life despite the chaos around them.

“No. Something is off. Hey, boss man. Crawley? You there?” Roger shouted into his comms, before noticing that the device wasn’t even online. There was just crackle and a hiss. No login, no network.

“I can’t open main comms either!” someone yelled. Terna turned to see a man tapping furiously and a console. “Whatever is happening up there, they’ve got us jammed.”

“Fucking app,” Roger groaned. “We put a lot of morties into our comms protection but they must have outbid us.”

He shook his head slowly. “Why would anyone be worth so many morties?” he asked. His face was clouded over in a mixture of confusion and awe.

Terna weighed the capsules with her eyes, the supply pods through which unit gear was sent up to the bunkers. She estimated the length and width, comparing them to herself.

And then she kicked off, starting to run across the way in an obvious direction towards one of the tubes, her rifle cradled in her arms and the rest of her equipment rattling stoically against her body.

“I’ll go up and check, see what is going on,” she said.

Roger’s eyes went wide. “Wha—? No! No way!”

He made a move as if to intercept her, his arms outstretched and ready — and she juked, watched him fall to one knee, then ran and leapt over him.

“Sorry, Roger. We need to know what is happening. And I need to know if we all need to get out of here.”

No one else moved to stop her and she thought she could make out even a little affirmative nod from the old grandmother. She eyed the tube aperture.

She was just the perfect size.

Diving in, Terna felt the pressure of the pneumatic suction action yank on her suit and pull her up hard. It felt like flying. Up and up she went, in full darkness now.

To her surprise, the helmet of her suit remedied that quite easily, a full cast of floodlights casting out from just underneath her visor. She saw that there were yellow hash marks in the tubes indicating various locations.

And just above her was the ceiling, a sort of trap door hanging open just waiting to receive her.

She clanged against the ceiling, and the door snapped shut.

And a door clanged open. Two confused faces peered in, wearing white helmets with strange little radio antennas sticking out from above each eye.

“Who the hell are you?” one asked, reaching for a holster.

“Hands up,” the other commanded simultaneously.

Without really thinking about anything other than the fact that she didn’t recognize the uniforms, Terna swung her rifle butt around while activating a dose of Strength Battle brew. Her first strike knocked them back in surprise, kicking them away just far enough for her to make out all-white uniforms with gold insignia. But as the battle brew fizzed into her system, her second strike flung them clear across the room.

She hunched her way out of the tube opening, looking out into the madness of the outer world. Roger had said bunker, down below. But what she saw here was simply a ruin. It looked like a giant had stomped through, kicking the side of the reinforced concrete bunker in before stumbling off to do some other madness elsewhere.

Through the cracks and holes she saw dirt; above her she saw the blackness of a starry night. But there flickered orange and red flames, and doom.

And on the floor of the bunker lay the squished, jellied remains of the defenders. The bones remained, but the flesh lay sloughed off in foul-smelling piles that squeaked and squirted.

She stared at them unbelievingly. The BuyMort had come here. One of its demons had done this.

Unwittingly her eyes went to the soldiers she had flung across the room. Both stared vacantly into the ceiling, their necks at strange angles.

They were not good soldiers, she realized, seeing that their faces were smooth and young. About her age, but certainly they’d never been given the sort of training that Wizneber had given her. She sighed and picked her way around, looking for some means of exit.

No, that wasn’t right, she realized. She had to tell the armory to close all of their pipes. At least temporarily. She opened her comms and was surprised to see them working. But when she tried to ping Roger, then Crawley, then Horta and Zell, there was no answer. 

Terna sighed, and grabbed a powdery white chunk of concrete she dipped her fingers in the remains of the defenders and used the goo to write a short message.

Danger. Close the tubes.

She shoved it into the aperture, fumbled around with the controls, then hit the right button. It was the same as the one she remembered them hitting back down on the bottom. Hopefully her package would go through.

Terna left the tube behind, her stage-one strength really pounding through her now, and she examined the wall closest to her. It was cracked and pin-holed all over. Putting both of her palms on it, she pushed, grunting her effort into the arctic air. A solid crack rewarded her efforts. The wall toppled outward and spilled out over the snowy ruinous landscape.

It was the first glimpse of the outside that she’d gotten in a month. She had no idea what this whole thing even looked like. When they’d mentioned bunkers before, she couldn’t imagine what they were.

And now she saw them. They were concrete pill boxes placed with the larger skeletons of the ruins of her people. Around her was the crumpled and burning frame of an old home, but the looks of things. The bunker had been put into the basement, its roof apparently even with the former first floor above. But that floor was well gone to pieces now, just a thin line of it remaining near the home’s edges.

And judging by the echoes and screams, the rest of them quite probably were as well.

She clambered out through the shattered hole and onto the edge nearest the front door, and grabbed a hold of its knob. The knob and the door fell to pieces at her initial turn, and she hunched down, peering around the door frame to the chaos of the outside.

The first thing that registered was that she was on a hill, affording her a horrific but informative view of the battle. Wherever she looked, she was greeted by utter pandemonium. 

In the ruins of the city squads battled squads, some vehicles running support but mostly unable to move and battle freely due to the cramped and cluttered terrain. Overhead, an array of saucer shaped disks flew through the sky. So many that they filled the sky. They were firing rays and beams into energy shields that still rose and sparkled under their onslaught. 

She looked back at the house she knelt in, understanding flooding through. The bunkers were being reduced from above by forces well more powerful than any of them had ever expected.

And they’d done something to the comms. Something that didn’t let the others open them up and send messages.

And yet, for whatever reason, it did not affect her. 

The others couldn’t answer her, but unlike Roger below, she was able to login and send messages.

“NoMort,” she whispered, a thought beginning to trek its way through her. What conclusion it might have come to, though, was lost when she spotted a platoon of men cresting the side of her hill.

One of them, a somewhat pot-bellied man, held up a device and regarded it, then pointed at her.

“No signal! That’s her. Get the NoMort!” he yelled. He wore the same silly helmet that the two in the bunker had been wearing, but his uniform was more distinguished with ribbons of multiple colors in full display on his chest. Behind him were a dozen men, foolishly clumped together and all quite naive-looking and young.

She growled. Whatever the reason these younglings were here to wage war didn’t matter. They were part of those who had kaput her first tribe. And now they were after her second.

“For my village,” she roared, rearing back and slinging her rifle into place. The clear leader of the platoon dove to the snowy dirt below.

The ones behind him were not so lucky. The blast of the XMS-7 tore through three of their silhouettes, bursting each of them into screaming torched flame as it did so. A couple of powder shots rang out and Terna noticed that these ones were using pistols and bolt-action rifles.

Understanding lit her through. The men here, they were from the Storage. Or something like it. They were here without good weapons or training just so they could die and be replaced by more people from Storage.

A sob choked her chest.

“Get out!” she screamed. “Get the fuck out of here. Go back to your tribe! One chance!”

She monitored the figures and saw one leap up and take off running. She heard a curse, then saw the leader of the platoon aim his much-higher quality rifle and fire beams of red at the figures back. It tore through the fleeing Storage man, ending his life all over the melting, muddy ground.

Terna’s visor zeroed in on the man, providing her with the perfect targeting reticule. Small pressures here and there in her suit angled her into the same sight-picture as her last shot, and she felt her trigger release.

The leader’s head disappeared from his shoulders, a shower of cooked flesh splattering everywhere.

“Last chance!” she screamed, tears streaming down her face within the mask. The cruelty of this universe was in forcing her to kill people who didn’t want to be here. And forcing those people to do the same.

They got up and ran. And then one dropped to his knee and took a shot at her, the bullet tearing a gouge into the door frame. She took him in the shoulder, spinning him around as his body burst into flame and torqued him down the side of the hill.

Then she moved cautiously forward to the body of the leader. If comms worked for her, maybe she could call the leaders of this operation and come to an understanding.

Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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