Chapter 18: Zero Point

122 16 0

"Looks like we've got company," Billings murmured.

Greg came out of the slight doze he'd drifted off into and glanced out the window. They were making for a rain-slicked landing pad outside Fort Jackson that held a group of almost unnaturally still black-armored figures.

Repairing the communications array had taken longer than Greg had hoped. Kyra and Powell worked until the first rays of sunshine crested the far horizon. The omnipresent clouds filtered the light, turning it mute and gray. He and the others finished clearing out the base, finding a couple of zombies hiding away. Occasionally, Greg had gone to check on his caged Stalker. It stared at him out of the small, unbreakable window with eyes full of inhuman malice. He found himself staring back, trying to figure the thing out.

When Kyra had finished up, Greg wanted a moment alone with her, he wasn't sure why, maybe to apologize, but they'd been called back to base.

They landed. Greg and the others unhitched their safety harnesses and stood, marching slowly down the ramp into the eternal rain. How did it rain so much? This was a desert area, and deserts didn't hold water. He wondered why he knew that, and then thought that maybe the dirt here was simply different.

Four of the soldiers broke away from the group and moved to the caged Stalker, detached the cage from the ship and started toward the base with it.

Two of the remaining soldiers tested the group with quick proficiency.

Greg spoke up. "You know turn time is like five minutes, right? If one of us was infected, we'd never survive the ride back."

"Blood samples are useful," one of them said after a long moment.

Once they finished up, the third, who had held back, now stepped forward.

"Greg Bishop, Kyra Mercer, come with me. Now. The rest of you, I suggest you use this time to eat, shower, get some rest, and be ready for more fighting." The voice that spoke came through the same mechanical filter the first man had sported, but was female. It sent a chill down Greg's spine. The one that had spoken now stared at him, her face hidden behind polarized glass.

"Okay," he managed.

Before long, he and Kyra were seated in a chilled, stark briefing room. The other two soldiers, who never said a word or had done anything to indicate there was an actual human underneath that armor, now stood by the door at attention. Greg and Kyra sat at one end of the briefing table while the mysterious woman took a seat at the front of it. She stared at them for a long moment, still hidden behind her visor.

"My name is Starck. I'm an Investigator with DI. I understand both of you served in the wastelands. Mercer, we have your file, we know where you served. Bishop...there was some kind of data recovery problem. Your file is corrupted. Where did you serve?"

Greg let an uncomfortable moment pass, trying to find the right thing to say, whether or not to lie. Finally, he was reduced to the truth.

"I don't know," he stated finally.

It was then he really hated not being able to see Starck's face. It made him uncomfortable and, he realized, that was probably the entire purpose of the damned faceplate. Hidden behind the visor, she seemed less human and more...something else.

Machine, maybe. Insect, perhaps.

"How's that?" she asked, after a brief pause.

Greg spent the next ten minutes going over the story of how he'd woken up in a red metal tomb in the wastelands, his only company that of the dead. Starck was silent the entire time. For all he knew, she might have been sleeping.

NecropolisRead this story for FREE!