Chapter 06: The Nightmare Begins

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The tram moved slowly, almost imperceptibly. Trent, Drake, and Tristan were seated in the passenger area, Sharpe sat up front behind a glass door with her back to them, silently working the controls. He glanced over at Drake, who sat still and relaxed, as though he didn't have a care in the world. Tristan, on the other hand, looked paler than she normally did, her pinched face framed by her visor.

"You doing okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I've been shot before," she replied.

"You think we should stop by an infirmary?"

She stared at him, as though uncertain whether or not his question was genuine or he was making fun of her. Trent wasn't sure himself. Okay, well, he was sure he wasn't making fun of her, at least. He knew it was impossible to sleep with someone and form literally no attachment, but he'd gotten it down to a very manageable level. At this point he'd slept with a fellow mercenary and watched her die. After a day or so of silent, internal mourning, he'd moved on.

He'd always found the tough guy act a little humorous. He knew that he put one on, all mercenaries did to some degree, but that didn't stop it from making him smile a little. Trent had come across a great deal of mercenaries in his time, both genders, all shapes and sizes and backgrounds. If he were forced to guess, he'd say that less than ten percent of them were truly without fear.

Hence the tough guy routine.

You had to pretend. When you toted a gun and body armor, that glazed boredom that spoke of 'been there, done that, seen it all and I wasn't too impressed' kind of came with the job description. There were a few variations on it, from Gideon's stoic demeanor to a dozen shades of fury Trent had seen in his life. Stephen was an exception. The guy was a bag of nerves, but he was a tech-head and the same rules rarely applied.

"I don't think so. We shouldn't be here for long," Tristan said finally. "I can wait until we get back to the ship."

Trent shrugged. Fine by him, either way. He glanced at Sharpe. She frightened him. Everything from her small smile that spoke of a perverse delight in violence to her black lens-eyes. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what she might be like in bed. He'd never had an aversion to tall women, or women with muscles. All the rage nowadays was small and petite, but Trent always felt afraid of breaking women like that.

As his brain turned towards trying to imagine Sharpe without any armor on, a loud thud interrupted his thoughts. The three mercenaries were on their feet in an instant, weapons in hand, pointing at the roof of the cabin.

"What the fuck was that?" Tristan hissed.

There were no windows anywhere in the cabin. The doors separating the cockpit from the cabin hissed open.

"What's going on back there?" Sharpe asked.

"Something jumped onto the tram," Drake replied.

They heard several rapid footfalls across the top. For a crazy second, Trent had a vision of a lizard crawling hastily across a rock. Whatever it was definitely had four feet. He raised his rifle, trying to track the thing atop their tram. It moved swiftly, first to the front, then to the back, then down one of the sides.

The tram jolted slightly as it leaped off. Trent was tempted to rip the door open and look back the way they'd come to see what the hell it was. He had the distinct impression that it wasn't human. His mind ran through a quick series of possibilities as to what it might be: some kind of animal or perhaps a bizarre experiment. He'd seen both in his time.

Unless it was something else entirely.

"Whatever it was, it's gone now," Tristan murmured.

"Any ideas on what that was?" Trent asked.

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