Chapter 08: The Tension

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"Are we really just going to leave them?" Trent heard himself ask as the tram left the station.

"Yes," Sharpe replied simply, sitting in the little driver's area. "We are."

"What about Trevor?" Drake asked.

"He knew the risks when he came out here."

"You know, I actually don't think he did," Tristan replied.

"Well, I really don't give a shit what you all think."

"How would you like to be left out here? Gideon, Stephen, and Trevor don't deserve that. Sergio might, because God and maybe your corporate exec board knows what he's done in his no doubt long, illustrious career as a corporate dog, but the others don't."

Here, Sharpe turned around. Trent thought it interesting that she'd opted to keep the door between the cabin and the cockpit open this time.

"And I'm sure Gideon and Stephen are squeaky clean, right? Because mercenaries are known for being upstanding citizens."

"We're honest about the shit we do."

"Yeah, until the cops show up."

"Corporate-funded cops."

Sharpe stared at him for a moment longer, her mirrored black lenses as featureless and empty as insect eyes. After a long moment, she turned around. Trent afforded himself a small smile. He wondered if Sharpe had once been a mercenary. It seemed likely. What was her story? Why did she belong to a corporation now?

The tram trundled silently along.

"This doesn't make any sense," Drake said after a moment's silence.

"What do you mean?" Trent replied.

"The creatures...there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to them. I mean, let's consider what we have so far. The lizard guys that have a hard-on for brains. It would have been strange enough by itself, but now we've got those...whatever the fuck those other things are. With the holes in their chests. God, those things are creepy," Drake replied.

"We've only seen just the one of that kind," Tristan said. "It could be unique."

"You really want to go into the next building assuming that?" Trent asked.

Tristan frowned, then shook her head reluctantly. "No, I guess not."

"To make matters stranger," Drake continued, "we've also got a flayed guy. The lizard guys didn't do that, I think, they only seem to give a shit about brains. And those chest-hole guys apparently strip whatever they get their hands onto down to the bone. So what the fuck skinned Sergio?"

"Insane survivor?" Trent asked.

"I don't think so..." Drake replied.

"I guess I just don't want to rule anything out. Remember that job we took at that research outpost? We thought we were going in there to rescue the researchers from slavers or mercs or something, and it turned out they just went nuts?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Drake murmured.

"We should probably just keep our eyes open for anything, coming from anywhere," Tristan surmised.

"Don't forget the vent," Trent said, the memory suddenly coming back to him.

Tristan was looking at him curiously but Drake was nodding.

"When we were in the vent, there was something in there. Didn't get a good look at it, but it didn't feel like any of the things we've encountered so far. It might be the skinner."

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