Chapter 10: The Collapse

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Trent felt anticipation welling up within him.

Everything that had happened so far just seemed to make the mystery grow, piling question onto enigma on top of curiosity. This research base, nestled on a field of ice on a planet at the absolute edge of known space, seemed to be nothing but cryptic questions. As they rode the tram to the first of three research structures, Trent examined a myriad of potential scenarios that might explain just what, exactly, was happening here.

There were always rumors of biological weapons research going on in the shadier departments of corporate academia and the government R & D programs. Though that usually meant things like viruses and strength or vision enhancement chemicals, it had, occasionally, resulted in bizarre, twisted caricatures of human beings.

Trent had heard lots of horror stories of experiments gone wrong. He'd heard a story of some kind of super-soldier with machine guns for hands and armor plating going berserk and killing almost everyone in the facility before finally getting taken down. Not to mention that old horror story from the previous century about an apparent cure for a new lethal disease that turned its test subjects into unstoppable killing and eating machines. If someone hadn't set the power reactor of the facility to overload, it would have spread to a whole planet.

Those stories were on the fringe of possibility. Trent took these tales with a grain of salt, believing that it really could happen, and it may even have happened. But then there were the totally out to lunch stories about awakening a hibernating race of killer aliens or unleashing some kind of nightmare from an old Cyr site.

He didn't really believe that stuff.

But what the absolute fuck was happening here? None of this shit made sense. It was obvious that this was some kind of research facility, but how in the name of God was the corporation creating these nightmares cast in flesh?

He wasn't sure he'd get a genuine answer if he somehow managed to make it out of this place. Sharpe wouldn't be forthcoming and anyone that actually knew anything was probably dead now. Trent decided that, somehow, someway, he was going to get answers. Even if he had to force the issue. Hell, he was probably going to have to kill Sharpe anyway. She didn't seem like she was going to let them leave here alive.

The tram slowed to a halt.

"All right, everyone up and out," Sharpe said, coming back from the front.

Trent thought that her voice was beginning to break a little, the stressful wear-and-tear of the mission starting to show through the cracks. There was still light-years to go, though, and Trent felt pretty confident that the woman would carry on with her mission one-armed and blind if she really had to.

They all stood up and filed out of the tram, into the now familiar loading bay. Blood on the walls, but no bodies. They moved to the tram station itself, finding even more signs of chaos and bloodshed. Instead of a door on either side of the room this time, there was one large set of double doors at the front of the room.

Sharpe led them right up to it. She hit the access button and the doors slid open. Trent wasn't prepared for what lay beyond the aperture.

Everything he had seen so far had been human-built. Corridors of steel, glass windows, bland carpeting, light-strips. But what lay beyond the open doorway was entirely inhuman. A broad, open room of sharp titanium white that, despite it all being one color, was thrown into incredible detail. A soft amber light filled the room, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere. There were no support pillars.

The group took a few tentative steps into the room.

Trent kept looking around, his shock obvious and blatant. High overhead there was what appeared to be a hole in the ceiling. A perfectly spherical one. And yet, no snow escaped in through it, they couldn't hear the wind and there didn't seem to be any telltale signs of an exceptionally cold environment.

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