Chapter 17: In Darkness

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They'd made it down one corridor before the lights suddenly died.

For a second that seemed to stretch into an eternity, they were plunged into an absolute and perfect darkness. There were no noises: not the quiet hum of energy, not the soft respiration of oxygen, nothing at all. Greg even began to feel the effects of weightlessness and realized the gravity was offline as well. Then, before any of that could really take effect, crimson emergency lights snapped into being. The whisper of oxygen filtration came back and the queasy-stomach feel of zero gravity disappeared. The three of them remained still for several seconds.

"What the hell was that?" Duncan whispered finally.

"Maybe something we did during the initial attack and it finally took effect. Or maybe they shut it down for whatever reason, or hell, maybe they were running low on juice and it finally ran out. It could be any number of things," Greg replied.

"Either way, we need to keep going," Kyra said.

Greg nodded and continued on, leading the way. The other two followed in his footsteps. They came to an antechamber and stopped. Greg looked around. There were two ways to go, both doors closed tight and no method of finding out which might lead where. Frowning, Greg finally walked up to one at random and opened it up. The door slid open, revealing another length of corridor bathed in red light. Greg took a step through the door, hoping for some kind of clue that he was headed in the right direction, then stopped as a loud, long scream of pain tore through air. He snapped his gun up, finger on the trigger.

The scream died away, but on its heels came another, someone crying out with complete abandon. Greg swallowed nervously. They never had found out what was on the planet, what had caused all that bloody death, and what had the man screamed over the radio? Something about letting one of them loose in the installation. He'd said something else, too, something about not having any armor-piercing bullets up here.

What did that mean?

Greg didn't like the shape the situation was beginning to make, but what could they do? They needed this place gone. They began walking again, their armored combat boots echoing long and lonely down the passageway. After another five seconds, a third scream shot out, but it was abruptly cut off. Not three seconds later a loud, metallic bang cut through the air. It was followed by another, and another, and several more.

Greg realized at once what was happening. How many times had he been in a situation where he was in a room and something was beating down the door to get to him? Now he wasn't the one in the room. In the crimson-lit corridor, Greg was beginning to become unnerved. It was obvious now that something had stowed away on his ship...but what? They'd been out of contact with the others on the surface since coming up and they wouldn't be able to get back in touch with them until they'd gotten back to their ship.

What had they encountered down there?

What if they were all dead?

Greg shook his head, as if trying to scatter his ominous thoughts. He came to the end of the corridor, which took a sharp, right-hand turn. Looking down this new stretch of metal, he saw a pair of bodies crumpled among sprays of blood about halfway down its length. In the distance, he heard gunfire, more screaming, but it was farther away now. Fine by him, let whatever it was take care of Rogue Ops for him.

They continued down the corridor until they came to stand over the corpses. Just like down on the surface, they'd been pulverized. Armor hadn't seemed to matter. Guns didn't help. As he stood there, staring at the pair of corpses, Greg found himself running through a list of things he could use to kill whatever this was, because it seemed like it was going to cut through Rogue Ops like butter and that just left him, Kyra, and Duncan. But anything he came up with he rejected, because he had no idea what they were actually facing.

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