Chapter 13: Between

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The world beneath the planet they'd landed on was a dead place.

Allan studied the rock walls, ground, and ceiling around them as the others disembarked from the speedship and established a perimeter. They turned on no lights, as their suits' visors provided appropriate light-amp filters, bringing the area into stark, sharp contrast. So far, there was nothing to indicate anyone having ever been there, human or otherwise, but Martel had assured Allan that the enemy camp was just over the next rise, dead ahead.

"Anything?" he asked.

A string of negative replies came back over their comms network. "Let's move out then," he replied.

They set off towards the rise, not wanting to waste any more time in this place than they had to. There was something about it. And it wasn't just the fact that they were underground, far from civilization, on an airless, dead world. What worried Allan was that the place didn't feel entirely dead. More like a corpse that still dreamed.

Allan hurried up, cresting the rise, gun in hand. He stopped as his head broke the top of the rise and offered him a view of the area beyond. The walls of the tunnel spread out and away, creating a large cavern. In the center of the cavern, at the base of the opposite side of the rise, he spied the Rogue Operations camp.

It didn't look too good.

"Carefully, slow and easy," Allan said as the others joined him.

The group slowly made their way down the rise of rock, spreading out to make a smaller target in case there was anyone in those buildings looking for a kill or two. But Allan felt that they were alone, at least for now. He swept the camp with his eyes while he had a good view of it. It wasn't very large. Just a collection of single-story, boxy, prefabricated structures. They had been arranged in a circle, leaving an empty, open space in the center. As they drew closer, Allan spied signs of damage: bullet holes, broken glass, bodies.

They reached the edge of the encampment and spread out, moving among the buildings, the blood, the bodies. Allan chose the nearest structure and stepped in through the door. It looked like it had been ripped open with sheer force. Held within was what appeared to be a barracks-style living space. Beds were triple-stacked along the walls and the only three doors in the back led to bathrooms and shower areas. One of them was coated in freeze-dried blood. There was so much of it that it seemed as if someone had detonated.

Allan finished up his search and moved on to the next structure, this one a cramped mess hall. He moved among the field of metal tables and benches bolted to the floor. There were ragged holes in the exterior wall, offering a dim view of the rocky surfaces outside. He checked behind the serving tray line and in the small walk-in freezer, still finding nothing but blood and spent shell casings. Before long, he and the others had picked over the camp and found nothing to indicate what had come through and so thoroughly killed everyone.

The team met at the command module. An auxiliary generator was still chugging along, providing a minimum of power to the structure. Allan and most of the others stood guard while Genevieve looked over the computers, trying to piece together whatever data that was left. Allan moved to stand by Callie out in front of the broken structure.

"Any ideas?" he asked.

"I'm not sure. It looks like brute force did this, but...there doesn't seem to be any return fire, and the only bodies I see are Rogue Ops personnel. My best guess is that there's something native here, something they woke up or disturbed that they really shouldn't have," Callie replied.

"How could it be native? There's no atmosphere," Allan said.

Callie shrugged. "We've seen weirder things. How can shadows jump inside of a man's suit and take away everything that isn't bone in a nanosecond?"

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