"This is it," Eric said quietly, stopping abruptly.
He heard Autumn snap to a stop behind him. They had reentered enemy territory as they'd approached the communications center. Well, honestly, this whole fucking station was enemy territory, but now they were positive that they were nearby one or more of the creatures. It had made their progress tortuously slow. A five minute walk had taken closer to twenty as they stuck to the shadows and paused every dozen steps or so, listening intently, straining their ears against the white noise of the base for signs of alien life.
But he heard nothing...for the moment.
They had at least made it to their destination.
The communications bay was towards the center of the facility, not far from the control tower they'd seen when they'd been flying in. He figured that if they ran into any troubles here, that would be their next stop. Eric began going over procedures and fail-safes as he hit the access button and watched the door slide open. As he stepped inside, his mind came to a complete, crashing halt. He felt a groan of sick misery escape him.
"We're fucked," he muttered.
"What...oh goddamnit," Autumn whispered harshly from behind him.
The comms shack, a small room, about the size of his cabin aboard the Liberation, was utterly, thoroughly, wholly trashed by what seemed to be brute force. Consoles, terminals, and workstations that lined the room were shredded with claw marks, huge holes punched through screens that now bled blue-white sparks or registered nothing more than static or dead, flat darkness. The whole room had been so thoroughly ruined that there was nothing left to fix. To Eric's appraising technician's eye, he figured that everything would have to be completely ripped out and replaced. Every piece of equipment, every bit of gear.
"They did this intentionally," Autumn said quietly. "What the fuck are these things? How are they so smart!?" she moaned.
"I don't know...but we need to get to the control tower now."
"What's the backup plan?" Autumn replied as they left the room and began making their way down the stark passageway.
"There's still a possibility that we can gain access to the primary communications node, or even the auxiliary one. Just because the comms room itself is trashed doesn't necessarily mean we're out of luck. And even if both of those arrays are trashed, we can still find and launch an emergency beacon. It will transmit on all frequencies, asking for help. We won't be able to actually talk with anyone, but it should grab someone's attention at least."
"Wonderful plan," Autumn muttered.
"Yeah, I know. It's all we got for now. But with the two arrays still possibly active, we still might have a chance at active communication. Of course, even then, even if we do get into touch with someone...it could be awhile. Though, Jensen did inform command of our situation. Of course, it'll take another..." he checked his chronometer and sighed. "Another eight hours before we miss our next check in and they scramble assets to us. But we're pretty far out here. Fucking goddamnit," he growled. "I hate this shit."
"We'll make it," Autumn replied firmly.
They both walked another few meters before, suddenly, they heard a sharp, dry inhalation of breath coming from somewhere ahead. The pair of them froze. Another one was nearby, practically with them in the corridor.
They needed to hide, now.
Eric looked around frantically and his eyes fell on an open floor panel with a toolbox and work-light next to it. The maintenance crawl-ways! Not the best place but it should suit their needs at least for the moment. He grabbed Autumn's hand and pointed. She nodded quickly and they hurried as quietly as they could across the corridor. Autumn dropped down into the crawlspace first and as soon as she was clear, Eric crouched and lowered himself into the opening. As he did, he heard a warning sound coming from somewhere.
YOU ARE READING
The twelfth novel in The Shadow Wars. Eric Starck is a man adrift. After fighting in the Systems Wars that ravaged the galaxy, he's spent the past three years drifting from one job to the next, never quite feeling comfortable. The latest in a long l...