Sighing, Jennifer straightened up, again feeling vulnerable without any kind of real weapon. Taking another quick look around, she hurried over to the nearest door and opened it up, stepping through into an outer office area. Again, the room was empty, untouched, a little cold. She began picking up the pace, moving through a few offices and finally coming to the primary security center. She'd spent a lot of time here, trying to discern this mystery. It, too, was empty. Most of the far wall was taken up by one large screen, with an array of smaller screens to either side of it. A half-dozen workstations were spread out along the peripheral of the room.
One of the screens was registering severe distortion.
She was at least familiar enough with this room to find the highest priority console and start working it.
Information. She needed it desperately at the moment.
A few minutes spooled out, ticking silently away in the stark glow of the console. Occasionally, she glanced back over her shoulder at the door, at a pair of ventilation grates she'd spotted, her apprehension growing.
Finally, she had it.
Or, rather, she had some of it.
After spending roughly two days exhausting all possible options and getting basically nowhere for her troubles, Jennifer had finally rallied the staff and entered the mines shortly after waking up the third day. On fixed video footage, she watched herself walk through the main entrance to the mine with Winston and four large security personnel. No one else would go with her. There were some cameras in the mines and she managed to track her progress through several tunnels and caverns. Finally, she came to the end of the cameras' range.
She watched herself disappear down one tunnel with her entourage. The tunnel led to the cavern that held the strange alien device. A long while passed. She fast-forwarded the footage until suddenly she saw a flurry of activity roughly thirty five minutes later. Two of the security men suddenly ran past the camera, booking like their lives depended on it. The audio track picked up gunfire, what sounded like a pistol, a lot more gunfire, then...nothing. Suddenly, Winston appeared. He was carrying her slack body. She felt cold, watching her unconscious self being hauled away. A moment later, a third security guard appeared.
He wasn't running, he backed into view, pistol pointed towards something unseen.
Suddenly, there was a blur of motion from the way he had come and then...the footage distorted terribly. Jennifer frowned, playing with the settings, but whatever it was had corrupted the visual data. She thought she heard a scream through the rising and falling static. Then, just as abruptly, the distortion cleared.
Now the guard lay dead on the uneven, rocky ground, facing away from the camera. There was a bloody wound in his back.
Jennifer continued watching the footage for about an hour, fast-forwarding through several segments, slowly piecing together what had happened. She watched Winston seal the mines, then carry her to the infirmary she'd awoken in where a pair of medics had tended to her wounds. From there he'd coordinated with the staff. She watched him ship out almost all of the staff on one of the few remaining vessels and make a frantic call to a contact of his over the comms, from this very area. He and the few remaining staff who'd opted to stay behind waited for backup. It arrived about twelve hours later in the form of a half-dozen Spec Ops personnel.
That's when it got really strange.
Winston led the soldiers back into the mines and the remaining personnel locked the doors behind them on their orders. They tried to hunt it down but it clearly didn't go well. They were in there for an hour or so and Jennifer didn't get a very clear idea of what actually happened...only that there was a lot of death. Whenever something did actually happen on camera, whenever a death would occur, the camera would always go fuzzy with distortion and static. Then, it would clear up, and all that would be leftover was a corpse.
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Alone? (A Shadow Wars Companion)Horror
A companion short story set after Starck's Lament. Jennifer North, after surviving the horror of the zombies and the remnants of Rogue Ops, has signed up with Anomalous Operations. She's been asking to go on a mission, eager to move on and get to wo...