Greg rolled the jeep slowly to a stop as they made their final approach on the colony. Ahead of them, the exterior wall loomed. It was a good forty or fifty feet high. To Greg, it looked more like a penal colony than a support site for research staff. Had someone known something ahead of time? Or was it just this place that had made the original staff and builders extra paranoid? Either way, it was obvious that they weren't just going to walk in. But he'd suspected as much based on the schematics he'd studied up on.
The real question was how difficult it was going to be to get in.
"Keron, watch our back," he said.
"Affirmative," he replied, standing up and then leaning against the frame of the open-roofed vehicle, his huge rifle in hand.
Greg and Jennifer departed the jeep. They'd come to rest about ten meters from the main gate to the colony and, immediately to the left of it was the security checkpoint that housed the controls for operating said gate. Immediately, Greg could tell that it was trashed. Most of the windows were peppered with gunshots, turning them opaque and milky with dozens of impact sites and cracks. He saw a good deal of blood sprayed up against one window in particular. Not the best sign. He kept his finger on the trigger as he approached.
With Jennifer backing him up, Greg came around to the entrance. The checkpoint itself was a low concrete structure that more resembled a bunker than anything else. Although it made his job a bit easier, he was unhappy to see that the door had been forced open. It was half into its recessed niche in the wall and the odd, pallid light that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere spilled into the room beyond.
"Watch my back," he muttered as he peered cautiously in through the opening.
Nothing good awaited him inside. It looked like a group of maniacs had gone completely psychotic within the confines of the checkpoint. When he was sure there was no one inside, (there didn't seem to be any obvious places to hide), Greg stepped in through the half-open door and moved slowly deeper into the room. He canvased the area slowly, trying to gather details from the wanton destruction that surrounded him. The left wall was mostly made of a glass and steel grid of bulletproof windows that occupied the top half of the wall. Below this was a row of workstations that had been smashed, battered, shot, and bled upon.
The far back wall was taken up almost entirely by a bank of security monitors that were dead and blank, offering him no new information. Most of them were cracked or outright shattered as well. The final wall housed a row of broken-open gun lockers and a pair of workbenches. There was a great deal of blood. It was everywhere: on the walls, the floor, even the ceiling, and certainly across all the equipment.
But no bodies.
Never a good sign. It always meant something truly fucked up was going on.
Among the wreckage, however, Greg did spy a sparking security terminal tucked away into one back corner, between the monitors and workstations. It wasn't exactly untouched, but it looked intact enough to possibly still function.
"Find anything?" Jennifer asked from the doorway.
"I might have. Hold on."
Greg crossed the room, doing his best not to step in the pools of blood. The smell coming in through his vents made him especially cognizant of the stuff and he felt suddenly uncomfortable with the idea of placing his foot in it.
It seemed almost...disrespectful.
Getting to the terminal, he tried to turn it on. It spat a jet of blue-white sparks at him, making him jerk slightly, then the screen flickered weakly to life. Working quickly, he began navigating what he could, trying to bring up the gate controls. Unfortunately, after a few moments, he determined that it was simply out of the question to open the gate from within this bunker. Luckily, after a bit longer, he managed to discern an alternate route. When he figured it out, it almost made him smile. Almost. He turned around.
YOU ARE READING
The thirteenth novel in The Shadow Wars. At the edge of explored space sits a desert world known only as Ash. It supports a minuscule population of miserable soldiers, technicians, and scientists. Why are they here? A year ago, a deep space governme...