Drake brought the jeep to a stop a few meters short of the military outpost's perimeter, frowning intensely.
Nothing about this mission inspired joy. Not that he really felt much joy during any of his missions, more of a grim satisfaction, but this...something was seriously fucked here on Ash. The perimeter fence was about twelve feet tall and made of tough, sturdy, menacing metal, topped with razorwire that gleamed dully in the light offered by the impossible black sun. Beyond the fence he could see the base itself.
It didn't look to be in very good shape.
"Come on, let's get inside," he said, bringing the vehicle closer to the fence and then driving parallel to it until they reached the front gate. It was, mercifully, broken open. They wouldn't have to dick with controls or repairs or switches or any of that bullshit. They could just walk inside. They couldn't drive in, unfortunately, but this would have to do. Drake brought them as close as he could, then killed the engine and got out.
"Head on a swivel," he said.
Both Eric and Parker gave him affirmative responses. They still hadn't encountered anything alive yet but this place was just too damned creepy to let their guard down. He led the way through the broken open gate, surveying the immediate area. Ahead of them, dominating the area, was the military base itself, the entire structure probably taking up a good three quarters of the space sectioned off within the security perimeter. In the open space left over were a scattering of supply sheds and landing pads, ripe for the searching.
"Let's check those sheds out first. We'll each take one. Slow and easy," Drake said.
Both Eric and Parker again responded affirmatively. They sounded tense. He realized that he probably sounded the same. He headed for the middle shed of the three he'd indicated. They were lined up and a little off to the right, edging a scorched landing pad that held a scattering of metal debris. Beyond the pad was an entrance to the base itself. Drake listened hard, trying to open his senses to the world around him.
Nothing but the winds and...something else. It was faint, but he couldn't figure out what it was. Whatever it was, it was persistent and ongoing. It sounded like it might be coming from the base itself. Well, he was sure they'd discern that particular mystery soon enough. He came around the edge of the central shed, his rifle ready for action. Sliding around the walls, he came to the door and opened it up. Peering cautiously inside, he found...just a lot of crates, stacked along the walls. The place looked untouched by the conflict.
Drake went inside and poked around for a minute, but didn't find anything of value. He supposed he was lingering because he didn't want to go into that damned base. He didn't want to be here at all. He wanted to leave, but he couldn't and the only way to get through this mission was to just do it, like all the others.
"Anything?" he asked as he stepped back outside.
"Nothing," Eric said.
"No," Parker reported.
Drake sighed, fixing the nearest entrance to the military base with a hard stare. Damn, he really didn't want to go in there.
"Come on," he said grudgingly, making his way across the landing pad. The others followed him. They walked in grim silence and Drake tried to figure out what that noise was. As he drew right up next to the base, he was sure that it wasn't his imagination, that he was really hearing something. But what was it? He still couldn't tell.
Hoping that the door wouldn't open, Drake reached out and hit the access button. He suppressed another sigh as it slid open without a problem. Beyond was a motorpool. The place was a total wreck: half-ruined vehicles with smashed windows and slashed tires, tools and spare parts scattered across a blood-and-oil stained floor. Still no bodies though. As Drake stepped inside, the noise he was hearing coalesced a bit more.
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...