"Yes, I just thought...I saw...nevermind. Let's just go."
As Greg severed the connection, Drake found himself staring at the maze spread out before him. There was definitely something wrong with it, and it wasn't just the fact that along the peripheral of the crater he could see the edge of the blood storm, it was something...that he couldn't quite tell. He was too far away to know.
He wasn't sure he wanted to get any closer.
But he had to.
"Come on," he said finally. "Let's get this over with."
His shoulder was really killing him. There was nothing that could be done about that. With worry and dread filling him, he crested the edge of the crater and began marching down the steep incline of ashy earth, towards the maze. None of them spoke as they descended into the eye of the blood storm. Unfortunately, Drake reasoned, he imagined that this eye would not be calm. The blood rain had been unnerving, but nothing had actually happened to them. This though...he couldn't help but feel that something was waiting for them.
The huge collection of shapes began to come into focus as they drew closer. It looked like there was a maze of narrow alcoves making up the perimeter of the area and then, beyond that, was what almost looked like a colony: roads and buildings and courtyards. Finally, in the center was the gleaming glass and steel core, the research site itself. It was the only thing that looked normal, the only thing that looked human, and as a result, Drake found himself wanting desperately to get to it, if only because it was something recognizable in this world of sudden twisted insanity. Unfortunately, it meant going through the maze.
A prospect that was made infinitely more horrible the second he realized what it was made of.
"Holy shit," Eric whispered as they came close enough to the exterior wall to see that it was made of...human flesh. It was bolted to a framework of bones.
"C-come on," Drake replied. "We have to keep going."
"We have to keep going, Eric," he said firmly.
"He's right," Parker murmured quietly, staring intently at the wall. "Is this really human flesh? Or is it some kind of imitation? Maybe-"
"Not right now, Parker. Come on," Drake said, and he set off into the maze.
The others followed him in.
As he stepped inside, an unholy shiver rippled through him. He looked around, rifle raised, hunting for a target, something to shoot at, anything to take his mind off of this psychosis. But there was nothing save for walls of tough skin and the ground, which was made up of some kind of weird green gravel. It made him somehow uncomfortable in a totally different way than the skin walls did. He picked a direction at random, there were just two ways to go, and went, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that the others were following.
They looked awful, like some kind of bloody metal monsters torn from a nightmare, but they were there, alert and ready to fight if the situation called for it. He led the pair of them down to the end of the tight corridor they were in and took a right, trying to get to the center of the maze. The next alcove was a lot like the previous one, though there were more openings. He ignored them as he made his way to the end of the next alcove and turned right, kept walking and then took the first left he could, keeping the direction of the research site firmly in mind.
It wasn't easy, but it did seem possible.
Seconds bled into minutes, and suddenly Drake found himself turning into an open courtyard. He stopped in the entryway, checking the corners, but it just looked like a simple four walls and a ground of ugly green gravel. There was another entrance directly across from him. It looked like an entryway to the mock city.
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...