Chapter 22: The Hard Truth

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All around them, the base creaked and groaned.

Water was leaking in from several different locations, though the leaks were slow and most of them were from internal plumbing rather than external breaches. In several of the locations she and Keron were stalking through, the lights were flickering. Some just occasionally, some were strobing madly, giving an already eerie environment an even more ominous atmosphere. Combine that with the fact that the base was now populated by shrieking metal people that attacked anything moving on sight and add in a countdown that no one could accurately measure and you came up with probably the most stressful situation Callie had ever been in.

They'd been walking for close to fifteen minutes now and they'd both expended a lot of ammo on the way to what was hopefully their final destination. Callie was out of grenades and down to just a few magazines. Keron had reported that he wasn't fairing all that much better. Her only real hope was that a swift resolution to this wretched, miserable situation was awaiting them all. As she pressed on, uncomfortable thoughts ground slowly against her mind. She was wondering how the others were doing, what they might be facing.

Was the facility Drake and Eric and their team was at underwater as well? Or was it something completely different? What if Allan wasn't here? Or what if he wasn't at either of these facilities? What if he was somewhere else completely?

What if he was already dead?

Callie told herself again that it didn't help to think and wonder about these things. In fact, it could hurt. It left her distracted. But she needed a break, a real one. Every part of her was screaming for some kind of rest and she wasn't sure how long she could go on. She'd been at it for days at this point, almost literally non-stop, with just a short break in between back-to-back missions of life-or-death situations, one after the other.

Either Allan was here or he wasn't.

She would know soon enough, one way or the other.

More banging was coming from up ahead, and electronic squealing. It sounded like something halfway between the maddened howl of a damned soul and feedback from a comms system. Callie readied herself. Not much farther now. One more fight...hopefully. They turned another corner and stood shoulder to shoulder, aiming down the length of it. The doors that led to their destination were at the other end.

All that stood between it and them were a dozen of Erebus's awful creations.

They had been fighting each other, about half a dozen of the more traditional meat machines and half a dozen elementals.

Not exactly a good combination.

Luckily, they seemed to have weakened each other. The pair opened fire, spraying the hostiles down with a metal rain, punching holes through their mottled flesh and twisted bodies. The meat machines wilted under the lethal barrage of armor-piercing rounds. Two of the elementals joined them. Unfortunately, as the pair of them ran dry and hastily reloaded, they found themselves still facing four relatively intact elementals.

Two were acid, two were flame, though neither of them appeared the remember how to use their special abilities.

Callie and Keron managed to get their rifles up in time for a few good shots. They put them to use and felled another two elementals, but that gave the remaining hostiles a chance to get in close enough to force a melee encounter.

One of them sprinted right up to Callie and punched her in the chest hard enough that it caused her chestplate to crack, drove the breath from her lungs and sent her flying back several feet. She landed on her ass, her vision blurring as she gasped to catch her breath. She barely managed to get her rifle up and into play, squeezing the trigger and emptying the magazine into the elemental that bore down on her. The thing danced and juttered as the bullets punched through its decayed flesh and metal body. As her rifle clicked empty, the creature fell back with a loud crash onto the deckplates. At about the same time, Keron was finishing off his own problem.

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