Chapter 03: Rising Tension

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There had been nothing else in the Search & Rescue vessel.

Jennifer stared at the collection of structures in the distance. Broken glass and polished metal winked beneath the local sun. She felt like she was facing down an adversary. The outpost seemed somehow threatening, as though enshrouded in an air of menace or slow, ominous foreboding. "You feel that?" she murmured.

"Yeah," Genevieve replied quietly. "Something's out there and it's got eyes on us."

"Let's investigate the outpost, nice and easy."

Genevieve nodded tightly. They set off, weapons lowered but ready. Jennifer flipped her rifle to three-round burst. She made herself calm down. Although the scanners suggested otherwise, there could be civilians or survivors in the base and she didn't want to shoot anyone on accident. This was a rescue mission.

The dirt beside the riverbank slowly gave way to grass that went up to the perimeter of the buildings. It didn't really have a set boundary, no fence, not even an edge of concrete. It was just a sort of general collection of single-story structures. She felt dwarfed and confined by the cliff sheers on three sides, dead ahead and to the left and right. They rose easily a hundred feet into the air, boxing them in.

Jennifer quickly reviewed her knowledge of the outpost. It was arranged roughly into a square. Facing the front was a storage bay and the geological office. Left held security and communications, right was the infirmary and living quarters, finally, opposite the storage bay and the office was the power relay. Not much of an outpost and, thankfully, not a lot to search. As they came on final approach, Jennifer saw the damage she'd noticed early in much clearer detail. Two windows along the back of the geological office were broken out and it looked like something heavy had smashed into the back wall of the storage bay, denting it badly.

The pair moved up, as silent as could be, scoping out as much as they could. They moved along the small alleyway between the two buildings and emerged into a sort of courtyard, a large open space between all the structures. Immediately, Jennifer saw a large splash of blood on the packed earth ground. She spied several more broken windows, bullet holes tattooing the fronts of most of the buildings, abandoned weapons and several pieces of metal scattered across the area. She could see no movement.

"Check out the storage bay," she said quietly, "I'll get the geology office."

"Affirmative," Genevieve replied tightly.

As she moved through the open door of the office, Jennifer felt her heart begin to pound even harder. She swallowed nervously, tension singing through her body. Her breathing became more rapid. She stood in the entrance lobby to the building, a small room mostly empty of furniture, and forced herself to relax. If she kept this up, she was going to have a panic attack or something. She could handle this, she could do this.

Bringing her rifle up, Jennifer began to move throughout the building.

It wasn't very large. She cleared a small bathroom, a storage room that held a great deal of coring samples, rocks, and minerals, a pair of offices and what looked like a room dedicated to all manner of rock-studying gear. The place was a mess. Several of the machines meant to study whatever samples they took were ripped up and there were a lot of bullet holes in the walls around them. When she didn't find anything else, Jennifer returned to the courtyard. She stepped out roughly the same time Genevieve did.

"Anything?" she asked.

"No, though it looks like someone went through a lot of crates in there, and not gently, either. I'm thinking whatever hit the S & R ship did the same here."

"What the hell could it be?" Jennifer murmured, again scanning their surroundings.

"I'm sorry to say that I'm sure we'll find out soon," Genevieve replied.

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