Chapter 04: Bits & Pieces

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The entrance to the cave loomed before them, dark and threatening.

Jennifer and Genevieve stood about five feet from the threshold, weapons in hand, staring into the vast emptiness.

"Dark in there," Jennifer murmured.

"Yeah...and something's screwing with my vision filters," Genevieve replied, just as quietly. "In fact..." she raised her wrist and tapped something on the wristpad there. "Something's interfering with my suit entirely."

Jennifer glanced down and checked her own wristpad, running a quick diagnostic. "Me too," she replied. The results that came back inferred some kind of electromagnetic field that seemed to be screwing with her gear. Even as she glanced back up, her head's up display flickered and a small buzz of static washed over her radio.

"We've still got to go in there," Genevieve said.

"Yeah," Jennifer replied in forlorn agreement.

They both hesitated a moment longer, then boosted power to their night-vision filters, made sure their guns were in proper working order and began walking into the cave. At first, there was simple darkness and silence, broken only by their footfalls, which echoed ominously in the huge opening. Then walls began to appear along the edges of Jennifer's vision. The two started to map out the immediate area, trying to determine the dimensions of the initial cavern. It was large, but not necessarily massive. What was a bit worrying was the fact that they came across several more pieces of metal: the discarded husks of salvaged machinery.

They located three openings and two of them had dead light fixtures attached to the walls and ceilings.

"Which way now?" Genevieve murmured.

"Too bad the geologist wasn't very specific..." Jennifer replied, looking between the two openings. She sighed softly. "Let's go this way," she said, turning right, which came more natural to her than left, and set off.

Genevieve followed.

They plunged into a tunnel bathed in darkness. They couldn't even use the metal debris as a trail to follow: both tunnels had the remnants in them. Jennifer led the way, as much as she didn't want to. But, as scary as leading the way was, she thought it was scarier to guard the rear. She could at least see forward. She couldn't keep an eye behind her all the time, and having Genevieve there reassured her immensely.

The longer they walked along the rocky tunnel, the more Jennifer could feel her mounting fear and tension, edging towards panic. Not something she wanted to do. Besides it being plainly a danger to herself and Genevieve, she also just didn't want to seem weak in front of her. The woman was so tough, so strong, so in control of herself. Jennifer tried to draw strength from that. It was difficult, but she didn't break.

She kept going.

Every now and then, a side tunnel would branch off. They stopped and checked down each one, and ran into four dead-ends. Then, after another sixty seconds, they ran into a fifth, and final, dead-end. "Okay, back it up, this one's empty," Jennifer said.

Genevieve nodded, about-faced and began backtracking. At least they wouldn't have to worry about getting lost.

Not yet anyway. No telling what the other areas were like.

"You want to take a vacation after this?" Genevieve asked suddenly.

"What?" Jennifer replied, startled. She'd been staring intently at her surroundings, trying to pick out any discrepancy.

"This is a really stressful situation, and so was Ash. And it's been a long time since I've had a real vacation. I was thinking it might be a nice thing to share," Genevieve replied.

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