On forum: 03/22/2007
He Who Dares, Wins - Part III|
Hey guys... Since the contest is over, figured I would post the last part of my story... (It's a bit long, and forgive the minor spelling errors here and there). Hope it's decent... But if not- tear it to pieces... thats the only way a writer gets better.
And thanks to Amoki for getting me into this
Decklan approached the ruined airframe cautiously, alert and ready for other threats. Peering inside, a pathetic and deadly sight greeted him: a shivering and bloodied Anya holding a general purpose machine gun.
“Easy there doc. Lower your weapon.”
Anya eased the gun down. Decklan noticed the mass of gore from the flight officer and eased himself over it, hping to not slip in the ruined remains. Taking a seat next to Anya he removed a pocketlight from aone of the folds of his vest. With a soothing hand he lifted the heavy gun from her lap with a practiced 3ease, setting it on the floor. Anya hands began shaking almost at once. Not surprising really. Decklan had seen this and worse many, many times before. Actually he was surprised at her resilence. Most civvies would usually just clam up when faced with maked aggression. He was impressed.
“Look up for a sec,” Decklan soothed as he gently held her chin with one hand and moved the penlight back and forth across her vision.
There was a slight stuttering in her optical tracking, probably the result of the vast amounts of adrenaline dumping with the truckload into her system. All in all, she was in surprisingly good shape.
“A… A little. My side hurts.”
Decklan gently eased one hand down to her side, deftly searching for swollen tissue; the sign of broken bones. Anya gasped as his fingers danced over a spot on the fourth rib that angrily protested his touch.
“radial fracture of the fourth thorassic rib. You’ll need a compression bandage. Other than that you seem alright.”
“I don’t feel alright.”
“It’s the adrenaline spike in your system. It’ll pass.” Decklan winced. His own injuries bubbled to the surface, sending a reminder that he too was in less than stellar shape.
Decklan leaned back against the hold metal of the hull. There was only two or three millimeters of aluminum alloy between himself and the outside; it was a deceptive sense of security. Infrared, Thermal, VR; they could all see through it with ease. If a sniper was downrange there wasn’t much he could do about it now. There were other things that could tear through the metal skin like soggy paper, but that was deeper in, he hoped.
A flash of butane and a cigarette found his lips with practiced ease. He reveled in the calming but unhealthy effect of the two hundred or so toxic chemicals that flooded his bloodstream. Like that means fuck all here.
“Got another one?”
Decklan fumbled with the smokes and proffered one to Anya. “You know you prolly could have found an easier way to get in touch with me.“
Anya exhaled into the brisk Ukrainian night. “Piss off. You don’t have a clue stalker. We’re in deep shit. And I don’t mean just being in this wrecked helo out in the Zone.”
“You’d be surprised what I’d believe now.”
“Bit of bad luck eh? Join the club.” Anya drew in a long drag from the cigarette; the glowing embers spilling out an orange glow that enveloped her face. She looked almost demonic; par for the course in the Zone.
“So who’s ass did you ream out to get a termination order.”
“Blunt and colorful. Least you guys don’t mince words.”
“No time for bullshyte out here. Got any ideas on who it is?
Anya flicked the smoke against the wall; a shower of sparks cascading down like a mini firework. “Let’s see. Ukrainians. Russians. Americans… Take yer pick. Though, I’ve pissed off the Ukrainian military the most so… That would be my first guess.”
Decklan reached into his pack and held up the ancient data reel, turning it ever so slightly in his hand.
“Don’t guess it has something to do with this little bugger?”
Anya’s jaw dropped; her words were almost a whisper. “You found it.”
Decklan’s eyes bore into hers. He was watching for her reaction to the news – and she knew it.
“Yeah. Right before the shithole was bombed.”
There was a long moment of silence that nearly drove Anya to madness. “Well what happened!?”
“Laser guided bomb. I’d say 500 pounder. They knew I was there. Had a lock on my tracker beacon”
“But- I saw the monitors. Your GPS locator died a week ago. I saw the logfiles realtime. I assumed you were dead. That’s why I came.” Guilt swam across Anya’s face. He was a stalker, but even he didn’t deserve a death like that.
“What’s on this?”
Silence. Anya hesitated. It was her last trump card. Should she even risk telling Decklan what she thought was on the tape? That moment of indecision was all he needed.
Decklan drew his .45 and pointed it at the tape, cocking the beveled hammer. The sound almost made Anya nauseous.
“NO!” Anya screamed, thrusting her hands around the tape.
“Tell me,” Decklan whispered like a devil making a bargain.
Anya nodded and Decklan released his grip on the tape. Anya brought the tape to her belly like a newborn child in a den of lions. She swallowed hard, trying to think on where to begin.
“What do you know about quantum theory?”
“Not a bloody thing.”
Without patronizing, she explained. “It’s at the limit of known physics, actually it’s beyond. Nothing functions like it should. All the physical laws go out the window.”
“Okay, and that means what?”
“You’ve heard of Black Holes right?”
Decklan nodded in recognition, “Hole in the universe. Nothing can escape, not even light.”
“Yeah pop-culture phe-nom. Look, you ever wonder what goes on at the heart of one?”
Decklan lifted an eyebrow. “Can’t say I have.”
“That’s quantum physics. Deep in the infinite density and gravity well of a black hole’s quantum foam.”
Foam? Jeezus what the hell is she goin on about? Decklan mused to himself.
Anya’s frustration was growing. She didn’t feel like explaining first year theory to this jarhead. They never understood anything beyond what others told them to shoot at. Still, he did save her life.
“All the energy and power anyone could ever want Decklan. Think about this: an entire country’s energy needs for ten thousand years, powered by a micro-black hole contained in a six inch space. Or totally unbreakable encrypted communications. I’m talking unbreakable beyond the bounds of our universe based on the uncertainty principle..Not to mention-“
“Okay I get it,” Decklan broke in. “How dangerous is tech like this?”
Anya chuckled at the sheer innocence of his statement. “You’re joking right?”
Decklan frowned, “no BS assessment.”
“Jeezus Decklan!” Best to set him straight. “Lets say the tip of your smoke was actual black hole. If it escaped containment it would burrow into the center of the earth and plop its greedy little ass in the molten core. Slowly, over the course of a few weeks it would consume the liquid core growing larger as it fed. Eventually… Well besides consuming the entire Earth and Moon, the orbital paths of Mars and Venus would be affected by the disrupted gravity well, enough so that in say oh, a million years it would eat those planets as well, violently. But don’t worry we’ll be long gone by then.”
Anya sat back and let the man take it all in. She couldn’t tell if he actually processed what she was saying, but she couldn’t make it any simpler, doing so would be an exercise in frustration.
“That’s what they were doing out here? Why the zone-“ Decklan cut himself off, realizing the scope, “Bloody hell there’s a black hole under us!?”
Anya shook her head. “Honestly I don’t know. The ability to even try and create one is so far beyond mainstream science that I couldn’t say. Might as well ask me to build a god-damned warp drive! That fact alone scares the piss outta me.
What a shit-sucking exclamation to add to an otherwise horrid day. Decklan wasn’t sure how to react. How does one react to something literally earth-shattering? He could think of only one thing: booze.
Reaching in the secret space inside his level III vest, he removed a small black flask and cracked the seal. A sharp smell of oak and ash drifted from the liquor as he took a large gulp, feeing the warm burn as it ran down his throat. He offered it to Anya without looking.
“Single malt. The last thing I would have expected from a Stalker,” she said as the warm scotch touched her lips.
“We can’t all drink rotgut vodka.” Anya handed back the liquor flask.
“So how long do we have, the earth I mean?”
Anya looked at him with genuine compassion. There wasn’t fear in his eyes, only concern. He’d obviously seen too much death up close and personal to worry about something as abstract like the end of the world. Hell, they were sitting in the ruined gore of the door gunner. “I’m not entirely sure they succeeded. We’d have noticed effects long before now outside the zone: measurable differences in earth’s mass; altered tidal forces; screwy weather; all bad stuff that hasn’t happened. At least, not on the scale necessary Thank God.”
“Well that’s somethin’. Never woulda pegged you as an optimist doc.”
“I’m Russian. In my country if you aren’t an optimist by nature you’d off yourself in childhood from sheer depression.”
“Cheery thought.” Decklan took another drink and felt the first signs of inebriation as he imagined thousands of little Russian kids contemplating suicide. Best to stop drinking now. “You know anyplace that can play that tape?”
Anya tightened her grip on the ancient data spool. “I had one back at the base.”
“Well I’d say that’s out. Anyplace else?”
“There might be. How far is Pripyat Polytechnic from here?”
Decklan puffed out his cheeks like a jazz musician, “Six, maybe seven klicks east. Bad grid. That’s a red level area.” Red level area. Off limits to women Stalkers. No one knew exactly why the gender distinction was made, but it didn’t take a stretch to know it wasn’t good, whatever it was. Theories abound of course as they always do. A few brave but misguided women even bucked the warning and went there, probably to show that they had more hypothetical balls than the men had actual ones. Whatever their reasons, not one came back.
“Shit. That’s the only place I can think of.”
“No power obviously.”
“I can rig something from your Landsat laptop. It’s a M2 model right?”
Decklan looked uneasy. “Yeah. But you’re putting a lot of faith in my map-an-compass skills. We drain the laptop and the GPS booster won’t be able to cut through radiation interference. Well be blind to blowout migrations, hot weather current, the whole shit pile. You sure you want to risk that?”
“We don’t have a choice. I have to see what’s on this.”
Decklan rose. “Your call doc, but the cost quadruples. Just layin’ that out there,” he said as he grabbed the cold arm of the dead gunner and began dragging him outside the chopper.
Anya stewed. “Fine, quadruple… What are you-“
“The hounds’ll be back tonight. You want a face to face?”
“Relax doc. They;d have gotten him anyway once we left. Now we can get some shuteye. We got a hell of a walkabout tomorrow.”
“Won’t the military come back? They know right where we are.”
“They will, but not tonight. No one even half-crazy will fly this deep in, going dark. And I know some crazy mother fuckers.”
“Great.” Anya submitted to his rather cold logic and closed her eyes. She knew sleep would be difficult. She found that thought an understatement when in the still of the deep night the hounds returned and began to feed on the corpse.
“Drink comrade?” general XXX offered to the man in the pressed Armani suit. XXX didn’t like the look of this man at all. He seemed monotone, flat with mode of expression; like a banker or accaountant. Yet there was something else there too, a casual indiffence; it was unnerving.
“No thank you,” the suit said as he opened a crocodile leather briefcase and produced a manilia folder. Cracking it open, he began to read: “the situation has reached the rim of the untenable. The Associates have decided to end your service. New methods beyond your obvious defiencies will be implemented.”
XXX slammed his drink down. “Deficiencies. Don’t you lecture me on deficiencies. I had htat bitch here for months and she was kept dark. If there was such concern they should have dealt with her then. If there’s been defiencies, they weren’t mine.”
The man listened to XXX’s tirade with calm attentiveness. “That parameter was discussed as well. You knew several weeks ago that she was seeking compartmentalized information.”
The suit cut him off abruptly and succinctly and handed him one sheet of paper. “That’ll be all. Please sign where indicated.”
XXX fumed. They weren’t gonna hang him out to dry like this. It wasn;t his fault. Hell, they were the ones who screwed everything, not him. There was no way in hell he was going to sign some admission of incompetence. They wanted to take him out behind the woodshed and put two in his head, that was fine, but not the other. He couldn’t live with the other, and would most likely end up doing the deed himself.
XXX grabbed the document and noticed something that set him back: it was blank. The entire thing had not one printed word on it. The suit was now leaning in and curisouly, his eyes were now sparkling with an inner fire. No expression formed on his face, it was as deadpan as ever. Yet the eyes were filled with emotion, a raw hunger like a Lion watching a gazelle. Something extremely odd was going on.
That’s when he felt it.
It wasn’t pain exactly, more a pressure on the small of his back that radiated outward . His limbs constricted against his body of their own volition, regardless of any neural input he sent them; his breathing became hard and ragged as he slumped back in his seat; the very act of pulling air into his lungs was a Herculean effort. A wall of pressure built around his body, constricting and compressing as he began to see stars.
This all happened in the space of a few seconds, yet it was enough time to realize he’d been hit with some kind of deliverable nerve agent, probably coating the blank document he’d so readily snatched in anger from the suit. Classic misdirection. Strangely, he found solace that it would be quick, and that he wouldn’t have to sign some incompetancy form. His end was moments away, yet that fact soothed the flood of terror that certain death brings.
Unfortunately, the Suit still had plans for him.
The Suit took the blank paper and gently stuck it back in his briefcase and then leaned very close to the paralyzed General.
“I get so few opportunities these days… Did you know that CNS tissue has more stored energy per microgram of material than Plutonium? It’s true. Encapsulated in different ways perhaps but still ounce for ounce, the wonderful human biochemistry is most efficient. You shouldn’t sense too much. The enzyme I excrete should dissolve most of your brain and spinal tissue within a few moments.”
Even with the constricting nerve agent attacking his system; a chill exploded down XXX’s spine; he knew the Suit was telling him the truth. His bowles released.
XXX barely even had time to react to the searing agony that drilled through his sinuses. It wasn’t so much the strange undulating proboscis that flicked out of the Suits mouth; it was the overpowering sense of being invaded, raped even, as the strange pinkish alien tube no wider than a pencil bored up his nasal cavity and broke through the soft bone of his sinuses, plunging deep into his brain.
Suddenly the white-hot agony faded, and a wall of cloudiness swam across his vision, much like having too much alcohol.
This must be what it feels like to be an insect devoured by a spider.
It was the last thought his brain formed before the complex arrangement of neurons and neurotransmitters that made up the essence of Genreal XXX dissolved into a soupy mass, hungrily extracted by the feeding Suit.
“Wake up Doc. We gotta exfil before daylight.” Decklan shook Anya with a firm hand.
Anya shot up and jabbed her head against Decklan’s rifle. “Ow! As if I don’t have enough injuries!”
“Quiet! From now on you do what I say exactly. And I mean exactly.” Decklan unclipped his rifle from the 3-point shoulder rig. “You ever had your own boots on the ground in the zone before?”
Decklan handed Anya his rifle. She took it. It was heavy but balanced well. She pulled the charging handle back slightly to verify a round was in the chamber; the weapon was indeed ‘hot’. Muzzle down she kept her finger far from the trigger.
Decklan approved. “You don’t know what a relief it is to see that you know basic rifle techniques.”
“I told you I could handle myself.”
“I guess you did. But words are often coated in bullshit.” He leaned over and picked up the GPMG, readying it for use. They still had two 250 round belts in plastic battle packs. Although grateful to the deceased door gunner for bringing a larger than normal combat loadout, he wondered if even that would be enough where they were going.
“Stay on my six. If I tell you to shoot, you shoot. I don’t care if it’s a child or some grandma with a walker. You put two in the chest. And no automatic fire. Semi only. I want you cognizant of every round you put downrange. Fire discipline Anya. We only have what we carry, and if we run out of ordnance, we’re well and truly fucked beyond belief… Good to go?”
Anya swallowed hard and shouldered the rifle. It felt damn good, even if she was shaking a bit. It was also unnerving to be wearing the dead gunners boots. Decklan had proferred them to her still coated with blood. Stalkers weren’t much on tact. “I’m ok. Let’s get on with it.”
Decklan nodded and stepped out into the brisk air of the Zone. Anya followed behind. Blessedly there was absolutely no sign of the door gunners ruined remains.
The stars were piercing bright vessels, filling up the black, heavenly blanket in a much greater volume than she was used to. With no artificial light bleeding in and cancelling out the million –sometimes billion- year old light waves , it was truly a breathtaking canopy of unimaginably distant nuclear reactions. It was a shame that she couldn’t devote her full attentions. Astronomy was the bride of physics after all, and she had been an avid amateur ever since the Shoemaker-Levy impact on Jupiter. Her eyes drifted to familiar constellations and stars: Proxima Centauri, the Pleaides, Orion, Wolf 359, she reveled watching them all. It was a small familial bond she could wrap herself in anywhere in the world.
“Hey!” Decklan snapped his fingers at her. “Get your shit in the game.”
Anya blushed. She was glad be couldn’t really see his irritation with his NVG;s on. He looked like some overgrown, mutated insect.
Decklan refocused his eyepiece on the road ahead of them. A Small rise lead to a series of abandoned apartments. Drab, rusting, utilitarian and oppressive, they were the perefect example of Soviet era collective living. Decklan kept them off the road and began circling around the apartments. Most likely they were probably empty, but there was no use stirring the hornets nest.
They crept onward, past rusted out hulks of what were once automobiles, but now home to rodents and weeds. Small beady eyes peered out from behind melted axles, follwing their every move with disdain. As Decklan and Anya moved closer, the critters agitation grew; their realm was being invaded once again by two legged creatues, and they complained with chirps and clicks of warning.
Decklan took a knee behind the quarter panel of the closet wreck, sending a family of rats scrambling. He motioned to Anya to watch their rear. She came up swung herself around leveling the rifle behind them.
Decklan adjusted the optical zoom on his NVG’s to maximum and switched to a thermal overlay. He scanned the perimeter of the apartments, searching the broken windows and torn out walls for threats. The green tinted display lit up with small pockets of pink. Not enough for reavers or crabs, probably more rats or perhaps possums. The image wasn’t precise at this range so he couldn’t tell for sure. Didn’t matter though, as their small size indicated they weren’t cause for concern.
“Looks like we’re clea-“
A beam of white laser light blasted against Anya’s forehead. It lanced out of the darkness, back from where they had come, well off into the perimeter of trees some 400 meters away. Decklan froze.
Same shitheel who tried to frag me.
Decklan knew it was the same operator. He had to be ice-cool and fight the urge to grab Anya and haul her to the ground. She couldn’t see the beam, it was invisible to wavelengths the human eye could perceive. But with his Thermal/NVG’s he could see the thermal sight like a beacon.
“What was that?” Anya asked.
“I said we’re clear. Let’s move.” He slowly guided Anya by the arm, praying the operator didn’t have her zeroed yet. If he kept her moving, the shot would be a hell of a lot more difficult. Moving targets always were. Still, it wasn’t impossible, any sniper worth his salt knew range estimation and target lead at distance. And Decklan had a feeling this sniper was good. They moved forward. Decklan took the lead and didn’t turn to face her.
“Anya. Listen carefully.”
“What’d you say?”
Decklan raised his voice a little. It wasn’t the smartest thing to do in the Zone.
“You’re painted. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t move fast; don’t drop to the ground; don’t piss yourself, do nothing except keep walking.”
Anya swallowed hard. She felt a cold vise constrict in her stomach. “Okay…” Her words were pitifully frail.
“We need some defilade.”
Decklan walked forward trying to appear as if he was scanning the horizon; he knew the sniper was watching his every move. What he was really doing was looking for a depression, a gulley, anything they could get behind. They needed something and the rusted cars sure wuoldn;t do a damned bit of good. Unlike all those old movies where the actors would crouch behind doors and not get shot; in real life, live rounds would tear all the way through a new vehicle, much less some ancient rusted shitbucket.
He did however notice something he usually would never even consider: a sewer access point. Even before there was a Zone, sewers were notorious for stories of 20 foot crocs, and other ridiculousness; still there was always an element of truth in any legend. And now with what was running around in the zone, he didn’t need much to imagine what horror would call the cold, smelly confines of a sewer home.
They didn’t have an ounce of choice though. It was either the sewer, or he wasn’t gonna get paid. That simple. Once the sniper realized they knew about him, Anya’s brains would find a new home in the weedy zone grass.
“Anya. There’s a sewer opening that’s exposed twenty meters west. I’m gonna draw his attention away from us. When I do you fucking run and jump in. Got it?”
“Sewer?” Anya said as they continued walking, her muscles screaming at her to run. It took everything she had to stay calm.
“Yes sewer, or would you prefer to let the sniper punch your ticket?”
“Not funny. What are you going to do?”
“Dunno yet,” Decklan said dryly. In truth, he really didn’t know. He didn’t have any flash-blangs; no smoke grenades either; he did a few frags that would kill them just as dead as a sniper round. The phrase ‘shit-outta-luck’ entered his thoughts with alarming clarity.
“Why don’t I just fall in,” Anya blurted in frustration.
Decklan thought a moment. Jeezus that might just work.
“Not bad doc,” Decklan said as he veered them toward the hole. He exaggerated his movements a little; as if he had heard something moving in the distance. He feigned by rasing the GPMG at the phantom threat. “Just walk straight in. Don’t look down.”
He hoped there wasn’t any sharp rusted obstruction or some other unpleasant nasty waiting, but it couldn’t be helped; they were out of time.
Anya exhaled as they approached the sewer. Wherever the manhole cover was, it had long ago disappeared. “Maybe I’ll keep my mouth shut next time.”
Decklan chuckled silently . She did have guts, god bless her. “Be right behind you.”
“You better be,” Anya whispered through clenched teeth as her foot crested the open maw of the hole. There was a swift sound of rushing air and then she was gone.
Decklan immediately dived to the side. He could see the white thermal laser lose its track, then begin searching erratically for him.
A hot burn found his chest as he rolled toward the hole. He tossed the GPMG down, hoping the doc had moved out the way, then dove in after. Pain lanced through his back for the second time in two nights.
He fell into a pile a shit, literally. The only benefit he could see was that the feces was old and therefore dried to a dessicated husk. Thank God for small favors.
His chest and back burned; his bablative body armor had done its job and shed pieces of itself to bleed away the impact energy of the projectile.
He pulled himself up and saw Anya sitting in the dark, clutching the rifle, covered in dried crap.
She glared at him.
“Anything broken besides your cracked rib?”
“Don’t think so. Lucky for us the local critters have been using the hole for a toilet. The shit broke my fall.”
Decklan couldn’t help but crack a smile. “Yeah lucky us.”
“Don’t worry bout it. Can you see?”
“You’ll have to stick close then.” Decklan rose and received a stab of pain for his effort.
“You hit?” Anya asked.
“Yeah, but armor took care of it.” The armor did indeed stop the round, but a rifleman’s sense told him that the shooter had been playing with him, letting them escape. The impacts points were squarely in the front and back of his armor, perfect shot placement. The shooter could have easily put a round through his unprotected face. He was playing with them now and that realization sat about as well with Decklan as trying to masturbate with razorblades.
“I know what’s up there but- I’ve heard things about the sewers…”
“Yeah me too. Not much choice right now. Just stick close, we’ll be fine.” Decklan lifted his NVG’s off. The sewer was almost pitch black. It was no wonder she was spooked.
Decklan pulled out three glow-sticks he had duct-taped together, his last three. With a knife he severed the tape and put two back in his pack. They definitely didn’t want to run out of chem lights down here. With a sharp snap and brisk shake, the tube flared to life, sending an ominous blue-green glow against the round sewer walls. He taped the glow-stick to the receiver of the GPMG. Fortunately, he’d paid for the good ones; double the illumination and life of the regular puke-green ones kids twirled around at nighttime rugby matches.
“Not the best ambiance is it?” Anya mused moving closer towards him.
“Not really.” Decklan checked his portable GPS grid affixed to his wrist. “We’re about a klick or so from the red line. This tunnel is headed east so it’ll probably intersect at the old school at some point.”
“That’s something at least.”
“Guess it is,” Decklan said offhandedly as he trudged up the sewer. He knew she was afraid. The way she griped the rifle white-knuckle hard, and moved it around with jerky movements didn’t sit well with him knowing she was right behind him.
He turned to face her.
“Look at me Doc. You okay?”
Her eyes were wide and dancing around. The stress must be getting to her. That might be a problem. He couldn’t afford to have her clam up; not here. He was used to it. Three wars and a year in the zone had seasoned him to accept stress like a warm coat on a cold day; Anya was naked in a blizzard.
“I’m not sure I can do this Decklan,” she whispered, as if afraid someone else might hear her admission of fear. There weren’t any tears however.
He gave her a warm smile. “Believe me Doc, you’re a lot tougher than you think. The zone isn’t forgiving, and you survived at the crash a long time before I got there. You’ll be alright.” Soothing words, but he wasn’t sure they were enough.
She cracked a half-smile. “A day is long time?”
“It is in the Zone, you bet your bloody arse it is.”
The smile got larger and she spoke with conviction, “thanks.”
“Just watch our six. I’ll take care of anything ahead of us.” Decklan patted the GPMG for emphasis then brought the weapon to low ready and began walking.
The smells gradually grew worse the deeper into the tunnel they went. Feces mixed with rotten animal matter, or worse assaulted their senses. It permeated everything; the molecules of stink embedding in their hair and clothes. With each step, their boots would break a thin membrane of dried matter covering a soup of jelly-like rottenness below. The fresh expirations made Anya retch more than once. She had never known something could smell so foul, so alien. It was worse than the maturation tank she had once visited in the Anthropolgy department at Cambridge. That ‘tour’ had taken her days to scrub the stench out. This would be worse. But the thought of cleanness seemed so far removed as to be almost comical given the present situation.
The oppressive concrete tube that surrounded them suddenly opened up into a large cylindrical room perhaps ten meters high. They had been on an almost unnoticebale downward decline for about an hour. Now, the surface was a good forty feet above them; the light from the glow-stick just barely reaching the rusted metal roof. Blessedly, the horrid stench had lessened. There were several junctions feeding off hub-like room, fanning out in multiple directions, and all of them cloaked in darkness.
A rusted waste pump of some kind was bolted halfway up the wall, dripping stalactites of transmuted iron. Broken pipes fed in and out of the pump, snaking though walls or just ending abruptly in a jagged edge. A large tear ran the length of the canister; signs of an explosive pressure release, most likely from that fateful day all those years ago. Decklan noticed a dull brass fitting indicating the maker: Sukhoi Aeronautics.
“What is it?” Anya asked quietly.
“This tank was made by a Soviet aircraft manufacturer.”
Anya didn’t think much of it. “So?”
“Just odd that’s all. This tank probably blew during the event. That was at the height of the Cold War with the U.S. Both sides were investing huge amounts in defense in anticipation of hostilities. Why would a warplane maker be constructing waste systems out here?”
Anya thought hard about what Declan said. She was impressed at his deductive reasoning skills. One more unusual thing about this Stalker. “A lot of state run entities had a hand here. Nuclear power isn’t a one-company operation.”
“Spose you’re right,” Decklan repled as he checked the GPS. There was a red line that severed the display, half was red, the other green. They were well into the red now and only a few hundred meters from the old school. “Another hundred meters east. You want something to eat before we-“
“God no!” Anya interrupted, her stomach angrily protesting at the mere thought of food in this literal shit hole. “Let’s just get there, I can’t-“
A low growl, sharp and guttural, escaped from the southern tube.
“Behind me!” Decklan whispered as he brought the rifle to bear. He couldn’t see shit down the tunnel. The glow-stick just wasn’t enough. It was time to use the precious torches. He’d have rather gone dark with the NVG’s, but then Anya would be in total darkness.
He flicked on the two thousand candlepower weapon light, sending a stabbing beam of crisp whiteness into the gloom.
“What the fu…” Anya trailed off, her mouth agape.
Decklan swallowed down bile. The things advancing on them were unlike anything he had seen, and he’d seen a lot of strange shit here. Vaguely humanoid, they crawled along the broken pipes with four rubbery prehensile limbs that seemed to have no skeletal framework at all. The milky-white appendages bent at unnatural angles as they advanced. The creatures’ heads could hardly be considered a head in the human sense, merely a nub that had feelers in place of eyes, licking the air, tasting its prey. Clicks and whistles of excitement grew louder as they skittered towards Decklan’s light, apparently unfazed by the unnatural illumination.
Decklan flicked the safety off with an audible snap and strafed left giving Anya a clear line of fire. Strangely, the creatures didn’t seem interested in Decklan or his light. Their fluttering feelers tasted the air and the mass of creatures had focused squarely on Anya.
That was when the ‘tubes’ came out.
The creatures extended an organ from the rear of their bodies that jutted forward, dripping a viscous yellow fluid that had a powerful musky odor, even masking the rotting stench of the sewers. A chill ran through Anya. The advancing creatures were male.
That realization hit them at the same time. Decklan opened up.
Anya had grown up knowing how to shoot, but she still wasn’t very fond of firearms. They were a tool for those without understanding or diplomacy. At least, that was the way she used to feel. When Decklan loosed the GPMG on the creatures, she had never heard a more wonderful sound in her life. The barking and cycling of the 7.62mm rounds tore into the first wave of creatures, ripping jagged bits of pinkish flesh from the torsos and splattering the walls of the tunnel with gore. The creatures that bore the brunt of the assault, dropped to the floor, convulsing in agony. The agitated mass refocused their attentions on the threat that was cutting them down.
Anya brought her rifle to bear and squeezed off rounds. Fast at first, she wasn’t really aiming. Her attentions were focused on actually pulling the trigger. After a few shots, she aimed more carefully, singling out creatures that had broken through the phalanx of lead.
“Go!” Decklan screamed over the wail of gunfire.
Anya didn’t need to be told twice. She backpedaled as fast as she could up the eastern tube. There was no way to check if more of the creatures were coming up behind them. She stopped at the edge of the illumination, whipping her neck back and forth both at Decklan and a the gloom beyond. She wouldn’t go any farther, couldn’t go. The blackness was as impassable as a wall of lead. Every instinct told her to flee the creatues that wanted to impregnate her. She knew at some base level that was what those svile thigns wanted: her eggs. Yet the instinct to avoid the dark was just as powerful. So she sat there; she couldn’t go forward or back. She was as scared as she had ever been in her life.
Decklan knew the time was short. A GPMG is designed to operate in sustained bursts; to keep the enemy pinned with suppression fire. But nothing can go forever, even the stellite lined barrel of the Russian designed RPK. As he entered the east bound tunnel, he noticed the cherry red glow of the barrel. Each round raised the barrel temperature by four degrees. Even if he was able to load the last belt in time, he would melt the barrel before it was expended. The chamber would become superheated resulting in cook-off. He wouldn’t even need to press the trigger. The round would detonate from the heat, and a few rounds later, the lead slugs would melt inside the barrel, coating it in molten lead. Not long after that, an out of battery ignition would occur. Brass would flow at fifty thousand psi and send it straight into his face. He had to stop shooting, very soon.
Limiting his fire to very quick bursts he pushed toward Anya.
The creatures now filled the room, screeching and wailing, desperate to get at the source of the pain; also the sweet fertileness that lay beyond.
Decklan tore his NVG’s from their Velcro strap with his weak hand and thrust them backwards to Anya. He didn’t need them now anyway. He risked a quick look back at her. All color had drained from her face. “Lead!” He shouted before focusing again on the creatures.
Anya fumbled with the goggles and pulled them over her face. Suddenly, the tunnel was awash in green daylight. She felt a rush of calm disconnect; as if viewing their plight from a TV screen. It was a wonderful illusion. Anya moved forward as fast as she was able.
Shit. The word raced through Decklan’s thoughts as the weapon went dry. He tore open the top-cover and ripped out the spent box. Heaving the new box in place, he guided the starter strip over the feed tray. Under normal circumstances it would be a two man job, but he was twenty feet from a writhing mass of something, and his actions were fueled by adrenaline. The twenty pound weapon weighed nothing at all right then.
With loud snap, he released the bolt. The hot weapon did what he knew it would do: it cooked off. It was just a matter of time now.
No other choice. The thought repeated in Decklan’s head as the barrel became hotter and hotter; a bloom of white heat was now spreading out from the breach end. The GMPG’s barrel was just about slag, and the creatures were less than fifteen meters away. No matter how many times he fired, they kept coming; attrition had no effect. Decklan felt the lightness of the machine gun and knew that there were less than thirty or so rounds left. There was no way to change the magazine in time. As he backpedaled he scanned the ceiling. He found what he was looking for: a large, splintery crack in the concrete. Ironically, at that exact moment his weapon went dry. Typical.
There was a curious second or two of absolute quiet. Nothing was heard except the skittering of the creatures; their limbs dancing across the concrete. Decklan pulled the pin on the last thermite grenade he had, shoved it into the crack, and ran.
Anya dared not look back now. Decklan knew what he was doing. Besides, the muzzle flash would most likely white-out her goggles. That was the last thing she needed.
Just as the thought was forming in her head; a force lifted her from her feet; scoured her vision in white; and licked her back with hot breath. Oh God no. She thought she felt the creatures undulating feelers at her back before she impacted face first into the rotten goop of the sewer.
Normally a thermite grenade was a relatively mild explosive, compared to some of the new nano-engineered compounds. That being said, any explosion in a contained space will amplify its overpressure effects, especially in a concrete sewer tunnel. In this case the entirety of the force was directed at the walls of the tunnel, which blew outward a microsecond after the blast wave hit. This superheated wave of rock and fire swirled right into the vanguard of the creatures, churning them into an organic soup before the ceiling collapsed.
Decklan was bit more fortunate. Although once again, a sharp pain in his thigh signaled something foreign had penetrated his body at high velocity. He couldn’t hear anything except the constant ringing in his ear. He couldn’t see either. Total darkness. There was either no light or his eyes were gone. Decklan reached up and felt his face. It was wet with blood. He touched his eyes and felt that they were still there, and not some gooey mass of destroyed flesh. A small victory. His hand went to the wound on his thigh and felt the end of a piece of rebar, jutting viscously out of his flesh. He prayed the piece of steel reinforcing hadn’t severed an artery or shattered his femur. If it did he was done. He already might be done. There was no way to assess the situation. His weapon was gone and he’d given Anya his NVG’s. Was she alive?
“Anya!?” Decklan spoke in little more than a whisper.
Nothing. The fear doubled, threatening to overwhelm him. Angry at his perceived weakness, Decklan grabbed the end of rebar and pulled. The shock of rusted steel grating against his flesh and bone sent his synapses into overdrive. Stars exploded in his eyes -or where his eyes used to be- and danced around violently as he pulled the piece of metal free. He let out a hoarse scream.
A weight pressed down on Anya as she tried to draw in a breath. A hand was covering her mouth and a body was crushing the air from her lungs.
One of those things is on top of me! The thought raced through her mind. A force of will entered her, envigorating her with energy. She pressed upwards, thrashing against the creature. “Get off me! GET OFF!” Anya screamed the words.
Slowly, the force lessened and finally gave way and she pushed herself up out of the rubble. Momentarily disoriented, it took her moment to realize there was no creature on top of her, and that the force was just chunks of concrete. She tried to speak and coughed up bits of rubble. Her throat had never been so dry. The one good thing was that she still had the NVG’s on, and remarkably, they worked.
A low green fog hung at waist level like some evil, ethereal mist. In reality it was vaporized concrete and Semtex residue.
The way ahead was consumed with darkness, but notably clear of the creatures. Anya turned around slowly and felt a tug of apprehension. She was relieved to see a wall of broken concrete behind her, and with a surge of relief she saw Decklan propped against the wall heaving in ragged breaths.
“Decklan?” Her voice was gravely and raw.
Decklan turned his head in the direction of the sound. “I’m here… Sorry bout this. It was the only way. Seems I buggered us up good and proper.” He coughed and gritted his teeth in pain.
“That’s bullshit. I’d rather be dead than the alternative. This is all a bonus.” Anya crawled toward him.
Decklan chuckled. “Can you see?”
“Yeah. Still have the NVG’s.”
“Good. Can you see my pack?”
Anya looked around for a moment and then noticed it half-buried in the detritus. She pulled it free. “Yeah I got it.”
“Open it up and crack a glow-stick.”
Anya did as he instructed. With a snap the collapsed tunnel was filled with blue-green light.
Decklan breathed a sigh of relief as his world lit up. The first thing he saw was Anya, looking like a creature herself, covered in dust and debris, sporting the NVG’s.
Anya slowly peeled off the goggles, leaving clean spots around her eyes.
“Think you can help me dress this?” Decklan asked.
Anya moved next to Decklan. “I got us into some real shit, didn’t I?” Anya said rhetorically as she opened the first aid kit and pulled out a bandage.
“I’m used to it,” Decklan retorted.
“Well I’m not,” Anya replied, wrapping his leg in an antiseptic bandage.
“Hey, we’re alive. We still have the tape?”
The tape! Anya fumbled though the pack and felt a marked sense of relief that it was still there. “Still here.”
“Good. Ca you stand?”
Anya tested her legs, nothing broken it seemed. They were sore but she managed to stand.
“Get the rifle. You’re gonna have to take point.”
“Me?” Anya asked incredulously.
“Yeah. I’m gonna be cradling this leg for a while.”
“Where’s your gun?”
Decklan’s eyes went to the collapsed wall. “Back there.”
“Great. So we have one rifle to defend ourselves?”
Decklan lifted a thermite grenade and his .45. “One rifle, one pistol with seven rounds, and this grenade. Feel better?”
“Not really,” Anya snapped back, picking up her rifle and checking it to make sure there was no damage. Other than a coating of dust, it seemed fine.
“Well it’s a shit sandwich,” Decklan shot back and lifted himself to his feet, tightening the bandage. He pressed checked his .45. “Let’s get moving. Our torch is shit canned and we got only one chem.-light left.”
Knowing their lighting situation, they made as rapid progress as they could; praying every few feet that none of the Impregnator creatures were ahead of them. If there were Decklan and Anya resolved they would use the last thermite grenade, but not on the creatures. A grim thought indeed.
Fortunately that need never arose. Anya led to another large chamber; this one had only one way out: up a ladder to a covered manhole. There were no connecting passages here, but there was another of the waste tanks. This particular one in a more dilapidated state than the other: half of it was totally blown outward. Something else however, caught their attention: corpses.
They hadn’t noticed them right away as they’d been covered in the muck of the sewer floor. The remains looked to be shredded. Large swathes of clothing and some cracked and shattered bones were littered over the entire floor.
Decklan stooped over to pick up a piece of cloth. “Ukrainian. First sergeant’s uniform.”
“Decklan, come here,” Anya whispered in faltering tones.
Decklan hobbled over to Anya. There was another corpse here, half buried in the muck. It was obvious it was a woman, and she was whole. Her shriveled face was frozen in a rictus of pain. Scraps of her uniform lay in tatters. Her midsection was laid bare. Hard to see in the low light and muck, but strange holes, -a dozen or so, on each side of her abdomen- drew Decklan’s attention.
Anya shook her head, sick to her stomach. She covered her mouth for fear of retching.
Her voice was thick with disgust as mouthed the word: “ovaries.”
Decklan stepped back, whispering into his hand, “Jesus.” He bent down and sifted the soil next to the corpse. Just under the surface was a large volume of spent shell casings. “Hell of a fight here.”
Anya merely stared at the long dead woman.
Decklan dug deeper into the dirt and found an old AK. The stock and fore end were totally eaten away, but there was limited rust on the action. Decklan pounded the buttstock against the concrete wall, jarring the rust loose. With effort, he stipped the magazine free. The rounds were in relatively good condition. Whether they would fire was another story. He racked the action numerous times until it operated with relative ease. It was still gritty, but AK’s could take a beating. He’d seen worse than this fire off full magazines without stoppages. Satisfied he checked that he barrel was clear.
Anya was still staring at the corpse. Something else now drew Decklan’s attention.
“What do you make of that?” Decklan asked.
Anya shook her head. Like the other tank, this one was a rusted hulk on the outside; however, on the inside its metal interior gleamed almost new. “Titanium maybe?”
With effort Anya tore her attention away from the woman, trying not to think about her horrific end and what she must have endured. “Not titanium. Some kind of noble metal. Platinum perhaps.”
“Platinum? Isn’t that a wee bit of an expense for shit tanks?”
Anya screwed up her features, “yeah it is. I can’t think of any logical engineering reason to use it.”
“Another time,” Decklan interrupted, tapping his GPS futilely. It was fried. “Great. Well the last time this did work we were only a few hundred meters from the school. Should be right up top.”
Anya eyed the manhole. “What if-“
“Don’t even say it! We don’t need any more fucking visits from Murphy today.”
Anya threw up her hands in mock surrender. “See if you can open it up.”
Anya handed the rifle to Decklan and then climbed up the rusty iron ladder. The surface was hard and scaly on her hands, but still firm. She reached the top; the manhole cover was lathered in rust. She gave it a shove with all her strength. Might as well have been welded. She shook her head at Decklan.
“Shit,” Decklan mouthed between clenched teeth.
A low skittering noise, very faint, drifted up the tunnel.
“Anya we have to blow it,” he said loudly and clear as he could.
“What? Why don’t you try it first? The ceiling may come down-“
Anya almost let go of the railing as the wave of fear shook through her. “Toss me the grenade!”
Decklan tossed up the grenade. “See if you can wedge it between something.”
“Okay,” Anya replied her hands shaking. She wasn’t going out like that poor woman. No fucking way. She shoved the grenade between the lip of the first rung and the ceiling. It wasn’t exactly on the cover; she prayed the explosive was enough force to free the rusted cover.
“You’ll have eight seconds. Don’t fuck around up there,” Decklan warned as he inched in to the tunnel.
Anya took a deep breath and pulled the pin; the retaining arm spun away and she scrambled as fast as she could down the ladder. It seemed like it took at least a minute to descend, but she was down in four seconds.
She bolted for Decklan, almost barreling him over. “If this doesn’t work…”
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied calmly and covered her head with his arm and the room flared with light and pressure.
After the smoke cleared Anya almost didn’t want to look up. Almost. She breathed a sigh of relief to see that the manhole cover was nowhere to be seen. “You go first.” Decklan raised an eyebrow.
“You want to try crawling up the ladder with the rifle on your bum leg go ahead.”
Decklan smiled and handed her the rifle then hobbled up the ladder.
Anya thought she heard a skittering noise down the tunnel. Time to go. She slung the rifle over her shoulder and followed him up.
The air –besides being slightly hot with decaying isotopes- was wondrously free of foul aromas. She never realized how good nothing in particular actually smelled like. It was still dark, but the purplish tint to the sky indicated the sun would be along fairly soon. They were at the edge of an intersection. Small, unnamed buildings of no particular distinction greeted them. Down at the end of the street was a small building: with a faded Cyrillic sign: Pripyat Polytechnic.
Decklan checked his dosimeter: five rems an hour. Pretty hot. “We need to move.”
They proceeded with caution, using the buildings as cover. Decklan knew that whomever took a shot at him might be waiting; there was nothing he could do about it though. They were here and they didn’t go through all that to turn away now.
The school, if it even deserved to be called that was in ruins. Years of high radiation coupled with weathering had stripped once white paint from the exterior. Chunks of it lay in large heaps next to broken glass windows and collapsed sections of brick walls.
“Looks like it’s been abandoned a hundred years. Didn’t know it was this bad.”
“Why would you? No one comes out here.”
Anya was reluctant to enter into another enclosed space, but what she needed was in there –or so she hoped- so, once again she did it anyway. Decklan brought up the rear.
The interior was in a little better shape, but not by much. Yellowed papers were scattered thoughout the lobby; furniture and desks were rotted and collapsed; exposed electrical wires hung from the ceiling in giant loops, melted free of their casings by radioactive rain seepage.
“Doesn’t look promising doc,” Decklan quipped while checking corners for threats.
“We need to find the AV room.”
“Can’t take that long, the building isn’t that big.”
In fact it did take long, quite long actually. Since most of the section designations had long ago fallen off the walls, they had to check each room. And not just a casually either. They had to assume there were threats. So the hours dragged on. Finally some four hours later they found it.
“That’s it!” Anya yelled as she ran into the AV room. Racks of old tapes spilled onto the floor as her arm caught the edge. The noise was pronounced.
Decklan shook his head. “If anyone was looking, they sure as hell now we’re here now.”
Anya barely heard him as she shoved old recorders, microphones and cables out of her way. Making a path through the antique equipment she saw the playback machine nestled against the far wall. It looked undamaged: the knobs and switches still in place; the dark monitor screen was whole with no cracks.
“Over here!” Anya said forcefully pulling out the player.
Decklan removed the tape and handed it to her as she approached. “We still have to get it powered. Laptop might not be up to it.”
“It should work for one pass at least. It has a full charge? She asked accusingly.
“Yeah, about ninety two percent left.”
“Good. Crack open the converter and I’ll strip the plug wires.” Anya pulled Decklan’s knife straight from its sheath on his leg and cut the plug end off the cord to the player.
“Does the rifle have a optical port on the sight.”
“Yes. Two meg buffer.”
“Perfect! We can make a digital recording as well,” Anya barked excitedly.
“Hey, we’re here. Take it slow.” After all this Decklan wasn’t sure what Anya would do if the magnetic tape she had invested so much in would contain anything. Radiation, age, hell even entropy would make it unlikely anything of use was on the tape, even if there was something worth see at all.
Anya ignored him, deftly stripping the AC power cord. She only looked up when she noticed Decklan wasn’t working on the converter.
Decklan sighed shook his head. He removed the small AC power converter from the hydrogen-cell laptop and set it on the floor. Flipping his pistol around he gave the plastic device a sharp rap with the steel butt-end of his .45. The little electronic device, broke in two with a cry of snapping plastic; the inner workings of the converter were now exposed. He handed the side with the guts to Anya.
She took the exposed converted and jury-rigged the two leads onto the contacts inside the converter. Gently, she laid it on the floor. “Okay I’ll plug the laptop to the converter. It’s a shit connection so we can’t move it.”
“Gotcha,” Decklan said as he handed her the laptop.
Apprensively, she pressed the power/standby button: nothing happened. “Shit, one sec,” she said, jiggling the connection.
A blue spark arced over the lead, followed by a whiff of ozone.
Decklan noticed the laptop was in standby mode. The converter had power; the only indication was green LED on the case.
“Turn your scope on. And for God’s sake don’t shoot the screen.”
“Gimme some credit doc,” Decklan countered dryly, safeing the weapon. He cleared the chamber but left the magazine in place, just in case. The amber reticle glowed with a red dot in the corner, signaling that the buffer was filling up. He pointed the weapon and adjusted the sight’s recording distance until it filled the ancient monitor. “That’s as good as we’re gonna get it… Go ahead. Buffer’s running.”
Anya exhaled and flipped the power button on the old analog player.
A tendril of smoke drifted out from the player’s vents, almost sending Anya into a panic; however, after a moment the smoke dissipated and the screen fizzled to life. It tool several moments for the old device to warm up and fill the monitor with snow.
“Okay looks like power’s okay,” Anya whispered before flicking the knob into the play position.
The old reels resisted from decades of disuse, but slowly they overcame the dust and dirt that had filled their servos, and began to turn. The screen flashed and sputtered like a channel out of tune. Anya adjusted the tracking. “Come on!” she growled through gritted teeth.
Suddenly the picture drifted into focus. It was extremely grainy and filled with dirt splotches, but otherwise in fairly descent shape. Decklan was half-amazed. “Damn, I didn’t think-“
“SHHH!” Anya hissed, glued to the display.
It was an odd window to a lost age. A bearded man in a labcoat was adjusting the display, making sure everything was in focus, while speaking to someone off screen. When he moved out of the way, the camera looked out on a Ukrainian landscape that was still innocent and fertile, having not yet known the horrors of a meltdown. In the distance Chernobyll –whole once more- loomed. Anya felt a strange feeling in her gut: it was like looking at footage of the World Trade Center, pre-9/11. The feeling was pushed aside as the scientist returned. He was holding some kind of glass weather monitoring device and showing the camera how to use it properly, exaggerating each movement. This went on for a minute or so.
“Buffer’s half full. How’s the power.”
Anya glanced at the laptop’s green LED. It was amber now.
“Fifty percent. And don’t say it.”
Decklan didn’t say anything.
They watched the old scientist finish his recitation. He was obviously wrapping up his performance when something caught his attention. He flinched and ducked quickly; then turned towards the horizon and indicated with fervor that the cameraman do the same.
Here we go. Anya held her breath.
It was odd to watch the meltdown, ostensibly firsthand. No one still living had seen the sight that was now unfolding on the screen. It was altogether nothing like what had been reported in the Soviet State News Service.
Two SU-27’s streaked towards Chernobyll from fifty feet off the deck. Obviously, under radar to avoid detection, but they were still seen by the camera and the bewildered scientist.
“SU-27’s. They’re on a low-level attack vector,” Decklan said with cool detachment.
“My God. Why?’ Anya breathed.
On the screen a rippling wave exploded out of the distant power plant. It was as if the air became violently compressed and distorted; then torn asunder by unseen hands. The wave advanced at hypersonic speed and enveloped the aircraft right as one of them released a missile. Approximately half a second later it enveloped the hapless scientist, tearing the vast majority of the flesh from his bones in a gruesome splash of gore that filled the screen.
“Oh god,” Anya said with her hand over her mouth.
The display fizzled and went dark; the snowy picture returned. Anya and Decklan remained unmoving until the last bit of tape had run through the player. It took a moment before Anya reached up and clicked the lever on the player back to the stop position. Decklan lowered the rifle and switched off the rifle sight. “What the fuck was that? That- that- whatever, came out of the power plant before the missile release.”
Anya was stunned. She had expected something bizarre, but she wasn;t prepared for what she saw. It took her a moment to respond. “The wave was an expanding field of compressed gravity. It should have propagated at cee.”
(I was wrong about black holes… They were messing with some oenthing infinitely more dangerous
What? What the hell os more dangerous than something sucking the world apart?!
Inflation, It’s a theory about how the universe began and expanded.
“Sorry, speed of light. That wave was controlled release of energy.”
“Controlled? By what?”
Anya was in a whirlwind. “Military I guess.”
“Then why were two Soviet fighters attacking the plant?”
A damned good question that she had absolutely no answer to.
“Well we know one thing at least.”
“And that is?” Anya asked incredously. One thing? Christ he had a gift for understatement.
“The missile release came after the wave release. Even if the pilots were dead, the SS 12 air to ground would track in on its target.”
Anya put it together. “So you’re saying the wave release was a preemptive action on the power plant’s part? That’s crazy!”
“I didn’t say that. All I said was the missile was launched after. But I’d guess that it tracked in on the plant and detonated. And that was the cause of the meltdown, or whatever. Beyond that we’re just speculating”
Anya’s mouth seemed stuffed with cotton. “God, no wonder they want us dead.”
Decklan re-chambered a round and detached the rifle sight, handing it to Anya. “You’re insurance.”
She took the sight reverently. “Can you still use it?” she said referring to his rifle.
“Yep,” Decklan said casually flipping up the iron sights, “always have a backup.”
“A backup…” Anya whispered as a thought took root in her head. “You know where we can get heavy radiation suits? I’m talking HARD protection from lethal dose levels per hour.”
Decklan screwed up his features. “Maybe… Why?”
“Call it backup insurance. I want to go in.”
“You heard me.”
“You’re fucking bonkers woman! Isn’t the recording enough?”
“No I need to find out what the hell was going on there, not why the meltdown occurred. We know that part now at least. We need the rest of it.”
Decklan sighed heavily, running his hands through his hair. “How do you expect to get past twenty feet of a reinforced concrete containment lid?”
“There may be a way.”