Chapter 9 snippet (former 'The Betrayal' completely new writing)
She listened to the sound of her footfalls, deep in thought. Echoing off the floor, they gave an eerie, forlorn sound in the empty station. Just what the hell had Intelligence been doing this far out of Alliance space? No one claimed this territory, and the closest people to it were the Sagnar Federation. So why were they working here on illegal weaponry?
Lost in her thoughts, she nearly past a stairwell before she noticed it was there. Stopping before it, she examined it with a wary glance. So, she mused, they had at least one lower level, eh?
I wonder if Loving cleared this? She asked, activating her com unit.
“Almir to Loving,”
“Loving here, Skipper,”
“I’ve found a stairwell to a lower level,” she said. “Have you cleared it?”
“Negative,” Loving said. “I never even saw it.”
An eyebrow arched in response to what Loving said. Interesting, she told herself, pulling her pistol out. It was likely to hold nothing more then machinery, but one didn’t know without looking.
“Keep this channel open,” she said. “I’m going down the stairs.
“We’re on our way, Kate,” Loving said. “Be there in five minutes.”
“Just keep an ear out,”
Reaching for the controls, she kept her pistol at the ready. Moving in a half crouch, she stepped into the doorway. Scanning above, below and on both sides, she let her pistol lead. If anyone was hiding her, she told herself, it was going to be shoot first, ask questions later.
Entering the stairwell, the metal grating echoed her steps. Sweat started to bead on her forehead as she started to descent. With an eye out for enemies, she ignored the drops that ran down her face. To take her attention off what she was doing, she reminded herself, would make it possible for her to be killed.
And frankly, I like living, she snorted.
Her eyes searched every possible hiding place. Looking over the railing of the stairwell, she noted there was another level below the one she was moving towards. Just how large had this base been, she wondered.
Reaching a landing, she let out her breath. Listening to her heart race, she leaned back against the wall. A moment to catch her breath would be good, she told herself; it would allow her to get herself back under control. As anxious as she was right then, she was liable to shoot anything, or anyone, that moved around her.
She felt her heart slow down to a normal rate. Picking up her com unit, she glanced around again. Upon a closer examination, she noted that there were color-coded symbols that the levels. Each had to designate something, she told herself, but just what it was eluded her.
“XO,” she said. “Are you on the channel?”
“There are two more levels to this base,” she said. “All of them are color coded.”
“Being that this place deal with biological weaponry,” Paul said. “You think one level could be labs?”
“Who knows,” she said, shrugging. “But stay on the channel and I’ll let you know.”
“I wish you would wait for us, Skipper,” Paul sounded concerned. “I don’t like the idea of you searching alone.”
“I’m a big girl,” she said. “Don’t worry about me,”
Stepping off the landing, she started to descend again. Each step felt like an eternity as she eased down them. If anyone had been here, she told herself, they would’ve had plenty of time to kill her, but they hadn’t. That meant either there was no one here, or they didn’t want her dead…yet.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she took each step. There was no telling what was waiting for her below, and it caused her to grow tense again. It wouldn’t be unlike Johansson to leave them a surprise below, she told herself, and it was likely to be deadly.
“Kate,” the com unit crackled, making her jump. “I’m at the top of the stairs.”
“Wait for my signal,” she muttered, stopping before another door.
“What do you see, Skipper?” Paul asked.
“There’s a door before me,” she said. “And I’m going to go in.”
“I think you should wait for Lieutenant Loving,” he said.
Ignoring him, she reached out and touched the door controls. With a whoosh, it slid aside for her. The room beyond was dark, which sent a chill racing up her spine. Something didn’t feel right, she realized. She was about to step back when the lights came on automatically.
“Oh my God…” she breathed.
Jennifer tightened her grip on her rifle. She could hear Kate’s footsteps in the enclosed stairway. Just what was she thinking going down there alone? While she could understand her desire to know who killed her friend, Jennifer mused, this newfound obsession with doing it alone was starting to bother her.
It’s almost like she’s more concerned with revenge then living, she thought, shuddering.
If there was one thing that was disturbing, it was the thought of Kate Almir being out for blood. For someone as dangerous as she was, an obsession like that would mean big trouble. It almost made Jennifer feel sorry for the one’s who had perpetrated this. Because, she realized, if Kate had her way, they wouldn’t be long for this world.
Their biggest mistake was killing one of her friends, she thought, sighing.
“Oh my God…”
Jennifer jumped at the sound of her friend’s voice. The very tone, she told herself, sounded like she had found something horrific. Looking at Paul, she felt her blood go cold.
“Kate!” she said. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Kate said. “But you ought to see this…”
Looking before her, she felt her blood go cold. Stretched off, as far as she could see, was cage after cage. Swallowing down the lump in her throat, she stepped forwards. Just what the hell were they keeping in all these cages?
“What do you see, Skipper?” Paul’s voice was edgy.
“It’s easier for you to see it yourself,” she said, looking into the first cage.
Her blood ran cold as she saw what was inside it. It had originated as a crocodile, that much was for certain, but that was all she recognized. The reptile’s craggy skin was still intact, but it stood on two feet now. Instead of arms, it had long gatherings of tentacles. Looking at her with it’s cold eyes, it roared, the armored glass, and force fields, doing nothing to mute its power.
Just what the hell were you doing here? She thought, horrified.
Moving to the next cage, she found what used to be a human. With a grossly misshapen head, it appeared to be more lizard then man. One arm was still human, the other branching into fixed extensions from the hand. With a roar, the extensions shot towards her, only to bounce back from the shielding and armored glass.
Swallowing hard, she moved on. Whatever they were doing, she told herself, it involved genetic manipulation of subjects. Just why they would want to do this, was beyond her comprehension. From everything she had read, mankind had abandoned this avenue of research two hundred years ago.
So why the hell is Intelligence doing following this course now? She asked, finding new atrocities in each cage.
Kate spun around, seeing Loving jump back in surprise. It was obvious that she hadn’t expected half-human half-lizard to strike. Seeing her friend blanche told her she was as horrified as she was.
“What the hell is going on here, Kate?” Loving asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Some sort of genetic manipulation, but why?”
“One thing’s for certain,” Paul said. “It’s totally against Alliance law-and morality.”
“Like that has ever stopped Intelligence before,” she muttered under her breath.
“Doctor Reynolds should see this,” Paul said.
“I’m hesitant to keep us here much longer, XO,” Kate said. “If Fleet Command is sending us orders to leave, then they know we’re here.”
“Do you think they’d try to destroy us too, Kate?” Loving asked.
“Obviously there is a ship around here somewhere,” she said. “And I’m sure whoever is commanding it knows we’re out here.”
Which was why she wanted to leave so badly, she reminded herself. Tracking what was going on out here would allow them to stay one step ahead of their would-be killers, while they learned what was happening. However, with the discovery of the creatures on this level, the rules of the game had changed.
“We can’t just leave them here,” Loving said.
“There’s nothing we can do for them,” Kate said, reaching the end of the cages.
“Whatever was done is probably non-reversible. If we stay, we risk the ship and everyone aboard it.”
“The Skipper’s right,” Paul said. “We need to keep moving.”
“This whole affair leaves me feeling dirty,” Loving said.
“Just wait,” Kate said. “I’m sure it will get worse.”
“What are we going to do about them, Kate?”
“The computer seems to be keeping them alive,” she said. “Let’s leave it alone. They’ll die naturally-or unnaturally, when the time comes.”
“It seems so cruel…”
“What was cruel was doing this in the first place,” Paul said.
“Which I couldn’t agree more,” Kate said. “But let’s record this information and get the hell out of her. I don’t want to be here when that ship gets here.”
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