Chapter 37 snippet

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“You still haven’t answered my question, Albright. How are you still alive?”

“Damn it, Kate, do you feel the need to antagonize the man?”

“I want to know how a man I saw die is alive, Jennifer. I don’t think that is too much to ask.”

The hanger filled with laughed from Albright. Full of arrogant amusement, it sounded to her like the bells that Edgar Allen Poe wrote about. As the echoes returned to her, Albright’s voice almost sounded like a groan. Keeping her back ram-rod straight, she kept him from seeing the discomfort it gave her.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies, there’s plenty of me to go around!”

Oh, God, she thought, feeling her stomach churn. If that wasn’t enough to make her sick, she didn’t know what would do it! Albright always had thought he was a true ladies man, and it had been his undoing on Augusta. After dying her hair, she had gone to the club he frequented and allowed him to pick her up. One they got back to his place, she had shot him and escaped.

How he got here, alive, I have no idea.
She thought.

“You always did think you were God’s gift to women,” she said.

“And I am, too. Guards, check them for weapons, and pay close attention to my old friend Katherine! She’s been known to be a sneaky one!”

The guards weren’t gentle in pushing the two of them against a shuttle. Kicking her feet out wider, they started to feel her for weapons. She closed her eyes, feeling their hands traipsing over her body. If the situation wasn’t so dire, she told herself, she would be fighting them right now! However, it wasn’t going to do her any good to get herself killed now.

When the guard’s hands stopped on her buttocks, she found herself growling. A rumble for deep in her throat, they heard it and started to chuckle. The arrogant bastards, she fumed, they seemed to think that she was impotent to stop them!

“Get your hands off my ass,”

“Yeah,” the guard breathed into her ear. “What are you going to do about it?”

A snarl of rage emerged from her lips and she slammed a elbow backwards. It slipped through open air, failing to connect, throwing her off balance. As she stumbled backwards, the guard swung a right cross. The side of her face blossomed in pain as she felt the blow hammer home.

She staggered backwards, her balance still off from her first move. The guard had no mercy. Moving in, he swung two more times. The first blow struck her in the stomach. Kate doubled over, feeling the air leave here in a whoosh.
The second was a kick that knocked her feet out from under her. Landing with a thud, she saw her vision go black for a second. When it cleared, the guard was looking at her, with a knee placed on her throat.

How the hell was that possible? With her speed advantage, she should have had him bleeding right now. Instead, it was her one the ground, stunned, the side of her pain booming in pain. Just what the hell had Albright been working on all this time? What was going on inside the remote base?

Behind her, she heard the sound of clapping. Albright had come down to the lower level while the guard had beaten on her. Standing there, his continence was one of victory. This was what they had wanted out of their soldiers, and to see it was immensely pleasing!

Getting back to his feet, the guard hauled her up into a standing position. She looked at Albright while rubbing the side of her face. Something about all of this made no sense, she mused. How could someone without the aid of cybernetics be able to move almost as fast as she could?

“Are you impressed, Katherine?”

“Very. How did you do that?”

“Why don’t you let us show you how,”

The guards fell into around her and Loving again. They followed Albright across the hanger bay. Loving looked over at her with a combination of anger and fear. How could you do something that stupid, her facial expression said. Weren’t you past the self-destructive stage by now?

“That was very stupid of you, Kate.”

“I don’t like someone feeling up my ass,” she said, rubbing her sore cheek.

“You could’ve gotten yourself killed! I thought you said you turned over a new leaf?”

“I did! Sometimes old habits die hard…”

Loving fell into an uncomfortable silence as they went through a door. As they entered to corridor beyond, they could hear firearms in the distance. Perking up, Kate raised an eyebrow. Why would someone be firing weapons in here? Were they trying to keep sharp, or was training going on?

As they moved closer to the sound, she started to have a terrible idea form. What if this base was one for other clandestine activities? What if Intelligence had taken a stab at cloning? That would certainly explain the monstrosities on the Beta Scorpii base! If they had been combining human DNA with other animals to create a faster, stronger solder, then they could all be in deeper trouble then she thought!

“I don’t like this,”

“What, Kate? Do you know what’s going on?”

“Let’s just wait, Jennifer. I have a hunch but I want to know if I’m right.”

The sound of the weaponry grew louder as they walked. Ahead of them, she could see Albright’s body language change. While he had been in command of the situation before, he was even more so now. It was as if whatever he was going to show them was such a game changer that he didn’t worry about what she thought.

“What have you got going on here, Albright? I know you want to start a war, but why?”

“You’ll get the see what’s going on here soon enough, Katherine. However, the ‘why’ should be simple enough: we want to control the entire galaxy and all of mankind. Its time for a pure man to ascend into power, one who hasn’t been tainted by other planets.”

“Do you really believe that bull****, Albright? If you do, then you’re a lot less intelligent then I thought you were.”

His body tensed as he digested the words she said. It was interesting to see how it changed his continence, she reflected. He went from being the all-powerful and arrogant man, to being one who was angry with her. Apparently, their movement must not be as monolithic as they want people to think it was…

“As a matter of fact, Katherine, I do.”

“You can quit calling me Katherine, Albright. You’re not my friend, so you don’t get the right to call me that.”

“Unfortunate for you,” he said. “I’m the one in charge here, so I can call you whatever I want to.”

Check, she thought.

An elbow jabbed out and slammed into her ribcage. Grunting from the impact, she looked over at Loving. Her friend glared at her and shook a finger like a mother at a child. It isn’t nice to antagonize the man who can kill you, her face said.

“If you want to start a war,” she said. “Then why are you making it so open that the Alliance did it?”

“Because once we replace the Alliance with the First Human Empire,” Albright said. “Then we will execute several people in the government for being ‘responsible’ for the action. That will appease public sentiment and allow us to overwhelm the Sagnar at the same time.”

“You got it all thought out,” she spat. “Everything is all nice and neat. But you have forgotten one thing: where are you going to find enough troops to make this work? You’ll need both foot soldiers and naval officers to make this work.”

They came to a stop outside a door. On the other side, the sound of the firearms continued. It was a never ending drone, pop, pop, pop and pop. Someone was doing some serious training, she mused, and now she was wondering just whom?

“That won’t be a problem, Katherine,”

He ran an ID over the reader and the door slid aside for him. Beyond was a enclosed elevated walkway. Soundproofed, there was no sound of firearms inside as they stepped inside. Behind them, the doors slid shut, sealing them in.

Kate looked around, seeing the largest room she had ever seen. On both side of the corridor, were target ranges. Men and women were firing everything from pistols to automatic rifles at targets. Feeling her stomach tighten in knots, she saw what she feared.

They had an army training here, she realized. With the number of people she was seeing, and those that probably weren’t in training, they could invade a planet. Maybe they couldn’t conquer it completely, but they could take enough ground to allow follow-up teams to move in the finish the job.

I don’t think I want to know where they’re getting the people from, she thought.

“You’re building an army,”

“Not just any army,” he said, beaming. “But one that is physically capable to matching your speed and strength.”

“That’s impossible,”

“Nevertheless we have done it,”

“I don’t know how you found people who would be cybernetic like me,” she said. “That’s the only way to make them as fast and strong as I am.”

“There not cybernetic, Katherine,”

“You don’t mean…”

Everything fell into place for her in that instant, and she realized how right she had been. The creatures on Beta Scorpii had been failed attempts as genetic manipulation and cloning. Shaking her head, she started to see just how much danger the galaxy was in. If Carver could create a cloned army, every bit a strong as her, and fully developed when they emerged from the vat, then he could have a limitless supply of bodies to use. He would overrun the galaxy in no time.

“Ah, yes, Katherine, I do. You see, they’re clones…”
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