Brontide Pt. IV – Beneath Penan

OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 01:47:23

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Little light peered in through to the corridor. It was darker than all the others that Bishop had encountered before. The edges of the tiled passageway disappeared into a deep darkness further down the way. Two  doors, metal and barred, crawled out in the dim light as they approached the black that creeped away and replaced itself behind them.

Smears of black streaked across the wall. Despite their efforts, the colonel could hear the squelching and soft tearing of something beneath their feet.

When he looked down he peered into a void that was there also, yet the floor was directly beneath his feet. He could taste copper on the very tip of his tongue. He began to feel nauseous. Something pulsed and vertigo leapt up at him, causing his vision to swim. Two hands placed themselves on either of his shoulders, dragging him back to the corridor.

He still stood in the corridor. He’d somehow taken a step left. The hands belonged to Clara and Harved. He could just make out the frowns on their faces, shadows turning them into grotesques in the obfuscating dark. They were concerned, but he could tell that they suffered the same effect, even if they didn’t admit it.

At this moment, what they couldn’t see were the eyes at the very end of the corridor, watching their approach.

“It’s too dark. Something’s wrong,” muttered Harved.

Sparek reached into one of his pouches that was strapped around his thighplates. A moment later he pulled out a tubular flashlight.

“Search each room, two by two. Harved and Yuri, take the left cells.”

“Sir”.

Sparek pressed the rubberised switch. “Harved, use your red. Standard discipline; let’s minimise our signature.” The medic’s compliance was announced with another red cone giving the area some visible credence. He held the light in his left hand, resting his right pistoled hand upon it, wrist to wrist, the same as Sparek.

They were all open. The first cell door was off its hinges and propped against the threshold. Sparek shunted the heavy portal to one side as Clara made entry. Yuri and Harved we behind them somewhere amongst the shadows. Something in this room wasn’t what it should be and he instantly knew it. There was physical presence here. A taste of copper and his vertigo returned.

“Sparek,” said Clara. Her voice was bristling with revulsion. As she said it he could make out what it was. “What the fuck is that?”

Inside the chamber a sole heart stood atop a plinth, hooked up and jury rigged to rusting piping and wires that snaked their way through the grilled vents of the room. It wasn’t rust. What Sparek didn’t see was that in another, the cell of Yuri and Harved, a pair of lungs dangled in a cage that also stood atop a glass pillar. Like the heart it was nailed and stitched into tubing and wires that made a mess of the floor and walls like a mass of snakes and fallen vines on a jungle floor. Sickeningly, every few moments the lungs would deflate and breathe in with the clicking of assisted breathing machines that remained out of sight. He dismissed it as impossible in spite of the horrible evidence before him.

When Yuri returned to ask for Sparek to join with Harved, Harved could not explain this freak science. Of all the people who could have some idea as to what’s going on here, the medic only resolved himself to disgust and even more of a hatred of the the Mandate. It was tense. The quartet had become a node of hatred and fear for this excursion. The colonel stifled the taste of bile at the back of his throat.

The air before Sparek crackled with a stench of ozone. A single slice of the air screamed alarm bells throughout his mind.

“Lights out, into cover!” His orders were hoarse shrieks of whispers. The red lights disappeared and now they were enveloped in black once more. Everybody disappeared into the open cells. All eyes verged to the origin of the single shot. Somewhere down the corridor was a single assailant. It was silent again. Nobody else had heard the shot that Sparek had felt. “Anyone?”

“Fine.”

“Here, colonel.”

“Chto za huy!”

Bastards. It’s too dark here. There’s only one, he thought. Let’s not make a mess of it. “Yuri, how’re your eyes?”

“Fine, Colonel,” he replied. “If you’re thinking rabbit…” he trailed off, not finishing his sentence. He knew what he was thinking. Sparek looked to Clara’s shape.

“Sparek? What are you-?”

“Sorry, Clara,” he whispered before yelling “Yuri!” He shot up from his crouch and ran down the route to the next open cell door. He could hear Clara’s swearing at his heels. Something tiny flashed – and he knew exactly what – and an instant later gouged into his forearm. A soft ‘puft’ from behind him barely announced itself.

“Shluha vokzal’naja,” came Yuri’s taunt. He’d missed. It was mumbled but Sparek could just make it out. He’ll have to learn russian at some point, he thought to himself. A second later he made another shot. The slump of meat at the end of the corridor was unmistakable. Yuri had somehow managed to guess the exact spot that the sniper had moved to.

“Medic! Harved!” A scrabbling of feet imparted someone’s arrival. A red light advertised the colonel’s face and chest before focusing on his hand – the instinctive covering of his wound amongst the red in the black.

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OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 01:02:16

– by Kier Sparey

© Copyright Kier Sparey 2014

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