“This isn’t what I signed on for Roloth, this is bull cragg”
“If I wanted the opinion of a Genie shock tropper I’d ask for it Zarin. Now shut up and play it calm.”
The two men walked along the sterile corridor of the secret facility with their Scientessa hostage in tow, hoping that the militarium uniforms they had ‘borrowed’ and their high ranking captive that they had escorting them would be enough to get them through the complex.
It had taken months to find this location, Roloth had needed to call in every favour he had left from every gunrunner, smuggler and old comrade he knew and with each piece of intel they’d received, he and his crew had sleuthed there way across light years of open space and finally arrived.
It was the dark jewel in the federations crown, a secret facility where all the brightest humes and genomes had been gathered to build, it was rumoured, the final weapon, the weapon that would destroy the AI Armies along with the Red King himself.
At first Roloth had thought to simply send the co-ordinates of the place to his contact the Traiton Jaron but there had been many rumours and many stories about the facilities purpose and he had decided that he had to learn the truth for himself, he had one chance and one chance only to win the Red Kings favour and receive back to him his freshly recreated family and he would not loose them again due to his carelessness.
“You two fools don’t really think you’re going to make it out of here alive do you?”
Their hostage spoke to them in hushed tones as the compactor pistol held its position at the small of her back, the nose of it just digging into her enough as not to cause to discomfort but enough to let her know it was there if needed.
“We have another two checkpoints to get through and there’s a bio-scanner at the end of the next passage and unless you are a long lost family member of one of the project team then I don’t see how you’re going to get past it.”
Roloth’s Jaw tensed.
“We’ll find a way.”
Zarin hissed across to Roloth.
“Is she serious Roloth? How the fregg are we going to get through that checkpoint?”
Roloth looked at Zarin. His hand slowly went below the disguise they’d acquired to his real garments underneath where he was clearly fishing around for something, a few seconds later he pulled out a small spherical metallic item and held it between his thumb and forefinger in display to Zarin.
“Bio-masker, never leave home without it.” said Roloth.
“Great but where the hell’s my one?” Zarin asked in an unusually desperate tone.
“Didn’t come prepared Zarin? Don’t worry, I got one for you two, but you owe me one.”
“The hell I do Roloth, this whole damn mission doesn’t just make us square, I’m starting to think in fact it’s putting me ahead in the debt department.”
“You a bank now Zarin? Gonna charge me interest on my…”
“Quiet.” This was the hostage now. “The first checkpoint is up ahead. As much as I enjoy listening to you dingwats arguing like children, I do not want that compactor you have stashed in my lower Thorocolumbar Fascia from going off. Do you have your identitokens?”
“Our.. what?” Roloth replied, some hesitation in his voice.
“This is a top secret facility, daily intdentitokens are issued for movement about the facility. Check the top pockets of your uniforms, militatum officers collect them each morning.”
Zarin fumbled around and quickly found a small hexagonal chip in his uniform, but as he looked across at Roloth he saw a look of growing frustration creep across his face.
“Roloth, you good?”
“Give me a second you damn Genome.”
“Hey, watch the slurs, at least I’m the one ready this time.”
“You don’t have a chip??” The Scientessa asked with fear in her voice.
“No damn it, there’s nothing.” Roloth replied.
For a moment a silence hung in the air amongst the trio.
The scientessa felt the barrel of the gun jam itself harder into her back.
“Make it work.” Roloth hissed between gritted teeth.
“What? How can I? They will need a chip!”
He twisted it a little more.
“I said. Make it work.”
The Scientessa’s breathing had gotten heavy, hesitation filled her every step.
“Tell them whatever you need to in order to get us through that checkpoint, or the nomie here will be forced to kill them and we’ll fight our way to the center, a lot of blood and a lot of deaths will be on your head.”
“Jeez Roloth, take it easy.” Zarin didn’t like this side of Roloth, his old captain was getting nasty in his old age.
“I’m serious. This works no matter what.
The strange party of three fell silent as they approached the guardpost.
Two large troopers stood silently on guard, dressed from foot to neck in special ablative armour and each held a Mk4 Plascannon, heavy duty gear, thought Roloth, for a weapons development facility, even one as top secret as this. On the approach to the facility they’d seen from the air just how heavily fortified this place was, he’d never see anything like it before, and he was sure this was the place they’d been searching for, the one that would reward him with his wife and child again.
“Evening Jaloonta, do you have today’s token please?”
“Here” Said the scientessa as she passed her indentitoken to them. She hoped desperately in her head that they didn’t see the slight shake of her hand. Luckily, Genome soldiers were used outside and at the centre of the facility, checkposts inbetween were regular humans who were more suited to these mundane tasks.
They placed the token against a wall console and a series of geometric shapes formed around it and coalesced into the token, after a few seconds, it’s rim flashed green.
The second guard spoke collectively to Roloth and Zarin.
Zarin produced his token as asked.
Roloth could only stand and pretend to fumble and search for his token in a feigned manner of puzzlement.
The guards both lost focus on their current tasks and began to view him with interest.
“Token please sir.” one of them demanded.
The Scientessa, Jaloonta, looked at him worriedly, she looked next at Zarin who’s hand was almost imperceptibly beginning to reach for something behind his back. She could feel the likelihood of violence growing by the second.
“General Roloth!” Jaloonta decried aloud. “Don’t tell me you have misplaced your token again General.”
Roloth was startled by her sudden outburst.
“What? Oh, yes, I believe I have.”
“Four days out of a five day tour of this facility you have forgotten it and today would seem to be no exception!.”
The guards looked at each other in puzzlement.
“Gentleman, my apologies.” Jaloonta continued. “The General has served a long and illustrious career and is renowned for his valour on the battlefields across 5 systems, but, it seems, not for his organisation and memory!. I will lead them back to the dispenser station, again, and we will return shortly.”
“Jaloonta.” One of the guards spoke.
“Yes?” Jaloonta tried her hardest to sound innocent in her reply but inside her heart was racing and her throat was beginning to choke.
“Do you vouch for the general?”
“But, of course?”
The guard pressed a button on the wall console and the door slid open.
There it was, the way ahead, Jaloonta breathed out in relief.
“Thank you.” She said. “I’m not sure I could survive another walk back to the front segment.”
She gave a wink for effect.
The trio looked at each other, a silent understanding of how close they’d come to being caught passed between them and they began to make their way through the doorway.
As they passed through, Roloth could only hope that the biomakers he’d procured would make the next checkpoint easier than this one, he wasn’t sure his heart coul….
“Excuse me, General”
A large hand landed on Roloths shoulder.
Zarin and Jaloonta turned to see what had stopped them.
“Yes?” Replied Roloth in feinged innocence once more.
“If you’re a General. Why do you have the markings of a 3rd Lieutenant.”
The guard stared at Roloth and he returned it. The question hung in the air and seem to swirl about everyone’s senses. Jaloontas ploy had been good but in it’s haste she had been overzealous in the rank she had assigned the old Smuggler Captain.
As fast as lightning Roloth grabbed the guards hand and pulled a knife from some unseen place. Before the other guard had a chance to train his plascannon on him he had the first with his arm behind his back and a knife to his throat.
“Listen to me young-un.” He said to the armed guard. “One false move and your partner here will make a one way trip to the great beyond.”
Jaloonta looked on in horror.
“I’ll smear you and your nomie friend across the bulkhead if you do. Don’t try to disarm me neighter Nomie or I’ll take them both out, my partner knows the score, this place is too important to chance it.”
The five of them stood locked in a stalemate. Jaloonta backed away step after hesitant step, she was not designed for confrontation and she felt she might faint any moment.
Zarins eyes darted about like crazy as his mind calculated battle scenarios until it found the one he was set on and he began to adjust his body for his super fast movement.
Just as he was poised to act however, something commandeered his attention. He looked at Roloth.
“Do. Do you hear that?” He asked.
Roloth still holding the knife to the guards neck strained to hear what Zarin seemed to have.
“No I don’t I…. Wait.” Roloth looked at Zarin.
He dropped the knife and jumped away from the door in one fluid motion as he cried.
“EVERYONE GET DOW…”
The guardpost exploded sending everyone reeling in a multitude of directions.
Roloth was propelled across the floor and flung into a nearby bulkhead. Zarin who had been preparing to run straight for the second guard was sent flying backwards and upwards onto the raised platform of the next passageway, impacting with the wall at tremendous speed and falling limp to the ground having done so. Jaloonta who had retreated somewhat in prepartion for the coming violence was knocked to the floor and flung back onto some nearby stairs. She landed hard and felt all air leave her lungs and was sure she felt something inside her break, in the immediate aftermath as she’d tried to move a lightning bolt of pain ran through her prompting her not to attempt to move again and instead remain prone where she landed.
Of the two guards, nothing could be said, they were nowhere to be seen.
What had once been a checkpoint on the way into the inner sanctum was now a smouldering crater, a pit of 10 metots in diameter was all that remained and the dust and debris from the blast was now illuminated by the blood red dusk sun of Garrion VI as the secret facility was laid bare to the outside world.
Roloth was the first to move. He fought through a haze of pain and pulled himself slowly to his feet. He made his way to the closest person, Jaloonta, and knelt beside her.
“Are you ok?” He asked intently.
“Now… now you care?” She replied between breaths.
“Are you hurt?!” He demanded now.
“Yes.. but… I believe I will live. Your friend?”
Roloth looked over to Zarin. The genome soldier had already begun to pick himself up and a large wound on his forehead was already beginning to clot and heal at his typically accelerated rate.
“He’ll be fine.”
“What. What did this?” Jaloonta asked in bewilderment.
Roloth looked about and could only think of one possible answer.
“The Red King, he’s here, he’s followed us.”
Jaloontas eyes went wide.
“You are working for him? I thought…. you were both … arms runners.. stupid arms runners… after big credits.”
“It’s complicated” was all Roloth could say as he saw the look of disgust in her eyes grow.
“You can’t… you can’t… betray us. This work.. Is too important.”
“No weapon is that important, the federation will make bigger and better ones, it won’t turn the tide of this war.”
“Weapons?” Jaloonta asked half questioningly and with a hint of laughter to her voice.
“Violence is… all you fighters understand. We… we are making…. Hope.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Roloth
Jaloonta wheezed in pain and grabbed her ribs, she was not accustomed to being so damaged, but her own healing powers would kick in soon. She pulled Roloth closer so she could say twice as much with the same breath but quieter.
She whispered in his ear, her lips a dance of discovery as she told him some of the secrets the facility held, and when she finished and he pulled away from her, his eyes were wide in understanding.
Jaloonta laid her head back and looked away from him.
“What you do now, is your decision. But… you decide for all humanity.”
Roloth stood up and looked at the smouldering crater.
“Damn it.” he thought to himself. “Damn it all.”
“Good. We got to move. Now.”