Raala hovered around the engine room checking and rechecking everything that needed to be in place. There was no telling what they might encounter inside the abandoned complex. The tower, the tallest point, was already within sight. It was tall and narrow, almost like an antenna that was split into three straight narrow sections near the top. The Traveler’s scans continued to show nothing of worth but there was no way to know for sure with all the abandoned buildings.
“All crew, report to the first floor hall in ten minutes,” Vicia’s voice crackled through the intercoms.
With a sigh, Raala stopped her adjustments. She had already done all that she could and still needed to get ready. Raala walked out of the engine room into the hall. She heard talking in the medical wing and glanced over. Widow sat on the foot of the medical bed while Miru spoke to her. Urz lay at the edge of the bed, panting and drooling happily on the floor.
Without giving it another thought, Raala entered the elevator.
On the first floor, the quarian headed aft toward crew quarters. As she walked, she passed by several opened windows. There was sand as far as the eye could see. Inside the crew quarters, Ral walked toward her bunk. Beside her bed was a small locker about two feet wide and a foot tall. She quickly typed in her code and the locker opened.
Looking inside she paused.
Her eyes fell on a small round stone. It was a misty grey in color with the occasional flash of blue. A stone from her homeworld, from Rannoch. It was given to her by one of the captains who gave her the news of her parents. He thought it would help comfort her knowing she had a piece of what her parents were fighting for. With all that was going on, she’d forgot she had it.
“Stop wasting time,” Vurtak stated loudly as he entered the room. “You might like all this waiting around but I’d rather get straight to the fight.”
Raala stuffed the rock into one of her many pockets. She reached into the locker and pulled out her pistol, securing it to a side harness. It was all she had carried with her from the SSV Kolkata.
“That’s all you have? That little pea-shooter?” Vurtak grunted.
He shook his head and reached into his locker. The krogan pulled out a shotgun. It looked old and used but sturdy, like it had seen its share of battles. There were some dents and impacts from times when it protected its master. Vurtak tossed it at her. Raala scrambled to catch the weapon. She stared down at it a few moments before looking up at the krogan. Her entire body asked a question.
“Use that. Doesn’t have much for range but it’ll bite in a pinch,” Vurtak stated as he reached into his locker and pulled out another shot gun. “Besides, that geth thing managed to build me a new one, wanna try it out. Those geth are pretty handy with technology. No wonder they’re so hard to beat.”
Vurtak closed his locker and grabbed his war hammer before sauntering out into the hall. Raala could almost swear she heard him laugh with excitement. She attached the weapon to one of the magnetic holsters on her lower back. With one last look in her locker for anything useful, she headed out into the hall.
The others were already present. Vicia got right to the point.
“I don’t want us all going,” she paused, “Just in case we need backup, I want a second team here to keep an eye on things.”
Naryxea nodded reluctantly, “I guess I see your point.”
“Who will be staying here?” Miru asked.
Vicia pointed as she listed off names, “I want Consensus, Widow, Naryxea and Urz to stay.”
The varren looked very disappointed. It sat on its haunches and growled quietly. With a stern glare from Vurtak, the war beast quieted.
Vicia continued, “Myself, Vurtak, Miru and Raala will check out the buildings and the tower. Miru was the one who said she detected large energy readings from the tower so she’ll be leading point. Vurtak will bring up the rear.”
“So you’re just going to jump off the top deck forty feet to the sand?” Naryxea crossed her arms.
Vicia smiled, “Well, you almost sound genuinely concerned.” The asari pursed her lips but said nothing. Vicia continued, “Away group, to the cargo bay.”
The group of four stepped into the cargo bay. There was a short set of steps up to the main floor. At the back wall was a workbench. Wires and tools were scattered all around. That was probably where Consensus did all of its tinkering and constructing.
After the workbench, the floor started a steep incline upward to meet with the first floor. On the outer sides of two bars were storage areas. Giant steps made platforms for cargo to sit securely on with tethers and rope. There wasn’t much in the cargo area at the moment but there was enough space that could potentially carry a decent number of supplies. At least enough for five organics, two synthetics and a pet varren.
At the base on the incline, Vicia pressed a button. The space between the two metal bars began to descend. The ramp descended to a 105° angle. Wind whirled into the cargo bay, tugging at anything that wasn’t secured down.
“Current speed is at 50 knots,” KIDD’s voice echoed in the cargo bay. “We are currently an average of 20 feet off the ground.”
“Go!” Vicia shouted, “Tuck and roll! Go!”
Vurtak ran forward toward the descended ramp. Shouting loudly, he jumped off the edge and disappeared. Once he cleared, Miru followed after. She dashed forward and over the edge using her arms to control her fall. Once the synthetic disappeared over the edge, Raala knew that it was her turn.
With Vicia’s voice in her ears egging her on, Raala ran. The slope added to her speed. Before she allowed herself to think, she jumped.
It was a strange sensation, like being suspended in air but falling at the same time. All of her senses paused; touch and hearing, as if to divert unnecessary energy to functions that would help her survive.
The ground came quickly. When it hit, Raala’s legs crumbled when they hit the ground. She leaned forward, tucking her head into her chest and tumbled. Raala felt the impacts on her body as she rolled over several times. After what seemed like an eternity, she slowed down and eventually came to a stop.
Raala waited a few moments before she struggled her way back on her feet. She brushed her hand across her dust covered helmet screen. The display on her screen showed her vitals. Nothing seemed out of place other than her elevated heart rate. The Traveler sailed away, kicking up sand due to its close vicinity to the ground. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
Miru smiled at her. She held a metallic submachine in her free hand, raised and ready to fire, “Are you alright?”
Raala nodded. She shook with adrenaline.
“Let’s move!” Vurtak shouted behind them. The heavy hammer in his arms swung as he ran.
Responding quickly, Miru took the lead. Taking point, she ran ahead. She held her gun at the ready, low and pointed at the ground. Raala drew her pistol and followed after her.
The three of them caught up with Vicia who joined their crew. She reported their groups location to the ship as they headed toward the complex. They approached in a cross formation with Miru in the lead and Vurtak leading the rear. Vicia kept to the left side of the group while Raala was in charge of the right side.
As they entered the compound, Raala grew nervous. She was an engineer. She didn’t frequently go out of her way to enter dangerous situations, especially involving guns. The buildings on either side were eerily abandoned. Windows were broken, allowing a view into the darkness inside. Doors and entrances were destroyed. Many of the building were half buried or filled with sand.
The tower stood in the center of the complex. Now that they were closer, Raala could see how much taller it was. She was almost certain that it was some kind of communication tower. When the group reached it, Vicia turned to Raala.
“Find out what this thing can do,” Vicia stated. “We’ll cover you.”
Raala placed a hand on the cold metal surface. When she did, a panel appeared. She glanced quickly over her shoulder. The others had formed a semicircle around her. Vurtak turned slightly and glared at her. Raala turned back at the panel. With a sigh, she started hacking.
The text and symbols were in a form she didn’t recognized. She decided to approximate what she would normally do in any other situation. Her fingers flew across the panel until, suddenly, the wall in front of her sank in.
A door slid open allowing access to a room. In response to the noise, the others stepped inside. Raala joined them. The door closed and the room started to descend.
“Come in, Traveler,” Vicia placed a finger to her ear.
There was a crackling before an electronic voice responded on the comms system, “Confirmed. What is your status Vicia-Cabal?”
“We’ve entered the tower, Consensus, and we’re headed underground” Vicia reported. “There’s a strong possibility we might lose contact. If you don’t hear from us within the hour, don’t come looking for us. Take the Traveler and figure out a way off this planet.”
“Acknowledged,” Consensus answered.
The doors opened again. The next room was dark. Slowly, the group stepped out of the elevator. When the stepped over the threshold, the lights turned on. Several monitors on the left wall turned on. Static danced on each screen. A table in the room lit up. Several electronic hubs were scattered around the room. As Vicia walked past the table, it activated showing some strange malfunctioning holograms.
“Raala, Miru, see what you can find out,” Vicia called out.
The synthetic walked up to the table and started a data mine. Raala moved to the static screens while Vurtak shuffled around aimlessly. His hammer was propped gently on his shoulder.
Raala felt as if she could start to understand some of what was written in the rows and rows of data. Her suit VI translator seemed to be catching on to the new language. She saw bits of interesting code. She searched through the data, downloading any information that she wanted to look further into once she could translate. There was a crackling over their helmet comm. Raala ignored it leaving it for the others to decipher the message.
“Traveler? Repeat last transmission?” Vicia talked over the comms.
Raala narrowed her eyes at the screen. It seemed to ask for some sort of confirmation. Her hand hovered over the screen. The screen in front of Raala flickered slightly. An image appeared briefly along with a garbled audio over the bunkers intercoms. All the electronics turned on. The hum of power and electricity filled the air.
Raala stepped away from the screens. Behind her, a hologram appeared on the large table. Two figures faced each other.
“—mustn’t let them—our location. We—survive. Break contact with home—order to ensure—live. The—must not find—place.”
“Sleep—wait. Until—people come—for us.”
“This will not be the end.”
The room shook. Loose ceiling parts fell on top of them. Several pods opened on the far wall. Vurtak turned, hammer at the ready, expecting trouble. A pulse of energy shot through the system. The power shut down, leaving them all in the dark. It took a moment before everyone’s suit lights turned on.
“What was that?” Vicia asked.
Miru looked around, “It seems like there was some sort of power surge.”
“You might want to see this,” Vurtak called over from the strange pods on the other end of the room.
Cautiously, Raala walked over. Vurtak was looking in one of the pods. Raala did the same. She wished she hadn’t. Inside one of the pods was a skeleton. It wasn’t like any skeleton she was familiar with but a dead body was still uncomfortable to witness. Raala stepped back in shock. Miru walked up confidently.
The synthetic bend down and seemed to be analyzing the remains, “It seems to be that the cryopods lost power for a period of time and the occupants were not revived.”
Vicia shook her head, “There are at least twenty pods here. All of them are dead?”
There was another tremor. Rubble rained down from the ceiling. Miru closed her eyes, appearing to be thinking. When she opened her eyes, she turned to the others.
Miru stated plainly. “I suggest that we find a way out of the underground bunker before we are buried in rubble.”
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