Transverse: Part 4 – In Search of Deliverance

    In this installment, with a comrade slain, Wyatt Escher and his companions search for a way out, before their enemies overwhelm them…      I stood in the entrance to the elevator, which

    In this installment, with a comrade slain, Wyatt Escher and his companions search for a way out, before their enemies overwhelm them…

     I stood in the entrance to the elevator, which put me between any potential ambush and the rest of our merry band. I stepped into the gaping darkness.

     Refaeli grabbed for me. “Escher…”

     There was a deep hum, then row after row of overhead lights flickered on down the length of the bunker. I looked back at Refaeli. “Better than enhanced night vision.”

     She gave me a sour look, then waved Donovan and Musset forward as she kept her needler out in front of her.

     The bunker was just a long tunnel with open bays to either side—workspaces, sleeping areas, and vehicle bays. Dust clung to everything.

     I turned to the group. “Alright, everybody split up and search for a vehicle.”

     Refaeli looked back toward the elevator. “Is that really a good idea?”

     “They’re coming either way. We need a ride out and we need one now.” I swept my gaze over the group. “Get to it!”

     Musset hovered near Refaeli, but to his credit, Donovan put effort into the search. I jogged down the bunker, checking the bays as I went and finding them empty. Damn it.

     It was the last bay, just before a pair of large blast doors, that something was hidden under a tarp. I pulled it back to find what looked like an older version of the executive cars I’d seen up top. “Over here!”

     Everyone rushed to me. Donovan spoke the question we all had. “Any fuel?”

     I nearly smacked my forehead. These were combustion, not electric. No quick charge, no get up and go. I wasn’t an expert, but I remembered something about fuel going bad.

     Musset gabbled and pointed at a sign over a large nozzle sticking out of the wall. Refaeli translated. “Non-volatile biodiesel fuel storage. Warning: fuel is stored at high pressure with nitrogen gas.”

     I clapped him on the back. “Guess you’re useful for something.” He smiled cluelessly.

     That started a mad search for a hose and wherever we were supposed to put fuel into the car. Here Musset was of less use, since he apparently left the details to chauffeurs. 

     We found the hose, but apparently, a security contractor, an intelligence specialist, and a senator aren’t qualified to find a car’s fuel nozzle.

     “Here!” Donovan waved us to the back of the car, where he was on all fours. I would’ve sworn I’d never see him stoop so low. 

     Donovan pointed behind the back wheel. “It’s there, underneath the wheel well.” He was smiling, for once. “Old cars are a hobby of mine.” 

     I frowned. “You drive cars without autopilot?” 

     “It’s just a hobby.” He matched my expression. “But if this car is steam-driven, like their other vehicles, it’s something I have experience with.”

     “Wait, steam? Like locomotives?”

     Donovan sighed and rolled his eyes. “Not quite, but the same principle. It’ll have a boiler, and need a few minutes to warm up.”

     There was a rumble from other end of the bunker and the muffled sound of metal twisting.

     I held up my hand. “Refaeli, needler.” Professional she was, she tossed me her weapon without question, which I caught. I turned to Donovan. “Get this figured out! I’ll hold them off.”

     A needler is a holdout weapon, easy to conceal, with a substantial ammo capacity and rate of fire, but sacrifices range, stopping power, and penetration. It’s good as a backup, but it’s not for a heavy firefight. And here I was, one man with a needler and a monoblade, charging an army. I must’ve been out to lunch when God handed out the brains.

     The elevator doors burst outward in a crash and crunch of metal. I charged in a dead run. I needed to be closer for the needler to be in effective range, and I wanted to be as far forward as possible, to shield the others. I only got a few dozen paces before soldiers burst from the hole, bullets flew, and I slid in next to a concrete wall.

     The only option I had was to let them come to me. I took shots to keep their heads down and keep their focus on me. They returned fire, taking chunks of concrete out of the wall and knocking the breath from my lungs with hits on my armor. One shot left a burning and bleeding crease on the side of my skull, but the pain was smothered under adrenaline.

     The irony was that, after the last beating they’d taken, they were moving more cautiously, so with the kind of genius that waves goodbye to common sense, I decided to let many of my shots go wide. That gave them confidence, so they moved faster. This I liked, since even the needler’s impressive ammo capacity was not unlimited.

     I decided to be a bit more suicidal and duck out of cover to pull back, dashing back to another position. As I hoped, they came in a rush and converged on me.

     Here the needler came into its own. Within its effective range, flechette rounds deform in soft targets and dump all their kinetic energy, with massive hydrostatic shock. One round will pulverize organs. And my faster reaction time, for a few fractions of a second, made the scene a shooting gallery.

     I popped up from concealment, downed four of them in as many heartbeats, and then surprised them by charging. With one hand, I stowed the needler and took up a light machinegun dropped by one of the now-dead soldiers. With the other hand, I drew my monoblade.

     I flanked and stitched them with the LMG, then dashed in and sliced through arms and necks to send limbs and bodies tumbling. I was sprayed with blood as I moved through them, firing, slicing, and ducking shots. 

     I was a bloody, howling demon, raining down thunder and death. Then the LMG ran dry, and I hurled it at the head of a soldier, who went down as it connected with the sound of crunching bone. That freed me to cut them down faster with the monoblade. I dropped more bodies as I cut several of them in two, or just parted their legs from their hips and left them to make blood trails as they dragged themselves along the ground.

     The survivors broke and ran, and I had to remind my punch-drunk brain not to chase them. I put away my knife, hefted a crew-served machinegun they’d left behind, and draped several belts of ammo over my shoulder.

     When I returned to the car, the collective look of the others was somewhere between shock and horror. No surprise, as I was covered head to toe in blood, with the machinegun resting on my hip.

     Musset looked like he’d faint, Refaeli was unreadable, and Donovan gestured to the running car with his mouth hanging open.

     I looked them over once. “How do we get out of here?”

     Refaeli, at least, lurched into motion. She elbowed Musset and gestured toward the console next to the blast doors. 

     He looked at her dumbly for a moment, looked back at me, then shook his head and went over to a keypad to enter a code. The blast doors opened with a hiss and thump to reveal a ramp leading to the surface.

     Refaeli’s hand went to her ear and her eyes widened. “Oh God, oh dear God.”

     I went cold. “What is it?”

     She shook as she turned to me. “I got signal reception from the surface. If I’m understanding this right, there’s a bomber on the way to drop a nuke on their capital…and we’re in the city limits.” 

     To Be Continued…

 

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