Talia knelt down on the roof of the elevator car and took a second to catch her breath. Sweat poured down her face despite the cold temperatures inside the facility, soaking her shirt, causing it to cling to her pert breasts like a second skin.
Getting through the air ducts didn’t take her as far as she thought it would. There’d been a crossroads and she’d turned left and ended up sliding downwards to burst through a vent into a small room built into the elevator shaft wall for technicians. Once there it’d taken several minutes to figure out where she was and then end up on top of an elevator car that rested one floor below.
Maybe landing in the shaft would turn out to be a fortuitous break in all honesty. No doubt the humans had people guarding every external vent exit throughout the facility, which would’ve meant either knocking out or killing someone to escape-and that didn’t rank highly in her book. With any luck they won’t think to check to exits from the shaft to the surface and she could get out without being detected.
Yes, it was a long-shot and the warrior held no self-delusions that the odds were in her favor. Twenty thousand years in combat taught Talia long ago that wishing did nothing but get her in spots that she could’ve kept herself out of had she not let herself forget the reality of the situation.
The only wild card and the one that really kept her from being able to consider the odds in her favor, was the humans and how they’d behave. Never in her long life did Talia encounter a race that was as unpredictable as mankind, which left her wondering just how they would arrange security in the effort to keep her from escaping.
Sweat dripped from her hair and then landed on the dirty roof as she listened to a small group of soldiers enter the car below. Judging from the sound of the footsteps, there were at least two, maybe three of them, and without a doubt they’d be armed. After what happened to the General and the people who tried to stop the Dragus, it would in her opinion be foolhardy to walk around unarmed. The only problem was that they’d consider a threat and potentially shoot her without even thinking about it.
“Colonel,” one of the soldiers said. “It’s the base in Richmond.”
A moment went by before the man spoke again. “In no way are you to go near it or try to download anything from it. Understand? Good, we’ll discuss this later. Right now I have to brief the President on what’s happened here. Let’s get moving.”
There were times in Talia’s life when she was tempted to kill someone out of spite-and this was one of them. The utter stupidity of the human race amazed the warrior on one hand and disgusted her on the other. How could one group of people be willing to risk their lives on something they didn’t even know what it was? It’d already cost several lives and if that drone in Richmond-where ever that was-activated, then millions, no billions, of lives were at risk.
If it wouldn’t lead to the humans recapturing her, Talia would’ve jumped down and given the humans a piece of her mind. However, if they had another specimen in Richmond, then that made it even more important for her to escape. While she might’ve been able to beat the unfortunate souls who were assimilated, it wouldn’t be easy if they managed to finish the job of turning a person into a soldier.
The breeze running through her hair lifted it up as if it were a silver mane and sent strands flying everywhere. With any luck central command would be near the surface and the humans would be too busy guarding the vents to notice her using the shaft to escape. Hopefully, if they were guarding the shaft, the soldiers would have some brains and realize that unless they were armed with shock devices, they couldn’t hurt her.
“Colonel,” one of the humans said as the car slowed to a stop. “What’s going to happen now?”
“I’ll tell the President what we’ve done to try to capture the girl and then fall on my sword,” a man said.
“If you guys just listened to me,” Talia whispered. “Then none of this would’ve happened!”
In a large stroke of luck, central command appeared to be on the top floor of the facility, which made little sense to Talia. Top secret bases, especially those underground, normally placed their headquarters in the most secure location, which was on a middle floor-not by the surface. To place it there was tantamount, in her opinion, to putting a flashing neon sign overhead saying “please take me.”
A quick peek over the edge of the car gave Talia an idea about how truly big the facility was. The room where she’d entered the shaft was ten floors below and there were another 5 between her and freedom. And to make things worse, there were two different cars but the second remained stubbornly in place at the bottom of the shaft, leaving climbing the maintenance ladder the only option open.
Once again Talia found herself wishing that Dannae had listened when she’d told the warrior-healer that the situation felt wrong. Beanpole needed to learn to trust her when she tried to say something was going sour. Yes, a lot of plans Talia made went south, she wouldn’t deny that, but of all four of them, she always had the best instincts, and it seemed that whenever the four of them ignored that fact bad things surely followed.
Either way the seeds of destruction were sown on Earth and needed only the right kind of fertilizer and then they’d explode in an orgy of destruction that would wipe away man and any other sentient species within range. Now she stood as the only one who could prevent it from happening, which meant allowing the humans to recapture her would be out of the question.
Maybe in a way, she thought, it was a good thing that we ended up back here. If we hadn’t, and they found that ship…then it’d’ve been the end of mankind.
For several seconds Talia looked things over before her mind started to work over the problem. The second car was stopped at the ground floor, which was a ten floor drop and if she landed on it there’d be enough noise to alert the entire base where she was. It appeared to her that the only means of escape would be by the small maintenance ladder that ran from the base of the shaft to the top where a platform was.
It would be another long, hard climb and there was nothing she could hide behind if the humans had surveillance equipment. Things just kept getting better and better. At this rate she’d be lucky if she managed to keep from causing the biggest paradox in the history of the universe.
All from one star going boom, she thought.
A streak of fatalism started to take over and Talia reflected on the events of her long life. Boom. There was always a boom. If it didn’t happen today, then there’d be one tomorrow. It was the only constant in life: something bad would happen in some shape, form or fashion.
Time to get moving, the warrior reminded herself, and quit thinking about the could be’s. Out there somewhere was another Dragus solider, and nothing prevented it from activating again and starting to kill humans and then infect the computer systems with the program necessary to use them to help create cyber controllers and eventually overwhelm the planet.
But they wouldn’t be satisfied with just the Earth and that was the thing that bothered the warrior. While the death of the Gahl at the hands of the Dragus had been arranged by the Wraith, there was nothing to prevent them from assimilating the humans just to do it. And if she wanted to live, then the humans needed to be saved. Otherwise, who’d be there to make reverse engineer the Gahl tech to make her cybernetic body and the Valiant.
If none of this happens, she thought, then I never reawaken and the Wraith continues to kill other races. That’d be a fail.
If there was one thing the warrior learned early in life, it was the fact that no good deed went unpunished. She’d saved mankind from genocide at the hands of the Wraith two years ago and now Talia found herself staring down the barrel of the Dragus. Dealing with the Lizards had been bad enough, but that’d been child’s play compared to this and all she wanted to do now was run and hide under the bed.
She sucked in a deep breath and then leapt across the open space and then caught a handhold on the ladder. Once again Talia would face her worst nightmare and it’d be on their terms, which lead to her losing almost every time and that was with all the might of the Gahl Defense Forces. Now all she had was one ship, two hundred humans and her sisters to try to stop the gearheads from conquering the planet. If there ever was a time she needed to pull a rabbit from her hat, this would be the time.
And I never was worth a damn as a magician, she thought.
Once again the sweat started to our down her face as she climbed. The last time this happened she’d been in her battle armor, which seemed to be the likely cause. Unfortunately, it appeared the exertion of hauling her cybernetic body upwards caused the liquid to flow, which sucked because that was one thing she couldn’t change about herself.
A couple minutes later she reached the platform and then took a couple minutes to catch her breath. No doubt the humans would be frantically searching for her and blocking every exit now since she’d not exited the air ducts yet. If her guess was right, they’d be smarter than expected and have someone covering the external exit to the elevator shaft, which was what she’d do in their position.
Time to slow down and regroup for a moment and make a plan for what to do when outside. If Chief Brooks worked her magic, then coms would be open with the ship and she could inform the others of the current situation; however, given the massive damage to she and her sisters’ home, it seemed doubtful that the resourceful engineer managed to solve the problem yet. That meant she was on her own to figure out where Richmond was and then locate the hidden base to prevent the Dragus from infiltrating the computer systems and making more soldiers.
Ok, the first problem would be what to do with any soldier guarding the shaft’s exit. To be honest, Talia didn’t feel like killing an human out of spite or hand unless absolutely necessary. While she stopped being surprised by the younger race’s stupidity, this was one of those times that the warrior hoped they’d use the brains that Cheikra gave them.
Once that was done, could she even make it to the fighter and then back to the ship? Finding the Dragus would be much simpler if the sensors were back online because she knew what to look for. However, if they were still down, then it wouldn’t make much difference; she’d still have to track them down on her own and Cheikra only knew how long that’d take.
Well, she thought, let’s take this one thing at a time.
Talia sucked in a deep breath and then started to climb a set of stairs that ended at a door. No doubt there’d be an alarm that would be tripped when she opened it, which would tell the humans where she was. Nothing could be done about it now, because staying put didn’t help anything and it didn’t matter what the human’s knew or didn’t know by now.
Surprisingly, no audible alarm went off when she opened the door but Talia didn’t doubt that one screamed for attention in command central. That left her seconds to be able to get free and start to run from the facility before someone started to track her heat signature. Not much time to think of something, which meant she’d have to wing it-as usual.
One human guard stood with his back to her and the warrior both cursed her bad luck and was happy that the man didn’t see it. That meant she could do something about him without having to kill the kid, which would be a plus in her book.
She wrapped her arm around his throat, placing him in a choke hold. “If you want to live, do exactly what I say.”