Eternity’s Foundation: Chapter 18

The blast door opened with a bang. Nalia raised her borrowed needlegun but lowered it as Zenk soldiers ran in. Miyashiro strode in and Alan, in an ill-fitting maintenance worker’s outfit, followed behind. She breathed out as the tension left her. Alan walked up to her and they embraced for a brief moment. The dim light flickered intermittently in the dank chamber.

Admiral Atranas, followed by her own Republic security forces, lowered her weapon also as she walked into view. “Were you followed?”

“Negative,” replied Miyashiro. “We made enough of a diversion to confuse them for a moment.” He looked behind him. “We found no sign of Admiral Vendrian, however.”

Atranas cursed. “That scoundrel! I should have known he was one of them! That had to be why he wasn’t at the negotiations. That had to be why he waited. When I find him, I’ll—” she coughed from the stink of the room. “He’s gone too far.”

Nalia pressed her hand on Alan’s shoulder as she noticed his confused expression. “A few days ago, Vendrian took control of the station. Zhang tried to escape in a shuttle, but it was destroyed by a bomb. The commander attempted to stop the admiral, but one of his personal marines shot him,” she told him. Nalia shuddered at the sight of Corwin’s blood spread out on the wall. “He put us in holding cells. We were able to escape when Colonel Miyashiro snuck in with his own marines on their stealth ships.”

“The murder of Zhang was a grave insult,” Miyashiro added. “We must take action. We will help you get off this station.”

“For once, I’m glad the bloody Zenks had that stealth device,” Atranas murmured.

Nalia glanced at Miyashiro. “What is our status?” she asked.

“My soldiers took some key sections of the station, but suffered heavy losses. There’ll be enough time for them to cover our escape, but not for much longer. My fleet is currently in a holding pattern with Batu’s remnants outside of engagement range and are awaiting my return,” he said.

Atranas flared her nose. “Total snafu on my end. I can’t get comms to my command ship. It’s likely chaos out there.” She sighed and looked toward her guard. “Luckily, not all of them seem to have joined the admiral in his little coup.” She scratched at the side of her pistol. Noticing Alan, she said, “Ah, my apologies for not introducing myself sooner. Admiral Atranas. The last time I saw you, you were being lowered into a stem cell chamber. Good to see you.”

He saluted. “Admiral.” He quickly told them of his conversation with Vendrian.

“The man is mad. Alliance with some god-forsaken intelligence? This can only end in disaster,” Atranas growled.

“How could one of the most decorated heroes of the Earth Republic do such a thing?” Nalia asked.

Alan shook his head. “You don’t know him like I do. I should have realized by now. He could get obsessed with things. Points of philosophy about human behavior. Anomalies in gridspace. His terrible anger and wrath on those who disagreed with him. I should have seen all the signs, but I was too focused on myself.”

Miyashiro interrupted. “We need to go. This quiet is concerning to me. I would have expected full scale boarding actions by now, but we’ve only fought the marines that were left behind at the station.”

“He’s right,” Atranas said, turning on a personal holoemitter. “Vendrian’s probably returned to his C and C ship.” The holoemitter showed a three-dimensional map of the station. “I’ve currently synced my data pad with reports from Miyashiro’s soldiers. She pointed at red flashing sections. “These are the areas with heavy fighting. The stealth ships are over here.” She pointed to a hangar bay on the bottom side of the station. “We need to find a way back to our fleets and get the hell out of here.”

“Then what?” Alan asked. “We don’t know who we can trust.”

The admiral tapped her chin. “I have good reason to believe that the President isn’t involved in this. We also need to get in touch with the Prime Minister.” She looked at Miyashiro. He nodded.

“We’ll use our stealth ships to return to the fleet,” he said. “Hopefully you can get into contact with your command. Once that is done, we head immediately towards Kenzenken space. Fleet Intelligence reports that another Republic fleet is heading to this location. We don’t know their intentions.”

Atranas checked the clip on her gun. “Good, we have a plan. Let’s move out.”

As they prepared to move out, Miyashiro tapped Nalia on the shoulder. When she faced him, he handed her some black spherical objects. “ECM cloud grenades. It’ll prevent the impact bolts from locking on to you,” he said. She nodded and clipped the grenades to her belt.

They walked into the dark environs of the station, with Kenichi’s soldiers in the vanguard. Movement was slow and deliberate, as they checked every corner and corridor. The silence unnerved Nalia. She expected alarms to be going off. She remembered that sections of the station could be completely sealed from each other and Vendrian might decide to eject their area of the station into space. Their footsteps echoed on the metal flooring, sounding like bangs.

They reached a large four-way intersection. The lead soldier held her hand up, signaling them to stop. She motioned to a soldier behind her who raced to the wall opposite her. They approached the corners slowly, their needleguns aimed straight ahead. The Kenzenken opposite them leaned out to view the hallway. Nalia involuntarily covered her face with her hands as an impact bolt hit him in the chest. She smelled burning flesh. She never even heard the thing fire.

The lead soldier yelled something in her native language. Nalia instinctively knew it meant to fall back. No sooner had they stepped a couple meters back when a small explosion rocked their former position. Depowered grenades to fight in the cramped quarters of the station. The Kenzenken troopers opened fire as gray-armored Republic marines stepped into view. The distorted and quiet sound of impact bolts sailed over her head as Nalia dropped to the ground. One of the Zenks fired an ECM grenade into the Republic position. An electrified cloud of grey smoke filled the hallway, providing some measure of protection. The enemy continued to fire at them. Dull colored bolts hit nearby walls, causing sparks to fly and steam to pour out. She crawled behind some nearby boxes. Alan dived in next to her, firing his own pistol.

A bolt decapitated a Kenzenken soldier next to them. The trooper’s hand was still on the trigger as the body fell. Razor sharp needles embedded themselves in the wall next to Nalia, barely grazing her head. She felt a drop of blood drop down her cheek as the superheated cylinders of metal passed. The gun sprayed for a few seconds more before it ran out of ammo in the clip. A grenade whistled near them and hit a ceiling pipe. Nalia covered her ears as the blast wave roared above her. The lights flickered off. A second later, alarm klaxons sounded as red lights flashed. She heard a massive crash as piles of debris fell. The already quiet sounds of gunfire grew increasingly muffled. When she looked up, she found the path ahead of them completely covered by twisted metal.

“Captain! Captain! Are you there?” a voice yelled out. It took a while for Nalia to register it as Atranas’s.

“I’m here, Admiral!” she yelled back. She saw Alan picking himself up from the floor.

“We can’t get to you! We have to split up!” The voice returned. Nalia heard the ghost whisper of needlegun fire beyond the wall.

“She’s…she’s right,” Alan walked up to her, holding his arm. Blood flowed over his right eye. “I know… a way to another hangar. To my Hawking ship.”

Nalia nodded. “We have a way out. We’ll rendezvous with you as soon as we’re able!” she yelled to the admiral.

“Good. Now go!” came the reply.

Alan led her to a side corridor while the sounds of fighting continued behind them. She helped him pull open a sealed door. Beyond they lifted a hatch, which contained a ladder to the darkness below. He gestured for her to go first as he crouched and pointed his pistol at the door. She started climbing down. Sweat rolled down her hands as the alarms continued their ear-piercing shrieks. The seconds stretched into minutes as she climbed down. The lights grew dimmer and dimmer. She could barely hear the slap of boots against metal above her. Finally, they reached the floor, covered in almost total darkness. She paused, catching her breath.

Reaching into his pockets, Alan pulled out a high-powered flashlight. He illuminated the room in front of them. Ahead of them lay a narrow hallway. “This way,” he said. They squeezed through, feeling their way through the cold metal walls. It led to a well-lit room marked “EMERGENCY AIRLOCK”. She looked at Alan.

“Wait,” he said. He put his hand over her face, checking the wound she received moments before.

“It’s all right. It’s already cauterized.” She gently pushed his hand away.

He nodded. His hand fell to his side. He walked towards a wall.

“Sorry, we’re going to have to take a walk,” he said as he touched some buttons on a nearby panel. He wiped the blood off over his right eye. Two darkened compartments opened, revealing a rack of space suits. He grabbed one and started putting it on.

“You’ve got to be shitting me,” Nalia remarked. She sighed, and reached for her own space suit. The alarms continued to sound.

“It’s the fastest way,” he replied. “Besides, we’ve been through thousands of zero-g simulations.” He finished putting on his space suit.

“Simulations,” she reminded him. She slipped the helmet over her head. There was complete darkness until the suit activated with a small whir. She saw the room again through a HUD. Subvocalizing a command, she activated suit comms and linked with Alan. “Well, let’s just do this,” her voice came out garbled as the suit still boosted its communications. She made sure her weapons were available. She walked to the nearby airlock controls. “Ready?” she asked.

He stood next to her. “Yes.” The suit radio made his voice sound higher pitched than usual.

She opened the airlock. “Warning, the emergency airlock has been activated. Please leave the premises if you are not wearing the proper equipment,” a slightly cheery female voice told them. The first airlock door slowly opened with a slight rumble. They activated the magnetic seals on their boots. The second airlock door opened with a final crash. She felt the air rushing out as she looked upon a field of stars and the grey landscape of Danube. They walked out into the void.

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