- Descendants: LA #25 – Merchandise Driven Part 1
- Descendants: LA #26 – Merchandise Driven Part 2
- Descendants: LA #27 – Merchandise Driven Part 3
- Descendants: LA #28 – Troubled Production Part 1
- Descendants: LA #29 – Troubled Production Part 2
- Descendants: LA #30 – Troubled Production Part 3
- Descendants: LA #31 – Troubled Production Part 4
- Descendants: LA #32 – Troubled Production Part 5
- Descendants: LA #33 – The Sixth Ranger Part 1
- Descendants: LA #34 – The Sixth Ranger Part 2
- Descendants: LA #35 – The Sixth Ranger Part 3
- Descendants: LA #37 – The Sixth Ranger Part 5
Lydia threw up her hands and created a thick wall of telekinetic force just in time for two more shots to deflect off it. Now down among the buildings, it was easy to tell that the shots were coming from somewhere further up the mountain near the mine entrance.
“There’s more than one shooter!” she reported into her comm, “We need to get to cover!”
Only static came in reply, but there was no time to ponder that. Another shot struck the TK wall and it rippled as the high velocity round taxed Lydia’s power. Sighting a relatively intact building nearby, Ramona grabbed her arm and maneuvered her in that direction.
There, they ran into a sliver of luck, as the door to the place wasn’t locked, allowing them to duck inside. In life—or at the very least during the town’s stint as a resort ghost town, the building appeared to have been a general store. Shelving units were still in evidence there along with barrels and cubbies for wet and dry goods respectively. A long, sturdy counter ran along the back wall with a door to the back room situated behind it.
Ramona and Lydia leapt over it and hunkered down behind it just as the snipers at the mine took notice of their attempts at evasion and opened up on the store full auto. Rounds pattered against the thick timbers of the structure and shattered the dingy glass of the windows, some even making it far enough to thunk into the counter.
“Shit. Listen guys, we’re pinned down and…” Lydia scowled as the comm remained silent.
“Are we being jammed or something?” Ramona tried her own comm to much the same effect.
Lydia took time out to breath deeply. “God, I hope so.”
“So… we can’t talk to the others?” the telekinetic shook her head. “Then what are we going to do? Maybe wait for them to think we’re dead and come looking for us? Then we could jump them.”
“Or they might just toss a grenade in to make sure. If they’ve got rifles that can bore into my TK like that, they’re well-equipped enough to have grenades.”
Having already gotten a visceral demonstration that a bullet would not kill her even if she was shot in the neck, Ramona still wasn’t willing to test out whether a grenade could do the trick. “Then we need to get the hell out of here. Let’s go through the door back here—maybe there’s a way out from there.”
It didn’t take any more than that and a quick listen to the steady rate of gunfire striking the side of the building to convince Lydia. “Let’s give it a try then. I’ll cover you tot he door.” A simple gesture called up a new, smaller TK shield, this one hovering over the counter to block the door. It was angled so as t not have to take the full force of any bullets and thus preserve Lydia’s energy.
As soon as it was in place, Ramona moved to the door and tried the knob. Once more, their luck held and it wasn’t locked. That was as far was it went, however as the room beyond was nearly-bare and windowless. Only the soft glow of the TK shield illuminated the space, revealing a few hooks hanging from the ceiling, some empty shelves, and empty crates.
“Nothing,” she reported, moving further into the back room. The floor groaned and flexed under her weight. “Though the extra wall might shield us from more bullets or explosives.” She glanced back into the main room, where significantly more daylight was entering the room through both the broken windows and holes in the wall from the occasional higher caliber round. “Just how much ammo do these guys have any—“
The rest of her sentence was interrupted by a resounding crack as a timber under the floor broke, sending her crashing through it. Ramona’s world was plunged into darkness as she struck the dirty floor hard enough to flatten her silica body into the dirt.
Moments later, a soft green glow appeared up above. “Glass? Are you okay?”
With a bit of concentration, Ramona got her body back into its normal shape and sat up. “Nothing broken… not that I can break anything.” Her eyes adjusted immediately to the low light, revealing that she was in a narrow tunnel running under the store’s back room. There was no evidence of a ladder, trap door, or other means of entering it from the floor above. “Any idea what’s up with this?”
Lydia crouched on the edge of the hole, squinting into what to her was near-total darkness. “Doesn’t look like a mine shaft. More like someone built a tunnel that happened to go under this place.”
“Any idea why?”
“No idea, but this is our way out for sure: even if both ends of this thing are blocked, I can TK it clear I’m pretty sure.”
Ramona looked in one direction and then the next. Both ended of the tunnel disappeared into darkness. The dim light of Lydia’s telekinesis revealed only the occasionally thick, wooden support and dirt walls. “Which way then?”
For a second, Lydia closed her eyes, trying to visualize the town as it looked when they landed. After getting a good idea of the lay of the land, she pointed straight ahead. “We were shot from somewhere near the mine entrance. If this tunnel goes far enough, it’ll either come out somewhere closer to the mines, or actually link up with the mine itself. Since this place looks abandoned, I’ll bet whoever’s up there now doesn’t know about it.”
“A sneak attack then,” Ramona said, trying to see further up the tunnel, “I wish we could tell what the others were doing or at least let them know out plan first though.”
Lydia shot her a grin as they started forward. “Oh, I can guess what my bros are up to: the bikes have weapons of their own and those two are pretty much bulletproof, so they’ll go for the full frontal assault. Zephyr will try to get up close from stealth… and if I know Lady D, she’d going to blast those snipers until they’re crying for mommy. In other words, they’re being distractions for you and me as Team Ninja Force.”
“Team Ninja Force?”
“Admittedly, the name needs work, but the gist is: sneak attack is a go.” Her hand went to her belt and with a soft click, a narrow beam of white light illuminated the path ahead of them and reminded Ramona that she had a flashlight in her kit too.
Soon the pair were picking their way forward up the narrow tunnel, their heads almost scraping the rough dirt ceiling.
“So… this isn’t a mine shaft, obviously. It’s just dug straight through the dirt near the surface. What the heck is it here for?”
Ramona hung back as the tunnel had become so narrow that they couldn’t go along side-by-side. “This was a mining town in the old west, right?”
“Maybe they were claim jumpers, tunneling into the mine from the side so they could steal from it.”
Lydia turned her head to look back at her. “Was that really a thing back then?”
“No idea, but it does explain where we are, right? Unless we get to the end and it turns out this was a secret way for the mayor to sneak into and out of the saloon or cat house.”
This got an immature giggle from the telekinetic. “Now why wasn’t that on the itinerary when this place was a tourist trap?”
A few minutes of walking later, they started to hear things: rhythmic hammering, the constant roar of some sort of machine moving air around, muffled talking. The character of the tunnel started to change as well: dirt become rock, the path started to follow and upward incline, and sections increasingly looked more like natural cave than a man-made structure with irregular nooks and crannies as well as smaller fissures in the rock no normal human could move through.
“….armed vehicles circling around on our nine o’clock.” The first completely audible words thy could make out sounded slightly tinny and stale, as if they were coming over a television or radio. The pair froze, trying to both listen in and figure out where the sounds were coming from.
Another voice, though still sounding like it originated from a speaker said, “Bring up a couple of rockets. Last thing we need to those assholes getting out of the scrambler’s range and calling in that we’re out here.”
“How did they even find us?” The third voice was female and sounded like it was genuinely nearby.
Ramona killed her light and gestured for Lydia to do the same. As darkness closed in on them, a jagged line of pale light became visible about five feet up the east wall, two feet across and about as wide as Ramona’s index finger.
Together, they crept up to the crack and took turns peering through. The other room was higher than theirs, the crack being near the floor level on that end. It was also well-lit by unwavering white light that revealed stacked crates, the legs of a table and chair, and the calves and booted feet of someone sitting at said table, evidently the woman who was speaking.
“Raleigh and Kinney have two of them pinned down in one of the buildings, sending Dokes and Marne to check it out, make sure they didn’t sneak away. We’ve lost the other two though; the one that was hitting the mountain with lightning and the one with them,” the second voice reported.
The woman made an annoyed sound and they heard a fist hitting wood. “We can’t let them get out of scrambler range. Send out everyone that doesn’t have a job right now. Shoot to kill and bring back any communications equipment they might have. And just in case, bring one or two of the hostages to the mine entrance to make sure they don’t storm the place.”
“That might not work,” said the first voice, “You’ve heard about the prelates in Chicago, Hartford… they might not care, might be okay with getting bloody.”
A harsh snort. “Then it’s a good thing we are too. I don’t have to tell you what’s at stake here. If they get into the entrance… blow it. We have other ways out. If push comes to shove, the plan is to buy time to evacuate the operation. They just know something’s going on here: they don’t know what.”
“Got it. Winston out.”
Silence fell over the room beyond the tunnel for a while, then the woman at the table got up and the two heroines heard the rattle of a metal door being opened and then glassware clinking, followed by a low hiss. The woman groaned, then that groan became a significantly less human sounding growl.
In the faded light filtering through the crack, Ramona and Lydia glanced at each other, afraid to speak. Things were very, very off here and they had neither any idea how off, nor a means of contacting the others with what they’re learned.
On the other side of the wall, something, presumably the woman, sniffed.
Ramona realized she couldn’t tell if the air flow was going into or out of the crack and then wondered if it mattered to possibly superhuman senses of smell. Thinking fast, she pushed her hand into the crack and expanded it until the whole thing was sealed by a plug of glass.
The sniffing continued for a moment more, then the sound of booted feet clopped out of the room, growing fainter.
Lydia let out a long, relieved breath. “Okay… so they have a werewolf…. or something and a pretty organized group of fighters; at least seven people, probably more.”
“And they’re scrambling our comms,” Ramona added retrieving her hand from the hole. “While still being able to talk to each other.”
“I know, right? But what’s the plan?”
Lydia chewed her lips and thought for a moment. “Okay, what do we have? Two badass ladies the bad guys don’t know are in their base, a group of hostages who I’m betting are the people who got ‘lost’, and villains who have a lot of training and a plan we don’t understand. Glass, it looked like we have ourselves a Die Hard situation. TM is going to be so upset he didn’t get to be part of this.”
“I saw the remake they did in 2064… but I don’t think there was a werewolf… monster lady in it.”
“You still get the gist of the plan though, right?”
Ramona nodded and ticked the plot points off on her fingers. “Stay hidden, take out the bad guys form stealth, try to get contact with the outside world… find shoes?”
“We have shoes already, so we’re ahead of the curb. First thing’s first: contact the outside world. We know they’re scrambling every channel but the one they’re using and we know the wolfwoman was able to talk to her dudes, so maybe there’s a radio or something in the room.”
It only took a second of awkward for Ramona to put two and two together: they didn’t know any other way into the room aside from the minuscule crack that let them listen in. And somehow she didn’t see Lydia slithering her way through the narrow space.
“You know I’ve never done anything like that on purpose, right?”
Even with so little light available, the shamed look on Lydia’s face was unmistakable. “I know. You haven’t even done any kind of training at all.” That was very true: Ramona didn’t even have the first Aid and CPR certifications Ray made sure they all got. “Look, if you don’t think you can do it…”
“I can do it,” Ramona cut her off. “Just warning you… it might not be done well or right or… anything like that. But I will try.” She didn’t waste time waiting on an affirmation from her partner, just stepped up to the crack in the wall and concentrated on the opposite of what she’d spent weeks on: not being solid.
It was a strange sensation, mashing herself into a space no thicker than her hand was normally. It felt exactly as she expected: an uncomfortable exercise in stretching and scraping along the rough rocks. She wasn’t so much ‘liquid’ as she was ‘putty’, so there was a lot more resistance than she first imagined.
After what felt like ten minutes, she tumbled into the room, pooling along the floor in a slurry of her clothes, utility belt and stretched out, semi-solid limbs that it took an embarrassingly long time to sort out enough that she could reform herself.
By that time, she’d had more than enough time to get her bearings.
The new room was definitely man-made: a rough cube hewn from the rock with a wooden door serving as the only entrance. Whatever the mine originally used it for, it currently played home to stacks of new-looking crates, a desk and chair that were similarly unravaged by time, and two sets of bunk beds crammed against the rear wall. There was a laptop on the desk and a metal footlocker sitting on top of one of the bottom bunks.
Curious, Ramona checked the footlocker first. It was unlocked and inside, she found a dozen drug ampules and a hypospray. All were unlabeled, but she’d read the news: there were drugs starting to make their way onto the market especially out East in Atlanta and in New York that gave people temporary powers. Hence, wolfwoman.
She grabbed an ampule and tucked it into her belt for Felix to check out after the fact, then moved on to the nearest crate.
Ammunition. Lots and lots of ammunition. Some in magazines of various sizes, some loose in boxes. She estimated over three hundred rounds in just the first crate she checked. The next contained more plus a metal box of frag grenades.
That… wasn’t good. Scenarios were going through her mind and none of them made her feel any better about what was going on down in that mine. Concern rising, she tried the computer, finding it to still be on. The desktop background didn’t make her feel any better: the classic ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ snake image only each pieces was on fire.
Above the image, in red letters that looked like they were slashed into the picture were the words ‘Purify America’, and in smaller but no less violent letters were more: ‘Fear The Freaks – No More’.
Purify America. They’d been in the news a few times: violent anti-descendant militiamen who didn’t have the connections to look legitimate like the Interstate Psionics Bounty Agency. No, they just liked to ‘make examples’, which usually involved the liberal application of the old school ultra-violence.
Ramona tried to keep from screaming in frustration.
This was supposed to be a starter mission. A normal search and rescue operation. But now it had become a guerrilla war in the bowels of the earth—with people who were training to fight and kill descendants.
To Be Continued…