“Sir, Patrol Echo Six-Seven has just switched off their radio. They’re diverting power from their radio to their auspex.”
“Confirmed. Return to your duties. Inform me of any shortcomings or changes.” The stern voice commanded.
“Yes Sir.” the attendant replied without turning around. He heard the pneumatic door slide open and shut a second later and everyone in the control center breathed an almost audible sigh of relief. Bryant tore of his headset and tossed it onto his console. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, the commissar had kept them on shift for almost 20 straight hours and his body was starting to feel it.
“Coffee?” another attendant with a tin tray of Styrofoam cups inquired. Nodding his thanks, Bryant grabbed one of the cups and greedily drained the contents in one large gulp. It was better that way, he grimaced after words. Coffee, Terran Simulation didn’t taste nearly as good as Coffee from Terra no matter how much the Guard tried so most people either avoided the vile liquid or gulped it as fast as possible and risked burns. As Bryant tossed his crushed cup in a nearby trash can, he looked around the room to see if any of his buddies were on shift. Seeing no one, he grabbed his gear bag and got up to leave.
He moved away from his consol but, but Bryant had second thoughts. He glanced back at his seat and swiped his access card and the list of frequencies from his desk. He knew he risked court martial or worse by stealing classified Imperial data, but he couldn’t leave without them. The commissar had been acting strange lately, and Bryant didn’t want to be kept up at night by the ghosts of a lost patrol. He stuffed the card and data pads into his bag and waved over his shoulder at the lucky few just starting their shift. He got out of the main compound without a hitch, the only thing offered by the security was a grudging good night. Apparently radio techs weren’t the only personnel being kept on long shifts.
Bryant reached the parking structure without incident, people were either at home in bed or in the control center working at this time of night. Securing his gear one last time for the ride home and checking his watch, Bryant loaded into the remaining military transport. A couple of seconds later, he sat down in his seat and was almost instantaneously asleep on the long drive home.
Back in the tunnel, Sergeant Chavez and his squad were being attacked by a foe far worse than sheer fatigue. Paranoia. Not one single man had moved since the contact came back on the auspex. They had remained in defensive parameter, the ghostly contact staying just out of sight, but close enough that the auspex had no trouble telling them they were being hunted. Dripping water remained the only sound in the pitch black tunnel, it seemed as if the entire underground world collectively held its breath for what was about to come.
No one in the squad had moved for over half an hour, and fatigue was starting to affect the team members just as much as paranoia. As suddenly as it came, however, whatever the auspex made contact with disappeared.
“Something’s not right…” Sgt. Chavez muttered,” Anderson check that thing again, just like I showed you.”
The rest of the men remained in defensive posture and Anderson could be heard cursing at the small scanner. It flared briefly but didn’t change from the normal screen without any contacts. Shrugging his shoulders, Anderson signaled Sgt. Chavez that things were as good as they were probably going to get. Chavez only shook his head and rested his head on his weapon as he considered their options. They could either continue to their objective, even if they still didn’t know what the hell was there or what they were supposed to accomplish, or they could turn back and risk the ire of a unusually cranky commissar.
It didn’t take very long before Chavez and his men continued on their way to their objective, auspex spooks be damned. There were no more incidents as the squad wound its way through the maze of underground tunnels. Whatever was stalking them had apparently found new game. As they rounded their last bend, the soldier’s tac-lights suddenly lost their footing on the walls and dashed out into a wide open space. In front of the squad was a large ante-chamber that was at least 20meters in diameter and soared 6 or 7 into the air towards the surface. Their tunnel met up with a junction here where raw sewage from the tunnels started to process. There was a small intersection of about 8 pipes in the middle of the room and a small grate undercut the meeting. This was where the sewage was redirected to continue processing at a nearby plant. This is also the point that the commissar had highlighted on the map as their primary objective.
Exactly what they were supposed to do now, nobody knew.
“Fuck this, were not sitting around in the dark waiting for Emperor knows what to happen, Anderson get that radio back up.” Sgt. Chavez’s voice sounded thunderous in the airy confines of the sewer junction.
A second later the auspex and its comforting yellow light clicked off, and the steady static of the faulty radio soon replaced it.
“Bravo One-Two, this is Echo Six-Seven. Do you copy over?”