Knome: The Forbidden Zone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 35 (v.1) - Chapter Thirty-Four

Submitted: April 12, 2017

Reads: 124

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Submitted: April 12, 2017

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Fort Thaingor (Knome)
 
 
Naaku reached inside the access shaft and pressed an unseen switch. Immediately a series of lights flash on and upwards throughout the shaft.  The illumination revealed a series of door-like outlines opposite the access ladder periodically set at what appeared to be floor levels within the base.
 
“What do you know,” Kore said, astounded as he looked up at what had been hidden to their eyes.
 
“So, how do we access one of those entrances,” Jasen asked perplexed. There didn’t seemed to be a way to access any of the entrances from the access ladder.
 
“There’s a switch that extends a platform at each level,” Naaku said pointing to the access ladder. “The switch is behind the ladder at each level.”
 
Trying to get a glimpse of the switch, Kore opened the shaft door wider as he edged his way in.
 
“You said that Engineering was eight levels below this one.  How do we get there,” Teric asked.
 
“There is another access shaft at the other end of the base that extends to the lower levels.”
 
“What about the maintenance corridor?” Jasen asked.
 
“It’s accessible from the interior core,” Naaku said. Observing the confused looks on the faces of the trio, he explained, “This base is a large cylinder. We are in the outer ring; there is an inner ring through which you get to the maintenance hold. The maintenance corridor is a hallway that encircles the maintenance hold, do you understand. The outer and interior rings are separated by the hallway we call the gap. You have to cross the gap to get into the interior ring.”
 
“And none of these entrances will get us there,” Kore asked while pointing up the shaft.
 
“No.”  Naaku rolled his eyes. “This shaft accesses the high levels on this side of the outer ring, there is another shaft that accesses the lower levels which is on the opposite side of the base, and as I said, you have to cross the gap to reach it.”
 
“We could access any level from the Hallway,” Teric asked
 
“Yes, but there are many soldiers in the non-maintenance areas,” Naaku admitted. 
 
“So, what do we do now,” Jasen asked frustrated with their limited options.
 
Teric paused for a moment as he calculated their options. He then waved to Jasen and Kore to join him outside the shaft door.  Teric placed his foot in the doorway, letting the door partially close, leaving Naaku inside.
 
“We have to get to that comm station in Engineering, that’s priority one. It looks like we’ll have to take a risk crossing this gap. Then to the maintenance hold and on to engineering.”
 
The sound of boots on metal diverted Teric’s attention. He quickly opened the door, watching Naaku scuttling up the access ladder. Teric entered the access shaft.
 
“Naaku, stop,” Teric warned, “Naaku.” Teric drew his blaster, taking aim at the young man.  “You said you had a wife and child. Stop Naaku.”  Naaku pressed a button behind the access ladder prompting a strobing warning light.
 
The access shaft flashed brightly in a cloud of heat and smoke after Teric pulled the trigger.  Naaku’s body fell lifelessly down the shaft, hitting the bottom with a thud.  Jasen opened the door and entered the shaft followed by Kore.  Kore and Jasen watched the still body of Naaku as Teric checked for vital signs.
 
“He’s dead,” Teric said after standing up.  He backed out of the shaft without a word.  Kore and Jasen followed him, closing the door. Teric allowed himself to momentarily feel grief for the young Knomen and began to think of the man’s wife and children.  He wished he didn’t have to do that.
 
“I wondered what we were going to do with him,” Kore volunteered, breaking the solemn silence.  “Now, we don’t have to worry about that.”
 
Teric and Jasen glanced at each other in mutual annoyance.  Jasen climbed up the ladder and found the switch that Naaku had engaged and he deactivated it halting the warning light.  He then climbed back down and stood over the body of Naaku.
 
“Jasen, you’re about his size, why don’t you take his uniform,” Teric advised.
 
The thought of taking the clothes off of the young man sickened Jasen, but he could see the advantage of Teric’s suggestion. He knelt beside the body, trying to bury his sadness over the young man’s death.  He slowly began removing the uniform from the body of Naaku. After removing his own clothing, he began to put on the uniform with some difficulty.  Although he was the closest to Naaku’s size, the uniform was tight on him.
 
“It fits, somewhat,” Kore chuckled, as he looked over the blaster burn on the back of the uniform.  “What about this?
 
“Not much we can do about it,” Teric said after glancing at the burn.
 
Jasen inserted his blaster into one of the large pockets on the maintenance uniform.  “So, what’s the plan,” Jasen asked.
 
“How do you feel about taking a reconnaissance stroll,” Teric asked.
 
“Sure, what do you want to know?”
 
“We need to know how far we have to travel to get to this inner core, and, we need to know how many Myans we may encounter along the way.”
 
“I can do that,” Jason replied.
 
Teric walked closer to Jasen, his face solemn. “After leaving this room, walk to the interior side of the hallway, straddle the interior ring until you reach an access point, which, if I understand the layout, should lead to the maintenance corridor and hold. But for now, just locate an access point.  After about 15 minutes standard, whether you find an access or not, come back, alright.”
 
“Got it,”
 
“When you get back we can reassess our options at that time.”
 
“If I get back,” Jason said half-jokingly.
 
"Don’t say that,” Kore objected. 
 
Jasen slowly opened the door just enough to observe a few military personnel of various rank walking the hallway in both directions.  He stepped out in to the hallway closing the door behind him.  No one took special note of him as he stood by the door looking in both directions.  He walked straight across the wide hallway to the other side and then began advancing until after a short trek he came to a small entryway. He peered down the dimly lit hall that was completely empty as far as he could observe.  He was ecstatic that the access hall was so close.  He quickly turned around and walked back to the small utility room. He opened the door and entered.  After closing the door, he breathed a sigh of relief.  Teric and Kore immediately enclosed upon him.
 
“That was quick. What happened,” Teric asked.
 
"There's a small hallway nearby that leads towards the interior, I think it’s what we need," Jasen suggested, "I think we can quickly get to it."
 
"Ok, what about troop numbers," Teric said.
 
“There were a few officers, but for the most part the hall was empty.  No one stopped me.”
 
“What about us,” Kore objected, “He has on that maintenance uniform, of course he’s not going to be noticed. But look at me, and what about you, you look like an assassin. And what about your sword?
 
“That’s why I wanted Jasen to scout the area,” Teric explained,” If this access is close by then its worth the risk, we have no other choice.” 
 
“Well what if we’re discovered?”
 
Teric reached for Kore’s hand, moving it to the blaster holstered at his waist.
 
“That’s what this is for.”
 
There was a pause as Teric and Jasen watched Kore, waiting for him to acquiesce to their impending action. Kore nodded his head.
 
Teric removed his sword and scabbard from his back and held it at his side. He also removed his blaster and holster and held on to them.  He nodded to Kore who followed Teric’s lead and removed his own blaster.
 
Jasen again opened the door.  He stepped out first and then called for Teric and Kore, who slowly followed him out into the hallway.  Teric held his sheathed sword close to his body along with his blaster, concealing them as best he could. Kore did the same. They walked quickly across the broad hallway as a few individuals glanced their way in curiosity.  As they reached the other side of the hall, Teric paused to readjust his sword. A lone Myan officer who had passed them by, stopped, turned around, and approached the group.
 
"Who are you, and what are you doing in this restricted area," the officer asked.
 
Jasen approached the officer.  "I'm sorry sir, we’re trying to reach the maintenance corridor. I have these new recruits and we took a wrong turn, but I know where to go now."
 
The officer stood and remained silent as he looked over each man. "Very well,” the officer replied.
 
"thank you, sir," Jasen remarked.
 
"Let me have your registration number," the officer demanded as he pulled out an AI device.
 
"My registration, right," Jasen stumbled.
 
Teric raised his blaster and jammed it hard in the back of the officer. "Here is his registration number. Now, hand over the device."
 
The officer did as he was told giving his device to Jasen.
 
"Now, you’re going to lead us, quietly, to the maintenance corridor," Teric demanded. "Let's go."
 
Again, Teric jammed his blaster into the officer's back to get him to move.  The odd-looking group began to advance down the hall.
 
Soon they reached the hallway that Jasen had discovered and turned into it.
 
"Who are you," the officer asked.
 
"No questions," Teric shot back.
 
"I hope you know every one of these halls are monitored," the officer warned, "You won't get away with this."
 
"Just keep walking," Teric hissed.
 
The group had walked for some time without encountering another individual.  Soon they came to a lift station.  Jasen looked over the floor map next to the lift.
 
"The maintenance corridor is accessible if we keep going down this hall.  Is this the way to the maintenance corridor,” Jasen asked the officer.
 
The officer said nothing. Teric jammed the blaster hard enough into the officers back causing the man to grimace in pain.
 
“Is this the way to the maintenance corridor,” Jasen asked again.
 
“Yes,” the officer replied, “but you won’t make it. As I said these hallways are monitored.” The officer wasn’t sure if those systems were activated on every floor since the base was not fully completed, nor fully staffed. 
 
Teric flung the scabbard over his back drawing out his sword. He pushed the officer toward the lift door. 
 
“I think we should bypass the maintenance hold,” Teric said, “access the lift,” he directed to the officer.
 
“What do you mean,” Kore asked.
 
“If he is right, then we’re going to have company at the end of this hall. I don’t want to make it that easy for them.”
 
The officer just stood, half smiling.  Teric waved his weapon toward the officer while glancing at Jasen.  Jasen drew his blaster and pointed it toward the officer.  Teric holstered his weapon and grabbed the officer’s hand and forced it against a panel next to the lift.  The lift door opened.  The officer was shoved into the lift followed by Teric, Jasen and Kore.  As the door closed, Teric again forced the officer’s hand onto a panel on the inside of the closed lift.  A backlight illuminated the panel.
 
“Now, engineering is eight floors below,” Teric said mostly to himself.  He pushed one of the illuminated buttons on the panel indicating a level eight floors below and the lift began to drop.
 
“There’s one problem,” Kore volunteered, “engineering is on the far side of the base, right. Have we even reached the interior?”
 
Teric reached out for the AI device, taking it from Jasen’s hand.  He activated it and eventually found a map of the base. After studying it for a moment, the lift stopped.  Teric immediately pressed himself against the side of the lift, trying to avoid exposure as the lift’s doors began to open.  He gestured for Jasen and Kore to do the same.  The door opened to an empty hallway.  After a quick look, Teric drew his blaster and gestured for the officer to exit the lift.
 
Turning right, they advanced down the hall, walking for some time without encountering anyone.
 
“Something doesn’t feel right,” Kore said.
 
“Of course,” Jasen whispered, “We’re in enemy territory.”
 
The hallway came to an end, leading to another hall that curved in both direction.
 
“This must be the inner core,” Jasen added as he made way for the corridor.
 
“Wait!” Teric yelled. He holstered his weapon and drew his sword. “Watch him!”
 
Teric slowly inched toward the corridor, slowly thrusting his sword into the corridor.
 
A barrage of laser fire nearly propelled the sword from his hand.  Spinning into the blade’s momentum, he was now facing Jasen and Kore. He held up one hand, waving for Jasen and Kore to retreat.  The officer taking advantage of the shock, knocked the blaster from Jasen’s hand.  Jasen and the officer both dove for the falling blaster. Reaching it first, Jasen raked it under his chest as the body of the officer fell on top of him.  Jasen moved the lifeless body of the officer off of him, noticing the wound from Teric’s sword. But Teric was already on the move entering the corridor, his blade extended in front of him absorbing the barrage of laser bolts.  And then Teric was gone, advancing into the assault toward the source of those bolts. All Jasen could hear was screams of profound pain.  Jasen rose to his feet with Kore’s help.  Kore and Jasen, with weapons in hand, entered the corridor trailing Teric.
 
The corridor was hot, full of smoke and eerily quiet, except for the sound of crackling sparks.  As Jasen and Kore advanced and the smoke began to clear, they saw Teric standing over half a dozen bodies of armored soldiers, his blade crackling.
 
Teric turned quickly toward the pair as they approached.
 
“Come on, we have to move.”
 

 

----


The silence was awkward, and its presence was as noticeable as if it appeared in the flesh, intruding in on the conversation that should have been taking place among them.  But Anya did not want to breach that silence. She had no interest in carrying on a conversation with the man that sat directly in front of her.  At least, that was the posture she was trying to present.  As a matter of fact, Anya, was interested.  Something about him was drawing her in, cultivating her curiosity. She wished that he had matched the horrors of her imagination, which would have made there encounter much easier.  But it wasn’t easy, at least it wasn’t for her. And the Duke wasn’t horrid.  He was in fact, quite the opposite.  He was older, but very handsome, distinguished and very well mannered.  But, it was his chiseled features that lured her in.  He looked like a statue of a fabled warrior and she was drawn by the perfect lines in his face, his arms, his body.  He seemed unreal to her. She fought her desire to stare at him, keeping her face and eyes downcast. But the effort soon became too great and she gave in to the irresistible urge, lifting her eyes, for a quick glance. She tried to remain quiet, and she tried to ignore him, but a stirring within her was propelling her to speak. She felt a growing vulnerability as the Duke contently welcomed the silence, watching her, burrowing into her with his deep, dark eyes.

The Duke was indeed content, he was willing to participate in this game of hers. He smiled as he sensed the difficulty she was having in maintaining her pretense.  But, even if she had not spoken a word during their entire encounter, it would not have discouraged him.  As if enjoying the beauty of a spectacular scenery of nature, Simon was content to bask in the beauty of this exceptional woman, with the added benefit of observing the budding foliage of attraction. 

Sitting a short distance away from the pair, Wilhelm, his identity obscured by the priestly robes he wore, felt sickened from the scene before him.  His eyes were fixed upon Anya, and what he observed in her, left him disconcerted. It was as if someone was slowly and methodically uncovering one's deepest darkest fear.  He loved her so much and it caused him literal pain as he watched Anya fidgeting under the gaze of another man.  He observed her fighting, her eyes downcast, refusing to look, but then succumbing, periodically glancing into the face of her admirer.  He had recalled their first encounter and the many that followed during their tutoring sessions.  It was clearly evident that she had no interest in him, no matter how hard he tried to cultivate it.  She was a wall of indifference.  But there was no wall now, under the gaze of this stranger.  Wilhelm began to sense the rising tension of jealousy.  He wanted to take Anya’s hand and escape. He wanted to end this torture.  But as he observed the Duke, his anger began to dissipate.  There was something about the man that calmed him, which he couldn't identify. There was a sense of dignity about the man that reminded him of his father and...

"Are you just going to sit there and stare at me," Anya interjected, banishing away that awkward silence.  She immediately regretted her emotional outburst as a few nearby individuals glanced in their direction.  She wasn't upset at the Duke, she was upset at herself, she was upset at her wavering will, and she glanced at Wilhelm apologizing as best she could without a word.

Simon smiled gently. His lips parted as if he was going to speak, but he said nothing.  Anya felt embarrassed but sensed no judgement in his manner.  She smiled in kind and then chuckled. 

“Are you as beautiful inside as you are outside?”

Anya paused, she didn’t know how to answer that question. Maybe it was a rhetorical question. But, observing the Duke she realized that he wasn’t just complimenting her, he really wanted to know. It was an odd question, and she wondered if he was testing her.

“How can I answer that, it’s not for me to say,” she honestly admitted, "Why would you ask me that?"

Simon let her question hang in the air for a moment. "I'm sorry, it just came out. I hope you would allow me to discover the answer to that question for myself."

Anya was unnerved by Simon’s comment and she felt flushed.  She immediately glanced at Wilhelm as if she had been caught red handed in some crime. But she had done nothing wrong.  Why did she feel guilty? She wanted this interrogation to end, for that’s what it felt like.  She had something hidden inside that Simon wanted, something that she did not want to give to him, something that she had already given away.  She felt vulnerable but did not know why.  When she looked into Simon’s face, she felt drawn to the man as if she knew him, but she had only met him within the last hour.  Simon noticed the perplexity in her countenance.

“Forgive me, I do not wish to offend.”

“Oh no, you didn’t offend me,” Anya replied, stumbling over her words. 

“So, tell me, how do you really feel about this arrangement,”

“I, admit that I was against it, at first…”  Anya paused for a moment after realizing what she had just said.

“I am pleased to hear you say that,” Simon smiled.

Anya looked in Wilhelm's direction, “What I meant is that, well, I was concerned, to be with someone I didn’t know."

“That is a legitimate concern. Yes," Simon replied, "But sitting here, as I look upon you, I am very eager to learn more about you."

Anya blushed.

“But, I want to give you all the time you need," he continued.

“I appreciate that, I really do.”  Anya glanced at Wilhelm, knowing how unpleasant this must be for him. She was flustered by her jumbled emotions as her hands began to tremble.

Simon rose from his chair and sat next to Anya, taking her hands into his.

“It’s Ok, I don’t bite.”  He began to gently rub her hands to warm them.

Wilhelm unconsciously rose from his seat in response to Simon's action.  He stopped when both Simon and Anya turned towards him.  He pretended to make some adjustment and sat back down.

Anya took advantage of the interruption to remove her hands from Simon’s grip.

“Thank you, my lord,”

“Please, call me Simon.”

“Thank you, Simon, I’m alright now.”

Simon rose and reached for Anya’s hand and lifted her to her feet.

“My Lady…”

“Please, call me Anya.”

“Anya, it was a pleasure,” he kissed her hand, “I look forward to a more private affair next time.”

“Until then, my lord. Simon.

As he walked away she observed him. He met up with one of his officers who had been approaching them. What a pleasant man, she thought. She felt completely disarmed by Simon.  She wondered if she had been wrong about the Myans.  She continued to watch as her father joined Simon and his officer. Anya felt a sensation on her hand that startled her.  Wilhelm had touched her fingers with his writing pad.  After recovering, she took the pad and began to read the message that Wilhelm had written.

WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE...

 


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