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Approx. 3300 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

The Zone:

Entry and Contact


written by  SJ



    The paved road Lana followed into the Zone looked very much like the classic painting of a country road, open pasture on both sides, rows of trees along the way, with the late afternoon sun peering between them. When she was within 100 meters of the guard checkpoint, it was exactly like Tom had described.
    Ever since she entered the Zone, she had expected to feel disoriented, or, at least, somewhat mentally impaired. However, she felt fine. Her first goal was to approach the checkpoint, contact the officer in charge, then tell him to lead his team outside the Zone so they could be questioned. Simple.
    Even from a distance, it was obvious the guards were not wearing any of their Fire Team Warrior armor, just fatigues. Once she was in front of the checkpoint, the two guards looked at her suspiciously. Then one of them frowned and stepped forward, demanding, using a heavy Tau accent, “what are you doing here? This area is off limits. Who are you?”
    Lana started to smile, then tried to answer...but, couldn’t remember who she was...
    The second guard then stepped forward and raised his pulse carbine, pointing it in her face. “She is armed!”
    The first guard suddenly became alerted, pointing his weapon at her as he stepped around behind her. She stood, still confused, wondering what was happening, trying to think of what to do as the guard grabbed her arms roughly, handcuffing her hands behind her back before removing her belt which had the holsters for her two 9.1s, and her other equipment.
    She was then led into a fenced-in compound, through a small parking lot with several open-topped vehicles, and then into a sturdy building, down a hallway, and up to a desk: the guard post commander.
    The officer in charge called himself, El T’au Xral’las...strangely enough, using an old fashion, noble, title. There was a sturdy-built woman dressed in Tau fatigues armed with a pulse pistol and a knife, a sergeant, who stood at the edge of the desk looking menacingly at Lana. As one guard explained to the commander what had happened, the other one placed Lana’s belt on his desk.
    The officer looked Lana over, especially at her fatigue shirt. Then he demanded, “who are you and what are you doing here?”
    Lana wanted to answer, but couldn’t. It was like the answer was right on the tip of her tongue, her mouth opening slightly...but, nothing coming out. She couldn’t remember who she was...
    “Who are you?” The Tau officer asked again, louder this time. “What is your name? Why have you come here?”
    When Lana was unable to answer, El T’au Xral’las became frustrated. He waved his hand to the guards and told them to go back to their post.
    Then he spoke to the woman, ordering, “Vash’ya take her down stairs and lock her up. I don’t have time for this kind of nonsense.”
    As soon as Vash’ya grabbed Lana and began taking her away, the commander ordered her back. “Wait. I want that fatigue shirt she is wearing. I want to check it out.”
    The Tau sergeant wasted no time removing Lana’s fatigue shirt, taking off her handcuffs to do it, then putting the handcuffs back on before handing the shirt to the commander. Lana just stood there wearing one of her blue-grey tank tops, trying to it was something important she needed to say, but just couldn’t think of it.
    Vash’ya was none to gentle taking Lana downstairs to a sizeable cellar, where one half of the room was divided off with a strong, chain link, fence with one door.
    Half of the underground room had apparently been turned into a prison. There were three metal beds on each side of the room, the nearest one on the left occupied by a Terran/Tau male with dark hair wearing ordinary civilian clothes. He had been handcuffed to the bed post, but sat up when Vash’ya unlocked the door and led Lana to the nearest bed on the right, roughly pushing her down so she sat on the edge of the bed.
    The Sergeant stood over Lana for a couple seconds, then looked at the man in the other bed. During that time, it was as if Lana had remembered she needed to say something important, standing up to say it, but, like before, couldn’t remember. When Vash’ya saw Lana get up, she frowned angrily, then slugged the shorter woman in the stomach, ordering, “sit down!”
    Lana grunted loudly as she collapsed down on the bed and doubled up, moaning. That’s when the man protested. “Hey, don’t do that, Vash’ya. That woman is smaller than you. You’ll hurt her.”
    Vash’ya seemed to take enjoyment in what she just did. She looked at the man and told him to shut up. Then, after she had struggled to make Lana stand back up, she hit her again.
    “Stop it!” The man’s voice was louder this time. Then he tried to be rational. “Your commander will not like it if one of your prisoners has to be treated by the medic.”    
    The Sergeant stepped closer to the man, telling him, again, to shut up. She stood saying something derogatory at him in Tau. When she turned back, Lana was sitting on the edge of the bed, catching her breath, but still thinking she needed to say something important, confused; when she stood up to speak, Vash’ya was happy to hit Lana in the stomach a third time, harder this time by the sound of the thud and Lana’s grunt. As she lay on her side doubled up and moaning, Vash’ya quickly fixed the handcuffs so her prisoner was cuffed to the metal bedpost by one hand. Then she quickly left, locking the fence door behind her.
    Lana woke up groggy, but still couldn’t remember anything...not even the beating she took. When she tried to get up, she came up short, noticing she was handcuffed to the bed by one hand.
    “How are you feeling?” A man’s voice asked using a Tau accent.
    Sitting on the edge of the bed, she turned to see a man sitting up against the backboard of the bed across the room. He looked familiar.
    “Are you alright?” He asked again. “Vash’ya gave you quite a beating.”
    Lana was confused.
    “You don’t remember that?” He was surprised. “She hit you in stomach a bunch of times.”
    The woman sighed, then rubbed her stomach; it was only slightly sore. She looked at him and was about to ask...
    Then he spoke first. “My name is Stepen Var’bin. They have captured me about five or six times.” He grinned. “I like escaping from them...which I’m just about to do again. I think you’d better come with me this time. That Vash’ya, she thinks of herself as some sort of queen-bee around here. She might hurt you next time.”
    Just then, he sat up on the edge of the bed, took a firm hold of the backboard metal bedpost, the one he was handcuffed to, and lifted it up until it came out of the lower section of the bedpost. He then slipped his handcuffs through the gap and replaced the bedpost back like it was; afterwards, he got up and walked toward Lana...eventually helping her to free herself the same way, then led her to the back of the room, where there was a wooden cabinet, all the while, talking as he did. “These guards around here. They are not too bright. They can’t figure out how I keep escaping.” He paused a second, then continued. “I think everyone around here is acting weird.” He laughed at himself. “Even me. After all, I keep letting them capture me.”
    Once he had pulled the cabinet away from the wall, where it was covering some kind of tunnel, like a drain opening, he pointed at it. “We crawl through here, then climb a short ladder to the parking lot. You go first.”
    Lana sighed as if she wasn’t sure she should be doing this. Then she got on her hands and knees and started to crawl. Stepen began following her after he had pulled the cabinet back in place to cover the opening.
    As they crawled he asked, “what’s you name?”
    At that question, she stopped, thinking...then she frowned and got mad. “Oh, crap!”
    “Oh Crap. That’s an unusual name.” He responded, joking.
    She sighed, frustrated. “Damn it! I can’t remember my name.”
    “Damn It. I think I have an uncle by that name.” He joked again.
    After another sigh, she started crawling again, not in the mood to laugh. When they reached the ladder, they both climbed out onto a partially-lit, parking lot. It was dark outside, but he quickly found a small car, then told Lana to get inside. Soon they had left the guard post compound and were driving south along a paved road. He began garrulously talking about different oddball, recent, events, none of them making much sense, mentioning several other people he had met in the area, saying they had all gone to some research facility to the east...and that he had no intention of ever going there. It was a bad place.
    Eventually, he took a dirt road, then parked next to some woods. When they both got out, there was a path leading to a small cottage. As they walked, he continued to talk as he put his arm around her; by the time they were at the door, his arm was around her waist. But, she didn’t mind. She was lost and had no idea who she was, his actions comforting. Even though, earlier, she was in no mood to laugh, for some reason, she felt very much in the mood for what he wanted to do next.
    When Lana woke up in the morning, Stepen was still asleep. As she dressed, it was like last night’s sex had cleared her head. She began remembering...especially, Vash’ya, the woman that beat her, the event angering her. As she fixed herself a small breakfast, just a few pieces of bread, she continued to think: She had gone to that guard post for a reason--an important reason!
    She began remembering more of what happened, recalling it backwards, from the time she was taken downstairs, then the guard commander: He had called himself, El T’au Xral’las. El: the Tau word for noble. Like being called a Duke or an Earl in Old Earth English...which was strange. Yes, people were acting strangely here. Her reason for being here had something to do with that.
    Then she remembered her fatigue shirt, and the Tau commander taking it. If the shirt had her name on it, and she could remember that, maybe all her other memories would come back.
    She quickly finished her breakfast and got into the car outside. She remembered yesterday, even in the dark, how they got here, traveling south. She HAD to make her way back to the guard post: FIND THAT SHIRT.
    As she started the car, she could hear Stepen behind her, calling: “Where are you going?”
    “Back to the guard post!”
    “No...that Vash’ya will kill you...NO.”
    As she headed north along a dirt road, she frowned, thinking to herself, “let her try!”
    By the time Lana had reached the guard post, she KNEW there was something important she had to tell the commander. She entered the building from the opposite side as before, then passed some kind of medical clinic on her left, then proceeded on to a wider hallway, where there was a table on her right. But, Vash’ya was coming right toward her.
    The Tau woman was shocked at first, then became angry. “YOU! What are YOU doing here?” Vash’ya drew her knife and then lunged.
    Lana had just enough time to move backwards, the knife just missing her abdomen. When Vash’ya pulled her knife back to try again, Lana struck with lightning speed, using her index finger to jab the woman in the eye, feeling a squish. Vash’ya screamed, grabbing her eye, which was now bleeding profusely. On the table was a ceramic statue; grabbing it firmly with both hands, Lana used it to strike the woman, first across the temple, then on the back of the head as she went down, where she lay motionless in a pool of her own blood.
    The Space Marine was mad as hell. She had to restrain herself from beating the woman’s brains out while she lay on the floor helpless, settling for throwing the statue through a window in anger. As she knelt down to take Vash’ya’s pulse pistol, a man came out of the medical room she spotted earlier. When he asked what had happened, Lana just stood and pointed, saying Vash’ya probably needed medical attention. Then she quickly left.
    When she approached the guard commander’s desk, he started to stand up. Lana aimed the pulse pistol at him and told him to sit back down.
    The commander complied, then nodded. “You are back. I thought you would. I’ve been analyzing your fatigue shirt, piece by piece.” He began moving some sections of fabric on his desk around, Lana quickly recognizing it as her fatigue shirt, something he had cut apart, strangely enough, to examine it. He showed her a shoulder patch. “See this. This looks like a Space Marine patch.” He displayed the shirt’s collar, pointing at the totem. “I don’t know what this is.” Then he held up another shoulder patch, proudly displaying it. “THIS! You know what this is? It’s a Terran Special Forces patch...fairly high level.” He laid it down on his desk, then pointed at her. “You are some kind of Special Forces operative.” He grinned. “That Vash’ya...she bragged about hitting you downstairs. I told her she’d better be careful or you might injure her severely next time.”
    At the sight of her Special Ops patch, she began remembering everything, even though she knew now her shirt didn’t have her name on it. She breathed deeply and sighed before briefly explaining the fight she just had with Vash’ya.
    Just then they both turned to see a man coming into the room, the same man that had come out of the medical room, obviously a doctor or nurse; he stopped, looked at Lana, then told the commander that Vash’ya had been badly injured, a very serious concussion and that she would probably lose her eye.
    The commander nodded like he expected something like that to happen, telling the nurse he understood, who left immediately, returning to his patient.
    Lana then began explaining. “My name is Lieutenant Lana Lyu LaFong. Like you said, I am a Level 4, Special Ops Space Marine. I was hired by Aun Ho’sarn Jilau to--”    
    “AUN!” He was overwhelmingly surprised and impressed. “The Ethereal?”
    He began talking to himself in Tau before addressing Lana again. He sighed. “I’m sorry...I don’t know what’s going on. We’ve been here for so long. I don’t know what to do anymore--”
    “It’s alright.” She tried to calm him. “You’re being affected by a device that was being tested over at the Tam’yaldar Research Facility.”
    He gasped at hearing the name. “That’s a dangerous place!” He sighed again, then asked. “We are still under it’s influence...way over here?”
    “What do you want us to do?
    Lana smiled, but remained determined. “What I want you to do is get everyone under your command out of the Zone.” She pointed. “Take the west road and proceed until you reach a group of rescue workers. There’s a Tomash Narga there.”
    “Tomash! I know him.” The commander looked relieved. “I will get everyone together and go immediately. Thank you.” He looked curiously at Lana. “What are you going to do?”
    “I need to go and shut that device off.”
    He gasped again. “You mean--go to the Research Facility?” He made several exclamations in Tau. “It’s VERY dangerous over there. I sent two of my men there many days ago. Only one of them returned, and he was...” He gulped. “Badly wounded. He died a little while later. He said their car stopped working. Then they were attacked by some kod’gels: a large rodent...something like that Old Earth creature you call a capybara. But, kod’gels are normally not dangerous. One of my men was killed by them, but not before he accidentally shot the other man, who said he managed to take cover in the car, then eventually get it started again. When he made his way back here, he had lost a lot of blood.” He hung his head. “Are you sure you want to go there?”
    “Well, that’s the only way I can shut off that device.”
    He looked her over, holding Vash’ya’s weapon. “That pulse pistol might not work very well over there. When the guard returned, his pulse carbine was malfunctioning, like the car. If you go over there, you’re going to need protection.”
    “What did you do with my 9.1s?”
    “Oh...those, yes.” He remembered. After reaching into a desk drawer, he pulled out the belt with the pistols still in their holsters, handing it to her. “These are not energy weapons. They shouldn’t be affected. Very good.”
    “Is there anything else you can tell me?” Lana needed to know as she put on the belt.
    The commander thought a short time, then spoke seriously. “If I were you, I would not go into the Research Facility at all.”
    Lana was about to say something.
    “If there are any scientists left alive over there, they would’ve taken cover OUTSIDE the Facility...probably inside a protected building. As far as I know, there is no one left alive inside the Facility. If there’s anyone that can tell you how to turn off that device, only the scientists that worked there can do it.” He sighed. “Otherwise, it is hopeless.”
    Okay.” Lana nodded. “In about twenty days, I was told they were going to bomb the Facility to try and destroy the device. So, one way or another, the device will be turned off.”
    The commanded nodded his understanding, then spoke with determination. “As for me, I will get my people out like you said.” He pointed. “Feel free to use any of the cars...but, you won’t be able to reach the Facility in one. They will stop working before then. You’ll have to walk the rest of the way. Watch out for the kod’gels.”
    “Oh, by the way.” Lana felt she needed to mention something else. “About ten days ago, they sent a Tau Special Forces guy in here: Captain Bant’ra. Have you heard from him...or know anyone that has?”
    He slowly shook his head...
    “I was told he came in wearing a stealthsuit mounting a burst cannon. But, he planned to avoid your guard post.”
    The commander continued to shake his head. “No, I have not heard anything about him. There has been others that have come to my guard post from the outside. They all eventually went to the Research Facility. None of them have ever been seen or heard from since. This Captain Bant’ra...if he went to the Facility, then his equipment will be useless.” He shrugged. “Which means...he’s probably dead.” He stared at Lana, looking her over. “I hope you will do better. I wish you good luck.”
    “I wish you good luck getting your people out of here.” Lana replied before they went their separate ways.






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