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Approx. 2700 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

The Zone:

Finding the Scientists


written by  SJ



    Lana had already packed some water and a couple energy bars in a pouch on her belt. She had one spare clip for each of her 9.1s. As she walked out and got in a car, she tried to remember the map she studied before leaving, but could only recall part of it, her normal, almost flawless, memory failing her this time. There was only one paved road leading east to the Tam’yaldar Research Facility, so she was certain she would find it. She also remembered there were some hills over looking it; from there, she could examine the Facility, maybe try to find something that looked like a place where any surviving scientists might’ve taken refuge in.
    Once she got started, she quickly passed a sign that said: Tam’yalder - 3 kilometers. However, after that, she figured she had only traveled two kilometers by the time the car gave out and sputtered to a stop. In the distance, she spotted a small convenience store, about 100 meters away, where the road forked around it, one road continuing straight, the other one curving south, then east.
    Taking the time to get on top the hood of the car, she used a small pair of regular binoculars, a pair she purchased before entering the Zone, leaving her powered Scout binoculars behind, figuring they wouldn’t work here. The road that traveled straight, north of the store, seemed to continue on directly toward a walled compound, obviously the Research Facility.
    However, now she noticed a bloody body about fifty meters away laying in some tall grass. In one of its hands, it still gripped a pulse carbine: it was obvious she had found the body of the lost guard. But, then she started looking around, trying to spot what she had been told had killed the guard: kod’gels...giant rodents--those that had become aggressive and dangerous. By the time she was done, she had found four them, all dead, blast marks on them, those killed by the guard. There had to be more--live ones!
    The door to the convenience store was slightly open...she saw it move a couple times, then noticed movement inside. Of course, the kod’gels were ransacking the store for food. She grinned: If she could get to the store quickly enough, she’d be able to close the door and lock them all inside.
    She had stopped the car by putting on the brakes once the engine was no longer working, which meant, she figured, the road was on a little bit of an incline heading down to the store. If she could get the vehicle started again, rolling forward, she could coast right up to the door, jump out and pull the door shut. Of course, if she missed, and there were about twenty of those things in there--she might suffer the same fate as the guard.
    It took her awhile to get the car started again; actually, all she did was to get it to lunge forward...but, that was enough. As the car rolled, she had to stay behind the wheel to keep it from veering off the road. Once she was close enough, she decided to put on the brakes instead of just letting the vehicle hit the wooden stairs to the store. But, then the brakes started making noises.
    She didn’t wait for the car to stop as she got up and out of the seat, then on the hood, jumping off and running to the door. As she reached, then tried to pull the door closed, it hit something, something that moved and made a squeal. When she saw a head in the doorway, she banged the door against it with both hands, the head eventually retracting as she finally pulled the door shut, hearing it catch just as the car hit the stairs and stopped.
    Inside the store, there was an enormous amount of rustling around and crashing about, what sounded like a lot of very angry animals.
    She breathed deeply and sighed...
    But, just then, one, then another creature crashed through the windows on both sides of the door. Lana barely had time to utter an, “oh, crap,” before getting back on the hood of the car, there to see more kod’gels coming around from behind the building, running up to each side of the vehicle.
    Drawing her pistols, she knew she had to deal with the creatures on the porch first, shooting each of them three times before they went down. On the sides, she shot three more, one that had jumped up on the driver’s seat and almost got her. Then two more jumped through the window, two more making their way behind those. She tried to keep her cool as he aimed and shot the creatures, two of them right on the hood of the car. By the time she was done, she had two empty, smoking, pistols, numerous cuts on her legs, and eleven dead kod’gels.
    She looked around and reloaded. But, there was only silence, no more in the store, or anywhere around her, or in the distance. Wincing, she checked out the cuts on her legs, none of them real bad, her fatigue pants torn and ripped, but protecting her better than normal pants. She found a small first aid kit in the car, and tended to the cuts the best she could. But, she didn’t like it: she had used up half of her ammo in one encounter.
    As she made her way along the road south of the store, heading toward a hill in the distance, she was hoping she had put a significant dent in the kod’gel population and would proceed to her destination without using up anymore ammunition. The cuts on her legs still stung and she limped a little as she walked. Finally, on the top of the hill, she looked out at the whole of the Tam’yaldar Research Facility.
    The entire place looked very Tau-like. Inside the walled area, the MAIN buildings were two three-story, round, structures directly opposite of each other on each side, west and east, located in the center of the Facility, the largest buildings in the place, an overhanging, round, top covering the roofs of each one, making them look a little mushroom-like in appearance, like many Tau buildings did. The two buildings where connected by two walkways parallel to each other on the third story. There was another round structure in the southeastern part of the Facility that looked like a Tau-style storage building; it was connected to two more round structures that looked sort of like grain silos, but weren’t; those were connected to a monorail platform and were used to load and unload supplies for the storage building. Just north of those buildings, was a flat, strangely-shaped, one-story, building, what looked like a cafeteria, then northeast of that, a parking lot, with barely enough cars to fill one-third of the lot. On the northwest side was another parking lot, but with less cars. Running north/south through the center of the compound were four monorail tracks, two used for supplies, which passed through the southern platform, and two used for passengers, the platform on the north side. The tracks traveled over the top of all the one-story buildings, and underneath the three-story walkways. There were a few more smaller, Tau-style, buildings in the northeast corner. All the rest of the buildings were one-story, rectangular, Terran-style buildings, most them with arched roofs.
    Lana continued to stare at the Facility, trying to commit it to memory, but also looking for movement. But, all she saw were dead bodies, about four of them. Then she spotted movement, not the bodies, but a couple creatures next to the bodies, busily eating them.
    Lana hadn’t spent a whole lot of time studying the wildlife on New Tau’n because she had no idea where on the planet she was being called to go. However, this creature looked like a long, narrow ,turtle, about two meters long, half that wide. She remembered reading about a turtle-like scavenger that lived on the planet. These were obviously now feeding on the dead bodies. As to whether they would attack a living animal, she didn’t know.
    The road she had followed to the top of the hill, wound down from the hill and into the southwest side of the Facility, the metal double-doors closed tight. Roads entered the compound from the northwest, into the parking lot, from the north into and through the center of the compound, a road from the east, leading into the parking lot on that side, and another road coming in directly from the south. All the double-doors for those were wide open, something that had allowed so many scavengers to enter.
    The rest of the Tam’yaldar Research Facility looked completely abandoned, the wind blowing bits of light garbage around, making the place look haunted...with only ghosts left to tell the tale of what had happened there.
    Lana stood up and began looking around at the country side. She noticed another small group buildings on the far northwest side, outside the Facility: a three-story, round, Tau, building, a small, square, flat building, and a rectangular building with an arched roof. It looked like there was an unfinished walkway connecting the eastern, MAIN, building to the smaller Tau building outside.
    To the south, she saw another large hill about three hundred meters away, and another hill beyond that. So far, none of the buildings stood out as someplace people would hide in case of an emergency. However, as she continued to look around, it was like the place was getting to her, making her feel light-headed. Then she became dizzy, the world around her spinning, until she fell...darkness enveloping her.
    Lana was laying down on her back on what felt like a narrow hospital bed with a comfortable pillow. There were four men standing around her in what looked like a small recovery room. Her fatigue pant legs had been rolled up a little past her knees on both sides. There was a man with short, bluish-tan, hair tending to her cuts, two men in the back talking to each other, an elderly man standing next to the bed in the middle, and a much younger man, a teenager, at the head of the bed looking directly down at her, smiling; he spoke first.
    “Hi. How are you feeling?” The young man’s eyes gravitated more to looking at her breasts than her eyes.
    The elderly man had blue-grey and brown hair. He spoke with a thick Tau accent. “You can’t stand around out there that close to the Mont’ka for very long without protection.”
    The man tending to her leg cuts spoke as he began carefully rolling her pant legs down. “There...that should feel better. I’m surprised those kod’gels didn’t tear you up a lot worse.”
    “She had two pistols with her.” One of the two men in the back of the room mentioned.    
    “Those wouldn’t have helped her after she passed out.” The man that had tended to her injuries replied.
    Another man had just examined her pistols. “They smell like they’ve been fired.”
    “Did you get attacked?” The young man asked, his eyes still drawn to her breasts. “How many did you kill?”
    The elderly man held up his hand. “Hey, hold on everyone. Give her some time to wake up before asking her a bunch of questions.” He looked at her and smiled. “We’ll let you rest awhile then we’ll come back. Okay?”
    But, Lana had her own questions. “Where am I? Are any of you the scientists that worked on the Mont’ka?” She sighed. “I’ve been sent here to find you.”
    The elderly man looked surprised, then nodded and decided to make introductions after telling her where she was. “You are in a small laboratory outside the Tam’yaldar Research Facility protected from the affects of the Mont’ka. Myself, I’m Doctor Bra’fel. I worked on the Mont’ka.” He pointed at the a man behind him. “This is Dia’vren. He worked on the project, as well.”
    “Just called me, Dave.” The introduced man added.
    The man next to him introduced himself as, Ho’sarn.
    “He worked on the Mont’ka as well.” Bra’fel mentioned.
    The man at the foot of bed said he was Doctor Irahirn, a medical doctor, and said to call him, Ira. And last, the youngest man said his name was Berry, a lab worker. After the introductions had been made, Lana could see they were all Tau, except Berry, who was Terran/Tau.
    Many Tau living in the Sol Frontier adopted Galactic Standard names, such as Dave and Ira, when meeting Terrans, knowing it was easier for them to remember. Doctor Bra’fel then told Lana to call him, Bryan.
    They all stood staring at her. Then, when she figured they were waiting for her, she spoke. “My name is Lieutenant LaFong. I’m a Special Ops Space Marine sent here by Aun Ho’sarn Jilau to help you turn off that device...the Mont’ka.” She smiled, weakly. “I’m glad I found...well, glad you guys found me.”
    Bryan smiled happily. “Well, you are most welcome, young lady. As for turning off the Mont’ka, we have discovered that you would be perfect for the job. We were trying to figure out the best way to ask you. But, now that you have told us that’s what you’re here for, we don’t have to feel uncomfortable asking you.” He lost his smile, looked down, then up, sighing. “But, we need to tell you: the job could be VERY dangerous.”
    At Bryan’s last statement, Berry frowned noticeably and quickly left the room. He decided to explain. “Berry is a young man and is a little smitten with you. He doesn’t want you to go.”
    Lana sighed, then thought of something. “How did you guys find me?”
    Ho’sarn decided to explain. “Outside we have a couple surveillance cameras. We spotted you when you fell. Myself and Dave had to go out and get you.” He pointed at Ira. “Doctor Irahirn here came in from the south road. We spotted him also, and led him here. He said there were others that were sent here, also. But, he’s the only one that made it...that we know of. And, you, of course.”
    After thinking about what Ho’sarn had just told her, she had to ask, “ are you able to use are you getting anything powered to work?”
    The same man, explained, “well, we have been here awhile and have founds ways to protect our powered devices...since we know how the Mont’ka works.”
    Bryan nodded, agreeing.
    Feeling better, Lana sat up in the bed, ready to get up, then wavered.
    Bryan steadied her. “Wait a little while longer before getting up, okay?”
    She smiled weakly and laid back down. “Okay. Maybe you guys can give me some maps of the Facility and tell me how I’m supposed to turn off that device. And you should brief me on what to expect. I noticed some creatures eating the dead bodies inside--”
    “You, rest, you rest.” Bryan spoke softly. “We can wait until later for that.”
    Ho’sarn was a young Tau male about Lana’s age. “Yes, wait.” He smiled. “Like Berry, all of us guys are a little smitten with you. I don’t know if you noticed or not, but, we think the Mont’ka is playing with our sex drives.” He kept smiling as he sighed. “But, I don’t think you’re here to help us with that problem.”
    Lana sighed silently to herself, now understanding why she so eager to be with Stepen, the guy that helped her escape.
    “Later on tonight we will give you all the information you need to start your mission, tomorrow.” Bryan spoke as the other men started to leave. “Believe will be NO easy task.”




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