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Approx. 4400 words

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Copyright 2015   SJ

Chaos in Delta Pavonus:

The Prison


written by  SJ



    It was obvious everyone else had more confidence in Lana’s hunch about the prison than she did. She was very anxious as her Ops shuttle flew over Wesson in stealth mode.
    The small town was abandoned and there were no people except for inside one small building, a building with a chain link fence around it and a van parked right next to it on the left side. This HAD to be it--the Prison.
    The small compound was located very close to the lake, less than one hundred meters. The bio-scanner on the shuttle located three people inside the main building, two toward the front of the building, one toward the rear. The scanner also found the fence to be wired, Nikolai saying it probably had several different types of detection systems on it.
    Lana had decided to delay this mission until late in the day, almost evening. After spotting the Prison, they waited until almost midnight before making their move, figuring there would be less guards, and those awake, less alert.
    It was important for them to get as far into the Prison as they could without being detected. Ramcke set the shuttle down in between two warehouses, out of sight, where they all got out, making their way though town and behind an empty souvenir shop, which was across the street from the prison.
    After Lana and Ramcke had entered the souvenir shop, they took positions at separate windows, each obtaining an angle in which they could each see a guard, both of them sitting at the same table on opposite sides playing cards with each other, where they were seen clearly through the left side prison window.
    Both guards looked to be dressed the same way as the woman at the hospital: dark gray pants and a dull red shirt with an emblem sewn on in the upper right corner. And by the presence of AK auto rifles in the back of the room, they had to assume they were genuine guards. The lives of the prison inmates (one of which she hoped was Annie) were at stake here, so any and all guards that were awake had to be neutralized.
    The range to the prison building was less than fifty meters. With sniper rifles, the two guards were easy killed simultaneously, then Lana used her Special Ops oPOD to wirelessly turn off the security system, neutralizing the fence and the cameras. She then remotely opened the gate.
    Lana’s team ran forward first, where she quickly picked the lock on the front door and entered, turning left to go inside the room with the dead guards. Bull and Gannon, armed with their silenced Mp5 submachine guns, cautiously advanced down the two meter wide hallway. Ramcke and Burns came in behind them, Burns dropping off his bag of explosives in the office.
    Once Melinda’s team had moved inside the enclosure, Lana found the gate controls and closed them, signaling the team to come inside. The premise here was to make the prison look like nothing had happened from the outside, like the two guards were somewhere else and everything was okay just in case they had unwelcome visitors.
    Down the hallway, there were two more doors on the left, and three prison cells on the right. At the end of he hallway, Gannon was on guard while Bull pointed at the last cell, signaling for it to be opened, Lana doing so with the controls. Bull then led a very frightened young woman down the hallway, telling her to be quiet. It was quickly determined she was the missing nurse, the first prisoner to be rescued, who was turned over to Melinda’s team.
    At the end of the hallway, to the right, was a small room with shackles and a wooden cabinet, something Lana sorely recognized. To the left, were the stairs, four meters wide divided by a hand rail in the center, the double doors on top opened all the way.
    The stairs went down far enough so the bottom couldn’t be seen from the top. Lana descended on the right, while Gannon and Bull descended on the left, all three of them going down swiftly, Lana with her sniper rifle ready. At the bottom, there was one guard sitting at a table in a room. As he stood up, noticing the two Marines, Lana shot him through the chest three times, Bull and Gannon seeing the rest of the eight by eight meter room empty. On the right side was a heavy metal door, where the two Marines quickly took positions, one on each side, then waited for Lana, who waited for Ramcke and Burns, who both crouched below the door’s one small, narrow, window.
    Using her periscope, Lana took her time analyzing the next room: This room was much larger, about thirty meters to the far side; it had a tile floor, much like a subway station. She couldn’t see how wide the room was, more than twelve meters at least. Directly to the right was a cinder block building, six meters long with a window in the center, blocking view of the right side of the room. On the far side on the room, straight forward, was another cinder block building much like the first one, but in this case she could see the door. Both buildings were unpainted and looked very out of place.
    On the left side of the room, four meters away, was a wall, which DID look like it was part of the station. In the wall, four meters down, was the entrance to a hallway, then, just beyond that, against the wall, was a guard booth with two guards. Further down along the wall, almost to the end, there was a second guard booth. In the wall at the far end, was a door to the men’s room, the door to women’s room, logically covered by the cinder block building.
    As she stared, she thought about what she had to do: kill four more guards, people that somehow were hypnotized and under control.
    Then she thought of something, making a call. “Melinda, I didn’t check those two guards up there for WARP Worms.”
    “I already did.” Dion answered. They don’t.”
    Lana frowned. Finding guards with WARP Worms would mean they couldn’t readily be saved, possible damage to their brains already done. When she looked at the dead guard in the room, she noticed his head had been shaved, his scalp painted the same color as his shirt, dull red. She then asked Burns to check him for WARP Worms. He fumbled with the phone a little, his first time using it for this purpose, then announced, showing her the phone. “That means positive, right?”
    She answered with raised eyebrows. “Yes.” To Melinda: “The guard down here DOES have a Worm.”
    “He does?” Melinda was surprised. “That seems strange that some do and some don’t.”
    Lana then briefly explained about the guard’s head.
    Ramcke had fixed his periscope to the window also, looking at the same time as Lana. He announced his observation. “These guards in here...they kind of look spaced-out. Not like the guards upstairs.”
    Lana returned to her periscope, staring...then agreed, adding, “And they have their heads shaved and painted red.”
    “Oh, they do, don’t they.” Ramcke now noticed.
    Melinda heard, then asked. “So, you think that means they have WARP Worms, also. It makes sense. True Cultists.”
    “Melinda, is there a control up there for unlocking the downstairs door?”
    There was a delay, then she answered. “Yes.”
    “Unlock it on my mark.”
    “Okay...I’m ready.”
    Lana then began explaining her plan as she assumed a kneeling position against the wall, about one meter back from the door, telling Ramcke to stand behind her. They’d aim their sniper rifles and wait for the door to open; he’d shoot over the top of her and take out the guards at the far booth, she’d take the close one.
    Right afterwards, Gannon and Bull would enter in single file, Gannon moving up to the far edge of the near cinder block building, staying low, then peek around the corner to the right, but keep an eye on the far cinder block building. Bull would take the window; if there were any awake guards inside, shoot them. Burns would go left and guard the hallway. Lana and Ramcke would then enter; Ramcke would then join Burns and wait before advancing down the hallway, Lana would go with Gannon and Bull, where all three of them would advance into the rest of the station.
    The prison door opened inward. Once it was unlocked, Burns pulled it in, all the way open, hearing the zips of the two sniper rifles, all hitting their marks. Gannon, Bull, then Burns entered, taking their positions, followed by Lana and Ramcke.
    “We’ve got two sleeping guards in here.” Bull was quick to announce with his submachine gun aimed.
    “Burns, go over and stun those guards.” Lana ordered.
    Gannon had expected the guards inside the far cinder block building to wake up and come out because of the noise made so far; but no one came out. Burns stunned the two sleeping guards, then Lana told him to go with Gannon to the next cinder block building, do the same to those. Bull was then told to go with Ramcke and start their advance down the hallway, which went down about twenty five meters and turned right. On both sides of the hallway were prison cells; but, Lana had no time to examine them.
    As Gannon and Burns headed toward the cinder block building, Lana could see that at each of the guard booths, on the walls, there were what had to be the controls for the prison cells. In between the booths were a row of lockers, and in the exact middle of the wall was another hallway, same as the first, about two meters wide. Only this hallway was very dark. She couldn’t see all the way down, but there were prison cells there also, spaced out, looking more like isolation cells.
    In the center of the right side of the station’s wall was what looked like a ticket and information counter, above it a blank schedule board. Once Burns had stunned the guards inside the other cinder block building, he stepped out and joined Gannon, looking down the third and last hallway, Gannon mentioning it was clear and that he saw prison cells going all the way to the end where it turned left.
    Lana told Burns to drag the stunned guards out into the open, check them for WARP Worms and keep them together, watch them until they could be taken upstairs and locked up. Before joining Gannon, she ran over to each guard booth and unlocked all the prison doors.
    As Lana and Gannon started down the last hallway, they suddenly heard a crash behind them. As they turned, they spotted a large Cultist jumping over the ticket counter, charging toward Burns, swinging, what looked like, a large, makeshift, spiked, mace. Burns ducked two blows, then spun low with a leg sweep, the Cultist landing heavily on his back. Burns then drew his combat knife, and, using both hands, drove it through the man’s heart. The big Cultist quivered a second, then laid still. As Burns was quickly joined by the two onlookers, he sighed heavily, then pointed at the dead man. “If that guy would’ve been more silent, he would’ve got me.” He sighed again.
    The big Cultist wore the same clothing as the guards, but he also had on heavy, leather, shoulder pads and a metal helmet, probably the prison boss. On his belt, he had a laspistol, Burns happy about him not using that instead. They frowned, grimacing at the man’s pale, yellowish, face, which had numerous, bloody, runes cut into it. This man HAD to be a full Chaos Cultist, with numerous WARP Worms.
    After making sure Burns was okay, and telling him, “nice moves,” Lana and Gannon returned to the hallway.
    Bull and Ramcke were already announcing the finding of a least five prisoners, most asleep, but arousing once they were aware of the two Marines. Over their phones, the others could hear a couple teary voices, overwhelmed at their rescue. Melinda said she’d send Nikolai down; he had first aid and medical training in case there were any injured or sick, plus he’d bring down the explosives, in case they needed them later.
    The hallway Lana and Gannon were checking had prison cells on both sides; but they found them all empty until they were at the very end. On the left side, a slightly emaciated man woke up, then began calling to them.
    He met with Gannon first, saying his name was Raymond Tyler. Finding his jail cell door open, he stepped out, but then collapsed to his knees, weak.
    “I can’t believe it.” Raymond spoke softly. “Someone’s finally rescuing us?”
    Lana had switched to holding one of her pistols, shouldering the sniper rifle. She knelt down to talk him, anxious. “Do you know anyone by the name of Annie, Annie Baudet?” Her voice almost broke. “Is she here?”
    The man didn’t answer as he hung his head sadly, not speaking right away. He suddenly looked very tired and depressed as he spoke. “It was my fault.” He almost cried. “She died and it was my fault.”
    Gannon remembered the last time someone mentioned to Lana about the death of her Aunt. “Easy, LuLu.”
    The man looked at her...then had to ask, “are you, LuLu?”
    Lana looked back at him, nodded, then waited, almost ready to cry.
    “Annie used to talk about you all the time.” He almost smiled. “You’re, LuLu!” He sat amazed. “She said you were on another planet.” He sighed. “She told me you wanted her to move. She told me all about you...and about how she should’ve listen to you.”
    Tears ran down Lana’s face...and she couldn’t speak.
    “That’s the only time Annie and I were reasonably happy here, when she was talking about you.” Raymond continued to recall, then saw Lana holding her pistol. “If you want to blame anyone for her death, blame me...go ahead and shoot me.”
    “I’m not going to shoot you.” She spoke positively as she wiped tears from her eyes. Then she spoke to Gannon. “I don’t want anyone to see my like this, okay.”
    “’s okay.” He replied gently.
    “But, it is my fault.” The man repeated.
    “Why do you keep saying that?” Lana could barely speak, but had to ask.
    Raymond sat and leaned back against the door to his cell. He sighed, then started. “About a year ago, I was asked by these government people to spy on Annie. I’m not sure what they wanted, but they said they would pay me four hundred credits. I was supposed to give them a report in three months.” As he remembered, he smiled weakly. “But...Annie was a great girl. I liked her right away.” He looked at Lana. “She would tell me all about you ALL the time. LuLu this...LuLu that. I couldn’t wait to meet you.” Then he slumped over and sighed. “When it came time for me to turn in that report, I blew it off. I didn’t care about the four hundred credits.” He sighed again. “Three days after I was supposed to turn in that report, some people came and got both of us and took us to this prison.” He pointed at the opposite cell. “They put Annie in there. We talked whenever we had the chance. Then she started having these headaches...then one day, she didn’t wake up, and didn’t respond when I called her. She had been dead for several days before they came and got her body.” He looked at Lana sadly. “If I had only turned in that report...maybe they would’ve left us alone. was my fault--”
    “It wasn’t your fault.” Lana retorted, now under control of her grief. “I remember her saying something about you in one of her letters.” She managed a meager smile. “She said you made her very happy.”
    Just then Bull came around from a hallway that turned left, obviously the same hallway he found on the other side of the prison. “Hey, guys. We found about a dozen more people in cells. Melinda says she’s going to transport them back to Dandelot in your shuttle. She’ll leave Koufax and Petrovsky here to guard our six.” He looked at Lana, the look on her face. He was about to ask about her Aunt, but then Gannon gave him a look and broke the bad news.
    Soon everyone knew...
    Melinda’s voice almost broke as she spoke. “I’m sorry, LuLu. I should’ve got you here soon--”
    “It wouldn’t have mattered.” Gannon corrected her. “Annie died a long before we got here.”
    Eventually, the prisoners were rounded up, getting ready for transport, two of them unable to walk. The four stunned guards were carried up to the jail cells above and locked up. Lana returned to the main room, then remembered--the other hallway! With Gannon behind her, she found the lights for the hallway, then began checking the isolation rooms, happy to find no one there.
    At the end of this hallway, there were stairs going down, darkness there. She found the lights, then proceeded down, leaving Gannon behind. She still felt numb inside, as if she had to accept Annie’s death all over again.
    The stairs lead to another room, ten by ten meters in size. The walls and floor had been painted a dull red color, with the same armband emblems painted on three of the walls. In the center of the room, she spotted a pedestal with a glowing yellow crystal on top, eight small chairs facing it closely; painted dark grey, on the floor, she recognized the same circle with eight arrows pointing outward from the center, just like the one on Thanatos-4, the massacre sight, only there were no dead bodies. However, there were four guards, alive, and, at first, just standing there, then becoming active, readying their weapons.
    Gannon was halfway down the stairs when he heard shooting, recognizing the sound of Lana’s 9.1s...and other weapons, including a shotgun. When he reached the bottom, he spotted Lana holding her two smoking pistols outward, four dead guards laying around in the room, bullet holes in their heads.
    Lana’s eyes remained transfixed, staring, still holding up her pistols. Gannon noticed blood coming from a grazing wound on her neck as she place his hands on her arms, pulling them downward as he tried to get her attention. “LuLu...LuLu.”
    Once her arms were down, her looked into eyes--then got mad and shook her. “Don’t you go get yourself killed on me. Damn it, LuLu!”
    When her eyes suddenly became sad, he held her in his arms. “LuLu...please, it’s okay. I know you’re sad about your Aunt. I just don’t want you to get yourself killed because of it.”
    Up the stairs, behind them, they heard Bull’s voice. “Hey, what’s going on? I heard shooting?”
    Once Bull arrived, Gannon began speaking to Lana forcefully, almost ordering. “Okay, LuLu, this mission is over. We’ve already rescued all the prisoners here. We’re going back to Dandelot--”
    “NO.” Lana seemed to gain control, then pointed at the room, then at the crystal. “Look at this...a crystal.” She made a call. “Melinda, there’s a yellow crystal down here. I think it’s a power crystal--and it’s ON!” She held out her scanner phone. “It’s emanating a LOT of WARP energy.”
    “Nikolai needs to look at it. I can take care of the rescued prisoners.” Melinda answered.
    “I’ll show him where.” Ramcke left.
    Before Gannon could speak again, Melinda confirmed, “LuLu, I need to borrow your shuttle so I can get these people back to Dandelot. Some of them are sick. I’m leaving Koufax up here. He can watch the back door for you. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
    Lana looked at Gannon and Bull. “We still need to find that tunnel. If it’s still there we might be able to follow it up under the Matriarch’s fortress.”
    When she started to move toward the stairs, she doubled up, holding the right side of her abdomen, just above the hip bone, in between the front and back parts of her kevlar vest. Her shirt was bloody there.
    “It’s just a grazing wound.” Lana played down the injury. “I’m fine.”
    Once Lana was upstairs and back out in the station, Nikolai took some time to check her out. Ramcke bandaged her neck, while the Federal sergeant scanned the bullet wound on the side of her abdomen, eventually lifting up her shirt to do, what looked like, some surgery, Lana gritting her teeth in pain several times. Finally, he said he was done, holding out a bloody, round, object. “This shotgun pellet almost punctured her bowel.”
    “So, what does that mean?” Gannon had to know.
    “It means she can go on, if she wants to...even though I would advise against it.” Nikolai spoke clearly. “She hasn’t lost any significant amount of blood or anything, and I’ve cleaned up, bandaged, and deadened the area.” He stood up. “Now, where’s that crystal?”
    After Nikolai had gone down to the room with the crystal, Lana began examining the prison lobby, where the guard booths and cinder block building were at. As she looked at it, it was obvious it used to be some kind of subway station. But, where were the stairs to the lower level?
    Before she could move, Gannon took her arm, looking at her sternly. “LuLu, I want someone to be with you ALL the time. I don’t want you to be alone...or, this mission is over.”
    She was surprised at first, then understood, half smiling. “Okay. We should all stay in teams of two, anyway.”
    The big Marine smiled back.
    Based on the location of the ticket stand, Lana figured there should be stairs going down, one on each side...maybe, blocked by the cinder block buildings.
    She chose the building on the left, the furthest one from the main door. After examining it from the inside, she ask Burns to bring her some explosives, which she planted on the wall, near where she guessed the stairs would be. They all then took cover in the first hallway, then gave a warning.
    The explosion took out half of the cinder block wall on their side, plus shattering part of the ticket booth. Once most of the smoke had cleared, and they were over there, they spotted a two-meter-wide stairway going down into darkness, whatever door that was there, gone.
    The members of each team had come prepared with night vision goggles, which they put on before going down stairs. However, Nikolai had made his preliminary analysis of the yellow crystal, and began warning, making sure Melinda could hear as well. “This crystal--it’s VERY dangerous. In my opinion we should all evacuate this area for at least a twenty kilometer distance.”
    Melinda had dropped off the prisoners at Dandelot, and was preparing to return. “Nikolai, can you explain?”
    “I am not qualified to preform anymore analysis on this crystal.” Nikolai sounded a little scared. “This is NOT an ordinary power crystal.” He paused for emphasis. “It’s got antimatter inside of it!”
    “You mean the AMCD is active all the time, continuously?” Melinda was surprised. “That can’t be.”
    “There is no AMCD!” Nikolai spoke, not believing it himself. “This crystal has antimatter inside of it ALL THE TIME! I can NOT understand why it doesn’t meltdown and explode.”
    “So that’s why you want to evacuate the area.” Melinda understood, then reasoned, “well, it’s been there all this time and hasn’t exploded. Some of the prisoners told me that’s where they hypnotized people to become guards--”
    “I’m sorry, Melinda.” Nikolai sounded even more scared. “I have to get away from this thing.” He quickly began leaving the crystal room, up the stairs, and through the hallway. “It’ it’s calling to me--giving me horrible images.” Once he was out in the station, he began feeling better. “No one should go near that thing until we can get more professional people and better equipment in here to examine it.”
    “Understood.” Melinda agreed. “Everyone stay away from that crystal room for now.” She changed the subject. “By the way, LuLu. Ben Franco is VERY grateful to you for rescuing his brother, Tom. He was one of the people we found there.”
    “Was he able to tell you anything about the Matriarch’s fortress?” Lana had to ask.
    “No, not at this time. He was not feeling very well and was in no condition to answer questions. I’m getting ready to return. What are you planning to do next?”
     “We’re on our way down to the subway tunnel,” Lana replied, then paused. “Is it okay if Nikolai comes with us? We’re hoping the tunnel will take us all the way to the Matriarch’s fortress. It doesn’t seem like she’s been using it, so we might be able to surprise her.”
    “That’s fine.” Melinda gave her okay. “A couple of Franco’s men have volunteered to go with me. They’ll guard the prison. When I get there, Koufax and I will follow you to the fortress. But, go ahead and proceed. We’ll catch up.” All of a sudden she sounded like she had good news. “Oh...I just talked with the General. Officer Dakota is on her way here. He said she’s been asking to come here and help you almost constantly. She’s coming in my Federal Ops shuttle escorted by an armed shuttle and should almost be here by now. She left yesterday.”
    “Well, we haven’t seen any demons, yet...but, I’m glad Jennifer’s coming. We’re on our way down to the tunnel, now.”








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