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Breaking Point

Posted on Thu Dec 24th, 2015 @ 2:14am by Lieutenant Thomas Stills & Ruby Redford

Mission: Trouble on the frontier
Location: Khazara, Romulan Star Empire
Timeline: Three months earlier

The noise was deafening as hit after hit bombarded them. Visibility was down to little more than thirty feet owing to the dust which clogged the air. Ruby coughed and spat out a disgustingly brown liquid.

"Redford FNS," she shouted over the din. "I hope that you can hear me. Those of us that are left have been ordered to pull back."

“Quiet,” a voice next to her said. “You’ll give away our position. And you can forget about your radio; they're jamming transmissions.”

She looked around to see not the soldier she expected but a...creature was the best way she could describe it. It was all arms, like something stepped out of the pantheon of Hindu gods.

“There’s an outpost over there to our right,” it said. “I saw firing coming from there a moment ago. If we can make it to there we might stand a chance of surviving.”

Seeing that she didn't have much of a choice, Ruby agreed. They dodged holes in the ground that were big enough to swallow them up as fire power flared above them. Any moment now her ears would explode with the noise.

An explosion erupted not five metres from them knocking the creature sidewards. It pushed itself upright with one hand while it grabbed a fallen rifle with another. Scanning the ground around them, it saw two more rifles lying next to dead bodies. It grabbed those as well.

“I’ll lay down covering fire while you get over there. When I see you’re safe, I’ll follow.”

Just as Ruby stood, a new barrage started. One of the shells landed square in the foxhole she had been about to make a dash to.

“Go! Go!” the creature urged. “Lighting doesn’t strike the same place twice.”

She ran, holding her arm above her to try and protect her head. She was at breaking point and only her adrenaline was keeping her going. It was getting hard to see anything: was that a good thing? If she couldn't see them then maybe they couldn't see her. She kept going.

The creature could not see where Ruby went. It waited a few minutes, firing all three rifles all the while. Then it too ran.

She half slid and half slipped into the foxhole. A weapon found itself in her hands but it was gnarled and twisted, useless. Everything hurt as she pressed herself up against the earth that was only slightly taller than she was. Catching her breath, remembering to breathe, she allowed herself a few seconds to gather her thoughts, but it wasn't long before the creature joined her.

The foxhole didn’t offer much protection, not from computer guided artillery. “We’ll do the same again. You go first. Make for the building over there. It’s the facility’s laundry. There’s a storage room in the rear and below that a cellar but you have to know how to open the cellar. I heard the guards talking about it; they used it to store bootleg liquor and...other drugs. We’ll be safe there.”

It checked the contents of the magazine clips and swapped one rifle for a new one in the bottom of the foxhole. It also put a full clip in a pocket of its jacket.

“Go!” It almost pushed Ruby out of the foxhole. Firing as it ran, it followed close behind.

She ran, she jumped, she slipped, she fell. This was the last time she told herself, I can't do this anymore but she kept going. She had a stitch in her side from the sheer effort of running for her life, painful and difficult to breathe. She forced her legs to keep moving; if she didn't move she would die. She was nearly there, a few more steps and then she could....

The creature grabbed Ruby and half-pushed, half-pulled her through a door. It slammed the door shut behind. “I don’t dare turn any lights on. With luck they didn’t see us come in so no point in telling them we’re here. Come; this way.”

It lead the way across the room, its many arms reaching out and around to avoid unseen hazards.

The noise outside abated to a dull roar, the walls shook a little and dust fell. But the door held fast. It was hard to see what was in front of her but in the gloom she could make out vague shapes of cupboards and upturned chairs. What was this place? She had a feeling it had something to do with the creature who had become her rescuer and who knew this area so well, otherwise why would he bring her here.

Multiple arms felt around a door-frame. “I’m sure this is the one,” it said, as much to itself as to Ruby. It gave the door a vicious kick but all that achieved was a sore toe. It moved to the next door. Renewed searching resulted in a satisfying click. On a far wall, a panel slid across, revealing a deeper darkness behind.

“Quickly,” the creature urged. “There’s stairs there. We have to be down and secure before the fighting stops. It won’t take them long to figure out there’s no further resistance out there.” It waited until Ruby had started towards the opening then set off in the other direction.

Ruby followed him, or it, like a lost sheep. She only hoped he knew what he was doing, she couldn't see a thing. It was so dark and she was so tired and thirsty. There seemed no chance of a rest and he was right; they had to keep going.

“I don’t know about you but I’d like to eat and drink while we’re down there. The Romulans might only do a cursory search but they might be thorough. It’s hard to know these days. We could be down there for days and I don’t fancy dying of thirst; not after all we’ve been through to get here. I don’t fancy freezing to death either.”

As if in an answer to a prayer he suggested food and drink. Ruby couldn't remember the last time she had eaten something. Her rumbling stomach and her dry parched throat reminded her that it was way overdue.
"It would be nice," she replied 'Nice' she thought, she said nice in the middle of a war zone and escaping for her life and all she could think about was Nice. "Thanks, just wish I could see a bit better. What is this place?"

“The original kitchens, I believe,” the creature explained. “They were moved to a larger area when the facility expanded. Nowadays they’re mainly a larder. The cellar was closed off and forgotten. The story was that it flooded and was unusable. It was used to store specimens that nobody wanted to admit existed. Then that lot of administrators got transferred and the cellar was forgotten: forgotten by all but a few guards who turned it into a drug lab using the equipment stashed up here. Or so the story goes, anyway. Who knows what really happened?”

All the while the creature was using its multiple arms to collect cans and packets of food. “Over there,” it said, pointing to a tall, free-standing cupboard. “You’ll find cutlery and some pots and pans. There’s gas bottles down below, I believe, so we should be able to cook.” It tossed all it was carrying into a box then grabbed a slab of bottles of water. “I’ll get these down the stairs. You bring the equipment.”

He made it sound like a camping expedition, which was as far from it as it could be. There was a bag on the near wall and she started to sling the equipment into it. She had no idea how long they were going to stay down here but survival was all that mattered to them now. Satisfied with what she had, she also headed for the stairs. This would make a good story, once she got out of here she thought, but Ruby needed to find out more about her companion.

"Who are you?" she asked.


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