Davis and Trace see the two sunken Hûms swim upwards and paddle to meet them, they come within coms distance.
“You two alright? Blister?” Davis asks.
Melancholy soaks his words.
“Yeah we’re good…” He replies.
“…Malcom. He didn’t. We couldn’t find him”
“Blister… man I’m”
“No, it’s alright Davis…” Blister smiles.
“We should go before this fire of mine burns out”
Davis nods in agreeance. His heart races with adrenaline.
“Trace?” He asks vaguely.
She knows what he’s asking for and replies promptly:
“We’re close, the shore line should be another seven hundred metres south”
She darts off in the direction and the rest follow.
Trace coerces the group into a huddle.
“Nobody leaves the water until we’ve surveyed the shore, got it?”
“Yes Trace” The three of them reply.
“Spread yourselves wide, stick to the shadows of the seaweeds and be silent, use your Morse responders to communicate” She orders.
“Trace, how are we going to survey the land if we can’t leave the water?” Elix asks.
Trace flicks a switch on the right side of her helmet, her visor augments into a screen and an antenna erects right out of the top of her head.
“We can use these periscopes” She says with grinning enthusiasm.
“All these gadgets and you couldn’t put a fucking heater in?” Blister complains.
Trace is ready with her quip:
“Oh, well the thing is, WE have heaters, but the bullshit filter we had to install on yours took up too much space”
The group giggles.
“Seems like he burnt out the filter Trace” Davis jests.
“Ha, ha, ha, very funny… You guys don’t really have heaters, do you?”
“No Blister. Let’s get this mission over with, so I can go home to my heater”
The group separates along the shore, spreading themselves in the shallows; wading and biding their time.
Trace and the others study their surroundings vehemently. The Satellite dominates the panorama, its massive dish blots out the starry night sky, while the tall walls with towers evenly placed along them, steal the view of the hillside forest behind.
“Five spotlight towers, seven second scan, seven seconds back… Small window guys…” Trace says, equally doubtful and hopeful.
“…Davis?” She asks.
“You see those power transference cables coming through the wall?”
“Yeah, what about ‘em?”
“See how they go into the ground, Abishua was right they must be connected to another satellite array. Now, you see the direction they’re going in?”
“It looks like they’re going underneath that tube tunnel to the right, good thing you’ve loaded us up with those explosives, so what happens after I blow it?” He retorts.
Trace ponders silently for a few seconds.
“Davis if you take out that tunnel, Blister, Elix and I will handle the main gates and the towers. We’ll move on your mark Davis”
Davis blasts a few quick exhales to pump himself up before paddling over as close to the tube as he can get.
A few cycles of spotlight scans go by before Davis feels confident in his motions. He flows with the current of the ocean, slinking across its floor until he is in only a foot of water. Light flashes over his body; concealed by the night and murk of the water.
Immediately and purposefully he peels out of the water at his highest speed. The sand slows him slightly, but he makes it to a pillar at the base of the tube tracks before the light has a chance to spot him.
Davis tries to catch his breath in the span of seven seconds. His second window of dark approaches, and he sprints into the tube tunnel diving across its threshold as the spotlight tickles his flying toes. He recovers, and listens devoutly for any commotion by the Assims.
“Slow down heart, I can’t tell if I’ve been caught” He says to himself.
“Fuck it…” He continues.
“…If the Assims saw me they’d have reacted by now”
He jogs down the precisely cylindrical tunnel until he reaches a heavily reinforced section two hundred metres deep.
“Okay, this looks like the spot, no other reason to reinforce these walls so much” Davis states, panting as he rips the block of carefully wrapped explosives from his pack.
“Alright, you remember how this goes. Put it down, stab it with the cord, plug the cord into the box and set the timer” He paraphrases Trace’s instructions.
“Twenty seconds, that should be enough”
He sends a Morse message to Trace “Twenty secs” Sets the bomb and runs.
The moonlight at the end of the tunnel grows fractionally.
Davis calculates the distance he has to run.
Two fifty to the water.
Fastest human: thirteen metres per second.
Two fifty divided by thirteen.
Davis’ mind ticks away at the equation.
Nineteen point two.
“FUCK” He says through gritted teeth.
Not only has he not got enough time to make the run, but he no longer has enough time to turn back and change it.
His feet pound the floor so hard he can feel his brain knock around in his skull.
His thigh twinges with pain.
Nope, not now you bitch. He casts the thought of pain behind him to the shadow of the tunnel.
He’s almost half way to the shore, his chest gets tighter.
His heart rate exceeds safe operating levels.
His mind goes blank.
Seven… Six… Five…
Davis skids to a halt at the entrance of the tunnel.
A cone of light searches over the area before him.
He narrowly avoids detection.
The cone passes.
Now. He thinks, chasing the terminating line from night to the light of the Assim sentry.
Elix, Blister and Trace spring out of the water and launch their EMP nades at the towers.
The lights zip past Davis to the tunnel. He doesn’t turn, his focus remains on the ocean in front of him.
The EMP nades crackle and the towers shut down.
The explosion races out of the tunnel. The Earth trembles under Davis’ feet. The ocean ripples away from him. He dives. The heat and light escape the tunnel like the sun squeezing through a keyhole into the strong night. The grey exterior of the satellite compound is illuminated. Davis’ hair and clothes singe for a moment before he hits the water’s brightly reflective surface.
Davis swims over to the others; they’ve been waiting for him to continue. The group retreats a short distance to monitor the aftermath of their attack.
“Something’s off” Says Elix.
“Something’s wrong” Davis agrees.
“This isn’t happening as I thought it would” Trace adds: confused
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Blister asks.
“Wait, the gates are opening” States Elix curiously.
“Yeah, slowly…” Trace deduces.
“…Like the wind is pushing it”
“Shouldn’t there be Assims swarming out of this place?” Asks Davis.
“Where are they?” Trace rhetorically asks.
Her whole plan had been calculated under the assumption there would be a fire fight. The group bobs in the water waiting for something, anything to happen.
“We have to get in there now” Davis urges.
“Fuck” Trace spits, she’s weighing up the risks, squirming in the water.
“Trace!” Elix snaps.
“…We won’t get another chance”
“Right…” Says Trace, clearly overwhelmed by what’s in front of her and her team.
Cluster F swim ferociously to shore, but then cautiously they emerge from the water, with their guns drawn, scanning the surroundings; ready for any hostile encounter.
“This doesn’t feel right” Blister claims.
“That’s because it feels like a trap” Davis agrees.
“Elix is right, we won’t have another chance. Trap or not we have to risk it, so let’s get this over with” Trace orders.
Fear has entered Traces mind and it thinly coats every one of the words that comes from her mouth, but she can’t let her team hear it, not now, not on the eve of their victory.
The Cluster walks through the gates of the compound on high alert; thinking the Assims will flood out at any moment. They look up, the dish is about the size of a hot air balloon, the building beneath it looked bigger from outside its menacing exterior walls, but isn’t much larger than an average church.
“Blister, get us in that door” Trace commands.
Blister dashes to the door, he removes a bang nade from his pack, but before he pulls the pin he has a notion come to him. He checks the handle on the door.
His and the other’s minds warp with suspicion.
“I don’t like this” Says Davis.
Fear doesn’t usually flavour his words but the others could definitely hear it this time.
“What do we do Trace?” Blister asks.
She doesn’t answer. Elix posits a theory:
“Maybe they sent all the Assims to the reprogramming station and maybe they’re still there”
Trace is quick with her reply this time.
“No, that would be foolish, it’s way out of character for the Encephalon to put all their eggs in a basket like that”
“If you can call what they do character” Blister jests.
Trace enters the building without saying a word. Davis follows without a hesitation, Elix behind him and as she passes Blister his mouth fumbles the words:
“Ladies first” He then, with great hesitation lingers at the door.
“Blister” His companions hiss.
“Fuck” And enters too.
In a staggered single filed line, the Cluster creeps down the wide, flickeringly lit hallway.
“If we follow these cables on the wall, they should take us to the control room” Trace notes.
Very few rooms shoot off from the main hallway.
“Check every nook; I don’t want an Assim up my arse” Trace orders.
Like a well-trained team of soldiers Cluster F methodically scan and clear each room.
“This place is fucking empty” Blister states, equally confused as he is frustrated
“Don’t even think about lowering your guard” Davis barks.
“I dunno guys, maybe they went to dinner or something” Blister jokes.
Elix catches up to Trace and walks at the head of the pack with her, down the final few metres of hallway leading to the control room. The door at the end of the passage is solid steel with obvious reinforcement and a meshed glass window at its centre.
“It appears to slide open to one side” Trace says analytically, as her and Elix peer into the perfectly illuminated control room.
“The electronics in there mustn’t be affected by our EMP attacks” Elix states “That would be a safety featur…”
Elix looks into the control room at the numerous buttons and switches littered upon the long arcing semi-circle bench in its centre.
“We have to get in there” She says.
Towers riddled with instruments line the walls and several separate computer stations fill in the gaps. The rest of the room is dedicated to thin paths allowing access and egress for the rotating shifts of Assims.
It clicks in Elix’s head that Trace hadn’t exactly finished her sentence. She turns to her.
“Trace?” She asks.
She looks to Davis and Blister. Her heart beat rises and perplexity consumes her,