The bone-crushing wall of water hit Delaney with a frightful impact.
For a second, he was completely winded. It felt as though his chest had caved in. The urge to bring his arms in to hold his torso was overwhelming, but he knew he had to keep hold of the rim of the upturned roof, or risk being thrown into the water.
The initial wave pounded right over and on top of him. He rolled and bounced and turned uncontrollably, somehow managing to stay inside the little black boat.
In fact, by the time Delaney found himself hurtling down the tunnel, there was already a river of water in front of him. It was the most fearsome rapids anyone had ever ridden.
The tunnel lights flickered back on, and Delaney strained to turn his head to look behind.
He wished he hadn’t!
Whilst he was riding a massive swell of water that rose halfway up the height of the wall, another secondary wave forced out by the pumping of the pipes—a tsunami that almost touched the ceiling—was rapidly bearing down on him.
He stared at it in horror.
The wall of water was sixty yards behind him, towering above his boat, and coming in fast! It roared loudly like a wild beast chasing its prey.
Delaney ducked down into the bug boat, flattening out against the bottom and waited for the inevitable smash.
Then it came.
The tidal wave crashed down—straight down—behind Delaney’s boat! It had missed him… by just six feet!
The torrent of water had leveled out at precisely the right moment. But now the river was higher—and faster. Delaney sped down the tunnel in his little black boat like a plastic toy being washed along a street curb.
He could almost touch the roof of the tunnel.
Delaney sat in the boat, with nothing else to do now except ride it out. The tunnel lights flicked past. Little flashes of color against the black. He looked into the water. It was clear and cool.
The lights of the tunnel walls were submerged, and it reminded Delaney of a luxurious hotel swimming pool with the little blue lights under the water which always look so inviting. He could see the tunnel floor clearly.
Suddenly, he whizzed past a large black object. It was the black bug that had broken down earlier, still stuck in the alcove at the bottom.
Then a thought struck Delaney.
He would be nearing the turbine shortly, and Wells was tied up at the bottom of the ladder.
The turbine came into view two hundred yards ahead.
Which left Delaney with a decision—stay in the boat and almost certainly smash into the mesh grate, or leave the boat and try to swim to the walkway. Either way, it was a bad situation.
He chose the water.
Delaney saw the walkway two hundred yards in front, and thirty feet to his right.
This was going to be a tough swim, and he was exhausted. He prepared to exit the boat, got to his knees, then the balls of his feet, crouching and gripping the sides firmly.
Then he dived.
Straight into the chill of the near-frozen water. Even through his oxytherm suit, the cold jarred him like an electric shock charging through his body.
Delaney wasted no time. He started swimming hard, forcing his body through the water sideways towards the edge of the tunnel, as the force of the rapids pushed him ever closer towards the turbine.
He kicked hard, and pulled at the water with his arms, clawing at it with his open palms. For every yard he swam sideways, he was being pulled two yards lengthwise.
The turbine loomed closer.
Delaney could hear its mechanical whirring and the whooshing of millions of gallons of Martian ice-water being sucked into the huge fans. If he hit the mesh grate, his body would be forced through in one inch pieces.
“Move!” he yelled to himself in frustration.
He saw the ladder coming up fast, in front but still several yards to the side.
Delaney thrashed against the surge of the rapids. His shoulders ached. His movements were slowed down by the icy water.
He was swimming in slow motion, doing a bizarre kind of freestyle which looked all the more ridiculous because of the lateral force of the torrent.
The ladder was twenty feet in front. Six feet out of reach, as the water carried Delaney along relentlessly.
Delaney summoned up all his remaining strength, all his will. He sucked in a huge gasp of air, and propelled himself with a series of wild kicks. He stretched out his hand, fumbling blindly as the water cascaded over him and slapped against his face.
The ladder was approaching, only inches away.
Delaney lunged and—
He groaned loudly as he sailed past the rungs towards the mesh grate. He flailed his arms up and out, stretching for something.
Then his fingers touched it.
The catwalk’s lower railing. He gripped it tightly with one hand and caught his breath. He swung his other arm up and grabbed hold. He then dragged himself sideways towards the ladder against the force of the surging water. Finally his leg brushed against a rung. Delaney breathed hard, sucking in the air and manouvered his body until he got a solid foothold. Then with one last grunt, he forced his upper body out of the water, leaning hard into the ladder as he stepped up.
Delaney hung there for a moment to get his breath back, his legs still submerged in the icy water. He allowed the river to wash over him for a second, ignoring the cold, then he lunged up one final time towards the catwalk.
Delaney crawled over the railing at the top of the ladder and fell hard onto the catwalk.
He lay still for a full thirty seconds, listening to the rapids wash past underneath.
The water pumped ferociously through the mesh wall and into the great turbine. He stood up and checked that his two Desert Eagle pistols were still holstered.
Now, let’s see what’s behind the door, he thought, looking down the catwalk towards the turbine.
He stopped abruptly.
Laying on the deck of the catwalk a few feet in front of him was a long piece of nylon rope. Delaney picked it up and studied it. It had been cut cleanly with a knife.
“Bastard!” he said, realizing he hadn’t searched Wells earlier.
Leading towards the door, clearly defined on the plastic surface of the catwalk, were several watery shoeprints.
Delaney entered the door to the pyramid with one of his pistols extended in front of his body, urban assault style.
Water dripped off his suit, his hair, his face. He looked like he’d been through a turbowash.
Standing in the small white lobby, everything was silent and still. Delaney glanced up at the passageway leading to the pyramid. Except for a faint glow, everything looked empty and dark. He noticed the door opposite the one from which he had entered. He moved towards it, gun raised to his shoulder in both hands.
Carefully, Delaney elbowed the button panel.
The door whooshed open!
He could hear the roar of the water churning through the turbine and gushing into the north section of the tunnel.
He darted out onto the walkway with his gun extended once more, finger poised on the trigger. He quickly scanned along the tunnel and the catwalk. Everything looked clear. In a way, Delaney was disappointed there was nobody there. It was the Devil coming out in Devil Delaney again. After everything he’d been through, the adrenalin was pumping through his veins. He needed an outlet.
As a marine, Delaney knew how to make full use of his fear and excitement to aid, rather than hinder himself in the heat of battle. And, he knew when to use self control, stay calm and analyze the situation.
But this was no ordinary battle.
Delaney was pumped, and ready for action.
He went back through the door and up the inclined passageway leading to the pyramid.
At the top of the slope, Delaney could see a pulsing blue-white glow flickering brightly, the light seeping eerily into the passage. He heard a low volume static hum. The crackle of hydroelectric equipment… large hydroelectric equipment.
Delaney quickened his pace to the top of the passage.
He emerged from the passageway out onto a small square platform and into the expansive space of the canyon.
The sphere appeared majestically before him, supported by the twelve bridges which extended out to the sides of the gigantic chamber below Hellas Pyramid.
Delaney reeled in awe of the sheer size of the pyramid’s interior. Its scale was unimaginable, impossibly large. And high. And deep.
He looked across the bridge splayed out in front of him towards the monstrous black orb suspended in the centre. The Trojan Device!
Its black surface pulsed with electric energy.
It was dotted with small silver nodules through which the curtain of energy flowed. Round holes appeared at intervals across the top hemisphere, and on the bottom half, doorways were cut into the points at which the bridges met it.
In one of those doorways, Delaney saw three figures in charcoal colored oxytherm suits.
Simms, Wells and Lena.
Simms was holding Lena by the arm.
Wells was holding the case which contained the pyrozine canisters. He placed it on a flat workstation and opened it.
Behind the three, Delaney saw four tall, hexagonal transparent chambers, like telephone booths, and behind them near the widest bridge entrance, a much larger chamber—large enough to hold a small vehicle. Or a Beijing jeep, Delaney thought.
Wires and pipes and aerials and display screens, and a mishmash of other unusual objects filled the rest of the sphere’s interior. It was, Delaney figured, about sixty feet in diameter.
Delaney watched for a moment as Wells lifted one of the liquid explosive cylinders out of the case. Wells seemed to be studying it, and showed it to Simms, before placing it back into the case.
The flashing blue-white light of the electricity arced wildly over the massive black orb. Wells appeared to be moving in slow motion—the type of staccato movement one sees when watching dancers under a strobe light.
Delaney decided it was time to move.
He crouched low on the bridge and started moving across towards the sphere. He kept his eyes trained on Simms, who was holding an M4 tightly in his hands.
Small snaps, crackles and pops of static electricity disguised the sounds of Delaney’s footsteps. He also hoped the dazzling lightshow would conceal his approach long enough to reach the sphere.
Unfortunately, he underestimated Simms’s keen peripheral vision—something every soldier developed over time when their life had depended on it.
Simms pushed Lena aside and quickly brought his rifle up to a firing position. Wells turned and saw Delaney on the bridge.
“You just don’t know when to give up, do you Lieutenant Delaney?” Wells said with an angry sneer.
“And you just don’t know how to die,” said Delaney, as he stood up and continued walking towards the group.
“Oh yes… the rope,” smiled Wells. “Fancy a smart marine like you not searching me for weapons,” he said, holding up a very nasty looking combat knife. “Such an unacceptable mistake for someone in your position, wouldn’t you say, Lieutenant?”
“The only mistake I made was not killing you earlier, Wells.”
Simms aimed his rifle at Delaney’s head. His finger rested firmly on the trigger. “Sir, I suggest you drop your pistol right now, before I get nervous and this gun goes off,” the marine private said with a slight anxiety in his voice.
Delaney let his Desert Eagle drop to the deck. He looked across at Lena.
“You okay?” he asked calmly.
Delaney shifted his gaze back to Wells. “Now what, Wells?”
Wells folded down the lid on the pyrozine case and latched it. He picked the case up. “Now I finish what I came here to do, and you, Lieutenant can go to hell.” He nodded at Simms.
Delaney sneered, “I was born in hell, you piece of shit.”
Lena rushed forward.
“What!” she screamed. “You can’t just kill him in cold blood!”
Simms put out his arm to stop her getting past him.
Delaney looked around. He needed a way out of this mess fast. He peered down into the bottomless pit. That’s no good.
He was still about fifteen feet from the sphere. It was more than sixty feet back to the entrance of the pyramid along the bridge. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.
Simms aimed his rifle at his Lieutenant’s forehead. It was going to be a very accurate shot.
Delaney gritted his teeth.
Then, at that very moment, as was always the case when Jake “Devil” Delaney found himself in a situation like this—the whole damned place turned to hell.