Chapter 12: Dante
“What do you mean, uh oh?” I ask.
“They’re…gone,” the spaceman responds, bewildered.
“Well, find them,”
“I’m trying, First Class, I’m trying,” Spaceman Collins says as he moves the scanner across the entirety of the area.
The scanner locks and zooms at an indiscernible shape. As the image clears, it reveals the landing sight, which now lays in ruin.
“What the hell happened?” The voice of Captain Anderson sounds as he enters the bridge.
“Sir, it appears there was an attack on the landing party,” Collins explains.
“Sekrid?” Anderson asks.
“No sir. Something else,”
“Hang on a second,” I interject, pointing a finger at the display “There’s a huge hole there. As well as deep grooves cut into the ground. Looks like they lead somewhere,” I say, leaning over Collins’ shoulder.
“interesting,” He says as he stares hard at the screen.
I look at him, eyebrow raised.
“Follow it,” I order, motioning a hand towards his controls.
Collins jumps “Right,” He says as he starts to trail the scanner in the direction the grooves travel.
He stops as he reaches a large fissure that cracks its way through the surface like a spiderweb.
“What the hell?”
“I’m not sure First Class. My best guess is that it was something natural on the planet,”
“Hold on,” I say, taking control of the scanner and swiping it back to the crash site.
I zoom it as far as I can and depixelate the image.
I point at the display “That’s blood,” My eyes catch sight of something else “There. That’s one of the scientists. Something killed him. Something big, look at the wound,” I say, circling his body with a finger.
Collins nods his head, agreeing with me.
“I’m guessing a couple more died where that large blood patch is. Collins, how old are these scans?”
“Bout an hour before the storm hit, First Class,”
I look at Anderson “Sir, that means this happened hours ago,”
“I know that, Hall,” He replies simply.
The thought finally occurs to me “Collins, Ethan and Elena aren’t anywhere to be found on those scans,”
“Not from what I can see,” I stand up, folding my arms, thinking on the matter.
An idea forms. Without saying a word, I take control of the scanner again, tracing the path of whatever attacked them back and forth.
“This thing that attacked. It wasn’t just moving to another place; it was pursuing something. They must have got away. We have to go get them,”
I stand up and begin to head for the door.
“Where do you think you’re going, Hall?” Anderson asks in a stern tone.
“My job is the safety of the personnel on this station. I’m taking a ship and I’m going to retrieve my people,”
“I think not,” Anderson orders.
“Sir, what are you talking about? Those are our people,”
Anderson looks at the display, then back at me “Looks like a bunch of civilian contractors to me,”
“What about Elena? And Ethan?”
“She’s from a unit no one’s ever heard of. As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t exist. And Blake? Well, who’s going to care what happens to him?”
The Captain’s words take me aback as I stare at him in disbelief.
“What the hell are you hiding?” I ask, narrowing my eyes at him.
Anderson steps closer until his face is inches from mine.
“I would suggest you remove yourself back to your office before you end up on one those expeditions where something…suddenly attacks,” He threatens.
“Your corruption knows no bounds, does it, Anderson?” I say, clenching a fist.
Anderson gives me an arrogant smirk.
“go ahead, Hall. Do it,” He challenges.
The thought of knocking his teeth across the floor crosses my mind for moment. I decide against it however as I allow my hand to go limp.
Anderson scoffs “That’s what I thought,” He says as he turns around, stepping away from me.
I sit in my chair, staring at the floor, the anger still writhing through me. I could go to Lauren, but she’d probably tell me no. Especially since she needs him for her research.
Unless…I reach under my desk, pressing that same switch, connecting me to Katsumi.
‘KATSUMI: YOU’RE EARLY ON YOUR NEXT APPOINTMENT’
‘MAVERICK: NO TIME TO EXPLAIN. I NEED YOUR HELP.’
‘KATSUMI: THIS ISN’T HOW WE USUALLY CONDUCT OURSELVES.’
‘MAVERICK: ARE YOU GOING TO HELP ME OR NOT?’
… … …
‘KATSUMI: WHAT DO YOU NEED?’
‘MAVERICK: NEED TO BURN SOME OF THAT INTEL.’
‘KATSUMI: I DON’T SUGGEST DOING THAT.’
‘MAVERICK: IF ALL GOES AS PLANNED, I WON’T NEED IT LATER.’
‘KATSUMI: FINE. I HOPE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING. WHICH PARTS?’
‘MAVERICK: EVERYTHING ON ANDERSON.’
… … …
‘MAVERICK: YOU READ THAT RIGHT.’
‘KATSUMI: WHAT’S GOING ON?’
‘MAVERICK: I’LL EXPLAIN LATER. ALTHOUGH BY THAT TIME, YOU’LL HAVE FOUND OUT FOR YOURSELF ANYWAY. DRIVE IS READY, SEND IT.’
‘KATSUMI: ALREADY DONE. I’LL REPEAT, I HOPE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.’
‘MAVERICK: SO DO I. TALK LATER. THANKS AGAIN.’
I sever the connection between Katsumi and I and leave the office. I make my way through the halls until I reach Lauren’s office where she sits, typing various reports no doubt. I enter without invitation and sit across from her.
Lauren glares at me over the top of her glasses “Can I help you with something, Dante?”
“It’s more like, I’m going to help you in exchange for something,” Lauren removes her glasses, raising a curious eyebrow.
“What if I told you I could help you get rid of Anderson clean? Without any scrutiny being placed on you,”
Lauren giggles “I’ve done nothing that warrants scrutiny, Dante,”
“Cut the bullshit, Lauren. I’m not trying to catch you in the act. I’ve already done that. You gonna take me serious, or not?”
Lauren sighs as she sits back in her chair, placing the tip of one the arms of her glasses between lips. She gives me a nod to continue.
I show her the drive “I’m going to tell you a secret. I’ve been keeping intel on everyone in case this shit show decides to finally go up in flames. I have dirt on everyone that’s important. That includes you,” Lauren narrows her eyes at me, but remains unsurprised at my action.
She continues to say nothing.
“I’m sure you’ve heard this little business on the planet went awry. And that Anderson wants to leave them there,”
“I had nothing to do with that. That was all Anderson’s call,” Lauren finally speaks up.
I’ve learned by now that if she makes the effort to deny she had action in something, she’s usually telling the truth. With the exception of her little experiments that she keeps hidden.
“I don’t know why they were sent down there. Nor do I care. But I’m pretty sure that planet is unauthorized for landing,”
Lauren shrugs “You wouldn’t be wrong,”
“That’s enough information to burn Anderson already. But let’s just say he pissed me off enough today that I want to bury him. This drive will do that,”
“How do I know there isn’t something on there to implicate me?” She questions.
I stand from my chair and closer to Lauren, sitting on the edge of her desk. I lean in close, pinching her chin between a thumb and pointer finger, and kissing her. I look her in the eyes as our lips separate.
“Now why would I do that to you?”
As I sit back up, I notice Lauren’s face has become softer and her eyes are glossed over.
“Does that mean you…?” She asks me, barely able to get the words out without her voice cracking.
“Neither of us have done things we’re proud of here. I know that…you choose to and you want to do the work you do. I still don’t know how to rationalize that. But I know how I feel about you. And for now, that’s enough for me,” I explain to her.
For a moment, I see Lauren show an expression I’d never seen from her before. One of vulnerability and…genuine happiness. I can only hope that’s the thing she was missing from her life that might make her think twice about her unnatural experiments.
Lauren reaches for and takes the drive in her hand, studying it.
“You’re sure this will put him away for good?” She asks me, her expression returned to seriousness.
“It’s enough information for the UEDF to erase Anderson’s existence,”
Lauren simply nods in acceptance.
I take that as her confirmation for taking the information as I stand up to leave.
I look back at her with a smile.
“What was the thing you wanted in return?”
“Get Ethan and Elena off that planet. I don’t know if it means anything to you, but Ethan is a good guy. UEDF just decided to make him a scapegoat for a bad situation. He deserves a break. You and I have known Elena a while. She’s the best tech you have. And I can attest to the fact that her skills don’t stop there. Go get them. Then we’ll deal with Anderson together,”
“You know this is going to attract the attention of the Commander of the Navy, right?”
“And I’ll testify to the fact that Anderson acted alone and you had interest in aiding him,”
“You would do that for me?”
“I’ll tell the Commander that you were forced to help him if he decides to look into this place,”
“Thank you, Dante. I’ll order a rescue team to go down there immediately,”
I open the office door, turning back to Lauren before leaving “One more thing, I’m going,” I say before exiting and shutting the door behind me.
“You think you’re pretty damn smart, don’t you?” Anderson says as he stomps into the hangar bay, sweat dripping down his face.
“As a matter of fact,” I pause to load a crate in the transport ship “I do, Captain. You seem to be perspiring, sir. Do you need a canteen of water? It’s important to stay hydrated,” I say with the same arrogant smirk he gave me earlier.
Anderson gets in my face, rage in his eyes.
“I know everything you do on this station, Hall. I know all about your little visits at night with the good doctor,” He says, trying to blackmail me.
I chuckle “Last I checked; Doctor Cain isn’t within my chain of command. As you said, scientists are civilian contractors. I think that makes it perfectly alright for me to have visits whenever I want, late night, or otherwise,”
“You think you have her wrapped around your finger. You’re going to regret that one day,”
“Maybe, Captain. Maybe not. Not your concern. Now if you don’t mind,” I rack a round into the chamber of my rifle “You’re currently impeding a search and rescue mission. If you don’t get out of the way, I’m going to have to neutralize you,”
Anderson’s face twists into a depiction of his anger as he steps backwards.
I turn towards my team “Alright boys, load up!” I order as I step into the ship.
The rest follow as the ship’s door glides closed.
“You think that was a good idea, talking to him like that, Dante?”
“Probably not, Carter. But quite frankly, I don’t give a damn. Soon enough, he’s gonna get his,”
The transport breaks the atmosphere and reaches the surface below, landing near the original site. I step outside and examine the area, noticing that the ground is still waterlogged.
“Well this is great. Our trail of bread crumbs has been washed away by the storm,”
I look at the pilot of the ship and give him a hand signal to begin searching from the air. I walk towards the one thing left behind as the ship lifts off.
I stare down doctor Thrice’s corpse, a massive hole has been punched through him.
“Jesus, this guy did not die easy,” Carter says as he approaches the body as well.
“Have the team start setting up a perimeter. After that, walk with me,” I say as I turn around and begin walking along trail the creature made.
“Hey! Boss wants a perimeter! I’m going with him!” I hear Carter call out as he jogs to my side, slowing to a walk.
We quietly walk until we reach the fissure, which is much larger than it seemed on the scanner. I look into it, only to find that it’s been filled to the brim with water from the storm. I kneel down at the edge, my shoulders dropping as the idea hits me that they fell in and drowned when the pit filled.
“Bad luck,” Carter states.
My eye catches the glint of something resting in the dirt. I pull it out and realize that it’s a piece to Ethan’s rifle. I finally recognize that it’s the item he attached to the bottom that he explained he never uses.
“Oh, you didn’t do that, did you?” I mutter to myself.
“Dante, got something here,” Carter says pulling me from my focus.
I quickly step over to him and look at what he found.
“It looks like…someone was laying here,” I point out.
“Also looks like someone was kneeling next to the person laying down,” Carter expands on the subject, pointing at the knee shaped indents in the ground.
“They’re…alive. They’re alive,” I say as a wide smile forms on my face.
I key my mic “All personnel, gather on my position. Subjects are alive, I repeat, subjects are alive,”
I’m coming for you guys. Just wait a little longer.