Winds of Aerathiea

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Chapter 14: Fight in the Plant

Liam and Rebekah rounded the corner into the flight deck, right as that team was lining up and Artemis came up behind them.

The captain began talking as he approached, “Nice of you to join us, Mr. Waite. I trust you had a decent first night? Trish- I mean Doctor Weaver just informed me you were shipshape and ready for action!” Grumm gave Liam a knowing look. Storm clouds outside were again threatening and the rain beat down through the open hangar door. The lightning flashed and the storm intensified its fury.

“Yeah, just peachy, sir. Slept like a baby!” Liam grinned nodding towards the tempest outside the door. “Are we going to seriously fly that?”, he pointed at the converted RV, “in that?”, gesturing to the storm outside the hangar doors.

“We are certainly going to try. Of course we would wait it out if that was even possible, but everything we know tells us that the storm is being generated by that hole to our North and there is no reason to think it’s just going to stop anytime soon. We really don’t have any choice.” The three of them finished walking up to the others that were assembled outside the Becky Thatcher.

Artie addressed the group. “Everyone, meet Liam Waite. We picked him up in Union Springs, yesterday. He may have information concerning this plant that may help us considerably, so I have asked him to come along. No doubt his survival skills are top notch, but he has never worked with us before, so keep him close and remember, he is more a civilian than we are, whatever that means!”

Zak had been monitoring from the other launch, Over the boat’s commlink, he said, “I’m in contact with Kyton and Ethan. There are some interesting things down here, but nothing that looks like a key yet. We will continue to coordinate our efforts.”

“That’s fine. Tell them to grab any memory device they can find. What we need for the key is actually just information. It could be anywhere.”

“Aye, Sir.”

“The first team was basically to cordon off the area and make sure it’s safe for the rest of us. Mr. Peck, Liam and I will be going down with this group to try and sift a little deeper through the rubble with the hopes of finding the trail that leads us to possibly what happened in addition to finding that key. Ok, everyone, fall in and prepare for departure.” With that, Grumm ushered everyone into the Becky Thatcher.

As he turned to go, suddenly the other Becky squeezed Liam’s hand and leaned up and pecked him on the cheek.

“For luck,” she said, quickly moving back and of the flight path of the launch.

Taken completely off guard, Liam was in a daze as he entered the ship and buckled in. He barely noticed as the world fell out from under him and they were launched into the maelstrom outside.

The pilot struggled with the controls, but he didn’t have far to go so they landed near the first launch without incident. However, you could see in the pilot’s face how much more serious the excursion already was.

From their vantage point on the ground, the damage seemed much more severe than it had in the air. Grumm made contact with Kyton and they outlined a strategy for their continued search.

As they were walking to the front entrance and entered the lobby, Grumm turned and spoke to Liam, “I know it’s premature, but do you recognize anything?”

“Doris…”

“What?”

Liam pointed to the receptionist desk that was overturned and covered with ceiling debris. “Her name was Doris.” Three of the men with them turned and looked and then crossed themselves. Bones of what appeared to be an arm could be seen extending from under the overturned desk. “I remember she got me a Popsicle and talked to me while I waited for my dad.”

“I’m sorry, Liam.”

“Oh, please, it’s certainly not my first body! I watched one of my best friends get hanged for stealing a piece of meat in Union Springs.”

Artemis removed his hat with a deeper sense of reverence. “Oh, Dear. If there is any way we can find some kind of justice for that town, I will be first in line, Liam.”

“I would appreciate that sir. There were a lot of good people there.”

One of the men Liam didn’t know spoke up. He was shining his light at the far wall. “Left or right? Liam, you are supposed to be our guide. Which way now?”

“Give him a minute, Mr. Cramer. I’m sure this is bringing up a lot for him,” Artie barked at the crewman.

“It’s ok Captain, go left, then right. I remember it was a long hallway with offices. My dad’s office was near the end of that hallway on the left. The side with windows.”

Jake Cramer said, “OK people, you heard the man. Go left and then right…”

The men rounded the corner. All Liam could do while he watched the flashlights bobbing on the wall was look down at the skeleton of Doris’ protruding arm and think about his first kiss. From the down the corridor, Liam was jarred out of his memories when a random voice shouted “I found it.”

Liam pulled himself together and trotted down the hall, catching up with the group standing outside what he knew had been his father’s office. As Liam approached, he felt himself going slower and slower, dreading what he might find. Most of this wing was pretty tore up, but still navigable and Liam was actually thankful for the many obstacles that were between him and the rest of the party that were slowing his progress. He looked up and saw Artemis give him a thumbs up which he took as a sign he wasn’t going to be confronted with too many bad surprises. He quickened his pace.

“It’s ok son, there are a couple of things here you might want to see.” Jackson pulled himself against the wall to make room at the doorway and let Liam pass.

Artemis was searching an overturned desk. Under the desk, he found a broken picture. Knocking the rest of the glass out, he handed the frame and picture to Liam.

“You might want this.” He handed the picture to Liam.

Liam took the picture out of the frame. About three months before the Event, they had that picture taken for their church directory. He touched his mother and father’s face. Liam then slid down the wall and began to visibly weep as the emotions overwhelmed him.

“Ok guys, let’s give him some space. Take all the time you need Liam, catch up with us.” Liam felt Artie’s hand on his shoulder. Liam just nodded and the other men filed past him into the rest of the building. Artie was the last to leave.

“What’s that?” Liam choked back the tears and saw Artie walk out with a manila envelope in his hand.

“Oh, nothing. Just the manifests and plans for our reactor and engines.” Artemis tapped the envelope nervously. It might tell us what extra parts we need to grab to keep them working.

Liam stood up. He gingerly tucked the picture into an inner pocket in his coverall and brushed himself off. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

“All right then, after you, Mister Waite.”

Artemis relayed their position over to the first team. They had entered a different area of the building, focusing on the loading docks and working backwards and were still about four hundred meters away from them.

Suddenly, a cry came over the radio. Ethan’s voice proclaimed, “Guys I think I found something and boy are you going to want to see this!”

Artemis, Jackson, Liam, and company started moving quicker through the debris, towards the location of the other team. They had thrown all caution aside now and made no attempt to hide their movements through be building. As they left a testing bay, they reached one of the double doors at the other end of the room.

“Ethan, what did you discover?” Artemis was talking and walking at the same time.

“We think that after it happened, they were still trying to function and analyze the Event, at least for a while. There are computers here that are relatively intact that probably have records about what happened.”

“There is also a different kind of tech here.”

“Come again? Different? In what way?”

“I don’t know, sir. Looks like five complete motor-like objects and, the parts for more. There are other batteries and energy devices here that we need Jackson to take a look at. They are definitely a little higher technology than anything I’ve seen before.”

“We’re on our way, there is a lot of debris here and the smell is getting worse.”

“Yeah, we smell it too. There is probably something dead in these hallways. It’s a rat’s nest. Be careful.”

Artemis pushed the door open. The stench hit him immediately, followed immediately by a large furry fist that sprawled Artie against the wall with a sickening crunch.

Immediately yelling and shooting erupted. Liam’s street instincts took over and managed to avoid the blows from the eight-foot-tall, ape-like creature swinging at him. Three of them had exploded into the room and now were fighting their way out. Liam heard someone yell “mayday” into the radio and knew the others would be coming with more firepower. He avoided two more them. There were either five in the room now or the original three were moving very fast. Liam moved faster.

One of the beasts was angling toward Captain Grumm who was still crumpled up against the wall- unmoving. Everything seemed to slow down as Liam went into action. He caught up with the beast, ran up it’s back, and kicked it first in the head and then the groin on his dismount. As the creature turned, stunned from the fury of the impacts, Liam managed three more kicks to both sensitive areas before the beast faltered. Not expecting such an attack so quickly, it stumbled and shook its head in confusion. Liam kicked off and picked up a rebar as he landed, swinging it at the beast’s head. The bar found its mark, catching the beast right in the temple. It fell backwards, cracking its head on a support bulkhead and didn’t get back up.

Liam turned and saw another one of the beasts almost on top of Jackson. Jackson was backing away and had tripped over a desk chair and went down. The beast lunged. Liam lunged too. He covered the distance between himself and Jackson Peck faster than anyone could think possible, and using the desk as a push off, vaulted into the air, bringing the rebar’s jagged end directly down through the middle of the attacking beast’s back and leapt away.

The beast screamed an unnatural scream that got the remaining beast’s attention. It then gurgled something and crumpled to the ground. The remaining beast cried out in despair, surveyed the room and immediately put its hands over its head in the universal surrender stance.

Too late, though. The other team burst in through the same door. There was no chance to tell them the beast had surrendered. One look at Artemis crumpled on the floor and the bullets began to fly. “Hold Fire! Hold Fire” As bullets ricocheted off the walls and ceiling, the men got the hint quickly and stopped firing but not before the ape-man crumpled to the ground, bleeding from several different wounds.

With the immediate threat removed, two men rushed over to Artie’s side with a med kit. One radioed Zak and had the launch moved closer to the building.

The medic named Gus turned to Kyton. “We need to get him back to the launch. He’s got a head injury and maybe a broken back. Find us something we can use for a stretcher.”

He looked over at the first beast that Liam had battled. “That one is still alive. If you want some answers, I suggest we find a way to subdue it and we might still get some answers.”

Three men quickly hunted down a wooden door and laid it down as a makeshift stretcher. Holding his head and neck as straight as possible, they transferred the unconscious Artemis Grumm to the door and strapped him down with duct tape. Four of them then lifted the litter over the debris and out the door. There had been an outside door to the side of the building just a few meters on the other side that was now receiving a lot of attention. They transferred Artie outside where Zak was waiting in the first launch.

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