chapter 3 of my novel “Downfall”

Posted: March 4, 2009 in Books, sci-fi, writing
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Chapter 3. Seven years ago

Becky remembered meeting Treena for the first time seven years ago. The second she stepped out of the airlock, Becky knew that this was a woman not to be trifled with. She exuded power with a feral intensity that made lesser beings wilt under her gaze. When it was Becky’s turn to shake hands with the warrior they’d recently employed, she tried to hold her ground for as long as she could, but finally had to look away. There was something dark and ancient in those gray eyes. Something she couldn’t put her finger on, but she knew it didn’t belong in the eyes of a beautiful 25 year old intelligence field operative. Almost mournful and piteous, like the eyes of a deer that has run for its life with an arrow in its back, but is too weak from loss of blood to continue. So the dying creature just looks up as the hunter prepares to slice its throat. But something else stirred within the depths like a Great White shark approaching an injured seal: power, and a calm assurance in her abilities. Treena seemed friendly enough meeting the rest of the team, but Becky still thought Treena’s eyes told a different story. She appeared far away, on another planet, in another time.

The next person off the ship was Graham Hunter. From the first sight of him Becky knew Graham would be trouble. Not because of who he was or how he acted, but because he was gorgeous! Being part of an under-funded research team on a moon of Jupiter was not the barrel of monkeys she had originally thought. Add to that, being surrounded by pasty-skinned, scrawny science nerds and you have a recipe for bored, desperate women. Now here was a MAN. She noticed all the other women’s eyes light up and scan the room for who they would have to take out to get a shot at him. Simultaneously, they took in every detail of his 6 feet 6 inch tall, 230 pound, muscle-bound body. His blue eyes shone like the sun off the Irish Sea in autumn and peeked out mischievously from underneath a mane of black hair. It was amazing to see the transformation of expression on each of their faces from mildly interested in meeting the newcomers, to vixens on the prowl. As she was observing, she noticed that a wave of depression and bitterness sweep across the reception hall. She looked up and immediately saw why, as she felt sadness start to tickle the back of her throat too. Treena had just put her arm through Hunter’s, and he was smiling; then, just like that, he was gone. Banished to the realm of fantasy because Becky knew no woman there could compete with Treena Colure.

As the new team settled in, Treena and Hunter looked around the apartments and shared living space in which they would be spending the next few years in.
“Pretty sweet digs. It looks like they spared no expense.” said Hunter.

“Oh there was an expense all right.” Treena said. “It took them a whole Hab worth of dead researchers before they figured out Van Dorn was playing for keeps.”

They were standing in a large spherical hall that had six rooms branching off from the central chamber. In one wall, a massive window allowed them to look out into the murky deep of Europa’s ocean. Treena fought the urge to flinch as something gigantic scooted by, just beyond the edge of the meager light leaking through from the room. It looked almost like a…a plesiosaur. But that couldn’t be right. They had lived during the Jurassic, and she was pretty sure that was on Earth, not some Jovian moon. She’d have to ask Dr. Hook about that. Hunter appeared to still be thinking.
“Yeah, I heard about that before we left. But you’re wrong. It wasn’t Van Dorn. They had a pressure blow out and everyone looked like they’d been Spaced. You know, massive depressurization wounds. Eyes blown out, bleeding from the ears, that sort of thing. It turned out that it was a faulty gasket.”

“There’s only one thing most people don’t know.” said Treena.

“What’s that?” inquired Hunter.

“The gasket was blown inwards.”

“Oh, well that does change things, doesn’t it?”

“Why do you think we’re here?”

The kitchen and mess area seemed to be pretty decent. They both looked at each other when they noticed the breakfast nook and smiled, remembering that morning so many years ago on another world.

“Don’t even think about it. We’ve got the whole team here this time.” Hunter said while maintaining a smile. They resumed their slow sweep of the living quarters and Treena’s heart swelled a little bit at the sight of the next room: The Armory. She hastily submitted to the biometric lock procedure and unlatched the door. The lights came on, revealing three walls of gleaming gunmetal. The faint smell of ozone mixed with the acrid tang of decaying explosives.

“Ooo Pretty.” exclaimed Hunter as he peered in over her shoulder. She sighed as she surveyed the contents more closely. HK MP7A1s, AK-108s, and Steyr TMPs lined the first wall with more 21st century weaponry beyond that. They were all loaded and well oiled. Laser sights vied for space with tactical flashlights and low mounted grenade launchers.

“Yeah, pretty. Pretty old.” she sighed. She appreciated the gesture, but knew that the scientists only had public domain designs to work with. These guns were top of the line back in their day, but come on, that was 400 years ago. Couldn’t they have whipped up a particle beam pistol or hydro phaser for her? Oh well, she could see that was one of the first things she was going to have to fix. She already had Sam going over their Comm protocols with a fine-toothed comb and Cutter was looking into physical plant security.

When everyone returned, Treena decided they should check-in, so everyone found a perch in the main room. The group lounged around their new digs like a pride of lions on the Serengeti. There was Treena, Hunter, Sam, Cutter, and Mizuki.

“Alright, who wants to go first?” said Treena. She had placed herself in front of the large window, partly because she wanted everyone to focus on her and partly because the constant pulsing lights and shadowed movements of large things beyond the lights unsettled her.

Cutter jumped right in. “Well, the way I see it, we’re screwed if anything bigger than a dormouse decides they want to come down here and take us all out. And I’m not ruling out the mice at this point either.” His face spelled glower and gloom but everyone knew that was just his disposition. The scraggly beard and weather beaten face didn’t help make him seem more likable. Everyone who spent a lot of time with Cutter equated the experience to the feeling one gets right after realizing that that last carrot you grated was actually your finger; or something similarly disturbing. He was simply not what most humans would call a “people” person. Cutter’s grizzled body hunched over a chair like he was fighting it into submission, rather that leaning on it. He looked for a response to his dour report.

“That’s encouraging” sighed Hunter, “What about the good news?”

“That was the good news.” replied Cutter. “This place has more holes than an assistant at a blind knife throwers’ convention. We are well and truly hosed if Tag decides they want in. What’s worse is that there is virtually no immigration or customs agency of any kind. Someone could just stroll right in with a tactical nuke in their back pocket and blow us all to perihelion.”

“OK, well, we’ll just have to tighten it up, that’s all.” She could tell they loved her dry humor from the looks on their faces. “Next?”

“They only use standard 128 bit encryption.” said Sam. “And sometimes not even that. It all depends on who’s at the transmitting station when they send something out. The good thing is, I can have this place locked up tight as a drum by this time tomorrow. Electronically at least, Cutter has his own problems to deal with.”

“Yeah thanks for that.” Cutter glared. This was about the usual level of interaction between these two. Treena couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t remember any situation where they had a real falling out, but they always seemed on the verge of hitting each other. The only thing they agreed upon was their taste in music. Both liked it hard and fast. Although Sam preferred more metal-core and hardcore, while Cutter liked straight up death metal, but was open to other types of screaming musical savagery on occasion. That, and they were both devoted to Treena. She had saved each of their lives on separate occasions during the Martian conflicts.

Mizuki was up next. As her name suggested, her beauty shone not with the overpowering brilliance of the sun, but reflected the cold radiance of a full moon. The rest of them didn’t understand how such a big brain could fit into such a little body. Her small stature came from her Japanese heritage, but her smarts came from years of research in genetics and bioengineering.

“Their labs are impressive and I think we can do anything we need to without too many problems. We just need to make sure our procedures don’t bleed too much. From the looks of things, Earth kept a few of the more interesting advances in bioengineering to themselves. I would suggest that we do the same until we know for sure how it would affect them. Who knows how a struggling colony population would feel about the fact that suddenly, they could live as long as they wanted, or take traits from any animal they fancied.”

“That’s a good point, but there is at least one person here who knows what they are missing. In fact, that’s where I’ll be off to next.” said Treena. They all looked up expectantly.

“Oh come on, you can’t just leave us hanging.” cried Sam.

“Fine, you all know that I was one of the first people to have some of those original life extension techniques done, right? All of us in the Martian Corp did. Same with Graham. Well, the scientist who performed most of them is here.”

“No way! That’s him?” exclaimed Hunter. “I guess I assumed that since he was the one that performed the techniques successfully, he would have taken them as well. That was 75 years ago, no wonder I didn’t recognize him!”

“This is all very cute and everything, you two reminiscing about your rosy past, but who the heck are you talking about?” Cutter did not have a lot of patience. Treena sent a nice icy stare his way before continuing.

“The one who gave us the Resveratrol and modified our Sir2 and Klotho genes was Dr. Hubert Manjrekar.” She waited for the Ahhhs, but was met with blank stares. “You know, the young guy who was Head of the lab on Mars, but was always trying to hang out with the Corp men. He made friends with a few of the instructors and got into boxing. He was pretty good. He even won a couple tournaments.” They were still staring. “He had a mean right Hook.”

“Ohhhhhh.” they sighed in unison.

“I just need to make sure he is on the level with us.” continued Treena. “Everyone here seems to think that this is the first time we’ve met, so I think he can be trusted, but I need to be positive. I want to know exactly what he has told the rest of them about us. We need to be careful as well, so try not to give too many of your special traits away to the public. If it’s dark, pretend you can’t see. If something falls off the table, let it break on the floor. That kind of stuff. Agreed?”

“Yes boss.”

“OK, I’ll update you after I meet up with our old friend… And on a side note, I hope everyone will be available for a little Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu session tonight at 19:00 hours. If we have time, I want to throw in a little Mujuryoko–jutsu as well. I don’t want you getting all soft and thinking we’re on vacation.”

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