Jen Air: Out There, Part Four

Part OnePart TwoPart Three

Last time, Jennifer, Kaya, Sayuri and Tenley were out in the woods to do
some stargazing when they stumbled upon by Lionel, host of a local
paranormal radio show.  Shortly after, they were ambushed by mercenaries in search of a vault belonging to Alvin Stag, only to get there and find nothing but an empty clearing.  Now, their leader is rather peeved…

Jen Air: Out There, Part Four

There was something about Tom that seemed to stupefy those around him.  He could seem calm one moment, then suddenly erupt into violence, then just as quickly revert back.  That unpredictability seemed to petrify all these people and render them unable to speak or act at all for fear of what he might do.  This time, even Kaya was stunned into silence as she had no answers or explanations that might placate him.  Lionel cried pitifully and Jen, without thinking at all, decided she had to stop this.

“Wait!” She yelped, rushing to stand between the adventurer and Tom.  She very quickly took the photo from Lionel and held it out to compare to their surroundings.  It was definitely the same clearing, but the picture showed a large concrete bunker whereas here was just leaves and grass.

Tom kept staring through the blonde, his lower lip curling over his teeth.  “You’ll wanna step aside there, girlie.  Don’t wanna mess up that pretty little face.”

Kaya jumped forward, forming another barrier.  “You stay away from her face!” The punk snarled.  Although Jen was visibly trembling, she reached out and gently moved that barrier aside.

The blonde swallowed.  “You are making a mistake,” she told the thug leader.

Tom snorted.  “You got about a minute to explain yourself.”

He wouldn’t shoot.  He wasn’t that stupid.  He must have seen some of the gadgets she had when they stepped out of the van, and so he knew there was a good chance she could be of help here.  Jen didn’t need to set her self-timer and instead turned around to hold out a hand to the sweating and trembling Lionel.

“You see,” she said as he wobbled to his feet, “the universe is full of mysteries and wonders and things we may never completely understand.  But we try, and a lot of the time the trick is just figuring out the right question,” with Lionel on his feet, she looked across at Sayuri.  “Not, ‘how did your dad’s keys suddenly appear on the table’, but, why did no-one see them there before?  Sometimes we’re so engulfed in finding something we don’t see it’s right in front of us.”

“And what has any of that got to do with Stag’s vault?” Tom demanded.

“Well, a-assuming,” Jen fluttered a bit, but quickly regained her composure, “assuming this photo is genuine, the vault obviously didn’t just up and move itself.  At least, we should explore other more probable possibilities first.  Like maybe it is here – we just can’t see it.”

“Pretty hard to break into something we can’t see.  And I would just hate it if we wasted our time coming here…”

“There’s got to be a way in,” Jen insisted, turning back to Lionel, “I need to see all the info you have.”

Lionel looked uncertainly between her and Tom who allayed his fears with a swift nod.  The gentleman adventurer shakily handed her an envelope.  “My contact furnished me with photos and this location, as well as codes to grant access…”

The blonde tore open the envelope and thumbed the pages until she found the said codes.  “Two numbers,” she noted, “the first looks like it could be a frequency… I’ll need my pad. Please.”  Again Tom nodded, this time to one of his men, and as Jen went to work scrolling through various screens she gently warned them, “You might want to stand back.  Perhaps to the treeline… yes?  Good.”

She finished punching the last button with a flourish, and then the ground opened in front of them.  Dirt grass began to cascade into a small crack, faster and faster as it widened until it became a circular hole covering half the clearing.  Tremors echoed through their feet accompanied by a metallic grinding as a sloped concrete bunker entrance rose and shuddered to a stop.  And then it just looked like it had always been there, dirt dripping from its roof.

“Guess it’s my lucky night after all,” Tom snorted, relaxing the grip on his shotgun.  “You!  Get it open!” He ordered, a couple of men rushing forward and setting to work breaking open the door itself.

Kaya whispered into the blonde’s ear, “So what do you think is down there?”

What Jen was hoping for was information, but she suspected only gold and artefacts, prototypes from Stag Corp’s history.  Interesting, perhaps, but wouldn’t tell her much about the conglomerate that had funded the research.  She knew what Lionel was hoping for – flying saucers and alien hybrids, and while it wasn’t completely impossible she really didn’t believe that was likely either.

But then, as the door was opened, Tenley suddenly shivered.  “You shouldn’t go inside,” she said enigmatically.

“Why not?” Jen asked.

“Something’s there,” the girl squinted, “I… I don’t know how I know, but I know it’s something.  And it’s bad.”

But Tom and Lionel and most of the rest had already gone inside.  The four females were again prodded to continue, but they were much hesitant than before.  Tenley was never afraid.  She was stronger and faster and a whole lot more resilient than everyone and thing around her.  It seemed to all of them that the only thing Ten would have to be afraid of was another one of her, or something like that.  Still, fear only served to stoke Jen’s curiosity and so she went on.

It was light inside.  One might have assumed the lights had come on automatically after the doors opened, but as Jen descended the steps she felt a warmth despite the lights cool, bluish hue.  “UV lamps…” she uttered.  The corridor in front of her looked unfinished, the ground loose and uneven with mounds of earth scattered along its length.  Yet, through the thick glass panes in the walls she could see there were fully stocked with equipment and active computer terminals.

A thud turned everyone around, the door they’d entered from suddenly closing behind.  As Tom marched back to seek assurance that they could be opened again, Jen’s eyes were drawn to one of the mounds.  A small amount of earth began to slide and then there was an eruption, a small quantity blown as if something was stirring beneath.  Her eyes widening, she snapped an arm out in front of Kaya and Sayuri, beckoning them to side where she hooked up her pad to the door panel.

“What’s wrong?” Kaya asked.  In reply Jen just quickly gestured back to the mound as she hurried to get the door open.  All around them the mounds were starting to move drawing everyone’s attention.  Lionel began to back up toward the women, while Tom cautiously raised the barrel of his weapon to the nearest one.

And then the mounds burst, a fog of dirt and dust filling the corridor and a man screamed as he was suddenly pulled to the ground.  Through all the haze it was hard for anyone to see what was going on.  There were bangs and flashes of gunfire, more screams, while Jen worked furiously on her pad.

“Hurry up!” Kaya cried.

“Hurry? Really?” Jen cried back through her gritted.  “I thought I’d just relax a while, maybe take a break…”

“Alright.  Don’t get sarky,” the punk sternly admonished.  “It doesn’t suit you.”

“Guys…” Sayuri tugged and pointed deeper into the corridor.  Through the dust cloud a creature emerged, walking on four claws but hunched like a hyena.  It didn’t have a head, at least not like the head of any animal.  In its place was a large bulb like a tulips, the layers of which peeled back to reveal hooks and a round mouth filled with razors from which a long tongue licked.  The creature shuddered, and charged, veering a little as it went straight after Tenley.
No one had to shout out anything.  The creature leapt, the girl dived and rolled underneath as it sailed over her.  It slammed into the floor and turned, only backing up a little as Tenley fired on it with her berretta.  In other circumstances the adults might have asked where she got her hands on such a thing, but it didn’t seem too important right now.  The creature was unaffected and whip out its tongue, knocking the gun from her hand and striking her across the face.  She screamed and fell back, was picked up by Kay just as Jen opened the door.

“This way!” The blonde cried out, making sure her friends and Lionel all got inside before looking around for the mercenaries.  Tom and just a few others were backing toward her, not seeing the creature that had attacked Ten.  “Look out!” She yelled.  One man turned about, just to be struck in the face the same way the girl had been, screaming and covering his eyes as if they had been burned.  Tom caught him, firing his shotgun into the creature as he hurried to the blonde.  After they were all in, she quickly followed and the doors slid shut behind her.

There were several bangs as the creatures tried to force their way in, but the entrance remained closed and they seemed to give up after only a few attempts.  Of the mercenaries, about a dozen had entered the vault.  Now there was only Tom, three other men and a woman, and one of the men was lying on the floor still screaming, his eyes bloodshot as another tried to give him painkillers.  His body convulsed, his screams muffled by the drool bubbling from his mouth and then he was silent.

Their tongues must be coated with some kind of venom, Jen realised.  And then her breathing stopped as the events of the last few minutes caught up with her.  “Ten…” she gasped, looking around.  Kaya had sat the groggy looking girl up on a crate and was feeling her forehead and doing all the things you were supposed to when a child wasn’t well.  Jen hurried over to them, and saw that the whites of Tenley’s eyes had also turned red.

“I’m not feeling so good,” the girl winced and whined.  Jen leant over, told her it would be okay.

“Hey, don’t worry,” Kaya assured her friends and herself, “kids a lot tougher she looks, right?”

Jen nodded.  At least, Tenley didn’t seem to be having quite so violent a reaction as the mercenary had, and she had a much more advanced immune system.  “Your body is probably just adapting to the toxin.  You’ll be fine.”

“Those things,” Sayuri purred, “they were like guard dogs, right?”

Jen thought it a fair assumption.  “I expect so.  Stag must have made them and left them down here.”

“For how long?” Kaya asked.  “I mean, how would they have survived if there’s no-one to feed them?”

“I don’t know, but… they seemed to be part plant, so maybe they just absorb nutrients from the soil until an intruder wakes them up.  They may even be capable of photosynthesis… that would explain the lights.”

Lionel, not hearing their conversation, remained transfixed by the door, staring fearfully even though the banging had long stopped.  “My god,” he gasped disbelievingly, “I was right… I was actually bloody right…”

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