Hunter's Quarry: A Borderlands Tale Part 2

This is the sequel to my previous story, Hunters Folly, which can be found on these forums, as well as on fanfiction.net. It picks up shortly after the events of the first one and does not contain any form of recap, so it is strongly recommended that you read the first one to understand what is going on.

That said, like the first, the characters contained are my interpretations of them, the way I envision them, so if it doesn’t line up with how you see them, know that this is just my version of them.

I hope you enjoy this story, or at least some part of it entertains you.

That said, any form of feedback would be welcome, though I would ask that it try and be constructive. By all means, hate it, but if you can, tell me why or what part you didn’t like. If you liked something, also let me know. This is the only way that I will improve as a writer.

There are undoubtedly mistakes in it. I do not profess to be an expert on the Borderlands setting, though I did try and research what I could. In doing so I was confronted by many inconsistencies within the universe, so I had to make some calls, usually trying to find the version that fit my story best. If you see something egregiously wrong, please let me know.

Even so, I hope you enjoy my contribution to the Borderlands setting.

Note

I do not own the characters, setting, nor items used in this story. Nor do I claim to. They belong to Gearbox and whomever else created them. They have been used in good faith, with good intentions, with hopefully evident love and without permission.

This story is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual people and/or events is purely coincidental. Any comments, derogatory remarks or offensive comments are not intended to be, if a character is saying it, it is being said by that character, and should not be taken personally. Any social message or real world allegory is likely not intended, I’m not that clever. But if you find one you liked, feel free to give me credit anyway.

Warning:

This story contains depictions of violence and gore, strong language as well as grievous grammatical errors, if any of these things are offensive to you, proceed at your own risk.

A cover for the story

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Chapter 1

Hunters Moon

“I still can’t believe we forgot about the fines.”

“I can’t believe they’re so much.”

“I know right, they’re almost as much as the original bounty was, who would’ve thought that they’d charge interest on them.”

The two girls sat around the table in the sitting room onboard the ship ‘Hunters Moon’ and were staring at the ECHO between them. This wasn’t the first time this conversation had happened over the last week, and not for the first time, they found themselves at a loss for how to proceed.

A week ago, after having defeated Holloway and his goons, they had returned to the ship, now Gaige’s acknowledged home, and had set about repairing Deathtrap from his rather severe injuries. A few hours later they had thrown a party, a relatively small affair, as much out of consideration for the stocks on board as the lack of proper party supplies, and Gaige had finally shared a margarita with Artemis. Over the drinks, and a promise of cupcakes, as soon as they found somewhere that had some, they had eventually talked themselves into exhaustion. Or at least Artemis had, having taken a bit of a beating, so she had turned in. Gaige had found herself too wound to sleep and to her surprise she had been satisfied enough with her one margarita that when Deathtrap had went to recharge, she hadn’t asked for more. In fact, over the last week, she had been content to have had an average of just over one per day, not that she had noticed.

That first night she had spent hours by herself scrolling through the ECHO net and reading stories as they emerged about the arrest of Holloway until she had fallen asleep sitting in the chair. She had woke the next morning, or evening as it turned out, in bed, with no recollection of how she had got there, but had found that they were about to enter orbit around Eden 5, her old home. It was then that they had found out that she owed a small fortune in fines, fines that would need to be paid before she was allowed onto the planet.

Six days prior

“Were the hell am I gonna get that kind of money?” Gaige said still staring at the ECHO, astounded by the number she was seeing there.

“Well, I could just sell some of the stuff I’ve got?” Artemis said looking around at the things she had.

“Absolutely not.”

“Why? I can find most of it again, and I want to get you home to your folks as soon as possible.”

“No way, this is my debt, and I’m gonna be paying it.” She said forcefully while thinking ‘Besides I don’t want you to do anything that you may resent me for someday.’

“I don’t mind, really. I mean I’ve got crates of stuff piled up in the back, I could easily sell some of it and never miss it.”

“Appreciate the thought, but still no. Besides why do you want me to go home so bad?”

“I just feel bad, I mean, just when you thought you were free, this hits you.”

Gaige put a hand on the other girls’ shoulder and looked her in the eyes “I am free. I no longer have to live looking over my shoulder, and that means more than I can say. This? This is just a temporary setback, it doesn’t change what you did for me. I’ve told you, you don’t owe me anything.”

“Then let me do it as a friend.” She said with a slightly goofy grin, she still hadn’t gotten used to being able to call the other girl that without grinning. “Or at least let me help you make it.”

“I can’t say no to that, but how are we gonna make that much money?”

They lapsed into silence.

“Well, how’d you make money when you were a Vault Hunter?”

“Usually from money that the enemies had or from selling weapons that we looted. And sometimes from doing jobs for people.”

“Maybe we could do that?”

“That would take forever. Maybe we should just rob a bank?”

“Then we would have a new bounty on our heads.

“I know, I was kidding.”

“Ah. Is there any way to get that kind of money on the ECHO?”

“Well we could set up a pay channel. You know, Vault Hunters Gone Wild or some…pft, I can’t even finish, the look on your face. Oh man, there’s no way I’d do that, it was a joke. Sorry.”

Artemis was staring at her in horror, and when Gaige cracked up the color started to return to her face. “Not funny.”

“Sorry, you’re right, but man I needed that. Anyways, as far as the ECHO goes, if I knew a way to make that kind of money that easily, I wouldn’t have still been planning weddings.”

“True. So what does that leave us?”

“Maybe we could try that new reality show that Axton and Sal started up.” She said flipping through her ECHO “No, wait, they pay in guns.”

“That sucks.”

“Not really, might be fun.”

“Maybe, but I’m not one for bloodsports. So what else can we do?”

“Selling something, which we’d either need to make, design or find. Or bounty hunting. And to get that kind of money we’d need either one hell of a dangerous target, or a lot of smaller ones.”

“What about Gehenna? I hear there’s a fair number on some gang there.”

“Gehenna, Gehenna.” Gaige muttered as she typed into her ECHO “Let’s see, Devil Riders. Nope, someone claimed them a couple months ago. Damn, that was a fair pile too.”

“Any other planets like that?”

“A few, though none that will be anywhere near as profitable.”

“Well, I suppose if we can’t find one, we should choose a direction and head in it.”

“Why?”

“When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

“What?”

“Something I read a long time ago, basically we should choose somewhere and go, if we don’t know where we want to be. It’s all a gamble anyway.”

“Wait, that’s it. A gamble.”

“You lost me.”

“Moxxi’s opening her casino soon.”

“I really don’t think that gambling for it is a good idea.”

“What? No. I mean we should go there and see if they’ve got anything for us, leads or jobs or something.”

“Well, better than nothing I guess.”

And so they set a course in that direction.

Present

The ECHO buzzed, informing Gaige of incoming news. Tapping the buttons she went silent and slowly turned it to face the other girl, who leaned in and read the headline ’ Head of Holloway Robotics found dead in apparent suicide. ’ The article went on to talk about how he had recently been arrested for attempted murder and suspicion of corporate espionage, and how he had been found dead in his cell. No further information was available and the rest of the article talked about his life, accomplishments and speculation about the future of his company.

Artemis pushed the ECHO back and sighed.

“Wonder who got to him?” Gaige said spinning the ECHO with a finger.

“What? You don’t think he did it himself? I mean he had just lost his chance at revenge, as well as his company, all in the same day.”

“No way, he was definitely suicided.”

“Totally. He wasn’t the kind to give up so easily, but it seems that he’s off your back for good now, so, silver lining?”

“There is that. Still, I do feel a teensiest bit bad for him, you know?”

“Yeah, I get what you’re saying, but reaping what you sow and all that.”

They lapsed into silence when a buzzing alerted them that they had arrived, so they made their way to the cockpit and found themselves looking out at their destination.

“Well, I don’t see anything.”

“These were the coordinates we got. I knew I couldn’t trust him. Never trust someone with that face.”

Two days ago

“Well there’s the casino.” Gaige said pointing at the diamond floating between the twin black holes.

“That is…an interesting parking job.”

They had made a few stops on the way, and picked up some of the things Gaige had left in storage, which made the cargo hold downright stuffed, the clutter spilling out into the sitting area. When they had finished, they had stepped back and looked at the mess of crates, boxes and luggage and Gaige had leaned in and stated “After we visit my parents, we definitely need to visit your place on, where was it again?”

“You mean the Montamore estate? Wilina 2. I could still sell it to raise the money, just say the word.”

“No. Again no. No no, no no no no. And for the last time, no.”

“OK fine, we’ll go to the casino.”

And they had, and were staring at it, floating and sparkling in the dark. As much as she hated to, Gaige had to admit, Jack really could do opulence.

They put in a landing request, under Gaige’s name, and soon had clearance to land, so they proceeded to the dock, and after a brief interaction with the workers there, had been escorted to the main tower.

Since neither of them had been to the casino under the previous ownership, they couldn’t tell how much had been altered, but they could tell that there was still plenty of work left to do before the grand opening. Tarps and drop clothes covered much of the area. Empty planters lined the path and while a few of the buildings looked completed, a number of them still looked gutted.

But even with all that, they could start to see what the future held for the place. The pure gaudy opulence was being replaced with Moxxi’s trademark blend of taste and tasteless. They could see reds and black being added to the gold, crews directing loaders were still tearing down Jack statues and installing marble like statues of naked ladies, barely draped with cloth. It was enough to make anyone blush, and they both thought in the back of their minds that they would have to come back to see what it ended up looking like.

They found themselves hustled through the construction and soon were in an elevator to the penthouse. And as soon as they arrived the secretary led them into a waiting room, fully furnished with a large assortment of boozes and other drinks. They didn’t have to wait long before the door at the far end opened and the person in charge walked in talking into an ECHO.

“Jack!” Gaige yelled while pulling her gun.

“Whoa, WHOA!” the man yelled throwing his hands in the air as Artemis followed Gaige’s lead and leveled her gun at the man while getting a good look at him. ”Easy, easy there pumpkin! I’m not Jack! Names Timothy. Definitely not Jack. Can we lower the guns? Please?”

The man, whose voice had went up an octave while pleading looked at them, wasn’t Jack, Jack was dead and while he did have Jack’s face, it was cracked.

Gaige lowered her gun looking sheepish and apologized “Sorry. Timothy was it? Names Gaige, and I should have known you weren’t Jack, I mean, I was there when he died. It’s just that, well, when I see that face old habits die hard, you know?”

“I get that allot, I mean there are times I look in the mirror and want to punch the guy I see.” As he tugged his very finely made suit, the girls noticed one of his hands was a gold plated cybernetic. “Sorry, probably should have warned you before letting you up, I’m the last of the Jack doppelgangers. Even injected me with some of his DNA, which has the negative side effect that sometimes I see you little people for what you really are. Sorry. Like I was saying, what brings you here? I mean the casino is, well as you saw, not yet ready for the grand opening, but Moxxi said to let you up. She’ll be calling back in a minute, better let me do the talking otherwise it’ll all just go over your little head, K? Sorry again, DNA thing. But like I was saying I’d like to know why you’re here before she…and she’s called back.”

He had led them into an office dominated by a massive desk and stuffed leather chairs, when the holo-projector lit up and a well-kept woman appeared, dark hair spilling around a heavily made up face. Her outfit fell open reveling a massive heaving chest. And on her face she wore a smug, winkingly lascivious smirk.

“Hey, Moxxi.” Timothy said with a quick and nervous smile as he stepped in front of the holo. “They just arrived, and I, well haven’t found out what they’re here for yet. I mean I was literally just asking them. And by that I’m using the word in the proper sense, not like those knuckle dragging idiots who use it for everything. Sorry.”

“Hello Timothy.” Came the smooth voice that seemed to ooze sexuality even with just those words “I’ll take it from here. Hey sugar.” She said tossing her attention to Gaige.

“Hello Moxxi.” Gaige said with a weak smile, she’d always had trouble dealing with the overpowering flirtatiousness of the older woman, and suddenly realized that Artemis was about to be eaten by the lion herself.

“Who’s your friend? Hey there cutie, names Moxxi. Proprietor of the loosest slots in the galaxy, just takes a good, firm grip on that…arm, give it a nice, smooth tug and see if you get lucky. I gotta say, lookin at you, you look like you know how to give as good as you get.”

“I do, just ask Gaige.”

“Oh my, so that’s how it is, finally gave the other side a try did you sugar?”

“That’s not…NO, I mean” Gaige sputtered as Artemis looked on confused, all the innuendos going over her head. She would later have it explained to her and after flushing she added ‘It’s a good thing then I didn’t tell her we were sleeping together.’ a reference to the fact they were platonically sharing a bed.

“I’m just teasing.” Moxxi said with a laugh that caused a titanic jiggling, before turning to Artemis“You got a name sweetie?”

“Jinx”

“The pleasure is, like usual, mine. So what brings you two ladies to my fine establishment? I must say you are a bit early for the grand opening, and no one likes a partner that’s early.”

Gaige chose to ignore her and spoke up “We ran into a little problem, and were hoping you could help us out.”

“We’ll see. What kind of a problem are we talking about?”

Gaige explained the situation and Moxxi took a more serious expression “I’d love to help you out, but most of my funds are tied up with the renovations right now.”

“No, no, I wasn’t looking for a loan. I was hoping you had a lead on some work, or something that needed help with.”

“You mean like a job? Hmm, sorry sugar, nothing comes to mind. Timothy?”

“Wha…We’ve got crews working on everything we need right now, though we did find another Jack statue today. It was in one of the walls, like it was holding the place up or something. I think they called it a load bearing support or something.”
“Damn it Jack” Moxxi spat, showing anger for the first time on the call.

“Wait, Jack?”

“What is it Timothy?”

“I just remembered, it might be nothing, but we found an ECHO the other day, we were cleaning out one of the old offices and there it was. We go through all the old ECHO’s we find, see if there’s anything useful on them, and this one, the reason I bring it up is, in the background you could hear Jack talking to someone. Must have been recorded while he was here. We haven’t had a chance to analyze it yet so I don’t know if he’s saying anything useful, but if you want we could give it a try. Might be something on it. It did sound like he was talking about something or somewhere important.”

“Can we hear it?” Artemis asked.

“Like I said, we haven’t had a chance to have it analyzed yet.”

“Just let her hear it.” Gaige said backing her friend up.

Timothy turned to Moxxi who nodded, so he went to his desk and made a call. A few minutes later a secretary knocked and brought in the ECHO and handed it over.

He put it in a player and let it play. In the foreground was a voice of someone talking about shipping orders, but in the background could be heard the distinct voice of Handsome Jack. Gaige strained to hear what he was saying but could only make out parts, which wasn’t helped by her instinct to listen to the most dominate voice.

When it was finished Timothy sat back and said “See. You can hear him, but can’t quite make out what he’s talking about. It’ll take some time to get it analyzed, but once it is, we’ll let you know if it’s useful. Until then we can find rooms for you if you’d like.”

“Play it again.” Artemis said with her eyes closed.

“Like I said, we can get it analyzed.”

“Play it again.”

“Just do it.” Gaige told him “I trust her.”

“Timothy. Play it for her.”

“Fine.”

So he hit play again and watched as the purple haired girl kept her eyes closed and started mouthing along with what was being said. Once it had ended a second time she sat back and whispered something to herself a few times before opening her eyes.

“It was coordinates. Well, not exactly, but directions wasn’t quite right either. Either way, sounded like he has or rather had something there, he wasn’t specific, about what or where, but I think I can get us close, if you want.” She said turning to Gaige for her input.

“Wait, how could you make that out?”

“She’s got good ears.” Gaige said before turning to the other girl “You think you can get us there?” and when the other girl nodded, she decided “Well let’s go see.”

She tuned to Moxxi “Are you alright with us taking whatever we find?”

“Of course. I can’t afford to send someone else to look into it, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting one of Jack’s secrets stay out there. Just be safe out there, and if you do find something worth your time, feel free to come back for the grand opening and insert as much as you want into my slots, even if it’s just a tip.” She finished with another wink, and loaded with enough sexual innuendo that even Artemis caught on.

Present

The view was filled with floating rocks. The asteroid field stretched out in front of them for as far as they could see. Artemis checked the coordinates again.

“We should be close. Like I said, he wasn’t all that specific. Maybe we should move in cautiously and see if we can pick something up?”

“Fine, we’re here anyway.”

Nearly thirty minutes of searching later and Gaige was getting frustrated “Maybe he wanted an asteroid for something, or maybe he was just out here to harvest something. I don’t know, but were not gonna find anything at this rate.”

“Why don’t you take a break, it’s getting late and I can manage up here.”

Gaige let out a sigh “No, I just hate wasting time.”

“After years of spinning your wheels?”

“Shut up.” Gaige retorted without malice.

“Still, the way he was talking on that ECHO didn’t sound like this was some one off thing. It really sounded like he was traveling out here with a destination that he was going to be spending some time at. Didn’t it?”
“Hey, you’re the one who could make it out. If you say that’s what you heard, I’ll believe it.”

“Thanks.”

They lapsed into silence for a few more minutes when Artemis leaned forward.

“What?”

“I just got something. Very faint. Let me try and aw hell, I don’t know what I’m doing with this stuff.”

“Let me try.”

She hopped into the vacated seat and started carefully adjusting the receiver.

“You’re right, there is something out there. Can’t quite pin it down what it says, but I got where it’s coming from. Mind if I punch in the course?”

“Go for it.”

The ship swung a bit and moved through the asteroids till the source of the signal came into sight.

The girls looked at each other and then back to the large asteroid in front of them, and more specifically what was sticking out of its surface.

After a few seconds Gaige gave voice to what was on both of their minds “What would Jack want with an old DAHL mine?”

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Chapter 2

DAHL asteroid mining site

After they had pulled the ship back and anchored it near another asteroid for the night, they set about prepping to explore the mine in the morning, before turning in for the night.

The inside of the ship had changed over the last week. Some of the changes were small, at least to the eye. Things like the workbench in the hold having new projects on it, ones of a more robotic nature and leftovers from working on Deathtrap now covered one side. Gaige had put up some of the motivational posters she had acquired on Jaka 4, which Artemis had also found amusing. She also had a spot in the armory for the collection of weapons and gear she had picked up. But the biggest change was also the least noticeable. It was something that felt important to both girls, as well as being a first for both of them. Artemis had cleared out two drawers in the bedroom for Gaige to keep her clothes in. Both of them had privately thought that it was a major step, a massive change. It was an acknowledgment that this was now her home. And it was the first time either one of them had shared that with someone else.

The next morning found them in their usual habit of eating a hearty breakfast prepared by Deathtrap. Over eggs and steak with coffee, which Gaige liked considerably better now that she was adding a bit of cream and sugar to, they finalized their plans, and after cleaning up, they headed for the bridge to prep for arrival.

“I still don’t get why you packed all that stuff.” Gaige remarked as they climbed a ridge. The asteroid was desolate, still they had set down a ways off and had been picking their way carefully up to the mine itself.

“Because I don’t want a repeat of Pandora.”

“I get that, but how long do you think we’re gonna be here anyway?”

“Look, I’d rather have extra food and water then run out again.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get that, but some of that other stuff?”

“I’m the one carrying it.”

“And I’ll be the one who has to listen to you complain about it when it gets heavy.”

“Urru”

With that they turned their attention to the facility in front of them. Gaige could tell it was an average DAHL site at a glance, the layers of platforms and buildings emerging from then rough stone ground, the stenciled name on everything. But what struck her as a bit odd was that the vehicles and equipment was all still in place. There was no sign of anything out of place, in fact it looked like someone would come walking out of the buildings at any point. And that was what was so odd. If it was as abandoned as it seemed, why had no one taken anything with them?

Keeping those thought to herself, she led the way down the path, gun out, as Artemis kept watch from above until she got closer to the building and signaled for the two of them to approach. Deathtrap took the more direct rout as Artemis was forced to scramble across the rock-strewn ground till she met the road.

Sliding up to the rock that Gaige was using for cover, they turned their attention to the buildings as the eerie silence pressed down on them.

Neither one of them wanted to say it, but they were both thinking the same thing. ‘It’s too quiet.’

Instead, Gaige motioned and they moved cautiously up to the next piece of cover, and then the next, alternating who was taking the lead until they were within a stone throw of the mine’s office.

Artemis, being able to move quieter, took the initiative and softly ascended the stairs, peeking through the window as she passed and stopped. She turned and motioned for Gaige to join her and when the other girl arrived nodded to the window.

Peeking inside, she found that the place was as abandoned on the inside as it had appeared on the out. Coffee cups were set out, pages of reports littered the desk next to the framed pictures, even one of the file cabinets stood partially open. The only thing that was missing was the people.

With a growing sense of disquiet, they made their way up the rest of the stairs and flanked the door, and after a brief pause to prep, carefully cracked it open. When nothing happened, and no traps were found they let it swing the rest of the way and slid inside. Scanning the room over their guns, they found that what they had seen from the outside was accurate, it was like everyone had stepped out and never came back.

Gaige gave a hand signal and they split up, Artemis moved swiftly to the rear of the room and glanced down the hallway, the only other path the room offered, while Gaige moved to the windows to check the rest of the compound, before moving to follow her down the hall and Deathtrap hovered near the door as rearguard.

Artemis let out a soft breath and moved into the hall as quietly as she could. Pistol in hand, she cleared the rooms while Gaige kept an eye on the rest of the hall, till they reached the end, and when they found no sign of life in the whole building, the tension eased out of them a little, only to be replaced with an undefined feeling of wrongness.

“Where is everyone?” Artemis muttered.

“No idea, you keep an eye on the rest of the mine, I’m gonna glance through some of these papers.”

A short while later, Gaige tossed the papers onto the desk with a sigh of disgusted confusion.

“Nothing. No clue where everyone went. I mean we’ve got ore sample reports, daily production, shipping schedules, and even some personal documents. Hell there were even personnel files and injury reports, but the weird thing is that they were all like nine years old.”

“I know I brought us here, but are we sure this is the right place?”

“No. Well, I mean we can’t be sure, but it feels right, doesn’t it?”

“Actually it feels very wrong.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think Jack attacked it? Would explain why there’s no one around.”

“Wouldn’t there be signs of a fight then? Besides the way he was talking on that ECHO, it sounded like he was going back, and not for the first time. So that wouldn’t make sense, would it?”

“Not unless there was something found here that he was after. Kept coming back to see progress, or something. Either way, I doubt we’re gonna find answers here, I mean this building, so I think we should be moving on.”

“OK, but where to?”

“The mine?”

“Sounds good, but the power isn’t getting to the door.”

“Wait, you can tell that from here?”

“Lights on its control panel aren’t lit up.”

“I keep forgetting how good your eyes are. OK, so we need to find what’s wrong and fix it.”

“Sounds like a plan. Lead on.”

They headed out, not as cautiously as they had been, but still with an eye out, and headed to the closed door to the mine. As they got closer, Gaige saw that the other girl had been right and that the lights on the controls were out. Approaching, she found the conduits that contained the power cables and started following them back to the source. Not as easy a task as it should have been, the cable went up and down, around things, into and out of buildings. Which was typical of DAHL construction, though that didn’t make it any less annoying.

Eventually they found the power station and confirmed that it was working properly, as it sat humming away despite sitting there unattended for years. Gaige started working on it, opening breaker and fuse boxes until she ran into one that was locked. With a quick hit from her hammer she dealt with that, but found that the door still wouldn’t open, no matter how hard she tugged on it.

She stepped back to catch her breath, when a crowbar appeared at the edge of her vision. She turned and found Artemis holding it out, her backpack open at her feet.

“Not one word.” Gaige flatly warned grabbing the bar.

“I didn’t say anything.”

She quickly jimmied the door open and looking in, found something odd. Not just that the fuses were gone, but something about the couplers looked odd to her, something she couldn’t put her finger on, but something about this didn’t feel like DAHL to her. And she had been messing with their stuff for around twenty years, so she tended to trust her gut on this.

As she stood staring, Artemis leaned around her and looked “Yep. That would probably be why there’s no power to the door.”

“Looks like we’re gonna need a new fuse. Now, if this is an old DAHL facility there should be a redundant one around here somewhere.”

“Why can’t we just use one of those?”

Gaige looked to where the other girl was pointing, at one of the other fuse boxes.

“Well, first off, that would cut power to whatever it’s currently powering.”

Artemis gave a soft snort of laughter.

“What?”

“Current.”

“Ugh, damn it. Like I was saying, we don’t know what it really is powering, so just cutting one could prove bad for us. And second, getting it out would be tricky.”

“Not really, I mean just yank it out.”

“How’d that go? Phrasing? Anyway, you can’t just ‘yank them out’, they’re conducting a lot of electricity at the moment.”

“It’s not like that’s a problem.” Artemis countered wiggling her cybernetic fingers.

“Sure, that would dissipate the charge that would hit you, but that’s not the problem. There’s about a ninety percent chance that the fuse would fry, and then it would all be for nothing. No better to look around and see if we can find a backup, unless you’ve got a spare in that magic bag of yours?”

“No, thought about packing one, but didn’t want to weigh myself down too much, yah know?”

“Bitch.” Gaige said good naturedly before continuing “Look for a building nearby, should be squatish, or look…back-uppie?”

“Like that?”

“That looks about right, let’s go.”

They cautiously entered the building, which resembled a concrete brick stuck at the edge of the area, and quickly found what they were looking for. The fuse was positioned between two switches most of the way up the interior, which was dominated by large open pipes of unclear purpose.

After making sure that nothing was trapped, Artemis easily shimmied up the pipes, hopping from one to the next without much effort. Gaige watched with a sigh and a bit of jealousy, remembering how she had recently struggled to climb a duct system on Jaka. With one last leap, Artemis landed in front of the fuse and after looking at it for a second turned and looked down.

“So, do I need to flip these in a particular order, both at once, or what?”

Gaige stared at the box for a good moment before answering “Usually there’s only one, but in these cases it’s usually both at once.”

“Right, well here goes.”

And just as she gripped both of the switches something seemed to scratch at the back of Gaige’s mind, that same uneasy sensation of something being subtly wrong about this.

“Wait!” She yelled stopping the other girl just before she moved the switches. “Something’s not right here.”

“What?”

“I don’t know, come on back down I need to think about this for a minute.”

Artemis shrugged and hopped down, going from one pipe to the next until she landed next to Gaige who seemed to be mulling something over.

“I need to go back and look at stuff again.” She muttered before heading out and back up to the power box where she stood staring at it in silence.

Artemis looked at Deathtrap who shrugged silently, and then walked up to the open fuse box to examine it.

A minute later she poked at something and asked “What’s this thing do?”

“Wait, what is that?” Gaige asked as she crouched down next to the other girl to examine the small switch near the base of the box. “That doesn’t belong here.”

“Should I?”

“I guess.”

So she flipped the switch and to their surprise the entire box popped out a little. Standing up they looked at each other before Artemis carefully placed a finger on the top and swung it the rest of the way out trailing wires, reveling a second box behind.

“Knew something was wrong.” Gaige announced “That first switch was wired to something, probably and alarm or some kind of security system. Probably the same with the back-up fuse. But this doesn’t feel like DAHL.”

“So should we flip this one, or what?”

“Yeah, this is the one to the door. Just be alert. Something’s not right here.”

“Yeah well, we knew that before we landed so here goes.” And she flipped the breaker.

In the distance they could see the lights on the consul near the door light up. And with a grin and a nod to each other they made their way back to the control consul.

Gaige made sure that the other two were ready and pressed the button. Only for nothing to happen.

“Son of a…something must be wrong inside.”

“Can you override it?”

“Course I can. Who do you think you’re talking to.” And she popped the latches on the side and swung the face of the consul open to start going through wires. As she did so the sense that something was wrong intensified.

She leaned back “This isn’t DAHL. I mean, it is, but it’s not.”

“Don’t follow.”

“All this stuff is DAHL, but it feels like someone else put it together. Small things are wrong here and there. Not something a normal person would catch, but I’ve been playing with this stuff since I was just a kid, and I can tell. Something’s not right about it.”

“Does that mean you can’t open the door?”

“Of course I can, I already have. Just wanted to say it out loud, let you know. Now step back, we’re about to crack this nut.” And she touched the wires together.

There was a moment of silence and then the massive doors shook loose a wave of dust and with a soft screech, started to slide open revealing the darkness within.

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Chapter 3

DAHL asteroid mining site

The door continued to grind its way open and they soon could make out the interior of the facility. It greatly resembled the mine they had found on Pandora, from the stacks of shipping containers, to the location of the doors, to the vehicles parked on one side. Everything looked right, yet somehow felt wrong, especially to Gaige.

They moved in, clearing the room and when no threats presented themselves, they relaxed slightly.

“What is it about rooms this large that make me think that there’s about to be a boss fight.” Artemis muttered to herself before turning and asking “So which way?”

“How would I know?”

“Aren’t you the expert on DAHL?”

“Just cause I’ve messed with their stuff, doesn’t mean I know all their layouts.”

“Ah well, was worth a shot. Still, do you want to choose a door, or should I?”

“Be my guest.”

Artemis shrugged and went to the nearest door and carefully hit the panel next to it. When nothing happened, she looked to Gaige puzzled. The other girl narrowed her eyes, something was definitely wrong, they had power, and the door wasn’t showing red, so it was unlocked. She walked over and popped the panel.

“What the…” She stared at the open panel in disbelief.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“This doesn’t make any sense. The panel doesn’t connect to, well, anything.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means that the panel doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t connect to anything. The only wires back here are to light it up, and look, here.” She pointed to the back of the open panel “This is where the other side should be connected, but there’s nothing there. This doesn’t make any sense.”

“You mean the door’s a fake?”

“That would be the most logical explanation.”

“Alright, need to know, give me a hand.”

She pulled the pry bar out of her bag and jammed it into the edge of the door and giving it a heave. Nothing happened, despite all the force she was putting on it, the door didn’t budge at all.

“What the hell?” She gasped looking at it with a perplexed glare.

“You won’t get it open.” Gaige said, crouching next to the panel and looking in “See, look here. See that? The door’s welded shut.”

Artemis looked where she was pointing before sliding her hand into the hole and feeling the edge. Retracting her hand, she looked at the door again. “So it’s a real door, just one that can never be opened? Why?”

“I have a thought on that, but first let’s see if any of these doors are real.”

They quickly went around trying the doors and when none of them opened, they met back up in the middle of the room.

“That’s weird” Gaige said looking around the room “This whole room seems to be some kind of fake.”

“Why would they build something like this?”
“I don’t know, but my old Vault Hunter sense is tingling, there’s definitely something here, let’s look around again. You two have better sight, what do you see?”

Artemis scanned around the room and stopped looking up, her head cocked to the side.

“Buddy? Can you fly up there and tell me what that is? There.” She said pointing “Yeah, in that large vent.”

Deathtrap flew up to where she was pointing and followed the directions and after a minute of looking called back down.

“Urrugh”

“Weird, why would they have a large Digi-structer hidden like that?”

“Probably the security system. If we had powered up that first fuse box, my guess is that the Digi-structer would have made a nice surprise for us. Good spot though.”

“Yeah, well there are two more. There and there.”

Gaige looked where she was pointing and having seen how one had been hidden, quickly spotted the other two. “Damn, what are they hiding in here? Let’s keep looking.”

They started searching the room, both of them feeling like there was something they were missing, and after some time had passed and Gaige was getting irritated from her lack of progress, Artemis called out.

“Found something.” She had crawled under one of the vehicles that were parked there. And as Gaige came over, she pointed to one of the wheels.

“That look normal to you?”

Gaige looked at what she was pointing to and spotted a small conduit running up the inside of the tire from the floor.

“No, no it does not. Good find.”

She looked at where it was and calculated where it would end up, and after a quick search found a hidden switch just behind the cab.

“Ready?” she called out and getting two nods back, pressed it.

The side of one of the shipping containers slid open and the insides lit up, revealing a control panel. She cautiously stepped in and after finding nothing else there, went to work.

It only took a few moments before she leaned back “Well shoot.”

“What?”

“This isn’t DAHL. And worse than that, it seems to need something to open the door.”

“What d’ya mean? Can’t you just hack it?”

“Not in this case, I mean, I don’t even know what it needs, but it won’t even connect without it. This looks like a DNA scanner or something. I donno, I think it’s in emergency lockdown or something.”

“So what, do you want to quit? Give up on this one, I mean, whatever caused the lockdown in the first place may be something we don’t want any part of, right?”

“Maybe, but we’re both ex-Vault Hunters right? We’re not gonna let something like this stop us, now give me a hand.”

“Well I wouldn’t call myself a Vault Hunter, but whatever.”

Together they went to work unscrewing and prying up the floor panel in front of the consul. After a minute they sat examining the hole, Gaige pulled her head out and sat back.

“Well, there is a narrow amount of room under the wires, just enough that someone might be able to squeeze through if they were small enough.”

“And why would you want to?”

“There’s a good chance you could bypass the lockdown at the door itself, or if that fails, cut the hydraulics holding it shut.”

“Why do you keep looking at me like that while you’re talking?”

“You’re smaller than me.” She replied with the smile of someone whom wouldn’t be having to crawl through a small dusty tunnel.

“But I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Sure you do, and besides, if you run into trouble I’ll be on the ECHO.”

“I’m not getting out of this, am I?”

“Nope. Now get out of that extra gear.”

Artemis placed her bag on the ground and quickly removed her guns, as well as her belt, before removing her toolkit and strapping it to the inside of her right leg. She then pulled a thin cable from her bag and looped it around her waist and handed the rest to Deathtrap.

With one last look at the other two she grumbled “When I get back, I’m makin a comment on the size of your butt.”

“Hey! It’s not just my butt that’s bigger.” Gaige said rather huffily.

“Yeah well, excuse me for being flat.”

And with one last look at the other girl, she stuck her tongue out at her before turning the small light in her hand on and sliding into the opening.

Gaige had been right, there was no way she would have fit, in fact Artemis could barely move, having to drag herself forward a few inches at a time. It wasn’t long before she could feel the sweet running down the small of her back, and the dust started to get to her.

“What do ya see?”

“Metal.” She retorted dryly “And dust. It’s a damn good thing that I’m not closi-clawst-claustrophobic, that’s right. Damn, you were right, you never would have fit in here, especially with that”

“HEY! You leave my ass out of this.”

“Why? It’s a nice ass.”

“Well thank you. Wait. Are you just saying that so that I’ll pull you out?”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“No, you’re right, not even I’m that mean. How far do you think you’ve gone?”

“No, ow, idea. Keep talking, distract me from this, oof, mess.”

“What do you wanna talk about?”

“I didn’t say talk with me, I said talk to me. Anything. Talk about anything. How about, I donno, if this doesn’t pan out, what are we gonna do next. Or your favorite planet you’ve been to. Or someone who you’re wondering where they are, that you lost contact with. Something, anything, wait, never mind, I can see the end of the room, or at least the wires turn up. Give me a, * huff *, moment.”

Gaige listened to the silence while trying to look behind her, and reached back to feel her backside. After giving it an experimental squeeze, she asked without looking “Babe? Is my butt really that big?”

“Ururu”

“Whatdaya mean you’re not answering that?” She asked, hands still in place as she turned to the robot, who suddenly seemed very interested in the cable in his hands. “Is there something wrong with it?”

“Oh for the love of…He’s not falling for that trap.” The voice from her ECHO startled her “The level of insecurity out there is astounding. Fine, your backside is amazing, as is your front. Now can I get you to pay attention to the matter at hand?”

“Oh ■■■■. I musta left it on.” Gaige said fumbling with her ECHO “Err…What do you see?” Then she muttered to herself “Amazing?”

“Well the bad news is that we won’t be hacking it. Looks like that scanner out there cuts the power to the door until activated, so, no hacking. But I can see the hydraulics, but it seems to be electrified at the moment.”

“Electrified?”
“Yeah. Not gonna be that much of a problem, I can reach it with my left hand, but when I cut one of these, I’m gonna need to be pulled out immediately, cause this space is gonna get real small, real quick.”

“Right, you heard her babe. Get ready.”

“Man am I glad I’m ambidextrous.” Came the mutter that the ECHO picked up “And man am I glad I shimmied in here on my back, you couldn’t be flexible enough to do this otherwise.” Her voice got louder after a few more grunts “Alright, get ready…and…NOW!”

Deathtrap pulled the cable as they heard from outside a loud CLUNK, followed by a short grinding noise, and as he continued pulling, a soft scuffing of something being drug, as well as cursing.

Shortly a pair of feet popped out of the hole and Deathtrap carefully grabbed them, and pulled a dusty girl out. He carefully set her down as she sputtered and flexed her left hand.

“You good?” Gaige asked.

“Yeah, good thing I used my left hand.” She said holding it up and looking at the digits. Gaige could make out scratches across the ends of two of them. “Nearly didn’t make it.” She said giving the front of her once dark red top a dusting, before stopping and looking at her chest darkly, before sighing and continuing to slap the dust off. Gaige had enough sense to not tease the other girl in that moment and instead left her to cleaning herself, and stepped to the entrance to the container to look out at the main room.

One side of the room had split and a dark line shone through the dusty air. Gaige brought her gun up and waited. When nothing happened for a full minute she didn’t know if she was relieved or disappointed. Still she waited and very shortly Artemis joined her, running a finger across Shadowstar’s mane before reattaching her to her belt loop and picking her rifle up.

“Anything?”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m just standing here waitin on you.”

“Sarcasm really doesn’t suit you. At least not right now.”

“It wasn’t sarcasm, it was frustration, OK, OK and sarcasm. Sorry.”

“Yeah, that sounded genuine.”

“Really, this time I mean it, sorry.”

“Right, that time I believed it. So, I don’t see any movement, do you want to move up, or should I?”

“I got this. Babe. Go high.”

Gaige moved carefully across the floor to the opening while Deathtrap flew up and moved into position near the top of the doorway. When she got to the opening she motioned and both of them swung around to peer through, weapons ready. After a brief moment, she slipped through and pivoted, clearing the room, and when she found nothing hostel, she stuck her arm back through the door and motioned for Artemis to join her.

Artemis jogged over, running a hand through her hair, trying to dislodge the remaining dust stuck in it. She had tried to keep her hood up when traveling down the opening, but at some point it must have pulled back. Not that it mattered to her current predicament, it was just that she felt dirty.

Putting that aside as she made it to the door, she paused and swung in. Even though Gaige had already checked the room, she couldn’t help clearing it again. She too found nothing and took the next moment to actually see where she was.

The room they found themselves in wasn’t actually a room, but the terminal of some kind of elevator system. Undoubtedly when the facility, or whatever it was connected to had been up and running this had been the receiving area, it didn’t have the feel of somewhere that employees would be moving through. The area itself was in a state of disrepair, the flat platform was covered in litter and torn sheet metal that looked like it had once been used to build shelter as well as barricades, though they had long since been torn down. The dark tunnel stretched down before them, and looking over the edge they could just make out the elevator, way, way down, and Artemis could see, even in the gloom that it was tilted and jammed.

Gaige went over to the destroyed shanty and carefully moved inside what remained. Empty containers that had once held food and drinks, tattered magazines, a few with semi-lewd covers. Nothing much until she moved aside one of the fallen sheets of metal and spotted a small box.

Artemis came over at her prompting to see what she had found. Gaige pointed to the small yellow container, before turning to the other girl with a worried smile.

“Well, I think we found where Jack was going.” She said pointing to the side of the box, where a logo could barely be made out, Hyperion.

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Chapter 4

Mining site, Receiving Bay

Their search of the area didn’t result in any more major finds, although Artemis did found scratch marks on the inside of the door, ones that looked human-ish to her eye and Gaige found what appeared to have been where whomever had been there had made an unsuccessful attempt to dig through the wall. They concluded that someone had been living here for some time, before something had happened, but without any more clues, they had no way of determining what that was. And with no other paths forward, they found themselves looking down the elevator shaft.

“What do you think happened to it?”

“Donno, still trying to figure out why they hid this. I mean, they could’ve continued to make this all look like a DAHL mine, they’ve got elevators similar to this, so why not just make this entire place look proper?”

“Maybe they never intended anyone to land and get a closer look?”

“But then why have the offices look functional?”

“Good point. Maybe they actually had the receiving there?”

“Maybe, but any shipment would have been from them anyway. But you might have accidentally
got something.”

“Ouch.”

“Didn’t mean it that way.” Gaige said exasperatedly “But they may have had a lookout there, in case anyone accidentally found this place. Well, at least someone that they couldn’t just shoot down. And that might be why they didn’t bother with making the interior look right, this place was just a…what do ya call it?”

“A blind?”

“No, that’s what, for hunting?”

“Yeah. Otherwise it’s a what? Fakade?”

“Facade, it’s pronounced fa-sa-d, and that’s it. This place is just in case anyone follows one of the shipments or stumbles upon it. They’ll see an old DAHL mine and move on.”

“Yep.” Artemis nodded while still looking down the shaft “You do realize we will eventually need to go down there, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t wanna. Something tells me that this is gonna turn into another mess.”

“That would be experience.”

“So you agree?”

“Of course, but unless you want to try and make a ■■■■ load of money some other way, we need to move.”

“Uggg, fine, I think we can make that jump.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be an engineer?”

“Of course I am, why?” She looked at the other girl and then back down at the elevator that was wedged at an angle for a second “Oh, right, we don’t know how securely wedged that thing is, impacts from this height might dislodge it. Good call, so how are we…of course, you have that cable, we can get down that way.”

They tied the cable off and rappelled down to the top of the elevator, Deathtrap followed after unhooking the line and brought the end down with him. As they stood on the slopped platform, Gaige examined the sides carefully and quickly called the others over.

“Look, there, can you see the brakes?” She said while pointing to a piece of blackened metal “You see how it’s twisted, the way it’s blackened around the sides there? Someone blew that. Dropped the platform.” She looked back up “The charges they used were at different levels, I think they were trying to wedge this here.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Probably trying to seal the shaft, not let something or someone out.”

“Didn’t seem to work out for them thought, did it?”

“Way to be morbid. You’re right, but still. Well, no choice but to continue forward.”

They both turned to the door that the elevator had partially covered when it had stopped, the top half was bent and twisted outward, towards them, as if something had battered its way through. Gaige wordlessly inched to the edge and looked down. She could just make out a platform through the gloom. From what she could tell, that was probably where most of the supplies where unloaded, judging by its size.

“Wanna try for it?” Artemis whispered next to her, causing her to jump.

“Stop sneaking up on me!” She squeaked out before clearing her throat and in a more dignified tone continued “Much as I’d like to, there’s no way Deathtrap’s getting through that narrow of an opening, so unfortunately I think we’re gonna need to take door number one.”

“Ah crap, I was afraid you were gonna say that. Welp, guess I get to go first.”

“Really? You’re volunteering? Not that I’m complaining, it’s just that I thought you’d, I donno, not wanna.”

“Oh, I don’t want to, but if anything was on the other side of the door, it would have either heard us already and come out, or I would have heard it, so I’ll get this one and you can get the next.”

“Bitch. Should’ve known you were up to something. But couldn’t be lying in wait.”

“Yeah, but I hope not.” And she grabbed the edges of the door and hopped through, landing on the top of the bent-out part and sliding down the face to the inside, gun drawn, and waited. And waited.

Nothing came at her, nothing moved, except the dust in the air. She held her gun on the empty room as she heard a soft sliding noise and a distinct “Oof”.

“Well, whatever it was, seems to have moved on.” She said standing slowly and having a look around.

The room seemed to have been for receiving smaller items. It was of medium size, in dull gray with yellow beams, the few smooth crates had been ransacked, with various bits and bobs tossed around without care, undoubtedly by someone searching for anything useful after the place had been locked down. A small office sat across the back wall, a heavy looking metal door on one end of it, and in the middle were two windows, with slots underneath to slide papers through.

The girls and robot moved to the door and pushed against the barrier, which didn’t give in the slightest. Sighing Gaige crouched down and popped the panel to get to work while Artemis nudged some of the remnants from the crates with her toes, looking for anything of note.

“Well, least there’s power here” Gaige muttered as she worked “Almost got it, get ready.”

Artemis stopped what she was doing and quickly and quietly moved to the door, pistol at the ready. Gaige made a few more moves and the door cheeped softly and then clunked deeply.

“Right, let’s go.” Artemis said shouldering the metal door. The hinges ground as the door swung open, revealing more of the same. The room on the other side of the door looked very similar to the last, with a door on one side, which must have led into the office itself, a small area with lockers, and an opening on the far wall that led to a tunnel, where lights could be seen flickering. The only thing that seemed wrong, other than everything, was what appeared to be a stack of boxes that had probably once been some form of barricade across the opening.

The girls looked into it with trepidation and Gaige spoke up “Let’s, uh, check the office first. See if we can find anything that might give us a clue about what this place is for, and what happened.”

Artemis bit back on saying the thought that ran through her head, ‘It’s for receiving’ mostly because something about that dark tunnel reminded her of one of the ECHO films Gaige had made her watch a few nights ago. It had been a schlocky horror flick with a name like ‘It Came From The Vault’, and featured an attractive cast being picked off by some ridiculous monster, but seeing the hall dimly illuminated by only the flickering lights of the space station, was hitting a bit close to home right now.

So she just nodded and followed the other girl in, leaving Deathtrap to guard their backs.

The office was a mess. In fact it looked like someone had lived there for some time, before hastily departing. Without much hope of finding anything they went to work.

Artemis started next to the door, while Gaige made her way to the far end and together they worked to the center. The room was a disgusting mess, filled with piles of wrappers and miscellaneous garbage, orphaned socks, broken bits of machinery and what had once been receiving logs, most of which had been covered in scribbles, but the few that they could make out through the mess, were for things neither one of them had ever heard of. Science sounding stuff. Things that had no business on a mining asteroid.

Eventually Gaige popped up holding an ECHO and after getting a nod from the other girl, slid it in.

Log date…I have no idea anymore.

I have no idea how long it’s been since the place locked down. I guess I’m recording this in case something goes wrong.

Goes wrong. Hah. Everything’s already gone wrong.

One day, out of nowhere, everything just seals up. All the outer doors, and even a few deeper inside apparently, not that I’d know. Never went that far in, never wanted to, especially not with all those nut jobs in there. I mean, from what I’ve heard, they didn’t stop, not when everything went dark, in fact they just laughed. Laughed, because no one would be watching them anymore.

Least that’s what Georgie said. Haven’t seen him in a while, something must have gotten him. Something’s gotten everyone.

I’ve heard them you know.

Scratching at the walls.

The pounding from the deep.

Them whispering in the dark.

I gotta get out. Can’t take it anymore. So I’m gonna move to by the door. Found some chemicals in one of the shipments, think I can mix them into something I can use to destroy the elevator so that nothing can get me.

I’ve got food, and tools.

I’m gonna get out, they ain’t burying me.

I’m getting out.

The girls looked at each other for a moment before Gaige cleared her throat “What do you think the chances are that he was hallucinating all that?”

“Pretty good, except that his hallucination did bend that door out and get him.”

“Well ■■■■.”

After a second glance around the room they moved back out where Deathtrap greeted them with an all clear and they moved on to the lockers.

Finding nothing of note in them, they resigned themselves to the dark hall in front of them.

“Am I the only one reminded of”

“Don’t say it.”

“What? You’re the one who insisted I needed to see it.”

“Yeah, but saying it seems like a bad omen or something. Besides, weren’t you the one who said it didn’t affect them?”

“It didn’t, but seeing this, it’s like the real version, which is way creepier.”

“Yeah, and when I watched it with my dad, I couldn’t get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night for a week out of fear. And this? This is way worse. What? I was seven.”

“Thinking about turning around? Just saying no to all this?”

“No. Besides, we’re adventurers right?”

“I thought we were here because we needed the money?”

“Well mine sounded better, didn’t it?”

“True. Ah well, guess I’ll lead.”

“Thought it’d be my turn?”

“I’m saving that. And besides, I’ve got better vision, not that these lights are helping.” She grumbled while unslinging her rifle off her back and cautiously peering into the tunnel.

“One thing though.” She said, in part to avoid the maw in front of her “The elevator door was bent out, right? Which would imply that whatever went up, came through here, right?”

“That’s a good deduction, you want a junior detective badge or something?”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you.”

“That’s not sarcasm, that would be nerves. Anyway, as much as I don’t want to hear what you’re about to say, continue.”

“So, like I said, whatever it was came through here, right? But you had to, er, persuade the door.”

“And?”

“So how’d it open the door?”

“Uh, good question, maybe it had a keycard?”

“Well that’s a disturbing thought.”

“I don’t know, maybe you can ask it if we find it. Now are you gonna lead, or do you have some other way to stall?”

“Give me a minute, I might be able to think of something.”

Gaige lightly punched her shoulder and they turned their attention back to the tunnel. It proceeded forward, being illuminated in brief flashes, and swallowing hard, Artemis stepped in.

Gaige followed with Deathtrap in the rear, all of them moving slowly. Gaige could hear a soft thudding that took her a moment to realize was her heart pounding against the random flickering light. She wiped her sweaty hand against her shorts before regripping her gun. She was never this bad once a fight started, but this anticipation was getting to her, that and the unknown.

Suddenly Artemis stopped and made a rapid hand motion for them to do likewise, while crouching down. A moment later the lights down a side tunnel flicked on and stayed on, illuminating a crossroads. ‘Motion sensitive?’ Gaige pondered as another light turned on. Something was coming from the left side of the intersection.

A humanoid figure stepped out, though something about how it moved sent shivers up her spine. It had a slightly hunched posture, and though it was too far away for her to get any details, when the thing tipped its head back like it was sniffing the air, she could make out the lumps on its chest that implied that it at least had a feminine form.

Artemis stayed silent, something that Gaige was grateful for, she had known too many people who would have called out to the figure. So many in fact that if she saw it in an ECHO, she didn’t even yell at them. Artemis just sat there, looking down her gun and breathing steadily. In. Out. In. Out. BANG.

The creature’s head spun towards them just as she pulled the trigger, almost like it had heard the sound before it had happened. But even if it had, it had turned into the bullet, taking it in the face and dropping it instantly in a puff of blood and gore.

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Chapter 5

Hyperion site

Neither girl moved as the body hit the floor. Instead they both sat watching it, and waiting. Waiting to see if it would get up, or if something else would come to investigate. The light over it had shut off almost as soon as it had fallen, leaving only the dim flickering light to briefly illuminate it.

Gaige was grateful that the other girl wasn’t an idiot, and didn’t move, she had seen to many people walk up to the corpse, only to die. She turned to look behind them, and saw Deathtrap was watching their rear. Noticing her attention, he gave a slight shrug, as if to say ‘Nothing so far’. She turned back to the front and waited. And waited.

A minute passed, and then another. She could feel the cold sweat trickling down the small of her back.

Finally Artemis popped the cylinder on her rifle and reloaded the single spent round, before standing and moving forward slowly. Gaige followed a second latter, moving as quietly as she could.

It took a minute of moving and pausing to listen before they got up to where the body had fallen. After they swung out to check the dark corridors leading off, they turned their attention to the corpse. In the flickering light Artemis tapped the body with her boot, a mostly unnecessary gesture, since most of the things head was missing, before rolling it onto its back.

What greeted them was something that looked like it had once been human, its right side was that of a shapely woman, which judging by its chest and the rest of its figure, had been at least as old as them, if not a bit older. But it was the left side that drew their attention. It was lumpy and deformed, like something had grown within and bulged the surface up in a strange patter. Though they were in different sizes, some only raised as much as a finger and others looked like fists had been shoved under the surface, there wasn’t any discoloring or stretching to the skin around them.

They stood looking at the body, grateful for the dark in that moment, and as something about the shapes that the ridges of protuberances made on the body scratched at the back of Gaige’s mind, it was like they looked familiar from somewhere, but the deformity of them was keeping her from identifying it.

“Do you think it was a disease?” Artemis whispered, scraping the toe of the boot that she had used to flip the body against the ground, like she could clean something infectious off it.

“Maybe.”

“Think that was what they were working on here?”

“Maybe.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so either.”

“You mean you hope so, or at least that it’s not contagious.”

“That’s a way scarier thought than any ECHO you’ve shown me.” She said tipping her head back and letting out a sigh. Her eyebrows suddenly knit together as she looked up, like she saw something that was out of place and was trying to figure out what.

“What is it?” Gaige said, joining her in her examination of the dark ceiling.

The other girl didn’t answer right away and instead kept looking up before slowly waving her arm. When nothing happened, she waved it faster. Still nothing.

“What are you doing?”

“Why aren’t the lights on?”

“What?”

“The lights, I thought they were motion sensitive earlier. But they’re not turning on for me.”

Gaige looked around at the darkness being illuminated by the unsteady flickering and realized that she was right.

“Maybe they don’t like you?” Silence greeted her so she tried again “Maybe a fuse blew?”

The other two slowly looked at her with flat expressions.

“I know. It was unrealistic, but I can’t think of anything.”

“I’d make a crack about you being an engineer, but I know how good you actually are, so let’s just chalk it up to yet another thing to think about later and focus on deciding which way to go.”

“Gee, thanks. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.” She dryly retorted before sighing and looking at her choices. “Well, whatever that thing is, was, it came from down there, and seemed to be going…I have no idea where.”

“It may have been coming to find out what had been making the noise down this way?”

“Maybe, so do we check where it came from, or avoid that way in case somethings waiting for it to return?”
“I’d rather not go that way, but I’d like something coming up behind me even less, so I guess my vote is that way.” She said pointing in the direction that the creature had come from.

“I was afraid you’d say that, cause that’s what I was thinking and I was really hoping for you to have a compelling reason to go a different direction.”

“Ururr”

“Well, I guess it’s unanimous then.”

With a sigh they started down the hall, keeping close to the wall. Even with their slow pace and the flickering lights it didn’t take them long to come to an closed door blocking their way.

“No good” Gaige said looking at it “Panel must be on the other side.”

“Why would they put it there?”

“Cause someone wanted to make it difficult for us.”

“Again with the sarcasm.”

“Well, when you ask a dumb question…”

“Urru”

“Thanks buddy. Like I was saying, receiving is on this side right? I mean for supplies and stuff, that’s where we entered. So why block the way from this side?”

“Oh, that is a good point. Maybe they don’t need supplies this way?”

“Maybe, but doesn’t it seem odd? I mean, why make it so difficult to get things through? And if they weren’t getting supplies, why put a door here at all?”

“Welcome to Hyperion, or like we used to say in the wedding business, your logic has no place here.”

Artemis gave a short laugh before turning back the way they had come from “Well, back we go I guess.”

They reached the intersection faster this time and soon found themselves looking in the two remaining directions.

“So we wanna go with, let’s see L501 or R501?”

“What?”

Artemis pointed to the wall, a little over their head height, and when Gaige looked, she could just make out in the flashing light a yellow band painted with the names the other girl had called out stenciled out of them.

“Huh. Why didn’t you point those out before?”

She was greeted with a shrug, to which she sighed “Well let’s see, L, Loading? Lunchroom?”

“Lavatory, Labyrinth, Laboratory, Launchpad, Liquids”

“What are you doing?”

“What, I thought we were naming things that start with L?”

“Rooms that it could be, or wings.”

“Oh, facilities.”

“Right, so R.”

“Receiving?”

“Reception, Rec-room, wait.”

“That doesn’t start with an R.”

“No, what was the way we couldn’t go?”

“Uh, S.”

“Storage?”

“That’s what I thought, but no opening from this side, remember.”

“OK, that is weird. Wonder what else it could be?”

“Me to.”

“Urrur

“Right, sorry. Back to matters we can deal with. Which way, and back to the ship is still on the table.”

“Enough of that.” Gaige sighed “We aren’t going back empty handed.”

“How many people said that right before they died?”

“Quiet you. Let’s try R. If it’s receiving, we might be able to find out what this place is for.”

“Fine, lead on. Your choice, your lead. Though I gotta point out that the halls could be Solids, Liquids and Recyclables.”

“If this entire place turns out to be Jack’s trash pile, I’m gonna go and find the reactor and blow this place up.” She grumbled as she led the way down the hall.

Artemis stifled a laugh as she followed along, and just as they got to another door, the lights started coming on behind them. Cursing softly Gaige dropped down and popped the panel off the door switch and after a few seconds the door unlocked, but lacking power didn’t open. Deathtrap placed his hands on and pushed while sliding sideways and managed to get it open far enough for them to slip through, just as the lights got to where the dead body.

After doing a brief sweep around the room, they positioned themselves on either side of the door and looked back to see what had been coming down the hall after them. From the distance it appeared to be another feminine form, though once again something was wrong with its left side, though this one didn’t appear to be suffering the same way as the first. In fact it almost looked like the opposite was happening, the arm was too long and seemed notched, the leg seemed to drag behind and then snap forward oddly. They both found it disquieting and disturbing to watch.

Artemis aimed down her rifle, preparing to eliminate this one as well, when Gaige waved her hand signaling to wait. Confused Artemis lowered her rifle ever so slightly and glanced at the other girl, only to find her staring intently down the hall.

She turned her attention back to see the new thing standing over the body of the first, looking down like it was puzzled by it. Suddenly its left arm seemed to lose cohesion. The notches in it expanded and the whole arm unspooled, stretching down to the body on the floor without the torso moving at all. Its fingers seemed to stretch and dig into the body before the new figure turned and started back the way it had come from, dragging the corpse behind it in a peculiar fashion, it would take a step and the arm would stretch, then it would twitch its shoulder and the arm would shrink, dragging the body forward.

After a few moments it was out of sight and all the lights went back to flickering intermittently and the two girls relaxed slightly.

“What, the hell, was that?” Gaige asked dumbfounded.

“Honestly? I have no idea. Never seen anything like that in all my years of traveling.”

“So why didn’t you shoot it?”

“Me? You told me not to.”

“No, I was telling you to wait. I wanted to see what it was gonna do, then you could shoot it.”

“Oh is that what that meant? Let’s go call it back and see if it’ll let us do that again.”

“Urru”

“Sorry.”

“Yeah, we got a little carried away there.”

They turned and examined the room they were in more closely, while they tried to process what they had just seen. The room wasn’t all that large, and was surprisingly empty, just a pair of couches pushed against the walls on either side, each with a small table next to them and a pair of empty planters flanking an elevator. Other than that, there were two other doors, one on each wall.

“Huh.” Gaige said looking around before walking over to the elevator and pushing the button. When nothing happened, she pushed it again, and then started tapping it rapidly.

“Seems out of order.” She said stepping back.

“Really? I think you almost had it, maybe if you tried it again.”

Gaige threw her a look, and then turned to the nearest door. As she crouched next to it and got to work, Artemis sighed and unslung her bag. After a few seconds of digging the room was suddenly illuminated by a bluish light.

Gaige spun to find the other girl holding a small lamp.

“Why are you digging that out now?”

“Cause I got tired of stumbling along in the dark?”

“No, I meant, why’d you wait till now?”

“Oh, with those things out there, I didn’t really have a chance till now. Want one?”

“…Yeah, sure, hand it over.”

She was soon working by the light of the lantern as Artemis dug a second one out of her bag. She hooked it on her belt-loop just as Gaige got the door open. Deathtrap slid it to the side to reveal a hall with doors on either side.

“Huh, let’s see what’s behind door number two.”

A minute later they were staring at a nearly identical hall. They looked back and forth between the doors and after a shrug headed into the closest. The first door inside stood open, revealing a small room dominated by a bed, a desk and a bland wardrobe. The walls were covered in nearly lewd posters and clothes were strewn across the floor, speaking of the life of whomever had lived there.

“Residents?”

“What?”

“R. For residents or residential.”

“Probably, I guess we should split up. You take one side and I take the other. Deathtrap stays by the elevator in case one of us runs into trouble.”

“Fine. Which side do you want?”

“Why don’t you take the other side, leave your bag in with Deathtrap in case either of us needs something from it.”

“Starting to see the use in bringing this much crap?”

“Shut up.” She said tiredly as the other girl left.

The hall itself went down a ways before making a T, with identical halls going in each direction. Looking at it, and not wanting to be here forever, they sped through the search.

Even with not spending much time in each room, it still took over an hour to finish, and that was just this floor.

When they reconvened, Gaige walked in on Artemis stuffing something into her bag.

“What’d you find?”

“A few things, show you in a minute.” came the reply with a hint of nervousness, like she wasn’t being completely honest.

“Why, what’re you hiding?”

“OK, I found some tools. Happy?” She pulled her hand out with some old tools in it. Gaige looked closer and saw that they were all a bit rare.

“What? You didn’t want to share that with me for some reason?”

“No, I mean, well I was gonna show you latter, when we got back to the ship. I just, didn’t think it’d be a big deal.”

Gaige gave her a flat stare that caused the other girl to look down like a guilty child.

“Sorry.”

Gaige caught the look from Deathtrap and sighed “It’s alright, what else did you find?”

Artemis looked up beaming and held up her other hand while fanning something out. “I found these. Key cards.”

“And what good will those do? We have no power, remember?”

“Here maybe, but I thought maybe the rest of the facility might have some. Besides, they’re maintenance keys. They get access where most people can’t.”

“OK fair point, wait, was that the maintenance housing on your side?”

“Yeah.”

“Damn it. Wish I’d went over there instead.”

“Maybe it was better you didn’t.”

“What do you mean.”

“Well, that’s your area right? You’d probably still be in the first hall going through everything.”

“True. Fine, you’re right. You find anything else?”

Artemis held up one last item, an ECHO and said “Just this, well, I also found more girly calendars than I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Is that what took you so long?”

“Hey, I got back here before you.”

“I was just messin with you. So what’s on that?”

“Well I haven’t listened to it yet.”

“Well, play it.”

She snapped it into her machine and let it play.

Well they did it again.

Those idiot science dorks blew another fuse.

Then they tried to blame us for it. Kept saying they needed more power. More power. Every other day they want more power.

I mean what the heck are they doing in there.

And to make things worse, were supposed to do all this without seeing anything.

I mean there’s places we can’t even go into.

What are they doin in there that they don’t want us to see?

Forget it, I don’t want to know.

Well, least I’m not Davis. He’s on the pumps.

I mean, what are they pumping? Stuff smells like sewage.

I mean, he got some on him and we nearly threw him in the damn air lock to get rid of that stench.

Still, gotta get his supply orders in and get him to sign off on the work orders.

The work never ends here.

Man, I need a vacation.

The two girls stared at the player as it clicked off.

“Well, that wasn’t very enlightening.”

“At least not on specifics. Now, what’d you find?”

“I didn’t find much myself, seemed like that wing was for researchers or something. Found a number of chemistry things, not my field, but this floor seemed to be low rank, judging by the few notes and things I found. But I did find this” She said while producing an ECHO of her own “I held off listening as well.”

She held it up and after getting a nod and waving motion from the other girl, slid it into her player

Those damn fools, why can’t they get the equipment working. Dr. Pretorian is on the verge of a break through, if only her hands weren’t tied. First Jack won’t let us use the ‘Subject’, at least not in any real way. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Who is this ‘subject’ anyway? I mean, we can’t even use their DNA in most experiments. Not that I’d have clearance to participate in any of them.

But I’ve heard Dr. Pretorian, well overheard, but no matter. She was talking about seeing if we could get Subject 2 moved, and Jack went berserk, threatened her with locking her in a cell with nothing but a Clap-trap unit for company if she ever brought it up again.

Oh the things we could do with that subject, but no, we have to make do with Subject 1. Not that we didn’t learn a lot from it, but we need more.

Oh and then there’s the power problems. Maintenance keeps telling us they’ll fix it, but those lazy bums keep making excuses. ‘The lines aren’t right’ or ‘What do you need more power for anyway’ like they could understand even if we told them.

I’ve seen them, can’t help it, living on the same floor and all. Man I wish I could get transferred down a floor or two, where the real scientists are, but I gotta earn that right. Anyway those maintenance losers are always sitting around, wearing gross, smelly clothes covered in who-knows what, I mean the other day I had to share an elevator with one who smelled like he bathed in raw sewage. I worried that some of the smell might get on me, and then the doctor would think I smelled like that.

If everyone would just get out of our way, oh the things we could do.

But enough dreaming, my shifts about to start, and if I want to move up…down? Hard to figure that one out in this place, but anyway if I want to get promoted I can’t be late.

The two girls looked at each other confused.

“What was Jack doing here?”

“I have no idea, but at least we know that Jack was doing something here.”

“Yeah, but what? And what was the ‘subject’?”

“One and Two. Wonder if there were more?”

“Gotta be related to those things we saw in the hall.”

“Think they were One and Two?”

“Doubt it.”

“Me to. I guess we have to go to the lab. Must be L.”

“You think?”

“Only periodically.”

“That explains a lot. Grab your bag and let’s get going”

Artemis flipped her off as she went to grab her bag only to turn around and find Gaige staring at the closed door, and the floating robot in front of it.

“Move.”

“Urur”

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“Urrrur” He replied waving at the two of them.

“Are you kidding me?” Gaige started.

Artemis sighed “No. He’s right. We have been a little on edge. Sorry.” Gaige turned and looked at her as she continued “Really I mean it. I’ve been a little short since we got in here.”

“You’ve been a little short since I met you.” She stopped and sighed herself “■■■■, he’s right, you’re right, I’ve been a little on edge myself.”

“Understandable, me, it’s the smell of hospitals. Didn’t even realize it until just now. That’s what I’ve been smelling. Under everything else, least down here. Probably coming from the lab. Hate that smell, something about the way the air, I donno, tastes? Plus there’s that undercurrent of clean, but not like cleaning supplies, I can’t describe it right.”

“That’s right, you were in a hospital for a long time.”

“That, plus this place just gives me the heebie-jeebies.”

“Not the cobbly wobbles?”

“Not quite there yet.”

“Yeah, me to. But for me, I think it’s more of…desperation? No, that’s not it. Frustration? Something like that. I mean what? Two weeks ago or so, everything was normal, then suddenly I might get to go home. Then I can go home. Only to be denied at the last moment. And the truth is, I didn’t think it was bothering be, I mean really bothering me, until just now. And I just, I donno, wanna scream or something. It’s just…”

“Unfair.”

“That’s it. Unfair. And I don’t wanna be that person, you know ‘Oh boo hoo, life’s so unfair’ and all that.”

“Of course it’s gonna bother you, and it is unfair. I’m with you on that. That’s why I’m here. With you. Because I wanna help. I want, I don’t know, to set things right, or something.”

“You’ve helped enough already. God it’s like you feel that you owe me or something. That’s it. That’s the other thing. Stop acting like you owe me and start acting like you’re my friend.”

The other girl looked awkwardly down “I don’t know how.” she whispered.

“Then act like you want me to act to you, act like you do with Deathtrap.”

“I can try, but no promises.”

“I can’t be too hard on you though, I mean, it’s been so long since I’ve traveled with anyone it’s like I don’t know how anymore. And you’re even worse off. Not criticizing, but it’s like neither of us really know how to deal with someone else. I mean we’ve only known each other for, like two weeks and we’re, I donno, comfortable? Don’t really know what to call it, but the flip side of it is that we don’t know how to, I guess talk to each other. Like this. Neither one of us was meanin to be mean, but we just kinda started goin wrong. Who knows how bad things would have gotten if Deathtrap here hadn’t intervened. Thanks babe.”

“You’re right. Course you are. I suck at dealing with people and emotions. So if I’m getting out of line, tell me. Either one of you.”

“Good enough. Now, can we move on?”

“I guess, let’s find out what kind of crazy ■■■■ they’ve been up to.”

And with that Deathtrap moved out of the way and just before they headed back into the hall, Artemis stopped and looked back.

“What? You forget something?” Gaige said stopping as well.

“No, well yes, but no. It’s just that.”

“Spit it out.”

“Did you find any bodies? I mean, it just occurred to me, but, I didn’t find any bodies.”

“Now that you mention it, no, no I did not. Not even any blood.”

“That’s weird right? You’d think someone would have died in their room.”

“Aw damn it, this place keeps getting better and better on the creep-o-meter.”

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Chapter 6

Hyperion Facilities, Laboratory 501

They kept the lanterns on while they traveled back to the intersection and trying to avoid stepping in the now smeared puddle of viscera, headed in the last direction, L501. When they got to the double door, Gaige worked her magic on it and they slid it open.

The room they found themselves in was fairly large and dominated by shelving, most of which had been stripped bare. In fact, it looked like most of the shelving that could have been easily removed had been, leaving the room feeling cavernous and desolate.

It was Artemis that broke the silence “Well this is weird.” She muttered looking around.

Gaige looked at her “What? This is weird? With everything else we’ve seen, this is weird?”

“Well it is, I mean, it’s like someone took everything that wasn’t nailed down, then came back and pried up the nails and took them too.”

“I admit it’s odd, but not like we haven’t seen something like that before. Well, at least I have.”

“Yeah, but the residential area was virtually untouched.”

“Okay, that is weird.”

“Right?”

“Well, let’s see what they left behind.”

They did a quick once over of the few things left in the room, and between them found a dozen broken test tubes and some shattered ceramics. Feeling a bit dejected they made their way to the double doors at the other end of the room.

“Well, let’s see what’s behind door number two.”

“Didn’t you make that joke already?”

“I don’t think so? Anyway carry on.”

Gaige turned back to what she was doing and soon enough the door gave a soft clunk and they carefully slid it open to reveal the lab proper.

The hall was slightly wider than the double doors they stood in, flanked on either side by glass windows frosted by a patina of dirt and other indescribable substances through which they could barely make out the labs themselves. The whole area was on emergency power and was bathed in an amber glow from the lights recessed into the edges of the ceiling, making the place feel even more unreal.

“Well, at least it doesn’t have that red flashing light from the movie.” Artemis grumbled under her breath.

Gaige shot her a dirty look and moved in as quiet as she could. The main hall was deserted and ran for a few hundred feet before terminating in an intersection, the hall splitting and going each way with an elevator sitting straight ahead.

Despite how eager they were to go for the elevator, they proceeded cautiously down, each on taking a side with Deathtrap floating in the center, ready to help if either one needed. They checked each room as they came to it, sweeping through the doors where they could and peering through the stained windows where they couldn’t.

The labs, one and all, had been ransacked, though not demolished. It was like someone had carefully removed all the useful equipment and then come back at a later point to take everything else. Drawers hung open, where they hadn’t been removed entirely. In fact the only thing they found was some broken glassware in the sink.

They split at the intersection and each checked their respective side, only to meet back up after a few minutes all but empty handed. Only Artemis’s keen eyes had found anything of note.

“Found something.” She called out softly, waving the other two over.

When they got there she pointed to something barely visible behind one of the counters.

“Appears to be an ECHO.” Gaige said crouching down to get a better look “Someone must have dropped it.”

“That’s what I thought, but it’s wedged or something. At least I couldn’t get it out by myself.”

“Yeah” Gaige said trying to pull it out “Seems like it’s in there pretty good. Babe, you think you can lend a hand?”

Deathtrap floated over and examined the counter for a minute before grabbing it and after making sure he had a good grip, lifted it with a grunt. Gaige’s hand shot out and grabbed the ECHO before the counter came back down with a loud thud.

“Urru”

“It’s alright babe, I got it. No harm done.” She said patting her robot as he looked depressed. “Well, let’s see what’s on it.”

Subject 2 is dead.

Jack wasn’t happy, to put it mildly, I think he’s gonna come here as soon as he finishes whatever it is’ he’s doing, probably to kill us all.

But none of that matters.

The data.

The data we got when the subject died was incredible.

I mean I think we’re on the verge of a breakthrough.

But Jack also mentioned something wondrous.

He got his hands on a new sample.

So much to do.

So many things to try, if only we could get our hands on the subjects’ body, but the way Jack talked, asking wouldn’t be advisable.

Of course we need to wait for the data to compile, but I can already see new lines of research to explore.

New worlds are opening up.

And this is just the beginning.

If only we could use the replication technology.

Maybe we can get the other departments on board and present a unified plan when Jack gets here.

“What the heck were they doing here?” Artemis stated with a bit of anxiety in her voice.

“And what are these subjects they keep referring to?”

“Sounded like the subject wasn’t even here. How were they studying it then? And why’d they want the body?”

“And we can sit here asking questions forever, or we can try and find out.”

“Do we really want to? Of course we are anyway, but are we gonna regret this?”

“Probably, but let’s get going.”

“Might as well.”

“But I gotta say, this would be easier to figure out if we even knew when this had all happened.”

They went back and finished their search of the floor before reconvening in front of the elevator without finding anything else of note.

The examined the door for a moment before Gaige went to work on the panel. Right before she popped it Artemis swiped a key card in front of it.

Which did nothing.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying one of the keys. Worth a shot right?”

“Those will only work if there’s power.”

“There’s lights right?”

“Emergency power won’t work an elevator.”

“Some places it will, like for fire crews and stuff.”

“Maybe, but do you have the key for that?”

“Donno, they’re not labeled.”

“Just let me get to work.”

“Wait, if there’s not power, how’re we gonna use the elevator?”

“We can’t, we’re hoping that it’s on another floor.”

They fell silent as she continued to work and after a few minutes there was a soft noise.

“Right, we’re gonna need the pry bar here.”

Artemis already had it in hand and jammed it into the edge of the door when Deathtrap placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and he made a motion to step back. As soon as she was clear he grabbed the bar and gave it a shove. The door made a low grinding noise and slid open enough for him to get his hand in and pull it the rest of the way.

They looked in and saw the elevator was stopped two floors below them.

“Well, we can check the next floor, but the next one after that Deathtrap won’t be able to get in with that in the way.”

“Well let’s check that and then see where we are.”

Deathtrap floated in as the two girls climbed down the ladder set into the wall and soon enough they were facing the inside of the next floor down’s door.

“Let’s see, we move this, then press this and then, babe, pull down on that. Thanks, now slide it, and we’re in.”

Under Gaige’s directions and Deathtrap’s strength they soon had the door open.

Artemis had stood around feeling useless, with her gun drawn, waiting for the door to open and as soon as it did, she was through it sweeping the hall, and found it empty, to mixed emotions. Part of her actually wanted something to shoot, at least then she would know what she was facing. This uncertainty was eating at her.

But there was nothing there, so she carefully lowered her gun and gave the place a second look. The layout and construction were identical to the floor above, with the dirty windowed rooms proceeding out in a T pattern.

The two girls looked at each other and shrugged before heading out the same wings as they had above.

It didn’t take long before they regrouped. They didn’t need to say anything, the disappointed looks on their faces said it all. They turned to the main hall without much hope.

They weren’t’ disappointed.

“Well that was a bust.”

“Let me get this door open and we can at least check the residential block on this floor. Maybe even get into the other wing.” Gaige said dropping down to get to work only to stop a few seconds later and sit back confusion etched into her face.”

“What?”

“It looks like the wires were pulled out from the other side.”

“So does that mean the doors open?”

“No, it seems like someone jammed it or something.”

“So now what?”

“Guess we’re gonna have to check the next floor by ourselves. Deathtrap will have to wait up here, sorry babe.”

“Urura”

They headed back to the elevator and just before they entered, they paused to sigh when the silence was broken.

“H-Hello?”

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Chapter 7

Hyperion Lab 501

The girls whipped around in surprise, especially Artemis, who was not used to having things sneak up on her. ‘Above?’ she thought ‘It sounded like it was coming from above, but where?’.

Only Deathtrap wasn’t surprised and instead just let out his equivalent of a sigh and looked to where he had detected the speaker. Gaige followed his line of sight and found herself looking at a small speaker set in the ceiling, hiding next to the dark light fixture, and barely visible in the amber glow. She could now make out more of them, as well as a camera now that she knew what to look for. Artemis finally spotted what they were looking at, a bit sheepish that she had missed them earlier.

“_ ello ” came the crackly voice from the speaker that popped and cut out “ Do not be sc__ed, I wan_ y__ to h__p me. My n_me is __l and I __ trap re. My ______ has n me bac __ so long, an ev_ry on lse ha left. The onl _ings left are th __ters outsi, till yo came. I nee _ou to find me, _ _ am stuck in the Tec_____gies __artment. You ll nee __ go through the S_____s area to t ntral Hub, and from there it ould be to y ght, if th aps are accur.

Be care___, the m_____rs are out and _ ink they kn __u are here.

And yo__e not al___ ymore, there are _____ here, and they seem __ be b ___le.

I can not __ n this line f_ ong or t__y will fi_ _e.

Pl___e hel_ _e.”

“Hello?” Gaige called back, only getting static in response. She turned to the other two “So, how much of that did you catch?”

Artemis had her face scrunched up “Through the static, I think she was asking for help, something about Tech department, through the, I think, Central Hub? And something about something knowing we’re here and not being alone. Or something like that. You?”

“That was more then I got.”

“Urru”

“Well if you couldn’t get any more, then that’s all we got, wait, there was something about going through S…something.”

“Right, right.”

“So, what do you think?”

Gaige leaned back and looked at the speaker while she pondered the question. “I think she sounded like she was in trouble, seemed a bit, I donno, young? But without sounding like a kid, if that makes sense?”

“No, I get it.”

“It also sounded like she couldn’t be on the line for long, and she sounded, I guess, lonely and scared.”

“So what are we gonna do?”

“I suppose we should go find her. If nothing else she might be able to tell us what’s going on here.”

“And if she’s the one leading those things?”

“Well, then we get answers in a different way.”

“Right, so I guess we need to get into the S wing then.”

“Guess we’re gonna need to go down a floor and look, Babe, I guess you’ll need to stay here and wait. I know, I think it sucks too, trust me, I’d much rather not splitting up, but you can’t fit through the emergency access on the elevator.”

“Don’t worry big guy, I’ve got her back.” Artemis said patting his arm.

“Urrura”

“You got it.”

They dropped through the emergency hatch after pulling it open and got to work opening the doors. A few minutes later they found themselves standing in what looked like the same hall for the third time. Sticking together this time, they did a quick sweep of the rooms, and like the previous floor, found nothing of interest.

They made their way to the door at the end, and after a bit of work Gaige sat back with an exasperated sigh.

“No luck?”

“None, this one’s jammed as well.”

“Guess we have to head back up then.”

“Looks like it, I just hope we can find a way through, got any explosives in that bag of yours?”

“Not that would take out a door like that.”

“Figures.” she looked at the other girl and realized what it sounded like “No, that wasn’t meant as an attack on you or the bag, you brought a lot of useful stuff. It’s just that you don’t seem the kind to carry around that much demolition equipment.”

“Ah. Right, well I think we’ve made Deathtrap wait around long enough, let’s get back to the first floor, or would it be the fifth floor, with the fives on the numbers, whatever it’s called and see what we can find.”

“Again.”

Soon they found themselves standing in front of the door, carefully avoiding the blood trail leading under it and pondering how to get in.

After a bit of examining it the stood back and stared in puzzlement.

“How the hell are we supposed to get through this?”

“How were the employees supposed to?”

“The lower floors must have a way, but we can’t get there, so we need to figure out how this opened. I guess it must have opened from the other side.” Gaige replied rubbing her chin in thought. “If they opened it from here, they must have had some way to let the other side know.” She looked around the area while holding the lantern out. “There.” She said pointing “Camera tucked into the corner. They must have had someone on the other side to open it.”

Artemis nodded “Yeah but how do we?” She tipped her head back and stared off into nothingness while thinking.

“I doubt they keep the solution on the ceiling.”

“The ceiling” Artemis muttered “Yeah, they might.” and she started walking while looking up.

“I was being sarcastic again, I’m sorry alright. I know I shouldn’t do it as much, but…Hey, are you listening.”

The other girl kept walking until she came to the intersection and stood for a moment looking each way before turning and walking towards where they had first come in and stopped.

“They did put the answer on the ceiling.” she said with a smile and pointed.

Gaige followed her finger and squinted against the flash of the lights. She held up her lantern and spotted what the other girl had seen, an air vent.

“You think we can get through that?”

“No, but I think I can.”

“Is that another crack at my”

“No, but it’s probably gonna be a tight fit, and besides, I’m already dirty.” She said the last in a tone that caused Gaige to shoot her a worried look, but there didn’t seem to be anything to it so she let it drop.

“How do you want to do this?” She said instead.

“Well, if Deathtrap can get it open, and then give me a toss up there, I should be able to wiggle in.”

“He can just carry you, he’s lifted heavier people than you, you know. But how are you gonna find your way? Most buildings air systems don’t follow the rest of the floors layout, you know?”

“Really? Why not?”

“Efficiency I think. Look I ain’t an architect, I’m an engineer, we don’t always see eye to eye, or even understand each other most of the time. But as far as this, if I go to the door, you can use your ECHO to keep my location and try to find your way past it.”

“Works for me, let me change my gear and then let’s do this, before I come to my senses.”

She quickly dug a few things out of her bag and then strapped her larger guns to it before taking her ECHO and the lantern and hooking them to her chest and then pulled some goggles over her eyes as Deathtrap sliced the vent open and pried the cover loose. He flew down and gently picked her up before floating up and holding her to the opening. She unhooked the lantern and raised it through before checking both ways in it, and then tried shimming her way up and in, only to get caught by her waist, leaving her legs kicking futilely in the air.

Pulling herself back out she sat on Deathtrap’s shoulder and unhooked her belt and back-up gun before placing them in his hand, as Gaige snickered. Artemis kept her mouth shut, grabbing her pistol back and strapping it near her tools, and slid her way back into the open vent and out of sight, while blushing furiously.

Looking ahead of herself in the tight space she exhaled and pulled herself along, Gaige had been right, the vent quickly turned to the side and forced her to move in a direction that she didn’t want to go.

“How do things look in there?” Came a familiar voice through her ECHO.

“Dusty” She coughed back “And I keep thinking if I see some slimy monster in here, I don’t know what, but it won’t be pretty.”

“Still thinking about that movie are you?”

“Yeah, monsters in vents, and then I find myself crawling through one and I keep expecting it to pop out or something.”

“Ha, scaredy cat.”

“How long was it after you watched it before you crawled through a vent?”

“That was different I was”

“How long.”

“It was like nine years or so, but that was because”

“I rest my case.”

“I didn’t need to crawl through a vent till I became a Vault Hunter, it wasn’t because I was scared!”

“You keep telling yourself that, wait, I’m coming to another junction. Are you in position?”

“Almost, hold on. Right, I’m in place. You see me?”

“Got you on my ECHO. Think I need to take a right.”

“A right? But we turned to the left.”

“Yeah, but my other choice is down.”

“Then I guess you need to go right.”

She spent the next while wriggling through the vents, having to backtrack twice when she found herself somewhere she didn’t want to be, which was a challenge in and of itself. She had to find a junction and shimmy part way down then back around till she could go the right way, or she had to slide backwards til she got to the last junction and go a different way. And a number of times she heard something in the vents, or at least she thought she did, and froze waiting for something to crawl up and bite her bottom, only to realize it was the fans starting in some far-off part.

So she was dripping sweat and dirt by the time she found herself nearing her destination.

“I think I’m almost there.” She groaned “Damn, that isn’t the right way, how about…nope.”

She found a vent and looked down through it, to find an empty room. Shining her light around she found the door, only to see that it had no way to open it from the inside.

“Moving on.” She muttered getting frustrated. After a few more minutes she took a small break and brought her ECHO closer “Doesn’t look like I can get to the next room from here.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“I think it must have its own ventilation system. I’m gonna try and find a way around and see if I can get in further down.”

“Right, I’ll be here.”

“Right.” She muttered before dragging herself on. A few minutes later she found another vent, only to not be able to see the floor from where she was. She turned her light down and shone it around.

“Damn, that must go all the way down. That won’t do.” So she continued on.

The next vent was better, leading to another small store room, but it once again didn’t have a interior door handle. She felt that she must have traveled over a mile in the vents by the time she found an exit that worked, though it would require a bit of back tracking to get to where she had left Gaige.

She carefully knocked the vent cover loose and poked her head through, looking around to make sure that nothing unpleasant was waiting for her. Instead she found an empty room, so she slid through and flipped to hang from it and dropped to the floor, trying to land in a crouch, only to have her right leg give out and send her over, landed on her butt.

“Ow.” She muttered rubbing her backside and then massaged her leg to get the blood flowing back through it.

“Right, I’m in. Gonna take a bit for me to find my way back to you.”

“I can see you on my ECHO, damn how far away are you?”

“Far enough that I’m wondering if I’m still on the same asteroid as you.”

“Nah, now come back and let me in.”

“Sheesh, work work work.” She grumbled pushing herself up and moving to the door while drawing her pistol “I’ll be there as soon as I can, now be quiet so I can concentrate.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Artemis shook her head and put her ear to the door and listened. Then listened closer. There was something out there, and it was making a weird snuffling sound. Followed by a low scrapping. Something was out there and it was moving around.

She waited as it got closer to the door she was behind and when the footsteps stopped and there was a slow sniffing noise. Artemis stilled herself, her fingers rolled on her pistols grip, loosening and retightening.

The sniffing stopped and after a brief pause there was the low scrapping noise of metal on metal against the door, then it paused then there was a long sniff. Artemis looked down at the doorknob to see if it was moving, which it wasn’t.

The noise outside stopped and the off-kilter footsteps resumed, one sounding heavier than the other, accompanied by the slow scrape of metal on metal fading away.

Artemis stayed frozen for nearly two whole minutes after she heard another door close in the distance, before letting out her breath and carefully opening the door. When nothing came flying in, she glanced out and found a dark metal hallway, barely illuminated by the emergency lighting and lined with doors that around her were to solid rooms and further down the way the footsteps had vanished, turned into cages made out of metal mesh.

She slipped out and after glancing at her ECHO moved away from the cages. After a few dozen paces she came to a door. She looked down at the panel next to it and pulled out one of the key cards with a shrug. Sure they hadn’t worked on the elevator, but as Gaige had pointed out, they were shut down in power failures, but this was a door. It should work, right?

She passed the first one in front of it, only to get an angry noise from it. ‘Well, it at least seems to be reading it’ She thought ‘Try the next one.’ She tried the next card and the light turned green but the door didn’t open. She looked at it angrily and gave it a shove. It slid a few inches in, so she checked the other side quickly and then shouldered it to the side and stepped through.

She found herself in another hall. Moving in she looked around for any signs, but found none that she could make out. Grumbling she rechecked her ECHO and then back to the hall.

“Left, should be the next left and then we’ll see.”

She moved down the hall, and found the first left and checked to see if it was correct. She found it went about six feet before hitting a double door. She slid up to it and looked around, there was no key reader, but there was a power open button, so she tried that to no avail.

Sighing she pushed against the door and felt the resistance of the power system as the door ground open.

The hall stretched ahead, with steel doors spaced down the sides, and after a good ways, there was a crossroads, dark halls stretched in both directions and directly ahead of her was a security station behind a sheet of bulletproof glass, next to a cage door.

Artemis approached and tried it to no avail. Looking through the glass she could see a button that must have controlled the door. Swearing she checked her ECHO and confirmed what she had known, she needed to go through this door to get back to Gaige.

She went back and examined the door, there had to be some way through without someone in the security cage. No key card scanner, no key pad, but she found a slot for an old-fashioned key.

She sat back and pulled out her ECHO “Hey. I’m not far away, but I need to get through this door, so I gotta ask, do you know how to pick a lock?”

“You mean like rewire it, you’ve seen me do that?”

“No, like a physical lock.”

“Maybe, but I’d have to look at it to see.”

“You want to crawl through the vents and meet me? Be my guest.”

“Yeah, not happening. You’re gonna have to find some way around it.”

“I figured you’d say that, but thought I’d give it a try. Hold on a little longer.” And she hung up and went back to examining the door.

‘Now’ she thought ‘Other than the security guard, what would stop someone from forcing this open?’ She shone her light around and quickly spotted a bundle of wires connected to the top. ‘Electrocution it would be then.’ She mused ‘But with no power, this should be safe. Wait a minute. My left arm’s still set up to be anti-EMP, so I should be good even if it is still powered. Duh.’

So she grabbed the door and pushed, it shook in its frame, but had no other result. She ran her finger down the seam, while shining her light in as best she could and finally found what she was looking for, and closing her eyes for a second, put her fist against the door and popped her Digi-blade into it.

She pulled her hand down, slicing the lock and the door swung in slightly.

‘Well, that worked.’ She thought, and just as she was about to step forward, a slight noise caught her attention. She spun and when her mind registered something was flying towards her, she threw herself sideways, narrowly dodging the stretched arm that slammed into the door, tangling in the mesh.

Rolling to her feet, pistol up and ready, she spotted the creature that had drug off the body near the junction and snapped of a shot at it. To her surprise, even as she pulled the trigger the thing threw itself sideways, back around the corner. But its fingers caught in the mesh of the door, and the entire arm stretched and bent bonelessly around after it.

Not wasting any time, Artemis swung her blade through the arm, severing it in a spray of blood, electing a howl of pain from the creature.

Artemis sprinted after it and came around the corner, only to drop into a slide to avoid the heavy arm swinging at her. She came up and spun, firing into the new attacker, only to watch the bullet bounce off its head.

She took a step back in surprise and did a quick once over of the new threat. It appeared to be the same size as the stretchy creature, but was covered in strange patterns that seemed to be made of metal, including its left eye. Its teeth reflected the lantern light as it bared them and snarled at her. As she backed off, she took note of three things, the marking seemed heavier on one side, it was favoring pushing that side forward, and judging by its ample bosom, it was female.

She didn’t have time to figure anything else out as it lunged forward at her, swinging its fist in a broad, easily dodged arc, that left a small dent in the wall where it hit.

Artemis slid under the swing and sliced at it with her blade, the shower of sparks stopped when she slid off the strange markings and onto its flesh, causing it to hop away as best it could. While it had bled a little, it had surprised the creature more than hurt it, and she realized that killing it would be do-able, but time consuming at best, and if any more of these things arrived, down right deadly.

‘Speaking of’ she thought ‘where was the other one?’ She took the moment to scan her surroundings only to find a blood trail leading away. ‘It’s either retreating, or going for help, neither one’s that good for me. Gotta get rid of this thing and back to Gaige as soon as possible.’

With that in mind she took off running, and hearing the screech of frustration behind her, figured that that one was following. It quickly confirmed that thought when she heard the familiar clomping of its feet on the floor, one noticeably heavier than the other.

She glanced behind herself and saw that the creature had given chase, but not only wasn’t it gaining on her, she was pulling away from it.

‘Slow and durable.’ She thought while running, trying to keep track of which ways she was turning, only to round one of the corners and find the wounded creature leaning on the wall, looking woozy from blood loss. It looked up at her and snarled at her, trying to push off the wall to attack her. She fired while passing, causing its head to evaporate in a cloud of gore. The creature behind her let out another screech of anger and thudded after her.

Once she was sure she had enough space she spun and lined up a shot before firing. She was rewarded with a splatter of blood as she caught it in the right thigh. It unleashed another screech and dropped into a crouch, before giving chase again on all fours.

“Oh crap!” She swore, the creature seemed to have gained speed. “Not so slow, but still durable!” It charged full speed and leaped at her.

She managed to dodge the reckless strike and swung at it as it passed, drawing a thin line of blood off it, surprising her with how little purchase her blade found in it. Whatever it was, its muscles felt like they were made of steel.

Fighting with what she had was swiftly turning into a losing prospect.

“Right, option B it is.”

She took off back the way she had come, mentally overlaying maps to figure out where she was and where she needed to be. She hit the corner and dropped into a slide, letting the creature leap over her as she spun around it. The creature landed hard and rolled, before shaking its head and resuming its pursuit.

Artemis spotted what she was after and sped towards the metal door, while silently praying that it wasn’t locked. She hit the door hard, slamming down on the handle and the door swung inward as her feet slid out from under her, she managed to keep her grip on the door and slid in an arc as the creature charged in after her. She let her momentum swing her to the wall and gave it as hard a shove off it as she could, dragging the door closed as the thing regained its feet and sprung at her. It slammed into the door, closing it with such force that it sent Artemis rolling across the hall, landing in a pile against the far wall.

She sat there gulping in the air, as she could hear the resounding thuds coming from the room. She pushed herself to her feet and sighed while reloading. It was trapped, she had been right on her location, that was one of the rooms without an inner door handle.

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Chapter 8

Hyperion Area S501

Artemis tried to ignore the irregular pounding coming from the creature and made her way back to the security cage, where the severed arm still was tangled in the links. After pushing through, she found herself faced with another door, again without a key card reader. That was the door she needed to go through, the faint blood trail tracking under it confirmed it, but it seemed sealed from both sides, making her wonder what was being kept in that room, and more so, how to get in.

She held her light aloft and checked behind the first door to find another door set in the wall, which must have led to the security room. Bracing the light, she crouched down to examine it and found both an old fashioned key slot as well as a key card reader sitting darkly off to the side.

Sighing she pushed the door behind her closed and pulled her ECHO out.

“Right” She called “Found a door, so how do I bypass a security system.”

“Was that gunfire I was hearing? Why weren’t you responding? Are you all right?”

“Sorry, I’m fine, I’ll explain when I see you, but to do that I need to open a few doors.”

“Right, describe it to me.”

Artemis did and Gaige swore “That’s not gonna be easy. Is there any other way around?”

“No, it looks like I need to get in this room to unlock the door to the room in front of us.”

“Crap. Well, if it needs to be done, let’s do this.”

She tried her best to follow the instructions that the other girl fed her. What would have taken Gaige a minute or two, took Artemis over ten, but in the end the lock gave and the door clunked.

She stood and stretched, before shoving the door and stepping in.

The room was small to the point of being cramped. The full desk took up the entire front wall below the glass. A single swivel chair was knocked over and had spun and lodged under the desk, the magazine that must have been the security officers, lay open to an image that left nothing to the imagination and caused her to blush. Quickly looking away she turned her attention to the control panel and tried to figure out how it worked. The dark buttons were coated in a fine layer of dust, making it hard to read. She carefully pressed one of them, that could have been green or may have been red, it was impossible to tell beneath the layers of dust and grime. The button clicked softly and did nothing else, not that she had expected any different result considering the lack of power.

She crouched down and stared at the controls for a moment, before she ducked and checked under the desk to see what else was there and found a small panel, most likely for servicing, that had become wedged shut, most likely when the chair’s wheel had slammed into it. She pulled a few tools out of her belt and went to work opening it as fast as she could.

Seconds later the previously wedged panel stood open and she found herself looking at a small book. Pulling it out she flipped it open and found that it was what she needed, an emergency manual. Flipping through she found the section on emergency opening of the door, and the subheading power failure and began to read. Following the instructions, she found the appropriate panel and removed it, finding what she needed inside she flipped the handle with a lot of grunting and sweating. It gave suddenly and sent her splatting onto the floor. Rubbing her nose, she kicked the wall in frustration and went back to work, finding the manual crank and started turning. Eventually there was a low chain of clunking noises from the heavy door and when she stepped out and after giving the area one last look, gave it a push, finding that it swung in soundlessly, except for her grunting.

She stepped in, pistol out in one hand, her lantern in the other and found herself in a room about twelve by fifteen feet and made of stainless steel that shown brightly in the light. Racks of empty shelves and glass faced cabinets covered the walls, and in the middle of the room was a metal pillar that had tubes leading out of it.

She ignored it all and made her way to the far wall, were another door stood and raised her fist and gave the door a good hit. Listening to the low bong she waited and a few seconds later a replying bong came from the other side.

Smiling she got to work following much the same process as earlier to open this one and after another minute stepped back as the door swung in under Deathtrap’s strength.

“Well someone took their time. Wow, you look rough, you alright?”

“Dusty and thirsty, but fine, but forget about me, what happened to you?” She said in concern looking over the other girl. Her arm was scratched in multiple places, as was her cheek and she had an odd line across the front of her shirt.

“Ah well, nothing much.” She replied turning pink and looking away.

“Uraru” Deathtrap interjected, handing Artemis her bag and she promptly started re-equipping.

“Fine I’ll tell her.” She snapped before turning back “Well, when we heard gunfire I kinda tried to maybe come to help you through the vents, and it didn’t really seem that small from the ground, and I didn’t really think I was that much bigger than you so I may have kinda almost got stuck.”

“Heh, that’s no surprise, I mean I barely fit. If you remember I had to take off my gear to fit in and you’re, well, larger than me in the uh…”

“If you mention my butt again…”

“What? No, you didn’t even get that far, I was trying to find a polite way of saying you had a bigger chest than me, I mean I can still see the line across it.”

“What? Damn it, babe why didn’t you say something.” She said quickly brushing across it.

“Urrur”

“Besides if you were gonna enter the vents, you really would need to remove that jacket, I bet those spikes were giving off one hell of a racket.”

“Yeah, that’s an understatement, probably a good thing I couldn’t fit…Wait a minute!”

“Enough, I’m really glad you were that concerned about me, but I think we have more pressing matters at hand, don’t you?”

“Speaking of which, what is that pounding noise I’m hearing? And what were you shooting at? And”

“And enough questions. The pounding you’re hearing is the same thing I was shooting at. Well one of the things at least.” And she gave a brief overview of what had just happened.

“Wait, so there’s another one of those things? And its bulletproof?” She poked her head out the other door and pulled back quickly “Yep, that’s an arm. At least of something.”

“The rest of it’s down that way somewhere, and I don’t think the other one’s bulletproof. Just resistant. I think it must be armored or something. I mean I did shoot it in the leg and injured it.”

“Yeah but you said that just pissed it off.”

“Yeah, but it still injured it, now if I had my back up piece, I think I could have killed it. Still, we should get going before too long, But now that I’ve got a moment. Where are we?”

“This was a storage room, I think.” Gaige said moving to the central pillar and examining it. “Coolant hoses, power supply and backup supply, and I bet if, Babe? You want to do the honors?”

Deathtrap floated over and examined the top of the pillar before reaching out and twisting part of it and pulling the entire core of the pillar up, reveling slots where, at one time vials had been held.

“Just as I thought” Gaige said with a nod “This must have been where they kept the samples we heard about.”

“But it sounded like they weren’t kept here, I mean that science lady on the ECHO said something about wishing they could get sample number two brought here, and I somehow don’t think that Jack ever made it back.”

“You’re right, about both parts in truth, but if they had the genetics of the samples, maybe some blood, they could have made more. I think I read somewhere that they could do that even from an electronic record or something.”

“Then they could make someone out of it?”

“I don’t think they ever got that part down, least I hope not. Though I did read something about bringing someone back from just being a head.”

“Wait, what? Then why aren’t more people doing that? I mean can you imagine someone like Jack coming back? Or someone like Holloway making a fake body to be killed?”

“Scary thoughts for sure. But there was a lot more to it, and it didn’t seem like they had it figured out yet. Plus there was the fact that you had to have your head removed, placed in a jar, then someone had to go into your mind, find your memories and then, if that all didn’t kill both of you, they sometimes, if some unknown conditions were met, would get a new Digi-structed body. But that body wasn’t you, it was just a copy, and most people are too egotistical to not want themselves to benefit from it, besides, who wants to spend the rest of their lives in a fish tank?”

“Yeah, that does sound rather messed up, but then why have these samples at all?”

“Again, I’m just speculating, this isn’t my area of expertise, but I think you can make blood and tissue from these samples to experiment on or with.”

“So why not just make a new body?”

“Maybe they were, maybe that’s what this place was doing. I mean I had heard that they hadn’t figured it all out yet, but they were getting close. Making organs and stuff.”

“So they could like, make new limbs for someone who lost one and stuff?”

“I don’t think they’re there yet, why? Would you want them if they could?”

Artemis looked at her metal hand and wiggled the fingers slightly “No. If nothing else this is a reminder of who I am. What made me, well, me. Plus it’s something you helped me get.”

“Hey, you made that all on your own. Be proud of that.”

“I am.”

“Well, I think we’ve gotten pretty far off topic, so let’s get out of here.”

They left the sample storage room, passed through the security gate and into the hall. Gaige looked at the arm as they passed and wondered what the hell these creatures were, and how they’d came to be, and if she really wanted to know the answer to that.

Artemis led them straight ahead and the incessant banging got louder as they passed the hall where the creature was trapped, and then it started fading as they moved on. After a short time, she paused and looked around, nothing had changed, doors stood on both sides of the hall, which stretched out in front of them, and at fairly regular intervals was intersected by other corridors.

“What is it?” Gaige whispered looking around.

“I just…are we going the right way?”

“How would I know? Weren’t you the one leading?”

“Yeah but, I don’t have a map and it just, well, wouldn’t the correct way be near the samples?”

“Maybe, but I think they were probably taken to the lab, most likely.”

“You mean the one down the other hall?”

“Yeah, I would guess that they must have taken them there to make samples to send to the main lab for the real experiments.”

“Why not just do it at that lab?”

“You don’t work with chemicals do you?”

“Rarely.”

“Neither do I, but I guess I’ve had more experience with this kind of thing through the years. It would probably be to try and prevent cross contamination or something. I mean if something went wrong, and the experiment got spread around, like if it exploded or something, then the rest of the work samples would get contaminated by it and be useless, but if the originals were there, they would become useless as well. Get it?”

“Kinda, I guess. Just seems like a lot of work.”

“It would be, but just like when we were trying to figure out that EMP thing, we didn’t want to accidentally fry anything else, right?”

“Ah, better safe than sorry kinda thing?”

“Exactly, by the way, what are in these rooms?”

“I have no idea.”

“What? I figured you knew, and that was why we were passing them.”

“Nope. Only two I looked in were both empty. Meant to look in more, but I had to get to you first, and then it kinda slipped my mind.”

“Slipped your…Well let’s check a few then.”

“Uh, someone should stay out here. At least some of the doors don’t have handles on the inside.”

“Don’t have…What kind of idiotic design is that?”

“I donno, but it’s how I trapped that creature in one of the rooms.”

Gaige stormed over to the nearest door and threw it open, reveling a bare metal cube and poked her head around the door. “Huh, you’re right. No handle. Weird.”

So they proceeded with caution as they opened a dozen doors, finding rooms of varying sizes, all empty, before Deathtrap called them over, being the first to find something. They crowded in the doorway and looked at the small room that held a few small cases, stamped with the Hyperion logo.

Deathtrap chose to stay outside the door while the two girls went in and investigated. They started with the smallest of the boxes, one that was about the size of a SMG. Popping the latches, they swung the lid up and found themselves faced with a box filled with dense foam, and standing upright in it was a row of cards, each separated by a small amount of space.

“What are these?” Artemis said reaching in to extract one of the cards and held it up to the light “Wait. Is this a key card?”

“Looks like it. Doesn’t look activated though. Must be a box of replacement cards in case someone loses theirs.”

“Well, let’s see what else we’ve got.”

The next crate was filled with plastic wrapped security uniforms. And that was the way of the rest of the crates, each was filled with something useless, from forms, to manuals, to office supplies. Nothing of any use at the moment, so the girls sat back and pondered.

“Must be the supply room.”

“Probably the entire wing is.”

“Probably. But who would’ve emptied them all out like that, and where did they take the stuff?”

“Well, if you were stuck here for months or years, you probably would have made an effort to move the more useful stuff closer to where you were living or working, right?”

“That makes sense. Well, we’ll probably find out once we get to the, what was it? Main Hub? Or something like that.”

“Well, let’s check a few more doors as we go, and get out of here.”

They checked the doors as they went, finding a few more crates, all of which contained things that were relatively useless.

After a while they approached a large double door and off to the sides, they spotted a pair of large freight elevators set into the walls, a short ways down both of the side corridors. There were also undoubtedly stairs, but they hadn’t looked for them.

They stepped up to the large doors and to their surprise found that the door controls were lit up.

Gaige punched the button, and nothing happened.

Artemis stepped up and swiped the key cards to no avail.

They looked at each other and sighed before Gaige crouched down and popped the panel loose and reached in to rewire it. A few seconds later there was a beep-boop noise and the doors slid open.

Readying their weapons, they stepped through into the new area.

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Chapter 9

Hyperion Station: Central Hub

They found themselves standing at the point of a short hall, which after about fifteen feet, split and corridors each wider than the hall went off at forward angles. They were slit by planters that sat about two thirds of the way across the corridors and had once undoubtedly held hedges, but they had long ago been torn out, leaving bits of sod spilling out onto the ground. A few benches were placed past the far side, against the waist high wall that separated it from the open area in the center. Further out they could see another low wall, and what appeared to be the mirror of where they were standing.

Guns out, they moved cautiously forward, near the walls and checked the area. Litter had built up in the corners, mostly consisting of discarded food containers and filthy cloth, as well as a fair amount of dust.

Stepping out into the open they could finally see the area. The paths formed a diamond rhombus with short halls sticking out of the points. There was an open area across the center of it, and as they moved up they could see down quite a ways. At the bottom they could make out what had once probably been some kind of atrium. They could make out the stump of what must have once been a large tree that was surrounded by benches and more planters that had no doubt once held more shrubbery.

They found themselves standing at the point of the shorter end of the diamond and could easily see across to the flights of stairs there, flanked by banks of elevators. In either of the other directions, at the points of the long way across were large doors like the ones they had come through, but even at this distance they could tell that they had been welded shut, making any forward progress on this floor impossible, so they looked at each other and silently agreed to head down.

They swung around the left side, since that was the closest to the wall they were near and moved around to the stairs, taking a brief detour to check the short hall as they passed. Like they had seen from a distance the door was welded shut, but what they hadn’t seen was that the control panel had been smashed and ripped from the wall. Junk had been thrown against it including a few benches and a pot that had once held a plant of some kind. Looking around they could find no identifying marker to let them know what was through there, so they moved on.

They quietly continued moving around till they found themselves at the short hall that led to the stairs, and before heading down, Artemis slid up to the central rail and peered over. After making sure that there wasn’t anyone or anything waiting, she motioned for Gaige to proceed, and only once she had made it down safely did she follow.

The stairs were solid, and not overly fancy, but still had once been nicely designed, but now were covered in dust. The walls had once had a nice smooth covering, which was now marred by gouges and dents, and bits that had fallen out were built up in the corners. Overall, the place had a grim vibe that would have been called decaying opulence, except that it had never been very opulent.

They proceeded down that way, Artemis checking the next floor and Gaige and Deathtrap moving ahead for the next two floors when suddenly Artemis motioned for them to hold back and started moving cautiously out. She stopped near the short wall where a chunk had been knocked out at some point and looked over and down.

Gaige couldn’t take it so she motioned for Deathtrap to guard the stairs and moved over in a crouch till she was right behind the other girl. She knew she hadn’t managed to sneak up on her, and the other girl wordlessly slid a little to the side to form enough space that they could both see. Gaige squished in next to her, trying to be conscious of the spikes on her jacket and trying not to be aware of how close she was to the other girl.

She looked down and immediately spotted what had the other girls’ attention, a group of men with bulky armor were moving across the central area in a tight military like formation. She had trouble making out details on them, due to the distance, but she could make out their pitch-black armor, but of a completely different design from the ones that Holloway’s goons had been wearing. All of them was carrying high tech, high end guns.

The troops moved into the central area and spread out slightly as the leader motioned for them to proceed towards the furthest door from where the girls were crouched down. Two of them stayed covering the rear as the rest started their approach when all hell broke loose.

The first of them wasn’t fast enough to react to something and exploded in a ball of fire and gore. The rest took cover while opening fire.

The girls leaned forward to try and see what was happening, when a pair of loaders stomped out. The first one was massive with sloped shoulders loaded with missile pods, the other was darker and had long clamps for its hands. The second one stepped forward and the clamps opened up and started spinning, intercepting the bullets, sending them pinging around the area, as the first fired off another wave of rockets that demolished the small bits of cover that two of the men were hiding behind, as well as the men.

The rest of the men switched weapons and started unloading. The ones armed with explosive weapons fired low so their shots detonated around the one with the whirling arms feet, knocking it over and the others with caustic weapons fried the loader in next to no time. The other one turned and killed another of the men before they turned and destroyed it.

Some of the men moved forward and covered the door while the rest did a quick check of the dead, when the rear guard opened fire. The girls couldn’t see what was being shot and but from the cries they could hear it was bad. The rest of the men turned and opened fire as they moved to back up the rest of their crew. Moments later what they were shooting at emerged into their line of sight.

A pair of female forms stepped out as the bullets pinged off them. It was Gaige’s first time seeing these kinds but she recognized them from Artemis’s description.

The men turned their caustic weapons onto them and the creatures started to melt, but suddenly from behind them, out of the girls sight, a pair of arms extended out over the front creatures and stabbed into the front row of men, before dragging them back. The remaining men fell back in surprise, it seemed that no one expected that kind of reach.

The front two of the armored creatures fell to the ground and another pair of them stepped over them and continued to march forward. And then another one stepped out, different from the ones they had seen up to that point. It was twitching oddly and suddenly a dome spread out from it, reflecting the green tinged shots. Standing behind that one was another like the first one they had seen. It waved its arm and two arms flew out and snagged another one of the men, the second managed to throw themselves out of the way as the arm stabbed where they had just been.

The lumpy looking one waved its arm again and something leaped over it and came down on the man who had just dodged, stabbing clean through him, before lunging at the remaining two slicing them in half with its deformed left arm.

The boss motioned and the other creatures moved out and grabbed the dead and drug them back underneath and out of the girls’ sight.

The girls leaned back and looked at each other horrified.

“Well that was…unpleasant.”

“Yeah, I don’t know which is more troubling, those guys, the loaders or the whatever those last things were.”

“Yeah, I mean I should have expected there to be loaders here, but the rest of that.”

“You’ve seen those types of loaders before?”

“Of course, I did fight Jack and all of Hyperion you know.”

“Right, of course.”

“The PWR loader, that’s the one that was spinning its arms, they’re easy enough to deal with, either shoot them before they start spinning, shoot their legs, or if you hit them just right, you can hit them despite the shield. The RPG loader on the other hand, yeesh, those things can kill you right quick, as you saw. Take them out fast if you see one.”

“Good to know. What about those guys in the armor?”

“Never seen them before, at least not to my recollection. Babe, you remember them.”

“Urrar”

“Right, sorry you stayed back so they wouldn’t spot you. What about you?”

“No. They were completely different from Holloway’s goons, plus there was some kind of silver emblem on their chests. But I couldn’t get a good look at it because of the angles.”

“Silver mark?”

“Yeah. That mean anything to you?”

“Nope.”

“Maybe if we could see it better.”

“Let’s not waste time on maybes.”

“Right, which leaves us with those…whatevers. We really need some name for them.”

“I donno, I’ve never been good at coming up with names.”

“You came up with Artemis didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but that was after a week in bed with nothing else to do.”

“Ouch, right, whatevers it is for now. Anyway, them, they worry me. I mean they seem to have some form of coordination.”

“That lumpy one seemed to be directing the others.”

“So we are agreed that lumpy was a commander? Good. And I saw your armored ones, and stretchies. The shield one was new, but that last one. Yeesh.”

“Truly yeesh. But I bet it was one of those that opened the elevator door like that. The freight elevator I mean.”

“I could see that. But what worries me the most is that they took the dead with them. And not just their own, but all of them.”

“What you think they eat them?”

“Honestly, considering the other option, I hope so.”

“You hope so?”

“Actually, I hope they’re just neat freaks that can’t stand dead things laying around and took them to be disposed of properly.”

“Unlikely.”

“Seriously unlikely. No, the other option is that they are taking back to the lab for some reason.”

“The lab? Not the one we went through, right? You said that was probably for making samples. Wait, you’re not suggesting that they are using those corpses with the samples, are you?”

“I honestly have no idea. But we can figure that they drug the bodies back to the lab.”

“We can? Wait. There’s no reason that the loaders couldn’t be protecting the lab, is there?”

“No. I suppose you’re right, but I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, neither do I. More than likely that would be something else, which by process of elimination leaves the direction that they drug the bodies the main lab. But what are they doing in there?”

“No idea. But those bodies were taken there for some reason.”

“Well, we aren’t gonna figure it out sitting here.”

“No but we are probably gonna have to fight all three groups from here on, and while I know about two of them, to some degree, it’s that last one that worries me.”

“On the plus side we now know of five different kinds of them.”

“And probably more in the lab.”

“Well that’s a comforting thought. On a more pleasant note, what do I need to know about loaders? What ones should I look out for?”

“You’ve never faced a loader before?”

“I killed one once, but you don’t really find them as quarry on a hunt.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Let’s see, you saw a RPG loader and a PWR one and I doubt we’ll find a Jet loader in here, they fly around. There was one that had a big shield on its arm, would transform and charge you with it, easy enough to take care of other than that, just get behind something or if you time it right you can jump them. Shoot off that arm and they’re done. Oh, there was one that was all about fire, kill them fast, they can hurt. Oh, and if you see one with like yellow hazard stripes, it will run at you and blow itself up, but they’re pretty weak otherwise. Uh, let’s see, oh yeah, there was a, I think it was called a WAR loader, you’ll know it if you see it, big sucker, at least twice your size, with massive guns, but like any loader, take those off and it’s worthless. There were a couple others, but I can’t remember them at the moment. That enough for you?”

“Hopefully, and to kill them I what? Shoot their arms off?”

“Yeah, but if you do that, they tend to charge you and explode, so it’s always better to go for the eye. That would be that lens in the middle of, well they don’t really have a head, but that area.”

“Got it, so now what?” Artemis asked as they got to the bottom of the stairs and looked at the devastated area.

“So now we have to make a decision. Do we go into the lab and find out, and face the whatevers, or do we go and face the loaders and whatever they’re guarding?”

The two girls sat in silence for a second before simultaneously declaring “Loaders.”

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Chapter 10

Hyperion Station: Technologies Department

They went through the large double doors with a sense of trepidation. Beyond those first two loaders, no others had appeared. They both strongly doubted that was all that there was on the station, and both believed they were entering their den, so they proceeded with guns drawn and up, ready for a fight.

Gaige double checked the Maliwan caustic SMG she was using, it was one of Artemis’s older models, and then felt the other girl looking at her with a question.

“What?”

“Huh? Oh, I was wondering how you were doing, I mean your, ah, Anarchy? How charged are you?”

“The tank is empty. It goes away when I sleep. So I need kills.”

“Right” Artemis responded switching to her pistol “I’ll try and take their arms off and leave the kill to you.”

“You should probably still use your sniper rifle. We don’t know what we may find.”

“It’s alright. I can switch pretty fast, and besides, I have more ammo for the pistol anyway.”

“Just don’t come crying to me if you get yourself killed.”

“Deal.”

Artemis moved down the short hall to scout and quickly came back, switching to her rifle as she did.

“Well that didn’t take long to go back on.” Gaige said smirking.

The other girl motioned for her to be quieter and whispered “There’s a giant loader ahead, doesn’t seem to have noticed us yet, but I think it might be one of those WAR loaders you mentioned.”

Gaige mouthed a curse and strained to see ahead, but couldn’t, while she asked Artemis “So can we get around it?”

“Doubtful. Though I am reluctant to take it on.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“Well, it seemed like those other things didn’t want to come in here, and since there are still loaders working over here, I would guess that that thing has been keeping them out.”

“So if we destroy it we could upset whatever balance there is here.”

“Right. Well that, the fact that if we engage it, it will no doubt summon back up, and the fact that I don’t want to fight it also add in.”

“Well we could go back and try one of the other doors.”

“No, I’m pretty sure that that girl said something about Technologies being where she was at, so we’re gonna have to go through here to find her.”

“Well let’s see it, and then kill it.”

Artemis led the way ahead and they soon found themselves in a large reception type area, with a long wide counter with stations set up at it. On the floor they could make out what had once been lines to wait in. Off to the sides were doors leading out, as well as another to one side of the counter. To the other was a flight of stairs leading up. And in the middle of the area was a massive WAR loader standing guard.

Gaige looked around, there would be no chance of sneaking around it, especially since they didn’t know which way they were going. So she gave a signal to the other two and lined up her gun.

Artemis exhaled and fired, aiming at the narrow gap in the shoulder. Her shot struck, tearing through the hoses and wires, throwing sparks and electing a noise from the loader. Less than a second later both Deathtrap and Gaige unleashed their shots into its other shoulder. Before the loader could even fully stand Artemis shot a second time severing the first of its arms before sinking her next two shots into the red lens in the middle of its head. At the same time its other arm fell off leaving behind a gooey trail of caustic sludge. It took a staggered step back under the onslaught and then fell forward, crashing into the ground to lie still.

A tense moment passed as the girls waited for reinforcements to arrive, and due to their reflexes were able to duck back as twin ceiling turrets appeared and started firing.

Artemis sheltered against the wall and reloaded while waiting for a break in the firing. The instant it happened, she was around the corner and fired twice before ducking back. At the same time Gaige did the same.

They ducked back as the turrets resumed fire and the girls waited. The next time there was a break they spun out and fired again, causing both the turrets to explode.

They positioned themselves against the walls, looking out and waited, while Gaige having emptied her clip, spent a second to reload. After a few moments passed and nothing else emerged they stepped out.

“Well that was”

“Don’t say it.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t say it. Do not say it, bad luck.”

“I was just gonna comment on how cool that loader was. What’s bad luck about that?”

“Oh, sorry.”

“It’s fine, anyway I suppose we should have a look around before moving on.”

“Right, babe? Eyes out.”

“Urrur”

They casually hopped over the counter as Deathtrap stood guard. Behind the counter was the most untouched area they had found, with the possible exception of some of the residential quarters. Things were neatly filed away, chairs were pushed in, there was no litter, only dust on the ground, and unfortunately, nothing useful.

The shelves held employee logs, but all the projects were listed under cyphers like T-Exp 136 and Project Golem.

The only thing of immediate relevance that they found was an ECHO labeled Tech Orientation.

Hey there, Handsome Jack here, welcoming you to your new career.

Here at the Odysseus project you can…blow it out your ass.

I mean who writes this crap?

Listen, you already know why you’re here, if you don’t just find your nearest airlock and save us all a lot of trouble.

All you need to know is this, you have two main jobs, the first, and most important is to keep an eye on those freaks in the bio-lab. Seriously, if they get out of line, deal with them. Permanently. Use a loader or something if you have to.

The second thing is to figure out whatever project you are assigned to, and get it working.

That’s it.

See that wasn’t so hard now was it.

So quit listening to this and get to work, I’m not paying you to sit around listening to how awesome I am.

Though I really can’t blame you for wanting to.

“No wonder this thing had a layer of dust on it. What a dick.”

“Oh, that’s him being polite.”

“Still, we did learn what this project is called, even if we have no idea what that means.”

“Project Odysseus? I really hate these code-named things. I mean, what does it even mean? Does it mean anything?”

“You’ll just go nuts if you try and think about it too much.”

“Right. So which way?”

“Hmm, my guess is that the side doors will lead to some kind of loader bays, or work areas, so maybe up?”

“Good a direction as any I suppose.”

The two of them jumped the counter and rejoined Deathtrap before heading to the staircase. Artemis drew her pistol and took point, with the big robot taking up the rear guard.

Gaige watched as the other girl slid up the stairs silently, before popping around the corner in a rush. Finding nothing of note waiting for them she motioned for the others to follow and they soon found themselves on the second floor.

And standing in their way was a massive blast door.

“Huh. Well that’s inconvenient.”

“Any chance you can open it?”

“Not from here. There’s got to be a control panel somewhere, or an override, or something.”

They scanned the immediate area and found nothing, no panel, no controls, only smooth walls.

“Well maybe we can find something downstairs.” Gaige said without much hope.

“What about the computers behind the reception desk?”

“No good, they’re dead, I tried them when we were looking behind the desk.

They went back down and looked at the remaining three doors. “Guess we can try that one next.” She said pointing to the one next to the reception desk.

Since it still had power, they used one of the key cards to open it and found themselves looking into a short hallway with another door at the end. They looked at each other and shrugged before moving in and swiping the card at the far end, only to get a red light and an error noise. Looking back, they spotted a switch at the far end and when they hit it, the first door slid shut and after a few seconds of hissing as the air cycled, the far light turned green and the door opened.

They stepped through to what must have been some kind of workshop, with areas set up and partitioned off with translucent barricades. Tools and equipment were left all over the place and the smell of death assaulted their senses.

Looking closer, they could make out the bodies of some of the dead technicians, as well as blood sprays across a few of the barricades. Standing, as silent guardians of the dead, were three loaders, each in a state of partial completion. None of them moved in response to the doors opening.

No one moved for a few seconds, waiting to see if the loaders would respond. None of them did, not a twitch nor a light came on, so the two girls and robot moved into the room.

They moved up and Gaige checked the loaders before relaxing a bit and saying “They aren’t operational, this one’s missing a power core, that one’s down a CPU and that one, well whoever was working on it, must have been an idiot.”

“Good. But what do you think happened in here?”

“You mean other than a crime against robotics? Someone got killed. Couple someones to be more exact. Look, you want robots? I’m your girl. Crime scene analysis? Not so much.”

“Foregnsicks. I think that’s the word for that.”

“Forensics. See I knew you’d know the right word for that, I just couldn’t think of it. Anyway, you’re more of the expert on that. What do you think killed them?”

Artemis went behind one of the partitions and crouched next to the corpse.

“Well, this guy at least was stabbed. Note the screwdriver still sticking out of the wound. That’s usually a pretty good indicator.”

“Wow, really? You’re so good at this, maybe you should switch careers to it.”

“Hay, you’re the one who asked.”

“Sorry, just kinda embarrassing when it’s that easy.”

“Right. Well this guy is a bit harder, but if I had to guess, I’d say he got smacked from behind, probably by a wrench or something. And this one looks to be the same.”

“What’s it all mean?”

“Rough guess? Someone went berserk. Don’t know for sure, but maybe someone couldn’t handle being locked in anymore, and the rest were trying to build these bots to help them get out, and one of them lost it and went on a spree.”

“Probably the one building that bot.”

“Could be, I mean if he was as bad as you say he is, and I have no reason to doubt you, then maybe he couldn’t take having his incompetence mocked. Or her I suppose. His or her incompetence.”

“Either way, we should have a look around and see if we can find anything useful, especially for getting that door open.”

They got to their now customary thing of splitting up and scouring the area. Gaige had to keep reminding herself not to examine the loaders too closely, so she went out further, to the edge of the room and began looking near one of the large side doors. So, she wasn’t nearby when Artemis found the blueprints to the loaders fallen on the floor in one of the partitioned off work areas.

She flipped through them, understanding enough to be able to get the gist of what was on them. She folded them and tucked them in her bag before continuing on. Before long she had made her way to the far end of the room and stood in front of another massive door, one large enough that even the WAR loader could walk through it easily.

As she stared at the door, she tried to figure out what might be on the other side, and the only thing that came to mind was a storeroom filled with loaders. She shuddered at the thought of an army of the WAR loaders marching through the door and turned back, hustling to the center of the room as Gaige and Deathtrap headed that way as well.

“So, what’d ya find?” Gaige asked hopefully

“I found something for you to look at once we get back to the ship, but nothing to help us immediately.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“You’re gonna badger me until I tell you aren’t you.”

“Probably.”

“Urra”

“Fine. I found the schematics for those loaders, and no you can’t see them until we’re out of here.”

“What? Why?”

“Cause if I give them to you now, we won’t be able to move forward for an hour or so as you go over them, and then take the loaders apart, and we need to get moving.”

“No I won’t. Five minutes, just let me look at them for five minutes? No? How about one minute? Just a glance? Please?”

“Urarar” As if sensing that the other girls resolve was weakening Deathtrap interrupted to get them back on track.

“Fine, I’ll wait.” Gaige said sulkily.

“Good, now what’d you find?”

“Nothing much, just some ECHO labeled ‘Trial 327’ that I haven’t listened to.”

She popped it into her player and a female and male voices came on.

Are you recording this? Good.

This will be trial 327. We used the new sample to try and supplement the existing data to work the faults out of the subjects and will be trying formula S164. Are the security systems in place?

Yes ma’am.

Very well, proceed with the injections.

(muffled screaming)

Yes, yes, fascinating…No, no, damn, this one isn’t working either. Terminate the experiment.

Yes ma’am.

(gunfire and then silence)

Well, clean this up and proceed with the next subject.

Right away ma’am.

(muttered)crazy bitch

The girls listened to the ECHO fall silent.

After a few seconds Gaige started up with “Who were they? What were they doing? And why was this down here?”

As if in answer the ECHO crackled causing both girls to jump

I hate having to reuse these things.

Never can tell if I’m in the right place on them.

But we have no choice since those bastards stole all the unused ones from storage.

Anyway, enough of that.

The loaders are proceeding nicely, we should be done before the end of the week, well I guess that depends on what day it is. Ever since the doors closed, time has become, well, pointless.

Anyways, both Griff and mine should be done, at least if that idiot Narem doesn’t kill us first.

I mean look at that waste of parts.

But to be fair, the lock down has been rough on all of us, and Narem was, is, one of the best minds here, so we have to put up with it for a little longer.

Anyway, the loader experiments have been proceeding at a good pace, all things considered.

We’ll need to go upstairs and get the keys to the supervisors’ office to get the

(space full)

“Get the what!” Gaige yelled.

“Well, if we can find it, the office that is, we can find out.”

“But we would need the key, and that’s upstairs.”

“Who do you think we are?”

“Point. Let’s go.”

“Now the only question is where is the office.”

Gaige deflated slightly “It wasn’t your way?”

“No, mine ended in a massive door, that I don’t want to go through unless we have to.”

“Why? Is this another of those scardy cat things?”

“No. It’s just that the only thing I’ve seen around here that would need a door that big is one of those WAR loaders, and I can’t figure out why they’d need to get one of those in here. And if that isn’t it, I don’t think I want to know what they were moving through it. Besides, I would guess that whatever is on the other side of the door, would probably connect to the smaller door in the entrance area.”

“OK all valid points, let’s go my way.”

She led them to the other end of the room to where a normal sized door was set off to one side and a larger door, about the size of the one they had entered into this wing through, was set in the middle.

They opted for the smaller door.

Opening the door, they found another short hallway with a sealed door at the other end. Following the procedure from the first hall opened it, leading them to an intersection, with one side going out a short ways and ending in a door that they figured would lead to the same room as the larger door, the other way led to a short hall with doors on either side. Most of them were typical office type doors, but the end one was reinforced.

Not wanting to overlook something they checked the doors on the sides as they went, and found what Gaige recognized as mechanical engineering offices and work rooms, much like she had worked briefly in. In fact, just looking at them caused a sudden wave of boredom to surge over her. Shaking her head, she stepped into one of them to see what they had been working on.

She looked up from the scattered plans to see that Artemis had moved into the room and was looking at her.

“What?”

“How long are you gonna be?”

“What da ya mean?”

“Well you’ve been looking at those papers for like, ten minutes or so.”

“No way. It hasn’t been anywhere close to that.”

“Urgru”

“What? Wow, I guess I really do lose track of time when I’m working.”

“Well, what are they?”

“That’s just it, I’m not entirely sure. They all seem to be for a specific purpose, but I can’t figure it out, not without knowing more of what they were doing here. Or trying to.”

“Should we gather them up and take them with?”

“Hmmm, it’s tempting, but no. Too many to take with right now. Oh, but take these three. And this book. They seem like I could make something wicked with them.”

“Right.” And she carefully stuffed them into her backpack while shooing Gaige out of the room.

“Now you said earlier that you can pick a lock if it’s in front of you?”

“Did I? Maybe. Well let’s see it.”

She crouched in front of the reinforced door and examined the lock.

“Wow. Seriously? You go to all that work to get a nice solid door, reinforce the walls, get the best lock money can buy, and then leave your hinges exposed. I mean for starters, who swings their door into the hallway, that’s against some kind of building code or something. Anyway, give me a second. Oh, and give me one of those tools you picked up earlier, no not that one, yeah, that one. Right here we go.”

And with a few swings of her hammer and a little work from Deathtrap they had the door loose and gently set it down in the hall.

“Voila.” She said with a triumphant smile.

“Nicely done.”

“Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.”

“I hope not.”

“Yeah, me to. Let’s see what they were hiding.”

They moved into what was defiantly a supervisors/ office while Deathtrap waited in the hall. The desk, the chairs, all the way to the dead plant in the corner, every inch was so stereotypical that Gaige found herself looking under the desk for a hidden button that would lead to some secret room.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for a hidden switch.”

“What?”

“Look, this room’s way to boring to be an actual supervisors’ office. So there has to be more to it.”

“Or it could just be a corporate thing. Bland room for a bland job?”

“I hope not, now it’s usually under the desk.”

“It’s on the bookshelf.”

“What?”

“Behind you. That book and that gear both have marks on them. No not that, hold on.” She walked around the desk and pointed “This one.”

“How could you even see that from there, I mean, I’m right in front of it and I can barely see it.”

She examined the objects and gave them a twist and a push and the walls on either side of the door swung inward, completely blocking the door.

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Chapter 11

Hyperion Site, Project Odysseus, Technologies Departments

“Urraru”

“It’s OK babe” Gaige called out to the slightly panicked robot “We’re fine.”

“Wow.” The other girl muttered looking around. As the walls had swung in, the chairs had slid up to the desk, and the walls had met in the center, completely covering the doorway, which was why Deathtrap had been in a state. The new space that had opened up was dominated by banks of monitors, dozens of them, along with a few computer consuls. The whole thing had a fantastically spy movie vibe to it.

The only thing that made this seem at all underwhelming was the fact that almost every monitor read ‘Signal lost’. Only three of them still showed anything and the girls moved forward to closely examine them.

The first one showed an empty office, lavishly decorated and covered in bookcases, which was dominated by a heavy wooden desk, but empty of all signs of life.

The seconds’ view was partially blocked by some shelving and something too close to make out on them, but the rest showed a laboratory. From what they could make out it seemed to be stuffed with all kinds of devices piled everywhere, but since the lights were currently off, they couldn’t make out much beyond that.

The third and most disturbing was also partially blocked, this time by cables, but what they could make out was a series of vertical cylindrical vats filled with some kind of bubbling blue liquid, but they were too out of focus to make out what they contained. But what drew their attention was the nearest one to the camera. The giant vat stood filled with some kind of bubbling liquid, and up to it came one of the extending creatures, dragging one of the corpses of the men from earlier. It drug it to the edge of the vat and dropped it before shuffling off. Another creature that they hadn’t seen before stepped up from behind where the cables blocked their view and lifted the corpse easily and began stripping it of its armor, casually tossing it into a pile just on the edge of frame. Once the body was out of the plates the creature tossed it into the vat, where it promptly started to bubble and dissolve into a revolting slurry that quickly drained out of one of the thick hoses connected to the side. The creature collected the armor and shuffled off.

“I think I’m gonna be sick.” Gaige muttered looking away. “I mean, I’ve seen some things in my time, but that, that was just messed up.”

“What were they doing with it?”

“I don’t think I want to know.”

“You don’t think they were making food out of it, do you?”

“Oh god, I’m gonna be sick, how can you even think that?”

“Huh? Oh, it just resembled the prey of a Tessitract. See they inject their prey with a bio-chemical that they secrete and it liquifies the internal organs of the victim, and then they drink it out like one of those juicy pouches. It’s kind of fascinating really, see they’ve got”

BLARG

Gaige threw up noisily into the trash can.

“Are you alright?”

“Of course I’m not alright! How can you describe that stuff right after seeing that? What is wrong with your stomach that you aren’t sick? Is it even human?”

“Oh, ouch, I guess I’ve just seen so much worse than that, it doesn’t affect me anymore. Do you need something to drink? Maybe a mint or something for the, er…”

“Yes and yes. Thank you. Sorry.”

Artemis looked up from her bag “For what?”

“I donno, putting up with me I guess.”

“That’s my line, and here you go.”

Gaige took a drink of water and then popped the mint while looking around, trying to avoid looking the other girl in the eye, and avoid the smell coming from the bucket, when her eyes landed on one of the computer terminals and an idea struck her.

She quickly handed the canteen back and moved around to the terminal and tried booting it up.

As she did, she heard another noise from outside as Deathtrap asked if she was alright.

“I’m fine babe.” she called back “Just saw something on one of the monitors in here that didn’t agree with me is all.”

“Urarag”

“He’s right you know, once we’re done in here, we really should eat.”

“Really? At a time like this, you’re gonna mention food?”

“What? You should eat something.”

“Ugh.” Gaige sighed and went back to the computer.

Artemis watched in silence for a few minutes before she couldn’t take it anymore and asked “So, uh, you getting anywhere on that?”

“Yeah, bit difficult if you don’t have the password, though.”

“So you’re hacking it?”

“No, I found this taped to the bottom of the desk drawer.” She said with a silly smirk, holding up a scrap of paper with some gibberish on it.

“When did you find that?”

“When I was looking for the switch. Alright I’m in, let’s see what we’ve got.”

She clicked on the first folder and brought up a long list, each with a dated entry next to it, and clicked the first one.

“Seems like this is a status report list, but it’s all coded so I can’t make heads or tails of it. Like this

‘T 22 NC: Proceeding as normal, D.H.P. Status: normal’. I mean that all means something but without the references, I can’t figure it out.”

“Try somewhere else then.”

She backed out and tried another folder.

“No good, this one’s encoded, no way to read it without unscrambling it.”

“Is there anything useful on that thing?”

“Don’t know, but this is gonna take me a minute, in the meantime, try looking around to see if you can find whatever the ECHO was talking about that was in here.”

Artemis shrugged and moved away from the other girl, who let out a near imperceptible sigh, having someone hover over your shoulder as you worked wasn’t pleasant at the best of times, and Gaige was quite self-conscious that she must have smelled like vomit at the moment, so she was glad to be by herself at the moment, still she had work to do, and got to it.

A few minutes later, the smell in the room was becoming a serious problem for her, the circulation wouldn’t have been that good at the best of times, and this was hardly the best of times. With the door blocked and the air off, it was becoming stifling and the smell was overpowering. Still she was almost done, so she pressed on.

Artemis quickly realized that she had no idea what she was looking for, and worse yet, even if she found it, there was a high chance she wouldn’t recognize it. So far she had found three notebooks that may or may not have anything relevant in them, a large canister power source that seemed dead, some circuit boards that she had no idea what the use was and an unopened bottle of whiskey, that she didn’t think she should show to Gaige. She had also found a bunch of documents that meant nothing to her and a trashy novel tucked behind one of the drawers, but she didn’t think that was what they were after.

Sighing she looked over at the other girl as she worked and wondered, not for the first time, why she was doing this. It wasn’t like she wanted to be rid of the other girl, in fact it was just the opposite. She had been so happy when Gaige had called out to her and asked to travel with her, so why was she so insistent on getting the other girl home, where she would no doubt want to stay? Obviously, helping her was what a friend would do, or at least she though that’s what they would do, not that she had any experience with friends. She kept telling herself that it was to pay off her debt, or to give the other girl a chance to do something that she could never do again, but that wasn’t entirely true. It really was that she just wanted the other girl to look at her, see her and smile, a genuine smile. Something so simple, yet something that she wouldn’t admit, even to herself. All she wanted was to make her a little happier. But she knew that no one would really be happy with someone like her around, so she at least wanted to give the other girl a good memory of her, something to think of after she got home, and smile.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she set what she had found on the desk before walking back over to see what Gaige had discovered, spotting a key on one of the shelves that had been hidden. She pocketed it, making note to mention it when they were done here and leaned over to see what Gaige was looking at.

Gaige was preoccupied with her investigation so she didn’t notice the other girl approaching her, till a face slid in next to hers. She jumped away in surprise, nearly falling out of her chair as she did so, and whipped around only to be confronted with a look of surprise and a touch of hurt.

“Sorry.” Artemis said.

“Damn you startled me, I think I need to attach a bell to you or something.” Gaige said, more trying to cover her surprise than anything.

“So, have you found anything yet?”

“Actually, yeah, I think I have. First off, there was a lot of data on here, but it seems to be mostly records of activities or something. Well, considering what Jack said on that ECHO, this might be related to that, especially with all these monitors watching the labs. Or at least I think they are. Anyway, none of that is very useful to us, but while I was in there, I did find this.”

She tapped a few keys and a bunch of lines appeared on the screen.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Yep, a map.”

“Can we get it onto our ECHOs?”

“Should be able to. Here, let me get it onto mine and then I’ll send it to you. Right, there, done. Now, what’d you find?”

“Just that stuff.” She said making a wave at the desk.

“Let’s see, most of this is junk, an old power core and some circuit boards of unknown use, but the notebooks might be useful, and oooh, nice, can’t let this go to waste.”

“Why did I think you were gonna say that?”

“Cause you know me so well. Anyway, they could have been after any of this stuff, but we should get out of here so that I can breathe again, and then go over the map.”

After fiddling with the items on the shelf again they managed to make the walls return to normal, which revealed a very worried Deathtrap.

“Urrgru”

“I know babe, but let’s go into one of these work rooms and look over what we’ve got.” Gaige said grabbing the whiskey bottle and giving her robo bestie a pat on the shoulder.

They cleared away the plans that were laid out on the table they had chosen and set Gaige’s ECHO down on it, then crowded together to examine the screen. Gaige was able to ignore it, but Artemis found herself quite aware of the metal arm pressed against her fleshy one. Trying to ignore it, she focused on the screen as Gaige began to talk.

“Well, it seems like we are here.” She pointed to a room “So that room, would be labeled ‘Loader Maintenance’, makes sense, and through that large door you were worried about is, let’s see, ‘Loader storage’. Huh, yeah I guess that makes sense. So we probably don’t need to go in there.”

“Good.”

“Right, now on this side we have storage, probably for the loader parts. I’d love to loot that, but we should probably save that for later. Anyway, above us there are work labs and testing ranges and a bunch of other stuff that would take too long to go through all of right now, but this, this is what’s most important.” She scrolled through the floors till she got to the top floor and pointed to a section of rooms “If I had to guess, this would be the supervisors’ office.”

“Weren’t we just in the supervisors’ office?”

“Wha…yes, we were, but that was the person in charge of this area, I’m meaning the boss of the Technologies Department as a whole. And hopefully their private lab. Imagine what we might find there.” Her eyes were practically glowing with anticipation “Also, I think that’s probably where the call came from.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s probably the most secure location in the wing, so if you were gonna hide, that would be the best place for it. And besides, there’s some kind of hidden room behind it.”

“Really? I don’t see anything on the map. How can you tell?”

“Because there is nothing behind it. I mean, you don’t put secret rooms on the map. Duh. But look at this open space, right here, and before you ask, here you can see all the power lines and air vents and stuff, so it isn’t that. I’m betting there’s something really good back there.”

“Well, I’ll trust your word on it, you have more experience with this kind of thing. But, how do we get up there?”

“And that’s the rub. It’s not gonna be easy to say the least. Give me a minute while I check something out.”

“Sure, I’ll get something to eat ready while you do that, alright?”

“Sounds good.”

They got to work and a short time later, with more than a bit of help from Deathtrap, a small meal was laid out before them. Gaige took a tentative bite, more out of concern for her stomach than concern for the edibility of the meal, and suddenly realized she was famished. Putting her ECHO aside she dove into the food with a gusto that shocked the other girl. A few minutes later she sat back, not stuffed but pleasantly full and sipped her coffee, with milk and sugar.

“Whew, didn’t realize how much I needed that.”

“Looks like we’re gonna need to take a bit of a longer brake than we thought.”

“Huh? Why?”

“Really shouldn’t move around too much after eating like that.”

“Bah, I did it all the time when I was a Vault Hunter. Never bothered me back then.”

“Well, you are a few years older than that now and”

“HAY. Weren’t you the one telling me that I didn’t need to hold back just because of my age?”

“Yeah, but that was about liking what you wanted to, not about this.”

“Besides I’m not that old. I’m only twenty-five.”

“I know, and it’s not like you can’t do anything right now, it’s just that, well, it can lead to an upset stomach or something and that could slow you down at a crucial moment. Better to take it a bit slower.”

“Fine, I get your point. Anyway, back to what we were discussing earlier, I think I found out how to open that shutter.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but you’re not gonna like it.”

“I never do.”

“Yeah, well that always seems to be the case. I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but Axton said something about that, I think it went something like ‘Don’t worry about it if your plans seem bad, they won’t survive being exposed to reality anyway.’ Or something like that.”

“Who is this Axton guy anyway? You’ve mentioned him before.”

“Huh? You don’t know him? He was an ex-DAHL soldier, and another Vault Hunter with me, but he may be even more famous for posing for Going Commando and some other, ah, content for discerning adults.”

“Not to my tastes.”

“Really? They’ve got some pretty good articles you know. Or at least, I’ve heard it does.”

“Sure. So, was he your, er, were you and him, you know?”

“Were we a thing? No, no I mean I hit on him a few times, but he always shot me down. Said I was too young for his tastes, in fact I kinda think he saw me as like a surrogate daughter, or his little sister, or something, which would’ve made that really awkward for him, now that I think about it. Plus he never said it, but I think he was still a bit hung up on his ex at the time. And I didn’t learn until later, but apparently Maya told him if he ever even thought about it, she would be, I believe she said ‘Very upset.’ and trust me when I say that wouldn’t have ended well for him.”

“She was another Vault Hunter right?”

“Yeah, she was great. Bit aloof sometimes, but a total badass. Unfortunately, she passed away not that long ago. That one really caught me off guard, I mean she was always so on top of things, totally unlike me, maybe that’s why we got along so well. She would have totally liked you, I’ll bet, and you would have felt the same.” Gaige sighed sadly before perking up and saying “Oh, speaking of her, I should have mentioned Krieg when we were back on Pandora, and you and Tina were, you know, discussing the intricacies of psychos.”

“Why? Who’s Krieg?”

“Oh, he was another Vault Hunter. And a psycho.”

“And what brought him to mind?”

“He was like Maya’s self-appointed bodyguard or something. He really liked her, well as best he could. And I think she liked him too, in her own way. I mean she never really seemed physically interested in anyone, just kinda carried herself above it all. I don’t know, maybe that was just a facade she was putting on, or something. But I still can’t believe she’s gone.”

“Urrara”

“Right, sorry. Enough of that. Back to the plan at hand. So, the shutter can be opened from this room.” She pointed to the top floor of the wing, where she had been pointing to earlier.

“That’s on the other side of the shutter.”

“Yeah, that’s why I started there. Second place it could be opened from is, hold on a second, where is it, ah here it is.”

“That would be…where are we?”

“It would be the supervisors’ office of the bio-lab department.”

“So we would have to go through all those whatevers to get there?”

“Yeah, so I wouldn’t make that our first pick.”

“I’m gonna assume that you saved the actually plausible one for last, right?”

“You know me so well. But there is one other place that might work, but it’s about as impossible as the other two, so we’ll skip it. Now, this is gonna be a bit of trek so keep up with me on this.”

“Now the real problem is that the door isn’t powered, much like the first hidden door you had to open, the one that you had to cut the lines for. So, the first thing we’re gonna need to do is to reestablish the power to it, and before you ask, I think the offices can probably override the power to open it.”

“Anyway, to get the power we’re gonna have to get to the power source, which is located here. The best way to get there would be through here.”

“Isn’t that almost directly below where we came in?”

“Yeah, or at least it’s very close to it. But we need this elevator, here. Just past the receiving area, next to this giant room, that I’m guessing is the storage area. Anyway, we get through there and then into this access tunnel which should lead us right to it.”

“And if we can’t?”

“Can’t what?”

“Get the elevator to work, or the tunnels blocked? What then?”

“There is another route, but it really sucks. So, let’s hope we don’t need it. Anyway, we get the power turned on, then we need to reroute it, which shouldn’t be that hard, the controls are right here.”

“And what if it’s like that other control panel? The one in the entrance that didn’t even have power to it?”

“Then that would suck. But with the manual rerouting of the power, it should either reset those or we can bypass them. Anyway, the other thing we’re gonna need to do is get into this room” She pointed to a location snuggled between the two departments. One that at a glance seemed heavily fortified. “This would be the security station. And before you ask, no, we can’t go there first, even though it’s on the way. We need to get the power rerouted before the override in there will work.”

“After that we should be able to raise the blast door from the security station and then come back and proceed up. Any questions?”

“Yeah, what are these rooms, here?” She pointed to a few very large rooms in the bio-lab that had no identification on them.

“No idea.”

“Alright, well then, what about if what I think that voice over the intercom said is right about the maps maybe not being accurate anymore?’

“Well, then we’re gonna have to get creative to get around. But we’re still in a better position than we were before we got some kind of map, right?”

“Yeah, probably. OK last question, doesn’t this path,” She pointed to the route opposite the one they would have to take to get to the elevator “Isn’t this the way those guys came from? The ones in the black armor I mean.”

“Yeah, so there is a good chance we could run into some of their friends. So be on guard.”

“Always am.”

“Right. So, I think we’ve waited long enough to prevent any digestive issues, so you two ready? Good, let’s go.”

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Chapter 12

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus, Storage Area

They proceeded back out through the main doors into the Central Hub and cautiously made their way across the outer edge till they came to another set of massive doors. After double checking that everyone was ready, they moved through and found themselves in a surprisingly small, but wide room. On either side were closed security booths, that at one time must have controlled the flow of supplies. The rest of the room was empty and ended in another set of doors.

They did a quick check of the booths and found exactly what they expected, lists of numbers that must have represented items, and columns of department abbreviations and initials signifying whom had requested it.

“Jack’s Hyperion was nothing if not in love with its paperwork.” Gaige muttered scanning the list. “You got anything?”

“Only that D.H.P. Requested something like twenty 207S-1 a day.”

“Huh, wonder what that is.”

“No idea, but nothing else seems to be of note, so we should move on.”

“Right. Babe, lead the way.”

“Uru”

As they proceeded across the room, the door they were headed for suddenly gave a loud clang and started to slide open. With no were to hide, they dashed for the walls and braced for a fight.

Seconds later the first person moved through, though they weren’t what the girls were expecting. Rather than the black armor of the men they had seen earlier, these ones were wearing ash colored armor, broken up with fine lines of red and orange. They wore close fitting hoods painted like skulls and two of them were wearing helmets with a taller ridge running down the center. Most of them were carrying shields and all of them were well armed.

They spotted the girls almost immediately, but not quite quickly enough, as Artemis snapped a shot off into one of the helmeted one’s heads, destroying it and bouncing the shot into one of the troops, wounding him, leaving him to a grateful Gaige to finish off and take the Anarchy stack.

“Give me that sweet sweet stack.” She said as she continued firing, taking out another pair of them as Artemis finished off the other helmeted one before they troops could fully react.

The rest of them brought their shields together to form a solid wall with their guns firing between them. Without anywhere to run the girls had to dodge out of the way as the fire sprayed around them. Gaige hit the ground and fired low, most of the bullets tore into the legs and feet and a few bounced and hit them elsewhere, while Artemis paused and placed her shots in the narrow gaps between the shields, tearing into them with each shot, and Deathtrap flew as high as the ceiling would allow, launching scything across them with lasers of acid.

In next to no time the last of the troops collapsed into a pool of melted gore.

“Well that wasn’t good.” Artemis sighed while reloading.

“Why? We won, didn’t we?”

“Yeah, this time. But if we hadn’t gotten the drop on them this could have ended badly.”

“Really? I think we’re way better than that.”

“Maybe, especially you two, but that doesn’t change the fact that those shields are a pain, and it seemed that they were well used to using them together.”

“Yeah, I guess you don’t have a trick to deal with them, and for that matter, I am a bit low on Anarchy at the moment, so more of them could be a problem. I see what you mean.”

“Well we should probably be careful from here on out, who knows who may have heard that commotion.”

“You’re right. Let’s loot these guys and get outta here.”

They quickly checked the dead guys’ gear and effects.

“Here, take this.” Gaige handed over one of the helmeted guys assault rifles.

“Why, what’s wrong with the one I have? You said it was the second best one you had.”

“It is. This one will suit you better though. I mean, it’s also a Vladof, but if you open the bi-pod up it will give you significant increases in the accuracy and damage.”

“What’s the downside?”

“You move like high viscosity oil in winter.”

“Right, good to know.” She took the gun and looked it over.

“Just remember, this type of gun is completely different than how you’re used to fighting. It’s a crowd control tool. Just pop the bi-pod and spray them, don’t aim, don’t pick and choose your targets. It’s about putting out as many bullets as possible.”

“That sounds totally ridiculous.”

“Yeah well, when you find yourself facing insane odds, just remember what I said.”

“Right, sure, not like I haven’t used one before you know, anyways you find anything else?”

“Nah, couple of bullets to top off, but the rest of their stuff was, well not junk, but not worth taking with.”

“I donno, maybe we could take a couple of the shields and give them to Deathtrap.”

“Uraru”

“I was joking, besides you’re still making use of the last modification that I recommended, aren’t you?”

“Urr”

“Right.” She turned back to Gaige and continued in a more serious tone “So, do you recognize them?”

“No. Outfits don’t ring any bells. You?”

“Nope.”

“You think they’re related to those guys in the central area?”

“Outfits are different.”

“Really? No way it could have just been the lights? Or that they’re part of a different unit?”

“No, the cut of the armor is different, not to mention the colors. Plus, these guys don’t have that silver symbol on their chest, or anywhere else for that matter.”

“Yeah, and they’re tactics were significantly different. I mean the way these guys used their shields implies a lot of practice, and those other guys didn’t even have one. But if they’re not part of the same group, then what are they both doing here?”

“Hell, what are either of them doing here in the first place?”

“Just a guess, maybe they stumbled on the place, or someone who knew about this place put together a team to get something out. Oh, maybe they tried to put a team together and the first group rejected them and then set out to take whatever they were after and then the second team also arrived and they’re competing to find it.”

“Or maybe they’re different divisions of the same thing.”

“You mean like how the corporations have different units? Nah, these guys are too different from each other.”

“A minute ago you couldn’t even tell that they weren’t wearing the same uniforms.”

“Yeah but…fine you’re right. But they seem quite a bit different from each other to be on the same side. And if they aren’t part of a corporation, and I’ve never heard of them if they are, then who the heck are they?”

“Beats me. But I doubt we’ll find out sitting here talking to these corpses.”

“True. Let’s get out of here. Babe? Is the way clear?”

“Urruar”

“Right, prepare for trouble then.”

They proceeded through the door and found themselves in a massive warehouse. Shelving stretched up and over what would normally be two stories. Many of the shelves were bare, but a number of them still had pallets of stuff still on them. They could make out Hyperion storage boxes, barrels and crates of various sizes. And in the distance they could make out more shield baring soldiers.

Moving silently Artemis scouted ahead and observed them. She could make out at least two dozen of them, traveling in small groups. Taking one out wouldn’t be that hard, the problem would be that there was no way to do so without alerting the rest of them. And even if they each hit a group simultaneously, they had no way of taking out enough in each group to finish before reinforcements arrived, and even if they did, they would still have to face at least three groups of troops, provided they didn’t form one large unit and turtle up, which she suspected they would.

She was about to head back when a cry went up. She was positive that she hadn’t been spotted, but still dove down behind cover, when the nearest group ran past her. It seemed that they had spotted something near the other end of the room. She sighed and rolled her eyes, undoubtedly it was Gaige and Deathtrap, so she waited until the last group had passed her and stealthily followed.

She heard gunfire erupting accompanied by the familiar sounds of a certain girl beginning to get intoxicated on Anarchy and muttered to herself “Sometimes I hate being right.” While switching weapons, feeling that this would be a good time to get a feel for her newest gun.

She popped the bi-pod and moved glacially around the corner, spotting the backs of the rows of goons, whom had their shields together in an arc, two high and were firing between them. Artemis didn’t know whether to be impressed with the coordination of the troops, or be disappointed by the sloppiness of leaving their backs exposed, not that she wasn’t grateful.

She sighed, lined up her shot and remembered Gaige’s advice. Resolving herself she held on and pulled the trigger. The bullets tore into the center of the group, and with judicious application of willpower, she held the trigger down and swept the gun to the right, laying waste to the troops as she turned their tight knit formation against them.

By the time the clip went dry she had killed more than half of them, and threw the other half into disarray. Gaige charged forward into the breach in the wall and started a point-blank dance of death, unloading clip after clip into them until they were all dead.

She stood taking deep gulps of air in before letting it all out in one big sigh and turned to the other girl. “I don’t know whether to gripe about you taking your time, or compliment you on your sneak attack, so I think I’m gonna try both. Good job killing them slowly. No, wait, you can do better than that Gaige. How about”

“Urrar”

“Fine. Thanks. I was just messin with you about the being late thing anyway. But I see you were using your new gun, so tell me, what do you think?”

“It’s not really me. I mean it’s useful, don’t get me wrong. Totally took them out in no time, but you weren’t kidding about the speed thing. Woof. Overall, I’ll keep it on hand, but I prefer the one shot one kill method for me.”

“Fair enough. It’s always fun to try out a new fighting style though. And I have to give it to you, you did try it. Now let’s loot and scoot.”

Artemis stopped and slowly turned to her without saying anything and just stared.

“What? OK, OK, it was something stupid I heard once, just thought it would be a fun diversion, no need to get bent about it.”

“Didn’t say anything.”

“Didn’t have to. Anyway, on to the looting.”

They dove in and topped off their ammo, and after a quick look at the gear on the dead guys, decided that they already had better stuff and moved on.

They proceeded to search the area as they moved through the room, until they neared the end of the room and Gaige stopped and paused while looking back.

“What is it?”

“Just wondering, did you see, what was it 207S-uh one I think it was?”

“No, why?”

“Well, considering how much you said was being used a day, where was it being stored?”

“Huh, no idea? Why?”

“Just wondering. Kinda wanted to know what it was, you know, curiosity.”

“Fair enough. What is it? One more room and then we’re at the elevator room, right?”

“Yep, ready to go?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“Do you think there’s any chance that whoever is in there didn’t hear that gunfire?”

“No. No I do not, so any ideas?”

Artemis looked at the open door and squinted slightly. “Well, they have to be aware that we must know that they’ve heard, so they should be expecting us to be aware of the ambush they’ve set up.”

“So wait, they know that we know that they’re aware that we know that, wait, I think I lost myself in there.”

“All that matters is that they are waiting in ambush and are aware that we should be expecting it. And that we can use that against them.”

“And how are we gonna do that?”

“One second, buddy? I need you to go back and grab, let’s see, the largest one of the corpses back there and, let’s go with two of the shields, I know you don’t like them, but I’ve got an idea.”

“Wait I thought you weren’t a planner?”

“I’m not, but any hunter should be able to deal with prey that tries to ambush them. Now help me get the rest of this ready.”

A Short While Later

Deathtrap had returned with what he had been asked for and after the girls had prepped as best they could, they were ready to move forward.

The body floated inches above the ground, suspended by a cable running through his armpits and being held by Deathtrap, who floated as close to the ceiling as he could, holding the shields to guard against any enemy fire that would be directed his way.

Artemis watched all this from the closest piece of cover she could find, her rifle out, and she waited for the prey to take the bait.

And then they did, a small number of them opened fire on the corpse. They had undoubtedly been waiting for something, and without knowing that Deathtrap was part of the group, would probably assume that one of the group had disguised themselves in their armor, or that someone was walking it forward in front of themselves, but since they could only see one set of legs they figured it must be the other. Still they were semi-professional, and only a single unit of them opened fire.

The bullets tore into the dead guy causing his body to dance and wiggle, so Deathtrap lowered him slightly so that his feet drug on the ground, minimizing the motion.

The shots stopped and the dead guys gun swung up and fired at them, hitting the first one before he had a chance to fully retreat into cover. The rest of them were so surprised that they all opened fire. The bullets tore the body, quickly shredding it, so Deathtrap dropped more slack into the line, causing the body to fall onto its side.

The group stopped shooting and waited.

Artemis exhaled and waited for her moment, and the instant that the first of the ambushers moved as if to step out, she shot him.

The rest fell back opening fire, trying to find the shooter. It was also Deathtrap’s cue. He let go of the second shield and let the cable connected to it slide, lowering it to hit the ground just in front of the body.

Gaige popped up from her position of hanging onto the back of the corpses, and grabbed the shield, keeping it upright as Deathtrap let the cable fall, and they both started shooting.

She felt the return fire slamming into the shield she had braced against her shoulder, and took aim and fired herself. Periodically she saw one of the shooters heads vanish and often a second one die at as Artemis bounced her shot into them.

Deathtrap felt the shots hitting the shield he was carrying too, and was glad he had been convinced to take it as he fired a caustic beam into the troops, watching the ashen armor melt.

Gaige spun around the shield and ran into the room firing wildly as she moved before leaping the crates they were using for cover and rained death upon them with a familiar shout of “Anarchy forever!”

Meanwhile Deathtrap flew into the room and swung around the other way driving them into a pincer, with any that tried to flee getting picked off by the unseen sniper.

Very quickly the ambush party was dead.

Gaige did a once over to make sure that they were all dead and gave a thumbs up to Artemis, who dropped out of the second level of the shelving where she had been hidden, and moved forward while reloading.

The room where the ambushers had been seemed to be a waiting area for the supplies, probably where new stuff would get sorted and organized before sending it to its proper spot in the next room.

Artemis paused as she got up to her side of the cover that the ambush had been behind and listened for a few seconds “We should be good for the moment.” She declared while picking up her discarded cable.

“Good, grab some ammo and check their gear.”

Again, they didn’t find much, though Gaige was tempted on one of the shotguns.

“Just take the damn thing, you can always drop it later.”

“Fine. Here’s some rounds for you, and a bunch for me. Let’s get out of here, elevator should be just through those doors.”

Deathtrap followed along, shouldering the shield for the time being, as they headed forward and moved past the door and into the room where the elevator would descend. It was a wide-open area, with a large notch cut out of the far end where the freight elevator they had seen earlier would fit. On either side of the room were elevators that could be called small only in comparison to the main one, each was large enough that they could easily fit a cargo container and still have room for ten people around it. Other than that, there was a small office off to one side, three doors of varying sizes set around the perimeter and a few crates and barrels strewn about.

It was to one of the elevators that they headed.

Gaige crouched by the control panel, and after peaking under it sighed and stood back up.

“Bad news. The elevator is out, and I don’t think I can fix this.”

“Worse news.”

Gaige turned to ask what when she saw it, a large man in similar, but significantly better armor than the group they had just been fighting, was walking towards them, a large rifle over his shoulder. Everything from his tarnished bronze armor to the helmet topped with a crest that he wore screamed that they had found the boss.

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Chapter 13

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Storage Area

“Well you got that right.” The man said with a smugness that even the slight echoing from his helmet couldn’t hide. “I am the worst.”

“Ugh” The girls groaned. “Another graduate from cheap villain school.”

“So, you two must be either pretty good, or pretty lucky to have made it past my Spartoi. Those would be my troops by the way, don’t expect someone of your obviously lacking…” They could feel him look them up and down before finishing “intelligence to know that.”

“Ugh I wanna kill this guy so bad.” Gaige muttered to Artemis.

“Good, you take him, I’ll handle the invisible one.”

For a second Gaige thought the other girl was joking, but a sidelong glance at her expression told her she was being deadly serious.

“It’s usually some kind of shield, so use electric if you got it.” She whispered while thinking ‘Ah that must be this guy’s secret when he fights, and she already figured it out? Damn. But how did she know? Probably just tell me something like she’s a hunter or some such. Oops, that guy’s still rambling, maybe I should pay attention, see if he slips up and tells me something useful.’

“Your streak of luck has ended when you found yourselves faced with the avatar of death incarnate.”

‘Nope, still blathering on. Jeez where do they teach this crap? Should I just shoot him and get it started? I hope Artemis is listening so I can ask her later what this putz is babbling about, cause I can see Deathtrap’s starting to glaze over and is trying not to tune him out.’

“Excuse me?” Artemis apparently had listened to enough while switching to a SMG and butted in “Is this gonna take long? Or is this one of those things where you drone on and on until we either kill ourselves or fall asleep?”

“Impudent wretch, I should”

“Uh, I’m not a guy. So how can I be impudent?”

Gaige stifled a laugh and leaned over “That’s impotent, impudent means cheeky or insolent.”

“Oh right, sorry. That makes way more sense. My bad.”

“ENOUGH! You want to die that bad? Then I will send you to the underworld myself.”

“Jeez, why do they always have to be so over dramatic? ‘Send you to the underworld’? What’s wrong with just telling us that they’re gonna try and kill us?”

“I am going to kill you.”

“Nah, you’re gonna try, like everyone else before you. And like them, you’re gonna fail. But that’s not the point, why do you feel the need to expound upon the situation with an excess of verbiage?”

“Huh?”

“I think he missed the irony you were goin for.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Enough. Die. Just die already.”

He brought his gun to bear as the three of them split, sending fire laced shots into the space they had just occupied. Gaige opened fire on the guy in front of her with Deathtrap backing her up with an electric beam as soon as he saw her shots hit a shield, and Artemis spun and unloaded into an empty looking patch of the room, electing shouts of surprise from the seemingly thin air she targeted.

Both of the enemies were shocked, not only had their tried and proven strategy failed, but one of these targets seemed to be able to see them. The invisible one sprinted off, trying to throw off the purple haired girls’ shots, but she just kept tracking him, emptying her clip into his dodging form and tearing a good chunk out of his shield. But even more unsettling for him was that her eyes, while they followed his movements, didn’t seem to be looking at him, just boredly staring in his general direction, yet she turned and hit him with virtually every shot no matter how he moved.

She slapped another clip in and continued to run as she resumed firing. Meanwhile other girl and the robot were keeping his brother occupied, and between the three of them they had broken the pincer move they had tried to start with and were now driving them further apart.

He brought his gun up, but the girl he was fighting spun back and his shots went wide, while hers sliced into his shields, dropping them dangerously low when she started talking to him in a rather nonchalant manner.

“So, let me guess, your usual fighting style would be that your partner there distracts and then you circle around and surprise them. If they’re still up and fight back either he ducks behind something and you pop out wearing the same armor as him, confusing them, and making them think you can teleport or something, or if he’s in trouble you both duck around something together and switch places, right? So, here’s my question, why not both go invisible? Is it like your invisibility things are connected, or is there only one and you hand it off? Or am I completely wrong and it’s something else, like you’re absolutely hideous and use this to hide your face?”

He nearly froze, she had just laid out their entire fighting style. He couldn’t believe it. How had she known? And she could see him despite being invisible. Had she somehow seen them fight before? He doubted it, they tended to not leave witnesses that could tell how they fought. So what was it?

He threw a glance at his partner to see if help would be on its way, only to find him in worse shape, if that was possible. The robot was using one of their troops shields against him and driving him back with a combination of Digi-claw strikes and well-placed lasers, while the girl danced around him firing wildly and looking more than a little crazy.

He turned his attention back to the fight at hand and managed to throw himself behind cover just as the electricity finished frying his shield, popping him back into the visible spectrum.

“There you are.” The girl said like she was talking to a misbehaving kid while spinning the rifle off her back. “Time to say goodbye.”

Enough was enough he decided, this wasn’t the first time he’d been pushed back, and he was determined that it wouldn’t be the last, so he dove behind the nearest piece of cover and leaned out while unloading his gun.

Artemis was forced to dive for one of the scant bits of cover as the newly visible man sprayed the area with abandon.

“Hey Hades” the other one yelled to him “We’re still badasses right? So let’s stop letting these bitches push us around.”

“Damn right brother.” Came the reply.

“Hey” Artemis yelled slamming a round into her opponents’ head “She’s the only one that gets to call me a bitch.”

The shot hit him hard enough to force him to pull back with a bit of a pathetically whined “I didn’t call you that.”

Gaige laughed at the exchange going on in the other fight, before turning back to her own enemy, as he was currently struggling against Deathtrap who backhanded him with the shield, knocking him back and forcing him to roll behind cover while she finished her reload.

She snickered at the futility of it and bounced her Anarchy laced shots into him even as he continued to try and dodge. When he ran out from his cover she switched to shooting him directly, even though she only hit him slightly more often.

The fight was progressing well for the girls, but just as the two men’s armor was getting punched through, the room exploded. The girls were forced to dive behind cover as they tried to figure out what was happening, and their opponents took full advantage of it to rush towards each other.

By the time the girls had realized what was going on, the troops that had burst in quickly surrounded the men and had formed a large dome out of their shields, with their guns poking out like quills.

The shell started turning and a moment later, the guns opened fire, throwing bullets haphazardly around the room.

The girls hugged their cover as bullets randomly hit into it, and Deathtrap had managed to get most of himself behind a solid pair of boxes near Gaige and was covering the rest of himself with the shield. Gaige was seriously unhappy with this turn of events and the instant the bullets stopped hitting her cover she popped up and snapped off a few return shots before ducking back down, though her shots just bounced off of the shield wall.

Artemis watched, peaking around her cover and bounced her head as if timing something, then once she had gotten it down, stood up and ran. The bullets flew around her but she moved without being hit, having found a blind spot in the bullets, and quickly slid in next to Gaige.

“Well this sucks.” Gaige remarked bitterly.

“Yeah, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

“So you got an idea? Cause corrosive would take forever to get through there.”

“Yep. I think I can get some shots in between the guns and the shields, when I do, I’m gonna need you two to pry that opening open.”

“Right. Give me your grenade mod.”

“Wha…but”

“I’m gonna give it back, it just seems like it might be the time to use it.”

“Fine, here. Ready?”

Without waiting for a reply, she jumped back up and started moving while firing shots into the enemy shell.

Gaige watched the other girl move and occasionally duck as a line of fire went over her and caught Deathtrap’s eye as he stared at her “What? I could do that too if I wanted.”

“Urur”

“Sure I could. I just don’t want to. Oops, get ready, she’s coming around.”

Artemis was moving even more erratically, it seemed that the troops didn’t care for someone sniping them, and had adjusted their aim. Gaige could tell that even though she was dodging most of them, her shield was starting to get worn down. And just when she was wondering how much longer the shield would hold, Artemis managed to land a head shot and drop two of the troops. While they were scrambling to plug the hole in their defenses, Gaige stood up, ignoring the hail of bullets coming her way, and lobbed a grenade into the breach.

There was a moment of scrambling and then the fire started jetting through the gaps as the grenade went off inside the dome. Almost instantaneously the organization failed, and troops scattered, trying to put themselves out.

But they had bought enough time, the two identical leaders looked at each other and nodded, before simultaneously turning invisible. Gaige swore under her breath, but Artemis just yelled to her “Fire in that direction, you should still hit him, buddy, when she hits, toast him.” And then turned and tracked something “And you. You’re still mine.” And with that she switched back to her electric SMG and opened fire.

Things were supposed to be going better for them, they had recharged their shields, been able to activate their invisibility, not to mention the fact that their troops vastly outnumbered their opponents. So why was this going wrong? First off, the one girl was still tracking him like she could see him, to the point that she had even singled him out. And it didn’t look like his brother was doing any better, his opponent seemed to be firing wildly in his direction, but even with the fact that some of the shots should hit due to probability, he was watching some of the misses bounce and hit him in the back, and when that happened the robot would launch an attack on that space. Unless things changed, and quick this would be the end of them. So, he did the only thing he could think of, he ordered all of his men to attack.

They moved with clear intent, the first one ran forward and attempted to grapple Artemis. She managed to duck his arms and stabbed her blade into his side, through the armpit. Another one followed close enough behind him that he actually overshot her while she was spinning around the first. As he attempted to correct himself, she struggled to switch weapons, and elected to stab him in the throat as he stepped around the first. Holding him in place she tossed her SMG against his chest and drew her pistol, rotating around the gurgling trooper and firing into the rest of them, bouncing shots as they opened fire upon her with clear disregard for the safety of their comrade.

The boss used this brief pause to line up and unload at her. She took the first couple shots in the shield before she managed to get the corpse she was holding up in the way. Swearing she holstered her empty pistol and took her SMG back from the dead guy as he started to smolder and let him drop.

She vaulted a knocked over crate and opened up on the hidden boss, while dodging around the troops that came after her, only to have one of them explode as Deathtrap entered the fray, Digi-claws first.

As he shield slammed the next one he growled at her that she should have called for help to which she replied “And let you have all the fun? Perish the thought.”

Still she shot him an appreciative smile and spared a glance for Gaige, who it turned out wasn’t being harassed by the remaining troops and had in fact already broke her targets shield.

With Deathtrap there handling the goons, she was able to focus on her target fully, dodging his shots and returning fire till his shield broke again and he once more emerged to sight. In response she switched back to her sniper rifle and resumed firing, each shot taking a chunk from her target’s health.

He dove for one of the shields that one of the dead troops had dropped while she stopped to reload, only to have it sent spinning away as Deathtrap threw his own shield into it, leaving him laying exposed as she snapped the cylinder back in place. He rolled over just in time to take the bullet between the eyes and die, at the same time Gaige finished her own enemy off.

A few more rounds was all it took to finish off the leftover troops and the room once more fell silent.

Artemis made her way over to the others and slapped Deathtrap’s offered hand with a “Thanks for the assist.” before turning to the dead boss and staring.

“So who were these guys anyway?”

“Weren’t you listening? He introduced himself as Hades, but then he called this guy the same thing, so I don’t know if that’s like a title or a collective name or what?”

“Hades?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I recognize that name, when we were looking up bounties, it’s the name of one of the leaders of a gang calling themselves ‘Lords of the Underworld’ or ‘Lords of Death’ or something like that.”

“Huh, they worth anything?”

“Well let’s put it like this, the good news is that if we got them all, it would just about clear my debt.”

“And the bad news?”

“They’re worth that much money for a reason.”

“So, why didn’t you mention them when we were talking about it?”

“Because unlike say, Gehenna, they don’t have a home base, so it would be a crapshoot to run into them.”

“So, do you think that there the only members on board this place?”

“Well considering that we’ve already seen another style of armor, probably not.”

“Well that could be good or bad. So, who are these guys?”

“Best that I could tell, seems like they were six different gangs that were brought together by a seventh member, who seems to be the one leading them now.”

“So where do these two rate, in the bounty hierarchy, I mean?”

“Uh, what was it?”

“Urgr”

“That’s right, nearer the bottom, fifth I think.”

“Really? They were that good?”

“No. But I think they would have been a lot deadlier if you hadn’t spotted the trick. How did you know that one of them was invisible anyway? And don’t tell me that it was cause you are a hunter or any of that.”
“Well, they made the same mistake that a lot of people make when they think you can’t see them and forget that invisibility doesn’t cover sound. I could hear him, his boots on the floor, the clicking of his gun tapping his breastplate, even the rustling of his clothes.”

“Damn your hearing. Bet you were really freakin him out.”

“Probably, who else was part of this group anyway?”

“I don’t really remember that much, since it didn’t look like we could find them I didn’t waste time on them, so let,s see. What the?”

“What is it?”

“Can’t connect to the ECHO-net.”

“Probably some kind of security thing to prevent leaking secrets.”

“Probably, but that sucks. No way to contact anyone on the outside if things get bad, in fact it might even interfere with normal communications if we get to far apart.”

“Well that’s not good. Anyway, no worrying about what we can’t affect, so let’s see what they had and get going.”

They quickly went through the loot from the fight, both of them were particularly interested in the invisibility device that had been used, so it was with no small disappointment that they sat back and Gaige declared “Damn, this ones busted.”

“Same here.”

“Must have blown something when we overloaded them with the electric attacks.”

“Can you fix them?”

“Maybe, but not here, I’d need a full suite of tools to even try and figure out what went wrong and if they’re even fixable.”

“Pity, I wanted to give one to Deathtrap.”

“Now that’s an idea, what do ya say babe?”

“Ur rurg”

“Yeah, well I can just shove them in my bag and we can try and figure it out later. Anything else of note?”

“Yeah, these assault rifles are really good, maybe not better for you than the one you picked up a little bit ago, but totally worth taking.”

“You realize that pretty soon I’m gonna need to start tossing things if I want to carry any more stuff?”

“Then toss the assault rifle that you brought in the first place.”

“But that was one of yours.”

“Yeah, but this one is much better. Look, I know you get attached to your guns, but, and I hate saying this, the one I gave you wasn’t really all that good, so pitch it and don’t feel bad.”

“I still don’t know.”

“Fine, it’s my gun right? Give it back.”

“Wha”

“Give it.”

As soon as she reluctantly handed it over Gaige turned and chucked it off the edge of the area and into the large elevator pit. Artemis took a step after it and stopped at the edge looking down before letting out a soft snort of laughter.

“Well that didn’t work as well as you wanted.”

Gaige took a step over to see what she was talking about and found that the pit terminated only a few feet down, apparently just enough for the elevator to fit into. She sighed and turned away, shoving the new rifle into the other girl’s hands and leading the way to one side, pulling out her ECHO as she went.

“Let’s see, the primary route is blocked, stupid elevator, which means that we’re gonna have to do this the hard way. And by we, I mean you.”

“Why’s that?”

“You’ll see, follow along.”

She walked over to one of the corners and double checked her ECHO before nodding and hanging it back on her belt. Crouching down she got to work on the panel of grating in front of her and moments later started heaving it up, only to have Deathtrap push her gently aside and casually toss it up.

“Show off.” she muttered before looking into the new hole and nodding.

Artemis stepped over and looked as well and saw a large pipe running alongside a number of smaller ones. The large pipe had a green ring around it and a hatch, probably for maintenance. A bad feeling was starting to crawl up her spine as she looked at it.

“So” Gaige continued pulling her ECHO back out and bringing up the map, while indicating that Artemis should do the same “We are here, and we need to get here. Now the best way would be to go this way, but since that’s blocked, the only remaining route is through this pipe.”

There it was, confirmation of the bad feeling.

Gaige continued on as if she hadn’t noticed the groan coming from the other girl “Now once you get through this pipe, you should find yourself in a treatment plant, here, you go through this room and then follow this duct to here, which should let you out into the power core, so you just drop down and you’re there. Afterwards, you need to make your way through this door, or barring that, this vent and get into this room to redirect the power, then make your way up this elevator shaft, which should have power at that point, or if something’s wrong with it, you can take the stairs. Any questions?”

“Plenty. First why me?”

“Cause you’re smaller and can fit through some of those vents if things go wrong.”

“Second, why can’t we just go through the vents?”

“Well, if you look at it, they don’t connect, that section is on a closed system and we can’t get there from here.”

“Fine, third, what are you gonna be doing while I do all the work?”

“We’re gonna try and get to here, so that once the power is back on, we can open the doors, and try and make your route back easier.”

“Forth, what’s this?” She pointed to a large room underneath the entire section she would be working in.

“I think that’s the trash, don’t go in there unless you have to. You might not be able to get back out, and even if you do, who knows what they’ve thrown in there.”

“Fifth, Deathtrap’s gonna have to carry my bag while I’m in there, since there’s no way it will fit with me, is that alright?”

“Urgru”

“Good, and last, why are you avoiding telling me what this pipe is?”

“Uh, avoiding? I wouldn’t call it that. I mean”

“What. Is. It?”

“Sewage pipe.”

“Sewage? Are you kidding me!”

“What? It’s the only way.”

Artemis gave her a hard stare that caused Gaige to squirm uncomfortably until they were interrupted by a “Urrur”

“Fine.” Artemis snapped and got to work taking a few things out of her bag and stuffing them into a smaller backpack. Food, water, ammo, and some tools went in along with a weapon or two, followed by her taking off some of the things she was carrying and either stuffing them into the bag or strapping them to the outside and in a short bit she was ready, strapping a mask over her face and double checking her goggles she handed her large bag over and motioned for them to open the hatch.

The instant they did Gaige was hit by the smell, though it wasn’t as bad as she had thought it would be. She stepped back as the other girl swung her feet in while pulling her hood up and dropped into the pipe, only to pause and look back.

“Yeah, seeing it up close there is no way you would have been able to fit in here with that big bot of yours.”

“Stop talking about the size of my butt!”

“Urrgr”

“Big…damn it.”

With a snicker Artemis ducked into the pipe only for her head to reemerge a second latter.

“Oh, and if I get one comment on how I smell, I mean anything, until I’ve had a chance to shower, and I mean a real shower, you’re sleeping in the hold from now on.”

“But, I thought that guests got the bedroom?”

“You stopped being a guest when you joined the crew.” And with that she disappeared back into the darkness of the pipe.

“Erk. Babe, make sure I don’t say anything. Seriously, nothing. What, you don’t know how comfy that bed is.”

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Chapter 14

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Sewage system

Artemis

“Of course, I get the sewer level.” Artemis muttered to herself, trying to distract herself from the situation at hand as she drug herself forward through the sludge and slime that coated the inside of the pipe. She had no idea what it was or how it had gotten to this part of the system, nor did she want to. She was just grateful that she had though to pack the mask and goggles, another thing that Gaige had mocked her about, but Gaige hadn’t been in the caves on Tartaris, where the sulfur fumes were so bad that it threatened to choke you, turning you light headed in minutes and anything longer easily proved fatal. And now it was allowing her to breath in here.

She was still seriously unhappy with the other girl, even though she knew that it wasn’t her fault, and she did remember that she had thought this was such a bad idea that she hadn’t mentioned it at first, but still, she wasn’t the one crawling through the pipe.

She tried not to think about how the stuff around her was working its way into her cybernetics, how it would gunk up the systems and joints, about how she was going to have to take them all apart and clean every millimeter of them. In fact, she was trying not to think at all, but in the darkness, her thoughts couldn’t help but sink like the muck around her.

‘Well I should be the one down here, I’m disgusting already, so that’s probably why she sent me down this way. Down here with the muck and filth where I belong. Maybe I should just stop and sink in, vanish into the filth, maybe everyone would be better off if I did. No, she’s waiting for me to do this, can’t make her any more disappointed in me than she already is.’ She shook her head to try and clear the darkness building ‘Keep it together.’ She repeated to herself and kept dragging herself forward.

She passed side tunnels as she went, shining her light down them, half expecting to see something horrid moving in them, partially thinking that she might be the horrid thing moving in the tunnels herself. But they were all devoid of life.

Periodically she checked her ECHO to see her progress, and ensure that she was still on the right course, not that there were many branching paths. In fact, it was more to try and make sure she was still alive than anything else. The darkness played funny tricks on the mind.

She had never been one to do much hunting in caves, especially not narrow ones like this, she had preferred to be outside, even though it meant that things could come at you from any direction, there was something about feeling the wind against your skin and tousling your hair that made you feel free, free in a way that she had never felt with other people, at least not until recently.

The truth was, she wasn’t very good with people. She knew she had said it before, but it was the truth. Even before her accident, she hadn’t had any friends, and afterwards, with her scared and lopsided appearance, she was actively shunned. So she had kept it up, and had learned that the weirder she made herself look, the less most people wanted to do with her. In fact, she had only been hit on twice in all of her schooling, and she strongly suspected that they had either lost a bet or were looking for an easy notch in the belt. She had gotten suspended for testing out her newest cybernetic on one of them, but apparently he had gotten his teeth replaced and was living a normal life, not that she had ever checked up on him, it was just what she had been told when she was let back into school.

Still, she had preferred to be treated properly, after all a monster should be feared. And everyone had treated her like one, except for Gaige and Deathtrap, who had seen enough real monsters that they didn’t look at her like she was one.

She wondered, what if she told them everything? All the things she thought she needed to keep hidden about herself, the things about herself that she hated the most. Would they leave her in disgust? Would they want to travel with her anymore? Would they really except her for what she was? Would they still look her in the eye?

No, better to keep things quiet, to keep things like they were. Nothing changes, everything stays the same. And then she could get Gaige home to her family, and that would be that. She could do that, and the other girl would be happy.

She wished she was as competent as Gaige, she seemed to know what she was doing at all times. Able to handle anything that was thrown at her, from locked doors to reading plans, making decisions to making robots, and she seemed to know where she was going, unlike Jinx. She on the other hand had nothing to offer anyone, just a failure of a hunter, one who got scared by a bad situation and ended up quitting. She was nothing, in fact all she could offer the other girl was a ride, take her ship away from her and she was nothing.

She was so lost to the spiraling darkness in her heart that she nearly missed the pipe suddenly angling down, barely managing to catch herself in time. It wasn’t like the pipe hadn’t been angled slightly this entire time, but the sudden increase in angle was a bit alarming. It also meant she was getting closer to her goal.

There was going to be no easy way to do this, or rather no way but the easy way, she was going to have to slide down. And she knew what would be waiting at the bottom, a large pile of filth. So the hard part, the nearly impossible part, would be to try and slow her decent and not plow into it. Or barring that, to somehow displace the pile so that she didn’t end up face first into it. With no room to turn around, despite her size, she was going down head first.

She swore softly and prepped herself as best she could, and then after checking to make sure that everything, especially the ECHO that she had been checking, was securely attached to her, shimmied her way forward till she felt gravity take over.

As she started to slide, she shoved her right hand into the wall, grateful that she had slipped on a glove before entering, and forced her left shoulder into the other side, trying to slow herself down. Only to have the amount of gunk that had built up on them act as a lubricant and destroy all the friction she was attempting to use. She started picking up speed and in return shoved harder, feeling the seams and ridges on the inside of the pipe through her glove as they ran past. She grit her teeth and started to feel the heat rise in her hand, indicating that it was working, and she found herself slowing, but not fast enough. She saw the end of the tube coming up and at the last moment shoved her left hand forward, breaking the buildup there and sliding past it.

She felt the sludge slide over her front and a wave of disgust washed over her. She knew if it wasn’t for her goggles, her eyes would be burning from the stench. Coughing behind her mask, she fervently hoped that she hadn’t cut herself on the slide, or had any open wounds that she didn’t know about, cause she hadn’t brought much in the way of antibiotics, which in retrospect was probably pretty stupid considering where she was crawling through.

She sighed and shook her head to get her wits back about her, and resumed crawling forward. She kept her ears open as best she could, trying to pick up the sounds of anything moving in the tube, but so far had only heard the dull echoing of her own movements.

The dark thoughts spiraled against her mind as she continued to move, till she almost wished something would move in the tunnel. Then her mind would seize on that, and she would start imagining what it might be, some creature that hadn’t seen light in years, something like a the subterranean worms of Murglip, all pale, with dead eyes and ringed rows of teeth.

The thought would continue to pound against her until she was sure that something was crawling up behind her and the only way out was to distract herself with other thoughts, which always led back to her own inadequacies and the spiral would make another lap.

Her mind kept running in circles until once again the bottom fell out from beneath her, only this time she was too far forward to catch herself, and she went sliding down.

The speed was too much for her to slow down so she wound up crossing her arms in front of her and plowed into the pile of filth at the bottom, bruising herself against the sudden leveling out of the pipe.

“Ow” she involuntarily let out with more whine then she would like to admit “This sucks.”

She continued pulling herself along and after a little more time found that the pipe was getting larger, undoubtedly due to the fact that more and more of the tributary pipes were feeding in and soon found that she could lift herself to her hands and knees.

It wasn’t long after that that she came to the end of the tunnel.

She crouched at the edge and looked over. The pipe ended into a giant cistern, which was partially filled with something that she didn’t want to identify. She looked around the sides, mostly to avoid looking down, and found a dozen other pipes that would normally be emptying into it, and spotted a ladder going up the side. Unfortunately, it was two pipes over from where she currently was.

She could shimmy back and try and find a hatch she could open, climb her way over or try and climb up, probably using the cable she had brought with.

Out of those, the first one was something she really didn’t want to do. The idea of moving backwards through this sludge was revolting, it would shove the slime up and under everything. Plus, she didn’t recall seeing any hatches on her way, so that was an absolute last resort.

The second was alright, but it would require jumping between the pipes, and considering the buildup on her hands, the chance of her either missing or slipping when she tried to catch the edge and winding up falling into that pit of vileness below her was pretty high. It was an option, but not necessarily the best.

And the third had its own issues. Not only would she need to find a way to hook the cable, and even if she could hook it, and securely at that before she would even attempt to climb, and then there was trying to climb it, it ran into the same problem as the second option, the muck on her hands would make climbing extremely hard at best.

So she decided on option 2.5, she pulled out her cable and one of the tools she had brought with and tied them together before leaning out and spinning it. It took her a few tries to finally snag the ladder rung that she wanted and get the cable wrapped around itself properly.

That taken care of, she pulled it taut and started winding it around her left arm. This was going to hurt no matter what, she knew that clearly from the start, but if she could avoid going into the muck, that would be considered to be worth the pain. She hoped.

Sighing once again, she slipped over the edge before she could really think any more about what she was doing and fell, feeling the cable pull her towards the wall with no small amount of speed, she stuck her feet out and felt them hit the wall, only to slide away as the muck slid under her, slamming her into the wall and bruising her ribs on the rungs of the ladder. At least she hoped they were only bruised, but she didn’t have time to think about that, she was about to bounce away from the wall and quickly scrambled to get her hands onto the rungs.

She just managed to wrap her arm around the rung with her right arm before she slid to far, though she was going to be sore, she had stopped. She swung back against the wall with another painful thump and this time managed to slide her feet against one of the rungs, though even with her boots, she kept slipping and sliding until she jammed her toes through the rung.

Wincing she started to climb, one limb at a time, making sure to brace herself with each move. Doing it slowly would be a much better thing than doing it twice. With each step upwards she wound the cable around her arm, until she had made her way to where she had hooked the ladder.

She paused, re-braced herself, and very carefully managed to extract the cable and tool from the rung, being cautious to not drop anything. It wasn’t that the tool itself was irreplaceable, that was why she had chose this one out of the ones she had brought after all, but she still didn’t want to lose it needlessly.

Once it was safely secured, she resumed her painful, slow accent, and before long found that the rungs themselves were getting less and less gunked up, but she had to remind herself not to speed up. Just because they were getting better didn’t mean that she wouldn’t slip if she moved to fast. In fact, without her tether to the ladder, slipping now would be much worse. Nope slow and steady, hand, hand, foot, foot, one rung at a time.

And then she found herself at the top.

She pulled herself onto the grating that surrounded the pit, and after a glance around to make sure that she was alone, flopped out in a most undignified fashion.

Artemis lay there for more than a few minutes, feeling the bruises and the tiredness that had sunk into her bones and decided, if she ever got out of here, she was going to invest in one of those electric whips she had heard about.

Eventually she couldn’t put it off any longer and sat up with a moan, feeling the glop that was covering her stick to the grating as she did. She looked around the room in earnest, there were a number of control consuls covered in dials and switches, pipes led here and there, some coming in, some going out, some just seeming to move around the room without much purpose. There were two more large cisterns that she could see, and a number of tanks along one side. All of it was on at least two floors, with metal catwalking ranging out on her level.

And then she spotted the best thing in the room. Tucked away on one side, most of the way down. An emergency chemical shower.

She made her way over, trying and failing to not get her hopes up that it would still be operational.

Standing clear she pulled the ring down only to be met with a stomach dropping growling noise, followed by nothing. Her head dropped and she sighed sadly.

And then the mechanism made a dry coughing noise, and the pipes started groaning. She took a step back, while watching it suspiciously, when it coughed twice more and a rusty muck sprayed out. It spit and spattered for a few seconds and then the water started coming clean.

She laughed as she waited for it to run clear and the instant she though it was enough she stepped into the spray, head down, and fully dressed.

The water pounded against her hood as she stood there, watching as the goop and glop slid off her. It wouldn’t all come off she knew, but still, it was better than she had hoped for.

Eventually she pushed her hood back and took the spray on her mask, and pulled out the neck of her top to let the water rush underneath.

She didn’t know how long she stood there, letting the muck wash away, before she pushed the ring back up to stop the flow and just stood there dripping. She knew she still smelled foul, and that her cybernetics needed a thorough cleaning, but she felt better, if a bit squishy.

She shook herself and pulled out her ECHO to find her place on the map. Looking at it she could see that she needed to go up to the top and find a door near one end.

She hooked it back on her belt and opened her bag, reequipping herself before setting out.

Gaige undoubtedly would have been able to find the door by doing something logical, like following the power conduits or some such, Artemis figured as she walked, but she had no idea which ones were which, so she had to rely heavily on the map. Outside she could have found her way any number of ways, from the stars to land marks, but inside, well, she had more trouble. Not that she didn’t know her way around machinery, it was just that when she compared herself to the other girl, she felt lost.

But she still found her way to the door, without making a wrong turn, so she wasn’t completely helpless.

She double checked her ECHO just to be sure that it was the right one. 'Right, just through this door there should be a room, I need to find the vent on the far side of it, easy right? Wait, what did Gaige always say about saying things like that? Oh well, it’s not like I said anything I only thought it, so that doesn’t count.”

And with that she pushed the button next to the door without thinking about it. To her surprise the door slid open without any fuss, reveling a mid-sized room that was surprisingly empty. Two curved desks were set on either side of one of the other doors, and directly opposite it was a huge grungy yellow door that seemed to slide vertically. The only other thing of note was that the floor in front of that door was angled down and ended in a lip directly in front of the door.

She spotted the vent she needed on the other side of the room and made her way towards it and had made it half way through the room when the small side door hissed and slid open.

Artemis spun and found herself face to face with two men, who froze staring back at her. Even though her mind usually was on top of things, usually causing her to react even before she knew what was happening, the surprise of meeting anyone down here stopped her thoughts and instead she found herself observing them like some kind of bizarre specimens.

They were wearing high end armor, colored in black with green and purple trim. Both of them had helmets covering their faces, with a white smear down the front, as if they had dipped their hand in paint and drug it down the front. She could make out a necklace on one of them, though she couldn’t see what was hanging from it. They both had guns in hand, which after a moment they pulled up to fire.

Artemis drew her pistol as she threw herself sidewise and fired, killing one of the two, but taking shots to her shield in return. She hit the ground and rolled, coming up to shoot the other only to have had him close the distance and slam his shoulder into her, throwing her into the wall where she felt something impact her back and knocking the gun from her hand. It skittered down the ramp to the door as yellow lights spun up on both sides and the door began opening with a grinding screech.

She popped her blade and thrust it at the head of her attacker causing him to lift her higher and throw her aside to avoid it.

Hitting the ground, she managed to roll with the impact and threw herself forward as soon as her feet were back under her, just managing to go under the shots he had fired. She landed at the edge of the ramp and rolled forward, sliding down it till she came to a rest against the lip, her hand finding her pistol.

The man, seeing what was about to happen dove forward, grabbing her. She twisted and tried to throw him off, only to toss him over the edge and through the opening door, only he didn’t let go of her and pulled her with him into the dark pit that had opened up and they fell into the garbage chute together.

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Chapter 15

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Storage Area

Gaige

The truth was that Gaige felt bad. It really should have been her going through the pipe at that moment, not just because it was her turn, but because at the other end was undoubtedly a job that would require no small amount of jury rigging. It wasn’t that she doubted the other girls’ abilities, far from it, in fact she held her craftsmanship and ingenuity in the highest regards, it was just that she lacked experience. And while she had gone over the basics of how to start up the generator, if it required any more than that, Artemis probably didn’t have enough experience to draw upon to solve the problem. And with the ECHO jamming that they were experiencing, there was no telling if she could get through with questions. So no, it should have been Gaige who went.

In fact, she had anticipated stronger resistance to the suggestion. She had expected the other girl to call her out and remind her that it was, in fact, her turn. But she hadn’t. She had just asked a few questions and went ahead into the pipe with a sad resignation.

It wasn’t like Gaige wanted to squirm through the filth that was in there, nor did she want to leave Deathtrap behind. And she could justify her not going in any number of ways, from Artemis’s stature, to the fact that she was much better at moving on her own, or that Gaige was more used to working with Deathtrap, or even that the other girl was already dirty from crawling through the vents. And there was the fact that she could easily get through the vents. But they were all just excuses, and they all rung hollow to her. So she felt bad. She should probably apologize to Artemis about it, that might help make her feel better.

In fact, she had brought her ECHO up and was about to call, when she thought better of it. No something like that should wait till she was done, and be delivered in person, better to get her own job done and regroup as quick as possible, though that was more on Artemis’s crawling speed and how messed up the generator was than anything else.

Still that wasn’t the only reason that she felt bad. For all the ■■■■ she had given Artemis about packing too much stuff, she had wound up being right, more than a few things had already come in handy. It seemed that once again the other girl really did know what she was doing. And that made Gaige feel even worse.

But the worst thing was the look on her face when she had accepted the task. That look of sad resignation, like she not only was willing to do it, but that she felt like she should. Like she thought of herself as some kind of trash that should be in the sewer to begin with. And that was something that Gaige couldn’t understand.

Here Gaige was, dragging her along with her own problems and then turning around and relying on her for everything. It wasn’t like Artemis couldn’t be doing something else, she had a ship and no attachments, meaning she could be completely free, free in a way that Gaige had never been. Instead she had shackled herself to someone that had only brought her pain. Hell, she didn’t even have a job, she was just a washed up ex-wedding planner with nothing to offer anyone but a tour of a galaxy of pain. That was the only thing she was good for, killing and inflicting pain on everyone around her.

And that was what was making Gaige really feel bad, the fact that she had come to the realization that she was, in fact, a bad friend. She was a mooch. What did she really offer the other girl? Nothing. So why was she still putting up with Gaige’s crap? Out of some sense of obligation? Because she was lonely? Because she hadn’t had a friend and didn’t realize how bad of one Gaige was being?

No matter what it was, Gaige knew that Artemis had long sense payed her back anything that might have been owed, and that Gaige now owed her tremendously. And there was nothing she could do to pay her back. She had nothing. And that didn’t look to be changing any time soon.

In fact, she had to admit to herself reluctantly, she was a bit jealous of the other girl, after all, she was an extremely competent hunter and sniper, she could sneak up with ease and her senses were sharp as a razor. She was actually a fair tactician despite her claims otherwise, and she had the patients to craft something nearly flawlessly.

And what did Gaige have? Sure, she was a great engineer, and yes she had more knowledge about certain things, but what did that all add up to? Well, she wasn’t sure herself.

OK, Gaige was better at dealing with people, not that it came up much out here. And she was bigger in certain feminine spots, though the other girl didn’t seem to have any extra fat on her anywhere, which unfortunately for her included her chest. Still she really wished that Artemis would stop commenting on her butt. It wasn’t that she thought it was fat, or anything like that, it was just that over the last year she had noticed that the number on the scale was ticking upward and it made her very self-conscious about her figure. She didn’t think there was any malice behind it, but she couldn’t help but loose her cool every time it was brought up.

She knew that the other girl was trying to figure out how exactly to interact with her, and Gaige got it. It was very similar to another problem she was having, figuring out who she really was. She had gotten over distancing herself from what she wanted to like, at least mostly, but the problem was that somewhere along the way she seemed to have forgotten who she was.

When she was younger, it had been easy, she was a student or she was a Vault Hunter. But now? She felt adrift, it was like distancing herself from what she had liked was who she had become, and now that she was accepting of that part of herself, she felt like she had lost half of who she was. And since she had quit her job, she couldn’t even identify herself as a Wedding Planner anymore. And that part made her worried about going home. What would her dad think of her? Would he look at her and see a failure? A quitter? Would he look at her and think about all the things he had sacrificed for her and think ‘Ah what a waste that was’? Would he even recognize her?

Part of her had wanted to agree with Artemis when she had suggested that they leave. Just accept that she could never go back to Eden 5 and move on. But she also knew that before long her debt would be sold to collection agencies and then the bounty hunters would be after her once more and she didn’t want that. She also knew that Artemis wouldn’t have actually left. She was too determined to clear Gaige’s debts that she would have sold just about anything to achieve that. And that was something that Gaige couldn’t understand.

Why was she so hung up on helping her out? She knew what Artemis had told her, but she had already payed that back, and then some. Did she really just want to be her friend, and think that was how you showed it? By giving them things? Gaige couldn’t figure her out. It was like, no matter how close they got, she was keeping something buried deep down, and until Gaige found out what it was, it would continue to confuse her. She was also worried that she seemed to have something wrong with her, after all Gaige hadn’t known anyone else that would call themselves a monster or ugly like that. It really confused Gaige, and she wished she had asked about it on Pandora, after all, what would make someone think of themselves as a monster? Not that Gaige herself hadn’t thought of herself that way after she had killed Marcie, when she herself was on her way to Pandora, she had some dark thoughts, so maybe it was what Gaige had heard called ‘Survivors Remorse’. The fact that she had lived and her family had died.

That was it, Gaige decided, she was going to try and be a better friend. And she was going to start by telling the other girl, the next time that she saw her, that she wasn’t ugly, in fact Gaige thought she could be kinda cute, with how small she was, if she didn’t look so harsh all the time.

“Urrgr”

Deathtrap’s call pulled her out of the dark quagmire inside her head and she looked up, to see that they were at the stairs, she had been so lost in thought that she had made it all the way there without realizing it.

“Right babe, sorry I’ve been a little out of it.” She said tossing her bud an apologetic smile “We just need to go up here, then see which of these doors are closed and which we can open. Ready?”

“Uru”

“Good.”

She hoisted her gun and moved up the stairs, keeping to the outer edge and moving as quietly as she could. ‘Try not to think about how much quieter a certain someone else would be’ She repeated to herself as she proceeded up.

She made it to the landing and had her gun pointed up and still nothing moved, so she paused and strained her ears to try and pick up anything, only to be met with silence. She took a slow breath and let it out before moving up. Crouching against the wall she made her way up till she could peek over the top of the stairs and found herself facing an empty corridor.

Her shoulders slumped slightly, a good firefight would do wonders to clear her mind, and moved up and off the stairs. Deathtrap took point while she double checked her ECHO, straight ahead would lead to more storage, so they needed to try and turn right, and then take the next right, which would lead them through to the security overrides, at least she hoped it would.

And of course, as soon as she turned to the right she found herself facing the backside of a blast door, which meant that it could only be opened from the other side.

“Of course, they wouldn’t make this easy.” She groused “I mean, it is the security center but still I’d like it if just once things would go easy.”

“Urarg”

“OK, there was that one time, but still. One. Time.”

They turned back and went to the left, there were still other options to get in, they would just take longer, not that she didn’t have time, but she still wanted to be ready for when Artemis got the power rerouted.

She moved down the corridor at as brisk a pace as she could while maintaining awareness of her surroundings, as Deathtrap floated along beside her. It wasn’t long before they came to a open passage to the left and took it. Following it along for a few dozen yards, they had hoped to take another left only to find it blocked, and after checking the ECHO map, moved along till they came to another left that wasn’t closed. Although this one did require a bit of effort from Gaige to turn it into that, at least the controls were on the correct side this time.

She rechecked the map and if they could continue along this path it would T against a room that if they cut through would land them in the correct hall.

Arriving at the door, Gaige was once again forced to persuade it to open, and after a minute, it relented and slid to the side revealing a fairly large room, divided in half by a long counter. Stanchions that had once been set up to form ques had been knocked over and only the grubby marks left by countless feet told of where they belonged. Behind them were rows of privacy cubicles, like one would find at any government facility.

Gaige ignored them and headed to the counter and after a quick glance to make sure nothing was waiting, casually vaulted over it.

She looked around and saw nothing but empty shelves. After walking the length of the counter, she still hadn’t found a shelf with anything on it, so she chose an isle at random and walked its length. The shelves were floor to ceiling and divided into even spaces, each one being less than a foot across, just over a foot deep and about a foot and a half high. The only thing she did find was the small tags on each space, but they were incomprehensible gibberish. One of them read PF-6733B V. 1.24 and the shelves next to it were floor to as high as she could see labeled PS-4067F V. 3.08 and next to that was the similarly named PS-4067F V. 3.09 and PS-4067G V. 2.5.

She walked back down the next isle and found it filled with similar tags. Coming back to the counter she stopped and fell into silent thought, her eyes downcast when they happened upon something. Crouching down she ran her left-hand fingers through the dark spot on the carpet and brought them up to examine them. Rubbing them together as she stood, she looked down the length of the counter before looking up at Deathtrap who was giving her a quizzical look.

“Oil.” She declared holding her fingers up “Probably from the bot that manned this desk. Or I guess I should say roboted the desk.”

“Uru”

“No, I think I figured it out. This place is hell, or at least a circle of it. I think we’re in the filing department. All those shelves were probably stacked with forms, though where they went, I have no idea, and the desks back there would have been where employees would fill them out, before handing them back, no doubt in triplicate. Man, I hate places like this.”

With a satisfied look on her face she vaulted the counter only to land on one of the stanchions. It shot out from under her foot throwing her off and sent her sprawling to the ground, only to be stopped before she hit by Deathtrap catching the back of her jacket.

Hanging there awkwardly she shot him an apologetic smile. “Thanks bud.”

“Urgur”

He started to lift her back to her feet when she suddenly called for him to stop. Hanging there she cocked her head and looked at the corner of the room.

She made her way over there as soon as she had him put her back on her feet and grabbed the knocked over planter, its dirt having spilled across the floor when someone or something had torn the plant out of it. She rolled the heavy container to the side, revealing an ECHO that had been knocked under it at some point.

She looked at Deathtrap and shared a shrug with him before popping it in and playing it.

Experiment B374 notes

Alright self, we’re keeping this to help fill out those damn PF forms. No more filling out those correction forms.

Right, here goes.

Well, the experiment was a failure.

We had finally gotten permission to use the subject Jack had procured from that old DAHL site.

For the longest time we simply didn’t know how to use it to further our research, but in the end that really didn’t matter, we just wanted to try something new. And really, we just wanted something to work.

Note to self, leave that part out of the report.

Anyway Dr. Reichland’s theory about combining it with an infusion of 207S-1 and the pollen of that new plant that was brought in seemed sound.

And it’s not that the sample didn’t take the serum well.

In fact, it took it perfectly and immediately showed signs of accelerated growth, it’s just that the cells we injected from sample one didn’t react, nor did we get anything when we tried the serum on some of sample ones cells.

So I have sent the subject to be disposed of while i write up this report on it, maybe some other department can find some use for this data, but it’s back to the drawing board for me, though i am thinking that if we can get our hands on some more of Dr Benedict’s research and combine it with our own…Hey, who shut off the power? Damn it I’ll need to finish this later.

“Uh, OK. I have no idea what I just heard, you got any insights babe?”

“Uru”

“Yeah, didn’t think so, wonder what DAHL subject they were talking about?”

“Urgaru”

“No idea, maybe they jettisoned it out into space. No, that may have brought unwanted attention, or maybe they disposed of it by throwing it away. Who knows? It’s dead, and unless it has something to do with those creepy things walking around, I doubt it matters. Anyway, let’s get out of here.”

“Ugr”

They made their way to the far door and after some more persuasion, went through it.

The hall they were in was wide enough that they could have walked side by side four times over, and still had room to spare, though it seemed colder than the other corridors they had been in. probably a result of the concrete walls and the cages on the lights.

Trying not to think about it they made their way down it and up a small flight of stairs that spanned the whole hall.

“That is definitely some kind of safety violation.” Gaige muttered, trying to keep her mind busy.

After a short ways they came to a dead end, directly ahead of them was a massive door. One without any card readers or control consuls.

Sighing Gaige was about to bring up her ECHO when she heard a noise from behind her.

Spinning around she snapped her gun up as her eyes darted around, and she was forced to come to the conclusion that there simply was no place to hide.

Just as she made that sad realization the first row of troops crested the stairs, led by their shields. A second row soon followed.

They set up, filling the hall wall to wall in two ranks, only to part in the center and a lone figure walked through. The instant he was past the shield wall reformed, with the second row stacking their own shields on top of the first.

Forced to look at the person that had come forward Gaige saw that they were dressed in similar armor to the rest, except that they had a hood up over their mask, giving the appearance that the painted skull was floating in darkness. But the most notable thing was the large cylinder that stuck up over their left shoulder, which gave off a faint glow.

He stopped and eyed them for a moment before speaking in a strangely breathy voice.

“So, you’re the ones who killed the boss. I guess I’m supposed to get revenge. Oh well, at least old Charon gets to enjoy himself once more.”

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Chapter 16

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Garbage Dump

Artemis

As they fell, she managed to get her feet between them and shoved off just as they cleared the chute. Throwing herself to the side, she managed to catch one of the support beams that stuck out of the ceiling and wrapped her arms around it in a death grip. The person she had been falling with wasn’t so lucky and fell screaming onto a pile of garbage, silencing him with a sickening noise as sharp bits and spikes sliced through him.

Artemis got her legs up around the beam and managed to shimmy her way over to a junction and pull herself up. Clinging to the vertical beam she caught her breath and looked around, surveying her new location.

It was a dump.

Literally a dump. She could see waves of trash going from the wall she was next to all the way to the far wall, which was so far away, it was hazing in the distance. She idly wondered how it had gotten over there, was there something that pushed the garbage over periodically?

It didn’t smell as bad as she thought it would, or at least until she realized that her sense of smell might be out of whack due to her own funk, so she quickly shut that train of thought down before she got depressed.

Besides, there were two important things to figure out, first, how to get down and second, how to get out.

She couldn’t go back up the way she had entered, the shaft was far too wide to climb up, which left her needing another way out. To that end she took her cable and tied herself to the vertical and pulled out her ECHO.

The map wasn’t all that helpful, the shifting tides of trash made certain exits unusable, which left her four options that she could find, though some of them weren’t exactly realistic. Out of those, one of them would lead her far away from her goal, and potentially into a spot that she couldn’t get back here from without starting over. The second was a vent near the ceiling, which would be nearly impossible to get to, leaving the last two, which were doors on the correct side of the room. The only problem was getting to them.

The first and best door, since it led to nearest the generator room, appeared to be accessible, the only problem was the terrain in front of the ladder up to it. Even at this distance she could see the glittering of broken glass and the poorly piled trash that looked like it would slide under any weight, not to mention the spikes of twisted metal that jutted up around it.

As for the second, the route was clearer, though she would need to climb a couple additional hills of garbage to get to it. The problem was that it led a ways away from where she needed to go, and if any of the security doors were down, she might need to come back and try for the first door anyway.

She decided to put that decision on hold until she was down and could get a ground view of how stable the environment was, which left getting down.

Looking down to get a feel for the area around her she simultaneously hooked her ECHO back on her belt. The area directly below her was bad, spikes and juts of metal stuck up making it look like the bottom of a punji pit. Looking around a bit further out, she spotted a decent point to make it to, the ground seemed to be made up of compacted trash and was fairly flat. Additionally, it had good routes to where she would have to make her decision on which door to go for.

With her goal in mind, she started unwinding the cable from around herself and coiled it up before carefully making her way as far as she could on the beam she was on. When it ended in another vertical beam she was still a little ways from her goal, but close enough for what she was after.

She unwound the cable carefully and once it was completely unspooled, started feeding the ends down, one on each side of the beam she was sitting on. Once that was done, she let the mid-point of the cable rest on the beam and carefully slid her way off, till she was dangling beneath it. Letting go with her right hand she used it to gather the two cables and brought them together before wrapping her feet around them, and once she felt as secure as she could, let go with her left hand.

Finding herself dangling a long way from the ground, she squeezed her eyes shut for a moment while taking a deep breath. Letting it out she began to make her way down, hand over hand, letting the cable slide between her feet.

It really wasn’t that long before the end of the cable tapped her feet. Looking down she saw that she was still a ways off the ground, though a much more manageable distance than before. Now, then next problem was to get herself to land where it was safe, at least relatively. And to accomplish that she started to swing, gently rocking herself at first, till she had built up enough momentum, all the while she was splitting the cable so that she held one side in each hand. Once she deemed that she had the necessary momentum to launch herself to where she wanted, she let go with her right hand and swung her feet into nothingness.

The fall was fairly short, and seemed to take forever, but she slammed into the ground right about where she had hoped, hitting hard enough to drop both hands against the compacted trash that served as a floor.

She winced slightly as she stood, her ankle had taken more of a hit than she liked. Testing it out, she concluded that nothing was broken or sprained, it would just sting a bit for a while. She also checked her palm to make sure that she hadn’t cut it on anything and then coiled her cable back up.

The immediate area was fairly solid and level, but it quickly ended in loose bits of trash from discarded boxes to entire lockers that had been tossed for some reason. She gingerly stepped onto one of them and made her way across a bit of metal till she could get a good look at the dead guy who had fallen with her. He was totally dead, spears of metal stuck through his chest. She turned away from the gruesome sight and scanned the area. In the end she was forced to take a number of careful steps out before she spotted what she was looking for, and after a minute of carefully picking her way over, picked her pistol up.

After returning to the flat spot that she had landed, she did a thorough check of the gun, even going so far as to disassemble it before she was convinced that it was in proper working order and holstered it after filling the chambers.

The garbage around her was mostly metal, she noted as she started moving. That surprised her, not just because it didn’t seem like this place would have much scrap, but also because she had expected there to be lots of biological material in there. From the sound of it, she figured this had been some kind of bio-research place, so she had thought that it would have been thrown out here. Not that she was looking forward to wading through rotting bio-mass, but she hadn’t seen an incinerator, though it might have been through the door where those guys came through.

She was thinking these things while moving forward and scanning her surroundings when something caught her attention, something so out of place that she had to deviate off and get a closer look.

There at the base of one of what had once been a loader torso, laying on its side, was a stuffed loader.

It didn’t appear to be in that bad a shape, all things considered.

She crouched down next to it, and after checking to see if it was booby trapped, mostly out of reflexive habit, gently picked the toy up. Brushing the light bit of dust off of it, she gave it a once over. It was in good shape, no split seams or missing eyes, and at a glance Artemis couldn’t tell if it had been professionally hand-made or was some kind of corporately manufactured item.

She handled it carefully to try and not get it any dirtier than it was, but a gentle bath and it would be almost like new. Confused by what a toy would be doing here, not just in the trash, but on a research station, she looked around to see if there was a clue and her eyes fell upon something else.

Setting the toy on top of the fallen loader, she carefully moved a box and a sheet of metal to reveal a smashed picture frame and a few books.

The picture was stained and most of it was damaged past the point of visibility, but what she could make out was a woman who appeared to be in her late twenties to mid-thirties in a lab coat, standing next to something that was obliterated by grunge. Artemis rubbed the picture to try and clear it, only to have the entire area she was touching crumble.

Dropping the now destroyed picture she turned her attention to what had caught her eye in the first place, the books.

They were thin, squarish and brightly colored, in other words, children’s books.

Picking them up, she turned them over and looked at their covers. The first one was titles ‘Handsome Jack Saves the Day’ and flipping it open to a random page she found a brightly colored picture of Jack triumphantly standing atop a monstrous creature, with an angelic glow emanating from behind him. In the foreground four silhouettes could be seen, arms up as if to shield themselves from his radiance. Glancing at the text she read

'Handsome Jack stood over the terrible evil that had come from the Vault, Hyperion gun in hand and faced the cowardly treasure hunters.

“I have freed this planet from this monster and i shall free it from all the monsters, be they creatures like this or bandits like you. So if you think you can take me, I am ready whenever you are.”

And the treasure hunters turned and fled like the cowards that all bandits are.

And Handsome Jack, being the kind and generous leader he was, let them go, for he knew that a coward would always be a coward.’

Artemis flipped through the rest of the book and found similar tales filling the pages. Every one was how Jack had defeated another foe, either through wits, brawn or charisma. All in all it was funny in an unintentional way, if a bit nauseatingly in its depiction of Jack. Still, Gaige would undoubtedly like to see it, so she set it next to the stuffed loader and looked at the next book.

This one piqued her interest right away from its title ’ The Lonely Siren '.

She flipped it open and started to read.

'There once was a Siren who lived all alone.

On a moon made of rock that she called her home.

She would look to the stars and wonder aloud.

‘Is there anyone out there, a friend to be found.’

For that is what she wanted more than anything at all.

A person to laugh with, to talk to, to call.’

'So one day she decided to leave her moon behind.

She stretched out her wings and started to climb.

Into space she flew, all on her own.

And sailed into the stars and into the unknown.

She found a new planet at the edge of her eye.

And decided to land and give it a try.’

'The planet was cold as she looked around.

And there was ice and snow all over the ground.

Try as she might the Siren couldn’t find.

Any signs of life, no matter how it was defined.

So with a heavy heart she gave out a shout.

‘I just want one friend, is that too large an amount?’

Artemis caught herself being sucked into the story, and made herself stop. Gaige was waiting for her, and she couldn’t afford to get sidetracked. So, she picked up the books and the stuffed Loader and tucked them in her bag, with no small amount of regret. She really wanted to read the rest of the story, even if it was well below her reading level. The pictures in particular had been very well done. But as someone had once told her, there was a time and place for everything, and the middle of a dump was probably not the right place to read children’s books.

Turning back to the path, she froze when a pile of trash let go and slid somewhere behind her. She spun around, gun up, and scanned the wasteland. Her eyes searched out every detail they could, and quickly found the small amount of dust that had been kicked up by the falling trash.

Most people would have written it off as just the shifting of junk, but she knew that without something from outside influencing it, things didn’t fall on their own, and this being a sealed environment meant that it wasn’t the wind, and since it had been too long since she had touched anything in that area, something must be moving over there to knock things loose.

Moving slowly, she made her way back to the path, figuring that the solider flooring would at least allow her to move properly. Getting there, she scanned the room trying to find where whatever it was, was at, only to pause and swing her rifle back to double check what she had thought she had seen.

The body was gone.

There was still blood on the metal, but the corpse of the guy who had just fallen ahead of her was no longer there.

Which left two possibilities, either there was something else in here that had taken the body, probably to eat it, or she was dealing with zombies.

She seriously hoped it was the former, because undead soldiers should stay where they belonged, in the movies.

As she was thinking these things another slide of trash caught her attention. She froze and watched the area around it to see if anything moved, and shortly the ground seemed to ripple sending waves of trash sliding down. That was bad enough, but to make things worse, whatever was moving through the trash was headed right for her.

She backed away, not wanting to turn her back on something that was unknown. Still she tried to put as much distance between her and it as she could, and the more of it that was solid the better.

The trash wave hit the edge of the compressed blocks that served as a floor and spilled out across them, revealing what was moving, and what Artemis saw made her question her eyes.

It appeared to be a giant worm made out of trash. It was at least as wide as she was tall, with lenses that looked like eyes, some of them were glowing, others dead and black. As she watched the front opened up reveling a maw that was filled with shards of metal and deep withing what looked like small arms that seemed to be beckoning, or grasping like they wanted to drag her in.

Realizing that fighting something she didn’t have to would just waste ammo, she shouldered her rifle before turning and running. The worm gave a strange groaning howl and gave chase.

Artemis sprinted across the rest of the exposed compacted trash and turned to the nearest of the two doors, which was fortunately the one that would let her out nearest where she wanted to go, if she could make it.

Throwing caution to the wind she ran up one of the hills of trash, feeling the ground slipping and giving as she did. Behind her the creature gave another howl and dove back into the trash, picking up speed as it did.

She crested the hill and slid down the other side just as the entire mound shuddered and started collapsing as the worm dove into it. Realizing that she wasn’t going to outrun it, she spied a solid surface that appeared to be a shipping container that was partially buried and ran for it.

The ground under her started to rise and she dove sideways as where she had been standing was sucked down and the maw opened.

Ignoring the scratches and scrapes she ran up the side of the next hill and onto the container hoping for a brief reprieve. Instead the container rocked and began to pitch sideways as she ran down it.

As it lifted up and turned over, she jumped off the side she was on and landed in a slide on the next side as it turned into the top, a second later she was back on her feet and running again.

She hopped off the end and onto a long sheet of solid metal that was probably left over from when the place had been constructed, and up ahead she could see the ladder, just past the next hill.

But the worm wasn’t going to make it that easy, it seemed to have sensed what she was doing and stopped chasing her while she was on the plate. Instead it dove down and just as she neared the end, burst forth and drug its side against the wall, shearing off the rungs that she was after.

Realizing that it wasn’t about to let its prey go, Artemis decided that she couldn’t go for the other ladder until she had dealt with the worm, so she brought up her rifle and slowly backed to the middle of the slab and waited. She wished she’d brought along a caustic weapon, but it was back in her pack, so she would have to make do.

Soon enough the worm burst from the ground and landed on the edge of the area. Artemis exhaled slowly and in rapid succession fired off six shots. The first three seemed to have no impact at first glance, striking around the closed maw, but with the forth shot a chunk of the junk around its head fell off and even more with each of the other two, till she could see what was at the core of the giant trash worm.

The creature, sensing that its protective shell was breached gave up, and let go of the rest of the trash, letting it fall all around it, reveling the twisted abomination that was the real creature.

It was still taller than Artemis and covered in a disgusting grey-blue skin. It had no real eyes just a strange ‘X’ shaped scar across its face, nor did it have a proper jaw underneath, instead it appeared to have a zipper of teeth running down its belly from under its desiccated nose. Its back had a large blistery sack, just behind the head and grown up around it like they were holding it were bone spikes, like a reversed ribcage. Its two large forelimbs ended in fingers that reminded her of insect mandibles, its eight other legs were surprisingly skinny, and the short stubby tail split near the end. But the most disturbing thing about it was the wriggling protrusions all over it, grown in pairs like some kind of demented fingers that had been holding and manipulating the trash shell.

She finished reloading as it reared back and the teeth opened up, hinging outward as it gave a frightful howl. Artemis grabbed for a grenade only to realize that she had never got her mod back from Gaige and she hadn’t brought another with in her smaller bag. Before she could think of anything else the window to attack had closed and the creature dropped back down and scuttled forward.

Its skinny legs propelled it at a surprising clip and within seconds it had closed the distance between them.

Artemis used that time to switch her rifle to her left hand, draw her pistol and squeeze off a pair of shots. Since it didn’t have eyes, and the obvious soft spot of the maw was closed, she took aim at the disturbing protrusion on its back, sinking her shots into it. Each one hit with a spurt of bluish liquid and a clear shudder of pain from the creature, but not enough to stop its advance.

She dove under its claw swipe and took off running, jumping from the edge of the piece of metal and skidding down the side of the trash hill, before sprinting as best she could across the shifting piles of refuse till she got back to the flat area that she had landed on originally.

Spinning around, she saw the creature had given chase, and what she had thought were its short skinny legs had unfolded till it looked like it was gliding across the trash on stilts. One look told her that the legs had been curled up against it, and now that they were extended it was holding its body well clear of the trash and would undoubtedly try and drop down on her with its mouth open.

Deciding to not give it the chance she holstered her pistol and as fast as she could, reloaded her rifle before bringing it up and snapped off two shots while the creature was still in the trash. Instead of trying to make the nearly impossible shot for the sack on its back, she aimed for the joints in the legs, sheering off two of them on the left side, causing the creature to fall over as half of its limbs on that side were taken out.

It pulled its legs back against itself and started to drag itself into the trash, no doubt to reform its junk shell, something Artemis couldn’t let happen, so she ran at the creature, firing as best she could as she did, one shot hit it in the shoulder, another in the face leaving a bloody gouge, and the last two slammed into the bulge on the things back, popping it in a shower of blueish liquid,

The creature reared up and roared in agony, just as she had hoped. She had closed the distance enough that when it roared and its maw opened, she was able to draw her backup gun while sliding to a stop and fired a round into the soft tissue inside.

The creature let out a gurgling whimper as it snapped its mouth closed and slid slowly into the trash.

Artemis didn’t believe the creature was dead, but then again, she didn’t need it to be, so she took off running, sprinting past where it had disappeared and up the trash mound. She paused only for a split second to orientate herself before sliding down the other side and using the momentum managed to scramble up the next hill.

From there she could see the remaining ladder and made a mad dash for it.

And before she knew it, she was jumping up and catching the rungs to start her ascent.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she scrambled up the ladder only to hear a crashing noise from below her. Unable to restrain herself she looked down to see the creature erupt from the mound of trash, leaping after her. It hit the wall just below her and its front claws dug into the wall with a hideous screech. Using its purchase, it leaned back, mouth open as wide as it could and lunged for her.

Artemis let out what she would never admit was a girly shriek and kicked her left foot into its face. With her right hand and leg against the rungs she drew her back up gun again and as it lunged upward, she fired straight down its throat.

This time when it fell backwards, she was sure that it was dead.

It crashed in a pile and twitched a few times, before letting out a low whining gurgle.

She hung against the rungs, gun aimed at it for a minute to make sure it wasn’t going to come back to life like some kind of movie monster, and when it didn’t, she holstered her gun before climbing out of the trash pit, eager to put that behind her.

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Chapter 17

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Security Area Hallways

Gaige

“You know, the mid-boss is supposed to show up before the actual boss, right?”

“Yes, I suppose you may be right, but I was otherwise occupied at the time, that said, when they told me there were two of you, I didn’t think the second would be a robot. Will he be fighting me as well?”

Gaige looked at Deathtrap for a moment and then back “No, I think he can find something else to keep himself occupied.”

“Very well, then let this old man start you on your journey into the afterlife.”

The strange cylinder over the mans’ shoulder glowed brighter till it seemed that he was haloed in light, Gaige decided to not find out what was happening, so she took the initiative and fired at him, only to have him vanish. A strange after image danced along a light trail where he had been and as she turned to follow it she was slammed in the side by a shotgun blast.

Rolling with it she came up facing the direction that it had come from to see the man standing there, reloading a strange tri-barreled gun.

“My my” He said in that breathy voice “How slow the children are getting these days, and with me slowing down in my dotage as well. Why I’m nothing but bones over here, and yet I seem to be in better shape than you, why we’ve only just started and you’re already having a lie down. Is it nap time already? I thought that was the privilege of the old.”

“Then why don’t you go take one, I’ll wait.” Gaige replied snarlingly, trying to buy time. The shotgun blast had nearly cut through her shield in one go and it would take a moment to recharge, so she needed to keep him talking.

“Now now, I’m feeling fine, maybe later. Besides, it’s always better to finish the task at hand first, so you can relax without anything over your head.”

Gaige stood up and put her shotgun away, instead drawing the assault rifle that had matched the one she had told Artemis to pick up.

“Ah I recognize that. That would be my boss’s gun.”

“Not anymore.”

“True I suppose. But I wonder, why are you choosing it? Do you think it would be ironic to fight against me with his gun?”

“No, it’s just that your gun is gonna chew through shells, so if I used my shotty, I wouldn’t be able to restock off of you.”

“My aren’t we confident that we’re going to win.”

“Of course. Besides, aren’t you thinking the same thing?”

“Touche. But do you think you can kill me if you can’t hit me?” And with that the cylinder started to glow brighter.

Gaige didn’t even bother bringing her gun around completely and opened fire, hitting the floor and wall as she traced around at him. His initial reaction was no doubt to think she was trying to cut off one side of the room for his movement, at least until the shots started to hit him.

He activated his pack and zipped across the room, the instant he vanished Gaige dove towards where he had disappeared, still firing as she did.

He stopped moving and was instantly hit with a barrage of ricocheting bullets, which shocked him enough that he stumbled, but managed to fire off a shot even as he did, causing Gaige to drop into a slide to avoid what she could of it.

Coming back up, she popped the spent clip and slapped a new one in while taunting the old man.

“What’s the matter, need to get your walker before we continue?”

“Cheeky brat. Have you no respect for your elders?” He snarled shoving another trio of shells into his gun.

“Not when they want to kill me.” She said while bringing the rifle up and unloading another stream of fire laced lead at him. He activated his pack in an attempt to evade the fire bouncing around at him and despite the warm up time, he managed to get across the room before his shield was torn up too badly. Still the instant he reappeared he was getting hit by shots bouncing across the room and he quickly realized that his shield wouldn’t hold out much longer under the onslaught.

He vanished again, just as Gaige paused to reload, and zipped across the room to point blank range. Sliding to a stop he fired all three barrels into Gaige’s shield, shattering it. But before he could reload or activate his device again Gaige brought the rifle up and at near point blank-range fired into the cylinder. The rounds tore the tattered remains of his shield apart and slammed directly into the device, sending sparks flying. He desperately fired up the device and shot across the room again, only it had taken too much damage and sent him careening into the wall.

Groaning, he picked himself up only to find that Gaige had switched back to her shotgun and that he was now facing down its barrel.

She pulled the trigger three times in rapid succession and the fight was over. She turned to see what Deathtrap had been up to during the fight and found him floating over the corpses of the shield wall. He looked at her and shrugged.

“No, good job babe.”

“Urr”

Gaige nodded and got to work checking the gear of the dead. She went for the leader first and snagged the rest of his shotgun ammo, before turning to the cylinder on his back. Though it was heavily damaged and she had to be careful in case it was leaking something, one glance at the tech told her that it was something that Maliwan had made and that she wasn’t going to learn any more about how it worked, so she turned to the rest of his gear.

His shield had been a pretty ordinary Pangolin model that boasted a bit of caustic resistance that she tossed without a second look and turned to the only interesting thing left, his shotgun.

It appeared to be a unique Jakobs gun, a break action with three barrels in a triangular pattern, and a dark red stock. Each barrel ended with a muzzle brake ringed in small spikes that were made of dark, almost black metal. Hanging off the grip were three chains, each ending in a snarling dog head. All in all, it looked nasty, especially for its manufacturer.

Gaige didn’t think she’d ever use it, but stuffed it into her pack anyway, either she would sell it or show it to Wainwright to see what he thought of it. Or maybe both, but that was for a later date.

Right now she needed through the door ahead of her, so after doing a once over of the equipment of the shield wall troops and finding nothing of note, she pulled out her ECHO and brought up the plans.

Unfortunately for her there was no other way into the area behind the door and to make it worse, the area was on its own ventilation system. The only bit of good news was that she might be able to access it since the actual air system was accessible on her side of the door, which was quite a design flaw.

The only problems she could see with this plan was whether she could get access to the room or not, and if she could fit in the vent at all. She was glad that Artemis wasn’t along to make another comment, but then she realized, if she was along, she could be the one going into the vent in the first place, so it was a bit of a wash. But she wasn’t with, so it didn’t matter either way, so she motioned to Deathtrap and they headed back down the hall.

As she walked, she wondered how the other girl would have dealt with that fight, would she have been able to track the trajectory of the man, or would she have pulled some other trick, like filling the room with a firestorm? In the end it was probably lucky that Gaige had been the one to run into him, even without Deathtrap’s help she had been able to deal with him, though if she had run into him a few weeks ago it likely would have turned out different, so this was another thing she felt that she owed Artemis for.

Sighing she took the next right while trying not to get to down and after another left found herself in front of the door that she needed.

A minute of persuasion on the door lock later she was in. The room was filled with large grey and silver machines, out of which only a few were still whirring away. The challenge for her would be to figure out which of them that she needed. Which vent would lead to the other side of the blast door and into the security area? There were no books or blueprints laying around to help her so she had to rely on the map on her ECHO, her ability to decipher the maintenance codes on them, and no small amount of luck.

Looking at them and her map she quickly narrowed it down to two that went through the same wall, and between them something about the code on one of them made her gut feel that it was the one, so with a silent prayer she set to work opening it up.

Setting the vent to the side and looking into the duct itself she was once again struck by how small Artemis had to be to fit in one of these. Gaige stuck her head in and looked around before pulling back and looking at Deathtrap.

“Well babe, I guess I’m gonna have to go in.”

“Urrarrr”

“Yeah no. Thanks for volunteering even though we both know that there’s no way you’d fit in there.”

“Rurrr”

“Well I’m gonna have to won’t I?” She snapped a bit harsher than she’d meant to.

“Urr”

She let out a sigh “Sorry babe. You know I’m just a little sensitive about that now.”

“Rur”

“Thanks. Well any thoughts?”

“Uragurr”

Gaige looked at him and then down to herself. As he had reminded her, Artemis had mentioned something about her coat so she reluctantly stripped it off, and then proceeded to start setting her equipment next to her to make a determination as to what to take with. Shotgun was a definite, as was her ECHO and the tools she always kept on her person. After that was her shield and her grenade mod. ‘Wait a minute’ She thought ‘This isn’t mine? Oh crap, did I forget to give it back, ah well it’s probably alright, it’s not like she uses grenades all that often anyways.’

“Right” She said standing up after tucking the rest of her stuff into her bag and handing it to Deathtrap “In I go. Babe, wait here for my signal, then make your way to the door. Kay?”

“Urur”

“Good.” And with that she dove in only to be stopped by the extraordinarily painful sensation of her chest slamming into the vent’s frame. She pulled back out and curled into a ball on the floor. Deathtrap turned away, mostly to give her dignity some cover and not at all to snicker in a low robot tone.

A minute later Gaige sat up rubbing the tops of her breasts while wincing. “Well, that, ow, didn’t work. Any ideas?”

Deathtrap took a second to make sure his vocalizers were even before replying “Urgur”

“Right, you mean like Artemis’s chest protector, only for both sides?”

“Uru. Urgur”

“Yeah, you’re right, but I didn’t bring along another bag, and Artemis took her spare. Unless you think she was carrying two of them? Might as well check, I’m gonna need to borrow something to tie around my chest anyway.”

She opened the bag and started to root around and just as Deathtrap remembered something, he heard a “What’s this?” As Gaige pulled something from within the bag. He buried his face in his hand inwardly chastising himself for not thinking of it earlier, he had been there when Artemis had put it into the bag and told him what it was for, but somehow it had slipped his circuits.

“This is a DAHL surveyors’ tool, and one of the original generation ta boot, not to mention that it’s in near mint condition, so what the heck is Artemis doing with one stuffed into her bag? Wonder what other nifty things she’s got in here?”

“Ururrr”

“Betrayal of trust? I was just…” She petered out under the flat look she was getting. “Fine, you’re right. But I still need something to tie around my chest, though I did find that she had packed a second bag. Or would that be a third? I lose count. Anyway, the only thing I found that comes close is a spare set of stockings, and I doubt they would hold up to that kind of strain.”

“Urgurr”

“Good idea babe. Wait here, I’ll be back in a flash.”

And with that she took off back the way they had come from, till she found the corpses of their attackers. A few minutes later she was back holding five belts.

“I think you’re right, these should work.”

She sat down and looked at them, no matter how she thought about it, this wouldn’t be comfortable, so she pondered the best way to make it the least unpleasant as she could and eventually pulled out Artemis’s stocking and started by wrapping her chest in that. Over the top she placed one of the belts and pulled as tight as she could and after managing to fasten it let out a soft wheeze.

She winced and whispered “How the heck does she wear something like this all day?” while picking up the second belt. Before long she had tightened the third belt around her chest and was in no small amount of discomfort, but had managed to get her chest down to a bit larger then Artemis’s, so she sat back and struggled to take in a few breaths of air before looking at Deathtrap and managing a thin smile said “Didn’t think I’d ever be glad I wasn’t stacked like Moxxi.”

He handed her the smaller bag, which she tied to her belt so it would drag behind her, like she had seen Artemis do and then carefully tried to get into the vent, only to find herself struggling again.

Sitting back, she looked at the opening. It wasn’t any smaller than the one that the other girl had slipped easily inside, and Gaige didn’t think she was that much bigger around than her, so why was she not able to get in? She sat there thinking back to how the other girl had crawled in and realized her mistake. Rather than going in all at once, she had slipped in one arm at a time and slithered forward.

Trying this, Gaige found that she was able to slide in without any real problems until she felt the pressure on her hips and butt. Sighing she tilted herself to angle her hips and get as much clearance as possible before giving a sharp pull and popped through, nearly losing her pants in the process, but thankfully her belt kept them in place.

“Well this is off to a great start.” She spat “Maybe I should have went into the sewer, I hope Artemis is having an easier time than this.”

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Chapter 18

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Power Core

Artemis

Artemis founder herself crawling through another vent. She was beginning to think that was her lot in life, just someone to crawl through uncomfortable places.

A little while ago she had made her way out of the dump and into another hall like all the others in this place. After pausing to take inventory of herself, she had found that her jeans were torn in at least a half dozen new places, as was her stocking. One of the straps on her top had broke at some point and she was covered in small scratches, which she hoped weren’t getting infected. Other than that, she was doing poorly.

So to stop thinking about it she had set off and before long, just like she had been afraid would happen she had run into another sealed door, only this one she had no chance of hacking due to the lack of control panels in the area. So she had pulled up her map and realized that there was still one way to get where she wanted to get to, only it would take quite a bit of work.

She supposed that she should count her blessings that she had made it into the area that the ventilation system was connected to the power core, but somehow, she just wasn’t feeling it. No matter how she looked at it, no matter what stories she told herself, this just felt like a crummy string of bad luck.

But that kind of thinking wouldn’t do her any good so she had found the proper door, which she had managed to bypass by remembering Gaige’s instructions, and had found the correct vent. Which was what she was crawling through.

‘Man I hope Gaige is having a better go of it.’ She thought as she drug herself along ‘But how couldn’t she? I mean, what could go wrong? It wasn’t like she was having to crawl through uncomfortable space after uncomfortable space, continually getting covered in gunk, slime and other foulness. Oh and dust, let’s not forget the dust that I’ve had to crawl through, the dust that is now clinging to said junk and water and everything else.’

While she was mentally complaining she had come to the junction that she needed. Shifting and shimmying she managed to turn over onto her back and found herself staring up a long shaft. Letting out yet another sigh she started to pull herself up till she was standing, which was a short lived glorious feeling, but then she needed to get back to work, so she braced her back against one side and her feet on the other with her arms against the sides and began to slowly climb.

She moved her feet and pushed up, using her hands to brace herself and put most of her weight and the pressure on her back. One step at a time she made her way upwards, dripping sweet as she went.

Periodically she was forced to pause, more out of the cramped conditions than anything. She would dangle her right leg and shake it out, trying to get the kinks out of it before continuing on. Once in a while she would try and distract herself with some thought or another, but it always came back to what kind of ■■■■■■ situation she was in, so she would stop for a bit before getting to the point where she needed something to focus on and would try and think of something to distract herself once more.

Eventually she came to another vent shaft running horizontal and slithered her way into it. After pausing to catch her breath and stretch her leg out, she got to work hauling up her bag with the cable that she had attached to it. Getting that up she took a moment to check her ECHO, making sure of the direction before heading out.

A short while later, and a few turns, which really weren’t all that easy and consisted of shuffling onto her side before oozing around the corner and then the real challenge was to get her legs around, before making sure that the bag didn’t catch on anything as it went around. Not to mention the constant alert state she was in. Waiting to see if anything jumped out at her, or came scuttling up behind her.

A few times she paused and listened, sure that she could hear voices echoing through the ducts, but she could never quite be sure. Probably the friends of those guys that they had killed, she told herself, hoping that it wasn’t just wishful thinking.

Eventually she saw light up ahead, and if her calculations were correct, that meant that she was almost at her destination.

After a few more wriggles she was up to the vent and able to partially see out. The area beyond was dark, but not near as dark as the vent, so she could see somewhat.

Looking out she could see the problem with relying on just the map, what had been a large room that they had figured would be filled with equipment, was in fact a giant shaft, with four narrow bridges connecting the outer wall to the core in the center. The control room seemed to be located above the generator itself, which sank into darkness. Illumination was provided by small emergency lights along the walls, up the central area and across the walkway.

Luckily the vent she was at was directly over one of the walkways, so she could make it out with relative safety.

She pushed against the vent, trying to dislodge it without luck, and none of the tools she had brought were of any use, so in the end she resorted to popping her Digi-blade and cut it loose. Catching it before it fell, she carefully slid it next to her and looked out properly.

Being able to stick her head out and look around gave Artemis the ability to more accurately see the room and were she would need to get to. Three of the walkways led to doors, including the one she was over. The last led to an elevator, the mesh metal cage around the shaft rose out of sight.

The main problem she could see was that the same kind of mesh was around the walkways, encasing them.

‘The one time Jack actually put in the proper safety gear.’ She thought bitterly. ‘Well nothing to do about it but get down there and see what I can do.’

With that she slid forward, gripping the edge and did a fair impersonation of an acrobatic exit, ending up hanging from the edge of the ventilation duct before dropping as softly as she could onto the walkway roof.

A quick examination told her that she wasn’t getting in from this end, so her best bet would be at the control tower. Thankfully the cage she was on was fairly wide and flat, with a central strip running the length, the other side of which undoubtedly had the lights for the walkway on it, but would provide her with an easily traversable path, so after reequipping herself she started along.

She had made it only about a third of the way when things started to go wrong.

The first indication that things were going sideways was an explosion from somewhere above her. Artemis flattened herself instinctively and looked around, bits of debris clanged and fell around the elevator shaft, followed by a pair of ropes being dropped into the shaft itself. Four troops, whose outfits she couldn’t make out started to descend in pairs, while on the outside of the shaft she counted six flying troops dropped in. Those ones she could see, each of them was wearing armor she had never seen before, slim plates of silver and smoky black armor over cloth covered in black hexes with thin gray lines breaking it up. Each had a heavy gauntlet on their left hand and large black boots with silver talon like spikes over the front of them. But the most notable thing about them was the large packs they were wearing, nowhere near as slick as the ones worn by Maliwan troops, these had a rougher look, with small stylized black wings that had feather-like edges tipped in silver. The air around them was distorted with energy waves keeping them aloft, and along with the troops themselves a number of smaller cybernetically augmented bird’s flew in.

The last one to descend was obviously their leader, her armor was more ornate, most notably her mask, which was in the shape of a birds head, with a long thick beak and a crest of feathers. Her boots sat above a pair of cybernetic talons that were flexing slightly as she flew.

As they descended, she directed the troops with a wave of her hand, indicating that they should spread out, which they immediately set about doing.

As they spread out Artemis knew that she would be spotted at any moment, and with no cover to be found she was feeling more than a little exposed and vulnerable. It was too far to run for either the wall or the core, and she would be noticed the instant she made her move, so she did the only thing she could think of, she slowly wrapped her rifles strap around her arm and the instant one of the fliers got close, she popped up and shot her.

Their head exploded as the bullet tore through it and ricocheted into the nearest of the cyber-birds, dropping it from the air. The rest of them froze for a split second except the leader who let loose with a cry and motioned for the rest to attack.

Artemis snapped another shot off, taking out another pair of a flier and bird before they managed to get the attack underway. The first strike came at her from the side as one of the birds dove at her, talons ready. She dove underneath it with a roll to the side, keeping her footing in the forefront of her mind. As she came up one of the troops was already diving at her, as if they had planned it ahead of time. Belatedly she realized that these weren’t troops and birds, they were trained animals and their handlers, a well-oiled machine with trust between them.

From the angle of the attack she had no way of diving safely so she gave up on that and rolled off the edge of the walkway, driving her left hand into the mesh as she went over the edge. Her fingers found purchase in the links and flipped her over so that she was dangling precariously over the pit.

She flipped her rifle around and managed a one-handed shot into the next diving attacker, their corpse slammed into the mesh a few feet from her and before they fell away, Artemis swung herself and kicked off the body to roll back onto the top.

The last three paused and spread out at the direction of the boss. Artemis wished she could take that chick out, it would make things so much easier without her coordination, but from the way she was moving and never taking her eyes off of Artemis, she knew that it wouldn’t be an easy feat.

The other two were moving to try and get behind her, a good pack tactic made even worse by the narrow area she had to move on. Her best bet would be to get to the wall and cut her back off, but since two of them had moved in that direction it was clear that they weren’t going to let that happen easily. To make things worse, the remaining birds were circling her, some going under the walkway and others overhead. The leader’s eyes never left her and she seemed to be giving up on using only melee as she drew a SMG and cocked her head, almost as if to say ‘Your move’.

Artemis calculated the odds and decided on her play. She took off towards the wall while bringing her rifle up at the leader, who looked disappointed as she slid in a different direction, only for Artemis to spin and shoot the one left on the core side, catching her off guard. Switching directions as the corpse fell out of the air, she darted back the way she had come.

The retaliatory strike happened immediately, her shield took the SMG round sprayed at her and she threw herself into a roll, feeling the talons of the one dive bombing her pass overhead. She came up in a crouch as the one whom had just missed her jinked off in a desperate attempt to dodge, only to take a bullet in the back of the head, killing her and another of the birds, leaving only the boss and the last three birds remaining.

The leader held out her left hand and one of the birds landed upon it. Even as she did, she never stopped moving, darting in random directions and never giving Artemis a clean shot. She took her eyes off Artemis and looked at the bird for a moment before tossing it back into the air and shooting forward at remarkable speed, as she did two birds, one on each side, dove at Artemis’s sides, driving her forward while simultaneously the larger bird dove at her from the frond, forcing her to duck. As soon as she did the leader dove claws out. Artemis had to throw herself off the side of the walkway to avoid the razor talons that cut through the air where she had just been.

Slamming her fingers into the mesh again she slammed hard into one of the supports, landing another bruise on her ribs. Dangling by one hand, she couldn’t dodge as the boss swept around and unloaded with her SMG at her, causing her to throw her arm in front of herself in a natural reflex to protect herself. Using that split second, she dove, still firing, extending her talons in front of her, only to find that she had fallen into a trap.

Too late to change directions or escape her dive she saw that Artemis hadn’t been bringing her arm up as protection, but instead to get her rifle ready. She was close enough that Artemis could see her bright red eyes widening in shock, see that the armor wasn’t in fact black, but was instead tarnished silver, close enough that she couldn’t miss.

She pulled the trigger just as she heard a screech and two shadows crossed in front of her rifle intercepting the shot.

To her amazement two of the birds had sacrificed themselves to protect her opponent, who was also frozen in shock. With a cry of anguish, she abandoned her attack and dove, catching the birds and cradling them to her chest as she flew.

Artemis flipped herself onto the top of the walkway and popped the empty cylinder on her rifle, and as fast as she could slipped two bullets into it.

As she did the other woman flew up and just as she got to where she had entered, spun with hate filled eyes. Glaring down she spoke for the first time, her screaming voice rough with emotion.

“You will pay for this! Morrigan promises you, she will harvest your life for this, mark my words.”

Artemis didn’t wait for her to finish and snapped a shot off, and despite the speed, the other girl managed to dodge upward and out of the room, but not quite fast enough as Artemis saw a splatter of blood hit the wall. She would have been able to use that to track her down, not liking to leave an opponent who obviously would have a grudge alive, but even she couldn’t track in the air.

She held her gun up for a moment to make sure that she wasn’t going to immediately come back and when she didn’t, Artemis sighed and relaxed slightly while cursing softly. If she hadn’t loaded two bullets, she would have had time to fire twice and may have been able to end it there, but if she had, she would have only had one shot in the gun, an unwinnable situation.

Shrugging and deciding not to worry about it anymore, she popped the cylinder and reloaded her rifle before turning her attention to her next problem.

The first thing she needed to do was get into the central control tower. But not only did she have to figure out how to get in, once she did there were now at least four enemies within it. Not only that, they knew she was out there and would be waiting for her. So she was going to have to be smart about this.

But first thing first, she needed to cross the walkway. She didn’t worry about getting shot for the same reason that she couldn’t shoot in, the mesh would interfere too much. It wasn’t that she couldn’t fit her gun barrel through it, it was that even when she did, she couldn’t angle it properly to get a shot.

She made it to the central control tower without any more mishaps, and got to work searching for a way in. Without much difficulty she found an emergency access hatch that would lead into the room below. Setting her bag aside she dug out what she needed and took a deep breath before throwing open the hatch and yelling “'Nade!” and chucking the metal container in. There was the immediate sounds of scrambling as they dove for cover and Artemis swung through the hatch, pistol in hand and threw herself at the first one she saw.

Driving her knees into his chest she drove him down, firing point blank into his face as she did. Rolling forward off the corpse she came up in front of the second one and shoved the barrel up under his chin before firing. The third stepped out, gun drawn only to take two shots to the head, she spun to the last troop and found him on the ground, scooting back on his butt, waving his hands in a panic.

“Whoa, WHOA! Don’t shoot!” He all but screamed at her waving his hands in desperation. When she didn’t immediately kill him, he continued in a high pitched voice “I’m Martin, I’m just the tech guy.”

“And what are you here for?”

“I’m just here to fix the generator, that’s it, that’s all I know. I swear.”

“And how did you plan on doing that?”

“Look, it’s all a bit complicated, but before I can tell you what needs doing, I need to look around, see what’s broke. That’s what I was doing before you crashed in here, throwing grenades and all that. I mean who throws grenades into a power system?”

Artemis walked over to where her projectile had landed and picked it up, before taking the cap off and taking a swig. Looking at the man as she screwed the cap back on her canteen she flatly said “Who declares they’re throwing a grenade to the enemy?”

“You…you mean it was a trick?”

“Of course it was, now get to work. And don’t try anything.”

As he stood up carefully Artemis got a better look at him, he was a thin black man wearing light armor over stylish clothes, she could see a black and purple patterned shirt and slacks, at his waist he had a belt of tools and a fancy but durable watch on his right wrist.

He gave her what she assumed he thought was a charming smile and got to work looking around. While he did that, she kept an eye on him while collecting the gear from the dead troopers. Most of it was crap, but she did find a halfway decent grenade mod, one at least better than nothing.

A minute later he sat back and looked around before speaking in a calmer and slightly less high-strung voice. “Well, it seems that someone rerouted the power from one side of the complex to the other. I mean they weren’t able to completely shut the other side down, but they undoubtedly caused no shortage of problems. They must have taken the lines and reconnected them from here, but in order to reverse it we will need to first shut the power off, don’t worry, the backup will still be on, then we can take these lines and reconnect them where they are supposed to be. Then if we reboot the system it should be online.”

“Sure.”

“Are you a wire head by any chance? I couldn’t help but notice the arm. I don’t recognize the design, is it custom? Who did it?”

His incessant chatter was met by a flat hard stare that cooled the room by a few degrees causing him to shut up with a gulp.

“Sorry, didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that I talk when I’m nervous. The Baron keeps telling me it’s gonna get me in trouble one of these days, but I didn’t think I’d be like this.”

“Which Baron?”

“No, not like that, The Baron is my boss, though I suppose I shouldn’t be telling you that. Is there any chance you can pretend that I didn’t say that? I’ll get in a lot of trouble if he finds out I said anything.”

“Hmmm” was the only reply he got as Artemis looked around.

“I guess I’ll take that as a maybe. So let’s get this started shall we. By the way I never got your name.”

“Correct.”

“Uh, that makes it a bit difficult to work with you, so, uh, I guess I’ll just call you Miss.”

“…”

“Um, right, so, uh, Miss, if you wouldn’t mind, can you flip that switch and then help me disconnect those wires?”

“…Fine, but any tricks, and they will be fatal for one of us.”

“Understood.” he said with a thin gulp.

She made her way over to the switch and examined it before pressing the release button and then pulling the handle down with her left hand. It clunked into place and the room switched to emergency lighting.

Turning back, she started on the cables, disconnecting them and dragging them over to where the man was working, and after listening to his directions, plugging them in where they needed to be. As she did that, between directing her, the man, Martin she thought he had said, worked on the other wires and before long they were ready.

“Right” He declared after double checking the wires “Everything looks good here. Whew, there was no way I was gonna get that done on my own, you really saved me here. And you know what? You don’t seem that bad, little rough and stand-offish, but you’re good at this, you’d make a great addition to the team, I can even talk to The Baron if you want? No? Well think it over. Anyway, let’s flip that switch and get things back running, shall we.”

Artemis shrugged and pushed the switch up, where it clunked into place, restoring the lights in the room.

“Now you just need to push that button on the controls to reboot the system and we should be done.” He said with a smile.

She walked over and examined the buttons, finding the one she needed, she punched it with her left hand, and simultaneously fired her pistol behind her without looking, hitting Martin in the neck causing his knife swing to skid across her shield as he fell back, clutching his neck.

“How?” he gurgled out.

“How what? How’d I know that you were gonna try something? How’d I know you were more than just a techie? Easy, first I don’t trust anybody I meet in a place like this, and second, you moved wrong. You were too quiet. To light on your feet, but despite being able to move with almost no sound, your tools jingled slightly, like you weren’t used to sneaking with them. On top of that, you were wiring it all wrong, I may not be much of a techie, but even I could see that.”

“Heh, ha ha ha,” he laughed as best he could “Given away by something so stupid.”

“But seriously, what did you think a knife would do to my shield anyway?”

“Might as well tell you. It was supposed to be down, that button was wired to give you a hell of a jolt, might have even killed you if I was lucky, don’t know why it didn’t work.”

“Bad luck. But even without that, if I hadn’t been ready for that, I would’ve just shot you before examining it.”

“Guess you…can’t be…too paranoid in…this…line…of…”

Artemis turned her back on the fresh corpse and got to work rewiring the switch.

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Chapter 19

Hyperion Site: Project Odysseus: Security Area

Gaige

“The movies lied, there’s no way any of those guys would’ve fit in an actual vent.” Gaige griped between thin breaths “I mean they always show someone Axton’s size easily crawling through one of these, but I doubt even Maya would have been able to fit in here. Maybe Zero. He always seemed like he would be rather flexible, plus he’s skinnier than me. Maybe there are different sized vents and Jack just went for the smaller ones, would make sense, the money-grubbing bastard.”

She was struggling to move since she couldn’t get a good flex on her arms without hitting the walls. In addition, even with the belts around her chest compressing it as much as possible, every time she took a breath in, it not only hurt with the tightness in her chest, but she felt both her back and her chest pressing against the metal of the vent. So she was barely making any progress.

In addition, each noise, every echo in the vent made her think that something was in there with her. She was regretting mocking Artemis about being spooked now it was her turn and she didn’t like it one bit. Worse still, unlike the other girl, she couldn’t even look over her shoulder, so she had no way of knowing what, if anything, was behind her.

She had no way of knowing how much progress she was making, all the vents looked alike, just one long grey dusty bit of metal, barley illuminated by the lantern she had borrowed.

She sighed and tapped the ECHO she was holding in one hand to bring up the map, ‘■■■■’ she thought ‘Is that really all the further that I’ve gotten? I was sure that I must have gone farther than that by now.’ She continued to drag herself forward trying to ignore the dust that drug along and was clinging to her chest, no doubt making a mess out of her. She remembered how dusty Artemis had been after being in one of these, and she could lift herself up a bit and not get as bad.

“Babe?” She called into her ECHO trying to distract herself “What’s the name of the job where you fix ducts and stuff?”

“Uru”

“I was just wondering so that I could add it to the list of jobs that I never want to do.”

“Urgur”

“Yeah, it’s ***** oof* it’s goin, slow. Really slow. At this rate I should be done sometime next year or so. How you * hurg* doin?”

“Urauru”

“Yeah well, trust me, this sucks.” She told he robo-buddy before muttering to herself “Maybe I really should have went in her place.”

She turned her attention back to the task at hand and kept pulling herself along. Her only real consolation was that her path didn’t require anything but going straight ahead, no turns, no climbing, no descending, just dragging herself forward.

Still each time she came to an intersection she paused and looked down each, the earlier conversation echoing in her mind, and thoughts of slimy creatures lunging out came to her mind unbidden. Shaking her head, she tried to think of something else, anything else, like what to do to get out of debt if this didn’t pan out. And then there was her other debt, which in a way was worse, because at least the financial debt was something that the other party acknowledged and expected to be repaid. The debt with Artemis wasn’t like that, she was sure that the other girl still felt like she owed her, which caused Gaige to sigh in frustration.

Well, thinking about it would get her nowhere, the only thing to do would be to talk to Artemis directly and try and work things out, better to get it out, then to bottle it up until it explodes. That had barely worked out once and she didn’t have any faith that it would a second time.

But that was something for later, right now, she was still in a cramped, dusty vent, still it did give her something to occupy her mind with, trying to figure out ways to convince the other girl, while she crawled along.

Before she could come up with anything that would work, she finally came to her exit vent. She pushed against it to try and dislodge it, to no avail. Sighing, she shifted herself around as best she could, working herself up to an angle till she could just get her hand between herself and the metal duct and get to her belt. Fumbling around she soon came back up with a handful of tools, and was glad she had a cybernetic arm, since it couldn’t get a cramp.

A minute later the vent cover fell loose, clanging noisily against the ground. She twisted her head out and looked around, finding the dark room clear of anyone she struggled, twisting and turning till she had tugged herself through the narrow opening. Hanging from the edge she pulled her bag through and dropped to the floor.

Undoing the belts around her chest as fast as she could, she fell onto her back, taking deep breaths while massaging her chest to get the pain to go away. Laying there she was glad that no one was around to see her in such a state, but right then, she didn’t care if there had been.

Eventually she sat back up and got herself reequipped before standing and getting a better look at the room.

It was packed with electronics, though none of them were powered at the moment. Consuls and banks of switches covered the flat areas and monitors crowded the walls. On one side, small areas were partitioned off forming booths, each with their own monitor. A key board and ECHO reader were also in each one.

Looking around she realized that this must have been the communications area. Probably for external messaging, though how much would be allowed on such a secret base was something of a mystery. Still any base needed to send out regular updates, and sending them out with the supply shipments lacked the expediency needed in case of emergency.

She glanced around, but didn’t spot anything of immediate interest so she headed to the door, but just as she got there the lights went out.

Freezing in place for the second before they switched to emergency power she looked around carefully.

“Well, it looks like someone made it to the generator.” She muttered looking at the door. The switch was dark at the moment, so while she could force it, if she just waited the power would come back on in a few minutes and it would open easily then, so she lifted the lantern and examined the room in more detail while she waited.

The gear was surprisingly untouched considering the state of the labs, probably due to the fact that no one could get in here. In fact, she was probably the first person in the room in years. Just thinking about it was a bit eerie.

Carrying the lantern, she made her way around the room, looking at things closer than she had before, and when she got to one of the private booths she spotted something on the floor, an old ECHO cartage. Picking it up, she popped it in and played it.

The death of Subject 2 has opened up a whole new line of experimentation. The changes that were recorded have brought about a whole new way of looking at the problem.

Dr. Pretorian, for example, has moved into a whole new realm, she managed to find what may well be the missing link we have been searching for.

The experiments that she is performing are downright miraculous, and they need to be. We must have results before Jack gets here.

But I was assigned to the weirdest project, in her experiments, Dr. Pretorian has managed to create something approximating the power that we seek, but the experiment has created a runoff that has taken on a life of its own.

I for one, have never seen anything like it, did we manage to tap into some new, previously unknown source?

I’ve gotten ahead of myself, the runoff starts as a white sludge, but if we collect it and processes it correctly, through a system of my own devising, it turns into an egg. Or at least a close approximation of one.

We have isolated them in the cold storage area for the time being.

I can’t wait to see if they can hatch and what might come out of them.

If nothing else Dr. Heinrich has found that the albumen can be used in other experiments, and has reacted well with 207S-1.

The mixture he has created, when introduced into the cells of Subjects 1 and 2 have had startling results, thought I cannot say exactly what they are, since I am not on his team, but from the look of his researchers, they must be very promising.

We will continue with our research, and I am hoping that the first batch will be incubating soon, we just need to convince the Tech department to build us a few more incubators and everything will be ready.

“What the hell were they doing here?” Gaige muttered in horror, looking at her ECHO. She was glad that she didn’t need to go to any area that might have anything to do with whatever that guy had been talking about.

About then the lights flickered and came back on, as well as the control panel next to the door.

“Well let’s hope that means that this means that someone’s got things rewired.” She stated as she hustled to the door on the off chance that the power cut again.

The door slid open with one of the key cards and let her out into a short hall, with another door directly across from her and a T intersection at either end. Checking her ECHO, she determined which way she needed and set off.

Just as she did the power cut for a second time, electing a “What the?” from her. By the time she had made it to her first destination the lights had come back on, so she figured it was one of two things. First and the more hopeful was that Artemis had wired something wrong and had to go back and fix it. The second was that there was something wrong and the power was on the fritz. She really hoped it wasn’t that one, because she didn’t think the other girl could fix that. So, she crossed her fingers and moved on.

Her first stop was the other side of the door that she couldn’t open before, only to find that this side didn’t have any controls either. She hoped that the main security control room could open it because she didn’t know if she could get back through the vents. So that was her next destination.

It didn’t take long to find it, and surprisingly the door opened for her leading her into the security area.

The first area was a small room with chairs against one wall, a pair of long dead potted plants, a clear heavy ballistic glass screen across most of one of the walls with a door next to it. Looking through the window she could make out the desk and chair of the officer on duty, though they were abandoned now. An empty cup stained with coffee sat alone on the desk and if she looked to the side, she could just make out the door to get in.

Trying the door, she found it locked and had to persuade it to open, which led to a short hall. The doors on one side were small interview or interrogation rooms, which she had heard described once as ‘an interview with persuasion’ though she couldn’t figure out why that came to her at that moment. Around the corner she found a break room with ransacked vending machines and another set of doors.

The first one led to a locker room complete with showers, which she was sorely tempted by. The next she couldn’t get open no matter how much she tried to persuade it and was labeled armory. She really wanted in there and made a mental note to look for a key or computer override once that was back up and running.

The last door led to a room that was wide and stepped down with each row of stations in it. Looking around she quickly determined that this was the center of the security department.

Most of the stations weren’t in any fit state, smashed monitors, destroyed keyboards, and other signs that the room had been staffed at the time that the power had went out and that they hadn’t been successful in getting out. Which made her wonder, if they hadn’t gotten out and no one had gotten in, then where were they? She hadn’t found any corpses on her way. Maybe they were in another room in this wing, after all she had gotten in here relatively easily. They could have met up with some of the workers from the communications department and whatever else was in this locked off section, went with them and stayed there.

She really didn’t want to go looking, so she told herself that there would be nothing gained by doing so and putting it out of her head as best she could.

Refocusing, she looked around the room. Every room like this had a supervisor’s desk that could control most of the systems in an emergency, and this most certainly qualified. Once power was restored and rerouted that would be where she needed to be.

It didn’t take long to find, with its crescent shaped row of monitors and multiple keypads. She plopped down in the comfy chair and pulled out her ECHO. A quick key in latter and she was speaking to Deathtrap.

“Hey babe, just checking in. Made it through the vents and into the security control room and just thought I’d let you know and see how you were holdin up.”

“Urgurr”

“Yeah, I wish you were here too. But we have a job to do and it’s currently waiting, so there’s not much we can do but try and be patient.”

“Urarggr”

“The power cut off here as well, so hopefully that means that she’s made it to the generator and got it rewired, though I am a bit worried about that second one. Still if the second one was her, which I am hoping since it hasn’t happened since, then that should mean that she should be getting close to the control room and we should be seeing something soon.”

“Urrra”

“Right, fingers crossed.”

“Urur”

“Alright, well here’s hoping. Latter.”

She set her ECHO back down and waited. What felt like forever passed when suddenly the screens around the room, or at least the ones that hadn’t been destroyed, flickered back to life.

“Hell yeah!” She cried out “Huh, now I get why Brick likes that phrase so much. Anyway, time to see if she’s alright.”

She punched some buttons on the keypad in front of her and started navigating the system. A few minutes passed as she got used to things and made her way through menus till she got to what she wanted. She popped open security feeds on various screens in front of her, tossing them to the side monitors and quickly found that most of them were inoperable. Cursing she made do with what she had, it seemed that none of the cameras in the Bio-lab were operational, making her a bit curious about what they were doing there, but also a bit scared. Mostly scared, bio things were a bit creepy and that’s not even counting what she’d seen in the movies.

Going back to the task at hand, she found that most of the cameras were working in the lower areas, but even security didn’t seem to have access to the upper floors.

Scanning through the lower floors while consulting her map, she found where the room that Artemis should have been was, but there were no cameras in the area. Or rather, she figured, there were, but without knowing where they were hidden in the system, she couldn’t bring them up. They were probably password protected anyway.

Still, she didn’t see any movement on any of the cameras from that area so she took the chance and tapped her ECHO.

“What?” Came the familiar voice through the speaker, crackling a bit and sounding very far away.

“Hey there, hows it goin? I see power’s back up and I’m working on overriding the locks. Just wanted to check in, she how things were.”

“Oh things are great. The sewer was just the beginning of my fun, I’ll tell you all about it later. Right now though, I’m trying to find a way up.”

“What about the elevator?”

“Yeah, about that, seems it’s jammed open on one of the floors or something, cause it ain’t coming down. So I need a new way up.”

“Hmm, looking at the map there should be a stairwell a little ways back from there and through some large room.”

“Uh, no, nope that won’t work. Not at all. Find me a different way, please.”

Something about the tone of her voice caused Gaige’s eyes to narrow. She was hiding something.

“Why? What aren’t you telling me?”

“Uh…”

“And remember you said you wouldn’t lie to me. Speaking of which, and I know this is off topic and I’m not letting you off that one, but what was up with that DAHL Surveyors tool you have in your pack? That wasn’t there when we left, I mean I never saw it on your ship, so what’s the story?”

“Wait, you went through my pack?”

“I needed something from it, don’t try and change the subject.”

“I wasn’t, it’s just that, well, it was, kinda supposed to, you know”

“Quit stalling.”

“It was supposed to be a gift. I found it in the residential area and it was in this case so I thought it’d make a good gift for you.”

“You were gonna give me a stolen item as a gift?”

“It’s not stolen. It was salvaged, or whatever you call this. And it wasn’t gonna be the only thing, but I thought you’d like it and it was supposed to be a surprise, but that’s ruined. Why? Don’t you like it?”

“What? No way, I mean, of course I want it, that thing is a collector’s item, I mean it’s one of the first generation and it’s in nearly mint condition. I’ve never even heard of one in that shape before. I mean my dad had one of the second-generation ones, and that would have been in good condition, if you were being a bit generous. Pity it didn’t have the book with it.”

“Oh it had a book, it should have been in the bag too, but I kinda sandwiched it between some stuff so it wouldn’t get bent or anything.”

“Really! Oh wow, I wish I was with Deathtrap right now, he has your pack and we kinda needed to be separated for the moment, but as soon as I’m back I need to look at that.”

“And that’s the other reason that I didn’t tell you about it, you’d get distracted. We need to focus on the task at hand.”

“Right, sorry, the task at hand, you’re right and the task at hand is what you aren’t telling me about that room.”

“It’s, ah, impassible? No that’s not right”

“What’s wrong with it? Couldn’t you get the door open?”

“No, that’s not it, it’s just that, well…”

“Spit it out.”

“It’s filled with these creepy mannequin-like things.”

“…”

“Hello?”

“That’s it?”

“What do you mean that’s it?”

“I mean, it’s just mannequins? That’s it, nothing else?”

“But they’re super creepy.”

“They aren’t moving or anything?”

“Not that I saw.”

“And you just don’t want to because there creepy?”

“Super creepy.”

“STOP WASTING MY TIME AND GET IN THERE!”

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