Tatter: Chapter 32

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Moreno Carduus dashed through the mephitic, winding bowels of the subterranean reach. Mineral crunch following the echoing screams of her men. Ghastly wails, keen and guttural filled the passage one moment, muted the next.

She proceeded some fifty feet down the tunnel, reached the central urn repository and paused, crouching low, right hand firmly gripping the matte handle of her waverender. Two of the men she’d stationed at the corridor lay unconscious on the floor, flocked by six maintenance drones that scurried up and down the wall and floor of the long, narrow, cross-shaped stone chamber, seeking thermal signatures.

She raised her waverender, cross-haired the closest drone, took a deep breath, steadied, and fired. The machine twitched, stuttered and fell from the ceiling, crashing down upon the floor in a puff of dust, circuits fried. The remaining drones turned, erratically, scanning the room as the woman resumed her aim and took out two more of the machines before their sensors lighted upon her lithe and nervous frame.

Swiftly they came for her, from ceiling and wall, spiny legs clattering adroitly across fine-powered charnel and mold-grown stone. She fired blindly as she ran, and kept firing until her weapon clacked impotently against her weathered dactyls.

As she looked over her shoulder, cursing at her spent weapon, something caught her leg, tripping her face-first to the ground.

She scrambled to her elbows and looked up to behold a man who moved into the light with considerable agility and stood the center of the hall. He was of middling age and height, garbed in a monochrome jacket, with wild hair that spun up from his scalp in dark, wavy whorls. He held a stun gun loosely in his left hand, his form relaxed, his expression resolute. His eyes spared her but a brief glance before he took off down the hall, speeding towards the tar-pitched vault.

Toward Grazen’s lab.

Toward Her.

Moreno rose to a knee and unsheathed a carbide knife from her belt as the drones aggressively advanced, disclosing the possibility of escape.

She drew back her arm, skin slinging sweat, the blade glinting faintly with the scope-mounted light of the wasted weapon, grimaced, and lunged.

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