Uncertain Futures: Part Three

By Brad Marsh.

Evan, Bear and Carron stood just outside the gateway inside the control room; their blasters were holstered. The dozen fur clad Eskimo’s with the muskets did not move, they didn’t even seem to blink. Then just as Evan was about to speak to them, their forms shimmered and were replaced by a dozen Native American braves in buckskins and moccasins. The muskets where replaced with Winchester repeating riffles. With a start Evan, Bear and Carron dropped to the floor behind a panel of blinking comps.

“ What the fuck is going on? “ Bear demanded drawing a Beretta 92FS that Laskesh had allowed him to take from the armory back at Cerberus.

Before Evan could answer, a loud voice boomed through the control room. “ Throw down your weapons and you will not be harmed. “

“ How do we know your word is worth anything? “ Evan shouted back “ How do we know you won’t just kill us once you’ve disarmed us? “

“ You don’t? “ the voice replied “ But you have only seen a fraction of the power I can wield against you. If you refuse to comply, your passing will be long and hard. It is your choice. If I am lying then at least your deaths will be quick and relatively painless.“

Evan tossed his Colt 1911 out around the desk; it skidded across the concrete floor. Bear throw out his Beretta and Carron tossed out his SIG Sauer P226, both blasters skidded across the floor and stopped near Evan’s Colt. They all stood as one and came out from behind the comp panel.  The Native American’s had been replaced by a dozen green garbed army soldiers holding

M-16A-1 riffles. One of the soldiers moved to retrieve the trio’s weapons from the floor. They motioned for the trio to move out into the main corridor, where they broke into two groups of six. One group led the way down the corridor, with Evan, Bear and Carron following, the remaining six soldiers fell in behind them as they moved along the corridor. Who ever was controlling the dozen or so soldiers knew at least some basic military knowledge. The soldiers kept their distance, never allowing the trio to get with in striking distance, an ever-watchful eye on them.

They were led past more than two dozen closed and sec locked doors, during their stroll through the redoubt. It looked abandoned, but the presence of the soldiers told it’s own story. Not to mention the unseen owner of the voice that had ordered them to surrender.  There was at least one person running the redoubt, and they had at least minimal knowledge of how to maintain and use the redoubt comps. That made them a dangerous and unknown quantity. The soldiers leading the way came to sudden stop in front of a large steel armaglass door that stretched from floor to ceiling. When the door began to rose half way up and stopped, the lead soldiers stepped aside motioning Evan and his companions inside. The trio entered as the door began to descend once more. They entered a large conference room, where Field Marshall Thrush’s right hand man Commander David Harris was seated at a large highly polished red wood table.

He was holding a cup of steaming coffee, a Government model Colt .45 hand blaster lay on the table in front of him, with in easy reach. “ Come in Captain McCaffery. We have been expecting you, though we had not expected you quite so soon. “

“ Sorry we’ll come back later if this is a bad time. “ Evan replied turning back towards the sec door, which had closed behind them.

“ Please stay a while. “ Harris replied with mock formality “ We have so much catching up to do.”

 “ I was never one for idol small talk. “ Evan responded “ I like to get straight to the point. Cut to the chase sorta speak.“

“ You have always been a direct man, Captain. “

“ Lets cut the one up head games and get to the fuckin’ point. Where’s Thrush? “

“ The Field Marshall was not available to greet you. He had important business to attend to elsewhere. As soon as I deal with the three of you I will be joining him. What I want to know is how you got here? “

“ We followed Thrush through the gateway, only we were shot off somewhere other than his destination. We attempted another jump, hoping to get home, but we got you instead. “

“ Where did you get the hardware? I know you carry a 1911 as you side arm Captain but the Beretta and the SIG Sauer were in factory new condition, far beyond anything you could have obtained back in your reality. “

“In the first reality we came to we came across people who had access to factory new blasters. They were kind enough to impart them to us.“

“ Kane and his meddling companions. “ Harris replied.

Evan struggled to keep his surprise from showing on his face. But he couldn’t keep the note of surprise out of his voice. “ What? “

“ I will take your tone of voice to mean that my guess was right. Of all the places the Field Marshall would have liked you to land, Kane’s reality was not one of them. “ 

“ Thrush fears Kane. What I can’t figure out is why? He seemed like such an average guy. Nothing special. Maybe that crazy Gatekeeper guy I saw during my first jump was right about Kane being the Guardian of the Deathlands and all that shit.“

“ Kane is nobody. He is a piece of temporal trash and a minor nuisance to the Field Marshall. He will be dealt with in do time. He may be dead already, getting cold as we speak.”

“ I have feeling that Thrush will have a harder time killing Kane than he thinks. He could kill him when he was in my reality. What makes you think Thrush will have better luck in some other reality. If Kane is the Guardian of the Deathlands that means he’s that is the Guardian no matter what reality he’s in. It’s just a different version of the same old game. “ 

“ That is merely speculation. You have no facts to base that assumption on. “

“ Only the words of spector who called himself the Gatekeeper. He knew a lot about Thrush as well. He seemed to believe that Kane would best Thrush. “ Evan replied with a smile “ Thrush may have won he battle back in our reality but I have a feeling the War is far from over. “

“ That may be so, but the three of you won’t be around long enough to see any of your predictions take place. You’re going to be dead, just like Kane and his Companions. “

“ Oh I doubt that as well. “ Evan replied “ This Gatekeeper fellow told me that the three of us have a destiny to for fill back home. Our world needs us now that Thrush is no longer grinding us down under his boot heel. I think you’re the one who will be dead before this visit as you call it is over. “

“ You are very confident for an unarmed man. “ Harris replied his hand sliding over to the Colt .45 lying on the table at his elbow. A smile forming on his face.

“ Who said I was unarmed. “ Evan replied tensing his wrist muscles. The buzz of electrodes was accompanied by the sound of a fully loaded Sin Eater slapping into Evan’s hands. Bear and Carron were almost as surprised by appearance of the big boar hand blaster as Harris was. With no trigger guard on the compact blaster, the moment the deadly blaster slapped into Evan’s waiting palm the gun roared. Evan fired off a dozen rounds easily in the second or so Evan had his finger on the trigger. Harris dove off his chair sending the Colt .45 automatic sliding across the polished marble floor of the chamber were it stopped several yards out of reach. At the sight on the blaster Bear and Carron turned towards the panel behind them that controlled the door. As it began to rise, they both slipped under it and out into the hall. “ You should learn to search your guests better.” Evan shouted as he fired two spaced round from the Sin Eater into the panel that controlled the door. He then slipped out the door behind his two companions. He slapped the button that would close the door once more with his palm once he was safely out in the hall. Once the door slipped back into its recessed groove in the floor he shot the outside panel as well. The dozen green garbed soldiers were gone. Both Bear and Carron were several hundred yards away having raced back down the corridor towards the Gateway once the door was open and the corridor appeared deserted. They had stopped at the first bend in the corridor, waiting for Evan seeing as he was the only one of them armed at the moment. Evan strode to them, taking the lead as the trio headed towards the gateway control room.

In the back of Evan’s mind was the fact that Harris was still alive and armed, though he had shot up the two door control panels, know of them knew if there was another way out or not. Not to mention the unsettling fact that the Green garbed army men where MIA at the moment. They reached the control room several minuets later, finding the door wide open, just as he had left it.

The room was devoid of life, no Eskimos, Native Americans, or soldiers to greet them this time. Their weapons were sitting lined up on one of the desks near the gateway door. Bear and Carron reclaimed their handblsters. Bear handed Evan his Colt 1911, which he holstered on his hip once more. He pushed the Sin Eater back into it’s wrist holster and head for the Gateway, Bear and Carron in tow, each of them clutching a drawn blaster. They closed the door, holstering blasters, and sat on the floor, but the now familiar hum did not come, nor the wispy white mist that signaled the start of a jump. But nothing happened.

“ Now what? “ Carron exhaled

“ It looks like our pal Harris isn’t about to let us leave so soon. “ Evan replied

“ What now? “ Bear asked getting to his feet and drawing his blaster once more.

“ We go out and finish this little game with Harris. They’re no other choice. We need to find out what he did to the gateway and reverse it, otherwise were stuck here.“ Evan replied getting to his feet as well. Watching as Carron followed suit across from him. They turned towards the doorway as a shadow loomed on the other side. Drawing his Colt 1911 Evan opened the door and stepped through all in the same motion. The green garbed Army men greeted him; one of them had begun to move towards the door. Evan fired his Colt, aiming with instinct, the Soldier who had been moving to open the door, pitched over with a neat round hole in his forehead. The other soldiers shimmered once and disappeared into thin air. When Evan looked back to the body of the soldier he had shot, but it too had disappeared as well.

“ What the hell did you do? “ Bear asked from his crouched position behind Evan.

“ I shot one of those soldier guys, he fell to the floor and then the whole bunch just disappeared. I had a theory about them; they were just for show. An implied threat that most people would take seriously. But they have no actual ability to implement violent measures. “

“ Looks like your theory checked out. “ Carron replied dryly. “ Can we get out of this crypt already and get to kicking some serious ass. “

“ We have to find Harris first.” Bear replied “ From what we’ve seen this place is a huge sprawling Redoubt. This makes Cerberus look like a log cabin out in the woods. How are we suppose to find Harris in a place this size?”

“ We don’t, we make the son of a bitch come to us. “ McCaffery replied “ But we can’t kill the bastard before he tells us how to get back home again. “

“ When he comes looking for us he’s going to be coming to chill us, he’s already told us that Thrush ordered us dealt with, which means chill our ass’s. How do we get him to tell us how to get home before he forces to either chill him or he chills us? “

Evan smiled at that “ I’m making this shit up as I go. They didn’t exactly train officers for this kind of thing before we were commissioned. The way I see it I’m not a captain anymore and Carron isn’t a Sergeant anymore we’re all equal until we get home.”

“ How does that solve our present situation? All it does is blur the lines and make things even more confusing. All without solving anything. That’s great, just great. “ Carron muttered

“ Drop it. “ Bear hissed “ This isn’t the time or the place. “

Carron nodded briskly, “ Your right. What now? “

Without a word Evan strode out of the control room, turning right and heading off down the corridor. He stopped three doors down at a down labeled CSCN Office. His newly acquired Sin Eater slid into his hands with a meaty smack. He fired to rounds in the doors access panel, causing the door to slid sideways into it’s nitch. The room was full of monitors and comp equipment on all four walls. The door he had just open was the only way in or out of the room. Evan stepped through, with Bear, and Carron on his heels. He sat down at the main comp terminal and began nimbly tapping in commands on the keyboard. Suddenly the wall monitors flickered into life, showing various inside views through out the redoubt. A few more keystrokes and the several of the views changed, to external views. What they saw made them all gasp. All four outside views showed the star speckled vastness of deep space; they were on an orbiting space station.

“ I don’t see any familiar constellations.” Bear announced

“ Nor me. “ Evan agreed “ I’m not sure where in the Milkyway anymore. We definitely on a space station of some sort, more than likely were in the inner cog of the station. No windows of here.”

“ This could be a trick of some sort, like those hologram soldiers Harris used earlier. “ Carron said, “ How do we know what we’re seeing is real? “

“ I was thinking the same thing. “ Evan replied “ We’re going to have to make our way to the outside edge of the complex or whatever this place is, then try and find a window to verify where we are. “

“ Thrush isn’t even here and he’s managed to screw us again. “ Carron muttered as the trio turned and headed back out into the corridor once more. As their feet touched the concrete floor of the corridor a blinding light met them. They stopped dead in their tracks, gapping at the sight that stood before them. The Redoubt was gone, replaced by a rolling rain forest, that reminded Evan of his trip to the Amazon in Central America a few years before he joined the resistance. That prompted Evan to turn and look behind him. When he did he got a second shock, because the room they had walked out of no more than thirty seconds before was gone, replaced by more rolling forest.

“ This is really fucked up. “ Bear whispered as he took in the rolling forest. “ It just gone from weird to bizarre and straight to fucked up. “

“ Where still in the redoubt. “ Evan said suddenly. “ We have to be. This is a parlor trick just like the view screens that showed constellations we had never seen before and the holograms in the control room. This is just another of Harris’ tricks. Standard psychological warfare. “

“ You mean mind games? “ Carron asked

“ Exactly. If we find away out of this maze we’ve inadvertently stumbled into we’ll find Harris and our way home. The answers somewhere in this Rainforest. “

“ But where is this all coming from? “ Carron asked, “ There’s some kind of pattern here only we’re not seeing it. “

“ I think I know. “ Bear replied “ Or rather I have a theory. “

“ Go ahead. “

“ When we were in Cerberus Brigid showed me a computer file that was a journal written by a woman named Mildred Wyeth. She was part of a roaming group of friends who were the first ones to use the gateways after the war in that casement. Her and those that traveled with her became heroes to many. Two of the entries in her journal were about an Amazon rain forest and a space station they had visited. There have been to many weird things going on for that to be just a coincidence.“

“ Your right.  But what does it mean? “

“ I’m thinking Harris is using that journal as a way of playing this game he’s got us playing. Once we find out how we fit into his plan then we’ve found our ticket home.

“ What did the journal say about Amazon rain forest? “

“ Not much, just that she and her companions ended up jumping to a small concrete hut with just a gateway and the control room. They encountered the natives who though they were all flesh and blood, reincarnated gods. One of there party was an albino and he fit into one of the legends, he was like some returning king. Only the natives tried to sacrifice their long lost king to their serpent gods and they paid a heavy blood price for their trouble. “

“ Then the Gateway must not be far from here. “ Evan replied as he began walking towards the tree line. Bear and Carron followed, the forest quickly swallowing them up.

                                                            To Be Continued

                                                              October 2000

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