Life of Zu – Part 3

by holojacob

Link to Part 2

SolGov tower’s superstructure was mostly intact. We descended through a central, flexible trunk that the modular rooms and halls would rearrange around back when the tower was active and capable of self-modification. The trunk was at least a hundred meters across at its thinnest point and branched off every few levels.

Nothing lit the interior. We kept our visors set for passive detection and proceeded slowly. Zeta-Three scouted ahead of our squad. Zeta-Thirteen watched our rear. We descended a gentle, spiraling ramp to a wide circular level. It looked like a pod nexus. Dozens of the egg-shaped machines lay toppled on their sides, each large enough to carry one person from place to place within the tower.

“This is about as close as we can get using the central trunk,” Six said. “We need to head outside along one of the superstructure branches.”

“Make us an exit.”

“Right,” Six walked up to a non-descript section of the wall. A small, spherical nodule about the size of his head protruded near the floor. Six cut it open with his infector gloves.

“Post up,” I said. The squad fanned out, found cover behind the inert pods, and kept watch.

Six dug his gloves into the nodule’s guts. Thin tendrils extruded from his fingertips and snaked in further.

An inhuman howl echoed through the superstructure trunk.

“What the hell was that?” Six asked, pausing.

“Not sure,” I said. “Keep at it.”

“I’ll try.”

“Zeta-Three, you see anything?”

“Nothing. But whatever that was, it came from below us.”

A port formed beneath the nodule. Six took a capacitor out of a waist pouch and slotted it in. A seam formed in the wall and opened wide. Sticky strands of smart-matter sagged between the split.

“The wall doesn’t like the cold reboot,” Six said, ripping the strands free.

“It’ll do.”

Zeta-Three stepped through first. I followed with the rest of my squad. This part of the tower was mostly empty space. Within the tower’s outer shell, the central trunk and branches filled the space much like a real tree, only expanded to gargantuan proportions. Pods, rooms, and several enormous mechanisms hung from its branches like overripe fruit. A few holes in the outer shell let in shafts of yellow light.

“There’s the master control nexus,” Six said, pointing to a wide spherical machine suspended below our position. It was a small building in its own right.

I motioned the squad forward until we were directly above the control nexus. My rangefinder put the drop at less than fifty meters.

“Looks like an easy enough jump,” I said. “Grapples, everyone. Half a dozen at a time. The other half provides cover.”

I queried the miniprinter in my suit’s backpack. It manufactured a small grappling hook and a spool of high tension cable from its smart-matter reserve. The hook ran up my arm like a tumorous growth until it pierced through the armor behind my wrist.

I jammed the barbed hook into the branch we were standing on, tested the hold, and jumped off the side. A secondary branch ran down to the control nexus like a stem holding a metallic apple in place. I repelled down its side.

Half the squad reached the smoothly rounded top of the control nexus. I crouched and raised my rifle. Nothing followed us out of the main trunk, despite the earlier noise.

The other half joined us atop the control nexus. Six found a bare patch of the roof and hacked us an entrance. We jumped into a dimly lit corridor.

“Looks like there’s power here,” Nine whispered.

“Not enough for what we need,” Six said. “But it should help us get ready for the reactor power up.”

I led the squad through the dark corridor. It curved gently to the right, straightened, and led us to a four-way junction.

“Left,” Six said.

A faint growl echoed from beyond the next junction.

“Something’s out there,” Zeta-Three whispered. He crouched beside the next turn and peeked his head around the corner. “I can’t see it.”

“Find out what it is,” I whispered, training my rifle on the next junction.

Zeta-Three scrambled forward, almost without a sound. He slinked along the wall, rifle up and ready.

I could hear Six’s heavy breathing next to me.

“Six? You okay?” I whispered, looking back at him.

Six rubbed his chest. “I don’t know. Is your heart pounding like crazy?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that normal?”

“I think so.”

“Well, I wish it would stop. It’s damn distracting.”

I gave him a strong pat on the shoulder.

Zeta-Three reached the next junction. He cautiously eased his head into the open.

A metal set of teeth latched onto his head and threw him to the ground. The four-legged creature was almost as large as he was. Powerful muscles rippled under golden, reflective armor. It razor sharp teeth held Zeta-Three’s head in a vise grip. Our scout tried to fire, but the creature pinned his weapon to the ground.

With a muted whirring sound, its teeth cut through Zeta-Three’s helmet like a chainsaw. The scout’s head burst apart in a spray of gore.

“Shoot it!”

TO BE CONTINUED …

Link to Part 4

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3 Responses to “Life of Zu – Part 3”

  1. Cool gadgets and scary monsters

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