We spent the night in the dark keeping the lights off and conserving whatever battery power remained in the safe-room. I tried and tried to get a connection to Angel, but here deep under the ground the signal was blotted out. If only we’d had one of the new QE (quantum entangler) comm devices. But when Angel had performed surgery on my brain implant that tech hadn’t even existed yet. Now the NET had expanded to thirty-six worlds in real time connection thanks to QE. And here I was buried on Mars, the redheaded stepchild of planets, forgotten and abandoned among the shinning new worlds being discovered out there beyond the warp bubble.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been buried, but last time I’d been dead. This time I had to experience it. The dark just made it worse. The dark was like when Medicore first brought me back to life. When I couldn’t see anything or even understand what was going on. It closed in around me and pressed into my mind, suffocating me. Just like all those airlocks I’d been in lately. Claustrophobia got the better of me. My breathing became rapid, and my pulse rate shot up. I was covered in a cold sweat and I couldn’t calm down. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Carly’s voice whispered in my ear. “Settle down, Chase. You’re scaring the women.”
I heard Jake chuckle softly.
“Name’s not Chase. It’s Coswell,” I gasped out.
There was a short pause. “Okay Coswell. Time to get it together. We’re in a safe-room designed to provide food, water, and air for a week, if necessary. They’ll be getting us out of here any time now.”
“Right. Okay, I got this now,” I replied. I didn’t really believe it, but the act of saying so made my heart stop pounding so hard and my breathing evened out. In a few more minutes the panic left me and I could think straight again.
“That’s better.” Carly said. “Don’t need you going batshit in this enclosed space. Don’t make me knock your ass out.” She laughed.
“What about Desoto?” I asked.
“He either made it or didn’t.” Sledge said. “It’s possible he’s in a gap out there somewhere. The Protocol is to stay in the safe-room. We aren’t equipped for rescue. It could just get someone else killed.”
“They better hurry up.” Stumpy said.
But they didn’t. After a long time of silence, Sledge had some questions.
“So, it’s Coswell now eh?”
“Yeah.” I replied.
“What are you running from?”
“He’s not runnin’. I heard about this Coswell guy. He’s OIS. He’s after the Mars Slasher.”
“Mars Slasher?” I asked.
“That’s what the news is calling the guy. You know, the serial killer.”
“OIS, huh?” Sledge said.
“Yeah, I figured it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to let the killer know who I was.” I replied.
“Unless it’s one of us.” Jake said.
“No, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t bury himself in here.”
“You think he did this?” Carly said.
“Pretty certain. When’s the last time you had an accident like this?” I asked.
“It’s been years. Back in the 40’s.” Jake said.
“Well, Baxter, the Mars Slasher, has a new hobby with explosives. A few days ago he blew the capitol dome. Somehow he figured out I was looking for him here. And now this,” I said.
“He’s a real fucker.” Sledge said.
“The worst kind of trash,” I agreed. “But it’s his god that I’m really interested in. That’s the one behind all of it. The one that’s been pushing Baxter further and further. And now it looks to be politically motivated.”
“He did seem pretty fanatical.” Jake said. “Always going on about God wants this and God wants that. We just ignored it mostly, but it did make for some great jokes.”
“How’d Baxter take that?”
“Not well, I can tell you. He got that dark look, where he’d stare out at you out the top of his eyebrows. Gave me the creeps,” Carly said.
“I don’t get it. How is God behind Baxter killing people?” Stumpy asked.
“Not the almighty God. A fake imitation. Baxter isn’t making this stuff up. Someone really is talking to him. But they are using tech to fool and control our fanboy,” I said.
“Wild shit,” Stump said. “Why would they do that?”
“I’m not sure yet, what their goal is. But the attack on the capitol was more than just an attack on me. It had a purpose.”
“Well it’s scaring the shit out of people. I can tell you that. Everyone is freaking out about it,” Carly said.
“That right there can drive changes. And I need to find out what God is up to, and stop the killing,” I said.
“You need to get out of here first.” Sledge said.
“They”ll get to us soon enough.” Carly said.
But they didn’t. The night wore on and I didn’t sleep but just a few moments of conscious lapses here and there. The next morning we dug into the rations and turned on the lights for a bit while we ate. Then it was lights out again and sitting in the dark. We tried talking about whatever we could to keep our minds off the situation, but as time wore on we just got more and more silent as we ran out of things to say and energy to say it.
It was well into the next night when I heard it. The sound of rocks sliding and thumping around outside somewhere and echoing into the metal of the safe-room. Then someone banged on the outside of the door. Sledge turned on the lights and Carly hit the button to open the door. And there laying in the dust under a little tunnel of debris was Van Desoto.