The Rise of UMBRA excerpt

For the second time this trip, Autumn was crawling through a damn ventilation duct. It was becoming more and more clear to her that claustrophobia may be an issue she needs to address in the near future. Maybe she’d set up a therapist session when they got back to earth. Well, if they made it back to earth. In times like this, she almost wondered if simply going on the run from the Earth government was the right answer. It couldn’t have been any worse than this nightmare they were going through.

Suddenly, Bloody, who was leading the crawl-through the vents shouted, “Wait!”

Autumn’s blood turned cold. She didn’t like the sound of Bloody’s voice at all. Everyone stayed frozen and silent, until Bumblebee shouted, “Well, what the hell is it?”

“Ssh!” Bloody said. He whispered, “I thought I heard something in this vent off to my left.” Bloody shined a light down the vent and after a few moments said, “It must have been nothing. C’mon, people, we’ve got work to do.”

The little line of theirs started moving again and Autumn couldn’t wait to be out of these vents. As she got closer to the vent where Bloody thought he’d heard a sound, Autumn’s heart raced. Something about it felt wrong. Sive was in front of her and had to pass the vent first. With every inch she crawled, she thought her heart might explode. Everything in her being screamed to get out of there.

A pair of pale arms with nails like talons reached out of the darkness and pulled Sive into the other vent. “Sive!” Autumn screamed, having to fight with the close quarters to get her guns pulled free. Without thinking, she was into the other vent and crawling as fast as she could. “Sive!” she kept yelling, but she never heard an answer.

Suddenly, she found herself in a free-fall. She had discovered one of the vents that took her deeper into the heart of the ship. She tried to brace herself against the sides of the vent. She managed to slow herself down, just not enough to make her landing a safe one. She burst out the vent and landed on a metal catwalk, striking her hand. As everything started to fade to black, she saw two pairs of boots walking up to her and the sound of hissing started ringing in her ears.

###
Bumblebee slammed his fist against the venting in frustration. “What the bloody fucking hell was that?”

“That’s what we’re up against.” D’leet said somberly.

“Well, do we go after them?” Bumble cried.

“No!” Malignus screamed. “Sive and Autumn are bounty-hunters. If any of us could survive, it’s them. We keep going forward.”

Arty spoke up, “Not to be the voice of descent, but isn’t Malignus a little biased on what we’re doing here?”

“I’m with Arty on this one.” Leviathan blubbered. “Not that I’m a fan of any of our options, but the guy leading is too emotionally tied to the situation to think clearly.”

Malignus howled, “How dare either of you question my leadership! I was a major player in the Cartel when both of you were still swimming in your father’s nut-sacks!”

“All right! That’s enough! Out of all of you!” D’leet screamed. “For now, Malignus is in charge. Now move it, people!”

They kept moving and eventually Malignus found the exit and kicked the vent cover off. One by one, they all crawled out: Malignus, D’leet, Bumblebee, Artizar, Leviathan, Bloody, and…
Checking the vent they just came down, Arty shouted, “Hey! Where the hell’s Harmonica?”

“Son of a bitch!” D’leet cursed. “That old bastard either got taken or he’s gone rogue after the other two. Shit.” D’leet just shook his head. “Does no one know how to take orders anymore?”

Bumble just sat back and watched the crew vent their frustration. “Look guys, we’re at the door, let’s pop this thing open and do this.”
Eventually, D’leet agreed and Malignus began inputting the codes to get the door to open. When the seal finally cracked, Malignus turned and said, “Forgive me.” as he threw a flash-bang on the ground, sending everyone retreating. When everyone’s vision returned, the cargo-hold door was once again sealed.

“What is this asshole trying to do?” Bumble asked.

“Hell if I know! Bloody, get that door open now!” D’leet barked.

Bloody input the proper codes, but the door refused to budge. “Damn it!” Bloody yelled. “He’s locked us out!”

D’leet slammed his fist against the door over and over. “Damn it, Malignus! You brave fucking bastard!”
###

Harmonica had found the “dead-man’s” drop vent but was prepared for it. He applied a repelling device and slid himself into the harness. Slowly he dropped himself down, hoping that he had picked the right way to go.

When he made it out the vent, he knelt down and found traces of blood on the catwalk. Yup, this is the way. The blood formed a trail that went off to the left and down a ramp to an even lower level of the ship. Seeing the vast darkness in front of him, Harmonica started having second thoughts about playing the hero.

You’re getting too old for this shit, Harm.

Taking a glow-stick from his satchel, Harmonica popped the stick and created just enough light to either show him the way or to get himself spotted. In either case, he had gone too far to turn back now. Down into the abyss he traveled.

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