Finally on planet, the mission’s just getting underway and already things are going wrong. People are dying and the quarry is missing. What else can possibly happen to screw up Wil’s night?
Wil cursed quietly. What had they done with the lunatic? Muttering every obscenity he knew, Wil searched for his men. He found them both by the door, their throats cut. He could do nothing for them, so he moved away. Emory closed their eyes, murmured a prayer and followed Wil, shutting the door softly behind them.
A thorough search of the suite revealed nothing. Aurialonus was not there. The objective now was to get the prisoners free. If he had to, Wil swore he’d set the whole damn palace on fire just to smoke out the petty dictator.
Remembering the booby trapped door to the balcony, Wil and Emory cautiously made their way out of the bedroom. From sheer vindictiveness, the two Marines cut the throats of the unconscious guards.
Nothing stirred in the palace. It resonated with sepulchral silence. Even the usual sounds a large building makes in the cool of the night did not seem to penetrate. It was as if a muffler had been wrapped around the palace grounds, deadening the ambient noises. Wil realized it had been sound proofed.
Using Wil’s tracker, the two men made their way downstairs to the ballroom. It was slow going as each doorway had to be checked for explosives. Not having Krall’s eye or experience made it more difficult. Wil did pretty well, but there were things even he might miss.
Emory held up a hand, stopping their progress. A questioning look from Wil, and he pointed to their left. A door was open and they heard voices from the end of the hall. According to the palace plans Wil’s eye accessed, there was a kitchen down there. Servants, guards, fanatics? To be safe, they rolled two knockout bombs down the six foot hall, listening as the bodies hit the floor.
Next stop was the ballroom door. They waited outside for a signal from Ben. Wil saw them on his scanner. They were close, but not moving. Vitals showed green, but something was keeping them stationary.
Time to backtrack, Wil decided. Go out the way they knew was safe and go see what the hell was wrong. A cryptic motion to Emory and he ran back upstairs, out the adjoining chamber and over the line to the wall. He did a quick perimeter check, then slid quietly to the ground. They followed the path they had seen the others take and made their way to the back of the palace.
* * *
Things had gone well for Ben’s team until they got near the doors. The people camping around the palace grounds were more scattered and prevalent than anticipated. There were tents everywhere with the odd person rolled up in a blanket near a statue or under a hedge. They nearly stepped on two of them and had to cut a couple throats just to get by.
The Marines hadn’t counted on robotic dogs. Their recon had not revealed their presence. Ben could think of no way to disable them. Knock out gas would obviously have no effect. So far the dogs had not alerted the soldiers, but it was only a matter of time.
“What now?” Wallace signaled.
Ben shrugged. The dog nearest him gave a low, metallic growl.
Freedrick shifted his weight slightly, earning another growl. He whispered into his comlink. “Those dogs steel alloy?”
Wallace replied just as softly. “Not top of the line, that’d be no.”
Freedrick smiled, eyeing the four dogs with gleeful anticipation. Cracking his knuckles, he stepped forward slowly. “Drop the gas, I’ll take ‘em.” His smile became predatory.
Ben and Billy slowly pulled the pins on two gas canisters and tossed them as far as they could. Waiting a few seconds for the gas to take effect, Freedrick took another step forward. The dogs growled again, moving toward him.
“Nice doggie,” he crooned, taking another step. The point dog leaped toward him, the robot legs launching it directly at Lance’s face. He blocked with his brawny left arm, grabbing the dog with his right.
The other three dogs followed, all getting a firm grip on his forearm, their powerful, metallic jaws grinding against the bone. Moving near the wall, blood dripping from multiple wounds, he swung with snakelike swiftness, dashing the lead dog’s head against the stone.
The dogs hung on, digging in their teeth, shredding the flesh. Blood gushed but Lance merely swung at the wall again. Three more strikes and the lead dog’s head shattered, a ruin of metal, wiring and plastic. The other dogs shivered, shuddered and fell off Lance’s arm as he dropped the lead dog on the ground.
“Take out the first, the others die too. They’re linked as a team.” Just to be safe, he stepped on their heads, cracking the cranial casing, and removed the control chips, grinding them under his heel.
“Drop the rest of the gas,” he said quietly. I’ve got a bleeder in my hardware.”
“Hardware?” Billy looked puzzled.
Lance held up his dripping arm. Billy realized the fluid was blue not red.
“Cyber synth-blood,” Lance told him. “If it all plays out, I’ll be useless.” He took a kit from his belt and started sealing his leak as Ben and Billy moved away to drop the gas.
“Weird shit,” Billy muttered. “Just ain’t right.”
“None of it was right,” Ben whispered.
“How much more of him, you figure?”
Ben gave him a withering look. “Ask him,” he moved away to drop the gas.