Down The Rabbit Hole

From the Story Arc: The Essence of Life

Previous Story in the Arc: Playback, Pt 2 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

Next Story in the Arc: Hello Star by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

(posted Sunday, March 21, 2010)

{Found it!} The exclamation echoed in Red Star’s mind.

Skirting the dust-covered spider webs that hung from floor to ceiling – giving the room the appearance of a drab carnival – Star approached Nightrayne, who was standing by a stack of wooden crates that had been piled up in a corner. It was purely by chance that they’d been in the vicinity when the call came in and – if they hadn’t seen the Council enter this complex themselves – this could have been the latest in a long line of dead ends.

{See on the floor over ‘ere,} Nightrayne pointed towards one section of crates and the slight scuff mark that lay before it in the dust. {Looks like these swin’ out if you push just ‘ere.} The young warshade leaned over and tapped the corner of one of the crates. Almost silently, the crates swung forward revealing a passage way which led down into the darkness.

{Very well found, comrade.} Star thought, nodding approvingly. The Council had certainly done their best to keep this place hidden and to the casual observer it would have just looked like another long abandoned base, hidden beneath Talos Island and home only to the more mundane sort of vermin that lived underground.

{’M goin’ to check i’ out.} and with that Nightrayne ducked into the darkened passageway.

Amused and slightly exasperated Star began to follow her down the passage. Nightrayne’s enthusiasm was something Shadowstar had commented on when proposing that Star work with her after the unfortunate death of Sister Joanna. At first, Star hadn’t been convinced. She didn’t have time to control a youngster as well as attempt to continue searching for rogue warshades but Shadowstar was adamant.

“Though she has Dirge’s guidance, Nightrayne is young,” Shadowstar conceded, “but you were as well, long ago, and I don’t recall hearing you needing constant supervision.”

That comment threw Red Star - as she was not aware of ever having met Shadowstar before she came to Paragon City - but the point was made and, reluctantly, she agreed and Nightrayne was briefed and sworn to secrecy by Shadowstar.

Red Star was part way down the passage when the crates behind her swung shut, cutting off the dim light from the emergency lighting that had been struggling to illuminate the passageway. This lack of visible light was not a problem to the Warshades as they were both wrapped in Nictus energy which - besides making them fade into the background - allowed them to perceive ordinarily non-visible forms of energy and made the passage seem as if it was lit by daylight.

Star caught up with Nightrayne and they could see the passage ahead of them end in a steel reinforced doorway.

{D’ya reckon’ this’ll be unlocked?} Nightrayne asked.

{There is one way to find out; there are liable to be hostiles the other side and--}

With a clank, door began to open, sliding into the wall and letting bright light and voices into the passage way.

“—care, but I’m telling you, I bet it’s another false alarm.”

“Ha, not a chance. The amount of rats that are up there... it’ll be one of them crawling over the switch again.”

The warshades stepped back from the doorway as two Council soldiers, more intent on talking to each other than anything else, stepped out into the passage. They were both armed but held the guns – Quantum weapons, Star noted with interest - by their sides and seemed completely disinterested in their surroundings.

{Wait, let them pass.} Star thought as Nightrayne began to move towards the soldiers. Nightrayne’s unspoken, if grudging, assent came back and both Warshades moved into the shadows on against the wall, allowing the soldiers plenty of room to pass by.

“Maybe we should put out some traps or something?”

“Oh yeah, I can see that working – every abandoned base has a load of rats traps.” The solider shook his head, “You know that suggestion will go down well.”

“Why don’t we just buy a cat and be done with it.” The other solider could be heard grumbling as they moved out of earshot.

Leaving the soldiers to their conversation; Star moved through the doorway, into what looked like a guard-room. There were two screens flickering between images of the deserted part of the base, along with a bank of numbered lights, one of which was lit red. Moving towards the doorway at the back of the guard room, Star noted that the guards looked to have spent their time playing cards than doing anything useful; if the rest of the base was equally as lax, it boded well. Easing open the door, Star stepped into a deserted corridor – Nightrayne followed behind her and closed the door.

{Split up?} Nightrayne queried.

Star thought for a second. Somewhere in here was a kidnap victim and while staying together would be the safe thing to do anything could be happening to the scientist...

{Be careful, you are only looking for this scientist not trying and rescue him on your own.} she cautioned.

{‘ey, no problems Star. They won’t know I was even ‘ere.} Nightrayne replied, confidently then waved her pda. {‘sides it’s not like we can’t call fer— tha’s weird, I can’t get a signal.}

Star quickly checked her pda; there was no signal to any of the external frequencies; the dedicated CCCP channel, the Rebuild Paragon Channel, even the more generic Police band frequencies were only showing as static. Slightly more worrying was the lack of signal from the emergency transporters.

{They must be redirecting all external transmissions – so you will have to be careful, comrade.}

{Yeah, an’ you too. I don’ wanna be bustin’ ya outta a prison cell. Noisy, ya know?}

Star frowned at Nightrayne and felt amusement from her in return. {Go.} She ordered and watched as Nightrayne headed off down the corridor. How Shadowstar could ever think that she had ever been this... troublesome she’d never know. Turning around, Star headed in the opposite direction to Nightrayne, hearing the sounds of the guards renter the room and settle back down to their card game as she did so.