3rd March 3061
"Is it me, or is it getting hot in here?" Keys asked, leaning against the wall.
"It's getting hot." Sparks looked at the display built into the back of his suits left gauntlet, "Temperatures gone up ten degrees in as many minuets: our environment suits are having a hard time keeping up."
"What's the failure point on these things?" Keys asked, taking a sip of water from the spigot inside his helmet.
"About 180-degrees centigrade: they're designed for normal planetary conditions with harmful chemical or bacterial substances, not space or volcano's." Sparks activated the com-link, "Recon Two, this is Recon One: are you experiencing any change in temperature?"
"Roger that Recon One: I was just about to call you about it." A worried voice came back, "Two of our people don't have suits, and they're on the point of passing out from the heat. What's going on?"
"I'm looking into it. Get everyone back up to the surface, and try and find some cover. I'll be with you as soon as I can." Sparks cut the link and turned to face his companion, pulling his laser rifle from over his shoulder and powering it up, "You will wait here until I get back." He turned and stalked off down the way they had come, his eyes scanning for targets."
Dr Elijah Warrens, head of the archaeology team that made up Recon Two scanned the deep valley with his field glasses: the small bundle of boulders that gave his team cover were also the only land mark for miles around. He wasn't a military man, but knew enough to know that it was the first place anyone would look for people hiding from whatever fate had befallen the Oklahoma and Wells.
He looked back across the half-kilometre to where his team's rovers were parked next to the hole leading down to the Star League base that seemed to be the centre of their troubles. He had aloud he people to bring what equipment and supplies they could carry, but had insisted that they leave the vehicles where they were: moving them would draw too much attention.
A low pitch whistle filled the air, and the desert erupted in a fountain of dirt and smoke.
Keys walked along the corridor alone, ignoring Sparks' order: he didn't need the old fool anymore. He'd served his purpose and was as expendable as the others.
True, the insurance policies on his team would cut deeply into his bank account when he reported their death to any next of kin. But if what he'd told about St. Kitts was true, it was all for the grater good of the Blessed Blake.
He found a computer access terminal and connected his suit to it by an extendable cable, then carefully entered the code that he had been entrusted with back on Terra.
Sparks was almost back to the chamber that he had first descended into when he felt the corridor shake, followed by a dull thud the resonated up through his boots. His eyes went wide with terror as his mind dragged up memories from the ill-fated invasion of the Draconis Combine in '39.
He knew the sound and feel of artillery fire all too well.
He sprinted down he hallway and into the last chamber, headless of any possible danger. Dust was falling down through the hole in the ceiling far above, and he could clearly hear the unmistakable sound of heavy artillery shelling the surface just above his head.
A lone figure in an environment suit appeared in the hole, and Sparks activated the image enhancement system built into his Environment suits helmet in time to see them grab one of the dangling ropes and jump clear, trying to arrest their fall by gripping as tightly as they could.
But the environment suits weighted more than they felt, thanks to a powered exoskeleton built into it. The figure fell at a dangerous rate, almost losing their grip several times.
Sparks leapt forward and grabbed them as they reached the bottom, the force of the impact knocking them both to the floor. Sparks felt his head smash against the inside of his helmet, and the world went black.
Keys entered the control room, lifting the helmet assembly away from his environment suit. His eyes scanned the massed computer systems, a literal treasure trove of lost-tech that could probably be sold for enough money to by a planet.
"System awaiting your command, Major Keys." The computers synthesized voice reported, "Apologies for firing on you: you failed to follow the proper procedure for reactivating this facility."
"No apologies needed." Keys grinned like a Cheshire cat, "I am afraid that the proper procedure was lost during the war. But you have done well in protecting this base: the First Lord will be most pleased."
"I exist only to serve the Star League, Major." The computer seemed to hesitate for a moment, "I feel I must inform you that the Warship in orbit has been destroyed, as per standing orders for defence of this installation."
"Good, very good: they would have used you against the Star League. You did the right thing. Now, I need a complete inventory of all the weapons and equipment housed here."
"Inventory as follows: 1440 BattleMechs of the fallowing classes…"
Sparks woke with a start, sitting bolt upright, slamming his forehead against the inside of his helmet. He swore profusely and at length, using all his time in the navy to keep going without repeating himself. The stars slowly faded from in fount of his eyes and he saw the other suited figure sitting in the middle of the room, hugging their knees.
"Hey, you ok?" He asked, slowly getting to his feet.
"Are they all dead?" A soft voice asked, "The others?"
"I don't know: probably." Sparks looked down, "Aren't you Dr Warrens' assistant?"
"I was. But I he's dead: I saw him die. I saw them all die…"
"Look, I need you to concentrate. What is your name?"
"Emily, Emily Hunter: I was a graduate student at NAIS, but my family couldn't afford the tuition fees anymore. Mr Keys said he'd pay the rest if I went to work for him, so I took a two-year sabbatical."
"Ok Emily, what field did you specialise in?"
"Star League architecture."
"You know how they designed buildings?"
"Do you thing you could find your way around this place?"
"Maybe: the Star League Defence Force used the same basic layout for most of their bases, but I'd need a reference point."
"That's good." Sparks nodded, realising that the young woman was in shock, and he needed to keep her focused if she was going to be of any use, "Emily, I need you to follow me: Mr Keys is waiting for us."
"Good." Hunter stood, "I'm glad he's ok: he's a nice man."
"Major, I have detected movement in Section 10."
"What kind of movement?"
"Two intruders in SLDF environment suits."
"They are hostiles: Eliminate them. And bring the Hyper-Pulse Generator on line and set coordinates for Terra: I must inform my superiors that my mission has been successful."
"Emily, stay right where you are…" Sparks whispered, bringing his laser rifle up and round slowly, "Something's coming." He activated the targeting system in his suits HUD and linked it to the rifle, holding it as steady as he could.
A faint whirring sound could be heard approaching from along the corridor to their right. A small, saucer shaped object appeared to float down the corridor at head height. A red light on its front seemed to be scanning the corridor constantly. It stopped when it caught sight of Sparks.
A sapphire-green laser bolt hit the wall were Sparks had been standing just a fraction of a second before. The ageing naval officer hit the ground rolling, stopping against the far wall and levering his rifle, fired it from the hip.
The drone exploded as the blast from the laser rifle hit it.
"I really hate drones." Sparks stood up, dusting himself down, "It's a very impersonal way to kill people."
"This is from a navy officer?" Hunter raised an eyebrow.
"There is a difference: even when you're surrounded by a warship, firing at a target on a radar screen, you still know that there are people on the other ship, and that they are in the same position as you. Space is the single most unforgiving environment known to man: I've seen the effects of explosive decompression, and believe me when I say it's never pretty."
"Can we change the subject?"
"Can you work out the way to the control room?"
To Be Continued…