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The Dohani War

by Martin Kerharo

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Chapter 5: End

part 2

Jane and I came in, followed by Eliza and Charts. All noise stopped, and everybody stared in astonishment at the four of us. Then they burst out laughing. The sight of Jane, the implacable warrior, with her red, unhuman eyes, holding Lieutenant Zimski’s hand as though he were her boyfriend... it was just too much.

Jane froze for an instant. Then she dropped my hand and ran away at her superhuman speed. She must have taken the laughter for defiant howls, and there were too many to fight, even for her.

Charts blocked her way and seized her in his enormous arms. Bad instinct.

She landed a savage punch to his side, and I saw on Charts’ face that she had seriously injured him. A cracked or shattered rib. Shocked, Charts dropped her, and she slipped behind him and fled down the corridor.

I ran after her while Eliza tended to Charts. “Jane!” I yelled. She did not hear me. I contacted Control. “Lock all doors. Jane is running. She’s just left the cafeteria and is heading for sector C.” I immediately heard bolts sliding into place.

Jane had already turned a corner of the corridor and was out of sight. I was tired after sitting for an hour on metal crates, but I sped up.

I turned the corner. Jane was at the end of the corridor, trapped. Control had acted quickly, and all the exits were locked.

I saw her look up at the ceiling. She raised a hand over her head, palm upwards, and moved it back and forth, as she had for the corridor doors. I realized she was probing the ceiling. She seemed to be able to see through walls. She jumped and went through an air vent, crushing the metal grill like cardboard.

I hurried after her. “Jane, wait!” When I was under the opening, I saw she had stopped. She was looking at me with her neutral gaze. She was still in combat posture. But she was out of reach, and I posed no danger to her. She was safe for the moment. And so was I.

I spoke, to calm her. “Jane, it’s useless to run away. You don’t have anything to be afraid of. The others didn’t mean any harm; they just thought we were funny. Please, come back down.”

I had her attention. Her expression became Expression Number 2: astonishment. I stretched out a hand to her and continued talking.

At that moment she might have come back down to me, but a Security squad burst into the corridor, making a terrible racket. There were four of them in combat gear with dart guns loaded.

“Where is she?” yelled the sergeant in command.

“Up there, in the ventilation shaft. But everything is okay,” I raised my hands to calm the soldiers. They looked panicky.

“We’ve been ordered to neutralize her,” said the sergeant. “She’s just seriously wounded a man. Please stand aside, Lieutenant.”

“She’s just afraid, that’s all. And Sergeant Charts was stupid to try to stop her.”

They were advancing on me. Obviously they would not stop even if I ordered them to. That was normal; their orders came from higher up. The sergeant swore.

I instantly found myself in the ventilation shaft with Jane. She had picked me up as though I were weightless. I was standing in the conduit, which was a little tight for me.

The Security squad rushed toward us. When Jane saw them, she jumped farther down the air shaft, where their dart guns could not target her.

“Help me up,” the sergeant ordered one of his men.

“No use,” I said. “You’ll never be able to move in this conduit in all that armor.”

He grumblingly yielded to the obvious and contacted Control to explain the situation.

My communicator began to vibrate. No caller’s name. Bad news. It could only be an officer who outranked me.

“What the hell is going on, Lieutenant Zimski?” a voice said. Yep, it was the Station commander himself, Colonel Thomson. “Do you think I’m going to keep letting this monster loose in my station and massacring my men?”

“Colonel,” I began, “the situation...”

“Get her out of my ventilation shaft,” he interrupted, “immediately. Otherwise I’ll turn on the gas. And too bad for you if you’re still in there when I press the button. You have three minutes.” When Station security was at stake, Colonel Thomson could be very possessive.

“Three minutes? But Colonel...”

Three minutes and not one more!” he yelled and hung up.

My ears were ringing. I had not known our communicators could transmit at such volume.

I thought about Charts. The idiot still had not understood it was useless to try to block Jane when she was trying to run away. Big arms, no brains. And now look: three minutes. And not a second to lose.

I spoke in my sternest voice to the men below me: “Stand down. Now. I don’t need you. And if the commander turns on the gas, you do not want to be nearby. Understood?”

They retreated to the end of the corridor.

I turned toward Jane. “They’re gone. But you can’t stay here, Jane. It’s dangerous.” I held out my hand to her. She didn’t move. I had at most two minutes. “Jane, come on! Come down with me!” I gestured with my hand. I imitated descending into the corridor.

And then her expression changed. She understood something was happening. But she still did not move. I felt overcome by panic. I had to get out of there with or without her.

“Dammit, Jane,” I yelled, “in a few seconds those vents are going to open and we’ll be in big trouble!” I pointed to the valves of the security network.

Jane was startled. She was not used to my yelling at her.

I heard a clattering noise. Control had just isolated this part of the ventilation system to keep the gas from spreading everywhere.

Jane quickly looked towards both ends of the conduit. She raised her hand, palm outwards, towards each end of the shaft. When her hand was turned towards me, I had a strange, slightly dizzy feeling. Then she looked in the same direction as I, at the valve. She approached it quickly and ran her hand over it. Once again, she was probing it, looking at the mechanism with her X-ray vision or whatever. Was that why her eyes were red? I had not had the time to think about it, and this did not seem to be the moment to do so.

Everything happened very quickly. Jane jumped next to me. She grabbed me and jumped down from the hole. She had understood the danger.

The sergeant yelled into his communicator to cut off the gas, but the valves had opened; it was too late. The Security squad tumbled hastily into the adjacent corridor and slammed the door.

I heard the gas hissing into the air shaft. Jane dragged me in the opposite direction. When I stumbled, she picked me up effortlessly and again began to run.

We reached the end of the corridor. I yelled into my communicator, “Stop the gas! Blow the atmosphere in the corridor! She’s with me. Everything is okay.”

Jane was moving her hand frantically over all the partitions, two or three centimeters from the surface. She was looking for a way out. There was none. We were trapped.

The gas reached us. I held my breath. Jane had a strange look on her face. And then she sneezed. I was startled. She breathed in deeply and looked at me. I expected her to collapse, but her face took on Expression Number 3: serenity.

I watched her in bewilderment. She kept on breathing with no problem. For once I silently thanked whoever had transformed her. The gas had no effect on her; she was immune to it.

But I was not. I could not hold my breath for a long time. Then I exhaled and breathed in as little as possible. My legs buckled. I saw everything swirl and the floor rushed up to meet me. I was going to be hurt. I should have prepared myself and sat down.

Jane caught me. She set me gently on the floor. I looked up at her, painfully. I was limp, paralyzed. Jane’s expression was no longer serene; it became one of surprise and then of panic. She had understood how the gas was affecting me. She passed her hand over my body, to sense me and I again felt dizzy, but weakly this time; I had only a few seconds left.

Jane began to moan.

“Sorry,” I managed to croak.

Her moan became a howl.

And I fell into darkness.

Proceed to Chapter 6...

Copyright © 2012 by Martin Kerharo
translation © 2013 by Donald Webb

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