“It looks like that’s where it came down,” Allison observed, noting the scorch and drag marks. “The shuttle’s nose probably hit the sand here, given the indent. But I don’t see any sign of Yuri or the others.”
“They would have covered the tracks,” Leon said. “They definitely wouldn’t fancy getting caught.” He looked around. “Question is, where could they have headed?”
“Wouldn’t have gone into the city,” Allison said. “Not if they were vulnerable. They’d want cover. Somewhere as close as possible. Like that hill in the distance.”
“Agreed,” Leon said. “It’s away from the city. Should be possible to walk there, provided they weren’t hurt too badly.”
The two moved towards the hill, as quickly as they could.
“Do you think we’ll be able to grab more scrap than this?” Farah asked.
“Only if we want to really crowd what’s left of the Cerberus,” Kat answered. “We’ll make this the last run. Hopefully, we’ll have everything Grace needs.”
“I just hope she’s okay,” Farah said. “I don’t know what I’d do if she were seriously hurt.”
“You’d make do,” Kat said. “For now, believe that she’s doing fine. Don’t worry about her being injured until you know something for sure.
“I’ll try,” Farah said. There was silence for a moment. Kat couldn’t hear anything but the sounds of her control console. “Hey, Kat?”
“What?” Kat asked.
“What will happen to all of us?” Farah asked. “I mean, I’m sure Grace can fix the ship temporarily, but I don’t imagine she’ll be able to get it back up and running like normal after this.”
“We’ll have to get a new ship,” Kat answered. “Real pity. I’ve been part of this crew since it was first formed. This ship… it’s been my home and now…” She stopped herself, not wanting to delve any further into it.
“Sorry,” Farah said.
“It’s not your fault,” Kat responded. “Just one of those things, I guess.”
Allison and Leon examined the hill. So far, there hadn’t been a sign of the missing crew.
“Did they not come this way after all?” Allison wondered.
“I think they probably did,” Leon said “Look.”
Allison examined the spot he was indicating. A small, largely hidden hole leading to a cavern that ran under the hill.
“Should’ve seen that myself,” Allison muttered.
“Well, it was on my side of the hill,” Leon said. “Come on!” He squeezed inside. Allison followed him after a moment.
“I’ve got a torch somewhere,” Leon said. He pulled it from his pocket and switched it on, giving them some light. “Just follow my lead.” He took four steps forward and fell into a pitfall trap.
Allison looked down and saw the torches light. “So, want me to follow you down there?” she asked.
“Just help me up,” Leon said.
“I don’t know,” Allison called. “That didn’t sound like the way to ask a favour.”
Leon sighed. “Please help me out.”
“There you go!” Allison declared. She knelt by the hole’s edge and put her arm in, helping Leon out.”
“Just lucky it wasn’t all that deep,” Allison said. “You’re heavy, you know.”
“I just wasn’t expecting traps,” Leon stated. “I’ll be more careful now.”
The pair continued on, spotting several traps on their way.
“Why couldn’t they just stay near the surface?” Allison muttered. “This is way too deep.”
“They were probably worried about getting found by the wrong people,” Leon said.
“But Yuri’s stronger than any human,” Allison said. “She should be able to protect them unless…” she trailed off, not wanting to even think it.
“I wouldn’t worry,” Leon said. “Even if she was damaged, I’d wager she can be fixed.”
“I suppose there are more perks to dating an android than I’d thought of,” Allison said.
After some more time, more traps avoided, the two came across three separate tunnels.
“Want to go down each one and see which one has traps?” Allison asked.
“Knowing those two, it wouldn’t help,” Leon said. “I’ll bet that either the wrong tunnel’s trapped to throw people off or all of them are. Just not sure how we’re going to figure out the right way.”
“Hmmm,” Allison muttered. “There might be a way, if the Baron came out okay.” She cleared her throat and let out a loud howling sound. When she stopped, the two listened. Nothing. She tried again. This time, Leon joined her. A very shrill howl came from the left tunnel.
“I’m so glad he does that,” Allison said. “Even if he does sound like someone’s stepped on his tail when he does it.”
They hurried down the left tunnel. Allison thought she saw a light when she felt herself being pulled. The next thing she knew, she was hanging upside down.
“Little help, please?” she asked.
“I suppose it’s only fair,” Leon said. He cut her down.
“Leon, Allison?” They looked up. Grace was approaching them. She relaxed the grip on the wrench she was holding. “Where’s Farah?”
“She’s helping Kat gather scrap,” Leon explained. “The Cerberus was hit badly. We’re going to need both you and Yuri working just to get us out of here. He checked over her shoulder. “Paul around?”
“He’s preparing something nasty for if I’m forced to run,” Grace said. “Although I thought it might be you guys when Wolfie started howling. I’ll lead you back to our temporary base. Paul will be delighted to see you. Yuri.. I’ll have to fix her when we get back to the Cerberus.”
“How bad is she?” Allison asked.
“Not sure,” Grace answered. “I don’t have the right equipment to check.” She led them back, imitating a dog’s bark as they got close.
“That’s the ‘all clear’ I take it,” Allison said.
“That’s right,” Grace said. “Here’s where we’ve been hiding out.”
The cave was cosy. Yuri had been propped up against a wall, looking like a mannequin.
“Leon,” Paul said. He was holding the Baron. Hyper was walking around by his legs.
“You have no idea how glad I am to see you,” Leon said. He moved close and gently kissed Paul. Then did so again, putting a bit more force into it.
“Hey, Love-birds,” Grace whistled. “Save it for the ship.”
“She’s right,” Paul said. “Our reunion will have to wait. Any injuries?”
“Ophelia seems to have been hurt,” Leon said. “Lucy thinks she’s stable, though.”
“I’ll check her over first thing,” Paul said.
“All right,” Leon said. “Allison and I will carry Yuri. We’ll take you to our ships.”