Preview the first teaser for the latest StarCraft II novel before it's released!
X52735N crossed the cavern to the far opening. It was a natural fissure in the rock, roughly triangular and far older than the first two tunnels. She ducked inside, took a few tentative steps with the rifle up and ready, her own breathing heavy in her ears. The walls were no more than three meters apart, and she felt them closing in on her. The ceiling came to a point not far above her head, and she imagined the weight of the rock poised above her, many tons of it pressing down.
This was not like her at all. She was tensing up, sensing a trap, on full alert and on the edge of losing control, with no obvious reason for it. Her cloaking device was still on; even with advanced optics, nobody would be able to see her. She took another few steps, trying to calm her breathing. Pull yourself together, girl.
A meter farther in, the fissure began to expand again, the ceiling rising higher above her head, then took a jag to the left. Her suit's sensors alerted her to the danger before she saw it herself. The floor split with a hairline crack that quickly grew wide enough to swallow a man. A faint blue-green glow drifted up from below, along with something else. At first she thought it was vespene gas, but the sensors could not get a reading on it. It eddied around her feet like mist.
X52735N let out a gasp, whirled, searching for a target, but saw nothing. The tunnel was empty and silent, the voice inside her head.
I'm coming for you.
She spun again, peering into the darkness, her own heartbeat thumping in her throat.
The attack came out of nowhere, a stunning blow to the back of her neck that knocked her off balance, her rifle ripped from her grasp and skittering away across the rock floor. Stars exploded across her vision as she went into a roll, instincts kicking in even as her mind began frantically trying to process who, or what, was after her, and how it had found her cloaked form. She could not sense anything, could not hear any inner thoughts beyond what had just been fed to her, the normal internal terran chatter most telepaths endure on a daily basis completely absent.
She came to her feet in one fluid movement, sidearm already in her hand, and caught a glimpse of a shadowy, black-suited figure, gone before she had the chance to react; her roundhouse kick met nothing but air. Vanished.
Panic rose up and she pushed it roughly away, her training at the Ghost Academy and her combat experience flooding back. Identify the enemy, locate a weakness, and exploit it.
Your ghost training won't help you here, Toom.
This time she saw nothing at all before she was struck full in the face with what felt like a neosteel beam, her headgear wrenched away, blood filling her mouth as she gasped for air and staggered backward. Suddenly blind in the dark, she pulled the gun's trigger, flashes lighting up the walls like a strobe as she spun in a circle and laid down suppressing fire, trying to regain her bearings. Her head was ringing and the panic was a full-blown screeching mutalisk inside her now, and she turned and leapt over the faintly glowing rift in the floor to the other side, a sob catching in her throat as the mistlike gas washed over her.
Laughter followed her, echoing off the rock on all sides. Breathe deep, little ghost. And see the light.
X52735N fumbled through the darkness, arms outstretched until she touched the wall, a metallic stench in her nostrils. It smelled like the blood that still dripped from her split upper lip. Kath Toom? It had been so long since she had heard her real name, she could barely remember it. All ghosts were subjected to memory wipes after the academy, and again after every major mission, and they were trained to respond to their ghost ID as a rule. She had gotten used to thinking of herself as a number. How was it possible that her attacker knew who she was?
Breathe deep. In spite of herself, she did. Something began to worm its way into her mind, lighting her up from the inside. Her pulse quickened further, beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead. Flashes stuttered before her eyes: a training mission from her academy days, a darkened maze seeded with weapons and attack robots, others there with her, working as a team; leaping across the cracked surface and lava rivers of Gohbus in pursuit of space pirates; the Kal-Bryant Mining Conglomerate symbol on a wood-paneled wall, and a familiar, scarred, and twisted face filled with so much sadness it made her weep.
She threw up her arms as if to ward off an attack and stumbled backward into the crevice in the floor behind her. She fell, screaming, into the abyss.
An iron grip clutched her outstretched wrist, and a vicious jerk brought her up short. She dangled, swinging gently, and the hand pulled her upward, over the lip of rock, until she lay panting on her stomach, quivering and broken.
Yes. She nodded, looking up through a prism of tears. I remember.
More laughter followed her, echoing off the rock on all sides. Then a hooded face leaned toward her in the faint glow.
Good. Now go to sleep again, little ghost. A fist came crashing down, sending Agent X52735N, otherwise known as Kath Toom, deeper into blackness.