GOMI

Part XVIII


She wasn't there. It was that simple. Everything about her was just a figment of her brain, perhaps a bit of 'undigested roast' that caused her to see and feel things that weren't there. In a little while she'd awake to soft velvet sheets slick with the sweat of a bad dream. Sixteen square meters of turf decelerated to an electric whining halt. Perhaps she was mistaken.

Naw, she wasn't there.

Neither was Jessie for that matter. Tammy wasn't sure what little morsel she could have emerged from -- a bit of pistachio or cashew perchance -- but she couldn't really exist in this dream world. 'Well, might as well go along with this,' she thought as Jessie limped to her feet, motioning Tam to do the same. 'Sure, I can play spy.'

The grass had descended far enough it reminded her of the hero and villain struggling at the edge of the elevator shaft. The shaft was strait and textured like the concrete sidewalk in front of Naselli's. This place didn't smell like Mediterranean, though. It was more like swimming pool chlorine over aged museum paper and a touch of gas station. The smell was coming in from an opening almost the width of one wall at the end of which was a door. It was two, three paces to the door though Jessie took more trying to be cautious as well as favoring a wounded leg. 'No need for any of that. It's just a dream.'

The wall was cold and textured with long sweeps broken by the handle-less door and a touchpad. She figured if she was going to have a code it would be four-nine-three-six-three-one-eight. 'Why not, it's a good number. Since this is a dream it should... Ah.' The door opened a little as the lock released. Jessie was staring at her blank faced. Tammy lead the way through the door, keeping a slower pace this time so that Jessie could keep up.

She'd drawn her gun, still filled with gel rounds, but she didn't really figure herself to be the killing type, 'least not if she could help it. It felt of Tiny and still smelled of faintly of burnt gunpowder. Tam brought the pistol up like she'd seen in the movies and started to pay attention to where she was dreaming.

The corridor was long and wide with clean concrete marked here and there by dark streaks of tires and oil. Every nicely spaced interval she saw tall metal double-doors set flush with the walls. She tried pulling on the first door and found it locked. Halfway to the second she heard the door move behind her. Jessie had her head halfway in. Seeing nothing, she pushed it open enough to get through, motioning Tammy to follow behind. The little bit of concrete floor she could see disappeared with the closing of the door.

There were footsteps pounding down the hallway.

Jessie was somewhere nearby. "Hold still a moment. I've got a light."


"Drek!" Painter heaved himself to the side, narrowly avoiding a two large feet of one Tiny.

Whitehot looked into the squared chasm nearby. "Harold wants to stay in the car."

"Fine, he can stay. You're coming along."

Tiny took a peek. "Za lon' way dohwn."

Whitehot started parting grass blades. "Maybe there's an up button."

Tiny whipped back from his perch as autofire echoed up the shaft. Rolling over onto his back, he reached into his jacket.

Painter kept low, training his weapon on the opening. "That would be the welcoming committee?"

"Dis a goo' thin' we'ze brou'h' prezents." He lobbed two grenades down the shaft. They clanked once.


Tammy's eyes had almost adjusted to the darkness. Objects were showing up in green tint. 'Of course,' she thought, 'how else would night-vision look?'

Jessie did a quick sweep of the flashlight over the room -- floor, four walls and ceiling -- then went over everything again at a much slower pace. Rows and rows of long tables lined with cheep chairs on top of a black and white checkered tiled floor comprised most of the large room. At the far end they could see racks of trays and buffet-style food stations. "A fraggin' caf-e-teria."

'Well," Tam thought, 'they gotta eat somewhere.'

"OK, if this was build to typical government secret base layout," Jessie grumbled with herself.

There was a noxious smell of burnt beef and plastic rolling in, which just made Tammy noxious. "You smell something?"

"Smell? DREK! Put this on!" An object knocked Tam square in the chest, surprising her more than anything else. She managed to catch it, fiddle with it enough in the flashlight's glare to recognize it as a gas mask, and fumble about to try and get it on. A masked Jessie came over and helped her get it on right.

"You keep a gas mask handy enough to just chuck at people?" Tam's voice echoed in the mask.

Jessie's voice sounded like a B-flick. "No, usually I only carry two."


Painter picked up a molten chunk of metal and plastic with one hand, quickly dropping it. "Drek! Hot!" He half turned to Tiny, "You had to use incendiaries, didn't you. Not a usable keycard on them."

The large mass just grumbled, "Ain' e'er sadizfied, ar' ya."

"Don't do that Harold! You're eyes will roll right out of your head again!"


There were footsteps -- lots of them from beyond the door. "Sounds like a parade out there, I think we're going this way." Tammy made a beeline for the back door.

"Hey!" Jessie's limp was a bit more pronounced. It was starting to annoy Tam that a dream-character would limp like that. "That's the kitchen."

Tammy opened the door and looked out. "Nope. 'nuther hall. This way." She headed down to the right. It looked like a good way to go. "Now if I was going to design a secret base, I'd put the control room somewhere around that way."


The thudding of autofire was getting louder through the concrete wall. Patch wires ran from a wall panel which had been forcefully cut away to Whitehot. Whitehot was mumbling something about big drills and carniverous plants from his crouched position. Painter looked equally zoned for a moment. "Crab 's on the way."

A thunk caused rebarb to push through the concrete. "Dez gettin' cloze."

Painter popped the clip on his rifle and slid in a blue textured one. He aimed around the corner for a moment, ignoring the round that grazed his coat. Breathing out, he pulled three rounds and sent them through the gap in the hardened metal plates. "God-drek hardsuit." Painter was back around the corner before the explosive hail divoted the floor.

A sentry gun pivoting back and forth from Whitehot to guards stopped warbling. "Gnaw 'im Raptor!" Whitehot whooped. The gun swung to the guards and emptied.


Jessie wasn't looking too well. Her limp was very pronounced. Tammy figured there was a bone broken. "How many more stairs?"

"Last one." Tam stopped to listen through the door at the bottom of the stairwell. Hearing nothing she opened the door and walked down to the corner. Peeking around, she could see two guards in hardsuits. "Stay here. I saw this in a movie."

Tammy was off striding confidently down the hall. The guards just looked about as normal. "You hear something."

A faint rumbling echoed down through the concrete. "No, what you hear?"

Tammy reached them. "Hi!" She fired a round into each.

Jessie hobbled up behind and looked at the holes punched through the guards splayed on the floor. "They don't make gel rounds like they used to."


Whitehot was patching into a new hole burned through layers of concrete by a momentarily discarded plasma torch. "Yes, Harold I'm working on that!"

Painter looked fondly over at a metalic crab-like creature. "Careful out there." The Crab raised then slid it's half-meter height sideways into the corridor then forwards amist the smoke and gun-fire. Painter popped around the corner, taking careful aim while Tiny's mass became a ball rolling behind the Crab-shield firing it's own slugs through helmets as it clawed into the floor with each step. Tiny diverted his roll to the side and stood, impaling his claw-blades into the hardsuit of a guard and lifting the suit as a shield into the next. Another guard attemted to blackjack Tiny with his weapon, but only managed to shoved backwards by a well placed kick. A shell found its way through a crack before the guard slid down the wall.

Whitehot was extracting his cabling. "Way's cleared. We don't have long before they figure it out, though."

The three scurried along like the crab that followed behind.


Something was feeling too real to Tammy. Perhaps the colors were too dingy or the smell too dull. Jessie was definitly not doing well, which was not right, even for a sidekick.Sidekicks didn't get hurt like that. They died. Tragicly. She really didn't want Jessie dead. Such a truly odd dream.

A dream with answers behind a handleless door, a door she had determined would open. Jessie had found keycards which looked like a promising solution, but there was no place to use them. "Something opens this door -- something that uses these cards. It's not out in the open. It's not hidden in the frame."

Jessie was looking nervous. "Someone's bound to come along soon. Best hide the bodies. Help me get them into that closet."

Tammy hadn't realized how heavy dream-bodies could be. She huffed, "Remind me to dream them lighter next time."

"Got the door?"

"Yea, just a sec."

"Couple more feet." The hardsuit clanged against the floor. "There."

"Jessie..."

Jessie was hobbling towards the other body. "Wha'?"

Tammy pointed towards the wall. "What's a janitor need a keyslot for?"

"A what!" Jessie shuffled over as quickly as she could. Extracting a card from one of many pockets, she dropped it in the slot. They could hear the control room door unlock.

Tammy closed her eyes and sighed heavilly. "Great. Now I'm dreaming in B-flick."


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