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A-to-Z Challenge — Letter Q

April 20, 2015

Queen Hive

Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.

As he’d feared, Ananda had been asleep when Rourke went by her quarters the night before. They briefly kissed and he told her to go back to bed. He knew if he had joined her, neither would have slept and he wouldn’t be fit for duty the next morning. He would make it up to her. She understood that duty came first. It was one of the things he loved most about her.

At 0530, Rourke met Davies and Chen – all three men dressed in full containment suits — in the Caverns to speak to Sparks before the rest of the team arrived. They would have to go through his casino wall. Rourke just hoped that Sparks wasn’t involved in hiding the Makaa. He still had his doubts that Sparks would go through with the plans they’d proposed to him. Rourke had called Sparks to meet them there and had just arrived when he and Davies came up on him.

“Good morning, Mr. Sparks,” Davies said with enthusiasm in his voice.

Sparks gave Davies a spiteful stare. “Maybe for you! I just closed down a couple of hours ago and haven’t even been to bed yet,” he mumbled.

“How are those reduced tariffs working out for you?” Rourke asked.

“Still more than I want to pay.”

“You are a legal establishment now, Sparks. Just be grateful we didn’t let you rot away in the hole!” Davies exclaimed.

“Yeah, yeah,” Sparks remarked with a dismissal of his hand. He shoved the casino door open to allow Rourke, Davies and Chen to enter. “So why you guys got me up at this ungodly hour?”

Davies and Chen walked past Sparks and went immediately to the eastern wall. “We are gonna bust down this wall,” Davies yelled back. He and Chen started knocking on the wall with their gloved fists.

“ But …Why?” Sparks asked, stammering. He followed after Davies and Chen and stood behind them, a look of astonishment on his face. “I can’t let you bust down walls in my casino. I have a business to run!”

Rourke joined the three men and began knocking on the wall too. Moments later, Chen found the fake partition. “Here!” he yelled, as the wall gave a hollowed sound.

“You got a sledge hammer?” Davies inquired, which caused Sparks to flash him another hateful look. “Never mind,” Davies said, “my men will be here in a couple of minutes with one.”

“Aw, come on guys,” Sparks muttered as he sat down at a nearby table.

“This is a pretty solid. I doubt anyone used it to get access to the living quarters,” Rourke began as he kept tapping on it. “There must be another entrance somewhere,” he concluded.

“So go find that entrance and leave my wall alone!” Sparks screamed.

Rourke joined Sparks at the table and sat down. “That could take days. We don’t have that long. This is the quickest way in.”

Davies walked away from the wall, leaving Chen there, and stood behind Sparks. “You still gonna help us?”

Sparks turned around in his seat. “What choice do I have?”

“None,” Davies said, placing both hands on Sparks’ shoulders. “When will you order that shipment?”

Sparks shrugged his shoulders. “Stop that! I order tomorrow,” he grumbled, knocking Davies hands away.

Rourke grinned at Davies and then turned his attention to Sparks. “Very good, Mr. Sparks. We look forward to doing business with you.”

Two members of Davies’ team – Tomas and Hicks — arrived with laser saws. They needed to be as quiet as possible bringing that wall down. They didn’t want to startle the Makaa if they were indeed back there. Davies went over and showed them where to begin. Tomas began at the top of the wall, aiming his laser at the top and then half-way down both sides of the wall. Hicks aimed his at the floor and then up the other half on each side. When they were done, Davies took a large knife out of his hip holster and pried each side loose until he had a good grip on the plaster and aluminum boarding. The wall slowly gave way until a gaping hole remained. Davies sat the wall section to the side and motioned for Tomas and Hicks to sit the laser saws down. Rourke joined the four at the entrance. Davies and his two men readied their lasers.

“You stay here, Sparks,” Rourke whispered back at the casino owner.

The Security Team entered first, followed by Rourke, who’d removed his laser from its holster, and then by Chen, who didn’t have a weapon. The crept down a long hallway that had electrical lines and life support tubes protruding out overhead. The walls were completed with wallpaper and the floor had finished tile. Chen was right, the engineers had almost completed this section. Further down the hallway, an orange light glowed from an opened doorway. The whole scene had an eerie feel to it. Rourke and Davies had seen such a glow before. Davies turned and looked back at Rourke, a weary look on his face. Rourke closed his eyes for a second and opened them again. He nodded at Davies.

The men proceeded forward at a slow and silent pace. When they got to the entrance of the room, Davies motioned for everyone to stay behind him. He peeked inside the room and then jumped back. It was as bad as he had feared.

“It’s a queen hive along the west wall,” Davies whispered. “It’s festering.”

A queen hive could give birth to hundreds of immature Makaa. Once born, they would eat their way through any materials they could find, including sentient beings, until fully grown. They began their lives as termite-like insects until their parasitic organisms matured and then they began their infections. The whole process could take months, or days if the conditions were ripe. And would could be riper than an entire Sector of undocumented Earthlings? Their presence was more than an assassination attempt; they came to take over the whole Station.

Davies tapped his link-in and called for reinforcement. They would need more than their three Raython lasers to eradicate a hive. He motioned for the team to evacuate and they all backed away from the doorway.

Once inside the casino again, Rourke pulled Davies and Chen aside. “This is bad. We need to seal off the casino and find that other possible entrance.”

“I need another look at those blueprints,” Chen insisted.

Rourke nodded. “Okay, here’s the plan. Davies, you get Sparks out of here and seal this casino off. Chen, you and I will go back to the Command Center and study those blueprints. Maybe we can find a possible entrance by overlaying the original onto the modified. We will met up here again in an hour.”

“Sounds good,” Davies said. “I will get Hicks to keep an eye on that hive. With it festering, it could burst open at any moment.”

Rourke sighed. “I just hope we can contain that hive. If even one of those bastards is born, we are in deep shit.” He clapped his hands together. “Let’s get this done!”

(more to come in tomorrow’s challenge!)

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