A YEAR UNDERFOOT – entry #130

A Year Underfoot

 

January 17th, 2034

I waited until dusk on the 16th and slipped down to the western edge of the base. The night was cold and crisp and small patches of snow still dotted the landscape around the low-lying base. A fine mist had enveloped the area, making the red glow of the plasma charged fence appear all the more eerie. But it wasn’t the sight of the fence that had me on edge, no, what worried me were the lack of troopers patrolling the perimeter of the base. That had me spooked. It smelled of a trap, but it was a chance I was going to have to take.

I crept north along the fence line looking for the breach I’d spotted the previous afternoon. At the far northwestern corner of the base, I found a small opening in the prefabricated tarmac the enemy had assembled over the farmland. An eighteen inch gap in the installation’s hastily assembled sub-frame where the western wall meets its northern counterpart.

Eighteen inches, I can squeeze through that.

I lay on my back and carefully squirmed between the synthetic brace framework and the crackling plasma fence. In spite of the near freezing night, I was sweating profusely and a paralyzing fear shot through my body.

What if I can’t get out?

I switched on my flashlight and had a look around. What I found was a labyrinth of bulky framework sunk into the soft farm soil. The pilings were spaced thirty feet apart and the support bracing was such that I could crawl through the arch work quite easily. In fact, I saw nothing at all which would impede my progress and I felt emboldened by my discovery.

I checked and rechecked my bearings on the compass I’d brought along for just this purpose and mapped out a course for the warehouses along the flight line. My best guess puts the ordinance warehouse a few thousand yards to the southeast of my current position, and the flight line where the shuttles are serviced would be another five hundred yards due east of that.

I crawled forward on my hands and knees and found out rather quickly it was going to take much longer than I’d expected to reach the warehouse. I’d miss the morning shuttle, that was a given. I had no idea how long it would take me to get there, or even if I could, for that matter. I had no way to gauge my progress, – but I was making progress just the same, right under their noses, and I took a whole lot of comfort in that. So, onward I went, arm over arm, dragging my body forward.

Hours passed, and after I’d negotiated countless trestles, and ate enough dirt to last a lifetime, I came upon the area where I believed the warehouse to be. I turned off my light and hoped to find a shard of light shining down through the tarmac. A shard of light meant an ill-fitting section and a possible way to the surface. I turned a slow circle and found what I was looking for.

A minute later and I lay at the edge of the light. The separation between the sections above may have been only six inches wide, but it ran for well over fifty feet in length. It wasn’t large enough for me to slip through, but it did help me understand where I was on the base.

And, judging by the noise, and the activity overhead, I had to be close to the flight line.

I followed the length of the crack and found it ran longer than I had previously thought. While the light no longer shone through the tarmac at the fifty foot mark, it wasn’t because the adjoining section was properly sealed, no, it fell dark because it was covered by the floor of a building. A building set parallel to the flight line, perhaps even the ordinance warehouse itself.

I looked around and was surprised to see another singular source of light poking through off to my left. Intriguing, to say the least.

What could it be?

I crawled to the edge of the light and gazed upward. It was a grated air vent and it had been cut through the floor, and, obviously, through the tarmac as well.

Explosives need to be kept cool, don’t they?

The shaft was large enough for me to fit through and after listening for any movement up top, – and finding none, I crouched underneath the grate and strained upward to have a look. Craning my head back, I rose up slowly.

As my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I found myself focusing on shipping containers of various shapes and sizes. The symbols on the freight translated to, EXPLOSIVES, and I knew I d hit pay dirt.

Yes!

However, my celebration was short-lived. Something brushed up against my right leg and I jerked upwards, smacking my head up on the grate before I collapsed to the ground and rolled off to one side. I drew my flashlight and my gun, and was relieved beyond belief when I saw the tail end of a field mouse scurrying off into the darkness.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The grate moved. When I hit my head, the grate moved. I felt it.

I propped myself up on my elbows and drew my knees in. I raised my arms above my head and grabbed hold of the grate. Gradually, I applied pressure and found the grate was not secured to the floor. It was merely sitting on top.

Was it a design flaw? A fabrication error? Lazy assembly?

I didn’t matter, either way I was in.

I waited a full five minutes before I dared to move the grate once more. I huddled in the darkness, listening for any movement up top. It was quiet and I knew I’d have to make my move before I lost my nerve.

I slipped my fingers through the openings of the grate and let out a deep breath. This was it. I stood and the circular piece came up with the aforementioned ease. I slid it off to one side and poked my head up.

It was a warehouse, all right. Rows and rows of shipping containers sat staged for distribution, but it wasn’t just ordinance containers laid out before me, but every conceivable item needed to support an occupying army. This had to be the main shipping dock.

I slid the grate back over my head and lay back down in the darkness. The enormity of what I had come across had begun to dawn on me. Not only had I found a way to slip inside the base, I had a direct route to the main loading dock. I had access to their gear. I had access to their weapons. I had access to it all.

I had to have another look around.

I stood up once more and slid the grate back off to the side and pulled myself up and onto the warehouse floor. I crouched low and ran as fast as I could toward a line of crates labeled EXPLOSIVES, and ducked between a pair of the oversized gray containers.

My heart was beating a mile a minute and my eyes watered in the dank, foul air.

I tried to pop open a few of the smaller containers, but I couldn’t do it. They were sealed shut and I hadn’t a clue as to how to open them, and I certainly didn’t have the time to figure it out. I chose a small case, one prominently displaying the EXPLOSIVES symbol and headed back to the vent as quickly and as quietly as I’d come.

Lying on my belly, I slid the one foot by three foot rectangular case through the hole and gently laid it on the ground below. I followed the case through the hole, sliding my body through the opening, before reaching back up and quietly replacing the grate.

I left it like I d never been there at all.

I checked my compass and retraced my steps. At the six hour mark I was greeted with the sweet smell of fresh air and I knew the opening wasn’t far off. Another few dozen yards and I’d be home free.

Before exiting the breach, I poked my head under the plasma fence and had a long look around. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and I pulled myself back inside and got ready for the long run to the tree line a half of a mile due west.

I had no way of knowing if there were troopers waiting for me, but then again, I would never know, so I took a deep breath, – thanked the universe for my luck so far and prayed that a little more of it might come my way.

With the coast clear, I pushed the case out ahead of me and I crawled out from under the super charged fence and made a mad dash for the closest stand of trees and disappeared into the brush without incident. I kept on running for another one hundred yards before stopping and taking a quick look back. There was no one on my tail. I’d made a clean getaway.

I practically flew back to the cabin in no time at all and immediately went about the business of opening the case. A few twists here, a tug there, a well-placed curse word, and the pressure sealed case finally popped open. My eyes bugged out – sitting inside, secured nicely in its form fitted case, lay a brand new Threak blaster, – an actual Threak blaster.

It makes my .357 look like a slingshot.
amazon.com/a-year-underfoot

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About paul nevins

Fiction writer, reader and baseball fan.
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