Scorched Earth

Storming the Vault: The Adventures of Malar

Shifting Shadows

While Plato, Red and Lantus descend to level 4 of the vault in order to retrieve the water chip, Malar remains above in the security office. He has just familiarized himself with the security cameras, intercom and several door locks when he spots Red and Lantus pinned down by a security bot in one of the corridors on level 4.

Knowing that Plato, who is on his way down to join them, will never reach them in time, Malar begins rapidly skimming the security options for control of the bots. He finally locates the correct section and disables all security bots, lacking the time to anything with more finesse. While distracted, however, one of the vault thugs has managed to sneak up and begun to open the door.

As Malar glances over his shoulder and spots the thug, he flings open the door and charges in, to be greeted by Malar’s gunfire. As he collapses outside the door Malar pulls it shut and then drops into his chair and wheels over to the computer to activate the door security locks on the door. As the locks engage he hears the handle rattle and looks over to see another thug trying the door. Malar smiles and waves, which clearly angers the thug who very deliberately removes a grenade from inside his jacket, pulls the pin and grins wickedly at Malar before turning away from the door and attempting to smash the window with his elbow. The thug’s elbow rebounds painfully from the bullet-proof glass of the security office door and Malar laughs while the thug dives past the window to escape the explosion of the grenade he was forced to throw elsewhere.

Concerned for his friends and trapped in the security office, Malar pries the vent off the air duct in the room and makes his way down to level 2, where he explores a little, peering into one room apartments and 2000 sq ft suites. All of these are either abandoned or being occupied by rough looking men and women who certainly cannot be vault dwellers. He comes to a reasonable conclusion that this vault has been taken over by bandits of some sort and proceeds to find an air shaft going down to level 3.

On level 3 Malar is met with silence and darkness. On level 2 he had the occasional ray of light up through the air ducts from the rooms and halls to illuminate his crawl and was accompanied by the sounds of voices, raucous laughter and snoring. However, here, there is absolute darkness and no sounds drift through the chill air ducts, which seem colder even than those above, though here on level 3 very little air stirs in the ducts.

With one level still to go, Malar begins to look for an air duct going down to level 4. As he crawls through the ducts he catches glimpses of movement out of the corner of his eye but when he turns his flashlight in those directions there is nothing to see. Very occasionally he sees a flash of light, as if from the sparks of a lighter unable to strike a flame, but all attempts to chase down these accompanying flashes prove fruitless. Through it all his ears, keyed for any sound, pick up only his own shuffling and the sound of his own breathing echoing through the ducts.

Finally, Malar reaches out with his mind, utilizing his growing psionic powers to detect the thoughts of others, trying to pinpoint the source of the movement and flashes of light. He is rewarded with strong, but fuzzy, points of thought. He knows for sure there is something on this level with him, both in the rooms below and in the ducts through which he crawls. The thoughts are too strong for animals, but too unfocused for a human, even a sleeping or very inebriated one.

Unable to find any air ducts going down, and knowing that the only elevator to 4 is against the far wall from where he is located, Malar begins the long crawling trek through the ducts, hoping to remain concealed. The flashes of light follow him and even after he turns off his flashlight in an attempt to better hide his presence, he still catches glimpses of movement, somehow, in the absolute darkness around him at the edges of his sight. Unable to banish these sights as mere foolishness or jumping at shadows because of his psionic awareness, Malar eventually turns his flashlight back on, drops through a vent into the main halls of level 2. As soon as he’s up and on his feet he makes a mad dash to the elevator that’s still a few hundred feet away, pursued the whole way by a growing wind and the constant flickers of movement at the corners of his vision.

At last he slams into the elevator doors, punches the button and the blessedly speedy elevator arrives and the door whooshes open. He hurtles inside, hits the button and drops to level 4, arriving just in time to greet his comrades as they arrive at the elevator.


Rasselas Rasselas

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