After getting lost in the tunnels, encountering more of the strange augmented rats, the runners finally decided to push forward up the narrow passage. The horrid smell of rotting food, long dead corpses, ammonia assaulted the runners. Smaller brown rats carried pinkies in their mouth away from their nests as the warning call went out. Bullock noticed the sound of many feet moving at once and warned the group to get into position. Suddenly, over a dozen rat-like drones came teaming out of the tunnel toward Bullock and the rest. Gunshots deafened the ears as Bullock stood his ground against the first wave. Elan and Chase took up Bullocks left and right respectively, using their martial training to dodge and parry while cleaning up the drones that fell against the break of Bullock. Muzzle flash briefly lit the tunnel as a voice came out over the speakers of a drone:
““I see you doubt me as the others have Welders, but you have no right to judge me. Don’t you understand Welders? These are not monsters, these are creatures capable of the greatest empathy…except for the weak. To kill without feeling, without passion; that is strength! They are perfect! Not you, the Corps, or the Institute will stop can stop Us now!”
“Join Us Welders! Drink the Mother’s milk, as I have!”
At the same moment, a compartment opened on one of the drones to reveal a pistol. It shot Bullock in the hip. One at a time, the rats began to bite and claw the group with one to replace those that had fallen. Bullock, Five and Chase steadfastly head their ground as doubt began to set it. Was this it for these old cheats, bums, smugglers, ex-cops, government test-subjects?
Some sort of self-preservation code kicked in as the rest of the drones retreated, burrowing into the soft dirt of either side of the tunnel. Elan and Chase attempted to give chase, but backed off as they entered a larger chamber, the source of the stench. The entire floor and ceiling was alive with movement as the rats hurried to move their young when the intruders stepped into the chamber. Half-rat/Half-men and women operated complex systems regulated forms in suspension tanks in various states of transformation. Elan barely recognized Ralph among them. Ironic really, becoming the thing you hate. Aghast, Bullock tossed in a smoke grenade as Toe Knee muttered to himself about his ex-girlfriend’s period panties while the runners attempted to make their escape.