Recap: Eric and Anna are part of a team charged with surveying and evaluating the world gates that are scattered throughout known space. However, not everyone agrees with their mission, and after a disastrous encounter on Tantalus IV, the two find themselves on the run. After being separated for a time, they are now back together- but have just been captured by a strike team sent to take them down. Unfortunately the strike team has had some rather bad luck- something is picking them off, one by one- and Eric and Andreas have called a truce. For now.
Fear coursed through Anna as she watched Eric stumble. He knew something was happening too, she could tell by the way he looked at her sharply and shook his head when she started to say something. Things were on a knife's edge and they couldn't afford to show weakness- Andreas still had one more person than they did. And she was pretty sure Eric's struggles wouldn't long escape Gillian's notice, who was bringing up the rear behind them. But Gillian also had the knock-out juice, and she would rather use it than have to kill Eric. If it came to that. She risked a glance back but Gillian was watching behind them as they advanced, so maybe she hadn't noticed yet.
They came to a halt as Andreas held up a fist. Riggs was on point so he kept his eyes on the way forward as Andreas turned back to Eric.
"What's wrong with him?" he demanded in a whisper as Eric leaned against the wall.
"I'm fine. Seriously. All this has taken a toll, haven't slept in..."
"Bullshit," Andreas cut in. "Come here." He took Eric's face in his hands and looked him over closely. "Are you sure you're not going zombie on me?"
Eric sighed. "As sure as I can be. There is something though. I don't know what it is- like a brain flutter almost, don't know how else to describe it. It's not vertigo, but... kind of?" He shook his head. "I don't know."
Anna bit her lip. He was describing the same thing she'd been feeling.
"Same here," she said. Dammit. Andreas looked at her sharply, then looked back down the corridor. She could see him running through his options in his mind. He turned back.
"Should we abort? I can't have my team going freak out in the middle of action."
"No," Eric said quickly. "If this is part of it, we have to know. Let's hurry."
"We don't even know what we're after," Anna muttered, but she agreed. They had to know. Then Gillian was putting something into her hand. A syringe. She also passed one to Eric.
"If it goes bad, shoot this," she said.
He nodded, pocketed it. She could see he wasn't doing well, was getting more concerned by the minute. Andreas leaned in to her as they resumed.
"If you see him going bad, jab him, alright? I'd rather have him out of it than have to shoot him."
She nodded, then asked "What about me?"
"Oh you I'll just shoot," he replied.
She didn't know how long it was before they found the room. Andreas and Eric had conferred in heated whispers as they came to this or that junction. The place was a maze, and Anna wasn't sure she could find her way out, but she knew Andreas was tracking their progress on his datapad. Eric seemed to know what he was looking for, but he was clearly getting worse, and the group was on edge. When they entered the room the first thing they noticed was the body. The room was roughly octagonal, with those weird arched entryways the Precursors favored, and there were two columns of plinths with colored glass running the length of the chamber.
As they approached the body Riggs and Gillian kept an eye on the multiple exits, while Andreas flipped the body over with his boot. He was clearly dead, and even though the light in here was weird they could see his eyes. They were black. Andreas swore and stepped away, looking around, and Eric sighed and leaned against the wall. "That's how Russell's eyes were," Andreas told him tightly. Eric just nodded. Anna could feel the fluttering again, stronger this time. She was about to say something when they noticed for the first time that the glass enclosure atop the plinth was shattered, there were pieces of glass all over. The technician had cuts on his face and hands.
"Look around. Stay frosty," Andreas commanded and his troopers spread out. She took a closer look at some of the enclosures and could see that each one contained... something. Some were humanoid forms, some were indescribable- masses of tissue?- and one even looked like it contained a brain, floating in greenish fluid. She shuddered and remembered what Eric had said about the Precursors "collecting" things. How long had these things been here? And like everything else these tanks seemed to still be running. There was a soft hum and the light in here was greenish and purple, rather than the usual blue.
It hit her so fast she cried out. The fluttering was gone, replaced by something else. It was almost like someone had shoved her down, but it was in her mind. Her head hurt, and it felt like she was being violated somehow. There was something in her mind with her, something that didn't belong, and it nauseated her. And she realized, with a moment of horror, that it had been there for a while. It was no longer hiding.
Through tears of pain she could see Andreas next to Eric, shouting something, and Riggs was at the entrance, waving frantically at them. Why can't I hear? Everything was woozy and she felt hands on her, pulling her along, but in her mind she was somewhere else, looking down on events. It felt surreal, like she was out of herself, and then she felt a sharp prick in her arm and something warm spread through her. Was she bleeding? There was another woman next to her, pulling her, and she felt like she should know her name, but maybe it would come to her later.