Chapter 32 - Archangel

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Shift stood at the door and eyed the keypad.  Demos and Mirradex waited.

Shift was an uncommonly tall individual, but only two inches taller than Dex.  He was possessed of a lean and powerful frame, searching blue eyes, and an easy walk and bearing.  That was, of course, the way Dex saw him.

"What's he doing?"  Dex stared at Shift while Demos queried Dex.

"He's working out the code."  The only problem with Shift was, of course, that he was imaginary.  A psychotic break in Mirradex's childhood caused his entry into the universe.  The psychiatrists that analyzed him were completely convinced that his friend was a manifestation of his subconscious, brought on by more than a decade trapped in a deep-space research facility with no one to keep him company except the bodies of the crew.  They didn't talk.  Much.  When they started to converse with him, Shift came along to save him.  Dex knew that his imaginary friend was more than a simple manifestation.  Shift was his subconscious.  Once that was realized, even the medical professionals didn't know what to say or do for him.  He was already in his mid-twenties at the time and there were drugs that could reduce the symptoms of his mental break, but when it was realized what Shift could do... Dex became a research experiment.

"Got it."  Shift leaned back and waited.

Mirradex walked over to the keypad and entered the ten-digit code as Shift spoke the numbers aloud.  A blue bar appeared over the number sets and a series of light concussions behind the door told the story of locks being released.

Dex turned back to the Patron of Pandora.  "Mr. Hammer was very specific about the secret nature of the Archangel project, Demos.  I'm taking your word on account of your influence in Terran space, but understand this:  If you ain't supposed to be here,"  Dex stepped through the door as it slid open and spoke over his shoulder, "you probably won't be."

Demos held no illusions about the facility.  Several mercenary teams were lost trying to get in.  Not killed or mangled or any other such grotesquery.  Simply gone.  Vanished.  Ships, weaponry, personnel, logs.  Nothing remained of the highly-paid teams but Demos' own memory.  Even the monetary transfers to their associated organizations were wiped from existence.  As such, the Patron had grown unbearably curious about the contents of the facility.  A great question mark hung over the arcmap that Demos had watched for years.  Supply ships would enter, but never leave.  No workers were ever seen.

"His name is Haden." Demos replied as he stepped in behind the curious freelancer.  "He has chosen to surrender his alter ego in light of recent events."  Demos replied offhandedly.  "I wouldn't be here unless his permission were given.  My presence is payment for locating you and delivering his message."

"The fact that you know his name says more than you can imagine."  The two walked into a brightly lit corridor.  Flashes of light strobed in the distance as the rest of the ambient illumination began to power on.  Dex stopped and waited.  "What else do you know?"

Demos looked at the rugged man.  His brown hair stretched in soft waves to his shoulder, framing an angular face covered in a day's worth of stubble.  His blue eyes pierced the world, set below dark lids and lashes that the Court of Affection would pay dearly to know the secret of.  Those blue eyes darted back and forth between him and another location, presumably to the hallucination he called 'Shift'.

While he had a certain feminine delicacy to his features, his build left zero room to question his masculinity.  The man wasn't just thick, but sharply defined.  If Demos were to take a guess, his body fat index would easily pass below the five-percent mark.  Considering the fact that he could be considered a walking armory, possessing a weapons cache that could be used to defend a small settlement, his musculature was understandable.  Despite the numerous bladed and projectile weapons, the man made no sound as he moved and gave no indication of the weight.

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