Chapter 05: Darkness There, and Something More

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Marshall stepped back out into the cold.

He had a hunch, the idea that had granted him some of his courage back. It wasn't exactly a particularly brilliant idea, it would have occurred to the others probably by morning. But Marshall felt good nonetheless. He used to be very good at having ideas and acting upon them. He was once, in fact, quite skilled at his job.

Shivering inside his cold weather gear, Marshall moved across the shifting landscape of snow and ice to the wrecked hulk of the troop transport. The blackened metal stood in silent testament to the hard landing. That and the gouge that had been cut into the ice, leading away from the base, already being filled in by the falling snow.

Marshall walked up to the ruined vessel and moved alongside it. He looked high up on the hull and grinned broadly. His intuition had been correct. The serial number of the ship, printed in bold black letters against the dull gray metal, was unmarred. Marshall quickly memorized them, a talent he'd had for as long as he could remember, and headed back towards the base, feeling better and better as time went on.

* * *

Marshall's office was small, hardly bigger than any of the others. He sat at his desk and fired up his terminal. He knew that one of the things they had stored in the on-site databases was a list of the local outposts, as well as a cargo manifests and crew rosters. Marshall wasn't sure if it was for safety reasons, legal reasons, or a show of good faith between the corporations. Maybe it was just standard operating procedure.

He didn't really care, because when he punched in the serial number, it got a hit: the ship was registered to a communications relay about five miles south of their base. Under pretty much any other circumstances, it would be a quick and easy drive. But conditions around Charon were almost always nasty and made driving a real chore.

Marshall memorized the information about the base and left his office. He went next door to Laura's office where she and Nate were gearing up. She already had a bulletproof vest on and Nate was pulling one over his head.

"Here," she said, tossing a third to him.

Marshall caught it and began pulling it on. "So, I found where that troop transport came from. The comms relay. Although, I've got to admit, it seems kind of strange for a military ship to be registered to a communications facility."

"It was likely bought secondhand," Laura replied. "Security-Investigations and Colonial Authority gets all kinds of nice deals. Chances are the comms relay just had a bigger budget than we did, considering how important they are."

"Fair enough," Marshall replied, making sure his vest was in place. He didn't think they really needed one, but you never knew.

"You do know how to use one of these, right?" Laura asked, setting down a pistol and a pair of spare magazines on her desk.

"Yes," Nate replied, rolling his eyes. He checked it out with fairly practiced hands. "I'm not a total idiot."

"Good to hear," Laura said. "Be goddamn careful with that. That's my pistol. My personal one. You lose it, it's your ass."

Nate grunted and pocketed the two magazines. Marshall only had the single magazine for his own pistol, but it was a common model and took standard bullets. He salvaged another pair of magazines from Laura's gun locker, which was all but depleted now. Laura herself had taken the shotgun. She flicked on the light at the end, seemed satisfied that it worked and turned it back off. After feeding a handful of fat red shells into the gun, she turned to face Marshall.

"So, you about ready?" she asked.

"Yeah. Let's go and find out how bad it is," Marshall replied.

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