Chapter 17: Necrology

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Tired.

Greg was impressed with how quickly he could go from hard-wired adrenaline, keyed for instant response, to a lethargy so heavy it was an effort to prop up his eyelids. It helped that Kyra let him rest his head on her shoulder.

"What's that?...Who?"

Billings was clearly caught up in his own conversation via radio. Greg prayed he was going to be given a chance to sit down and relax. A two hour nap and even a quick shower would go a long way right now. He knew that, if he had to, he could keep going, but...well, it had been a long damned day so far and his nerves were fraying.

Billings heaved a sigh. "They're what...You've got to be shitting me."

By this point, everyone focused on the Sergeant. When Billings was upset, it was often for a good reason. In their short time together, he'd been able to internalize this fact.

"All right, we're on our way back now." Billings lit a fresh cigar, and then looked around the cabin. "Fantastic news, boys and girls. Disease-Investigation has just showed up and quarantined the planet. Seems like someone managed to get news out about our plight. Bad news is that they've co-opted the entire standing military, SI and Marines."

"For what purpose?" Kauffman asked.

"Not entirely sure, though I imagine just more of what we were doing: containing the infection, evacuating civilians, consolidating our power base, you know. At least, I hope so." Billings took a long draw on his cigar.

Greg straightened in his seat. "Well...what else could it be for?"

"Not sure, but I've stories about DI. Shady stories. You know. Cover-ups. Engineered viruses. Shit like that." Billings shrugged.

Greg felt a cold stone settle somewhere deep in his gut.

* * *

When they landed on one of a dozen freshly constructed landing pads, a terse voice informed them via their radios that they were all to be inspected. Almost before they'd even had a chance to leave the jump ship, they were approached by a half-dozen men in jet-black armor wielding sleek, just as black rifles.

The men covered them while one of them broke away and approached them, holding up a small handheld device.

"Hold still." His face was hidden behind an opaque visor, his voice augmented by a mechanical filter.

Billings went first. The man stuck a small needle into the side of the Sergeant's neck and Greg realized he was taking a blood sample. He pulled the device away once a small amount was taken, pressed a button and, when a small light flashed green, cleaned the needle and swapped out the tube with surprising efficiency.

He tested them each. They were all apparently clean.

"Let's go." He turned and walked away.

Greg and the others followed him while the rest of his black-armored squad dissipated across the landing field. The atmosphere of the base was startlingly different. What had once been crazed chaos was now tightly-controlled military power. Men and women surged through the corridors, carrying weapons, supplies, and wounded.

"Damn," Kyra whispered.

They were led through the hangar to a chilled briefing room. The door closed behind them, slicing off the muted din of the corridor. Their guide regarded Greg and his team from behind his visor for a long moment, then focused on Greg and Kyra.

"You're Greg Bishop and Kyra Mercer?" The nametag on the man's chest read: SGT. Lavelle.

"Yes," they both replied.

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