Chapter 19: Patient Zero

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"So what do you expect to find here?" Greg asked.

They'd hustled back into the ship and were now punching deeper into the wastelands, heading for a place called the Dark Core Mining Installation. Starck seemed to take a long time to answer, perhaps weighing what to say.

"We believe that the virus may be a result of the Cyr," she answered, finally. That seemed to make everyone sit up a little straighter, but Greg was left in the dark.

He shook his head and shrugged. "The Cyr?"

"Oh, yes, of course. Your memory loss. Over the course of the past two hundred years, as humanity spread out among the stars, we discovered ruins and wrecks from an ancient civilization. Some of the ruins were unique, from other, even older civilizations, but the most common relate to an advanced race we call the Cyr. Their technology dates back approximately two hundred thousand years."

Greg was fascinated and suddenly had the urge to take a crash course in human history. What else was he missing out on? He'd been confined to just a single planet since he'd awoken and only now did he realize how much potential content he had to learn.

"What happened to them?"

Starck shrugged. "From what we can tell, civil war and a bio-engineered plague wiped them right the hell out, along with a lot of other species. Pretty much left the galaxy a big empty slate as far as we've been able to tell."

"My God..." Greg whispered.

"I'm glad you find this so fascinating. The point is we're concerned this might be what took them out. It's certainly beyond any scope we currently have. Although I have my doubts about whether or not this is the virus. As potent as it is, it doesn't seem capable of taking out an entire galaxy. Hopefully it's just some kind of experiment gone wrong and we accidentally dug it up. With luck there's a cure tied to it."

The ship rumbled, halting the conversation.

"Approaching target," the pilot announced via their radios.

Despite however long he'd gone without sleep, Greg found the adrenaline always seemed ready to reactivate him. He knew it couldn't last forever...or even for much longer. If he didn't get sleep soon, there would be consequences. A loud, steady thrum rattled through the frame of the ship. It took him a few seconds, but Greg placed it: a minigun.

"We're going to do a few strafing runs, then we'll touch down. We're taking the installation as quickly as possible. Stay close to me-" The hull shuddered and the ship lurched. "What the hell was that?" Starck snapped.

"One of the new ones. Slammed right into the cockpit," the pilot replied.

"Shit," she muttered.

"Has anyone settled on a name for them?"

"No. We've hardly just discovered the damned things..."

"Banshees," Kyra said. Everyone in the cabin looked at her. She shifted. "What? They fly, and they shriek like fucking Banshees...I don't see why not."

"I'll take it under advisement," Starck replied.

The gunfire cut off and they descended.

"Time to hit dirt!" Billings called out.

They unlatched, readied their weapons, and pounded down the ramp before it even had a chance to finish opening up. There was blood and corpses everywhere. Black blood ran like oil or tar in the mud. Up ahead, built into the side of a mountain, was the mining facility. It stood over them, a towering monolith of steel, glass, and technology, stained with gore or sporting the occasional black eye of a broken window.

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