Chapter 24: Countdown

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Greg's entire body went cold.

Could they even do that? He thought about Dark Ops, of Starck and her cold, detached nature, and of Williams and his empty smile. Yes, he suspected they could. There was a babble of voices on the comms, but Greg felt at a loss.

Cage's voice cut in. "We need to at least get off the planet. We will die for certain if we stay here."

"Why would they risk killing Greg?" Kyra's voice came over the radio.

"I don't know. Maybe they found another Patient Zero or maybe they figure it's worth the risk. Or maybe they found us. I haven't heard any chatter on it, but it's possible. My point is, finish up, pack the ship, and get ready. We're leaving ASAP."

The steel in Cage's voice gave Greg some of his own grit back. He turned and headed for the living quarters.

"What's actually left on the jump ship to do to make it space-worthy? We need to trim that two hours if at all possible. Dark Ops aren't giving a definite timeline yet, but from the way they're booking ass for orbit, I can't imagine it's very long." Cage's normally icy voice held the edge of panic.

"We need to put new power cells in the engine, I need to finish up in the cockpit and the navigational array needs to be completed." Powell sounded agitated.

"I'm almost done," Kyra promised.

"I'm going to pack food from the mess hall, then I'll round up whatever weapons and ammo I can find and bring them to the ship," Greg said.

"I'll come help." Kauffman's voice held little huffs after each word, like he was running.

"I'll grab power cells," Billings added.

They scrambled to work. As midnight approached, the base descended into a frenzy of last-minute chores. Greg hurried to the mess hall, passing Cage on the way, off on his own task. He hurried back into the kitchen area, found a pair of cold storage units and began packing as much as he possibly could into them. He put in only the freeze-dried stuff and canteens of water, as well as a few stacks of MREs for good measure.

Ten minutes passed before he had them secured, sealed, and powered. He lifted one and hustled it across the base, making for the landing pad. Occasionally, he'd heard a quick report from someone else as they made an update. Greg dropped off the crate, ran back, grabbed the other one and dropped it off as well.

"Finished!" Kyra called as he completed his own task.

"Go help with supplies," Powell replied.

As Kyra came down the ramp to join Greg, Billings came in with Cage, hauling a crate full of power cells. Greg and Kyra hurried back over to the living quarters. As they passed outside, Greg hunted the dark skies for signs of life, anything that might tip him off to a conflict of some kind. He couldn't shake the feeling that they weren't getting off this world without a fight. And even could they hope to escape the blockade?

Greg shook the thoughts from his mind. It didn't matter right now. The planet-killer had the shortest fuse. They'd cross the other bridges when they came to them. He and Kyra began rushing through the living quarters, collecting up whatever weapons they could find. Greg regretted not doing a real inventory when he'd had the chance.

Lazy, they had gotten lazy. Let their guard down. Another twenty minutes passed while they gathered up supplies. In the meantime, Kauffman was hard at work in the local infirmary, gathering up medical supplies.

By the time the three of them regrouped at the landing pad, having cleared out the living quarters side of the station, nearly an hour had transpired. Cage loaded a quartet of fresh power cells in the exterior of the ship.

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