Chapter 01: Welcome Back

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It didn't seem fair, Greg reflected, that he should only have two weeks with this new life before it all came to an end.

Inside the jump ship, there was chaos. Billings and Cage pried open weapons lockers, and passed out rifles they'd secured just moments ago. Kauffman lay on the deck, pale and bloody, on the verge of being forgotten.

"Powell, do we have any weapons?" Cage called, his usually calm voice now laced with tension.

Greg took a rifle, checked the sights, the magazine. He couldn't imagine fighting Dark Ops on their own terms, their own ship. It seemed impossible, but he refused to go down without some kind of a fight. He wouldn't go back to a holding cell.

"Just the minigun," Powell replied.

Cage began to speak when the lights in the cabin flickered and died. Everyone fell silent. The interior of the ship became dead quiet. Greg heard sounds emerge from the cockpit, the flipping of switches and rapid pressing of buttons.

"Shit," Powell muttered.

Greg noted with a certain terror that it was already getting colder and the oxygen filtration units weren't working. "They must have hit us with an EMP."

"Wonderful," Billings mumbled.

He sat down, suddenly. Cage moved forward to the cockpit.

Billings lit up a cigar and glanced up at Greg. "Might as well give it up, kid. There's no way we're getting out of here. Dark Ops wants us, they're going to have us."

"There must be something we can do." Greg's heart hammered in his chest. It felt like the walls were closing in on him.

"Yeah. Give them a reason not to shoot and kill us." Billings's morose reply made things seem even grimmer, if that was possible.

Greg looked at Kyra, who was pale, tense with fear, uncertain. He glanced into the cockpit, past the dark shapes of Cage and Powell. A ship moved towards them. It was massive, engulfing their field of vision. Greg spied an opening. A hangar. They were going to take the jump ship into them without compunction.

"Cage?" Greg asked.

Cage had nothing to say. His silence seemed to echo Billings's own sentiment. Greg finally took a seat and Kyra sat down next to him. He took her hand in his and thought for a long moment, part of him waiting for the inevitable, part of him scrabbling hopelessly against it, desperately hunting for a way out.

Kyra leaned against him. Brilliant light flooded the cabin as they sailed into the starkly-lit hangar of the Dark Ops ship. Greg found himself staring out one of the windows across from him. He grunted as the ship dropped with an abrupt, loud boom of metal slamming into metal as the gravity of the vessel overtook their ship.

Beyond, he could see a broad expanse of open floor, broken occasionally by another ship or a stack of crates. Dark shapes, men in black armor, moved in on their ship. Greg's muscles tensed, prepared for anything.

A loud clang sounded.

"What are they doing?" Kyra murmured.

Greg stood. "I'm not sure...I can't see."

A sharp hiss of air greeted them. A green haze began to seep into the cabin from the ventilation slits, slowly filling it up.

"Gas!" Greg shouted.

It was all he had time to shout. A taste of bitter metal filled his mouth, his nose, his lungs, and then the world melted into darkness.

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