Chapter 12: Setting Up Shop

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For once, Greg managed to smash his head into something hard and unyielding and not pass out. Instead, he found himself lying on an awkwardly tilted floor, his head spinning, staring up at metal plates overhead. It took him a long moment to realize he was staring up at the deckplates, and that he was lying on the ceiling.

"Please, please tell me everyone else made it," Greg heard himself say as he closed his eyes and pressed his palms against his skull, trying to make the spinning and the buzzing go away. From somewhere in the cabin, someone groaned.

"Present." Kyra's voice sounded thick and groggy.

Cage's voice came next, just as calm and cool as always. "I'm here."

"Anyone got a cigar? I finally managed to find some on one of the soldiers, but now I think they're all broken," Billings muttered.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thank you very much," Campbell said.

"Powell?" Greg called out after a long moment of silence.

Nothing. No response. A surge of apprehension forced him to sit up. He looked around, the others slowly got up. Glancing through the cockpit doorway, he saw Powell was still strapped into his upside-down chair. He hung there, limp.

"Oh hell," he muttered, rising unsteadily to his feet.

"Is he okay?" Billings asked.

"Dunno yet," Greg said. "Hold on."

He stepped over Campbell and made his way clumsily into the cockpit. Something dripped steadily, making a series of uncomfortable, small, wet splats.

"Powell?" Greg tried to maneuver around the cramped, ruined cockpit.

The front windows were shot through with a million cracks, turned foggy and opaque. Greg ignored them, as well as the instrument panels that periodically bled blue-white sparks. He finally shifted into place and realized the dripping was blood that dribbled down Powell's head from an ugly gash in his cheek.

"Powell?" He touched the man on the shoulder.

The technician still breathed, but was unconscious. Cage appeared in the cockpit then. Together, operating in terse silence, the pair worked to undo the straps holding Powell in place and then gently lower him onto the ceiling.

"Is he okay?" Billings asked from the doorway.

"Yeah, don't ask about me...think I broke my damn arm." Campbell shifted and muttered to himself.

"Quit bitching," Kyra said. "How is he?"

"He's just out cold, he should be fine," Cage said. "Seems we all got lucky. Come on, let's get off this ship. Dark Ops is probably going to be on our asses very soon."

There was a general shuffle of movement as everyone gathered up whatever weapons and supplies had survived the crash. Greg was unhappy to discover that his rifle had managed to get mangled in the collision. He tossed the useless thing aside and hunted for his shotgun, but it was nowhere to be found. A huff of irritation escaped him as he realized he'd been reduced to his pistol yet again. At least it had survived intact.

"Help me with the cockpit window. One of them is loose," Cage said.

"This is familiar," Greg muttered.

He moved back up to the cockpit and helped Cage bash the window open the rest of the way with brute force. It finally popped free of its frame and smashed to the deck. Both men pulled their respective weapons out and scanned the area. They were alone.

"Miracle there's no breach in the hull, theirs or ours. I guess the ship created a solid enough seal in the hull, but that won't hold...come on, everyone," Cage called.

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