Chapter 04: Darker Ops

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"Ah, hell, we've gotta go down there?" Campbell complained.

Greg sighed. "Yes, Campbell. You and me, buddy."

They wouldn't let anyone else go down. Lynch claimed it was because of a shortage of personnel, but Greg figured she was testing him and maybe hoping that Campbell would be killed in the process. Kyra had argued, but the revelation that Campbell was former Dark Ops had lessened the currency of their words.

Greg had abandoned his flamethrower in favor of something more reliable. Weapons were scarce, so he'd been forced to choose just one, in addition to his pistol. He'd eventually settled on a shotgun, figuring they were going to be in close quarters combat. He loaded it and pocketed an extra helping of shells.

Campbell had selected a rifle and fitted spare magazines into the pockets on his uniform. He frowned intensely.

"This sucks," he grumbled.

"Could've sucked worse," Greg replied.

Campbell opened his mouth to reply, then glanced over at Greg, flicked his eyes briefly down to Greg's right arm, hidden inside a glove and his uniform, and closed his mouth. He returned his attention to preparing his gear.

"So, where actually is it?" Campbell asked.

"Weren't you paying attention? It's in a maintenance repair bay. They need a replacement part for the ship's power core. Easy to find. Just gotta yank it out of one of the big drillers in there," Greg replied.

"When'd you get all smart on technical things?"

"I didn't. It's just that Powell is good at explaining things. We don't even need tools. They were already working on the driller's power core."

"And the fact that it's a driller power core and not a shuttle's power core doesn't make any real difference?"

"No, they're modular."

"Meaning?"

Greg sighed. "Meaning, most large vehicles and basic systems are built similarly nowadays. Many of their parts are interchangeable. You know, like how a bullet that works for the pistol also works for the rifle?"

"Oh...okay. That makes sense."

Greg suppressed a second sigh and finished adjusting the shoulder strap to the shotgun. Campbell seemed to be done as well. Greg slipped the strap over his shoulder, made sure it sat comfortably and then let it hang.

"Go wait for me by the-never mind, we shouldn't split up. Come with me, but shut up, okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, fine."

They crossed the bay to one of the entryways and found Kyra pulling guard duty. Her gaze was smoldering with anger, but she seemed to relax slightly as she saw Greg. He smiled at her and came to stand beside her.

"Hey, we're heading down now," he said.

"Please be careful. God, I keep saying that. Come back to me safe, how about that?" she replied.

Greg grinned. "Sounds a little too soft for you."

She hit him in the shoulder. "Thanks."

"Hey, you deserve it. You still owe me for slapping that goddamn bandage on over my gunshot wound."

"It barely grazed you!"

"People are staring. Kiss me and wish me luck."

She did, and he kissed her back with enthusiasm, then made himself let go of her before it became too difficult.

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