Chapter 12: Into the Maw

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Greg never thought he'd be so glad to see a bleak, rocky mining tunnel. He'd been headed towards the surface for what seemed like forever, but couldn't have been all that much time. The spider had been left behind, and he hadn't heard or felt any tremors. Whatever it was, it seemed to be trapped in the lower mining section.

At least he prayed it was.

There was light at the end of the tunnel, a good, strong, steady, white light that came from several powerful work-lights no doubt. Greg crested the final portion of the tunnel and stepped out. He looked left, then right, seeing the familiar main tunnel that ran just beneath the surface of the airless moon. For a long moment, he just stood there.

Overhead, a sign pointed him towards the hangars, and safety. He set off in that direction, pistol still clutched firmly in hand. It wasn't safe down here, and he wasn't quite out of the fire yet. Greg glanced over his shoulder. It got darker after several dozen meters, he saw. There could be anything in that darkness.

He picked up the pace.

He wondered how far away he had emerged from Burne and his men. He couldn't see anyone in the tunnel, but, then again, they may have very well retreated into the generator and oxygen rooms themselves.

Or they could all be dead.

Greg felt a chill ripple through him as he considered this fact. What if the Augmented or the Undead or Dark Ops or some ridiculous combination of the three had finally overrun the miner's headquarters?

What if he was truly alone down here?

Greg shook off the notion. He broke into a light jog, tired but still pumped with residual adrenaline from his harrowing experiences thus far. Finally, he came to a familiar storage room. Greg slipped in, finding it empty. He holstered the pistol and began the long climb up the ladder.

The hatch at the top opened and he climbed through. The coast was still clear. He listened as he climbed up and out and sealed the hatch behind him. His fear of finding nothing but blood and death refused to abate as he moved over to the door, opened it and peered out. The corridor beyond was large, lonely, and empty.

He wished in vain for a radio. Moving out into the corridor, Greg listened intently for signs of life. Immense relief swelled through him as he heard distant voices that weren't screaming or shouting orders. As he began to hurry along the passageway, fear began to well up once more. What if it was Dark Ops?

He kept the pistol out.

Finally, as he drew closer to the voices, Greg rounded another corner and came to one of the entrances to the hangar headquarters.

A pair of security personnel stood guard, sharing a cigarette.

One of them raised his weapon, a rifle, as he spied Greg.

"Who goes there?"

"Wait, that's one of the survivors from the fleet overhead...holy shit, we thought you were dead," the second one said, putting a restrictive hand on the first's gun.

"So did I," Greg replied. "Can I go in?"

They stepped aside. "Yes. They're planning a major mission."

Greg's heart sank as he moved between them. What now? What godforsaken thing was he going to have to do now?

As usual, the headquarters was abuzz with all manner of activity. Techs, security officers, miners, everyone who was still alive, numbering in the low dozens now it seemed, were scurrying about with infopads, crates, weapons, wounded, and more. Greg hunted, desperate for Kyra or Campbell or even Powell, for familiar faces in a sea of the unknown. He spied them a moment later, clustered around Powell's work station, as per usual.

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