Allan Gray laid in his bed, listening to the white noise of his squalid living quarters, and tried not to think of things like insanity and suicide. Sleep was supposed to have come hours ago and Allan suspected that it had in fact at a couple of points during the night, but it had slipped in and out of his consciousness so seamlessly that it might as well not have made an appearance. Overhead, the flat, gray ceiling was as omnipresent as ever. How many hours had he lain awake, staring up at the same sight?
How many sleepless nights?
With a sigh, he shifted. The bed creaked, groaning in protest at the weight being put on it. He had yet to take off his suit of armor. There was a small but powerful part of him that was becoming increasingly convinced he no longer had the ability to do so. His world had slipped out from beneath him, leaving him falling through a black eternal abyss. He an insane but powerfully strong conviction that someone had removed all the little bits and pieces that kept his body together and this suit, this second skin of metal armor, was the only thing keeping him from falling apart.
Allan tried to shut out the images, the sounds, the smells. Tried to stop his own personal snuff film from playing endlessly in his mind, but he might as well have tried to stop the blood from flowing through his veins.
It just wasn't happening.
He heaved a soft sigh and considered turning over, getting up, pulling himself out of the suit and having a long shower, maybe losing himself in the mist. But it was as if his bones had been hollowed out, then filled in with some dense metal and chromed over just for good measure. The weight of the last day hung over him and made even the simplest task impossible. Allan wanted nothing but the lost void of sleep.
But it would not come. Not properly.
Something beeped. It was distant at first. He was thinking about a man in a suit of gray-green armor being pumped full of holes and sprays of pink mist beading on a titanium wall. Slowly, Allan registered the noise. It was a flat, rapid beeping, intimately familiar. So familiar, in fact, that it seemed to slip past his perception.
The notion that the beeping was, in fact, quite important, took root in his skull. He frowned and, with all the grace of a beached supertanker, rolled over. His bed groaned again, threatening to give up the ghost. His alarm clock perched on the nightstand beside his single-wide bed, usually done up military style, not that it mattered when you were in Security-Investigations. The clock was flashing in sync with the beeps.
It dawned on him, somewhat sluggishly, like sound traveling across a vast distance, that he had set that alarm. It was just past seven in the morning. The sun was beginning to creep over the horizon, slanting pale beams of pallid light into his quarters. A low sound, what might have been a groan, escaped Allan's throat.
He began the long, arduous process of getting up.
Seven o'clock. It was time for a funeral. Several, in fact. Allan climbed to his feet and stood there, swaying for a long moment. Glancing back at his bed, he thought about how easy it would be to just lie back down and continue his long stare into nothingness. It would certainly be simpler. But there was still that ember, compressed perhaps to a singularity now, burning inside of him. The thing that drove him ever onward, somehow, someway.
Allan moved into the bathroom and stared at the armored thing in front of the mirror. He liked his suit. It came with all sorts of attachments and augmentations. When you joined up with Security-Investigations, they gave you a uniform. When you graduated from the four month training course, they gave you some armor.
As a Sergeant in command of an Investigations Squad, Allan had been granted a full suit of powered armor. It was blue-gray in color and bore the symbol of Squad Lansing Six, which was little more than a red L-6. Over the past six months, Allan's interests, hobbies, and spending habits had begun to dry up. SI paid for room and board, it came free with the job. He found himself pouring virtually all his money into the armor.
YOU ARE READING
The fifth novel in The Shadow Wars. Sergeant Allan Gray has just suffered the worst defeat in his fourteen years as a member of Security-Investigations, a branch of the government that offers protection to both the colonies and isolated outposts of...