Chapter 03: Into the Wastes

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The walk to Hangar Three was awkward, lengthy, and silent.

Allan led the way. He contemplated his immediate future. He was willing to bet that the mission was going to be a milk run. Probably someone went nuts or maybe some idiot had spilled beer on the comms equipment and then tripped drunkenly onto the distress beacon. It was possible, he'd been on missions before that had basically amounted to that. It would probably take a few hours to fly out there, fix the gear, and fly back.

Then what?

He'd be put on leave and he'd already decided that he'd go to the base psychiatrist and run the sessions. He'd done it before and he could probably bullshit his way through it. Unless he was more fucked than he thought he was. Which was a possibility. But if he made it through psych-eval...then what? Come back after a short medical leave? Get a new team, start over again? Transfer? He'd probably transfer.

Things here at Lansing were too fucked up. Everyone had a very clear view of Sergeant Allan Gray's mental status, and some report in a file saying he'd passed psych-eval wouldn't change their minds in the slightest. No one would want to work with him. There was always mercenary work, and the megacorps were notoriously easy to get into. He supposed he could go there, but to what end? What would be the point besides his own continued existence? Not for the first time, Allan felt the thought of suicide pass through his mind.

They reached Hangar Three. The immense room was mostly empty, just a few tech crews working on the array of vehicles that SI retained for use. The group moved across the vast expanse of floor, navigating between the maze of tables, crates, and workstations. They found their jump ship waiting for them in the early morning sunshine on a landing pad just beyond the massive open doors on the far side of the bay.

Allan led the team out into the sunshine. He squinted reflexively, even though his visor automatically filtered the light and protected his eyes. The jump ship almost appeared impatient, engines powered up, back ramp down. The team moved up it and took a seat in the back bay, strapping into the chairs. Allan linked his radio with the jump ship's and informed the pilot they were all onboard and accounted for.

The back ramp began to close.

As soon as it was secure, the ship ascended into the sky and they began making their long journey into the wastelands.

* * *

Most of the journey was made in silence.

Allan didn't mind. He'd been reviewing the information on the outpost, displaying the data over the interior of his visor. There really wasn't much. The outpost was a handful of structures inside of a chainlink fence. The communications relay itself was a tower in the exact center and the rest of the buildings occupied the perimeter just inside the fence, leaving a small circle of open space in between them all.

There were just four personnel manning the outpost. A base commander that also doubled as a security officer, a comms specialist, a medic, and a backup mechanic. A brief glimpse of their files suggested that they were all rejects in one way or another. Their problems ranged from laziness to insubordination to drug use. A lot of drugs were legalized now, but there were still more that weren't, and even so, you weren't supposed to use them on duty.

"So, what happened to your team?"

Allan came back to the present, sitting inside of a softly thrumming jump ship, flying a few dozen meters above a mostly flat, packed dirt ground. He looked around and realized that everyone was looking at him now.

It was Corporal Mitchell that had asked the question.

Allan stared at her for a long moment. "We were on a mission to investigate some strange activity at an isolated storage outpost about a hundred miles outside of Lansing."

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