Chapter 14: Desperate Times

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"Do we really have to do this?" Allan heard himself asking. It was as though someone else was in control of his brain. He felt severely dislocated from the world and events around him, as though he was watching a film of himself.

"Yes," Poet replied softly but firmly.

"Ugh," Allan groaned.

They were both sitting in the back of a jump ship, being flown towards the first Gravity Destabilizer. It was about two hundred miles to the west, buried beneath a mountain range, accessible only via a network of caves.

"What happens after?" Allan asked quietly.

"Well, I guess we'll see. It's not like the target can take the others offworld...at least I hope not. The whole process should take roughly an hour. Once we've actually initiated it, I imagine Montgomery will institute some kind of evacuation notice," Poet replied.

"Five minutes out," the pilot said quietly through their radios.

Allan wondered where the guy had come from, if he even knew what was going on. Not that it mattered. They needed to complete this job. Poet pulled his helmet back on and began to reach for where he might have kept his weapon, then hesitated.

He laughed. "First job I've ever had where having a gun wasn't really a prerequisite," he said. "At least since joining up with the armed forces. There hasn't been a problem I've run into really that couldn't be solved with a few bullets."

"Yeah, it's pretty creepy," Allan murmured.

They remained in silence until the jump ship began its telltale descent of both altitude and speed. Not much later, the ship had settled on uneven ground. The pilot reported that they were utterly alone there. Poet told him to wait for them. Allan hit the access button for the back ramp and watched it open to the rain and the darkness.

"Come on," Poet said heavily.

They trudged down the ramp, their boots squelching into the mud. Poet led the way, likely following some kind of map superimposed over his visor via his heads-up-display. They stood in the shadow of an immense mountain, the peak of which soared so high it was out of sight, lost to the clouds. They made for a cave not far away.

More silence passed, stretched out as they made their way through a small network of caves. There were no lights strung up, no obvious markings, nothing to show that humans had ever been here. Until, finally, Poet reached a small service elevator at the back of one particularly long tunnel. He stepped onboard and fired it up.

"I'm surprised it still functions," Allan murmured as he watched the control panel flicker to life, bathing them in a weak white glow.

"It, and the Destabilizer, are powered by a generator that shouldn't run out for another hundred years or so," Poet replied.

He pressed a button and the lift began to descend swiftly.

"Have you ever done anything like this before?" Allan asked as they shot down into the earth.

"Once," Poet murmured unhappily. "There was a bomb. Some psycho fringe group of 'freedom fighters' had taken some hostages in a manufacturing plant. Me and my team came in. It was either disarm the bomb or go after the bad guy and his group. There were twenty people down there. But this guy was important, he was the head of the whole group. He had data, tactical information, places, names...we nabbed him and lost them."

"Jesus," Allan muttered. "How'd you decide?"

"I didn't have to, not then. I wasn't in charge. And really, I'm not in charge now. If it makes you feel any better, we're following orders," Poet replied.

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