Chapter 05: Aftermath

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Level Seven now.

Enzo felt like he was making progress. He began pacing as he rode the elevator up, knife in hand since the pistol was depleted. There was an anger building up inside of him. Enzo had a long, long career of being a mercenary. For quite a long while now, his life had been lengthy bouts of nomadic exploration, drifting across the galaxy from system to system as jobs or his own personal needs and wants had dictated, punctuated with long periods of inactivity whenever he found a place he particularly liked.

He'd never been held prisoner.

Sure, he tangled with the local law enforcement or rival mercenary groups from time to time, but by the time the men with serious badges and sunglasses showed up looking for him, he was already long gone, catching a flight out of the local starport to wherever. In fact, it was what he'd been doing before this. Before the prison transport, he'd been on Williamson Station. It was closer to the inner ring of galactic society, a place where they ran a tight ship and all your digital papers had to be in order if you wanted to get in and do anything.

Not exactly his kind of place, but he'd been tired of hanging out in the seedy, nasty underworld of the criminal ecology that grew at the edge of civilized space in what most men called the Far Reach. He wanted something nice, a place where there was real sun and the wine was good and the women you could buy some time with were just the right level of trashy. Williamson Station was where he'd planned to stop and crash for a few days before going to the planet below its orbit, Mezzanine, and burning through all the credits he'd accumulated.

Unfortunately, it had all gone to shit. Enzo had run afoul with the local law enforcement. Some jackass had wanted to pretend he was tough in the bar during Enzo's third night there and tried to pick a fight with him. Obviously, he'd gotten the shit kicked out of him. How was it Enzo's fault that he was skilled at hand-to-hand combat? In retrospect, Enzo suspected that he probably could have delivered less of a beating, but it was a bad night. His shoulder was really burning and he was pretty drunk. On top of that, the guy was really asking for it.

So they wanted to throw him in a cell overnight. Obviously that was unacceptable. Enzo tried to explain this, but the cops just wouldn't hear it. So he'd had to beat them up, too. If there was any sense of justice in the universe, he'd have been able to claim self-defense against the officers that had come for him. They'd been hassling him his whole time on the station, just because he didn't come from what they liked to call 'decent folk'.

So they deserved it, too.

The whole thing had amounted to him having to stow away aboard a cargo freighter bound for the Far Reach, then having to hitchhike aboard a prison transport. And now, here he was, deep beneath the surface of a frozen world, all his credits, his gear...gone. Enzo was glad he had no personal effects, nothing he kept near and dear to his heart, or he'd probably be losing his shit right now. He was fine traveling light.

Just him and his arm and his pain.

The lift rose to its nest. Enzo wondered what was waiting for him as he slid into place like before, hiding to the right of the door. The higher up he went, the worse this seemed to get. What had Eve said? The ship was two levels above him? If he had to guess, Enzo would say that this level was either a research lab for the vessel and the creatures they'd apparently pulled from it or just more of the same he'd seen below.

The lack of security seemed to indicate more of the same. Initially, he'd had the thought to just ride the elevator higher. Unfortunately, likely for security reasons, these lifts were only built for level-to-level transport. They only went up to the next section of the base. The doors opened. Enzo peered out. Nothing waited for him but blood and death. He frowned, stepping out cautiously. The amount of blood was definitely of a higher volume than below. The lobby looked like it had been subjected to a brutal firefight. Bullet holes stitched into the walls in erratic patterns, an immense pool of old blood in the middle of the room, but...

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