Chapter 11: Brutal

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The vents, yet again.

Enzo followed Stern down yet another stretch of bland, crimson-lit metal. They were dropping back down to the research level. He'd popped a handful of painkillers before crawling back into the vents and they were barely doing anything for him. He focused on their plan. Originally, he wanted to know why Eve couldn't just free them from their tubes the same way she'd done for him. She explained to him that that was no longer an option, as Dark Ops had been working steadily to cut her out of the operations of the installation. She could still do a few things, but it wouldn't be long before she was cut out completely.

As it was, they'd be lucky to get away with all the data.

So Enzo and Stern had to do it manually. Climb back down, navigate the dark, bloody corridors, fight the Altered and probably Dark Ops. Though another BioScan had shown a retreat. Dark Ops were leaving that level, bypassing the Military HQ level entirely. They were using a series of maintenance hatches and ventilation grids to get up. But where were they going now? Wherever they were going, it was clear the war wasn't over.

Enzo still wasn't sure what they were going to do with these people once they rescued them from the cramped hell they were locked into.

"Hey, Rains," Stern said.

"Yeah?" Enzo replied.

"What happened with Spec Ops?"

Enzo sighed softly. He was wondering when this was going to come up. For a moment, he considered ignoring the question, but then he figured, why not? Maybe his story would actually get the Sergeant to cut him some fucking slack.

"Politics. Bureaucracy. Bullshit. Also, I'd like to preface this by saying that I did four years as a Marine before Spec Ops," Enzo began.

"I call bullshit, you need a minimum of five years in any branch to be considered for Spec Ops," Stern said, then paused, hesitating, as if remembering something, "unless-"

"Unless you are really good at your job. And I was. I was a Sergeant when they yanked me from the Marines. I'd been in Spec Ops for five years. For most of it, I thought we were doing the good work. We tended to cut through all the red tape and political bullshit that keeps us from getting the job done, it was great. Lots of rescue ops, demolitions, the occasional assassinations. We were killing guys that'd gladly blow up a starport or a schoolyard, then claim it was in the name of some cause or another. I had a squad, eventually became the leader of it when our commander got killed. We were doing a lot of good out there in the galaxy," Enzo said, trailing off, remembering.

"So what went wrong?" Stern asked.

"Like I said, politics. I'd been running into more and more political BS, the politicians sticking their fucking noses in our business, questioning fucking everything, when they didn't know what the hell was going on out in the galaxy. My last mission...me and my squad were running exfil for a recon team. Their job was to infiltrate a facility, gather some data and get out without anyone the wiser. Unfortunately, their cover was blown and they ended up having to shoot their way out. We were sent in to get them out of there."

"Seems like a direct mission," Stern murmured.

"You'd think, only there was a big problem. The base they were investigating was a Russian base. The Galactic Alliance plays like they're one big happy family, but it's all the same bullshit. The Russians are spying on the Chinese, who are running illegal deals with the Norwegians, who are lobbying against the Brazilians because they staked a claim to what was supposed to be their asteroid belt...shit, you get the idea. Obviously, if the Russians found out it was an American Spec Ops team who infiltrated their base, had to shoot their way out...well, that wouldn't look good. And as it was, we weren't on too friendly terms with the Russians just then anyway."

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