Chapter 13: Going Down

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Enzo supposed there were any number of possibilities and he made it a note to force Hawkins to give him a full physical, a total scan when he got back to the Atonement. He was going to put all of the Galactic Alliance and Dark Ops gear to the test. Because it was definitely getting worse. Enzo knew, deep down, that the pain was eating away at him, hollowing him out. Every day, there was a little bit less of him, a tiny fragment of his soul sheared away and burned up by the agony in his shoulder. It was only a little at a time, but it had been going on for so long. Who he was now wasn't who he'd been ten years ago, or even five.

Who would he be in another five years?

In one?

Six months from now?

With the pain getting worse, who knew? He tried to tell himself that maybe he was just imagining it, that this situation was unusually stressful. And that was true, this was a unique situation, but he knew his body well, very well, and he found it difficult to buy that answer. It felt more like he was trying to tell himself a lie to make himself feel better...

And he'd stopped doing that a long time ago.

* * *

"So what happened to your squad?" Allan asked.

They were threading their way through the crates, the workstations, and the bulky metal husks of moving vehicles. All of it sat, silent and inert, awash in a sea of darkness. They hadn't come across much in the way of aftermath: some blood here, a few spent shell casings there, but whatever had happened, it seemed that there hadn't been many people in the dome when it did. He realized Callie still hadn't responded and hoped she wasn't upset.

"If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. I just...I lost my squad, too. Both of them," Allan muttered quietly.

"No, it's fine, I was just...sort of a flashback thing. Thinking about it all. There were ten of us, altogether. All Spec Ops, all vets, all good at what we did. We got tapped by Hawkins in the middle of leave, tells us it's a Level One situation. We were on a transport and gearing up within a few hours, headed towards the middle of nowhere. All he told us was that the base was believed to have crucial intelligence important to galactic safety and that he didn't know what to expect, so go in expecting the worst," Callie explained.

"Where was it?" Allan asked.

"Asteroid base, lightyears from any civilization, even another system. I mean, we're talking nowhere, man. He sends us schematics, entry codes, known defenses, shit like that. We studied it on the way out there. Then we hit the asteroid. Scans showed us that the base was dark and dead, no one in it, nothing running in it. We thought it'd be cake. Of course, that was the point. We started running into traps. Trap doors, trip wires, hidden explosives and guns, electrified fields...the works. But I did my fucking job...got to the command center."

She was silent for a moment, recounting the horrors in her head, no doubt. "The data was gone. The whole thing was wiped clean. What's worse, they'd wired the place to blow if anyone activated the central computer. I was the only one that made it out. After that, I went right to Hawkins and forced my way onto this mission."

"I'm sorry," Allan said after a long moment, unsure of what else to say.

They had arrived at the flashing red light. It was, in fact, the generator. Callie watched his back while Allan checked it out. The problem was, thankfully, simple. It was running low on juice. There were, again thankfully, a few crates of power cells nearby. It was a simple task to replace the cells. Abruptly, all the lights snapped back to life.

"There we go," he murmured.

"Hey, we found the lift," Enzo said through the radio, "and it looks like you two found the power. Just head for the center, we're waiting."

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