Chapter 14: The Hard Way

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The ship finished trembling as it exited the orbit of the planet. Greg watched the last wisps of atmosphere disappear from view, leaning against the back wall of the cockpit, arms across his chest. Not quite as easy when you were wearing a full suit of armor, but still manageable. It was quiet again, a reflective moment. He tried not to think about anything. Shifting his view, he stared at Duncan, who looked as happy as could be at the control panels, humming a merry tune to himself as he brought them ever closer to the moon.

Kyra wasn't in the cockpit, opting instead to hang back in the cargo bay. Greg couldn't muster the courage to go back and see her. They had ended their last conversation in an uneasy ceasefire, though really he felt it was more a stalemate than anything else. He hated this awful feeling that lurked around in his guts, making them churn and twist. Greg decided to try and focus on something else and stepped forward, standing behind Duncan.

"So, I assume we have a plan," he said.

"You know it," Duncan replied. "This ship comes equipped with a nice compliment of missiles...though I'm not entirely confident that they'll be enough to finish the job. I figured we'd fire them and if they aren't enough, we can land and do it ourselves."

"How?" Greg asked.

"Oh, I dunno...I'm sure I can rig up a bomb or maybe set their reactor to overload. That's always fun," Duncan replied.

Greg laughed. "You've got a thing for explosions, don't you?"

"Yep."

"How'd you get into all this? I mean, where did it start?"

"It started when I was five and my dad showed me a firecracker. It's among my first memories. After that, it was history. I was obsessed with firecrackers, learned how to make my own by the time I was ten. Got into trouble a lot, but nothing serious, except for the time I burned down an abandoned building on accident. I was into rockets by then, thirteen years old. I built those little rockets that you'd launch into the air and they'd shoot up a good quarter mile...the only difference was, I rigged them to blow after about a hundred meters. One of them...I screwed up the chemical mixture, it came down on the building, then blew."

"Man, I bet your parents were pissed," Greg said.

Duncan chuckled. "Yeah, so was SI. They wanted to send me to some 'reform' program, but I ended up copping a plea and was put in community service for a month. Not to mention I was grounded for two months. I took away an important lesson from that. Not the one they wanted me to. It wasn't, 'Don't play with fire', it was, 'Don't screw up, and if you do, make damn sure that they can't figure out it was you that did it'."

Greg laughed. "I bet they'd have loved to hear that."

"Yeah...hey, there it is."

Greg glanced up through the bridge windows and saw that one of the white specks was rapidly growing larger. Before long, it began to fill the windows. He could see the black dot on the surface, the defense installation.

"I wonder why they fired at us," he murmured.

"Who knows? Could be panic, could be automatic, could be they just didn't like our faces," Duncan replied.

"Yeah, but...with what's happened on the surface, you'd think they'd be at least asking for help first. Not just opening fire right off the bat."

"Chances are they only want help from their own side and that a Rogue Ops ship would have its own verification codes. They likely scanned us and saw we weren't friends and decided not to have another mess on their hands."

"So what's to stop them from doing it again?"

"Nothing, but this time we've got one of their ships..." Something began beeping as they moved ever closer to the installation. "Oh shit."

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