Allan considered it for a long moment. He knew that his mother hated living on Frontier, at least in the city, with the smog and the gangs and the violence. He also knew that his father liked it...to a certain degree. Though he'd gotten the impression over the last decade or so that they only stayed because they just didn't have enough money to move somewhere they really wanted to. He'd heard his father talk about getting a real house, not a prefabricated one, in one of the smaller settlements on Frontier, away from the craziness of the big city.
Apparently, they still didn't have enough money.
"If you could have five hundred thousand credits on standby to be wired to my mother and father's bank account, taxes paid, no questions asked, I'd really appreciate it. I'll call them first and talk to them, then I'll let you know. Otherwise...well, so long as you keep providing me with the gear and the tools to get the job done, I'll get the job done," Allan replied.
Hawkins nodded, but hesitated. "There's...nothing else? We have a lot of professionals at our disposal aboard the ship."
Allan knew what he meant.
Hawkins wanted him to see a therapist or something of the sort.
Allan stood. "No, thank you."
He turned and left.
* * *
Greg wasn't sure how to feel.
He'd awoken confused and in pain in an infirmary. It took him a little bit, but he finally pieced together that he was back aboard the Atonement. He was alone in the infirmary when he first woke, his stomach aching dully. Then he'd slipped back into sleep. When he woke again, Kyra was there, by his bed. He'd tried to talk to her, but they had him on something powerful, and all that came out was incoherent muttering.
Kyra had reached out and ran her hand through his hair, but there was that look on her face again, only it was worse. Not just of loss, but of resignation.
It made him want to cry.
Then he was asleep again.
When he woke up a third time, the lights were on, too bright, and Hawkins was standing at the foot of his bed.
"How are you feeling?" he'd asked.
"Not dead," Greg had said.
Hawkins snorted. "A man after my own heart. So, you did it. You got the job done and everyone came back intact. Are you staying?"
Greg hadn't hesitated. "I'm staying."
"Then what's your price?"
"My memories. Find my memories. And, in the meantime, scour the galaxy and the ultranet and whatever else you have to, and find me information about myself, my past, my life. I want it all ready to read when I get out of this bed."
"You got it."
Hawkins had left then, flipping off the lights. Greg was still a bit sore, still tired, and he decided that when he woke up next, he'd find Kyra and sort this whole mess out.
But she had found him.
When he woke up again, now it was her standing at the foot of his bed. She was wearing a set of plain clothes, a gray t-shirt and black cargo pants. Her hair was dark and wet, pulled back into a ponytail, like she'd just gotten out of the shower.
"Hi, Greg," she said.
"Hi, Kyra," he replied softly. "I'm staying here. Hawkins is going to help me with my memories, my past."
"I know..." she sighed, "I talked with him. With Hawkins. He..." she hesitated again, then looked up at the ceiling for a moment, blinking rapidly. "He agreed to get me a transport out of here. I'm going to Koss. I've heard it's a nice planet. Lots of trees."
"So...you're really leaving me then," Greg said, not a question.
"Oh, Greg..." Kyra whispered. "I don't want to, I really don't. This is a fucking nightmare for me. But...I can't stay here. I want a normal life, and I think that's fair of me to ask. After everything I've done, I think I deserve that. And if I thought you'd come with me, I'd ask you to go in a heartbeat but...you won't, I know it. It's not just the memories, it's your...addiction. To adrenaline. To danger. I saw it in your eyes on the lunar installation when you were planning the rush to the control room. You'd never give it up, and I can't ask you to. I'd never be able to live with myself if I asked you to give up your lifestyle and your memories."
She fell silent. Greg wanted to argue with her, to tell her she was wrong, that he could do it, because in that moment he wanted nothing more than to leave this ship and be with her. His chest ached and he felt sick with despair.
But even then, he knew she was right.
"I'm sorry," was what he said.
"So am I," she whispered.
Kyra lingered for a moment, then came around the side of the bed, leaned down and kissed him. It was firm, but short, and she straightened up.
"I love you," she said. Then, "Goodbye."
"I love you, too, Kyra...goodbye."
He watched her turn around and walk away. He listened to the sounds of her footsteps until even those had disappeared.
And he was alone again.
He turned off the light.
Greg laid in the darkness, in pain, in misery, and, for the first time in his new life, since his memories had begun, cried himself to sleep.
* * *
Enzo hadn't slept yet. He hadn't eaten or taken a drink or even gone to the bathroom. He'd sat outside of Hawkins's office until all the others were finished making their little deals with him. From the way they were talking or walking as they left his office, they had all signed on. Well, all of them but the brunette, Kyra. He'd briefly considered trying to talk her into sleeping with him, because it was obvious that she and Bishop weren't a thing anymore. But it looked like she hadn't been in the mood and if he was being honest with himself, neither was he.
But they were all done now.
Hawkins poked his head out. "Your turn," he said, and disappeared back into his office. Slowly, his knees cracking, Enzo stood. He felt old, warped, and beaten. Everything hurt, but his shoulder was aflame in a sea of white-hot agony. He was doing everything in his power not to march to the nearest infirmary and overdose on morphine.
Enzo stepped into Hawkins's office. The old man had just finished sitting down behind his desk. Ignoring the chairs, Enzo stalked across the office, right up to the desk, put both hands flat on the desktop and leaned forward.
"Let's skip the song and dance. If you're half as smart as I think you are, you'll have a full intel package on me. I want money, I want amnesty, I want a clean record and drugs and booze and guns and sex. But," Enzo leaned forward, "and follow me on this one, Hawkins, I was in a car wreck when I was sixteen years old. I lost my arm. That was almost thirty years ago. I've been in pain every fucking day since then. Every. Fucking. Day. Sometimes it's merely intolerable, sometimes...it's a genuine struggle not to kill myself.
"What I want more than anything else in this universe, in this life, is for that pain to end. I want it gone..." Enzo drifted off, momentarily losing his train of thought as a fresh wave of suffering rolled through him.
"Enzo-" Hawkins began.
Enzo refocused himself. "Whoever fixes my shoulder, whoever can get rid of the pain for me...I will follow them to the end of the fucking galaxy...
"I will do anything to get rid of this pain."
YOU ARE READING
The seventh novel in The Shadow Wars. In an isolated region of space, four survivors of brutal conflicts meet and are once again forced to fight for their lives... On the pleasure planet known as Mezzanine, a pair of mercenaries on the run from the...