Allan was the last one out for a reason.
He watched the others file out and drift away, then turned to Hawkins, who was still sitting at his place at the head of the table. Allan reached out and hit the close button. The door slipped shut almost without a sound.
"Something else, Allan?" Hawkins asked after a moment of chilled silence passed between them.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked finally.
"Yes, Allan," Hawkins replied. He stood up, but then hesitated, and turned back to face him. "Allan, let me tell you something. The others on this little assignment, they've all had it rough, earned their scars, paid their dues to be here. You all have. But what you did, what you put up with on Lindholm...the others respect you for that. More than they do each other."
"Are you sure?" Allan replied after thinking about it for a second.
"Yes. I've been in the military business for a long, long time now. Over a century. I grabbed the rifle and put on the armor when I was eighteen years old. I learned how to read people like a book. It took awhile, but it's a skill you've got to pick up when your nine-to-five involves people that want to kill you. So you can assume I'm not just talking out of my ass."
Allan stared at Hawkins a moment longer, trying to measure the man's words, then nodded. He turned and left the room. He was still thinking about Hawkins's little speech, wondering if the aged warrior had read him right, when he ran into Greg.
"Hey, Allan, what's happening? I saw Duncan and Colin headed for an airlock," he said.
"We've got a mission. Some Rogue Ops ship. You?" Allan replied.
"We're finally done with Matheson, I guess. Hawkins is getting ready to have him transferred to a GA facility. He wants me to be on the security detail to make sure he gets there," Greg replied.
"Oh." They both lingered there for a moment. "Uh...how's things with Eve?"
Greg laughed. "Um...interesting," he said. "She's...something else. It's a little weird for...reasons that...I don't really want to go into."
"Oh...how's the new arm coming?"
"Great!" Greg said, raising it and making a fist. He was wearing a black-and-silver jumpsuit, but the hands that came out of the sleeves were both made of flesh. Allan had to give it to those surgeons, it really did look like the hand the man was born with.
"That's good...well, I probably should get going or Hawkins is going to have my ass. This is a bit of a timed mission," Allan replied.
"All right. Good luck."
Allan turned and walked away. He still felt like he needed to relearn how to have something as simple as a conversation. After spending several moments navigating the chromium corridors of the Atonement, he found airlock six, where the rest of the crew was already heading into the airlock. He shuffled in behind them.
"What took you?" Duncan asked, trying and mostly failing at twisting around and staring back at Allan with a stupid grin on his face.
Allan tried on a smile. "I had to ask Hawkins if I was really going to have to put up with you for a whole other mission."
Duncan laughed. "Yeah, but what you should have asked is if Colin's anti-bitch pills had been shipped in yet."
"Stick it up your ass, kid," Colin replied.
"You guys are a barrel of laughs," Smitty muttered.
"I think you and Colin are going to get along just fine," Duncan replied.
YOU ARE READING
The eighth novel in The Shadow Wars. After the events of Ceaseless and Snowblind, Allan Gray, formerly a member of Security-Investigations, now a Specialist in Special Operations, is having some trouble keeping sane. He experiences sudden tremors, i...