The airlock finished cycling. The crew shuffled their way through it and into the next airlock, which was already open for them. They were greeted by a single man in a black-and-silver jumpsuit on the other side. He had a crewcut and a severe expression that said he was all business. He waited until they had all come into the room.
"Come with me," he said, then turned and walked out of the room.
Allan and the crew followed him into a short corridor. Metallic clanging noises followed them as the speedship disengaged from the Atonement. They traversed the narrow length of corridor and the crewman led them through an anonymous door. By now, Allan imagined the ship had dropped into hyperspace and was shrieking towards its intended target. The room they were brought to was a well-stocked armory.
How many times had Allan seen one of these?
Lately, a well-stocked armory didn't seemed to mean quite as much as it used to. The crewman stepped aside, allowing them to shuffle in.
"Suits, gear, and weapons are all here. You'll get a ten minute warning before we leave hyperspace. You've got three hours."
With that little speech delivered, he turned and left the room. Everyone watched him go, then returned their gazes to the shelves, cases, and crates of guns, ammo, and gear. They dispersed throughout the room, each of them picking up various guns and inspecting them. Allan moved over to a gun rack that had a nasty looking black double-barreled shotgun on it. He picked it up and looked it over. Hefting it in his grasp, he stuck the stock into his shoulder and practiced aiming against the wall, staring down the sights.
The bore was wide enough that it seemed like it would do some serious damage. Allan nodded gently to himself, satisfied with the weapon. After attaching a shoulder strap to it, he loaded both barrels and shoved a couple dozen shells into his various pockets. Next, he grabbed the mandatory sidearm, holstered it and filled up on magazines and a few grenades for good measure. He turned and watched the others.
Hunter was talking with Duncan, checking out a long-barreled rifle while holding up her end of the conversation. They both seemed happy. Colin was talking quietly with Smitty, neither man looking at the other, both of them at a workbench, field-stripping pistols. They both seemed oddly satisfied in their own way, even if they were utterly miserable. Allan supposed that being miserable with someone else equally as miserable was kind of like happiness tuned to a different frequency. Fletcher inspected a pistol in the corner and looked very sad and put-upon. Allan considered talking to her, but couldn't think of anything worth saying.
In the end, he walked out of the armory and headed for the bridge. He was having deja vu as he stepped through the doorway. The last mission had been a lot like this. He really hoped that history wouldn't repeat itself. He looked around the bridge. There was just the pilot, manning the controls silently. The windows ahead of him were shuttered against the intense powers of hyperspace. Allan slowly approached the pilot, coming to stand behind him.
For a long moment, neither said a word.
"You want something?" the pilot asked finally.
"Is everything going smoothly?" Allan replied.
"Yes. We're on schedule."
"You'll let me know if anything comes up?"
Allan turned and retreated from the bridge. He spent a long moment considering what to do with his hours of waiting.
Finally, he decided to go against the grain of his natural instinct to simply hide himself away and instead actually talk to the others.
* * *
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...