Chapter 01: The Downward Spiral

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Enzo stood in a long corridor of brushed steel. Narrow strips of titanium white light were placed at perfect intervals along the length of its tall ceiling. The lights hummed gently overhead. Placed with equal precision along the walls were doorways. Each was unmarked. The corridor had a hushed presence that reminded him of a hospital. The air smelled of nothing. The floor was covered with plush blue carpeting.

He did not know where he was or why he was here.

But there was a sense of peace, a calming serenity that enveloped him like a gentle, warm light. He felt no rush, no hurry.

He did feel curious, though.

Enzo walked over to one of the nearby doors. He reached out and pressed a square with a concave surface that glowed a gentle green. The door whispered open and there was a brilliant light. Suddenly he was running across a warehouse-sized room, fighting with men in dark armor, lights overhead strobing wildly as power surged. A rifle in his hands. He aimed, fired, watched glass and blood fly on the air, a man go down without a sound. Behind him, beside him, Special Operations soldiers clashed with the Rogue Ops troops.

He gasped slightly and suddenly found himself standing back in the long, metal corridor. The door in front of him had slid shut. It was a memory, he realized with an abrupt certainty. He'd been looking into a memory. That was last week, when reports of Rogue Ops activity on a seedy, backwater colony led to a raid. He and a squad of Spec Ops boys and girls had gone shooting. They wound up with two dozen dead guys in black armor and not much else to show for it. The rest got away and fried their database before leaving.

Enzo walked down the corridor a ways, suddenly curious. He passed several more unmarked doors. As he stopped by another one, maybe a dozen doors down, abruptly, the entire corridor shook. He paused, alarmed.

"Enzo! Can you hear me?!"

A voice, very distant, very faint, seeming to come from everywhere and nowhere.

He ignored it for the moment and opened the nearest door.

Snapping into another memory, he was getting up in the middle of the night, stumbling through a darkened hotel room. He kicked an empty bottle of booze, grunted as the mild pain that permeated through his foot. Behind him, two women, a redhead and a brunette, were asleep. He stepped into the bathroom, shut the door, flipped on the light. Stared into the cracked mirror, stared at his own bloodshot, baggy eyes. On the counter beneath the mirror were more bottles, some of booze, some of pills. He reached out, grabbed one of the tall, narrow black containers of pills, rattled three out into his hand and washed them down with a slug of something that burned bad going down. His shoulder was killing him.

This could have been any time in his past.

It was a hauntingly familiar scene.

Blackout, and back in the corridor. Enzo felt compelled to keep going, so he did, passing more doors. He'd made it another two dozen footsteps before the corridor shuddered again. Reality seemed to shift subtly, as though he were staring at a reflection in a perfectly still pool of water and someone had tossed something small into it.

"How much did he take?!"

"I don't know!"

"You were with him all night!"

He recognized the voices, but he couldn't place them. It didn't matter anyway. He was at the next door he intended to open.

He opened it.

Now he wore black armor trimmed with silver. He crept across the hard-packed, sunbaked dirt of a canyon floor in the dead of night, beneath a moon that glowed a dull blue-silver. Ahead, he spied the dark bulk of an enemy compound, rising against the night sky. This was years ago, he was leading his squad across the surface of an isolated world where a group of rogue military personnel had fled with important information. His task was simple: eliminated the traitors, recover the data. The mission had gone well, it was a good time in his life.

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