Chapter 06: Standard Operating Procedure

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"Are you seriously drinking another one?" Trent asked, stepping into the squalid galley aboard the speedship.

"Ugh, I can't help it," Drake replied, putting down another can of Supernova.

"It's just like those little burgers from that one place, isn't it?"

"Yeah...how close are we? Tell me we're close," Drake replied.

Trent nodded and sat down on the table, reaching into one of the various pockets on his armor and fishing out a pack of Galactic Lites. He flipped up his visor. "Yeah, we're going through the atmosphere right now," he replied, taking out a cigarette and lighting up with a battered old Zippo lighter. "They were just trying to get in touch with the base when I came back."

"Fantastic. I'm getting bored," Drake replied. "Got a spare?" he asked, sticking his hand out. Trent sighed and passed him a cig and the lighter. Drake lifted his own visor, lit up and passed the lighter back after snapping its metal jaws shut.

"Ugh, seriously, G Lites?" he complained.

"Fuck yourself and buy your own," Trent replied.

Drake chuckled. "I might not have to. I think the blonde pilot is into me. Once we get this wrapped up I intend on making a move. And I can probably talk him into buying me some cigarettes."

"Have fun," Trent replied. His comms unit chimed and he stood up. "Yep?" he asked after activating it.

"Specialist Stone, there's a problem," one of the pilots replied. Trent found himself wondering if it was the blonde pilot.

"Trouble getting in touch?" he asked.

"No, we've established contact. There seems to have been some kind of assault on the research site. We're being diverted to a support station a mile to the south, where the staff has retreated to. They're expecting us and will want to talk with you and Specialist Winters."

"All right. Thanks. We'll head for the cargo ramp."

"Affirmative."

"Problems?" Drake asked as Trent made his way towards the exit.

"Yeah, seems like Rogue Ops, or someone else, though I couldn't imagine who, is here causing problems," he replied. "Told you it was humans," he added, grinning in triumph.

Drake sighed and followed him. "Yeah, yeah, you'll get your creds," he muttered unhappily as they stepped out into the main corridor.

* * *

Trent watched desert sand and brilliant white sunlight come spilling into the back of the speedship's small cargo bay as the back ramp lowered. A single man in desert camo fatigues was waiting for them, slowly being filtered into their field of vision as the ramp finished blossoming open. The man wore mirrored silver sunglasses that perfectly hid his eyes. His mouth was a flat, grim line. He had both hands clasped firmly behind his back.

"Gentlemen," he said in a clipped voice as they strode down the ramp towards him. "My name is Commander Logan. I'm in charge here. I've come to understand that you two men have been sent here to retrieve our artifact. Is that correct?" he asked, standing stock still, the desert winds blowing all around him like a shroud.

"Yes," Trent replied.

"Excellent. I also take it that you are both Special Operations personnel with a lot of experience in the field?"

"That's correct," Drake said.

"Perfect. Then that means you'll be not only wholly invested in helping us, but quite capable of it as well," Logan replied.

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