Chapter 08: On the Run

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They rode out in a quartet of sun-bleached jeeps beneath the cloudless desert skies. Being too big to fit into the traditional seats with their bulky power armor, Trent and Drake found themselves sitting awkwardly in the cargo portion of one of the vehicles. Commander Logan regarded them silently, his head bobbing and jerking as the vehicle hit one sand dune after another, his eyes still hidden behind the quicksilver sunglasses that gave away no hints. PFC Mosley was behind the wheel. The ride out had been very silent so far.

"How'd you get this job?" Trent asked, leaning forward, deciding to try and break the uncomfortable silence.

"Unhappily," Logan replied. After another moment, he continued speaking. "I used to be in the Marines. Five years, worked my way up to Sergeant. Then I slipped up on a mission, got half my team killed, lost the intel we were supposed to be retrieving. Next thing I knew, I was being transferred. Here. I was the assistant to the base commander before this, but then he quit a few months ago and I got a promotion."

"That must have been nice," Drake said.

Logan regarded them with silent vehemence for a long moment, his frown seeming to be etched from granite. "I considered quitting myself," he replied finally. "But I've gotten to know a lot of the men and women here, and I found that I'm actually quite good at the job. I negotiated a bonus from the government if I agreed to stay on for two more years."

They lapsed into further silence for another few minutes after that. Trent studied the landscape as they blasted through it, but there really wasn't much to see. Just endless eternal miles of sand, with the occasional hill of sand to break the monotony.

"What about you, kid?"

"Uh, me?" Mosley replied. He laughed nervously. "Oh, you know, figured I'd get out, see the universe. Meet new and interesting people and kill them, as they always say. This is my first assignment. I excelled at, you know, technical things."

"How old are you?" Drake asked.

"Nineteen," Mosley replied, then laughed nervously again.

"Jesus," Trent muttered.

They drove in silence the rest of the way there.

* * *

The facility first appeared as a dark dot on the horizon.

Trent activated the zoom feature in his visor and studied it. The structure resembled a gigantic brick of weather-eaten steel that had been planted very firmly in the middle of a desert. All of the windows and doors were closed against the world. He saw no activity, no gunfire, no ships coming or going, no troop movement. Which was just fine by him. Maybe they wouldn't even need to attack. Maybe Rogue Ops would just stay shuttered up and let them do their thing, unknowingly devising their own destruction.

Something crimson and yellow abruptly bloomed near the top of the structure, and suddenly the lead jeep exploded in a similarly colored eruption of screaming, bloody death.

"Evade! Evade!" Logan screamed over the comms net.

Mosley swerved just as another rocket came shrieking directly towards them. He narrowly managed to avoid it and Trent's visor automatically darkened to compensate for the sudden extra brightness as it hit the sand behind them and burst. The three remaining jeeps split up, moving at different angles and speeds, making harder targets. They were all making for the detached hangar. Gunfire suddenly erupted from the hangar, towards the installation. Trent was glad to see that the guards left behind weren't napping.

Two more rockets leaped from their dark nests atop the research facility and smashed into the sand. Then another three came. The first jeep made it into the yawning door that admitted access to the hangar. Trent and Drake's jeep was next. Trent didn't even bother firing at the hostiles, knowing that he wouldn't even get close to hitting them. He was good, but not that good. Abruptly, the brilliance of the alien sun shining down on them fell away.

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