Chapter 10: A Different Kind of War

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"Great, cause this is what I was hoping to do with my day," Drake muttered.

"Come on, it'll be fun. We can actually solve a problem without kicking doors and shooting the place up for once," Trent replied.

Drake stared at him for a long moment. "Yeah, your relationship with Gen isn't changing you at all," he said, then turned and began walking out of the bridge.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Trent asked, staring after him.

"Nothing," Drake replied as he left the room.

"Wait, get back here, I want a goddamned answer!" Trent called, then hurried out of the bridge after him.

* * *

They found a discreet airlock and changed out of their body armor. It wasn't exactly uncommon to see a couple of big mercenary types walking around in hulking power armor, but Drake suggested they keep as low a key as possible for as long as possible. Trent didn't disagree with him. While he'd certainly grown used to spending hours or sometimes days encased in a suit of armor, it didn't mean he'd actually grown to like it.

So, for once in a long while, as Trent stepped out of the airlock wearing a stained black jacket over a torn tanktop, combat boots, and baggy black cargo pants, he felt at home. He'd spent probably the first five years of his career out on the fringe of space in dumps just like this, being muscle for anyone with enough credits or something to barter with, something he needed. A gun, a place to stay, some food, a companion for the night. It had been a sort of miserable existence, never really having a place to call his own, never being sure of what tomorrow might bring, feeling like he was walking around with a target painted on his back half the time.

But it was also darkly exciting. Surviving on the bare minimum, getting by using nothing but his own two hands, his brain, his muscles. Building the foundation of a life for himself. Of course, Drake had been there through it all, never even an idea of leaving in his head. Both of them had agreed on that. No matter what, they'd stick together. Nothing would come between them. Ever. And, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, had made similar promises to each other over the ages...

It actually stuck with them.

Here they were, both of them forty, healthy, still together, still going strong. Trent wasn't worried about his new relationship with Genevieve, or their new work with the Galactic Alliance and Dark Operations. He knew that neither could make him leave Drake. With that thought, Trent stepped out of the airlock. They had come out of the airlock into a particularly seedy part of the station. The walls were covered with graffiti and there was trash on the floor. Trent kicked a half-empty Styrofoam cup of something that reeked of alcohol.

"This place is a fucking dump," Drake muttered.

"Takes you back, huh?" Trent replied.

Drake laughed. "Yeah, I guess it does. Come on, let's find this place."

They left the poorly lit, trashy airlock and plunged into a complex of filthy, smelly metal corridors. Dozens of people went about their business, usually keeping to themselves. Trent spied all sorts of people walking through the corridors or hanging out around the entryways to dozens of different businesses. There were prostitutes, muscle-for-hire, drug dealers, soldiers, mercenaries, beggars, long-haul cargo-shippers...

The usual mix.

They passed a variety of signs burning in hot neon, painting each area with a fuzzy splash of color. Here was a hot pink sign advertising a brothel. There was a deep electric blue sign inviting everyone into a night club. A vibrant red sign promising cheap lap dances at a strip joint. There was some kind of muscle in front of practically every doorway. Trent breathed the atmosphere in, scanned the crowd casually, trying to see if anyone was following them. As happy as he was to be reliving his youth, something about this was all wrong.

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