Chapter 11: Hostiles

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The elevator slid down into the depths with a smooth precision that belied its bloodied interior. Greg stood uncomfortably in his power armor, occasionally glancing at Enzo, who stood to his left and a little ahead of him, closer to the door, as though he couldn't wait to get out of the lift and get on with it. Greg agreed with him on that part, though he imagined they had different reasoning. He wanted to get it done and over with because he hated being underground. It made him feel trapped. The only place you could go when you were underground was to another portion of the underground area. Of course, this was true for space stations and spaceships, but, for some reason, he didn't quite feel it as much there.

Enzo, on the other hand, likely only wanted to get this over and done with because his shoulder was acting up again. He'd gone mostly silent and what little he did say was short and curt. The elevator slowed to a halt and Greg's apprehension ratcheted up another notch. All he had on him was his pistol, and he was basically walking into a Creeper nest. There was a part of him that liked those poor odds, liked challenging himself.

But there was definitely another part, a rational region in his psyche, that lamented having to do it. That worried about pain, death, and failure. Greg shook off those worries. He was here to get the job done, nothing more, nothing less. That was tough to do when he was worrying himself into oblivion. The doors slid open onto a scene of red and green chaos. Greg hesitated, his gun lowering slightly, as he looked at a slaughterhouse.

"Damn," Enzo muttered.

Greg wasn't sure what to say. He was looking at what was once meant to be a high-tech security center. There were two curved lengths of metal and bulletproof glass in either corner of the opposite side of the square room. The glass was shot through with all sorts of white cracks, splattered with gore from both men and Creepers. The walls were gouged or pockmarked with bullet holes. A powerful drone gun hung from the ceiling at an awkward angle, like a drunk metal bat. It occasionally spat a spurt of blue-white sparks.

Enzo set off into the security center, making for one of the curves of bulletproof glass and metal, behind which all manner of security gear no doubt sat. After a moment, Greg joined him. They stepped through pools of drying blood and green glop. Occasionally, a spent shell casing would crunch underfoot. They moved behind the security wall and found a dark, dead, blood-splattered workstation and bank of unlit monitors. Enzo took a seat and set to work trying to bring the derelict workstation back to life.

Greg stood behind him for a moment, watching him work, then turned away. He stood in the entryway to the security area and stared forlornly out at ruined entry area. He suddenly wondered if things would have turned out differently had he been stationed here. Greg liked to think of himself as extremely capable, especially given the fact that he'd survived all this crap so far. But maybe it was different. He'd always shown up after the fact, when the shit had already hit the fan. Did that make his job easier or harder?

"Hey, I got something," Enzo said.

Greg turned and rejoined the other warrior. He was studying a map of the area through a cracked screen with drops of dried blood coating its surface.

"So what are we doing?" Greg asked.

"Splitting up," Enzo replied. "You're heading left, for the excavation site. There's where the artifact will most likely be. I'm going right, to the databanks and research facilities."

"Why don't we both just go get the artifact right now?" Greg asked.

"Yeah, great idea, let's just show up at Hawkins's desk with an artifact that no one knows what to do with because we were stupid enough to forget to grab copies of all the research they'd done on it. Sound like a good fucking idea to you?" Enzo snapped.

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