Chapter 17: The Beginning of the End

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There was a leak in the ceiling.

Wherever he was, there was a leak in the ceiling and water was getting in and onto him. Worse than that, wherever he was, it was really uncomfortable. Were the beds made of rock or something? On top of these growing complaints, he had a headache. A really bad one. Then, as if the universe was just making fun of him or had become very sadistic, Greg became aware of a loud, low pulsing throb that rattled his bones and sent his headache into overdrive. He had to make it stop, which meant he had to open his eyes and get up.

He opened his eyes.

He was not, in fact, lying in a bed. He was lying on a dirty, smelly metallic floor. Why? His neck hurt, too. What the hell was going on? Greg realized he'd been drooling. He closed his mouth, hawked and spat a few times at the bad taste. Where the hell was he? He looked around as he sat up, tried to get his bearings. Some kind of hangar. Foldout tables, workbenches, crates, spare parts, tools scattered across the floor...

Blood on the floor.

His body went cold and he stood up. Beside him was a large, boxy gray transport vessel. Gray...that sparked something in his memory, then it was like lighting off a fireworks display. Everything came back to him in a snap.

There were supposed to be two transports, but one of them was missing. He looked around, eyes open wide, ignoring the pain for now. One of the huge hangar doors was open and through it came a heavy rain. Distantly, Greg could hear the crashing of the ocean and...something else. The low, powerful pulse he'd heard earlier. A ship's engines. He ran out into the rain, heedless, and stared up, just catching a glimpse of the final dying light of the other transport's engines. For a moment, he simply stood there and stared like an idiot.

Enzo...

Why? Why had he done that? Greg had no radio. For a moment, he was utterly stymied, unsure of how to proceed, feeling lost and alone on an island of the dead. Then, something seemed to click inside his head, his initiative returned. He turned and sprinted towards the other gray transport ship. The back ramp was down. He ran up it, tore through the cargo area and came into the bridge. He was still alone. Working fast, he sat down in the pilot's seat and began the process for turning on the engines. At first, he thought he could do it, flying couldn't be that hard and he'd picked up a few lessons in between now and Dis.

The displays all turned on, but that telltale whine of the engines spooling up was absent. He frowned, tried again, but there was nothing. Right as he was beginning to try a third time, the radio came to life in a burst of static.

"Sorry pal, I had to disable the engines. I couldn't have you coming after me," Enzo said.

Greg felt utterly perplexed, dislocated from the world. What was going on!? "Enzo, what are you doing!? Where the fuck are you going?!" he demanded.

"Away," Enzo replied. "I'm leaving Dark Ops."

"Why?!"

"Hawkins couldn't deliver on his promise. Rogue Ops promised they could cure me of my pain. It's nothing personal. It's just...I can't tolerate this any longer. They said they'd fix me if I brought them the artifact we were fetching, the research on the plant life, and to feed them information on Dark Ops," Enzo explained.

"Jesus fucking Christ, Enzo, have you lost your fucking mind!? Just give Hawkins some more time, I know we can fix your shoulder! God, Enzo, you used to be in fucking Spec Ops! I thought you were better than this!"

A long pause. "I'm sorry, Greg. I really am. Notice I didn't kill you. Like I said, it wasn't personal, at least not against you or any of the others. It's just...you don't know what it's like. No one knows what it's like to live with this fucking pain. It feels like my shoulder is on fire...like someone took a fucking bite out of it. And it never goes away. Sometimes it's tolerable and generally I can keep it under control. But it's been getting worse lately. Push has finally come to shove. I am sorry, Greg, but I do have to do this. I have to. You should be safe on that island and the comms tower is still functional. Call up Hawkins for a ride home."

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