Chapter 17: The Beginning of the End

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"Enzo, listen, you can still not go through with this. Just come back down and give me the artifact, and then, if you really want, you can just disappear."

Another long pause. "I can't do it. I can't go on like this anymore, Greg." He hesitated. "I'm sorry." The line was cut.

"Enzo? Enzo!?" Greg screamed.

But he was alone. He stared out of the front windshields, out onto a scene of rainy, gray desolation, saying nothing. Thinking nothing.

He was alone.

* * *

Drake snapped into awareness, his ears ringing, his head throbbing. The back of his neck felt like someone had hit him with a baseball bat.

Someone...

Trent! Drake jerked, trying to stand up, but he was in a small, confined space. It was rattling. There was something in his lap, something heavy. He looked around. The interior was dimly lit, and there was glass in front of him. Something was rushing by it. Flames, wisps of atmosphere. It came to him that he was in an escape pod and it was burning through the upper atmosphere of a planet. Why? What? How? He blinked, shook his head, winced at the pain.

Then it came to him.

Trent. Trent had hit him over the back of the head? Why? No way in a million years he'd believe that Trent had turned on him, for whatever reason, for any reason. So if it hadn't been for something bad, then it must have been for...

Drake felt panic, pure, mindless panic stab into his guts. He reached out, groping blindly for some kind of radio. It took him a moment to try and clear his head, remember the layout of an escape pod, but he finally found the comms unit and activated it.

"Trent?! Trent, answer me! Trent, talk to me right now!" he demanded.

There was a pause, and when Trent answered, he felt icy fear settle over his entire body. "Hey, pal, how you doing? I'm sorry I had to hit you," Trent replied. There was a mute sadness in his voice, a resignation, a calmness.

"Trent, what the fuck are you doing!?" Drake demanded.

"I didn't make it in time. I was about ten minutes too late for the antidote to work. I'm dead. Well, I'm dying, and sooner rather than later. And there's nothing any of us can do about it. So, I figured, why not make my last living act worth something? I'm going to pilot this heap down away from the colony and take these jackasses with me. After I launched your pod, I found a way to lock down all the other escape pods and the hangars. They're trapped on the ship. I'm going to save the thousand or so junkers and salvagers and drifters," Trent explained.

"Trent! Don't be stupid! He could have been lying about the antidote or the timeline or any of it!" Drake cried. The escape pod was beginning to rattle violently now.

"No, I can feel it. I've come close enough to dying now that I know what it feels like. They weren't bluffing. I'm sorry. I know this is going to hurt but, well, we always said we wanted to go out with a bang. Isn't that what we always used to say? 'Go down swinging and bring as many of the bastards down with you as you can.'? Well, I'm going to do one better. I'll save a bunch of people in the process," Trent replied.

"You might just be in shock or something! Don't fucking throw your life away for a bunch of goddamned drug-addicted, low-life salvagers! They had their fucking chance, man! Come on, you...you can't do this!" Drake cried, operating on pure panic now.

"A few months ago I might have agreed with you. But come on, look at me. We've both run jobs that were probably pretty morally questionable. We never looked too closely at the details. I know we never did any of that nasty shit like blow away kids or defenseless civilians or anything like that, but how many people did we kill that were just following orders? Just some poor bastard who had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, working for the wrong corporation? I've had a lot of time to think about it, and I feel pretty deeply in the red, and I figure this and maybe what I helped you and Hawkins and the others do might bring me back into the black, you know?"

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