Chapter 03: Something Like Solace

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How familiar was this scene?

Greg sat down heavily in the plush leather seat of the briefing room. They all sat around that intimately familiar table of polished dark wood. He looked slowly around the table, feeling his eyes droop. Damn, he was tired. How long had it been since he'd had a good night's sleep? Before that stint on the island at least. After he'd been picked up, there'd only been a little bit of time to catch a scant few hours of sleep before getting shot off again to deal with Enzo. Which had been a total bust. He noticed that the others weren't looking so well, either.

Drake, Allan, Callie, Eve, and Genevieve all joined him, sitting silently.

He frowned.

Was this all that was left of the old guard? He remembered when eleven people had sat around this table initially, when they'd all sat down for their first briefing to mount an assault on that snowy world and retrieve the artifact and the good Doctor Matheson. But now Trent, Duncan, and Colin were dead. Enzo had betrayed them. Kyra had left, gone to find a better life. Greg turned away from that thought. Now, here they were, just the six of them.

Six mismatched warriors, with a battered old veteran to guide them and a half-empty ship of tired, disillusioned Spec Ops personnel were all that stood against the forces of evil that intended to bring an end to human civilization at large.

Speaking of that...

Hawkins came into the room. He looked tired and old. He was really looking his one hundred and twenty plus now. He sat down heavily.

Greg had a question, but knew it could wait. Hawkins cleared his throat and began speaking. "All right, what happened?" he asked.

Except for Gen and Eve, who hadn't been there, everyone filled him in on the details. When it was all over, Hawkins remained silent, deep in thought, frowning intensely. Greg decided now was as good a time as any.

"So...before we go on, I've got a question," he said.

Hawkins looked up at him, then grunted and nodded his head in ascent.

Greg sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat. "Maybe it's all the sleep deprivation or maybe I'm just slow but...what, exactly, did we discover from the artifact Drake recovered? The one that was supposed to reveal just what, exactly, the hell Rogue Ops has been doing?"

At first, Hawkins looked a little annoyed, then he sighed quietly. "That's fair," he said. "I kind of rushed through the explanation before and since you were gone, we've figured out some more and I've had more time to organize my thoughts." He sat up, popped his neck and rubbed his temples for a moment. "Okay, this is what we've learned..."

Everyone leaned in, and Greg had an idea that he wasn't the only one who wasn't clear on the subject.

"So. The artifacts are old. Ancient. Older than the Cyr, though the Cyr were obviously into the artifacts, trying to use them. The artifacts are part of a set of devices that essentially act as keys. A certain minimum number of them must be gathered in order to unlock a...well, essentially a portal that leads to another dimension," he explained.

"Right. I remember this," Greg murmured. "That's the bad part, right?"

Hawkins offered him a weary and grim grin. "Yes. That's the bad part. In this other dimension are creatures, beings of immense power. Drake...that thing you encountered on Arctica? That entity behind the glass that the others gave their lives to kill? That was from this other dimension. If I'm reading the intel we've gathered from Rogue Ops correctly, then it was one of the smaller ones. One of the least powerful beings."

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