Chapter 04: The Last Lead

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"So, given the fact that the last one was a trap, who wants to place bets on the odds that this one is going to be a trap, too?" Drake asked.

Greg glanced over. They were all gathered in a galley onboard the speedship they'd been tossed onto this morning. Altogether, they'd managed close to three days' downtime on the Atonement. He'd split his time between sleeping, working out, and spending time with the others, though by 'others' there'd really only been Eve, Allan, and Callie. Gen and Drake had both become almost fanatical about working out or training. Greg didn't blame them, Trent's death still hurt, he'd gotten to really like the man, but he knew his pain was a mere pinprick compared to the indescribable agony Drake, and probably Gen, must be going through.

When the fourth day had dawned, Hawkins gathered them. He'd told them that they had a sheer luck breakthrough...which is why it was so suspicious. At any given moment, there were between fifty and a hundred solar systems around the absolute edge of known space. They had been discovered by recon crews and deep space probes, but hadn't yet been actually fully explored. Because Rogue Ops tended to hide in the cracks of society and along its peripheral, Hawkins had put out a call for those deep space probes to begin searching for any activity in these far flung systems. One of them had hit upon something.

One such probe had found a faint power signal and traced it to an asteroid where a cursory, passive scan had revealed a structure. A coded message was recorded going out and although the message itself and its destination were both still a mystery, as the probe was only a cheap shell, the type of coding was identified as Rogue Ops.

So they had their lead.

Unfortunately, they were basically running blind. The Atonement had taken them out on the first leg of their journey, then met up with a military speedship that would shoot them at FTL speeds across the galaxy out to the distant frontier, into the uncharted system. Greg had to wonder how expensive the speedships were...they tended to lose them on missions like this. After the briefing, they'd gotten into their power armor, which had been recharged, refitted, and cleaned up, ready to go once more unto the breach.

Greg had, of course, needed to have a completely fresh set made. It looked much more standard than his old suit, since custom jobs took longer.

Eve had wanted to go, eager to begin her first real assignment away from the ship, but Hawkins had ultimately overruled her, much to Greg's relief. It wasn't that he thought she was incapable or the simple fact that he feared for her safety, it was that he knew the supplements she was taking to make her taller and give her a bigger build left her unbalanced. Even with her previous training and all the new training she was going through, he knew she still wasn't ready. He thought he'd be more afraid of having her on the field with him at first, but already he really was looking forward to having her out there with him, mainly because it was nice to have someone you trusted to have your back, but also because he knew it would make her happy.

"It's almost certainly a trap," Allan replied. "But that's kind of beside the point. Right now, we're at a total dead end."

"Yep," Callie said. "So we'll kick in the door and kick some ass anyway."

Greg had to give her that. They didn't really have a choice. Rogue Ops had vanished. They'd finished running down a complete list of leads a week ago, and that included long shots. Hawkins's researchers had also exhausted searching through all the data they'd recovered, stolen from a scant few ships and sites belonging to the renegade faction that hadn't been wiped clean or booby-trapped. So, trap or not, they had to complete this mission. He at least consoled himself with the notion that they weren't going in completely blind.

The probe had revealed a little intel. One fact was the general size and shape of the structure, which was built right into the surface of the asteroid. The second was the population: there had been a little over seventy human life signs detected. A third, and this was probably the most important bit, was a large power source had been detected in a detached structure: what turned out to be a solar array meant to power the station. That had led to the only real portion of their 'plan' they'd concocted. Allan and Callie would lead Donovan, the Spec Ops tech from the previous mission, to the solar array so he could sabotage it, cause some confusion and allow the others to slip in hopefully undetected. From there, they were on their own.

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