Chapter 14: Buried

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They left the chaos of the alien city behind.

The fly-machines and the spider-creatures seemed more interested in murdering each other than giving chase to them, which suited Allan just fine. What was bugging him, however, was how many ancient mysteries they were coming across in their galactic scramble to stop Rogue Ops from turning on their apocalypse machine. How many enigmas were they just racing through? How many ancient puzzles were they shooting their way past? Allan imagined that this was probably a job better suited to an anthropologist or archaeologist.

He was just a guy with a gun and a suit of armor, blasting his way through the bad guys to get at the objective. But there was no time to really think about it. There was never any time. As the flashes of battle faded behind them, the opposite opening at the end of the tunnel came into view. A stark white glow came out of it, the color of work-lights. Obviously, Rogue Ops had been busy. Allan made sure his guns were in working order and that his suit would stand up to more combat, then had the others do the same.

They weren't done yet.

Allan spotted a few boulders and rocky outcroppings along the divide between the end of the tunnel and the beginning of the final large cavern. He also saw movement in the room beyond, at least a couple of dozen men and women in black armor moving about. Allan made quick hand gestures to the others, indicating they should get dug in and prepare for a serious firefight. He was just going to get into position himself when a sniper rifle round seared past him.

"That's close enough."

Allan stood his ground and stared ahead. Maybe fifty meters away was a large, circular platform in the middle of the cavern. It was Cyr in nature, gleaming white metal, and it was exactly what they were looking for. Enzo stood atop it, holding the rifle. Around him, on the ground, the troops scrambled to get to cover among makeshift barriers and rock outcroppings.

"Why don't you give up, Enzo? You know how this is going to end," Allan replied, keeping his rifle aimed at Enzo.

"Like it ended the last two times? With me getting away?"

"Come on, Enzo. You can't really believe in what Rogue Ops is doing. This is nuts. I mean like, really, bugfuck nuts."

Enzo sighed heavily. "What do you want from me, Allan? I've got nothing new to say. I'm not going to apologize for trying to help myself. I know you think you know what it's like to be in pain every day, but you don't...not really. No one else on the team does. You got a lot of people killed, that sucks, we've all fucked up,'s nothing compared to how I feel all the goddamned time. I did what was necessary."

"It still hasn't worked yet, has it?"

"...they're working on it," Enzo replied.

"I considered you my friend."

"I know. And I considered you mine. Which is why I'm going to give you the opportunity to leave. There's a side passageway about thirty meters behind you, to the right. It leads to the surface. You can go, right now."

Allan hesitated for a second, then squeezed the trigger, shooting the sniper rifle out of Enzo's hands. "Fuck!" he snapped. "Fine, we do it the hard way! Kill them all!"

Allan dove behind cover with Callie. All around them, the Rogue Ops troops were opening fire, spraying their position with a rain of deadly lead. Allan waited for the initial wave of fire to die down, then, as they were reloading, he leaned out around the outcropping and began looking for targets. He sighted one of them and squeezed the trigger, catching him in the neck just as he was trying to pull back behind cover. Even before that man hit the ground, Allan turned and squeezed off another three-round burst that shattered the faceplate of the guy next to him. Beside and around him, the other warriors on his squad were doing the same.

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