Chapter 17: Breaking the Machine

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Greg led the way, walking through a bare stone tunnel that was occasionally sprayed with blood. Sometimes they would pass deep gouge marks in the walls or ground. There were no bodies, though. Greg imagined that the bugs had eaten them, or maybe dragged them away for some worse, darker purpose. He kept his rifle tucked up into his shoulder, finger on the trigger, continually scanning the way ahead of him for new threats or hostiles. It should have been easy, but the tunnel kept curving and his visibility ended about five meters dead ahead constantly. His visor, cracked though it was, still cleaned up the gloom that no doubt saturated the tunnel. There was the occasional light, but none of them were lit.

He could hear the others moving behind him. It felt good to have them there with him. He still missed Kyra and thinking about her hurt in a way nothing else did, but Drake was his friend, and Eve was his friend and his girlfriend, someone he'd really come to trust, and Keron and Morrow were Spec Ops troops, men he felt he could trust to watch his back. How many things had he had to do by himself since waking up on that miserable, rainy mining planet? How many terrors had he faced down? For once, he had a clear goal ahead of him and solid backup behind him. It wasn't going to be easy, not by a long shot, but it no longer felt impossible.

The tunnel came to an end.

Greg led the way out of it and into a place that looked like an awkward amalgamation of nature, Cyr tech, and human machinery. Most of the floor, ceiling, and walls were rough, bare stone. However, stuck along the walls and into the floor were nodes of glistening white tech that shone brilliantly in the dim gray gloom. Then, among that, were awkwardly placed gray and black workstations and terminals and consoles. There were also small stacks of crates, foldout tables and chairs and other bits and pieces of a human outpost.

At first, it seemed abandoned. It looked like the battle had come and gone. There was blood, both red and green, sprayed liberally across the area. Workstations were battered and sparking, what screens still functioned showed flickering displays of static. Here, there were actually bodies, both humans and bugs. Across the way, at the back of the room, was a large, open door that led to a cargo elevator. From the data they'd studied on the way out, Greg knew that the location they were looking for was buried deep underground.

That elevator should take them right to it.

However, as they began moving across the area, a far door opened and about two dozen men in midnight armor walked out. From the way they suddenly reacted to Greg's presence, he had an idea that Rogue Ops had only just gotten the bug problem under control, and had sent ahead a recon force to secure the main entrance once more. Several seconds of pure confusion reigned in the cavern as both sides began opening fire on each other and scrambling for cover. Greg very nearly died as he took a few precious seconds to put down three of the troops, shooting them in the chest or head, then dove for cover himself.

He made it behind one of the workstations, which immediately began to rattle and spark as a hail of gunfire started to rain down on him. Greg took a quick inventory of the others and saw that everyone else had made it behind cover. Good. As they began opening fire as well, the majority of the gunfire started to spread out, not apparently seeking him and him alone out. He took up the opportunity and quickly leaned out.

Snapping the scope up, he zeroed his sights in on a glass faceplate as a Rogue Ops trooper popped up from behind cover to try and get a bead on him. He squeezed the trigger twice in rapid succession. Twin shots seared across the air between them, hit the glass and shattered it. A spray of blood and glass flew on the air as the man was thrown backwards to the floor. Greg moved smoothly to the next target and repeated the process.

He burned through the magazine, ducking back down three times and putting down another three troopers, then slapped a fresh one in. But he was having a hard time. These guys were good. They kept this going: popping up, shooting, ducking back down, occasionally getting a lucky shot. Finally, three magazines and two grenades later, Greg put down the final Rogue Ops trooper. He waited a few seconds to see if anyone else would show up, but no one did. He and the others emerged from their hiding spaces.

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