Greg awoke from a nightmare of purgatory that consisted of nothing more than blood and steel and rotted flesh. He gasped as his eyes shot open and he sat straight up. He was tangled up in sweat-soaked sheets and for a second, he fought viciously to get unraveled from them. Something shifted in the bed beside him and blind terror ensnared him momentarily. It was banished the second a soft blue light that gently lit the room fell across pale features. He let out a sigh of relief, heart slowly getting back down to normal.
"It's okay, honey," Eve said, reaching out and seeking his hand in the darkness. Their hands met and fingers twined. "You're safe. You're with me."
"Yeah...yeah," he whispered, closing his eyes for a moment, getting himself back under control. "Sorry," he said.
"It's fine. I have nightmares too. You've had to calm me down any number of times," Eve replied, smiling kindly at him.
He stared at her for a moment. She looked ghostly in the pale blue light, ethereal, almost unnaturally beautiful. Slowly, he reached out and ran his fingertips down one cheek. Her smile widened and she reached up, took his hand again in hers.
"Look," she said, nodding behind him.
He turned and saw, finally, where the blue light was coming from. He and Eve were on a spacebound cruise ship. They'd been traveling at FTL speeds for the past three days, enjoying the various commodities the ship had to offer. They had arrived at their destination and had settled into orbit. Greg's and Eve's cabin was luxurious, what they called the Elite Suite. One of the best features was a big, comfortable bed set right up next to a huge window that offered a great view into space. It appealed to Greg, appealed to the part of him that liked living dangerously. One blowout, one malfunction, and that would be it for them.
That thought made him frown, turn away from the blue-green planet below them and stare back at Eve. He knew that something fundamental was waiting for him on the planet below: the answer to a question. At the moment, Greg knew that there were two things that genuinely fueled him. The search for his memory and his growing addiction to adrenaline.
His memory was the main reason he was here.
Greg was looking to meet his parents.
He was hoping that this meeting might, somehow, spark his memory. They still lived in the home he grew up in. If that didn't induce some hint of nostalgia, some peek into the recesses of his lost memory...
Well, it wasn't going to be pretty. Because, as far as he was concerned, this was it. This was his last real chance. Hawkins had run all the tests, done all the research, called in all the experts. And no one could figure out anything about his memory. They couldn't even tell him if it was actually gone, if his past was truly lost, or if it was just locked up, and the right thing would jar it loose. That was, perhaps, most maddening of all.
He supposed there was still a distant hope out there. They would, presumably, get their hands on more of Rogue Operations' files and databases, and although everything they'd learned on Dis was gone, lost with the planet, he still held some kind of vague notion that there might be something hidden in the files to help him.
But that hope grew dimmer with each passing day.
"Shit," Greg muttered, as he realized how cold he was. He'd sweat through his sheets and blankets. They were wet and chilly now.
"Here, I'll help you," Eve replied.
Greg sighed and thanked her. It was kind of an embarrassing problem, but it was one they both had. Him more than her, it seemed, though. They called for the lights to come onto their dimmest setting and they did, lighting the way. Greg and Eve stood, both of them naked from their previous activities before going to sleep.
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Warm Memories (A Shadow Wars Companion)Short Story
A companion short set between the last chapter and the epilogue of Countdown. Following a two week vacation after all the insanity of chasing down Rogue Operations, the Galactic Alliance still doesn't know what to do with those who saved the galaxy...