Epilogue

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Jennifer looked around her quarters.

She couldn't believe it. She was really here. She was actually a member of Anomalous Operations. It had finally happened.

The past few days had been an utter blur. After blowing the facility and completing their mission, they'd abandoned the shuttle and retreated to the ship they'd originally flown in on. Greg had been adamant, explaining that it was a brand new model and they really couldn't afford to lose it. Or, at best, they couldn't afford to just leave it sitting in the shadow of a hill on some moon. They'd found Jennifer an emergency space suit in the shuttle for the walk. From there, Jennifer and the others, (mainly her), had tended to their wounds in the tiny infirmary. After that, she'd eaten a much-needed meal and then passed out on a cot.

By the time she woke up, they had arrived at their destination: a vessel called the Dauntless. She'd been greeted personally by an old man with a shaved head, sharp eyes, and a scrim of gray stubble haunting his narrow face. He introduced himself as Director Hawkins with a firm handshake and said, "I've been told you're interested in working for me."

From there, she'd sat down with him and had a debriefing. She explained it all, everything from joining up with the Cimmerian to blowing the reactor bay. At the end of it, he'd told her that if she was willing to continue taking risks like the ones she'd just taken, then he'd be willing to employ her. She had heartily agreed to this arrangement. His first order was to send her to the infirmary, telling her she looked like hell.

And, when she finally got to a mirror, she realized that she did.

The infirmary hadn't been her first stop. Well, it had, but not in the way that he'd intended. She'd told the medic, a black man with a shaved head named Mertz, that before she did absolutely anything, she needed a shower.

He'd smirked and agreed with her.

Instead of being offended, she just took it in good nature, getting the feeling that it hadn't been meant as a genuine disparagement but just a jovial poke. The shower had possibly been the longest one of her life. When it was over, she'd dressed in a hospital gown and admitted herself to the infirmary, where they'd kept her for a solid day, treating her various wounds. She'd accumulated quite a bit of scrapes, burns, cuts, scratches, and bruises along the way. Eventually, when they'd let her out, Greg had been there to take her to her room.

And he'd just dropped her off there.

The room was nice. Tidy, trim, a bit utilitarian. But that was honestly how she liked to live. At the next chance, she'd make sure to go out and buy a few amenities. She felt like she could very much use the bland monotony of shopping as a nice counterbalance to running around bloodied corridors, shooting at zombies and guys in black armor. But for now, all she really wanted to do was to lay down, read a book and relax.

Jennifer smiled as she crossed her new bedroom and sat down on the bed.

She'd made it.

She was here.

She was a part of Anomalous Operations.

* * *

"Pretty impressive," Hawkins said.

Greg grunted and nodded, then he yawned.

Hawkins chuckled. "You should get some rest. You've earned it."

"I fucked it all up," Greg replied. "Matheson died, we only rescued one fucking person out a thousand, Enzo..."

"You were sent there to kill Enzo, Greg," Hawkins said.

"Kill or capture," Greg muttered.

"I think we both know you'd have never captured him. He'd have made you kill him. And he's dead, so it worked out fine."

Greg shook his head firmly and fixed Hawkins with a stare. "No. That wasn't supposed to be how it went down. Drake was supposed to be the one to pull the trigger. He was supposed...supposed to deal with this."

This time, Hawkins shook his head. "I've been there, Greg. Revenge doesn't work. You still feel like shit. Still feel broken...no, Drake needs to figure this out on his own. Now that Enzo's out of the picture, he can actually figure out what that means. Take away the artificial solution that won't work, now he can discern what will work."

Greg frowned. "You've been down that road before?"

"Twice. I'm stupid and stubborn, takes me two times as long to learn things...go get some sleep, Greg, you look like shit."

He laughed. "Thanks."

"And you did well, given the circumstances. You still got it. And this was Eve's first big mission since she completed all her treatments and training. She's definitely got it, too. So does the newbie, apparently."

"You think she'll fit in?" Greg asked.

"Yeah. Jennifer will do fine around here. She just survived an insane incident involving zombies. She isn't catatonic or begging to get somewhere safe...she came back for more. She's stable, competent, and emotionally well adjusted. She's had fifteen years of training and seen as much combat as most Marines. She'll do fine. Go get some sleep."

Greg nodded and yawned once more, then stood. "See you later, boss."

"Later, Greg."

He walked out of Hawkins's office, looking forward to the reprieve ahead of him.

* * *

"I'm leaving," Drake said.

"Oh?" Hawkins replied, looking up from his desk. "And where are you going, exactly?" he replied casually, setting aside the infopad he'd been holding.

Drake shrugged. "I don't know, but I thought you'd like to know. Next time we hit port somewhere, I need to take off for awhile."

"When will you be back?"

"I don't know...I don't know if I'll be back," Drake replied softly. "But, I figure I got great job security. If and when I want to come back, you won't say no."

"Won't I?" Hawkins asked, grinning slightly. "You sure about that?"

"Yeah. There aren't really people lining up to do this job, Hawkins. I'm great at it. That's not going to change...probably. But I'll be in touch."

"Good luck, Drake," Hawkins said as he turned to leave.

Drake lingered for a moment. "Thanks."

As he stepped out into the hallway, he reached into his inner pocket, gently touching the infopad that Greg had given him on the ride back. It contained Enzo's last message. Greg said it was meant for him.

He still hadn't watched it yet.

With a sigh, Drake let go of the infopad and began walking back towards his room.

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