A fresh layer of tense dread settled over Eric as soon as he was out of sight of the others.
In his mind, he could see the job fairly easily. All he had to do was make some repairs to a power relay. Easy. Or, it should be. He'd done it often enough in his life. Technology was basically his second language now. Despite this, he couldn't shake the mounting tension. He was alone now, only...he didn't quite feel alone. He felt as if he was being watched. It was an intimately familiar feeling. You got it when you went to war and you had to constantly be on alert for enemies as you picked your way through a bombed-out city and any damned half-collapsed building could be holding a sniper or a small squad laying in wait, ready to spring an ambush...
Eric reached the end of the corridor he'd stepped into when he'd left the entrance to the security center. It was a T junction. The wall in front of him was painted in a dried coat of blood. Whatever had happened here seemed to have happened at least a day or so ago, possibly longer. Though not too much longer, since this was a place for people to stop by and get refueled and repaired. On the other hand, this was a pretty isolated location...
Eric realized that he was lingering, his thoughts drifting. Not good. He cast a glance right, to see if there was anything there, but all he saw was another lonely stretch of corridor. Turning left, he continued along his path. If he remembered the map properly, this corridor granted access to a small network of storage rooms meant to hold excess equipment. Or something or other. There had been a great many details to memorize in a pretty short period of time. As he made his way to where the power relay should be, Eric's mind wandered once again. The thought he kept finding himself coming back to was a question.
Was he, in fact, suicidal?
It didn't seem exactly in his character. He hadn't been the most happiest of men throughout his life, but he'd never been actually suicidal. He felt safe in his conclusion that these thoughts were an artifact of his time in combat, since these were new emotions. Except that, if he were to be asked right now, at this very moment, if he was suicidal, he would have to answer no...to an extent. The clearest, most concise way he could put it was simply that he didn't want to kill himself, but he wasn't necessarily bothered by the idea of his own death.
What did that mean?
Eric stopped as he came to the power relay. Or, at least, he came to the access point. About three quarters of the way down the corridor, along the left wall, was a wall panel marked in scuffed, faded lettering. Here was his power relay. Placed, of course, behind the wall. Wonderful. With a sigh, Eric went about the procedure of getting it open. Once he did, he was admitted to a narrow alcove that was just tall enough for him to stand in and move along. It ran parallel to the corridor. He slipped inside and located the power relay.
It was sparking slightly. Not the most desirable situation to be in: close quarters with a sparking piece of equipment. But, such was the life of a technician. He saw what the problem was, and figured it shouldn't take too long to fix.
As he set to work, he thought about his reasons to live. Right now, the biggest one was Autumn. She was a fantastic partner. He wasn't sure he loved her, though. He liked her, a lot. More than liked her, really. But he honestly didn't know if he loved her, and, he supposed, therein lay one of his biggest problems. At the moment, Autumn was probably the closest thing he had for a strong reason to live, and he knew that it wasn't fair, or healthy, to hang something that heavy on a partner. No matter what kind of relationship, it was never a good idea. He'd seen shit like that before, seen people who basically held themselves hostage.
'Break up with me and I'll kill myself.'
That kind of shit. It disgusted him and he didn't want anything even remotely close to that. So, if he was being honest with himself, it was probably the reason he had almost subconsciously kept her at a distance. Maybe if he'd been more stable, more well adjusted, they could be at a better point in the relationship.
YOU ARE READING
The twelfth novel in The Shadow Wars. Eric Starck is a man adrift. After fighting in the Systems Wars that ravaged the galaxy, he's spent the past three years drifting from one job to the next, never quite feeling comfortable. The latest in a long l...