Once more into the breach.
Eric stood before the exit to the hangar bay that held his one real method of escape and survival, and the only two beings left in his life that had any real impact on him. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, briefly fogging his visor. He was tired, the short breaks he'd indulged in earlier seemed like a distant memory, like faded sunshine and lost childhood. He was telling himself that he could do this, that he was technically capable of every task required of him. It was easy to believe. The real question here was would he do it?
Would he survive?
He wasn't sure if he would endure this final run, but he knew there was no turning back. It just wasn't in him to do so. With a soft sigh, Eric reached out and pressed the open button. The door unlocked and slid open, revealing the corridor beyond. He stepped out, peering quickly from left to right. Nothing but long, lonely stretches of deckplates and bulkheads. Eric broke right, heading towards the dark heart of Theseus Station.
They were waiting for him there, of this he had no doubt, performing whatever malignant tasks compelled them. Despite the stomach-churning terror he felt as he crept down the corridor, there was also a deep sense of curiosity. What could they possibly be doing with the bodies? What was this inter-dimensional energy? Where had they originally come from? If they were constructed beings, then who constructed them and why?
The notion that he would likely never be able to attain answers to the vast majority of these questions, possibly all of them, saddened him. He was a naturally curious person, he liked to know things, sometimes even at a cost. During one of his first few jobs after leaving the military when he'd been living aboard a space station that served as an intergalactic pit stop, he'd been dating another engineering, a beautiful blonde woman with a bit of a temper problem. He'd begun noticing little oddities about her that, at first, had seemed like nothing. But then he began to get the notion, after about three months, that she was cheating on him.
He'd ended up pursuing the investigation relentlessly, and ended up uncovering the truth: she was cheating on him. The knowledge had cost him his happiness for quite awhile but, even then, with a sort of grim certainty, he felt that it had been worth it. He knew. That's what mattered. And now, Eric had to know whether or not he could do this, pull off this seemingly impossible task. He continued navigating the maze of passageways, passing through flickering, bloodied sections, so used to the choice decorum that he hardly noticed it now.
Somewhere up ahead was the station's reactor core and somewhere before that was an armory he was going to investigate, looking for the bombs he so desperately needed. Worries were piling up inside his head, but Eric allowed a sort of Zen calm to settle over him. At the moment, he had his objectives and a few contingencies if he ran into trouble and that was it. That was all he needed. He turned another corner and spied the armory up ahead. Good. This was going fairly quickly. Of course, this was the easy part.
Hurrying up to the entrance, he opened the door and slid inside. Like the armory he'd visited before it, this one was largely emptied out. Racks, shelves, and crates stood in silent testament to the no doubt frenzied stocking up the survivors had done in their ultimately fruitless battle for survival. Moving quickly but proficiently, Eric began a thorough search of the room. It took nearly ten minutes, but in the end, his search proved worthwhile. After turning over tables, searching every crate and locker, and checking out every shadow, he had them.
Three powerful mining explosives.
As he grabbed some detonator pins and the detonator itself, he hesitated, a tremor of absolute pain shifting through him, like a jolt of icy lightning, as he remembered Autumn doing this exact same thing not all that long ago.
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...