Chapter 10: The Long Road

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"How the fuck are we gonna get out of here?" Eric asked.

Drake was wondering the same thing himself, but he kept getting distracted by the burning agony in his shoulder. Thanks to the work Parker had done on it, the wound was cleaned and closed. Consequently, it didn't hurt as much as it had before, when it was simply an open hole in his body, or maybe his brain was making certain adjustments to the constant pain.

"The vents," Parker said. They both glanced over at her. She was standing near the front of the control room, on the raised area, frowning deeply in concentration. "They served you well enough before, so we get down into the vents and maintenance areas beneath the floor."

Eric shook his head. "I don't think that will work," he replied, crossing the room and joining her up there. He slid back into the seat he'd used when contacting Greg and the others, then brought up a detailed map of the facility. "Yeah, I was worried about this. They're sectioned off. We could only go so far. It wouldn't take us all the way back to the entrance."

"It'd be better than just opening up the door and kicking our way out," Drake muttered.

Parker was studying the map Eric had called up as well. "Okay, what about the vents in the ceiling?" she asked.

Eric studied them for a moment. "They're sectioned off too...but, wait, here...here's a path we could take that would get us most of the way there."

Drake walked over, trying to put the pain somewhere else in his mind, to focus on the mission and the situation at hand. He saw what Eric was talking about as he stared at the topographical schematic of the base currently being displayed. The tech had highlighted a path through the vents in glowing green. It would take them over a good portion of the base and they could drop down into a storage area just a couple meters away from the entrance they'd come in through.

"This is gonna be dangerous," he muttered.

"Yeah," Eric agreed, "crawling around in the ceiling is about as safe as it sounds, especially since we're all in power armor, but it should hold."

"I don't see any other option," Parker said.

"Neither do I. Fine then, come on, sooner we get started, the sooner it will be over."

Eric stood up and pointed out the appropriate vent grate they'd have to take. It was over in the far back left corner of the room. They gathered beneath it and Eric boosted Drake up to the vent grate. He opened it up and then bit back a bark of pain as he grabbed the edge and hauled himself up into it. Once he was inside the narrow confines of the vent systems, he crawled forward, making way for Eric, who was boosted up by Parker. Once she was in, Eric slowly got himself turned around, reached down and hauled her up.

For the first several minutes, they all crawled along in silence, making their way towards the exit as quickly and safely as possible. All around them, they heard the sounds of deathless, psychotic chaos. Drake wondered how long he could keep this up. He'd been in pain for extended periods of time before. He'd actually put up with worse than this, but it was the fear that it might get worse, significantly worse before the end, that was really agitating him. He'd been hit by some shrapnel once when he, Trent, and a collection of other mercs were trying to extract a corporate exec that wanted to turn to another corporation and it had been a solid two hours before he'd gotten any real treatment. He'd been shot more times than he cared to count. Stabbed, too.

But this...

It was the fear more than anything. He supposed that, in a way, he was lucky. Something Drake had learned long ago was that when you were in the middle of a mission or a life-threatening situation and fear was a factor, there was always just one answer.

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