Chapter 09: High Hopes

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CPL. Matthew Cage
L. CPL. John Powell

PVT. Jerome Baker
William Holt

Linda Lawrence
Susan Sharpe

Gideon Stewart
Lucy Banks

PFC Juan Ramirez
SPEC. Duncan Kato

SPEC. Colin Epps
SGT. Jonathan Philbrick

PFC Aaron Malone
Mark Collins

SPEC. Lin Parker

Greg found it difficult to stop staring at the wall of engravings. Some of these names he knew, some of them he didn't. Hell, some of them he'd personally requested. It had been a grim task, but Hawkins thought it was something that needed to be done. And he wasn't wrong. More than something that needed to be done, it was something that deserved to be done. Here were the men and women who had died fighting Rogue Operations, and later, after Rogue Ops was put six feet under, fighting to keep the galaxy a safe place.

There were more names on there, a lot more.

Over the past several weeks, Greg had found himself coming to this spot more often. The gold plaque was huge, taking up a solid section of the wall where it was placed, in an intersection room that connected the bridge, the primary airlock, and the rest of the ship. Unconsciously, Greg reached up and gently rubbed his neck.

Sometimes, he could still feel the phantom pain of his decapitation.

He continued staring at the flat plate of gold. There were a lot of names, dozens...and there was still a lot of space yet to be filled. The fact that he could be another name on this list hadn't escaped him. It didn't bother him, either. At least, not as much as it used to. No, what bothered him now was the fact that he might end up in a situation where he was incapable of dying and in essentially eternal torment.

He could face death, he didn't think he could face that.

That brought him around to the other thing he'd been thinking about. There was a name missing. Greg had never made up his mind about Enzo Rains.

The man had fucked up. There was no question about that. But even though he'd first knocked Greg out, robbed him and left him stranded on an island, and later had tried to kill him and Eve and Drake and Jennifer, Greg wasn't sure he could entirely blame the man. It was obvious that his actions were motivated by his inescapable pain. Before, Greg hadn't been so sure it was an excuse, and although he still wasn't entirely certain about it, he felt a lot less concrete about that having endured what he had on Ash.

Turning away from the plaque, Greg began to make his way slowly through the ship.

He'd hoped that today would be different from yesterday, and the day before that, and the ones before that, ever since he'd come out of his medically induced coma. But it wasn't. It was the same as before, and he was beginning to suspect that if he didn't do something, something big, then it was just going to stay this way.

Or maybe even get worse.

There was always that possibility.

As he kept going, unsure of where he was headed, Greg reached into his pocket and fished out his pack of Galactic Lites and Zippo lighter. He stuck a cig in his mouth, lit up and snapped the lighter shut, replacing everything in his pocket. This wasn't helping, either. All it did was make him think of Cage, and that just made him think of Cage coming after him with glowing eyes and metal limbs. And all of that inevitably led him back to Kyra.

Greg sighed heavily, a plume of formless blue smoke escaping his nostrils.

Everything felt like shit. When he wasn't afraid he was lonely, when he wasn't lonely he was anxious, when he wasn't anxious he was confused. Or frustrated. Or pissed. He hadn't slept through the night since waking up from the procedure. There were always nightmares, usually involving his head falling off.

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