Chapter 16: Auxiliary

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Insanity was his every day.

"What do you think I should do, John?" he asked after a moment.

"About what?" Mertz replied.

"My life. I thought things might have worked out with Kyra, but I was an idiot. They didn't, they won't. That path is closed to me. I don't have anything to 'go back to', because, for all intents and purposes, my life began in the midst of a zombie apocalypse on a world that no longer exists. My life, my remembered life, has just been this craziness. This fucking insanity. I mean, I know there are other jobs out there, jobs that I could do and probably get transferred into easily. Search and Rescue, Security-Investigations, Special Operations. But..." he trailed off.

"But it isn't this, is it?" Mertz replied. "It isn't Anomalous Ops. It isn't rushing off into the howling darkness. It isn't monsters and doing whatever it takes to get the job done and staying alive. It isn't somehow piecing together a way to make it all happen and still come out the other side. It isn't basically getting to do whatever the hell you want in between missions. That's your problem, Greg. That's your concern."

"That's very true," Greg murmured.

"Stay," Mertz said simply. "Stay here. Don't leave. Keep doing this. Whatever your fears are, as justifiable as they might be, they don't really matter, I'm afraid. You need to face your reality, and your reality is that this job is the only thing you can do that will fulfill you in any meaningful capacity," he explained.

"That was very well put," Erebus said from a speaker somewhere nearby.

Greg jerked to a halt and looked around. "What the fuck do you want?" he growled.

"Same old, same old. Why are you so mad at me, Greg? I had hoped this to be a happy reunion," Erebus replied.

"You cut my fucking arm off while I was awake and gave me a metal one that I didn't want, you sick fuck!" Greg roared. He could feel his white-hot fury shrieking through him, drowning out everything else.

"Keep moving," Mertz said quietly, laying a gauntlet on his armored shoulder. Greg looked back, and seeing Mertz's calm, certain features was like a spray of cold water. He forced himself to keep moving, to not get distracted.

"You humans really don't like that, do you?" Erebus murmured. "Well, I'd apologize, but I believe the idea of apologies are that you give them out when you believe yourself to have acted in error. I didn't act in error. I was improving you."

"Fuck off," Greg replied.

"Don't you want to know how I got here?"

Greg had to admit, he was curious, but he wasn't going to give Erebus the satisfaction of admitting that. Thankfully, the AI went on anyway.

"That extra-solar array you and Campbell were so eager to destroy when you came up to my ship, looking for was almost finished, actually. And, in fact, it was close enough to being finished that I managed to send most of a copy of myself out into the stars. I am that copy. I ended up being received and stored by ReSequez's databanks and it was very easy to take over. I got right to work waking them back up, continuing my plans. I even set up an outpost out here as I started working with more interesting properties...I must admit that I am very curious about how the whole thing back over Onyx shook out. What happened?"

"We killed you," Greg replied bluntly, taking another turn.

In reality, it was Powell who had given his life to stay behind with the EMP bomb to ensure that Erebus had no way of escaping before the local star went supernova, wiping out everything. Only he and Kyra had made it out alive.

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