On a long-forgotten planet cloaked in shadow, an ancient evil greater than any the galaxy has ever known lies in wait. And soon it will be free…
The only thing Alyx Starburn wants is peace. All he got was war.
The oppressive Earth Alliance has been beaten for now, but at an immeasurably high cost. The galaxy is in chaos, enemies are closing in on all sides, and the war is beginning to fracture Alyx’s budding relationship with Jess.
While on a routine assignment, Alyx’s team stumbles across clues to the location of an ancient alien weapon that could shift the tide of war; a weapon so deadly it nearly wiped out the galaxy thousands of years before; a weapon the EA will do anything to have, unless Alyx, Jess, and Vaness can get there first.
It isn’t easy to attack your hometown.
And I mean attack; DropShuttles, DarkStar rifles, squads of Dividers’ soldiers, the works. But when your hometown harbored sympathetic remnants of the Earth Alliance’s oppressive rule of Earth, well, that made you look at things a little differently.
The Dividers’ DropShuttle, ‘reclaimed’ from the EA on one of our raids, rattled and shook beneath my feet as we broke through the Earth’s atmosphere and dropped quickly to the coordinates below. I swallowed hard to relieve the pressure in my ears. I sucked in a deep breath to calm my queasy stomach. The rituals were ingrained habits by now, born from dozens of Dividers’ missions before this one. When I felt stable, I leaned over one of the pilot’s shoulders as he adjusted the joystick and leveled us out a couple thousand feet above Dallas. Another push of the throttle and we were screaming towards the glittering skyline of upper class EA skyscrapers downtown.
The soothing consciousness of Jess Osmond, one of my squad mates and possible-it’s-complicated girlfriend, slipped into my mind.
[“Is it like you remember?”] she asked.
My eyes followed the landscape as it zipped by. The dusty, tanned slums and stacked housing of where I’d once lived fell behind us in a blink.
[“The landscaping crew is still as lazy as ever,”] I said. I sniffed. [“And I swear I can smell the sewage rot from up here.”]
Jess laughed from the back of the shuttle with the troops, and then Pulled her mind out of mine, allowing me time to mull over my memories.
The Dallas skyline filled our viewscreen. The pilot on my left turned to me and said, “Ten minutes to drop coordinates, sir.”
I almost told him not to call me sir. I still found the title just as strange as I had five months ago. But by now, with the number of missions I’d run and some coaxing from Jess and Vaness, I had almost fooled myself into accepting the role. It still hadn’t been easy. When you grow up as nothing but a useless guttergrunt of Earth, seen as less than human scum by the EA, positions of authority don’t come naturally.
[“Ten minutes,”] I told Jess.
[“You’d better brief them,”] she reminded me.
[“I know. I’m headed back.”]
I pushed off the back of the pilot’s chair and walked to the holding bay at the rear of the shuttle, where two whole squads of Dividers waited for me. They stood when I entered, their armor clacking, their SolFlare repeating rifles prepped and primed. Only a couple hesitated to acknowledge my authority. Getting better.
Just to my right sat Jess, Vaness, and Derek, the fourth member of our squad, and the fifth replacement we’d had in five months.
I slung my DarkStar rifle over my shoulder and faced the men. I pushed down the nervousness in my stomach until it was nothing but a little ball. I took a deep breath…and hesitated. It was only for a second, but a couple men frowned. I wanted to curse in frustration. Give me a firefight over a speech any day.
“I know this isn’t anybody’s first rodeo, and most of you read the report so I’ll keep this brief,” I said. I tossed a holoprojection disc onto the floor where everyone could see. A hologram schematic of the very skyline we were flying towards popped up. I tapped a point on it and began zooming in.
“The leaders of the latest EA Earthside resistance forces have holed themselves up here.” The hologram froze on a single building. A building familiar to me.
Despite the numerous skirmishes waged in and around Dallas, the Hall of Heroes had remained unscathed. That would change today, and for that I was an eerie sort of glad. I hadn’t seen or thought about the Hall of Heroes since I’d left my life behind and was blackmailed into the EA. Dwelling on it would have just been another reminder of the old Alyx Starburn, the one who’d blindly worshiped heroism, and learned the hard way that it took a lot of sacrifice to truly be one. As a guttergrunt, I’d never been allowed to go inside. Now, I was getting my chance, my entrance pass: a couple squads of heavily armed men and a handful or two of explosives.
“How many hostiles?” A solider in front asked.
“We’re thinking thirty, maybe forty.”
“Ground to air weaponry?” Another woman said.
“Scans showed no, but I guess we’ll find out when we get there. Supposedly they don’t have any outer defenses, but the trick will still be finding them once we get inside.”
“And then not getting shot when we’re in there,” a man followed up, grinning. A couple of his comrades chuckled. I let a smile creep over my face. They were relaxing into my authority. I was, too. I’d fooled them again.
“Right. Don’t let them tag you.” I rotated the Hall, shaped into an ironic ‘H’, and pointed to three specific areas.
“There are two other DropShuttles full of men with us on this, so we drew the lucky straw with what command divvied out. Two of them will go in either side of the building. One on the roof. Guess which team is on the roof.”
The men laughed again. I caught one man near the back glowering at me, but I ignored him.
“Standard Reach and Breach,” I continued. “Secure the area inside. Try to capture anybody you can, but obviously lethal force is allowed. Meanwhile, my team and I will find the leaders and bag ‘em.”
The man in front looked confused. “I thought we were your team.”
“You are…” I faltered. “I mean you are, but—” I motioned to Jess, Vaness and Derek. “they’re my team too. We’re tasked with taking out the heads.”
The man hesitated, then nodded. “Orders are orders.”
“And why do you get to capture them?” said an angry voice.
I knew who it was even before catching sight of the glowering-faced man from earlier. “Going to take all the credit. Again?”
“Stand down,” the man in front said. “You don’t talk back to your commanding officer.”
“We have our orders,” I said firmly. “You’d do best to follow yours.”
The man mumbled something. My moderately enhanced hearing caught the phrase ‘scakking freaks’.
Apparently Vaness caught it, too. She stood in one fluid motion, her long, dirty blond braid thumping against the back of her armor. Her body leaned forward, lithe and taut, towards the man and I caught a glimpse of the Screamer’s brand seared on the outside of her left hand. Normally our ShadowCat armor covered our entire body, but she’d retracted the nanobots in the armor all the way to her slender wrist. Anyone could clearly see the mark there. She wanted it that way. She was still Vaness in quirks and mannerisms, but she’d come a long way from the cold, quiet girl whose glare was as deadly as her roundhouse kick to your face.
Even though Vaness was shorter than almost every other soldier, most of them shrank back as she approached; they knew she was one of us, a former Chipped. If they had known what she’d been forced to do in the Screamer’s Arena games, what she could still do, they’d be lining up to throw themselves straight off the back of the DropShuttle.
Vaness stepped into the man’s personal space. “Hey, goop,” she said, her accent thick. “Why don’t you keep your gob shut? Or, if you have to talk, maybe I’ll remove something that’ll make you speak a lot higher.”
That was enough. The man sat down and the tension in the shuttle broke. I nodded my thanks to Vaness just as the pilot yelled back, “One minute to touchdown! No outer defenses showing up on the scanners.”
“Check your gear,” I instructed the soldiers. “You know what to do.”
They saluted and the rattle and rumble of the DropShuttle was added to by armored gloves checking seals on chest plates, and the whine of SolFlare rifles.
I Felt Vaness’ consciousness as it joined Jess’ in my mind.
[“There’s always one, ain’t there?”] Vaness said.
“Always,” I replied aloud. We had already checked and double-checked our gear, just like we did before every mission. The ShadowCat armor was form fitting to our bodies and repaired by its own nanobots. Shielded by them, too. There was never any concern that a plate of armor was loose or the shields needed to be charged up like the armor the Dividers’ soldiers wore. The DarkStar rifles were loaded up with dark matter rounds, and those sloshed in their magazines when I moved so I knew they were full.
Between the hive of activity I spotted a lone man still seated. His gun hung slack in his hands. His eyes were downcast towards the metal bulkheads, but they weren’t actually taking anything in. Not really. He was young, maybe twenty-three, a few years older than me. I realized how I must have looked to the other soldiers who had to take orders from me when I didn’t look any more grown up than this scared kid.
I came and knelt next to him so our faces were level. It took a moment for him to register that I was there. When he did he tried snapping off a hasty salute, but his hand was shaking so badly it didn’t really work.
“I wanted to tell you a secret,” I said.
“Those men we’re gunning for in the Hall of Heroes? They’re just as scared as you. Probably more. I mean, I’d be if I had this,” I nodded to the surrounding soldiers, “coming for me.” The man grimaced. He tried to chuckle.
“Yeah, I guess I would be too.”
“I’ll tell you something else. All these men here, they have your back, but you gotta watch theirs, too.”
“I—I will, sir. You can count on me.”
“Good.” I patted him on the shoulder, still unsure if what I’d said actually had any helpful effect on him. I knew from experience there was little, if anything, you could say to a man who was jumping into the jaws of death.
An older solider nodded his approval when I stood.
I turned back to the younger man. His eyes darted to his comrades, afraid they might overhear. “Were you—you know—on your first mission—afraid?”
I could have lied to him. Tried to boost his morale with my bravado. My first actual firefight was against the Others, copies of us from an alternate dimension who were far fiercer and more deadly than anything these men would ever face. Looking back I realized how blind and stupid I’d been to real danger back then, even though it was only eight months ago. I’d been so juiced on adrenaline and grandiose visions of my own immortality that I hadn’t realized all of who I was and who I loved could be stripped away with the single pull of a trigger.
“Sir?” The man repeated.
“I was terrified,” I said. “But that fear is what’ll keep you alive.”
Jess smiled at me when I joined her and the rest of my squad at a front corner near the cockpit. She chuckled as I unconsciously brushed my hand over my spiked black hair. It was a nervous tic I’d recently developed. She never failed to call me out on it.
“Great speech, as always,” she said. Her golden irises twinkled. Like my own, they were the only physical remnants of the Chips we’d had forcibly implanted in our heads by the EA. Even though the Chips were now gone, the color remained.
She gently touched my shoulder and despite our situation, I thought she was going in for a kiss. I would have been shocked. Our relationship, since taking over the EA space station orbiting Earth, had been…muddled. Someone might have thought it was because of our appearances, with my spiked black hair, tat of a Desmar screaming lizard crawling up my left arm and generally rough and tumbled appearance, I wasn’t someone a beauty like Jess should have been attracted to.
If anything, the gold-tinged irises only enhanced her features; short, shiny black hair, thin lips and a slight frame dwarfed by my tall one. Not the first person you’d expect to bust in guns blazing, but that’s exactly what she did; a rare flower in a firefight.
No, our relationship had been weird ‘cause I’d made it that way. At first I’d thought something could have come from it. I liked Jess. A lot. Maybe more than liked her. But as the weeks passed after the assault on the EA, and our specific skillsets as formerly Chipped translated into more dangerous missions, I found I couldn’t risk getting invested in someone I might lose. It was a thought I never voiced to Jess, and hardly to myself, but it was there all the same. I knew it caused Jess no small amount of confusion, but I couldn’t tell her. How could I when I was still trying to figure it out myself?
And, yeah, Killian’s death still weighed on me.
“Huh? Yeah? I’m listening.”
“You want the Digoy Assault Formation after the breach?”
The Digoy? That meant all of us would be level with one another, charging together into the fray. My mind raced for an alternate plan.
“Um, no. How about the Rin-Pac?”
Jess wrinkled her nose. Her hand vanished from my shoulder.
“Again? We just did that one. The Digoy is better in the wide space—”
“We’re doing the Rin-Pac,” I said, turning away and pretending to adjust my armor, though there was obviously no need to. I could Feel Jess’ annoyance prickle my brain. I tried to ignore it, but that was the thing about having another consciousness in your mind: they weren’t easy to shut out.
[“You know as well as I do the Digoy is better,”] she said. In-head communication didn’t carry the same tone or emotion as speaking aloud, but I could practically hear the accusation in her ‘voice’. [“With the Rin-Pac I have to stay back from the front—”]
[“—and I can’t help you if you need it. Alyx, what is going on? This is the third time you’ve practically benched Vaness and me.”]
“Uh, guys?” Derek tapped his head. “Can’t hear you when you’re in there. Remember?”
And then there was Derek. After Orson Osmond, the Hunter, Jess’ brother, refused my offer to join as the fourth man of our squad following Killian’s death, the Dividers gave us their own replacement. Never mind that whoever they picked wasn’t Chipped. And was a liability. And annoying.
“Four men to a squad, I distinctly remember that’s what you said,” President Hawthorn had told me when I’d complained. “And four it shall be.”
Me and my big mouth. A four-man squad had seemed a good idea when we’d needed to convince the Dividers to let Jess out of prison and back on our team for the raid on the EA station. But with Killian gone and Orson’s refusal…
“We’re touching down!” The pilot yelled.
I shook out of my reverie and pressed the button on the neck of my armor that brought my helmet down. My HUD blinked to life in my eye, courtesy of the lingering Chip abilities. Jess, Vaness, and Derek’s vitals popped up, along with my ammo count. The HUD was redundant for Jess and Vaness’ physical conditions. With our Connection in mind during battle, I instinctively Knew how they were doing at all times.
“We’re doing the Rin-Pac formation,” I told Derek, ignoring the withering glare Jess shot me before she put her own helmet down. I would deal with the fallout later, but right now I’d rather have her safe and mad at me than happy and dead.
“Rin-Pac. Got it,” Derek said. He followed my lead as I threaded my squad through the rest of the soldiers, to the rear where the DropShuttle ramp would lower.
Despite my misgivings, I liked Derek. He was good at his job, barely complained, overall a nice guy. The problem was he just wasn’t us. And when you did the things enhanced soldiers were expected to do, you needed to be one of us. Former Chipped. Super soldiers. Nova Squad.
The DropShuttle hit the ground with a jarring thump. The smell of dry hot air whooshed in the cabin as the ramp lowered. The heat was withering. Typical Texas in May. A second later my armor’s cooling unit kicked in.
“Everybody out!” I yelled over the coms.
Thousands of pounds of armor and weapons followed me out into the blinding sunlight. The roof of the Hall of Heroes was flat, devoid of almost any cover save for the sporadically placed air conditioning units and concrete entrances to maintenance stairwells.
The DropShuttle scan had been right. There weren’t any outer defenses set up to greet us. No proximity mines or remote sentries to slow our progress.
I stopped my team at the entrance to one of the maintenance stairwells. We crouched there for a full minute while the other DropShuttles dropped their soldiers and blinked confirmation. Ours lifted up behind us as the soldiers who weren’t with my immediate squad filed past and set up at a separate entry to make their own way in.
The man leading them nodded to me. “We’re good to go.”
“All right. Let’s do this.” I squared up with our door and kicked it in, the strength enhancements in my suit and what was left over from the Chip causing the door to crumple inward like a piece of tin foil. The nanobots in my armor bulked up the protective plating surrounding my armor, reacting to the sudden adrenaline surge coursing through me.
We descended single file down the grated stairs and came out in the Hall on the top floor balcony. It took me a moment to steady my breathing. I was here. I was actually inside the Hall of Heroes.
Just over the balcony railing was the main floor, what I’d been able to glimpse all the times I’d snuck close enough to peer in through the windows. A bronze statue of Harold Hemhauser, the first man to land on an alien-occupied planet, rose up, his sculpted hair topping out just below my feet. Busts and murals adorned walls and side hallways. It was simultaneously beautiful and hideous; a monument to everything I hated and yet had once loved about the EA.
“Alyx?” Jess said. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” I said, wishing my throat wasn’t so tight. I pushed my old dream aside and pointed the main group of soldiers down the hall. “Split off.”
The lead soldier flicked us a salute. “Go get us those EA scumbags.”
My team didn’t wait to see them off. We hurried the opposite direction. We took a right turn down a hall honoring men and women who’d performed great deeds beyond the first ring of known space. I Felt my team’s rhythm settle in to the Rin-Pac formation, though Jess kept edging forward, trying to match my stride. I grumbled to myself and pushed faster towards the target beacon on our HUD.
The torn up carpet somewhat muffled our footfalls as we passed the last of the exhibits and casts. We entered what looked to be a normally cordoned off area reserved for private events and important people. Ballrooms on our left, conference rooms on our right.
[“Hold up,”] Vaness said. We slowed. Derek stopped a little after us and glared. We’d forgotten not to talk in-head again. [“Beacon says target is a hundred yards up ahead. They’re using some old ballroom as their HQ.”]
I Pushed out with my mind to read the rooms ahead for any electronic defenses. The familiar disconnect between mind and body came, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first time I’d done it. We could still Sense and infiltrate electronics like we had with the Chip in, but there had been a notable decrease in how much we could manipulate them.
I Felt three remote turrets ahead, but there were probably even more surprises I couldn’t pick out. I relayed what I found to the others.
[“You guys get that?”] I asked Vaness and Jess. They nodded. Derek looked between us. He sighed over the comms.
“Out loud, guys, out loud. I can’t hear you when you do your little voodoo speak. I’ve been here for almost three weeks. You have to have figured that out by now.”
“Sorry, Derek,” I said, simultaneously being annoyed at him and myself. “Three turrets, at least, up ahead. With that kind of defense I’m guessing the targets are just beyond.”
“They have an escape route?” Jess said.
“Yes,” Vaness said. “This hallway comes to a stairwell. Schematics say it runs from the roof all the way to the basement. They can just escape the other way as soon as they hear the turrets going.”
I flipped my DarkStar rifle to stun. “Then let’s get to the door quick and make sure they don’t do that.”
Jess pulled a Decimator grenade from a slot in her armor, primed it, and lobbed it around the corner towards the electronic signatures of the turrets. A second later it was followed by a massive concussive boom.
We were moving.
“Contact ahead left!” Vaness said. I spotted the single blinking red dot she was talking about a second before the turret opened fire. Bullets crawled up the floor towards us. The hallway became a cacophony of gunfire as my team returned fire, and in no time the turret was down. The other two had already been felled by Jess’ well-aimed Decimator.
Just past the blackened hole in the floor left by the grenade was the door we were looking for. As we approached, a single head popped out, saw us coming, and ducked back inside with a yelp.
I grinned. There were many things I didn’t like about war and fighting, but bringing former criminals to justice was an unexpected perk I kinda enjoyed.
I took another step. The Sense tickled my mind with unease. I froze. I knew to listen to it when it did that. We’d missed something.
Then from above came the whisper of metal against metal. The brush and shiver of mechanized wings.
“Bats!” I yelled, diving to the floor as the first of the metallic monstrosities dropped from the ceiling.
Bats weren’t real bats. Obviously. They were a type of anti-infantry mine with a tendency to latch onto the ceiling of any given structure and wait to strike. So while troops’ eyes were on the ground, the Bats would swoop from above to latch onto a poor sucker’s face with their metallic claws. Then explode.
Vaness had dropped into a crouch and peppered the first Bat right through the membranous plasma wing. The wing frizzed, shuddered, then the Bat dropped. All of us rolled out of the way as it landed and detonated, spewing molten metal and slag everywhere.
Three more came behind us. I was Aware of Jess’ position in relation to mine. I shifted to cover her back while she brought two of them down in two clean hits.
The last Bat went straight for Derek’s face. To his credit, Derek kept his cool where most men would have screamed. He fired. Once. Twice. Both missed. The Bats were small. If we hadn’t been enhanced I’m sure we would have had more trouble hitting them, too.
I Sensed Jess and Vaness turn to the final Bat the same time I did. We all pulled the trigger. The Bat erupted in flames. Derek covered his face as flaming remnants showered over him. The hallway settled into silence once more.
“Thanks,” Derek managed. He stood and kicked aside a scorched piece of metal. “Thought that was the one right there.”
“They all seem like that.”
Jess and Vaness stood as one and faced the doors again. I waited for my team to get on either side of them. Then I rapped on the wood.
“Knock knock, this is the big, bad wolf—”
Thankfully I’d stepped out of the way the second I’d knocked. I wasn’t an idiot. Wood flakes sprayed everywhere as bullets tore through it, peppering the opposite wall.
“What, they don’t like house guests?” Derek said.
“It appears that way,” I said. I looked for an alternate route in. My eyes roved to the ceiling where the Bats had hung not ten feet above us. The ceiling was tiled. Moveable. Perfect. “Vaness, door breach maneuver.”
Jess tossed her rifle down, kneeled, and laced her hands beneath her to form a step. In one easy move she hefted Vaness to the ceiling where she burst through the tile and pulled her way up into the vents.
Jess picked up her rifle and leaned against the doorframe, waiting. “I could have done that, too.”
I kept one ear against the wall of the room, listening for our cue to move. I almost didn’t answer her. But that would only have delayed the inevitable.
“I know you could have. But I wanted Vaness to.”
“Alyx, this and the Rin-Pac formation. If this is about protecting—”
“Are we really fighting about this now?” Derek asked. “I mean, if you’re de-stressing, that’s one thing—”
“Vaness’s in,” I said, for once thankful for the temporary distraction of battle. My statement was backed up by startled cries from inside. I rushed the doors and they crumpled inwards, already unstable from the bullet holes in them.
The room was smaller than the others and in complete chaos. My eyes shot to the men barricaded behind tables set along the left wall, then to Vaness firing at them from the ceiling.
I took a step inside a second before I was Aware of Jess’ panicked warning in my mind. A faint beep came from my left. The faint beep of a Trip Trap a second before it went off.
My enhanced reflexes saved me. And, ok, maybe my armor did, too.
I leapt away from the explosion, but the concussion still kicked my spine and blew me forward into the wall at the far side of the room. I heard an ungraceful ‘umph’ as Jess landed beside me.
“You okay?” I asked, shaking myself off and reaching for her. She ignored my gesture and grabbed her rifle.
“Fine. We still got live ones.”
The blast had stunned our targets, too. One was still trying to shoot us but it was obvious he was disoriented, judging by the number of shots he was putting in the wall five feet over my head.
In a few large strides Jess and I covered the room and leapt over their makeshift barricade. The men’s startled faces were almost comical. The ones still moving dropped their weapons when we pointed our rifles at them.
“Good choice,” I said.
Vaness joined us from the ceiling and swept the room for any more traps. I pulled up the mission report on my HUD and matched the names and faces of those in front of us against those in the file report.
“This is them. Good job, guys.”
One of the men on the ground spat blood. Half his face had been pretty badly singed from the Trip Trap blast, but it was still easy for me to recognize the man who had tormented me and my family not even a year ago.
“The Captain,” I said in disbelief.
He spit again, then pushed himself up and squinted at me.
“That’s what they call me. What’s it to you?”
“Nothing, really,” I said. “Just an old friend dropping by for a visit.” I retracted my helmet, relishing the look of surprise on his face.
Then he laughed, which turned into coughing blood. “Ah, the guttergrunt whose pretty mom still owned the home in Greenlake. How much things have changed in a short time, eh? I suppose now you’re going to beat me like I did you? Make me pay for all the wrongs I’ve done?” He spat at my feet. “Go ahead. I can take it. And then when the EA comes back you’ll get yours.” He tilted his chin to the side. “Come on. Right here. Lay one on me.”
I almost did. The old me would have; the man who had been driven by anger because he’d been starving and desperate and stuck with dreams too big and no way to make them reality.
But a lot had happened in the last year. I’d found people and friends worth fighting for; I’d found purpose in them. I wasn’t going to waste my energy on the likes of men like the Captain.
“Derek!” I called. The Captain flinched. Coward. “You brought the handcuffs. Slap some on these clowns and let’s call in the extraction.”
Derek was silent.
“Yo, Derek, let’s tag ‘n bag, not just sit around…”
Jess and Vaness turned with me to look back at where Derek should have been. He lay face down in the center of the room, blood seeping from shrapnel embedded in his back.
“Crap! Vaness, MedPAC!”
I left Jess guarding the men and rushed to Derek’s side.
I resisted turning him over, but instead peeled away the chunky parts of his armor obscuring the worst of the damage. I’d been so caught up in the attack I hadn’t bothered to check his vitals. I’d never needed to with Jess and Vaness; I Knew when they were hurt or in trouble.
Vaness’ fingers flew over him, simultaneously tender and efficient. Her experience in the Arena had taught her how to fix many of the worst in-field injuries I’d seen. But this was beyond what she could do with a simple MedPAC and a roll of SmartGuaze. She patched up what she could.
“No more,” I said quietly. “I’m telling Hawthorn no more fourth man. I can’t watch another one die. They’re too much of a liability.”
The Captain just laughed.
I hit my comms for the DropShuttle that should have been circling around outside for us.
“DropShuttle 46, mission complete, but we have a critically wounded teammate. Bringing up prisoners and wounded for immediate evac.”
“You hurt another one of my men?” A familiar voice replied. But it wasn’t my DropShuttle pilot. It was Lucas Albright, President Hawthorn’s Head of Security. “Seriously, Alyx, I think you break more of our men than the EA does.”
“What are you doing here, goop?” Vaness cut in.
“Get your butts up here,” Lucas said. “We’ve got a big problem.”