If Nadir is behind the sabotage, why would he put Blakey at risk, Paul wonders? The circumstantial evidence seems overwhelming. There’s the meeting before leaving Bolaris, Blake’s history as a Garan POW, and the detonator in Blake’s toolbox. Then Blake conveniently forgot to turn on the stealth generator when he left Ship in the mining rig, and someone has informed the authorities about their presence.
If the evidence is so overwhelming, why does it feel wrong, Paul thought. Someone is playing us here, and if it’s not a crewmember then…
An alarm sounds making the men gaze up the long hole and sigh. “What now?” Paul groans.
They looked at each other fed up with the whole operation, make their way out of the mine, and go to the control room to see what’s happening. On the monitor, they can see a long line of trucks heading toward them, still around thirty kilometers away. Several helicopters are flying toward the area as well. The images come from several recon drones hovering above.
“We’ve got company,” Blake said slumping into a chair.
“Fuck it. All we need is another twenty-four hours, and we’re outta here,” Paul said wiping the sweat from his brow. The intercom beeps, and Colonel Nadir appears on the monitor.
“Yeah, Colonel … We’re watching it as well,” Paul said shaking his head.
“They organized much sooner than I expected. What’s your status?” Nadir asks, a frown playing across his wrinkled face.
“We’ve just started the cutter,” Blake said.
“I don’t think they’ll begin searching for us until daybreak,’ Paul said. “I suggest we activate a Y-field, which should buy us more time.”
“I agree,” Nadir said. “I’ll monitor things from here while you two get some sleep. Nadir out.”
Paul hit a switch that activates the Y-field and set the range to twenty-five kilometers. Y-field’s are modified electromagnetic pulses causing any electronic devices to stop functioning in the area it covers. The reason for its name comes from the question that enemies ask when they encounter this field. Nothing works, despite what enemies try to do to fix their equipment, because the pulse keeps recurring. When the Y-field activates, a helicopter flying inside the range of the pulses falls to the ground exploding in a massive fireball.
“Ooh, that’s gonna hurt,” Paul said to Blake as the helicopter crashes.
“Serves ‘em right,” Blake said coldly. “At least now we can get some shut-eye before we have to lift that fucking crystal sphere out.”
Blake pushes himself to his feet with a grunt. After a quick bite to eat and a wash, they bed down feeling weary all over. Their muscles ache, and bones creak. The mining rigs sleeping area is a dorm with antigrav beds stacked on the floor. Paul climbs on one and hits a button, and it floats toward the ceiling. Blake does the same, and eventually, the lights go out.
After about fifteen minutes, Blake said, “Major, you awake?”
Paul inwardly groans. “What’s the matter, Blakey?”
“Do you really believe Nadir and me are trying to kill you?”
Paul sighs. “As I told the Colonel, it’s not up to me to make judgments. I just gather the evidence.”
“Don’t bullshit me, Major. You think we’re out to get ya, don’t ya?”
Blake rolls over so he can see Paul.
“I don’t want to discuss it.”
“Nothing worse than thinking people you should be able to trust, are nothing but traitors. I know how that feels,” Blake said, rolling on his back and looking up at the ceiling.
“You mean Major Moyse?” Paul’s interest suddenly peaks.
Blake falls silent for a moment. “Man, when I first met that guy he was like everything I thought being a marine was about. Here was me the ‘FNG,’ looking to find his place in his first posting. Major Moyse was the marines poster boy and as dazzling as a supernova.”
“I never knew him,” Paul said.
“Yeah, he disappeared, so no one saw the real Major Moyse, except me,” Blake said quietly.
“Greeters like Moyse are not that uncommon,” Paul said, “and the EMC does encourage new recruits to idolize them. You’re not the first marine to realize the pitfalls of working with an egotistical Greeter.”
“Moyse was a man that got his fame by riding on the work of others. Taking credit for stuff he had no right to.”
Paul laughs. “You can only get away with that shit for so long, even a Greeter.”
Blake rolls over looking at Paul again. “He had a way with people, you know. He could take all the credit for your work, and you’d give it up gladly thinking you done a good thing. He was a total con man.”
Paul shrugs. “Most are good, and sacrifice a lot for the EMC and our survival.”
“Yeah?” Blake said making Paul feel nervous. “Most Greeters I’ve known since I was a POW have been total assholes to me. I guess they didn’t like me speaking out about Moyse.”
“No, I don’t think that’s it.”
“Oh, why then?” Blake asks.
“I think you wanted to take out what you say Moyse did to you on every Greeter you came across since then,” Paul said calmly. “Your constant undermining, disrespect, and snide comments is what has set those Greeter’s against you. You went looking for enemies, and you found them. No one gives a shit about Moyse, except you.”
“So you’re saying it’s my fault?” Blake said harshly in his deep voice. “Fuck you, Major.”
“You asked, Captain, so suck it up,” Paul said rolling on his side.
After a moments silence, Blake said in a soft voice, “It doesn’t matter what you think of me, but I swear on my life, the Colonel and I have nothing to do with the sabotage.”
Paul wonders if Blake’s trying to soften him with this heart-to-heart. He has barely said anything to him since they started the operation. As much as he’d like to believe what Blake said, Paul knows he can’t relax around these men, even if they are innocent of the sabotage.
This is an excerpt for the eBook, buy the story to read the whole thing. Downloadable in Epub, Mobi (kindle) & PDF versions. Approx 13,000 words.