But not out of the woods. He felt the usual disorientation, slight nausea, and saw his companions affected by it too. Maia was retching. He'd heard that too many trips through could have adverse effects. Nothing he could worry about now though.
Hillier was directing traffic, some of the opposing soldiers had come through too. They had enemies before and behind them. But not everything was kosher in Ops. They had weapons pointed at them, but there was fighting going on, apparently, on the other side of the chamber. Gunfire, shouting. A scream as someone fell. Everyone instinctively ducked and sought cover.
One of the soldiers nearby was yelling. "Impostors! Commander Lansdale is a shapeshifter!" Heads turned and Hillier raised her weapon and shot him. Her soldiers closed ranks around her (and by extension Joon and Maia), while others, mostly those already in Ops, trained weapons on them. Nobody moved for a moment.
The fighting on the other side of the room escalated, and now more soldiers were coming through the Gate. Some carried crates or boxes, as Hillier had instructed them, but others came through shouting that Hillier was a shapechanger.
"I saw it change," a young soldier exclaimed. "It was a she, and then it was Lansdale!" he cried. He had his weapon trained on her. Hillier, for her part, had put on the lanyard, which she now held up.
"Bullshit. I'm Lansdale. We've got shapeshifters on the other side, trying to screw it up. I've got prisoners! Where's Rodriguez?"
No one knew what to do.
"You have to see this," Mallory exclaimed. Stella was irritated until she saw what was onscreen. They were looking at Ops through a surveillance monitor, and there was Joon. And Maia. Howie was floating behind them.
"Where the fuck is Hillier?" Stella muttered.
"I think... that's Hillier," replied Mallory, pointing to the commander who seemed to be in charge.
"That's Lansdale," Stella replied. "I didn't know he'd gone Faction. He's an asshole. I hope that bitch shot him."
Shooting had commenced. Everyone was shooting at everyone. Joon felt something sting his cheek. He had ducked down next to Hillier. One of their soldiers went down.
"Keep your head down," shouted Hillier as she raised her weapon above her head and fired indiscriminately.
"I am keeping my head down," Joon shouted back. Joon was firing tentatively- he'd never killed before (well, except for Sasquatches) but he thought maybe if he didn't see his shots connecting, he could pretend he wasn't a killer.
"Tell Howie to kill the power," he shouted at Maia.
"What? How will we see?" demanded Hillier.
Just then there was an explosion at the far side of the room. Some of the specimen tanks collapsed and greenish liquid started flooding part of the chamber. Troops were entering.
"Fuck this," cried Hillier. "With me," she commanded one of her troops, but a bullet took him out before he could comply. Joon followed Hillier as she army crawled over broken glass, and occasionally bodies, with Maia right behind. It was too late, though, the new arrivals were shooting everyone, and rapidly overhauling them.
Hillier kissed Joon on the lips.
She rose to take a shot, and... stopped.
The shooting had stopped.
Hillier was facing another officer, who had just changed form.
Lansdale became Hillier.
Hillier laughed, then embraced the other commander.
Hillier then turned and shot the two remaining soldiers with her.
She turned to Joon.
"You can take this fucking collar off."