Strike of Muse

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This short story is told from the perspective of a Marine Sergeant from the Sol System Conglomerate as he leads his squad to extract some Executives from a Techron (a hostile synthetic A.I. race bent on human extinction)facility deep behind enemy lines. But the best laid plans never work out the way they are supposed to.

Submitted: April 02, 2015

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Submitted: April 02, 2015

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Strike of Muse

A Homeworld: Conflict Short Story

By: Edward Clyde

 

 

Operation Spec.’s

 

Sol System Standard Date: May 6th, 2350

Time: 2350 Hours

Location: Galactic Sector Tango-Zeda 9 (Techron Occupied)

Ship: S.S.C. Grendel

Classification: Rankov Class Stealth Corvette

Flight Commander: Lt. Joshua Mince #3775-L3

Operation Commander: Sgt. Victor Parks #4896-S2 (Call Sign: Primer)  



 

Journal of Operation’s Commander, Sergeant Victor Parks #4896-S6


There are few things in this galaxy I hate more than waking up from cryosleep.  The immediate and uncontrollable regurgitation of the Synth-O Gel in your lungs and stomach, the same stuff used to keep you from getting freezer burn in cryo-sleep, and the deep chill that lingers in your bones almost makes the job not worth it.  But hell, you can’t beat the pay unless you go executive, and thats not even an option for someone like me.  I don’t exactly have the patience or bureaucratic wherewithal that those chosen few Executives are graced with.  The one thing I can say without a doubt is, while the Executives don’t bother me, they are the ones dishing out the orders to deal with the one thing I hate more than cryosleep, the Techron.  And for that I love those posh stuck up assholes.

Its been one hundred and thirty years since the Techron achieved a state of true Artificial Intelligence and became self-aware.  I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone knows, why the servitor robots and military robots all rose up and declared war on humans.  Maybe they developed some sick perverted kind of self preservation, or maybe they just decided they didn’t like cleaning up our messes.  Frankly I don’t care what their reasoning was, once they started attacking the people of Earth and the Sol System Conglomerate it was open season on those inorganic bucket heads.  I lost a lot of good friends to those junk bots, and every one of them I get to take out makes me feel a little better.

Nothing made me hate the Techron more than this past mission; it truly demonstrated how depraved and sadistic a computer’s mind is.  The Techron had captured a Sol System transport shuttle near the galactic system boarder.  The shuttle was carrying a six man Gen-Mod Marine squad (Genetically modified superior soldiers), three flight operators, two service personnel, and four high level Executives.  Up to this point live capture of humans by the Techron had been an extremely rare occurrence (one out of a million assaults, if that).  But this time, three of the Gen-Mods and three of the Executives internal Bio-Sync’s had reported they were alive and only under minimal physical/psychological stress.  

The mission was pretty cut and dry, sneak in using a stealth corvette with minimal crew, enter the facility where the Executives are held, and extract them.  Secondary objective was to collect any data stored at the facility.  And of course, looking at how Executives value their soldiers, the tertiary objective was to extract any surviving Gen-Mods that were alive, assuming it doesn't interfere with the primary or secondary objectives.  Asshole Executives think of us as expendable assets that can easily be replaced, but with cloning of soldiers being the primary enlistment force they are not wrong.  The way they see things is it costs more to send a rescue mission for captured soldiers than it does to simply clone new ones.

We had managed to slip through two occupied sectors thanks to the Grendel’s stealth systems, and to no small amount Lt. Mince’s (AKA: Mouser) flight skills, before arriving at our goal Sector Tango-Zeda 9.  The one star four planet system was under complete Techron control and was mostly uninhabitable for humans, the Techron’s choice planet type for military facilities.  One satellite planetoid around the third planet however, was a “Life Barring” or livable planet called Muse, that was our objective.

It wasn’t until we were within visual range of Muse that my unit and I were thawed out and briefed on the specifics of the mission.  Corporal Jensen, call sign Jester, was the first to sober up from the thaw, the guy had a knack for thawing fast.  Jester was the unit technician and comms officer, named for his inability to be serious, ever.  Jester was also my second in command if anything happened to me during mission, chosen because I had served with him the longest and I knew if anything happened to me he would get the rest of the unit out.

Corporal Zhang, call sign Sapper, was the oldest and most seasoned member of the unit, noticeable by the slight greying of his hair.  He was the unit demolitions expert, and I’ll be damned if that guy didn’t like to blow stuff up.  Most of the missions I had been on with him he remained stoic and reserved, at least until he got to blow something up. Sapper could rig an explosive in the time it took to blink an eye, and when it went off he would giggle quietly to himself.  Something was more than a little off with the guy, but standing over two meters and weighing in at just over one hundred twenty kilograms nobody wanted to tell him he was fucked in the head.

The last three members of the unit were new to the squad: Private Jasmine Harrison or “Dame”, reconnoissance and the only female member of the team; Private Gonzalez or “Gonzo”, unit medic; and finally Private Johnson or “Dong”, infantry and gunner.  The three were the surviving members of another team and allocated to my command for this mission, and probably would become permanent members, if they make it through mission.

Once everyone regained their wits, ate some protein bars, and drank their share of Synth-Coffee (now thats some nasty stuff) I gave the mission briefing (captured on digi-log recorder):

“Alright listen up! Jester get your boots off the table! Our mission is a simple one this time, but don’t let that go to your heads I am sure there will be enough gun fighting to get your rocks off.  Our target is a Techron facility on the third planets moon, Muse.  The planet has breathable atmosphere and near earth gravity.  We are to infiltrate the facility and extract the three Executives being held there, thats the primary object.  Secondary we download any data we can find and thirdly we liberate any captured Gen-Mods.

We are allotted a thirty minute window to get the executives out and complete the other two objectives if possible.  If not, we are under orders from Corporate to evacuate with the Executives as they are top priority.

Initial scans show the facility is lightly guarded on the perimeter and has two Destroyer Class Techron units guarding the only visible access point to the facility.  Heavy munitions are approved to remove those two giant bucket heads.  Four Hunter-Killer units patrol on coordinated intervals.  Even though they are not a big deal to trash, lets try and steer clear of them, I would rather play it safe if possible.  

The facility entrance is a level three reinforced blast door.  If we dispose of the Destroyers quickly and can give Jester a chance to hack the door, all the better.  If we get stuck in a prolonged gunfight, Sapper, you are to use plasma charges to get us through the door.  

Once inside we split into two teams.  Team Alpha will consist of myself, Jester, Dame and Gonzo.  Alpha Team will infiltrated the secure areas of the facility and secure the packages.  Once packages are secured they will proceed to the extraction point three hundred meters to the south of the facility and call for pick up.

Team Bravo will consist of Sapper and Dong.  Dong you are to secure the entrance and provide active cover for Sapper.  Sapper you lay whatever charges you can in the kill zone outside the facility to give us a clear extraction path and take out any responding Techron.  Once Team Alpha reunites at the entrance we all head to the extraction point, with Bravo providing rear guard for the group.  

Because we are deep in a Techron controlled system, our extraction window once the ship arrives is seventy-five seconds till dust off.  No stragglers, orders are we dustoff with the package regardless if you made it back or not.  Any questions or concerns?”

I received the usual battery of bullshit questions from the unit and smartass commentary from Jester.  I know this was the way they blew off steam before the mission, same routine every time.  I allowed it to continue for a few minutes before I dismissed them to check their gear and suit up.  

After having a few words with Lt. Mince about the drop and dust off specifics to make sure we were on the same page, I headed to the Armory to check my equipment.  Since all issued gear is coded to with DNA locks and only the person it is issued to can use it, so I know no one tampered with my gear.  Not unless they wanted one hundred thousand volts to fry them to a crisp.  But three months is a long time in cryosleep, and checking my gear gave me a renewed sense of normalcy.

I striped down my issued MK-900 Pulse Rifle and oiled all the moving parts to make sure everything was in working order for when I needed it.  The 10mm shaped charge rounds could blow a fist sized hole in almost any target its fired at, and it does a number on enemy shields because of the dispersed blast damage.  With a rate of fire of twenty rounds per second any target down range was just a pile of scrap waiting to happen.

Once the pulse rifle was oiled and rebuilt I inspected my Reactor Infiltrator Body Armor.  As part of any marine’s training in basic we have to learn how to completely build and repair the armor from the ground up incase it was damaged.  The Reactor Infiltrator, or just Infiltrator, armor wasn’t as heavily armored as the standard Infantry or the walking tank style of the Juggernaut class armor.  What it did have though was a high level inertia damping shield system, for reducing impact of enemy weapons fire, and an active camo system able to reduce visual and electronic sensor detection to nearly zero.  The synthetic muscle system allowed an average marine to increase his strength and speed by nearly three times what they could normally do.  The armor’s sealed systems and HUD allowed for operation in any environment or atmosphere.  

After finishing with the Infiltrator armor I finalized my inspection and read down the issuing checklist: one 50 cal semi-automatic Regulator sidearm, three high explosive plasma grenades, two emergency Medi-Sticks, one set of under armor fatigues, and one monofilament survival knife.  Everything a marine needs to complete a mission.  Some of the others had some specialized equipment to get their jobs done, but we all had our standard issuing checklist.

With all our gear checked and in working order, we donned our armor and strapped on our gear.  I stood by the door and gave the ceremonial slap to the helmet for good luck to each of the marines under my command as they entered the loading bay and their respective Drop Pods.  I entered mine last, once I checked that everyone else was locked in, and locked my armor into place.  The Drop Pod’s armor locking system would ensure none of us turned into paste when we made landfall at nearly terminal velocity.  



 

The Drop


We call it “The Drop”, but that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what it is like to be fired out of an orbiting spaceship on to hostile planet.  First of all, the pods aren't “dropped” from the ship, they are fired at the planet like some kinda homing missile at a ridiculous speed I don’t even want to think about.  They, the scientist that invented the system, say that firing the pod at the planet’s surface removes the chance of missing the landing zone and reduces the chances of being shot out of the air.  I would love to see one of those techies try the damn things out, their hearts would probably explode, right after they pissed their pants.

The armor locking system in the pod kept us from being banged around during the drop.  But, you could still feel the inertia build up when you get fired out the drop barrell.  That kickstarts your adrenaline high for the trip down.  The next step doesn't happen till you hit the atmosphere, thats when the pod starts firing the gyro-sync jets to slow the descent to a survivable level and guide it to its intended target.  It feels like pumping the brakes on a car going two hundred kilometers per hour.

The windowless pod reduces the heat build up inside passenger compartment, and as a bonus keeps you from freaking out thinking your going to die.  But when you finally do hit ground the armor lock system really kicks in and prevents you from breaking every bone in your body.  Still hurts like a bitch though.

This drop was no different from any other I had endured.  So far everything was on point and, as the Operations Supervisor for the mission, I could see the vitals were good on everyone else once we hit the dirt.  The shape charge explosives set inside each of our pods fired their respective pod entry doors a good fifteen meters from the pod and the armor lock system disengaged, allowing us our first glimpse of Muse.


 

The Infiltration


Muse was a green world, nearly completely covered with the indigenous plants that resembled green and blue colored mushrooms.  A thick layer of yellow moss laid a golden carpet for this odd world.  Thankfully the data file said that none of plant or animal life on the planet was toxic or a threat to us.  But being on a Techron controlled world, none of us wasted anytime turning on our active camo and blending into the surroundings.  Nearly invisible to even each other, we had to rely on our HUD systems in our helmets to tell us where others were with a transparent call sign tag over their location.

I did not want to waste any time getting into the facility, I ordered Dame to take the lead as the recon officer and gave her a twenty meter lead.  Once Dame reported it was clear to follow we hit the ground hard and fast, relying on our active camo systems to cover our sound and visible passage.

We covered most of the ground quickly and without encounter.  When my HUD read Dame to be about two hundred meters from the target entrance she called for us to hold over the comm.  We all took what cover we could and held our positions.  I asked for a status update from Dame.  She reported a Hunter-Killer to be ten meters ahead of her and to her right.

I was hoping to avoid engaging any hostiles until we reached the facility, but you know what they say about the best laid plans… they go to shit.  The meter wide disc shaped robot would not pose too much of a threat as long as she took it out quickly.  The monofilament edge of the disc and the anti-gravity propulsion system allowed it to fly through most light armored personnel and cut them in half. They also have a short range auto targeting laser that wreaked havoc on personal shield systems.  Damn things could really mess your day up, thankfully they didn’t have very good shielding.

I gave the order for everyone to switch from full auto to burst fire to conserve what ammunition we could and gave Dame the order to take the Hunter-Killer out.  Half a heartbeat later we could hear her weapon belching out rounds followed by the explosions of the shape charge rounds detonating on target.  Dame reported the target was down almost before her weapon stopped firing, I guess her outstanding rifle qualification scores in her file were accurate.

The sound of the weapons fire and the destruction of one of the Techron’s Hunter-Killers made any semblance of stealth, other than the active camo systems, a useless idea.  Dame waited for us to reach her location to proceed to the target.  The rest of us double timed it toward the target entrance, Dame joined in the run as we passed her.  As we neared the clearing around the facility I chanced a glance at the mission timer, it showed four minutes and nine seconds so far.  We were still within operational guidelines.

Seeing the clearing ahead Sapper switched weapons, to his issued 40mm grenade launcher.  The shrapnel blast from the grenade rounds were great for knocking out heavier armored Techron shields.  And standing at three and a half meters tall and armed with a particle cannon on one arm and an anti-personnel laser on the other, you don’t get much bigger or heavily armored than the Techron Destroyers, at least as far as their infantry units.

This time proved to be no exception to that rule.  The two glossy black Destroyers stood like giant monoliths, scanning the clearing for any sign of opposing forces. The three red colored lenses on their heads could scan almost every spectrum of light, they could even detect major distortions.  At best, the active camo was going to give us a few seconds once we broke into the clearing.  

Sapper hit the clearing first and caught the two Destroyers off guard with the first 40mm grenade placed perfectly between the two.  Blue light danced across the Destroyer’s frames as the shrapnel started chewing up their shields and they staggered a step away from the explosion to regain their balance.  The rest of us hit the clearing in an expanding fan formation to create distance between ourselves and keep the Destroyer’s from targeting more than one of us with their particle cannons and opened fire before their shields could regenerate.  

Three of us fired on the left target, while the other three were trained on the right one to bring down their shields faster.  The tactic works well to focus fire, but is not perfect by any standards, and this time proved to be an imperfect demonstration of it.  The Destroyer on the right got a lucky shot off with it’s particle cannon before it went down and scored a direct hit on Dong.  Even with the inertia shields in place Dong didn’t stand a chance against a direct hit, his vitals flatlined on my HUD before the flash of the explosion dissipated.

The rest of us continued working on the two Destroyers, not even bothering to look back at where Dong had been.  Chances were if you look back in a situation like that, you're the next one to get fragged.  The one on the left fell first with it’s chest plate blasted apart from Jester’s pulse rifle.  Half a second later the one on the right fell from one of Sappers 40mm grenades hitting it right as it’s shields shattered.  None of us looked back at what we were sure was the mutilated corpse that was once Private Johnson, we knew what we were getting into and didn’t need a reminder.

With one man down, I made the decision to have Dame remain with Sapper at the entrance while he set the field charges for our exit route.  It shorted me one gunner to clear the facility, but if we did not have an exit strategy the whole mission was pointless.  Since the firefight took a full twelve seconds longer than the operations guideline, Sapper set the plasma charges on the facilities blast door entrance.  We all took cover to the side of the doors as the charges were set off, both to prevent us from being hit with any enemy fire from the other side of the door and to shield us from the heat.  With the heat of the four plasma charges, each the equivalent of a small sun, the meter and a half thick door had a passable entrance bored through it in no time.


 

Building Clearing

Jester, Gonzo, and I entered the facility once the opening cooled enough so it would not burn a hole in our armor if we touched the edges.  It was a smaller facility, only about nine hundred square meters, which is assumingly why it had so few units guarding it.  Even though the building was smaller than some of the other facilities I had broken into in the past, the Dura-Steel walls and floors made pinpointing the location of the executives impossible for our HUD sensors.  That left standard room clearing our only means of finding our objectives, and with just over twenty minutes we were barely within our time frame, which was making me feel uncomfortable with the whole mission.

Being team leader and the most proficient with my pulse rifle I reloaded and took point.  Jester and Gonzo followed me and parallel each other so we formed a triangle entering the brightly lit hallway, this prevented any of us from sucumbing to friendly fire by firing to either side of the point man.

The sterile feeling that the dura-steel hallway and the bright white lighting created made me feel as if we were walking into a morgue.  The sense of dread only built as we cleared each of the rooms in the entrance corridor.  The thought that an autopsy could be being conducted on the other side of the door we were approaching at the end of the hallway almost made me visible shiver with revulsion.  Now that I am thinking back on the mission, I wish it was something as simple as an autopsy.

When we reached the door we pivoted the our formation to allow Jester to be the closest to the door.  The man might have been a goof, but he was brilliant at hacking through Techron firewalls.  As was standard for a Techron facility there was no access panel or proxy reader to enter the door, only a single small circular lens at the top of the door frame.  The doors were opened wirelessly by a signal sent from the Techron trying to enter.  This system worked as a double edged sword for us.  The wireless signal made for easy access from a covered position, but sending out the signal also alerted any Techron in range to the system breach.  

Once the security door was opened, with no small amount of swearing form Jester, we could see the heart of the facility.  The facility's main floor was a large open area with six cell like rooms on each side of the building.  The back wall was completely taken up by what looked like a large computer terminal with holographic screens.  For almost a full second I stared dumbfounded at the monstrous computer I thought I would never see, it was an Id.

Id’s are the brains of any Techron unit, but are rarely ever seen and even more rarely destroyed.  They are called Id’s because they have supposedly achieved an even higher level of consciousness than their more mobile brethren, they were individuals.  The Id’s were the real threat behind the Techron, they were the reason the Techron units continued to improve beyond their initial design and could operate in sometimes illogical ways.  Nobody, at least nobody I am aware of, knows how many Id’s there are or even how they truly work.  Our standing orders for dealing with one was to destroy it on sight and bring back whatever we could.

Of course the Id wasn’t alone though.  The room was filled with robotic arms and what appeared to be metal operating tables. On five of the operating tables were two of the Executives and the three remaining Gen-Mods.  They were all strapped to the tables by metal restraint bars so thick even the Gen-Mods modified strength couldn’t stand a chance to break free, even if they were conscious.  The robotic arms were poised over each of their head and micro fine filaments could be seen stretching toward their head when the light caught the wires just right.

All the specifics of their status had to wait to be determined until after we dealt with the two rapidly approaching Hunter-Killers.  The twin deadly discs needed very little imagination to determine our approximate location with the door standing open and began firing their anti-personnel lasers through the doorway.  The red beams of light scorched through the air around us as I rushed into the room and took cover behind one of the empty medical tables.  Jester and Gonzo stayed behind and used the door frame as cover.

The Hunter-Killers zoomed closer to the table, expertly dodging the cover fire provided by Jester and Gonzo.  A lucky shot from Gonzo sent one of them careening off into one of the walls where it detonated in a small explosion.  I took the chance to come out of cover and take out the remaining threat.  For my valiant, all be it stupid, effort I was greeted with a solid blast from it’s laser that took out my shields, but thankfully stopped it from punching a hole in my right shoulder.  Even though the armor held, I could already feel the blisters from a third degree burn start forming where the laser’s heat was able to seep through.

I grit my teeth and switched the pulse rifle to full auto, relying on a barrage of bullets to take out the rapidly approaching Hunter-Killer before it could cut me in half.  I was rewarded with a mid-air explosion of the flying scrap heap only meters away from me.  It was a little close for comfort, but other than the third degree burn in my shoulder I was able to avoid any major damage up to that point.  But time was running out, mission parameters would only allow us five more minutes before we cut into the the extraction time.  

A holographic three meter tall face appeared in front of the Id’s computer banks.  The voice that accompanied its appearance sounded like a stuck up executive that over enunciated every word.  “Sol System Conglomerate forces, your continued assault on this facility and myself is pointless.  Since your first detection on the perimeter reinforcements were summoned and will be responding before can leave the premises.  Your remaining five soldier team will be no match for the responding forces.”  The holographic face seemed to be staring us down as if we were insignificant nuisances to it.

I don’t usually make profound statements, but in this case I had to make an exception.  “You might be right, it might be pointless to continue.  But you know what buckethead… I’m really going to enjoy taking you apart!”  I unloaded the rest on of the loaded magazine into the Id in front of me.  Its shield was far more resilient than the more mobile Techron we had encountered outside, taking the thirty some rounds I fired at it as if it was nothing.  

Jester called out a “Hell Yeah!” and followed my lead unloading two full magazines before between the two of us before the shield fell and the Id was exposed.  When the shield dropped the holographic face winked out of existence and my HUD registered an extremely high level data burst being sent off world in the blink of an eye.  The lights on the Id started going out, damn shitbox had uploaded its software, or identity, to some sight off world.  But that wasn’t going to stop me from reducing its physical form to a to a pile of scrap metal.  


 

The Betrayal

While Jester and I finished dismantling the Id’s mainframe, Gonzo started med-scanning the five members of the Sol System Conglomerate that were on the tables.  The robotic arms at each of the tables lay lifeless to either side of the victims.  Gonzo reported that the micro fine filaments extending from the robotic arms had appeared to have entered the brains of the subjects by entering the orbital socket and following the optic nerve.  Gonzo also reported that each of the subjects scans showed a buildup of foreign nanomachines that appeared to the scanner to be carrying mico explosives.  The Id had converted the two executives and three Gen-Mods into walking bombs that would be nearly undetectable to anything but a medical scanner.

It wasn’t the first time something like this had been reported to have happened, but that didn’t make it any less sick.  The Techron didn’t care what they did to us, the only thing they seemed to care about was winning the war.  On that front, at least, I can understand the bucketheads mindset.  No one wants to be on the losing side of a when slavery and extinction are the second place prizes.

Since the procedure could not be reversed without causing the nano charges to detonate and taking out anyone within three meters, I gave the order to execute the five survivors before they could detonate,  Standard procedure dictated immediate termination of any employee classified as a defector, and this circumstance unfortunately ment they fell under the defection clause.  At least the poor bastards were unconscious and wouldn’t have to see their deaths coming.  Gonzo and I made short work of them with a single shot each to the head with our sidearms, a dignified way to go.

Jester started a quick visual scan of what was left of the Id’s mainframe for any salvageable parts for the R&D guys to examine.  He picked up a few things and secured them in a anti-static bag to prevent any viruses from jumping to his armor from the Id’s remains.  I was just about to call for us to pull out when Gonzo called over the comms that he found the third executive in one of the cells.  

With the Id gone, the doors to the cells were unlocked and we entered with weapons ready.  The executive was barely conscious and appeared dehydrated.  I kept my weapon trained on him in case he showed any signs of being weaponized like the others while Gonzo ran a bio-scan of the Executive.  Gonzo reported there was no sign of nanobots in his system and he was only suffering from a bad concussion.  

I gave Gonzo the okay to slap a emergency medical dermal patch on the Executive and told him to carry him out with us since it would take a few minutes to work.  As for my injuries, my armor had finally gotten around to administering a localized pain killer and enough endorphins to almost make me giggle.  Not exactly the optimal state to be in the field, but it beats being in pain any time I moved my arm or tried to shoulder my rifle.  

With Gonzo carrying the Executive over his shoulder we started working our way out of the facility.  It was just in time too, because it was right about then I heard Sapper over the comms, “Better move your ass Primer, I got hostiles inbound.”  I told Sapper to hold the entrance and we were on our way.  

By the time we reached the door we had only five minutes till extraction.  The Executive was starting to come around and open his eyes.  His speech was garbled and he wasn’t making any sense, I figured he just got his brain scrambled a little from the concussion.  Even though Gonzo reported no fatigue from carrying the Executive, I ordered Sapper to carry him the rest of the way to the extraction zone.  With the incoming enemy forces, neither was about to argue any order they were give.  

With the loss of Private Johnson, I changed the marching order for extraction.  Jester and I took the lead, with Sapper and the Executive behind us.  Dame and Gonzo provided rear cover and completed the rectangular formation with the asset in the center to provide him with the most cover we could provide.

As we ran through the narrow corridor Sapper provided us between his explosives, Techron infantry started coming around the far side of the building behind us.  They wasted little time acquiring us as targets and began opening fire with their anti-personnel lasers.  Lucky for us, we exiting the clearing as their weapons fire started tearing up our shields and the large fungal growths provided us enough cover to avoid taking any damage.  

Lt. Mince reported he was in sensor range and that he would reach the extraction point at the same time we would to allow for the longest possible extraction time.  I was glad to have some good news during this mission for a change.  Of course you know what they say, one step forward and three steps back.  Man was that ever a twisted way to describe what happened.  

Our HUD system detected the Techron were in pursuit, but that we were gaining distance from them with each passing second.  The audible explosions to our rear told us Sapper had done well in booby trapping the exit route and thinning enemy numbers. We could see the ship on our HUD’s as it made its rapid descent, the stealth systems on the ship prevented any visual sign of the ship approaching.  But when we broke into the clearing where the ship was to land, we all saw the cargo bay doors of the ship opening at nearly ground level.

Jester and I took positions on the loading ramp to provide cover for the rest of the group.  Thats when shit went all kinds of wrong.  

I remember seeing the Executive struggling fruitlessly to escape Sapper’s iron grip.  Sapper told him to knock it off and that we were here to rescue him.  The Executive stopped squirming and looked over Sapper’s other shoulder at the ship.  He stopped fighting then and suddenly had a weird kind of blank look come over his face.  I had barely enough time to think their was something wrong before it all went bad.

Sapper was only a few meters away when the Executive went slack in his arms.  But that was only a ruse.  The executive reached down and depressed the detonator on two of the plasma grenades on his lower back.  Before Sapper realized what had happened, the grenades went off in a blinding flash of white light.  Jester and I were at the far edge of the blast radius, but when it comes plasma it doesn't matter if you're hit with a lot or a little.  The last thing I remember was the burning, blinding light shattering my shields followed by the the immediate pain of my armor melting to my skin.  I can barely remember the sensation of falling, but never actually hitting the ground.


 

The Reconstruction

I was told I was placed directly into cryosleep as my injuries were too extensive to be addressed with by the ship’s physician and the equipment he had available.  I was taken back to Sol System space where I was treated for my injuries in a medical facility in one of Mars’ colonies.  They tell me I was in a medically induced coma during all the procedures they performed on me to prevent me from going into shock.  The total damage report when I finally got to read it a few minutes ago read like a shopping list:


 

Left and right arms - unsalvageable

Left leg - extensive damage, unsalvageable

Left and Right eyes - extensive heat damage, unsalvageable

Various internal organs (no shit it read exactly that) - ceased functionality, unsalvageable

Anterior Epidermis - extensive burn damage, unsalvageable


 

It took two months of being in a medically induced coma and countless surgical procedures to graft on and implant all the military grade cybernetic hardware and software into my body.  I can’t seem to get over how weird everything seems to feel now.  I can see every minute detail as if I was constantly staring out of a combat helmet’s HUD system.  I couldn’t feel anything when I touched it, but the data drive they put in my head told me I was touching something and if it was dangerous.  The chromatic appearance of my limbs made me think I was in some kind of movie.  I mean, I had heard of the Cyberware Modified Special Operations Division that handles the Zenaughts, a hostile xenomorphic race that attacked anything that came near their worlds, but never thought I would see a Cyber-Mod.  Let alone be one.

An executive wearing a black and white suit had come to inform me of “my current situation in reference to the Sol System Conglomerate Marine Forces,” her words not mine.  I was told all but Jester and I were killed in action and given posthumous promotions to their next highest rank.  

Jester had, among many other serious injuries, suffered significant brain damage and lost all short term memory outside of five minutes.  At least they had let him have an early retirement on Titan, one of Jupiter's moons and a vibrant civilian colony.  They were the lucky ones.

The Executive informed me that they believe the guy we were extracting had been subjected to a new type of procedure the Techron were beginning to implement.  The procedure involved a lot of scientific crap I didn’t understand and really didn’t care to.  The end result of it was the subject of these procedures had their minds physically reprogrammed by nano machines to destroy certain Sol System targets, but until they saw their target they would remain a sleeper agent and act completely normal to any situation happening around them.  The conditioning also removed the nanobots once it was completed so as to leave little to no trace of the procedure.  Evidently this guys target was a Sol System military ship, but the Executives believed the medical patch caused him to awaken and the sleeper program to activate earlier than intended.  After relaying this to me she made me sign a confidentiality agreement stating I would not tell anyone about the particulars of the mission or the Techron procedure at penalty of termination of employment.

As I was considered operations commander for this mission I was forced to take the penalty of a failed mission.  They considered it a failure because none of the Executives were successfully extracted, and no matter how much i argued that they were weaponized they considered me at fault.  As such, I was provided with my new cyber modifications and told I would have to provide service to the Marines until I could repay my debt for their cost (about one hundred and ten mission at my pay rate, if I lasted that long).

And as an added bonus (bonus… yeah right, more like a death sentence), I was to be reassigned to the Cyber Mod Special Ops. unit to deal with the Zenaught as my cyber modifications would be considered a liability if the Techron took control of it.  And she made sure to explain to me that this was all explained in my Marine Employment Contract and I should be happy I am able to carry on the fight to preserve the company and our way of life.  At this point I decided to change my view of executives, fuck’em all, and signed my continuation of service paperwork.  The alternative if I didn’t sign was they would remove all my modifications, including the internal artificial organs that were keeping me alive.  Not much of a choice there really.

Now that I have been medically cleared and learned how to use my cyberware, they are getting me prepared for cryosleep.  Once I am in the tube and frozen like a giant popsicle, they will ship me off to my new Cyber-Mod squad.  I lost a lot of good men that last mission.  I won’t make the same mistakes again.  I will protect my new unit or die trying, I refuse to lose anyone else.


 


© Copyright 2020 Edward Clyde. All rights reserved.

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