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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1751214
Rated: E · Prose · Sci-fi · #1751214
For this novel, I drew inspiration from Star Wars, Halo, Project: Snowblind, and others.
         "Moon Outpost, this is Orbiter One. How copy? Over," a voice said over an intercom.
         "Orbiter One, this is Moon Outpost. Solid copy. Send your traffic. Over," another voice answered.
         "Moon Outpost, we are almost in position. Requesting permission to prep the drop crews. Over."
         "Orbiter One, our advance ground team is marking the target with an infrared designator now. Permission granted to prep drop crews, but negative on a launch. It isn't time yet. Over."
         "Moon Outpost, we're prepping the crews now. Orbiter One out."

         A large, round light beneath a fairly larger sign reading Man Stations suddenly burst into the bright, scarlet red characterized by all Bambonian military signs.
         "Everybody move! Get to your pods! Move! Move! Move," commanded an official-looking officer in a neat, clean, light blue officer's uniform. Several soldiers wearing heavily padded suits of olive, brown, and black armor trotted out of each of the three standby halls in semi-organized groups, all heavily armed with their standard issue AC-720 assault rifles, specially designed for their missions.
         They were all members of the ADAU, Advanced Drop Assault Unit, a special military group specially trained to drop directly from outer space to carry out their missions, as apposed to the rest of the Bambonian Empire's army, which used a various array of shuttles to deploy troops from one planet to another.
         "This is it," came a voice over the soldiers' helmet microphones. "Don't blow it." The voice was the voice of High Admiral Allison Kagaru, the commander of Terrestia Province's military forces, currently aboard her flagship, the B.S.S. Emergence, and also the current operations commander of the Moon Outpost.
         "Don't worry Ma'am. We won't let you down," the voice of the squad leader, Specialist Anthony Choman responded, voicing the thought that sprang through everyone's mind.
         Thirty men secured themselves into their drop pods, while equipment technicians began running system checks on the troops' various instruments and equipment. A few supply techs began filling equipment pods to keep the troops supplied with food, water, munitions, and medical supplies, all necessities when operating for an extended period in a hostile environment.
         "Men. This is it. The final day of reckoning. In fifteen minutes, all thirty of you will be on your way down to Earth, knowing that in the end, it all comes down to you. You, and your expertise with the weapon in your hands. What weapon you have doesn't matter. Statistics, data, probability, logic, reason. None of them matter. It's just you, and your decision. Do I live? Or do I die? It's up to you," began Second Lieutenant Timothy Donovan. "I hope you make the right one.
         "Your mission: infiltrate the Bambonian Empire's stronghold in Hong Kong, China, eliminate enemy anti-air weapons, artillery batteries, and other major hazards, and secure a drop zone for the main invasion force to relieve you," he instructed. "Are you all ready?"
         "Born ready!"
         "Then God be with you all!"

         Second Lieutenant Donavan was just arriving back on the bridge of the planetary orbiter Hellfire in time to request permission for the drop, as the target would soon be passed and their opportunity for the operation gone for another week.
         "Moon Outpost, this is Orbiter One. We have acknowledged the ground team's infrared designator, and are prepared to drop ADAU Squads One, Two, Three, and Seven. Standing by for orders."
         "Orbiter One, begin the drop sequence. Drop in T-30 seconds."
         "Acknowledged Moon Outpost. Beginning drop sequence. Drop in T-15 seconds," Donavan said. "T-10 seconds." Gently pressing on the call button on his throat mic, he ordered, "Squads, prepare for drop. in T-5 seconds."

         A small counter in each pod began ticking away the remaining time to the pod release. The hatchway on the front slammed close, the hiss of air being injected into the pod overpowering all other sounds. The timer reached 0, and a second later, read "D", signifying the pod's release. A loud clash similar to that of railroad car couplers crashing together resounded throughout the drop bay cavity as all thirty pods were released simultaneously and began plummeting toward Earth through the upper atmosphere.
         A few of the troopers began counting aloud, forgetting the other troopers could hear them over the pod intercom. The unspoken consensus was obviously one of indifference. The count helped the newer recruits to count the elapsed time from the drop to the impact on the surface of the target area.
         "Ten. Eleven. Tw-. Twe-. Twelve."
         "Trooper get hold of yourself."
         "I-. I-. I'm t-. t-. try-. trying to. This is m-. m-. This is my first drop, sir."
         "I understand. Try thinking of the Earth as a giant pillow. When we touch down, it'll cushion your fall. Maybe that'll help."
         The stuttering trooper did as he was told, and found it worked much better to calm his nerves.

         Thud! The various pods began hitting the ground, and the air pressure equalized instantly as the pod hatchways were kicked open and the troopers jumped out, rifles in hand.
         Silent.
         Much, much too silent.
         "Is it me, or is Hong Kong unusually quiet today," a newer recruit, Private Brandon Colliery asked through his helmet radio's mic.
         "Be quiet, and get over her. We're having a huddle."
         "Yes sir."
         Drawing a map in the dirt, Anthony was explaining that their best shot, following intelligence diagrams, was to patrol to a small access tunnel and begin operating in the maintenance tunnels to quietly eradicate the various weapons systems endangering their comrades waiting to land.
         "Everybody got it," he asked, tapping the outside edge of the map fiercely. Everybody nodded, and at last the order was given. "Move out!"

         The streets were still eerily quiet as a two of the troops, Private Colliery and Specialist Choman, made their way through the city of Hong Kong, China.
         "It's just way to quiet, sir. I'm having a really bad feeling about all this," Colliery said into his helmet mic.
         "Yeah. We all are Private. Let's just stay quiet, stay alert, and focus on getting our jobs done without any of us getting killed," Choman replied briskly. "Colliery, find some cover. I'm gonna go check something out."
         Colliery did as he was instructed, taking cover behind a large, green, industrial garbage bin. As he did so, Anthony raised his carbine to his shoulder, pressing his cheek against the rough, cold plastic of the weapon’s butt stock, and began patrolling a short distance across the street, diving into a thin, brick, ten-story office building.
         “Colliery, this is Choman. Get yourself into the building I’m in, meet up with me, and start sealing off hatchways. I think we’re going to have some company soon. We should make sure we have a nice welcoming ceremony in store for them,” came Anthony’s voice over their helmet mic, a small laugh escaping at the end.
         “Yes, sir,” came the young private’s response, and he began to follow the path Anthony had blazed, trying not to panic.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Ma’am, we’re picking up several hostile troops moving in the direction of Choman’s squad. Awaiting instructions,” came the voice of one of the officers manning the operator control monitors, whose job it was to monitor the area surrounding ground forces to give them early warning of approaching danger.
         “Don’t say anything. I know Anthony. I assure you, he already knows about the incoming troops, and he’s already settled in and preparing to fight them off. Have they transmitted a battle plan yet,” asked General Kagaru, her long, auburn hair smoothly waving through the air as she turned her head to respond to the officer.
         “Yes, Ma’am. Approximately an hour and a half after the drop, they submitted their plan.”
         “Could you give it to me, please?”
         “Yes, Ma’am. Here’s the file,” responded the officer, handing over a compact USB drive.
         Allison plugged it into the top of her handheld PDA and selected the battle plan file from the list of other files on the disk. She read over the information displayed to her.
         “Interesting. They’ve marked their first waypoint as being this small access hatch, yet most of them are spread out in a large ring. They must be breaking units off one at a time to move toward that hatch. I’d imagine so. Commander Neeson, pull up the tactical map for Hong Kong, China, Sector 7652. I want to know where they are now.”
         Commander Neeson was the captain of the Emergence, as well as head of the sector fleet, and he did his job well, having been through fifteen engagements aboard the Emergence alone. His stark white uniform glittered with several metals, ribbons, and other awards he’d won over the ages.
         A transparent blue display with several green dots, a yellow dot, and numerous red bars appeared on the main display screen. The green dots were in a circle formation around the yellow dot, but were much tighter. The only exception were two that appeared to be inside of a large tower on the opposite side of a row of red bars.
         “Commander, give me a 3-D holographic display,” Allison ordered. The commander immediately obeyed. “Focus in on that building with the two men not in the circle. The display zoomed in on the building, displaying the two figures on separate floors of a ten-story building, apparently waiting for the red bar nearest them to arrive at their position.
         “Communications, patch me through to the soldier on the lower floor,” Allison ordered.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         The dull thud of about fifty soldiers marching began to get louder.
         “Choman! What the hell do you think you’re doing,” came a very loud, irate voice.
         “Ma’am. You’ve got the wrong soldier. You’re speaking to Private Brandon Colliery. However, I think I can answer your question, if I may.”
         “It’s worth a shot. Alright, what’ve you got Private. Make it quick.”
         “Ma’am, Specialist Choman instructed us all to make our way towards the maintenance hatch. He brought me up into this building to help him keep overwatch on the hatch below and also to assist in defending this building.” answered the young Private. He added, sheepishly, “I’m not sure why it’s so important to him, though. I don’t see anything different about this one.”
         “Thank you, Private. I know why. But I’m not permitted to share that information with you.”
         “I see. You’re welcome, Ma’am. Is that all you need?”
         “Yes, Private. Emergence out.”
         What could be so special about this building? Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll find out soon, the young Private thought.
         “Private. Get down by that door. When I send them our housewarming gift, I want you ready to greet them,” came Anthony’s voice of the radio.
         “Yes, sir.”
         “Ready?”
         “On your mark sir.”
         “Mark,” he said, the sound of an RPG-7 launching resounding through the deserted city. An explosion followed, completely separating the column of soldiers into a pair of disorganized stragglers, firing numerous rounds into the surrounding buildings trying to kill their attackers.
         Brandon opened the door to their building, carbine in hand, and started firing into the front half of the group, caught off guard by the sudden explosion. He was soon joined by Anthony, and the two stepped outside, still constantly firing into the group. They soon began to maneuver back toward their current objective, the access hatchway, one firing while the other moved further toward the objective.
         After half an hour of “leapfrogging” back to the access hatch, they climbed down in, Anthony clapping a padlock through a loop of wire before climbing the whole way down himself.
         There were about fifteen men waiting at the bottom of the ladder.
         “Alright men. Start moving towards your objectives. Colliery, Xiu Zen, Keego, and Chipel, on me.”
         They began carrying out their orders, all heading towards a different tunnel, and ultimately, another defense mechanism.
         Turning around, Choman began explaining to his group, “Alright guys. We have three targets, a shield generator, a missile battery, and a light anti-air gun. All three must be destroyed. So lets get moving.”
         The group patrolled West down the tunnel, eventually emerging into a room with three other tunnels branching off. They took the tunnel leading South and began patrolling to their first target, the missile battery. Bambonian missile batteries were usually comprised of several pods armed with unguided, small-charge rockets, a couple surface-to-air missiles, and a large surface-to-space missile.          
         Operating around all that heavy ordnance would be good for the four Privates under his command, none of which had any field experience in the ADAU. Single precision shots would be required. They needed to destroy that ordnance, but certainly not with them right next to it!
         After about fifteen minutes of patrolling, they arrived at the target area, marked by a single ladder. They five began climbing, Colliery and Keego going up first, with Anthony in the middle, and leaving Chipel and Xiu Zen to bring up the rear.
         A dull thud vibrated through the ground, followed by another.
         “They must have begun firing. Maybe our Orbiter was spotted,” suggested Colliery,  the dull thuds continuing.
         
         A hatch cover was slid open, revealing the underside of a large carriage bearing an even larger missile.
         “Looks like we’ll be able to take this one out and not even fire a shot,” exclaimed one of Choman’s Privates.
         “Don’t just go by looks. There could easily be numerous complications,” explained Anthony. “Like this,” he grimaced.
         They all crawled out of the hole, heaving themselves up into the cold stone area surrounding them. They immediately placed a charge on the missile over top of the hatch they came up through.
         “Spread out, and place your charges on the weapons. It doesn’t matter where. Just get the charge on it,” Choman instructed.
         The group nodded, one heading toward the other missile, the other three heading for rocket launchers, and Choman staying behind to help cover their escape.
         “Charge placed,” kept echoing through his helmet mic as the four operators placed charges on the various weaponry. The startled sound of a rocket operator changed everything.
         Three shots were fired. Two missed, one hit it’s mark, right in the heart.
         “Get the rest of those charges placed! We’ve got company,” commanded Anthony, instinctively raising his weapon into position and listening intently for the smallest sound.
         “The last of the charges is placed sir. Returning to your position,” Xiu Zen reported over his helmet mic.
         Within minutes, three men had descended through the hatchway, leaving five dead Bambonian soldiers. Choman followed down the hatch after them, suddenly stopping and vocalizing the question: “Where’s Colliery?”
         “Dead, sir. He was the first one to go.”
         “He was a damn fine soldier. It’s a shame we lost him.”
         The group continued back down the ladder, arriving at the bottom of the ladder just as the charges blew, sending a heavy shiver through the substructure of the maintenance tunnel.
         “Well, one target down. Two more to go. Come on, let’s get moving,” Anthony said, slowly starting to continue down the tunnel toward their next objective.

         Three hours of patrolling later, the hand signal to stop appeared.
         “Xiu Zen. Get up hear. We’ve got four tangos up ahead. We need to take them out,” Choman commanded, tightening his weapon’s suppressor onto the muzzle. He lifted it to his shoulder and peered down the sights.
         Chan Xiu Zen moved himself forward a short distance and took up a position next to Anthony, mimicking the movement of his squad leader.
         “Xiu Zen. You take the two on the left. On my mark. Three. Two. One. Mark.”
         Both opened fire on the four, taking them all out quickly and quietly.
         “Alright. All clear. Let’s move up and take out that anti-air weapon next,” Anthony commanded, starting up the ladder as he said it.
         The rest of the team followed, and they emerged into the base of a building. Anthony immediately recognized it as the building he had attacked the enemy soldiers outside to allow the two enough time to escape.
         A muffled explosion resounded through the landscape, followed by the sound of three rounds being fired from a large anti-air gun. Two explosions later, a crash sound was heard.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Moon Outpost, this is Orbiter One. Requesting permission to return to the outpost. Over.”
         “Orbiter One, this is Moon Outpost. That‘s a big negative on returning to station. We need you to remain in orbit while the ADAU teams finish clearing the area of defenses.”
         “Solid copy Moon Outpost. In that case, do us a favor and send over a shuttle with some fuel. We’re starting to run low.”
         “Can do, Orbiter One. Oh, and I was instructed to patch this through to you. One moment please.”
         A few seconds later, a new order appeared on a large display screen near the front observation area of the bridge.
         Reading over the order, the captain of the orbiter responded, “Orders received Moon Outpost. We won’t be able to comply until we have some more fuel. Over.”
         “Understood, Orbiter One. Carry out your orders at your earliest convenience. We’re dispatching the shuttle now. It should be there in a few minutes.”
         “Acknowledged, Moon Outpost. Orbiter One out.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Alright guys. There is a heavy enemy presence here. Be on your guard. Set all weapons to semi-automatic fire and attach suppressors. We want to try and stay quiet here.”
         The group did as instructed, and followed up the staircase into the next floor, trying to stay as quiet as possible. It didn’t work.
         After maneuvering through the building for ten minutes, they were quickly surrounded by an ambush force of about twenty soldiers. So it had begun. They had only completed a third of their mission, and they were all about to die.
         “On my mark, press the trigger button for your explosives,” Anthony whispered to another of his men, a diabolical scheme in mind. “Mark.”
         Anthony and Private Colliery both pushed a pair of buttons on their tactical computers and in an instant, ten charges placed throughout the building went off, distracting the enemies surrounding them long enough for the captives to gain an advantage. Setting their weapons for full automatic, they all opened fire, a deadly maelstrom of lead, liquid nitrogen, and mercury flying through the air. Within thirty seconds, it was over.
         “Lets move. Quick. We need to get back down into the tunnels. The building is going to come down any minute now.”
         All of them quickly ran back to the manhole they had emerged through, many jumping over railings to cross between flights of stairs. Just as almost all of them cleared the opening, the building collapsed, taking two men from their squad with it.
         A quick head count discovered that Private First Class Richard Goldstein was killed in the collapse. But they had no time to mourn. All of them understood that casualties and death were just another part of war. They all agreed to return later and retrieve the body. Right now, they needed to complete their mission.
         Almost there. Now we just have those shields to worry about. This should be fun, Anthony thought, leading his squad through the maintenance tunnels.
         “Choman,” Allison’s voice came over the radio. “I have new orders for you. Standby for transmission. They are to be carried out as soon as your current mission is completed.”
         “Ma’am, we’re down two men. I’m not sure we can sustain another mission,” Anthony’s voice returned.
         “I’m well aware of this. I’ve tailored your mission to reflect your loss. We’re sending in an extraction team to get them out before the main assault. They’re bodies would likely be destroyed in the attack.
         “You’re simply to place an infrared designator on their bodies to help guide the extraction team.”
         “Ma’am, we had planned on pulling them out ourselves during our own extraction.”
         “I see. Negate the orders then, and just try not to get killed while you pull them out. That would be a real shame.”
         “Acknowledged. Is that all, Ma’am?”
         “Yes. Return to your mission. Kagaru out.”

         About four hours later, they emerged from the end of the maintenance tunnel to find themselves in yet another place, the sewer system of Hong Kong. They had no choice but to continue following the subterranean systems of Hong Kong wherever they might lead.
         “Sir, shouldn’t we have gone back to the surface, yet,” asked Private First Class Chichu Xiu Zen, a soldier from the Bambonian Empire’s army who had been transferred not more than three months earlier.
         “No. Shield generators are one of the most fickle targets anyone should ever have to deal with. They are the most of the reason they sent us in first. Earth’s shield generators are, for the most part, underground, and extend past the lowest orbital range, hence the reason we needed that Claymore-class orbiter up there to drop us in.
         “Claymore-class orbiters are designed for the sole purpose of orbital insertions where the insertion craft have to begin their entrance from the middle orbital range or farther. Hence, us. The Chinoan Honorary Coalition’s primary shielding system is a selective shield, allowing objects within a certain mass range to enter, and instantly destroying anything above the range that attempts to enter. Our pods fall into the former category.
         “The problem, however, that we’re currently facing with these shield generators is that they can also generate a shield through other objects, so the Chinoans have a nasty habit of hiding them underground where they can’t be bombed into smithereens.”
         “I see. And you think they’re generating the shield up there from down here?”
         “I don’t know. The target indicator is showing that it’s ahead of us, and given the fact that in all our bombing, we still have yet to drop the shield, I would assume that it is down here. But I never operate on an assumption.”
         “I don’t blame you. So, into the water?”
         “No. We’ll try and stay on the walls. The water is moving to fast for us to do much of anything but get thrown around wherever it wants us. If the Chinoans are down here, they’ll have been kind enough to build us a path from wherever they came down through.”
         Sure enough, after traveling approximately two and a half miles through Hong Kong sewers, there was a small, wooden bridge across the sewer water, and wooden platforms wide enough for three lanes of people to move across following either wall.
         “Xiu Zen, I want you to go to the other side. These bridges are both going in the same direction, so we’ll close them in. The only escape they’ll have is the water, and they probably won’t want to get in the water for the same reason we aren’t.”
         “Yes, sir,” Xiu Zen answered, plodding off across the bridge and following his instructions.
         He’s one damn fine soldier. I’m going to put him in for a promotion as soon as we finish our real task, Anthony though to himself, watching Xiu Zen follow his orders to the letter.
         As soon as Xiu Zen was out of site, Choman quickly radioed him to stay put while he caught up. He was met by a quizzical glance from the other as he arrived and they both started back down the tunnel.
         “Radio silence in five, four, three, two, one,” instructed Anthony, shutting off his transmitter and collapsing the radio antenna near his hip.

         Following Anthony’s lead, Xiu Zen also collapsed his antenna and shut off his transmitter. Keeping a close eye on the HUD lens he had built into the left side of his helmet, he plodded down the tunnel, towards their target.
         Rather than the standard HUD-equipped shooting glasses, he had instead submitted a special request for a single lens to be built in, since the glasses always obstructed the view through his sniper rifle scope. Of course, he was still issued the glasses. He just never used them. But today, he wasn’t using a sniper rifle, and he berated himself for not bringing the glasses.
         It was too late now, though, so he just kept moving along the tunnel. Eventually, a large, round, four way hub was reached. Following the wooden path, one went off to the side, the other kept going straight. A message popped up on his HUD, informing him to keep following the path and to let Anthony know via silent message when he re-emerged at the point where the paths met back up and ran parallel to each other.
         That message would never be issued.

         Anthony just sat down on the path, leaning against a wall and removing his assault pack. He pulled out the entrée portion of an MRE and began to eat.
         Wow. Those American soldiers really knew what they were doing when they made these things. Such a shame most of their military is in (Insert Galaxy Name Here). It’d be really nice for them to teach us a thing or two about their equipment. Maybe before we set up shop here, we can get a few units transferred here.
         Making a mental note to make the request to Allison when he returned, he settled in and finished the entrée. Next, he pulled out one of the milkshakes that had, by then, become a staple of a diet made up of, primarily, MREs.
         After waiting for all of three hours, a message finally came through. Unfortunately, it was not the one he was hoping for. It explained that Xiu Zen had found what they were looking for. And it didn’t look good.

         He had just sent the message as he dropped his carbine and sunk back further into the shadows. He’d found the shield generator. But that wasn’t all he’d found. Along with the shield generator, he’d found several seismic sensor boards, all monitoring mines and advance warning alarms. They already knew they were there. And worse yet than that, they had rigged the entire area with over a hundred mines. One foul move, and there wouldn’t be any shield generator, but there wouldn’t be anything else either.
         This could be a problem, he thought to himself, repeating his caption over and over again in his head. No. Not could be problem. Is a problem.

Soon enough, he saw Anthony move up into a position, crouch, and begin surveying the area through his scope. Receiving a message requesting his position, he responded with a very short reply of, “Whatever you do, don’t fire. Don’t move up. Don’t do anything.”
         Spotting the quizzical look on Anthony’s face, he responded, “Seismic detectors. One false step and we all go up.”
         Anthony gestured toward the slimy, green sewer water. “Sounds good to me,” Xiu Zen responded. Somehow, arriving here first gave him some sort of control over his commanding officer. Noting that tidbit of information on his HUD, he stored that on the miniature SD card currently plugged into his helmet’s left side, thinking it could come in useful sometime being his only reasoning behind such an action.
         Both slid themselves into the water, being careful not to make much noise. Fortunately, the water wasn’t anywhere near as fast as Anthony had first thought it would be. That was definitely to their advantage, but would certainly hurt their grand plan for cutting off escape.
         Through silent messages, the two agreed that the best way to remedy the current situation was to destroy the bridges between the walls and the center, and destroy the portals out of the room. Trapping them all inside, but draining the water from the room.
         Xiu Zen was the first to move, slowly wading over to the first bridge and placing a small packet of explosives on its underside. Repeating the process for the second bridge, he decided it would be best to try and conceal his movement through the water by swimming.
         Anthony mimicked him in everything he did, even maneuvering underwater to avoid detection. Xiu Zen caught hold of one of the two walls of the tunnel, pulling himself out of the water some to place a small bag of C4 charges on that side, and repeating the same for the opposite side of the tunnel.
         The repeated the process for the other two tunnels, their original escape route and their entrance route both being cut off by the act. As soon as an okay came between the two, they both dove underwater, trigger in hand.
         Click. The sound of ten pounds of C4 simultaneously exploding was deafening, and the concussion killed most of the enemies manning the shield generator. Fortunately, the generator itself and the sensor board were both operable.
         Anthony pulled himself up onto the landing in the room’s center first, striding over to the opposite side to assist his comrade.
         While Xiu Zen worked on gaining access to a laptop that was setup with the equipment, Anthony proceeded to shut down the shield generator and sensor board. The generator was relatively simple to shut down. All he had to do was pull the four levers regulating power output and the mass-range down the entire way so all four read “0%” on the power level display.
         The sensor board was something else entirely. There were all kinds and colors of plugs, lights, wires, displays, relays, and switches scattered rather haphazardly about it.
         After about ten minutes of standing still staring at the board, his hand supporting his face and giving him a wizened look, despite his age of 29, Xiu Zen strode over to an outlet on a power strip and pulled out a plug, shutting the entire board down.

         After eleven hours of attempting to hack the laptop, he gave up his field hacking, throwing his hands in the air and saying, “I need better equipment. We’ll take care of it back on the ship.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Ma’am, we are receiving an encrypted transmission from the ground. We’re decoding it now.”
         “Good. Hopefully, Anthony has finished his mission and is requesting his extraction.”          
         “It doesn’t look like that’s 100% accurate, Ma’am.”
         “What do you mean?”
         “Well, from what we have done, it appears as though he is trying to say they are trapped in with the generator.”
         “That’s wonderful. Did he mention how?”
         “The message isn’t completely decoded yet.”
         “Then hurry it up! I need to know what’s going on down there!”
         “Yes, Ma’am. It’s finished. I’m putting it on the display now.”
         “General Kagaru. I must first inform you that our primary mission is complete. We lost half of our squad though. We’re down two people. Now I must dampen this good news. We’ve shut down the shield generator, but are now trapped in here with it.” The sound of several gunshots rattled the air a bit, causing Anthony to wince. “PFC Xiu Zen is mopping up the survivors, and he seems to like doing things the loud way in regard to that activity. My apologies.
         “We’re going to n-”
         “You’re not going anywhere,” Allison cut the video off. Sending a direct radio transmission to Anthony, she explained, “right now, we need you to hold tight. We’re about to send in drop ships for the main assault. Several extraction teams will also on their way down, and we have several fighters coming through the shield opening now to soften up defenses. We can’t risk a direct extraction right now. Not with all the other commotion.”
         Letting out a brief sigh, Anthony responded, “Yes, Ma’am. Anything we can do to help?”
         “Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. We need you two to try and li-”
         “Ma’am, we’re completely closed in here. There are no exits at all.”
         “I see. Alright then, see if you can-”
         “Find any enemy intelligence with their stuff here,” Anthony finished her question. “Way ahead of you. We found a laptop sitting on a camp table down here. Xiu Zen tried hacking it, but couldn’t get in. He said he needed more sophisticated equipment.”
         “What’s he need? We’ll get it down there to you guys.”
         There was a brief silence, punctuated by nine more shots. “He seems to be enjoying this, thoroughly. Back to the topic, he said he needs an un-scrambler, a Scat Cat, and several types and sizes of precision screwdrivers.”
         “Wow. What’s he going to do, take out the hard drive?”
         “Knowing him? Probably, but he’ll try and hack it first.”
         “Alright. We’ll scramble you guys a support drop. Find some cover, were punching a hole through the roof of the chamber you’re in now.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         A squadron of fighter jets and a few bombers screamed by overhead, signaling the beginning of the assault. It was heavily muffled by the concrete walls around them, but it was still audible. A moment later, a small hole approximately fifteen feet wide caved in out of the roof.
         “Anthony, you’re support is coming now. We have three air-drop containers without cushioning coming in first. They contain clothes and personal effects, as well as 48 MREs. The fourth one is a cushioned-fall container containing Xiu Zen’s hacking equipment, as well as an extra laptop and transfer cable so he can just transfer the files between computer systems.”
         “Acknowledged. Second package just hit the ground now. You’re helicopter pilots are really good at support drops. I’ve never taken the time to notice, considering I never get to play with them,” Anthony said, suppressing a laugh.
         “Alright, smart ass. Third and fourth packages inbound now.”
         “Confirmed, third package just landed now.
         “And there’s the fourth one. I don’t suppose you need me on comm anymore, do you?”
         “Negative. Kagaru out.”
         “Alright. Xiu Zen, get to work. I’m gonna set up camp. I have a feeling it’ll be a while before we actually get out of here.”
         “Yes, sir.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “He never ceases to amaze me,” Allison observed dryly.
         “Ma’am. We have a private message from our friends way out at System waiting in your quarters.”
         “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
         “Anytime, Ma’am.”
         “Before I go, has Lieutenant Donovan returned yet? I have to speak with him.”          
         “No, Ma’am. He’s still in orbit, though he hasn’t sent any transmissions for sometime. I think something may have happened aboard his ship.”
         “Alright. I’ll get in touch with him soon. Colonel Schzvorkwyn, I’m turning over Lunar Outpost Control to you, and retiring to my quarters. I am not to be disturbed.”
         Walking back to her quarters in the West Wing of the base, Allison decided to quickly send a transmission to the Emergence and see what their lovely friend Lieutenant Donovan was up to.
         Laying down in her bed, watching the communications receiver in her room flashing red for a waiting transmission, she quickly pressed the call button on her radio.
         “Captain Trevor Vak’sk’Torin, current acting commander of the B.S.S. Emergence, at your service.”
         “Is the Snake problem taken care of yet?”
         “Partially, Ma’am. The Mongoose has him tied down right now.”
         “Alright. It’s time for the Mongoose to end its hunt.”
         “Acknowledged. Anything else?”
         “Yes. Tell Lieutenant Donovan he can forget about that promotion, now.”
         “Can do. Emergence out.”
         There was a click as the Emergence shut off it’s transmitter, and Allison turned hers off as well. Now, to more important business. Turning the receiver screen on, she typed in a password to allow the transmission to finish processing and appear on screen.
         “General Kagaru. What took you so long,” demanded a blonde-haired, fair-skinned man no older than 37-years-old.
         “I had other duties to attend to,” she explained, completely dismissing the harsh tone in the other’s voice.
         “I see. It still shouldn’t have taken that long to get back to me.”
         “Well, considering I currently have three ADAU teams pinned down in Hong Kong, I think you should cut me some slack.”
         “Wait, three ADAU teams in Hong Kong? For what reason?”
         “We discovered a lot of Chinoan Honorary activity there. We sent in the ADAU teams to take out some targets to allow safe deployment of ground troops.”
         “I see. You didn’t clear it with System.”
         “I did. About two weeks ago. Check the transmissions files. It’s there.”
         “I’ll just take your word for it. Now that that’s sorted out, let’s get on with what I really called about.”
         “And that is…”
         “We recently received some fresh intelligence from one of our contacts in the Kratedra Gang that six ships are about to depart a Chinoan Honorary Coalition outpost on Mars. They are bound for System Headquarters here on Pluto. Your instructions are to send all available ship to an ambush position on their projected flight path and take them all out.”
         “Acknowledged. I’ll have Lieutenant Donovan divert fifteen DS-72 fighters and a pair of H17-HFs to the site immediately.”
         “Sounds like a plan. System out.”
         The conversation over, Allison returned to the bridge.
         “Get me the Emergence, now.”
         “Yes, Ma’am,” acknowledged a communications officer, executing a transmission sequence. “They are confirming and opening up transmission now.”
         “General Kagaru. What can we do for you, this fine day,” came Captain Trevor’s in an impecable imitation of Lieutenant Donovan’s voice over the speaker.
         “Lieutenant Donovan. Launch all ships. I need you to divert fifteen DS-72s and a pair of P13-Ss to Moon Outpost. Docking Bays 15 through 32. I have a special mission for them.”
         “Affirmative. Anything else?”
         “No. That’ll be all for now. Oh, by the way, put the Mongoose back in its cage. He can play some more later.”
         “Confirmed. Emergence out.”
         “Staff Sergeant Cook. Prepare my personal ship for take-off, immediately.”
         “Yes, Ma’am,” he responded, rushing off to carry out her orders.
         “I’ll be retiring to my quarters until Alpha 1 Zulu arrives.”
         She did as she stated, and, after waiting for two hours, the 17 ships she had requested arrived. Their pilots and captains were standing in front of her.
         “Men. I require an escort force for a diplomatic mission to Mars. All of you, I know, are loyal to me, and so I trust this piece of information to you. We’re going to go appease the Chinoan Honorary Coalition’s leadership in the system so that we can carry out our plans.”
         “Yes, Ma’am. We won’t fail you,” the group stated in unison.
         “I hope not.”

         ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Launch all of the drop ships. But, launch some of them without any troops. The reason is classified,” Captain Trevor had commanded, adding the last bit to dispel a questioning glance from another crewer.
         “Preparing drop ship launch sequence,” one of the crewers announced. “Soldiers! Get to your ships!”

         The thunder of a thousand heavy, booted feet running down the hallway was deafening. Five-hundred soldiers were rushing to get geared up and in their drop ships. All of them had to gear up with a rucksack, ammunition, carbine, pistol, helmet, and urban camouflage clothing. They had gotten the all clear to land on the planet at their first opportunity.
         “Get yourselves strapped in. We’re starting the drop sequence,” instructed a computerized voice from the ceiling.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Xiu Zen. How’s that hack coming? Any luck?”
         “A little. I’ve managed to get the system to finish booting. Just a few more minutes and I should be able to get into the hard drive’s files and start the file transfer.”
         “Good. As soon as you get in, wake me up and let me know. I’m going to go take a nap,” instructed Specialist Anthony Choman, getting up from his chair and walking over to his bedroll.
         “Will do,” replied Xiu Zen, who sat directly in a semi-comfortably foam desk chair in front of a laptop computer. He was constantly running a scrambler, attempting to figure out the password for the laptop’s hard drive.
         A light step echoed through the room. Followed by another. And another. And another. After ten steps, a tall, thin figure wearing a white uniform splattered with blood, mud, and dirt.
         Anthony quickly jumped up, along with Xiu Zen, and both brought carbines to bear on the figure.
         “Stand down. I mean you know harm,” the uniformed man said.
         “Identify yourself, and your purpose. You have five seconds to comply.”
         “The password to that computer’s hard disk is a tricky one, no?”
         “I said identify yourself!”
         Xiu Zen glanced at the laptop, and then back to the man.
         “I could give you the password, if you’d like,” the man said, holding up a small flash drive. “As well as many files from other stations like this that I’ve found elsewhere in these sewers. They’re all on here.”
         “This is your last chance! Identify yourself, and your purpose!”
         The man stepped forward another time. “The password is Zulu Warrior.”
         Anthony cast a wary glance at Xiu Zen. “I’ve got him. You might as well try it. What more have we got to lose?”
         Xiu Zen, keeping a close eye on the stranger, moved back to the keyboard and typed in the combination the stranger had given.
         “Access granted. Streaming files now,” a computerized voice acknowledged.
         “Sir, it’s working. The files are all downloading onto our computer.”
         Drawing his pistol and slinging his carbine over his shoulder, Anthony dropped down into the murky water and climbed back up on one of the fallen rocks from the ceiling, training the pistol on the man.
         After figuring out a way to get to him, Anthony rushed to the man, drawing his combat knife and quickly taking up a position directly behind him, the knife pressed gently into the man’s neck.
         “I gave you three chances. You did not comply. You are therefore under arrest in the name of the Bambonian Empire.” He holstered his pistol, grabbing a pair of handcuffs from his belt while his hand was still down. Clapping one side around the man’s left wrist, he wrenched it behind the man’s back, and, removing the knife from the man’s neck, placed the man’s right wrist in the opposite side of the handcuffs.
         “You’re adherance to your military standards and procedures is admirable,” the man said. “Good job, indeed.”
         In his mind, Anthony felt a small amount of satisfaction, though visually ignoring the comment, he said “Xiu Zen, I’m moving him over there. Get a gag ready. I’m already sick of hearing him talk.”
         Xiu Zen did as instructed while Anthony used a Fireman’s carry to move the man from one side of the room to the center. They placed the gag around his mouth and, as gently as possible, cuffed him in the side of the head, forcing him to go unconscious.
         “I’m heading back to bed. Xiu Zen, get some rest. We’ll let the file transfer run un-attended for a while.”
         Xiu Zen reluctantly left the computer desk and curled up inside of the other bedroll.

         “Drop ships launching in five minutes,” one of the officers shouted to Captain Trevor.
         “Good,” he responded. Turning to face the captain’s chair, he strode over, took a seat, and called up a private transmission to General Kagaru.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Captain Trevor,” came a voice through the earbud headset he had put in. “Please, make it quick. We’re about to launch on a mission.”
         “Yes, Ma’am. I just wanted to notify you that the drop ships will be launching in five minutes. I have a few empty drop ships going in with demolitions supplies, per the orders you sent us earlier.”
         “Very good, Captain. Keep this us, and I may just have to have you promoted.”
         “Thank you, Ma’am. Emergence out.”
         Click. “Communications! How much time left until drop?”
         “About one minute, thirty seconds.”
         “Good. Our wonderful General Kagaru will be launching with her fleet simultaneously. Be prepared.”
         “Yes, sir.”

         ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

         “Xiu Zen, get up.”
         A crackle of radio static echoed through the room.
         “Choman. Xiu Zen,” came the voice of Captain Trevor over the radio. “This is the Emergence, We’re about to send in the invasion force. Before beginning its mission, one of the drop ships is headed right for you guys. They are going to extract you guys, and you are more than welcome to join in the fight if you want.
         “Otherwise, we’re having you airlifted to a nearby bunker. You’re job is to infiltrate the bunker and speak with a Chinoan Honorary commander inside. This mission is coming straight from General Kagaru herself.”
         “Understood. I think we’ll just go straight to the bunker. I’ll be sure to inform the drop ship pilot.”
         “Sounds good. Emergence out.”
         “Xiu Zen, how far along is that file transfer of yours?”
         “It’s currently reading 98% complete, sir. Just a few more minutes. I think it’ll be ready just as that extraction team arrives.”
         “Outstanding. Keep an eye on it.”
         “Yes, sir.”

~*~*`*~*~*~*~

         “Lock release in five. Four. Three. Two. One. Lock Release. Drop ships in freefall. All units, take charge of your drop ships.”
         “Perry, I want you piloting this craft. Put us down by that hole over there. Adjust course three degrees north by northwest. Troops, get your gear ready for an extraction. We need to get an ADAU team out of a jam quick,” instructed the senior officer of the two platoons crammed into one of the particular drop ships.

         After a rough atmospheric penetration, it took approximately three hours for the drop ship to arrive to it’s location above the opening.
         “I-76, I-92, I-72, I-51, I-86. We’re about to drop you down the ropes to link up with Choman and his team. Ready?”          
         “Yes, sir.”
         “Good.” The tail of the drop ship opened and five fast-ropes were dropped. “Hook up. Green light to drop.”
         All five infantrymen hooked up rappelling harnesses to the fast-ropes and dropped into the gaping hole, immediately running into the remnants of Choman’s team.
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