The ninth part to my space opera.
UNSC CAPTAINS LOG – SARAH KEYS CH.9
United Naval Space Corps
“Ladies and gentlemen! It was reported to me that at eighteen hundred hours local time there was a terrorist attack in the capitol city of Jericho. Local enforcement officers are requesting our assistance in investigating the attack as they believe it was orchestrated by G.I.A. guerrillas.” I announce to the flight deck full of marines. Along with the crew, the Invictus carries a full company of marines. Making for the meanest surface deployment in the galaxy’s.
“According to satellite imaging, the temperatures experienced during the blast reached in excess of one thousand degrees. It is highly unlikely that we will find any enemy forces within the blast zone, however expect heavy environmental hazards. As always, please prepare your loadout for standard engagement.”
“This is a mission to investigate the source of the blast and search for and gather any survivors, keep your eyes and ears peeled for any possible survivors!”
“We will be dropping squads down to the surface to do said investigations and to rescue survivors. Each team will be dispatched with rescue supply’s suitable for the environment. Full containment armor is required. Marines move out!”
“Ooh-Rah!” The entire room of Marines chants and salutes me, before heading off to their respective armories.
I head towards my own designated armory. “Alpha squad form up on me! Mr. Keys, you’re with us! Have Raes suit you up.”
Without another word my five-man team quickly suits up for battle, making sure that their armor and weapons where double and triple checked.
Once I pull on my heavy environmental suit, I look over the room filled with Marines.
“All right Alpha Ladies! Our chariot awaits!” I announce as I start marching towards our assigned transport. Checking with the piolet, I confirm our battle plans. In the time it takes me to check the spare rescue equipment, the rest of my squad and my father have all boarded.
“Time to take her down!” I slap the bulkhead separating the front and rear compartments, letting the piolet know we are ready. With a gentle whir, the dropship lifts off the deck and floats to the launch lanes.
“This is your captain speaking, thank you for boarding this paradise vacation flight! Currently the weather at your destination is one hundred and twenty degrees Celsius. Currently traffic is light in down town, however be aware of road obstructions. Now if you would please turn off all cellphones and personal electronics and place your tray tables in the closed position, we will be ready for takeoff. Thank you!”
Almost every drop ship captain has their funny spiel to lighten the mood before a mission. The only reason for them not getting in trouble for breaking protocol is due to the massive morale boost they provide before particularly risky operations.
With a sudden jolt the drop ship rockets out of the hangar and into open space, instantly stabilizing and loosing gravity once past its mother ships gravity field.
Looking out one of the port holes in the side of the cargo bay, I look at the Invictus’ bulk, eyeing the missing weapons mounts, built to carry massive ship to ship guns, but left empty due to age old treaties where the ship was built. Leaning back into my seat, I close my eyes to get a nap in while I still can.
Ash falls from the sky like snow, gathering in drifts on the streets and sidewalks. The scene reminds me of a cold winter Saturday, only if you ignore the burning heat. The standard issue atmospheric filtration pack seems to be barely making the air from outside my helmet breathable.
[“Alpha zero one, any chance of survivors?”]
I look around at the grim scene before me. Under several inches of ashes lay the charred remains of a once busy city.
“Negative mustang, according to my analysis, the temperature reached up to the level of fourth generation nuclear weapons. Due to the quick and intense blast, most of the remains we have found are just skeletons. The thorough distribution of the flammable agent ensured that everything was burned evenly. It will be difficult just determining the ignition point of the blast.”
[“Copy that Alpha zero one, please proceed with your investigation. Over”]
“Zero three!” The marine a few dozen feet from my right snaps to attention.
“Continue your investigation down thirty second. The heat markings coming from that street seem interesting. Zero two and I will investigate the life signal in this mall. Probably just another dying roach nest again.”
“Mr. Keys, since you are the only untrained civi, you’re on me.” I look over to my father. Part of him shadowing me was he must accompany me on any non-engagement missions. And now he is stumbling around dumbfounded in this city come wasteland.
“Uh… Sweetheart? Do I really need to be here? Many I should go back to the ship?”
I raise my rifle and peer down the scope, selecting the bio filter. “Mr. Keys, when I am in uniform, I am no one’s sweetheart. Rather I am one’s worst nightmare, and if you keep that behavior up, you and the rest of this squad have latrine duty for two weeks.”
“You know there’s a good reason why her ships have some of the cleanest latrines in the entire fleet.”
“Can it zero two, focus on the mission or I’ll give you personal latrine duty. Keep your eyes and ears peeled. I’m detecting a strong movement ahead.”
Probably just another building collapsing. They are crumbling like wet crackers around here.”
“Negative. The source is coming from those dome shaped piles of debris five blocks ahead. Could be possible hostile contacts.” Switching my optics to long range inferred imaging I survey the mysterious moving mounds.
“And what group would be stupid enough to stick around during a fire bombing?”
Carefully I watch as the rubble falls away from the mounds, and they start lifting up from the ground. “Zero two, lock onto those mounds over there and prepare to fire. Mr. Keys, take cover out of the line of fire.” My father runs and curls up behind a car.
“Oh you have got to be shitting me! What do these assholes thing they are doing?”
“Obviously setting up and ambush for any responders. You have to give them credit for using Forrest firestorm tents to survive the fire.”
“Only lunatics would be this crazy! Think they are armed?”
Looking away from my scope I glare towards my squad mate. “No. I believe they are carrying frosting dispensers. Can you really be that stupid?”
“yeah that did sound stupid. What I meant to ask is are they hostile? So far it looks like they don’t even know we are here.”
“If you keep letting that stupidity out of your mouth we will know for sure in a moment. Or how about you go and ask them?”
Looking down my scope again I survey the unidentified troops. The ones that have gotten up seem to be checking on the other mounds and helping their comrades to their feet. One of the unidentified soldiers is wearing a blood red arm band and is sifting and kicking through the rubble in the streets.
“Zero Two, I think I just identified the enemy commander. Does that red arm band look familiar to you?”
“I haven’t seen that one before. Their uniforms look similar to the resistance movements uniforms, but something seems off. Mustang Actual, I am uploading the data on the uniforms. Please advise.”
Carefully I aim the crosshairs on my marksman rifle onto the head of the commander.
“I have the commander in my sights.” Soundlessly I watch the commander move through the rubble, finally stopping to pick something up. A high-pitched scream of pain is heard as the commander pulls a survivor from under the remains of a vehicle. Swiftly the commander pulls out a pistol and shoots the survivor in the head, ending their cries for help.
“Uh captain? Do you think that was an execution or a mercy killing?”
A crash of body armor falling against burned out rusty metal rings out behind me.
“I don’t know what one of you morons made that sound, but I think they know we are here and watching them.”
Shots ring out from the front, the bullets ping off the overturned car I am using for cover. Zero Two breaks cover to fire a controlled burst of fire.
“Taking fire! Captain, can you take out their command?”
Carefully I check my aim and track the moving target. “I’m already on it!” The enemy commander pulls up their rifle and fires just before I pull the trigger.
Instantly my right shoulder feels as if it was run over by a battle tank as a round slams into my shoulder pauldron right next to the stock of my gun, the spalling clattering off the bottom of my helmet.
“Fuck I’m hit! Their commander is still up!” I look through my scope again and inspect my opponent. The way they are carrying themselves indicates that I hit them in the flesh of their leg.
“What’s your status Captain? The civi has gone comatose. I don’t think battle stress agrees with him judging from the smell.”
“Thanks for the concern, my armor held, just lost power to my right gauntlet. Zero Three! On my location double time! Beware of hostile forces, flank from the east with the sun at your back.”
[“Copy that. Your goanna want to take a look at what I just found also. I’ll upload the data for your review.”]
“Zero Two, push forward with me. Keep low and leave the civi here.” Two clicks of the radio is his response and my comrade moves forward, ducking behind cover.
Together we push forward on the opposite sides of the street. Moving between cover, each of us let off strings of automatic ferro-plas fire. Alternating who is behind cover makes the resulting fire almost a continuous stream.
“Stop here at the overturned buss. Looks like there are still a few of them still kicking. What’s your kills Zero Two?”
“Four confirmed kills. I took some fire from a small caliber machine pistol. No damage to my armor besides some scratched paint. How’s your arm?”
Quickly I shift my riffle to the right and pull the trigger while exposing from cover temporarily. “That makes six. Still no sign of their command. Must be tending to their wounds. The damage to my gauntlet seems to be a damaged power circuit. The regenerative feedback is supplying a little bit of power though.”
[“Zero Three is in position, be advised, suppressing now.”]
Suddenly a large amount of medium caliber light machine gun fire sprays from the east of the combatants. Just as sudden as it began the fire stops at the same time the returning fire stops.
Carefully I break from cover and advance towards the enemy’s position. Keying my armors external speakers, I call out to the enemy.
“Any survivors cast your weapons aside and put your hands in the air! We have you surrounded!”
A spherical object is suddenly tossed in our direction as a response. Snatching it out of the air I throw it through the empty storefront to my right. “Grenade!”
The grenade detonates, showering me in broken glass and debris. A head and rifle pop up from behind the cover of a burned-out car. Looking between the three of us at the ready with our rifles.
“Go ahead and put the weapon down, there’s no use dying here today.” The enemy commander lowers their gun to the hood of the car.
“Pull back your hood.” Using a gloved hand, the captive pulls back their heavy hood and exposes long golden locks of hair. Then grabbing the straps to her respirator, she pulls it from her face, exposing a very feminine face. Her face resembles a Russian porcelain doll. Quickly I record a few images and store them in my helmets drive.
“What’s your name!” I ask with an authoritative tone down the barrel of my rifle.
“You will never get our POW’s!”
Stepping forward I backhand the enemy commander.
“I’ll give you one more chance.”
“I’m Sophia Miachova. Squad lead for the Seventy Second.”
“The Seventy Second what?”
“Seventy Second Suicide Squad I guess?”
“What do you mean you guess? You either know or you don’t.” I question Sophia, not understanding her reasoning.
“The higherups don’t expect us to live to make it back. They treat us like we are disposable. I have been lucky to have survived three operations so far, but for most of my squad, this was their first mission.”
“So, you’re the leader of a group that does what others don’t want to do?”
Sophia nods her head.
“OK Sophia, I want you to tell me a little story. I want to know how such a frail girl got to be the leader of a suicide squad for the insurrectionists. First, how did you come to fighting for these bastards.”
Sophia looks down towards the ground.
“What? Not going to tell me now? Do I need to give my ONI Staff something to do?” I threaten her with torture from the spooks. The one group that enemy’s and allies both fear together.
“No, I’ll tell you, I’m just not proud of how I got to be here. You see I inherited the position from my father. He was the mastermind behind the suicide squads.”
“So, when he didn’t come back you had to take his place?”
“No. My father never went on any missions. He was shot on suspicion of treason. He was caught telling his family secrete plans, who were not aligned with the cause.” I continue to shake my head, hearing Sophia spilling her story.
“Because my father was labeled a traitor, I was demoted. The more I complain about the situation, the farther I fell. Until I and five other squads are here, burning down a city.”
I stare at Sophia for a moment. “So, five others?”
“Should be at least four left. I assume that the dispersal team was incinerated…”
“Yeah, about that Captain, you need to come take a look at this.
“Yeah, about that Captain, you need to come takes a look at this.” Zero Three speaks up from the nearby street corner.
Grabbing Sophia by the arm I hoist her to her feet and follow Zero Three.
“So, from what I can gather, what we see here is a premature detonation. If your friend here can confirm, It was supposed to be a two part mixture, however scans indicate that before the second gas could disperse, something else got mixed in and that new mixture was even more volatile than the original.”
Zero Three leads us around the corner and points to where a building once was.
“That used to be St. Arthurs High School. But now its just a pool of molten rock. And finding that the dispersal trucks are located quite the ways away, and with the weird patterns not matching, it looks to me that this didn’t have a thorough effect.”
Sophia surveyed the damage. “Your right. This didn’t go to plan. The original yield wasn’t supposed to carbonize everyone, just cause massive burn rates. Whatever this mystery chemical was, caused everything to melt.”
The three of us collectively stare at the spot where a high school used to sit, filled with students.
“You know my cousin used to go to that school. She graduated at the top of her class two years ago thankfully.” Mike laments, thinking about his family back at home.
“Well Sophia, since you have cooperated so far I can look into some special deals when we get back to the ship. I think we can safely treat you as a prisoner of war without prosecuting you for any war crimes, as long as you detail who came up with this plan.”
Sophia starts shaking her head. “I don’t want to be a prisoner of war. POW’s get returned, and I don’t want to return to the insurrectionist movement.”
Zero Three and I raise our eyebrows. “So, your saying you want to defect?”
Sophia nods her head in agreement.
“All right, then how about I give you a bit of a field test. You help us find and root out the remaining insurrectionists, and I’ll give you the captains seal of approval.
“The captains seal?”
“Let me fully introduce myself. I am Captain Sarah Keys, captain of the fast attack battleship Invictus. If you accept refuge with us and cooperate with our investigations I can guarantee you a position aboard the ship. You will still need to serve the two years required for proper re-citizenship.”
“I didn’t think that today would be my lucky day, but I’ll accept!”
“It means you will have to turn on your old friends and comrades.”
Sophia goes silent. I begin to worry that I was asking too much, even though it’s standard to turn on your old comrades when defecting.