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Page history last edited by rsb 8 years, 11 months ago

 

"Let's roll." - Todd Beamer

 

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Roger hated carrying this much weight into an operation, but he didn't have a choice.  Eighty-plus pounds of explosives and ammo was what Peter had calculated, given Rogers previous engagements, would be required.  Roger had learned that it was useless to question Peter.  Peter would quote the fact that any field member of the Saturn team could carry three times that while scaling a ten foot wall, then Peter would bore Roger to death with more facts.  

 

A hundred pounds of gear made anyone feel slow, even if you were one of the testaments to modern medicine that comprised the Saturn field agents.  Peter wasn't in the field.  He didn't get it.  Saturn agents might have the best medical "enhancements" available, but they were still human.  

 

It had taken Roger all night to prep his equipment, memorize the map of the bunker, and practice his routes and exits.  Peter was controlling from Saudi Arabia, so Roger had the local CIA hanger all to himself.  Roger had checked his gear three times before loading himself into the bomb-bay of the drone.  As he lay face up and strapped in, in his extremely heavy black outfit, he realized how tired he was.  The drugs would fix that.  

 

At least this drone was roomy.  Peter probably expected him to take even more gear.  

 

The heads up display on his helmet showed he had 15 minutes before takeoff.  Perfect timing.  He turned his Heads Up Display (HUD) off and raised his visor.  He fished around in the front pockets of his armor for his meds and food.  He drank his meds, and took a pull of beef jerkey.  While he was at it, he pulled a gold medallion out from under several layers of fire-proof armor and took a look at it.

 

"You were right mom.", he said, chewing, "I should have fought the wars, not the battles." 

 

-----

 

During flight, Peter gave Roger his final brief.  It would be a one-hour ride in.  Low altitude.   Helmet, gloves and boots would seal to armor at 15 minutes to touchdown.  Final tests would be run at that time.  The bomb bay would detach and deploy via low altitude parachute extraction and slam Roger into the already burning bunker, putting him, hopefully, on the first subfloor.  The drone would circle and launch a distraction strike before evac to 20 miles out.  

 

On the face of it, this would appear to be a routine two-pass drone strike.  After that, it was up to Roger.  According to command, Rogers target, codenamed TNT, should be getting prepped for surgery on the third subfloor.  Take him alive.  Get him to the surface.  The drone will return.  Survive another three minutes to three hours, depending on your evac point.  Extract.

 

Roger listened patiently to Peters brief, which contained nothing Roger didn't already know. 

 

"Hey, Peter.  One thing.", Roger said.

"Go ahead, Roger.", Peter said.

"I'm gonna kill 'em."

Peter breathed deeply into his headset, twice.  "No.  You're not.", he said.

"Well...maybe you're right.  I don't know."

"Roger,..." Peter began.

"Yeaaaah.  I'm gonna kill him.", Roger said.

"You are going to hit him once with the injector in your left thigh pocket.", Peter said rapidly.

"Listen, Peter, the drugs are kickin' in.  I'm getting psyched here.  Don't harsh my psych."

"O.k. but you listen, too.  Roger.  This guy is different.  The bad guys really, really don't want us to take this guy alive.  They are probably planning on killing him themselves after the operation.  So if we can interrogate him, we are looking at a lot of intel."

"Peter.  How many of these guys have I taken alive?"

"Roger...", Peter said.

"None.  So I have to ask...", Roger said.

"...because there are up to fifty men in that bunker, and a hundred more in the town down the hill.  And...", Peter said.

"And I'm the only guy with that kind of...history..."

"Statistically, I know you can do this."

"Yeah, well, I'm gonna kill 'em."

Peter breathed a heavy sigh.  "O.k.  I know you're messing with me.  I'm just going to point out that you have straps on the back of your armor for carrying him, and I'll let your HUDs replay the walkthrough and conduct your tests."

Roger was actually wondering what the straps on his new bomb suit were for.  

"Hey, Peter.", Roger said.

"Yes."

"Where are you extracting us to?"

"You know I can't tell you that.  Somewhere where Harry can do the interrogation remotely."

"Huh..."

"What is it, Roger?"

"That means I get to take part in the interrogation.  I'm the hands and eyes of interrogation, right?"

"Sort of."

"O.k. I'm gonna take this guy alive.", Roger said.

 

Back in the control room, Peter put his head in his hands and turned off his mic.  "If I didn't like this guy so much..." he started.  He didn't want to finish aloud.  If he didn't like Roger so much, Rogers teasing wouldn't get to him.  Peter knew Roger well enough to know that the only person he was remotely interested in torturing was him.

 

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1

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Fifteen minutes out, Rogers helmet, a full-face black angular system, lowered a transparent face-shield and sealed.

 

The electrostim kicked in five minutes out.  Rogers focus went ballistic.  He processed the layout and diagnostic data flying across his HUDs subconsciously, like the on-screen info of the video games he had played for hours as a kid.

 

By the time he was a minute out, Roger was amped.  A crazy mix of adrenaline and focus had him longing for impact.  He needed to move, and fast.  

 

The parachute slowed the bomb to thirty miles an hour before Roger hit.

 

Roger called these landings pile-ups.  

 

The outer layer of the bomb crumpled and crushed itself.  Roger felt the impact throwing him against his harnesses.  His headset canceled most of the sound, but the sound still boomed.  His armor and his conditioning took care of most of the damage to his body, but there was always damage.  None of that made a difference to Roger.  He was in the zone, now.  He was the bomb.

 

As soon as the big red button lit up in front of him, he pounded it.  The doors blew off like ejection seats, Rogers harnessses flew back away from him, and he exploded out of the bomb.  

 

Rogers armor and equipment were completely matte black, cold and uniform.  In any reasonable level of darkeness, you could look right at him and not see him.  He never looked at his armor or his equipment in battle.  Muscle memory knew where things were.  Roger just flowed.  

 

As he leapt from the bomb, Rogers HUDs showed three warm bodies in the rubble of the first floor.  His right hand moved the silenced machine pistol over each image, putting a round within an inch of their left eyes.  

 

Thirteen of the three-inch hover-drones survived the landing and deployed from the husk of the bomb after Roger, feeding video through Rogers suit to a drone, then back to Peter.  

 

Subconsciously, Roger registered the update on the layout from Peter.  Roger visually verified that the two stairwells on this now-wrecked subfloor were in-tact and accessible, and saw that the walls of the building above were largely in-tact, although the roof was gone, and power to the bunker was out for the moment.  

 

Rogers right hand let go of the machine pistol, which dropped to hang at his side by its sling.  At the same time, Rogers left hand pulled and popped a shaped charge, while his feet subconsciously pounded over the rubble.  He placed the charge behind the wreckage of the bomb and twisted the timer a quarter turn, ten second delay.  

 

Then both hands grabbed grenades from his harness.  Running to the north stairwell, his right hand threw a grenade backhanded into the south stairwell first.  His left hand whipped a cross body throw into that stairwell a fraction of a second later.  A second later, he saw warmth in the north stairwell as he approached at a run, and he drew knives.

 

Roger timed it so that he leapt past the first soldier, reaching around with the knives and finishing him as he did.  "MISSION" flashed in red across his HUDs as he did so.  Peter was reminding Roger that his mission objective was to identify and capture a target.  Rogers momentum pulled him and his now-bleeding victim against the stairwell wall as it curved, and he sheathed a knife as two more targets tried to make sense of the bleeding man in front of them, hardly seeing the man in black behind him.  His right hand poked the machine pistol around the right side of the dying man, while his head poked around the left.  

 

Peter enhanced the faces of the soldiers Roger was encountering.  In each case the soldiers were searching in the dark to understand what they were seeing.  Peters software reported no matches for the target subject.

 

Roger fired two rounds into each of the soldiers in the north stairwell, then let go of his machine pistol and rammed the soldier he was holding down to the second subfloor, causing himself and all three of the fatally wounded soldiers to crash down the stairwell into a pile, Roger on top.

 

On the second subfloor, the barracks floor, a dozen recently sleeping soldiers were arming themselves.  The quicker ones fired into the north stairwell above Roger.  They would certainly target Roger once the lights were on.  Roger got flat behind the writhing pile, and below the AK fire.  

 

Then the grenades went off in the opposite stairwell.  Roger waited a second, and took a peek up, while readying both knives.  The room was filled with dust.  

 

Without his respirator and HUDs, Roger wouldn't have been able to see anything.  As it was, Roger saw colorized images that he recognized.  Rubble, blood, and pieces of whoever was sent up the north stairwell were sprayed around the barracks floor.  Three soldiers nearby were leveling AKs at him.  Roger flattened himself back down behind the pile of bodies as the shaped charge went off on the floor above.  The south half of the room caved in with a boom.  Rubble covered Roger, but the AK fire had stopped as quickly as it had started.  No one would be coming up or down the south stairwell again.

 

Roger bolted down the north stairwell another level, and took two pistol rounds in the chest as he stepped foot on the third subfloor, which was dimly lit by battery powered emergency lights.  Roger fired both of his knife blades at the closest warm body, a soldier with a pistol now aimed roughly at Rogers head.  The pistol bucked but missed as the knives impacted the kneck and arm of the soldier aiming it.  

 

This was the right subfloor.  A half dozen personell filled the room, arrayed around several large, waist-high tables.  This must be the medical team,  all in civilian clothes, now armed with pistols and rifles.

 

Time slowed as Rogers HUDs showed three soldiers turning to level weapons at him.  His machine pistol clip was low.  As his HUDs flashed "SHOTGUN", Roger was moving low and sideways to the center east wall of the room.  His right hand whipped back behind him as he ran, snapped his shotgun off his back, and he spun.  Roger intended to end up with his back against a wall, shotgun aimed at the closest soldier.  The rounds impacting his right leg caused him to end up in a pile against the wall, with a badly twisted ankle and bruises up and down his right leg.  His shotgun was aimed at the floor.  Unhelpfully, Rogers HUDs flashed "MISSION".  

 

Roger took a chance and spun again, toward the soldier who was now point shooting at him with an AK.  He got a shotgun blast off into the soldiers ankle before taking a round in his right shoulder, pushing his aim back down to the ground.  

 

The soldier who took the ankle shot dropped to one knee, his head cracking against one of the tables, which Roger now saw were massive, thick, steel affairs.  Rounds ricocheted from the table as the soldier who had hit his head on it slumped to the ground.  

 

Now on his left knee, his right arm not responding, Roger drew the glock from his left thigh harness and fired rounds into the legs of the other four soldiers in the room.  Roger then jumped face-first onto the steel table in front of him.  AK rounds ricoched about the room as Roger tossed a grenade in the south corner and covered his head instinctively with his hands, pressing himself into the table.  The explosion rocked the room.  Schrapnel flew into the soldiers, ricoched off the tables and Rogers armor, and generally made a mess of things.

 

After the explosion, Roger took a knee and a glock, and scanned for faces through the smoke and dim light.  "NO MATCH" showed across his HUDs in each case, and in each case, the soldiers had met their end.  Now to see if his bet had paid off.  Roger scanned the tables.  Two patients lay unconscious. Using a moment to take stock of his shoulder, which felt dislocated, he verbally gave Peter a medical update, "Right shoulder won't raise.  Advise." 

 

Roger holstered his glock and hobbled over to the two occupied operation tables.  One patient was dead.  Schrapnel in his head.  No match anyway.  The other had schrapnel in his leg, and halfway across the room "MATCH" lit up in Rogers HUDs.  How the hell this equipment could match a face from across a dusty, smoke-filled room he would never know.

 

As he approached, he saw the patient was unconscious, prepped for surgery, an IV still in his arm.  Roughly, he turned the mans head to the side, and looked directly at his neck.  Peter took the measurement.  The word "ALIVE" appeared on his HUDs below the word "MATCH".  Roger whipped out the injector and stabbed the patient in the leg with it.

 

It was oddly quiet.  Roger began to feel the pain that had been inflicted on him.  He felt low on energy.  That always happened if he had to stop.  "Electrostim." he said, as he took a step back and put his hands on his knees.  "Video."

 

Peter came back with an update.  A heat map showed one soldier still moving on the first subfloor, two outside the building, probably waiting for Roger to come out.  

 

Roger guessed he had five minutes until the entire town descended on his position.  He received instructions for relocating a dislocated shoulder, which hurt like hell, and for bandaging and strapping the target operative to his back, which didn't work at all.  

 

Roger firemans carried the target with his good left arm up the north stairwell to the first subfloor, put him down, and put two rounds into the soldier that was still moving with the silenced machine pistol.

 

"Buzz em.", Roger said, and he had first-person picture-in-picture video of two tiny fliers zooming into the neck of one of the guards.  Peter was getting pretty good at that.  Roger thought he saw blood fly.  Hard to do with little plastic blades.  The guard that the flyers had bounced from was highly unglued, and began to chase and swat at them.  Roger reloaded his pistol, then ascended the stairwell, drawing his backup knives.  Peter was able to keep the first guard occupied for a few seconds by setting one flyer to circle above his head, just out of hands reach.  

 

Peter stopped the second flyer from tracking the first, and flew it into the neck of the second guard, who got a lucky swat in, and knocked it to the ground - just before two knives entered him from either side.  Roger left the knives in, pushing the soldier over, and took a knee while putting a burst into the first guard, who had by this time stopped dancing below the flyer and realized his dillema.

 

Roger could see truck lights down the hill in the distance.  It was a rough road up to this bunker.  They would be a while.  He retrieved his target, breathing heavily as he began the hike down the steep side of the mountain to the river below.  He said only, "River exit." and Peter came back. "Affirmative.  En-route."

 

The pain really started to kick in about halfway down the four-mile descent.  The micro-fliers kept Roger motivated by showing him the progress of the soldiers following him.  The only thing Roger said during the trip down was, "Brother, I sure hope you're still alive."

 

The drone waited until Roger was in the water before dropping a black, self-inflating boat. Roger paddled it downstream for two painful hours until he was directed to an LZ.

 

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Todd woke up in the dark.  His eyes wouldn't open.  He couldn't move.  

 

He tried to determine if he was dreaming.  That calmed him down.

 

The situation had all the hallmarks of a dream.  

 

He had been dreaming there were two of him.  One a soldier.  And another one.  A family man - he was the first.  How had he become a soldier?

 

He tried to feel his skin, his body, his pain.  He was a soldier all right.  A lean, thin, wrinkled, scarred soldier.  Memories of the soldier were clear and recent.  

 

He faded back into unconsciousness for a while.  


He remembered his briefing from the Trilateral group.  They had told him he had memory loss, but their story of his life did not match up with the story of the family man.  

 

The memories that connected the two lives were not there...he wanted those memories back.  

 

When he woke up, he began to remember his past life more clearly.  He was a soldier with the memories of a family man - and the soldier wanted revenge.

 

A muscle spasm racked his body, and he felt one of his eyes crack open, slightly, letting in dim light.  His heart rate accellerated and he forced the eye muscles.  

 

Tearing through dried blood, the eye cracked open a little more each time he forced it.  It wasn't completely dark in here.  Todd gained a blurry view of a wooden crossbeam dimly above him, and felt the straps on his wrists, ankles, head, hips, and chest.  He shuddered.

 

Todd heard a muffled, deep voice, argumentative, talking to someone.

 

-----

 

Roger was in a lot of pain, and despite his bravado during the mission, he cared little for torturing Todd.  After detaching his comm gear and a few weapons, he piled the rest of his gear to one side of the dirty safehouse basement, he ran a communications check with Peter, and panned a camera over Todds fingertips.

 

"So, while I'm waiting, I just want you to know that it was hot as hell in this city.  There are a *lot* of people out looking for us.  So the quicker you can run those prints and I can kill this guy, the quicker I can GTFO."

A whistle came back across the line.

"You've got Todd Beamer, there.", Peter said.

"Sounds familiar...wait...", Roger replied.

"Yeah.  The 'Let's Roll' guy.  That soldier used to be Beamer."

"That...can't be right.  You need to run the prints again."

"I ran them plenty, Roger.  It's him.  We need you to bring him back."

Roger looked over at the soldier, who was waking up and weakly struggling with his bonds.

"I haven't even interrogated him yet.", Roger looked heartbroken.

"Hey, Roger, I don't make the rules.", Peter Said.

"So...does that make this guy a hero, or...Peter, if you want me to get this guy out of here, you better get me another driver."

Roger adjusted his headset and his posture, and tried to straighten his left leg.  He winced as he got it straight.

"Just so you know, I'm not tip-top." Roger said, "I'm not gonna be able to carry this guy very far."

"Wait one.", Peter said.

Roger rubbed his left knee as he exercised it very slowly until Peter came back.

"Vehicle en-route.  GPS coordinates sent.  GTFO ASAP.", Peter said, then added,  "And Roger, command says we just hit the jackpot with this guy.  No matter how hard it is to get him out, we have to make this one happen."

 

Roger looked at the GPS coordinates.  He would have to drag this guy four blocks.  "Copy.", Roger said, and painfully stood up.  He was a getting dizzy.  The owner of the safehouse had supplied him with a gallon of water and two candy bars.  He drank half the water and ate one of the bars, splashed water on Todd's face, peeled his eyes open the rest of the way, and held them there.  He stared into them as he spoke.  

 

"Supposedly, you are Todd Beamer.", he said.  "People think you are a hero.   In reality, you are evidence that the scumbags knew about the attacks.  They kidnapped you, used a computer to emulate your last words, fucked you up, and made you kill a lot of good people.", Roger said.  "So, while I'm sure you were once a nice guy...I am now going to cuff you, gag you, and drag you through the streets."

 

"Oh, and some of those people you killed.", Roger said, letting go of one eye and pushing the barrel of his sidearm into Todds forehead, "I knew them."

 

Roger holstered his sidearm, pulled some paracord from his pocket, and began to transition Todds bonds from tied-to-table to face-down-and-cuffed.

 

 "I'm supposed to bring you in alive, but, honestly, I don't really care if you make it.  We're fighting an uphill battle, here.  Oh, and you know those people you work for?  I guarantee they want you deader than I do.  And they are going to come gunning for you.  Presently.  So...we're off."

 

Todd was trying to process Rogers side of the conversation while his memories flooded back.  He struggled with the realization that he was somehow a pawn.  That his past life was real.  That there was no meaningful transition, and therefore no meaning to his current life.  Then again, anything could be true at this point.  The man in front of him could be lying.  He could be anyone.  The memories, though.  They were all coming back, and those...those were all real. 

 

-----

-----

 

I know everything now.

 

The abominable operation called MKTrilateral had been the brainchild of runaway executive power, which had funded powerful, murderous, unaccountable civilian paramilitaries.  The leadership controlling one of these units, Trilateral, was mad with power.  Trilateral paid a little more than paramilitaries like Academi, and demanded a few less scruples.  Hundreds of men and women, some of them American military, had been killed by that organization.  Worse still, many had been kidnapped and used in the MKTrilateral experiments.

 

MKTrilateral picked up where MKULTRA left off, successfully combining surgical implantation of microscopic optical switches with psychological conditioning to predictably block memories, reduce inhibitions, and increase suggestibility.  Most MKTrilateral test subjects were treated as cannon fodder by Trilateral group.  Those who showed promise were trained as soldiers and assigned the most dangerous of missions.

 

The worst part is - they kidnapped us before attacks that they *knew* were coming - then they told our families that there was nothing left to bury.  Every one of us could have been saved.  Instead, out of hundreds, only a dozen of us lived, survived, were re-kidnapped, rescued, reprogrammed, whatever you want to call it.  

 

The doctors in the Saturn program were able to turn off the microscopic switches that had been implanted in us.  In my case, they had been turned off already, by the people who had implanted them.  I gradually made a full recovery, and was able to tell them everything - provide the missing pieces - proof.  No one else was as lucky.  MKTrilateral took thirty years of my memory, and fed me a line of shit when I woke up.  

 

Our daily lives as soldiers had been a series of suicide missions.  Missions that no one right in the head would take.  My old life had moved on.  I had lined the pockets of my masters with the blood of innocent people - we all had.  Only the drugs they gave us allowed us to sleep.  But you can't take the kind of drugs that we had been taking and live forever.  The doctors in the Saturn program didn't give us long.

 

So it was no surprise to me that all twelve of us volunteered for one last mission.  

 

When the Saturn program was ordered shut down, the small Saturn team knew they only had three days before we would be taken.  The seven full-time staff of Saturn were ordered to keep us locked down.  

 

Two of the seven disobeyed, and one of them, Roger, had lost his life doing so.  The rest of the staff disappeared.  After working against the special forces community, they knew they could never go home.  But they brought us here.  We are Saturn now.  The gods of war.  Soldiers.  We spit on the the profession.

 

Before he died getting us here, we trained with Roger together for almost two days.  Already, we were a unit.  Nothing needed to be said.  We could see it in each others eyes.  We were the survivors.

 

Roger had warned us that we would be injured en-route.  The "pile-up" he called it.  Twelve of us living inside a moving cargo container for thirty hours was more like a series of beatings than a traffic accident.  

 

-----

4

-----

 

More money had been spent on the shoes adorning the feet of Dicks audience than the Red Cross required to put shoes on the feet of a hundred thousand children living in Appalacia.  These were the right hand men.  They were generals, Directors of intelligence organzations and corporate security firms.  They were the fixers - men who rarely met in one place.  They lounged on custom-made, soft leather couches and recliners, fit for only their own ludicrously demanding sensibilities.

 

Dick was in full-on reality-distortion, tough-guy sales mode.  It was his best mode.

 

"Gentlemen, I suppose you're wondering why I've gathered you here today.", Dick began, lifting his hand toward the central staircase.

 

Thirteen beautiful young women dressed in dazzling jewelry and silken eveningwear descended the central staircase, each carrying a high-tech looking helmet and gloves.

 

"Then again, men of our calibre never wonder." Dick continued, changing his raised hand to a clenched fist and smiling a one sided smile,  "We take!  And *take*, tonight, we will!"

 

Clapping filled the room.  Dick punctuated each phrase with the empahsis, pause, and sneering that he felt screamed toughness.

 

"Tonight, each of your escorts will provide you with a demonstration of the Saturn Hellfire targeting system.  The most advanced remote-human-control system ever developed - deployed successfully - today - in the field, and implanted in the ladies you see before you."  

 

A tall, beautiful young black woman in a sleeveless red silk dress sidled up to Dick and handed him the helmet and gloves, which he put on.  As stunning as she was, she was briefly the center of attention.  Her hair was cropped close.  Her muscular shoulders and tall, fit body were the product of years of ballet and gymnastics, before she had disappeared.

 

"So gentlemen, retire to your quarters.", Dick said, "*Take* what you want.  And in the morning, we'll talk business.  I know I'll be testing the limits of this system tonight myself." 

 

Dick made a few gestures with his hands, ending in a twirl of the wrist, and the young lady performed a spin on one foot before preceding him up the staircase.

 

-----

 

Security was phenomenal.  Every square centimeter of the grounds had been analyzed.  Over a hundred Trilateral agents, veterans of projects like MKTrilateral, crawled the grounds.  Command, in the basement of the complex, had perfect information from high in the skies, where drones were deployed, to deep below the earth, where sensors heard footsteps a half-mile away.  The house itself was reinforced steel, concrete, and bulletproof glass.  A thick veneer of wood disguised it's strength.  The command center, support beams, and private rooms were each isolated from the rest of the house by bulkheads and bomb-proof doors.  The prototype of this house had withstood a half dozen direct strikes with RPGs and mortar fire with no damage to critical areas before Halliburton had sold it to the defense department.

 

Cars were inspected at the gateaway by dog and sensor teams - and these teams had definitely had their coffee and steroids this morning.  

 

When a three-axle truck pulled up with a sealed cargo container, it's designated drone escorts circled, and dozens of eyes stayed peeled for any abnormality.  The container contained the remainder of the Saturn programs most valuable equipment, including the experimental Hellfire targeting systems.  The trucks driver dutifully pulled the truck through a 180 degree turn, and parked in a designated inspection spot facing away from the house.  Electrically raised rows of tire spikes raised from the ground in front and behind each set of the trucks wheels.

 

The dogs were the first to detect them.

 

As two dogs being walked around the container barked wildly, the gatekeeper raised Command, and a half dozen other guards sprinted from the gate to the truck, guns and knives drawn.

 

Command didn't have a chance to respond before the double doors on the back of the container blew open.  

 

-----

 

Small shaped charges blew at the top and bottom of each container door latch, as six men threw the thick, steel container doors outward.  Immediately, three men ran from the container, one straight toward the house, and two to the sides.  They got about two steps each before falling in a hail of bullets.  The container doors slammed back shut as the bodies of the three hit the ground.  A second later, each of the three men activated the explosive charges he carried, blowing fire, schrapnel, and gas through dogs and men for twenty feet in all directions.  The driver and co-pilot of the truck slumped in their seats.

 

The doors immediately swung open again, as eight men from the container ran forward to drop prone and fire rocket launchers.  As the rockets fired, some bullets bounced off, and some went through, the body armor of the eight.  Immediately after the rockets impacted the command center entrance, a lone black figure sprinted from the container through the impenetrable haze of smoke, gas, and fire.  

 

Todd was wearing the last of Saturns bomb suits.  

 

-----

5

-----

 

Peter waited in the dingy hotel room, staring out the curtains at highway 49.  He had been chewing the same stick of gum for an hour, standing there in the same dress pants and light blue, long-sleeved collared shirt he was wearing the day before.  An ethernet cable ran down through the window from a dish antenna he had placed on the roof.  He was waiting for a signal, but so far, zilch.  He had nothing.  No signal, no GPS on the container, nothing.  

 

He spit the gum out and fished around for a lighter and pack of cigarrettes.  For some reason, he felt it was important not to die with stale gum in his mouth.  He didn't know how long it would take for them to find him in this crappy room, but if it took much longer to complete this mission, they would, most certainly, find him.

 

After he lit up, he resumed staring at nothing, lost in thought.  He was sure Roger got the container sealed before they found anything.  They had to be alive somewhere, he reasoned optimistically.

 

Then it came.  A single beep as the script he had running detected signal.  Peter quickly sat back down at the small desk he had set his laptop up on, and balanced his cigarette on its edge.  He watched as his script tried the old access codes.  

 

Yup.  Trilateral IT had not updated the entire pasword database for the Saturn network gear they had stolen.  No surprise there.  The script enumerated Saturn field equipment on the net Todds suit had associated with.  Fourteen active.  What the?  Hellfire units?  He had heard of them.  Rejected project as far as he knew.  He enumerated capabilities and requested video streams.  Holy...? 

 

One video stream showed Todd sprinting through gunfire.  Didn't look like he would last long where he was headed.  Todd didn't have to last long.  As long as no one destroyed his suit with the communications unit Peter was relaying through, his mission was a success.  Peter fired Todds stim.  

 

Thirteen video streams showed first person views from the Saturn Hellfire helmets - they were all either frantically panning around a large room with no windows, or focused on images of women in various states of undress.  Peter took control of all of them.  Overlaid on each video stream were controls Peter had never seen before.  What the?

 

It took him a few seconds to see what was going on.  Some assholes were using Saturn tech again for more of their deranged shit.  Peter could only see what was in-frame of each assholes helmet cam.  Fine.  You want deranged?  He quickly released control of all but one woman to reduce suspicion.

 

Peters hands flew over the keyboard.  He found the commands to stream targeting, and listed the preset messages.  Jackpot.  He had no time to script this.  He had to manually control each of the units.  It was frustratingly slow with he first unit.   He eventually got the units hands to target relative to the control helmet.  Precious seconds passed.  Got it, he found a method for grip, and an attribute for strength, cranked it up to max, and moved on to the next unit as a highly surprised Iranian general fought the woman singlemindedly choking him out.

 

The second unit wasn't so easy.  This person had left the headset on the floor, and Peter could see a womans foot in the upper left of the frame.  He listed the commands again, turned the woman around, targeted with her head, then picked up the headset, and turned her around again.   Another ten seconds and he had her hands in a death grip around an Israeli intelligence officers neck from behind.

 

This continued for some time as Peter rapidly switched between control units.  Fully half of the first twelve women were in mortal combat with their slimy old men, and doing quite well.  Peter glanced at the time.  Over one minute had passed.  Peter paused for a second before switching back to Todd.  He almost didn't want to know.

 

-----

 

The rockets had done their jobs. The left side of the house, and the basement command center, were on fire.   The few Saturn soldiers who could still run ran for cover in different directions.  

 

Todd had taken two rounds in the same arm as he ran toward the house.  They had knocked him off balance, which turned him ninety degrees mid-stride, and he fell below a stream of machine pistol rounds against a ten-foot-wide cement planter, knocking his head against it.  He raised a machine pistol with his right hand to fire over the planter, but three rounds from another direction hit the pistol and his left forearm, breaking it and knocking it down.  He shoved himself along on his back parallel to the planter, and with both hands, was able to grab a grenade and bring the pin to his mouth.  

 

With no central command, the Trilateral drones circled, and Trilateral agents reverted to uncoordinated, ruthless aggression.  

 

One Trilateral agent had tossed a grenade that landed two meters below Todds feet, not expecting anyone to leap over the planter.   Another Trilateral agent leapt over the planter just as Todd got his his teeth on the pin to his grenade. 

 

Todd managed to pull his pin before the Trilateral agent was thrown against Todd by the force of an explosion, and Todd luckily held tight to his grenade with both hands as the dead agent rolled off his body.  Todd was able to manage a weak toss onto the porch behind the planter, which he hugged close to.  The force of the explosion shattered the planter and buried Todd in a pile of dirt and blood.  Most of the blood came from the three man team headed toward the main stairs of the house - their mission to evacuate Dick Cheney.

 

The sole Trilateral sniper that had a good angle on Todd pumped two rounds into him.  Todd was fading fast, and could see nothing but mission data on a the black field that was his visor.  The bomb suits radios, however, were still operational.

 

-----

 

Peters capture of Todds video stream showed a black screen.  

 

"Tough break." Peter said, and returned to his work.  The Trilateral agents would disable Todds communication equipment as soon as they saw what Todd was carrying.  Peter didn't have much time to work, but the Saturn soldiers had bought him what time he did have.  Peter returned to the weapons he could control.

 

He cycled through the seven women not engaged in combat.  Two were obviously down, given the amount of blood he was seeing.  One had entered frame and he was able to engage her with the CTO of the HongCheng Weapons State-owned-enterprise.  

 

Of the four women able to fight but not yet targeted, three were out-of-frame and one was in-frame and being beaten, badly.  Peter tried to target her, but he couldn't manage it with the clumsy controls he had - not when she was being knocked around like a rag doll.  Peter enumerated the commands again.  Disable?  He called up info on that one.  Worth a shot.  Done.  The woman began to duck!  And scratch!  Take that, sicko!

 

Peter quickly "Disabled" the implants in the other three women to give them a fighting chance, then returned to examine the sicko being scratched.  

 

As the sickos helmet flew off and spun in the air, Peter caught a glimpse of Dick Cheney getting kicked in the balls - an angry, heavily bruised, but still quite beautiful woman beating him.  The helmet hit the floor, quickly followed by Cheney, as evidenced by his in-frame, flailing left arm - an arm apparently reacting to multiple strikes from the woman straddling him.  That only went on for a few seconds, as the helmet was picked up from the floor shortly thereafter, and used as a club to cave in the face of the lying Dick.

 

Peter had seen it all, but this view made him cringe.  Peter had something close to vertigo as he watched blood and brains fly into the air with each strike, the helmet-view shifting from a spray of blood flying toward the ceiling to progressively less of a face and head, the audible effort of the black woman synchronized with the beating.  

 

"You go girl.", Peter mumbled, typed two more commands, and grabbed his jacket.  He paused to light the curtains up with his ciggarette before leaving the motel.

 

-----

 

Todd had a dozen breaths left, maybe, when the words "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" flashed across his HUDs. 

 

-----

 

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This work by Rich Bodo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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