23 December 2011

FWS Flash Fiction: Empty Place-Part Eight: "Crossing the Rubicon"

"This is for Soap..."

The CIC room, imbedded deep in the structure of FOB Shin was flooded with sounds, people darting back and forth, while in the center was a massive man, puffing on a fat cigar, his green eyes were locked on the holo floating just in front of him. His scoured expressed said it all. He touched his collar, just to check to see if the new star was indeed there, then new title seemed odd to Hochschuler, but every eyeball in the CIC was on him. “This intel is right, Perkins?” He asked the tech next to him.

“Three Fleet probes confirmed it, and their mathematic projections and my mathematic projections match up on the time table.”

He tapped the ash, “shit.”

“Yes sit, my thoughts exactly.”

“Get Cpt. Hawksworth in here, Perkins.”

“Roger that, sir.” With that, Hochshuler disappeared into his office with the hard copies of the Fleet intelligence. The General was old enough to remember when the discovery of the Sigma Draconis system that held the greatest concentration of wormholes in any settled system, it became a major trading point, causing Terminus to be the most important colonial world only second the capitol of Janus. As he eased down into his broken in chair, he smoked and thought of how things used to be…before the Wryd invasion. For the entire war, the colonies were on the defensive, not willing to risk troops and ships for a hunt-n-find through wormholes, so each colonial world became a fortress. Hochschuler bitterly remembered when the aliens found Sigma Draconis, and the both sides threw everything into the fight, that’s when he was sent to the frontlines, and when Terminus became known as Abaddon.

By the end of these initial battles, both sides had lost thousands, and most of their automated warships, so there war shrink down to one planet, with armies fighting in the darkness of the rope tree jungles, and relaying on quick drop supplies. But what Hochshuler had in his hand changed the battle for Abaddon. The Sync had assembled a flotilla of warships and troops to push off the colonials from Abaddon, and set up shop. The most grim news was that the colonial fleet could only sent half of what the Syncs were rolling in with, and there at the bottom of the intelligence report, in clear typed print, made the general’s heart stop. The spooks estimated that if Abaddon fell to the Sync, along with the network of wormholes, Janus would under the knife alien in less than two months. The only thing that broke him from his funk was when pilot Erin Hawksworth opened the office door.

The moment she entered his office, Erin was reminded of why she disliked their new commander, Hochschuler was a complete and utter slob. Pilots, for the most part, keep things neat, orderly, and bolted down in and out of the cockpit. But not the newly minted general, his office was a model for disorder, along with his ill-fitted uniform. However, Hawksworth did agree with most of his command decisions, especially when he opened the Sake, and poured two cups full.

“I need to know something, Captain.” She took one cup; they clicked and consumer the rice wine.

She sat down the cup for a refill, “anything, sir.” Hochschuler holo’ed up her recorder, and Hawksworth was suddenly uncomfortable with viewer her profile picture, it was a bad haircut.

“Are you really this qualified? You really went to these special aviator trainings?” She downed another cup attempted to silent a smartass comment that boiled up.

“If it’s on there, it’s no bullshit. Sir. ”

“Good, because you’re going to need the skills.” He opened a holo-map on his desk, representing this continental region of Abaddon. Shaded in red was all of the territory that the Sync had taken, all the way up to FOB: Shin’s front door, and behind them was several towns, the last civilians on this world.

“With the fall of White Forest and Jansen, they’ve got survivors to convert and it about a week; they’ll have to replenish their losses.” Erin made a disgusted face. That was one the worst parts about fighting an enemy like the Sync; they turned your wounded and missing into their soldiers, while we had to wait on a rare troop transport. “About that time, the Sync will have a flotilla of warships and transports, and with their advances, they could put spaceborne troopers down on our fucking heads.” Erin watched the simulations, cursed, and asked for another cup full, the General obeyed.

“When is the colonial fleet is going to send on their asses?”

“They are rushing a few warships, but most of the fleet is assigned to protection duty around Janus.”

“The real fight is here.” She reminded the general.

“No arguments here, captain, but command is dead-set on Janus being last stand, not Abaddon” That was foolish, thought Erin. She, like everyone else knew the importance of Abaddon, the brass was just taking to protect their own asses. If Abaddon falls, so does Janus.

“So, it’s up to us?”

“I want your skill-set and balls to pull off a backfire operation to the coastal stronghold of the Sync.” She made a grim face, and reached for the Sake bottle.

“Their AAA and garrison there is too heavy, we’d be seen and then wiped out.” She dismissed with easy.

“You’re going to take what’s left of the experienced jump-platoons and strike Hoppers to the temple, and wait for us to bring down the packages from the sky.” He smiled while relighting his cigar.

She cocked her head, “sir, I was under the impression that all the particle and kinetic orbital artillery satellites were taking out.”

“Oh, they were,” Hochschuler wore a Cheshire cat smile while puffing away. “The few sats left are most weather or some bullshit like that, but they’ve got radioisotope thermoelectric generators.” The general’s face produced another grin, “toxic rain.”

“We could lose most if not all of the groundpounders, sir.” Hawksworth stated, but was met with a laissez-faire glare.

“Look Erin, pick out units with mostly Earthers, they’re might to die.”

She cocked her eyebrow, “Ave Caesar,morituri te salutamus, eh, sir?”

“You have your orders, Captain!” That was her queue to go, and Erin took one last swig, mocked a salute.

“Task Meatgrinder, sir. They got the most Earthers.” Then she disappeared as General Hochschuler relit his cigar. He linked into the local network, and informed Colonel Burbaker he wished to see him and his two Earther operative. As Erin walked down the corridor, her mind still processing what the general was asking her to do, her deep brown eyes locked with the cold stares of two men. They were not even remotely similar to the recruiter rejects for that atomic wasteland, they were professionals, and they proudly worn that in their forbidden eyes. Erin observed until they disappeared into the general’s office. Hawksworth knew in her bones that something was going to die by the look of them, and not well, either.

They came and took seats like they were stars of the show, Hochschuler cocked an side smile. “Welcome, gentlemen, can I offer you something?”

The one with the heavy Victorian mustache took a smell of the Sake and made a repulsed face “Proper glass of Scotch, and whatever you’re puffing on.” The General obeyed, handing the bottle, while they lit up. The Englishman and Scotchman were completely relaxed, like they and the general went way back. If it had not been for their unique skill-set, Hochschuler would have them pushed out of a Hopper.

“You’re files are thick, gentlemen.” They said nothing, just continued to puff on the cigars. The General shrugged, and Burbaker continued. “So, this was you’re only way out, before the King’s son had you hunted down.”

“Scotland’s had a lot of kings, and we all know that Ex-Fils can be messy; this one comes with benefits, though.” Spoke the older one.

“Oh?” That peaked the general’s interest.

“Never been off-world before.” The colonel rolled his eyes, and pulled out his PDA, he was tired of this game.

“We have a job.” Their eyes turned to Colonel Burbaker.

“Isn’t that a surprise?” The room darkened and a holo spun up above the general’s desk. “Didn’t think we’re here for entertainment purposes.” Once again, Burbaker ignored the old one’s banter,

“You’re objective is the town of Flodden, the hub of the bastards on this world.”

“The wolf’s den, eh? Sounds like a real shit-storm.” They looked at one another and nodded. “We’re in”

“You didn’t have a choice, Earther.”

The older man took a final glorious puff from his cigar, “sometimes that the best way.”

“If you complete this, you’ll be transferred to the Selous School on Janus, to teach the next ones for when we take it to them.”

“If?” His attention swung to the Colonel opening several hard cases revealing long rifles. They both lifted themselves from their chairs then lifted the weight of the suppressed .338 magnum rifle, “what, no lasers on this one?”
“DEW line is too easy to track.” Burbaker took the weapon from the younger with the Mohawk.

“Your target is codenamed Asmodeus-”

“That’s lovely!” Exclaimed the younger Scottish one. “A fallen angel doin’ the bidding of hell, eh. Must be one hell of a target.” In the middle of his desk, the general punched up their target. It was unlike anything the two men had ever seen. It was an odd looking creature, more spider-like, crossed with a child’s nightmare. “Asmodeus is a high level genetics controller for the Wyrd, its death would be a serious loss to their ability to convert more of our soldiers.”

“What’s the intel like on this Asmodeus? Is it solid?” Burbaker knew what the older one was probing at, most soldiers had been burned by faulty intelligence.

“Micro UAVs picked up heavily armed aero convey coming from an Sync base, this was just after a single drop-pod was launched from a fast-mover that burned in then burned out. This target is important and for the aliens to bring him in, means their planning something big and they need a high-level controller to forge new bio-war machine.” The room grew quiet, only the puffing and smoke filled the office. The two soldiers knew the mission now, which drained the piss and vinegar out of them. “We cannot use air assets to place you near the base, however, there is a river that runs through, and you’ll go via an aquatic insertion, then ex-fil the same path.” The three dimensional map switched to a rotating graphic of the target. “To achieve 100% certainty on takedown of Asmodeus, you’ll need to hit here and here.” Two red dots appeared on the neck and head.

“A bullet through the brain to solve the world’s problems…sounds bloody familiar.”

The Colonel turned off the holo-projector and the light flashed back to normal, flooding the office. The two soldiers took the bottle of 21 year-old single malt Glenlivet Scotch, and poured four glasses. The younger one presented the glasses to the general and colonel. “Here’s to death of Asmodeus.”


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