Every mission begins with silence. There’s this small window of time – about 15 minutes before the shuttle reaches the drop-zone – when you’ve double checked your equipment enough times, and you know your objectives like the back of your hand; all you can do is sit and stare at your feet. I’ve made a habit of putting extra polish on my spider-sword.
My new sword is an interesting piece of tech; a new addition to our mech-suits. Essentially it’s just a fancy gauntlet with a blade that folds over the length of my forearm. When it’s in action it’s like a deadlyextension of my body; my new favourite toy.
When I’m waiting I see myself in the reflection on the blade, and surprisingly I don’t look as tired as I feel. I gather my hair in my hands and clip it up. I could have cut it when the alliance promoted me to spec-ops, but according to my team I wouldn’t be the same Captain Kelly Jade without it. They call me Blood, behind my back. It's the colour of my hair, and my kill count.
I said that every mission begins with silence, but sitting here in the hanger, that isn’t entirely true. The hanger is full of all kinds of sounds; turbulence, for one, rain and thunder. Across from me I hear Blue cleaning his pistol; an array of clicks and tangs. At the weapons bench Splicer is playing with his plasma rifle, of course, raw plasma always has the sweet sound of boiling water, until it clicks into the casing, producing a low bwaaap!
“Commander,” says Lieutenant Malcom – his code name is Ice – “Nav. says we’ve arrived at the drop-zone.”
I smile. Finally. I stand up to talk to my team, using the net above to help balance against the rocky turbulence. “Alright guys, we know our objectives. I want a quick, clean mission. Once we’re in we need to sweep the penthouse floor and apprehend Rodrick Vayne, it’s essential that he’s taken alive. Command says his men are expendable and are likely to be hostile, so there’s no holding back on this one. Understood?”
My team responds in unison. “Yes ma’am!”
The standard alliance spec-op team consisted of six members, and here they stand before me. Splicer is our lead marksman, thus why he owns the plasma rifle; he’s the real quiet type, never really talks about himself, but damn he can shoot. Next to Splicer is Blue, our tech expert; he was your typical geek, underground sort of hacker before the alliance found him and put him on the team. Ice is our medic; he got his name after a piece of shrapnel shredded one of his eyes open, and needed to get it replaced mechanically, an operation that left it scarred and milky-coloured, like a sheet of ice. Ghost ran heavy munitions; he’s a brute with a special knack for explosives, but I guess that’s part of the job. At the end of the line is Charlie, but the team took to calling her Buttercup, although she’s hardly what I’d call sweet. She works the stealth system on our mech-suits better than most, so she normally acts as our recon unit.
I see a red light go bleep. The back of the hangar opens up over the city and the rain and wind lashes past angrily. From the shuttle the city is just a giant maze of fluorescent blue and orange lights whizzing past. I close my eyes and feel the exhilarating cold on my face. I hear the voice of our pilot over the intercom. “Departure in 10, cap.” He counts down, and then we jump.
Hitting the ground after leaping from a speeding shuttle is always a shock, but the mech-suits take most of the force. I shake it off and cock my pistol. We’re on the balcony of the penthouse floor with the noise and colours of the city behind us. Blue runs a scan of the floor. “7 hostiles spread throughout, looks like they’re patrolling.”
I had a feeling Vayne might have been onto us. “So they’re expecting company.”
“There’s a lot of heat coming from the room at the end of the hall, and there’s someone inside, it could be the operations hub.”
“Vayne,” I murmur. “Alright, Ice and I will go down the hallway to secure Vayne in the operations hub. Splicer and Blue sweep left and take down the guards, Ghost and Buttercup sweep right.”
Then I see Blue go wide-eyes. “Take cover!” Without thinking we dart behind the flower beds as a volley of machine gun fire tears over the balcony. Amidst the rain we get a shower of glass as well. I check to see that we all made it. Ghost, Blue and I are on the right side; Splicer, Ice and Charlie are on the left.
I turn to Blue and he scowls at his scanner. “Oh,” he remarks, “now it picks up the sensors.”
Without our com units they wouldn’t have heard me over the rain and the bullets. “Never mind the sensors. This mission just got a lot messier. Blue, can you block their sensors now?”
“Alright, do it. The rest of you, lay down suppressive fire and keep their attention. Buttercup and I will flank them using the stealth systems and see how many we can pick off.”
Blue gives me the thumbs up. “You’re good to go, ma’am.” I nod to Buttercup and activate the stealth system, and a moment later it’s like she, nor I, don’t even exist. I sneak away, out of their line of fire. The gunshots are just added thunder to the storm, and as I climb through the window they become a rumble. I’m in a neat, empty little bedroom, and I move on as the stealth system flickers off. In the next room there’s a man perched up near the window, shooting away. I raise my pistol and bang! He falls to the floor. Of course, they would have heard the shot, so I quietly hide behind the door. The next man runs in and I see fear grip his features. He sees me, so I let my spider-blade swing out and I drive it into his chest. I leave the two bodies – one with smoke rising from his bullet hole, the other bleeding out – I report my kills and head to the next room.
The heavy rumble has become a small clamour. Buttercup reports her kill. I look into the hallway, at the end opposite to the operations hub, to see a ball of plasma the size of my fist rip through a man’s torso and splatter along the wall. Splicer reports the kill. A few seconds later the shooting stops and I hear Ghost’s voice. “Hostile down. That’s 5.”
Blue responds. “The last two are still in operations. No sign of Vayne?”
I lead my team down the shattered hallway. “He’s alive.” We stack up at the door, Splicer behind me with pistols at the ready. Blue plants the small explosive and I take a deep breath. There’s a flash, and a thin cloud of smoke, and then we’re in. I shoot the man on the left before he can raise a weapon and he topples limp over a computer chair. That just leaves Vayne; trying to aim a pistol at all of us at once, with a stupid mad grin plastered to his face.
I tell him to drop his weapon but he stubbornly refuses. There’s something wrong about his eyes. “There’s no way out of this,” I say. “It’s over.”
His purple eyes zap over to me and I feel them digging in. He laughs at us. “Oh, it’s not quite over!” And then he lifts his own gun to his temple and bang!
Cursing, I watch his body topple to the floor. Mission failure. I look to my team and we’re all silent, but the job isn’t finished yet. “Blue, see what data you can salvage from the computers. Charlie, call the shuttle for evac. and tell HQ what happened here; target is dead but we’re salvaging what we can from his computers.”
The computer screens light up, and we hear a scrambled automated voice. It sounds like Vayne. “I told you it wasn’t quite over.”
I turn to Blue, who is tapping away at one of the computers. “What is that?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The voice came from all of the computers. “Ever wondered why the alliance shut down the Nexus Division?”
I look up, but I honestly don’t know where I’m looking. Someone is watching us. “Who are you?”
“You don’t know? You just saw me kill myself.”
I turn around. My eyes flicker towards Vayne’s dead body. “That’s impossible."
The voice continues. “Not entirely. The alliance shut us down because we found a way to establish a link between the human mind and a virtual intelligence. You destroyed my body but my mind is now a part of the nexus, and just think of the damage I can do now.”
I take a step back. I’m no computer genius but this sounds bad, so I glance at Blue for confirmation and he just stares forward blankly. “Ma’am,” he says, “I don’t know how to put this, but if we don’t find a way to take down the nexus, the alliance is done for.”ns 18.104.22.168da2