Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Savannah City, New Savannah, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Index,” GYSGT called out.
The holographic display on their HUDs vanished to show the original architecture of their surveillance position. Coop and Eve popped off their helmets and wiped the perspiration from their foreheads. Even with the cooling system turned up high, the New Savannah evening humidity still leaked in.
“I think we’re good to go.” The GYSGT nodded to her two team members, and went to inform HQ.
For the last few hours, as they waited for nightfall, Alpha Team of SRRT-Two had been running rehearsals for their assault on the insurgent’s stronghold. They’d been able to get the blueprints of the property from public records, and through their helmet’s tech, been able to imprint those surroundings over the apartment they were currently occupying. The GYSGT then had them run mission after mission. Each time she changed the variables. In some, they took fire before they every made the front door. In others, they had to fight their way through forty bad guys. Coop hoped that wasn’t how this one actually turned out. He’d died in that one.
The gear they were wearing was good, but it wasn’t military tech, and that left him feeling increasingly vulnerable. A round to the neck in the simulation had driven that point home.
“This thing is chaffing like a motherfucker.” Coop grabbed the top of the exo-steel breastplate and pulled down.
He doubted anything the insurgents had would pierce the new, alien metal, but it only covered all the important bits of his torso. Ballistic gel underneath let it conform more to his frame, but every time he ran it hiked up and pushed uncomfortably into his neck.
“We’ll get through this quick,” Eve’s words were neutral as she cleared the training magazine from her weapon, and inserted one with live ammo.
Coop followed her example and did the same for all his weapons. He opted for the submachine gun and a pistol on his hip. He stuffed the rest of the pouches on his utility belt, which sat just below the armor, with more magazines and a protein bar. Eve raised an eyebrow at the last item.
“What? Combat makes me hungry.” Coop shrugged, and she just shook her head before going back to her own armaments. She’d equipped herself similarly, but had also compressed the sniper rifle she’d been using for surveillance and strapped it to her back. Coop didn’t know why she was doing that. Even compressed down to half its original size, it could still get snagged on a doorway and get her killed.
“Hey,” Coop’s voice was uncharacteristically serious as he began, “I know you kind of hate me and everything, but this is the real deal now. Can I trust you to watch my back?”
Eve looked a little taken aback by his bluntness, but they quickly morphed into anger. “You can always trust me to have your back, Coop. I’m a professional soldier. I don’t let shitty personal squabbles get in the way of doing my duty.” Her eyes were as intense as a battleship’s energy cannon, and it forced Coop to look away. “Plus, I don’t hate you. I’m just disappointed.”
“Ouch,” Coop couldn’t stop from chuckling. “Ok mom.”
Eve’s face contorted again, but then unexpectedly softened. “You know,” she couldn’t stop from grinning, “if I was your mother that would make you one sick bastard.”
It took Coop a moment to catch up and remember the weekend after Basic. “Awwww…that’s disgusting.” His face pinched but he couldn’t help but smile.
“Still,” Eve’s face went from hot to cold in an instant. “Don’t think we aren’t going to talk after all of this. You’re going to sketchy places, doing sketchy things, and with an increasingly sketchy woman. You’re on an elite team now, Coop. Don’t fuck up your life for something that isn’t worth it.”
Coop wasn’t sure if she was talking about the ten grand for the info he’d given, or Aiko, but either way it was way too close for comfort. <If Eve has been keeping track of me then who else has?> He never got the chance to ask.
“Let’s move.” Cunningham reappeared in the room and headed for the door. She was already locked and loaded. “We breach in fifteen.”
There was no time to grab anything else, since they still had a few kilometers to travel to the target, and there was no time to disguise what they were. They headed out into the hallway in full battle rattle. If not for the lateness of the day, a ton of people would have seen them, but since most were sitting down for dinner, they only saw a few.
“Police, ma’am, just doing a security sweep please return to your home.” The GYSGT confidently instructed a woman who practically froze as they walked down the hallway. The woman scurried into her place without even looking for a badge.
They quickly descended to the underground garage and the minivan. Piling in now was a little harder with their weapons and armor not in a duffle bag, but they made it happen. The GYSGT took the driver’s seat, which she had to move back to its rear-most position. Eve took the second row, and lined up with the door that would be facing the target house when they arrived. Coop got the trunk, which was just fine with him. The door would spring open, and he’d have the van as cover if the enemy opened fire on them right away.
Cunningham hit the maximum tint on the windows as she headed out. It would look suspicious to people on the street, but there weren’t a lot of people out, so it was a risk they were willing to take. Speaking of risks, Coop fiddled with his reduced gelcast. He picked at it like a child as the target drew nearer and nearer. Technically, he was still on light duty, but there was no way in hell he was going to miss this. Even with his reservations about the plan.
“Three minutes,” the GYSGT called form the front. The car was driving itself, so it left her free to prepare. “Chamber a round, but leave it on safe until we’re a block out.”
Coop hit the button and felt the slight rumble of his weapon moving a lethal round to the chamber. <Go time,> he thought. <This isn’t PHA Rats rioting back on Earth, or pissed off asteroid miners. These are legit domestic terrorists who’ve assassinated a planetary governor.> Coop knew the ramifications of what they were about to do. It wasn’t only about getting the people responsible. It was also about sending a message. That message was ‘Don’t fuck with the Commonwealth’.
Coop recognized when they entered the target block because he’d been watching the place for days. He’d even done old-fashioned, hand-drawn terrain sketches to pass the time. He recognized the swing attached to the big tree on the corner.
“Weapons hot, suppressors active.” Coop followed the GYSGT’s orders. He disengaged the safety and pressed the button that would reconfigure the barrel to suppress the sound of the electromagnetic gunshot. Even after hundreds of years, humans still couldn’t fully silence the sound of a weapon being fired, but it would have to do.
“Three…two…one…GO!” The GYSGT counted down as she brought the van to a stop in front of the target house. Somewhere else in the city Bravo team was rolling up on another target and rushing to kick down the door.
The vehicle jerked to a stop. Three doors flew open, and Alpha team flowed through their well-rehearsed exit. The GYSGT stepped out and immediately targeted the guard booth in front of the house. Her weapon sputtered as she fired on full-auto into the presumably ballistic-resistant glass. Being resistant didn’t mean bulletproof. It held for a second under her withering fire before it began to crack, and as she continued to fire, those cracks spread. She didn’t give the guard booth more than five seconds of attention, before dropping the weapon. Her sling caught it and magnetically pulled it to her side as she grabbed a grenade from her belt. Like a major league pitcher, she cocked back her arm, and launched it toward the weakened glass. Like they planned, the glass broke on contact, and the gas grenade exploded inside with a muffled pop. If anyone was in there, they were paralyzed by a nerve agent for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Coop popped out of the trunk and provided one hundred and eighty degree security to the south. Eve sprang out of the side, gave a five count as she swept the area to the north, and then rushed the front door of their target just as the GYSGT’s grenade exploded in the guard house. Coop and the GYSGT quickly collapsed their perimeter and followed.
Eve was on her knees by the front door’s electronic entrance screen with a bumper already attached. The device filled the sensors with so much garbage code it should send it into reset mode and open. Instead the screen beeped red and something clunked inside.
“Fuck!” Eve hissed. The bumper had failed, which meant this door had high-grade security. On the bright side, it meant they were in the right place, and they had a backup plan.
Eve yanked a two-centimeter thick cord of explosives from her back and quickly went to work sticking it to the door. Every second counted, but Eve had trained for this, and was ready to go in only a few.
“BREACH…BREACH…BREACH!” she yelled. Silence wasn’t going to mean a thing in a second.
Coop shuffled to put a little more distance between him and the shape-charged explosives. In theory they were only supposed to blow inward, but even a small difference between theory and the reality of explosives could be deadly. He went to a knee and tried to make himself as small as possible, while keeping his armored plate rotated toward the explosion, while maintaining security.
His helmet’s audio dampeners automatically activated, but he still felt the shock of the explosives.
“GO!” It was the GYSGT again over their TACCOM channel.
Coop pivoted and entered the home through a solid wall of smoke, dust, and debris. His optical suite cut through the interference, but got nothing. It didn’t feel right. He reached to his belt, grabbed a sensor drone, and tossed it down the hall as he was first through the door.
<Fuck!> He cursed as two things became immediately clear.
“We’ve got a door on our right two meters in, and this place has jammers.” He relayed as he moved forward to post up against the door that wasn’t on the blueprints.
“Take it with Berg, I’ve got the hallway.” The GYSGT shifted to the opposite side of the narrow walkway while Coop and Berg stacked up. The door’s entrance screen showed it was on lockdown because of the explosion, so Coop pulled out his own bumper, slapped it on, and hoped it worked better this time.
After a second, the door beeped green and slid open. Coop assaulted forward to avoid giving a potential enemy the chance to react. He went left and Eve went right. The room looked like an office of some sort. There was a bookshelf of legit hardcopy books, some high-end electronics, and a nice desk that a man was overturning to give himself cover. Coop’s finger acted before his brain and sent a three-round burst from the submachine gun’s barrel.
The first round was low and to the left, but it cut through the table with a loud, splintering crack. The wood might have stopped a personal defense weapon, but not the military-grade firearms Coop had. The second shot was on target but low. Coop saw pain register on the man’s face as the bullet hit him below the belt. The third round hit center of mass which painted the wall behind him red. The man topped over and fell out of sight behind the table, but Coop was already continuing his sweep.
“Clear,” Eve called from behind him.
“Clear, one tango down,” Coop answered.
“Check him,” the GYSGT was still posted in the hallway. “Secure his weapon.”
<Weapon…shit!> Coop wasn’t sure if the guy even had a weapon. He’d just reacted when he saw the guy throwing up cover between them. No regular person did that, but the briefing they’d been given said they were only to kill if the tangos posed a threat. Otherwise, they wanted prisoners to interrogate. <Fuck me.> Coop moved quickly to round the table to view his handiwork. <Oh thank you Jesus!> as he rounded the table he spotted a black piece of metal on the floor. It wasn’t just a weapon. It was a laser pistol, an illegal laser pistol.
Coop quickly secured it and followed Eve back into the hallway. The whole thing, start to finish, took about fifteen seconds. As last one out, Coop covered their rear as they advanced down the hall so no one snuck in through the destroyed front door and shot them in the ass.
The next two doors they went through had been on the schematics and were empty. The three soldiers breached the kitchen, but also found it empty. The sensor drone Coop had thrown should have mapped the whole home by now, but he was still getting nothing but static. They cleared the first floor and then headed to the second. They were only halfway up the stairs when energy blasts ripped into the staircase, shattering wood, and starting a small fire.
“Grenade.” The GYSGT stated casually as she tossed a flashbang. She let it cook for a second and then ricocheted it off a wall to get the right angle. There was a yell of surprise before intense light and sound overwhelmed everything. The team was protected from it, but the neurological overload had knocked the enemy flat on their asses.
Coop jumped over the fire, bounded up the stairs, kicked the weapons away as he moved through the two men’s prone forms, and took up a covering position as Eve and the GYSGT came up behind him. They took out restraints and hog tied the two men before throwing hoods over their heads. The hood contained a powerful sedative that would keep the men asleep until the GYSGT wanted to wake them up.
As the two women worked, Coop did his own extra task. “The source of the jamming is coming from the last room on the right,” Coop informed as the GYSGT and Eve came up behind him. They tapped him on the shoulder and they moved forward.
They quickly cleared two more rooms, both empty, before moving on to the room where the jamming was originating from. They stacked up beside the door, and found out why you were trained to stack up beside the door and not in front of it. Laser blasts cut through the polyplast and burned into the far wall.
<Fuckers are going to burn down their own house.> Coop was the breach man, but decided to change it up. He collapsed to his side, and pushed out into the doorway. His sensors immediately, adjusted his optics so he saw perfectly through the large hole in the door. He saw a young woman with a laser rifle standing next to a bulky device sitting on a bed.
Coop saw her before she saw him. As she turned her rifle toward him, Coop fired a single round through her chest. The woman pulled the trigger reflexively as she collapsed and put a big hole in the ceiling.
Coop rolled to the side and back to his feet to cover the hallway behind them as Eve and the GYSGT stormed the room. “Clear,” they announced, followed by the deactivation of the jammer. The sensor drone went to work and a holo-map of the home began to appear on Coop’s HUD. It spread second by second until the whole house came into view…or so Coop thought. Then the holo kept expanding.
“There’s a basement!” Coop yelled and headed for the stairs. He heard the stomping boots of Eve and the GYSGT behind him.
The original plans didn’t have a basement. No homes in this area were supposed to have a basement because of the water table being so close to the surface.
<But who are terrorists if not rule breakers.>
“Hold up, Cooper!” the GYSGT called out before he rushed through the kitchen and toward the entrance to the cupboard, which the sensor drone revealed had a false back wall to a staircase. “Stop with the John Wayne shit.”
“Wayne who?” Coop asked, but still came to a stop.
“Don’t be reckless,” Eve interpreted. “We go in as a team. It doesn’t matter who’s down there if they kill us.”
“Yeah,” Coop took a deep breath and got his adrenaline under control. “Ready when you are.”
There was no handle, so Eve brought out the explosives again.
She blew apart the fake wall and they descended into darkness.