Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: Savannah City, New Savannah, United Commonwealth of Colonies
“Look, shit-for-brains,” Coop took a deep breath and stopped himself from reaching out and throttling the uniformed man in front of him, “I’m not asking for you to unravel the mysteries of the universe here. I’m just inquiring where an injured criminal would go to seek medical attention and lay low. That’s all.”
“And as I have said before,” the policeman’s face was beat red, “that is not a simple question.”
Coop had been going back and forth with the sterling example of New Savanah law enforcement for the past fifteen minutes, and it was going nowhere. That about summed up Coop’s life since he cleared the house above the second weapons cache and called in the cavalry. The only problem was that the cavalry had tried to kill him when arriving.
Apparently, whoever dispatched the cops didn’t let them know what had occurred and who was already on site. When the cops showed up, they naturally started screaming and demanding that the man dressed in black armor with a submachine gun to get on his knees and surrender. Coop being Coop told them to go fuck themselves. No shots were exchanged from Coop’s end, but the cops had taken their shots. One had clipped Coop’s armor, but other than that, they’d had the equivalent of a hostage situation for ten minutes before the higher ups got their shit together. Even though the brass smoothed everything over, that didn’t mean everything was copacetic on the ground. After all, someone had taken a shot at Coop, and if Coop guessed who, it was the world’s most obnoxious cop standing right in front of him.
“Can I please talk to someone who doesn’t have their head firmly secured in their own ass?” Coop’s exasperation got the best of him, as he called out to anyone within earshot.
“Stand down,” a familiar voice called out as a second soccer-mom van pulled up, and the SGM exited with the rest of Bravo Team. Everyone’s face was obscured by their helmet, but Coop knew that voice anywhere.
The cop looked like a days-old pimple, ready to pop, but the SGM flashed something holographic at him, which readjusted his attitude right away.
“What can I do for you, sir?” The cop immediately became professional.
“You’ve got to be shitting me. What…” rough hands interrupted Coop and pulled him away. “That just ain’t right.” Were Coop’s last words as a hulking figure, that could only be Mike, led him to the edge of the cordon the local PD had in place around the weapons cache. A second perimeter was established at the first house Alpha Team originally raided, and a third at the exit point where Eve and GYSGT Cunningham were holding down the fort.
“Brief me on what happened,” Mike asked once they’d put enough distance between them and any eavesdroppers.
“Brief you?” Coop scoffed. “Since when do you need to be briefed?”
“Come on, dude.” Mike groaned. “Sergeant Major trusted me to get a full briefing on Alpha Team’s mission. Don’t buddy fuck me here.”
The last thing Coop wanted was to be a blue falcon. “Fine,” he took a deep breath. “We made entry at the first site down that way,” Coop pointed to the subtle blue and red lights flashing in the distance. We took out the lookout in the guard tower first before breaching the front door. The plans on file with the city didn’t match with what we saw, but we went about clearing the rooms one by one. The enemy had employed jamming technology, so we couldn’t get a SITREP out until we were finished. We had four KIA in the first house, while taking three prisoners. Those three might be WIA because we were a little rough after they tried to kill us.” Coop conveniently left out the part where he nearly put his boot through a guy’s chest. He was sure that part would come up in the after action review with the rest of the team. “The Gunney nearly cut a guy’s head off who took a shot at us with a plasma cannon in the tunnel between house one and two. He was definitely a KIA, which gives us five total. In the second weapons cache I took down one while Eve and the Gunney took down another three. There were no prisoners there. Those guys were meant to kill us, and if they didn’t succeed, stall us so the others could get away.” Coop made sure to gloss over the guy from the bar whose face he’d shot so it resembled pudding, rather than a human being, and then shot his GIC off. “So that leaves us with a grand total of nine dead tangos and three possibly wounded prisoners as far as I know. The Gunney and Eve could have taken down more guys at the third location. I just cleared the second house and didn’t find anyone else.”
Mike didn’t say anything through the briefing, and only nodded when he was done. “Ok, I’ve got it all down. Anything else?”
“Yeah, the local cops are morons. I asked where a possibly injured bad guy would go to lay low, and they’re acting like I’m asking them to solve some gravitational equation. I’m just trying to follow up on possible leads. That is their job after all. I’m just trying to help.”
That wasn’t totally the truth. Coop didn’t take kindly to people shooting at him, and even worse, getting away with it. His goal was partially out of self-interest. If he killed the guy trying to kill him, while the other guy was injured, then that other guy couldn’t try to kill Coop because he’d be dead. The fact that it lined up with their mission was a happy coincidence.
“Noted,” Mike replied professionally.
“Noted?” Coop mocked his friend’s serious tone. Mike’s attitude was disturbing Coop just as much as the insurgents who tried to put a bullet in his ass.
“Just…” Mike exhaled. “I’m trying to make a good impression on the Sergeant Major. Guy’s a fucking legend. I’ve been talking to Sullivan about their last mission. He said the Sergeant Major led a covert strike in a Blockie PDC, during an invasion, and was able to blow up a ton of shit so the regular grunts could take the base.”
Coop had heard the story from a different perspective. “Is this the same mission where Sullivan got fucked up and Eve had to carry his ass to safety?”
“Umm…maybe. Sully didn’t…”
“Everyone on me.” The SGM’s voice cut off their conversation, and they quickly reconsolidated with the rest of Bravo Team.
“This just in from Alpha.” The SGM shared a link with the rest of the team that showed them video footage of Eve and the GYSGT clearing some type of factory. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much clearing to be done. Most of the workers had already scattered, and it was easy to see why. Two bodies were located on a straight-line path between the tunnel’s end and the building’s exit. One of the bodies was completely missing a head, while the other just had a giant chunk removed and a quart of brain matter on the ground beside him.
<That’s another two KIA, which gives us almost a dozen for the mission.> Coop was fine with that. It was eleven less bad guys to fire surface-to-air missiles at politicians that resulted in the burning of an innocent Coop with those politicians’ vehicle’s missile countermeasures.
“S2 is already reviewing satellite footage, but so far hasn’t found anything fleeing the factory during the target time period. However, witnesses claim a second, unknown group was onsite, and took two people captive.”
“So why isn’t there any footage?” Mike asked.
“Because the other side has tech to throw off our satellites,” Coop answered without thinking. “Or there are more tunnels.”
“A search of the premises shows no more tunnels, so it’s likely we’re dealing with another sophisticated enemy. Luckily, that narrows our suspect list.” The SGM reached behind his back and produced two sets of civilian smartcloth. He tossed one to Coop, and the other to Mike. “Get in the van and get changed. We’ll drop you a few blockes from the target establishment and it’s your mission to gain entry and recon for a possible raid.”
“Sergeant Major, if you don’t mind me asking, why us?” Coop wanted the entire picture before sticking his neck out…again. He still had his gelcast on, and was technically still on light duty.
<That didn’t matter with the first raid, and I doubt it will now.> Coop knew that much.
“I don’t mind.” The SGM surprised Coop with his answer. Coop thought he was going to be told to go pound sand. “Cooper, from what I hear, you have plenty of practice at this.”
<What?> Again, it wasn’t the answer Coop expected, but it was all he got.
Ten minutes later, Coop had changed into the provided casual civvies, and being driven through downtown New Savannah with an uncomfortable Mike right beside him. They were both a little worried. The SGM’s cryptic message didn’t help. It didn’t matter if Coop had done it before if he didn’t know what it was. Whatever it was, he wasn’t going to be able to be a Commonwealth soldier, so he needed to be someone else. When it came to being someone else the devil was in the details.
“So we’re brothers?” Mike asked.
“Cousins,” Coop corrected. “We don’t look enough alike to be brothers.”
“Ok,” Mike nodded and took a breath. Despite all his experience in the PHA and military, it quickly became obvious Mike didn’t have a knack for subterfuge. On paper, Coop didn’t either.
“We need to pick something that’s a lie, but close to the truth. We don’t have time to build an elaborate back story, so if someone asks questions we need to be able to answer it smoothly and avoid suspicion.”
“The only thing I’ve ever done is join the infantry,” Mike replied.
“Me too, so we’ll go with that.” Coop scratched his chin in thought. “We can’t be law enforcement because that’ll be more suspicious than soldiers. Private Investigators are also out because no one likes someone digging in their shit.” Coop thought for another few seconds before he snapped his fingers and smiled.
“We’re weapons testers with Blacktide Armaments,” Coop concluded. “We’re not management or anything like that, that’ll lead to too many questions. We’re just normal, hourly employees. We’re just trigger pullers and live on their moon facility. We’re down here in New Savannah for the Election Day weekend and all the parties that inevitably crop up. We’re here to get our drink on before returning to a life in zero gravity blowing shit up.”
“What if they ask us about the guns?” Mike was wringing his hands.
“Pull from your Basic and HI school knowledge. Master Sergeant Smith had us memorize just about everything in the Infantry MTOE, so just make up a name and fill in the details from a weapon you know something about.” Coop gave Mike a comforting pat on the shoulder. “We’ve got this.”
Mike nodded but didn’t say anything. His lips moved as he talked himself through his pretend story without uttering a sound. Coop just shook his head and closed his eyes. Lying came naturally to him.
The journey was full of stop-and-go traffic. Checkpoints were all over the place as the defense force and police cracked down after the terrorist attack. IDs were being checked by cops in riot gear on every corner. Inevitably, right when Coop began to slip into real sleep, the van jerked to a halt and the SGM turned around from his spot in the front passenger seat.
“Here.” He tossed them two IDs and accompanying money chips.
Coop marveled at the fake IDs for a moment. He’d heard about this tech before, but never seen it up close. The “ID” was actually two strips of polyplast. The first was a flesh-colored adhesive patch that, if Coop guessed correctly, was cloned from his own DNA. That patch went on first to cover his GIC. The second piece of plastic was the new ID part. That went on over the flesh-colored patch to give the impression of a GIC. They wouldn’t last forever, looking into it with a lot of detail would show the GIC wasn’t matching up with the bodily functions that a real GIC measured, but it should be enough to get the job done.
“These will get you through a cursory look. If they’ve got people who can get deeper it won’t hold up, so stay alert. The chips have ten thousand on them. It is Commonwealth money, and will appear on the team’s line item budget report, so don’t be too stupid with it. I’ll understand a degree of…discretion, but use your heads.” The SGM supervised as they covered their legit GICs with the fake ones.
The SGM’s pause caught Coop’s interest, but even more pressing was who the “they” was the NCOIC was referring to. <I’ll find out soon enough.> The last thing the SGM did was toss them fresh PADs as he kicked them out of the van. Thankfully, the PAD had a waypoint identifying their destination.
Their target was only a few blocks up and a street over, and they made good time even in the crowded streets. Mike spent most of the time mumbling to himself, either psyching himself up, or going over his cover story. On the other hand, Coop spent his time thinking about how quickly the SRRT had thrown together new identities and gotten twenty thousand in disposable cash. That was an impressive amount of detail to throw together in thirty minutes.
All of those thoughts vanished when they arrived at their destination. The building itself wasn’t obnoxious like some of the buildings on the street. It blended in well with the other, regular buildings, and it’s only ornamentation was a big sign reading OASIS in shimmer letters meant to mimic a soft breeze blowing atop the water’s surface. It was other things that stood out to Coop.
First, was the pair of armed men flanking the revolving door. The weapons were well concealed, but Coop spotted them. Second, were the beautiful women casually lounging around. They were drinking, smoking, laughing, and just giving off an air of relaxation and fun. To the experienced eye, Coop knew that was as good as a woman walking the curb and soliciting random guys for ten dollar quickies.
<It’s a brothel.> Now Coop got the SGM’s reference, and he wasn’t sure he liked that the SGM knew about that.
Coop led the way to the door but was stopped by one of the guards outstretched hands. While the guard stopped Coop, Coop saw the second one’s attention slide to protect the girls and suspected there was a third guard around somewhere that was watching the rest of the entrance.
“Membership.” The guard stated.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have one. Is it possible to…” Coop pitched his voice to near pleading.
“Visitors pass is a thousand…each.” The guard had obviously been through this sales pitch before.
“A thousand!” Mike’s shock was genuine. “But…”
“A thousand or take a hike.” The guard was big, not as big as Mike, but he held himself like he knew how to handle himself in a fight.
“Fine,” Coop sounded exasperated, as he handed over the chip and paid the guard. “It better be worth it.”
“Trust me. It is.” The guard took Mike’s money, stood aside, and ushered Coop inside.
<Yep. It definitely is.> Coop tried to keep his jaw from dropping as his gaze settled on the interior of the Oasis.