Two Worlds – Chapter 227

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Savannah City, New Savannah System, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Coop took a deep breath and focused. His heart thudded rhythmically in his chest as he let his mind’s eye narrow so the entire universe was contained within the confines of his scope. He tried to let his thoughts flow freely and not focus on anything. He wanted to simply be in the moment, as stupid as that sounded, but that was what Eve advised was required for a good sniper. Coop would never be a great sniper, he knew that, and their last training exercise had clearly demonstrated that.

Coop did not have the patience for that type of work. He’d approached the target area from several different angles and each time the spotters had located him. Meanwhile, the rest of the team had taken their shots and only Sullivan and SSG Hightower were spotted. Sullivan got ribbed by the rest of his Ranger buddies, but he didn’t bitch as he jogged back to the LOD to start the stalk again. He passed on try number two, as did the SSG. Coop failed during times two and three. Four was his lucky number, and even then, he wasn’t sure if the spotters were just letting him slide by because they’d been out all night and wanted to go back to base. He could feel their pity when he marched back into the camp they were packing up.

<Fuck them.> He didn’t want to show them he gave two shits about what they thought, but he didn’t think they bought it. Deep down, he was pissed.

It wasn’t necessarily the sniper thing. Stalking clearly wasn’t his thing, and he could live with that, but on tries two and three he’d totally missed the target; one from nineteen hundred and twenty meters and the other from a paltry eighteen-ten. Try number four had been a success from eighteen-twenty five, but only because he’d been able to identify his weakness: dealing with vertical change.

Coop no longer believed that being a sniper was easy, and the Rangers were just blowing smoke up his ass. He knew there was science and art behind the lethal skill, and it was a skill he was trying to get better on. In his free time he’d started hitting the ranges. Sometimes Eve would join him, but today he was alone and trying to remedy his weakness.

He started with close-up targets to build confidence. He hit fourteen hundred and fifteen hundred meters dead center with elevation changes each time. The range was designed to throw all different scenarios at the shooters, and although frustrating, Coop knew the variables were making him a better shooter.

As he sighted in on the two thousand meter target he went through his mantra of the fundamentals, <check the externals, proper position, good trigger control, proper breathing.> The ranges externals were more controlled, but there was some wind to deal with, and his Truthfinder helped gauge how multiple terrain features along the bullets projected flight path would affect the shot.

His position was good, he’d been working on his trigger pull, and he felt his breathing was getting better. He didn’t know if the IOR’s integration with his brain was making it easier to focus and avoid distractions, but Coop felt like he was able to achieve a Zen-like focus quicker than ever before. Since he’d never achieved a Zen-like state, except maybe mid-orgasm, he didn’t have a good benchmark to work off of, but it sure felt like he was getting better.

His IOR displayed the Truthfinder’s readings so he never had to take his eye off the target: a holographic representation of a Blockie soldier standing guard by a gate. The simulation could make the guard march around and act more like a human being, but Coop was taking baby steps, and the guard remained static.

Coop waited for his breathing to hit the right point and gently squeezed the trigger; not pull. The soft recoil caught him by surprise, but then his eyes automatically went back down range. The Blockie holo was on the ground. Coop quickly replayed the shot recorded by his Truthfinder over his IOR. He slowed it down and watched the round come in frame by frame. When the round hit the Blockie hologram, it pulverized the electronic soldier’s hip flexor. While the wound was incredibly painful, and maybe mortal, it was off target.

<Shit.> Coop sighed and put his head down on his forearm. Even though his eyes were closed and buried in his arm, his IOR still relayed the information behind his eyelids, and he watched the hit twice more. <Well at least I hit him.> Coop looked for the silver lining. It was the longest shot he’d been able to hit anything at before.

With the M3 back at basic the standard weapon’s qualification had soldiers going out to one thousand meters. Only the best shooters could hit the targets with the rudimentary M3 at that distance. That’s why they got the Expert Badge. Coop thought he’d been one of those shooters, and he’d finally earned an Expert Badge, but now that he’d taken two kilometer shots, it felt like every meter over the one kilometer mark was a struggle. Eve had scored her kill at the training event from twenty-two hundred meters, and it had been a head shot. That’s why he’d gone to her for advice, and that’s why he’d been able to hit the guy at…he hit the range finder again…<Two thousand eight meters.> He mentally recorded his new personal best. <A hit is a hit.> He was focused on confidence building and didn’t need the lecture that the enemy rarely allowed you to easily kill them, but that was why he was taking baby steps.

He reset the simulation by hitting a few buttons on the terminal next to him. The range was not integrated with the IOR, so he had to break his firing position to go again. Then he settled back down for the task of getting back on target. The externals changed, the Blockie guard was in a different place, and the elevation was slightly different. The range finder came back with a two thousand one meter distance. It wasn’t a personal best, but Coop focused on taking a better shot.

Five minutes of prep later he was ready to make the shot. He controlled his breathing, slowly began to squeeze the trigger, and…

{PRIORITY MESSAGE… ORDERS ATTACHED… ALL SPLITSTREAM RAPID RESPONSE TEAM TWO PERSONNEL REPORT TO CONFERENCE ROOM D IMMEDIATLY FOR BRIEFING.} Flashed across his vision a split-second before the round left the chamber.

“Son of a bitch!” Coop cursed. His round was off target by a good six meters.  He took a moment to seethe before acknowledging the read receipt for the message and packing up his kit. He’d need to stow the rifle in his locker before he went to the conference room.

His IOR popped up with the quickest path to get to where he was going and an estimated time based on his routine walking pace. The time adjusted up and down depending on Coop’s speed. Coop grimaced at the information and swiped it away with his eyes. He didn’t need every facet of his life marginalized and micro-analyzed by a poop-nugget in his brain. The IOR was great for some things and incredibly frustrating in others. He could just imagine a mid-sex countdown clock to ejaculation popping up in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable activity.

<No thanks.> Coop made sure he adjusted the sensitivity settings of the biological software to its lowest setting before heading out.

It took him about twenty minutes to jog back from the range, secure his gear, and make it to the conference room in the administrative building at the center of the base. He opened up the orders before he arrived to scan them so he didn’t go into the brief blind.

“Thanks for joining us, Cooper. Take a seat.” The SGM was leading the briefing because all the officers were off on another mission. It didn’t seem like a dig at Coop. While on duty, the SGM’s IOR had some command authorizations. One of those was that he knew where his people were at all times, so he knew Coop was at the range practicing.

“Now that we’re all here let’s get started.” A star chart appeared at the center of the table. One point lit up that was quickly recognizable as New Savannah. Then the map zoomed out, and a second point was highlighted.

Coop looked at the star chart’s legend to make sure his IOR wasn’t malfunctioning.

“This is the Hegemony system identified in your orders as The Golden City of Luck, Happiness, Prosperity, and Servitude; or at least that’s the human translation.” He held up a hand as Coop opened his mouth to ask a question. “Hold your questions until the end. We have been ordered to rendezvous with a delegation from New Washington at Thurgood Station in the Rim before heading out on a diplomatic mission to the Golden City. Apparently, the ETs auditing the Commonwealth are finished and we’re being welcomed into the Hegemony.”

<Or something like that.> Coop had known the SGM long enough to know the expression on his face said he thought this was a questionable mission at best.

“Minister of Commerce Harrington will be leading the small delegation and we will be pulling security. Each team will handle a different element of our security plan. Gunney, you and Alpha will handle far security, and Bravo will handle close. I will be attached to Alpha, and Lieutenant Wentworth will be with Bravo to interface with the Minister. Packets are going out to you now with more details. We’ll run through some simulation training over the next week before departure.  Argo will be back by then, and she’ll be our ride. Questions?”

Coop’s hand shot into the air. “What kind of name is The Golden City of Luck, Happiness, Prosperity, and Servitude; especially that last bit? It’s a little foreboding if you ask me.”

Most people rolled their eyes, but a newly recovered Mike, still on light duty, nodded his agreement.

“I don’t make the names and this Hegemony has been around for tens of thousands of years, maybe hundreds of thousands, so don’t go pissing them off. You understand, Sergeant?”

“Yes, Sergeant Major. Don’t piss off the ETs. Roger that.”

 

***

 

Hailey Armstrong

Location: Savannah City, New Savannah, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Hailey posted up outside the door of the residential home. It was nice, in an upper-middle class neighborhood, and looked like a mid-level executive should live there. That wasn’t what her intel indicated. This place was a cook house that was hiding in plain sight.

She’d gotten the intel from a police officer they had on the payroll. Hailey had turned the man first by fucking him and making sure it was all recorded and ready to go to his wife. His wife came from money, so if she found out about his bi-weekly affairs he’d be shit out of luck. The blackmail was the stick, and the payroll was the carrot. They kept him well paid to the point they didn’t need to blackmail him, and like a good little doggie he’d relayed the intel so PFH could get there before the fuzz.

Hailey’s team was the same team she’d used to grab the two arms dealers a few weeks ago. She’d put them together from approved available personnel, and they’d gelled well over the past several months, so going into the house was a well-rehearsed maneuver.

The bumper defeated the lock’s software and the lead man threw the door open and burst inside. They quickly swept their assigned sectors of fire based on the plans grabbed from planetary records, and proceeded to repeat the same tactic throughout the house. The only problem was they didn’t find anything.

“Clear.” Her team relaxed a fraction and waited for her to make the call. She was easily the youngest among them, but she was the PFH Asset Protection agent. They were freelancers hired by the organization, maybe even aspiring to join it, but the chain of command was clear. The buck stopped with her.

Hailey scanned the large, main room and took a deep breath. Parts of her enhancements were stimulated senses. Not too much, because that would drive her insane, but enough to pick up what normal people wouldn’t. She took several deep breaths as she walked and detected a faint hint of chemicals. It could be cleaning products, but the room was basically deserted with a thin layer of dust covering everything. She surveyed several rooms, but the smell was the strongest in the main room.

She was so concentrated on smelling that she nearly missed the slight squeak. She back tracked a few steps and applied more pressure. The squeak was more pronounced, but the floor looked just like it did anywhere else, so Hailey reached into her tactical vest a pulled out a small vile. She poured the specifically programmed nanites onto the ground and waited. They were like grains of sand moving around until the scene started to take shape.

Nanites were a great way to hide stuff. They would fill in cracks, hide creases, and make it appear that something like a door wasn’t there. The nanites Hailey dropped were programmed to search and destroy other nanites within a two-meter radius, and as they got to work it was clear someone was trying to hide a trapdoor to a basement.

Within a minute it was clear, and Hailey’s teammate put a bumper on the lock. A few seconds after that there was a sizzling as the lock was overpowered by the powerful bumper, and the door popped open. The same teammate grabbed the handle and opened it a fraction so Hailey could toss a flash bang grenade down there. She didn’t know what was waiting for them, and she wasn’t going to take any chances.

The ground rumbled beneath them as the shockwaves from the grenade expanded, and a heartbeat after that Hailey jumped down through the trapdoor. The fall was a little farther than expected, but her enhancements allowed her to handle it.

<Damn,> was her first thought as a full-on lab came into view. She’d expected a few idiots cooking up some synthetics with a third-grade chemistry set. The result would be lots of overdoses, more attention from law enforcement, and a decrease in customers. That was something PFH couldn’t allow on top of people cutting in on their market share.

She swept the space quickly and identified two men. One was in a lab coat with protective gear, obviously the cook, and the other was reaching for… Hailey didn’t care what he was going for. She put a round from her silence pistol through his forehead and he dropped like a stone. The cook didn’t even register that his bodyguard/friend/whoever was dead before Hailey was throwing him to the ground.

“Sweep the room,” she commanded. “Test the product.” If it was quality or novel they would take the cook back with them to answer to the Boss. If not they’d kill the cook, torch his supply, and blame it all on a careless man trying to play with forces outside his control. Plenty of idiots died trying to synthesize good drugs. The cops wouldn’t look any deeper into it.

The cook shook his head, opened his mouth angrily to protest his handling, and then froze when he saw the barrel of Hailey’s weapon a few centimeters from his eye. She didn’t have to say anything. He quietly complied.

“This is good shit,” one of her team replied gruffly as the tester he’d brought lit up green like a Christmas tree.

Hailey looked at the results and then back down at the cook. “You’re coming with us.” The cook didn’t argue. He knew he didn’t have a say in how this played out, so he didn’t even think of lying when Hailey hesitated, took out her PAD, and showed him a picture. “Have you seen this guy?”

The cook was even more surprised he had. “Yes. One of my people sells to him every other day at a motel on the outskirts of the East Side. I can give you the data if you’re lenient.”

“That’s not my call,” Hailey replied, but then hesitated. “I’ll put in a good word though.”

The cook nodded and transmitted the data under close surveillance. Any shenanigans and he’d end up like his friend. Hailey looked down at the smug face of Noah Grisham and silently seethed for a moment. She wanted the guy dead for the way he’d demeaned her, but she couldn’t touch him at the moment.

<Thankfully, I know someone who’ll do the work for me.> When she’d finished with the cook, she’d call the number Coop gave her and set another meeting.

Sometimes it was good to have friends with military-grade enhancements, training, and a desire to get their hands dirty.

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5 thoughts on “Two Worlds – Chapter 227

  1. Hey everyone!

    If you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to check out my published works: The Harbinger Tales and Aftermath for free on Kindle Unlimited and Two Worlds: Rags & Riches for only $0.99! What I earn from those helps to go into editing and artwork costs for future books. So please pick them up, and just as importantly, leave a short review and let everyone know what you think. Every review is greatly appreciated! It’s the best form of advertising for an indie author like me, and i like to hear what people think. 🙂

    Once i get the hospita bill from the birth of my kid, i’ll be looking at getting my next book edited and published. Always open for suggestions on what you want to see next

    Also, vote for Two Worlds on topwebfiction here and help bring attention to the series

    You can also donate to my indie writing career either by becoming a monthly patreon or donating for bonus Two Worlds chapters. Both links are on the right side of my Home Page. Just five more bucks for a bonus Two Worlds chapter!

    Like

  2. Nice chapter, balls are rolling, it’s gonna get good.

    ‘Hailey didn’t care what he was going for. She put a round from her silence pistol’

    Is it meant to be silenced?

    Like

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