Two Worlds – Chapter 248

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor

Coop crouched down below the stalks and sighed. He thought they were corn, but he wasn’t sure. This was the first time he’d been on an actual farm or seen food that wasn’t an end product of a PHA ration or military chef.  He wondered if all the rumors about farmers’ daughters being easy were true.  <Focus!> he chided himself. He was in enemy territory and he shouldn’t be thinking about food and women. He needed to get to work. <I need to get back to Eve…and the rest of the team.>

He activated his IOR, and his military-level master authorizations got him into every civilian system within radius. He needed to build a picture of where he was so he could figure out how to get from Point A to Point B without getting killed. <I should have paid better attention during the briefing,> he reluctantly realized as he puzzled together information.

Harper’s Junction was a standard planet. There was nothing special about it. It was technically a junction system, but it was a junction system at the end of the line, which didn’t lead anywhere interesting. It didn’t export any important Commonwealth products, so it held no special value to the government. Its main export, if you could call the pittance an export, was raw material from its asteroid belt, but the refineries had been scuttled by whatever company owned it when the Windsor’s took the system. Essentially, Harper’s Junction was pretty much the same as Earth had been before spreading to the stars: self-sustaining, somewhat isolated, and with mindsets that matched those circumstances.

<Thirty million isolationists.> Coop grumbled. <The million-dollar question is: how did the Windsor’s win them over if these people don’t like foreigners?> Coop wondered, but was pretty sure he already knew the answer. <They made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.>

He shook his head and stopped thinking about the macro-political situation. He needed to get back to thinking about his survival. From what he could gather from the civilian systems, he was in the middle of a large farming complex in the capitol city’s agricultural district. The district was a crescent moon shape covering thousands of square kilometers to the city’s west. West was the direction he needed to head, away from the city. He needed to make it out of the farms, into the small foothills before the western mountains that formed the spine of the small continent, and into the small mining towns that dotted that area. That was where the resistance to the Windsor’s occupation was headquartered. Not in any major city.

He looked in front of him where he could barely see the five-thousand-meter peaks in the distance. Covering that distance was somewhat daunting, but he didn’t have much choice. He quickly checked his suit’s battery to find it was still at one hundred percent before starting out.

He didn’t get far. The program running the farmland must have initiated some alert when he arrived. It was probably meant to identify vermin and other pests that infested the fields; definitely not HI troopers.  He’d only made it half a kilometer when a wheeled vehicle popped over a nearby hill. He was already moving in a crouched position, so it didn’t see him right away. Unfortunately, his massive armor made a trail a blind man could follow.

<Shit.> He patched into some of the roadway cameras to see the vehicle come to a halt.

It kicked up a cloud of dust that obscured everything until a gust of wind cleared the area. What was left were two young men, a young woman, and an older man.

<Farmer’s daughter!> Coop couldn’t help but laugh, but it was cut short when the woman hefted a weapon onto her shoulder. <What is…?>

His IOR caught a picture of the weapon, referenced it against the neural net’s database, and popped a 3-D hologram into Coop’s vision. What the woman had was a two hundred-year-old riot gun. Coop pulled up the specs to see what he was dealing with, and he quickly realized he had nothing to worry about. The weapon was supposed to cover a large area with projectile pellets that weren’t even EM accelerated. It was a great tool to kill unwanted rodents, but it wouldn’t even scratch his LACS polymorphic paint.

<Duh,> Coop almost face palmed at the obvious. He could get out of all this by activating his armor’s stealth features. He felt a little stupid for not thinking of it sooner, but in his defense, his old V2 didn’t have the capability, and his last V4 had been disabled by aliens before he really got to use it. <The only problem is my trail.> He’d have to take a risk there, but it was doable.

He had audio from the road’s sensors, and the old man, the father to the younger three, was giving them instructions on where to check. Coop knew it was going to be suspicious as hell when they found the huge path he’d trudged through their field, but there wasn’t anything he could do now. The only thing he could do was make sure he wasn’t at the end of that path.

He hit the feature on his HUD that activated his camouflage and disappeared from view. Then he bent his legs, waited for a second when they weren’t looking in his direction, and jumped. He aimed for a shallow arc because the last thing he wanted was to be exposed for too long. Stealth or no stealth, he didn’t like the idea of being in the open air any longer than necessary. Thankfully, the camouflage worked as advertised. The group of farmers didn’t even look over as Coop sailed a good two hundred meters before falling back to the ground. His mass made landing an inevitably raucous experience, but he executed a combat role and tried to destroy as little of the crop as possible. With that completed, he went silent. He looked, listened, and felt through his network of sensors for any sign that the farmers were closing in.

“Aw hell!” He heard the yell a few hundred meters away, which meant they’d found his original trail.

Coop didn’t need to draw a weapon. He could dispense of the farmers with his bare hands, but the last thing he needed to do was draw more attention to the area. If a family went missing, the mother would call the authorities, who would probably end up informing Windsor’s agents, and that would bring a shit storm down on Coop. On top of failing his mission, he could be captured.

The best thing was for the farmers to write it off as an animal wandering through their field, or a piece of debris falling from orbit after the space battle weeks ago. Once they left, Coop could be on his way.

The thought had barely left Coop’s brain when the farmer’s daughter stepped into the small clearing his landing had made. <Shit.> Thankfully, his LACS was a machine and could stand perfectly still when ordered to. Not even a stalk swayed because of him.

She turned three hundred and sixty degrees with her weapon at the ready. She scanned the area for signs of life, and was confused when she didn’t find anything.

<She’s cute,> Coop passed the time by studying her.

She had disheveled, straw-colored hair with freckles that really popped on her light skin. She was probably around Coop’s age, but she looked a decade older. Despite time and technology, farming was still a rough business: early mornings, late nights, and a lot of tough, manual work. That showed in the daughter’s face and physique. She looked strong, and more than capable of dealing with something eating her corn. The problem was, she wasn’t ready for Coop.

The confusion didn’t leave her face as she called for her father. The man and his sons appeared a few minutes later to scout the same area. It was a tense few minutes, but they eventually concluded what Coop wanted them to. The farmer stated to his kids that some debris must have fallen from orbit and skipped across the field. That’s why they weren’t seeing animal tracks or signs of the crop being eaten. The daughter rightfully pointed out that there would be more damage if something hit the ground at terminal velocity and started skipping across the field, but that father waved her off. He wanted to keep things simple, and possibly avoid bringing any more attention to his property from the new planetary rulers. The capitol city nearby might be under the Windsor’s control, but that didn’t mean everyone was happy about it. Most people probably just wanted to be left alone.

With the issue decided, the farmers left, but the girl gave the clearing one last glance over her shoulder before departing. Coop waited another few minutes before he started moving.

<That was close.> He’d never gone to SERE school, something the SGM was going to rectify when there was time. As far as Coop was concerned, real world experience was going to teach him more than some scenario.

He deactivated his camouflage because it ate at his battery, and started moving again. He had a long way to go. It took him the rest of the day to get out of the agricultural district, but he didn’t have to evade any more farmers. He made sure to get into the crop’s systems before he entered a field, disable them as he passed, and then reactivate them when he was clear.

He was passing between two small hills, paralleling the road, but still under cover, when his IOR lit up with an incoming message.

<About time.> Coop hit accept and his IOR decoded the feed to ensure it was friendly. When it did, Mike’s voice popped into his head.

{Coop? That you? Shit, man, I thought I was the only one who made it.}

{Someone fucked up,} Coop replied. {I’m headed to the rendezvous, what is your location.}

{I was dropped into a cave with no entrance or exit. I had to blast my way out. A couple locals showed up, but I was able to evade them.}  It sounded nearly identical to what happened to Coop. If he lived through this, he was going to have a word with Gold and Aiko. They were the ones who fucked up.

There was a soft ping and Mike’s location illuminated on his HUD. Coop still had a trek to get to his teammate, but it was on the way to the rendezvous.

{Just sit tight and I’ll meet you there.} Coop radioed.

{I’ll be waiting.} Mike cut the line and Coop felt better about his chances. After all, he didn’t want to walk into a meeting with these local resistance leaders alone.

<Hey, the rest of my team didn’t make it, but you’ve got me and a few supplies to fight your rebellion,> wasn’t the best opening line of a negotiation. Coop was sure they would view him as the lesser of two evils, the evil they knew, but still evil nonetheless.

That was for future Coop to worry about. Right now, he needed to get to Mike’s position and avoid detection by the locals and Windsor’s in the process.

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5 thoughts on “Two Worlds – Chapter 248

  1. If you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to check out my published works. They’re easily viewed from my Author’s Page. 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 hospital bill from the birth of my kid, which i’m still waiting for five months later, 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.

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  2. “This was the first time he’d been on an actual farm or seen food that wasn’t an end product of a PHA ration or military chef.”

    I guess he forgot that super fancy dinner on the station a few chapters back? XD

    Like

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