Two Worlds – Chapter 255

Ezekiel Mackintosh

Location: Capitol City, New Washington, United Commonwealth of Colonies


Chaos reigned around him.

Prime Minister – soon to be former Prime Minister – Ezekiel Mackintosh sat in the center of the chaos like the eye of a particularly destructive hurricane. He might have looked calm on the surface, but his mind was in turmoil and a bit of shock. The results were in, and his Progressive Party had lost the majority they’d held in the Council of Representatives.

He knew it was coming, he’d seen the writing on the wall, he even thought he’d accepted the outcome, but actually seeing the numbers on the holo was something else entirely. He’d held power for years. He’d been the most powerful man in the galaxy, and now he was about to fall from grace, <and all for fights I didn’t start.>

The Eagle Party had hammered that point home during the recent elections.

“The current government is a failure. They’ve lost entire fleets, hundreds of thousands of spacers and soldiers, along with entire systems to a backwater kingdom nobody had ever heard about ten years ago. Our dead demand a change in leadership. When someone doesn’t get the job done, they need to be replaced.” The voices of his opposition had called through human space.

Ezekiel countered as well as he could. He emphasized his first contact with the Hegemony and the massive trade deals he’d brokered with them. He promised stronger warships to take back those systems that were lost, and he reminded the people that the Windsor’s had tech supplied by those aliens, and that was what turned the tide against the Commonwealth vaunted fleets in those battles.

Some voters took those words to heart. The moderate independents that were undecided knew the Commonwealth had been outclassed and they were quickly leveling the playing field, but that didn’t change the fact that no one wanted a loser in command of those forces when the fighting came around again.

Ezekiel had been a politician for the majority of his life, and he understood at its foundation that the science was about understanding people’s wants and trying to meet their needs on a macro-level. He could never make everyone happy, but he needed to make enough happy that they reelected him. That took an understanding of how people thought that was tough to teach in a classroom, his knowledge came from traveling the galaxy and seeing those people up close and personal, shaking their hands, and telling them what he was going to do. He hadn’t been able to do that during this election because his responsibilities demanded he stay at the capitol.

He wanted to believe his restrictive campaigning had something to do with his loss, but he kenw people better than that. In the war-time climate that was permeating the Commonwealth, the people wanted someone from the military to take charge. The wanted a proven commander who’d won battles and taken down the enemy. As a businessman, Ezekiel was good for peacetime, but people had lost confidence on his ability to command the war machine.

“It’s almost time, sir,” Connie Price’s hand gently rested on his shoulder.

To his credit, he didn’t jump at the sudden contact, and instead let out a long sigh. The walk from his office to the floor of the Council of Representative was short, but it would be like walking a gauntlet of enemy fire through inhospitable territory.

The dread that had been building for the last few days reared its head and he felt a frog in the back of his through. He excused himself to the restroom so he could grab a glass of water, and waited for the door to seal behind him before puking into the waiting toilet.

The man that looked back at him through the mirror looked like he’d lost five pounds in the last five hours. His face was a little too pale and the bags under his eyes told anyone who looked that he’d had a rough night, or three. The Commonwealth’s system of governance was built in a way so that things that had been done could be undone. Statutes of limitations were normally attached to initiatives so that they would either end naturally if the old government lost power, or be reupped if power was retained. It was few and far between that any party had the votes necessary to make legislation semi-permanent. The supermajority that it required hadn’t been obtained in over a century, but as any veteran politician knew, there were tricks of the trade to maintain one’s legacy.

The last week, since his defeat was sealed, had been a flurry of legislation being brought to the council’s attention. He was fighting to preserve his legacies under what had initially been written into those programs. Some, he was trying to reup so they had the maximum duration before ending, and others he was trying to gain more support to keep them around at all. It was an uphill battle to say the least. The education initiative he’d fought so hard to achieve, in order to compete with corporate programs, had already been abandoned. It was good for another eighteen months, which amounted to one more school year, but who was going to enroll their children in a system that was doomed to fail.

<At least I was able to delegate responsibility to individual systems, and maintain funding for those who elect to continue to participate for the next four years.> It was the one positive he was able to wrangle out the whole fiasco, and who knew, maybe before that time was over, he’d find himself back in power again. It was a dream, but a good one.

He flushed the toilet and went to the mirror. The programming in the pseudo-glass identified discrepancies in his facial features and dispatched cosmetic nanites to remedy the imperfections. Everyone who was anyone had one of the Gold Technologies cosmetic mirrors. They ensured people were at their best no matter what situation they were walking into.

He felt the puff of the material hitting his face and the skittering of the microscopic robots across his skin. Several areas of his face grew taut, and there was some slight stinging as they went to work making his presentable. When he exited his personal bathroom, he looked like he’d had a good night sleep, a healthy breakfast, and was going off to do something enjoyable.

Connie was waiting by the large, real-wood, double door to the hallway. She gave him a once over, and flung the door open when he gave her a nod. A hundred lightning strikes flashed in front of his eyes the second the doors parted. All the major media heads were waiting for him in the hallway, and the questions they shouted felt like they could shake the foundation of the great hall they were standing in. Thankfully, the photo-protective nanites in his eyes protected him from the camera flashes, and the devices in his ear, normally for translation purposes, helped dull the onslaught to a bearable roar.

Questions of his inadequacies were hurled at him like Windsor missiles by his pundits, while those friendlier to his ideology asked what his next steps were as the de-facto opposition leaders. He had a response rehearsed, and he gave it. It gave enough of a soundbite for people to think about without really saying anything at all. He waved and smiled like the defeat hadn’t crushed his soul, and he never stopped moving. His security detail was still his for the next few minutes, and they did their jobs like professionals.

Once they reached the threshold of the council chambers the media stopped hounding him. They knew they weren’t allowed and would have to watch the upcoming spectacle from their respective booths on the outskirts. Ezekiel never broke his stride and he walked proudly to the center of the room.

Surrounding him were the terminals of the other council members. They were all full, and a number of them had a second person standing at their shoulder. It was part of the pomp and circumstance of this occasion to have an official Changing of the Council. Ezekiel got to the PM’s terminal at the center and read a few paragraphs that many PM’s had read before him, <and they probably felt just as shitty as me while still having to keep a straight face,> he thought as the words rolled effortlessly off his tongue. People could say a lot of negative things about him, but calling him a bad public speaker wasn’t one of them.

When he finished his introduction, he read an oath that everyone stood and recited. Once that was complete the defeated council members vacated their seats to the newest members. Some exchanged a few words and shook heads, while others just walked out without a glance or a word. It had been a contentious election on many planets, and politics was still a contact sport. There was a lot of bad blood in the room.

He was still watching some old friends depart, when a light on his terminal chimed. He looked at it for a second as the dread rose in his chest and threatened to overwhelm him. Instead, he took a deep breath, and hit the touchpad with his finger. “The Prime Minister acknowledges Representative Simons.”

The former admiral could have given a lengthy speech now that she had the floor, but that wasn’t the woman’s style. “I call for a vote of no confidence in the current Prime Minister, and then request a new vote for the high office be conducted.” Seconds rang out from eager, young members of Simons’ party.

“The motion is seconded and all representatives should now vote.” Ezekiel logged his own vote, but he knew the results before he hit his button. All of this had ben ironed out over a week ago, this was just the formal process to strip him of his power.

Simons was already walking toward the podium before the votes were cast. A big holo-tank above Ezekiel’s head showed the results, so when Simons arrived, he had just lost the vote of no confidence.

“The vote for the new Prime Minister will now commence.” He stepped away from the podium but only by a step. He wasn’t going to vacate the post. If no one won a majority then he would serve as the interim PM – primarily just regulating the business of the Council – until a new PM was elected. He half wished that was the outcome.

“Representative Simons has the request votes and confidence of this Council of Representatives and will now ascend to the position of Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Colonies.” Ezekiel didn’t even realize he was saying the words, but the votes were cast, and only history would eventually tell if this was good or bad for the interstellar Commonwealth.

He turned to Simons, who thankfully wasn’t smiling. Again, it wasn’t the woman’s style. “Congratulations, Deja.” He held out his hand and she shook it without hesitation. “Don’t fuck this up,” he pulled her in close so no one could read his lips. The Windsors and Hegemony are unlike anything you’ve dealt with. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.” He would never admit to any mistakes publicly, but the warning to the new PM felt appropriate.

Simons’ composure cracked slightly at his candor, but she quickly reasserted her stoic demeanor. “Thank you for those words, Ezekiel. Please take your seat.”

Unlike many today, he didn’t have to leave the chamber. He now had a front road seat to the show as the new Opposition Leader. He made that known to the galaxy by lodging an objection to her first order of business.

<And so it begins,> he sat back as other representatives started to argue and jostle for position in the new power structure. <Huh,> he thought after a second as Simons struggled to restore order. <I forgot how much fun it was to be the Opposition.>

Previous                               Next

Two Worlds – Chapter 254

Queen Josephina I

Location: Harper’s Center, Barrowsford, Star Kingdom of Windsor

“What!” The wine decanter exploded in the Queen’s hand as the news reached her ear. It was a very undiplomatic reaction.

She was dining with select loyalist members of her planet’s new government. The new Prime Minister was sitting on Josephina’s right, with her husband, and she’d been working up to the formal declaration that a new government had been formed in Josephina’s name, so the Queen’s outburst threw everyone off.

The words had been whispered in Josephina’s ear by her trusted personal attendant, Theodore. Theodore was part executive assistant, part spymaster, part bodyguard, and one hundred percent loyal. She’d brought him to Barrowsford with her so he could work his magic, which she saw essential to the governance of her new domain.

“Your Majesty?” the new PM looked and felt a little awkward saying those two words, but she still said them respectfully, if only for the fact that she’d just watched her sovereign crush a glass bottle with her bare hands. So far, no one on Barrowsford seemed to have any enhanced physical or mental attributes.

“Something dreadful has just come to my attention,” she accepted the cloth napkin from Theodore to clean the wine off her arm. None of the glass had punctured her skin. “There has been a terrorist attack on our troops and the energy infrastructure of Stonewall Valley.”

Gasps echoed through the dining room followed by grim, determined faces. The newly elected government of Barrowsford wasn’t soft. They were the deprived masses that had been forced to live under the tyrannical rule of the Commonwealth and its corporate puppet masters. They were ready to fight and die for the new freedom Josephina had brought to them. The new Queen could see in their eyes that they just wished peace would last a little longer.

She had one eye on them and one eye on what the alien bioseed was feeding directly into her ocular nerve. Data and video were streaming across her vision. All of the soldiers’ helmet cams had been recording when the attacks occurred. All the attacks were different, yet followed the same premise. There was an initial attack, something large enough to overwhelm the physical defenses. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED)s seemed to be the weapon of choice. After that came a ground attack. Troops in mismatched armor, weapons, and generally lacking in tactics rushed the battered barricades. In some cases, the royal marines recovered in enough time to engage them, and in others they did not.

A second wave of soldiers followed and they either ran into heavy resistance, tripping over the dead bodies of their traitorous friends in the process, or they helped overrun her marines. Her mind scrolled through the videos until two stood out. Both showed large soldiers leading the charge against her troops. One, she couldn’t tell the sex, was encased in the same suit of armor that her techs were dismantling and studying in the basement of her palace. She didn’t want to call it a dungeon, but the term fit. The second was a large man in mismatched, basic Commonwealth armor. She knew there was a story behind the wardrobe choice, but she was too busy watching his actions.

He moved with speed and confidence. He was over the barricades and tossing grenades through shields before the marines even knew what hit them.

<So, the ones we caught weren’t the only ones.> She’d yet to gain any meaningful intelligence out of her prisoners, but it seemed that they weren’t alone. <At least the scramblers worked.>

The aliens the Empire was trading with had told of ingenious ways to transport troops across the galaxy, but the Empress had forgone that technology in favor of advanced warships. Instead, she’d purchased the technology to disrupt that mode of travel. These scramblers interfered with the transmission method, either killing the people in transit or disrupting their landing. There were many factors that determined the death versus dispersed outcome, but the two chief factors were distance and lock on target.

<Which means…>

“Theodore, please send word to Vice Admiral Westwood to step up patrols. We have reason to believe enemy scouts are in the area, and I want them found and destroyed. Also, contact Colonel Buckton. I want a full briefing on the situation after dinner. Prime Minister, you are more than welcome to attend.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty. I want to find these terrorists as much as you.” From the look on the other woman’s face, Josephina believed her.

“Another bottle of wine then,” she called and a fresh bottle practically materialized at her shoulder.

Against normal protocol, but only because it was necessary with the people of Barrowsford, Josephina got to her feet and poured the wine for her guest before raising her own glass. “To those who have fallen. We will never forget.”

“And we will never surrender,” the PM added as they downed the tangy liquid that was fruitier than any other wine Josephina had ever tasted.

The Queen gave the elected leader a smile and wondered if this native woman could be a trusted ally or someone she would eventually have to dispense with. <Time will tell.> She really didn’t care either way.

The dinner finished up fairly quickly after the bad news, and they continued on to the briefing. Colonel (COL) Buckton was the commander of the royal marine detachment that had arrived to reinforce her own lancers in providing security for the newly conquered planet.

<Imperial marines,> she reminded herself. She frequently made the mistake. Her own lancers were now royal marines, while Victoria’s soldiers held the imperial title.

It hadn’t escaped her notice that the imperial marine regiment outnumbered her own royal marines nearly two to one. Victoria might have given planets and titles to some of the high nobility, but she wasn’t a fool. The five thousand imperial marines were there to ensure the interests of the empire were maintained. They were technically under Josephina’s command, but she knew the second she ordered something that went against whatever orders the COL had from the Empress, the COL would no longer be her subordinate. The same were true with VADM Westwood in orbit. The Imperial Admiral’s warships outnumbered her own Houses’.

While the spymaster part of her mind acknowledged all of this, the rest of her ignored it. Victoria was her best friend, and there was no way she was going to betray her or the empire. Josephina might be a Queen, and Victoria an Empress, but they all served the Star Empire of Windsor.

“Your Majesty,” the COL bowed deeply at her arrival. Unlike the natives, he was brought up with a proper education on the hierarchies of society.

She acknowledged him politely, but skipped the pleasantries. They got straight to business.

“The rebel soldiers hit our checkpoints in red,” the COL explained as the holo-screen highlighted several areas throughout the space around Stonewall Valley.

The city, second largest next to the capitol, was fully under their control. However, it was nestled in a valley where two of the continent’s largest mountain ranges intersected. Strategically, it was a nightmare because of all the mining that had occurred since the planet was initially settled, and since all of those maps had been destroyed during the battle for the planet. Theodore’s sources pegged the rebel HQ being somewhere near the city.

“We had several casualties, most were just injured and will make a full recovery with regeneration, but we lost good men and women as well.” The casualty figures scrolled, and Josephina saw that most of the dead had come from the two sites where the armored figure, and the large man had attacked.

“Do we have tracking data on the vehicle stolen from Site Bravo?” she inquired.

“Negative, your majesty. We lost the feed when it entered an unknown tunnel system. The magnetic ore in these mountains is playing hell with our scanners. It could still be underground, but more than likely someone has dug through and removed the transceiver.” The COL didn’t beat around the bush.

She expected as much, but now they were getting to the good part. The COL and VADM had ships and troops on alert status. The marine quick reaction force was too far out to do anything but secure the destroyed checkpoints and provide medical aid for the wounded, but the ships in orbit were able to take the fight to the enemy. Unfortunately, only one ship had firing solutions, and it had to pick its target.

The rebels attacking Checkpoint Delta had been hit with a kinetic orbital strike that left a hundred-meter crater in the mountainside, and disbursed their organic matter over several square kilometers. It was an overreaction in terms of force, but it was also a healthy reminder to the rebels.

<Attack us and we will obliterate you.> Josephina was fine with the level of force used, and was only unhappy that Delta hadn’t been attacked by the armored warrior or the large man.

She thanked the COL for his briefing, said goodnight to the PM, and made her way down to the basement/dungeon. She changed out of her expensive, royal outfit, and put on a plain smartcloth uniform with insignia of a marine sergeant. Funny enough, it was the same as a Commonwealth sergeant, just with the chevrons upside down. She grabbed the tablet sitting next to the door and did a quick review of the footage over the last few hours.

There was nothing new, so she pushed open the door. The large Commonwealth woman was hanging from the ceiling with her arms strapped behind her back. Her toes barely scraped the ground, and she was sweating profusely. The skin around her shoulder joints was bright red from the strain her full body weight was putting against them, but they hadn’t popped out of their socket yet.

<Impressive,> the woman had endured hours of the torment, and she hadn’t broken. <It seems like the Commonwealth can make them tough after all.>

“Good morning.” It was actually evening, but messing with the woman’s sense of time was its own form of torture. “Have you thought of anything you wish to share?”

The woman slowly raised her head, and with murder in her eyes, spit in Josephina’s general direction. The monarch easily sidestepped the luggie and slapped the woman casually across the face. That got a growl in response, like a caged animal, before she casually took her seat behind the woman. The Commonwealth soldier tried to turn her hand and reacquire Josephina, but her body couldn’t move like that.

“Let’s start with the basics again,” the former chief of intelligence for the Star Empire crossed her legs and leaned back in the chair. She’d done countless interrogations, and one thing was always true. Time told all secrets.

“How many people came with you, and what are they armed with? How were you delivered? What is the Commonwealth’s timetable for its counterattack?”

The woman lashed back with her leg to try and donkey-kick Josephina, but she was carefully out of range. However, the maneuver did what gravity had failed to do. There was a soft pop and the woman screamed.

“My my,” Josephina tsked the woman. “I could help with that if you simply answer my questions.”

“Sit on something and rotate, bitch,” the woman replied through gritted teeth.

“No thank you,” Josephina replied, “but that is a good idea, maybe I can make that happen for you.”

The woman didn’t say anything in response, so Josephina repeated her questions.

<Time always tells the truth,> she reminded herself as she settled in for the long haul.

Previous                                 Next

Two Worlds – Chapter 253

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor


<Relax.> Coop tried to focus his mind on the task at hand.

It was hard to concentrate when he was surrounded by shit.

Literally, him and a squad of rebellion soldiers were stuffed into the back of a truck hauling shit to a fertilizer plant…or at least that was the cover story if they ran across any checkpoints before their target. It was also the beauty of the disguise, because who is going to look closely at a truck full of shit.

<Don’t breathe,> he told himself. Despite all his enhanced body could do, he couldn’t survive without oxygen.

After a few minutes of holding it, he screwed up his face and inhaled. He was wearing a mask, one identical to what he’d worn back in the PHA a lifetime ago, so he knew how well it would work. It blocked out some of the noxious fumes, but he could still taste the shit as the air worked its way down into his lungs.

He fought down a gag and studied the men and women around him. He didn’t like what he saw. <They’re so small,> was his dominant thought. He took for granted he was used to working with professionals. HI troopers and the SRRT were beasts of the human race, usually standing at least two and a quarter meters tall, and built like tanks. Since he’d actually seen a tank in action, he knew the analogy was appropriate.

The tallest man in his ramshackle unit was a hundred and seventy centimeters and couldn’t be more than eighty-five kilos soaking wet. At least they all had on Dragonscale armor, even if it wasn’t sized properly and looked awkward on them. Better awkward than dead.

Coop felt just as awkward sitting in the back with them. His V4 LACS was deadlined until an armorer could get in and make some repairs. Since SSG Hightower was the team’s certified armorer, Coop was shit out of luck. Instead, he was in a standard set of Dragonscale.

Up until this point, he’d liked it when women wore short shirts that showed off their toned abs, hips, and maybe a little side boob, but now, he wondered why they didn’t feel completely naked. The armor barely went to his own belly button, which left his intestines, and other critical organs, vulnerable to enemy fire. The GYSGT had jerry-rigged a fanypack-looking contraption over his gut and filled it with the ballistic plates that were tucked into the compartments of his CMUs for protection. The only problem was, the plates they had weren’t meant for someone his size, so despite being the biggest, strongest, and most experienced person in the impromptu-squad, he was the least protected.

That was a whole new feeling for him. He hadn’t felt this vulnerable since Basic.

He pulled on his flexible neck gator to alleviate some of the built-up heat. He’d been smart not to seal his armor just yet. If he did, he’d seal in the stench as well.

“Two minutes, passing phase line alpha” the GYSGT’s voice echoed over the team’s comms.

“You heard her. Let’s lock and load,” Coop pulled up his new Buss and ran a quick diagnostic. The weapon was a model older than what he’d lost in the Windsor ambush, and didn’t have all the features he was used to working with.

<Stop complaining,> he admonished himself. <It has a decent targeting suite and still shoots, that’s good enough for this mission.> His HUD beeped green, but he kept the weapon on safe until they were good to go.

One by one the members of the squad gave him a thumbs up. They were all armed with M3s, which was better than the crap they’d had before. When everyone was green, he radioed their readiness to the GYSGT. She was in charge of the overall operation. Coop was just in charge of one of the moving parts.

“Let’s go over this one last time,” he ordered as the truck hit a bump and everyone was jostled around.

“We’re been over this a hundred times before,” the person next to him whined like a little girl.

For the life of him, Coop didn’t understand why the GYSGT had put Masha Kulikov on his team. The skinny man belonged on a university campus somewhere with a holo-sign protesting something or other. He didn’t belong on a battlefield. Coop knew that the second the other man didn’t properly handle his weapon.

<The farmer’s daughter even knew how to do that.> He’d rolled his eyes at the time.

Masha was a man of words not action, and getting him involved with action was likely to get him killed. Since he was one of the rebellion’s leaders, he felt it was his duty to act, so it became Coop’s duty to keep his ass alive. That was a tall order with what their part of the operation entailed.

All across the sector multiple operations were going to hit the enemy simultaneously. They would by no means cripple the Windsor’s ability to wage war on the planet, but it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be a message that the planet’s populace wasn’t going to sit down and take this unlawful occupation and annexation. It was also meant to test their response. The rebellion had people in position to watch and see how the Windsor’s reacted. Their reaction would prove valuable intel in planning the next attack, and the one after that. Eventually, when the Commonwealth fleet arrived, the GYSGT and rebel leaders hoped to have enough intel to cripple vital aspects of the Windsor’s defense so the infantry could come in and liberate the planet.

<Or at least that’s the plan,> Coop thought everyone was getting a little ahead of themselves. They needed to live through the next five minutes first.

“Passing phase line Bravo. We’re all clear,” the driver of the shit truck announced as the truck started to round a corner.

“Go!” Coop hit the button.

Micro-explosions busted open the back of the truck. Semi-solid shit slopped out onto the roadway along with the members of his strike team. The truck kept going for a few more meters as the driver engaged the auto-drive and bailed out.

On the other side of the turn, about twenty-five meters further was a roadblock manned by Windsor soldiers. It was one of four that barred anyone unauthorized from getting to one of the main powerplants that provided energy to a nearby city. It wasn’t the capitol, that would be too bold for their first joint operation, but it was an ambitious target nonetheless.

Coop could imagine what was happening as the driverless truck completed the turn and picked up speed. It couldn’t pick up a lot of momentum in twenty-five meters, but every kilometer per hour counted. It took a few seconds before the soldiers realized the truck wasn’t stopping and they opened fire on the hostile vehicle. Unfortunately, there was only so much they could do against sheer mass and momentum.

There were only a handful of cracks before a monstrous boom shook the ground Coop was busy rising off of. In addition to fresh shit, the truck was packed with explosives.

“Let’s move!” Coop was the first up and charging around the corner. Twenty-five meters wasn’t much, and before the enemy had even recovered from the shock of the explosion, he was among them.

The acrid smell of the explosion mixed with the smell of burnt shit permeated everything. To make matters worse, smoldering shit was everywhere. It might seem random, but there was a method to the madness. The shit had been flying so fast, anything shielded would have stopped the flying poopoo in midair. As Coop vaulted a cracked and crumbling barrier, he knew right away who was shielded and who wasn’t. An even better plus was that those who were shielded, and therefore the deadliest to deal with, had to spend precious second trying to scrape off the crap impeding their view.

If Coop was in their position, he would have turned up the shield’s power and frequency so it blocked out everything, even air at a fart’s speed from getting through. Unfortunately for these poor bastards, but fortunately for Coop, he was better trained then they were.

A scan of the area showed Coop that only one soldier, probably the commander, and the heavy weapon on top of a lightly armored vehicle were shielded, so he quickly lobbed two grenades through the weakened barrier and aimed his Buss at the nearest enemy. The guy was on his knees, struggling to get back to his feet when Coop sprayed him with plasma-tipped rounds.

His armor held surprisingly well before the explosive plasma ate through his vulnerable neck area and the man died with a screamed gurgle. By then, Coop was already moving for cover while the rest of the rebels engaged the other soldiers.

That was when his timed grenades went off. The heavy weapon had only fired a short burst when it was engulfed in flames. The metal of the barrel warped under the explosive pressure as the man behind it was pulverized and nearly pureed by the rebounding pressure of the explosion ricocheting off the shields.

The commander was probably midway through calling for backup when his grenade exploded and tossed him aside. Looking at him, Coop wasn’t sure if he was dead, but if he wasn’t, he was hurting bad. Either way, he was down for the count, and Coop turned his attention to the remaining Windsor’s.

They only had a fire team guarding the checkpoint, and without their shielded commander and heavy weapon, they were quickly overwhelmed by the rebels. They might have held their own longer if Coop wasn’t hitting them from within their lines with his powerful Buss. Within forty-five seconds of the initial explosion it was all over.

“Sit-rep!” He yelled as he started his after-action mission. He needed to grab any intel and weapons he could get his hands on.

He instantly went to the lightly-armored vehicle. It was open, but bio locked. He jumped in the open-bed back and grabbed one of the gunner’s dismembered hands. He put it on the control panel and everything turned green.

<Well isn’t this my lucky day.> It had been a long time since he’d committed grand theft auto.

The follow up vehicle with back up rebels appeared around the curb and stopped story of the ruined barricade. Another squad jumped out and started grabbing things as well. Medics also headed to help their wounded friends. The short burst the heavy weapon had fired off had killed and mangled some rebels.

Coop started up the vehicle and it lurched off the ground. It wasn’t smooth, his grenade had fucked something up, but an armored vehicle was an armored vehicle, and one with anti-grav to boot. The rebels desperately needed one.

“Put the wounded in the back,” he ordered as the medics started helping the injured to their feet. “Ten seconds and we’re out of here.”

These things had to be done quickly. It wouldn’t take long for orbital support to be brought into the equation, and that just meant death for anyone caught in the open.

There was a lot of clattering as people, weapons, and tech as the vehicle was loaded up. It was a little more than ten seconds, but when the sensor indicating the back was closed blinked green, he hit the accelerator. There was a hidden tunnel about five kilometers away that he hoped was big enough to fit the vehicle.

<Now all we need to do was get there.> Coop was not a man of prayer, but he thought this was as good a time to try as any. <The friend or foe indicator is still good, so that might buy us a minute.> He thought as he sped down the highway.

Who knew, if there was a creator, he’d probably just see a bright light and meet him face to face.


Two Worlds – Chapter 252

Eve Berg

Location: Harper’s Junction, Star Kingdom of Windsor

She remembered everything.

The transition seemed different, but she’d only jumped using the technology a few times, so she couldn’t say for sure anything was really wrong. That was one of the big drawbacks of the SRRT training program in her opinion. She knew they were supposed to do dozens of jumps around New Savannah before ever doing one in the field, and especially in enemy territory, but operational needs couldn’t be ignored.

<Needs of the service,> she sighed as she was broken down into her component atoms and shot tens of millions of kilometers through space toward the LZ.

The tingling sensation was something new as her body and armor rematerialized. She closed her eyes to fight off the wave of nausea and fatigue that swept through her, and opened them to see nothing but a brilliant white light. For a second, she wondered if she was dead, but then a high-pitch honk disabused her of that notion.

It didn’t take a genius to know that something was wrong. The LZ she’d studied on the holo-tank showed a mostly wooded area at the foot of a mountain range. At most, she suspected some rebel soldier to be there to escort them to their command and control center. She did not expect to see mountains of metal and glass and the screech of ground-car brakes.

Through her HUD, she saw the driver’s face as a mix of surprise and fear. All she had time to do was brace before the vehicle hit her going about sixty kilometers an hour. She felt the impact in her bones despite the LACS armor. Her shield wasn’t active, so she took the brunt of the impact around her waist. It was good that she got hit around her center of gravity, so more damage wasn’t done. Even so, a few alarms rang out as she was thrown backward from the force of the impact. She rolled with blow and turned the momentum to her advantage. She even ran a diagnostic as she got back to her feet to see no damage to her armor. The car was not so lucky.

It looked like the small vehicle had hit an immovable object. The hood was caved in around the center and smoking while the electric components within snapped and sizzled with small flashes of light. Thankfully, the driver looked to be unharmed. The car had immediately filled with foam to blunt the impact. It had filled the entire car, and after the nanites in the material registered the crash had ended, it sloshed out like water. It was an ingenious protective measure that had saved countless lives since it’s invention, but it was hell on the upholstery.

She could already hear sirens in the distance as she scanned her surroundings. Her IOR linked with the area’s networks and gained master access with her military codes. It was a good sign that the Windsor’s hadn’t gotten too far into changing things on the planet. It was a bad sign that she realized she was over a thousand kilometers from the LZ and in one of the most populated cities on the planet. A city that was under Windsor control.

<I need to find cover, contact the team, and evade capture,> she prioritized her actions and went to work.

She was on an overpass, so she moved to the edge to see if the coast was clear. The collision had brought traffic patterns to a stop, so emergency personnel could easily make it to the accident scene, so despite there being bumper-to-bumper traffic she was easily able to jump over and drop the ten meters to a street with multiple egress points.

An alert popped onto her HUD as her shoulder-mounted rail gun swiveled and engaged an incoming drone. The schematics matched a known Windsor scout model. <Shit!> she picked up the pace and ran down a side street. She wasn’t halfway down it before a police cruiser, with flashing blue and red lights, pulled into the intersection in front of her.

The two officers piled out of the car and tried to bar her way. Both were armed with handguns and ballistic vests, but they were about as effective as a wet fart against a V4 LACS. They yelled for her to stop, but she simply jumped over them and kept on running. Rounds impacted her shield, but barely registered as hits. She made a hard right and came across a dead end. She reversed direction and had just stepped out into the street when the same cruiser smashed into her. It was going a lot faster than sixty kilometers and hour, so this time her shield did its job. The vehicle flattened against the energy barrier and filled with foam.

“Idiots,” she muttered as she jogged away from the second accident site. “Trying to play hero.” She was still shaking her head when incoming fire rippled across the front of her shield. This time the projectiles registered on her radar as plasma flashed in front of her. She dove into a small alley to avoid the military checkpoint operated by Windsor infantry backed up by a heavy-weapons emplacement.

Her mind whirled through her options, and she settled on going through the wall of several buildings to come at the checkpoint from the flank. Standard infantry didn’t expect a giant armored trooper to suddenly burst through the wall beside them. Their attention was firmly fixed on the mouth of the alley, and they paid for that lapse in judgement with their lives.

It gave her freedom of movement for a few minutes, so she put as much distance between herself and her arrival point as possible. It didn’t do much good. Her railgun constantly chimed in as it engaged surveillance drones hot on her trail, and it didn’t take long for her to realize she was being herded toward the center of the city. When she tried to deviate, she was met with artillery and heavy weapons fire. She was able to weather that kind of assault, but not forever, and her maps told her she’d have to endure kilometers of that before she could even break into anything resembling open space.

She was trapped.

In the moment of realization, she didn’t despair. She didn’t think of her brother, mother, or Coop. She just wanted to hurt the Windsor’s. She wanted to hurt them because she saw them dropping artillery in the middle of the city.

“Let’s show the people of Harper’s Junction just who they signed on with.” As far as last acts went, it would have to do.

She clipped the side of a building going around a corner and stumbled, which ended up saving her life. On either end of the street were hulking mechs, and one was making a swipe directly at her head. Her stumble turned into a slide as she skidded across the street and ruined the asphalt.

She didn’t sit on her ass and wait. She hit the sidewalk on the opposite side and sprang to her feet. Her chest opened and a dozen micro-missiles swarmed out, with half a dozen targeting each of the mechs. The mechs countermeasures reacted instantaneously, but the wave of explosions gave her a chance to pick her target. She picked the closest mech and charged. Her blades came out and she was nearly on top of the mech when the smoke cleared. The mech brought its forearm up to parry and her blade hit the shield with a sizzle of energy.

Then she activated the chainsaw function.

The molecularly-honed blade began to spin and cut into the shield. She hoped the feature would work better in reality than it had in training, but she was shit out of luck. She was still cutting through the shield when heavy rounds started to impact on her shield. The other mech had her in its sights and was hammering her. Its heavy ordinance was doing a number on her battery power, and it dropped precipitously in seconds. She was forced to disengage and dodge a follow-up blow from the still-unharmed mech she’d originally attacked.

She dumped a pair of EW artillery shells out of her armor to give her a moment to breath, but the nearest mech wasn’t giving up the momentum. It charged right through the visual and sensor-scrambling fog to take a close ranged HE shell to the face. The back blast from the explosion, threw both of them off their feet, and the second mech charged in.

Panic began to seep into her mind as she fought off one attacking mech, tried to create some distance to regroup, and then was ambushed by the second one. She knew from the onset she was going to lose. She’d seen an entire battalion with HI support go up against these things and barely scratched their armor, but she hoped their new tech would give her more options. It did, but it just kept her in the fight longer. No matter how hard she hit them, they kept on coming, or they just traded off. Sooner than she would have liked, her shields were almost gone and warnings started blaring as ambient energy or kinetic force started to leak through. She compensated for her shield weakening by dialing up the actuator and tailoring it specifically to the mechs’ attacks.

They were coming at her primarily with fists, blades, and the occasional EM projectile. She knew they weren’t going for the kill, or she’d already be dead, but the thought of being a POW wasn’t very appealing.

Of course, the Windsor mech operators weren’t idiots, and they caught onto her tactics. Half a dozen plasma rounds detonated against her shield. The kinetic rounds were stopped, but the plasma broke through and wreaked havoc. Her armor held, but sensors were scoured away and she lost situational awareness. The next mech combination got some blows through her depleted shield and sent her flying through a nearby building. Warning alarms flashed as something on the right side of her armor stopped working. She tried to pull herself out of the rubble, but lost precious seconds doing it only with her left side while her right side recalibrated. She pushed aside a two-ton piece of masonry in time to see a boot the size of her torso smashing down toward her.

Her shield literally shattered under the force of the blow, and her armor screamed with alerts and warping metal. She squirmed, and tried to dislodge the foot, but it didn’t budge. She brought a blade around to chop at its ankle, but the second mech’s boot crushed her arm.

She felt that, she cried out in pain and…


“That’s enough,” a voice cut through her mind and the fight abruptly ended. A visor was removed from her head and a stark room came into view. All it had was a table, two chairs, and four solid walls. She was sure sensors decorated the ceiling, but she couldn’t see them. “Does that answer your questions?”

Eve looked at the woman sitting across from her and screwed her eyes closed. The VR crash from being abruptly pulled from the situation was fucking with her head, but it was slowly coming back to her. She’d been captured by the Windsor’s several days ago after the fight with the two mechs which had rendered her unconscious. She’d asked the woman when she came in how they’d caught her, and they’d busted out the VR scenario to show Eve her failure in high definition.

“Ok,” Eve spat to her side.

The woman frowned at the action, but Eve didn’t care. She was bigger than her interrogator, but by less than she thought. The woman was over two hundred centimeters, athletically-thin, but very beautiful. She was also dressed in a sharp, smartcloth suit that was probably the height of fashion in the Kingdom. It looked weird to Eve, but to each their own.

“Who are you?” Eve ventured a guess, but not expecting anything.

“I’m the person that is going to get answers from you,” the woman smiled like cat who’d just cornered a mouse.

Eve just smirked back. “Well let’s get on with it then.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” the woman’s smile didn’t falter. “We’ve already begun.”

Previous             Next