Two Worlds – Chapter 293

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“I could get used to this,” Coop leaned back in his seat and kicked his legs out in front of him. His knees hit the seat in front of him, and the occupant turned around to sneer at him, but the much smaller man quickly averted his eyes when he saw Coop’s size. Or maybe it was the uniform. Either way, Coop slipped the wrapper of the delectable on-the-house snack pack and gobbled it down.

His experience on the maglev trains that were one of the primary modes of public transportation on Commonwealth worlds was limited. As an HI, if he needed to go anywhere he was in his LACS or the Infantry drove him there. As a Rat he’d never had the free cash to ride the fast trains. He’d hopped onboard a few in Mars and one on Thor, but that was a different lifetime ago: before New Lancashire, the Windsor’s, SRRT, and Harper’s Junction.

From the look on Eve’s face, the unexpected luxury, and prompt customer service of the train’s staff was a surprise. They’d been ushered from the regular commuter portion of the train to the first class area less than a minute after getting on. No one told them why, and Coop wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Even though the train moved close to seven hundred kilometers an hour on the magnetically accelerated tracks, it still took more than three hours to reach his old PHA. It was like every time the train got up to top speed it had to start slowing down again. Not every town had a maglev station, but most did, and there had to be fifty stops between the naval hospital and his old home.

“What’s up?” Coop asked as Toronto-Buffalo-Cleveland-Detroit Metropolis PHA 2’s tower clusters came into view in the distance.

Eve’s face had been pensive for the last few minutes. “Nothing,” she shrugged it off. “I’m just about to meet your family. You’ve met mine, we’ve got a kid on the way. It’s all official now.”

“Yeah.” Coop did a short moment of introspection – because that’s all he was willing to tolerate – and he liked what he saw. “Don’t worry about my dad. He’s a sorry old sack of shit. Offer to upgrade his holo-subscription so he can get the good porn and you’ll be the golden child until the day he dies.”

“Very romantic, Cooper,” she deadpanned, but a smile still pulled at her lips, just as the train began to decelerate.

It was a subtle tug, because the train’s dampeners in this compartment were top-notch, but he still felt it. A sudden change in a ship’s engine pattern, or the whine of a Spyder’s engines was the first sign of something out of the ordinary, and he’d conditioned himself to identify those little moments to increase his chances of survival.

An announcement blared of the train’s speakers, and Coop got to his feet. The train gently settled into the station before the doors even opened. It also flashed an air-quality warning.

<Shit,> Coop’s hand flew to his side, but where he’d used to wear a mask was nothing but his hip. <I’m gone for a few years and I’ve forgotten how to survive here.> He started to flush with embarrassment, but a steward approached to save the day.

The man had a tray full of breathing apparatuses for purchase that spanned from simple masks to full-blown helmets. Being from a place of low air quality, he had an eye for these things to avoid getting ripped off. He got the third cheapest one, bought one for Eve, and tightly secured it before the doors flashed green and opened.

He expected the smog to come roaring into the train, but nothing happened. He stepped out, and felt a slight tingling sensation as he passed the threshold. Apparently, the cabins of the rich and famous had portable shields to keep the stench out. He looked down the line of cars and saw not everyone was so lucky. He blinked rapidly so his eyes could adjust to the sudden haze, and took in his immediate environment.

He immediately noticed the heavy police presence. The maglev station was above the Civil Administration building where Coop’s life in the infantry began, but it wasn’t a rally point of the pigs that kept the rabble of the PHA moderately in line. Now, there were at least a hundred cops idling around the periphery of the station.

<I wonder what’s up?> he thought with no intention of approaching the group that had beaten his ass more than once.

It seemed Eve had different issues. “Sergeant,” she found someone that looked in charge with stripes. “What’s going on here?”

The big cop, who would have towered over the old Coop, barely came up to his collarbone now. When the man turned a scowl on his face, he found himself looking up at two people in military CMUs with stripes. The cop’s smart-cloth uniforms were different than the military’s – black with white instead of blue – but they still followed the same relative rank structure. To both organizations stripes meant authority, so while the cop didn’t exactly spring to attention, he did drop the scowl.

“Ma’am,” he answered gruffly. “We’ve got increased unrest and civil-disobedience chatter, so HQ has us staging here.”

“Why not down there?” Coop asked as he pointed down from the station to the walled perimeter of the building. It wasn’t just the partitions and weapon’s detectors he remembered. There was a full-on five meter wall separating the building from the PHA now.

<And those look like scorch marks and bullet nicks,> his better vision allowed him to get a better look.

The cop looked little guilty, but not much. “I deploy where I’m told, sir. I’m sure you know how it goes.”

“True,” Coop knew how that went all too well, but the only reason he could come up with to guard the station instead of the building was to deny the Rats access to the easiest egress point from the PHA. It was always a mission priority for the local government to keep the Rats pinned in the PHAs, but it hadn’t required a small army of cops at the station before.

“Sergeant,” another voice interrupted Coop, and he looked back to see a man in drab, olive smartcloth. The man also had a platinum stripe down his side. “Bravo Company, 1111th Reserves reporting in.” The man flashed a PAD.”

Coop’s IOR caught the image and held it for him to review even though the LT pulled the PAD away quickly. It was a standard operations order focused in on the friendly forces deployment part. Bravo was tasked with this station. Coop looked over his shoulder and his eyebrows shot up as another ninety-nine men in the olive CMUs were moving out the back of the train and unloading supplies from the storage compartments.

{How’d we miss that?} Coop sent to Eve of the IOR.

She just shrugged and turned back to the SGT and LT, who were both now looking at them.

“Who are you?” the LT scrutinized the black stripe on their CMU’s with confusion.

“Warrant Officer One Berg and Cooper, sir,” Eve replied diplomatically. “We’re up here from Aberdeen to see family. We’ve got a late-night formation ourselves. Any chance your deployment is linked to that?”

The LT’s frown only deepened at the WO rank. The man looked to be in his fifties, which for a reservist was a dangerous age. He’d been in long enough that he thought he knew everything, but since he was only an LT, even with decades of experience, he didn’t know half as much about the bigger picture as he thought he did. He was also probably used to throwing his weight around. While Coop was used to taking dumps on regular, grunt LTs, this wasn’t the place to get into a pissing match.

“I’m going to need to scan your GICs,” the LT didn’t answer Eve’s question.

Coop chuckled as he held out his wrist, “You still use GICs.” The LT frowned, which showed just how out of date he was with the regular front-line tech.

That frown only deepened when the personnel scan came back green for both of them. “You some special HI troops?” he asked as they made their way toward the exit.

“Something like that,” Coop shot the man a winning smile and savored his confusion as the stepped out of the open arrival area and into the main station. Here the air was cleaner, there were still more than enough cops around, and some of the reservists were moving portable barricades into position.

“Let’s find a directory and get this over with.” Eve’s suggestion felt more like an order.

Something had tingled her spidey-sense, and Coop didn’t blame her. There were too many cops around and deployed in the wrong position. The infantry reserves were being deployed as well with full battle rattle. Something was brewing, and Coop’s opinion was a riot. Having been in one already, he had no desire to repeat the experience. Especially, since last time he was fully armored up and ready to kick ass. Now, he only had his fists and a few concealed ceramic blades meant to defeat standard weapon scanners.

Thankfully there was a directory right in the middle of the concourse. The station’s planners wanted people to be able to find what they were looking for quickly and move on. From the beginning, PHA’s had been designed for proper citizens to get in and out while the Rats festered. Coop pulled up the data with the touch screen. He tried to connect with his IOR, but there was nothing. These would be the last places to receive the software upgrades, so he settled for doing it the old-fashioned way. He typed his last name and waited for the results.

What should have taken a heartbeat took thirty seconds. “Data is shit here,” he grumbled as the circle spun. It could have been that bandwidth was being taken up by the reservists, but he hoped they had their own network nodes they were working with. Piggybacking off this shit was a recipe for disaster.

The results finally flashed in front of his face. Cooper was a fairly common name, and there were a little over twenty-five hundred Cooper’s in the PHA. Coop narrowed it down to Cooper, W. and waited as the screen refreshed down to a single page. He scrolled down but found no Cooper, Walter anywhere.

<What the hell?> The search was supposed to just confirm what he already knew.

There was no way his father would leave the block he was currently in. A lifetime of relationships made that impossible. He just wanted to make sure which unit he was in now. People moved units all the time, especially when family members died or left. Walter would have moved from a two person unit to a single when Coop went away. Coop just wanted to know which one, because he knew as sure as a bear shits in the woods that no one would tell him anything when he got there. He was a big motherfucker in a uniform, with made him persona non grata with all Rats.

“Eve, we’ve…”

“We’ve got a problem,” she finished the statement for him.

“Yeah, I can’t find…”

“No,” she interrupted again. “We’ve got a tail.”

Coop almost turned around, but a knife hand into his kidney stopped the reaction. Instead, he cleared the search and set it back to the home page. Without all the text, it was much more reflective and allowed him a partial view of his surroundings.

{At our five o’clock,} she switched to a more secure form of communication.

Coop looked and saw a non-descript man wearing a mid-range business suit. He wouldn’t have stood out at all if it wasn’t for the lingering. He was practically just hanging out in front of a defensive position the reservists were erecting.

Coop quickly pulled up a map of the station on the terminal and looked it over. His IOR scanned it and provided a 3D rendering. {Let’s make for this hallway,} he sent the information to Eve. {It gives us the best concealment, so we can grab him and ask why he’s following us.}

He got a single ping of agreement for her, and they both set off at a normal stroll. Coop fingered the blade tucked into his sleeve and proceeded into the small hallway. It led to a set of bathrooms and utility closet. Coop checked to make sure the men’s room was empty and the utility room was locked. Eve checked the women’s room and then they both took up positions in a pair of nooks holding – ironically – recruitment holos.

Coop steadied his breathing and his adrenaline output as he waited for the man to arrive. He was so focused on it he almost missed the small click of the door opening behind them.

<Shit,> he whirled around toward the formerly-locked utility closet, but knew he was too slow. The glint of metal already showed that the weapon was trained on him, and the person holding it made sure to stay out of his range as he turned and brandished his knife. He considered throwing it for a second, a risky move, when the face of the attacker solidified…and stopped his attack.

“Hailey?” surprise and confusion roared inside him.

CRACK

<Oh fuck.> Coop staggered.

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3 thoughts on “Two Worlds – Chapter 293

  1. Happy early Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone if thankful for something this year. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, from family to friends, and of course all of you out there. Writing is something I love to do, and you guys make it all worth it. So thank you for being loyal fans for over three years now 🙂

    That being said, since its a holiday week, with all the holiday prep that entails, I’ll be taking next week off from Two Worlds. So the next chapter to go up with be on Monday December 9th. Patreon contributors will still get their chapter, and also, my patreon only series will start December 2nd. See the blurb below for more details.

    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.

    I’ve got something new for everyone! Starting in December, I’m going to have a patreon only series starting. If you are in the GYSGT tier you’ll be privy to three chapters a month on a new series/book I’m working on. You can act as beta readers, give input, and enjoy a rich new world I’ve dreamt up. The content is going to be a mix of fantasy, alternative history, and military sci-fi. Also a little more mature. It’s quite the blend, but I make it work :). Click on the Patreon Link if you want to donate and read this creative new series when it debuts on Monday December 2nd.

    I’m on TDY is finally out on eBook! Get it here, and enjoy a whole new world of my writing. I’ve got a couple 5 star reviews, so please keep the reviews coming if you bought and liked the book.

    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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