Chapter Three

Inside the ore processing center, Marcus was fairing just fine despite his partner’s extreme tardiness. If there was one thing that irritated him about Daren, it was his lack of a strong work ethic. He was all talk, with his grandiose ideas and dreams, but never putting forth the effort required to make those things happen. Marcus felt that Daren spent too much time feeling sorry for himself, while drinking and getting high on zeth – a popular narcotic from the outer core. But the guy was good in a fight, and fiercely loyal, so he often looked past Daren’s apparent faults. But at that moment, he wished Daren would simply hurry up.

Marcus slowly approached what appeared to be the administrative section of the building. It was a large office looking area filled with computer terminals manned by office staff. There were several armed guards that walked the floor of the multi-leveled zone. Marcus knew the smart thing to do would be to talk his way into the security room, but that was more Daren’s thing. Besides, once he got there he wouldn’t be able to do much since Skye wasn’t present to permanently disable the system. Daren only had two jobs: secure the guards, call in the team; and he couldn’t even get that right. Once again, Marcus would have to take matters into his own hands. He studied the room, paying close attention to the movement patterns of the guards pacing the floor, when he hit a snag.

“Hey you,” called one of the workers who seemed to come out of nowhere. “The latrine is flooded again, why don’t you come give us a hand?”

For a moment, Marcus wished Daren was there to work his verbal virtuosity. But the mission was already behind schedule, so he would have to neutralize the entire room himself. Since internal communications and alarms were still down, thanks to Jason’s electronic masterwork, Marcus figured he actually had a chance to pull this off on his own. The trick was making sure no one left the room to alert the others.

“Hey, fella. somethin’ wrong with your ears?” The worker asked as he approached from behind. He tapped the shoulder of Marcus to get his attention.

“Yeah, sure… be right there,” Marcus replied without turning around. Suddenly, Marcus caught the unsuspecting worker with a swift elbow to the chin, knocking him cold. With quick reflexes, he turned and caught the victim before his body hit the ground. After scanning the room to make sure he wasn’t seen, Marcus dragged the guard behind a nearby desk, out of view of the rest of the room. Now it was time to go to work. He ditched the poncho, exposing his black tactical gear. He had pouches of ammo clips, grenades of various types, and sheathed serrated combat knife. He got rid of the IPGs and pulled his own pair of tactical goggles from his pack. Though the lens had a purple tent on the outside, they provided advanced electronic scanning optics on the other side.

Still crouched behind the desk next to the unconscious guard, he peaked around the corner and scanned the room with his tactical glasses. From his perspective, the glasses quickly identified all hostile targets in the room, highlighting and electronically tagging them as targets. The tactical eyewear also identified the weapons being used by each guard while giving the complete specs of each rifle, pistol and blade carried by each soldier. When it came to the civilians he was in luck as they were all bunched together working at two separate clusters of computer terminals, well within the blast radius of his grenades. He figured two would do the trick. From his equipment pouch, he grabbed twin grenades filled with the same nerve agent that dropped the tower guard. He set them to explode on impact and pulled the pins.

Marcus covered his nose and mouth with his balaclava, and with consecutive underhand tosses, he propelled the two grenades toward the civilian workstations. With any luck, Marcus hoped to catch a stray guard or two in the process. He was right. Just as the grenades reached their targets, one of the guards walked into the blast zone. With loud bangs, the grenades went off, startling everyone in the room. Before the people on the floor could move, they were enveloped in the thick gas and immediately fell to the ground, completely immobilized.

“Gas,” yelled one of the guards on the upper level to the rest of the room. Those guards not affected by the gas quickly dawned their gasmasks and IPGs, searching the room for the threat.

No sooner than they could turn their heads, many of them began dropping like flies as Marcus nailed them with shock rounds from his rapid fire XR75 assault rifle. Several guards emerged from a nearby break room trying to blast Marcus with their rifles. But Marcus proved to be an elusive target, as he acrobatically dove in and out of cover, seamlessly switching between his rifle and pistol, taking down all in his path.

It was a vicious battle, but Marcus lived for moments like these. Though grossly outnumbered, the guards and remaining civilians never really stood a chance. The few guards that were unfortunate enough to get close to Marcus, he engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Marcus was a master of using his environment to his advantage. Those few with the courage to get close to Marcus found themselves being attacked with everything from his bare hands, to tables, chairs, pipes and virtually anything else he could get his hands on. Those trying to make an unceremonious exit, quickly found themselves shot in the back with a new salvo of shock rounds as they tried to turn tail and run.

The guards on the upper level proved to be the toughest nuts to crack, but Marcus had a plan for them. He fired a specially designed flashbang from the launcher attached to his rifle. In addition to creating a loud noise, the flashbangs emitted a luminous chaff that was both blinding to the naked eye and capable of overloading the electronic IPGs worn by the soldiers. The device exploded near the guards that were behind cover. The effects of the explosive was painful and disorienting, flushing them from their hiding holes. The guards clumsily stumbled from cover, clawing at their faces to remove the malfunctioning goggles. Marcus was then able to quickly pick the defenseless guards off one by one.

Barricaded inside the security room on the upper level, several technicians observed in horror the carnage taking place outside the reinforced window. They helplessly watched as the rapacious attacker decimated their coworkers outside. Some even clawed at the door trying desperately to enter, but those inside were so paralyzed with fear, that no one dared open the door. One of the technicians attempted to activate the comm system to report the attack, receiving only static in return. Fearing that it was just a matter of time before they were next, all they could do was huddle together, hoping that help would somehow come.

During the commotion, some random guard manually activated the massive metal security door, sealing off the entire storage area. Skye warned that if they locked that area down, the only way in would be to hack the system inside the upper level security room.  However, entering that room wouldn’t be easy since the technicians cowering inside hit the panic button, effectively sealing themselves inside. Marcus angrily paced the floor.

“Raven two, come in,” shouted Marcus multiple times into his comm unit, but there was of course, no reply. Now he was pissed, and vowed to wring Daren’s neck when he saw him. Just then, his wayward partner finally showed up; late, as usual.

“You called?” Daren asked jokingly.

But Marcus was in no mood for games. “You get lost or somethin’?” Marcus shot back.

“How could I?” Daren replied, looking at the aftermath of hurricane Marcus. “I just followed the trail of bodies.”

Marcus started to jump on Daren, but the arrival of the rest of Raven Squad saved him. Marcus took a deep breath to gather himself then addressed the team.

“We need to get that emergency door open,” Marcus said. “Skye you’re with me… Tony,

Max? You’re with Daren.”

As Marcus and Skye proceeded upstairs, Daren, Tony and Max took positions near the blast door as they awaited Skye to work her magic. When they reached the top, Marcus, using his Tactical glasses, scanned the door looking for any opening. The only vulnerability he could find was a small crack under the door. Perfect, he thought.

“Time to use your new toy,” said Marcus to Skye.

“With pleasure,” she responded. Skye sat her equipment pack on the ground, reached in and pulled out two marble sized chrome colored spheres and placed them on the ground. With a tap of the metallic devices, six tiny legs extended from the spheres giving them the appearance of small spider-like insects. She then pulled out a small touch screen control module. She maneuvered the spiders to the crack at the bottom of the security room door. Once they neared the door, the body of the spiders morphed to squeeze through the tiny crack, returning to their normal size on the other side.

The technicians inside were so fixated on the door, they did not notice the small metal insects crawling toward them. Once in position, the legs of the spiders retracted releasing Marcus’ favorite nerve gas from a small red vent on the top of each device. Everyone in the room dropped like a sack of rocks in an instance.

On the outside, Skye smiled as the spiders signaled back that all targets had been neutralized.

“The deed is done,” Skye said to Marcus.

“Alright, do what you do.”

Skye pulled an electronic hacking device from her pack, interfacing it with the door’s maintenance panel, using a thin patch cord with a universal connector. Within seconds she bypassed the locking mechanism and the door immediately opened. Pulling up their balaclavas, Marcus and Skye entered the room one after another looking down the sights of their rifles, ready to drop anything that was still moving. But as the spiders reported, all targets were down.

“Clear,” Marcus called to his partner. As they both lowered their weapons, Marcus examined the control panel. He was overwhelmed at the amount of buttons, switches and screens that were responsible for the security of the entire facility. He was relieved that it was Skye who had to make sense of that complex system.

“Make it fast,” said Marcus to his partner.

After a quick look at the system, Skye released the emergency locking mechanism that controlled the outside blast proof door. The system protocols were a lot different from when she was last stationed there, but the firewalls locking her out were no match for her skills on the holographic keyboard that emanated a few inches from its silvery surface. In less than two minutes, Skye opened the outside blast door. Not bad, if I do say so myself, she thought while cracking a slight smile.

###

Downstairs at the blast door, Daren and his small team could hear the releasing of the locks. Slowly the doors began to open, prompting them to move their rifles to the ready. Once fully opened, the team filed in one by one, with each team member covering the others advance. It was a drill practiced so many times before. The almost rhythmic movements were second nature to them. Before venturing too deeply into the ginormous ore storage area, Daren spotted the RAT in the corner, guarding crates that looked different than the rest. He halted his team before moving within the scan radius of the RAT’s short range bio-detector.

“And there’s our RAT,” Daren said to himself. He then contacted Skye and Marcus on his comm unit. “You guys seein’ this?”

###

Inside the security booth, Marcus and Skye were able to see the threat displayed on the monitors. Scanning the room for additional life signs, other than the team, she found none. Skye began implementing a plan to disable the RAT by sending it into maintenance mode, which according to her calculations, should buy them enough time to complete their mission.

“Already on it,” Marcus responded to Daren over the comm unit. “Do somethin’ about their RAT problem,” He said to Skye. But as usual, she was way ahead of him. He watched in amazement as her fingers quickly glided over the holographic keys with relative ease. He could tell this was Skye’s domain, and he was grateful she was on their side.

“Done. Wake-up in thirty,” Skye said to Marcus.

“Two, Leader. You got thirty minutes before the RAT wants cheese,” Marcus called to Daren over the comm.

###

Inside the storage area, the team could hear the RAT powering down. Daren couldn’t help but smile, it was music to his ears.

“Rodger that, we’ll be out in twenty,” Daren confidently responded to Marcus.

Daren looked over at the RAT and thought it best to have Max rig the thing to blow, just in case things got a little hairy. Max was more than happy to comply. She had been dying to try out a new bomb that could be “safely” detonated indoors. She said it was a focused charge that incased the target in a kinetic energy field designed to tear it apart, while at the same time directing the force of the blast away from the team. The Kinetic Energy Bomb, or K-Bomb as she liked to call it, had all the destructive power of a traditional high yield explosive, without all the fire and smoke that would be problematic indoors. But she neglected to mention she’d been having a bit of trouble with the detonator. Nothing to worry about, she thought, feeling confident she had worked out all the kinks prior to their arrival on Titan. Now it was time to put this baby to the test, and she couldn’t wait.

“You got it, suga,” Max said while pulling from her pack three of the specially designed k-bombs. “Been dyin’ to try these puppies out,” She said.  Max quickly moved to the RAT and began rigging the twelve foot metallic beast with her latest creations. She knew keeping things quiet was preferred, but she kind of hoped there’d be a chance to see her little babies in action.

“Let’s get to it then,” Daren said to Tony.

“On it,” Tony said as he approached the target crates. He pulled several small magnetic anti-grav rods from his equipment pack. As its name suggests, the rods created a localized anti-gravity field causing the objects to which they were attached to levitate. Once the object was floating, very little effort was required to move even multi-ton cargo from one location to another. With the press of a button, each rod extended to just over six feet in length. Tony then attached pairs of the protracted rods on either side of the large metallic crates of ore.

Being much faster than the average human, Tony was able to complete the task in no time. Within minutes, he was able to fit twenty crates with the rods. After positioning the crates in a straight line, all that remained was to place magnetic couplings between each crate, creating a floating train that only required two people to push on either side, with one person in front to guide the others. This was a process they had done many times before, and Tony had his job down to a science.

While Tony and Max continued working on the target crates, Daren stood gazing at the ones located directly behind the RAT. Oh yeah, he thought, as he confirmed the location of the refined Krillium that he and Specter One were after. He initially thought it strange that the refined crates would even be held in the same room as the raw ore; so he had to see it for himself. Daren figured they just did things differently on facilities close to Earth, probably thinking that no one would be dumb enough to hit such a target. Oh well, he thought. He reckoned it was time he caught a break. But now came the hard part. How could he get Marcus to go off mission during the middle of an op? He had to think of something, and he was running out of time; so Daren opted for the direct approach and radioed Marcus.

“Leader, Two. You’ll never believe this,” he said to Marcus. “Found a batch of refined ore mixed in with the rest. We can’t pass this up,” Daren said. He figured that perhaps the promise of a higher payout at the end would be enough to sway Marcus to include the crates to their existing payload.

###

 In the control room, Skye performed a remote scan to verify the contents of the container over which Daren was salivating.

“The scan is confirmed. It’s refined Krillium alright,” she told Marcus.  “But there’s no way they’d leave somethin’ like that layin’ around,” she continued. Skye was confused because the handling of refined ore was the same from station to station. All ingots were stored in a secure vault; usually in an adjoining building next to the ore processing center. Either the administration had gotten sloppy over the years, or this was a trap. After all, no self-respecting thief would pass up such a treasure trove, so this would be the perfect snare.

Marcus shared the same sentiment and quickly responded to Daren. “Negative, Two. Secure target crates only. Do you copy?” There was a delay in Daren’s response… Marcus knew what that meant, so he called to him again. “I repeat: Target crates only… Do you read me?” Again, no response. This time he was sure Daren was about to do something stupid, then the words that he dreaded came over the comm.”

“Sorry Boss Man, you’ll thank me for this later,” Daren replied.

“I said stick to the…” But before Marcus could finish his statement, Daren terminated the comm session. Marcus was furious. He and Skye exchanged frustrated looks. He wanted nothing more than to march down to that storage room and break Daren’s neck, but he had to watch Skye’s back as she wrapped up her business in the security room. Any misstep on her part, and the entire station’s security would go live, bringing an abrupt and violent end to their mission.  Though exasperated by Daren’s actions, Marcus knew he had to stay put.

###

Inside the storage area, Tony and Max heard the exchange between their first and second in command.  Tony approached Daren. “C’mon, D. You heard what he said.”

Already feeling uneasy about the mission from the start, Max threw in her two cents. “Yeah, we need to get goin’ before that thing wakes up,” she said while motioning toward the RAT. “And as much as I’d love to blow the top on that thing, every guard in this station will be here in one-half less than no time.”

They bombarded him with just how many ways this was a bad idea, but Daren wasn’t having it, so he pulled rank.

“Hey, it’s not up for discussion, I’m in charge here.” Daren was not going to let anyone talk him out of adding the refined ore to their stash, even though he wasn’t fully settled with the idea himself.  “You know how much we can get for this stuff?” Daren reasoned. “Now load ‘em up and let’s go.”

Daren was bullheaded to say the least. Tony and Max knew that once his mind was made up, there was nothing more to say. So in the interest of time, and not getting their collective heads blown off by the metallic sleeping giant in the corner, they complied with Daren’s order and began adding the new crates to the end of their existing load. But as they disturbed the first crate, an unseen circular device beneath one of the containers began silently vibrating.

Daren had a confident smirk on his face, feeling that Marcus would understand once he explained everything after the mission. We’re actually doing it, Daren thought as he led the train of crates being pushed by his companions.  But before he could finish running the victory lap in his mind, the RAT finished rebooting itself, waking up slightly ahead of schedule.

“Reset complete. Weapon systems online,” The RAT belted out with its deep robotic voice. The RAT stood up on its two legs and scanned the room with its internal bio-detector. Warning… Threat detected,” the machine continued. The RAT quickly turned in the direction of Daren and his team. The only reason they weren’t already dead, is because the RAT’s weapons were not fully charged following the reset. But that didn’t stop the metal monster from charging toward its newly acquired targets.

Daren and his team were taken by surprise. No run order was needed, as the three of them were on the same page. They ran as fast as they could while lugging the crate train. At that moment, The RAT opened fire.


NEXT CHAPTER

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.