Tweet of the Day: Sleeps With Monsters: Epic Fantasy is Crushingly Conservative?
Due to a bad case of writer’s block, today’s update of WWW has been moved to next week (again ). In the meantime, here is another installment of Mass Effect/After Earth Chronicles.
Operations Center, SSV Daedalus, Camala, Indris System, Kite’s Nest Nebula, April 17, 2196
An image of Camala floated above the conference table. Thick gray clouds, crisscrossed with chalky bands of dust, covered the surface. Captain Galeena T’iala, Rodan Quintus, Pasha and myself stood around the table.
I pointed at the planet, “The Reapers did a number on the place during the war. First they destroyed the colony’s infrastructure, then they turned the population into cannibals and on their way out the bombed the planet with multi-megaton warheads. Before that the average surface temperature was thirty eight degrees, today it’s hovers around five degrees.” I traced the bands with a finger, “Those are clouds of dust form element zero caught in the jet stream. Nobody walks down there without full protection unless they want to commit suicide by tumor.”
Rodan tilted his head silver tribal face paint reflected the light from the display, “Nice.”
“And,” the image zoomed in on a spot in the northern hemisphere, “according to Captain T’iala’s intel, our target is here.” It revealed a large refinery complex. The face of a batarian popped up beside the aerial view of the refinery. “This is Altiari Had’ dah, heir to the Had’ dah element zero fortune and CEO of Dah’ ta Manufacturing Corporation, the company that owns the refinery. According to our teams on site, he is inside running the facility. Captain T’iala followed the money trail from the attack on Milgrom right to this bastard. I want him alive, if possible,” I said.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Rodan.
“Prowler One and Two will link up with the Ranger teams on the surface. I’ll be in charge of Prowler One, while the captain leads Prowler Two. You,” I pointed at Rodan, “will be in charge of the Prometheus fighter wing and will provide force protection. After we secure the prisoner, Pasha takes Prowler Three and extracts as much data from the refineries computers. Any questions?”
“And if he resists?” asked Galeena.
“Then we hope that Utah can get us some useful intel from Dah’ ta‘s systems. I want to know everything about Had’ dah, his operations and why he wanted the wealthiest people in Citadel space dead,” I said.
“Understood Colonel,” said Galeena.
“Okay, everybody to their stations. We leave in fifteen. Dismissed.”
Galeena and Rodan saluted while Pasha nodded.
High winds buffeted the shuttle on decent. Sergeant Elisa Jurgen read a spicy retro-romance titled Suns of Desire, the other members of Prowler one chatted or slept.
I moved to the cockpit. “ETA?” I asked the pilot.
“Seven minutes to the LZ, colonel. By the way, once we get back to Daedalus, you might consider buying the maintenance crew a round of drinks,” said the pilot.
“And why should I do that?” I asked.
“Because,” the shuttled rocked, “decontaminating these birds is going to be a bitch. I muted the toxic alarm the moment we hit high atmo. Nothing is more annoying than a VI telling you, ‘the atmosphere outside the craft contains elevated levels of element zero. Please check the environmental seals on your hard suits before exiting the craft’ over and over again. I mean, who the hell talks like that anyway?” asked the pilot.
“A smart ass shuttle VI, apparently,” I said.
“Riiight. I wished it was that smart,” he said.
“If it was, lieutenant, it would be flying this brick instead of you,” I said with a Cheshire grin.
The ride smoothed out past the lower cloud boundary. I slipped into the zone the moment my boots hit the ground. My mind cataloged the environment, from the broken terrain, to the long columns of dust devils. It took forty minutes over broken terrain to reach Ranger One’s observation post. They set up on a hillock overlooking the eastern side of the refinery. I crawled the last ten meters to where corporal Hitomi position. She watched the facility through the sights of a sniper rifle. I took out my Black Widow and followed suit. Massive fires crowned the forest of flames stacks that rose from the heart of the refinery.
I patched all groups to my frequency, “Sitrep?”
“A shuttle landed about two hours ago. A hanar disembarked and met an armed party. We ID them by the radio chatter as batarians. One of them identified himself as the Had’ dah, but you would need to get within range of their personal wireless networks to confirm it,” said corporal.
“LOKI mechs patrol the grounds in pairs. We spotted at least three pairs at any given time. No aerial surveillance and the video coverage is spotty at best. Anybody could waltz up to the front door. Heat scans aren’t reliable, but we have life signs in the control room and the living quarters one the north end of the refinery,” she said.
“Understood. Prowler One will secure the eastern landing pad, Prowler Two goes for the living quarters. All Ranger units are on direct fire support. Do not fire unless fired upon or are in immediate danger,” I said. The teams answered with a series of clicks. “Let’s move.”
The ground trembled to the rhythm of industrial processes.
“Prowler One, this is Ranger One, you have a mech patrol coming your way,” said corporal Hitomi from her vantage point.
“Understood Ranger One,” I said. I flashed a few hand signals to the rest of the team then engaged my cloak. The mechs marched past our position. One of the mechs stopped, looked right at where I stood, then moved on.
A minute later Ranger One came on the radio, “Prowler One, you are clear to proceed.”
I clicked the mike in response. The landing pad connected to the control room by a walkway. Prowler One took positions around the platform while I went to the door. The door opened the moment I activated my omni-tool. I dived out of the way. A hanar floated by, flanked by six men in full armor armed with assault rifles and a seventh with a pistol. I decrypted their personal wireless network in less than a second. The one with the pistol was Had’ dah.
I whispered into the mic, “Ranger and Prowler teams, target the guards and wait for my signal.”
“This one is most pleased with the progress made. Those that follow the doctrine will continue to support the efforts here,” said the hanar. He used higher level of inscription on his network. It would take more than a simple scan to identify him.
“The gods smile upon our enterprise. Soon we will finish what they started,” said Had’ dah.
“It will be a glorious day when the Ens-” The hanar’s barriers flashed, followed by a series of ripples that spread through its body. It collapsed in a heap in the middle of the walkway.
“All units, time on target,” I ordered. The batarian guards went down in a fusillade from both teams. Had’dah ran back to the door, but I took him down with a single hit of my electro-blade set to stun.
Rodan came over the radio, ” I got eyes on a shuttle taking off one and half clicks from your position. I’m on an intercept course.”
“Whoever they are I want them alive,” I said.
“Will do my best, colonel,” he said.
“Prowler One and Two, secure the facility, Prowler Three, you are clear to land,” I said.
Rodan kept a running commentary over the radio, “This guy knows his way around a shuttle’s controls…firing first warning shots…still jinking…trying to lose me in the cloud cover…Falcon Flight cover the upper atmosphere…diving back down…sensors probably picked up Falcon…second warning burst…okay, he got the message…circling back to Ranger Two’s position…Ranger Two he is all yours.”
I took a shuttle to the landing area. Ranger Two surrounded the shuttle with weapons drawn.
Sergeant Sestak snapped a salute, “They powered down systems but haven’t come out yet.”
The shuttle doors opened. A sniper rifle hit the ground, followed by a sub-machine gun. A humanoid walked out with his arms over his head.
“I surrender, colonel,” said the stranger in a deep raspy voice.
A member of Ranger Two scanned him with his omni-tool, “He is a drell, sir.”