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Chapter 3: Armaments
Hopkins


“Holy…” gasped Hopkins as she was looking at the thing in the middle of the room.

“If you think that’s cool,” said Jason “…then watch this!

Private Jason pulled out the handgun from his holster and fired it at the bubble shield. The gauss round ricocheted off from the shield, flew towards the roof, shattered one of the lights, and then blew a hole through the roof of the garage.

Both soldiers were looking at the roof with open mouths.

Hopkins quickly snapped out of her awe and turned to her friend. “What the hell Jason, you could have hit one of us!” snapped Hopkins.

Jason turned back to Hopkins with a raised eyebrow. “Oh come on, after what you just saw all you can think about is what could have gone wrong?”

“Well I won’t be able to appreciate new tech if a bouncing gauss round puts a hole in my forehead now will I?”

Jason just shook his head sadly and went ahead to turn off the device before its battery ran out.

Corporal Lola B. Hopkins and Private Jason Riggs were both part of the 4th Marine Division in the Sapphirian Navy, and while both of them were tech-nuts, they had different specialties, with Hopkins being a vehicle mechanic, and Jason serving as a weapons technician. Most of the time the two of them were stationed back at Sapphiria where they filled in support roles, but today was a very different case.

Hopkins and Jason arrived here with Captain Brown and a couple of other soldiers for a potential special mission that they might be needed for, but so far, they were left in the dark. Jason decided to take this opportunity to show Hopkins the recently developed PUSH devices. The Portable Uthanian Shielding Hardware was essentially a “shield grenade”, which, after detonation, would start emitting an apparently bullet and heat resistant energy shield in a 10-meter radius. Jason had a close friend working for the Uthanian Hardware Hill Research Division, and as such he was sometimes allowed to bring prototype devices with himself for field testing.

The shield suddenly disappeared as Jason turned off the device and put it back into the white box along with the others.

Hopkins walked over to him and put her right hand onto his shoulder. “Come on, you know I didn’t mean it. I just didn’t expect the shield to reflect a gauss round as well.”

Jason closed the lid on the box and looked at Lola with a smile. “Yeah, I get it. I could hardly believe it too when Freddie told me about this, but here’s proof that I was wrong. I mean think about all the stuff that we could use this tech for, outside of the military as well!”

“Reactor shielding, light bridges…”

“…and kinetic barriers too! With the right size and frequency, we could use this tech to build a spaceship that can pass through the suicide belt!”

Hopkins’s eyes widened. “You really think so? I mean we’re talking about an irradiated asteroid belt…”

“I don’t know for sure Lola, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Azuno’s ring, often referred to as the “suicide belt”, was an asteroid belt orbiting Azuno, which Thert, their moon, was a part of. The reason people called it that way was because the three times Azuno attempted to send satellites through it, they were disintegrated by micrometeorites. Due to the sheer speed required to escape Azuno’s orbit it was impossible to fly a ship through that field without some serious shielding, which was something that only the original four interstellar colony ships had, before their crash 382 years ago.

If the PUSH grenades could be replicated on a larger and stronger scale, then that would finally restart the space industry, which was something that Lola very much wanted to witness ever since she was a child.

Hopkins would have spent the next several hours daydreaming about the future if it wasn’t for the garage door opening, and three Aftonian soldiers stepping inside.

“…telling you man, I saw a bullet go right through the…” explained the dark-skinned Aftonian until he looked up to the roof. A grin appeared on his face, and he pointed at the hole. “Aha! Told ya!”

The other soldier, pale-skinned and ginger-haired, who was wearing a red ballcap backwards and had a robot arm, looked at the new roof window of the garage with an impressed look on his face, then turned towards Hopkins.

“How’d that happen?” he asked, pointing at the hole with the mechanical arm.

“Skill,” replied Jason instead.

Ballcap nodded. “Yes, you skillfully put a hole into our garage’s roof. Excellent job, Private,” answered the soldier, which he followed with a thumbs up.

Hopkins could tell from the way he pronounced certain words and letters that he was from Sapphiria, or at least knew their dialect well. The “E” sounding “As” were just one of many signs.

The third soldier, who was wearing a red beret, stepped forward. “I’m looking for Corporal Hopkins. I assume that’s you?” he asked somewhat bluntly.

“Yes sir! Corporal Lola Hopkins from the 4th Marine Division of the Sapphirian Navy, sir! This here is Private Jason Riggs, from the same unit.” Hopkins replied proudly, which she ended with a salute.

The officer and the other two soldiers saluted back.

“Lieutenant Cole Patterson, from the 32nd. General Thompson has tasked me and these two to grab the necessary gear for a special operation, and I was told that you could help.”

It seemed like they were here for that special mission too, which meant that Hopkins did not have to fly here all the way from Sapphiria for nothing.

Not that she would have minded it. Azuno was beautiful this time of the year, and she certainly liked traveling.

But then why did she suddenly feel anxious?

“Right. You probably don’t have anybody here who knows how to handle our gear properly.”

The soldier in the ballcap scratched the back of his head. “Well I wouldn’t say that, but I guess the general figured we should ask our friendly neighborhood marine for assistance.”

Hopkins smiled, then waved at the Aftonians. “In that case, follow me to the armory.”

With Hopkins at the front, she and the three Aftonians made their way towards the armory while Jason stayed behind to pack away the shield grenades. The Aftonians had plenty of weapons and equipment stashed away already, but this base had received some Sapphirian gear a few weeks ago as part of the arms dealing between the two nations. Despite their separation, they’ve managed to maintain good relations, and since Sapphiria was a rather small nation they relied on trading to keep themselves supplied. They usually traded equipment and tech with other nations in exchange for general supplies, and Aftonia proved to be a good trading partner over the years.

However, the gear they’ve sent to the empire did not always include experts or written instructions on their usage, and in these times engineers, or mechanics like Hopkins, were quite useful.

Once the four of them made their way into the armory and the quartermaster opened its door, Corporal Norton walked straight towards the crates containing the explosives. He whistled proudly after he examined them, and turned towards Lieutenant Patterson.
“Hey, LT? Can I borrow some of this stuff after we’re done with our mission? There’s plenty more here…”

The Lieutenant crossed his arms. “Sure, as soon as you give me back the grenades that you’ve “borrowed” from me the day you arrived…”

Norton’s excitement soon disappeared, and he turned his attention towards the weapons.

“So,” asked Hopkins “…what exactly are we gearing up for, sir?”

“Blackfortress.”

Hopkins’s heart skipped a beat. She slowly turned towards Patterson.

“Blackfortress, sir? The one that’s been labeled uncapturable for the past fifty years?” Hopkins asked hesitantly.

Patterson nodded. “Yup, that’s the one.”

Hopkins had to take a step backwards when she finally understood the situation.

The special mission was almost certainly going to be a battle for Blackfortress. The news said that Blackfortress was just having communication issues, but Captain Brown and Hopkins both suspected that there was more to that story. What she did not expect, however, was that she would be part of the operation to retake the city.

It seemed like both Patterson and Schmidt had noticed her hesitation.

“Is something wrong, Corporal?” asked the lieutenant.

“No, just… I just did not expect to be a part of this, sir.”

“We’re not sure who comes and who doesn’t,” replied Schmidt “…we’re only here for the gear. Captain Brown and Kingsley are the ones who you need to––”

“Wait, Brown is coming too?” Hopkins interrupted.

“Probably,” answered Norton. “We can only bring a select number of people with us apparently, which means we need the best of the best.”

“And Brown certainly fits that category,” finished Patterson.

Hopkins shook her head. She had served under Captain Brown for most of her time in the Navy, and now he was planning to lead a mission that was borderline suicide. Lola was never going to change his mind for sure, but there was a way she could make sure her captain did not get himself killed.

“I know you’re not in charge of troops sir, but I would like to personally volunteer for the mission.”

Both Patterson and Norton had raised their eyebrows.

“You want to volunteer for this crap?” asked Norton perplexed.

“I appreciate the bravery Corporal but do keep in mind that this mission will not be a cakewalk for any of us. Besides, how many times have you ever been in the field?” Patterson queried.

“Only once, sir. I can handle myself though. And if you are planning on recapturing the city, you will need someone who knows how to disable the auto-turrets.”

“And how are you planning to do that? The turrets over there could shoot a fly out of the air from over a hundred meters, and you need to be up close to take them out,” explained Schmidt.

“That’s true for the AX-25 models that you use, but Blackfortress uses the BX-21s,” Hopkins explained. “They can be deactivated remotely from a control center if you have the deactivation codes for them, which is most likely the same for all of them unless the people we are dealing with are the ones who made the turrets in the first place.”

Patterson and Schmidt just stared blankly at Hopkins.

“Well then, that’s one problem solved,” remarked Sergeant Schmidt.

“I’ll let Kingsley know the next time I meet him that you’d be a good addition to the team,” Patterson said. “...but I think it’s time we start grabbing what we need.”

Hopkins nodded as an answer. “Right. So, how are we getting inside the city, sir?”

“Aerial deployment. We’ll be using gliders to avoid the SAMs locking in on us, and then we’ll land somewhere at the outskirts.” answered the lieutenant.

“Okay, then we’ll need parachutes as well, just in case they do see us. We will also need…”


*

It was 2am by the time the last box of equipment was loaded onto the trucks heading for the Baldock Military Airfield. Once the truck drove out of the parking lot, Hopkins walked over to the bench that was empty by some miracle and collapsed onto it.

Selecting what they needed for the mission wasn’t that demanding, but what the general forgot to tell Patterson was that it was also their job to load the weapons, ammo, and other supplies of all soldiers in the strike team onto the back of the transport trucks. Schmidt and Jason were lucky enough to handle the driving, which left Patterson, Hopkins, Privates Crawford and Cote, and Private First-Class Becket to do all the hard work.

As Hopkins was lying on the bench face first, she fantasized about “accidentally dropping” a few hundred rusty nails in General Thompson’s quarters as a form of petty revenge.

“Umm Hopkins?” said somebody unimportant.

“Hmm?”

“Could I use the bench too?”

Hopkins raised her head sheepishly and saw Nick Becket standing there. He was obviously just as tired as Hopkins was, so despite how much she wanted to sleep in her current position, she sat up and moved a bit.

“Thank you,” said Nick as he sat down hard on the other side of the bench.

Patterson talked with Kingsley while they were packing, and when he came back, he told Hopkins that she was going to be part of Bull squad, under the leadership of Captain Brown. She was grateful to Patterson for letting her come, and yet the more time she had spent thinking about tomorrow, the more she realized how stupid a decision she had made. Brown could obviously take care of himself, especially with Rhino and Kingsley having his back, and the other soldiers who got assigned to Rhino and Bull were not fresh recruits either.

Corporal Hernandez and Corporal Jones from the Aftonian Special Forces were both selected for the mission, along with Private First-Class Juliette Weiss who worked in the Ashen City Defense Force as a communication’s specialist for years before she joined the AMC. Master Sergeant Dresden and Privates Ira Cote and James Crawford were also selected, no doubt because they were part of Patterson’s famous Rhino platoon.

From the Sapphirians’ side, the more famous soldiers were Corporals Patrick Richards and Kacey Winters. These two were currently serving in Fleet Admiral Hsu’s fleet and got sent here with the Admiral’s personal recommendation.

And of course, there was Private First-Class Gary Tibor, a local from Blackfortress, whose shore leave finished a day before his home city went off the grid. Jason also got selected for the mission, though Hopkins wasn’t exactly sure why. Nonetheless, she was happy that her friend could come along.

This 18-member strike team was all that they’ve got against the entirety of Blackfortress. Hopkins did not understand why the General insisted on keeping Blackfortress’s takeover a secret, especially because the island of Paks was important to all nations. The mining and export industry built on the island was only second to Atros City in Aftonia, and as such the Gredrurgian Republic, the Uthanian Kingdoms, and even the Esmosians would have been more than willing to lend a hand.

And yet, AMC command decided to send eighteen people.

Eighteen against the biggest fortress on Azuno.

“Hey, you okay? You seem rather irritated.” Asked Nick.

“Oh, sorry. I’m just trying to understand why they’ve only sent the eighteen of us to take on such a massive city…”

“Well that is a great question, isn’t it? I mean I can somewhat understand the need for secrecy, but as soon as we reactivate the GCSA tower everyone will know what had happened anyway.”

“Indeed…”

The two spent some time sitting in silence before Nick spoke up again.

“You know, it’s going to be a long day tomorrow. I can go if you want to take a rest right here, though it would probably be better if…”

“Oh no, I wasn’t planning on spending the night here. I just needed to gain enough strength to make it to my bunk.”

“Normally I’d offer to carry you there, but after the past few hours…”

Hopkins had a short chuckle, then stood up from her bench. “Well, I’m going to go now. I’ll see you on the plane I guess.”

“Alright, see ya!”

Hopkins walked away from the parking lot, towards the barracks that she was assigned to. Nick was right when he said that tomorrow would be a long day, and Hopkins did not want to be unrested.

She wanted to be awake for the suicide mission.

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A note from Commander DuctTape

That's it for the release day chapters! Starting from tomorrow, I'll be posting two chapters a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays between 1pm and 5pm UTC.


About the author

Commander DuctTape

  • Hungary

Bio: I'm just an average dude from Hungary who has way too much time on his hands. I started writing a couple years ago as a hobby, partly because I wanted to practice and improve my English, and partly because there's just something amazing about inventing new worlds and people from scratch and then writing about their deeds and adventures.

At this point I honestly can't imagine myself putting down my writing pen ever again, and I would like to wish lots of luck to every other writer out there with their projects!

Favorite genres: Science Fiction, Adventure, Military

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