Chapter 7: Separated

“Missile, 10 o’clock!” shouted Corporal Jones, who was manning the machinegun on the left side of the glider.

Master Sergeant Dresden immediately pulled the steering stick back as hard as he could, barely dodging the incoming rocket. Hopkins and Jason both had to grip the back of Winters’ seat to not fall to the back of the aircraft.

Once the plane was at a stable angle, Hopkins turned to their pilot. “Sergeant, I can’t fix Kacey’s arm if you keep shaking the glider like this!”

“Would you like me to fly straight into the enemy fire then and end up like the rest of my friends?!” he yelled back from the cockpit.

Hopkins didn’t reply but instead turned back to Corporal Winters. Not long after Rhino got hit with a missile launched from a previously undiscovered SAM site, Bull’s plane got hit by a volley of anti-air gunfire. Dresden managed to dodge most of it, but the back of the glider still caught a dozen or so hits. Most of them flew right through the passenger bay but Winters got hit in her left arm hard enough for it to be dislocated.

Jason and Hopkins were trying to set her arm back into its place while Corporal Jones and Hernandez were manning the two machineguns of the glider in order to take out the incoming missiles. Captain Brown and Kingsley were at the front of the plane trying to figure out where to land, while Weiss was busy patching the holes of the plane.

“Okay Kacey, this is going to sting a bit…” Hopkins stated as she got ready to set the marine’s arm back.

Winters just muttered a curse word as a reply not long before Hopkins gripped her arm and attempted to bend it back as strongly and quickly as she could. The corporal screamed up in pain while Jason held her down, but luckily for her Hopkins managed to set the arm back on the first try. She then proceeded to grab the splinting kit from Hernandez’s backpack, and she handed it over to Jason. “Can you handle the splinting while I check what’s going on at the front?”

“Sure thing, Lola!”

Jason took the kit from Hopkins who then jogged up to the cockpit. She was about to speak up when Hernandez called out another rocket. Hopkins grabbed one of the seats just before Dresden made a nose dive to avoid the rocket and keep them in the air for a while longer.

“How many damned missiles do these assholes have?!” he shouted.

“Way too many, so I strongly recommend finding a landing zone!” came the reply from Kingsley.

Hopkins noticed that the radio on his belt was turned on, but before she could ask about it Dresden yelled up.

“Where? In the middle of the city?!”

Captain Brown turned to Hopkins while Kingsley and Dresden continued their bickering. “How much space do we need to land?”

“I don’t know sir, …a hundred meters, I think? Why not ask Sergeant Nichols?”

“She’s not answering the radio,” Dresden replied. “I don’t know if they got shot down, or if our radios just broke!”

Kingsley crossed his arms. “Well, that’s just fucking amazing...”

Hopkins was thinking about where and how they would put the plane down when she saw two aircraft take off from the rooftop of a building some kilometers away from their position. Dresden noticed it too, and he hit the control panel in his anger.

“Great, they have aircraft too! What’s next, nukes?”

Brown shook his head and then put his arms on his hips. “Everyone check their chutes,” he ordered. “…we’re abandoning the plane!”

Everyone turned towards Brown.

“We’re doing what?!” Jones asked.

“We won’t have comms if we let the plane get destroyed!” shouted Weiss.

“This wasn’t a suggestion, Bull!”

Hopkins looked at her Captain concernedly, but the man just stormed to the back of the plane and opened the door.

Jones shook his head, and after yelling a curse word he grabbed his shotgun from the floor and hurried to the back of the passenger bay. One by one the soldiers of Bull squad jumped until only Winters, Hopkins and Dresden remained. It seemed like he didn’t want to leave the glider behind.

“Come on sir, we need to go!”

“No, I can still––“

Hopkins heard the distant sound of some kind of artillery firing, and a second later the tail of the glider disappeared in a fiery explosion. Both Hopkins and Winters fell to the floor as the plane was falling towards the ground at a high speed. Winters managed to get up from the floor first and she helped Hopkins up.

“Go, I’ll get the Sergeant off the plane!” Hopkins shouted.

Without hesitation, Corporal Winters ran to the door and jumped out while Hopkins went for the Master Sergeant. She pulled the pilot out of his chair and slapped him in the face. “Get moving you idiot!” she yelled.

Dresden seemed to have come to his senses and he quickly jumped up from the ground. He and Hopkins managed to reach the back door and bail just before the plane was disintegrated when it got into the range of another anti-air battery.


Following the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a crashing airplane, Hopkins’s determination was replaced with fear and anxiety. While she was descending towards the ground, she did her best to see where the others have landed, but she couldn’t stop thinking about their current status.

They’ve just lost both of their radios and one half of the strike team. The mission would have been hard enough originally, but in their current state, there was no way they would be able to retake any outposts, let alone the entire city. The only thing that they had in terms of advantage was Big Sister, who would most likely call for reinforcements as soon as they could. This advantage was a rather useless one without their radios, however.

Hopkins and Dresden both landed on top of a small shop somewhere in western Blackfortress near the residential area, while the other part of the squad got scattered somewhere else in the region. With no radios, it was going to be difficult to link up with them.

Once she dropped off her chute, Hopkins turned to the sergeant and saw him looking towards the east, probably where he thought Rhino had crashed.

“Are you all right?”

Dresden sighed as a reply. “Not at all, but we need to find the others... We can’t let anybody else die today…”

Hopkins walked up to him. “You really think they all died? Rhino, I mean.”

“I sure hope they didn’t. Patterson most likely tossed everyone out before they crashed, but they got hit hard and landed quite close to that SAM…”

A series of gunshots went off suddenly. They did not sound far away, so Hopkins figured the enemies spotted Winters. Dresden quickly took his stock-less assault rifle off from his back, while Hopkins grabbed her SGR-5 gauss rifle, and the two of them quickly climbed down from the roof they were on.

The streets of Blackfortress were filled with abandoned cars and other vehicles in this region, but at least some of the streetlights still worked and the two of them could see. The only things they saw so far however were broken windows, the occasional bullet hole, a scorch mark here and there, and a few dozen smashed doorways.

Both of them were wearing variants of their nation’s infantry armor, with Hopkin’s being a light blue rather heavy Kevlar armor variant, while Dresden’s was brown and dark red and much lighter. Neither of these suits were enough to stop a shot from a gauss rifle so the two of them had to be extremely careful in firefights if the enemy was carrying high tech weaponry.

As the gunshots got closer and closer Hopkins checked her magazine for the third time, when Dresden suddenly stopped in front of her next to a jewelry shop’s entrance.

Through the opened glass doors, she saw at least three black armored soldiers hiding behind cover while firing at somebody in the back. The sergeant turned back to Hopkins to check if she was ready, and then he charged into the building and blasted away one of the three soldiers. Lola managed to hit the second one a few times but the third slipped away and slid behind one of the counters. Hopkins took cover behind a support pillar while Dresden slid behind a display case.

The black-armored soldier fired a few shots at Hopkins, and when she realized that the soldier was using a gauss weapon she hunkered down as much as she could. These weapons had a nasty habit of shooting through cover. Dresden fired his rifle at the enemy without hitting him, who in turn just yelled back. “That all you’ve got you armored pigs?!”

She did not have any grenades on her, so they had to find another way to flush the soldier out. She was looking around for ways to destroy his cover when Dresden suddenly charged forward.

The enemy heard his rushing footsteps and jumped up from his cover to shoot the Aftonian, but the two of them both fired their weapons first, causing the enemy to fly to the wall while leaving a trail of blood in his wake. Dresden clenched his bleeding right arm afterwards, but as far as Hopkins could tell he was mostly alright.

The master sergeant was certainly reckless. Brave, but reckless.

Hopkins made her way to him as quickly as she could, with her hands clenched into a fist. "You trying to get yourself killed?!”

“No, I’m doing my best to get them killed!” retorted Dresden.

“He had a gauss rifle! You know very well what those guns can do to your armor!”

Dresden rolled his eyes and flipped the body of one of the dead soldiers to search him, while Hopkins took a few steps towards the back of the building. “This is Hopkins, you can come out now!”

A female voice sighed in the back of the store and leaned out from behind a shelf. As she suspected, it was Winters.

“Appreciate the help!” she shouted

“Anytime,” said Dresden as he pulled out a wallet from the enemy soldier. He opened it and took an ID card out. He examined it for a while, and afterwards he became even more frustrated. “George Renzo. And guess where he’s from…”

Hopkins just blinked. “A local?”

“Aye,” Dresden said as he passed the ID card to Hopkins.

He was right. Mr. George was the owner of a local grocery shop and was also a resident of Blackfortress, living in the residential area. Hopkins had a hard time believing that somebody would willingly take place in an attack on their own city, but the proof was here, right in front of her eyes.

“So, let me get this straight,” Winters started when she arrived to them. “…the people who attacked the city a week ago and took everything over were locals?”

“This one was, but we can’t know if all of them are from Paks,” Hopkins replied.

Winters shook her head as she looked down at the dead soldier. “Why on Azuno would anyone do that?”

Dresden turned to the two of them as he stood up from the body. “Wouldn't be the first time that something like this happened. The Esmosian rebellions started the same way.”

“'re suggesting that these people are insurgents?” Winters asked as she crossed her arms.

The Aftonian shrugged. “It would explain a few things if they were. Like the loss of comms.”

Winters slowly shook her head. “I should have stayed home…”

“Me too,” agreed Hopkins

“Well I, for one, am glad to be here,” Dresden noted, walking towards the building's exit. “…who knows what these pricks would have done to the city if we hadn’t come.”

As they left the building, he pulled out his short-range radio from his belt, then turned it on. “This is Master Sergeant Dresden. Captain, can you hear me?”

“Loud and clear,” replied Captain Brown to Hopkins’s relief. “I’ve got Jones, Weiss, and Kingsley with me and we’re heading to pick up the rest. What’s your status?”

“I’ve got Hopkins and Winters and we just took out a squad of enemy soldiers Captain,” replied Dresden. “…and get this. One of these assholes was a goddamned citizen of Blackfortress!”

No answer came for a few seconds.

“Marvelous..." Brown said with a sigh. "...come to our position as soon as you’re able to. Over.”

Dresden put his radio back to his belt and then turned to Hopkins. “Let’s not keep him waiting. Come on.”

Winters grabbed the sergeant’s shoulder as he turned around. “Hold on, shouldn’t we try to find out what happened to Rhino first?”

“Not until we get Bull, as much as I want to,” replied Dresden somewhat harshly. “…we'd get shot long before we reached Jefferson's men. And besides, the Captain gave us an order.”

Winters stared at Dresden for a few tense moments before she reluctantly took a few steps forward, towards the street. The three of them began working their way towards the rest of Bull. Dresden had to radio Captain Kingsley a few times for directions but in the end, they didn’t get lost.

As they were jogging down the empty streets of Blackfortress, Hopkins was doing her best to take in the scenery in order to suppress her anxiety and fear. True, they were currently cut off from the rest of the planet and they were behind enemy lines, but that didn’t make the city any less historic. Not only did numerous battles took place here since the city’s foundation in 2E 146, but many old artifacts and museum pieces from Sol and the pioneer families were on exhibition in the city’s museums and the city hall. Hopkins was planning on visiting the city one day, and in a way, she got her wish today.

Too bad it took the lives of Rhino squad to get her here.

Winters apparently noticed Hopkins looking around constantly, and her sudden question made Lola jump a bit.

“Hey, Hopkins!”

“Oh! Yes, what is it?”

“Do you think we’re being watched?”

She took a quick look around herself, trying to spot anything out of the ordinary. Even with the few working streetlights, she could barely see what was in front of herself, let alone any hidden threats.

“Well, no, but… maybe. Hard to tell.”

“Keep your eyes peeled just in case!” Winters ordered, “…last thing we need is to get shot in the back.”

Dresden turned back towards them. “Hey, keep it down you two! I don’t want them to––”

One of the air conditioning units that Hopkins saw on the top of a small family house suddenly moved, and a moment later a cylinder rose out from its middle. Hopkins quickly realized what it was and managed to drag both Winters and Dresden down to the ground before the turret opened fire.

They ran as fast as they could off from the street and then Hopkins slid behind the corner of the building that was next to the turret house. She gripped her rifle and did her best to fire a few shots at the turret. She threw the idea away when the rounds the turret fired demolished the part of the wall she was hiding behind. As she rolled away from the turret’s line of sight, she caught a glimpse of Dresden pulling the pin on a small object.

The Master Sergeant tossed the grenade towards the turret. It landed a foot or so away from the machine, and the following explosion was loud enough to make Hopkins’s ears ring. She leaned out from her cover afterwards to see if the turret was still active. Smoke was coming out of the turret’s top and the barrels seemed to have stopped spinning.

“Whew, that could have gone a whole lot––”

The turret’s lights lit up again, and before Hopkins could move multiple rounds were on the way towards her.

The first round hit her chest while the others hit her right shoulder plate. Hopkins completely turned around and flew face-first to the ground from the horrible pain and the force of the bullets. She could feel another few shots hit the ground nearby, but her senses were numbed from the pain she felt in her right arm. Someone was yelling nearby, but Hopkins could no longer make out what he or she was shouting.

Then someone else yelled.

Then something exploded.

And then, there was silence.

A note from Commander DuctTape

Two shorter chapters today. Generally, I try to stick to around 3k words, but I wanted to keep these two quick and compact.

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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