Chapter 10: Turret problems
It’s been some time since the Sapphirian auto-turret sent Hopkins to the ground, but only now did they finally locate the rest of Bull. Corporal Hernandez fired his rifle once more at the corpse of a dead enemy, and afterwards he walked up to the rest of the group along with Jason much to Lola’s delight.
“You sure took your sweet time to get here!” exclaimed the corporal jokingly.
“Had to take a few detours along the way,” answered Kingsley. He shook hands with the corporal before he continued. “…I’m happy you both made it.”
“What can I say? I’m hard to kill.”
“Even when we land right on top of an enemy squad?” added Jason.
The Corporal just waved him away. Kingsley and Hernandez split off from the group to discuss something, and Hopkins grabbed the chance to speak to her friend.
“You holding up okay?” she asked as she walked up to him.
Jason was about to reply when he suddenly noticed the dents in Hopkins’s light-blue armor. “Fucking hell Lola… what happened?” he gasped.
Hopkins gave the short version of the events that took place after she landed. When she arrived at the part where they ran into the turret, she did her best to skim over the injuries part to not scare her friend. She wasn’t seriously injured luckily since most of the rounds that hit her landed on the thicker part of her chest armor and the right shoulder plate, which could have been orbiting Azuno by now. Her right shoulder however was useless. As far as she could tell it didn’t break, but every time she moved the arm it hurt a lot more than it should have. Things could have been a lot worse, but Captain Brown’s part of the squad heard the firefight and they managed to arrive just in time to take out the auto-turret.
Once Hopkins finished explaining the situation, Jason shook his head. He reached into one of his side-bags and pulled out four white, glowing cylinders. “Here.”
Hopkins gazed at the four PUSH grenades and then turned back towards Jason.
“I’m not sure if––”
“Take it! I only have five of these, but my armor is still in one piece whereas yours is in a worse condition than this city…”
Hopkins reluctantly took the four grenades and put them away on her belt. She was about to thank Jason when Captain Brown clapped his hands together.
“Alright, now that we have everyone, I think it’s time to discuss our next move.”
“Everyone?” asked Dresden suddenly. “…you mean everyone besides the other half of the unit, right?”
The captain gave a stern look to the sergeant and then continued. “Now, as you no doubt found out, our plan to use our Skyraider as a relay point didn’t exactly work out, which means we can’t make contact with Big Sister or Rhino.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” remarked Jason.
“FUBAR is also a good word…” added Corporal Jones.
“Yes, it sadly is. With that being said, we don’t have many options here other than to continue our mission.”
Captain Kingsley raised his head and then stepped forward with his hands in fists. “Continue our mission? I don’t think so, Captain. If anything, we should be getting out of here.”
“I hate the idea of turning tails and running, but we were pretty much baited here, and then trapped. Plain and simple. And now that the cage is on our heads, we should be trying to find a way to lift the damned thing, not play heroes.”
Brown walked right up to Kingsley. “I’m well aware of that,” he said with a stern voice. “…but what other choice do we have? We don’t have radios, we don’t have reinforcements, and on top of that we have orders to not evacuate until the mission is complete!”
Hopkins’s eyes widened.
“We… we can’t evacuate?”
Dresden stepped out from behind Hopkins and pushed her away. “What do you mean we have orders?! From who?”
Brown shook his head. “General Thompson made it very clear to Jefferson and me that we cannot reveal to the rest of the world that Blackfortress was attacked, due to the risk of the Esmosians taking notice and attempting an attack while we’re weak. Everyone’s eyes are on Blackfortress right now, and if they see a squad of Aftonians running headless away from the island…”
All hell broke loose inside the squad, with pretty much everybody demanding answers from Brown. It took the combined effort of Kingsley and Weiss to calm everybody down.
“All right, that’s enough!” shouted Weiss. “…we have bigger problems here than politics! Captain, do we have a map of the city at hand?”
Instead of answering, Captain Brown took off his backpack. After searching around in it for a while, he took out a city map and handed it to Weiss. The dark-skinned soldier laid it across the ground and then spoke up. “Alright, so does everybody remember the briefing or at least the part where we discussed the possibility of using the old remains of the ICN network that were in Blackfortress?”
“Yes,” replied Hopkins. “…but don’t we need a radio from our gliders to use that thing?”
“Not if we use one that’s already in the city and connected to the network.”
“And where can we find such a terminal?” Jason queried. “…because my guess would be the military base south of the residential district, which is more than likely where most of the enemy force is holed up.”
“My vote is for the city hall’s museum section,” said Hopkins. “It would make sense that something historic like that would be kept along with the other relics.”
Brown crouched down to look at the map. While the others kept debating where it could be, he looked around with the usual stern look on his face. Most people would have assumed that he was angry, but Hopkins knew him long enough to know that he was calculating and debating in himself.
“Or maybe,” he said all of a sudden “…it could be at the ANC’s local headquarters, the Ledford office complex.”
Weiss looked at Brown with a raised eyebrow. She was about to ask something, but instead, she groaned up and facepalmed herself. “Of course! When the first parts of the network were set up a few hundred years ago, Blackfortress was one of the first to be connected, and at the time the Ledford building was the sturdiest structure in the city.”
The ANC, or the Aftonian News Corp, was originally the Aftonian Empire’s primary news outlet. Today the channel was more focused on global news instead of military ones, but most people still considered it a propaganda channel.
Their building having an ICN connection point made sense, and Hopkins felt embarrassed that she didn’t think of it first.
“So,” continued Brown “…I guess that’s where we’re going.”
“Actually,” interrupted Kingsley, “I think we could multitask.”
Hopkins and the others turned towards the other Captain.
“What do you have in mind?” Brown asked.
Jones and Hernandez both laughed up. “Right, as if the mission wasn’t suicidal enough yet. Great plan, Cap!” sassed Jones.
“Obviously we can’t take it over,” continued Kingsley “…but what we can do is get into the control center and take the auto-turrets in this sector of the city offline. A small squad can probably get in and get out undetected.”
“We would need to get the deactivation codes first,” remarked Hopkins.
The expression on Kingsley’s face turned into a smug smile as he pulled out a burned electronic part from one of his pockets. It took a few seconds for Hopkins to figure out that it was the motherboard of a Sapphirian auto-turret.
“Already have it. From that turret of yours.”
Captain Brown stood up from the map and turned towards Kingsley. “Alright, I support that plan,”
Jason and Winters both spoke up.
“Sir, you sure it’s a good idea to split the team again?” asked Winters.
“Yeah we just got back together, and we still don’t have working radios,” Jason added.
“I’m aware, but we have a rendezvous point now. Once the primary team takes care of the turrets, they’re going to make their way to the Ledford building as well and meet up with the other half.”
“And who’s going to lead which team?” queried Jones.
Kingsley was about to speak up, but Brown was first. “I’ll take the bigger half of the squad to deactivate the turrets. The rest of you go with Kingsley and capture the ANC building, along with their terminal.”
Jones nodded. “If that’s the case, I’m going with Kingsley. Stealth isn’t my strong suit.”
“Since when do you have a strong-suit?” asked Weiss jokingly.
That got a few much-needed laughs out of the squad. Once the laughter died down, Weiss spoke up. “But jokes aside, I should be going with them too. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone who knows what to look for.”
The two walked over to the Aftonian, and afterwards Brown asked if Kingsley needed anyone else.
“I wouldn’t mind taking Corporal Hopkins as well.”
Lola raised her head in her surprise, and Captain Brown had a similar reaction as well. The two exchanged a quick glance, and then Hopkins took a step backwards.
“I’m… not sure if that’s a good idea. I can barely shoot with my arm as it is, and I’m already a terrible shot.”
“Maybe, but you know more about Sapphirian defenses than all three of us combined.”
“That and punching a few things into a console doesn’t need much technical prowess. Reactivating and rigging up an outdated communications system on the other hand…” Jones explained.
Hopkins was not a fan of leaving Jason and her captain behind once again, but Kingsley was right. Brown and the other Sapphirian soldiers knew plenty about the workings of the turrets to figure out how to disable them all, but the ICN terminal could prove to be more difficult. She also doubted that the Aftonians knew how to avoid the turrets’ line of sight.
She sighed and then reluctantly nodded. “Alright, I guess I’m going as well...”
Once she made her way to Kingsley, she and the other soldiers spent a few minutes checking their gear. Kingsley had a machinegun and a grenade launcher, while Jones had a semi-automatic shotgun with him. Both he and Weiss were wearing the standard-issue red and brown Aftonian Infantry armor, with Jones wearing a gasmask below his helmet.
Hopkins however was severely underequipped. With her shoulder she couldn’t exactly fire her automatic gauss rifle, so the only weapon she had was her SGP gauss pistol with a few clips and a handful of extra batteries. Once everybody got themselves prepared, Kingsley pulled the charging handle of his machinegun back as loud as he could.
“We’re ready,” he announced.
Once Brown did the same, they were ready to head out. Hopkins was about to follow her squad when Brown suddenly called out her name. “Lola, you might want to take this with you!” he said as he tossed an APGM rifle towards Hopkins. She caught it, and then looked at Brown with a raised eyebrow.
“How do you want me to fire this thing?” she asked.
“You honestly think I’ll let you go without a primary weapon? I’m not expecting you to single-handedly defeat an army of terrorists, but a soldier without a proper gun is not much of a soldier at all!”
Hopkins just shrugged and put away the weapon to the back of her armor, on one of the slots that were used to store and recharge their gauss and rail weapons. As the bigger half of Bull started walking towards their target, Hopkins shouted “Good luck!” after them.
Once again, Hopkins was running through the dark streets of Blackfortress with only a handful of people. The difference this time was that her armor was missing a shoulder plate and that she was holding a rather cumbersome Aftonian rifle.
The APGM guns were the standard-issue weaponry of the Aftonian Military Corps, and for a good reason at that. The 7.62mm rounds they used were cheap enough to be mass-produced on a large scale and still packed quite a punch. The main reason these weapons were so common however was their unusually modular design. With the right parts, a soldier could take apart the weapon in a minute and turn the basic assault rifle into a long-range marksman rifle, or an SMG. Since all three variants used the same ammo, the Aftonians didn’t need to worry much about the logistics of supplying lots of different rounds at once like the Gredrurgians had to.
As Hopkins was daydreaming about how the Sapphirian Navy could implement this to their SGR type weaponry, she almost ran into the back of Weiss.
“Hold up!” whispered Kingsley as he raised his left fist.
Hopkins, Weiss, and Jones both crouched down behind Kingsley. The captain carefully leaned out from behind the wall they were hiding at and looked out to the street. They were passing through an alleyway when they stopped, and as such Hopkins couldn’t see what the captain was looking at.
“Looks like we’ve got hostiles…” he whispered.
Jones pulled the pump back on his shotgun as a reply.
“Not yet,” said Weiss to Jones, and then turned back to Kingsley. “Cap, what are they doing?”
Kingsley did not answer for a bit, but Hopkins could hear that the mercenaries were arguing about something. “Well, it seems like they are having a heated debate and––”
A gun went off on that street, startling Hopkins as it did.
“…and the guy on the left just shot the other one,” stated Kingsley.
Hopkins shook her head slowly. What could cause such an argument that the person losing the debate decides to pull a gun on their peer?
Before she figured out an answer, Kingsley rolled out from the wall and fired his rifle. Hopkins heard both the shot and the sound of a sea-melon breaking open. The captain stood still for a second before he spoke. “Clear.”
The squad moved up to their captain. Just like Hopkins expected, both mercs were lying on their sides with holes in their heads.
“Well, that’s that I guess,” concluded Jones. “Any ideas what they were arguing about?”
“Probably about their payment,” guessed Hopkins.
“I don’t know Corporal... these guys are probably not mercs,” said Weiss, and then turned to Kingsley. “Or are they?”
Kingsley stood up from his crouching position and shrugged. “Not sure. We've seen a few that were wielding some rather high-end weaponry”
They quickly checked the bodies for anything useful, and afterwards they continued their way towards the Ledford building.
“That said,” continued Kingsley “Brown seems to think they are part of the Danuvee’s Defenders terrorist group since a few of the bastards had insignias on them.”
“And you don’t agree with him?” Jones asked as he hopped over a fence.
“Nope,” replied Kingsley. “There’s no way that a group of dissidents could take on Blackfortress and hold it for over a week without anyone knowing what’s happening. No, this is the work of professionals.”
Hopkins hopped over a fence as well as she caught up to the rest of the squad.
“Well if they are not mercs, then who could they be? Local rebels?” she asked.
“That’s one possibility, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the other nations had their hands in this.”
Jones made some sort of scoffing noise under his gas mask.
“And we’re back to politics…”
Weiss turned around and continued walking backwards.
“You have to admit that this whole thing feels off.”
“It does, but why would anybody attack Blackfortress? And more importantly, why now? We haven’t had an armed conflict anywhere on Azuno for the past five years…”
He shook his head angrily. “You’d think people would be happy now that there’s peace.”
Kingsley put his machinegun on his right shoulder. “There might be peace on the surface,” he started without looking at his squad. “…but we never know what’s going on behind the scenes now do we?”
Jones rolled his eyes behind his gas mask.
They continued their way in silence for a while, until after a few more alleyways and streets they ran into another turret, sitting on top of a small gun shop. This time it did not notice them, and the squad quickly ducked behind a nearby wooden fence that was in front of an apartment building.
Kingsley took out his grenade launcher, but Hopkins quickly grabbed his shoulder.
“Hold on! I have a better idea.”
Kingsley turned towards her with a raised eyebrow. “I’m listening.”
Hopkins carefully peeked out from behind the fence when the turret wasn’t facing her and took a glance at the gun shop. As with most buildings here, it had a ladder at its side. “I try to sneak up to it and disable it from behind, while you stay here and get its attention if needed.”
“We could just wait for Brown to disable it from the military base...” remarked Jones.
“I'm not sure if that's a good idea," Hopkins replied. “...it could take quite a while for the captain to reach that outpost.”
Hopkins was expecting to spend the next few minutes arguing, but to her surprise, everyone eventually just told her to get going. She waited until the turret was facing away from her position, and then she rolled over the fence. She quickly sprinted to the other side of the street and then slid behind the right wall of the shop. Once she was there, she hurried up the ladder, only to find herself looking at a sleeping mercenary.
The woman was lying in front of a wooden box, with three empty bottles next to herself. Hopkins figured that she was way too drunk to wake up, so instead of killing her in her sleep, she just carefully climbed up to the roof and made her way behind the turret. She was about to pull open the back of it and pull out a few wires along with its motherboard when she noticed a small yellow note on the bottom of the turret.
With a raised eyebrow she took the small note, and then read the text that was written on it with some famously ugly handwriting.
Rigged to blow! Don’t touch! Really!
Hopkins wasn’t sure if she should take it seriously or not, but she wouldn’t find it surprising if the enemy decided to sabotage them. She had to find a new way to disable it.
“Captain!” she said loud enough for Kingsley to hear it, but to not wake up the woman behind her.
“Don’t ask me for technical help!” He replied without leaning out from behind the fence.
“It’s not that!” replied Hopkins. She took a glance at the woman behind her, and then continued “…the turret is rigged to blow if it’s disabled.”
Captain Kingsley just muttered a curse word instead of a proper reply.
“Can’t you mess with its targeting system at least so that we can get past it?” asked Jones.
“That’s… actually, give me a second,” replied Lola as an idea popped into her head.
She pulled out her gauss pistol and then grabbed it by the barrel. She took another glance at the enemy behind her, and after confirming that she was still asleep, she turned back forward and slammed the pistol’s handle at the turret’s camera, breaking the sensors right away.
The turret’s target alarm suddenly went off, but it didn’t open fire at anything. It was turning around from left to right, and when Hopkins extended her hand in front of it, it did not react.
“Turret offline!” she announced.
As Kingsley and the rest of the squad made their way into the gun shop, Hopkins walked back to the woman. Somehow, she was still sleeping, and on a hunch, Hopkins decided to check her pulse.
She had none. Hopkins’s heart started beating a little bit faster as she examined the body. It was possible that the mercenary simply drank herself to death, but three bottles of wine shouldn’t have killed somebody this easily. As she examined the body more closely, she found a dart stuck into her neck.
“Poison” she muttered. The weapon of an assassin.
She put away the dart into one of her pouches, and then she made her way down to the others. She was about to enter when she caught the glimpse of something falling from the sky. It was already bright enough for Lola to see that the object was rectangular, but she still couldn’t make out what it was. A few seconds later numerous missiles were launched toward the falling object.
“Guys! The SAMs just went active!” she exclaimed to her squad.
Jones and Weiss were the first to run out. As the thing that Hopkins spotted was falling towards the ground dozens of missiles were fired at it, but none of them were able to connect.
The scene went on like this for a few more moments before the object eventually hit the ground.
The entire sky lit up from the monumental cluster of explosions that followed, and while Hopkins was shielding her ear, she suddenly remembered something. The explosions came from the SAM site that was right next to the military base.
Bull just got bombed.
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