Chapter 11: Sewers and Esmosians

“North, get a grenade on that guy!” ordered Cole.

Without hesitation, North loaded another grenade in and launched it towards a grey and green armored enemy who was welding a large-caliber machinegun.

As the grenade landed the soldier scattered into multiple different directions while leaving a trail of blood and limbs behind himself.

North nodded with satisfaction as he ducked back into his cover to reload. Cole took the opportunity of the distracted enemies and fired off a few shots, then he leaned back behind the car he was using as cover, turning over to Daniel as he did.

“Dan, any luck with that sewer?!”

The Sergeant groaned up as he finally managed to pull off the sewer lid. It wasn’t heavy, but this manhole was sealed off by someone, and Daniel had to literally tear open the entrance with his robotic arm’s over-drive. Another point for modern medicine.

Once he opened it, Daniel fired off a few shots with his scoped rifle and then waved at Cole and North to get inside. Patterson didn’t need any more convincing, and he hopped out of his cover right away. As he ran towards the manhole, he fired off multiple shots at the advancing enemy. North was the first to arrive and he immediately slid down into the sewer. Patterson sent in Daniel next, and as the last in the line, Cole grabbed the cover and placed it over the hole as he climbed down the ladder. Before going down, North tossed an IED explosive up to him, which he then attached to the bottom of the manhole cover. The next person who opened this would have a nasty surprise waiting for them.

Cole quickly dropped down from the ladder and then turned to his squad. There wasn’t any light down there, but a second later both North and Daniel turned on the lamps on their helmets, or in Danny’s case, his headset. For once, Cole regretted bringing his beret instead of his battered old helmet.

“Let’s get moving before they come after us,” he said.


They have been walking for quite a while in the dark and gloomy sewers before Patterson finally concluded that they’ve lost the enemy. At first, he was worried about going down here because they didn’t have any sort of city maps on hand, but it turned out that North had “borrowed” one from Captain Kingsley before he got onto the glider and he “forgot” to give it back. There were times when Patterson wondered if North was stealing things left and right on purpose so that he would get kicked out and he wouldn’t be forced to serve for another two decades.

A bit of walking later he spoke up. “Alright, since we’ve lost these guys I think we can rest for a minute.”

North didn’t need to be told twice to rest, and he immediately sat down on top of one of the small bridges that connected the two walkways of the sewer. The smell was quite nasty, but Patterson had much bigger things to worry about then smelling bad. He and Danny sat down too, and North handed out a sandwich to both from one of his ammo pouches, while Danny just casually took off his left hand and pulled out a small bottle from inside his arm.

Normally moves like this would raise quite a few eyebrows, but by now they all got used to the Daniel using the extra space inside his mechanical arm for storing things, and North carrying sandwiches into battle instead of ammo. Daniel opened the bottle and took a sip from it, then offered the rest to his friends.

“Thanks,” said Patterson after he took it from him and took a sip. He then handed it to North who did the same. When they finished drinking, Daniel put back the bottle into his left arm and re-attached his hand.

North was the first to speak up after a bit of silent eating. “So, what now?” he said while munching.

“We find Nick,” replied Patterson.

Daniel turned towards him. “Actually… I’ve been thinking about that. I think in the long run it would be better if we tried to find an ICN terminal.”

“How so?”

“Well, we know for sure that Nick has a working radio with him, so if we managed to get ours working too, we should be able to contact them no problem since we know the frequency it uses.”

As much as Cole wanted to go for Nick first, Daniel’s plan made a lot more sense. There was a slight problem though.

“And how do we plan on finding one? The map didn’t show their locations.”

“That’s the tricky part,” replied Daniel. “…but I’ve got an idea.”

“Let’s hear it,” North said as he leaned closer.

“You know that tall office building that the ACN has here? Ledford Office is its name I think, or something similar.”

“The one in the residential district?” asked Cole.

“Yes, that one. I don’t think it has an ICN terminal, but I would be surprised if it didn’t have any maps or at least written procedures for these kinds of situations.”

North let out a burst of short laughter. “Right, because a bunch of pencil pushers would be prepared for a hostile takeover.”

“Probably not, but a major news channel should have some backup plan in case a GCSA tower goes down and they need to report about it, right?”

North and Cole looked at each other. They both shrugged. “Maybe. It’s worth a try at least,” said Cole.

“And we might run into Rhino or Bull on the way there,” added North.

“That too.”

The three of them sat still for a while longer until they finished their food, and afterwards, they all stood up from their places and started making their way towards an exit that led them to the residential area. As they began walking, with North and Patterson at the front, he decided that it’s worth it to recap a few things on the way. “So while we are walking, I think we should think about what we found so far.”

“Well it’s not much,” started Daniel “We know that Blackfortress lost comms a week ago roughly around the same time we lost a few sats, and we know that two days later someone sent out a distress signal that didn’t arrive until yesterday.”

“And today,” North continued “we realized that the city was taken over and that the enemy is made up of both locals and foreigners. Possibly mercenaries.”

“Indeed. And everyone who didn’t join them seems to have been swallowed by a black hole.”

“In other words,” replied North “…we’re officially living the plot of an old, Z category action movie.”

“Not yet,” Daniel added. “we’re missing the ancient artifact, and the romance subplot!”

North turned back towards Daniel with wide eyes. “Hey, I’m not up for that kind of friendship!” he exclaimed.

Both Daniel and Cole burst out laughing, which was a nice change of pace from the past few hours. If it wasn’t for the smell of the sewers, the atmosphere would have been downright pleasant.

Too bad James wasn’t there to share it with them.

James Crawford... Patterson could still barely believe that he was gone. He could still see North’s face as he shouted at them to run, and despite how much he wanted to believe the contrary, it was the right call from him. Even if they would have gotten James out of there, they never would have made it to a hospital in time to save him.

At least this way, he didn’t die in vain.

Cole was about to ask Daniel if they should continue the rest of the route above ground when out of sudden, he saw something scurry behind a support pillar in the dark. He immediately raised his rifle and his left hand. North and Daniel crouched down on Cole’s two sides and pointed their weapons and lights at the suspicious pillar.

“Listen, we know you’re behind that pillar!” exclaimed Cole.

No answer came. He shook his head and tried again. “It’s fine if you don’t want to answer but we know you’re there, so if you could stop wasting our time and come out, that’d be great!”

The thing hiding behind the pillar answered in a feminine voice. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

The woman’s accent was certainly not Aftonian, or Sapphirian for that matter. Way too many rough sounding consonants and the emphasis was very different from what Cole was used to. “No, and I’m getting the feeling that neither are you. We’re with the Aftonian Military Corps.”

“AMC? Well then,” said the woman as she stepped out.

Daniel immediately unlocked his rifle and if it wasn’t for Cole pushing away his gun, he would have probably nailed the woman right in the head. He missed the shot instead, and the woman jumped right back behind that pillar she was hiding behind, with the difference being that she now had a two barreled Lockbuster type revolver in her hands.

“What is wrong with you Danny?!” shouted Cole.

“She’s a goddamned Esmosian, that’s what!” Daniel yelled back.

Patterson told North to restrain Daniel, and afterwards, he walked up to the pillar with his gun lowered.

“Sorry about that, he’s a Grarrak veteran,” explained Cole.

“He’s not the only one,” replied the woman as she stepped out once again.

She was wearing the same bulky and angular armor that the better-equipped mercenaries were using, except it was sand-colored. Her face was completely covered by her armored scout helmet which had a stylized bird painted on it, and in this equipment, she looked a lot like the Esmosian insurgents that Rhino had fought in Grarrak city almost six years ago.

No wonder Daniel lost his mind at the sight.

“So,” said Cole after a few seconds of tense silence “…may I know what you’re doing in the sewers?”

She tilted her head to the left and placed one of her hands on her hip. “You mean besides getting shot by the people I’m trying to help? Oh, you know, not much.”

Daniel, who was now sitting on the fence of the sewer’s walkway, raised his robotic arm. “Thank you, but your people already helped enough!”

The woman froze for a second when Daniel showed his arm, but she quickly snapped herself out of it and then turned back to Cole. “Look, we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Who are you three?”

“I’m Lieutenant Patterson, while those two over there are Corporal Norton and Sergeant Schmidt. We’re all from the

AMC as part of Operation Black Knight,” explained Cole, and afterwards, he extended his hand.

“Right. I’m Field-Agent Katey Simmons from the GIS––”

“Fuck that!” shouted North as he grabbed his machinegun.

Cole immediately jumped in front of Simmons and raised his hands as if he could have blocked the bullets that way.

“Wait, GIS North, not GRID! Not the Gredrurgians, the other one that’s based in Ashen!” he explained hastily.

North looked like he was about to explode, but his facial expression calmed down as soon as he understood that Simmons was not from the agency whose members North hated more than anything. “Right. My bad…” he growled.

Cole let out his breath and then turned towards Simmons again, who was standing there with crossed arms.

“We’re a bit on edge after what happened today.”

“I’ve noticed,” spat back Simmons, barely attempting to hide her frustration.

She then took off her helmet, which revealed her shoulder-long, gold-colored hair, and her olive-colored skin. “Look,” she continued “…I’m aware of my people’s reputation but there are more important things going on here than politics.”

“Like twenty thousand local citizens disappearing over a week?” asked North.

“Yes, that’s one thing. The other is that the attack on the city wasn’t orchestrated by simple terrorists or even mercenaries. This is something much, much bigger.”

Cole waved at North and Daniel to come up to them before he spoke up. “We kind of figured that out, but we haven’t found any sort of evidence to back our claim.”

“Luckily for you I did,” said Simmons as she pulled out something from one of her pockets. “My team and I have been undercover for the past two weeks now, and while we couldn’t warn Blackfortress of the attack in time, I did manage to snatch this thing from a “teammate”.”

She pulled out a thin white box, which was about the size of a keycard. It looked quite a lot like that small box Daniel had found on one of the bodies.

“Danny, didn’t you find one of these before?” Patterson asked.

“I sure did,” replied Daniel. He too pulled out his device afterwards and handed it to Simmons. She quickly examined it and nodded.

“Nice find. These things are basically miniature wrist terminals, and other than doing what yours or mine does, they also work as keycards. I haven’t been able to use mine for that purpose, but I did find a few… well, important-sounding logs.”

Cole nodded, and after Simmons showed him how to open it, he looked around in the files until he found the log the agent mentioned. He began to play it.

“Operative Nails, report,” said the robotic voice on the recording. It was filtered in a way to hide the speaker’s actual voice.

“Phase one is complete, Swordfish. We’re currently working on Phase Two, but as far as we know the city’s defenses have been all captured or destroyed,” replied the second voice.

“Good. And what about the device?”

“Vulture acquired it. It’s in one of the private vaults halfway between the Mineral storages and the city center entrance.”

Patterson looked at Simmons’s helmet again as a vulture was mentioned, and after examining the bird painting on it he quickly deduced that it was probably an Earth vulture. He then looked at Simmons with an eyebrow raised, who in turn just nodded.

“Glad to hear it. Give my thanks to her for getting it in such a short time, then proceed with Phase two. As for me, I should arrive at the discussed time with my “escort” to pick up the device. Swordfish out.”

They all just stared at the device for a few moments, then Patterson spoke up.

“Danny, what was it that you said about us missing only two things that would make this whole thing into an old action movie?”

“That we would only need a romance subplot and an ancient artifact, sir.”

“Looks like we’ve got one of those covered.”

Agent Simmons tensed up and she looked at Patterson with a worried look on her face.

“No, not that one…”

She let out a sigh of relief, and then put away her “keycard” and gave the other back to Daniel. “As you heard, it seems like these people have a larger plan than to just take over a city. Now, I personally have no idea what that device does, only that it was sealed inside a waterproof container.”

Daniel scratched his neck. “I’m not sure why they would do all of this just to get their hands on a box…”

“That’s because it doesn’t make a lick of sense!” exclaimed Patterson. “Why on Azuno would they launch an all-out assault on Blackfortress for something that they could evidently steal no problem? No, there must be something else at play here.”

“Well whatever their reasons are, it doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is that––”

Simmons was interrupted by the ever-closer sounding echoes of footsteps and shouting coming from further down the sewers.

“Damnit, they found us!” said Patterson in a low voice.

Agent Simmons put her helmet back on and pulled North behind the wall where they were hiding behind. She then looked at Patterson. “Listen, there’s one more thing. There’s a chance that this Swordfish guy is working with one of your men. I don’t know who that could be but be. Fucking. Careful.”

North peeked out from behind the wall. “You two might want to hurry up!”

“How do you know that?” asked Patterson from Simmons.

“Because we knew when and how you were going to arrive at Blackfortress!”

All three of them stared at Simmons.

“Wait, what?!” asked Daniel.

“I’ll explain later, and I’ll catch up with you when I get the chance,” Simmons replied hastily. “But before you go, I need one of you to shoot me.”

Patterson’s and Daniel’s eyes widened, but North just grabbed his pistol. “Right. If they find her here alone, her cover’s blown, but if we shoot her then that looks more believable.”

Daniel and Patterson looked at each other again, and both just shrugged.

“Impressive.” said the agent to North. “Now please aim for the right shoulder plate, because it’s the strongest part of my armor.”

“Catch you later, Agent!” said North before shooting her in the shoulder.

Patterson winced as the gun went off as it was a lot louder due to the echo in the tunnels. The impact of the bullet turned Agent Simmons by around 90 degrees and sent her falling right into the sewage water, and quite likely bruised her shoulder as well. Rhino-1 decided that it was time to leave for sure and they started sprinting towards the closest exit.

Patterson was still processing what the Agent just revealed to them in the past five minutes, but one thing he was certain of was that he might just get himself discharged after this mission if he doesn’t suffer James’s fate because this shit was way above his pay grade.

As for the potential traitor, Patterson had absolutely no idea who that could be or if Simmons wasn’t just guessing, but if there was indeed a traitor in their ranks, then he couldn’t trust anybody outside of his squad.

Once his friends caught up to him, Daniel spoke up. “Where are we going now, Cole?”

“Ledford building! We need to get our comms back online and figure out just what the actual fuck is going on here!”


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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