Chapter 14: FOB Ledford
“How many shots do we have?” asked Daniel from North as he was inspecting the cannon’s controls.
“Good. Jones, what’s our range?”
“Believe it or not, the effective range should be around 30 kilometers. We could probably shoot all the way to Thert with this thing…”
Daniel was starting to like this thing more and more. “Shit… you think there are laws against having artillery in your backyard? I think I fell in love with this cannon.”
A good ten minutes have passed since they cleaned out the building. Privates Weiss and Ira were working on setting up the ICN communication line after Hopkins helped them reactivate the terminal itself, while Daniel was examining the artillery along with North and Jones. Kingsley and Cole were discussing something with each other, while Nick was being helpful as always as he was sitting on the edge of the roof with Hopkins, observing the city. The two seemed to be having fun, and Daniel was perfectly content with not knowing what they were talking about.
Once Jones finished calibrating the cannon, he turned to Daniel. “By the way, how in the world did you guys manage to get a T-Croc out here? We haven’t seen any military vehicles, let alone ones with Aftonian colors.”
“They literally airdropped it for us.”
Jones blinked. “…what?”
Daniel explained that while they were hauling their asses to reach the Ledford building as soon as they could, Cole spotted an APC slowly descending from the sky. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that Big Sister must have been tracking their movements with the Skyraider’s scopes, and since the closest SAM site was already taken care of, they had no problem dropping down some supplies and Rhino-1’s good old T-Croc.
“Wow. That’s pretty fucking convenient,” concluded Jones.
“Yeah. They also sent down a note with the vehicle and told us that they have enough fuel left for a while but that they would need to land sooner or later.”
“Well, I hope they get that chance soon.” Jones sighed. “…because as much as I love this cannon, I want to leave as soon as I can.”
North turned towards Jones. “You want to bail?”
“Well, no, but what other choice do we have? We have seventeen people against an entire army, and one of them already has a broken arm while another one was blasted by a turret.”
“Eighteen if you count Riley,” remarked Daniel as he was checking the cannon’s barrel.
“Eighteen, whatever. We are outnumbered by like a hundred to one, and I’m not okay with those odds.”
“We had similar odds back in Grarrak, Jones,” continued Daniel “...and we still made it out.”
“Says the guy who got his arm shot off!”
Daniel just rolled his eyes and continued working on the cannon. He worked in silence for a while before his radio turned on all of a sudden. For once, not on the short-range channel.
“Hello? This is Weiss, can you all hear me?”
Daniel quickly picked the radio up and spoke into it. “Yup, can hear you loud and clear Juliet.”
Once every soldier checked in, Patterson spoke to all of them. “Alright, I want everyone to get to the fourth floor’s meeting room because we have a lot of things to discuss.”
It took a few minutes for all of them to get up to the meeting room. The room itself had a nice blue carpet on the floor and wide window, with a gigantic wooden table in the middle. There was a chair for everybody, so instead of standing at attention, like most of the time in the AMC, Cole just told them to sit down and rest. Once everybody found a seat, except for Kingsley who decided to stand Patterson started the “meeting”.
“Alright, so first things first, congratulations on getting the ICN line working.”
Weiss, Ira, and Hopkins all replied with a “Thank you, sir!”.
“Now, for the more important thing. I don’t know what you managed to piece together since the mission started, but it seems like that this whole attack on Blackfortress is just a cover for something else entirely.”
“Agreed.” said Riley “As somebody who’s been in this mess ever since it started a week ago, I can tell you that this is not just a regular takeover attempt.”
Patterson looked at Daniel and Norton. They both nodded at him, so he continued. “While we were trying to make our way to this building to check if we can get the ICN lines online, we’ve met an… agent of some sorts.”
Kingsley raised his eyebrows. He was standing next to Cole silently the whole time, but this got his attention. “An Agent?”
Cole explained their meeting with Agent Simmons, and what little they learned from her. He also explained what they heard on the recording. When the device was mentioned, Riley, Nick, and Ira all raised their heads.
“Wait a moment. Did she say what that device actually was?” asked Riley.
“Nothing, other than that it was in a sealed box, and it was underwater for a long time. Honestly, I find this––” Daniel replied before being interrupted by Riley.
He quickly opened his backpack, and then tossed a battered old box on top of the table, which matched Simmons’s description perfectly. Pretty much everybody in the room stopped whatever they were doing, and when Riley opened it, Kingsley looked like he saw a ghost.
An ancient-looking electronic device was sitting in the middle of the desk, which looked suspiciously like the flight recorders of some aircraft, except it had the size and shape of a regular solid-state drive. Daniel’s eyes lit up in his excitement as he was staring at it. The chassis of the device was already more valuable than his prosthetic, but the historical and monetary value of the digital data that could have been on the drive was probably higher than anyone could have imagined. Seeing it inside that rusty old metal box seemed wrong. On multiple levels.
“Where the hell did you find that thing?” asked Kingsley.
“Inside a crate that a three-man patrol was carrying.”
“It doesn’t matter where it came from as much as what that is” Cole said sternly.
“Well,” said Hopkins as she leaned closer. “…it looks like a hard drive more than anything, sir.”
Cole raised one of his eyebrows and waited for Lola to continue.
“It’s a simple storage device that’s a few hundred years out of date.”
“It could also be a rudimentary flight-recorder of sorts,” mentioned Daniel. “Hard drives didn't have external buttons on it if I remember my ancient history right.”
“Hmm...” Hopkins hummed as she thought about that possibility. “Could be. I'm not sure why it was sealed away though…”
“Probably because of what’s on it,” guessed North. “Who wants to do the honor of plugging it in and loading it up?”
Nick, Daniel, and Jones all raised their hands.
“Slow down guys,” Weiss said as she grabbed Jones’s hand and put it back down. “…we can’t exactly check its contents here.”
“Why not?” asked Nick.
“We haven’t used drives like this for the past three centuries and we've changed our sockets dozens of times since then. Unless we can find a computer that old, I doubt we’ll be able to find anything that can read it what's on it.
"The city hall has a bunch of old relics," mentioned Riley. "maybe we could look around there?"
“Well if you're willing to shoot everything between you and the city center, sure!” Jones sassed.
Riley rolled his eyes as a reply while Patterson crossed his arms. “So… it’s pretty much a glorified paperweight for now,” he concluded.
Weiss nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
“Well, a bit of a bummer, but at least we have it and our enemy doesn’t.”
Riley shifted in his chair a bit. “So what should I do with it, sir? This is the thing that these mercenaries came here for.”
“We might not be able to read it now,” Daniel replied instead of Cole “…but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find a computer for it when we’re done with Blackfortress.”
“I agree,” said Cole. “Keep it safe for now McConnel. You found it so you might as well have it.”
Daniel saw a grin appear on Riley’s face as he put it away, and he suddenly felt quite envious. He wondered how much Riley would trade it away for.
Cole then clapped his hands together and then stood up from his chair.
“All right, next topic. Radios. Now that we have mostly working comms with each other, lots of doors opened for us.”
“Does that include the one that leads out of Paks?” Jones queried. “…Because if yes, then I vote we try that one first.”
Kingsley tilted his head. “You just want to get up and bail, soldier?”
“No sir, but I think this whole situation is way above our capabilities.”
Riley lowered his eyebrows. “Are you serious? You’re complaining about the odds?”
“Then cut it the hell out! I’ve been stuck here for over a week; do you hear me complaining?”
Ira turned towards Riley. “He does have a point though. We only suffered minimal causalities so far, but we’re outnumbered and outgunned, not to mention that we are still cut off from the rest of Azuno…”
Kingsley stepped forward. “Well how about we fix that?”
Cole turned towards the Captain, along with most of the others in the room. “You have a plan to get the GCSA tower back online?”
“More of an idea,” he said and then turned towards Cole and Daniel. “You kids still remember how we won in Grarrak?”
“As if I could forget,” replied Daniel then turned to the others. “…the short version is that with all the trouble we caused, we pretty much drew the entirety of the enemy force onto our necks…”
“…which gave a chance for the local militia to regroup and rearm, yeah.” finished Cole. “You want to do a diversion of sorts?”
Kingsley nodded, and after he borrowed a city map from North, he laid it across the meeting table. “Multi-tasking seemed to have worked for us so far, so I say we continue that.”
He then pointed at a part of the city south of central Blackfortress. “Blackfortress has four SAM sites, with one in each district.”
“Actually,” Riley interrupted. “Five. Northern Blackfortress has two since there’s one directly below the airport. I'd wager that's what took you guys down.”
Kingsley scratched the back of his head. “Well… someone’s getting fired from military intelligence. In any case, we already took one out in the commercial district, and I think we can target the one located just south of the city center’s entrance.”
The city-center. Although Daniel had never been to Blackfortress before, he had heard about the fort that was inside the already well-guarded city. That whole section of Blackfortress was surrounded by a 30-meter-tall steel-concrete wall, with numerous guard towers, turrets and emperor knows what else. The fact that there was also a SAM site there was just the icing on this horrible cake.
“I hate to be that guy, but how exactly do we want to pull this off?” Nick queried.
Jones’s eyes particularly lit up. “North, what did you say, what was the range on the Claymore? Thirty kilometers?”
North slowly turned towards Jones with a smug smile on his face. “Big enough to bombard that site from here.”
Cole scratched his chin-beard as he was staring at the map. Daniel could tell that he was working out the details of the attack. “We’ll still need to go there to mark the targets for you,” he explained. “but that’s the biggest issue as far as I can see.”
“What about the rest of our unit?” asked Weiss.
Daniel shrugged. “We’re not exactly in a hurry, to be honest. We can wait for them.”
Kingsley shook his head. “I’d rather not stick around here any longer than necessary Sergeant.”
“Don’t have much of choice though,” replied North “We’ll already need to leave some back here to work the cannon. I don’t think we can take on the city center without all of us.”
Riley raised his hand. “Sorry for interrupting, but Ira, didn’t you say that the Major was scouting out the local prison?”
“Well, while we wait for your soldiers to arrive, some of us could go after them. Maybe we can rescue a few more of my neighbors, and even if we can’t, at least we’ll have the Major’s squad to help.”
Cole scratched his chin, and after a shrug, he looked around the squad. “Well, you heard the man. We’re going on a POW rescue. Objections?”
North stood up from his chair right away. “None, but I’m going. Might need to blow open a few walls,” he said confidently.
Cole nodded. “Glad to hear it. We’ll need a few of you to stay behind though in case the enemy decides to get their cannon back.”
Weiss and Jones looked at each other. “We’ll stay, but only if we can test-fire the claymore,” said Jones.
“Seconded,” Weiss remarked.
“Request approved,” said Cole. “Does anyone else want to play with the big shiny cannon, or shall we get going?”
Ira raised her hand. “We went past a pharmacy on the way here. I wouldn’t mind stocking up on morphine and bandages”
Cole nodded once again and then stepped away from the meeting table to get his backpack. “I assume the rest of you are coming?” he said as he picked it up.
“Well, you know me, Cole,” Nick replied with a smile on his face. “I never turn down an adventure.”
“Same here,” seconded Kingsley “might make for an interesting story later on.”
“And that, my friends, is precisely the attitude that will get you killed one day,” remarked Daniel as he also stood up. “…but not as long as I’m around!”
Kingsley patted Daniel on the back, and then the three of them picked up their equipment as well, along with Riley. As Hopkins went to pick up her gear too, Cole spoke up “You sure you want to come Corporal? You might want to rest that shoulder of yours.”
“Yes, I know but… well, to be completely honest, I kind of want to see the city before we blow it all up.”
Riley laughed up. “Well if you need a tour guide, I’m happy to step in!”
It didn’t take long for the squad to grab what they needed, and in a matter of minutes, every squad member made their way down to the APC. Everyone, except for Daniel and Patterson.
“So Cole,” said Daniel when the two of them were alone in the stairway. “how come we didn’t tell the others about the extra “keycard” I found at the parking lot?”
The Lieutenant quickly turned around and covered Daniel’s mouth. He hastily looked around to see if anybody else was listening, and afterwards he dragged Danny into an empty cubicle.
Once Patterson concluded that nobody was around, he took his hand away from Daniel’s mouth.
“I can’t stop thinking about what Simmons said. About the potential mole…”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Cole, she’s a damned Esmosian! Do you honestly believe a word of what she said?”
“I don’t have any reason not to.”
“The fact that she was fighting in Grarrak should be reason enough!” retorted Daniel with lowered eyebrows. “You cannot trust any of those bastards, even if they seem alright.”
Patterson sighed. “Look, even if she was lying, you have to admit that something feels off about this whole situation. Like for instance, how the hell did our gliders get spotted? It was night, we had the reflectors on, and unless somebody leaked our plans, nobody knew that we were coming.”
Despite how much he didn’t want to acknowledge anything that the Esmosian had said, Cole made a good point. The reflector panels should have prevented the enemy from seeing them, and even heat sensors wouldn’t have worked since the gliders didn’t have engines.
“Well, if this is true, and we have a traitor in our ranks…” Daniel replied in a low voice. “…then who the hell is it?”
Cole shrugged reluctantly. “I don’t even have the faintest idea, Dan. All I know is that until we have a better idea of who leaked what, I’d rather not reveal all our cards.”
The two soldiers stood still in silence as they contemplated the possibility that one of their brothers or sisters in arms was helping the enemy. It was a scary thought, and the worst part was that Daniel knew most people on their team for over a year now. The exceptions were the Sapphirian soldiers and Jones. And of course, Weiss, who was an interesting case.
The woman already had an axe to grind with the Global Intelligence Service, since one of her former colleagues was arrested for suspected treason. This caused her to get kicked out from the Ashen City Defense Force’s communications division, and in this situation, it would have most likely made her into a prime suspect. Daniel wasn’t suspicious, however, because ever since her demotion, Weiss was trying to clear her colleague’s name. Making shady deals and committing actual treason likely wouldn’t have made her life easier in that regard.
Jones on the other hand was a bit of a mystery for Daniel. He knew that he had been serving with Major Jefferson in the Aftonian Special Forces, but Daniel didn’t even know where he was from. The soldier was also quite eager to leave the island, though that was probably the case with most of them.
Eventually, both Daniel and Cole decided that standing around and debating who stabbed who in the back would accomplish nothing, and they both made their way down to the APC while keeping their thoughts to themselves.
As they were about to step out of the building’s entrance, Riley suddenly ran up to Cole from behind.
“Uh, excuse me, Lieutenant!”
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