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Chapter 21: The enemy of my enemy...
Hopkins


“Well,” said Daniel as he was gazing out the T-Croc’s window. “there goes our plan to go home with the Skyraider…”

It took them around ten more minutes to arrive at the government district after North’s confession, and during that time both Echo and Alpha teams reported in. Echo had to ditch their vehicle after they got into a firefight, though other than that they were fine and were getting closer and closer to the tower. Alpha team was able to take out the missile launchers at the SAM site, but in the end, they had to pull out due to enemy reinforcements. They were on their way towards Echo’s position to reinforce them, though it would take quite a while for them to arrive due to the turrets and damaged roads in the area.

Rhino on the other hand managed to make their way to their goal relatively painlessly after the firefight at the gates, and they were only a street away from the city hall, which they could clearly see now.

The large marble building was painted in a light-brown color and was dotted with painted glass windows, which made it look more like a museum of sorts rather than a government building. There was also a football-field-sized courtyard that surrounded it, which had numerous trees, statues, and even a small lake inside it. One of the most noticeable things for them however was the chain-link fence surrounding the courtyard, and the group of machinegun-equipped pickup trucks patrolling the whole thing.

The other point of interest was the burning wreckage of their dropship.

The dropship, that was now in about a dozen different sized pieces, along with the vehicle’s long-range transmitter.

“Fucking hell…” muttered Patterson as he was looking at the wreckage.

“Do you think that Nichols and Langley…” started Hopkins, only for Daniel to quickly shut her up.

“Don’t even start.” He said quickly, with noticeable anger in his voice. Or perhaps it was grief? “We need to find a way to reach the city hall without getting ourselves blown up. Any ideas?”

It took Patterson a few seconds to compose himself, and he then he stared out the window, looking at the hastily armed trucks in the courtyard, as well as the weak chain-link fence. Eventually he just shrugged. “Well… we could step on the gas pedal and ram everything in our way?”

Daniel laughed the suggestion off. “Right, of course.”

“I’m serious.”

Daniel and Hopkins looked at each other, and then at their commanding officer with raised eyebrows.

“You heard me. All I’m seeing is a couple of shitty vehicles and a fence, all built by the people who just destroyed our ride and killed two more of our friends. I say it’s time we evened the score!”

“Excellent strategy, sir!” said Hopkins with obvious sarcasm in her voice.

“Believe me it’s not the worst idea he ever had…”

Patterson looked at Daniel sternly.

“But, he also has a point,” the sergeant continued. “We’re sitting in an APC that can withstand pretty much anything apart from an EMP, whereas they only have a few trucks and a couple of foot soldiers, and most of their main force is probably scattered between Echo and Bull.”

Hopkins stared outside the window of the T-Croc and sighed. “Let’s hope you’re right…” she said as she tightened her seatbelt.

Patterson patted both of their shoulders. “Alright, good luck up here you two!” he said as he left the cockpit.

Once everybody got back to their seats, Daniel quickly looked over the dashboard until he finally found what he was looking for. “Well hell-ooo there!” he said as he pressed one of the buttons. Suddenly a piece of very energetic and military-styled music started playing from the vehicle’s radio, and while Hopkins didn’t know the author or the name of the track, she found it quite to her liking.

“These guys have good taste in music, I give them that.”

“You’re right about that one,” nodded Daniel, then turned his own radio on. “Everyone ready?”

“Give’em hell Danny!” came the reply from Nick.

Daniel floored the gas pedal, and the APC launched forward. He made a quick turn to the left and without stopping for a second he rammed the chain-link fence down. As Nick opened fire with the machinegun the enemy soldiers and mercs jumped into their respective trucks, and in a matter of seconds, they were following Daniel’s vehicle close behind. There wasn’t much that Hopkins could do to help other than calling out potential targets or dangers.

And she did precisely that when out of nowhere a rocket was launched at them.

“Rocket, 3 o’clock!”

Daniel yanked the wheel to the left, narrowly avoiding the explosion of the rocket. When he turned back to the original direction, Hopkins saw that the rocket came from a nearby soldier who was sitting on top of a makeshift watchtower built on top of a nearby house. She was about to call it out when the APC suddenly shook beneath them.

After Daniel stabilized the vehicle, he gripped his radio. “North, how about some help back there?!”

Hopkins took a look at the passenger compartment. She saw North get up from his seat, grenade launcher in hand. She quickly lowered the ramps for him halfway, and a moment later numerous bullets landed inside the APC's passenger bay. Seemingly unfazed, North aimed his launcher at the trucks following them and fired his launcher.

A second later an explosion sounded off from behind them, along with a cheer from North. “Take that, assholes!”

Hopkins handed over the controls of the ramp to the passengers, and then looked out the window, only to see the City hall getting closer and closer, and Daniel not stopping. “Sergeant, we need to slow down if we want to avoid crashing!”

The APC shook once again, this time from one of the enemy trucks ramming it.

Daniel shook his head and turned on the squad radio. “Not an option Hopkins, we’d just get ourselves blasted to Thert! I think I’m just going to try to ram our way into the city hall!”

“You’re gonna do what?!

Another missile flew over their vehicle.

“Provided that we don’t get killed because of Nick’s inability to aim!”

With that, Daniel switched gears and stepped on the gas pedal even harder. They suddenly reached the inner marble fence of the city hall. Daniel didn’t take his foot off from the gas pedal as he was driving straight towards the large white building’s stairs. Hopkins gripped her seatbelt tightly.

“You guys better hold onto something!” Daniel shouted.

Even though the T-Croc was going as fast as possible for a vehicle of its type a rocket still hit the back of it. The armor plating at the back took the burnt of the hit, but instead of blowing the T-Croc up, the rocket launched the vehicle forward over the marble fence, up the City Hall’s stairs and straight through the front wall of the building, and it eventually landed somewhere inside the reception area.

Their sudden arrival through the front wall caused the entire entrance to collapse in on itself, and the only thing that prevented Hopkins’s face from being redecorated on the T-Croc’s windshield during the crash was her seatbelt. She sheepishly raised her head from the dashboard after a few moments of laying motionless, and slowly turned towards Daniel, giving her brain some time to catch up with what just happened.

As ridiculous as it sounded, Daniel’s plan actually seemed to have worked perfectly well. With the collapsed entrance there was now no way for the mercenaries outside the city hall to attack them.

“Sergeant…” Hopkins groaned while gripping her head. “…have you ever managed to stop a vehicle without crashing it?”

“Ugh… Maybe? Once or twice?”

Hopkins shook her head and took a look out the window. Their vehicle was sitting in the reception area, which was separated from the main hall and the rest of the building by a set of double doors. After checking once again that she still had all of her limbs, Hopkins unlocked her seatbelt, grabbed her submachinegun, and went back to the passenger area to check on the others.

With the exception of Nick, who was hanging from upside down the ladder with a terrified look on his face, everyone else was laying on the floor of the vehicle.

“…did we win?” groaned Riley as he tried to climb out from under North.

“Fuck…” Patterson groaned as he got up from the floor. “…if this is what winning looks like, I’d hate to lose.”

Hopkins crossed her arms. “Well, this was your idea, sir.”

“Yeah yeah…”

After everyone reassembled themselves, Rhino squad slowly made their way out of the broken vehicle, guns in hand. Patterson and North quickly stacked up at the double doors, with Riley following behind. Hopkins was about to join in as well when she noticed that Daniel was standing next to the vehicle, staring at its broken cockpit.

“Come on Dan, we need to go,” said Hopkins calmly.

Daniel sighed, and then turned to the others, but not before saluting Rhino’s almost decade-old vehicle. After he got in line as well, Patterson grabbed the door’s handle and pushed it open.

As they stepped inside, Hopkins slowly opened her mouth as she saw the giant main hall of the building. The walls and the roof were filled to the brim with different sorts of paintings and statues, all of which must have been at least a century old, if not even older. Most of the paintings were portraits, with the majority of them being famous figures of the Old Aftonian Empire. However, Hopkins was quick to notice Admiral Garnett, the admiral of the 11th fleet during the separation wars, and the first president of Sapphiria.

She was about to comment on her amazement when she noticed that the rest of her squad was looking at the ground for whatever reason. She followed their example and suddenly noticed that she was, in fact, standing in front of ten New Azuno Federation soldiers, who were all guarding a group of around thirty, tied up people in the middle of the room.

Before anyone said anything, Patterson stepped forward with his rifle raised. “In the name of the Aftonian Empire, I order you to drop your weapons immediately!”

As an answer, the enemy soldiers all raised their guns, and a moment later the rest of Rhino followed suit.

“Sorry Lieutenant,” said a bald soldier on the first floor, who sounded quite young. The word “Nails” written on his armor made Hopkins recall the audio log that they found. He took a few steps forward from his position and pointed his handgun at a civilian’s head. “…but that is simply not going to happen.”

Patterson and North exchanged a glance, while Hopkins took a quick look around. Right now, the squad was standing in a doorway in close proximity to each other, while the enemy soldiers were spread out throughout the two floors of the main hall. The one in front of Hopkins was wielding two revolvers only, but the others all had rifles. If a firefight were to break out, it would end up with at least one of Rhino dying, if not all of them. “Sir…” started Hopkins, not taking her eye and her SMG off from the soldier in front of her.

Patterson was about to say something when out of nowhere the soldier in front of Hopkins lowered his double revolvers as he looked at Rhino's soldiers more closely.

“Dex, how about you try something else?” he asked in a synthetic sounding voice while turning to the soldier named Nails. “…you seem to be at a disadvantage.”

Hopkins raised an eyebrow, and the bald soldier apparently called Dex, did the same.

“D... disadvantage?” replied Dex, as he took away his gun and turned towards the other soldier. “You shitting me?! They are standing right in the open!”

“Oh, they are not your problem,” he retorted, with an almost smug sounding voice. “I am.”

And with that, the man raised one of his revolvers and shot Dex square in the head.

In the next second, he turned to the next one, and after shooting him with his other handgun, the black-armored and helmeted soldier ran up the stairs to the next floor while Patterson and the rest of Rhino scattered through the room as everyone else opened fire.

Hopkins, Nick, and Riley took cover behind one of the hundreds of benches in the hall while Patterson, North, and Daniel ran behind the support pillars that held the next floor, all the while firing wildly at the soldiers above them. The echoing sound of gunfire made Hopkins unable to hear anyone, and as such, she decided to follow her instincts. She leaned out from behind the bench, and along with Riley, they fired a burst at a mercenary that was running after the traitor. Their bullets knocked him off his feet in a matter of seconds, but the two of them were forced to take cover once again afterwards.

Nick followed their example with his shotgun, and then he yelled at Hopkins and Riley to overcome the sound of gunfire. “We need to get the civvies out of here!”

Riley gripped his handgun. “Right! I’ll bait the enemy out, you two try to nail them from here!”

Before either one of them could protest, Riley hopped over the bench and charged down right into the middle of the room, providing a very easy target for the enemy. Two of the second-floor soldiers took the bait, and Hopkins managed to shoot one of them with a burst. She switched to the next one, but before she could pull the trigger one of the second-floor doors slammed open, and a moment and an explosion later another mercenary came flying through it.

The enemy soldier quickly turned towards the door and was shot in the chest right after.

Agent Simmons came dashing through the open doorway with her double-barreled pistol in hand, followed closely by another traitor, along with Staff Sergeant Nichols and Major Langley. “Clear them out!” yelled Simmons.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Hopkins hopped out form her cover and ran after Riley, while Nick went for the stairs to lend a hand to the helmeted traitor.

With the combined forces of the traitors, Big Sister and Rhino squad, the rest of the mercenaries were quickly dispatched. As soon as the firefight died down and their fear of death disappeared, some of the civilians started cheering.

Patterson walked up to the rest of the squad, with visible confusion on his face. “Would someone explain to me what just happened?!”

Hopkins kept switching between looking at Patterson, Nichols, and the traitors, waiting for one of them to explain themselves.

“What happened,” said Nichols as she began walking down from the second floor. “…was that we just saved your asses.”

Patterson turned to the source of the voice, and when he saw who it came from, Hopkins noticed a small smile appear on his face. “For a second I was worried that you two didn’t make it,” he said as he walked up to the Staff Sergeant. The two shook hands and then Patterson continued. “Sorry for your plane.”

Nichols just waved him away. “Eh, we’ll get a new one. Shame about the transmitter though…”

North and Daniel walked up to them as well after they finished untying the civilians.

“Look not to bust down the reunion,” started Daniel as he pointed at the traitors and Agent Simmons. “…but I want to know what they are doing here!”

Riley, who was still gripping his ears, probably to stop them from ringing, also walked up to the group, along with Nick. They pretty much formed a half-circle now around the traitors.

Agent Simmons took a step backward and let the helmeted soldier take the lead.

“Same thing you are,” the man said in his usual synthetic voice. “…we came looking for answers.”

Daniel scoffed and shook his head. Before he could say anything else however, Patterson stepped in front of him. “And might I ask who’s “we” in this situation? Because you are wearing the armor of the terrorists.

“And that woman next to you is a terrorist!” added Daniel.

Before the argument could get any more heated, Hopkins took a few steps forward into the middle of the circle. “Look how about we all take a deep breath and let them explain themselves for once?”

“And I can personally vouch for Cipher here,” Riley added, pointing at the helmeted man with the revolvers “He saved my ass a few days ago.”

“So can I.” agreed Nichols.

Daniel and Patterson looked at Riley then each other and then took a step back. The man that Riley called “Cipher” gave him a thankful nod, and then continued.

“As I said, we came looking for answers. Agent Simmons may have told you who we are,” explained Cipher as he nodded at Simmons. “but in case she didn’t…”

Cipher slowly pulled out an orange badge from his chest pocket. “My name is Agent Cipher, from the Global Intelligence Service. Simmons you already know, and the other one is Agent Hunter.”

The third traitor, who was wearing a pair of sunglasses and had a stubbly blond hair, nodded. “Just call me Dean or Zenovich though. Not much point in using codenames considering what just happened.”

Nick and North both seemed impressed. “Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that spies are involved in this whole thing,” mentioned Nick.

Hopkins noticed that Patterson and Daniel were both staring at Cipher intently as if they were trying to recall something about him.

“As for what we are doing here,” started Simmons when Cipher finished talking. “…we’ve been working undercover as NAF recruits for the past few weeks, in hopes of shutting down their operations before they could do any serious damage.”

Riley crossed his arms. “No offense, but you couldn’t have failed more miserably.”

Cipher nodded once again. He seemed to do that a lot, but with that helmet of his, Hopkins figured that he didn’t really have many other ways of expressing himself. She did wonder why he didn’t take it off like Simmons or Nichols.

“That we did,” he said. “And now that our cover is blown, I’m afraid our only option is to fight the NAF head-on.”

Patterson and Daniel exchanged a glance once again, but it was North who spoke up. “Our option?”

Simmons nodded. “You guys are gonna need all the help you can get.”

“Not from you we won’t.” scowled Daniel.

Hopkins groaned up and decided to interrupt them before anyone restarted the argument. “We have a nuke and a group of civvies to deal with! How about we get to that and tear each other apart later?”

Cipher and Zenovich both looked at Hopkins in surprise. “There’s a fucking nuke?” Zenovich asked.

“The Steelhorn Power Plant houses a pretty powerful nuclear device, which was planted there by the NAF,” Riley explained. “We found out about it in Simmons’s logs.

Zenovich turned to Simmons with his arms in the air.

“I didn’t have time to look at them while I was being shot at and chased around the prison!” she retorted before Zenovich had a chance to scold her.

Cipher crossed his arms as he thought about the situation. “That is quite unfortunate.”

“Especially now that we can’t EVAC,” added Major Langley. “…we need that thing turned off by yesterday!”

“Yes, but we also need to take the civilians to safety,” mentioned Nick

“And disable the jamming,” Hopkins added.

“And find a new exfiltration point,” suggested Nichols. “…along with the rest of our platoon.”

Langley raised her hands in a surrendering motion, realizing that they had plenty of other problems.

“Right,” said North after being silent for quite a while. “…not to add more to our list of problems, but there are still a few dozen enemy soldiers right outside the city hall, so how about I take a few people and deal with them while the rest of you figure out our next move?”

Nichols and Langley both nodded. “Happily! Just give me a rifle and I’ll clean the whole place out by myself if needed!” said Langley enthusiastically.

“Same here,” said Zenovich, and then turned to Simmons. “By the way, did you make any progress with that weapons locker?”

“Not yet. The navy lock they used is quite something, and the weapons themselves refuse to fire as well.”

Daniel, reluctantly, walked up to Simmons. “I… can probably help with that. North taught me a thing or two about breaking locks.”

“I can lend a hand as well,” added Hopkins.

Simmons nodded at both of them.

“Right, it seems we all have our jobs,” Patterson said. “Riley, get on the horn with the other squads and tell them what happened. The Agent and I will try to figure out a way to get the civvies out of here.”

“I’ll check if any of them would like to help us,” Nick mentioned.

Daniel and Patterson both stared at Nick. “You want to arm non-combatants? Really?” Daniel asked.

Riley coughed, and Daniel quickly raised his hand apologetically.

“Look I’m not saying we send them to fight instead of us,” clarified Nick. “…but Simmons is right. We need all the help we can get, and Riley proved himself quite capable.”

Patterson scratched the back of his head, and after a bit of thinking, he shrugged. “Very well, but if they prove to be more dangerous to us than the enemy, it might be best to leave them unarmed.”

A quick salute later everyone left the main hall to do their assigned job. As Hopkins followed Simmons towards a more hidden section of the building where the entrance to that armor was, she noticed the clearly visible anger on Sergeant Schmidt’s face and his clenched fists.

Sooner or later he’s gonna be trouble she thought.

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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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