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A note from Commander DuctTape

Patterson and Schmidt are both POVs for this chapter. There wasn't enough content that warranted two entire chapters so I merged theirs into one.

Chapter 22: ...is not my friend
Schmidt


“So, what exactly do you need help with?” asked Daniel from Agent Simmons.

“We found a smaller armory in the basement of this building, but I couldn’t find a way to open the lock on the weapons locker,” she explained. “…there were a few non-locked rifles down there, but the problem with those was that they refused to work.”

“Could be empty power cells,” guessed Hopkins “…the ones we use are active ones, so they can deplete themselves on their own if left uncharged for too long.”

“I thought about that, but they didn’t seem to come to life when I used my LAIR’s charger. Though now that I think about it, maybe the difference is in the subsystems.”

“Could also be faulty wiring. The old SGR models were using the BU-97 boards, which…”

While Hopkins and Simmons were brainstorming possible solutions to the weapon problem, Daniel was busy with a puzzle of his own. Ever since their encounter with the Dragonfly stealth plane, Daniel was convinced that there had to be someone or some people behind the apparent technological prowess of the New Azuno Federation. The soldiers having gauss weaponry and never before seen armor was one thing, but apparently, they had equipment from pretty much every nation now.

From the Gredrurgians they had the JKP series attack planes and gunships. From the Uthanians, they had the claymore cannon. From the Esmosians they had the armor designs, and from the Sapphirians and Aftonians, they had gauss weaponry, vehicles, stealth fighters, and on top of all that, access to their operation plans.

Oh, and then there was the jamming technology stolen from the GIS. Daniel kept reminding himself to not forget that.

The thing that bothered him the most however was not the sheer amount of stolen tech, but rather that absolutely no one knew about them before today. Somehow, in the year 2E 382, in an age where they had half-sentient robots waddling around as shopkeepers, a multi-national group of terrorists with stolen tech from literally every single country was allowed to exist and grow to such a power that they could launch an assault on Blackfortress, and then actually succeed.

Wanting to distract himself from these thoughts for a bit to clear his head, Daniel took a look at the numerous paintings and decorations on the walls of the corridor they were walking in. Just like in the main hall, most of them were portraits of great leaders, though every now and then there was a display case. One particular item that caught Daniel’s attention however was a very old assault rifle.

“Well look at that!” Daniel exclaimed, perhaps a bit too loudly.

Simmons and Hopkins both stopped their conversation and took a look at the display case, which housed General Roland Patterson’s OTS-14 assault rifle. The rusty rifle that was brought all the way from Sol was already outdated at the time of its usage, but by today’s standards, it was like looking at a medieval sword in the 21st century.

Hopkins looked at the rifle quite closely and when she noticed the initials on it she perked up. “Wait… is that whose I think it is?”

Daniel nodded. “Indeed it is. The owner was no other than General Roland Patterson, the security chief of the Danuvee, and the first general of the Old Aftonian Empire’s army.”

Hopkins whistled sharply. Simmons was looking at it too, with a small smile on her face. “Your Lieutenant is a descendant of him, isn’t he?”

“He very much is. The Pattersons are one of the oldest Pioneer families with descendants that are still alive today.”

Simmons looked at the rifle for a while longer, but Daniel noticed a sort of longing in her hazel brown eyes. She turned her attention towards the elevator at the end of the hall to mask it, and after some more time, she waved at them to follow. Once everyone got in, Daniel leaned back against the wall, pretty much on the other side of the elevator where Simmons was. Hopkins was in between the two of them, and as much as he tried to not notice it, Daniel couldn’t help but find a deeper meaning behind the whole thing.

He did his best to focus on the current jobs at hand, doing his best to tune out the anger that has been building up inside him since he got to the city hall, but the fact was that every time Daniel looked down towards his feet he noticed and felt his mechanical arm. That useless piece of garbage mechanical arm, that he was forced to use for the rest of his life. The arm that was hanging off the mangled chunk of his left shoulder that would never heal properly and would constantly require him to go to checkups.

And the person who was responsible for that was standing two meters away.

As if she had heard his thoughts, Simmons sighed and then leaned away from the wall. “Okay, this isn’t going to work…”

Hopkins looked at her in surprise, but when she turned to Daniel, she quickly put two and two together and backed away from them, sticking to Simmons’s side of the elevator.

The terrorist took a deep breath before she spoke up. “Look, Sergeant, I know you’re trying to hide it, but you probably want to tear my throat out right now.”

Daniel didn’t say anything to that, apart from lowering his eyebrows.

“I’m very much aware of what I did. Yes, I was the one who shot your arm off and shot your friend in the throat. And yes, I also killed a lot of others on your team, and no, I did not do it because someone forced me to do it. I made my own decision and at my own initiative. And I regret it.”

Daniel slowly nodded and felt his hands curl up into a fist.

Simmons did not seem phased at all and instead continued her speech. “I do not ask you to forgive me for what I did, but right now, we have an entire city of enemies gunning for both of us, so how about we focus on that for now?”

Hopkins looked at Simmons, and then at Daniel. “I think that sounds reasonable–”

Daniel charged forward and knocked Simmons down to the ground, taking advantage of Hopkins’s sudden distraction. He then quickly smacked the agent straight in the jaw, then her nose, and then her jaw again, repeating the process with both of his arms over and over and over...

He was about to go for the next hit when he felt a sharp pain in his groin. As he instinctually reached for that part of his body, Simmons took the chance to headbutt Daniel and kick him off from herself, and before he even had a chance to grab onto something, Simmons jump kicked him in the stomach with both of her legs, sending him flying into the corner of the elevator.

She was about to go for round two when Hopkins grappled her. “Enough!” she yelled.

Daniel did not see what was happening as his eyes were blurry from the pain, but as soon as they cleared he saw Simmons standing in front of him with a bleeding nose, still breathing heavily. “You done yet?!” she asked.

Daniel groaned as a reply, and slowly sat up. “…for now.”

Simmons extended her hand. As much as Daniel wanted to spit into it, he ended up taking it.

“Listen, I made a shitload of mistakes in my life, but believe me when I tell you that I’m doing what I can to atone. All I need is for you to give me a chance…”

“And why in the world would I do that?” he asked. “Did you give a chance to Rockfield?”

Simmons tensed up but before she could hit Daniel, Hopkins stepped between the two of them. “Dan, she kept me from blowing myself up with a turret, gave us intel,” she remarked. “…and from the looks of things, probably rescued Nichols and Langley. What’s it going to take for you to finally get it into your stubborn head that she’s here to help?!”

Quite frankly, he wasn’t sure what to think. At least not yet. He was pissed at the agent, but the fact was, that so far, her assistance was quite vital on this mission, and though Daniel had almost shot her twice, she was still willing to forget all of that to help them. He couldn't even begin to guess for her motivation behind everything she had done today. Was she doing a favor for someone? Was this all part of a ploy to get close to Rhino just so that she could snatch Riley's drive while no one was looking?

Or was she really trying to atone?

Daniel took a deep sigh, and then looked the woman straight in the eye. “One. Chance. And I swear to the emperor that if you mess up, I’ll kill you where you stand.”

Simmons stared at Daniel for a bit, and then slowly lowered her head into a nod. “...I appreciate it.”

Once the elevator finally arrived at the basement, Hopkins was the first to step outside, no doubt looking to escape from the volatile situation.


* * *

As Patterson and agent Cipher were walking towards the Mayor’s office, which served as the agent's de-facto command center, Patterson couldn’t help but wonder why this man seemed so eerily familiar. There was something about his movement, the way he talked, the attitude he had that reminded him of someone he once knew. He did not want to come off as rude, however, so he decided not to ask about it.

Yet.

Once they reached the mayor’s office, Cipher opened the door. Unsurprisingly the Mayor was not there, and from what Riley had told Nick when they were heading to the Ledford building, the Mayor had been executed on the first day of the occupation apparently as he was trying to organize the city’s defenses. The mayor’s death however did not mean that the office was empty.

The whole room was filled to the brim with all sorts of mechanical parts and numerous containers of machine and gun oil, along with a shelf dedicated to weaponry and the ammunition for them. There was also an old computer sitting in the corner of the room, and judging by the monitor's shape and size, and the antenna on top of it, Patterson figured that it was an ICN terminal too. The other thing that caught Patterson’s attention was the large continental map of Azuno in the middle of the Mayor’s desk, which had multiple cities marked with dark green circles or triangles.

Command center was certainly the right word for this office.

“Seems like the Mayor got demoted,” remarked Patterson when he finished looking around.

Agent Cipher sat down into the Mayor’s old chair and placed his legs on the desk, which made a very loud thud. “He was. Or rather… fired.”

Patterson felt that the joke was rather inappropriate in this situation, which made him feel even more convinced that this man was someone he knew. A very specific someone, who loved dark humor.

After Cipher nodded towards a chair on the other side of the desk, Patterson sat down.

“How much have you found out about the situation?” asked Cipher as he opened one of the drawers on the desk.

“Not nearly enough. We know that the NAF is here to retrieve an old storage device and that they kidnapped and transported most of the citizens to a place called Section Bermuda. I have no idea whether or not these were the reasons for the all-out assault though, or why they need so many hostages, or who they are even in the first place.”

Cipher nodded but was still staring at the folders in the drawer, trying to find the right one.

“They are an independently funded paramilitary organization, made up mostly of ex-soldiers and mercenaries, though they usually hide behind other groups and rarely come out in the open.”

As Cipher explained that, he handed one folder to Patterson, but kept searching the drawer despite that. Patterson quickly read through the papers inside it.

It was a collection of reconnaissance and operation reports from the Global Intelligence Service, pretty much confirming what Cipher just quickly told him. Based on the dates on the reports it seemed that the GIS had been hunting them for over a year now.

“And do you know who could be behind the group itself? Their leader?” asked Cipher, still deep inside his drawer.
Patterson shrugged.

“Not a clue, but it has to be someone with enough pull and wealth to get access to the most recent technologies from every nation.”

Cipher suddenly turned to Cole. “Excellent guess!”

Patterson scratched his head as the weird agent turned back to his folders again, but before he could ask anything, he finally pulled out the folder he was looking for and handed it over to Patterson.

“…and now that you guessed it, here’s the full answer.”

Cole opened the folder. The documents inside it contained detailed descriptions of Doctor Richard Schmidt’s activities in the past month, which included the donation of three Sapphirian aircraft to a certain “wealthy donator with a heart of gold”. As far as Patterson knew, Dr. Schmidt, who was none other than Daniel’s father, was a very wealthy Sapphirian businessman who was the owner of the R&D wing of the Sapphirian Navy, and he was the personal friend of many high-ranking naval officers. If he was the inside man of the NAF, then Patterson couldn’t even fathom how much of a pull the NAF had with the Sapphirians.

As he looked through the report, Patterson slowly shook his head. “Well shit…” he said after a sigh. “where’d you get this?”

“Ever since our first run-in with this group, we had a few of our analysts and DECLOD teams track certain people of influence. Head scientists, politicians… we even managed to get one of the Uthanian Royal Guards to supply us intel.”

“And how many of these do you have?” Patterson asked as he waved around the folder.

“More than I expected, less than I’d like. We can go over the list once we secured the city center.”

Patterson let out a long sigh and then put the folder away into his backpack. “...well, any other bad news you want to drop on me?”

“Plenty, but I am getting the feeling that you have some questions of your own first. I assume you want to know why I refuse to take this helmet off?”

Patterson blinked. “I need to work on my poker face, but yes. And I also want to ask something else.”

Cipher looked at Patterson expectantly. Instead of saying anything, however, Patterson reached into his uniform’s inner pocket. After fishing around for a bit, he pulled out a metal box from it, which he then placed down to the table. Cipher leaned in a bit closer as Patterson opened it, revealing a collection of dog tags. He fished out Rockfield’s, and then placed it down in front of Cipher.

“Does that look familiar to you?”

The man slowly, and somewhat hesitantly picked up the dog tag, and inspected it. He kept turning it around, eventually stopping to read the inscription on the third part. “Fortune favors the brave” he read out loud. He kept staring at the tag for a while, before eventually putting it down, and leaning back into his chair. “Not sure whether or not I can call myself fortunate, considering…”

It took a moment for Patterson’s brain to catch up to what he just heard, but afterwards he threw his arms in the air.

“Ian! By the emperor man, what the hell has happened to you?!”

Cole had no idea how this was possible, but that sentence was enough to confirm his suspicion that Agent Cipher was none other than Corporal Ian Rockfield, and even though he seemed quite… different, Patterson was very happy to see his old friend. He was about to shake his hands for the first time in six years, but the man quickly stepped up from his chair and hurried away from the desk.

Patterson looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Something wrong?”

The man looked down at the ground. “Lieutenant, I am going to tell you something because you deserve to know the truth, but you must not, under any circumstances, tell anyone.”

Cole’s gut started acting up, and he felt a sort of anxiety. What in the world was Rockfield talking about? And how was he even alive? When did he recover from the coma? “Agent, what’s going on?”

“Lieutenant, I’m serious.”

Patterson reluctantly nodded. “All right, my lips are sealed.”

The man that Patterson knew as Rockfield slowly grabbed his helmet and took it off.

In front of him, standing quite nonchalantly was an Aftonian developed Mark III IR droid, which had “PLATOON” written on its silver-colored head right above the one circular yellow lamp that functioned as the droid’s eye. The box-shaped head had numerous dents and signs of damage on it, and it seemed like its antenna had been torn off, probably to make it easier to fit its head into a helmet.

Cole would have fallen down to the floor along with his jaw if it wasn’t for the fact that he was sitting on a chair.

“What. The. Fuck,” he gasped, staring wide-eyed at the droid.

The droid in turn just casually walked back to its desk and sat down in its chair. It took another look at Rockfield’s dog tag. “You must be wondering why I remembered this thing,” asked the droid in its synthetic and electronic voice, which sounded much less human now. “I’m a droid after all, with no relations to Rockfield, right?”

Patterson didn’t have the capacity to say anything to that.

“As you can see, I’m not Ian.” It continued. “However, I did have a… “connection” to him, and we worked together for a time.”

“I thought he had been in a coma all this time?” Patterson said after finally finding his jaw on the floor.

“No, no he was not. I do not know why he chose not to tell you about his reactivation, but it is possible that he was simply ordered not to do so.”

Patterson raised an eyebrow, but let the droid continue its story. “Ian Rockfield was an agent of the Imperial Secret Service after his recovery, and later on, he, along with agents Simmons, Zenovich, Gawron and Troy, were all part of a GIS task force dedicated to rooting out those responsible for the sabotage of my “birthplace”, and the assassination of my creator, Doctor Rozanov.”

Patterson knew about Rozanov’s and his company’s work. Atros Robotics was responsible for the development of these IR droids, and their main purpose was to work in places that would normally be hazardous for humans. The Sapphirians and the Uthanians employed some of these droids as mechanics or engineers, though only a handful of them ever visited the battlefield. As far as Patterson knew the droids were not self-aware, but that was obviously not the case for Platoon. Unfortunately, Atros Robotics’ research in this field ended abruptly eight months ago after a power failure caused a chain reaction in the building’s power system that ended up leveling the entire place with everybody in it. Or at least that’s what the official story was.

The droid, or Platoon, as it was apparently called, continued to explain how Agent Simmons led the investigation into the sabotage, which eventually put her and her team on the trail of one branch of the New Azuno Federation. With the help of a certain Aftonian agent called “Troy” and Rockfield, the GIS team managed to not only stop but permanently dismantle the NAF’s research and development into the so-called “Gravity Bombs”, but in the process, Agents Rockfield and Gawron had perished during the destruction of the facility. Platoon had gotten permission from Rockfield as he was dying to use his armor however since he was certain that it would be dismantled if anyone found out that it was fully sentient.

When the droid finished its story, Patterson was completely speechless. It took him a while to speak up. “You know… after Grarrak, I was… I don’t know what’s the right word, but I guess I accepted Ian’s situation. I was pissed that he ended up in a never-ending coma because of me but knowing that he chose his fate willingly and bravely made it easier to accept it.”

Platoon nodded. “You felt that it was right, in a way?”

“Yes, I think so. Well, not right, but… you know…”

Patterson had to clear a tear from his eye now. He held it back as long as he could but learning that his old friend was alive for another six months, only to then give his life again over an even bigger cause was hard to process.

Platoon waited for Cole to compose himself before "it", or maybe "he" spoke up again. “And what do you make of me? Technically, my sentience is against the law in a way.”

Patterson lowered his eyebrows for a moment, but shortly after he just simply shrugged. “Look, Platoon, right now, I cannot deal with the existence of a sentient droid. If Rockfield indeed gave you his approval to use his identity to protect yourself then I will honor his wishes, but right now we have a war to fight. We can discuss philosophy and laws later…”

Platoon’s eye turned to a shade of green all of a sudden. Patterson had no idea what that meant, so he just nodded in confirmation.

“Very well Lieutenant. Do you want me to set a reminder for this discussion?”

Patterson shook his head quickly. “No, see, that’s precisely what you shouldn’t do!” he said as he stood up from the desk. “Platoon, I need you to act like a typical secretive government agent, because that I can deal with! The obedient machine thing that’s actually not a machine? Too much!”

Platoon slowly nodded, and then put his helmet back on. “In that case, we should talk about how we're retaking the power plant and hunting down the traitor in your ranks,” suggested the droid in a more human voice.

Cole didn’t know if that creeped him out or comforted him.

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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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