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A note from Commander DuctTape

This is the longest chapter in the whole book with 5k words. Buckle up!

Chapter 31: Blackfort standoff
McConnel


“Cole!” Nichols yelled as she and Riley saw their squad leader and friend fly right through the gaping hole on the side of the plane.

The world stopped moving around him for a moment as rage and anger took control of his body. He was about to make his way to the room’s roof to grab a gun, but instead, he noticed a life raft tied to the side of the cabin for emergency uses. He placed his legs to the couch he was grabbing onto and jumped, barely catching the lifeboat as he did that. He gripped the raft and pulled the deploy string on it which sent both him and the boat flying towards the hole.

Nichols pulled herself inside the aircraft a mere moment before the boat and Riley landed in front of the breach.

He and Nichols dropped down to the ground once the decompression stopped. As he expected, the life raft sealed the breach, at least for the time being, but their guns were still stuck on the roof. Corporal Hernandez looked just as surprised as they did, but instead of wasting any more time he ran out of the room towards the back of the plane.

“Riley you better fucking gut that bastard, you hear me?!” screamed Nichols as she scrambled up to her feet.

Riley didn’t need to be told twice and ran after Hernandez once Nichols took Kingsley’s knife out of her jetpack and tossed it to Riley.

While he was chasing him, Hernandez ran across the room they found Alex in, and picked up a rifle. Riley almost got shot again but he jumped behind a row of seats just in time. Hernandez fired off a few more shots and then ran out of the room. Riley followed him as soon as he picked up a pistol from another dead soldier.

As he was chasing him the image of Patterson getting sucked out of the plane was constantly in front of his eyes, which made him not just furious but determined to get revenge for his friend. Yet again somebody sacrificed himself to save Riley. Instead of being mad at Patterson however, he was mad at Hernandez, and he was going to kill him.

Painfully.

The corporal ran all the way back to the cargo bay and took cover behind a container, while Riley jumped on the top of the one that Nichols used to shoot the two guards earlier. He took a few shots at Hernandez, but the container provided him ample cover. He dashed back to the end of the cargo bay and took cover behind a chained down car, with Riley being not too far behind.

“You’ll pay for what you did to the Commander!” Hernandez shouted as he fired off another burst at him.

“You threw that grenade, you reckless idiot!” yelled Riley back.

He and Riley fired once, twice, and kept up the shooting until Riley’s mag ran out. He didn’t bring a clip with himself, but luckily for him, the corporal ran out of bullets too shortly after. He threw his gun at Riley then charged him down.

He couldn’t dodge him this time and he got pinned to the wall of the container, then got hit in the face twice. As the corporal was about to go to for a third, Riley managed to dodge the punch, and pulled the knife from his pocket.

In a quick motion, he stabbed Hernandez in the leg. He yelled up in pain and Riley pushed him down to the floor. He went for the killing blow, but suddenly got hit in the face with the back of the rifle Hernandez grabbed from the ground. Riley’s vision got blurry and he didn’t see his enemy kicking the knife out of his hand. He then got knocked down to the floor again and the corporal was attempting to choke him with the rifle. Riley was doing his best to resist but Hernandez proved to be stronger than him.

He tried pushing as hard as he could, but then from the container he jumped off from, he saw Alex throwing himself at Hernandez.

Hernandez fell to the ground from the sudden hit, and Riley quickly crawled backward to take a few breaths before he stood up again. Alex was trying his best to smash Hernandez’s face into the side of a container and Riley was about to jump in and help when Hernandez managed to pick up Riley’s knife from the floor, stabbing Alex right in the shin. He knocked down Alex to the ground, but before he could finish him off, Riley sprinted at him and in a quick motion he grabbed the corporal’s head and smashed it into the plane’s wall.

As the man staggered, he lunged with his knife, only for Riley to grab it and rip it out from his hands. Before the traitor could do anything, Riley stabbed the knife right into his throat.

He hastily pulled it out, and as the traitor's blood squirted onto his face, he then stabbed him in the throat again.

And again.

And again, and again, and again, and by the fifth stab, there was barely anything remaining from the man’s neck. Riley yelled and with a final powerful swing, he decapitated the traitorous soldier.

The body and the severed head fell to the floor with a squishy thud, and shortly after Riley dropped his knife as well. He then slid down on the wall down to the floor, still shaking from the adrenaline and the rage.

He took Hernandez’s dog tags as he was sitting, taking a look at it. Gamma unit, Aftonian Special Forces. Riley put it away in one of his pockets and spat on whatever had remained of Hernandez, then stood up, and gave a hand to Alex. “Thanks for the rescue,” said Riley.

“I figured I owed you one,” replied Alex after getting up. “I’ll go and stuff this body somewhere and then I’ll join you two in the cockpit.”

Riley nodded and patted him on the shoulder. “Alright, but before I go, do you know where we could get the deactivation codes for a nuclear missile?”

Alex scratched the back of his head. “Well, the Commander wasn’t too big on sharing information, but I’ll see if I can find his terminal. Chances are that he saved the code somewhere.”

Riley nodded, then walked back up to the cockpit, only to end up finding two tied up pilots knocked out on the floor. He fully expected Nichols to kill both of them.

The Staff Sergeant was sitting inside the pilot seat, and for once wasn’t wearing her helmet. The brown-skinned and black-haired Sapphirian woman seemed to be lost in her thoughts, not even acknowledging Riley's presence as he stepped inside. As he walked up to the controls and sat down into the co-pilot’s seat, he took off his helmet and sighed.

“I’m sorry about what happened Riley,” Nichols said without looking at him, trying to comfort Riley. “Patterson was a good man…”

It didn’t work at all. After wiping his face, Riley looked at the plane’s GPS. They weren’t too far away from Blackfortress, so they still had time to fly back and get the rest of his people out. “Alex saved my butt back there,” he said in an attempt to chase his thoughts away. “…said he’ll look around to see if he can find Kingsley’s terminal and the codes.”

Nichols raised one of her eyebrows. “The only thing he knew about you was that you were more merciful than the rest of us, and he risked his life to save you?”

“He wasn’t the first one who did that. People around me seem to follow his example…” Riley was about to tear up, but he managed to hold it back. “…and I’m fucking tired of it.”

Nichols switched the plane to autopilot, then proceeded to let out a deep breath.
“Listen, I know you have heard speeches like this a thousand times,” she said as she looked straight into his eyes “...but you can’t be angry at people for their sacrifices. What you can do is suck up your tears, stand up proudly, and honor their sacrifice by living your life and not giving up.”

Nichols turned away and looked at the plane’s controls. “…because they sure as hell won’t be able to live theirs anymore.”

Riley wiped his face one last time then picked up his helmet from the ground. His camera was still running, and since the storage unit was quite large Riley let it run. He then turned towards Nichols. “You’re right… And I’m going to honor Cole’s sacrifice by flying this plane right back to a city that’s about to be blown up sky high.”

Nichols smiled and patted Riley on his back. “That’s the spirit soldier! Now, how about you go and help our defector find the codes, while I look through the nav logs for their base.”


*

“This is Staff Sergeant Nichols calling Blackfort airport, do you receive us? Over.”

It took some time before the answer came. Major Jefferson's voice came through the radio, along with the ever-familiar noises of a firefight in the background. “This is Major Jefferson. We were engaged by pretty much all the remaining enemies in this damned city! We are currently holed up in the main terminal building, but we’ve got about forty minutes left before the bomb decides to forfeit the fight!”

“Don’t worry Major, we can already see the airport. ETA about two minutes and get ready for one hell of a landing!”

“Roger that Staff Sergeant! Any luck with the codes?”

Riley leaned over to the microphone. “Yes, thanks to an NAF defector. Code’s 9G8-85D-7A43.”

“9G8, 85D, and 7A43 got it. I’ll get Norton and Dresden on the line and tell them the good news. Can you put over Patterson for a second?”

Nichols was wearing her helmet again, but it didn’t hide her emotions. “I'm... I'm afraid to report that Lieutenant Cole Patterson is KIA, sir. He got sucked out of the plane along with Captain Kingsley, and he didn’t have a parachute.”

Riley could hear Major Jefferson muttering something along the lines of “not him”. “Of all the people... listen, Sergeant, don’t tell the others about this yet, we need everyone focused. And make sure you get that plane down in one piece!”

“Yes sir! Nichols out.” She replied as she turned the radio off, and then looked at Riley. “As soon as I land this bad boy, I want you to open up the cargo bay’s door and scout the battlefield. If you see anything that can shoot us down, warn me!”

“Yes Ma’am!” Riley answered.

“And what about me?” asked Alex.

“There should be some weapons down in the cargo-bay! Gear up and make sure that no terrorist gets on my plane!”

Alex clapped his hands together then walked out of the cockpit with a grin on his face, while Riley unlocked his seatbelts. He was about to leave the cockpit as well when the Sergeant spoke up.

“Also, get somebody to get that warbird off from the roof of that terminal building! I’m not going back home without a dropship!”

“Will do! Good luck up here!”

Nichols saluted Riley and then she turned back to the controls. Riley picked up one of the rifles that he put on the tables along with his portable ICN radio, and after grabbing a few magazines he turned to leave.

As he was about to leave however, he spotted a small metal box among the guns. He picked it up and opened it, and the numerous Aftonian dog-tags inside it immediately made him realize whose it was. He turned back to the cockpit.

“Uh, Nichols, I think this is Cole’s!”

She turned away from the controls for a moment, and when she saw the box she tensed up. “…Really? That is the one thing that survives?” She stared at it for a while longer then shook her head. “Ah screw it, put it down here, and then get moving!”

Riley made his way down to the cargo bay. As he arrived, he noticed that Alex had managed to stuff away Hernandez’s body into a crate full of old meat, so the cargo bay was a lot cleaner now.

“You ready?” asked Riley from him as he walked up to the cargo ramp’s controls.

“As ready as I'll ever be. Let’s get your people home!”

About a minute later he could clearly hear the gunfire coming from the airport. The plane touched the ground, and after rolling for a few hundred meters it came to a stop. The airport’s main runway was L-shaped, and since Nichols landed on the left part of the runway all she had to do to take off again was roll forward a bit more, then turn left ninety degrees.

Riley lowered the cargo bay’s ramp and sprinted out. There was about a hundred meters of open space between the building and the plane, which would definitely cause problems if the enemy got through the terminal building. Riley couldn’t see any enemy vehicles inside the airport at least which was good news. “Good news Sarge, it seems like we only have infantry to deal with!” said Riley into his radio.

“Glad to hear that Private! Get into the terminal building and tell everyone to move their asses, because for once I do not feel like fighting!”

Riley ran across the open field as fast as he could, and in spite of the box radio on his back, he managed to get there quite quickly. Once he was inside, he could see Daniel and Bisson manning a machinegun emplacement. When Daniel saw him, he looked like the happiest person in the world. “Riley! About time you got back!”

He quickly ran to their cover and took a few shots at the advancing enemy along with Bisson. “Same to you, but we need to move the hell now. Is everybody ready to leave?”

“I sure as hell hope so! I’ll stay here and make these guys’ lives miserable while the two of you get the others!” exclaimed Daniel.

“Alright! Any news about North and Dresden?”

“The codes worked, but there’s a large number of enemies heading towards them.”

Riley fired off another burst at the enemy and then turned back to Daniel. “Any chance that we can take the warbird on the roof to get there?”

“Probably! Doubt there’s anyone left guarding the SAMs.”

“Great! I’ll get the others to move the civvies to the plane and then we can go and get Norton and Dresden. Bisson, come with me!”

Bisson and Daniel both nodded, with the latter proceeding to take the machinegun to give covering fire for Riley and Bisson. The two dashed off to the left side of the terminal building, and at the end of a long hallway, they found the bigger part of their squads. They were below a staircase to the second floor, which happened to overlook another entrance to the building that had NAF mercenaries pouring through.

Stanley and Jefferson were both there, while Langley and Ira were on the floor above them providing over-watch along with some of the volunteer soldiers. The rest of the civilian militia was with the other locals who were hiding inside a storage area not too far from there.

Hopkins and Nick were sitting behind a metal bench with pistols in their hands. Hopkins’s shoulder was still garbage, but that didn’t stop her from taking shots at the enemy soldiers with her other arm. “Riley!” she exclaimed happily when she saw him.

Nick was even happier to see him, but a low flying knife ruined his mood. It bounced off his holed helmet and he ducked behind cover after he shot the thrower.

As soon as there was a pause in the assault, Jefferson ran up to them. “Is the plane ready?” asked the Major. Once again, he was holding two guns at once, and while his armor vest was bloody, Riley was quite certain it wasn’t the Major’s blood.

“Probably? I don’t know shit about planes! Nichols said to get everyone on board, so I’d guess so!”

“Finally some good news. That being said, Norton and Dresden are in trouble from what I heard.”

“They are, but we can take the warbird to get them out of there. If we can get a pilot that is…”

Langley turned to them from above. “Reporting for duty!”

Jefferson scratched his beard for a bit, and then nodded. “Fine, then get to the warbird, but you might want to take our GIS Agents with you.”

“They did volunteer to stay if things got bad,” Nick mentioned. “…they’d be probably more than happy to help us rescue the others.”

“In that case,” Riley replied. “I’ll go and get them as soon as the civilians are ready to move!”

Major Jefferson nodded, and after putting down one of the rifles, he extended his hand. “I’ll make sure they get to the plane safe then. McConnel, it’s been a pleasure.”

Riley looked at the scarred hand for a moment, remembering the brutal stories about Jefferson's accomplishments during the Esmosian rebellions quite well. He quickly buried those thoughts since they belonged to a completely different person at this point, and he shook the officer’s hand. “Same here, sir. And thank you for everything you did today.”

Major Jefferson nodded and then gave the word for everybody that the evacuation was underway. Bisson volunteered to lead the first group of ten, while Riley and the other combat-capable soldiers went down to the backdoor leading outside to the runways to cover the evacuation groups.

As Riley looked through the windows on the other end of the building, he saw a few vehicles roll outside, but they weren’t much help to the enemy with the terminal building’s reinforced walls preventing them from actually getting inside the building.
“The first group is on board, Major!” shouted Bisson into his radio sometime later.

Major Jefferson was about to send the next group when Agent Simmons interrupted them. “This is Agent Simmons! We’re pinned down with Rockfield and Zenovich, not far from the entrance of the airport!”

It took a moment for Riley’s brain to process that Rockfield was apparently Agent Cipher. “What the hell are they doing all the way over there?!” he shouted

Nick fired off a few rounds then looked at Riley. “They wanted to buy us some time by distracting the enemy in case you didn’t arrive soon enough, but now it seems like that they are the ones in need of a distraction.”

Riley punched his cover in his frustration then looked at the Major. “Send the next group! Danny and I will take care of the agents.”

“I want to––” Nick started.

“No! Your job is to keep Hopkins and the others safe, got it?”

Nick lowered his head then saluted. Before they started running towards the exit, Hopkins took out her last shield grenade and passed it to Riley, saying that they’ll need it more than she does.

The next group led by Ira started running to the plane too. Riley’s squad sprinted outside the building while Jefferson’s group provided them covering fire.

After all this running he was getting exhausted, but he wasn’t going to stop until he was either dead or everybody was safely on-board Nichols’s plane. As they were running towards Simmons’s group, another one of those stealth planes flew over their head. Riley quickly grabbed his radio. “Staff Sergeant, we have an incoming Dragonfly!”

“Shit!” she shouted. “Figure out a way to deal with that thing because otherwise––”

As if it was waiting for Nichols to say that, a missile flew out from the back of the cargo plane and hit the Dragonfly in the back, causing the vehicle to spin out of control and crash into the airport’s wall.

“Problem solved!” announced Alex on the radio. "I found a Hammerhead stashed away here!"

Riley chuckled and grabbed his radio. “Excellent shot Alex!”

Daniel looked at Riley. “Who the hell is that guy?”

“The NAF soldier that I let go!”

Daniel gave a blank stare to Riley. “For fuck’s sake Riley, at this point, half our platoon is made up of traitors!”

Riley just shrugged and dashed forward, and the pair continued running towards Rockfield’s position.

When they finally reached them, they were under heavy fire from over the airport walls and were pinned down behind a landing pad. Daniel and Riley were hiding behind a plane wreck about twenty meters from Rockfield’s position. They could throw a shield grenade in between the two teams, but they would still be vulnerable since the shield wouldn’t cover the entire distance.

Riley fired off a few shots at the enemy then turned to Daniel. “Ideas?”

“Well, let’s see,” Daniel said as he took a quick look outside the cover. “We could try flanking them from behind if we could find a way over the walls, or we could––”

Riley’s radio turned on suddenly. “McConnel, are there any electrical conduits in those walls?”

Riley didn’t know what Rockfield wanted with those conduits. “Umm, I think so. Why?”

“You’ll see!”

Agent Cipher jumped out from behind the landing pad and started running towards the wall. Zenovich, Daniel, and Riley did their best to distract the enemy soldiers but Rockfield still got a bullet in his right arm. In spite of that, he kept running as if he didn't even feel it, and reached the wall.

He ran over to a small fuse-box that was located on the wall, and after pressing a button on his left arm, he opened the box and gripped the wires inside.

Riley thought that the agent would die right then and there from the shock, but instead of that, the lights on the wall lit up very brightly, which was followed by all the lights and the electrical equipment of the soldiers on the top of the wall exploding in a way that looked like EMP grenades going off. The electroshock that went through the wall took care of most of the soldiers as they all got fried, and the ones that managed to survive ran away screaming.

Riley and Daniel were both standing there dumbfounded. Daniel then shook his head and told Riley to follow him. The two ran to the other team’s position.

“Glad to see that you’re still alive! Do you have my shotgun?” asked Zenovich.

“It’s on the plane, but you’ll get it back,” replied Riley. “How’s Simmons?”

Simmons was sitting on the ground and was bandaging her side.

“Bastards got me in the side, but don't worry about me…” she replied.

Daniel crouched down next to her to take a look at the wounds. “Yeah they got you good...” he concluded.

“All the more reason to get on that plane of yours and get out of here!” she replied.

“Not so fast, Agent,” said Rockfield when he got back there.

His gloves were glowing blue, and Riley was still very much curious about what he just did. “Later I’ll need an explanation from you about what you just did, but for now I need your help getting to the power plant.”

Zenovich raised his head. “The plant? We already disabled that bomb, why do we need to get back?”

“Because the guys who entered the deactivation code are still there.” answered Daniel instead of Riley.

Zenovich sighed. “Fine, but after that, we’re getting out! We need to report back to HQ with everything we uncovered.”

“Speaking of uncovered…” Simmons said as she sat up and reached into one of her pouches. “…here” She handed the Danuvee's flight log back over to Riley. “This thing seems to bring bad luck.”

“It suits me just fine then. Now let’s go!”

Riley heard the faint sound of an explosion from further down the airport. He tried to find where it came from, and then he saw part of the perimeter wall collapse, and three tanks rolling through.

“I think that’s our cue!” shouted Daniel. He picked Simmons up from the ground and threw her over his shoulders, and started running back the way they came from, with the rest of the team close behind.

Once they got back into the terminal building there was only one group of civilians left. Captain Stanley, Major Jefferson and the rest of the soldiers were gone, which meant that it was up to Riley, or Nick to lead the last group to the plane since Daniel was hell-bent on rescuing North. It seemed like the NAF was running out of soldiers since there were much fewer people shooting up the terminal building.

“Nick, you want to be a squad leader?” asked Riley when he and the rest of the team arrived.

“Hell no!” he answered. “That job sucks! I’m getting Hopkins back to the plane and that’s it.”

“I can take care of myself!” she replied.

Jess, one of the militia members walked over to them. “I can take the front while the two of you cover the back,” she said confidently.

Nick nodded at her, then once Jess gathered the rest of the civvies, she dashed off towards the plane. Hopkins was about to go but Nick stopped for a moment and turned back to Riley. “You better not stay for long, all right?”

“I'll be fine! Now get moving!”

Once Nick was finally on his way, Rockfield or Cipher or whoever he was these days turned to Daniel. “Is the Warbird operational yet?”

“Yes, Langley should have gotten it running by now,” he answered.

“Good. We’ll try to disable those tanks with the dropship then,” said Rockfield as he reloaded his revolver. Riley realized he still had his other one.

“Don’t,” he said. “We need to get North and Dresden right away, so let’s just take off. Nichols will be long gone by the time those tanks get in firing range.”

“I hope you are right about that McConnel.”

Riley then looked at Danny. “Go and cover them, I’ll check if there’s anyone else in the refugee room.” He then pulled out the shield grenade from his belt and gave it to Danny.

He nodded and then proceeded to follow the agents.

Riley ran down back to where the civilians were holed up until now. As he was trying not to collapse from exhaustion, he saw that Weiss was still there, who was just sitting on the ground with wide eyes, not moving an inch. It was like she wasn’t even there mentally anymore, just an empty body. Shellshock, in other words.

Riley groaned up in his frustration and ran over to her. “Come on Weiss, we’re leaving!”

She didn’t say anything. Riley had no idea how to deal with shell-shocked soldiers, so he just forcefully got the woman back onto her feet and dragged her with him. “Right, come on!”

He suddenly heard a loud bang from behind. When he looked back, he saw an NAF APC bust through the walls, which looked eerily familiar to the one that had chased him and Rockfield a couple of days back. It seemed like the reinforced walls of the buildings in the city center were not as strong as Riley was led to believe.

As the vehicle rolled through it immediately opened fire on their position, forcing Riley and Weiss to run out of the building in hopes of finding cover. He knew very well that the Warbird was on the roof of the building, but given Weiss’s condition, Riley figured that she wouldn’t last too long on her own, so he had to get her onto the cargo plane first.

The two of them dashed out towards the plane, but before they got far, they came under fire by the APC again, forcing Riley to push Weiss behind a damaged truck and throw himself behind it. The rifle he picked up on the plane was completely out of ammo by now and he had no explosives, which meant that taking out the vehicle was impossible. However, he couldn’t run away either since there wasn’t any more cover between them and the plane.

He tossed away his empty gun and grabbed Weiss’s shoulder. “Weiss listen to me! As soon as I give the word, you start running towards the plane and you don’t look back!”

The woman finally looked at Riley. “What?! No, there’s no––”

“If we both start running that way, we’re dead! Somebody needs to distract that thing and you’re in no shape to do that.” Riley grabbed the camera on his helmet, and took out the storage device, then handed it to Weiss. “Take this, and make sure it gets to the right people. Now go!”

Weiss shook her head and grabbed onto one of Riley's arms. “You better not die here like everyone else, you got it?” she said with a tear in her eye as she began running.

With that, Riley jumped out from behind the truck and sprinted back to the terminal. The APC focused its fire on him which gave Weiss a chance to run away, while Riley did his best to avoid being shot. When Riley finally managed to get back to the staircase where Bisson’s machinegun emplacement was, the APC’s cannon turned towards Weiss. Riley jumped out of cover and fired a few shots at the vehicle with his revolver to get its attention, which seemed to have worked.

However, now he had no place to run except for up. When the APC stopped firing, he bolted out from behind the wall he was hiding behind and sprinted up the staircase. He saw Daniel standing on the roof with his rifle in his hand, but before he could get up the APC’s bullets caught up to him.

The staircase’s structure couldn’t handle the stress from the hundreds of bullets that were hitting it, and, in the end, it collapsed in on itself, with Riley standing on it.

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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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