Chapter 33: Nuclear situation

“Decoy team, you in position?” asked Riley.

“Decoy team is in position and ready to go,” came the answer from Simmons.

“In that case, time for the fireworks!” Riley announced.

It didn’t take long for the decoy team to get their attention. A few moments after Riley gave the go-ahead, a gas station not too far away from the city hall mysteriously exploded, followed by the unexplainable death of an NAF sniper that wanted to check what had happened through his scope. The decoy team followed this with Daniel masquerading as an NAF soldier needing reinforcements at the gas station through the dead sniper’s radio, and it seemed like most of the soldiers in the area took the bait.

“I think now would be a good time to go,” suggested Nick as he gazed at the burning gas station.

The strike team made their way down from the building roof they were camping at. The city hall was right next to that place, but soldiers were constantly watching the perimeter for anything suspicious. However, thanks to the decoy team that was no longer the case. Riley was at the front, and he did his best to not make any noises, while Nick and Platoon were following him.

It’s been a very long time since Riley was an actual squad leader, and while he remembered his last official mission in Esmos and how it ended, right now he enjoyed the position. He was never the kind of person who liked ordering people around, but he was put into this situation many times today and he felt that he had gotten used to it by now.

When they reached the perimeter fence of the city hall, they saw that with the exception of a small squad, pretty much all soldiers left.

Platoon guessed that there was a good chance that the remaining Federation soldiers were disorganized with their leader’s death, and they wanted to stick together. He added that it was also possible the NAF was counting on an attack like this, but Riley wanted to stay optimistic.

Once he made sure that nobody was looking at their way, he quickly hopped over the now electrified chain-link fence, which Platoon had disabled, similarly to how he blew up the conduits in the airport’s walls. It turned out that Platoon had weaponized one of his built-in power-cells, which he could use to either overload or drain electric devices. The downside of this upgrade was that it needed to refill its batteries more often than other droids.

Nick and Platoon followed Riley’s example and jumped over the fence as well, and by the time the remaining patrols arrived at that spot to see if anyone was trying to sneak inside, they were long gone. One of the windows on the right side of the city hall was destroyed, which the infiltration team used to climb inside. Once they got in, Riley called the rest of the squad to his position.

“Okay, that was the easy part. North and Dresden are currently down in the basement, and as far as I know the only way down there is that elevator.”

“The elevator shaft to be more precise,” explained Platoon. “If the elevator is not there, I can remove the shaft doors and we can grapple down using the support cables.”

Nick shook his head. “Yeah, he will just casually tear two elevator doors out the wall…”

“I’d prefer to avoid that,” Riley said.

“Then let’s assume the elevator’s still there,” replied Nick.

“Right. Stay quiet, and if you see someone don’t fire your weapon.”

Both Nick and Platoon replied with “Roger that”.

The halls were mostly empty, though Nick managed to run into a noticeably drunk NAF mercenary waddling in one of the hallways. He motioned to Riley and Platoon to stop right away.

The man was wearing the black Kevlar armor of most mercenaries, and as he was limping away from them with a bottle in his right hand, Riley noticed Nick crouch-walking forward, while gripping his shotgun like a baseball bat.

As soon as Nick caught up to the soldier, he swung the weapon as hard as he could at the man’s head. The smack knocked him down to the ground right away, after which he didn’t stand up. Nick took the opportunity to snatch a keyring and a spare handgun off from the man.

Afterwards the three of them managed to get to the elevators without alerting anybody. Before they went down, however, Platoon stopped them. “Lieutenant McConnel?”

“I told you to stick with Riley…”

“We didn’t exactly have time to pack up when we left this base with the civilians. Amongst other things, we left some maps and a few dossiers of NAF collaborators.”

Riley really didn’t want to spend more time than necessary inside the building, but having more intel on the NAF was never a bad thing. “Well, we should have time to get them once we get North out of there, but if you want to go now then I won’t stop you.”

“We can stay here and set up some traps while you’re gone,” added Nick.

“Good idea Private. I’ll be back in a minute,” said Platoon as he began sneaking towards his old office.

As Riley looked at Platoon sneaking away, he suddenly remembered something. He quickly looked around at the walls, until he finally found the display case he was looking for. “Nick, how do you feel about a POW rescue?”

Nick raised his eyebrows, and then Riley pointed at the display case, which housed a certain general’s assault rifle. “Riley, that thing’s older than our country! There’s no way it still works!”

“Maybe, maybe not, but Patterson’s family would probably like it back.”

Nick stared at the rifle for a bit. “I think they’d prefer their son back…” he sighed. “…but screw it, you’re right.”

The two of them began to pry open the case as silently as they could, and Riley wondered when Platoon would get back.

* * *

Platoon made his way to the Mayor’s office as fast as he could. When he reached the door, he was surprised to see that it was locked. He crouched down to check the lock. His sensors didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary, and the likelihood of a guard hearing the destruction of the door was in the acceptable parameters. Platoon concluded that kicking the door in was an acceptable strategy, and a few moments later he executed it, sending the door flying to the middle of the room.

The office was mostly the same as he left it, except for one thing. The window was open. He carefully stepped inside with his MR-6 revolver in his hands. When he concluded that the mysterious intruder was not around anymore, he opened his desk. The dossiers he was looking for were in there, along with a small model airplane. He folded them and put the papers away into one of his pockets, along with that plane after he made sure that it wasn’t a tracking device. He wasn’t sure what it was doing there, but Agent Simmons seemed to have a liking to model aircraft. Afterwards, he closed his drawers.

Platoon didn’t understand why someone would break into that office, not take anything, and then lock it. They might have been looking for somebody, instead of something, but he did not have enough data to come up with a definite answer.

He was about to leave when he heard his radio turn on. The only thing that came through it was static noise, however. He grabbed the device and answered it. “There is a lot of static on the line. Repeat your message."

The answer consisted of the same set of static sounds, but Platoon’s audio sensor could make out the sounds of a person. “Please hold.” Platoon replied.

The droid quickly walked over to the Mayor’s desk, pressing a button that turned on the computer that was connected to the ICN terminal in the room. He then checked the frequency the radio was set to and copied it into the computer. After changing a few settings, he took off his helmet and grabbed the computer’s headset. His angular head wasn’t designed for headsets like that, so Platoon opted to just turn the volume all the way up. “Try now.” He said into headset’s microphone.

The line was still full of static, but Platoon could make out actual words now.

“Fucking hell!” replied the voice.

Platoon’s processors sped up, as he was looking through his memory banks in an attempt to find the owner of the voice. When he finally found a match, he noticed that his behavior core recorded his system’s current status, and saved it in a new folder, under the “mood” category.

“…this is Commander Kingsley. Do any of you idiots receive, over?”

“I’m surprised to hear from you, Captain Kingsley,” stated Platoon.

The reply was static, but it was clear and short enough for Platoon to understand. “Fuck.”

Before the conversation could continue, the static noise suddenly stopped. The computer displayed error code 00001, which meant that the connection was severed. Judging by the static, Platoon concluded that the traitor’s radio either ran out of power, or it broke. He got a notification from his behavior core when he turned off the computer.

Anger. Platoon was experiencing anger, for the first time since he had upgraded his behavior core. The fact that Captain Kingsley was alive despite falling out of an airplane was bad news for everyone, but it did leave a lingering question.

If the Captain was alive then what had happened with Patterson? Was there a chance that he too, had survived?

As fascinating of a revelation as this was for Platoon, and the rest of the squad, he couldn’t tell them. Knowing that this news would distract his squad from the objective, Platoon decided to keep Kingsley’s survival and the possible hope for Patterson’s life a secret for now. As he walked out of his office, Platoon set one of his processing cores to work on finding an optimal way to apprehend the traitor.

* * *

When Platoon got back to the rest of the strike team, Riley and Nick had already set up a nice barricade around the elevator entrance, and Riley now had Roland Patterson’s OTS-14 assault rifle hanging from his back.

“You’re done?” asked Riley from the droid.

“Indeed. We can go now.”

“Right, let’s get moving.”

Riley was pleasantly surprised to see that the elevator was working. The team boarded it, and after Nick pressed the button that led to the lowest floor, he grabbed his radio. “Tom, we’re coming down the elevator. Don’t fire at us!”

“Got it,” North replied.

When the elevator reached the bottom and the doors opened, they saw lots of bullet holes, blood and a couple of dead bodies stacked on top of each other, and at the end of the hallway was North and Dresden, with North carrying his machinegun while Dresden was gripping an NAF rifle. North wasn’t wearing his helmet anymore, and instead, he had a red bandana, while Dresden had nothing on his head apart from a bandage.

Nick threw his arms in the air and gave a pat on the back to Norton. “Damn good to see you North!” he said afterwards.

“I’m glad to see you two in one piece as well,” agreed Riley.

“Same to you two. Now let’s set up that grenade and get moving!” Dresden said quickly.

Platoon took off his helmet. North and Dresden seemed quite surprised at the sight, but the droid was probably used to that by now, and he just simply walked over to the missile.

“So, how exactly do you want to modify that thing and keep it powered?” asked Norton from Platoon.

Platoon took off one of the pouches on his belt and pulled out a small toolkit. “The radius can be changed with a few button pushes, but I am going to give it a bigger power source.”

“…from where?” Riley asked.

Platoon pointed at himself. “I still have around 40% of a charge left. I believe I can handle it.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” asked North.

“We do not have many other options. Now I would like to request some space for this.”

* * *

The whole process took around twenty minutes, and after Platoon finished the work on the grenade their radios turned on.

“Strike, this is Decoy,” reported Daniel. “We held off the enemies as long as we could, but we have to bail, and it seems like a lot of them are heading back to the city hall! Langley and Zenovich are on their way to give you a lift, Simmons and I will try to get a few of them to chase us!”

“Roger that Danny,” replied Norton, and then turned to Riley and the others “We should get moving too. I want to see the look on their faces when they realize their missile is a bust!”

“You’re not the only one, buddy!” replied Nick.

Platoon placed the shield grenade near the fusion core, and after he connected a wire to his hand and the grenade, he attached it to the core and activated the shield. The bubble ended up surrounding the core perfectly, and a moment later every light on the missile turned yellow.

Riley instinctually crouched down, but when he realized nothing exploded, he stood back up. Platoon was standing there, with the fusion core in his hand.

“Bloody hell,” Dresden gasped as he looked at the missile. “…for a second I thought you triggered it...”

“Glad to see something going as planned for once,” said North.

“Don’t jinx it…” replied Riley.

Platoon grabbed his revolver with his other hand, after which the team made their way back to the elevator.

As they were riding up, Riley kept thinking about the events of the past week. It was most certainly the most desperate and frankly, exciting time of his life, but he was more than happy that it was finally coming to an end. Once they got on the Warbird and picked Simmons and Daniel up, they would finally leave for safety. After that, Riley could start rebuilding his life.

Not that he knew how he would do that.

He was busy coming up plans with what he was going to do once he gets back to Aftonia, when he suddenly realized that he still had Platoon’s MR-6 Magnum. "Agent Rock… I mean Platoon.”

“Stick with Rockfield.”

“Right. I forgot to give this to you back at the airport.”

Riley handed to him his other handgun. The droid looked at the gun for a few seconds and then looked back at Riley, with his "eye" turning to a greener color. “Keep it. You have done more than enough to earn it.”

It was a very nice firearm, so Riley was surprised at the agent’s decision to give it to him. “Oh. Well, thank you!” he replied.

Rockfield nodded as an answer, then put his helmet back onto his head. Once the elevator reached the top, the doors opened. Rockfield walked out of the door first.

It was a mistake.

The moment he stepped out of the elevator he got shot in the torso by something that knocked him down to the ground, causing him to almost drop the core.

“Shit!” yelled Riley as he jumped behind one of the covers they’ve set up with Nick.

Rockfield was laying on the floor motionless. At first, Riley thought that he was “dead”, but a few moments later the droid sat up.

He jumped behind cover as well and fired off a few shots at the NAF soldiers that were waiting for them. While he, Nick, Dresden, and North were dealing with them, Riley grabbed his radio. “Decoy, this is Strike! We were engaged by NAF forces, but we disarmed the missile! We need a ride out of here right now!.”

“Roger that Riley, we’ll be there soon!” came the answer from Langley.

Two enemy soldiers wielding riot shields attempted to advance. There wasn’t much that Riley could do from this range with his gun.

“Corporal, do you have any grenades?” asked Rockfield suddenly from North.

“Nope, I’m dry!” came the reply.

“In that case, get down.”

Before anyone of them could ask for clarification, Rockfield reached for the elevator doors that were about to close. He tore one out of the wall along with a bunch of bricks and wires, then placed it down in front of himself. He then attached the grenade along with the core to his belt and ran forward with his revolver out.

His improvised shield was getting showered with bullets, but it was serving its purpose. Once he reached the soldiers, he threw the door at one of them. He then grabbed the shield of the other one and shot him in the head as he attempted to take it back.

“Get moving soldiers!” he yelled at the rest of his team as he equipped the riot shield properly. They were all looking at him with wide eyes for a while before they finally came after him.

“How come we don’t have droids like that?!” Dresden asked as he tried to keep up.

They were right outside the main-hall, and Riley decided to take a look. Rockfield followed his example and the two pulled their heads back a few moments and around a dozen missed bullets later.

“Seven hostiles. Ideas?” Rockfield asked.

“Yes,” said Riley as he ran to one of the doors behind them, which he then broke open with his shoulders. “We go around them!”

Rockfield and the others followed Riley into a small place that looked like some kind of utility room. While Riley was digging around the archives when they first arrived, he found the map of the building, and he remembered that there was an extra corridor around here that should have led to the garages. He looked around the utility room before he finally found the door he was looking for, which was located behind a shelf. Rockfield knocked it over without much effort, and the team went inside and ran down a long and seemingly abandoned corridor.

When they reached the end of it, they found themselves outside in the night, in front of the garages. There wasn’t anybody there for now, and Riley guessed that they were probably covering the main entrances.

“Well that was easy,” remarked Norton.

“It's not over yet!” Riley replied, then turned to Rockfield. “How's the wound?”

As the five of them headed for the perimeter fence, Rockfield pulled one of his sleeves up, checking some sort of wrist terminal that was under it. “I would advise that we hurry. One of my batteries is leaking fluid as we speak.”

They all did their best to run faster, and as they neared the perimeter, Riley saw a small group of mercenaries going for the garage as well. He didn’t hesitate and fired shots at them until his revolver ran out of ammo. Two of them were still standing afterwards.

With Riley and North at the front, they began climbing the fence and Riley took a look at the sky. Tendor was slowly coming up once again, which was going to make their sneaking much harder. Once they hopped over, North managed to take out one of the two soldiers with his machinegun, while Dresden nailed the last one, which gave him, Rockfield and Nick the chance to climb through as well. Once they finally left the courtyard, Riley bolted towards a three-floored apartment building and kicked its door in. When everybody got inside, he slammed the door in and grabbed his radio.

“Langley, this is Strike, where the hell is our EVAC?” yelled Riley into the radio a bit angrier than he wanted to. It took some time for the answer to arrive.

“Langley here, we ran into some trouble in the form of a few vehicles including a tank!”

“Get to the top of a building so we can get your asses out!” added Zenovich.

“Got it!” answered Riley.

The team ran up the building’s staircase. Riley was completely exhausted from all the running he did today, but they couldn’t stop now. He tried his best to move, but after two more floors worth of stair climbing, he collapsed in the middle of the staircase.

Nick heard him fall and without any delay, he ran back down and helped him up. “Come on… we’re almost there!” he said while breathing as heavily as Riley.

When they finally reached the top, he could hear vehicles stopping near the building. Riley felt a sense of Deja-vu as he was about to punch out the door with Nick, but before he could do it Rockfield spoke up.

“McConnel, there’s something I need to tell you. All of you.”

Riley looked back at the agent. “What is it?”

“It’s about Kingsley. There’s a chance that he’s––”

Rockfield was interrupted by the sound of a tank firing, and an explosive shell hitting the building. The entire place shook from the explosion. Riley was very curious about what Rockfield wanted but now was not the time for a long story. “Explain it later, we have to go, now!” yelled Riley

As soon as he said that, he heard a sound that he didn’t even think of hearing again. In the distance, he could hear the noise of what sounded like an air-raid siren, only a bit deeper. As they got louder, the sirens were accompanied by a synthetic sounding crackling voice.

Warning! Powerplant damage detected! Reactor coolant system no longer functional! Seek shelter immediately! Warning! Powerplant...

It was the city-wide PA system that has been off ever since the NAF first arrived. If they decided to reactivate it then that meant that…

“Fucking…” Riley started. “…they are trying to overload the power plant!”

“Good for them!” Dresden said as he charged to the front “But I’m not sticking around to watch it blow up!”

Dresden kicked out the door that led to the roof. It was still dark outside but Tendor was slowly rising up. Now that he was on the roof, he remembered why he felt that sense of Deja-vu. He has been in the exact same situation with Collins precisely a week ago when they were stuck on the roof of the central police station as they were trying to transmit the distress signal.

He also remembered how that particular mission ended.

As Dresden lit a flare to make it easier for the Warbird to see them, Riley turned to Rockfield. “Agent, if that powerplant blows the radiation will kill everyone in the city center and make Blackfortress unlivable!”

Dresden turned back to Riley. “McConnel, we don’t have nearly enough firepower to fight our way there! I’m sorry about the city but it’s time we left!”

“The Master Sergeant has a point.” Rockfield agreed. “We need to escape the radiation zone and get your hard drive to safety. The only biological lifeforms in Blackfortress other than us are NAF personnel. We are not leaving civilian personnel behind.”

As they were arguing, the building was hit with another shell, and the entire thing started shaking. Riley fell down to his back, and Nick quickly went over to him. “Come on! We can debate this after we're away from the battlefield!”

He pulled him up once again, putting his arm over him to make it easier for Riley to move. As the Warbird arrived, the ramp was quickly lowered, and while Langley opened fire at the enemies on the ground with the Warbird’s weaponry, Zenovich yelled out from the passenger bay. “Everyone get in, we don’t have much time!”

Dresden jumped up immediately with Rockfield behind. Nick was about to go but Riley stopped dead in his tracks.

He knew that Rockfield was right. That they had to take the hard drive to decipher it. That they needed to escape to have living witnesses about the NAF.

But he couldn’t leave this city.

Not after today.

He lost too many of his people and suffered too much to just leave the city to its fate. He had to try to stop the explosion.

“I’m sorry… but I can’t leave.”

Nick turned to the warbird and then to Riley. Before he said anything, North ran up to them. “Riley, come on! Going to that plant right now is suicide!”

“So was staying behind to deactivate the missile!” he retorted. “I’m aware of the odds but what choice do I have?! If the reactor blows, everything that we did since yesterday will be for nothing!”

Nick turned to the warbird again. He stared at it for a moment and then shook his head, turning back around to Riley.

“Riley you’ve got no chance on your own and this is fucking suicide,” he started “…but I promised you when we met that I wouldn’t leave until this city was safe. I’ve got your back.”

North glared at Nick right away, but as he was about to scold him, Riley saw something change in his stance.
“Oh for the…,” North started. “…ah fuck it. Riley if really you believe that we’ve got a shot then I’m in. I disabled one nuke, might as well go double or nothing!”

Riley was about to reply with something when he heard an ear-shattering explosion from right below them. As the entire structure shook, the front left part of the building completely detached from the rest of the structure and collapsed down to the street below them, burying a few vehicles and people.

But it didn’t stop there.

The entire thing began shaking and falling apart and Riley didn’t waste any more time with arguing. He turned to the warbird. “Go! Get Daniel and Simmons to safety, we'll be fine!”

He saw Zenovich nod, and without further ado, Riley McConnel ran away from the edge towards the back of the apartment building, with his two squadmates behind him.

With the staircase already collapsed and the whole building falling apart, he looked over the railings at the roof to try and find something that could soften their landing. As he did it, he couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of the situation, remembering clearly of his fight at the central police station.

“What the hell’s so funny?!” North asked, trying to keep his balance on the shaking building.

Riley waved him off and without saying anything else he jumped over the railing, aiming for one of the open dumpsters. Just like with Collins he was the first to jump, but this time around he wouldn’t do it on his own. As he landed in a pile of paper and cardboard garbage, he finally heard the last of the supports give away as the apartment building collapsed in on itself.

A note from Commander DuctTape

I'll be slowing down the chapter releases to 1 per release day so that I'll have more time to edit the final chapters. We're close to the end now!

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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