Battle of Blackfortress


Commander DuctTape

35: Last battle of Blackfortress – Becket


Chapter 35: Last battle of Blackfortress

As Nick was watching the burning wreckage of a small convoy of trucks at the end of the city hall’s huge ass courtyard through his binoculars, he wasn’t sure what to think.

According to Daniel a group of three attack helicopters just flew down from the sky and launched a missile barrage at the convoy, then disappeared just as quickly as they came. They were dark grey, but they were far too fast for Dan to even hazard a guess at which nation they could have belonged too, but one thing was certain. They fired at the NAF, so they were friendlies.

Or were they?

Nick shook his head and put his binos away. “Well, I think those guys are either our supposed aerial reinforcements…”

“…or?” asked Riley.

“…or the cleanup op,” Daniel answered instead as he put his armor vest back on now that North had finished bandaging his back.

“Yup,” said Nick. “Jefferson said that command didn’t want the rest of the world to know how easy of a target Blackfortress was, so this could be them cleaning the slate.”

“Gotta love AMC command…” scoffed Riley as he crossed his arms.

“Either way,” Nick continued “…they’re not NAF, so we should be good with the plan. And who knows, maybe they’ll drive the enemy away from the reactor.”

“Speaking of the reactor,” North said. “…how long do we have until it melts?”

Riley shook his head and shrugged. “No clue. The PA system is supposed to go off as soon as some part of it exceeds the safety parameters, and I'd wager that it takes time for the plant to overload.”

“Any guesses at least?” North asked.

“If it’s one of the older fusion reactors then we’ve got like half an hour,” Daniel said instead of Riley. “If not, well… no idea.”

“So we should haul our asses then,” concluded Nick.

Riley nodded, and after he adjusted the straps on his radio backpack, he gripped his broken old assault rifle. The man was armed with nothing but symbols and relics between the now unneeded long-range radio, the ancient rifle, the empty revolver of a formerly dead Aftonian soldier, and the flight log of a 400-year-old ship.

He quite literally weaponized the planet’s past, and Nick wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“Let’s go then,” said Riley, followed by a deep breath.

“After you, Lieutenant” joked Nick.

“Never going to get used to that…” he said with a chuckle.

The four of them quickly made their way back into the city hall after they were done with their observation mission. As they stepped inside, they saw two NAF soldiers carrying a bright green crate down to the stairs leading to the tunnel system. Nick figured that they either had equipment or relics inside them, but at the moment they didn’t need either.

There were still a few gauss rifles left in the hall’s armory down in the basement, so Nick, Daniel, and North both grabbed one for themselves, while Riley just looked around for 7.62 ammo in the building. He was able to find a few rounds here and there, which was enough to fill his century-old rifle’s magazine. He hadn’t had a chance to test fire it yet, though Nick was almost certain that it wouldn’t work. After all, who in their right mind would store a working assault rifle in a public display case?

They walked over to the staircase, and after doing one last equipment check, the squad followed Riley downstairs.

Halfway down Nick could already feel the hairs on his back standing up as he imagined the critters that could live in dark damp places like this, but luckily for him and his nerves, the Burrowbeaks steered clear of the tunnels due to all the sudden commotion down there.

When they finally reached the bottom of the staircase, they came face to face with the NAF soldiers from the barricade. Tower and the masked woman named Bolt both turned to them, with the former doing a nod. “So you’re going to storm the power plant?” she asked.

“That’s the plan,” Riley replied. “…wanna join us?”

Bolt laughed. “Nah. Don’t get me wrong, this mission is fucked in many ways, but I still believe in our cause,” she said confidently. “Same goes for the others.”

“And what cause is that?” Daniel asked.

“Preservation of Azuno,” Tower said.

“…by all means necessary,” added Bolt.

Nick rolled his eyes, while Daniel sighed. “Well, I sure hope you learned today what that last part actually means,” Daniel remarked.

Riley stepped forward. “And I don’t suppose you want to share what you did with all the people who lived here, do you?”

Bolt stared at Riley for a few tense moments as she changed her stance a bit, most likely preparing for a possible fight. “Can’t say I’m afraid,” She replied calmly. "...but we didn’t kill them, and we don’t plan to. Now of course you could always join us if you wanted to meet them…”

Riley rolled his eyes. “Yeah, not happening.”

Bolt didn’t say anything to that. Tower on the other hand stepped forward. “What Captain Bolt here wants to say is that we’re taking the tunnels out of Blackfortress and Paks,” he said. “I do hope you return our favor and don’t come after us.”

“Or tell anyone that we let you go.” Bolt added.

Nick and Riley exchanged a quick glance. He knew Riley well enough by now to know what he would do.

“Lips are sealed,” said the reporter. “But I hope the same goes for you.”

Tower nodded, and then straightened himself out for a salute.

The four of them wondered if they should return it. After all, these people killed a whole lot of their friends today and destroyed numerous buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure during the battle.

But then again so did they.

Eventually, it was North who returned the salute, followed by Nick, Daniel, Riley, and eventually the rest of the soldiers.

And there they stood. Soldiers of opposing sides, all with blood on their hands, standing at the bottom of a cold nuclear shelter, saluting each other as the world above them was about to be irradiated by an exploding powerplant that they were about to fight over for the third time today.

One hell of a metaphor right there. Nick thought.

Eventually, the two groups parted ways, and Nick turned towards Riley as they stepped away from them. “You know we could just shoot ‘em and no one would know,” he said with a shrug.

“I know,” he said. “…but this is where we differ from them. From what I’ve seen these NAF guys take every opportunity they see, regardless of who they step on while doing so. I’d like to think we’re better than that…”

Nick gave him a nod and then turned to the dark tunnel that led to the Steelhorn power plant. To their final battle.

“Let’s go, people,” he said.

The last remaining soldiers of Operation Black Knight all made their way down deeper into the tunnels at a jogging speed. The only noise in the tunnels were the echoes of their footsteps and the occasional puddle that they stepped into, but apart from that everyone was silent. They all had a lot to think through, and even more to grieve about.

Nick in particular was especially feeling down and did his best to mask that with jokes. The fact was that Patterson, who was pretty much his mentor in the AMC, had died today, and the person who he tried to kill with his last act of sacrifice was apparently very much alive according to Daniel. Riley mentioned that he had seen a parachute on him on the plane which explained why he made it out, but it left a lingering question in the air.

What the hell had actually happened to their Lieutenant?

As big of an asshole Kingsley was, Nick didn’t expect him to just let Patterson fall to his death, but if he had indeed kept him alive, where was he? How come he didn’t contact them? And if he fell to his death, then where would his body even be? Did Kingsley even bother to give him a burial before he ran back to his private army?

And what about all the others who died today? Half of the unit got shot to death at the tower, a few of them turned out to be traitors, and then the ones that made it out were emotional wrecks. And then of course there was Lola’s father, Brown, who blew himself up right in front of her daughter’s eyes, probably leaving her scarred for years if not longer.

How in the hell were they supposed to move on from today?


It took them around twenty minutes to get there, and even from the bottom of the tunnels, they heard the power plant’s blaring alarms. The fact that they spent the last two days constantly fighting certainly took its toll on their bodies. They had to make a stop twice to take a breather, but they didn’t have the time for another one now.

North and Daniel went up to the door, and after checking that it was unlocked and wasn’t rigged to blow, they turned to Riley and Nick. “Seems clear.”

Riley nodded and stepped forward. “All right, you two were here before,” he started. “what should we keep an eye out for?”

“Lots of doors and lots of corners, but not nearly as many windows,” explained North. “so be careful when you enter a room.”

“And watch for the signs!” Daniel added. “You do not want to walk into the reactor room.”

Nick scratched his neck. “Why not? The reactor core is shielded, isn't it?”

“Normally, sure,” Daniel replied. “…but the PA system said the power plant was damaged. I’ve got no idea how the NAF started a meltdown, but I wouldn’t count out sabotage to the core.”

“In other words,” finished Riley. “don’t go in there.”

Nick nodded, and along with Riley, they stacked up to the door with the others. His friend counted down from three and then ran through the door, rifle in hand. The concrete stairs were damp in many spots and they made a lot of noise as they went up, but they didn’t have time to play safe. When they finally ascended the stairs, Riley suddenly stopped before the closed door.
“I’m opening the door,” he whispered “…get ready to fire right away.”

Nick gave him a thumbs up and readied his gauss rifle. It was far too uncomfortable for him and he missed his shotgun, but it was either this or going unarmed. As soon as North and Daniel signaled their readiness, Riley reached for the door’s handle.

He gripped it and pushed it open.

Nick immediately opened fire through the doorway. The sound of breaking concrete and whizzing gauss rounds filled the air as the entire squad discharged their weapons, destroying numerous tables and furniture on the other side. From all the gunfire a dust and debris cloud formed from which he couldn’t see shit, but a second later he spotted Riley with his fist in the air. “Hold fire!”

They all did. As soon as the smoke cloud settled, Nick stepped through the doorway and finally saw what was on the other side.

Between the destroyed tables and furniture, some of which had already had holes in them before they arrived, were the dead bodies of a couple of soldiers in NAF gear. But when Nick stepped closer, he realized that the armor they were wearing seemed a hell of a lot more similar to Simmons’s Esmosian gear.

His heart started beating faster and faster as more and more thoughts raced across his head. Did they just shoot friendlies? Were they disguised NAF? Or maybe they were a third party from Esmos? Were they even real?

Daniel and North charged into the room as Nick was trying to get a grip on reality, and once they announced that it was clear, he snapped out of it for a moment and followed them inside. “Did we just shoot a bunch of Esmosians?!”

Daniel crouched down to one of the bodies, a black-haired, bearded man, and searched his vest pockets. While he was doing that, Nick ran over to the door on the right side of the room. He opened it carefully to take a peek.

Only to get shot in the chest.

The bullet spun him around, but he managed to not lose his footing. He backed up to the wall next to the door and slammed it close, yelling “Contact!” as he did. The rest of the squad quickly scrambled for cover as Nick did his best to tune out the pain for now. He opened the door again to take a peek and managed to slam it at the right moment this time around. Two NAF soldiers were running towards them, and as Nick was about to open the door to return fire, he suddenly remembered what sort of weapon he was actually holding.

He took a moment to listen to the footsteps outside, trying to get a rough idea of where they were, and then afterward he jumped back from the door, switching his gauss rifle to full auto in the process.

He gripped the trigger and unleashed the full power of the assault rifle through the door. The tornado of bullets ripped through the wooden door as if it was made from paper, destroying it and everything behind it in the process. He kept firing until he heard the satisfying sound of a click, after which, he jumped back to the wall, his chest soaring up in pain as he did. He gripped it instinctively, but as he looked out the door, the pain subsided a bit.

“Two more down!” he announced.

“Fuck, quick thinking there!” exclaimed Daniel as he lowered his gun, and then stepped closer to Nick. “You okay?”

Nick was about to say something but as he moved, he felt that sharp pain again.

Daniel quickly noticed something was off and came over to him, while North and Riley went over to the Esmosian bodies to search them. As Nick was trying to figure out where these two soldiers had appeared from, he felt the sharp pain again when Daniel touched his torso.

“Okay, you want the good news or the bad news?” he asked.

“How does getting shot have a good part?!” Nick asked back, a bit more harshly than he wanted to.

“Right, good news then,” he said, ignoring the remark “…you won’t die, vest absorbed most of the impact.”

“And the bad?”

“You’ve got a broken rib, possibly more. You’re not running a marathon anytime soon.”

Nick groaned up and leaned forward, immediately regretting the decision as the pain came back once again. As if he didn’t have enough problems already… He turned to Daniel to ask if he happened to have any morphine shots in his pack when Riley spoke up.

“Dan,” started Riley as he took a few rounds from the dead soldier. “…I have no idea who these guys are, but they are not part of the city guard or the police,” he explained, staring at the dog tags of the soldier.

Daniel turned back to Riley. “Then they must be NAF. The Major would have told us if we were getting reinforcement–”

Before he could finish the sentence, one of the speakers in the room turned on, which Nick could barely hear over the alarms.

“Warning, meltdown imminent! Relocate to a shelter immediately! Warning, meltdown imminent…”

“How about we figure this out later?” North asked as he got up. “Come on, the control room’s this way!”

Daniel helped Nick onto his feet, who once again clenched his chest in pain, though by now he was expecting it. The two of them followed North and Riley through the doorway, and after they ran past the two soldiers that Nick blasted, they went for the door at the end of the hallway. There they took a right and continued their run, and as they did, Nick started hearing yelling and shouting from the floors above and below them, though they were barely audible from the alarms.

They ran up another set of stairs, and immediately spotted a group of three NAF soldiers and mercenaries standing there trying to work some sort of control panel.

“Shit! AMC!” yelled one as he raised his rifle.

Nick fired off a burst at him while North and Daniel took care of the other two. They quickly reloaded and continued, not even bothering to check the bodies.

They were still following the green line that marked where the control room was, and they eventually reached a room with a doorway that was literally ripped apart. Nick stopped in his tracks to check what the hell could have happened there, but Daniel dragged him along. “Rockfield’s doing, now come on!”

Nick didn’t bother asking and followed Daniel. As they reached a T-turn, North hugged the wall and took a peek out to the hallway intersection.

He leaned back as a bunch of rounds flew by him. He turned to the others, and without saying a word the squad stacked up into formation, as they did hundreds of times in training. Even Riley managed to figure out that he should get ready to jump out at a moment’s notice.

North slapped the wall as the sign and then he rolled out to the hallway while the others leaned over the wall or stepped out, all four of them opening fire at once, with Riley using his revolver instead of the broken rifle. Their combined fire knocked down one of the soldiers, but the other managed to retreat behind the control room’s wall.

The squad continued firing at the wall without a second thought, their gauss weaponry ripping through it and killing whoever was behind it.

They stood still for a moment as they ceased fire. Not hearing anything other than the blaring alarms and the yelling from the other floors, Nick gave the all-clear and the squad hurried inside the control room, with Riley taking point. As they stepped inside, Nick finally understood why the reactor core was melting down.

The control center was completely smashed, and while the destruction of the controls was bad enough, as Nick put away his rifle he noticed something very, very bad as he looked through the observation window, straight at one of the large tanks.

“Is that… did they blow holes in the coolant tanks?!”

He, Riley, and North ran up to the observation window, while Daniel ran to the console displaying the reactor temperature. Nick’s guess turned out to be right.

Two of the large metal tanks containing the nuclear reactor’s bright blue coolant liquid all had grenade-blast sized holes in them, while the remaining three seemed to have been completely disconnected from the reactor if the red lights on their pipes were any indication. The reactor room had coolant leaking all over the floor, and it sure as fuck explained why the meltdown had started, but Nick wondered why the NAF soldiers here were yelling at each other instead of escaping.

He stared at the depressing state of the coolant tanks and then turned to the others. “So how the hell do we stop the meltdown?”

Riley shook his head slowly. “Without the coolant tanks? We don’t.”

Nick blinked. “…okay, so how do we fix the coolant tanks then?”

Riley raised his head and looked straight into Nick’s eyes. "We don’t!” he sneered. “There’s a fucking hole in the two of them, and by the time you’d reconnect the rest you’d fry from all the radiation inside! We’re fucked, Nick!”

Riley punched the observation window in anger, mere centimeters from Nick’s face. He jumped away, not wanting to get into Riley’s way as he marched through the room gripping his head. Nick was clenching the back of his skull as he tried to figure a way out of this mess, while North was blankly staring at the flooded control room.

There had to be a way. There always was.

“Dan, tell me you’ve got any ideas!” he said desperately as he walked up to him. As he looked at his computer, he saw all the dials in the red zone in pretty much every category, while the core temperature was miles above the safety threshold. Daniel didn’t even say a word as a reply, but as Nick was about to walk away, he suddenly said something.

“…well fuck,” he sighed. “…I think we might have one way to stop the meltdown.”

Nick sighed in relief, and both he and Riley walked up to Daniel again. North was still staring at the control room. “Then spit it out!” Nick blurted.

Daniel opened one of the camera views on the console, which was pointed at a control panel somewhere in the flooded room. “I can’t shut down the fusion sequence because some asshole smashed the controls, but that panel over there has backup controls for that! Problem is that the reactor floor…”

“It’s flooded with coolant…” Riley said in a low voice.

“…and with radiation.” Daniel finished.

Nick let out a deep sigh. And then kicked the console. “God damnit…”

While Riley and Daniel were just looking at each other, trying to process the situation, Nick heard North walking up to them, probably hearing the talk about the shutdown. “And if one of us goes in there… they…”

“They’re not coming back out, yes,” whispered Daniel.

It was a hell of a situation, and the constantly blaring alarms didn’t help them calm down. Someone had to make the trip into the core room to turn off the sequence, because their only other option was to run away and let the whole thing explode, irradiating Blackfortress for emperor knows how many years. And with the core getting hotter and hotter every second, they had to pick someone soon.

Before he even had a chance to think on the matter, Riley sighed and gripped his rifle. “Well fuck it,” he said. “You guys saved my ass more than once today. It’s time I returned the favor.”

Nick immediately turned to him. “The hell you are!” he exclaimed.

“Well what other choice do we have?!” he yelled back. “Someone has to go down there and it sure as fuck isn’t going to be the guy with parents and siblings back home!”

“For fuck’s sake Riley, stop trying to be the hero all the fucking time!

Nick, unable to control his emotions any longer, walked up to Riley and shoved him into the wall. “People died to protect your ass along with your fucking drive, Cole included! You’re not going to discard that shit! Not today, not ever!”

He was about to yell his head off when he felt North’s arm land on his shoulder. “I’ll do it.”

Nick dropped Riley and turned back. “No, you–”

“I said I’ll do it,” he said again, more sternly this time. He tossed his rifle to the ground and stared Nick straight in the eye. “Listen I’ve been written off as a mass murderer for my life. I can pretend that I’m fighting for the right reasons, but the truth is that the more people I kill the more I feel like a lost cause.”

He pointed at the observation window.

This is my chance to finally save lives, instead of taking them.”

Nick felt a tear form in his eye, but before he said anything Daniel stepped between them. “North… you don’t have to do this.”

“I’m sorry Danny, but I’m afraid I do. Riley’s right. You both have people waiting for you back home. But we don’t. Not anymore…”

As if to remind them to hurry up, Nick heard a very loud creak coming from the reactor room, followed by even more alarms going off. North stared through the observation window for a moment, before turning back to them. “I’ve got this…” he said with a nod.

Nick turned to Riley, looking for his reaction, or any sign of him trying to change North’s mind. Instead, he slowly nodded. He moved his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but nothing came through.

“No but… this can’t…” Nick spluttered, desperate for any argument to get North to reconsider. “…you can’t just…”

He stepped towards Nick and grabbed his shoulder. “It’s fine Nick, really,” he said as he took off his dog tags and put them over Nick’s head. “…it’s better that I go than one of you.”

Nick shook his head and then hugged North one last time. Mass murderer or not, North was a brother just like Dan was, and as he embraced him, he realized that this hunk of a man just ensured that Nick could go home and see his actual brother and sister again. All of them could.

“Thank you… seriously…”

“Anytime brother,” he said after the hug. “Now get moving, you need to be far away from this place in case I mess it up.”

“I’ll escort you to the hatch,” said Daniel, then turned to Nick. “You two should get back to the staircase in case someone tries to flank us.”

Nick nodded, unable to say anything from the overwhelming grief he felt. He made his way out of the control room but stopped at the door. He turned around and looked at Corporal Thomas Norton for the last time, almost not noticing Riley’s back-radio turning on.


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

Log in to comment
Log In