Bonus Chapter: The other side
“Commander Kingsley, with respect,” said Dr. Richard Schmidt on the main screen of the submarine’s command deck. “…you couldn’t have screwed this up any more even if you tried.”
Bolt felt a chill race through her body as the doctor scolded her commander. Operative Captain Sofia Cantera, codenamed “Bolt”, wasn’t the sort of woman who was easily scared, but she knew from secondhand experience how quickly NAF operatives disappeared that made the mistake of pissing off Schmidt.
“It’s bad enough that I had to evacuate my mansion after your own goddamn spec ops unit busted down my door,” he continued just as angrily. “…but to hear that my disowned son had a hand in this and that you didn’t stop him when you had the chance is just fucking unbelievable.”
Commander Kingsley, who Bolt refused to call by his codename “Swordfish”, due to how stupid it sounded to her, remained stoic as always. She had to give respect to the man for keeping his wits after a mission failure like this.
Richard Schmidt took a deep breath and then turned back to the screen. “Did you at least take care of McConnel?”
“Marston’s pilots leveled the entire powerplant with rockets,” he explained. “I honestly doubt he survived that, but Senior Operative Sail already volunteered to recon the area.”
Sail who was sitting a few seats away from Bolt at the control consoles nodded at the screen.
“Glad to hear it…” said Schmidt, obviously lying. “In the meantime, I expect you to arrive at Fort Draak without delay, preferably with your resignation already written.”
“Awfully presumptuous of you to think that I’ll resign.”
Schmidt’s eyebrows went even lower. “You don’t have a choice in the matter, Commander.” he scowled, ending the transmission.
Kingsley put his hands on his bandaged hips but continued staring at the screen. A few tense seconds passed in silence before he let out a long sigh. “Captain Bolt, you’re not making my life any easier right now.”
She rolled her eyes, and then glanced at Tower who was sitting next to her. That goes for you too, she thought, and hoped that Tower got the message. “I’m aware, Commander,” Bolt stated calmly.
He shook his head and turned towards him and Bolt while motioning at Sail that he can leave. The man nodded at Bolt and stepped out, no doubt going straight back to get his gear cleaned. “You do know what your move means right? Letting Rhino just walk on to the powerplant like that?” Kingsley asked.
“I do, sir, but with respect,” Bolt started, doing her best to remember the speech she prepared in her mind. “Tower was right. Blowing up that powerplant would have been stupid, reckless, absolutely dangerous, and frankly, completely unneeded.”
Kingsley crossed his arms, doing his best to not touch the still bleeding hole in the left one. “But you did have orders to do precisely that.”
“Yes, I did. And I stand by my decision to go against them.”
Tower shifted in his seat. It was easy to tell that he was nervous.
“Sir, I’d… I’d like to take responsibility for both of our actions. Captain Bolt acted out of my–”
“The hell he does!” Bolt exclaimed right away, not wanting her squadmate to jump in front of the firing squad instead of her. “Tower wants to take the blame because he’s got the basic common sense to not a blow-up a goddamn nuclear powerplant while our entire force is on the island! Just as I do.”
Kingsley looked at both of them. Bolt was expecting him to call the firing squad any minute now, but for whatever reason, the Commander didn’t want to do it. She could tell that he was contemplating something, but before she could figure out what, the man sighed.
“Ah whatever…” he said, stepping away from them. “…this whole fucking mission was doomed to failure right out of the gate. You two can go.”
Tower almost fell out of his seat from his surprise, while Bolt just raised her head.
“Oh thank you, thank you!” Tower spluttered out similarly to a child, which didn’t do any justice for his impressive height. “Fuck I really thought you were going to order our execution.”
“I do want to know why you didn’t do that sir.” Bolt added.
Kingsley nodded at the screen. “That idiot might think that executing our own men is what makes people motivated but the only thing that gets us are more bodies to dispose of,” he stated with frustration. “Captain Bolt, you got your squad out of there alive, and for that, you have my thanks. That being said, you can probably expect a demotion at the least back at base.”
“I’ll take the trainee rank over a bullet any day sir. Thank you.”
Kingsley nodded and then turned to the rest of the crew in the control room. “All right people, we still have a ways to go until we reach Draak. Get some rest but keep our sonars and sensors ready for any Sapphirian vessels, or universe forbid, Uthanian scout mechs.”
The crew in the control room all went back to whatever they were doing before the call, and Tower and Bolt both decided that it was time to leave. She let out the breath that she held in all this time as she left her seat, but before she could go back to her bunk to have a damned rest finally, Tower spoke up. “Sir, there is one more thing.”
Bolt and Kingsley both turned to him.
“Connie heard some sort of radio signal from Black Harbor as we were about to leave the port with the submarine.”
Kingsley crossed his arms and turned over to Connie, their radar technician. “And why didn’t you mention that?”
The woman quickly glanced back and forth between one of the other crew and their commander. “Well, uhm… I didn’t want to interrupt Doctor Schmidt, sir. He’s… well, honestly he scares the crap out of me.”
Kingsley sighed and then turned back to Tower. “Any guesses what the radio signal was?”
“A few, but the most important clue we have is that it went out right after McConnel’s transmission.”
Kingsley blinked, and Bolt saw his face tense up. He very much didn’t like the sound of that. “Then that was probably a reply to his transmission, most likely from either a civvie or another soldier.”
Tower nodded. Bolt was quite certain that that was the case too, but as the sub’s security chief and a squad captain, she wasn’t going to sit here to debate it.
“Commander, I would like permission to sweep the sub for potential stowaways, especially the cargo deck.”
“Permission granted, but take Tower with you,” he said, after which he pulled his handgun out and handed it over to Bolt. “And pull the alarm before you engage anybody, we don’t want to leave anything to chance.”
“Yes sir!” she said as she ran off with Tower behind her.
They quickly made their way out of the control room, and then went up the stairway to the upper deck of the sub, going past a few other operatives on the way. Every surviving NAF operative was on board the submarine by now, and while that might have sounded like a lot of people at first, the rather horrifying fact was that it only meant around thirty people, with only half of them not being part of the submarine’s crew. Bolt’s squad and a few other stragglers were all that survived the NAF’s retrieval and takeover operation, and Bolt wasn’t sure if she should be pissed at her commanders for coming up with such a shitty plan, or the Aftonian Military Corps and the Sapphirian Navy for being so fucking through in their massacre.
However, as much as she wanted to be mad at someone there wasn’t any point to it. Not just because she couldn’t change the past now, but because both sides had lost a lot of good people today. The NAF lost a rather large part of their ground force including Captain Dex and Major Hernandez, while the joint task force lost the entirety of Patterson’s Rhino squad, along with Captain Brown and the majority of Echo team.
And as she remembered Brown’s death, she turned to Tower as they went through a rather empty corridor. “You doing alright Eric?”
“Hmm? What do you mean?” he asked as he was checking his handgun.
“I’m asking if you’re alright,” said Bolt again, somewhat more harshly. “…considering who died today.”
Tower sighed and put away his handgun. “Look, what do you want me to say? That I’m sorry that my own father died? That I hate myself for putting both him and my sister into that situation?”
Bolt raised her hands in front of herself. She didn’t mean to anger him. “Sorry Eric, I didn’t mean to pry. Just wanted to check in, that’s all…”
Tower slowly shook his head and then holstered his handgun after making sure it was working. “It’s fine, just… I honestly don’t know how to feel about this whole thing…”
Bolt understood. Having family on opposite sides of a war was challenging, for both parties. Especially when one side didn’t know about the other.
“Yeah, it’s a real mess… Have you had your “talk” yet with your sister?”
“No, and I hate myself for it. Especially after today…” he said with another sigh. “…frankly, I have absolutely no idea how I’ll tell her now that 'hey, I’m part of the group that murdered dad! Wanna join?'”
“Well… you could wait until we start the next phase. Maybe it will be easier once the rest of the planet starts respecting us more.”
He shook his head. “Look I’ll be the last one to say that our goal is not right, but come on Sofia… do you honestly believe that after this shit the rest of Azuno will just join up with us?”
Bolt said nothing for a few seconds as she thought up an answer. “I sure hope so,” she said later. “…we’re gonna need everyone on board sooner or later. I’m not seeing us winning this thing without the entire planet’s military force combined. Especially after the reports we got from the Lagoon…”
Tower was about to reply most likely, but he quickly stopped talking when they finally reached the cargo deck. Bolt waved at the operative guarding it, which was Porter this time around, who then quickly opened the door for them as soon as he put his mechanical leg back into place. “Radio if you need anything, I need to get these servos cleaned.”
Bolt nodded, understanding how messy it was to clean some of the prosthetics soldiers got these days and then stepped into the storage area.
As she expected all lights were turned off and there wasn’t any movement, at least not at first sight. She raised Kingsley’s handgun and turned its flashlight on, and after Tower stepped inside, she pointed at the right side of the storage area, signaling to him to check that side. He nodded in response, and then Bolt descended the staircase towards the left side.
At the moment the cargo deck was filled with numerous crates and containers, but not all of them had contained military equipment. Some of Bolt’s squad members decided to carry some relics back from the city hall in an effort to keep them safe from the nuclear explosion, and while Bolt’s sentimental side liked the idea, the security chief inside her was furious due to how risky it was to carry museum items that could have potential trackers inside them.
As she went past a few of those containers, she quickly noted that most of them were marked as fragile accordingly and were all locked tightly.
All of them except for one.
As her flashlight shined on a light green crate with “Pioneer family artifacts” labeled on its side, she noticed that this crate didn’t have a padlock. She reached for her radio and tuned it to the squad frequency.
“Tower, one of these crates is missing a padlock.”
“That’s not the only one, I’m seeing one... no wait, two with missing locks.”
Bolt’s heart started beating a bit faster as she tensed up. She could send Tower back up for Porter, but then she’d be alone with a potential intruder on board in a dark cargo bay. She wasn’t exactly scared, but she knew her limits. “Right, I’ll check out this one, you check the other two. Keep your radio on.”
Bolt walked over to the crate, and after looking around for where it opened, she unlocked her pistol and then quickly pulled the lid open.
There were a few old items inside it, mostly books, journals, and some sort of sword still in its sheath. She was about to write it off as a security oversight from one of the fresh operatives when she noticed that there were plastic and metal pieces inside it. As she checked the crate more thoroughly for signs of damage, she finally discovered that there was a hole right below the slot where the padlock was attached to.
Someone definitely tampered with this one. Potentially from the inside.
“Tower, I’ve got signs of a rather smooth attempt at cutting off the lock. Anything on your end?”
No answer came.
“Tower, you here?”
Once again, there was no answer.
Pull the alarm before you engage, she remembered
Bolt knew better than to not listen to her Commander, especially after today. She took a deep breath, and then immediately jumped away from the crate, and then sprinted towards the stairs where the alarm was. As she ran past a few more crates he heard movement behind her, and she turned around right away, firing her pistol while doing so.
The shot missed whatever made the noise, but the knocked over box a few meters from that spot confirmed that she was very much not alone. She cursed loudly and then turned around to run to the alarm, only to run face-first into the butt of what looked and felt like a shotgun.
She was staggered back from the hit and dropped her handgun, but when the attacker went for the next one, she ducked away. In the same motion, she did a full spin and extended her leg, spin-kicking her attacker in the face while doing so and dropping them to the ground.
Her attacker, who turned out to be a black-haired man in heavily damaged Aftonian gear, immediately rolled away before Bolt could kick him. She quickly hopped over the man’s leg and then went to pick up her handgun, only to hear a click behind her as she crouched down.
“Don’t. Fucking. Move.”
Damn it. Where’s Tower when you need him?
She slowly raised her hands, not moving any other part of her body.
“Now get up, and then move over to the red container on the other side,” he ordered.
Bolt smirked. “Got a rank there, soldier? There’s a high chance I outrank you.”
The man pumped his shotgun as a response.
“Silent type eh? Fine…”
Bolt walked over to the container as instructed, adjusting her hair a bit as she did. The soldier behind her didn’t seem to realize that she activated her emergency transponder in her armor’s collar. As the two of them walked through the dark storage room she did her best to determine who this man was using her ears and the few glimpses he got.
He was an Aftonian soldier judging by his equipment. White skin, black hair, blue eyes, above average height, and from the sound of his footsteps, someone who preferred using lighter gear. Judging by the shotgun it could have been Corporal Kevin Jones, but Bolt saw Porter shoot him with her own eyes, so it had to be someone else.
As she finally reached the container, she saw Tower sitting inside it, with his helmet knocked off from his head and his glasses broken. She felt the familiar feeling of anger spread through her body, but she did her best to keep it in check. Tower nodded at her as she stepped inside the container as well. “Bastard got me from behind,” he said. “You?”
“Front, actually…” she said with a bit of embarrassment, and then turned around towards the man, who was about to close the container.
The scar on his head that pretty much split it into two sections immediately revealed who that was.
“Ah, Lieutenant! Fancy seeing you alive!” she said with an almost genuine smile.
Lieutenant Cole Patterson rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, real pleasure all right. Do me a favor and stay here, I’ve got a sub to take control of.”
With that, he shut the container’s doors on the two of them. Bolt gave him around five minutes before he realized that he was on a submarine full of elite NAF troopers with top of the line equipment and he’d decide to surrender.
As for the other two still stuck inside Blackfortress… if they weren’t already dead, they were probably buried inside the ruins of a nuclear powerplant. From there the only place they could go were the tunnels that Bolt had collapsed after her squad left them. They didn’t have much of a shot for survival either.
Same went for Azuno if they didn’t stop fighting each other, though Bolt had to admit that their leaders were starting to lose sight of that, evidenced by the massacre that was the battle of Blackfortress.
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