This is an except from the novella, "Redemption"; the intent is to give you a general feeling of what the Alliance Archives and the Martial Role-Playing Game (and my stories) are like. Enjoy.

Author's Note: At this point in time the Dominion referred to the Alliance, as "The Clan"--as in the Clan McPherren--while calling the gray haired Pherren, "Elves".

 

Rendezvous

            It had been over an hour since they had arrived at the rendezvous site, a rock outcropping that reached some fifteen yards out into the fast moving river that ran along the far side of the island. It was set some thirty some odd yards from the access road that had been cut through the dense native forest, making this area closer to a wilderness than civilization.

            The forestry service had long ago declared that the island was not the habitat of the inaccurately named Johnson’s rabbits - the head of the planets food chain- but standing out here even in board daylight, the forest became a maze of lights beams and dark shadow which could conceal just about any creature of the human imagination.

            Jones had been out there for most of that time, standing watch for the approaching tilt-rotors, lowering his binoculars he once again looked to his back hoping not to be confronted by some unknown horror.

            “Oh to be in power armor now that spring is upon us,” he said to the world around him, as he synched up the coaler on his jacket against the cool breeze coming off the river.

            “What’s the matter Sam,” said Grey’s voice into his telecom earpiece, “miss your armored suit?”

            He though about this for a moment, “Damn right,” he said while shifting his position against the imagined felling of something crawling up his leg, “I’m standing in a patch of woods on an alien planet,” he said while quickly scratched at his leg, “God known what kind of beasties are roaming about the place.”

            “Speaking of nasty, any sign of Overlord?” asked Grey

            “Stand by,” replied Jones as me moved out onto the rocks to get a better look up stream, kneeling down he raised his binoculars. The range indicated swung widely as he scanned along the river and its banks, then something large and fussy appeared causing the auto-focus to lock on, the sight of the tilt-rotor zoomed into clarity.

            It had its engine nacelles point straight up and was moving fast and low over the river, hugging the bank and stayed below the treetops. It was a thrilling sight.

            “Here they come,” said Jones still watching them approach.

            “Remember to stay off the Pacscom,” said Grey, “and definitely none of that SIcom stuff.”

            “Acknowledged,” replied Jones now remembering that he was going to need both of his hand free, so he stowed the binoculars and stood up, he then walked slowly out toward the river edge of the rocks.

            The outcropping was wide with good footing; there should have been little chance of accidentally falling off, but for the hypnotic effect of the swiftly flowing river. The sign and sounds of the fast moving water made it hard to keep your oriented, you had a tendency to lean against the direction of the flow in order to brace yourself against an expected force that was not there.

            “Damn it,” curst Jones as he almost fell over; the aircraft was now less than a mile away, so he had to get his act together. So he straightening up and assumed a wide stance and concentrated on the incoming tilt-rotor, now feeling more stable he raised his arms in an overhead wave to attract its attention.

            As the tilt-rotor approached Jones could see the flight crew through the cockpit window, the pilot was intent on controlling the aircraft, while the copilot scanned the surround countryside, the aircrafts loading ramp was down and being used as a platform by a flight suited trooper who knelt by its edge.

            With great control the aircraft hovered just ten feet out from the rock ledge, slowly and obviously under the guidance of the trooper on the ramp, the aircraft turned in space and slowly started to back up to the outcropping.

            Jones carefully backed away towards the trees which he now viewed as a place of safety, once there he turned back to watch. Beyond the aircrafts guide he could see the assault team, fully armed and armored they stood signal file holding onto the overhead handholds waiting of the go signal to be given.

            It was now hovering just a few feet up, with only its tails twin vertical stabilizers over the rocks. The flight suited trooper looked back into the passenger cabin then turned and made a fist and gesture with his arm; in rapid secession the troopers moved pasted him and jumped from the ramp onto the outcropping, after gain their footing they jogged pasted Jones into the woods.

            As soon as the last trooper was clear, the tilt-rotors engines surged creating a powerful downdraft, causing Jones to grab for his hat. The aircraft started to rise and angled forward while picking up speed, within moments it had closed its ramp and was now heading for the opposing bank of the river.

            Jones was still watching the tilt-rotor reseed, when something firmly graded his upper arm, he turned and found himself face to visor with a fully armored trooper. Although the sight of such within the Alliance was nothing new - in fact he had trained to fight in armor- but here and now it was almost as if he had just encountered an alien life form, one that resemble humanity but with so very obvious difference.

            “Are you alright,” it said in a transmitted flat-monotone voice.

            “Yes sir,” Jones said, more out of training than the reality of his situation, since for some reason his inability to see the trooper’s eyes, and the sound of his electronic voice unsettled him even more. He know from experience that when your in the suit, the world is a very different place, and that you and your fellow troopers were all on the same side; but now he was on the outside trying to look in.

            The trooper holding him turned and looked into the woods towards another armored figure, this one was carrying a Banshee auto-rifle cradled it in his left arm while he was gesturing with his right towards the woods. Jones now noticed the rest of them in among the trees, each one looking very much like the others with only minor difference in their weapons and the various bits of equipment hanging from their web gear.

            “Jones…” said the trooper now tugging on his arm, “Sam, its Centurion Richards, we need you to show us to the truck.”

            At the sound of a familiar name Jones snapped back to reality and the mission at hand, “Sorry sir, this way” he said, and with that Richards released him and he moved off towards the road, as he passed the troopers fell into step behind him.

Truck

            The truck stood off on the side of the road in the only clearing they could find in the immediate area, which put it some twenty yards down range for the rendezvous point. With the sound of the tilt-rotor Grey was already lowering and securing the trucks engine compartment hood, which he had opened to fain some from of engine problem should someone have driven past. A reasonable precaution that now seems unnecessary, for no one has else had appeared in either direction since they had left the outskirts of Churchill city and started down this road.

            Moving around to the driver’s side door, Grey reached up and opened it and was now stepping up onto the sideboard.

            “Grey status,” said Jones, and by the sound of it he was on the move.    “Standby,” replied Grey into his telecom headset. Standing on the truck’s sideboard Grey looked carefully in both directions before responding. “All’s clear, come on in.” he said, then continued climbing into driver’s set, and closing the door.

            With the push of the starter button the truck’s diesel electric engine came to life, a series of dings indicated the truck was ready to roll and that he forgot to put on his seatbelt.

            Reaching into his shirt Grey withdrew a matte-black finished automatic pistol, he then pushed the magazine release which dropped it into his left hand, after a quick inspection he re-inserted the magazine and then pulled back the pistol’s slide, charging the weapon. With a fluid motion he returned it to his shoulder holster then lowered the driver side window were he placed his right arm on the frame and tried to look relaxed.

            Jones was now at the back of the truck, he waved at Grey after seeing him in the trucks side-view mirror, Grey casually waved back while doing his best to keep an eye on everything at once.

            Grey could feel Jones stepping up onto the back of the truck, then the sound of the loading doors latch and the door being opened. He then looked to the passenger’s side-view mirror, and there they were, jogging alone the road trying to stay as close to the trees as possible. “Damn there’s a lot of them”, he said not realizing he was still on an open telecom.

            “What? Repeat last message,” said Jones, who also seems to have bin a bit distracted.

            “Disregard, just get them loaded.” said Grey feeling a little foolish.

            “Acknowledged,” replied Jones.

            After a few minutes of the truck bouncing about under the weigh of the troopers and the sounds of things being moved about in the back, Grey heard the cargo door being closed. Then the sight of Jones in the passenger side mirror approaching the cab, with a click of the handle the door swung open and Jones climbed in.

            “Here you go,” said Jones as he handed Grey a small blue piece of plastic, at once he recognized it was a telecom service access card. Normally they contained an encoded account number which allowed its user to access the systems communication grid, that and provide information for service billing.

            “I take it they haven’t just prepared our account for the month?” said Grey sarcastically as he slid the chip into the telecom unit he had holstered on his belt.

            “Just keep your telecom on talky mode channel one,” said Jones who was also putting in his chip. “Sir can you hear me?” he asked into his headset.

            Grey switched in a moment later, “…hear you,” someone said in an odd harmonic tone, this lead Grey to assume that the chip was also some from of encoded scrambler “Get this thing moving,” commed the strange harmonic voice.

            “Acknowledged,” replied Jones, as he the shut the door and strapped; Grey was already moving the truck back onto the road and then started to picking up speed.

Traffic Stop

            “What the…” said Grey at the passing sight of a DMP patrol vehicle parked off the side of the road in a little recess among the trees, out of habit he checked the trucks speed, then turned his attention to his rear view mirror.

            “See something,” asked Jones picking up on Grey excitement.

            Grey then saw the patrol vehicle coming out of its hiding place, lights on and siren wailing. “Ya we have a police car coming up fast,” said Grey now resisting the urge to speed up.

            Jones looked to the rear view display on the dashboard then triggered his headset’s talk button, “We have company,” he said.

            “Could you be a little more specific?” ask the strange voice.

            “We have a DMP vehicle moving up on us from behind, it looks like their going to pull us over,” said Jones, who was reaching around behind himself to feel that his pistol was still in it holster at the small of his back.

            “Understood,” said the voice, “now I want you to leave your com line open, do you understand?” it instructed.

            “Acknowledge,” replied Jones.

            The Demeter Municipal Police patrol vehicle was a local variation of a military scout car, although this model wasn’t armed or armor plated, it still had most of its cousins off-road and river crossing capabilities, but speed was not one of its selling points, but in this case the truck was still no match for it.

           

            “Ok people we’re doing this by the numbers,” commed Richards, “Kotov on the deck,” he said, pointing at the weapons sergeant who has carrying the squad’s medium machinegun; he moved quickly to comply by deploying the weapons bipod and lying down on the floor behind it, but as Kotov was settling in he was obviously having problems.

            “What is it?” inquired Richards

            “Sir, I can’t see to fire my weapon,” commed Kotov while demonstrating his inability to position himself so as to look over the weapons sights, “I don’t think the Elves ever planned to lay down in a fight,” he added.

            Richards slipped off his seat and knelt down next to the sergeant, “The Clan are use to sighting using their weapon’s remote scopes, but I see we are going to need more practice.”

            Robert tapped the sergeant on the top of his helmet, “Take it off”, he commed. Kotov leaned up onto his elbows and opened his helmet’s latches, after lifting it free and putting enough slake onto the connecting lines, he locked it back onto his armored pack.

            “Happy now?” commed Richards while drawing his sidearm and checking its safety,

            Spashiba,” said Kotov in thanks, as he checked the transparent spiral strip that ran around the back of the 90-round drum magazine, confirming that it was fully loaded. Now after a quick pull of the charging handle all that was left was to wait for the Centurions order, then all he’d need to do was thumb the selector switch to “H” – high volume fire – allowing him to trigger a stream devastation against the target; the anticipation flowed over Kotov like a splash of ice cold water on a hot day.

            “Riojas,” commed Richards, “when the time comes I want you to pull open the door, then you and I will dive out and stay low,” he said gesturing towards the floor.

            “Aye sir,” commed Riojas as she slung her weapon across her back and then moved up to the cargo door.

            “All right I want everyone else on either the left or right side, make ready but hold your fire,” ordered Richards, “Reicher you move up so you can fire over Kotov, and Anderson you do the same for Sykes,”

            “You,” commed Richards pointing at the Sykes, “You deal with whoever comes into view when the door opens, watch out for our people,” he added.

            “Aye sir,” commed Sykes who now reached for his sidearm.

            Richards moved into position behind Riojas, and drew his sidearm and with a quick check of the safety he added, “I want everyone to hold their fire and stay down, is that understood?” he said using his best drill instructor voice.

            “Aye sir,” the team chorused over the com.

            Now prone and facing the door, Sykes gripped his auto-pistol with both hands, as Anderson moved into a kneeling position next to him, rifle at the ready; Reicher was doing the same near Kotov.

            The troopers could now hear the growing sound of the approaching siren.

            The DMP vehicle was closing the distance, its pulsating blue lights reflected off of every polished surface in the truck’s cab. Grey was still trying to play it casually, despite the fact that they were the only other vehicle on the road; he was pretending to hope that they would just drive past.

            The siren stopped, to be replaced by the command “Pull over”, coming from the vehicles public address system. Grey looked up the road, hoping to spot anyplace that might give them an advantage or at least an avenue of escape; there was nothing he could see.

            “Pull over or face arrest,” threatened the voice over the PA.

            “I’m going to stop, but I’m not pulling off the road,” said Grey, Jones just nodded his head in response. With his foot off the gas, Grey turned the searing wheel slightly towards the side of the road and allowed the truck to slow under its own momentum before applying the brakes.

            “Come on people what’s going on,” asked Richards in that strange harmonic tone.

            Jones looked at the rear view display before answering, “Sir the DMP vehicle has stopped about ten yards back on the drivers side.”

            “Attention driver,” announced the PA, “Turn off your engine,” it ordered.

            Grey reluctantly put the truck into park and turned off the engine, the world became still, filled only with the sounds of the wind and the river in the distance. Then there was a pause, no one stepped out of the patrol vehicle but one could just imaging the men inside discussing what and how they should handle this unknown.

            Then the hatch doors on the back of the patrol vehicle opened and two black helmets figures emerged, they peered around the edge of the opened doors like medieval warriors looking across their shields at the enemy.

            “Sir we have movement,” said Jones; Richards thumbed off the safety on his pistol, accompanied by the metallic clicks of his men following suit.

            Now the patrol vehicles passenger door open, and out stepped a Police officer in fully body armor and helmet, he was carrying a Pad handheld telecom computer in his left hand. As he approached the truck he was joined by one of the officers who had emerged from the back, this one was also armored and wearing facemask, he carried a large bore rifle.

            Jones depressed the pause on his telecom, “What the hell is that?” he asked Grey.

            Grey watched the two men approach in his rear view mirror, “Its some type of drum feed shotgun,” he said, “I think that other guy also has one.”

            Releasing the pause, “Sir we have two men approaching on the drivers side, one is armed with an assault shotgun,” said Jones, “There’s another one back behind the patrol vehicle; I believe the driver is still inside.”

            “Acknowledged,” replied Richards.

           

            Grey turned and looked out the window at the men as they stepped up to his side of the truck. The one with the Pad had the look of someone who knew they were in charge, were as the accompanying officer seemed to be a bit burdened under the weight of his weapon that he held crossed his chest supported by its strap over his shoulder.

            “Good afternoon officer,” said Grey feeling very much like a motorist that was just caught speeding and was guilty as sin, but planning to play stupid in the vain hope that the officer will pity him and just let him off with a warning.

            For a moment the officer stared up at him, Grey truly felt as if the man was judging him against some unknown scale, as if to determine how he should treat him. “Afternoon sir, please collect your license and vehicle manifest and step down,” instructed the officer.

            “Yes sir,” replied Grey reaching for the datatag they found in the truck when they barrowed it, he then fished out of a pocket his unofficial drivers license; with a quick look to Jones he opened the door and step down.

            As Grey cleared the door the officer noticed Jones, “You,” he said while pointing at Jones, “climb out on this side”, now gesturing towards the ground.

            With a nod of his head Jones started to climb out over the drivers seat; happy with himself for no responding to the authoritative sound of the officer’s voice with the traditional, “Aye my Lord”.

            The officer looked at them; his eyes were intense and full of purpose, “license,” he said while staring into Grey’s dark blue eyes.

            Grey handed over the license and continued to play stupid, “What’s the problem officer,” he said feeling very much like a bad stereotypical character.

            The officer inserted the license into the top edge of his Pad and made a few touch strokes, without looking up he answered, “We have had reports of smuggling, so we’re checking all vehicle passing through here,” he said now looking back up at Grey, “What are you transporting?”

            Grey continued the act, “Well I was told that it was marine engine parts,” he said with a little smirk on his face.

            The officer looked disturbed at Grey’s answer, “You mean you don’t know what you’re haling?” he said now gesturing at the truck’s cargo box.

            “Pretty much,” said Grey with a slight shoulder shrug; the officer was getting even more agitated, “We just pick up the load and make sure it arrives on time.”

            The officer looked over at his partner, and then back at Grey “We don’t have all day, open it”

            “Sure,” said Grey, but before he could take a step the officer held up his hand.

            “Not you,” said the officer who then pointed at Jones, “You.”

            Grey looked over at Jones, “Go ahead,” he said while nodding his head slightly towards the back of the truck, “just watch out for the latch, it springs open.”

            “Ok,” said Jones now walking towards the back of the truck accompanied by the masked officer.

            The officer once again locked eyes with Grey, “Why doesn’t your assistance know about the latch,” he inquired.

            Grey met his gaze while trying to suppress his own sense of the approaching danger, “He’s just long for the ride, I’m dropping him off with the cargo,” he said hoping that it didn’t sound as lam as it felt.

            “Right,” said the officer just as his Pad beeped an alert tone; reviewing the display the officer removed Grey’s license and handed it back to him, “All is in order Mr. Miller; your manifest.”

            Grey reached for his license, “Thank you,” he said; now in an effort to stall for time he reached into his back pocket for his wallet, and then made a big production about sorting through it; which produced the desired effect, that being to annoy the officer.

Jones

            Jones turned and walked towards the back of the truck and there parked some xxx yards back in the middle of the roadway was the DMP’s patrol vehicle; its military ancestry was obvious with its facetted body panels and heavily framed tinted windows; only its sky-blue and white paint scheme denoting its current use as by the Police. Standing at the back was the second armed officer who was using the edge of the patrols vehicles opened back door to as a brace for his weapon; which now point ominously in his direction.

Coming around the back of the truck, Jones moved quickly to the middle of the tailgate, as his armed escort was moving around pass him – no doubt to avoid getting between him and his partner back at the patrol vehicle - but Jones wasn’t going to give him that opportunity, with the palm of his right hand he smacked the latch’s safety locking point, while at the same time grabbing and throwing the handle.

“Hold it,” yelled the officer at the sound of the smacking metal.

With his chest pressed against the tailgate Jones pushed at the latch to open the door as hard as he could; the door started rushing away from him, when he realized that someone was opening it from inside; with his weight pressing against the latch his arms were forced upward as the door ascended.

 After letting go Jones’s only though now was getting out of harms way, unfortunately his mind was raced faster than his body could respond as humanity’s ancient fight or flight responses kick in a wave of hormones and adrenaline; the world around him shifted into sharp focus as time itself seemed too slowed down.

With the noise of the trucks roll gate clanging open in front of him, Jones never heard the report of the shotgun, just a whooshing sound as the round closed the distance; then like someone throwing a switch, Jones no longer felt connected to the world around him. As he watched in horror a scene of unspeakable gore unfolded before him, as chunks of blackened flesh tumbled through a red mist of splattering blood which smacked hard and wet against the back of the truck; smoke literally rose before his eye as flesh and clothing burned from the intense heat.

            Bangs like a hammer striking metal reverberated throughout as the rounds struck the door; their miniature shape-charged warhead detonated, unleashing a controlled tongue of flame which vaporized the door at the point of impact, and melted the surrounding material into flying droplets of molten metal; the interior of the truck was illuminated with flickering strobe-like flashes of the superheated gas.

            Riojas was down on one knee pulling at the door latch with both hands when a round penetrated the door right next to her face with a loud pop and a brilliant blow torch flame; she shut her eyes hard against the flash which left a bright afterglow in her vision.

Panicking and diving for cover was out of the question, for now getting that door open was all that mattered.

            Confusion gripped the masked officer as he brought his oversized weapon to bear on the collapsing body; his mind so overwhelmed by the sight that he failed to notice the opening roll gate of the truck, and by the time he did his fate had already been decided.

            Sykes tracked his pistol’s targeting icon up along the length of the officer’s body as the door rose; the sound of his own heartbeat pounded in his ears as he fought to relax and remain focused, knowing that the very pumping of his life’s blood through his arteries could throw off his shot.

            “Boom,” even before he fully realized that he could see the targets head, he had discharged his weapon, not once but twice; he held his fire and watched for a reaction, and was rewarded by the target started falling over backwards.

            Riojas was still on one knee working to push the door up along its track and into the ceiling when the squad’s medium machinegun opened up. Kotov fired one long burst at the patrol vehicle; the sight was unreal as the moisture in the air flared into a momentary trail of white mist that ended in a spider’s web of jagged shards that was once the driver’s side windshield.

            With momentum finally carried the door aloft, Riojas pushed off and jumped from the back of the truck followed closely by Richards. As her boots hit the asphalt she once again dropped to her knee, and in one fluid motion reach for her holstered sidearm, drew it, and then moved into the prone position - putting her helmets scopes facing down into the roadway – forcing her to roll onto her side and bracing herself with her right leg in order to orient towards the target.

            Kneeling and with his weapon at the ready Richards waited until Riojas was in position before turning to check on Jones; with one look and then a deep breath, Richards turned and moved off toward the driver’s side of the truck.

Grey

            At the sound of his partner’s shout the officer had stepped back away from Grey and reached for his holstered sidearm, as he did so the first shots rang out startling him into looking in that direction.

            With only a split second to react, Grey chose to talk advantage of the officer’s momentary confusion and closed the distance between them; for now he know that he didn’t have time to draw his weapon, let alone run for cover.

            The sight of Grey rushing towards him brought the officer back to the situation at hand; as his weapon cleared its holster he shouted for the truck driver to “halt”, or at least that’s what he was attempting to do as Grey plowed into him.

            Like a charging linemen Grey came in low using his right shoulder hitting the armored officer in the abdomen and pushed upwards. As he did so his foot slipped, although the force was enough to nock the officer over backwards, Grey’s knee came down with a smack against the roadway driving Grey to the ground in a wave pain.

            Grey’s knew his life was on the line, and despite the growing pain he had to move. Bringing his hands forward he pushed up and tried to bring his good leg up underneath himself, but pain and the burning rush of adrenalin was all he could feel. Picking up his head he spotted the officer just a few feet away, he was starting to sit up but had already brought his weapon to bear on him; Grey could read in the officer eyes what he intended, and all Grey could do was watch as his death approached.

            “Burrapp,” the burst of automatic rifle fire blended into one sound, as the officer’s helmet jumped from his shoulders as his head broke apart in a spray of fleshy fragments and bone. Grey stared in disbelief, not knowing weather to be thankful for his life, or sick at the sight, as the officer’s body collapsed in to a pile dark blue clothing and equipment.

            The moment was broken as an armored trooper arrived on the scene; with rifle in hand he approached the shattered remains of the officer, after shifting his weapon into his left hand, he knelt down by the body and started rummaging through its pockets.

            Taking in a deep breath Grey held it for a moment before slowly letting it out, “Shit,” he said to himself at the realization of what just happen, but these thoughts didn’t last long as the pain from his injured knee demanded his emendate attention.

            After rolling onto his side Grey looked back, the re-enforce kneepads of his barrowed coveralls were in once piece; reached down he felt around the area for anything wet or sticky, all he found was dirt ground into the material. Slowly he started to bend the leg, the pain wasn’t as bad as before, and in fact was diminishing with each effort.

 

            Once again her years of Dominion Army training managed to get in the way of Clan technology; as Riojas raised her sidearm to eye level a large dead zone appeared on her display effectively blocking her view, “Idiota,” she said now moving her weapon aside. With the press of her thumb she released the weapons safety lock, which was proceeded by the appearance of a targeting recital. Unlike conventional remote targeting, this aiming point is not derived from an infrared laser-pointer, but instead from a scope mounted to the weapon. This crossed, semi-circular icon represented a “calculated point” through which the projectile should pass for a given range; in the case of Riojas automatic pistol that’s was about twenty yards.

            Riojas was now joined by troopers Anderson and Reicher, both of whom knelt down by her with their weapons at the ready, “We’re with you,” commed Reicher.

            “Good, now standby,” commed Riojas, “Suit Mode, zoom four power, full screen” she instructed; the image on her main display rush forward to meet her, normally this was a very dangerous procedure in combat; using full screen magnification greatly reduced a troopers overall field of view; but in this case Riojas felt it was worth it to get a better look at the target.

            From her vantage point Riojas could see under the patrol vehicles suspension system and its open rear doors, while scanning the scene she noticed a booted foot coming into view at the back of the vehicle as if someone was just step down from the back.

            “We have movement,” she commed, “at the back of the vehicle,” the effect of this statement was like turning on a light switch, as it sent the troopers back into action.

            “Riojas deal with it,” commed Richards as he moved to put himself between the threat and his injured comrade Grey.

            “Aye sir,” commed Riojas, who had swing the targeting recital onto the boot, “Richards, Anderson swing left and hold,” she ordered.

            “Aye ma’am”, replied Richards as the two men moved out, they walked slowly in a wide arc away from Riojas while keeping their weapons up at eye level and pointing at the back of the patrol vehicle. A moment later the two troopers stopped and then when down onto one knee, they were now almost parallel to the back of the vehicle.

            “Standby,” commed Riojas as she locked her sight onto the target; taking a breath she let it out until she felt steady, then with a slow squeeze of the trigger the pistol discharged. “Engage,” she yelled over the com; sending both troopers into action.

            Her bullet had torn through the officers boot, shattering his ankle and blowing out a large flap of skin and muscle at the back of his calf; the jolt of the impact and the sudden lose of support dropped the officer to his knees slamming him into the back of the vehicles open door.

            Riojas tracked the officer but held her fire as the troopers moved in; a sudden crack of rifle fire and it was all over as the body of the officer fell into view below the door.

            The troopers then proceeded to check the vehicle for any other occupants, after a moment they signal that all was clear; with that Riojas stood up and holstered her sidearm, “Sir, alls secure.” she commed, now turning to look back at the truck.

            “Acknowledged,” commed Richards, “Sergeant, I want all this stuff off the road and mark it for recovery,” and then with a slight pause, “and make sure Jones is ready to travel.”

            “Aye Sir,” replied Riojas who set about getting it done.

            Sykes had gotten up and moved to the edge of the tailgate, with pistol still in hand he view the aftermath of the firefight; there laying flat on his back with his legs bent was the masked officer he had shot; his weapon lay at an odd angle to one side with is his fingers still jammed into the trigger guard making it appear as if he was grasping it. This while his left arm was across his chest almost as if he had had time to reach for his shattered face before his life ended in a slowly expanding pool of dark liquid.

            “That was too easy,” thought Sykes, who curiously felt no remorse at what he had just done; but now wondered if he could ever go back to being just person again, rather than a warrior.

            Sykes was focusing on the treeline to either side of the road and hadn’t noticed that the sergeant was stand in from of him until she tapped him on the boot, “Ma’am?” he commed.

            “Give me a hand,” she commed, and then looked pasted him, “McHamon grab the medical bag.”

            “Aye Ma’am,” commed the troopers.

            As she knelt down, Sykes holstered his pistol, and moved to looked over the edge before jumping. As he put his hand down for balance, it slipped almost sending him head first off the end of the truck. Pulling back he saw that the tailgate was covered with a red black goo; he held up his gloved hand, which was glossy with what he now realized was blood.

            The truck bounced as McHamon jumped from the tailgate, in his arm was the field medical kit; Sykes stood up and moved to the other side of the tailgate, but he was taking to long about it.

            “Gene get your act together and give us a hand,” commed McHamon.

            Without saying a word sergeant Riojas briefly looked up from her grim task; Sykes suddenly felt like a green recruit trapped by the penetrating gaze of a training instructor. Don’t make excuses, just get back to work, he thought, “Aye,” he commed, and jump from the truck.

            Riojas had put her hand down into the back of Jones collar while holding his head with the other; she instructed McHamon to grab Jones arm so that they could pull him back away from the trucks lower bumper, which he was partially laying over. With a quick look behind them, and a soft “go” from Riojas, the troopers proceed to move Jones.

            The round must have detonated somewhere close to Jones spinal column, for he was literally broken in half below the shoulders; the only thing keeping the body from folding back against itself was the efforts of the troopers, but they seemed to be having problems.

            “Sykes” commed Riojas without looking back, “get in here and grab his shirt up under his arms.”

            “Aye Ma’am”, commed Sykes as he squatted down between the troopers and reached out to tightly grab a hold of Jones shirt; even through the gloves tactile feed back pads, something felt very wrong.

            “Got him?” commed Riojas.

            “Aye Ma’am,” commed Sykes who prepared himself; he known from basic training that a dead or even an unconscious person acted like a large sake that is half filled with sand.

            Riojas was now looking directly at McHamon, “Ok, with your other hand grab onto his belt,” she commed, then let go of Jones head which promptly drooped forward so as to be touching his chest, and grabbed onto his belt; McHamon hid the same.

            “Now,” commed Riojas, with that the three of them pulled Jones away from the truck and placed him on his back on the roadway. The image was surreal; Jones’s face had a look of unanswered confusion, rather than pain and horror. His eyes were opened with his pupils dilated in death into to large dark reflective circles that were stared up unblinkingly into the noonday sun; while his chest was a swollen mass of burnt flesh and chard clothing.

            The sergeant had her orders; “Right,” she commed as she stood up, “You two get Jones packed. McHamon throw me a wipe-down.”

            “Aye”, commed McHamon as he opened the medial bag and pulled out several light gray plastic pouches baring a green Pacs triangle containing a red bio-hazarded symbol. He tossed one to Riojas and then opened one of the bags large side pockets and produced a good sized capped cylinder marked with the same symbol.

            Riojas tore open the pouches top edge and withdrew what appeared to be a blue cloth towel; putting the pouch on the tailgate, she then proceeded to wipe down her armor; were ever the cloth touched it left a blue tint to mark the area that has already been sanitized, but that color quickly faded as the active chemicals became inert and evaporated.

            Retrieving the pouch Riojas turned it inside out and tucked the used cloth inside; folding over a flap, she pressed the edge closed and tossed it on the ground next to the body. “After you two wipe down, pack them all off with Jones”, commed the sergeant. “Also clean of the tailgate,” she added before moving off towards the body of the masked officer.

            “Aye Ma’am,” they commed.

            In the mean time Sykes had been watching McHamon unscrewed the top from the canister and up ending it contents into his hand; for the lack of a better description it looked to Sykes like a heavy gauge gray plastic garbage bag rapped around a flashlight.

            McHamon now moved into a position and knelt down next to Jones feet; with a less than practiced hand, he undid a strap and then flung the end of the rolled up bag out so that it unfurled next to the body; with a little help from Sykes, he managed to flatten out the bag.

            Without instructions McHamon just knelt down on his end of the bag and started folding back the one of the flap; Sykes followed his lead. The bag opened down the middle and divided into two lengthwise flaps that split across the width of the bag at both the top and bottom; folding the flaps back revealed a light blue interior marked by white instruction labels and zone dividing lines.

            Standing up, McHamon motion for Sykes to do the same, “Ok, we do this in two moves, first to the flap,” he commed while gesturing at the bag, “and then to the centerline.” Despite Pacs training, Sykes nodded instead of giving a verbal reply, but McHamon understood.

            Holding up his hand as one would do at get someone’s attending, McHamon then pointed at his feet; moving to Jones knees he then lifted one foot over the body and placed it close to the opposing side before opening his stand towards the bag; Sykes did the same just behind Jones head.

            Bending down both troopers grabbed a hold of the body and lifted just enough to get it up off the ground; by shifted their weight and bending their knees toward the bag, they swung the body over the flap and set it down; with a quick repositioning, they repeated the maneuver and placed the body over the bags positioning lines.

            The firefight had been brief, bloody and very one sided.

            “Are you all right?” Asked a harmonic monotone voice,

             Grey looked up into the visor of a trooper who was kneeling down next to him. “I’ll live,” he replied; as he started to get up the trooper also stood up and reached over to help steady him in his efforts, “Thanks”.

            “Any time,” replied the trooper, who then turned and walked off towards the police officer who had confronted Grey.

            Grey just stood there for a moment taking in all that was happening around him; the sight of faceless troopers searching then dragging away the bodies of slaughtered police officers was bad enough, when suddenly he realized that Jones was no were in sight. Then he noticed that there was a trooper at the back of the truck looking down at something at his feet; the thought of what he was looking at filled Grey with dread.

            It took just a few painful steps for Grey to move to a point were he could see what had happening to his friend. Slowly Grey limped towards the scene, hoping against the reality of the situation, that maybe he was wrong about what they were doing with Jones; but that was not to be, as the troopers knelt down to finish loading Jones into the body bag.

            Against an out stretched arm Grey leaded against the side of the truck. The troopers were now sealing Jones into the body bags light blue interior lining; standing up, the trooper at Jones feet noticed Grey standing there and seemed to stair at him for a moment, as the other trooper also turned to look.

            “Did you wish to say something,” said the trooper gesturing towards Jones.

            Grey just nodded his head from side to side.

            With an acknowledging node the trooper then bent down and reached into the bag that was sitting near him and brought out two gray plastic pouches; one of which he tossed to the other trooper. After they had wiped off and even before the blue had faded from their armor, one of the troopers had knelt down and placed the uses wipes inside the body bag and sealed it.

            Now reaching with both hands, the trooper grabbed the knurled metal tub that was affixed to the end of the bag; with a twisting motion and a snapping sound the bag suddenly became a hard rounded flattened cylinders, covered by a raised diamond grid pattern, which was bags memory plastic mesh reforming to its pre-package shape with the introduction of electrical current.

            Grey just stood there taking it all in; the loss of a comrade was nothing new to him, he has seem them fall in the heat of battle or die a needless death from their own stupidity back in the real world. For Grey there was always some sense of loss - or in a few cases a feeling of relief that that person was gone and would no long make trouble for or screw up unit - he remembers cried openly at the lost of a friend, unashamed to show his true feeling in front of his fellow warriors; but all of this is somehow very different.

            The Clan McPherren may view this as a War of Survival, but the actual battles were more like a high-tech gang-war, with both sides working very hard to avoid being detected by the local police or recognized by the nation-state’s authorities.

            Grey now turning his attention back to the world around him; the sight of the troopers searching then dragging away the bodies of the slain police officers now rested heavily on his conscience. “Was it all necessary Centurion?” Grey said unexpectedly in a loud voice, almost shouting it at the back of the kneeling trooper who had helped him up earlier; he paused in his search at the sound of Grey’s accusation.

            Standing up, the trooper walked back to Grey and just stood in front of him; Jones had never talked to Grey about the strange feeling he had when dealing with the Pacs troopers, but at this moment Grey would have understood.

            Without a word the trooper extended his right arm, he had something in his hand; Grey reached out and the trooper placed the items on to the palm of his hand. Looking down he could see two datapads, one he recognized as the police officers while the other was a model he was unfamiliar with, but from the look of it, it was defiantly on the high end of the computing scale.

            The trooper then held up a ring; Grey knew what it was and what it meant, “Yes,” stated the trooper in that strange and unnatural monotone voice; he then held it out for Grey to take. A look of resignation crossed Grey’s face as he took the ring with his free hand; once again he looked up in to the faceless visor of the trooper’s helmet, “Yeah, I get it,” he said, but his voice betrayed his feelings of guilt.

            While this was going on sergeant Riojas and one of the other troopers had joined them, but both men seemed to be involved in the moment. “Sir…” stated the trooper over her suits’ external speakers; Richards then turned to face her, while Grey still seemed self absorbed in the items he was holding.

            Riojas then held out one of the assault shotguns that were carried by the officers, it was a chunky-looking, large-bore assault rifle feed by a drum magazine; Richards eagerly reached for the weapon.

            After a quick inspection, Richards released the weapons drum magazine and handed it to the other trooper, “Be careful with that,” he stated as he tucked the butt of the rifle high up under his arm so that he could clamp down on it. Then with his one hand over the ejection port he pulled back on the weapons charging hand; in response an olive green colored shotgun canister with a yellow stripe jumped free into Robert’s hand, after turning it about he held it up so that all could see.

            “An M142 APDP,” said Grey, who seemed to have come back to reality, “An anti-armor micro-grenade; a cousin of the U.S. 40mm grenade but designed to deal with body-armor instead of tanks,”

            Richards then motioned for the trooper to hand him the drum into which he reloaded the canister; after handing the trooper back the weapon, he looked past the sergeant to the activity that was happening on the road; while one trooper steered through the driver’s side window, the two others were pushing from the back, within moments the vehicle had disappeared among the trees; the bodies had also been hidden, that is except for the one near them.

            “Sergeant give me a hand,” stated Richards as he moved off towards the body.

            “Aye sir,” replied Riojas, but not before handing the other assault shotgun to the trooper and passing on her own instructions, “Secure these in the truck along with whatever additional ammo you can find.” She commed and then moved off to help Richards.

            “Aye ma’am,” commed the trooper.

            Grey turned and watched for a moment as the two troopers went about the ghoulish task of searching the body for intelligence materials and securing its weapons; the sight of them dragging the body off into the woods still upsetting, but a moment later as they were returning to the truck, Grey realized that he had better snap out of it because lives were on the line and he was a professional – it didn’t mean that he was an uncaring killing machine – and that he needed to do what he was trained for, and maybe there would be a few less body-bags in the back of his truck when this was all over.

            With a quick test of his now throbbing knee, Grey walked back to the driver’s cab and climbed in; keeping his mind fixed on getting the truck started, he resisted the urge to look over at the passenger side of the cabin, knowing damn well that he didn't have to wait for Jones to climb in.

To be continued...

 

Copyright ©2006 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.