Suicide Mission

SUICIDE MISSION

BY ADRIAN

“You psychotic bitch.” Private Weston Brown of the Recovery Force lay dying in the swamp that had become a grave for many of his friends and brothers in arms. The captain of his squad, Elsa Steene, knelt over his dying body. Her gray eyes lingered on him, but her mind was miles away. She did her best to discount her subordinate’s insults as she dug through what was left of his military gear.

“You don’t even care do you?” He angrily accused her. “You just got over half your squad killed and you don’t even care.” She stood up and ran her hands through her blond hair. She found nothing more of value on his person. He could bring no further value in to her assignment and so his fate was to bleed to death alone and full of hate in an unfamiliar and uncaring land.

“I did some research on you back in Tidal Pool.” He said through gritted teeth. Pain radiated throughout his body and he was struggling just to breath. He had felt the tremendous agony of being shot with an ether weapon before, albeit not as many times as this. Ether weaponry was unique; it burned the flesh but still allowed your wounds to bleed profusely.

“You’re the only one who lives. Almost every assignment, you’re the only one left standing.” He took several shallow breaths as the blood continued to pour out of his body. His face was now completely pale. The color had even left his lips.

“I made the right decision.” Elsa responded. “Because of you and your comrades’ sacrifice here today, we eliminated thirteen rebels.”

“You killed my friends!” He attempted to scream, although his voice was so weak by this point it was just a slight elevation in his volume. “You used them to draw the enemy’s fire. You threw their lives away.” He clawed fruitlessly at the swampy earth beneath him.

“If they were better soldiers, they wouldn’t have died.” Elsa walked away toward the vehicle where the only two living members of her squad waited for her. She still had a job to complete, after all.

Those were the last words Weston Brown ever heard. Elsa decided to do the humane thing and put him out of his misery. He was going to die anyway. She pointed her ether rifle at him, a little upset that she had to waste ammo on such a non-essential task. She forced herself to pull the trigger. He never even thanked her….

 

“Welcome back Captain.” Elsa was greeted in the vehicle by Corporal Jordan Alan. Corporal Alan was a tan man with brown eyes and neatly combed black hair. He was about five foot seven, slightly smaller than Elsa. His physique was slim and it almost looked like he wouldn’t have the strength to carry his equipment, much less the thick armor plating he wore.

At the helm of the vehicle was Lieutenant Chet Garland. He didn’t greet his captain; he merely started the vehicle and began driving. Chet was a huge tank of a man. Standing at nearly seven feet tall and weighing three hundred pounds of muscle. He was used to letting his intimidating physique do the talking. He had led a charge earlier that left his armor heavily battle-scarred and burned. The blood and gore plastered all over his dark skin only made him seem more terrorizing.

Elsa took a seat and waited for the vehicle to reach its destination. She was happy to be getting out of the marshy asshole of the world. Her thoughts drifted back to when she first received this assignment. She arrived in Tidal Pool where she was greeted by Clarence Townsend’s assistant, Jeffery Cross. She was informed that Clarence had left several hours earlier and would not be joining them.

“This assignment is from Mr. Townsend.” He told her. “It has been discovered that the influential oil tycoon Gabriel Vincent has been supplying the so-called ‘Freedom Fighters’ with weaponry. Their growing presence and higher-quality armaments around Tidal Pool has been mostly attributed to Mr. Vincent’s covert support. Your assignment is to eliminate him.” Then he told her something that, with the availability of hindsight, she concluded was total bullshit. “Intelligence suggests that Mr. Vincent is unaware that Eden has discovered his connection to the Freedom Fighters. Security should be minimal.”

She was put in charge of a new squad for this mission. Her last squad didn’t survive her previous assignment. The so-called Freedom Fighters ambushed them several miles north-west of town. Explosions erupted alongside their vehicles; ether and fire filled the air as the rebels closed their trap around them. Of the eight men and women Elsa was put in charge of for this mission, six now lay dead in the swamp.

Elsa was part of “The Executive Program.” In fact, every member of the Recovery Force’s Special Branch became part of this program when they signed up. The program is very straightforward: any recruit in the program that stays in service for two straight years will be promoted to the rank of executive. With that title came all the perks, money, and privileges that an Eden executive enjoys. To date, there were only three people who lasted to the one year mark. Of those three people Elsa is the only one still in active duty.

As the vehicle plowed through the underbrush, Elsa studied the layout of Mr. Vincent’s mansion. Her helmet was removed, revealing short blond hair underneath. She found reading documents was easier without the distraction of the built-in heads-up display. The blueprints she had were a little outdated but that wasn’t what concerned her. Her original plan involved striking in three teams of three against a stunned enemy. Now she only had one third of that number and to make matters worse, they were expected. She was struggling to come up with a plan when she was unexpectedly launched forward.

The Armored Personnel Carrier came to an abrupt halt. Several explosions rocked the vehicle. The armored plating held, keeping the occupants relatively unharmed .The engine wasn’t so fortunte and it let a shrill cry out before falling completely silent. Elsa got to her feet, her ears were still ringing when she made her way out of the vehicle. Even in her discombobulated state she managed to get her wits about her and draw her weapon. Her senses returned to her just in time to spot a man about 20 feet away emerging from the woods. She fired her weapon, halting his advance, and putting some fresh wounds into the man’s neck and pectorals. Unfortunately for her, he was not alone. His allies unleashed a flurry of ether blasts at her position.

Elsa broke into a sprint along the side of the vehicle. Ether exploded across its armored hull as she returned fire. The trees of the forest would offer her no protection against the ether assault. She knew she needed to get something between herself and her enemies if she was to survive. The vehicle, with its thick armor plating would do nicely. She exchanged shots without breaking her stride. She struck one of her aggressors who collapsed where he stood, energy tearing through his stomach. Elsa had originally counted 3 men. By the time she spotted the 4th it was too late. The man must have gone around to flank her while his allies were drawing her attention. Now she was running right toward him and his sights were lined up on her. She didn’t have time to react, he pulled the trigger, and for a moment she thought everything was over. Her feet flew out from under her. She hit the dirt, landing flat on her back.

Through the thick overgrowth she could see the clear blue sky. Rays of light peeked through leaves and branches which rustled in a cool breeze. All things considered, it would have been a really nice day. It took Elsa a moment to realize she wasn’t dying. She lay on the stone cold dirt, her back was a little sore from the fall but it was nothing compared to getting hit with an ether rifle. How had she survived? She didn’t have much time to ponder this as her would-be killer arrived to survey the damage. His eyes went wide with shock upon seeing her still alive. He didn’t have time to try again though; Elsa brought her rifle up and pulled the trigger. All three blasts made their mark known. One in the collar bone and two in the neck, the man was dead almost immediately.

She got to her feet, still working out what had happened. She must have slipped on the wet vegetation. She’d fallen forward and tumbled head-over-heels, avoiding the lethal pulse of ether energy directed at her. Lucky, she thought, very lucky. The fourth enemy had closed on her, his weapon drawn. She had no cover and assumed it was over for her this time. If she was going to die here she intended to take this man to hell with her.

The man fell to his knees, a fresh burning wound in his right kidney. Elsa didn’t wait to find out who fired the shot before delivering the coup de grace. She blew a hole through the man’s brain without a second thought.

She walked toward the vehicle, noting that Chet had been the one who killed the last of their enemies. He handed her the helmet she had left behind and she donned it. The helmet was camo-painted and only came down to the nose. The HUD flickered to life at the same time Corporal Alan was exiting the vehicle.

 “Check their bodies Corporal.” She nodded toward the mess she had created. Corporal Alan complied. Elsa went around front with the lieutenant in tow. “IED” she concluded immediately upon seeing the damage to the vehicle’s treads. “We’ll have to finish this job on foot.”

“I was told in briefing that Gabriel Vincent did not know that Eden had discovered his identity as a rebel supporter.” She grabbed an ether rifle and unloaded the battery. “Obviously that report was incorrect.”

“Shouldn’t we contact command? Maybe wait for reinforcements?”

“Negative, corporal. Our target is supplying weaponry to the rebels in Tidal Pool. Our sources say he has another arms shipment going out soon. We stop him, we destroy the shipment, we cripple the resistance. We will carry out our orders and eliminate Gabriel Vincent.”

“Yes ma’am.” Jordan wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He finished searching the bodies and reported back to Elsa four minutes later. “Let’s do an equipment check.” She told them as she reviewed what they had left. Four ether pistols and three ether rifles between the three of them. A handful of grenades and a combat knife each. Some explosives she saved for a rainy day. Nothing too extravagant. Elsa wished that the recon drone they brought with them hadn’t been damaged. The ability to tell enemy positions from the air would have come in handy. Their combat drones didn’t fair much better.

“Mr. Vincent’s estate is about twenty-two acres. We are actually on his land as we speak. We’ll proceed toward his mansion and assess the situation from there. Take no prisoners and stay alert; there could be more of them in the woods.”

The three of them began hiking through the underbrush, being sure to watch for more IEDs as they went. On their trek they did run into another group of enemy combatants, a two man patrol. Elsa and her team caught the patrol unaware and easily eliminated them.

After half an hour of walking they came into a large clearing. Before them stood a massive mansion peeking over the top of a towering stone wall. Elsa grabbed a pair of binoculars and began surveying the scene. She examined the clearing as well as the woods surrounding it for any signs of enemy troop movement. Her search was fruitless.

“Alright listen up.” She told them. “We’re expected guests of Mr. Vincent. A brute strength approach has a low probability of success.” Elsa was never a fan of head-on assaults anyway. She preferred quick, violent attacks before the enemy was even aware of what was happening. She reasoned that it would be possible for her plan to work.

 “We’ll be splitting into two groups. The two of you will approach the eastern wall and place a shape charge. I’ll approach from the western wall and do the same. Be sure to avoid the security cameras here and here.” She placed X’s on the HUD that transmitted to her allies. “We’ll breach at the same time. From there we will quickly move through the courtyard and enter from these two points. You’ll be on the main floor; I’ll be in the basement. We won’t be able to avoid being spotted by the cameras or security personnel, so we’ll have to storm through quickly and catch the enemy by surprise. Our goal is to be in and out of the mansion in two minutes. Shoot to kill. That includes servants or civilians, if we encounter any. We’ll meet at the south side of the mansion here.” She pointed to a massive room on the far side of the house. “That is the garage. Once we’re there, we’ll commandeer the quickest vehicle and escape west into the outskirts. She grabbed her weapon and loaded it with a fully charged ether cartridge. “If there aren’t any questions let’s get moving. We’re wasting time.” Elsa ran off before actually giving either of them a chance to ask questions.

Elsa’s plan was a lie. Her allies were in thick, ether resistant armor which aided in combat. Elsa’s armor by contrast was light and flexible. The armor hardened when taking damage to avoid limiting maneuverability and had different camouflage patterns programmed into it to provide an element of stealth. She wagered if her allies went in first they would draw attention to themselves. This would allow Elsa to slip in and eliminate the target with minimal resistance. It was probable that all three of them would die, but the chance of success was greater.

As she ran through the woods, circling the clearing and making her way toward the west wall, she kept her eyes peeled for any hostile activity. She saw no one. To ensure optimal success she placed a few extra charges around the southern end of the wall. She hoped it would draw additional attention away from her breach and cause some panic amongst the enemy ranks. Likely the brunt of their enemy forces were located in the mansion itself as it was a more defensible position. The scouting parties that had been eliminated earlier might tip off the enemy of their approach. She knew she didn’t have a lot of time, if any, before they realized those six rebels were missing.

Elsa approached the west wall and examined it. It was grey stone, about 12 feet tall. The wall was weaker where the stones were mortared. She planted her shape charge to blow out these weak points and allow her access to the courtyard beyond. She knew that the odds were stacked against them. It was likely they would all die here.

“In position.” Chet’s baritone bellowed through her short range radio.

“Breach in 3… 2…” she blew the explosives on the south wall first, but held back on using her breaching charge. She saw their positions on her HUD and waited. After about a minute she breached and pushed through the rubble she had created. She caught two guards in the back and added them to her growing body count. She sprinted across the courtyard toward the house. The courtyard was a 2×3 grid of grass squares about 30×30 yards each surrounded by tall skinny trees. Ornate stone pathways lead to a flight of stone steps at the top of which were the front doors to the mansion. In the center of the courtyard there was a large fountain, part of which had just been blown off by a blast of ether.

The energy missed Elsa directly but it did singe her helmet. She repaid the favor, although she was much more effective at it. She took off in a dead sprint toward the side of the mansion. She spotted five guards across the courtyard, preoccupied with her allies. She hoped they would be able to last through the offensive or at least another two minutes. One guard came out of the mansion’s front doors and spotted her as she disappeared down the side of the mansion.

Ahead of her, three guards rushed by, only to stop when they spotted her approaching. Elsa whipped a grenade off her ammo belt and flung it toward her attackers all the while never breaking from her sprint. The guards fled in vain to avoid the blast. As she approached where they once stood she found herself at her entry point. It was a privacy-window that led into the basement. The window sat just above the ground. After destroying the glass she quickly slid through just as more guards rounded the corner.

She fell into the basement with the grace of a ton of bricks. Her ribs collided firmly with the cement floor. Pain shot through her body with each breath she took. A quick glance around and she saw that she was in a half-finished bathroom. The floor was cold concrete. Then she noticed the man sitting on the pot, a terrified expression painted across his face.

“Waitwaitwait” he pleaded as the front of his face became more acquainted with Elsa’s foot. She discharged her weapon into the man’s head. Around the man’s neck she noted a large square key which she snatched.

After exiting the bathroom, she found herself in a large dimly lit room, more like a warehouse or a cave than the basement of a luxury mansion. It smelled like a hundred unwashed dogs. She quickly saw why. Along the walls of the room were a dozen or more pairs of piercing red eyes, all focused on her.

Elsa made her way across the room, carefully at first, and then quicker as she realized that the beasts were in a single large electrified cage. There were twenty-seven of them: chimeras. The chimera share their name with the Greek legends because of their lion-like appearance and large grey wings which made the creature look like multiple animals combined together. In addition, chimeras also sported deadly quills on its mane and tail. Elsa knew from experience that the creatures were fond of flying over prey and bombarding them with these sharp projectiles. Most chimeras were beige, black, or red. Some chimeras even had two heads, but unlike the old stories, the second head was always a lion.

One of the things Elsa noticed right away was that one of the chimeras was a light teal color and seemed to glow ever so slightly in the dark. There were other abnormalities she noticed as well. Most of their bodies bore scars and more than a few of them were missing appendages or parts of their wings. The one closest to the entrance of the cage regarded her with its only remaining eye.

Elsa’s inspection was quickly interrupted by two rebels storming down the stairs at the far end of the room. She brought her rifle to bear and opened fire. One of them went down, receiving a groin wound and a chest wound. The other retreated back up the stairs, but not before he got a few good shots off. A jolt of energy tore through Elsa’s right arm, crippling her and searing horrific pain into her mind.

Her ether rifle fell to the ground, she was unsure she could use it anymore with her arm in such horrible shape. She reached into her side holster and retrieved the ether pistol that lay within. Luckily for Elsa, she was left handed.

She heard more of the rebels muttering to each other in the distance. She had very little time before she would be overrun. She would die, and her mission would end in failure. She had been discovered much sooner than she expected. The only way it would succeed now is if she drew more of the guards’ away from her allies and let them finish the job. She had enough explosives to cause a racket that just might convince her enemies that she was the bigger threat.

“Captain we’re pinned down!” It was Corporal Alan’s voice coming in over the radio. “The lieutenant is hit! Do you…” she heard static now. Alan’s voice was still coming in but she couldn’t understand it. There went her back-up plan. She knew when she was going into the mansion with only three soldiers that it would probably be a one-way trip.

Elsa heard a loud noise on the opposite side of the room. There was a large metal door that looked like it belonged in an airplane hangar more than in a mansion. It was slowly beginning to open. They would come in through the door and down the stairs at the same time. She would be overwhelmed in just a few seconds. Her mind raced with thoughts on how to salvage the situation but the only thing that came to mind was the cage.

She examined the lock on the cage and noticed the key she had taken from the guard would fit. A lever next to the cage had to be thrown after the key was turned and there would be no going back. She didn’t even hesitate. She shoved the key into the lock as light spilled into the basement from the freshly opened hangar door. She heard the angry yells of her enemies as she reached for the cage’s lever.

“Captain, captain come in do you read me?” She heard Corporal Alan’s voice on her radio once more. She hesitated for a moment before she threw the lever. She couldn’t risk failing the mission.

She threw the switch and ran for the nearest door. She heard the shouts of the rebels turn to screams of pain as the beasts poured out of the cell. She didn’t look back. Energy exploded all around her but she made it to the door. She had no idea what was on the other side, but anywhere was better than here. She burst through, slammed the door and barricaded it with her body. The beasts would likely kill her, but they would also kill Mr. Vincent and his bodyguards. Her mission would be a success. She looked down, and her hands seemed very far away. Elsa sank slowly as the world began to spin around her.

 

Elsa found herself on the floor, pain shooting through her ribs, unsure of what had happened. Had she passed out? If so, how long had she been out? Her vision was hazy and her thoughts were muddled. Once she regained her senses she took in her surroundings. The room was a cramped storage closet with rows of shelves on the wall directly in front of her. Upon the wall were various jars containing several gruesome oddities. “Chimera heart” one read “Hellhound kidneys” read another. There were five shelves, each containing many more jars. Elsa concluded there was nothing in the room of value to her and she promptly exited.

She emerged once again into the basement to find heaps of her enemy’s bodies. Several wasteland beasts and far more humans were dead. Black and red blood along with various unidentified masses, of which Elsa could only assume were once organs, caked the floor. Razor sharp quills embedded themselves in walls and several unfortunate human corpses. The stench was as horrible as it was overpowering. Elsa kept her composure, this wasn’t new to her. Elsa checked the bodies; it didn’t hurt to make sure that the dead stayed dead. She didn’t see a single living or dead creature moving in the basement so she proceeded across the room and up the staircase.

Elsa found herself strangely serene as she ascended the staircase and came out onto the main floor. This floor was far worse than the basement in terms of property damage and loss of life. The scene was littered with fresh corpses. The carpets and hardwood flooring had been stained with the remains of the unfortunate. Charred tufts of fur, broken ether rifles, and the occasional dismembered limb were thrown about as if a tornado of spikes and fire had hit the house.

Upon entering the kitchen Elsa was greeted with more of the same, as well as something she didn’t expect. Across the room, half through a glass sliding door was the body of one of her squad: Corporal Alan. His face was still intact, making identification easy. The same could not be said for the rest of his body, however, which had been mangled and distorted. His legs in particular looked closer to raw hamburger than anything a human might have on their body. Nearby she saw what appeared to be Lieutenant Chet Garland’s body. He was far less recognizable than her other fallen comrade but the dog tag around the neck confirmed it was him.

She realized that they had actually managed to overcome their obstacles and gain entry into the mansion. She didn’t have time to wonder whether they would have succeeded before she released the beasts. She had to consider the reality of the situation instead, and the reality of the situation was that the mission wasn’t over until she’d confirmed Vincent was dead.

Each room of the mansion was the same: torn to shreds with smears of human and animal remains coloring the walls, floors, and occasionally ceilings. The heads of fallen beasts were stuffed and mounted on the walls in each room. Eventually her search came to an end. In the master bedroom, surrounded by four slain chimeras, she found her target. She stood over Mr. Vincent; his body had been torn in half at the waist and he was lying face down. His purple silk robes had been stained black and red by a combination of his blood and the chimeras’. The white hair on his head was also stained and ripped out in places. His intestines gushed out onto the floor, filling the room with an awful stench. Then she noticed something she did not expect: he was still breathing.

For the second time that day, Elsa found herself having to put someone out of their misery. At least this time, she thought, it would not be a waste of ammunition. She pressed the pistol up against the back of his skull and pulled the trigger. A beam of bright red energy erupted through his skull and burned off much of his remaining hair.

With her task complete she turned and left the room. Now she needed to commandeer some form of transportation and head to the nearest Eden outpost. She didn’t like the idea. It meant that she would have to return to Tidal Pool. As she was exiting the room she took one last glance back at Mr. Vincent’s body. She could have sworn it moved just slightly. She had seen walking corpses before, destroyed many of them actually. However, she had never seen a corpse undergo the re-animation process. She went back across the room to Mr. Vincent’s corpse and kicked it onto its back. It groaned as she did so.

“Wait, wait. Don’t shoot.” Mr. Vincent’s still-living body told her. He examined her with his sapphire blue eyes. “It won’t do you any good anyway. Ether weapons are worthless against me.”

“You’re probably wondering…” He spoke with difficulty. “…how I’m still alive?” She had been wondering that, of course, but she didn’t say anything. “You’re part of the RF. So Eden sent you, but didn’t tell you what I am, did they?” He smiled and in doing so showed off the black and red stains on his teeth. “It’s no secret that they send the RF on suicide missions on a regular basis but to send you an assignment without full knowledge of what you’re getting into, that’s pretty fucked up.” He dragged himself upright, his intestines further falling out of his lower half. “So what else aren’t they telling you? If you join me then I can share the truth with you. Together we can take the power away from Eden. I wonder something, have they actually told you what the executive program is?” His words were cut off when ether tore through his face.

Elsa had heard enough. Her assignment wasn’t to get to know Mr. Vincent, it was to kill him. That was exactly what she intended to do. The man writhed in pain on the floor, clutching his face and spitting angry words at her.

“You fucking bitch I told you that wouldn’t…” his eyes widened in horror. She had a grenade in her hand. With a hard kick she flipped him on his back. From there she fired two more shots into either of his arms to disable their movement. Then she pulled the pin and stuffed it into his fresh head wound. The idea was to destroy his body completely, but she didn’t have fire handy and figured this would be the next best thing.

Gabriel Vincent was said to be a very noble man. A man of many elegant words who never appeared flustered or upset in public. Now he was very different: pleading for his life and cursing Elsa when that failed to work. Elsa released the trigger and ran as best as she could to a safe distance. The explosion shook the house.

The body was nothing more than shredded up tissue after the grenade went off. He wasn’t coming back from that. She needed to be thorough though, so she spent the next hour gathering flammable material. Mr. Vincent was a man of many unique tastes. He had a collection of many ancient-looking cars, most of which ran on petroleum instead of ether. She siphoned gas out the vehicles and gave the mansion a good dousing. When she was sure that the mansion was thoroughly soaked, she lit a match and set the building ablaze. As for her teammates: she considered the inferno to be a proper funeral for them.

Elsa drove out into the wasteland in Mr. Vincent’s fastest hover car. The burning wreck of the mansion could be seen for miles and she didn’t want to be around if any reinforcements or ether beasts decided to pay a visit. Tidal Pool was her next destination and she knew she would be meeting with many people in the coming days most likely including Mr. Townsend. She would likely be questioned about the loss of her squad, and the total destruction of Vincent’s mansion. It was the price of a successful mission.