“What’s it like, waiting for a mission? Do you all have zen things you do?” Emily asked.
“Sure. Everyone does. Bethke would train. Pennyfeather would read. Rodriguez played video games in the rec room, usually with as many guys as she could. Beacham would go over things in her head. I could always tell that she tried to look at every angle before doing anything. I bet she was one of those seamen in boot who would worry if she got everything just so. That can work against you. Seen too many who are like that, and then get their head so far up their own ass that they make mistakes trying to do it right. Surprised she wasn’t one of those people. Crow would do this kind of meditation. She’d just sit criss-cross on the deck, listening to the wind. I’ll never know if she can actually hear it speak to her, but I believe it when she says it. All the times that she has been right because of things she says she hears, it’s hard not to.”
Kiddo was smiling. I think she liked the idea of me and my sisters and the camaraderie we had. She’d lost a lot of friends, over the years. Some of the time it was problems, others to growing older and shifting priorities, and then there were those who turned out to be be different people than she expected.
“What did you do?”
“I wrote. Had these little journals that I would write things in. We weren’t supposed to, but I learned how to hide things in my gear bag.”
“Those journals still out there?”
Yes, but she didn’t need to know that. “No. Burned down when I destroyed my house. Memories that were worth losing.” In reality, I had put them in a storage unit years before. Didn’t tell Jean, either. The meditation included a whole bunch of things that were not something anything ever knew. Things I wanted to keep with me. A kind of penance, for the work I did. Because I didn’t do the writing before a mission. I did it after. Inside them were all the names of everyone I killed. Or, if I didn’t have a way of knowing their name, as much as I knew about them based on what I saw. You have no idea how many names and facts about people are in those journals. It was in my will that if I should be killed in the line of duty, Jean would get them. I’d have to amend that. Would probably have them destroyed now. My wife is dead, and my secrets might as well die with me.
“Anyway, we were on the USS Zumwalt, headed to our mission. We got called into the Briefing Room at 2000.”
I sat, writing in my journal. Another day, same shit. Whose name would I be adding to the list today? Didn’t even know what this mission was called yet. Would figure that out soon enough.
Rodriguez stuck her head in. “Briefing time.”
Nodded, putting the notebook into my gear bag. “Aye-aye.”
It was interesting, I was CW04. I was the second-highest ranking member of our Team, outside of Beacham. She was LCO, during missions. Didn’t feel like any of us had any rank over the other. It really didn’t. We all were in this together. Maybe that’s the best thing. When you don’t feel like some kind you are superior to anyone else. Just one of them. Made me glad I wasn’t in charge. I don’t know if I could handle that kind of responsibility. Glad Beacham could do that.
Walked over to the BR and saw the SEALs sitting and waiting on one side of the table, my sisters on another. Chilled with them, while Lt and an IS Ensign came into the room. We all stood at attention.
“Take your seats. We have a lot to discuss. This is Ensign Markus Mills. He’s gonna be giving us the briefing on this OP.”
Sitting down, I felt a sense of unease from both of them. Moreso than usual.
“Thank you. As you may have guessed, this is bigger than your standard mission. This is a joint task force of SEALs and STARS, for one purpose – to get ahold of a binary compound and the mechanism associated with it.”
Now we all were confused. “A binary compound, sir?” Frost asked.
Lt stepped forward. The image on the screen in front of us showed two chemical symbols, which I honestly couldn’t tell you what they were. Chemistry was never my strong suit.
“A binary compound is when two chemicals come together to form a new one. We call this compound Chaos Fuel. It was originally discovered when a chemist was trying to find an alternate fuel source to gasoline. It was an ambitious project, but uncovered one of the most deadly chemical formulas known to man.”
The Ensign stepped back up. “That’s correct. Chaos Fuel is one of the most unstable compounds we’ve ever seen. At least when these two chemicals,” he cued up some molecule formulas that I did not understand at all. “are mixed. Separate, they are not especially dangerous, but mix them together and you get a compound that is appropriately named. This stuff is unimaginably dangerous. It is not only flammable, but also can be made active by moving it too fast or too suddenly. It can produce incredibly large explosions, but that isn’t all. After the explosive part of it detonates, the flame aerosolizes a gaseous form. This gas is incredibly toxic. One whiff of it is guaranteed death, no matter what. That’s not all. It adheres to clothing, so if you get it on you, then touch whatever you were wearing while in the contaminated radius, you will still die. It gets through the skin layer quickly.”
Well, I felt like shitting my pants. Looked at my sisters and they seemed to feel the same way. Then looked over at Panther and his shipmates. The man himself was taking it all in, serious but composed. His comrades ran the gamut from stone-faced to having the same nervousness we did.
“I take it the enemy has this Chaos Fuel and we have to deal with them?” Beacham asked.
“That’s right,” Lt replied. “This is a two-pronged mission. You are to secure the device, at which point the SEALs team is going to extract it. They are specially trained for HAZMAT situations. The device would keep the two chemicals separate, so you have to absolutely make sure that they do not mix! Once they do, they are unstable in the extreme.”
“Our intel points that the device they have created has some kind of explosive component, and that it may in fact be either part of or a completed weapon.”
Panther and I looked up at one-another. We each had the same thought.
“Sir, if this is a weapon, why aren’t we just blowing this thing up, wholesale?” he asked.
Lt pulled up a map on the screen. “Because it’s in (Redacted).”
All of our eyes went wide.
“You’re fucking with me…” Bethke groaned.
“Sir, this is playing with dynamite!” Frost said, dead serious.
“Yes. Our intel points out that someone in (Redacted) was hired to make the weapon, and deliver it to an unknown client. This is where the STARS come into play. While the SEALs are going to transport the device or weapon, you will be tasked with finding out who the client is, or if possible, eliminating them. You will have callsign Panther to act as your interpreter for any text or audio you get, as he is fluent in (Redacted).”
We all nodded. This was starting to come into focus. There was surely more they weren’t telling us, but that’s how it goes.
“Your infil point will be here. You’re going to go in by zodiacs. We’ve traced the device to this town just up the way from there. You can get there on foot. This is not a military installation, so security is minimal. Whoever commissioned this weapon is keeping this low-key, so they don’t have the invading (Redacted) military watching out for this spot.”
“They’re still gonna be all over the (Redacted) Sea, sir.” Pennyfeather pointed out. “We can’t get the Zumwalt in close enough.”
“Correct. You’ll be launching the zodiacs from CH-47s. They will get feet wet, you launch, then it will take off. Timing will be critical. When you are looking to leave, you’ll have to coordinate closely with them to make sure to minimize chances of detection.”
The Ensign changed the screen over to a satellite view of the village. It was such a quiet hamlet. A bummer place to make a bomb. “We have reason to believe there may be private security forces in the town. It involves the mysterious client who wanted the weapon. Fifth Freedom is granted for both the client, the person making the device, and any security forces they have.”
“However,” Lt cut in, “there are to be no alarms raised. We cannot risk an international incident. Hooyah?”
“Hooyah,” We all said.
“Alright. Once done, the SEAL team will contact the CH-47s and you will coordinate with them to exfil. It’s a new moon tonight, so there is no way to track the choppers outside of night vision. You all will be ghosts out there. The birds will take off at 2200, and we expect you back before daylight. Understood?”
Into our TOS’s and then off to the choppers. The zodiacs were already inside, along with two crew on the birds to give us a push when we got to the target point. It was scary dark tonight. Lowered my goggles. These things still wowed me. Night vision, thermal, and even a kind of sonar, using sounds to give image to something. Like how Daredevil sees the world. Let us see through walls, no joke. It was bananas stuff. Best tech that money could buy. The SEALs were looking very professional. They didn’t have as much cool tech as us, but they were loaded up. Saw Gorilla had a pretty huge pack on his back. That dude’s callsign was totally fitting. He was built like a tank, and dumb as a stump. That’s mean, I suppose, but he really was.
Everyone loaded up, and we were off. We were trained to be as silent as possible, but part of me wished that I had someone to talk to right now. Got a private message on my OPSAT monitor on my arm.
You nervous? It was Panther.
Just a little.
Glad it wasn’t just me. The gentle hum of the birds. These had been decked out too to make as little noise as possible. Stealth was becoming a big thing in the modern military. Couldn’t blame them.
Traveled for what felt like an eternity, but my OPSAT told me it was 0010.
A voice came on the comm. “Prepare for disembarkation.”
The panel at the back opened. Night vision showed us the water coming up beneath us. It flooded inside. Feet wet. The crew was drilled and gave us a push. Once we had exited, Bethke hit the gas and we were on our own. Looked over to see the SEALs going out as well. In so much darkness, it was kind of ominous. Two boats moving, just the sound of the motors and the wind passing us by. Beacham was at the front, Pennyfeather right beside her with her weapon raised, looking through the scope.
Signed to her, <Beach is clear.>
Mama looked at us behind her. <Alright, prep for landing.> She sent a message to the SEALs conveying the same. They landed right beside us. The second we hit sand, we each jumped off and pulled the zodiacs on the shore. The SEALs were very tactical, quietly going through the military checklist. For us, there were no words needed. We knew what to do. Everyone got their weapons ready. We divided into teams of three. Rodriguez and Crow were tasked with me. We moved up, following the topography toward the village. Beacham told the SEALs that we would take point. Being invisible was what we did, and if there was private security in the area, we had to know.
The utter silence of the forest as we moved through it. The occasional cracking branch, but we knew how to be careful about this stuff. A breeze passing through. A cold one. Shivered a bit. Crow looked up, the two of us stopped. She nodded to continue. Couldn’t discount her wind message. Even if I didn’t really believe it, she had something we didn’t.
Saw buildings ahead. This was a very quaint little Eastern European community. Could almost imagine growing up in a place like this. Everyone is family, and looks out for each other. If that sort of community wasn’t usually so hateful of the gay community, it would be just the kind of place I’d like to live. Especially this close to the sea. We stopped, seeing our comrades position on a ridge across the way from us. We took out our weapons. Down the scope we looked. True enough, there was private security in here! A bunch of mean-looking hombres, all clustered around a couple of buildings. One was a very plain-looking home, the other looked to be some kind of motel or inn. A place where people could stay. That pegged it – the client was here. So the mission was go on both barrels. But first, we had to find the weapon.
A message from Beacham. Pierce, we’ll take overwatch here. Your squad will go in and find the weapon. Mark targets and we’ll provide cover fire. Remember, no alerting the locals. Only kill targets if you must.
Made sense to me. We quietly slide down the hill we were at, careful to make no noise. It was kind of scary how good we were. Saw our SEAL companions taking up overwatch where we were, waiting. Our formation was standard cover approach. First one would move, then the other, then the last. It was slower, but minimized detection. There were a couple ways into this place. The first was the front door. That was out. Two people covering it at all times, and one guy patrolling the perimeter. That was a no-go. As was eliminating the patrolling security. That would get too much attention. He wasn’t going around the entire perimeter. At least not now. Thermal showed he had been, but I guess the guy got tired of doing that all the time, and would occasionally stop and talk to his fellow guards. When the spoke, it was in Russian.
A message came to all of us on our comms from Panther. They’re talking about leaving tomorrow. The “package” is nearly complete.
Saw our infil point. There was an open window on the second floor. I walked over, dropping down to give a boost to Crow. She went up, then stopped. I could tell, she was using her sonar imaging. Looking down, she nodded. Boosted her up. Once she had a hold, she locked her legs on the sill and held her arms down. Helped Rodriguez up. Lastly me. We dropped in and I could see this was an office of some kind. Pulled out my tiny light. Made sure the others stood in front of the windows, to minimize detection. It showed a blueprint, along with chemistry stuff, but it was all in Ukrainian. Oh well. Would be worth having. Snapped images with my pocket-cam, then we moved on. A sound! We stopped. Weapons at the ready. Turned on my own sonar imaging. Saw something a room ahead. Imaging showed a sleeping body. Whoever lived here. Guess they weren’t working overnight. With our weapons ready, we opened the door and headed out into the hall. There was someone downstairs, on the couch. The TV was on, but they were clearly asleep. As shadows, we went into the bedroom of the sleeping person. Covering Crow, she slipped her blade into their neck. They only had time to wake up and think about it before they perished. Part one of the job was done – kill the bomb-maker. Down the stairs was always tricky. A loose or old board was all it could take to raise the alarm. Like phantoms, we got around the sleeping security. Given what we were going to be lifting out, we couldn’t afford to leave this person alive. Rodriguez pulled out a syringe we had with a poison that hit fast, and was painless. She slipped it into his neck, and the fellow only seemed to show some discomfort, before then going back to sleep. In a few seconds, he wasn’t breathing anymore.
From there, we descended. The sonar imaging was detecting sounds from the basement. The logical place for the bomb. There was no one else in here. Thermal or otherwise, we just saw the slowly fading images of the two we had killed. Descending with the same quietness, there was no security set up around the device. I guess they figured nobody would know this was here. What poor fools. But then, who would know that a bunch of ninja assassins would come looking for a bomb? Hard to believe, if you didn’t know about this stuff.
The device was large, with two tanks which I guessed housed the chemicals, and a center piece which was likely the mixing and explosive sections. On the other side of the room was a shipping container. So they were planning on moving this in a box and shipping it to their intended target. Clever.
Got on my OPSAT. Weapon secured. Send in the SEALs for extraction.
Frost. Oscar Mike. Saw your infil route. Will follow suit.
The wait was an eternity. Finally, we heard them descending the stairs. Nowhere near as quiet as us, but they weren’t so bad. They signaled friendlies approaching, then descended to the basement. Gorilla proceeded immediately to unpack of a kind of gear. It looked like a kind of net, with four hooks on it. Designed to be carried between them? Clever. And the hooks could be put together for lowering it. Very nice. They had some pretty heavy-duty rope as well. We covered their six as they moved back up to the top floor. Beacham gave the all-clear for security, and then Frost, Nickel, Prison, and Metal dropped down. Gorilla and Panther secured the net with the weapon and began lowering the rope. That thing must have weighed an unimaginable ton, but if you looked at Gorilla, you wouldn’t have noticed it. That dude really was a tank. I get the feeling he could be hit by a car and it would hurt, but how much actual damage would it do? Freaky.
Once it was lowered down, Gorilla jumped out and they secured it to harnesses between them. That’s when Frost turned to us, as we had also descended.
“What’s next for you?” he asked us, out loud. Amateur.
Pointed to the OPSAT. We go for the client.
Panther looked over at him. “Sir, let me go with them. They might need translation. We need to figure out who this guy is, and what they are after.”
Frost thought for a moment, then nodded. “Alright. We’ll wait for you at the zodiacs.”
The lot of them disappeared back into the night.
I looked over at Panther, pointing to the OPSAT. If you’re gonna stay with us, you do what we say, when we say it. Understood?
He just nodded.
Beacham. Alright, make your way to the inn. And make sure the SEAL doesn’t fuck up.
Was already way ahead of her. The four of us moved away from the home. We headed down the street from the inn, wanting to get a nice view of the situation. There was a square ahead with absolute shit lighting. In fact, all of this place did. Time seems to have left this entire little hamlet behind. It’s like somewhere from the 1980’s. Did the Cold War ever end here? Hard to say. In any case, we saw that security here was far, far tighter. This was a high-value target. The guards were all in suits, like members of the Secret fucking Service. It was unnerving. There was no route I could see in or out of this place that didn’t have a huge risk of being seen. They covered their bases pretty well.
Crow tapped me on the shoulder, pointing at something. Switching to night vision from thermal, I saw what she was on about. It was a tree! Big fucker, too Must have been many, many years old. I saw what she was on about – the branches went right up to the side of the building! And they looked big enough for support our weight. Well, the weight of us STARS. It was a risk to have the SEAL with us take the branch up there.
I motioned for everyone to follow me, staying low. We avoided all the lights, then got over to where the tree was. I motioned that I would head up first. Had to make sure if this things’ branches could do the job. Climbing without making noise was a trick, but it wasn’t like this was our first time down this rodeo. Getting up there, I hooked on to the branch above me, in case it broke. Couldn’t be too careful. Making my way along, I found that this really was a godsend. It could easily hold my weight, that of my sisters, and part of me wondered how many of us at the same time. That meant that Panther could make the trip. I got to the edge, switching to thermal. Time to find out where this client was. From the tree, the trick was skirting along the edge of the building. All of these windows opened, and I didn’t see an alarm on any of them. As I said, the Cold War left this place behind.
I moved along them, with Crow coming up to the tree, hooking on to my line I left. Several rooms were empty. Then, jackpot! One with a single occupant, and I could see two thermal signatures just outside the door. This had to be it! Send a comm to them to make their way up. Crow was like a monkey born, right behind me. Rodriguez made her way up, and I could tell Panther felt very vulnerable.
Signing with one hand was tricky, but doable. I looked to Rodriguez.
<Stay groundside and spot us. Send Panther up.>
His coming up less graceful, but he got it done. Definitely wasn’t as used to building-scaling the way we were. Dude wasn’t looking down. I opened up the window slowly, making sure not to make even the slightest sound. Then, holding on above, I lifted myself and slid inside. Lifting my weapon, I looked down at our shadow client. Crow was right behind me, with the same grace. The two of us turned around and assisted Panther inside. This was where he was a little more graceful.
I turned it back to night vision, and stopped. The other two did the same. We all had the exact same thought in that moment – this is an American! What the hell had we just gotten ourselves into?
Until next time, a quote,
“It’s hot as hell in here.” – James
“You see it too? For me, it’s always like this.” – Angela, Silent Hill 2