The breach occurred on a day like any other, everyone would later agree that it came out of the blue, the truth however it was a long time coming. Anti-augment protest groups were reaching a fever pitch in the months leading up. Ferals had started more organized and exploratory attacks in what appeared to be trained units who would systematically probe no-man’s land looking for the best route to the wall. Perhaps the most telling symptom was the emergence of a new militant group which targeted government structures specifically. It was only vandalism of monuments at first, but all fires start with a spark, the acts became bolder. Will started to notice an odd uptick of trauma cases for government caste patients, all of these events culminated to Will’s most eventful day at the hospital. He was making his usual rounds checking in on the few in his charge.
“Hello Ms. Schwartz, how are things going today?” Said Will warmly
She was a fairly normal woman of designated age: 32, caste: entertainment, chief complaint: general joint pain supplemented by frequent panic attacks. If she were a desk worker it would really be no problem, however as unfortunate as it were, she was a dancer and for her profession this sort of condition was crippling.
“Oh fine I guess…” she replied sheepishly.
Will looked up from his charts he looked right into her eyes, searching for her so she could truly hear him.
“How’s the pain? I know you might not want to talk about it, but ignoring it won’t make it disappear. I’m here to help and I can guarantee you my absolute best effort, all I need from you is as much information as you can give me.” He was sincere, warm he’d sought to earn her trust.
“Well doctor, if you really insist my pain right now is unbearable, it takes all that’s in me just to try and keep it at bay and I just can’t hel-“
A loud low boom was heard in the distance, the building rumbled as the lights in the room shut off for a second and immediately flickered back on. Wills kit began to vibrate violently as an announcement blared over the P.A.
“All personnel not currently occupied with sensitive life preserving procedures please report immediately to the sub-basement for a critical briefing”
Will frowned and looked back to his patient, she was visibly scared and began to breathe at a quickened pace.
“Ms. Schwartz it’s going to be okay, there’s no need to worry.” He reassured her.
“No no, that’s it, the news has been trying to hide this, it’s why they’ve been pushing us so hard lately, they wanted us as a distraction. It’s been getting worse and it’s here now! It’s that group of bombers, they’re coming for us now!” Her panic heightened
Wills kit was getting more aggressive now, it started to burn his wrist and flash a small alert light attempting to drag him to his rendezvous.
“Ms. Schwartz look at me!” She listened and they locked eyes. “Now breathe with me, inhale slowly… just like this… hold it… now out, one more deep breath… now release…”
She began to calm slowly, as the fervor of Wills kit picked up.
“Now I’m going to have to head down now, are you feeling a bit better? I can help you out with a muscle relaxant if you think you need it.” He said with a deliberate warming calmness.
The P.A. sounded again this time more urgently.
“All personnel not occupied with sensitive life-preserving procedures, report immediately to the sub-basement!”
Will tensed up, he could feel that message was directed at him and Ms. Schwartz began getting scared again.
“Uh actually, you know I’d actually like that relaxant if you could please.” She said hesitantly.
Wills kit became bolder, now releasing a directed verbal message.
“Dr. Orson, stop what you’re doing and report to the sub-basement for briefing.”
He did his best to quiet it as he reassured his patient prepping the relaxant and delivering it to her IV drip.
“I’m sorry to cut out on you Ms. Schwartz, save the next dance for me, yeah?”
“You got it doc.” She replied as she gave him a small chuckle and meek smile which faded quickly as the drug took hold of her.
Will lingered for a half second extra to ensure she was properly sedated and with that had exited the room. Immediately upon crossing the threshold into the hall his kit stopped harassing him. An orange arrow materialized in front of him from the kit directing him to the quickest sub-basement route. Following the route it laid out for him he began to notice just how dire the situation truly was. Room after room that he passed lay patients who were simply abandoned, those who saw called out to him but there were so many he didn’t know what to do. The hospital corridors were like a ghost town with the exception of its patients. With each room that he passed his pace quickened and before he realized he was already on his way down the service elevator to the sub-basement meeting room.
Descending in the elevator his mind ran wild; could it be a contagion outbreak? An explosion in the lab wing, was that the boom he heard? No it was too far away, maybe another construction accident, what direction did that boom come from he didn’t remember any construction there… and then the idea began to take hold… was it the anti-modders? They were known to be violent sure but there was no way they could assemble any kind of coherent attack. The initial thought was enough though, “Meredith!” he gasped. The trip down was agonizing now, he had to know if she was safe or not, he had to know what the attack was, there were no communications from outside sources on his kit, but in a scenario such as this the hospital was on lock-down, no communication could come in on civilian channels nor could any be sent out. He stood for what felt like hours until the doors finally slid open.
Will sprinted now, following the arrow down the corridor as it directed him left then right, left again, through a door, another right; he had completely lost track of where he was going. As he ran he began to wonder what kind of conference room they were all meeting in and where it could possibly be, while it was true that he hadn’t explored every inch of this facility he thought he had at minimum a good working knowledge of it. The arrow led him to a dead end, pointing straight ahead at a wall, he began to curse as he attempted to recalibrate the device, and just as soon as he had reached up to his wrist to adjust it the floor gave through and disappeared beneath him. As he fell, he looked up to see the light from the trap door getting smaller and smaller before it was completely extinguished by the sealing door. It was a disorienting trip, he hit a ramp sliding from right to left, up and down pushed and cushioned by air. He was eventually spat out onto a mattress in a dimly lit cement room with seemingly no entrances or exits.
His stomach churned with nausea from the tumultuous journey, he stood slowly attempting to regain his bearings.
“Hello?” He called hoarsely
No reply, the initial shock of the journey began to wear off as his eyes adjusted to the dark. A quick survey revealed a room that couldn’t have been more than a 10ft square; the pipe he emerged from was flush with the back wall in the far corner. He noticed a crack of light emanating from the far side of the room, which appeared to be a door. He scarcely had time to approach the door before they slid open forcefully and several heavily armed soldiers poured through.
“Dr. Orson?” one of the men barked.
“Yes.” Will replied straightening up, masking his fear.
“Hold out your forearm for us and please stand still while we confirm your identity.” The unknown trooper calmly commanded as the soldiers surrounded Will; he apprehensively complied. The trooper who he assumed was the leader scanned the symbol with his kit and the holographic display spat out an image of Will’s government and hospital ID’s.
“Good” he grunted as he removed his helmet and balaclava revealing his grey-blue eyes, his face carried a knowing air, this was a man who had seen the world burn many times over. “My name is Captain Franklin, my unit was sent to recover you as your expertise was deemed invaluable to the maintenance of Lazora’s standard of living, please follow us while we escort you to a rendezvous bunker.”
Will’s heart sank, if these men were here to protect him whatever was going on outside the hospital walls was dire, his mind went straight to Meredith, the Captain spoke up as if he had just read Will’s mind.
“Don’t worry she’s safe, the other half of our group went to recover her too, with any luck we’ll get there a few hours after she does but we need to move now.”
“Show me” Will demanded
The Captain looked over Will, the doctor remained steadfast, he was surprised at this sudden burst of self-assurance; maybe there was something more to this doctor; the file did say he served on the wall…
“Give me a second, I’ll check their status, we don’t want to disturb them during a firefight.”
Will’s stomach churned, the danger was real it was absolutely possible Meredith might not make it out. Her building was further from the central hub of the city which was promising, but there was no telling what or who the attack was targeted at… or if it was over. One of the armored troopers grunted to get Will’s attention. He carried a duffle bag to Will and instructed him on how to properly equip the gear within. The Captain pulled up the platoon’s status on his kit’s display, so far so good he thought, everyone’s vital signs were normal, no hormone spikes indicative of fear and no injuries so far. He pinged out a call to the second group leader.
“Lieutenant Green, status report, we have made contact and will proceed to rendezvous”
“All clear on our end Captain, we are currently en route to the rendezvous, extraction successful.”
Will’s ears perked up at the news “Show her to me.” He demanded
The Captain rolled his eyes as he talked to Green. “Lieutenant can you pull up your cargo on screen, we’ve got a request for recovery confirmation.”
Wills kit buzzed as his video feed kicked on, displayed in front of him was Meredith a bit shaken but unharmed and wearing body armor that was just slightly too big for her in a helmet that brought out all the delicate features of her face… despite the danger Will couldn’t help but feel some warmth in his heart, she looked adorable in her get-up.
“Hey beautiful, feeling alright?” He cooed
“Not too bad, and yourself Mr. Grumpy” She smiled at him
The Captain shot a glance to Will implying how little time they all had for chit-chat.
“Oh you know, same day different shit right? These guys seriously want us to get out of here I’ll see you at wherever they’re taking us… I love you.”
“I love you too… stay safe” she replied
Her image disappeared from his view he felt charged, ready to take on the world; glad that she was safe but scared she wouldn’t stay that way. The feeling propelled him to tackle his present moment with all the fervor he could muster. Will looked at the squad sent to extract him for the first time. 10 men all clad in gray toned heavy body armor, the seal of Lazora on each of their shoulders, he couldn’t see through their visors but their body language said it all. These men knew what they were doing, they had seen years of killing and were prepared for whatever lay ahead. Will couldn’t help but feel a sensation of dread, he knew these men were capable but something about the air, the energy of the room it was ominous Will secured the final pieces of his armor.
“Leary and Guiterrez, I want the two of you to exit first and start scouting our route, take no chances stay out of sight kill anything that gets in your way by any means necessary understood?” barked the Captain.
The two soldiers saluted and crossed out the doors each synthesizing formidable looking energy rifles as they exited. The Captain walked over to Will sizing him up before starting.
“Outside of those doors is a small labyrinth with a plethora of installed security measures, they’re on our side and we can expect there to be no enemy combatants there. However, we’ve all encountered one too many surprises today so for this whole exfiltration be prepared for the worst. After the labyrinth we’ll be coming to street level, as of right now it is an active warzone, combatants will be coming from all directions, the squad will form up around you for added protection. It is imperative that you move with them and do everything we say. We’ll be making our way to a vehicle which will take us to the rendezvous, got all that?” asked the Captain.
“Uh-yeah…who are we fighting exactly?” Will asked
“We can talk about it on the way, let’s move!” The Captain commanded
Will fell into line, and exited with the troopers single file into the labyrinth. The corridors were narrow and dark illuminated only on the floor by green glow strips. The men were cocooned in by ceilings only about two feet taller than them, there was no doubt this labyrinth was a killing room; the entire complex was a perfect choke point, not to mention the various unknown traps the Captain alluded to.
“So, I guess first things first, what is this place?” Will asked
“A bunker.” The Captain grumbled
“And I’m guessing all facilities with “valuable” personnel have bunkers like this, Lazora really pulled out all the stops, the security labyrinth granting extra time if resources get tied up, separating us; ensuring better survival rates, can’t knock us all out at once if we’re scattered…” the thought hit him suddenly “Have they been expecting this?!”
“Why wouldn’t they? Just because you get to watch refereed duels between nations on TV doesn’t mean that there isn’t real tension. There’s always been a risk for another nation to attack; it doesn’t serve anyone any good to constantly worry about it though.” Replied the Captain
“So that’s it then? We’re in for another drawn out war, maybe this time actually succeed in destroying everyone on the planet. I thought our whole mutually assured destruction thing prevented us from getting to this point, do you know how Lazora plans on retaliating to this attack?” Will prodded.
A large low rumble was heard far above them, the earth shook dust and concrete fragments onto the party. The Captain held up his fist signaling the group to take cover. He pulled up his kit examining the area map, they were nearing the exit. He scrolled through the mission status reports. Green’s unit is still doing ok, they’ve made it to their vehicle and anticipate smooth sailing from here on out… good he breathed a sigh of relief. At least half of his men would make it out safe. However, upon reading O’Leary and Guiterrezs’ report his mood dampened the two were currently pinned in a building three blocks away from the labyrinth entrance. The Captain signaled for the group to continue moving as he read through operation communications.
The asset coalition report brought even more dismal news, fighting on the surface was fierce; reports from recovery teams in the field were reporting that the breach was worse than intelligence had initially suggested. Ferals poured in by the hundreds initial wall defense battalions were entirely overwhelmed. It would be a tough fight to reclaim the streets but the Captain was confident that their forces could repel the ferals once they regrouped for a coordinated strike. However, there was a more disconcerting matter to account for, pockets of rebels sporadically cropping up through the city, these people were trained, every time a firefight broke out with these groups it was a calculated ambush. Especially unnerving were the reports of defectors turning on their own patrol groups in the middle of firefights, shooting their own brothers in arms right in the back. Somehow whatever group was responsible for this had amassed frightening power, and right under the nose of the government to boot. The Captain looked up from the kit to his own squad, he knew these men could be trusted but he just couldn’t shake his natural instinct for safe suspicion.
“Dr. Orson, while we all truly respect your vested interest in the politics and ramifications of this conflict at the present moment you’re going to have to be quiet now. We’re nearing the surface and it’s not looking good, we need everyone including you focused on the current moment so we can all get out of this in once piece, do you understand me?” The Captain snapped.
Will read the seriousness in the Captain’s face, this man was a bit rattled and that shook Will to the core. He knew these men had seen the worst of the worst and for Franklin to react this way it could only mean one thing… there was a very real possibility there might not be a Lazora after the end of today. As the squad approached the end of the labyrinth the sounds of gunfire, explosions, breaking glass, twisting metal and screams intensified and pierced Wills ears. Each step brought them closer and they emptied out into a wide-open indoor staging area, separated from the chaos by a single steel garage door. This wasn’t something he could think away anymore, it was real, it was inescapable, it was right outside the steel door in front of them and it had to be confronted. Will looked to his protectors, their eyes occluded by combat visors body tense, weapons ready they knew what was coming.
“Jones, crack this door, Davis I want you and Mandell on point, Joyce and Macready will have your flank, Harper, Crane and myself have the doctor, I want a minimum of three men on him at all times…on my mark… 3… 2 … MOVE!”
Like clockwork the unit sprung to action the charges were set instantly by Jones, everyone took cover and within seconds the door was blown open and outward onto the street. Before the smoke even had time to clear Davis and Mandell were on the outside the zapping sounds of their pulse rifles barely drowning out the screams and explosions. Macready and Joyce exited soon after and before Will knew it his detail was moving him out the doors too. The sun blinded him; he was completely disoriented from the lack of vision and incessant ringing in his ears. Had his detail not been leading him by the shoulders he would’ve gotten completely lost, when his vision finally adjusted he wished it hadn’t. The streets were utter carnage the corpses of ferals and Lazoran’s alike were strewn about like macabre confetti. Buildings were in disarray, windows busted out sidewalks on fire, people running in all directions gunfire coming from all directions, high rises in flames above them.
Before he knew it he was catching his breath in an alleyway, the Captain was poking his head around a corner while Crane and Harper maintained watch. Will scarcely had time to breath before an explosion went off at the other end of the alley spitting debris on the group Will flinging himself instinctively to the ground. All of their kits buzzed and a message from the Jones blared out from within.
“Hi uh-guys, I set off the bomb like the Captain wanted, definitely umm confirmed kills on that one, it should clear the way for you to make it to the café we’ve set up in, we’re about a block ahead of you and have visual on Guiterrez and Leary’s position, we’ll sit tight and wait further orders till you get here, over.”
The Captain picked up Will by the shoulders and the group was moving again, right towards the blast zone. Will felt a sickening squish as his boots shuffled around and through the crater. He looked down momentarily and was greeted with the sight of various emulsified limbs, eviscerated torso’s… blasted out faces… he couldn’t tell who was who, whether they be feral, Lazoran, civilian or combatant, as pieces they all looked the same. Will stumbled into the street his detail efficiently enveloping him they were like a living membrane making sure he was never left exposed to the elements. The group headed toward the café when someone suddenly pushed down on his shoulders forcing him to get low, he felt the screech and zap of his protective detail’s pulse rifles reverberating his chest, he looked back to see at least 20 ferals supplemented with what appeared to be several Lazoran security forces advancing on them from down the street.
The Captain blew off several concussive bursts from his kit temporarily scattering the assaulting force and granting their group the precious seconds needed to sprint to the café. They burst through the doors to find Davis setting up a sentry gun at the back exit, Mandell propped against a wall behind the sales counter with a calm and collected demeanor despite missing the lower half of his arm and bleeding uncontrollably, Jones tinkering with her claymore wire setup for the café entrances and Macready pacing the storefront windows attempting to scope out their next move and Joyce… where was Joyce thought Will. He began to feel light headed, the group of 20 or so was closing in and this was nothing like what the Captain anticipated, they were fighting a losing battle, despite all their training and arsenal they were simply outmanned. Will instinctively walked to Mandell and crouched down to assist him with his injury. He held out his hand synthesizing a tourniquet from his kit.
“Looks like you could uh… use a hand huh?” Coughed Will.
Mandell looked up at him and smirked “Yeah, something like that doc, mind patching me up.”
Will applied the tourniquet, stopping the bleeding and asking the Captain as he worked, “Will this rendezvous be fully equipped with an operating theatre?”
“Unfortunately not doc, sorry.”
Damn thought Will if they had a theatre I could’ve given this man a new limb.
“Sorry Mandell, looks like you’re getting the basic treatment” Will synthesized anesthetic sutures and an iron. He drew up the dose and injected the anesthetic straight into Mandell’s wound “This stuff will kick in right away and then we can get to some real work”. Mandell looked at him unfazed as if this sort of thing happened to him once a week. “Well Mandell I’ve got to say your calmness in this situation is really relaxing… and oddly unnerving, most people don’t take treatment in such stride.” He disinfected and stitched up the wound then cauterized it for good measure before slowly removing the tourniquet leaving Mandell the proud owner of a fresh new stump.
“It’s a damn shame we’re not going to be near a theatre anytime soon or I could’ve given you a fresh organic limb” lamented Will.
“Eh no worries, now I can just get a fancy cybernetic guilt free” Shrugged Mandell.
“Just take it easy for a bit okay, let your system stabilize you need to sit out combat for the rest of this trip.”
The rat-tat-tat of Davis at the back entrance sentry gun punctuated the exchange.
“No can do doc.”
Mandell synthesized a new weapon as he stood, just in time to be peppered with glass fragments from the storefront window being blown in.
“Motherfuckers! I am so sick of this shit!” Screamed Mandell
“Everyone still have their vison?” asked the Captain calmly
“Yes sir!” barked the group
“Received! So these beasts want a fight lets show them why Lazora has got them on the outside everyone take a stim dose and give em’ Hell!”
The rat-tat-tat of Davis’s Sentry began to switch to a rhythmic thump followed by boom which shook the ground they stood on. Jones looked to the Captain and tapped his helmet in time with the boom from the sentry, but a secondary blast followed this one dropping Will to his knees, his ears were ringing and the entire room was enveloped in smoke, he could scarcely see his own hands in front of him. He felt grabbing dragging, Will was moving again now the smoke cleared for a second Will could’ve sworn he saw daylight then BOOM! Another shockwave sent him to his knees and he was being dragged again, he found his legs, they were running now, he could see in front of him… 3 men? One without an arm At least Mandell is still holding up Will thought as he felt some pride at patching him up to be combat ready.
Will looked back as they pressed onward catching a glimpse of the building they escaped from not 2 minutes earlier, now crumbling under its own weight collapsing and falling across the street into the high-rise that Leary and Guiterrez were pinned in. Will winced considering the amount of damage and utter loss of life that was occurring around him. The group pressed forward even faster just barely outpacing the advancing smoke plume from the collapsing buildings. As Will sprinted with the group he wondered how the rest of his peers might be faring in their respective extractions. Not many of them tried to push their physical limits he remembered, there’s no way they could keep up with a group like this. He shook his head, they had scoffed at him saying that “mental aptitude was the only quality required of them, so why bother paining themselves with more work”; if only they had tried to push themselves in all aspects, better themselves in mind and body, best not to distract myself with it now… just survive.
They turned into alleys back into streets, scurrying through intersections dodging from block to block, there was no doubt they had escaped the current danger but the threat of what may loom hung heavy over their heads. The Captain signaled to the squad to slow to a trot, how he was navigating and simultaneously giving discreet direction astounded Will. The Captain was gliding through these streets as if he had been living there his whole life. He was a brilliant tactician no doubt somehow their group had consistently managed to avoid all drawn out confrontation, some members would break from the squad a short outburst of shrieks and pulse blasts would follow punctuated with a final boom culminating with the return of the missing member as though nothing had happened, like he simply stopped off for a quick piss break. These men were unstoppable thought Will, he always knew Lazora’s fighters were capable, hell he worked with them on the wall, and even saw them fight in matches. These men were a different breed though, seeing these men if you could call them that in action was equally terrifying and inspiring, such raw power and ability to end life to take damage to lose limbs and not even bat an eye, without question, without remorse, without fear impairing their efficiency, Will was glad these warriors were on his side.
“Hold here” the Captain whispered
The group obeyed and bunched up along a building corner before entering the next intersection. The Captain poked his head around the corner and let out a sigh of relief, he waved his hand signaling to the rest of the group to ease up as well and follow his lead. They rounded the corner and were greeted by Leary and Guiterrez standing guard and smiling from ear to ear in a forgotten parking lot strewn with various ground based civilian vehicles.
“Good work men, looks just the way we left it.” Said the Captain proudly
“Thank you sir!” They responded saluting
“Jones start leaving a few party favors for the guests we’ll be expecting. Davis get working on that terminal over by the fare booth and raise up the APC.” Ordered the Captain
Within seconds of Davis clacking away at the terminal the whole parking lot began to hum, quietly at first but slowly getting louder and louder until the sound was booming. The thick bass reverberations made Will feel like his bones would shake right out of his body. Then the middle of the lot split open and began to grow wider the asphalt of the parking lot retracting under the buildings surrounding it, cars fell into the pit but it was inconsequential. A new vehicle of much larger proportions began to emerge. Military grade, it was a two floor behemoth equipped with deflective armoring, cannons, turrets, various antennae and reinforced propulsion generators.
“Welcome to your ride home doctor” Said the Captain as a massive personnel loading door swung down from its back end.
“Leary get on the turret, Guiterrez and Davis pilot positions, Jones ordinance cannon, Macready and Joyce I want you on comms and EM interference, Crane and Harper stealth and shields… Mandell looks like you’ve lucked out on this one, you get to hang out as a passenger with the doctor but oh! One favor, could you please tell him goodnight for me?”
“Goodnight Dr. Orson” Said Mandell with a sheepish grin.
Will felt a sharp electric pain in his back radiating through his body, locking his joints, he fell face first towards the floor but was caught just before impact by the Captain who was chuckling and holding his hand out for a high-five with… who was that Harper? They’ll pay for this Thought Will just as he lost consciousness.