More CARGO 3120.
If you’re not up to speed on this fine s-f novella and the series it’s designed to introduce, please start from the beginning HERE
by Aaron Walker Sr.
Marcus and his crew exited the facility arguing all the way.
“Nice, Max. But ya nearly leveled the place,” Tony said. He was quite impressed with the destruction that took place back there.
“Ya’ll quit complainin’,” Max responded to the entire team. “You’re still alive, ain’t ya?”
Though there was plenty of blame to go around for the poor performance of Raven Squad that night, but Marcus was most upset with his second in command, and most trusted friend: Daren.
“What was that about?” Marcus yelled at Daren. “I said: Target crates only,”
“I was doin’ us a favor. That stuff was worth…”
“I don’t wanna hear it, D,” Marcus yelled while cutting him off.
Suddenly shots rang out, narrowly missing Marcus and Daren’s head. Tony deactivated the anti-grav rods to provide a little more cover in addition to the debris from the blown out wall. Everyone on the team took cover, and returned fire. Marcus could tell these aggressors were not the timid guards they faced inside the facility. The way they moved and communicated led him to believe they were the real deal. Realizing they wouldn’t be able to make it to their rendezvous point, Marcus contacted Jason.
“Six, Do you Copy?” Marcus shouted into his comm unit. “It’s gettin’ real out here. Need immediate evac.”
A short time later, Jason’s voice responded over the comm. “Copy that. Raven Six, inbound.”
Marcus knew it wouldn’t take long for Jason to get the ship airborne, but the minutes felt like hours. To make matters worse, they were running out of ammo. No one expected this level of resistance, and they needed to travel light on a job like this. Marcus used hand signals to direct Tony to lay down suppressive fire with his XR-19 Heavy Repeater; a large energy based machine gun, designed for suppression. Tony took up a good firing position near a large metallic section of the blown out wall and let loose with his weapon. The constant barrage of golden colored energy bolts from his rifle forced Donald’s team to fall back a short distance.
Marcus hoped that his team could hold out long enough for Jason to arrive with close air support and a much needed extraction. Marcus pulled out a pair of electronic binoculars to get a better look. After a quick adjustment of the zoom, Marcus was able to see exactly with whom they were dealing, and he wasn’t happy. Marcus had known of Donald for quite some time. He had a close encounter with the guy about a year ago during a solo operation. Donald didn’t realize just how close he was to nabbing him that night. No one had ever gotten that close to Marcus and lived, so he had much respect for this exceptionally talented soldier. Marcus lowered his binoculars, shaking his head in disbelief. “Great,” Marcus said to himself. He reached out to Jason again… “Any day now, Six.”
At that moment The Indicator thundered onto the scene, firing its dual nose cannons toward Raven Squad’s attackers, forcing them into cover. But little did Jason know that Donald sent one of his ace engineers inside to manually force the mining facility’s air defenses back online… and his timing was impeccable. After squeezing off a few more shots toward Saber Team, the anti-aircraft batteries situated along the perimeter walls of the complex went live, immediately locking onto The Indicator. The massive cannons lit up the sky with its crimson colored fury.
“Oh, crap,” Jason said after picking up the incoming fire. With lightning reflexes, he initiated a series of death defying evasive maneuvers. Jason pitched, yawed and rolled his way out of trouble, escaping with only a few minor grazes in the process. The intensity of the incoming fire was so great, Jason was unable to get a solid lock on the cannons, so he was forced to back off from the facility, beyond the range of The Indicators cannons. And firing missiles would be useless since they’d be easy targets for the station’s missile defense system. He was effectively out of the fight. “Leader,” Jason radioed to Marcus. “The facility’s air defenses are active… You’re gonna have to move to Bravo. How copy?”
“Solid copy, Six. Leader, out,” Marcus replied. He looked at his crew, then at their assailants and knew what he had to do. His mentor: Jax told him a while back, that if he always took care of his crew, he’d never have to worry about mutiny. And that’s what Marcus did since forming Raven Squad, he took care of his crew. He wasn’t about to let his entire team go down when he knew Donald was after him only. If he could just buy them enough time to rendezvous with Jason, he could possibly give Donald the slip on his own.
“We’re movin’ to Bravo,” Marcus yelled to his team. “I’ll cover you guys,” He then turned to Tony. “Give me that thing,” Marcus said regarding Tony’s heavy repeater.
Daren knew Marcus all too well, and he knew exactly what Marcus was saying. His first instinct was to tell Marcus that he was crazy and that they were all leaving together. But on the other hand, he was so close to completing the only mission that truly mattered to him, the mission that would finally earn him the money and respect that he deserved. Besides, Marcus was the most talented mercenary he knew. If anyone could make it out on his own, it was Marcus. So he was good with moving on without their leader.
“Sounds good, let’s move,” Daren blurted out.
The team looked at Daren as if he were crazy for being so quick to leave Marcus behind.
Skye ceased firing and moved to Marcus’ position. She stared intently into his eyes. She wasn’t a crier, but tried in vain to suppress the tears welling inside. But at that moment, she didn’t care. She would gladly give her life for this man, and wasn’t content with leaving him to the wolves firing on their team in the distance. “There’s no way I’m leavin’ you,” she said.
But there was no time for sentimentality. He didn’t want Skye making this decision any harder than it was. So Marcus interrupted her and addressed the team.
“They’re not here for you,” Marcus shouted to his crew. “Now move.”
As the team reluctantly prepared to fall back, Skye remained by his side, ready to go out in a blaze of glory if necessary. But Marcus grabbed her by the shoulders while trying to contain his own emotions. “Go, Skye,” he shouted. Then he noticed the tears rolling down her cheeks, and quickly wiped them from her eyes. “That’s an order,” he said softly.
In that moment, Skye saw something in his eyes that she had never seen before. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she was certain there was no turning him from this path. So she slowly backed away as Tony moved in to give Marcus his weapon. Tony then grabbed Skye by the arm, pulling her away from the fight. Marcus turned toward Saber Team and prepared to fire. As Skye retreated with the rest of the crew, her sadness swiftly turned to rage, as she glared at Daren.
Marcus stared downrange toward Donald and his advancing team.
“You want me? I’m right here,” he yelled to Donald. Moments later he opened up on Saber Team with his newly acquired weapon.
Forget the rules of engagement. Marcus did his best to cut every last one of them down; especially Donald. It was supposed to be in and out, he thought. He struggled to suppress the hatred he was feeling for Daren at that moment for putting him into this situation. He forced himself to calm down because his aim was being effected by his fury. Though unable to hit Donald or his team, he successfully pinned them down while Raven Squad made their escape.
Donald watched Marcus from behind the cover of the outer buildings. He prepared to have his team flank Marcus, when the sniper he previously sent to find a high perch outside of the mining complex, finally reported in.
“Watcher Two, in position,” The sniper radioed in a calm voice.
“Report,” Donald replied.
“I have eyes on four mercs heading away from Alpha, dragging what appears to be the stolen crates. Orders?” The sniper asked with the crosshairs of his scope aimed firmly on Daren’s back.
Donald had only a short time to make a decision. He would have loved nothing more than to have his sniper take down Marcus’ entire team, just to show his resolve… but he had orders to follow. His boss: Brigadier General Thomas Kirkland had made it abundantly clear that Marcus La’Dek was the sole target on this mission. He wasn’t concerned with a bunch of low level rock brigands. Kirkland wanted Teric Winters, and his intelligence officers told him that Marcus was his best shot. Like Donald, Kirkland too was eying promotion. He desired ascension to the title of Supreme Commander of the Interstellar Guard. So the General’s instructions were to be executed without the slightest deviation.
“Negative, Watcher Two,” Donald replied over comms. “Bring only the subject down,” he finished, relieved that he could bring a swift end to this tedious chore.
The sniper moved the scope of his rifle from Raven Squad to Marcus. Sure he could have fired an ordinary shock round, but Donald wanted to send a message; so a standard round fired from the rifle of one the preeminent snipers in the entire Saber Brigade was the order of the day.
Watcher Two was a little disappointed as he locked onto his largely stationary target. He wanted more movement out of Marcus so he could claim bragging rights among the few sharpshooters on his level. But like the rest of the team, he was sick of Titan and its unforgiving surface conditions… he wanted to go home, so he centered his crosshairs on Marcus’s left shoulder, hoping to produce a clean shot, while missing vital arteries. Providing he survived the bullet, it would take his target months of rehab to regain full use of the arm again; but at least he wouldn’t be dead, which would really suck, Watcher Two thought.
And with one perfectly aimed shot that could be heard for miles, Watcher Two let loose a round that passed cleanly through Marcus’ shoulder, sending him tumbling to the ground. Watcher Two smiled as the rifle that Marcus had been firing toward his colleagues was at last, silenced.