The Replicated Artifice: Part 1.1
Stage Start: Alpha 3:30 X
Location: Rise Elegance Estates
Moonlit clouds hung in the night sky like great, stoic warships on the eve of battle. However, these were not the only warships in the sky tonight. A fully loaded H22M transport helicopter carrying the elite Onyx Detachment of the worldwide anti-Terrorism unit Spearhead could be heard making its approach over the sound of the police radios, panicked shouting, and sporadic gunshots. These were not the sounds that normally emanated from a wealthy subdivision, but on this evening they threw out the norm. A group of armed, masked men invaded the mansion-like home of a wealthy CEO and took his wife and son hostage. When neighbors noticed the fervor, they called the local police, who quickly realized that they were over matched in shear firepower and ability when the responding units were all efficiently taken out. The CEO, a Mr. Patrick, held very deep ties with the local government and called in a well-paid favor to the leadership behind Spearhead.
Due to the sensitive nature of the situation and the demands being made by the leader of the invading hostage takers, the Onyx were mustered and sent on high priority to the scene from across the country. They were the most-well known of the top secret detachments, for better or worse, and were relied upon by governments throughout the world to handle such dire situations as this. Onyx’s leader, known only by the name Portland, had time to brief his team on the situation during the long, but efficient flight to the scene.
It wasn’t known just how long he had been in charge, but he always was. He had the kind of personality that corralled others into listening and following his lead. He wasn’t sure just what exactly it was, but he always had the unwavering conviction from the other members of his team. They knew that he took the time to ponder each and every situation and try to find unique paths to the goal or obstacle set in their way. His reputation was known throughout the special operations community and even to some of the more established terrorist organizations that had experienced firsthand just how good he was at tactics and leadership in the harshest of situations.
Yet, something felt different to him this time. When given the mission parameters and dossier on the targets from the higher ups a feeling of doubt arose somewhere in the back of his mind. It wasn’t a totally unfamiliar feeling, but not one that he would normally have right before going into such a dangerous and volatile situation. There was something familiar and alarming about the suspected leader of the bandit group; it was as if Portland had run into him before without realizing it. Or perhaps it was something else altogether that caused such a threatening feeling.
Regardless, he had a job to do and a mission to accomplish and refused to let an ominous feeling distract him when lives were on the line. His top priorities were ensuring that the hostages were released unharmed and that his team made it through the ordeal safely, as well. He knew that they all had the skill and ability, but sometimes that wasn’t enough in these kinds of situations. As a leader, you were always prepared for the worst and expecting the best. Things would almost always fall somewhere in between those two things, but ideally without a loss of life. But, you also have to have faith in your squad and trust that they’ll make the right moves. He held that faith in the rest of Onyx.
Cordova, the unofficial second in command, was the perfect combination of fiery determination and unrelenting tactical prowess all coming together in a small package. What she lacked in physical intimidation she made up for in will and courage. She possessed the ability to be completely calm and rational under unbelievable amounts of stress and often times used that to calm the others when things were getting out of hand. The others consider her to be the heart of Onyx and rally around her when moments are strife with confusion and hostility.
What Cordova brought in terms of rationality was completely offset by the most brash, judgmental, and conflicting in the group. Known as K.C., what he lacked in basic tact and military bearing, he made up for in shear talent as an operator. He often disagreed with mission planning and would find ways to skirt orders to accomplish his part of the mission on his own accord. This caused a natural rift between K.C. and Portland that would lead to heated exchanges at the worst possible times. Had it not been for his track record and tactical ability, he’d already be removed from the group.
And finally, there was the ever reliable Leeds. She was the brains behind the calculated planning and tactics that came with such sporadic and dangerous missions. She had a knack for seeing possible obstacles and more efficient paths than any other member of Onyx possessed. It was as if she saw the battlefield from all angles before they’d even arrived on location and was able to reliably relay that information to Portland and the others. She, above all others, was perhaps the most important member of the detachment and therefor the one asset that Portland could not risk losing. But that is not to say that she wasn’t as deadly a warrior as any of the others. Having such a natural feel and insight of tactical advantages on the battlefield often gave her an edge over the enemy and allowed her to silence any threat that happened to find her along the way.
For all their obvious strengths and weaknesses, one thing was always consistent; they always accomplished their mission. At least, that’s what Portland remembered. Did he have any reason to believe that they hadn’t? Was that thought something else entirely seeping through from someplace inside himself that he was unaware of? He could not say for sure, but he knew that it didn’t matter right now; the only thing that did was preparing for what was about to go down at 1121 Bleakwood Drive. And he had a job to do beforehand. So with that said, he logged out of the personal display pad that was attached to his left wrist and stood up by grabbing hold of the support straps that ran along both sides of the bird. He made his way to the door of the ship and clicked on his helmet microphone in order to communicate with the rest of the team.
“Alright, listen up Onyx; you’ve all seen the briefing and what we’re going up against. I want to hear your input about what we can expect and what would be the best course of action to take once we have heels on dirt, well grass in this case. Any of you kind enough to share first?” he said through the static and sound of the helicopter rotors.
“I’ll take a crack at it, if you’d be so kind.” said K.C. almost immediately; in a tone that Portland knew was going to lead directly into a confrontation between them all.
“Let’s get this out of the way. What do you have for me, Kay?”
“From what I gather, the dipshit fucking local cops sent in their S.W.A.T after the first few waves of regulars got shot up. And they lost contact with the Swatties not long after they breached in. What makes HQ think we’re going to have any better luck with your plan of just breaching in through the ground floor and working our way up? The way I see it, we’re going to end up just adding to the pile of bodies right inside the door.”
“So you’re already questioning his strategy on this one? That sounds about right coming from you; nice to see that you don’t offer an alternative in that rant.” Cordova was quick to reply, naturally the first to try and defend her commander.
“Of course I’m going to question what I believe to be a bad plan, isn’t that what we do this for?” was his reply, now leaning forward to get a look at her.
“You’d question the weatherman telling you it was raining while you’re rinsing out that ratty hair of yours under a gutter.” she snapped back at him, now also arched forward to get a better look at her antagonist.
“Cool it, you two; we don’t have time for round thirty or whatever you’re up to in this ongoing spat of yours. Leeds, what do you got?”
Leeds, who hadn’t reacted in any way to the previous argument, was still tapping away at her PDD in an attempt to gather as much information as she could before they landed. Without taking her eyes off the screen, she replied to the inquiry.
“For once, I’d have to agree with K.C. It’d be a mistake for us to try and breach the lower levels. I’d suggest making entry up top and winding our way down until we can locate the target's holdout room. We have very little chance of surprise, but perhaps we could execute a false breach down below while the rest of the team enters through the roof.”
“Sounds like you should volunteer for the distraction, Cord. Since you’re all about doing things the hard way instead of the smart way.” said K.C., no longer looking at her, but still directing his sarcastic distain her way.
“I sure wouldn’t expect you to ever volunteer for anything dangerous. You just go right ahead and do dumb shit that puts us all in danger without having to ask.” she was still focused on him; the glare from her goggles doing little to skew the annoyed look in her eyes.
“That makes sense to me. Chances are the hostages are being held someplace in the middle of the house and not the attic. That’d allow us to make entry and still have the drop on them. From what I’ve been able to gather, we’re looking at a similar sized enemy element as our own. But they’re more than just the average, run-of-the-mill scumbag or rent-a-thug we’re used to. So we need to be sure we’re all on the same page, regardless of how you feel about each other or my plans.” Portland had gotten the hang of just moving on from the little arguments that often arise when you spend so much time around the same few people in stressful environments.
“Who are these guys anyway? I feel like I’ve heard their names before, but that can’t be right, can it?” asked Cordova, finally breaking off the stare.
“You know, it’s weird. I thought the same thing, but there isn’t anything from HQ showing that we have. Are we missing something here, Leeds?”
“I did not see anything that ties this Nu World Front with any other terroristic or anti-governmental group that we’ve squared off with in the past. And none of the known members have any connections with any of the HVTs we’ve taken out. So I’m not sure what it is about them that are so familiar to you two, other than being highly trained and armed to the teeth.”
“It doesn’t matter. We know how to handle ourselves and these guys will find that out soon enough.” The tone in K.C.’s voice was much less sarcastic and more focused now. He had the habit of shutting everything else down and focusing on the task at hand without much time in between the two.
“Now you’re making sense. Let’s get in and get out like we always do, Onyx.” Cordova said with the first hint of support towards her fellow squad member.
Touchdown in 5 mikes, over.
“Alright, you heard the man, run through your last gear check and make sure everything is up to speed. I want to hit them hard and fast. K.C., you’re going in below. Cordova, Leeds you’re with me up high. We’ll wait for your charge to go off downstairs and enter through the roof using our own breach. Once you hear us make contact, enter in below and we’ll hit them from both sides. Remember, the safety of the hostages is top priority, then our own. And if that means killing these assholes first, so be it. Stand and ready yourselves, we’ve got to make this quick.” The focus in Portland’s voice was the kind that rallied soldiers and his calm, cool delivery inspired confidence.
It was evident from how proficient the team was in infiltration from ground to position as to why they were considered the best in the world at what they do; from the moment the helicopter touched ground to moving into position via grappling hooks on the roof. All of this was done in a timely and tactically sound manner that likely astonished the remaining police in the area who were watching from a safe distance away from the mansion. K.C. had set up a wall-breaching charge on one of the garage doors and was ready to set off the diversion before the others had even fully scaled the side of the house. His two clicks into the comms relayed that he was in position and ready as Portland was unhooking himself from the cable harness.
Leeds and Cordova followed closely behind him as they pulled themselves onto the roof and began unhooking their lines. Leeds positioned herself behind one of the multiple chimney tops that dotted the massive mansion’s roof. She was already in the process of running scenarios though her system and pinpointing the most likely location of the hostages. Once she felt she had a good idea of where they might be, she detached a mobile drone from her utility belt and sent it tumbling down the chimney. The drone was controlled via her PDD and could maneuver through the small openings and doorways of the house almost entirely unseen. It also came with the added benefit of a multiple use taser dart system that could be used to stun enemy combatants and provide a less-than-lethal alternative to subduing them.
As she began the remote search of the premises, Cordova and Portland began preparing their own breaching charge on a weak part of the roof that would allow them to jump into the attic to begin their portion of the assault. The charge was a thermal cutting breach that would open up a hole without making as much noise as the explosive charge waiting to be set off on the garage door. The chances of them dropping anywhere near or above the hostages were small due to the size of the house and the unlikelihood of anyone being in the attic.
In was in this moment that the doubt from earlier began to once again creep into the mind of Portland from some place that was usually not a problem. It was almost just an uncomfortable tightness in his chest that told him that something wasn’t right about what was happening. He had done this hundreds of times before in his career and never felt the kind of unfounded doubt that he did at that moment. It was as if he had never actually done any of this before but that couldn’t be true. For a brief moment, he wanted to call off the operation and pull back, something that a good leader does when faced with an unwinnable situation, but he had never had to make that call before a plan was actually underway; before the bullets had begun flying.
But retreating now wasn’t a viable option as the lives of two innocent people were entirely in his hands now. Any stalling from this point forward almost guaranteed that they’d be executed, as that was made clear on the phone by the supposed leader of the hostage takers after they easily took out the S.W.A.T team. They had to push forward with their plan now or risk having the entire mission fail. He took in a few more deep breaths than he normally would and felt Cordova place a hand on his shoulder as a sign that she was ready to go when he was.
No going back now. He thought to himself as they waited for Leeds to finish her drone sweep, with hopefully some sort of good news and a location of either the hostages or enemy forces.
Piloting the drone had become a work of art to Leeds and she took great pride in her ability to stealthily maneuver it so that the advantage was always her own. She had an incredible success rate and had become so adept at piloting the tiny electronic that it was second nature to her to make hairpin jumps and shots with the shock darts. She went into the search expecting to find the hostages and perhaps silence one or two of the awaiting terrorists. But after going through nearly the entire bottom floor she was unable to locate anything other than the lifeless bodies of the police force that had attempted to enter earlier in the night. Her next step was deciding on going upstairs or down into the basement level and it made most sense to go up and clear a path for the breaching team. Or at least spot targets for them along the way.
As she rounded the first corner atop the stairs, she was met with the first glimpse of who they were up against. A black body armor-clad man, holding a modern assault rifle, with near white bleached blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes hidden behind ballistic glasses was awaiting her drone. She reacted with the almost unnatural speed that came with so much experience and fired off a shock dart in his direction, but he was a fraction quicker and dodged out of the way. Without missing a step, he used that momentum and footwork to move forward and scoop her drone up off the floor. Leeds had never expected such a move and fired off the last of her darts hoping to hit him but failed to land any of the shots. That’s when the man raised the tiny drone’s camera so that it firmly captured the smile on his face and held it there to let it sink in.
Leeds suddenly felt the same tightness in her chest that Portland had just before the man crushed the drone in his gloved grasp disconnecting her from the source.
To Be Continued in Part 1.2
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