OPERATION ENDURING PALACE
“Hey! You need to get out of here, it’s not safe!”
Sans Leon was crouched behind a car, watching Shooter McGavin wave at the two civilians down the road, cringing at how his voice carried through the quiet night. Both of the civilians appeared to be crouching over something in the street, throughly oblivious to the warning. Unimpressed with the cold response, McGavin tried with more authority.
“A military operation is taking place! You need to evacuate immediately,” he shouted.
This got the two men’s attention, and they both looked towards McGavin. Even from a distance, both seemed abnormally tall and thin, as if they had been stretched out. It was hard to tell in the darkness, but they looked as if they were businessmen wearing the same exact thing.
“Yes! You! You need to clear out!” continued Gavin, when one suddenly raised its arm in Gavin’s direction. Leon saw the gleam of a metallic weapon in his hand and McGavin’s eyes went wide. There was the green flash of plasma as a flurry of bolts raced over the car, and somewhere form behind Hellbilly shouted, “CONTACT!”
Leon stared through the window of the car as the two contacts sought cover in the nearby construction site. There was a heavy mechanical thumping as Mendiola rushed forward and Leon, hands sweaty, leaned over the car. He aimed the laser rifle at the new contact and squeezed the trigger, pulling the rifle up in anticipation of recoil. The beam went high, and without wasting any time Mendiola unloaded his whole minigun belt into the engine block of the semi one hid behind. The truck caught fire and then exploded quickly, and the thin man was thrown against a nearby car.
“1 contact down!” shouted Mendiola, and Hellbilly raced up the road. Leon kept his rifle trained on the construction site when a skinny arm poked out from behind a porta-john, firing another volley of plasma. Leon ducked low as Hellbilly crept along a concrete divider, getting close to the enemy, when he suddenly stoop up and fired at pointblank. Leon saw a cloud of smoke suddenly appear, and Hellbilly started to cough.
“Contact…. down,” choked out Hellbilly over the radio.
Leon watched as Hellbilly leaned against the plastic john, his body wracked with coughs. Leon watched in concern as Ravenshaw asked, “Chariot 7, are you alright?”
Hellbilly waved his arm to dismiss the concerns, still coughing. Leon cast a wary glance around the street, wishing it wasn’t so dark. He spotted a glowing canister perched atop scaffolding in the site, and called out over the radio, “I, uh, I think there’s some Meld up on the scaffolding. I think.”
After a few moments, Ravenshaw replied, “Good eye Chariot 8, that’s it. Let’s keep moving up, Chariot 7 will bring up the rear.”
Leon started to move alongside the car, wishing that the road didn’t offer such scant cover. As he sprinted from the sedan to a nearby pick up cover, feeling horribly exposed during the small dash. He kept his eyes forward, watching for any sort of movement when he heard a series of slapping sounds from behind him. He glanced back and was horrified to see McGavin’s head had been replaced by a Seeker, its tentacles wrapped tightly around his torso. McGavin’s legs were stumbling back and forth, his slaps getting weaker and weaker until they stopped. After a few short moments, his knees buckled and his body went limp. The Seeker released him and he sank to the ground, his face puffy and blue. Leon fired his laser rifle, the beam melting its armor and sinking it, when someone further up ahead yelled, “Seeker, up high!”
The rest of the squad opened fire as Leon stared at McGavin’s face and the horrible color it had become. There was a thud nearby as the Seeker landed, breaking his trance. Ravenshaw sprinted past Leon and towards McGavin’s body, crouching over him. She rolled his body onto his back, and Leon couldn’t help but notice he was completely limp. After a few moments of silence, Ravenshaw announced, “Chariot 7 is dead. Let’s keep moving forward.”
Turning his eyes forward and up the street, trying not to think about McGavin while both Hellbilly and Mendiola started to advance. Leon ducked behind some nearby traffic cones, getting closer to the construction site, though the tarps limited his visibility uncomfortably. As Hellbilly pushed further into the site, a volley of plasma suddenly came out of the darkness. Hellbilly went diving for cover as a hulking, armored alien appeared from behind an abduction device, dashing towards a concrete divider. There was the crack of Ravenshaw’s sniper rifle followed by a spray of green blood from the creature’s shoulder, though it remained on its feet. Leon fired hastily, the beam going wide, and Mendiola fired his minigun. The rounds struck the alien, causing it practically vibrate from the impacts, before it fell to the asphalt.
Close by a similar showed itself from behind the tarps, firing plasma at Mendiola. The plasma splashed against Mendiola, and Leon aimed his rifle at the alien. Before he could fire, Mendiola had closed the distance with surprising speed and engaged the thruster at the suit’s left elbow. His mechanical arm shot out, its hardened module connecting solidly against the alien. There was a metallic screech as the alien’s armor crumpled under the strike and it was thrown backwards, crashing through scaffolding and concrete before slamming into the container of a cargo truck. The container rocked to its side as the alien slumped to ground in a limp heap, no longer moving.
Leon stared wide eyed at Mendiola, amazed at the small wisp of smoke coming off the module, when his earpiece crackled to life and startled him.
“Chariot 8, you know how to stabilize the Meld?” asked Ravenshaw.
“I do,” replied Leon.
“Alright. Go get it, let me know what you see.”
Leon sprinted towards the scaffolding, eyeing the ladder on its side. The alien had severed one of the supports and the platform leaned uncomfortably, but the ladder held his weight. He climbed up, quickly reaching the top of it. He carefully slid himself up, hearing his earpiece start to crackle from the nearness of the Meld. Keeping a low profile, he glanced over the safety railing to scan the street below. There were only cars around the construction site along with more Meld further down the road, but no signs of movement. Satisfied he was safe, he crept towards the Meld and hit the switch, watching the crystal emerge from the container.
“Looks clear from up here. Site’s clear, I would say. Looks like there’s another canister of Meld, too.”
Ravenshaw replied, “Alright. Mendiola will go with you, no sense in taking chances. Don’t need to lose anyone else.”