DARK LEGACIES: HEART OF STEEL #5
by Chris McAuley and Claudia Christian

CONFED Headquarters, Earth, Las Vegas

The screen flashed with explosions and gunfire, the bright hues and red tinged tones illuminated the woman’s face as she observed the carnage. CONFED troops on Mars were facing fierce resistance and despite their escalating brutality, the military was losing. Titan Mechs clashed with old Sov Units, metal arms were torn off and chassis detonated. A.I.M. units ran alongside colonial marine squads and were targeted by insurgent rocket fire. Madelene Winters had seen enough to know that the off-world struggle could quickly turn into a revolution. What started as protests against austerity measures had bled into a full-scale insurrection. 

Winters turned off the Vid-screen and gazed impassively at the nervous aide who had been summoned into her office. Andrews was a capable enough administrator but was clearly out of his depth when it came to tackling rebels. He was one of the few government employees who refused cybernetic augmentation. There was some stigma attached to the use of embedded cybernetics but they had their benefits. Winters barely needed to sleep more than two hours to feel refreshed. 

“I see the situation is worse than the projections allowed for.”

Andrews swallowed and thought for a moment before answering.

“I believe that the situation can still be contained. We have full control over the media and we have worked with Mars security to ensure that the rebels’ supply chain is diminishing.”

Winters arched an eyebrow. “Diminishing? How do they or you account for the reprogrammed Sov. era Mech units striding onto the battlefield? The reports of increased rocket fire against the A.I.M. troops or the fact that the insurgents hold several key strategic locations on Mars-City?”

Andrews placed an old-fashioned manilla envelope on Winters’ desk. It was marked as ‘Classified’. Her interest piqued, Winters lifted the folder and flipped through its contents. Eventually, as she reached the last page, she spoke.

“You believe that this is the answer?”

Andrews stepped forward; he wanted to be known as someone who presented solutions to difficult problems. He also knew that it was within Winters’ authority to terminate his job and quite possibly have him executed. He knew too many governmental secrets. As a civilian he would be classified as a liability.

“Project Basilisk has a better projected outcome than the alternative suggestions. A thermonuclear blast could damage key infrastructure and releasing a biological contagion would render the planet uninhabitable for at least two years. We would be unable to replace the lost workers until then.”

Winters closed the folder and handed it back to Andrews. The proposition interested her; Basilisk was an experimental technology which used black ops soldiers as guinea pigs. The idea was to create an elite infantry unit that would serve as a scalpel, tactically removing threats to the government through stealth. A counterpoint to the iron fist of the Mech divisions.

“Is the technology stable? I notice that the source was…” Winters’ question was interrupted by the over-eager Andrews.

“Extra-terrestrial in origin. Yes. It’s stable, in fact one of the members of the Gears team is involved in a mission at the moment.”

Winters motioned to her Vid-screen. “Can you patch his visuals in? I would like to assess his performance before I green-light their involvement off-world.”

Andrews slipped behind the Chairwoman’s mirrored desk. He punched a few keys and began to enter his keycode as Winters asked another question.

“Gears?”

Andrews tilted his head towards his superior as he pressed the enter key.

“It stands for Genetically Enhanced Advanced Recon Squad. The idea was that they would scout ahead and telecom in terrain details and enemy layout. However, we found that when we let them take their gloves off, they could be as effective as a traditional kill-team.”

The vid-screen lit up in green. It was showing the point of view from one of the Gears team. On the top right of the panel, the readout displayed their call-signal. It read as SPECTRE. Andrews explained that this was a one-man mission and that SPECTRE had carte blanche to complete the mission as he saw fit. He stepped back as Winters moved her chair closer to the screen. 


Columbia, Earth

Carlos was nervous. He paced backwards and forwards, running the plan through his head again. By daybreak, if the operation was successful, he would have control over one of CONFED’s communication towers. It would be a mighty blow against a regime which many thought was unassailable. From there he would broadcast a message across Central America, urging for greater resistance to the government and the creation of more insurgent cells. Carlos was unsure how long that they could hold the tower for but he hoped that this act of defiance could be the catalyst for revolution against the tyranny that the Confederates represented.

The wooden door opened and his lieutenant Rodrigo strode in. Rodrigo was by nature more gung-ho in his approach to strategy. He was a ‘doer’ and not a ‘thinker’ in many regards. He was also Carlos’ most loyal friend. They had grown up together and faced many common struggles. They had tried to escape these by joining the CONFED infantry but deserted after witnessing the casual brutality inflicted on starving protestors. Deciding to put their training to a better use, they had set up an insurgent cell deep in the heart of the Orinoco rainforest.

“Very soon we will have given those CONFEDs a bloody nose.” Rodrigo slapped the palm of his hand against the map placed on the table.

Carlos sighed. It was easy to get caught up in the moment, to feel excitement at finally mobilizing into action, but his thoughts were filled with his men. The lives and families that they had left behind. This was a suicide mission. Once they held the communication tower, the government would throw everything they could at them to stop the broadcast. They had some armaments and even a few rockets, but these would only buy a small amount of time once CONFED troops came knocking.

Carlos looked at his friend and attempted a smile. Enthusiasm could also be a weapon and that was one thing that his men had in spades. He placed a hand on Rodrigo’s shoulder and gave it an encouraging squeeze.

“We will send them all to Hell, my friend. Then they will be the devil’s problem and not ours!”

Their shared laughter filled the night air. As it travelled it was faintly detected by the audio circuits embedded in SPECTRE’s suit. It registered as an unknown soundwave, irrelevant to the mission.

SPECTRE, true to his namesake, moved through the forest like a ghost. His stealth camo was engaged and the stims introduced to his neural system kept him alert. Through extensive training he had been able to comprehend the multiple telemetries which the suit provided. Air pressure, gravity, possible trajectories assisted him to fully understand the environment which enveloped him. He could be deployed anywhere, and within moments would be at one with his surroundings. 

Ahead, he could hear the loose chatter of two individuals. They were discussing their past; it was common for soldiers to reminisce about their lives before a critical offensive. As SPECTRE moved through the bushes, snippets of the conversations were processed, he listened for a moment, filtering through anything which may aid in his mission.

“Just wanted to play Soccer, man. I had dreams of playing the World Cup, drinking champagne, living it up. Then my sister got sick, the damn government wouldn’t give her the meds she needed. It took her six months to die.”

“My brother, he was caught up in a skirmish in the city. A damn Mech trampled on him when all he wanted was a little more rice to help his wife feed his family. I had to join up, try and stop this madness.”

SPECTRE assessed the men’s threat level. They carried antique ballistic rifles, nothing that could penetrate the armour of his suit. He began to plan a suitable strategy when a voice resounded from his Vox-Box unit.

“SPECTRE we have a VIP jacked in and watching your moves. Some of them some good stuff.”

Nodding, SPECTRE strode forward and emerged from the bushes. The guards saw the momentary shimmer of a humanoid shape. Before they could react, SPECTRE extended metal talons from his finger and slashed the throat of one of the guards. Astonished, the man gurgled and dropped his rifle. His right hand attempted to stem the flow of blood as it spurted from his trachea. The blood splashed on SPECTRE’s camo shielding and caused it to warp slightly. Turning his attention to the other guard, he punched through the man’s chest smashing through his ribs. SPECTRE’s fingers located the heart and gripped it tightly. With a small squeeze the muscle shattered. SPECTRE ensured that the man’s reaction was in full view for whatever top brass was watching.

No longer requiring a stealth approach the soldier flicked off the camo unit. Unshouldering his plasma rifle he walked into the insurgent camp and scanned for threats.

The attack alarm brought Carlos and Rodrigo to the window. Initially thinking that it had been set off by accident, perhaps by some careless guard. Carlos was about to shout an admonishment when he heard the gunfire. An enemy had entered the camp. How had CONFED known about their plan? Thoughts of traitors and spies were quickly dismissed as Carlos saw a humanoid figure dressed in costume which seemed made of muscle fibres. Sleek and black, this figure was firing into his men. The insurgent’s bullets seemed to bounce off the suit. Rodrigo was transfixed by the smooth movement of the man. His liquid movement was like a dancer, the lithe body absorbing the gunfire with unnatural grace.

It took moments but soon Carlos’ small band of men had been eliminated. Once SPECTRE had determined that all ground threats had been eliminated, he looked upwards. This three-tiered building was where the sound of laughter had originated from fifteen minutes before. Infra-red vision had detected two heat signatures. In a blur of movement SPECTRE ran towards the building and jumped. The talons emerged from his suit’s gloves and, digging his heels in, he began to climb the structure.

Rodrigo slammed the cartridges into the shotgun while Carlos checked his revolver. They could both feel that whatever had entered their camp was about to attack them. Both men panted with anticipation and exchanged fearful looks. After a few minutes’ silence, Rodrigo could no longer stand the tension. He moved slowly towards the window. Levelling the shotgun, he ignored the whispered concerns of Carlos. Rodrigo willed his feet forward, the sweat trickling down his neck. As he reached the ledge, a fist smashed through the concrete below it driving a powerful arm towards his throat. Rodrigo caught the glimpse of the suit’s eye sockets. The deep red lens reflecting his shocked and terrified face. Before he could squeeze off a round, Rodrigo found SPECTRE’s hand clamped around his throat, crushing his airways. 

SPECTRE’s claws sliced into the insurgent’s windpipe and with a sharp tug he broke Rodrigo’s spine. The CONFED soldier clambered into the room and was met with Carlos’ screams and gunfire.

Carlos watched as his best friend’s body was cast aside, his head all but decapitated. In front of him stood a monster in the shape of a man. A jet-black body which resembled a ‘muscle suit’ with gleaming red eyes. It stood there and absorbed the damage which his revolver dealt. SPECTRE wasn’t completely unscathed by the attacks he had absorbed, some green fluid oozed from the wounds which the suit had yet to patch up. 

Winters sipped at some coffee as she watched SPECTRE eviscerate Carlos. As the feed went dark, she spun her chair around to address Andrews.

“How soon can they be deployed?”

TO BE CONTINUED
More information on the up and coming Dark Legacies series, co-authored by Chris ‘Stokerverse’ McAuley and Claudia ‘Commander Ivanova’ Christian, can be found here:


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