Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Short Story: CRISIS





CRISIS

Location: Some misbegotten third world hell hole

A warehouse situated in the middle of a jungle was monitored by satellite and then by aerial drones before the decision to move in on the ground was made. The ACH-60 Silent Hawk helicopter cruised low over the top of the jungle, avoiding the occasional higher branches. On board were the eleven soldiers of CRISIS, a specially created unit outside of any regular military outfit.

The helicopter hovered a several kilometers to the west of the warehouse while two bundles were lowered and then eleven soldiers repelled down to the ground below. The soft dirt of the tropical jungle and the musty smell of decayed vegetation met the soldiers. The helicopter left.

“Okay, the target is a short march away. We need to keep ourselves aware, for all we know we are being monitored already.” One of them told the rest, there was no insignia on their uniforms but his voice and demeanor was enough to show he was the one in charge.

The two large bundles were opened up and each of the eleven took up their own part of the burden, as they had practiced and trained to do for months. The US military did not dare to carry out an airstrike against the target without permission, since relations were already rocky. They also did not want to inform the host country of the targets existence, since this would show they were being spied on.

The only option was a covert operation to neutralize the target. This had to be done with troops from outside of any normal military channel. Besides the advanced, stealthy helicopter and being launched from aboard one of the many amphibious warfare ships in the US arsenal this operation was totally deniable.

The eleven soldiers marched quickly but carefully. They monitored what lay before them using the drones that orbited above. Nothing was stirring at the warehouse as far as anything could be determined. Electronic signature and com chatter from the target location was non-existent. It was as if the place was closed for a holiday.

“Okay, team two circles to the rear. Set up your cover as soon as you arrive.” Their leader told them and five of the soldiers saluted and moved away through the dense foliage of the jungle.

Then the leader approached one of the soldiers who was setting up a camera-sensor package aimed at the warehouse as well as a mortar. “I want to get a look inside if I can.” He told one of the soldiers, who quickly dug into his pack and came out with a chrome case.

Opening the case he took out a small bug-like object. This was a drone, one of the smallest ever made that carried a camera. Hardly bigger than the dragonflies it resembled, the small drones was made to fly outdoors even in wind gusts. After setting up the monitoring equipment and screen, the drone launched into the air on flapping wings and moved toward the warehouse.

With a close up view the drone moved around, looking through windows and for any opening that might allow it to get inside. Finally the operator made it check the ceiling where it found several openings, these seemed to have been meant for ventilation. The bug-like drone entered the warehouse for a good look around.

“I don't see any movement.” The soldier operating the drone said. “But there are a lot of crates and silver capsules against the wall.”

The leader of the unit nodded. Those metal capsules were the reason for this operation. Actually, what was in them was the reason for it. This warehouse was the den of a terrorist supply operation that sold these things to any group no matter how awful their goals or plans.

The small drone flew over a partial wall that divided the warehouse into two sections. There were more capsules, some of them were open and empty. There were several tables in the center of this area, lying on three of them were humanoid shaped robots.

The leader frowned and closed his eyes. He remembered the first time he had seen one of these things in action in old Los Angeles. The mechanical monster ripped through flesh as if there was no resistance at all. Bone and stuff usually slowed down a knife, but not if it was wielded by these things. It had moved so fast that it was impossible to aim a gun as it sliced up people in its path.

When it did stop the police issued 9 millimeter pistols did nothing to it. Shotguns were as useless. When the SWAT team was brought in, the thing had taken to crashing through walls and going from building to building without coming out into the open for the snipers to get a bead on it.

It had reached an area shopping center between a busy mall and a school. A nightmare was unfolding for everyone involved. Finally the governor had gotten through to the President who resisted getting involved until he turned on the news and saw the bodies spread all over the place.

A flight of jets had come in low and a series of 250-lb bombs had laid waste to the shopping center. Army vehicles and troops surrounded the site while the mall and school were evacuated. They sifted through the rubble before confirming that the blood-thirsty robot had been destroyed. It was immediately sent for intense study.

“This was a terrorist event. We will find those who built and sent this machine to kill. We will find those responsible and we will stop them.” The President had said later in a nationally televised speech about the deaths of 300 people in Los Angeles.

It had only been the first of many such incidents around the world. International cooperation determined that existing terror organizations were buying these robots from somewhere. All of the robots had been essentially the same, although some had been used as walking bombs while others killed with firearms or swords.

The Criminal Robot Interdiction Specialized International Squad had been formed as soon as governments got around to understanding what they were dealing with. Unfortunately most countries were now so afraid of the terrorists that they refused to cooperate. At least officially.

The team leader watched the warehouse, it felt wrong.

“It looks like everything is clear.” One of the soldiers said. “Looks like none of the robots are activated.”

“That would be too easy.” He responded.

“Mama Bear.” One of the soldiers spoke into a satellite phone. “Everything looks clear. We're proceeding with caution.”

All of the video and sensor information they collected was being bounced off a satellite down to the amphibious warfare ship two hundred miles off the coast. The ship was being used as the command center for the whole operation. If it was needed there would be a half-dozen F-35B's on the way within minutes carrying bombs to eliminate the warehouse. It would be a diplomatic disaster, but this warehouse needed to be destroyed.

“We need to get in and find out who is behind this.” The team leader said. This was their primary mission and even though it might be a trap, they had to do it.

The team leader activated his radio. “Prepare for breach.”

Two men on each side of the warehouse carefully approached the warehouse to doors. Once there they stood about ten feet in front of the door and pulled out a black cylinder about two feet long. The soldier held it in front of him with handles on either side. Once the designator highlighted the door it fired a burst of square metal bits that tore the door into splinters.

“Still no movement from inside.” The soldier monitoring the sensors and camera feed said.

The team leader shook his head. “Okay, let's go in.”

Five soldiers approached the front, led by the team leader. Four soldiers approached the rear entry. Each side left one soldier behind to act as sort of an over-watch, monitoring sensors and drone feeds.

The team leader and his four soldiers entered through the destroyed doorway and found themselves inside some kind of office. “Look for any files or computers.” He instructed them. They opened every cabinet and drawer but there was nothing.

“It's been cleaned out.” One of the soldiers said.

Team leader waved them to follow him. He opened the inner door and entered the main part of the warehouse with crates and pallets of equipment. Against one of the walls were a dozen of the metal capsules that the nerds called eggs.

“Prep those things for detonation.” He told them and three soldiers ran to apply plastic explosive charges and wire them together. He wanted to get a better look around. The crates and boxes could be clues, they had to have been shipped from somewhere.

Before he got far there was firing and screams from the other side of the partition.

“We're under attack!” He heard in his earpiece.

“Let's go!” He said, pulling up his M-4z combat rifle that had been slung to his side. The others followed him, loading grenades into their rifles grenade launchers. They kicked the door open on the partition and entered.

Three mechanical terrorists turned their heads to look at the new intruders. Team leader only saw two of the other team in the far corner trying to fight off the attack. Two more lay on the floor, they looked like they had been flattened by steam rollers.

“Fire!” He ordered and the five of them opened up. The rounds weren't penetrating the robot hide and the enemy moved toward them.

“Grenades” He said and they all fired at the same time. The explosions tore two of the robots into scrap while a third was simply thrown against the far wall by the percussion. It still looked intact. Then it moved toward the dead humans and scooped up an M4 combat rifle.

“It's got a gun!” someone yelled and more shooting took place.

One of the soldiers on the other side went down, a red fog had erupted from his head. The last one slipped through the door and escaped. One of the capsules against the wall, which he had thought were the empties, opened and another robot joined the fray. It leaped right up to one of his men and began pounding his face with his metal hands like a jackhammer.

“Retreat, let's get out of here!” Team leader said. Then into his radio, “Mama Bear, we need some shock and awe.”

They backed up while keeping their guns engaged. The robot with the gun shot down two of his men before he and two more escaped.

“Get away, now!” He said as they all ran through the jungle. The sound of incoming bombs flew over them and then the ear-splitting explosions rocked the ground they were on, throwing them off-balance.

In his ear he heard one of the pilots say “One bogey escaped the warehouse.”

He rolled over and pushed himself up. He slipped another grenade into the launcher on his combat rifle and saw that two soldiers near him did the same. Team leader didn't know how many of his men were still alive at this point. It didn't matter anyway, until it was over.

Then he heard a loud noise to his right and saw that one of the F-35B had gone into a hover and was hunting the robot. It made him feel a little better to have some air support, even though the diplomatic blow-back from this operation was going to be huge.

“I see it!” He heard the pilot yell, then the externally mounted 25mm gun pod began firing at something. It must have been moving too fast for the aircraft because the pilot had to keep moving the hovering plane around.

Team leader gave the hand signal and the two other soldiers followed him toward the area where the robot might be.

Suddenly something reached out and struck the aircraft, one of the wings dipped low and clipped some trees causing it to slide into the ground. The engine of the crashed plane continued to whine as team leader and his men searched for the last robot.

“Prepare to fire your grenades.” He told them. He knew the odds weren't too good, but he didn't want to leave that thing running around. It would eventually be sold to a terrorist group somewhere if they left it intact. He didn't plan to let that happen.

“Extraction flight inbound.” He heard over the radio. The helicopter that had dropped them off was coming back to pick them up. This whole thing was a disaster, but the warehouse was destroyed with what might have been dozens of the robots. That was the good news.

Something flashed in front of him and one of his men fell to the ground, almost beheaded from a gash in his throat. Where was it? How could it move so fast in a jungle?

“We need to find it!” He said loudly.

“I hear something.” The last soldier said and turned toward behind the team leader. The grenade was fired followed by rifle fire. “I missed, da...” he never finished before his body hit the floor of the jungle. The team leader turned and found himself nearly face to face with the killer robot. It moved it's arm and the team leader fell backwards and aimed his rifle.

BOOM! Team leader shit his eyes because of the loud blast. He felt air rush over his face. The robot was still standing there, sword in its hand. It turned around, its back was missing a lot of the armor plates and innards were exposed.

One of his soldiers had used the door breach gun to distract the robot. The technician who monitored the drones and sensors threw the useless shell down and pulled out his pistol. The robot started to move toward the technician bit team leader sprayed its back with M4z rounds and it stopped, then it fell face first to the ground.

“You got to get them before they move too fast.” The technician said, sounding scared, as the whispering sound of the stealth helicopter showed up above them. Someone repelled down and looked around, “That pilot is still alive. Can you help me get him out?”

The F-35B engine had finally stopped, team leader had been too busy to notice. The plane had not exploded but it was mostly upside down. They had to dig below the broken canopy and pull the pilot from the wreckage.

“Fast movers are on the way to destroy this plane and hit the warehouse site again, just in case.” The man told them as they prepared the injured pilot for his turn to be lifted into the helicopter. Then he and the technician were hoisted aboard. Other helicopters were inbound to recover the bodies of the fallen.

“We still have no idea who is behind all this.” He thought to himself. “We eliminated the warehouse and the robots, but at a high cost.”

This is not over.

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I want to apologize for my absence. I will try to continue as much as I can, even if my productivity has been dragged down a bit.

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