The First Lieutenant in his green battle-suit marched them out of the drop-ship into the bright daylight of the planet Sync. The Corporal with the red sash on his suit pointed them to the left. “Be on guard at all times, we know the enemy is around here someplace,” The voice of the Corporal came over the radio.
Two of the others went prone while two more dropped to a knee and scanned the horizon with their sensors and battle rifles. Tom Grier scanned the area with his own sensors and didn't “see” anything, but that did not mean that nothing was out there. There was always the chance that the enemy could fool their sensors, the Marines had been developing something similar.
Fifty Marines in four platoons. The Captain and the four Lieutenants were discussing the situation on their own com channel. The village was just visible in the distance but sensor feeds indicated that it must be abandoned. Still, they would be very careful in how they approached the target.
The four pods on the bottom sides of the drop-ship opened and the four-legged robots were now approaching the platoons. These were known as Vikes, they would be able to carry supplies to a soldier, pull a wounded soldier to safety, attack some enemies on their own and act as scouts in certain cases. They have proven extremely valuable in many combat situations, the Marines affectionately called them “Viking Kitties”.
The First Lieutenant must have given Vike Four a command because it took off at a run toward the village. The video feed from the robot was available to all of the Marines, they would need to know what they were up against.
The First Lieutenant waved them to follow and they set out toward the village in single file, following the robot that was a hundred meters ahead of them. Tom liked moving fast, the platoon was able to keep up with the robot while maintaining an element of stealth. They were in a low-area, a dry creek-bed with high grasses at the top of the sides.
They all kneeled, but they watched and held their battle rifles ready. Tom checked the feed from the Vike. It was inside the village, it had just nosed open the door of a confectionery shop. It's sensors penetrating the entire building finding no heat or electromagnetic signs of humans. It moved inside and peeked through the back door, into the storeroom of the shop.
A flashing light blinded the Vike's visual sensors but other sensors clearly showed there were at least four people in the storeroom. All of them were standing and holding obects that were being used against the Vike. The Vike must have been given new orders because it started to approach the humans, who understandably moved back towards a wall.
“Follow me!” The Lieutenant told them and used the suit power to jump out of the creek-bed and run toward the village at a fast pace. The Marines followed right behind him. They surrounded the confectionery shop. Tom didn't see how the humans inside the shop could do anything but surrender and be interrogated.
One of the humans aimed a device at the Vike and everything went black, there was no longer any sensor feed. It was like going partially blind all of a sudden. It was some sort of localized EMP weapon, which were supposed to be banned on Sync. The authorities were going to have to investigate their supply chain to see how the rebels got possession of one of those.
“Dack!” Cursed the Lieutenant. “Jacobs, Martin get in the front door. Terry, Moran and Douglas get in position and ready to blow down the back door.”
Tom's sensors told him that two other platoons were in the village at other locations while the other was at a farm just outside it. Once the Marines entered the storeroom, Fourth Platoon would be able to claim those four humans as prisoners.
“Move in!” The Lieutenant ordered. Jacobs and Martin kicked in the door to the storage room from the shop while Terry, Moran and Douglas fired at the handle and lock from the outside and kicked it in as well. Their sensors and gun cameras showed the others what they saw as they entered.
A man and three children were inside. The youngest girl was holding the EMP device, still aiming it at the Vike. Martin aimed the barrels of his gun at the youngest girl, the gun's light flashing in her face and he screamed, “Drop the device! Now!”
The man had been standing with his arms raised in surrender. “You can put it down now, honey,” he told her gently. She smiled at the man and dropped the device. There was a blinding flash and Tom saw the others around him crumpling to the ground before everything went totally black.
Tom couldn't move. He could barely see anything through the helmet visor. He was facing the ground, the suit was too heavy to move without the electronics. He had no idea what had just happened, but it was something bad.
The confidence and the bravery seeped out of him and he was beginning to panic at the thought of running out of breathable air. Tom's enhancements were blind, it was like being dismembered. This was no regular EMP weapon, the suits were hardened from that, this was something different. Tom Grier heard voices from outside the helmet. It could it be reinforcements from the other platoons, he surmised, then he heard the loud firing of QBR-44.
He had no idea what was happening out there. There was some fighting, the rebels would have had to be insane to stick around. Every so often he heard the regular eight-round burst take place, but he heard nothing that sounded like return fire. Maybe the Captain was executing rebel prisoners.
Tom heard someone next to his suit shout, it was muffled so he could not tell what was being said. He tried to concentrate on whatever was happening. Suddenly a bright, blinding light invaded him through the enhancements and the sensors. He could see the shadowed shape of a head through the piercing light.
“Listen to me! Listen to me!” A girls voice shouted through the static. “You have to help us! You can't allow them to do this! You aren't some machine! You have to see what's really happening, you have to help us!”
Tom Grier was getting light-headed. He did not understand what was happening. The voice he heard hadn't been from the First Lieutenant or the Captain. He was going to suffocate in the suit, there was a release somewhere. Think! It was getting harder to think, thoughts were becoming fog. Tom wanted to sleep, instead. Sleeping was a better idea, it was easy.
Suddenly his finger had found the switch. “I should pull that. I guess,” He thought as he was drifting, “I was going to do that anyway, I think.”
His faceplate split open and cool, clean air assaulted his deprived lungs. Tom tried to breath, gasping, then managed to start taking in small breaths and then more normal ones. The bright light was starting to come into focus. It was the sky, and clouds and then a face.
“Are you alive?” The girl asked. Tom could only blink. She had dark hair and freckles and a broad smile appeared on it. “I guess that's a yes.”
Her voice was loud enough to be heard over the static. No, that was wrong. It was some sort of engine noise, and Tom could now feel the sense of movement. Everyone in a while he could see things flash passed above. They were definitely moving.
“Where are we going?” Tom managed to ask, though his dry throat and mouth made this painful.
She appeared above him again. “I'm not telling. It's a secret,” she said before disappearing from his vantage. Then she reappeared and smiled again, “My name is Sandy, by the way!”
“Tom.” He said without hesitation. He quickly wondered if he should have even said that much. The Captain might be upset that he had even talked to rebels. For he now understood that these must be rebels. “How did you immobilize the suits?”
The shadow of her head reappeared. “It's better if you don't know. I'm going to make you sleep until we arrive, Tom.”
“What?” He asked but she sprayed something into the open helmet and the world dissolved again. Tom Grier felt no passage of time, here and there he would be able to see the sky, the clouds, trees passing over him and occasionally the freckled-face girl. Once her face was close enough to block the sun and he got a fleeting but good look at her.
Tom thought she looked like a child. The Free Republic would shoot her down if they saw what was happening. Sandy was a rebel, admittedly, but a spanking seemed a more appropriate punishment at the Tom. “I think I'm probably delirious,” He thought to himself, he laughed. Her concerned face peeked into the helmet again but said nothing.
Someone threw cold water in his face. Tom gasped and opened his eyes. He was in a small room, chained to a chair, without his suit. There was a musty, dirty odor to the place. After a moment he became aware of the presence of two people.
“Hello, Marine.” The man from the Storeroom said, “How does it feel to be back in the real world?”
Truthfully, he had a pounding headache. The lack of sensor input felt like raw nerves being messed with. Tom's enhancements were barely able to discern anything within the room, much less through the walls.
“Like crap.” Tom answered.
The man smiled. “It'll wear off. Soon enough, you might even feel human again.”
“What?” Tom was still groggy but the statement had been confusing.
Sandy came close to Tom and put a hand on his left temple. “Those implants have to come out, Tom.”
------------------- Chapter Three
The novella is LIVE: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Pink-Moon-Floyd-Looney-ebook/dp/B01FKDKYZC
Nel is seventeen and has some normal teenage problems, angst over her super-powers, worries over a super-powered world war and that "arch enemy" stalker she might have to fight to the death!