“The other ships are moving closer to defend the carrier!” someone reported over the coms.
“It doesn't matter, it's too late,” Tom told them, “Remember to get far away once we are deployed.”
Tom turn to the rebel soldiers who were with him. All of them were getting into place to leave the ship as fast as they could. As soon as the rear hatch opened they would use the thrusters on their suits to propel themselves toward the carrier.
“Team Two here, we're ready” The soldier named Skyler reported from the second ship.
“Prepare for dynamic exit!” The pilot told them.
Suddenly, the ship rolled fast enough for them to feel it and the back hatch opened. Seeing that the carrier was right in front of them, Tom activated his thrusters and led the others across the short space to the carriers' outer hull.
“This is Team Two, we've made it to entry point, all hands safe.”
“All ships, time to get lost!” Tom said over the coms. A rupture in metal covering of one of the cargo bays was just big enough for them to get through one by one. There were a few crates in the dark chamber but there was no sign of anyone.
“I guess they don't know we're here yet.” One of his men said.
Tom brought up a diagram of the carrier on his HUD. “Okay, we need to move upwards about four decks. We'll be close to the power distribution node then. There is a lift out that hatch and about 50 meters down the corridor to the right.”
The hatch refused to open because the cargo bay had been pressurized. Then Tom Grier cursed himself for not thinking of this problem, and led the team to the far side of the cargo bay to where a cargo control room could be used like an air-lock. That was one stupid mistake, but they had lost very little time and nobody died.
As the air in the cargo control room pressurized Tom pulled the QBR-44 off of the back of his armored suit, the other men drew their own weapons as well.
“This is Skyler, I examined the wreckage that lodged into the observation deck, there were no survivors.”
“Roger, watch the time. Get to that forward power distro node ASAP,” Tom said into the coms, “It's all been mapped out.”
The corridor outside of the cargo control room looked abandoned. Tom detected some heat signatures in a small chamber at the end. If they weren't armed or armored, then they aren't to be killed. Still, you need to keep an eye on them.
“We need to move as fast as possible. 50 meters to the lift, but we're taking the stairs on the other side of the corridor instead. Four decks up and we will near the target. You all know the drill, it should only take one of us to reach it,” Tom Grier told the others.
The hatch opened and Tom was the first one out, his men covered both sides with their weapons as they made their way toward the stairs. The Free Republic Marines could reach them in minutes, so they had to hurry.
Oddly they were able to reach the stairs without seeing any opposition whatsoever, which made Tom more worried. Where were they? As soon as Tom looked around the corner into the stairwell two unarmored security officers opened fire with small arms. The armor wasn't even penetrated.
One of his men, Felix something, went around Tom and blasted the two security officers. One shot each was all it took and they went down like a sack of potatoes. Felix started up the stairs first, looking to get first the glimpse of any more opposition.
“Something is coming. Hang back,” Felix said, backing against the wall. Suddenly a drone dropped down from above. A flashing, pulsating light was all Tom could see, his suit tried to block this visual interference as he tried to aim his big gun in the tight corridor. It was useless so he swung at it, knocking the drone to the side where it bounced off the wall. The drone started firing small rounds at them but was dispatched by return fire.
“That was annoying,” Felix said as he started moving upwards again. At the landing of the next deck they were fired upon by unarmored security officers again. These guys were more numerous but hiding behind the corners.
The first thing that hit them was stun grenades that had no effect through their powered armor. The opposition was far too light and pathetic so far. The small arms fire was no real threat, but you can't just waltz past them and let them keep harassing your six.
Tom designated grenade rounds and wanted to bounce them around the corner when two more wailing, flashing drones dropped from the upper stairwell. He heard Felix mutter something as the men started to return fire.
“Grenade!” Tom warned as he fired two of them, one to each side of the corridor. The blast was loud, even through the helmet and parts of the walls and ceiling in the corridor simply collapsed. The old carrier was never designed to see battles on the inside.
“Light opposition, we are three decks above designated target.” Skyler reported in.
Obviously, most of the Marines were on the surface of Sync, but Tom knew that at least two platoons were kept as reserve or guards aboard the carrier. This normally included “A Squad” which was kind of legendary to new recruits. It was said the best Marines would be assigned to the squad, but Tom was no longer connected to the “hive mind”, as he now thought of it. To him, the best and most remorseless killers were rewarded by being moved into A Squad. Of course, he had no experience with all of that inside stuff since he had spent no real time in it before being captured by the rebels.
They moved up the stairwell faster this time. Tom did not know how long it would take for the Marines to show up, but he was sure they would eventually.
“You don't suppose they know where we're going do you?” Felix asked, “They might be setting up a trap for us.”
“That is one possibility,” Tom admitted, “But it doesn't seem like something they'd do. Why let us ransack the ship all the way there, knowing we'd be tearing through their security?”
Then he remembered that the Marine brass and the fleet brass seemed to be at odds. The Marine General really had been arresting those fleet agents back in Valla. Maybe crazy Admiral Jim Robinson wouldn't approve letting the Marines battle Tom's boarding party? That wouldn't make sense, though. General Gallant wouldn't follow any orders like that from the Admiral.
“Team Two here, no sign of enemy armor. All kinds of fleet personnel hiding in their quarters.” Skyler reported.
“Same here,” Tom replied. It was unnerving.
Free Republic carrier Umbrage, Marines Command & Control Room
“General, we have rebel activity flaring up all over Sync!” Maggie Anders reported.
General Gallant checked the large holographic image of the planet revolving above the center of the room, sure enough symbols of fighting and attacks were all over it. The engagement reports had been coming in fast and furious since the attack on the Umbrage began.
“Drone attacks at Fort Marsh being reported. The drones are simply diving at the base and exploding just before they reach the ground!” a male controller on the far side of the room announced.
“Forward Support Base Mandarin is requesting aerial support!” another said and then added, “I'm unable to contact Onyx Flight!”
General Gallant walked to Colonel Mortimer, “Looks like we have a rebel uprising.”
The shorter man nodded, “Yes, it does. These are almost all stand-off or hit and run attacks, though. Almost like they are trying to distract us.”
Gallant thought about this, “Do you think the rebels were able to board the Umbrage?”
“Normally, I would laugh in your face for asking such a question, if you'll beg my pardon sir. Under the circumstances, though, I think it's likely,” Mortimer answered.
“You can speak freely with me, Colonel,” Gallant told him. Then after a moment he shook his head, “You don't suppose the rebels knew that Admiral Robinson had blocked us from leaving our area of the ship, do you?”
Mortimer shook his in the negative, “The Admiral is going to be mighty pissed, just when they need us most he himself has barricaded us away.”
Gallant sighed, “Take some men in armor and try to get passed one of the barricades. We need to at least try and defend this ship.”
Then the General started toward the controllers, “Order Main Base in Sally sector to send defense drones to Forward Operating Base Mako and Forward Support Base Mandarin. They have a dozen of the things, it time we started using them.”
“Aye Sir” said one of the controllers.
“Okay, new general order. Order our drone bases to take over all aerial operations, we can't depend on Onyx flight any more,” General Gallant told them.
“Aye Sir!” several of them responded.
He walked to Maggie Anders, who was trying to get some reinforcements to her sector.
“Anders, if this ship has been boarded, it is likely led by someone who has Marine armor, if you get my point. I'm thinking that Tom Grier could be on-board making mischief,” he told her, getting her full attention, “I want you to try and contact his suit. Not the implants, they were removed. If you can get his attention, I want to talk to him directly.”
“Yes, sir. I'll try!” she answered.
The General didn't really have a plan, but there was one coming together.
Colonel Mortimer was coming back. He reported,“That barricade is pretty solid, we might break through if we have enough time. I'm thinking we send some of our guys out the airlock to get in on the fleet side.”
“If we can't contact the Admiral's people, then we don't know if Robinson's people would open the airlocks in their area for us.”
“That is true,” The Colonel answered, “Just try it if you need to.”
Free Republic carrier Umbrage, Bridge
Admiral James “Jim” Robinson was red-faced. He had been screaming to get ship security weapons and whatever needed to stop the boarding party. Unfortunately ship security did not have heavy armor or the weapons to stop it. They didn't normally have access to weapons that would tear through the hull of a ship, for obvious reasons.
“Throw up new barricades!” He ordered.
“We don't have any more, we would need to get them from one of the other ships, maybe the Hugh or Sirius. That would take a lot of time though,” one of the other officers reported.
“Unblock the barricades and let the Marines do their damned jobs then!” He roared.
“Those barricades are extremely hard to remove once they have been set,” came the answer, which infuriated him even more. To some of the men and women cringing on the bridge it looked like he might literally explode, some of them thought this would be a good thing.
“Grabble!” The Admiral called the Commander who had been pretending to be busy doing something else that was “urgent”.
“I want you to lead a team to the forward power distribution node and set explosives at all of the entrances. We must stop them from taking out those nodes!” The Admiral said, “If it wasn't for those traitors, the enemy would have never known about those weaknesses.”
Commander Grabble wanted to point out that the power distribution nodes were buried deep within the ship and weren't really “weaknesses” if the enemy had been stopped from getting to them. As space ship designs go, the carrier was a virtual fortress.
“Also give the order to the fleet to prepare for another surface bombardment, tell them not to launch without my explicit orders though.”
The Commander was shocked that the Admiral would even think of using those again, unless he knew where the enemy ships were located.
“I'll have them on stand-by, but I don't know how many penetrators are left. We used quite a lot of them taking out that under-mountain base.”
“Good,” Then to another officer the Admiral said, “Have the Hugh and Sirius move in closer, let us make sure that the boarding party never gets a ride home.”
Meanwhile Commander Grabble was on his way to change into light armor while calling some of the security team to gather with him. They would be setting explosives aboard the ship to try and stop the enemy boarding team.
Marine Tech Ship, Dispensation
Lt. Edwards and his men had mostly cleaned up the blood and bodies. The damage to the ship itself was extensive but they managed to get basic functions routed to some terminals in one of the aft compartments.
External sensors had been linked to the Marines aboard the Umbrage, but finding out what had happened inside Dispensation had taken too long. Finally, though, they had scraped enough sensor data to discover where the stolen Mark IV armor had been taken.
“Patch me into General Gallant, immediately!” Edwards ordered.
After two minutes he was speaking to his superior,
“It seems that whoever stole the Mark IV is aboard the Umbrage!” Edwards reported, “That person has already slaughtered Free Republic personnel, they are a danger to anyone they come across.”
General Gallant rubbed his face, “I've heard nothing corresponding to what happened on Dispensation, might be that this person is after something.”
Edwards looked around, “That person is a killing machine, without a soul of any kind. Anyone who could kill all the helpless people on this ship can do the same there.”
“Thank you, I'll try to do something about it.”
The connection was cut.