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Markus awoke to his blaring Palm-Comm once again. It was starting to become the norm to wake up abruptly. Markus didn’t mind. He was on edge most of the time anyways. He rolled out of bed and showered. He mindlessly brushed his teeth before grabbing his sidearm and approaching the door, heading for the range. He enjoyed getting target practice in before breakfast. He secretly hoped Ashley was there, too.
He walked down the halls past several busy men. Some were guards, others were Elites who had gotten back from missions. Some were facility workers with dolly’s, others had clipboards. Fresh beach air blew through his medium length black hair when Markus exited the complex. The ocean’s waves crashed against the walls in the distance. Markus gazed into the deep ocean for nearly a minute before shifting his gaze to the busied city of Norvenia. to his right. He stared at the city until a lump in his throat formed. It reminded him of his father and his childhood.
With a sigh, he walked down to the range where he warmed up for an hour. By the end of the hour his shots were almost dead on. When his Palm-Comm alerted him of breakfast he dropped his empty charges in the basket along with dozens of others and put his weapon on safety. He casually strolled passed many soldiers, guards and elites to get back to his dorms to put his weapon back.
Eventually, after he placed his weapon back in it’s box under his nightstand, he made it to the BlackJack’s dining room. Ten elites ate noisily as they chatted and laughed. Markus caught glimpse of Ashley, surrounded by friends, Dwayne, making a fool of himself in front of a few men, and Johnson, who was listening to Dwayne.
After piling his plate with food Markus sat next to Johnson.
“What’s up, my brother?” Johnson greeted warmly. It was apparent he had already accepted him into the BlackJack family.
“Just getting a little breakfast.” Markus answered while buttering his toast.
“Hey man, I saw you fight Ashley. Just so you know, you fared better than anyone else has. Ever.” He glanced over at her to make sure she wasn’t watching, “She is simply the best Elite in the squad. Possibly even the best in Commander Smith’s battalion!” Markus scoffed,
“Give me a month, I’ll beat her.” Johnson chuckled in disbelief.
“Might I remind you that she dragged you out of Devroy Headquarters before the police arrested you?”
“Never mind that, it was her job. I’m requesting a mission soon and we’ll see who’s better at pleasing the commander.” Markus said before sipping juice.
“You’re very sure of yourself, John. You’ve never even been on a mission before.”
“Well, no,” Markus shrugged, “But how hard can it be? You get the job done and you do it well, not much more to it.” Johnson shook his head.
“Can’t wait to see your first mission” He said under his breath while stabbing scrambled eggs.
“What?” Markus asked, glancing up at him.
“Nothing, nothing.” Johnson assured, turning his attention to Dwayne who was laughing hysterically. “What a nut.” He thought, shaking his head.
Markus looked up and spotted a man in a black jumpsuit much like his. Just by looking at him you could tell he was not to be messed with. He wore a nasty scar right down the middle of his right eye. A scowl was almost constantly on his face. His short slick black hair was combed back.
“Who the hell is he?” Markus whispered to Johnson.
“Oh, him? He’s you a few days ago.” Markus glared at him.
“Very funny.” Johnson chuckled at his reaction.
“His name is Ramey Brosson.” Johnson began, “At least that’s his new identity. We’ve been recruiting like crazy recently.” Markus eyed him carefully as Johnson continued, “Something about him says that he has experience being an elite. Maybe he was transferred.” Markus observed as he quietly finished his breakfast and exited the hall. He had almost finished his breakfast when his Palm-Comm went off. Markus adjusted his ear piece as commander Smith’s voice came through.
“John, good to see Ashley didn’t kill you.”
“I heard about your training session with her. She said your skills were adequate.” Markus cleared his throat. “Anyways, that’s not why I called. I have a mission for you.”
“Finally, I’ve been waiting for this.” Commander Smith sighed,
“Meet me in the observation room when you’re finished with breakfast.”
“Yes, sir.” Markus stood up and headed for the door. Just before he passed the doorway he glanced at Ramey who was watching him with a scowl. Trying to ignore it, he made his way to the armory, passing busied men and soldiers, people doing their jobs. He entered the armory and looked around. Nobody else was armoring up, obviously.
The gleaming armor rested on the rack, just waiting to be put on. It took Markus almost five minutes, but he finally equipped himself with full light armor. Just enough to stop a bullet from piercing a vital organ, or anything but a straight shot from taking a limb out. Markus preferred a scout’s armor because it preserved almost all dexterity. With the scout’s armor, you could run faster, and sneak more silently than any other suit of armor. Of course, the elites got cloaking modules in their scout’s armor. A necessity for stealth.
With a role of the neck and a slight shaking of the joints, Markus glanced at himself. A heavy duty belt carried his side arm along with three charges for it around his dark blue armor. A combat knife was buckled in his left forearm, ready for close quarters combat. His rifle hung strapped behind his back. The armor connected with his Palm-Comm, giving him the ability to control his convertible helmet that was built into the suit. With the push of a button, a helmet wrapped around Markus’ head and left him ready for combat. Satisfied, Markus hit the button again and the Helmet retracted, folding into his back plates.
With the push of another button on his Palm-Comm, his body dissolved into a clear see-through silhouette. Markus nodded in approval of his cloaking devise and deactivated it. He also had instant access to cameras and security doors if he suspected suspicious activity.
“I love my job.” He whispered to himself, stepping out of the armory. He didn’t necessarily say that because his circumstances were amazing, nor did he say it because the people he worked with were always in his likings, but mostly because it fit the moment. Besides, he got the best equipment free, all he had to do was serve justice. What more could Markus ask for?
The clear sky was easily visible through the occasional window every few feet in each hallway. Markus looked left, then looked right. He sighed. This is where his work began. He made a quick turn and started for the observation room. Now that he was fully armed people began making a path for him. He smirked at the thought and went down a few steps. Markus arrived at an elevator door with the number two printed on it. The door split in two and slid out of Markus’ way as he stepped into the elevator. It only took a few moments for them to slide closed again and the elevator to begin it’s ascension. Mark took a deep breath and exhaled deeply letting his cheeks puff up in the process. He shook out his joints and rolled his head before the elevator doors opened.
Across the room Markus stepped into was Commander Smith. He had his arms folded behind his back and was observing the men at the range. He turned around when Markus approached.
“Ah, John.” He began, “How are you enjoying your stay?”
“Fair enough,” Markus answered as they shook hands, “You have a mission for me?” commander Smith sighed and turned his gaze back outside,
“Yes, but I need to be sure personal implication’s won’t get in the way. You’re one of the best, so I need you, but if you can’t do the job” He stopped there, but Markus got his meaning.
“Don’t worry, Commander, I’ll get the job done.” The Commander eyed him carefully,
“Okay, good, then to the briefing room.” He led the way to a room just beside the observation deck. Inside was a Terrain-Table in the middle of the room and several chairs and sofas all around.
“We need a few of the Blackjack squad members to continue the briefing.” Commander Smith said, nodding to a guard who rushed off. It only took a few minutes before Ashley, Dwayne, Ramey and Johnson sat around the terrain table.
“The Pirate group in custody of advanced Devroy Manufactured weaponry vacated their base of operations that Devroy was sending their weapons to. They completely relocated on a different system. They don’t know it yet, but they brought one of our Elites with them. That Elite has contacted us with their coordinates.” The Commander paused and turned his attention to the terrain table that suddenly illuminated. Markus folded his arms in thought,
“We are not only sending a battalion to bring them down, but a few members of the Blackjack squad. John, Ashley, Dwayne, Ramey and Johnson, our top Elites from the Blackjack squad.” Markus glanced around the room and saw that everyone was concentrating on what the Commander was saying.
“There really isn’t much more to it. You will be further briefed on the details by the commanding officer at the camp.”
“When do we deploy?” Johnson asked,
“One hour. Suit up and be at hanger seven by then, understood?” The Elites in the room began to mosey towards the door. “Go give them hell, Elites!”
“Who Ra!” Dwayne bellowed. Markus left the room and headed for the elevator with the rest of the Elites. It was pretty silent on the way down until Johnson broke the silence,
“I can’t wait to kill some me some pirates.” Markus glanced at him, then dismissed the urge to tell him not to be so hasty. The elevator doors opened and Markus made his way to his dorm. He really didn’t have anywhere else to go. The group followed him until he passed the armory. They went in and Markus kept walking to his dorm. He walked in and collapsed on the desk chair. He sat there for fifteen minutes before adjusting his chair to look out his window at the ocean. The more he stared at the ocean the more he thought about Ashley. The ocean would forever remind him of Ashley and the city would forever remind him of his father.
Markus wondered how his father was doing. Did he really believe Markus was dead? No, he told him he was joining the elites, surely he figured out by now that he wasn’t really dead. Still, Markus wanted to see him. How was the trial doing? Maybe Ashley would have a news pad. Markus stood up and headed out his door. He glanced at the clock and surprisingly assessed it had been almost half an hour since the briefing.
He walked out of his room and turned left to Ashley’s dorm. Her door was in sight when Markus’ diaphragm began cramping up. Suddenly breathing became difficult. He usually doesn’t get nervous, how odd. He stood up properly and approached the door. He only had to knock on it twice before it opened. Ashley sat at her desk, which was identical to Markus’, with her back slouched over and her face buried in her hands. It was obvious she had armored up and was looking at the ocean.
“May I come in?” Markus asked. Ashley bolted up and turned around. She quickly wiped something off her cheek then rubbed her bloodshot eyes. The door slid closed behind him.
“Markus!” She exclaimed. She knew his code name was John, but she obviously preferred calling him Markus. The realization that ‘Ashley’ probably wasn’t Ashley’s real name hit Markus in the face once again. He had to ask her.
“Are you okay, Ash?” She nodded her head,
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Her voice only quivered once before she found her strength. “Was there something you needed, Markus?” Markus weekly smiled,
“Why do you call me Markus?” Ashley looked at her feet, then turned around to look at the ocean again.
“It makes me feel close to you.” Her voice was softening again. Markus stepped up beside her to look out the ocean beside her.
“Is Ashley your real name?” He asked quietly. He knew the answer already, but he was hoping she would tell him without having to take the initiative.
“No.” she answered. It was the answer he was expecting, but a man can hope, right?
“A few days ago you said we had met before.” Their eyes met. She bit her lower lip and looked at her toes.
“Look, I’d love to talk more, but I just got additional orders.” She explained, opening her dresser’s drawer.
“Really? What kind of orders.” Ashley’s silence dominated the room. It was obvious something was disturbing her greatly. She wasn’t like this a few minutes ago. Her orders obviously carried huge implications. She looked up and peered out her window into the ocean.
“Would you kill an innocent person to preserve peace, or let the innocent man live, but put a whole people in harm’s way?” The question dropped a weight onto Markus’ lap that threatened to crush him. It left him speechless. How could he answer such a heavy question? He knew his answer though. Markus mustered the courage and spoke with empty confidence.
“Peace comes at a cost.” He paused and thought more about his answer.
“The common good is more valuable than the one person.” Although Markus believed what he said through and through, he feared it wasn’t the answer Ashley was looking for. Which is more important to you, Markus? The question invaded his thoughts and stood at the forefront of his mind. He dismissed it as quickly as he could and looked at his feet. “Even if the person is innocent.” His mouth added without his mind’s approval.
Ashley sucked in her lips to hide a frown and dropped her gaze to the drawer she had opened.
“I feared you would say that.” Markus inwardly frowned in confusion. The few hints she was dropping weren’t enough to crack the case hiding her orders. Was she asked to kill an innocent man? Perhaps someone close? Paranoia began cracking through the walls of his mind. He shut it out as quickly as it came. There was no possible way she was asked to kill an innocent person. That was just his paranoia. It was simply impossible. He rolled his eyes at himself and dismissed the possibility.
“Ashley, you can tell me, what is it?” Ashley turned and looked at Markus with sorrowful eyes.
“It’s my sister, she-” Ashley was interrupted by her Palm-Comm. She examined it carefully and sighed, “I have to go, I’m sorry.” The pitter-patter of her footsteps across the stone-cold floor stopped short any deep thoughts Markus’ mind might dive into. She walked right out her room and down the hall. Her door slid closed, leaving Markus alone in her room.
The ocean beckoned for Markus’ gaze. He found himself looking at it for five minutes before turning to see a piece of paper on Ashley’s nightstand. He walked over to it and saw the piece of paper that had been folded three times. It was obviously a letter that had been in an envelope. Markus couldn’t help but read the note. The first thing he noticed is the fact that It was written to someone named “Diane.” Could that be Ashley’s real name? The content of the letter was mostly irrelevant except that it was obviously from a close relative. Ashley’s sister, maybe? It was signed “Susan.”
The letter dropped back on the nightstand and Markus sighed. He forced his legs to walk out of her room. They kept walking until he arrived at hanger seven. A space worthy shuttle was parked in the middle of the pad. Markus sat on a nearby crate and waited for more Elites to show up. Eventually, Johnson came walking around the corner in medium armor and towards Markus. Medium armor is the same as a scout’s armor except with an extra layer of plating and a projectile shield system. It is pretty much ideal for missions like this. Markus still preferred lighter armor.
“John.” Johnson nodded. Markus nodded back. They sat in silence until Dwayne came. Dwayne showed up in medium armor also. He greeted both Markus and Johnson with a nod. Markus couldn’t help but examine his intricate rifle. He also couldn’t help but notice the two squads of twenty men lingering around the hangers beside them. About ten minutes later Ramey showed up in Scout’s armor. He didn’t acknowledge the others presence at all. Roughly ten minutes of awkwardly sitting there occurred before Commander Smith approached the group.
“Gentlemen, I see you’re ready. Get in the shuttle and strap in, you know the drill.” An alarm triggered in Markus’ mind. Where was Ashley?
“What about Ashley, Commander?” Dwayne asked loudly as the shuttle’s engines revved to life. Markus exhaled deeply in thankfulness that he didn’t have to ask.
“She is going on her own shuttle later, good luck, soldiers!” The four Elites walked aboard the ten seat shuttle and sat down. They quickly strapped in as the ramp closed and sealed.
“Passengers, this is your pilot speaking, please strap yourselves in as we will be breaking the atmosphere.” The shuttle rumbled and shook violently as it lifted off and began to pick up speed. Conversation was impossible for twenty minutes as the ship violently shook through the sky in an upward climb. The engines were so loud it made it hard to think, let alone speak.
It was obvious when they broke through the atmosphere. All became silent and peaceful. It stayed that way for ten minutes until Ramey spoke up.
“This your first mission, Murphy?” Markus turned to him and nodded once. A smile spread across his crooked face. Silence once again dominated the shuttle for a while until Johnson spoke up.
“What’s your story, Ramey?” Ramey cracked his neck and shook his head.
“There is no story. I’m just a battle hardened elite with nothing to live for.” He answered in his rustic voice.
“What about that scar, how’d you get it?” Dwayne asked. He was like a child at times. Eager to hear tales of adventure even though he had the most adventurous job a Separatist could ask for. The scowl returned to Ramey’s face.
“I was on a mission similar to this one.” He began. Large pauses seemed to form between his sentences. “I was taking out hostiles left and right with my wingman when suddenly I realized my wingman was gone. I ran for the extraction point only to find my partner waving at me with a grin as he flew away.”
“I was out of the game for a while.” He reported. “The slavers we were killing took me captive and tortured me. For years.” Another long pause, “I killed every one of them before I escaped to find my former partner.” Markus adjusted in his seat awkwardly. “When I returned I found him with his wife and two children.” Ramey pulled a combat knife from it’s sheath. “I killed them all with this knife.” He said proudly as if it was show and tell.
“Slowly.” He added. Dwayne unstrapped his restraints and moved over to the side Markus and Johnson were sitting, leaving Ramey with the row all to himself. Markus, Johnson and Dwayne were all speechless. Ramey chuckled and sheathed his knife again.
“Nah,” He said with a grin, “I’m just kiddin’. I was in a bar fight when a knife was pulled.” He continued to chuckle to himself but the other three remained completely stunned. Markus blinked away thoughts and shook his head in an attempt to decipher what to think of Ramey. Who makes such a sick joke? The next two hours were completely silent. Everyone’s eyes were glued on Ramey. Every now and then Johnson would glance at Dwayne and Markus to see if they were still staring at Ramey. They were. Ramey didn’t seem to notice at all. He just continued to quietly look around the small compact room.
“What?” Ramey finally asked, wiping his nose, “Do I have something on my face?”
Seems like it... sigh, once again, I'm going to recommend some of my favorite authors...
Hammer's Slammers, North World, etc...
Honor Harrington Series, Empire from the Ashes, In Fury Born, Apocalypse Troll, etc.
March Upcountry (w/ D. Weber)
(Ringo's written a lot of other stuff, this is the only one I've read though)
So yeah, I've probably thrown these at you at least half-a-dozen times... yeah, sorry 'bout that.
Edited by Warhawk on 4/10/2013 8:20 PM PDT
Okay, don't kill me here but... I've actually never read any sci-fi. Read some fantasy though.
Honestly, Mass Effect is what really opened my mind to the amazingness of Sci-fi. After that was when I really started to appreciate Starcraft for what it is and then I got into RPing.
That's fine... but if you've never read any of the 'classics' DO NOT read what I've recommended.. yet. :P
If you like it, read Ender's Shadow. (It's basically the same story but from another perspective)
Sh!t. There's more, but I can't remember them off the top of my head...
Now I really aught to slap you.
Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein.
There's been movies, tv series and probably video games based off this book. VERY damn good book. A surprising amount of psychoanalysis and the like, but most older Sci-Fi is like that.
Edited by Warhawk on 4/10/2013 8:36 PM PDT
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