It was not everyday that the citizens and digizens of Hades were treated to the spectacle of a Navy lander on an attack run. The dark, hard angled object screamed over habitation stacks like a vengeful angel of death. The flare of its thruster backwash melted the roofs of the cheap prefabs that populated the majority of the Rim, Hades’ poorest region. It was boxy, ungainly even, yet none could mistake its predatory purpose.
Panic on the physical spread in the form of screams as people watched it fly past, ducking away from the fierce heat that grew hotter as those engines brought it lower. Those closest to the landing zone that had been unfortunate to be in its flightpath were treated to unimaginable agony as the searing heat scorched skin, melted plastics and crisped flesh. The panic in the digital was no less intense as those fusion-powered thrusters melted wires and caused digisphere blackouts in the immediate area.
The lander slammed down, landing struts flexing inwards as they took on the shock. The engines switched off, excess heat venting upwards through the lander’s dorsal length. Those still capable of moving were quick to back away from the lander as the ramps slammed down and the bulky figures of power-armoured troopers swarmed out, spreading onto the street. As one, they approached their target, a Hades Metropolitan cordon.
Captain Alanis Thoma had not clawed his way up to the dizzying heights of Metropolitan District Commander by backing down in the face of danger, but there was little a Syncorp stun gun could do to back up his bluster as the troopers jogged towards him, moving through the cordon he and his Metropolitan officers had established.
Each of the troopers were encased in the Navy’s infamous Thrakon class armour, marking the troopers as the Navy’s elite assault troopers. Heavy and bestial in shape, the Thrakon suit turned a trooper into a walking tank. The snarling wyrm’s head helmet that gave the suit its name only served to enhance the reputation of their operators as the Navy’s fiercest.
A digisphere warning told him his details had been lifted which was accompanied by a moment of awe and fear as one of the suits jogged over at frightening speed. A lieutenant’s bars studded the thick shoulder pads just above the stenciled ship’s name: Lyssa’s Fury. Alanis felt his eyes drawn to the suit’s pseudo-tail, the armoured length that served as a balancing tool in motion. Right now, it whipped about with the tip open to reveal the interlink interrogator.
Alanis didn’t want one of those jammed into his head, but this was his damn district and to hell with the Navy’s bull-in-a-china-shop methods.
“Who are you and what the hell are you doing here?”
“Lieutenant Dominikiia Volkova, Lyssa’s Fury. Step aside Captain Alanis, you’ve performed admirably, but this hostage crisis is now a Navy affair.”
‘Admirably’ was obviously code for ‘absolutely nothing’ judging by the tone the woman was giving him. Alanis bristled at the dismissive attitude the Navy trooper directed towards him but he had no doubt that if he dared to attempt an arrest, Dominikiia’s scattercannon would scatter him liberally over the road. If so, his coffin would need to be a flask.
“Why is the Navy sending you lot here? The Metropolitan can handle negotiations with two gangers.”
Alanis’ digizen received an image of a middle aged man, greying, proper but with a warm smile that hinted at a willingness to get decidedly improper. However, it was the uniform and the epaulets that caught the Captain’s attention. The digisphere ID’d him as Admiral Cortez. He ran a query, comparing the image sent from the Lieutenant with that of the hostage sent by the gangers.
Without his uniform, Admiral Cortez cut a less imposing figure. Alanis could not help verbalising his thoughts.
“What’s he doing getting caught up in all this?”
Dominikiia gave a snort that could have been a suppressed laugh.
“Even Admirals occasionally go off-duty. So, you see Captain, it’s a Navy affair now. We’ll handle the negotiations.”
The lieutenant turned away from Alanis and signalled with her hands. Her troopers fanned out, scattercannons held ready as Dominikiia called out, her voice augmented so loud that Alanis had to cup his hands over his ears.
“We know who you are. You will surrender yourselves into Navy custody with your hostage unharmed or we shall begin executing our hostages.”
There was a moment of silence, in which Alanis fancied the gangers inside were probably wondering why someone would threaten hostage takers with hostages.
“Derek Tanner, Alex Tanner, you live in the R12 district, your mother is Sarah Tanner, your father is Peter Tanner.”
Dominikiia signalled her troopers and Alanis watched in horror as two middle-aged citizens were dragged out of the assault lander by their hair. Their cries of pain were ignored and they struggled helplessly in the grip of the gauntlets that held them. They were forced to their knees, each with a scattercannon pressed against their chest. They squirmed, begging for mercy, their eyes gazing dolefully at Alanis. He felt nothing but shame as he carefully looked away, acting as if he could not see their terrified faces in his peripheral vision.
“You have fifteen seconds to surrender yourselves.” She began counting down.
She’d barely made it to twelve when the building’s door cracked open and empty hands were shoved out, clean of weapons. “We’re unarmed! Don’t shoot!” came the cry as every trooper went on alert, raising their weapons to cover the gangers.
Two of her troopers surged forwards and grabbed them, dragging them before their parents.
“Enhance it.” Dominikiia ordered. They nodded, each thrusting their interrogator spikes into their prisoner’s heads. The lieutenant ignored the wails of distress from the elder Tanners as they watched their children convulse, eyes rolling into their head. Their mouths went slack, drool pooling over their clothes before the spikes withdrew.
Alanis knew the chance of permanent brain damage was more likely than not after submitting a human brain to such a fast data query. The younger one, Alex, curled up into a foetal ball, whimpering and shivering.
“Sir, we’ve compiled their memories, the hostage is unharmed and there are no other hostiles.” Dominikiia nodded to the troopers, then signalled another to enter the building.
“Morin. You’re up.”
The hostage was brought carefully out, guided by Trooper Morin. Lieutenant Volkova directed her men to watch the Tanner family before she made her way over to the freed Admiral, the reason for the Navy’s intervention. She straightened up as best she could in the Thrakon suit and threw a sharp salute.
“Admiral Cortez, with the crisis resolved, Admiral Eben Doorej requests the pleasure of your presence for a dinner he has planned aboard Solar Siren.”
“Another twelve-course monstrosity I presume. Lieutenant Volkova, I shall be sure to tell him that his faith in your troopers is well deserved when I meet him. I’ve queried the digisphere, I understand you were able to obtain your intelligence and counter-bargain in record time. You’ve done the Navy proud.” Cortez’s voice was calm, unphased by the scene behind Lieutenant Volkova.
“Yes sir,” the suited trooper said, the pride evident in her voice. “Please take the lander back. My troopers and I will remain behind to finish the cleanup.”
“Do what you must, Lieutenant.”
She snapped another salute, “Yes sir.”
She signalled her troopers.
And then came the roar of two scattercannons as they turned the Tanner’s children into a fine, red mist.