The Calm Before the Storm
August 7th 2134, A hydroelectric power plant ten kilometers north of Mozhaysk
“I’m so bored!” Connor shouted as he paced across the catwalks back and forth. It was a clear cloudless day with no wind and Vapor Team had already checked to see if the power plant was still working nominally three times over. John sat on edge of the roof of the main building with his elbows on his knees and his head resting in his hands. Dale was inside the main building relaxing on one of the couches and listening to metal rock. Arden was sitting on a stool in the power plant control room staring at the status consoles. The air was still and warm with only a slight bit of humidity. There wasn’t any noise besides the dull sound of the water lazily draining through the outflow reservoirs and Connor’s footsteps lightly clanking on the catwalk. The day was really tranquil.
“You said it Smoke,” John said with a bored tone through his helmet com as a follow up.
“Why can’t one of us take a jog to Mozhaysk and contact command again?” Arden asked.
“Because, we don’t know if this Elite Blade group is real or not or when they are coming if they are,” John replied.
“And?” Arden continued.
“So we need to be at full firepower when they get here,” Connor replied. “What if they come while one of us is away and they take the power plant back because we’re one short on manpower?” Connor asked rhetorically.
“Alright, alright,” Arden replied anyways. Connor continued to pace the catwalks.
“Honestly what are we supposed to do in the meantime? The wait is killing me!” Connor said in a frustrated voice.
“Stop shouting and complaining,” Dale suddenly popped in over their helmet coms. “You’re even louder than my music, sheesh.”
“Sorry,” Connor apologized.
“Hey it could be worse,” Dale said trying to add some sympathy. “We could have no one coming to kill us at all you know.”
“I don’t see how that could in any way be worse than the current situation,” Connor replied in a chastising tone.
“It would be even more boring that way right?” Dale asked with a chuckle. Connor just shook his head.
“How’s watch duty going Mist?” Connor asked John.
“It’s a blast,” John replied sarcastically in a bored tone.
Vapor Team was fortunately much better armed this time around. John and Connor had more accurate and longer ranged assault rifles along with their pistols. Arden finally had an assault carbine of his own and his pistol. Dale decided to be daring and carry two assault carbines as well as two pistols. They all had plenty of ammo and three grenades each as well. Connor decided to take all of the knives from the dead RL soldiers as well and keep them for himself. He stored all of them in a small carry pack on the lower back of his armor and strapped a few of the RL soldiers’ knife sheathes on different sections of his armor. He strapped two knife sheathes on his ankles, one sheathe on his right hip opposite his medical trauma kit that every medic was issued, two sheathes on the sides of his upper arms, and one more sheathe on his right shoulder along with the one already on his left shoulder. This means Connor had seven knives sheathed all over his armor and an extra eight more stored in the small pack on his lower back. Connor always loved having a good knife with him, now he had fifteen.
Arden looked at his forearms dismally. He had twelve spare shotgun shells lined on his shell docks but no shotgun to use them with. Arden was always a very proficient close quarters fighter. He could take down anyone in a physical engagement as well, including Corpus and even Dale. However, if he ever wasn’t on the ground fighting up close, he was in the air providing air support. He was the greatest pilot in the FKA.
John was sitting on the roof wishing he had a sniper rifle. He was hands down the greatest sniper in the FKA. Any shot from any possible distance was no problem for John. He was also a natural leader. Even though no one soldier led Vapor Team, it seemed like John was usually the one to formulate the plans and issue the orders. This never really bothered Connor, Dale, or Arden because John’s battle strategies were almost always flawless. Such tactical prowess came with being an expert in recon. Always knowing the layout of the battlefield and enemy positions and assets was John’s specialty.
Dale was just overall scary. If the RLA feared any one soldier of Vapor Team over another it was Dale. Dale had a knack for being the best at adapting to any combat scenario. Dale preferred to carry a large machine gun that fired a huge number of rounds per minute. Most soldiers would shoot such a weapon to suppress and not try to actually aim, but Dale was strong enough to control the kick and could be credited as a marksman with such a machine gun. However, if Dale didn’t have a machine gun, he always liked to wield two weapons at the same time. But being the adaptive soldier that he was, he was no stranger to using stealth and silent tactics. As loud and lethal as Dale was on the battlefield, many in the RLA will say that Dale was even more lethal in the shadows.
Connor was considered the second best marksman in the FKA. John was the best marksman when he used a sniper rifle. Connor was a marksman, but he never used a sniper rifle. Instead he had received special training along with an elite few of other soldiers to use a prototype marksman rifle system. These specially trained soldiers, titled designated marksman’s, were the only ones who could shoot these rifles. This was because the rifle had a sensor inside of it that had to pick up a separate sensor hidden in the armor on the hand of the designated marksman before the rifle would fire. These PMRS were highly advanced rifles that used a focused high speed sonar wave emitter to automatically sight the 4Xscope to the proper distance. This meant that no matter what, the bullet would hit right where the dot of the scope is aimed. The shells holding the bullets of the rifle held two bullets instead of just one, reducing the time spent loading bullets in to the magazine. There was also a setting that caused both bullets to be shot out of the shell at once, with the second bullet striking the target within only two milliseconds of the first. This was done in an attempt to breach a point in a soldier’s armor if the first one only damaged it first. But the need for such a feature would have been considered sloppy shooting on a designated marksman’s part. The DM’s were trained to shoot the vital areas of a soldier, being face, neck, and joints, all where the armor of the hostile was either weak or not present. Connor was of course an even more lethal DM since he was given biogenetic augmentations. Connor was also an expert medic and a highly skilled driver as well.
Connor continued to pace the catwalks wondering if the so called Elite Blade would ever show up. If they don’t show up, all of the skill, tactics, and lethality that we have is being wasted here, Connor thought to himself.
“Heads up guys, we got something moving in the forest out there,” John said over his helmet com. Connor and Arden instantly pulled their guns off of their backs and readied themselves for action. Only six seconds later and Dale burst out of the door of the main building and on to the catwalks holding one of his assault carbines in his hand.
“What is it?” Connor asked in a hushed voice.
“It’s,” John started to say. “False alarm, it’s just a Russian elk.”
“Agh!” Connor cried out very annoyed. Dale shook his head and went back inside the main building. Arden sighed and holstered his carbine again.
“Sorry,” John apologized.
“It’s fine,” Arden said as he returned to monitoring the status computers. Connor dropped and sat down right where he was and leaned against the railing of the catwalk.
“They better come soon,” Connor said. “I can’t stand this quietness.”
“Say again! Vapor Team still hasn’t reported in to FK command yet?” Corpus questioned an officer at another forward command post in Russia.
“N-no sir,” the officer stuttered a little. “They still haven’t reported in sir and it’s been over two days since they were…”
“Where is the closest transport chopper!?” Corpus asked abruptly.
“O-over on the other side of the command post sir,” the officer replied.
“Tell FK command that I am personally going to find out what’s going on at that power plant,” Corpus ordered as he was already very swiftly headed towards the other side of the command post. Corpus reached the other side and there was six transport choppers scattered across a makeshift grassy airfield. Corpus marched up to one of the pilots who was leaning against his chopper.
“Give me your keys to this chopper,” Corpus demanded.
The pilot stood up straight and handed Corpus his keys. Corpus took them and entered the cockpit of the chopper. He ignited the engine and lifted into the air, then flew off towards the direction of the power plant.
(Six hours later)
Connor was pacing the catwalks again and this time Dale was outside leaning on the railing of the catwalks looking towards the woods to the east. Arden had somehow fallen asleep while sitting up on the stool in the power plant control room. John was still sitting on the roof keeping a watch.
“Over six hours of nothing,” Connor remarked. “I had no idea that guard duty was so boring.”
“Stop complaining,” Dale said to Connor. “It could be a lot worse.”
“Yeah I know, we could be not attacked at all. Bla bla bla,” Connor mocked.
“No not that,” Dale said with a grin. “You could be hurt by me if you don’t shut up and stop complaining.”
“I’d like to see you try Shadow.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“Come on, it’ll at least be more fun than sitting here.”
“I’m telling you man, you don’t want to do that.”
“No come on, just a little spar.”
Dale lowered his head and shook his head. Then he stood up off of the railing and turned to look at Connor and said, “You sure you seriously wanna do this? You know I’m just going to embarrass you. I’m a lot stronger.”
“Yeah well I’m a lot taller.”
“Okay then you asked for it.” Dale and Connor met on the catwalk that ran around the main reservoir drain. Connor raised his hands and clenched his right fist but left his left hand slightly open. Dale just chuckled and put his hands on his hips.
“Come on get ready!” Connor exclaimed.
“What are you talking about? I am ready. I’m always ready,” Dale replied.
“Well what are you waiting for? Come at me,” Dale said with another chuckle. Connor stepped closer to Dale and with his right hand threw a punch towards Dale’s face. Dale quickly brought his right hand over and grabbed Connor’s wrist that was moving towards him and brought it down to their groin level, then with his right leg, attempted to trip Connor. Connor hopped up slightly and Dale’s leg slid right under him to Connor’s right side. Connor threw his left arm around the left side of Dale’s neck and almost got him in a choke hold, but Dale ducked under his arm and steadied himself on his right foot and with his left foot, he jab kicked Connor’s knee.
Connor lost his balance and began to fall to down but he caught himself with his left hand on the ground of the catwalk. Still being anchored by his right foot and still holding onto Connor’s wrist, Dale pulled Connor down to his side and Connor landed on his back. Dale pinned Connor’s right arm to the ground of the catwalk and shifted his right leg to pin down Connor’s right leg. Dale brought his left hand over to try to pin Connor’s left arm as well but Connor swiftly punched Dale in the chin with his left fist before he could. Dale was knocked to a sitting position.
Connor shifted himself onto one knee and grabbed Dale’s right leg with both of his hands to get a grip on Dale. Dale grabbed onto the railing of the catwalk behind him and pulled himself to the outer edge of the catwalk, in turn pulling Connor across the width of the catwalk to the other side. Dale kicked Connor in the face and this time Connor stumbled back to a sitting position. Dale quickly climbed on top of the catwalk railing and launched himself on top of Connor. Connor tried to bring a foot up to stop him but was too late. Dale was already on top of him and had both of Connor’s legs pinned with his own. Dale grabbed Connor’s left arm with his right hand and shifted his left leg under Connor’s. Dale pulled Connor’s arm over his body and lifted Connor’s leg above his chest and held him there.
Connor was nearly immobilized by the hold Dale had on him but he still punched Dale in the gut repeatedly with his still free right hand. Dale attempted to quickly shift his hands to pin both of Connor’s hands down at once. Connor took the split second chance with both of his hands free to grab Dale by the sides of his torso and send him backwards over himself and into the reservoir down below. Indeed Dale was sent over the railing by Connor, but Connor heard no splash. Suddenly he was being pulled by his arm under the railing and over the reservoir pit. Connor desperately tried to grip the railing or the edge of the pit but was too late. Dale had grabbed the edge of the pit and pulled him through the railing. He managed to remove Connor’s helmet as he fell into the reservoir pit and submerged in to the water below. Connor rose to the surface and saw Dale holding on to the outer side of the railing and looking down at him.
“Then I chase you and drown you,” Dale said hypothetically. “I win.”
“Yeah whatever,” Connor said doubtfully.
“Are you two done playing around?” John asked them both over his helmet com.
“Yeah, for now,” Connor replied as he climbed the ladder back to the catwalks. Dale tossed him his helmet once he reached the top and Connor put it back on.
“Good, ‘cause it’s almost bedtime,” John said.
“Here, Fog and I have first shift,” Dale proclaimed.
“Alright, sounds fine to me,” John replied. “Get up here then the both of you. Smoke and I will be in the lobby if you need us.” Dale woke Arden up from his nap in the control room and they both headed up to the roof to keep watch. Connor and John found the lobby couches again and went to sleep.
Dale and Arden were once again lying on the roof motionless. An hour of silence passed and what was a clear cloudless day turned into something completely opposite. Night had fallen a while ago and clouds began to appear and loom overhead. Only ten minutes later and the stars weren’t visible. The night was almost pitch black. With no direct moonlight and the lights of the power plant turned off, only the very faint light of the moon illuminating the clouds above lit the landscape. A fog had begun to creep across the power plant as well. Another ten minutes passed and suddenly visibility dropped dangerously low. Arden and Dale couldn’t even see the ground from the rooftop.
“Well this is no good,” Dale whispered to Arden.
“You’re referring to the fog?” Arden asked.
“Yeah, I can’t see a thing.”
“You know we might want to wake up Mist and Smoke and patrol the perimeter and catwalks instead of stay up here on the roof. We can’t even see the ground below,” Dale suggested.
“Sounds good,” Arden replied. They both quietly crawled towards the door on the roof and headed down the staircase to the lobby. Dale kicked the couch that John was on and John sprang up and readied himself to fight until he noticed it was just Dale.
“Calm down man,” Dale said with a chuckle. Arden nudged Connor with his hand on his shoulder and Connor jumped slightly but relaxed after realizing it was Arden.
“Dude, what the heck,” Connor remarked in a tired voice. “What’s wrong? It’s only been a little over an hour.”
“Nothing’s wrong yet, but take a look outside. We need to all be awake and patrolling the power plant,” Arden said to Connor and John.
“Why?” John asked.
“Cause there is almost literally no visibility whatsoever,” Dale replied. “It’s cloudy outside and there’s a really thick fog.”
All four of them walked down the hallway to the front door of the main building. They stepped outside and were completely amazed at how little visibility they had. Only a fraction of the parking lot in front of them was visible. The main gate to the south was hidden in the fog. Connor looked up behind them and couldn’t see the roof of the building.
“This is just great,” Connor said sarcastically.
“Oh it’s not that bad,” Arden added.
“Easy for you to say,” Dale said to Arden. “You’re name is Fog. Of course you’d find this atmosphere appealing.”
“Okay, well we need to split up and patrol the power plant,” John proclaimed. “I’ll patrol the cliff to the west. Shadow, you patrol the edge of the forest to the east. Fog, you patrol the front of the building and the parking lot. Smoke, you patrol the catwalks in case any hostiles slip past us.”
“Sounds good,” Connor added. He headed up the ramp to the catwalks and charted out his own little path he would walk from catwalk to catwalk. Dale and Arden just nodded. Arden walked towards the parking lot and Dale headed to the forest edge to the east. John climbed the cliff to the west once again.
Two hours passed and it was now 1:30 A.M. After two hours of back and forth patrolling, the looming clouds and thick fog still hadn’t dissipated. Vapor Team hadn’t said a word this whole time. Finally, John broke the silence.
“Vapor Team, check in,” John requested.
Then they were silent again. Dale walked quietly and cautiously up and down the edge of the forest line. There was a large tree to Dale’s left as he was walking south and as he approached it, he noticed the faintest silhouette of what appeared to be a fuzzy humanoid shape on the left side of the tree. Dale raised one of his assault carbines and trained it on the figure. He swiftly but silently got behind the large tree. He peeked around the right side of the tree and the figure was gone. Dale checked his sonar radar but nothing was unusual or on the move. Dale performed a quick 360 degree turn but still nothing was out of the ordinary. Dale said nothing, afraid that even the slightest whisper could be heard by the possible hostile person he saw, or thought he saw at least. Dale cautiously continued to patrol the forest edge until he saw it again. Another silhouette, or possibly the same one, loomed in between two trees, but Dale blinked and it was gone again.
As quietly as possible, Dale whispered over his helmet com, “Fog, is that you?”
“I’m in the parking lot,” Arden replied in a soft voice as well.
Dale took his left hand off of the grip of his assault carbine and unsheathed the large curved blade on his right shoulder. He kept his carbine trained on the position of where the ghostly figure was with his right hand and held his knife up at chest level with his left. Dale slowly walked towards the spot where the silhouette was.
Arden was walking in a crouched position in between the cars in the parking lot. He reached the edge of the parking lot and noticed something disturbing. There were a couple of patches of grass the size of a foot that was pressed down closer to the ground. Arden knew that these weren’t caused by him or anyone else in Vapor Team, because the grass was slowly rising back to the same level of the grass surrounding these two spots. Someone just recently walked this way, Arden thought to himself. Arden then heard a very faint footstep behind him against the tarmac of the parking lot.
John was walking across the cliff with a distance just far away enough from the cliff that if he was any farther, the cliff wouldn’t be visible. Suddenly, John heard a small rock, the size of a pebble, strike what sounded like another rock. The sound came from the edge of the cliff. John readied his assault rifle and walked towards the cliff line. He leaned over the edge but saw just the fog below. Then he heard the grass ruffle just behind him.
Connor walked around the catwalks feeling generally safe. No hostile is going to get to me before he gets to John, Arden, or Dale first, Connor thought to himself. Connor walked the catwalks until he reached the center catwalk next to the main drain reservoir. He looked over the edge of the railing and into the reservoir, but nothing was there. Connor stopped leaning over the edge of railing and looked across the catwalk to find a humanoid silhouette standing at the other end of the catwalk. Connor quickly raised his rifle and focused it on the silhouette. Before Connor could do anything, he heard the sound of multiple weapons cocking behind him. Crap, Connor thought to himself.
“No sudden movements,” A voice said to Connor from behind. “Drop your weapons.”