Fit for Duty
August 29th 2134, A military hospital in Mozhaysk Russia
Vapor Team was sleeping on different beds in different corners of a room in the military hospital. They all wore plain white t-shirts and camouflage khaki pants. The hospital room’s lights were dimmed. The walls were painted a fading white color. After twenty-one days of care and rest, Vapor Team’s injuries were completely healed and they were currently wrapping up physical therapy. Dale’s limbs were sprawled out across his bed and his mouth was slightly open. John was lying on his side and letting out a faint snore with every breath. Arden was lying on his back sleeping rather peacefully. Connor, however, was fidgeting in his sleep. He was dreaming.
Connor was driving in a high speed race on a race course near Moscow. It was the last lap, and he was in the lead.
“Number 04 is rounding the last turn!” the race announcer boomed. “I think he has this race in the bag folks.” Connor grinned as he sped up for the final stretch. He was at least three seconds ahead of the person in second place. Then Connor heard the announcer again.
“Oh! An awful crash by the two racers in sixth and seventh place!” the announcer said. “I don’t think they will be finishing the race. Paramedics are on the track and a yellow flag has been raised to signal another final lap after the wreckage is cleared.”
Connor frowned at the signaling of another lap when he was already so close to winning. He started slowing down to head in to the pits near the starting line. Connor looked up at one of the giant monitors across from the spectator stands and his blood ran cold. Penelope Delania, Connor’s fiancée, was the racer in sixth place, and her racecar was totaled and flipped over on top of a side rail. Then Connor’s eyes grew wide and his soul dropped to the deepest possible level when he noticed Penelope laying in the middle of the road and not moving.
Connor deviated off of his course in to the pits and sped up to top speed. The flagman waved the yellow flag violently at Connor to get his attention to slow down and head to the pits, but Connor ignored him. He dashed around the course turn after turn, bank after bank until he reached the site of the crash. Connor drove his car in to the grass next to the course and launched himself out of his racecar. He sprinted as fast as he could to Penelope’s side, but it wasn’t the pretty sight that she usually conveyed.
She had a large gash running down the side of her head and blood trickled down from her across her cheeks. She had a broken arm and three broken ribs. Her ankle was twisted out of socket as well and her blue jumpsuit with pink stripes was torn and blackened by the pavement.
“No. No no no no!” Connor said as tears started to enter his eyes. He felt for a heartbeat and a sliver of relief struck him. She had a heartbeat, but was only faintly breathing. “HEEELLLLPPPP!” Connor shouted at the top of his lungs. The paramedics were there only a few seconds later. Connor took Penelope up in his arms and carried her to the back doors of the ambulance van so quickly that the paramedics didn’t even have time to pull out the gurney. The paramedics took her out of Connor’s arms and placed her in the back of the ambulance and closed the doors. Connor stood still feeling paralyzed, horrified, and helpless.
“God, please be with her,” Connor muttered as he dropped to his knees in the middle of the track and started crying. The wheels of the ambulance screeched….
“GAAH!” Connor shouted as he lunged up to a sitting position, awaking from his dream. He was breathing heavily and his darted from one end of the room to the other.
“Dude, what the hell,” Dale said as he rubbed his eyes from being awoken by Connor’s shout.
“Sorry,” Connor apologized. “Just a bad dream.”
“Those are always fun,” John remarked sarcastically. Connor glanced over to John and Arden, who he apparently also awoke.
“What time is it?” Arden asked with a yawn.
“It’s 6:40,” John answered, staring at the clock above Arden’s bed. “Our final morning stretch and therapy session is in twenty minutes.”
“Wake me up when I care,” Dale said as he rolled over in his bed.
“Come on Shadow, let’s go find some coffee,” John offered. Dale moaned as he and John got up and left the room to the cafeteria.
“You had a bad dream too?” Arden asked Connor.
“Yeah, why? Did you have one?” Connor asked in reply.
“Yeah. I had a dream about my dad,” Arden answered.
“Your dad who is still a POW in Moscow?”
“I see,” Connor said. “Well it won’t be long before we win this war and you can rescue him.”
“I hope he is still alive,” Arden said in a softer voice. “I mean, you know he’s a businessman, and he was on a business trip to Moscow. But then the war started and all Democratic supporters were imprisoned. Who knows if they are torturing them or executing them.”
“Don’t talk like that man,” Connor said. “You gotta keep fighting for him, and keep believing he’s alright.”
“Isn’t that kind of hard for you to say?” Arden asked. “I know what your dream was about by the way. It was pretty obvious.”
“You mean how can I say that when the one I’m fighting for is already dead?”
“Yeah,” Arden replied.
“Because I have to keep believing that she’s still, by some miracle, okay.”
“Connor,” Arden said, using his real name. “Look at what has happened. She was fatally injured, and admitted to the hospital. The doctors even specifically said ‘she isn’t going to make it’. And to top it all off, the RLA took the place over once the war started. She is almost certainly…”
“I’m not believing it until I see her dead body, and as far as I’m concerned I haven’t yet,” Connor interrupted.
“Alright man,” Arden gave up. “If it keeps you inspired to keep kicking ass like we all do by believing she’s alright, it’s good enough for me,” he said with grin. “I’m going to go grab some grub.”
“That actually sounds great,” Connor said after his stomach grumbled loudly. Arden laughed at that and they both got up and headed to the cafeteria. After meeting back up with Dale and John where they all ate, they all headed to one of the hospital commons area that was converted in to a makeshift fitness gym. They met with their therapy instructor for their final examination before being declared fit for duty again.
“Right on time,” the instructor said as she looked at her watch. She was a five foot tall woman in her late twenties with bleach blonde hair and was wearing aerobics clothing. She also held a clipboard and pen in her hands. “You ready to get back in to the field?” she asked with a large smile on her face.
“You have no idea,” Connor replied.
“Great, I’ll try and make this quick,” she stated. “You first?” she asked John, pointing to him with her pen. John nodded and walked up to her, standing only two feet away. She ran him through his required exercises and John performed them with ease.
“It’s nice to know that not even a bunch of bullets,” she started to say. “Or even a knife to the gut can stop you,” she finish as she pointed her pen at Connor. Connor stepped up and performed his exercises easily as well. Arden laughed at the height difference between Connor and the instructor, since Connor was six feet and nine inches tall.
“Alright then mister, you think it’s so funny? You’re next,” the instructor said to Arden with one hand on her hip. Arden stepped up to her and performed his exercises. “And now you,” she said pointing to Dale with her pen.
“I see you’re the kind of person who saves the best for last,” Dale remarked. Connor smacked his forehead with his palm and Arden and John shook their heads in unison. Dale performed his exercises easily just like the rest. The instructor nodded and wrote down some things on her clipboard. After a few seconds passed, she finished and smiled at them.
“Well sirs, you are now back on duty,” she proclaimed starting to grin. “You’re armor suits are in storage wing B, just down the hall from here, and the armory is just down the hall from there. Ask the storage attendant for any further directions.” She shook all of their hands.
“Thank you very much, ma’am. We’ll see you around,” John said. Vapor Team then proceeded to the storage wing and suited up. They’re armor still had the bullet holes and battle scars from the previous engagements. Those would have to be fixed somewhere other than a hospital. For now the armor suits still functioned nominally. Vapor Team looked at each other after they were in their armor again and couldn’t help but smile behind their visors.
“Never thought I’d say that I feel a lot more comfortable wearing these things than not,” Arden proclaimed.
“Haha, I hear ya on that,” Connor agreed. Vapor Team then headed to the armory. Once they entered, they noticed all the weapons they needed stored there.
“Since you’re the one who knows this hospital and where it’s located, what kind of loadout should we be taking?” Dale asked Connor as he picked up a heavy machine turret.
“Well you won’t be wanting that,” Connor started to say to back at Dale. “Cause there is one really, really big problem.” Dale froze and gazed at Connor curiously.
“And what would this problem be?” John asked Connor.
“The hospital is in Moscow,” Connor replied. John and Arden both stopped and slowly turned to stare at Connor. At least six seconds of silence passed before any of them spoke.
“Well, fuck,” Arden groaned.
“In Moscow!” John raised his voice unhappily.
Dale turned around slowly and put the heavy machine turret back down. “Never mind then,” he said.
“We’ll have to pack fairly light and make sure that we suppress our weapons. A night op will be the best way to go about this I think,” Connor said. “Here’s what I think we should do. Take a stealth dropship high over enemy lines and in to Moscow. Make sure we have jet packs because they will be important later. Parachute in to the general vicinity of the hospital, then enter either from the roof or through a window. Once inside we cut off communications leaving the hospital. We take any valuable information we find and as much of it as we can before being discovered. After that, we exfiltrate by jet packing up to our stealth dropship high above the hospital. With the hospital communications jammed, they won’t be able to call any air strikes against our dropship if they hear or see us flying back up to it.”
John thought for a second considering the plan. “I like it,” he said.
“Yeah me too,” Arden agreed.
“Same here,” Dale added. John picked out a sniper rifle, pistol, and one grenade. Dale grabbed two pistols and a carbine. Arden grabbed a pistol and a shotgun. Connor picked out a pistol and glanced at a rifle on one of the racks.
“Any one of you named Smoke?” a gruff voice said from the entrance to the armory.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Connor replied glancing at the man who spoke. It was the armory attendant officer and he was holding a rectangular case. He walked up to Connor and handed him the case he was holding.
“Colonel Corpus had this delivered here for you,” he said, then turned around and walked out of the armory. Connor inspected the case he was just given and noticed a symbol on the top left corner of the front of the case. It was a blue star with black crosshairs over it and two italicized silver letters over that which was a solid “DM”.
“No way,” Connor said with high hopes as he unlatched the case and opened it. Inside was his PMR and ten full magazines, as well as a suppressor and plenty of extra bullets. Connor pulled out the PMR and gripped it firmly in his hands. “We definitely have the best Colonel to report to,” Connor said with a grin. All four of them loaded their weapons, synched them to their HUDs, suppressed them, and also grabbed a jetpack. Lastly, they all grabbed one grenade each, just in case they got in a difficult situation.
“We all ready to head out?” Arden asked.
“Oh yeah,” Dale said as he looked down at his carbine approvingly.
“Let’s hitch a ride to the nearest military outpost,” John said. “We can get a ride on a stealth dropship from there.” Vapor Team left the armory and had a soldier drive them ten kilometers southeast to a military outpost. Once there, they contacted Corpus in the command center.
“This is Colonel Corpus, come in,” Corpus said over one of the command centers communication consoles.
“Colonel, this is Vapor Team. We have a plan of infiltration and data recovery,” John stated. John informed Corpus of their plan to retrieve any data possible from Krietchner Hospital.
“A simple and solid plan,” Corpus remarked. “I like it. You do what you have to do. Get a pilot and infiltrate that hospital.”
“Will do Colonel, Vapor Team out,” John said, ending the call.
“So this is it?” Arden asked rhetorically. “This is the mission to uncover the answers to end the war.”
“Or at least figure out more about this Elite Blade that the RLA has,” Connor added. All four of them left the command center and proceeded to the air pads and air strips. A pilot standing near his dropship walked towards Vapor Team. As he got closer, Dale hung his head a little when he noticed who he was. It was Oliver Tennis.
“Well greetings again young masters,” Oliver said in his cheery British accent. “I will be your pilot again on this fine day.”
“Hey there Specialist,” Connor said in an equally cheery voice. “Good to see you again.”
“I understand, that this next task that sir Corpus has given us is a much more dangerous one right?” Oliver asked.
“I’m afraid so,” John replied.
“Well you can count on me to get the job done. When are we leaving?” Oliver asked.
“Well it’s three o’clock now, so I’d say in about eight hours,” Arden replied.
“You wanna grab some food with us for now Specialist?” John asked.
“I would be delighted sir,” Oliver answered with a genuine smile stretching across his face. After eight hours of lounging around the outpost, Vapor Team and Oliver met at the dropship once again. They boarded the dropship and readied themselves for the complicated operation ahead of them.
“All strapped in back there?” Oliver asked over the intercom from the cockpit.
“Strapped in and ready to go,” Connor answered.
“Hey, can you skip the procedural talk this time?” Dale asked. “We know what to do.”
“Aye, fine. I can do that,” Oliver gave in. The dropship’s VTOL engines flared up and roared to life. Not long afterward, Oliver took it high in to the night sky. The dropship they were in was pressurized and had its own separate supply of oxygen. If needed, it could fly in to outer space for a short period of time. Oliver took the dropship three hundred kilometers in to the sky. Vapor Team looked out the windows and could easily see the curvature of the Earth.
“Quite the view,” Arden stated.
“Alright masters, we are now on our way to Moscow,” Oliver announced. “Get ready to, as it will only take us about twenty five minutes to get there. At this altitude we’ll be safe from any visual scan, and the exo-temperature equalizers will mask us from any thermal scan. Satellite imagery could technically work, but it’s highly unlikely.”
“Roger that,” John said. Vapor Team checked their weapons and equipment one last time.
“This is it,” Connor proclaimed. “What we find down there could possibly win the war for us.”
“Good, cause I’m getting tired of this war,” Dale said in reply. A few minutes passed and they were finally over Moscow. Oliver stopped the dropship and began a vertical decent down to just below the clouds.
“Looks like a storm has brewed up below us,” Oliver announced. Lightning was indeed stretching through the night sky and crackling so loudly even the airtight walls of the dropship vibrated. The dropship shook from side to side from the heavy wind the storm was blowing about. Rain was also falling heavily on the city below. “The hospital is somewhere in this section of the city. You have two hours. Come to this exact spot when you’re done and I’ll be waiting in the air for you. Good luck masters, and I’ll see you in a few.”
“Thanks Specialist,” Dale said to Oliver. “I’m opening the hatch now.” Dale pressed a large red button on side wall of the dropship and four foot by four foot square hatch opened up in the floor, revealing the city and harsh weather below. Dale then pencil dived out of the dropship, followed by Connor, John, and then Arden. All four of them free fell until they were a reasonable distance above the buildings to deploy their parachutes.
“Chutes out,” John said over his helmet com. Vapor Team deployed their parachutes. The rain pattered against the fabric of their parachutes above them. The violent winds made it hard to direct their landing on any one building. They were being pushed and pulled here and there by storm’s gusts.
“Good landing spotted, high building with flashing red lights,” Connor recommended. “How copy? Agreeable?”
“Agreed,” John replied.
“I see it,” Dale added.
“Directing course there now,” Arden said. Vapor Team glided toward the skyscraper that Connor had recommended. Dale and Connor landed safely in the middle of the roof. John landed near the edge, and Arden landed not so gracefully on his back. Suddenly a massive wind gust caught all of their parachutes and sent them tumbling over.
“Detach your chutes!” Connor yelled out. Connor and Dale reached back and detached their parachutes. John did the same just before he was blown off of the edge of the building. Arden however, got caught by the wind gust and was quickly sliding towards the edge of the roof. He fumbled to detach the parachute on his back, but since he was sliding on his back he couldn’t.
“Fog!” Dale yelled, chasing after him. Arden pulled out his knife and made a few quick swipes at the string tethering the parachute to his back. The parachute finally cut free and floated off high above the buildings, taken away by the furious winds.
“Smooth,” Dale remarked smartly as he helped Arden to his feet.
“Oh shut up,” Arden said back.
“Specialist Tennis, this is Mist. We are safely on the rooftops and are now getting on locating Krietchner hospital. Take her back above the clouds, and we’ll meet you back here in two hours.”