The hanger was a frantic scene with people scrambling everywhere getting into each other’s way. The people form Napkin’s team were running into the remains of Map’s. The Administrator arrived almost immediately after Map. His presence meant something terrible had happened. He rarely made an appearance in the hanger and almost never during a mission.
Map stood to the side trying to keep out of the commotion not knowing what his role was anymore. The Administrator strolled past him and walked to the center of the large structure. He made a motion to one of the technicians and in a moment had a microphone in his hand.
“Can I have everyone’s attention,” he said, his voice ringing around the cavernous room stopping people in their tracks. “We seem to have a situation. The reports state that the force our new operative had to face was the largest we have seen. Sixteen creatures have been identified and Napkin was able to eliminate six before he was killed.”
The last word sent Map’s head spinning. Not only was Napkin dead but he died on his first mission facing the most recorded targets ever. The most Map had heard of in a single assault had been ten. He himself had never faced more than six and Napkin had eliminated six of his own on his first mission. The fact that there were ten more was enough to stun everyone in the hanger. Map didn’t know what was going on, but he knew it was bad and he would be the one to have to face it.
“I know this is a shock to everyone but the situation is what it is and we have to take action,” the Administrator continued. “Since Ox is not yet up to the task we have no choice but to call Map back into service – until Ox can be properly made ready. I have already sent word to Map’s team and those who are not already here are on their way. I need Napkin’s team to step down and offer any assistance they can to get the old team back up.” The room was still and silent as the weight of the situation sunk in. Map was as staggered as anyone but he knew what he had to do – and what the outcome would be. Napkin was at the top of his game and couldn’t stop half the invading force.
The Administrator cleared his throat and the audience shot into action. He headed back to the door but stopped when he was even with Map. “Likely you realize the gravity of the situation,” he said. “I’m not going to pretend that I am hopeful you can pull this off but you need to hold out long enough for us to get Ox ready.”
“My liaison?” Map replied.
“I have sent for Alice. With luck she will be here before you are in place.”
“You had my equipment scrapped.”
“There are plenty of armaments available to you –“
“Plus,” Henry interrupted, “I managed to save this.” Henry held up the rig and sleeve that was part of Map’s personal equipment.
“We’ll discuss that later,” the Administrator said continuing his way out of the building.
Henry kept his attention on Map and the rig. “I was hoping to save something. Maybe one day it would end up in a museum. But here, get into it and lets run through the warm up,” he said helping Map into the harness and sleeve.
The equipment served as a protective layer and storage for ordinance and included all the communications and tactical devices in the sleeve. Together with his other armaments it helped to make Map a formidable opponent.
“Great, looks like everything works,” Henry said running through the checks.
“Thanks,” Map said. “This will help.”
“Ok Map. Same drill as always,” Henry continued getting more comfortable in the old routine. “The armaments are on the rack, this is a big one so take your pick. Alice is on her way so we’ll get you in the air and brief her when she gets here. You’ll be flying blind until then so watch your back.”
Henry and Map, along with several scientists and technicians, took their positions moving Napkin’s team into auxiliary roles. Tactical analysis, health monitoring, radar and satellite stations were manned along with several positions dealing with ordinance, analysis of threats, communications with local authorities and first response units and dozens of other stations. Only the operative liaison positions remained vacant and Map prepped for a hurried departure. He didn’t waste more than a look at the empty terminal while he loaded himself and his chosen equipment into the drop-point rocket.
The engines whirred to life drowning out the commotion of the hanger. Map sat in the pod, as he had many times before, ready to be dropped into the fray.
“Ten left,” he said to himself trying to steady his breathing timing the liftoff.
The force pulled him hard into his seat. He was supposed to be able to handle more physical stress, but that didn’t mean it felt good. Information flooded the pod’s terminal as the support team took control back at the hanger.
10 Targets Remain: level 2 – 6
13km Radius From Drop Point
Area Aleared of Civilians
Pattern Alpha Recommended
The information appeared in his periphery and was replaced as quickly as he could scan. He wasn’t fast enough to read it all anymore but he knew the drill and had read the data before. The only thing that worried Map was the number. Ten creatures was unheard of. He knew his strategy should be to hit and run, confuse the enemy and not give them a target. He could wear them down and keep them busy long enough for the team to come up with a better plan; but he was worried about how long he could keep that up. Normally Alice would be in his ear and between his own intuition and her analysis they would figure out a strategy. He was unsure without that voice. The information faded and the lights dimmed. Map could feel the rocket slowing. He checked his rig and held on.
Map had never been on a roller coaster but he had heard the drop described as the same feeling. He was skeptical. For the most part the drop felt like floating. It wasn’t until the chute opened and the breaks fired that the gravity returned – making up for its absence.
The pod hit hard and shook Map’s bones. It was the asset’s responsibility for stealth, not the equipment. He had to move before the closest target discovered the source of the huge crash. Map opened the hatch, stumbled out and threw up. He was screaming at himself in his head to get moving but he couldn’t steady himself. He heard it before he saw it. He was more sick from letting it get the drop on him than from the decent. Anger helped him clear his head and steady himself. Rather than run he turned to face the creature.