Alice bolted down the corridors towards the Hangar. She whipped around a corner, almost knocking over a receptionist and a military guard. With no time to stop, she didn’t even shout an apology. She was too focused with getting back to her operative.
“Map?” Alice huffed, speaking into the com-link after jacking in to the rig and taking back control from Tripp.
The interference was still distorting the connection, “Just checking in. Ready?”
The reply was static. Whether he heard her or not, she knew he would be as ready as he could be. Alice adjusted the displays, expanding Map’s monitoring system for half of one screen. His vitals were displayed prominently; heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, oxygen saturation levels, nociceptor levels, hormone levels and vital organ status were constantly updating on the screen.
On the other screens the area was being surveyed along with the creatures that were picked up by the satellites. Five creatures were displayed, however she didn’t discount there being more.
“Compensate for wind at thirty-seven kilometers per hour, north-east direction,” Alice instructed Map. Alice watched his heart beats slow to a calmer state and his breathing paused on the display. The gunshot detection radiated from Map’s location, indicating he had fired a shot. One of the creature’s signatures dimmed, and Alice could tell Map had been successful.
Cheering, she spoke into the com-link, hoping he would hear some of her words. “Got it! Keep it going, four left from what we’re picking up here. You got this.”
Another shot was fired, the detector radiating once more, and again a creature’s signature dimmed on her display. The whole Hangar was focused on this now, and a simultaneous cheer rang out.
“Wait—Map, watch out!” Alice yelled into the com-link as she saw a much larger signature approach her operative’s location. The static she received in return wasn’t good.
“Tripp!” Alice called out, “Get back to working on the interference with the com-link. I want the static cleared, pronto!”
A barrage of gunshots were detected, but the massive creature kept closing in on Map. Alice exhaled a breath she had not realized she was holding as she watched her operative dodge from the attack in time.
She silently prayed he would come out of this in one piece.
Map’s vitals flashed over the displays, between the bursts of interference. Warnings were triggered, indicating the operative’s vitals were at dangerous points. Shock was setting in, and the remote release of the stim-pack wasn’t working. Alice felt helpless as she monitored Map’s crashing vitals, continuously talking over the com-link in an attempt to usher him back to consciousness. The static continued to cut in and out, and her efforts finally worked, as she heard a reply through the static.
“Alice,” Map’s voice was weakly heard. “Alice… don’t know… … … hear me, but I … …. rough shape. … …. …. can move, but … hurts. …. … ….. send …. …… …. clean up if I can’t finish this. …. ….. two ….…… …….. ……..still building that thing.” The static continued to crackle in and out, however she understood most of what Map was saying.
“Tripp,” Alice spoke into the com-link after switching channels to her team. “We need maintenance called in for the site. Need a clean up.”
“Deployment of maintenance estimated for twenty-three hundred hours,” Tripp informed Alice, after setting up the rendezvous.
Alice looked astonished as she saw the movement over her display. Map was slowly travelling towards the area where the creatures’ structure was located.
“Be careful, Map. I’m blind around that area – still having a lot of issues picking up accurate readings around that site.” She still wasn’t certain how much of it made it through to Map.
Between the interference, Alice could decipher Map was back in combat. She wasn’t certain how many creatures were left around the structure as the satellites remained blocked from accurate readings around the location.
Alice winced, watching his heart rate and breathing take a large spike. Epinephrine levels also rose in readings. It wasn’t long, however, before all readings went silent.
A full disconnection occurred, and no signals or communication were being transmitted or received. She felt her grip on the rig tighten, and the intensity of her helpless feeling grew.
“Please Map… you have to come out of this,” Alice whispered softly.
The Cleaner Squad was on the way to the site, though she hadn’t heard anything about recovering the asset, which caused her worry. Another operative had been activated for duty and was being sent in with the Cleaners.
“Ox,” The Liaison spoke into the com-link. “Find him. Bring him back,” she almost pleaded.
“I’ll try, Alice. But it doesn’t look very g–”
“I know,” she cut him off with a grim tone.
The static cleared, and the disruptions ended. Map’s vitals flashed over the screen, though the findings were poor. He was crashing fast, and no amount of stim-packs would help right now.
“Map, Map. I need you to listen to me. The troops are on their way, and Ox is coming to get you. Just hang in there, hold it together. You’re going to come home soon. You did really well, and I’m proud of you.”
One last breath and he flat-lined.
“Ox!” Alice cried into the com-link. “Hurry it up!”
She knew already, though. It was too late.
The doors to the Hangar slid open, and she could feel the shadow of two imposing figures loom over her.
“Terminate the signal, Alice. You’re coming with us.”
Alice felt tears well up in her eyes. She shook her head in disbelief that it could end this way. It was inevitable; operatives didn’t retire and they didn’t grow old. They were soldiers, sent in to finish a job, and the job was one that always took their life. She had been hoping Map would have been the exception, but it was a fate neither of them could walk away from after signing their lives away.
Her terminal went black, and the pressurized sounds of the rig’s disconnection filled the quiet that had been hanging within the room. All eyes were on them as Alice stood and lifted her head high. She walked towards the exit of the Hangar, pride filling her eyes.
The mission was successful.
They had won.
The men escorted her outside of the compound where the car awaited, prepared for her final destination. She had to shield her eyes from the bright sun as she gazed up into the sky. Alice smiled, her thoughts on Map and all of the years, all of the successful missions. A loud bang filled the air, echoing in the alleyway between the military buildings. It was followed by a thud before the hum of the car’s engine was the only sound left.
We did it, Map.