4th February, 1969Edit
Somewhere in ChinaEdit
It was a dangerous job, but someone had to do it. Fortunately, the Atomic Kingdom could afford to use clones.
Noble Captain Li Yuming watched as the ungainly vehicle rolled towards the patch of glowing green crystals. Extending its large, manipulator arms outwards, the harvester scooped up chunks of the crystal, feeding the Jade into its mouth. Inside the cockpit, the clone driver would be manipulating the controls of his vehicle, pulling a lever here, pressing a button there.
Jade. The Atomic Kingdom’s lifeblood. What an irony, she thought, that the very material that was the source of the Kingdom’s technology had also been responsible for China’s death. Jade was the keystone of so many of their technologies; their power generation capabilities, their weaponry, their duplicator based manufacturing base, even the very shield that she was wearing right now. Yet, one wondered if Jade was a curse or a blessing.
She carefully adjusted the dials on her personal shield generator, a bubble of energy that was the only thing from that stopped lethal radiation from bombarding her body and changing its cells on the molecular level.
She had seen the effects of radiation; how it had twisted the bodies of the so called Eunuchs; horribly deformed, hair fallen out of their head; their skin singed with massive radiation burns. That wasn’t even the worse off of them; few had escaped the Atomic Holocaust entirely unscathed. She had seen a few of the worst cases before, and she had left them with the strong impression that those men and women had wished they were dead.
As she continued to look on the Jade harvester going about its job, she noticed a clone approaching in her direction, in the distance.
“You there, boy,” barked Yuming, addressing the clone. The clone hurried over to her. She surveyed his clothing, his appearance. A messenger. It wasn’t too difficult to identify what a clone’s role was, if one knew what to look out for.
“What is it, boy?” asked Yuming. Wordlessly, the clone pulled out a message and handed it over to her. She opened up the message to begin reading it.
Yuming looked up. “What are you still doing here, boy? You’re dismissed. Go!” She waved her hand at the clone, who obeyed and left. She turned back to the message she was holding in her hands.
She blinked. The message requested her presence at Mount Everest. That wasn’t what made her blink, though. Such requests were all that unusual, and it could just have been a normal call up, for all she knew.
What made the Noble Captain blink was the signature scrawled at the bottom of the message. Nao Mileng. Why would the second in command of the Atomic Kingdom herself seek an audience with a lowly Noble Captain? Never mind. That in itself was not important.
But still, one couldn’t help but wonder. Her curiosity was piqued, certainly. For some reason, her eyes couldn’t help but drift back to the patch of green crystals, shining brightly.
The C-47 cargo plane slowly began its descent towards the runway. The landing gear of the massive transport was extended, just as it made touchdown.
The Galaxy slowed to a halt, and the loading ramp extended towards the ground. From the insides of the aircraft its cargo came out, a heavy, secure crate, escorted by several armed Peacekeepers. Professor Marten Lauwers could not help but notice that the grey steel crate had hazard signs all over it.
Professor Lauwers extended his hand out to one of the Peacekeepers. “I presume you’ve had a pleasant flight?”
The man took the outstretched hand in an armoured glove, and gripped it firmly. Lauwers could not discern his facial expression, not from behind the anonymity of the helmet visor. “Long. We had to make several stops on the way here.”
“Is this it?” Professor Lauwers gestured to the crate.
“Yes.” The man’s reply was curt. “We’ll escort it the rest of the way; will that be okay with you?” The last part was a courtesy; the professor knew that he would have an escort, whether he liked it or not.
“Of course not; follow me.” The professor led the escort to a truck, heavily armoured and devoid of any sort of markings.
The Peacekeeper – the senior officer, no doubt – barked an order to his men, and they began the process of loading the hefty crate into the truck. Shortly thereafter, the crate was sitting safely inside the truck, and the truck was moving through the streets of Amsterdam. Lauwers looked out of the truck window, at the city outside. The Peacekeepers were sitting in the back of the truck, guarding the package.
As the truck continued on its journey, Lauwers wondered what was inside that crate; what could be so important that such great pains would be taken to ensure it arrived at its destination safe and sound.
Lauwers looked out of the window again, and saw that the truck was nearing its destination: the massive, fortified compound that was FutureTech Headquarters.
FutureTech employees finished unloading the bulky crate from the back of the truck, and as they rolled it away Lauwers turned to face the Peacekeeper for what he guessed was the last time.
“I guess we’ll take over from this point onwards,” he said half jokingly, as he extended his hand towards the Peacekeeper. The armour clad man leaned forward slightly, speaking in a quiet voice.
“Professor, many good men were killed trying to make sure this cargo made it safely to its destination. Now that it has, I hope that whatever that was inside that crate was worth the lives of those men. I don’t know what’s in there, but maybe you eggheads will find some use for it, eh?” The man clasped Lauwers’ hand, shook it, and turned to leave.
5th February, 1969Edit
Mount Everest, TibetEdit
In typical Atomic Kingdom fashion, the Mount Everest Planetary Fortress was protected by layer upon layer of powerful base defences. The base was ringed by several concentric walls, vulnerable only at several heavily fortified gate openings. All along the wall, an assortment of defensive emplacements and turrets stood guard, prepared to unleash their raw firepower at the first sign of an attack. Shield Towers placed at strategic locations protected critical structures against attack, and several long range Annihilator Turrets capped the defence, capable of raining fiery destruction on any attacking force.
Captain Li Yuming looked up at the tall, ever vigilant watchtowers, sweeping the base perimeter for hostiles. She had arrived half an hour ago, via teleporter hub. A short journey to the base by transport, and now she was passing through the main gates of the fortress. The main complex had been hewn into the rock, with a large portion of the base structures buried underground for additional protection. The complex itself was a miniature city, bustling with the movements of thousands of people, both cloned and non-cloned. Li knew that, apart from being a major base of operations for the Atomic Kingdom, Everest was also a home to hundreds of non-cloned citizens.
Li disembarked from the transport, and started off through the complex. She pushed her way through the crowds, heading for the elevator. Entering the lift, she felt the little capsule move as the tractor beam activated, propelling her upwards. The ride up was smooth and quick, lasting no more than a few seconds. The moment the doors opened, Captain Li Yuming stepped out, and continued on to her destination.
Nao Mileng was reading in her office when there was a knock on the door. She closed the file and put it away, just as her expected visitor entered the room. Nao Mileng looked up and smiled.
“Captain Li. Please, take a seat.” Nao’s voice was soft and pleasant, but conveyed with it an unmistakable sense of authority. Li took the proffered seat, eyes focused on the other woman.
Nao recalled the facts in the dossier on Captain Li Yuming: Age, 25. Rank, captain. Has a reputation as an excellent soldier and a skilled tactician. Married, spouse now dead. Sterilised by radiation during the Holocaust. Has two children, ages 4 and 6, both living in the Destiny Biodome.
Just then, a clone servant entered, bearing a teapot and two teacups. Nao signalled for the clone to leave, and picked up the teapot, pouring both cups. She offered Li one of the cups, and took the other for herself.
“Now, captain, I’m sure you know I have a reason for calling you here today.” Li nodded.
“To put it simply, I have a mission for you, should you wish to take it.” The older woman’s face showed no change in expression. “Please understand that this mission is on a strictly voluntary basis. I won’t force you to a decision, and should you not wish to take it, I’m sure we can find someone else.” She paused for a second.
“However, please understand that this mission is of the upmost importance. I’ll tell you now that we don’t expect any survivors.” A suicide mission, thought Li.
“The mission, simply put, will be to lead a clone force in an assault on this target.” Nao turned the globe sitting on her desk, and indicated the spot on the map with her finger.
“Amsterdam. FutureTech Headquarters.”
FutureTech Headquarters, Amsterdam Edit
Professor Marten Lauwers stepped out of the elevator and into the underground facility. As he did, the doors behind him slid noiselessly closed, and the elevator began its ascent back up to the surface. He was greeted by one of his colleagues, who had just come out of the chamber.
“Can I go in there now?” Lauwers asked the other man.
“You’ll have to put on one of these first,” said the man, gesturing to the suit he had been trying to remove. “You’ll find a set in the storage locker.”
“Are these precautions really necessary? I mean, full NBC protection gear?”
“Believe me, you do not want to go in there unprotected. If you do, you will regret it.” Lauwers’s colleague finished removing his suit, and stashed it away in the locker. Lauwers took out one of the suits, and began to change into it.
“Mind you, even with one of these things on, you shouldn’t stay in the chamber for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time, or so the docs tell me,” said his colleague, as he changed back into his normal work clothes.
The bulky one piece suit consisted of several layers of Teflon, rubber and other protective materials, with a self contained air supply and a radio inside the suit. The suit was fully sealed and overpressurised, to protect against contamination.
Why couldn’t they make it so that these suits were more comfortable? thought Lauwers to himself, as he finished putting on the suit. The suit was much less flexible than normal clothing, making it hard for him to move in it. At least I don’t have to wear this to work every day. He stood in front of the chamber doors, waiting for them to open.
With a faint hiss, the heavy metal doors slid back, and Lauwers was confronted with a bright, pulsing light. As his eyes adjusted to the unfamiliar glare, he saw, clearly, the source of the light. He inhaled deeply, trying to comprehend what was in front of his eyes.
Mount Everest, TibetEdit
Nao had spent the past fifteen minutes going through the details of the operation.
“So captain, do you accept?” Nao asked. “If you don’t want to take on this mission, I can always arrange for you to be returned to your posting.”
Li considered her options. Finally, she spoke. “There’s just one thing I need to know before I can accept. Why do you want to attack FutureTech HQ? Is it to gain the Allies’ cryotechnology?” Li knew about Allied cryotechnology, and that the Kingdom wanted it for their ships so that the passengers could be put into cryo-sleep when the time for Exodus came.
“Very well. You asked, so I’ll tell you.” Nao told her. For a few seconds, Li stared in disbelief. Then Nao broke the silence, asking her again whether she would accept.
After a long pause, the captain made her decision. “Yes. I’ll do it.”
12th February, 1969Edit
Mount Everest, TibetEdit
After nearly a week of preparation, they were ready. Li had gone over the plan several times with the junior officers under her command for this operation, and now they were making the final preparations.
She had received the clones a few days back. Starfleet Marines, the elite of the Kingdom’s fighting troops, indoctrinated in the ways of combat through radio instruction, highly disciplined, tough soldiers in the peak of physical fitness, equipped and instructed in the use of a wide range of weapons. They were trained fighting machines, completely indistinguishable from each other except by the uniform tags that gave their number. She had been told that they were fresh out of the vat, no more than two weeks old.
Li fiddled with the controls on her personal shield generator. The planar shield it generated was almost unnoticeable, save for a slight shimmering in the air and the delicate tracery of honeycomb shapes, barely visible. The personal shields would stop any objects moving at high velocity, offering their wearers valuable protection from small arms fire. A slow moving object, such as a carefully timed knife blade, would pass through the barrier without a hitch, a trade off so as to allow air and light to be able to pass through the barrier.
Li was carrying a standard issue Jian for close combat, safely sheathed away in a protective scabbard that prevented radiation from passing through. Her standard issue pistol was in its holster at her side, ready to be whipped out should she require it. The other weapon she carried was gripped tightly in her hands, a disruptor carbine that shot out beams of brilliant energy capable of disintegrating flesh and melting metal.
They were ready. Li powered up her shield to full intensity, and in response it glowed brightly. Then she stepped into the teleporter, followed shortly later by the rest of her force. A bright flash, and they were gone.
In that instant, Li Yuming ceased to exist as a living entity, as her molecules were disintegrated, converted into pure energy, and shot across the globe at the speed of light towards their destination.
The captain herself would feel nothing except for a momentary cessation of consciousness.
FutureTech Headquarters, AmsterdamEdit
The headquarters of one of the largest megacorporations in the world had a reputation as being one of the most heavily guarded facilities in the world. Understandable, given what some would have to get at the secrets hidden inside the large compound.
In addition to its own security guards, FutureTech HQ also boasted a complement of crack Peacekeepers, stationed there by the Allies to protect the headquarters of the megacorporation from attack. That was ignoring the large Allied garrison in Amsterdam, and the defences that ringed the compound. To say it was well defended would be a major understatement. Unfortunately, FutureTech Headquarters wasn’t impregnable, and plans secured by Courtesans had allowed the strike force to fully exploit its vulnerabilities.
One of the things the designers of the defence systems hadn’t accounted for was the possibility of an infantry company suddenly teleporting into the middle of the compound. In a blinding flash of light, matter reassembled itself, and over a hundred elite Chinese troops winked into existence simultaneously. The Peacekeepers who had been patrolling the area were unfortunate; they were woefully unprepared for such an assault, and the flash of light had the added effect of disorienting their senses. One of the Peacekeepers’ last action in life was to raise her armoured glove hand to her visor to shield her eyes from the dazzling display of light; however, that movement offered no protection from the verdant beam of energy that lanced out next, easily melting away the layers of metal and cloth that protected her hand and then the hand itself, before striking her visor full in the face, disintegrating it, and then boiling away the flesh behind it with a crackling sound. The woman’s lifeless body flopped to the ground, dead, as did the rest of her fellow Peacekeepers.
Li counted the bodies. Four Peacekeepers dead. The alarms hadn’t been raised yet. Maybe somebody had noticed the sudden spike of energy caused by their arrival, but then again such an energy spike could easily be written off to any one of the many experiments FutureTech was cooking up in its halls, and would not be seen as unusual. She motioned to the clones under her command, and they fanned out to their assigned targets.
Li herself took charge of one of the Marine platoons and led them to the barracks that she knew, from the plans of the compound’s layout, housed the headquarters’ Peacekeeper complement.
One of the advantages of disruptor weapons was that, when set to low power, they produced almost no noise, unlike gunpowder firearms. They silenced the attack dog first, and brought down the Peacekeepers standing guard a second later. Apart from the faint crackling produced when a disruptor beam impacted with flesh and boiled it away, there was no noise emitted. Nothing that would wake up the Peacekeepers sleeping inside the barracks. Good.
The clones had aimed for the Peacekeepers’ torsos, and they had hit them dead centre. Flesh and armour had been vapourised in a large circle around the impact of the beams, completely disintegrating the heart. The heat of the beams had cauterised the flesh, so that there was no blood flowing out of the corpses.
She motioned to the clones again, and they spread out around the barracks. The clones carried with them explosive charges, small packages filled with miniscule quantities of Anti-Matter kept from annihilating with normal matter by electromagnetic fields that suspended them. The charges were timed so as to deactivate the fields when the timer hit zero, thus allowing the Anti-Matter to annihilate with normal matter. Such charges were highly compact, easily concealed and carried, but immensely destructive, more so than normal high explosive charges. However, their batteries only carried enough power to operate the containment fields for 12 hours, making their usage on operations extremely dangerous and thus extremely rare. The clones worked quickly to plant the charges, before retreating away to a safe distance. Seconds later, the timers on the charges hit zero, and the suspended Anti-Matter gave in to gravity, impacting with the normal matter of their containers.
A cascade of light, heat and sound erupted as the charges detonated, doing their deadly work. In a single, searing, moment, the barracks was reduced to ash, along with nearly 100 men and women who had been inside it at the time. They died almost instantaneously, unable to register any pain before the wave of heat vaporised their brains and their bodies.
Around the rest of the FutureTech compound, explosions resounded, as the charges planted by the other platoons also detonated. The noise and light was bound, sooner than later, to attract attention, and not long after, klaxon alarms all over the compound went off.
All according to plan, thought Li, as a group of guards, their uniforms bearing the FutureTech logo, burst out of a door, Berretta sidearms drawn. Li swivelled and fired, and a disruptor beam struck one of the guards’ skull, killing him instantly. The clones in her platoon did the same, unleashing a torrent of energy at the FutureTech guards. One or two of the guards had gotten shots off, but the bullets just deflected harmlessly off the shields of the marines.
“Pull back!” Li shouted, knowing that the time for stealth was past. The clones began to fall back in an organised fashion, heading back in the direction they had came. More guards streamed out of the building, but were swiftly dispatched. “We’ll regroup with the rest of the company!”