Chapter 9: SENSE
“It’s been over a week,” Carter said, walking with Brad to the command center, “No news on the expedition fleet. We can’t keep waiting. Our radars aren’t working for some reason. This all started when we lost the senor station. Our tactical experts believe the AFU have compromised its systems. This wouldn’t be a problem for the military but, we’re not military. We kind of need that station, so one of our engineers made a reset program that should fix our radars.”
“You want me to go fix it?” Brad asked.
“Yes,” Carter answered, “Scouts have reported the station is still there with a small garrison of AFU soldiers guarding it. Someone has to sneak in and run the program. It’ll take thirty seconds to do its thing, but even after its done the AFU shouldn’t be able to hack it again. Once the station fixes our radars that’ll be it. The AFU can do whatever they want with station, so you don’t have to hold it. Just run the program and get out.”
Brad walked with Carter over to the station in the middle of the room. Carter brought down his monitors and began to work them. One, ejected a small orange-red disk-like object. Carter took it and handed over to Brad.
“That’s the program,” Carter said, “It’s self-running. You just have to find an administrator’s terminal and insert it.”
“Administrator,” Brad asked, “Does it have to be an administrator?”
“Administrator or above,” Carter answered, “It won’t work on any regular shmuck’s monitor. An administrator will have the authority to run the changes.”
“I’ll get going then,” Brad said.
Carter reached out to grab his subordinate by the shoulder, “This an important one.” he said.
“Understood, sir.” Brad said, slowly pulling away.
Quinn, Reeves and Deekon stood at a guard post outside. It was night time and from their position they could see several fires.
“I never thought something like this could happen.” Deekon said.
Quinn nodded and said, “Especially after the formation of the NAFU.”
“It’s been a week,” Reeves said warily, “No backup, no relief of any kind. Where’s the cavalry?”
“The CC went down during the initial invasion,” Quinn said, “The only thing we could count on was that expedition fleet but, the AFU could have been jamming all transmissions.”
“If only it were still up,” Deekon said, “I’m sure the CC could get a message through.”
“Yun, Lora,” Reeves wondered out loud, “I’m gonna miss them. I sure wish they were here.”
“Maybe they’re the lucky ones,” Quinn said, “Who’d want to go through all of this. The planets probably a shadow of itself and millions are dead.”
Quinn was right about the planet seeming to change color. It was once a vibrant green planet with specs of bright blue oceans. Now, much of that green had turned a glowing red from fires and bombardments from AFU soldiers and ships. Its blue oceans were now a brackish color.
Brad stepped out and found Quinn and the others.
“We got a mission,” Brad said, “I’ve already got a four-man SWAT team to go with us and filled them in.”
“What is it?” Quinn asked.
“Simple,” Brad answered, “Important but, simple. We’re going back to the sensor station.”
“About time!” Reeves said.
“Hold on,” Brad replied, “It’s not what you think. We’re not taking it back. We just need to run this.” he said, holding up the program and then handing it to his friend.
“What’s this,” Quinn asked, “I mean I know what it is but, what’s on it?”
“A special program,” Brad answered, “It’ll fix our radars. You get in while we distract the enemy and presto! The advantage should slightly turn in our favor.”
“Slightly,” Deekon said, “It’ll be a huge help if we can see them coming. No more surprise attacks!”
“Why doesn’t Quinn go alone?” Reeves asked.
“I’ll feel better knowing there’s backup,” Quinn answered, “I have worries too you know. This isn’t or doesn’t sound like a volunteer mission. This is something I have to do.”
“It’ll make things easier,” Brad added, “Pulling the enemies’ attention on us will make what he has to do even easier. Besides, he’s perfect for the job, shouldn’t show up on any radar since he’s not human.”
“I see,” Reeves said, “Don’t worry Quinn, we got your back.”
Quinn forced a fake smile and responded, “Thanks, I feel better already.”
“Let’s saddle up!” Brad said, leading them away.
The police cruzer, using its night vision mode, traveled some distance off the designated path before coming to a stop. The human and his shapeshifting friend exited with only the moons as a source of light.
Brad held out his hand and phased out a paper map to hand Quinn, “Here’s a schematic of the building,” he said, “Wait a few minutes, give the ready signal. Admin is on the second floor. I was told you just need to insert the program. Run it for thirty seconds and that’s it. Then, get the hell out of dodge.”
Quinn didn’t understand Brad’s last statement but, he knew it meant to get out as quickly as possible. “Yes, sir.” he nodded, “I was wondering, any word on Kimberly?” he asked.
Brad looked down in sorrow and shook his head, “I haven’t heard anything,” he said, “Maybe she survived all this. I don’t know. Shame, I was just starting to get to know her.”
“I’m sorry.” Quinn said, placing the program and map in a satchel he morphed. He then changed into a bird and flew away with the satchel.
Brad reentered the cruzer and left, going up a hill.
“I hope he makes it.” Deekon said.
“He’ll be alright,” Brad replied, “He knows what to do. We just have to trust him.”
“It’d be nice to shapeshift,” Reeves said, “Only, I noticed Quinn doesn’t carry a gun. What’s the deal?”
“I don’t know,” Brad answered, “He’s always been like that. He used one for marksmanship training but, that’s about it. Other than that, he passed everything with flying colors, even some tests they made specially for him.”
Brad brought the cruzer to a stop and got out with the others. Everyone phased on their suits and equipped weapons.
“We walk from here,” Brad radioed through his helmet, “Station is over the next hill. I don’t want this to be easy for them. I want everyone to spread out in staggered formation across this hill and the adjacent one. We wait for the signal then rain on their parade. When our radars kick in that’s our que to get back to the cruzer. Understood?”
“Yes, sir.” everyone replied.
“Alright,” Brad continued, “Move it!”
Quinn landed next to a door and then changed into a big mirror. There were two AFU soldiers here but, they never noticed the quiet shapeshifter. Too much of their attention was focused outward of the station. Most of the AFU soldiers were inside sleeping with only a few patrolling just outside.
Brad and the rest had done just what he said. Even with a radar, the enemy would have a hard time getting at all of them. They all fell into a prone position to make it even harder to get them. The station came into view below them as they crawled closer and stopped hundreds of meters away at the tops of the hills.
“Everyone in position?” Brad asked over the radio.
All of them sounded off that they had fallen into position.
“Now,” Brad said, “We just wait for the signal.”
‘C’mon, Quinn,’ Reeves thought, ‘Where’s that signal?’
Quinn, as a mirror, began rotating the reflective part like a lighthouse. It was dark but, the light of two moons was enough to give off a reflection.
“That’s it,” Brad said, “Everyone, open fire!”
Two of the SWAT members had phased out rocket launchers and used those to shake the building. The guards at the station didn’t know what hit them. Most ran outside, a few remained indoors and took positions on balconies or by windows.
A huge exchange of shooting erupted on both sides. The only big difference being that the AFU soldiers couldn’t exactly see their enemy.
Quinn morphed back into his humanoid form but, instead of entering the door, he quickly snuck over to one of the soldiers trying to find his target. He morphed his hand into a heavy ball and struck the soldier from behind to knock him unconscious.
The second soldier was focusing in on one Quinn’s teammates when he too fell unconscious from a heavy blow to the back of the head.
Now that the biggest threat to his team was neutralized, Quinn went through the door and began his decent. He opened the next door and found himself face-to-face with an AFU soldier, luckily, he had already changed his appearance to match appearances.
The soldier said something in his native language but, Quinn didn’t understand.
Quinn looked in both directions to see if anyone else was around. Once he saw the coast was clear he grabbed the soldier, pulled him close and morphed his head into the same heavy ball he used on the roof to knock out the soldier in front of him. He disposed of the body in the stairwell and closed the door before moving on to an office right across the hallway. There, he checked his map to make sure he was in the right location. It was a nice, bigger office than most and with a view.
Outside, all hell was breaking loose. Some of the humans had taken a few lucky shots but, their shields had absorbed the impact.
The AFU soldiers had taken up shelter behind various barricades. A few of them began to pullout radar devices to get a better idea of where the humans where.
Quinn sat down and opened that work station’s monitor. He wasted no time inserting the program when he could, “C’mon,” he eagerly said, “Thirty seconds.” He began fidgeting and looking around nervously, checking and hoping no one entered.
Back outside, the AFU radars had picked up the humans. Much of their shooting was starting to narrow down to the humans’ location.
Luckily, for the humans it was dark, so even then, it was difficult to pinpoint their location. They had to be more careful and start crawling around when they found themselves under siege by grenades. One landed dangerously close to Brad. He began rolling away when it exploded. His shields withstood the blast and almost immediately began to recharge, though he didn’t want to get back in the fight without fully charged shields. According to his radio he wasn’t the first or last to back out of danger.
Quinn stared at the screen intently as if it would make it go faster. Moments went by until the words ‘DONE’ flashed across the screen. He immediately opened the window behind him, morphed into a bird and flew out.
As Brad’s shields reached full charge, he began to crawl back in position again. His radar suddenly began to work again as he fired, “Everyone,” he called, “Fall back!”
All of them reached the cruzer fairly easy. The enemy hesitated to give chase without a working radar. Quinn had reached the car first and morphed back into his humanoid form to enter. The entire team got in and Brad went full speed to get away.
“Great job, everyone,” Brad said, “Our radars are back!”
Everyone then began to either pat the shapeshifter or say congratulations.
“You’re welcome, you’re welcome.” Quinn humbly said.
Brad didn’t have to tell Carter they had succeeded, a working radar would tell him that, still, he radioed him, “Brad to Carter.” he said.
“Carter here,” he responded, “Damn fine job you and your team did. We’re running nominally. Now, we can take the fight to them!”