Everyone on the squad turned to look at the door when it opened. The five of them were in underwear, fresh out of showers, ready to dress up. Whoever it was, they had better have a damn good reason for showing up unannounced without knocking. Even the Captain didn’t do that. Everyone went silent when they noticed the character at the doorway. Itzal. The Mysterious One. Nobody knew anything about them. Not their name, not their actual rank, not their nationality, or even their gender. Just their code-name. Everyone just knew that if you wanted a hush-hush job done right, you called them. They were always wearing a camo suit. A slightly thermally active mesh was hanging in front of their face. Their body looked slim and athletic, enough to be a woman’s, but also enough to be a man’s. You just couldn’t tell. Their uniform was dark, with thermo-optic stripes here and there. It was shaped so it either slightly exaggerated their chest, if they didn’t have breasts, or slightly squeezed them if they had.
“48th”, they said in that monotone, computerized voice of theirs. Voice changer. They always had it on. The voice was modulated and distorted enough that you couldn’t tell their gender from that either. “You’re up in 15”, they said, then turned around and walked away.
“Well, you heard the weirdo”, Zack said. “Get your gear on, we move in ten.” Every got to business, and we were done and on the move in eight. It’s not by luck that the 48th was called the best of the bunch. We had over fifty missions under their belts just in this theater alone. Yeah, there had been a couple of close calls, but when you looked at it after the dust landed, they were the best out there. To be called on such a short notice and by such an important character, meant that the shit had not only hit the fan, but that the fan was already six feet deep in said matter and somebody was throwing more of it to the hole with two hands. Last time the 48th left in a hurry was to prevent an all-out nuclear war in the middle east. So the expectations were slightly on the high side for everyone.
They gathered outside. Zack Simmons. Squad Leader. Callsign ‘Carrot’. Also known as ‘Captain Carrot’. A man in his 40s. Had experience on most kinds of jobs on the front lines and behind them. Fair, but ruthless. Did not tolerate goofing off on the job. Partied like a schoolgirl when off-duty, though. Everyone on the squad loved him and would gladly die for him. And he would for everyone else.
Jennifer Thompson. Callsign ‘Blackout’, or ‘Jenn’. Electronics, E-War expert. If it ran on electricity, Jenn knew about it if she wasn’t an expert at it in the first place. A woman in her mid-to-late 30s, Jenn had served in the 48th since its birth. She and Zack were the only ones that had been there from the start. They had had a couple of other guys on the team, but they were gone, and neither Jenn nor Zack talked about them. Jenn carried a metric ass-ton of electronic devices everywhere she went. Nobody had ever surprised her without at least two signal jammers on her person, up to and including when she was surprised by the escaping prisoners when she was taking a shit in the middle of the forest.
Mikey Madison, Callsign ‘M&M’ or Mike. Psychologist, Social Sciences expert, PR, Intelligence Officer, you name it. If Jenn was the expert on things running on electricity, Mikey was an expert on things running on two feet. Some called him Spy, but he was so much more. The only one in the squad who didn’t give a rat’s ass about the higher command, Mike was many times been reprimanded for “talking lies and shit about superior officers behind their back”. It was a lie of course, Mike would not lie or talk behind them. He was 41 years old, and the only one who openly talked about his life in and out of the force.
Amanda Zimmer, Callsign ‘Eagle eye’, ‘Mandy’ or just ‘Eye in the Sky’, ‘Overhead View’, ‘Top-down’ or various other approximations of different perspectives. At her mid twenties, Mandy was one of the youngest in the team, but not the least skilled by far. If there was a line of sight to the enemy, she could hit it. And sometimes if there wasn’t. She specialized in long-range warfare and was seldom seen moving around a lot. She preferred to make her nest somewhere high up and far enough from the target that it was ignored. Not that good of a plan, considering she had multiple confirmed hits from beyond one and a half miles.
Wendy Dean. Callsign ‘Phase’ (or ‘Weewee’ if you wanted to piss her off). Wendy was their intrusion, intelligence gathering and stealth expert. At slightly less than 30, she was the second young person in the team with Mandy. She and Mandy worked in pairs a lot of the time, with Wendy providing intelligence and pov support at close range to Mandy, who was sitting a mile away with her scope on her eyes. Wendy was lightly built and lithe. She wasn’t the best fighter in the squad by a long shot, but she usually didn’t have to. If someone spotted her, she had already fucked up more than usually.
They stood in a line outside the barracks, with Zack addressing them. “Alright, look sharp everyone,” he said. “I don’t know why we’re called here nor what is required from us, but we’re going to do the best we can, like always”, he said and stood straight.
“Yes, sir”, the rest of them went, synchronized. Slightly to the left, from seemingly out of nowhere, Itzal walked towards them.
“48th,” they said, and everyone almost jumped. There was literally no place where they could’ve been hiding, so where did they come from? “Listen up. I need you on this mission. I got permission from World-Com to involve you. My mission is to extract an operative that might have been compromised.”, they said and looked at the squad from side to side. “The operative is a deep-cover agent who’s been involved with the enemy for a decade now. His current whereabouts puts him inside Fort Janner.”
A gasp goes through the squad and everyone glances at each other. Fort Janner. The main military base for the enemy. More than 400 miles deep in the enemy territory, far away removed from any support, maybe even comms. With no help, no comms… the six of them against a literal army of the enemy’s best soldiers. It’s not that the 48th was scared or against it. Going against the odds was their bread and butter, but this was quite a lot. But if it was a command, the 48th would do it. And with Itzal with them, maybe it could work out. It depended so much on other factors, too.
“We’re feet up at 0430 hours tomorrow. Get ready. We’re getting into the Nightwing that will fly us far behind the enemy lines. We have two contacts on ground. One Mr. Nikolai, a spy and fisher in a nearby village and Madame Yvonne Uder, owner and former performer in a local adult house of entertainment. We’re making that our base. I was promised rooms and supplies for months. We might need to do odd jobs for them to get them to trust us more, but we’re not in that much of a hurry. If the operative has been compromised, we’ve still got at least weeks if not months of time before we absolutely need to move. The op is so integrated in the enemy’s command structure that it will take them ages to even get to the bottom of it.”, Itzal explained. Then looked at them and turned around. They walked towards a pile of cardboard boxes, turned behind them and disappeared. Like they were never there.
“Fuck me six ways to Sunday, Janner,” Mike said.