The Deepstrike Mission from Hell

“Yes, yes…thank you for reminding me, Gordon. I think I have that old diary here somewhere…maybe that can help.”

Third-star Admiral John Collier, commanding officer of the Second System Deepstrike Marines, was an older man by appearance, having lived a long life and seen the galaxy from beginning to end. He was 68, but that never even slowed him down a moment. He experienced a lot, and wrote every moment of it down in a little gray leather bound book that was a gift as a child from his mother. The book was well worn, having been to every planet and every deepjump that the admiral had survived. He had long since filled the pages of the book with his memories and words, and so he had filed it away somewhere in one of the file cabinets that occupied the walls.

“Please put a move on, Mr. Collier. The court is waiting for this information, and you have held it up long enough.”

“Do you have no class, man?! You are an ensign! How dare you call me ‘Mister’! Have respect when you talk to a superior officer!”

“Just keep looking Collier. I don’t need a speech”

“GET OUT! NOW! I’ll call you when I find it!” said Collier, now red in the face and aggravated by Gordon.

“Fine then. I will wait outside for one hour…to the minute. Have it by then or I will return with a search warrant and a DSRS (Data Search and Recovery Squad) and they will find it for you."

With that, Ensign Gordon turned and strode out of the office in stealthy silence. The admiral was now even more insulted- the ensign had not saluted when he exited. He paused to survey the room- the walls were piled high with papers, files, books, and the like. He kept everything that ever passed his desk, like a packrat. He had file cabinets all around the room that were made just for that purpose, but he had filled all of those. Over time, the extra papers and stuff piled up, and he did not intend to ever clean it out. He liked it that way; the room felt lived in. The only problem was that it was nearly impossible to ever find anything. “This could take all day!” He thought. Sighing with exhaustion, he got up from his desk and went over to start on the first stack.

After 20 minutes, 3 file cabinets, and 58 books, he finally found it. Brushing the dust off it, he remembered what his mother had written on the cover. Even after 50 years of use and abuse, it still bore his mother’s gleaming signature in a gold embossed paint on the front. The leather was worn smooth under the inscription where Collier ran his finger over it:

To my darling Johnny, May you always have the will of Heironeous at your back and your family on your mind.
Love always, Mom

Thumbing through the book, Collier found some long forgotten memories. He was looking for the entry from the days of the war against the Protoss; a nasty and bloody war. That was the entry Gordon wanted. He had seen it all, for he had to command the first jumptroop to leave for the Protoss home world. He had nine men with him. At least, he started with that many…

He marked the page he was up to with his forefinger, looked up, scanned the room, and slowly returned to his chair behind the desk. Leaning back in his creaky old metal chair, he began to reminisce as he read. It took him a while to decode his own writing, but it was not too hard. After reading a few of the older entries, Collier found the one that he was looking for. He began to read it, having even more trouble than usual because some of the ink had faded away over time.

Today Is: 286.002.M08

Today is day zero, finally off to launch for the strikemission. I was looking out the window in the shuttle over the launch bay, and it hit me- I was living on a peaceful, serene planet, getting ready to go ruin thousands of people’s lives on a planet that was already war-ravaged and that I didn’t even know. Why?! For the rest of the ride to the launch bay I couldn’t put that out of my mind. The only answer that I could come up with was that it was my duty, and that I should do what I was told.

As I boarded the dropship, my men were racing at a feverish pace to load up the ship with all of our supplies. Henny was checking the phase cannons out, test-firing them into the air, and having a great time. Stewie was watching, cheering him on. Both of them were hollering and laughing, thinking that this was the coolest thing in the world to watch them go up and explode in the sky like firecrackers. Personally, I think that they were both as mature as four year olds, but when it came to serious work, they were the best in the business. Lowell was working his ... off to load all of the navigation computers onboard, lugging and hauling lots of computer stuff (like I have any clue what any of it does). He was the best darn helmsman I had ever seen, but he was the world’s worst complainer. As he dragged the boxes of equipment aboard, he was whining about the heat, and how he was going to go deaf with all of the artillery that Henny and Stewie were “lighting up for no good reason.” Garret was sitting on the corner of the ramp tinkering with Stewie’s helmet, the G-Com system wasn’t working for some reason. Garret’s best guess as to how that happened was that “he had hit his head a few too many times on the bulkhead, Sir!” I liked Garret for that- he never said much, but when he did he was hilarious. However it happened, Stewie really fried the board inside, and it took Garret nearly an hour to fix the whole thing. After that, he carted the Archon plating onto the ship, piece by piece. I always thought that Archon is by far the most interesting toy ever invented. After all, it's invisible, stops an explosion equivalent to an atomic bomb and it is light as a feather to wear! What else could you want?

Launch time grew near, and I got all of the troops into the cramped cabin. We said our prayers, and waited for the launch codes from Command. Oh, did Stewie get annoying with his humming! I can’t stand when he does that! It seemed like hours sitting there waiting. Then again, if it weren’t for Stewie, I wouldn’t know the words to Our “Sacred Liberty” by HEART! After god knows how many verses of that song, finally Command gave us clearance to launch.

Today Is: 287.002.M08

Little book, now I pick you up again to record my thoughts. I really don’t want to remember that day anymore, for the deeds I have done are no longer glorious in my eyes.

Let me go back for a second and explain how the mission went. After launch, it was only a few minutes until we got to the planet. I have always hated the acceleration and deceleration, and this flight was no different. As soon we were in stable transit, the cabin immediately whirled into a seemingly random flurry of synchronized motion. Stewie and Henny went into the back and brought up the phase canons (which we had no need for on this mission), Lowell was humming quietly as he did his rounds through each of the twenty-something computer panels that were all buzzing at him at once, and Garret was getting the Archons hooked up and ready action. I, on the other hand, was the only one not moving at all. I spent the fifteen minutes I had rereading the mission briefing and the maps we were going to need. The mission was simple- land quietly on the outskirts of the city (Nexus), sneak in, set a bomb in the building marked “J-CC42” on the map, and haul out as fast as we rats can fly before it reigns free. The only trick to it was that we had to look like we worked for our embassy, which was the building next door. If we walked in like marines...well...then it’s a little too obvious.

“Man, Captain, feels weird to wear a business suit... haven’t done that in years!” said Stewie. Over the clear Archon plating, we had to wear business suits to disguise ourselves. This is not something I wanted to do, because if I know I’m a marine, I want everyone else to know, too. It’s an ego thing. Stewie actually looked handsome in his suit, but it did happen to be a size too large for him.

It took me a few minutes, but I finally explained to Henny that we needed to put the phase cannons away, and just carry regular PT-114 pistols. “It’s for security” I told him, but I don’t think he got it.

“But, captain, if we take smaller weapons . . . then how are we more secure?” He was really confused.

“Think of it as a disguise thing,” I said to him. He just shook his head and went back to work putting the cannons back in their holsters in the back of the dropship. I don’t think he had any clue what I meant, but it really doesn’t matter as long as he did what he was told.

The rest of the transit was spent comparing suits and whining about how everyone wanted someone else’s suit. As I said yesterday, they’re the best in the business, but the rest of the time, they’re like 4 year olds. Overall, it was the most whining that I had ever heard crammed into 3 minutes in my lifetime.

As soon as we got into the deceleration stage, suddenly the cabin became silent. Everyone went back to work on the controls, or just sat there in solemn thought.

“So, Captain, what are the suits for?” Garret wanted to know. I took about 30 seconds to explain the mission to the crew, during which time they stared in disbelief.

“Captain. . . we’re just supposed to walk in, kill these guys, and leave?” Garret said as he stood up.

“They don’t get to fight back or nothin’?” He was now staring me in the eyes, with a mix of confusion and restrained fury. I stared straight at him, he wanted to win but I wouldn’t let him.

“This is your duty, officer! You have no choice, you’re doing it whether you like it or not!” That was the end of the argument, he sat down with a “humph” and got back to the controls. The rest of the crew was quiet, and I’m guessing no one wanted either to do the mission or to stand up to me. These were the nasty missions, the ones that permeated your mind during the waking hours, and haunted you in the night. They make you think of the sights you heard, the voices you saw, the screams you so bitterly tasted. Believe me, I didn’t like these at all, but it was our duty. This was our mission, and there is nothing that can change that.

We landed without a problem, scanned the fake ids, and proceeded into the lair of the Protoss. We all had briefcases, and Henny’s was the one with the bomb in it. He refused to look around, just at the square yard of cement in front of him, and nothing else. He knew that he was the weapons expert, and it was his job to setup and detonate the bomb. We walked for a mile and a half, according to the MOPS (Modular Ordinal Postioning System), winding through the bustling streets and dank alleys. We eventually got there, at least we think we did. The city was built with the same shape buildings every square block. On the map, they were labeled, but on the screen of the MOPS, they weren’t. Lowell was pretty sure that it was the right one, and so I gave the order for the troops to enter the building and set the bomb.

It was a pretty little bomb, packaged in a shiny metal case not more than a foot long by three inches around, with a little blue display. There was a little sheet of paper attached to the top of it by a piece of tape that contained instructions for detonation.

As we got to the intended target in the lobby of the building, Lowell calmly read the instructions to Henny. Henny unpacked the bomb with care, he was almost afraid of it. Garret, Stewie, Lowell, and I all were patrolling the area, under the guise of sharing Digaxian Wine together at the café next door. We laughed, we joked, but it was all fake. There was a mission to be done, and we were doing it.

“It’s all set, Captain! We reserved a table for 10:20 AM tomorrow in the main lounge!” Henny called out as he walked over to me. That was code for “we set the bomb for ten minutes and twenty seconds.”

That was enough time to get out of there, but the explosion might jar us while launching. It was 2 miles away, but we never know. As he said that, Stewie downed the last of the wine, and we all got up and chatted lightheartedly as we aimed for the entrance to the building. The moment we hit the doorway, all five of us took off with the speed of a cheetah for the dropship hangar.

It took three minutes and nineteen seconds to get clearance to return to the ship and launch, a little longer than expected. Taking off was not much of a problem, and the cabin was even more silent than the trip to Protoss. No movement, no coughing, no noise.

Eventually, Stewie broke the silence.

“Captain, I have something for you to hear!” With that, he turned the radio on for the cabin to hear.

“Dropship 0142! Dropship 0142! Come In!” the voice yelled. I will never forget that voice, the sound of it over the radio.

“This is Dropship 0142, Dropship 0142 to base!” I called back.

“Bad news! There has been an explosion at the building next to our embassy, and some feds are hurt! Go back in and see what you can do.”

“Base, that was our mission, we were supposed to blow up that building.” It was obvious that someone had not informed them of anything.

“Well . . .then captain you missed the building! You got the wrong one,”she said with. . .

It was at that point that the Admiral closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. He lightly shut the book, and placed it, perfectly centered, on his desk. He stared at it for a minute, but eventually looked away toward the ground next to him. The Admiral regained his composure, and in a simple statement said, “Gordon! Come here! Here is your book! Take it, take it and do with it whatever you may please.”

This work is ©Adam Richlin, 2003, and presented with permission. Please leave a /msg for the author if you copy it.

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