<-- Chapter 13 Chapter 15 -->
An amber sun sets on the populous city of Detroit, Michigan. Tucking itself behind the looming skyline, it turns the tall skyscrapers into towering shadows that fall upon the lower echelons of society. Once a place littered with crime and racial tension, the city has built itself a new image, one perhaps more fitting for the original “Home Rule” ideal. Fewer people suffer as opportunities grow thanks to the will of progressive governments, community activists, and generous philanthropists. Renovation projects are rebuilding the run-down districts to make way for safer and healthier housing and business locations. It is these efforts that have made the shadows much less intimidating to all who live beneath them.
While far from a dangling fruit, it is not a yet ripe one. Simultaneous renovation and rejuvenation for every part of city is impossible due to difficulties in funding and logistics, thus resulting in slow and uneven development. Areas not yet renovated continue to suffer in darkness as they harbor criminal gangs and even terrorist cells, both Human and Otherworlder. Condemned warehouses and ghettos serve as the perfect hiding places for their meetings and weapons.
Unfortunately for a small group belonging to the Federation to Liberate the Interdimensional People, or FLIP, their safe house is not safe enough as a covert paramilitary force surrounds the abandoned drug den.
“Bravo Team in position.”
“Charlie Team in position.”
“Delta Team in position.”
“Bravo and Charlie Teams, proceed.”
In only a minute, all the veggie people and Equestrian earth ponies guarding the building fall to the ground, their vitals pierced by bullets fired from silenced weapons. Their guns clatter onto the pavement, fortunately not loud enough to alert the building’s occupants. Then, two black-clad fire teams converge onto the safe house, Bravo Team from the rear and Charlie Team from the front.
A quick pick of the lock is all it takes for the four-man Charlie Team to enter the front door of the building. No need for a battering ram, for stealth is the key. After all, it is the specialty of the Terran Special Forces’ First Battalion.
“Charlie Team entering the building,” the lead operator whispers into his wrist communicator before looking back, “Geoff, watch our six.”
“Got it, Sarge,” the operator in the rear replies as he turns around to watch for hostiles.
Treading carefully through the dark hallways, guided only by their night vision goggles and directions from the command post, codenamed Alpha, the group advances. Their suppressed M4 carbines are raised, ready to kill the next terrorist they encounter, hopefully without alerting the entire safe house. Suddenly, a figure comes around the corner in front of the team.
“Twelve o’clock!” the leader silently states as he fires two rounds into the figure’s chest, taking it down.
Charlie team approaches the body and briefly inspects it before continuing.
“Damn, it’s one of those Dragonlanders,” remarks the operator behind the sergeant, “A second longer and we could’ve been fried.”
“Keep the commentaries to yourself, Clint,” the sergeant orders, “We need to focus. If we’re seeing a guard now, it probably means we’re close to the weapons stash.”
As the team turns left at a corner, they encounter another figure, one more humanoid than the previous. The operator behind Clint fires a round into its head.
“Nice shot, Rose,” the leader compliments the operator as the group approaches the fresh corpse. “Old green garb, Asian-looking, and no shoes. Looks like an Earthbender to me.”
“The guys that levitate rocks and make earthquakes?” asks Geoff as he and his comrades go around the body.
“The same,” replies the sergeant, “It’s a good thing we got him quick.”
“You know, for a bunch of supernaturals, they’re going down awfully quick,” Clint comments.
“They're mostly amateurs,” says Geoff. “No military training.”
“Plus, we have night vision and the element of surprise,” adds Rose, “Tactical advantage.”“Provided that we keep quiet and stay focused,” the sergeant adds.
A voice is suddenly heard from the earpieces of the Charlie Team members. “Alpha, this is Bravo One. We have eyes on the cache. No tangos in sight.”
The command post replies, “Copy that, Bravo One. Secure the area and don’t get too comfortable yet. Charlie Team, continue straight and make a right. The store room should be ahead of you. Link up with Bravo Team.”
“Charlie One, copy,” the sergeant replies.
“Well, looks like Bravo beat us to it,” Clint remarks, “I guess this op will be a piece of cake after all.”
“Better hurry up and knock on some wood, Corporal.”
A voice comes over the team’s earpieces again. “S***! This is Bravo, requesting assistance! Taking fire from multiple hostiles! We have a man down and we’re pinned!”
“This is Charlie One,” the sergeant responds, “Hang tight, Bravo, we’re coming to you. Alpha, you said straight and then right?”
“Affirmative, Charlie One,” Alpha responds, “When you reach the target, you’ll find Bravo Team taking cover behind a row of crates closest to the doors.”
“Roger that,” replies the sergeant. He motions to his team. “Let’s move. Stay sharp.”
Charlie Team quietly but quickly pushes on, watchful of the surroundings.
“So they got caught and a man down, huh?” muses Geoff. “Can someone remind me how those guys made it into the First Battalion again?”
“Families with military backgrounds, specifically Army Rangers,” says Rose. “The brass probably thought something rubbed off on them even though they just graduated from Military Academy.”
“Or their parents had connections to the brass,” Clint chimes in.
“What else is new?” adds the sergeant.
After making the right turn, they see several humanoid figures slowly approaching the doors to the storeroom. Bravo One raises his left hand for the order to halt.
“Hostiles?” asks Clint.
The sergeant adjusts the zoom on his night-vision goggles for a closer look at one of the bogeys. He can make out the shape of an AK-47 assault rifle in his hands. “Yeah, tangos. Light ‘em up.”
Each member of Charlie Team takes aim and swiftly fires one to two semi-automatic rounds into each hostile, downing all of them in mere seconds. As they make for the storeroom doors, the sergeant glances at the bodies and notices that they are humans, but from dimensions F4MGUY and 50UP4R. He motions for his team to stop in front of the doors.
“Rose, Geoff, ready your smoke grenades,” the sergeant orders, “Clint, get ready to open that door on my go. Once it’s open, we’re going to lay down some smoke and make a hard entry.
His comrades nod in acknowledgement. Rose and Geoff pull the smoke grenades off of their vests as Clint takes up a position at the door, preparing to push it open on his commander’s order.
The sergeant speaks into his wrist communicator, “Charlie One to Bravo Team, we’re going to make a hard entry through the doors behind you. We’ll be laying down smoke and coming to you.”
“Copy, Charlie One,” came the reply, “and please hurry!”
The sergeant begins the countdown, “Three… Two… One… GO!”
With a swift push, Clint opens one of the doors wide enough for Rose and Geoff to toss their unpinned smoke grenades into the room. Charlie Team storms the room, concealed by the spreading smoke. Gaining ground, the operators lay suppressive fire to further cover their entry. Through their goggles, they see three figures crouched behind a row of wooden crates and one lying on the ground. It is Bravo Team.
“Over here!” one of the members waves to Charlie Team.
The sergeant and his comrades make their way toward the other team, watching the enemy and returning fire as needed. Once they reach Bravo Team, they take a knee behind the cover of the crates as bullets continue streaming past them.
“Rick, how’s your man?” asks the sergeant.
The Bravo Team leader replies, “Marco’s hit, but I don’t know how bad.”
“Clint! Med kit!”
Clint approaches them with a first-aid kit out. He gets on his knees to inspect Marco’s body, searching for the wound. Meanwhile, Geoff and Rose fire back at their attackers.
“No blood coming out the back, no exit wound. So far so good.” Clint states, “Looks like the bullet’s lodged in his ribcage. A few centimeters off and he’d be a dead man.”
“So he’ll make it?” Rick asks, hopeful.
“For now,” Clint replies, “the only hard part is digging the bastard out of him.”
“Do you have the right tools?” asks the sergeant.
“There’s not a lot in this kit, but I’ll make do.”
“Good.” The sergeant starts talking into his wrist communicator, “Alpha, Bravo’s got a man down, but Charlie Two’s working on him.”
“What’s your position?” asks Alpha over the comm.
“In cover with Bravo Team behind some crates, taking fire from the front.”
“What about your team and the rest of Bravo?”
“Not a scratch on any of us.”
“Then you’re all fit to proceed with the mission?”
Charlie One looks to Geoff and Rose as the latter look back and nod. He looks at the healthy members of Bravo Team who all nod as well.
“That’s an affirmative,” the sergeant tells Alpha.
“Then you’re all clear to proceed.”
“Roger that, Alpha,” the sergeant responds before addressing the other operators. “Alright people,” he starts as he performs a brass check on his carbine, “Let’s clean the house.”