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my short story part three

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Part one is here, while part two can be found here. It is getting long for a short story, huh?

“Sir, we’ve located the Emperor.”
It sounded like Cameron’s voice, one of the new arrivals, and the only new arrival in group three – she replaced Marvin’s position in the group. Mulholland had unfortunately met a bullet with the side of his face not long after we infiltrated the building. “All groups, we require assistance,” she added.
“OK, Marines, haul ass to their position,” the Sarge exclaimed over our headsets. We tried running, but my limp was uncooperative in that area and the Sarge found it even harder to breathe. We had to settle for as quick a walk as we could manage. I found it interesting that we should have sustained damage from the bullets. They must have been of a higher velocity than the standard bullets the OA used. It makes sense though. If I were an Emperor, I’d give my guards the best stuff I could find to defend me with. Of course, if I were an Emperor, I’d make sure the guards wouldn’t get any ideas with the equipment I gave them, but that’s another matter entirely.
We made it to where group 3 was. They were in the middle of a gunfight with the remaining OA guards at the entrance to a door. Group 2 was already there, and group 4 arrived not long after. Something struck me as strange in regards to the guard’s behaviour. They weren’t trying to hit us. They were basically firing to get us hiding in cover. I’m sure the OA doesn’t train totally incompetent troops, so why they’d be doing that instead of trying to kill was almost beyond me. It was almost like they were trying to hold us back long enough. But what were they holding us back for?
The realisation of what they were doing finally dawned on me. “Sarge,” I said, “they’re trying to draw our attention while the Emperor gets out of the room another way!”
“Sir, he could be right,” came Simmons’ voice. “These OA troopers guarding the door aren’t acting like a normal OA trooper would.” Simmons ducked back around the corner she was hiding behind to let loose a few shots. An OA troop decided to do the same, and before he could open fire he got hit in the chest by one of her shots. They wore armour too, so all he did was stagger back and dive out of the way, leaving the way clear for another trooper to fire.
“They wouldn’t risk an airborne escape,” I said while Simmons was letting loose those shots, “so I’d say there’s either a back door for this room or there’s an underground escape route.”
“Sir,” Chambers said, “our group came from behind this room. There’s no other way out on this floor.” Chambers was the only veteran of group 4. Two of the new arrivals were in his group, Hall and Cantrell.
“OK then, Groups 3 and 4, move out and find out if there is an underground escape route. If not, the only other reason they’re trying to delay would be so that they will still be alive when the rescue party comes.” The Sarge got me thinking along that line of thought too. Surely the must know that they can’t hold out for more than 40 minutes. They might be able to hold out for a few minutes more, but not for 40.

Not long after I had that thought, the Potemkin picked up a jump signature at the edge of the system. Further scanning revealed no less and no more than 10 OA Omega-class Destroyers. One of those would mean the end for the Potemkin. 10 meant that there might not be any chance of escape.

The Sarge got the word about half a minute after the two groups had left. “Fall back, Marines!” he shouted. “The rescue party has arrived!”
My reaction was instantaneous. This was the mission that I was going to make a difference. This was the mission that could possibly mean victory for our side. We were being ordered to fall back so that we could get out of the system alive. History has stated that overwhelming odds are never good, and this could very well go down as a humiliating and demoralising defeat. “Look at how close we were to winning the war, and look at how our cowardice caused us to miss the chance,” would be one of the thoughts going through a lot of people’s minds if we came back without an Emperor. For the first time in my career, I decided that my superiors could get fucked. There was no way that I was going to allow the Emperor to escape.
I had two flashbangs left. “Simmons,” I said, knowing full well that her career might very well end with mine if she helped me, “do me a favour and lay down some covering fire.” I had both grenades in my hands when I asked and the pins ready to be popped.
“Don’t you do that, Simmons!” bellowed the Sarge. “That’s an order!”
It appears that her belief that I was good luck proved to be more powerful than the belief that your superior officer should be listened to at all times. She smiled at me, turned around, and proceeded to empty her clip at the door. When I was sure the other side wasn’t firing, I stepped out after popping the pins and counting to one. I was in a good throwing position by the time I had reached two, and as a result lobbed the grenades towards the door. Elaine ducked back around the corner and I dived to the floor, covering my head with my arms. A trickle of light crept through my arms to alert me the flashbangs had gone off. I darted up and ran towards the door, Elaine following me.
The OA troopers were rather easy to kill. Two flashbangs seemed to provide a sensory overload for them, and as a result they were hardly moving. I decided I had to remember that for use in a later mission.
By the looks of things, the Emperor was trying to remember how to use the escape provided in the room. It looked as if it was almost open, but the Emperor made the mistake of looking over towards his troopers as the grenades rolled in the door. I looked at Simmons with a grin on my face. She returned the grin as we grabbed the Emperor off the floor. “Should I give the Sarge the news or should you, Elaine?” I asked her.
“What news?” the Sarge asked over our headsets.
“It was your decision to go back on his orders,” she said as we were dragging the Emperor out of the door, “so you’d better tell him what your good reason was.”
“What’s the fucking news, Anderson?” the Sarge nearly yelled, and no doubt would have if he wasn’t having trouble breathing.
“We have the Emperor, Sir.” The satisfaction must have shown through my voice.
There was a second or two of silence before the Sarge finally spoke again. “Good work, Marines. Now get the fuck out of this building!”

The OA had finally sent reinforcements by the time we emerged from the building. I hurried past the bodies of Hall and Underhill. Not far from them were some OA troops lying on the ground, blood gradually forming a bigger pool around them. The dropship was about 50 metres away. Everyone else had entered the dropship, but the Sarge was outside waving. “Hurry the fuck up you two!” we heard over our headsets.
The Emperor finally managed to say some words. “You people are making a huge mistake by capturing me.”
“And why is that, o grand asshole?” asked Elaine.
“You have no idea about what you’re going to set in motion.”
“The end of the war hopefully,” I said. We were now 30 metres from the dropship, enough distance for the Sarge to see clearly what was about to happen.
“You will bring doom to everyone!” I could only imagine what his thoughts would have been. He was captured, heading towards an unknown fate. He was sure to be used and abused by the UP to hurry along the end of the war. His argument that he was waging with us was loosing. And he was no doubt aware of the war plan for the OA, dangerous information that can be extracted given enough time. Time he didn’t want us to have.
The last thing Elaine and myself were expecting was for his head to just disconnect itself from the rest of its body. I had heard about weird suicide devices developed by the OA, but seeing one in action was quite disturbing. There was nothing unprofessional about it – it was a nice clean cut along the neck. How it was done I still don’t know to this day. I will probably never find out either. Either way, we were ordered by the Sarge to drop the body and return to the drop pod, and as a result any indication of what the suicide device consists of was left behind with the body.

We arrived back at the Potemkin to find the ship under red alert. The commander of the Potemkin hailed the OA fleet after he heard our news about the Emperor. I checked the logs to find out what was said.
“OA Fleet, this is the UPMC Potemkin. We know you are on route to take your Emperor from the planet. We have some news in that area. Your Emperor killed himself after we captured him, so there is no need for you to pursue your course of action. You can have the planet back, we will leave the system, and everything will work out as it should for everyone.”
After a few seconds the fleet answered back. “UPMC Potemkin, you can shower us with lies about the physical status of our Emperor all you like. The fact is that we fully intend on destroying your ship.”
The Potemkin would unfortunately not have enough time to clear any large gravity wells and enable the Jump drive which would allow us to leave the system. Soon after we got back, the Captain addressed the ship.
“All hands, this is the Captain speaking. Abandon ship, I repeat, abandon ship. Anyone who wishes to stay to fight an impossible fight may do so if they wish. I will be staying and doing the best I can to ensure the rest of the crew of this ship get to the planet’s surface safely. I have sent a request to HQ for a rescue operation, which I’m sure they’ll follow up because I also attached the news that the OA’s Emperor killed himself after being captured by one of our Marine units. Those people will no doubt be hailed as heroes, and it would be very embarrassing for the government to abandon it’s heroes. Again, I repeat, abandon ship. That is all.” How typical of the captain to go down with his ship.
We had already made it back to our quarters. The Sarge seemed to be getting worse, but he was shrugging it off. Knowing that we would be abandoning ship in to enemy territory, there was a silent agreement that we should stock up with as many weapons and as much ammo as possible. I grabbed my OCTS, a whole heap of loaded and modified clips, a couple of pistols with clips, a few strings of grenades, and an semi-automatic/automatic 12 gauge shotgun with a pouch of shells. I also stocked up on emergency rations.
We instinctively made it back to our dropship. It only had half a tank of fuel but that would be more than enough to get down to the planet’s surface, and possibly up to any rescue ships that might come. The Sarge boarded the dropship with little more than when he left the dropship 5 minutes ago. “Sir, maybe you should board an escape pod with a doctor so that you can find out what’s wrong with you.” His breathing was even harder now, and sounded faintly like gurgling.
“What, and leave you in charge? You’ll break every military law before you touch down on the plane-” He started coughing, but I got the point and advised him not to continue. We left the Potemkin for the last time and headed for the planet.

The Potemkin really had no chance. It was a military vessel, that is true, but its primary purpose was that of a personnel carrier. The weapons it had were insignificant to the power of an Omega-class destroyer. The Captain knew this, and ordered ramming speed. He died with his ship, but in doing so he took down an OA ship. He really couldn’t have done better given the circumstances.

We hit some air turbulence on the way down. The Sarge didn’t seem to take it too well at all. I was going to ask him whether he was alright or not but I was expecting the same sort of answer that I had gotten the previous times I had asked – something along the lines of don’t worry about him.
Half an hour after we had landed was when the Potemkin made its final and fatal attack. By that time we had already left the dropship. The pilots decided to land in a clearing in the middle of a forest area. We disembarked and set up a camouflage net around the dropship. Hopefully any OA troops doing surveillance by air wouldn’t notice it. The clearing was a few metres wider than the width of the dropship so they landed roughly centre. The camo net covered the rest of the gap around the dropship.
The plan was to find somewhere to lie low until the UP sent a rescue party. We found the perfect place to do just that after two hours of exploration. It was a cave in the side of a hill. It seemed easy to defend but if anyone came up from the top of the hill we would be dead. It was decided that someone should always keep watch on the top of the hill. Everyone was to take it in turns keeping watch from the top of the hill. Chambers volunteered to take the first watch.

Nightfall was falling fast. The Sarge’s condition was deteriorating. After a bit of an argument I finally convinced him to take off his armour. I finally got to find out what sort of damage that high-velocity bullet.
The impact of the bullet was hard enough to dent the armour. Where the armour was dented, there was a hollow along one of the ribs. By the looks of things, it had broken the rib. This also explained the ever-present gurgling sound in the Sarge’s breathing. The rib had punctured the lung and was now filling with blood. He would die very soon unless he got medical attention.
Drowning in your own blood is not a warrior’s death, so it was without surprise that I saw him trying to strap his armour on when I woke up in the middle of the night. I walked up to him and whispered, as I did not want to wake up anyone else, “Sir, I know what you’re about to do. If I was you, I would want to do the exact same thing.”
I tried to help him with his armour but he wouldn’t allow me. “William,” he said. That was the first – and last – time he ever addressed me by my first name. He wheezed and then continued talking. “I am going to leave the unit under your command. Out of all of you, you have shown the most initiative, and I’m sure that you-” he tried to keep the cough at the level of a whisper but it ended out being a bit louder “-will excel in a position of leadership.”
“Thank you, sir,” was all I could say in response.
“Please, it’s Paul.”
He finally got his armour on and started to walk out of the cave. “See you on the other side, Paul.”
He stopped at the mouth of the cave, looked at me for a second, and then he was gone.

This could be viewed as the end of the story (and for any short story it most probably would be), but it's not. There is much MUCH more to be told. Stay tuned (or something).

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Excellent story! This just keeps gettin' better and better.
Keep up the good work :-)

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