Prologue & Chapter 1
Faiz and his sister Jahmela, in T2 armor uniforms, walk from the grounded gunship. They trail after several dozen Islamic faction militants across the runway. From Faiz’s point of view, everything seems to be ready for the long awaited assault to deal a critical blow to the Federation. The entire runway is full of soldiers and vehicles loading into dozens of gunships that are preparing to lift off.
“Looks like everything is perfectly in motion,” Faiz says to his sister.
Jahmela fidgets with the medical case and returns a nervous nod. She glances around at the Islamic faction forces boarding the aircraft and transports at record speed.
Although most of her face is concealed behind the face armor, her eyes can be seen dropping at the far corners. For a long time, she viewed being a military medic to be difficult when one has a zealous brother. She holds out hope that he isn’t someone she will have to care for.
Faiz’s excitement doesn’t allow him to see Jahmela’s expression. “I cannot believe that we are finally ready to help liberate Abu Dhabi and beyond.” He looks at Jahmela, maintaining his smile. “Did you hear anything I said, sister?”
“I did hear you. I’m just concerned about how effective this assault will be.”
“Jahmela, I understand that you have your views about all of this. But if you look at the numbers we have been able to pull together, it is difficult to imagine us failing tonight.”
“One is able to hope Faiz.” She replies with a worried appearance in her eyes. “Please, there’s still time for you to… I mean, I’m worried that if we go along with this whole thing.” She pauses and changes sentences. “Faiz, it’s not too late for you to refuse to participate in this campaign.”
Faiz looks away from Jahmela.
“I’m serious. You know where I stand, and I don’t see anything positive coming from this assault. I don’t want to lose you."
“Listen Jahmela,” he says, gently taking a hold of her hand, “Both of us have been looking forward to freeing our home city ever since the peacekeeper and Federation takeover.”
“And I still do. On the other hand, I care more about your safety than saving the place that I used to call home.”
“It’s not just about it being home to me. Success tonight will spark something that can help all of us. Once we secure the city, we can begin another military campaign that will begin to hopefully drive the Federation from the Arab regions. You don’t have to worry about me.”The two siblings embrace each other tightly in the middle of all of the military movement across the runway.
“I have something important to discuss and it can’t wait.” she says with her eyes pleading with tears.
Faiz lets go of his sister and stares her directly in the eyes, “I have a feeling I know what it is. I already explained where I stand.” Before Jahmela can offer her response, alarms across the base begin to give off loud blares warning of an incoming attack. Everyone throughout the place seems to freeze in place for a second before scrambling to complete the battle preparations in a rush.
Jahmela looks around, trying to make sense of the situation. Her heart rate reaches record speed given her freshness to the military environment compared to Faiz.
“What is happening?” she asks with a cracking voice.
“This is impossible,” Faiz says with total disbelief.
“What… What is it?” she begs, following her brother who is racing across the runway, “Faiz, tell me. Please!”
“They’re here. The Federation is here!” he shouts.
“Are you sure?” she screams to be heard over all of the commotion, from the yelling and aircraft engines powering up.
Faiz slows his speed as he reaches a few Islamic commanders exiting the main building of the base. He approaches the ranking base commanders and announces his commanding rank. Every last one of the guys around him appears to be in great panic within. The commanders spit out quick information that confirms what the two siblings feared before separating into the chaos. Faiz flips a one-eighty and sprints towards the gunship he and his sister arrived at the base with.
“Come on, we have to try and protect the base!” he yells, not willing to stand by and wait for the battle to come to them. In his mind, Faiz forces himself to believe that the base can still preserve the assault force and proceed with the campaign. How many losses the Islamic faction will overall take heavily depends on how fast they can get their fighters into the fight.
Adrunus Carrier Vessel
Standing at the center of the Adrunus command bridge, General Achar readies to begin his preemptive strike against the Islamic faction. Tonight will be an important night. The general is more than ready to deal a devastating blow to one of the enemy’s strongholds in the North African countries. A few other UWA commanders surround Achar, observing a massive computer-generated map emitting from the massive cyber table. Achar looks out the extensive string of armored windows where he watches a dozen M4 air-freighters and carriers joining his vessel to take up battle positions over the Mediterranean Sea. The UWA naval fleet awaits not too far ahead, in the rippling waters. The general glances back at the cyber table and checks the status of the Armored naval vessels and sure enough they are exactly where they are supposed to be.Multiple alarms ring from the pilot’s digital dashboards, signaling that dozens of missiles are approaching from enemy lines. The General remains collected as he observes the pilots immediately taking defensive measures. He stares out of the bridge windows as bright streaks sail through the sky towards his fleet of UWA air vessels. Shortly after, every warhead erupts in midair from the fleet’s laser counter systems. One after the other, the projectiles appear to hit an invisible wall, about a mile away from the fleet.
After the failed first wave of missiles, three times as many appear on the cyber table. Most of the modified naval ships up ahead of the aerial fleet fire their missiles in response. The air vessels continue to counter the incoming missiles. General Achar receives incoming communications from one of the other commanders aboard the M2 air-carriers. “This is General Sanjana to the Adrunus.” Comes a thickly accented female voice.
“This is General Achar. Go ahead.”
“Every vessel is in position. It appears that we have caught these people in the middle stages of their deployment.”
“It appears so.”
General Achar turns from the gigantic windows and glances at the digital map. It takes a second to perform a full battle prediction analysis with his genetic engineered eyeballs.
“Order your aerial vessels to launch the drones and soften their aircraft, ground to air weapons, and those missile launchers. Mine will deal with the ground forces and base. I will give the signal for UWA ground forces to secure the base afterwards.”
“Yes, General. Launching now.”
Immediately after the order is given, Achar watches as streaks of advanced warheads launch from the aerial vessels, heading towards the African mainland.
Barely able to open his eyes, throbbing pain spreads through Faiz’s back. Everything is a blur in that moment. He can’t remember where he is. All of a sudden, Jahmela stumbles over and tries to help him up. From what he can tell, she has a few fresh cuts through the shoulder plate with blood dripping down the armored uniform.
“Jehemela, what just happened?” he questions, struggling to get back on his feet again.
She grabs her shoulder and tries to talk through the pain. “The United World Army fired warheads at us. One made it through our missile defenses.”
Taking a glance around, it all makes sense. Looking over his shoulder, the gunship they were heading for is nothing but flames and carnage, along with many other transport vehicles. A number of Arab soldiers are lying across the battle torn runway, either dead or severely wounded. For Faiz, it is more than apparent that the Federation will soon overwhelm the base. Every healthy Islamic soldier active throughout the area attempts to flee towards any available aerial vehicles to most likely escape. The issue present is that with this many troops and vehicles out in the open runway, they all will be next to nothing for the enemy to target them.
Faiz catches Jahmela staring off into the distance.“Oh no!” she says, eyes wide with shock. Turning to see what she is staring at, he spots the horrible site. Hundreds, if not thousands, of red lights approaching from the north. Faiz had never seen anything so terrifying before. The survival instinct inside of Faiz kicks in, prompting him to take his sister and escape while they still can.
“Are those drones?” Jahmela yells, struggling to run with her brother.
“We have to run right now!” he replies, limping alongside his sister. He points to one of the transports in the distance. “That gunship. Get to it and don’t wait for me.”
“I can’t leave you.”
Faiz cuts her off. “You’re not! Get there and have them wait for me!”
Jahmela darts through the chaos-filled runway, trying to close the gap between herself and the gunships. The noises of friendly aircraft fill the atmosphere as nearly a couple dozen of them move to engage the drones. A second later, she catches a glimpse of the drones focusing down the aircraft. With the aircraft preoccupied, multiple drones with blinking red lights zip towards and attach themselves to both vehicles and soldiers. Before anyone can react to the drones latching on to them, they go up in large explosions.
Suicide drones! She thinks, looking back to check on her brother. Right now, there is no sign of Faiz due to all of the fleeing ground forces along with explosions. Which begs the question if she should turn back and find him or trust that he is still on his way.
Jahmela makes the difficult decision and continues forward. All along the way, she witnesses the rapid destruction of the Arab base and runway. Attack drones tear through most of the fleeing soldiers with automatic gunfire while the suicide drones target the armored vehicles. Most of the detonations are unable to penetrate some of the heavier vehicles, so the suicide drones target the wheels and weak points to disable them. Friendly air support becomes a non-factor since the scattered fighters that are in the sky become swarmed by dozens of drones. A few feet ahead of Jahmela, a suicide drone collide with and grabs onto a soldier’s upper body ready to detonate. She circles the helpless victim and jumps to her stomach as the machine blows the soldier into a crimson mess. Some of the metal shrapnel disperses and injures several people surrounding the victim. She pushes herself back up and continues her race to the escaping aircraft. Within seconds, she leaps inside one of the overcrowded gunships about to take off. She looks back to seek out Faiz. She screams at the pilot to wait for Faiz to arrive before taking off. Most of the soldiers inside unleash rounds of automatic gunfire to destroy several UWA drones trying to target the aircraft.
Jahmela’s eyes catch Faiz in the crowd, struggling to maintain his pace. He limps while firing shots off with his sidearm at some of the drones close to him. The gunship pilot begins to lift off from the base as Faiz is about to reach the side entrance. Jahmela extends an arm allowing for her brother to launch himself into the air and wrap a firm grip around her arm. The heavy weight of Faiz is too much for the shorter sister. A few of the other soldiers aboard the gunship assist her and pull Faiz aboard before the doors close.
Faiz can be seen staring out of the side entrance of the aircraft at the annihilation of what was supposed to light the spark for the Islamic culture. A wishful spark that would have most likely led to the liberation of the rest of the Middle Eastern regions from the Federation occupation. Now, what remains below become easy targets for the Federation’s AI weaponry. Faiz drives his fist into the wall a couple of times while letting his head drop. He presses his eyelids together to contain the angry tears forming.
The stealth four-wheeler skids to an abrupt stop once the brakes are applied roughly. Both of the people seated in the front leap out and using their earpieces, make contact with the people in the underground bunker. After a few sentences are exchanged, one of them unlock and open the invisibly camouflaged pair of doors hidden in the forest terrain. From inside this hole, another pair of muscular and rough looking guys wielding automatic weapons ascend dirt steps. They approach the four-wheeler, one of them using a switchblade and cutting the metal strings restraining a prisoner tied to the rear of the vehicle.
They keep the black sack over the prisoner’s head and drop him to the ground. The muscle guys unbinds the prisoner’s hands then pins them behind the man’s back. One of the gruff men grabs one of the wrists and discovers a digital watch around it. The second man motions for his comrade to hurry up. They attach a pair of code-encrypted restraints to the prisoner before dragging him into the bunker.
The prisoner tenses up as his feet slide across the dirt floor. The captors make multiple turns through the bunker at a quick pace. Once the rough escort concludes, the cuffed prisoner is slammed into a chair with the hand restraints zip tied to the back of the chair. One of the muscle soldiers pushes the end of his weapon at the prisoner’s head while the second leaves the room. Minutes later, he reappears with the Criminal boss following at a slow pace. The boss, full of cuts and scars across the face, studies the prisoner.
“Our men apprehended this man some distance from the perimeter.” The second muscle soldier begins.
“Interesting. Did he resist?” The Criminal boss questions.
“No. He surrendered without incident. We only found this on him.” The soldier says, handing his boss a SBT3 handgun previously gathered from the prisoner.
“Are you sure this is all he had?”
“Yes-other than a few pieces of scratch paper with useless notes, there is nothing else.”
The crime boss tosses the weapon to the floor, “This situation is quite irregular.” He strides to the prisoner, looking up and down at the captive. “I’m confused here,” he begins, speaking to the prisoner, “What is a person like you doing all the way out here?”
The prisoner remains silent.
The crime lord notices something inside one of the small pockets on the prisoner’s blue button up shirt. He forces his hand into the pocket and retrieves a homemade rope necklace with a wooden cross attached.
“I thought you said he had nothing else on him.”
“Oh, uh, we didn’t think that piece was worth anything.”
“When I ask if someone has anything on them, I expect to know every single item.” He strikes the prisoner in the face through the black bag. “What exactly were you doing out here?”
“I’m not talking with you with this thing over my face,” the prisoner says.
With a hand motion to the first soldier, the cloth bag is ripped from James Janis’ head, allowing him to breathe properly.
“Thank you,” James says.
“I want an answer to my answer. Please don’t waste my time.”
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you.”
“I live not too far from here and my transportation broke down. I was on my way towards some civilization when your thugs intercepted me.”
“Oh, I believe you. A child could have created a more compelling story than that.”
“That’s the truth.”
“If you were stranded, you could have called someone.”
“Phone died.” James shrugs.
“You could have transmitted a distress signal from your BIC implant,” the crime boss says, rotating behind James to carefully inspect both restraint hands. “But considering that you have neither the BIC or the mark of loyalty to the Federation, I can only guess that you are not a law abiding citizen.”
“You people don’t seem to bear either of those things as well. So if I were to make an educated guess, you people seem like a small cell of a larger systematic human trafficking faction.”
“You’re familiar with us?”
“You have quite a brain, but I am asking the questions here. So, are you going to confess or should I tell you what I already know?”
“Look, just because you repeatedly ask me a question isn’t going to change my answer.”
The crime lord draws an energy pistol and pushes the barrel to James' head. “You want to continue to play games with me?” He holds the cross necklace in front of James’ eyes while talking.
“I found it off someone.”
“What this thing tells me is that you are part of the religious underground Coalition Faction. And I am guessing that you are here in regards to the raid my cell performed on your supply run last night. Isn’t that right? So, what is it you people want with us? To negotiate for the release of the supply runners? Or have you come to beg-demand for us to return the equipment?”
“That would be a start.”
“So the real truth comes out.”
“I knew you would figure it out sooner or later.”
The boss finally holsters his weapon. “Well, you are too late. Your people are already dead, and your equipment is now under our control.” With that, the crime lord turns and disappears into the dark hallway. A pair of additional soldiers with face masks enter the room with their automatic weapons ready.
James sees the new soldiers come in and fidgets with his hands behind his back, reaching for the electronic watch on his wrist. He presses one finger on the surface of the gadget, allowing an AI insect to crawl from it and latch onto the restraints.
One of the muscle soldiers draws a small razor and advances towards James. He firmly grips the prisoner’s face preparing to put the blade to his neck.
Needing additional time for the bug to hack the codes and break the restraints, James decides to stall the soldier a bit. “Wait... wait. You might want to know something.”
The soldier ignores the comment.
“Look, I didn’t mention this to your boss, but have you people wondered why I was so easy to catch? Someone with half a brain cell would have figured this out.”
“You are bluffing.” the muscle soldier replies.
The arm restraints release from James arms, allowing him to deliver a strong punch to the soldier’s face, sending him back.
The two new soldiers with face masks immediately fire powerful stun projectiles at the two muscled hostiles in the room. James reclaims his handgun from the floor while the other two check for any other criminal soldiers.
James retrieves the AI insect and places it back into his watch. “Nice timing, Maverick.” He says, rubbing both arms.
One of the soldiers removes his face mask, revealing a young American male. “I’ve got to hand it to you, James, this plan is working perfectly so far. Without the tracking beacon in your watch, we would have never found this place.”
“Easy to say when you're not the person about to have your skin removed.” James looks to Maverick.
“You were the most qualified.”
James tilts his head. “We have to move.”
The three ready their weapons and begin to move through the dark tunnels leading deeper into the underground hideout. Maverick takes point and fires stun projectiles at every soldier in front of his path. The group reaches a split in the tunnel’s path.
“Maverick, and whoever this person is, take the right. I’ll head down this way.”
James begins on his way. “Yes. Just go.”
Maverick and the other soldier make their way through the twisted tunnels, stealthily picking off a couple of guards with stun projectiles. It takes them a short time to reach a large sitting area at the end of their tunnel. They approach the crime boss from behind. Before they get the drop on him, the guy spins around and goes into a wide-eyed panic mode. He reaches for his sidearm but ceases when Maverick advances forward, keeping the weapon trained at face level.
“Call for help, and I pull this trigger.” Maverick warns.
The crime boss reveals his cowardly attitude through the sound of his voice. “Look. Look, we can work something out here.”
“Drop your weapon now.” Maverick doesn’t budge.
The crime boss does what he is told. “Alright, I’m doing it. Just don’t shoot me.”
“Not if you do exactly what I say.” Maverick’s partner states with authority.
Mavericks cuts in. “Where are the supplies you stole from us during the supply raid?”
The crime boss, with a shaking arm, points to a metal door off to his right. “They’re in there. Everything is in there. Just lower your weapons.”
Without warning, James emerges from a shadowy tunnel behind the crime boss, putting a couple of lethal rounds through the boss’ back. The gunshots bounce off the walls as the lifeless body falls to the floor. James enters the light with his lips tightly pressed together. Both eyes reflect the room’s illumination from the angry tears. He shoves the weapon inside of his jacket.
“What are you doing?” Maverick whispers harshly.
“Taking out a threat.”
“He was unarmed, plus surrendering.”
James looks at Maverick through the corner of his eyes. “I didn’t notice. I was running and saw you two in a standoff with him.” He takes a knee and reclaims the cross necklace from the victim’s pocket.
“Fair enough,” Maverick says, accepting James’ faulty excuse. “My worry is that you just used an unsilenced shot. That’s the reason we loaded stuns so we wouldn’t alert every criminal goon in this place.”
James places the necklace inside of his jacket and re-configures his weapon to fire stuns. “You have no idea what I witnessed on my way here.”
“Anything important?” Maverick comments while moving to the metal door.
James’ face drops. “Our entire supply runner team is dead…” James attempts to describe the way they were killed but decides against it, considering that he needs to keep a balanced attitude for now.
“We know,” Maverick says.
“Hurry up and get that open.” James pressures.
Maverick reaches and pulls a lock torch gadget from his holster and puts it to the door. Before anything can be done with the door, the three hear multiple hostiles moving their way from down the tunnel James traveled through.
“Sounds like they know where we’re here.”
“There’s no time. I’ll tag it for the coalition.” James receives a pea-size beacon from the other soldier. He activates the thing, which is only traceable for coalition scanners, and inserts it into the dirt wall beside the metal door. “Let’s move.”
The three backtrack through the tunnel system running from their pursuers. James looks back over his shoulder and spots a couple of plain clothed criminal militants not too far behind.
“Over here!” one of them shouts.
James readies his weapon and unloads the darts into the pursuers. Both of the militants drop, momentarily putting the team in the clear. He slows down, trying to put fresh darts into the handgun.
Maverick and the other soldier put down a couple of additional guards that appear up ahead to cut them off.
“Maverick,” James calls out. “Tell our rider to begin his approach!”
The rookie puts an index finger to his earpiece. “This is Bravo team to Specter. We’ve been made. Begin approach now. I repeat, make your approach.” After receiving a response from the driver, Maverick confirms with James that everything is in order for extraction.
They race up a long flight of dirt stairs before breaking out of the bunker’s exit door. The trio emerge in the middle of the forest in the Nepal mountains. With the vast majority of the trees in the radius dead, James worries that the criminal militants will have a much easier time taking shots at them with the lack of foliage.
The group maneuvers around what remains of the trees, avoiding gunfire from a few pursuers in the distance. James struggles to dodge and weave through the maze of decaying trees. On top of that, they are heavily disadvantaged with their weapons on stun. The fact that the coalition has minimal weapon suppressors in supply makes missions more dangerous than it needs to be. Like Maverick said, the ring of gunfire will pose high chances of alerting UWA drones or additional criminal soldiers in the area. The stun projectiles in their weapons will be more than useless out here in the forest where the range plays a serious factor.
Putting all of that aside, James allows the downward momentum to carry his body down the slope faster. He pushes off several trees that come in the way. He approaches some large craters from previous meteor showers spread out across the forest. James quickly takes the obvious option and takes the long way around to avoid running through the exposed craters. During this, a few rounds from the enemies' silenced weapons come too close for comfort, which makes him more desperate to get out of this place. James outruns his mission partners to where he can now see the dirt road not far ahead. The one thing missing is the getaway vehicle.
“Where’s our ride?” James shouts through his hefty mouth breathing.
The three continue to skid down the slope, twisting around the trees to be difficult targets. As they close within fifty yards of the road, James checks for the vehicle and still sees nothing.
“Maverick?” he says in an increased panicked voice.