This book will launch on Sep 2, 2019. Currently, only those with the link can see it.🔒
Synopsis

The Constitutional Empire of Zurkerx has become the strongest nation economically, militarily, and politically in Zentari through arduous work and self-preservation. With its newfound power, the Empire establishes itself as a superpower, proclaiming itself the protector of Natural Rights. Marcus Huns, the Supreme Commander of the Empire, has been tasked with maintaining this status. His leadership has proven exceptional as he upholds peace and stability within the Empire.

But his leadership and resolve will be tested when an organization known as the Gewerksma and its insurgents threaten this stability; their will guided by defiance and their ideology. They will make one final push to change the Empire to fit their ideals, their narrative. Yet, the threat they pose will also expose deep flaws within Marcus, conflicts he must quickly resolve before the enemy strikes and undoes everything the Empire has built.

Discovery

NOVEMBER 6th, 2060

11:55 P.M.

ZOK


The stars and moon glisten in the night sky. In the northwestern corner of Zurkerx lie the Teal Mountains that cover most of the northwest border. These mountains got their name because when the moonlight hits their peaks, they reflect a teal aura, illuminating the surrounding area.

Within the Teal Mountains lies the Blue Serpent Canyon, which stretches 1,538 miles. On both sides of the canyon are tall pines that stretch for miles, signifying the start of the taiga forest. A small stream flows through the canyon, leading to the larger Teal River where the Cyanic Delta lies.

In this canyon lie abandoned buildings left behind from the Industrial Era. These buildings were warehouses used as storage by major manufacturers to keep track of inventory, to ship and send products to retailers across Zentari. They are two-story complexes that have a cafeteria, a conference room, and storage areas that once held products produced by blue-collar workers. The outside of the structures is in shambles, their walls are collapsing, the corroded blue paint chipping, the roof caving in. The facilities were abandoned back in the early 2000s, falling back into the hands of Mother Nature.

However, Mother Nature has been pushed back by new inhabitants. These warehouses now have been refitted with some new materials and equipment such as AAA guns, mini SAM sites, and metal sheets. The Gewerksma have been making modest upgrades to forward their cause for a society for the working class, protected by the Aussvorh. As a base of operation, this site is one of tens of thousands of headquarters where leadership meets and discusses matters of how to combat and persuade people to join their cause.

In one of these buildings are fifty Gewerksols who roam inside. In the conference room, there are an additional twenty people, protecting eight high-ranking leaders, their golden stars giving their identity away. Outside the warehouse, ten more Gewerksols roam the perimeter. That is what the two drones see at least. 

While one drone flies in the air, the other, a spider-looking drone, crawls around in the building. This Spider Drone carries a small amount of a chemical known as Agent Xern, an incapacitating agent that has chlorine and other chemical compounds. The Gewerksols remain oblivious to the presence of the drones, their every move being watched.

Also watching the Gewerksols are twenty-five soldiers as they hide behind the tree line, perfectly camouflaged, their weapons equipped with suppressors. They remain still, knowing any slight movements or noises can blow their cover. They have been sent by the government to investigate one of the abandoned facilities within the Teal Mountains, a mission of high importance. They are here due to a tip coming in that the Gewerksma are prepping for a cyberattack on the city of Zok, planning to shut down vital government agencies and steal information. The government knows that the Gewerksma like to hide in the Teal Mountains because of the range’s isolation from the public.

To aid them on their mission, these soldiers use the Zappas Monitor System (ZMS), a headset that allows video/radio transmissions among soldiers. The system can toggle Infrared, X-Ray, and Night Vision with the ability to zoom in and out. With amplifiers on each ear, soldiers can hear from longer distances, able to hear conversations hundreds of feet away. ZMS highlights friendlies as blue and foes as red, and comes equipped with a voice recorder and mike that can disguise voices and translate and speak any language. Attached with the ZMS is a bio-chemical mask that covers the soldier’s face, protecting the soldier from any biological or chemical agents.

The soldiers also wear the Kinetic Warrior Suit[1], a power suit that is powered by the soldier’s kinetic energy. It is made of Kevlar, woven together with diligent gel, silicone gel, and Graphene. Carbon fiber plating and titanium-aluminum plates provide additional protection for the soldier. The Warrior Suit also consists of pneumatic muscles and joints, giving the soldier greater flexibility.

To function, the Kinetic Warrior Suit and ZMS rely on the Lithium-ion Cell System (LCS), a power station that relies on two advanced alternators. These alternators convert the kinetic energy into electricity, storing it in two large, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. This power is then utilized by the soldiers to increase their strength and speed, making them a super soldier. The soldiers can use this power to regulate their temperature, allowing them to adjust to any climate. The power can also be used to resist EMPs by redirecting and dispersing the electromagnetic waves emitted by these pulses.

Currently, there’s additional research being done to further expand the uses of kinetic energy. While much of this work remains classified and is not yet implemented, it’s believed that militaries throughout Zentari are trying to develop ways for soldiers to absorb kinetic energy and utilize that energy as a source of additional power. This additional power would be used not only offensively, but also defensively as the soldier can generate an electric armor to provide additional protection. These accessories and advances in technology help make these Zurk soldiers one of the most advanced military units in Zentari, officially called The Red Skulls.  

The Red Skulls got their name in 1886 when a battalion by the same name were sent on a mission to the town of Guzen, systematically eliminating everyone. This small town was known to harbor the Gewerksma, serving as one of their many bases of operation. At the time, this battalion was within the Brockov where they were known for their brutality and disdain towards Demokrists. The battalion earned their nickname because they spilled so much blood in Guzen, that the skulls of their victims were tainted red. Not even the rain could wash away the blood, which stained the soil and a nearby river red as well.

The actions of the Red Skulls would earn them condemnation by the Gewerksma and some in the public, viewing the violence as unjust. However, they received praise by others who feared the rising Demokrist threat could undermine the nation’s values. Later that year, they received a Presidential Recognition, a controversial move that incorporated them into the military as a special forces unit.

Eventually, the Empire would combine all its military forces under the banner of the Red Skulls to honor the battalion that fought the Demokrists that day. This was thanks to the Military Efficiency Act[2], an act passed in 2025 by the Royal Party. It created the position of Supreme Commander, giving the individual commanding authority over the Empire’s military, serving second in command under the President, who had supreme authority.

Conversely, there are three other reasons for the passing of the MEA. The first reason was that Zentari was in an era of peace and stability, tranquility that still lasts to this day. The second reason was that the military wanted their soldiers to be in a constant combat-ready state, ready to fight at a moment’s notice should a national or a regional crisis arise and disrupt the tranquility. This required the soldier to go through four years of training in hopes they would fulfill the military’s requirements.

However, the final and biggest reason for the MEA’s passage is the fact that automation had taken jobs away. To prevent massive unemployment, the military offered benefits and healthcare as incentives to gain new recruits and keep unemployment low. The military and government hoped they could erode the Gewerksma’s ability to recruit and prevent Demokrism or Neo-Demokrism from becoming more prevalent. It also served to keep the people distracted from the fact they couldn’t seek employment in certain fields of studies that automation had taken away. Nonetheless, the military did start to offer and encourage recruits to take classes they hoped would help people adapt to the changing job market and age of automation.

For these soldiers, it took several years of training that improved their versatility, efficiency, and durability on the battlefield. Now they must put all their training to the test as their minds focus on the mission.

Yet, for them to succeed, they need to get an understanding of their environment. That’s where the drones come in, providing live footage to the soldiers’ ZMS. This footage shows that there are eight high-ranking leaders inside, a rare find, surprising the soldiers.

 “Mad Dog, this is Gadget. Be advised, we have multiple hostiles roaming the facility. There is also the presence of eight high-valued targets. Proceed with caution; looks like we hit the jackpot.”

“Copy, Gadget. We’ll sniff them out.”

Supreme Commander Marcus Huns gets up, standing in the crouch position. Born in Moskova to a Zurk father and Krukanian mother, the 38-year-old is six feet tall, has black hair, green eyes, and is of medium build. He is a brilliant esteemed individual who’s well-regarded and feared across Zentari.

Yet, during his youth years, he was immature and arrogant, which led him to be constantly disciplined. Wanting to prove he had a purpose, Marcus joined the military. At first, his arrogance and immaturity got him in trouble, as he believed he was above everyone and that he wasn’t responsible for fixing everyone’s problems. But when he lost a friend to a tragic event, he changed his ways, realizing that as an individual he must help others and not ignore the problems that surround him, even if they don’t directly affect him. 

This new and mature form of him would steer him to join the Krenma, where he would rise to the rank of General at the age of 30 and would become the leader of the Krenma at the same time, becoming an admirable and respectable figure within the military and Zentari. By the time he was 36, he was appointed as the Supreme Commander of Zurkerx.

He stands up and raises his hand slightly, motioning the soldiers to move up. He has been tasked to lead these Red Skulls on this covert mission, though he rarely goes on missions anymore. This has been due to the bureaucracy back in Moskova, the paperwork and politicians that make his life a living hell, a nightmare he must deal with every day.

The soldiers stand up and move in, following Marcus as their guns point at the oblivious Gewerksols. Marcus and his troops carry the Mk 45 Puncher[3], a submachine gun that has a rate of fire of 550 RPM and holds thirty .45 caliber caseless telescoped rounds. The entire ammunition acts as the propellant, which is heat-resistant while also holding the primer and copper bullet in place. The rounds are loaded the same way as traditional bullets, but no casings are ejected; rather, the propellant disintegrates, reducing the environmental impact and leaving no evidence that someone was there. The design reduces the weight of the ammunition as well, meaning a soldier can carry more ammo.

As they creep closer, they stop, halted by Marcus’ upraised fist. They are roughly 50 yards away, within striking range of their targets. Yet, Marcus can see several cameras outside, thanks to his ZMS’ ability to highlight the signature of the cameras. He can see they are low-tech cameras, devices that lack infrared. However, any closer and they’ll be in view of the cameras.

“Gadget, there are cameras outside. See if you can find the security room.”

“Copy Mad Dog.”

Gadget taps on his tablet, redirecting the drone inside on a different course. He is one of four soldiers who are providing oversight, serving as backup if things go awry. The three other soldiers with him are triplets: Albric, Sadara, and Donin Sanz[4], who are carrying the Black Widow Sniper Rifle[5]. Albric tends to be the joker of the siblings, rarely taking a situation seriously, always trying to find a way to occupy himself while trying to put a smile on everyone’s face. Sadara is the serious and sternest of the siblings, taking no crap from anyone as she gives out the orders. Donin is the laid-back kind of fellow, his attitude being apathetic given he usually does what he’s told unless he views it as a dumb idea. Despite their differing personalities, the 24-year-old sergeants get along nicely, their bond as a family impossible to break. 

“Hey guys, you want to hear something?”

“Would you shut up, Albric? We are on a mission.”

“Let the poor sap have fun. It’s not like Albric can do much.”

“Don’t encourage him! This mission is important. Let’s just-”

“Guys! Guys! I want to tell you. It’s hilarious.” 

“Would you all bolt your mouths shut. God, it’s a freaking nightmare when you all talk at once,” says Gadget as he looks up from his tablet. “Later Albric, later. And if it’s that freaking lightbulb one again, I swear I’ll knock the lights out of you.”

“Lights? Well, you know how I can brighten up your day? With a lightbulb, that is!”

The man sighs. Gadget, who is 27 years old, is annoyed by the rusty old joke, his attitude not amused by it. He has dark-brown hair that is slightly tinted red, his eyes matching the color of his hair. His actual name is Arthur Vanderbilt, a staff sergeant within the Tech Division of the Red Skulls. He earned his nickname Gadget from his work on electronic devices, a passion he has held since he was seven years old.

He looks down, focusing on his tablet. The tablet has two split screens: the left side is the drone in the air while the right is the drone in the complex. He taps the right side of the screen, enlarging it, knowing there’s no need to look from the sky anymore. What’s more important now is the fact that they have just discovered several high-ranking individuals within the Gewerksma, people essential to leadership.

“So, this is where we strike?” asks a man pointing at the map.

“Yes,” says another man, sitting at the end of the table. “Zok is a major population center and downtown has a strong manufacturing sector. A cyber-attack on the manufacturers will bring production to a halt. Put it simply, it will turn more people against automation and hopefully convince businesses to hire actual people, not machines. We must do everything we can to undermine and weaken the government.”

The man folds his hands, sternly looking at the others at the table as they continue their conversation. His name is Gregori Kurt Stein, a proponent of Neo-Demokrist and Vorh. Gregori is a rather short, slender man with blue eyes and brown hair with a noticeable five o’clock shadow. He was the mastermind behind the latest bombing attacks on key manufacturers in the town of Zilra, attacks that killed 50 people. In fact, he has been responsible for twenty other bombings, which have killed an additional 1,250 people.

As they continue to discuss their plans, they remain unaware of what’s underneath the table, the Spider Drone making a dash to an air vent.

“Did you find the security room yet?” asks Marcus.

“Not yet, I’m still looking.”

“Keep looking. Until you disable their system, we won’t be able to approach unseen.”

The Spider Drone makes its way to the air vent. As it approaches the air vent, the drone’s camera sees a man confusingly looking at it, wondering what the hell it is. Sensing danger, Gadget taps a button, increasing the speed of the drone. The drone, with a speed boost, makes a hasty retreat towards the vents. Believing he’s just seeing things, the man shrugs and continues to survey the room.

After several minutes of wandering through the vents, the Spider finds a small room filled with computer screens. Believing Gadget has found the security room, the drone creeps out of the vent. In the distance, the drone sees a man sitting in a chair, his right hand holding up his head. The drone looks around and sees that only the man is present.

 Seeing an opportunity, the drone makes its way to the desktop, climbing the leg of the table. Once it gets on the table, it scurries behind the man’s large water bottle. The drone pokes around the bottle, watching the guy. The man appears tired and weary-eyed, fighting the urge to fall asleep.

Slowly, the drone approaches the half-awake man. The man gazes at the spider, figuring it isn’t much of a threat, an illusion of some sorts. Yet, its presence annoys him. He slowly moves his hand to swat it away. Sensing danger, Gadget presses a button, releasing the Xern gas, which sprays all over the man’s face.

The effects are almost instantaneous. The man chokes, caught off guard by the sudden release of the chemical as he falls to the ground. He realizes that the government is here and that without him, his comrades will not be alerted to that fact. He pulls out his phone and tries to send an alert, but he drops it, his hands around his throat as he suffocates. The drone records everything, transmitting the video to everyone.

“Mad Dog, you got this? Target is neutralized.”

“Copy that. All right, pick your targets. Make sure you don’t miss.” 

The soldiers select their targets, using their eyes and minds to highlight them to inform the other soldiers who their target is. Marcus chooses a poor sap smoking a cigar by the south side of the building, oblivious to what’s to come. He moves the reticle over the Gewerksol’s head. He then takes a deep breath and slowly breathes out.

“Weapons free.”

“Roger that.”

The bullets go flying, striking the Gewerksols and they drop dead. Marcus surveys the land, wondering if anyone else is lurking around. Yet, he sees that all the sentries have been taken out as nobody inside seems on alert.

“All tangos accounted for?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Moving up.”

Marcus motions the soldiers to move forward as he runs towards the building. Everyone follows suit as they come to the entrance of the building. He then comes to a stop, turning to face the soldiers.

“All right, I am sending you a message designating which team you are on. If you see a blue light, that’s Team Alpha. You’ll be with me. If you see a yellow light, you are on Team Bravo. You will be with General Fitzcock. Charlie Team will remain on the hilltop providing over-watch.”

“Go Charlie Team!”

“Albric, shut up and stay focused,” Gadget says spitefully.

The soldiers see a color flash before their eyes, signifying where to go.

“Now, Bravo Team, I want you to head to the front of the building. The rest of you follow me. Joseph, you know what to do?”

“I know,” says Joseph as he raises his hand, giving a thumb’s up.

General Joseph Fitzcock is a muscularly built dark-skin man who stands at 5’11’’, tracing his roots to the Wusu Tribe. He has black hair and bright brown eyes that’ll give the deception he has a gentle nature even though there’s nothing calm about him. He is a member of the Krenma and as one of its members, he wields the Zappas Nactbu[6].

He is renowned as the Empire’s Red Devil because of the blood-colored armor he wears. Despite holding the titles of the Red Devil and General, he prefers to be called Joseph. However, he likes it when newbies or people he hates call him General, given it makes him feel better by the fact they are forced to respect him.

He used to be the third best among the Krenma until Indra Krogger committed suicide, jumping off a cliff. Before his suicide, he was caught stealing highly classified information, intelligence he was going to give to the Gewerksma. It’s unknown why he would aid and assist an organization that calls for the overthrow of the government, although some believe he rejected the teachings of Einnerism, having bought into the lies that Demokrists preach. Now the Red Devil is number two, with number three being General Scarlet Junimen, known as the Black Widow.

Bravo Team moves along the side of the building, heading to the front. Alpha Team surrounds the back door, getting into a defensive position. A soldier reaches for the handle of the door, opening it slowly; expecting to see someone. He looks through the crack of the door and sees no one. He slowly swings the door open, entering as he takes a few steps before stopping.

“All clear,” the soldier whispers.

He motions to Alpha Team to move in. He advances, followed by the rest of Alpha Team as they stack up behind him. Slowly they walk, and in the distance, see what appears to be a hallway, with the option of going either left or right.

As they near the hallway, Marcus comes to a stop, leaning against the wall. Another soldier joins him on the opposite side. Both men nod at each other as they move around the corner, their guns pointing forward, looking for enemies.

Seeing that it’s clear, both men motion to the others to move up. They all group together wondering what their next move will be. They then receive a message with half getting a red light, the other half getting a green light.

“For those that receive a green light, follow me right; red light break left. Report anything you find.”

“Roger that.”

The soldiers nod as they get into their designated groups. As they part ways, shots ring out, the sirens ringing loudly. Marcus shakes his head.

“It looks like he blew our cover already,” he says with a small grin.

With the wave of his hand, Marcus directs the individuals who got a green light to continue on their course. They do as they are told, heading away from the gunshots. He then motions to the remaining soldiers to follow him, heading to the source of the shots. As they jog down the hallway, the shots grow louder. They are heading in the right direction and he knows that they’ll soon be engaging the enemy.

As they get closer, Marcus sees an old rusted metal door. He shuffles towards it, leaning on the wall to its left. The gunfight is on the other side of that door, a fight that is likely unavoidable.

He reaches for the doorknob and stealthily opens the door and peeps around the corner. He sees that the firefight is in full swing. There is an abundance of large wooden boxes that once held appliances. They now store arms and ammunitions used for terrorist attacks across Zentari, making this not an ideal place to have a gunfight. Marcus turns towards the soldiers.

“Provide cover fire! Use any cover to your advantage.”

He then swings the door open. He runs behind some wooden crates as everyone else storms in. They take shelter behind anything they can find as they watch the chaotic scene unfold. They can see several Gewerksols on a balcony engaging Bravo Team.

But they have the element of surprise, a benefit they plan on using to their advantage. As they get ready to engage the enemy, a Gewerksol runs onto the balcony, carrying an RPG as she slides into cover. She then peers over the balcony wall, looking for enemies. She can see several soldiers taking cover behind some crates, likely the enemy preparing an ambush. Seeing an opportunity, she pops up and takes aim as she squeezes the trigger.

“RPG!”

The rocket zips over the heads of the soldiers, striking several crates behind them. Explosions erupt as a chain reaction of ammunition and rockets goes off. Marcus jumps a little, ducking as explosions ring in his ears.

As he hides, he looks up and sees one of his soldiers is pinned. There is some cover ahead that will provide a better tactical advantage for him, but he’s unable to make it there without being peppered by bullets. He slowly lifts his head and spots three Gewerksols on the balcony, shooting at the soldier.

He then turns his attention towards the soldier, who is now looking at him. He’s horrified, afraid to move. Yet, his fear slowly abates as he reads Marcus’ face. He can tell that Marcus will give him covering fire, a chance to get to better cover.

Once he realizes what he has to do, the soldier nods as he gets ready to make a run for it. Marcus then lifts up his gun and fires a few shots at the Gewerksols, surprising them. Caught off guard, they divert their attention towards him. As they unleash hell onto Marcus, the soldier runs towards the boxes, his presence not noticed.

~

Gregori flinches. Explosions and gunshots ring throughout the entire complex. The guards, fearing for the safety of everyone in the room, corral everyone inside. Five guards leave the room to investigate as the others lock the door behind them.

Gregori stares at the door emotionlessly, awaiting the inevitable boom that will come from government forces breaching in. He knew it was only a matter of time before the government would capture him. As he awaits his likely death, the clock in the background ticks slowly as if time slows down.

~

The six soldiers continue in the opposite direction of the intensifying gunfight. They advance slowly, checking every corner and every hallway they come across. Yet, they remain unaware that they are heading towards the conference room, towards the unsuspecting five guards who are securing the area. They slowly move down the hallway, their guns pointing straight ahead.

As they advance, the soldiers approach the entrance of the hallway. One of the soldiers halts her comrades as she peeks around the corner, spotting the enemy. The Gewerksols then come to a stop, wondering who’s around the corner. Believing it’s the enemy, they open fire, hoping to scare the enemy.

But instead of running, the soldier jumps out and reaches into her pocket, surprising her comrades. However, they shouldn’t be surprised given that’s what Sergeant Hanna Qauti does. Hanna is a brilliant blond-haired woman who takes no crap from anybody unless she knows she’ll be outclassed, in which case, she’ll run away, using her charming personality to persuade others to finish her fight. Yet, while her brilliance is exceptional, she never plans for anything, especially if a situation is in dire straits.

As bullets continue to pass her, she pulls a flashbang grenade from her pouch, tossing it down the hallway, and it rolls across the floor. The five guards see the device approaching them and flinch for a second, expecting the worst. The flashbang then detonates, releasing multiple small pellets. These pellets are mini flashbangs that detonate within a couple of seconds from the initial explosion. This causes more disorientation and confusion among those affected, making it easier to finish them off. The Gewerksols not only don’t expect a fiery soldier to challenge them outright; they don’t expect to be blinded either.

As they shield their eyes from the blinding light, Hanna takes aim, pulling the trigger. One by one, the five guards fall to the ground, not able to recover from the gutsy attack. By the time the other soldiers get around the corner, they see that Hanna has eliminated everyone in the hallway. They lower their firearms, amazed by what she has accomplished.

As they stare with awe, she walks forward, spotting a set of heavy wooden doors in the distance. She reaches the doors and turns around, revealing a big grin across her face.

“Excellent work boys,” she says proudly. “Thanks to me, we have fewer Gewerksols to worry about.”

“Pffs, you almost died out there. Your recklessness does show-”

“Shut up and get the door open already,” she says sternly. 

~

Marcus ducks, hiding from the flurry of bullets that pounds his position. The three Gewerksols are throwing all they’ve got at the soldier who fired at them. Their full attention is focused on him; they are now forgetful of the soldier they were originally shooting at. That soldier has made it to cover and safety but now, he sees Marcus is in trouble. Slowly, he peeks his head around the crate, looking at the balcony.

He can see that the Gewerksols no longer acknowledge him. Sensing an opportunity, he takes a few shots, striking two of the Gewerksols who fall to the ground. The remaining Gewerksol turns around, shocked to see her comrades are dead. Sensing imminent danger, she ducks and reloads her weapon.

After reloading her weapon, she looks for the enemy. She can see a soldier on the other side, likely the same soldier who killed her friends. Infuriated and seeking vengeance, she stands up and takes aim.

As she’s about to pull the trigger, a bullet rips through her breast, striking her heart, Marcus delivering the fatal blow. She falls to the ground, never knowing what hit her.

He then runs up to the soldier, taking cover alongside him. He looks around to see if there are any other Gewerksols in the area. He doesn’t see any. He notices that it is quiet; too quiet. He then sees Bravo Team come out of cover. Regrouping with Marcus, they too are taken aback by the silence.

Suddenly, a man appears around the corner, pointing his gun at the soldiers. Caught off guard, they point their guns at the deranged man.

“Drop your weapon now!”

“Drop your weapon!”

Both sides yell at each other, hoping one will concede. Yet, the Red Skulls feel intimidated by the man’s sharp green eyes as he fearlessly stares at them. He is trying to stare them down.

Then darkness hits him as a bullet passes through his head, and he falls to the ground. A darker-skinned man comes around the corner, smiling joyfully.

“I see you were in a hurry, Joseph,” says Marcus as Joseph approaches.

“You should know me by now, Marcus. I don’t like to wait.”

“But patience is vital, especially in critical missions. Your shenanigans could have compromised us, alerting nearby Gewerksols that could be making their way as we speak. There is something called stealth; you should try and learn it one day.”

“Hmph! If you haven’t noticed, there aren’t any more of those goons roaming around. Not to mention, our backup forces will deal with them if they dare to send reinforcements.”

 “Eh, typical Joseph,” he says as he shakes his head. “Squawker, this is Mad Dog. Status report?”

“I think we found where their leaders are hiding, Mad Dog,” says Hanna. “There’s some thick dual doors here, I think they’re hiding behind them.”

“Supreme Commander, her recklessness almost got her killed again. When will she learn?”

“Shut up, morons! I singlehandedly stopped them all and I’m perfectly fine! You need to learn some respect-”

“Enough, Sergeant! Do I need to remind you how many times those so-called morons have saved your life? They are quite fascinating stories to tell, you know.”

Silence falls across the intercoms, leaving a blushed Hanna speechless. She is all too aware of the fact that she has been saved on multiple occasions. On one occasion, she attacked the Commander of The Regiment[7], mistaking him for a Gewerksma Vorh. This stupid mistake almost cost her life as she was captured and was about to be executed. But she was saved by Marcus when he revealed she was a Red Skull, prompting her release, although the Commander wanted her punished for her asinine mistake.   

“He’s right you know-”

“Shut up-”

“If you have any explosives, prep them, but wait until we arrive. Understand, Squawker?

“Understood, Supreme Commander,” she says, offended. 

“Good, and Gadget, have you hacked into their systems?”

“Don’t worry, I have already begun uploading the information.”

Gadget looks down at his tablet. He has been collecting an abundance of information, including hideout locations, weapon stashes, and recruitment techniques. In fact, there is so much information to the point where Gadget is beginning to believe they can take down the Gewerksma in a matter of weeks.

“I think it’s time for them to pick the fields,” Joseph says aloud.

Marcus nods in agreement.

“Sparrow-One, this is Red Devil. The field is ripe for picking.”

“Roger that Red Devil. Sparrow-One is prepping. ETA twenty minutes.”

“Copy that.”

Several miles away, five Imperial Jax VTOLs[8] prepare to take off from a military base in Zok. There are two .50 caliber mini-guns, one on each side with a third mini-gun by the loading ramp. In addition to the firepower these transport vehicles carry, they can carry 25 troops and a lightly armored vehicle. Their purpose is to act as an emergency force in the event Marcus is overwhelmed. Yet, Marcus believes the additional forces aren’t needed. Still, they are on standby.

“All right, let’s move out. We need to get to Squawker ASAP. Joseph, you’ll be with me. The rest of you stay here. Investigate and secure the area. We don’t want any surprises now.”

The soldiers nod as Marcus takes off running, followed immediately by Joseph. The two men stay next to each other, ready to assist one another if one of them were imperiled.

~

In a dark hallway hides a lone Gewerksol. He is shaking, sweat dripping from his head. In his trembling hands is a large knife, its edge sharpened on both sides. He plans on stabbing any government soldier who comes by, wanting to kill as many as he can. While he knows he’s going to die, he wants to be remembered as a martyr, a hero who made a difference. He hears footsteps.

~

Marcus and Joseph continue to make their way to Hanna. They have run past many dark hallways, ignoring them given they feel no one is hiding. Yet, as they run pass one hallway, somebody jumps from the shadows, lunging with a knife, screaming like a rebel towards Joseph.

Surprised but undeterred, Joseph blocks and grabs the man’s arm. With a fast twist, he breaks the man’s arm, bone snapping loudly. The man merely grunts as the knife falls from his hand. Joseph then swings the man towards Marcus. 

Marcus unleashes a powerful strike to the man’s throat, knocking the wind out of him. He falls against the wall and slides down it, realizing he failed to kill anyone. Despite their differences in approaches on tactics, both men work surprisingly well as a team, mix matching their unique techniques to have perfect form. In fact, they work so well that they are considered the best duo in the military, their skills only matched by the likes of Captain Van Saulter of Tur Galnos.

Annoyed by the interruption, Joseph pulls out his handgun. He lifts it up, pointing it at the defenseless man.

“Joseph! Don’t!”

Joseph stares at Marcus with exasperation. He can’t believe that Marcus wants this man’s life spared. After all, if it had been Marcus who was attacked, he would have killed the man in an instant. He wonders whether Marcus’ time away from the battlefield has softened him up, his spot in government distracting him from his full potential.

And yet, he doesn’t dare question Marcus’ reasoning. Despite believing that Marcus is softening up, he knows him well, and he knows that he’ll respond sternly and convincingly. Sighing, he begrudgingly puts his gun away.

“We should at least tie him up.”

“I agree. Tie him up then.”

Joseph reaches into his pocket and pulls out a few zip ties. He wraps them around the man’s hands, pulling his broken arm forward. The man grunts in pain, unable to do anything. With the enemy tied up, they take off, heading towards their destination.

~

“They’re here!”

A soldier points at Marcus and Joseph.

“Are the explosives planted?” asks Joseph.

“Yes, we are ready to go,” says Hanna.

“Good. Stack up!”

Everyone runs towards the door. Joseph goes to one side while Marcus goes to the other with everyone splitting evenly between them. Hanna runs behind Marcus, holding the detonator in her hand. On the doors is a large breaching charge with two phases. The first phase is a series of small explosives that weaken the breaching point. The second and final phase is when a single explosive detonates and sends shrapnel forward, striking any unfortunate souls who may stand in its path.

“You ready?”

“Let’s do this.”

Hanna squeezes the detonator and the explosives fizzle and pop.

~

The Gewerksma Vorhs sit in their room as they await their demise. They know that their time is limited as they count down to their death. They don’t expect to come out alive. At this point, they are hoping to kill as many as they can. They cock their guns, anticipating a fight, expecting a swarm of soldiers to storm in. Then a popping sound fizzles and rings in their ears, signaling the beginning of the breach. Suddenly, the explosive detonates, sending shrapnel into their faces as a blinding light sears their eyes.

~

As the breaching charge detonates, Marcus and Joseph each grab a flashbang. Pulling the pin, they toss them into the occupied room, waiting a few seconds. The flashbangs then detonate then everyone barges in. Quickly, they take aim at the disoriented enemy, taken off guard by the double whammy. 

Knowing the opportunity is now, the Red Skulls unleash a flurry of bullets, killing the people on sight. Blood splatters everywhere, painting a mosaic throughout the room as their lifeless bodies fall to the floor. In a matter of seconds, it’s all over. Silence then falls across the room as the Red Skulls search the room.

“Room secured!”

“Supreme Commander! We got one still alive over here,” says a soldier pointing at a man hidden under a table, his head face planted into the floor.

Gregori lies on the floor in pain. The blast has knocked him to the floor, sparing him from the onslaught. However, he would much prefer to die since the government will now interrogate him, trying to extract information from him in hopes of demonizing the cause he fights for. He closes his eyes, not sure what to expect.

Suddenly, someone grabs him, lifting him up into the air. He is then pushed against the wall, struggling for air. He opens his eyes and sees Joseph, his former friend.

“Long time no see, Gregori. Tell me how has everything been?”

Gregori remains silent as he gasps for air.

“What, no words for me? Not even a hello? Such disrespect in today’s world. You know what kind of people are disrespectful? The ones that abandon their friends.”

Gregori, infuriated by his comments, musters enough strength to spit into Joseph’s face. He’s not in the mood for Joseph’s games nor his abusive attitude. His former friend couldn’t accept the fact that he, Gregori Kurt Stein, joined the Gewerksma to better the contemporary Zentari, to liberate those caught in the strings of a corporate government. Joseph drops Gregori to the ground, wiping his face as Gregori inhales and exhales loudly.

“I see you haven’t changed at all since we last met. But you know what, since we are back together, we can catch up now because I got a lot to tell you-”

“You never learn, do you,” says a huffing Gregori. “The old me is gone, replaced with a new, better me. When will you realize that, you damn fool?” 

Joseph only stares at Gregori. He smiles and laughs hysterically.

“Oh, that never gets old, does it now-”

“Sergeant Qauti, take him away. He has much-needed information we need to extract from him,” interjects Marcus, annoyed with Joseph’s bickering.

Hanna walks over and picks up Gregori, taking him away from the scene. As they walk out, Joseph’s eyes follow them. He’s pissed that Marcus intervened in their conversation. He wanted to lecture to his friend, ready to convince him on why he never should have joined the Gewerksma. He falls into a trance, contemplating whether to follow them. 

As he focuses on them, Marcus walks in front, blocking his view, staring him down, aware what Joseph is up to. Joseph snaps out of focus as anger boils in his eyes. To Marcus, Joseph is getting distracted. He fears that if he allows Joseph to talk to Gregori, Joseph would eventually snap, possibly killing his former friend in rage. He can’t risk such behaviors to escalate given they need Gregori for intelligence purposes. Marcus walks away, giving some alone time for Joseph so he can cool off.

As he walks away, the sound of rotor blades pulsates outside. The Jax VTOLS have arrived, unloading the soldiers they were carrying. Their job is to set up a perimeter, securing the area as they search for intel and gather any they find. They have relieved Gadget and the Sanz siblings, who are now standing by the VTOLs as they relax. 

“Another successful mission it looks like for us, boys and girls,” Albric says with a cheesy smile.

“Indeed, Albric. It’s only a matter of time before the Gewerksma fall,” says Sadara as she briefly looks at Gadget before turning to Donin. “Donin, Gadget has been awfully quiet. How’s he doing with the hack?”

“I’m not sure, let me ask. Hey Gadget, how’s the collection process coming along?” asks Donin.

Gadget doesn’t respond. Curious, Donin looks over and sees Gadget tapping his tablet ferociously. Gadget is too preoccupied to relax. He is staring at his tablet, frantically trying to figure out what’s going on. Earlier, he was hacking and stealing information from the Gewerksma, uploading it to one of the government’s Clouds so they could use the information to further discredit the group. However, that upload has suddenly come to a stop and he fears the worst.

“Gadget, what are you doing? Is something wrong?”

“I don’t know what’s going on here. It just stopped downloading the files. I think it froze on me. Damn it, this is not the time.”

“What’s going on here?” asks Marcus as he approaches Gadget, overhearing the conversation. “Something the matter? Did we get any files?”

“Some. The bloody device froze on me. Don’t worry; I can fix it. Just- just give me a minute.”

Gadget continues to tap the device. He doesn’t understand why his device suddenly would freeze up, a problem he has never had using this device. Can it be a virus? No, a virus wouldn’t do something like this.

Then an error message pops up, stating that the upload has discontinued. Relieved that his device isn’t frozen, Gadget taps Ok. Suddenly, a skull appears, laughing as an upload message appears.

“No, no, no, no, no! It’s a freaking virus and it’s stealing all of our data!”

He tries to disconnect from the Cloud, but the virus has taken control of the tablet.

“Tell them to turn off the online connection to the device! I can’t disconnect it! I’m locked out! DN-188MZC00! DN-188MZC00!”

“Dexter Lair, this is Mad Dog. We have a compromised device here, DN-188MZC00. Disconnect immediately!”

“Copy Mad Dog, we’ll pull the plug.”

Gadget stares helplessly at the screen. Usually, the security programs on his device would have stopped and quarantined any malware that dared try to destroy his device. The fact that these security programs are incapable of stopping this virus concerns him greatly. At this point, he’s hoping that by some miracle, someone at Dexter Lair can cut off his access to the Cloud.

Then the skull suddenly stops laughing. Gadget looks down and sees he has control over his tablet again. He can see that he’s no longer connected to the government Wi-Fi, a relief to him. As he breathes in relief, the skull returns, putting dread into his heart. 

“You thought you could stop us. You thought you could merely hide your secrets while taking ours? We have your secrets now and we will use them against you to bring our beloved Paradise, a utopia that frees the workers from the grasp of an Einneristic government controlled by corporations. Enjoy your fantasy while it still lasts, for Paradise is coming.”

The skull disappears once again, leaving the stern warning circulating throughout their heads. The message is pretty clear to them: an attack is coming, and it’s going to be a big one. How and when that attack will be orchestrated remains to be seen. All they know is that the Gewerksma is devising a devious plan, one that could threaten the sovereignty of the Empire. As they ponder the dreadful words, a message pops up on the tablet, stating the virus has been quarantined.

“Oh, now it quarantines it.”

“At least now you can use your tech savvy mind to decipher this bugger,” says Albric.

“I’m sure he can, Albric. He isn’t dumb like you,” snaps Sadara.

“The Gewerksma is cooking up something now,” Donin says, terrified.

“I’m not even sure if I can. This virus was able to evade the security programs on my tablet. Just like Albric in this case.”

“This hate is really getting on my nerves, guys-”

“Enough complaining. Right now, we need to assess the damage here. Gadget, which section of the Cloud were you uploading the information to?” asks Marcus.

“The data was going to Section Five, given the other four sections don’t have sufficient room to fit the collected data.”

“Dexter Lair, can you see what files were stolen from Section Five of the Cloud?”

“Yes, Mad Dog. Give us a minute,” says someone as they search throughout the Cloud. “Mad Dog, it appears the virus has stolen fragments of one file, according to what we’re seeing here. It looks like they haven’t stolen much of value. However, whatever files we tried to steal are no longer in the Cloud. We’ll keep you updated on the situation.”

“Which file was it?”

“Project Ominous, but nothing was compromised.”

“Copy that.”

Marcus turns towards Gadget.

“Good news, Gadget. The virus was only able to steal fragments of information, data that won’t hurt us. However, it did manage to steal back all of the files we uploaded earlier. We’ll get that information later since the virus is still likely lingering in those files.”

“Possibly, but not likely. Those files are likely long gone. At least they didn’t get anything of value though. However, I fear this may be a CBW[9], although the security programs were finally able to quarantine it.”

“Don’t let your guard down. Keep your device isolated from the government Wi-Fi network until we know what it is. If it is in fact a CBW, then who knows what damage it can cause if it gains access to our servers. So, get back to base and access it. Every bit of information we find is crucial.”

“All right.”

Gadget nods as he rubs his head. He has a headache, caused from stressing out about the virus. He fears that the Gewerksma have developed a cyber weapon capable of shutting down the government, including the military’s weapon defense system, leaving them vulnerable to an attack. He was hoping after tonight to go back to his bunk and get some much-needed rest. Instead, his hopes for a comfortable bed and sleep have gone up in smoke in just a matter of seconds.

[1] Resembles the Revision Military Kinetic Operations Suit and Dragon Skin Armor. It’s based off the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS).

[2] The Miktsrod, under the control of the Royal Party, passed the MEA to also reduce costs for the Empire’s military. Every nation in Zentari would adopt some form of the MEA by 2030.

[3] Resembles the MP-40. It was developed by the arms manufacturer Myen Kroft.

[4] Albric in Zurk Tech means Albert, Sadara is Sandra, and Donin is Donald.

[5] Resembles the MSR. It is a bolt action rifle that holds ten .338 rounds.

[6] Protector. It resembles the Ninjatō. At the end of the blade, about an inch is sharp on both sides.

[7] Considered the largest militia within Zentari, they are the only pro-government militia, serving as informants for the government to spy on Zentari. In exchange for their services, they are given leniency on the laws at hand, giving them a free pass on crimes that would otherwise be prosecuted in court.

[8] Resembles the V22 Osprey.

[9] Cyber Bio-Weapon. It is classified as a WMD which is capable of either destroying or collecting information from cyber infrastructures. This includes a nation’s power grid, government servers, and military defense programs.


About the author

Eric William Haluska is a native of New Jersey and has his bachelors in accounting from Stockton University. His first book, Zurkerx, is based on the nation he created on the online government simulator called NationStates. When he's not writing, he enjoys fishing, history, and other hobbies. view profile

Published on January 16, 2019

Published by

110000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Science fiction

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