The Little Ghost That Could
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"Someone called for an exterminator?"
His face mask distorted his voice and filtered air to a huff on each breath. N-20 ran out of the barracks and onto the steel grounds of the orbital platform. He was a ghost as they call it: a covert-ops specialist gifted with psionic power. With his sniper rifle, the freshly deployed agent was ready and waiting to pop some heads.
The commander assigned him to squad of meat-headed marines and sent them northwest for a short skirmish against a lightly defended outpost. But the mission didn't work out well.
He stood behind the line with a longer ranged weapon that fired at a lower rate, while the others' machine guns spat bullets in whatever directions forward. After picking off outlying turrets, the squad caught a blast from a tank far behind a squad of reinforcements.
A quarter of the squad turned into an unrecognizable puddle of red goop, and more were hit by the blast. Fortunately for him, N-20 was one of the lucky ones to return to base alive.
At the base, the usual went on. Drilling and whirring filled the air as technicians maintained vehicles and equipment. Siege tanks rolled out, and injured marines traded spots in a bunker. N-20 leaned by the barracks in the company of another ghost who was much like him before deployment. The other ghost commented on N-20's worn armor and red-stained suit.
"Damn, you've seen some action. On a scale of fifty to one," one for most fucked, "how fucked are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling about a one," N-20 said.
"So. How many kills?"
Zero. It was improbable to land a kill for himself with twenty marines firing a continuous stream of bullets. Marines huddled with marines by the bunkers. Even when N-20 was far out of earshot and blocked himself from the thoughts of others, cocky pride from a lucky bastard simmered in the corner of his mind: seven kills, without a scratch.
The other ghost had read.
"Ah shit. Better luck next time?"
"Yeah. At least I'm not dead..."
The other ghost paused, "You're not actually taking this well are you?"
Psi healed faster than wounds. N-20 could imagine heading back to the command ship, sitting in the infirmary, and waiting to be considered fit for deployment again while the others chatted about kill counts in the mess halls. Heavier bouts of filtered air rushed from N-20's face mask.
"I really need to kill someone tonight."
The other ghost waved, 'Stop'. Cool it, man. That mask is still connected to command.
"Finally," N-20 got a ping from the commander and an order to head in the same direction the siege tanks rolled in.
The new staging ground was one bridge before the enemy base. Siege tanks lined before the abyss, extended their armaments, and had created a dented and beaten zone clear of hostiles. But the commander didn't yet send all units through the chokepoint and to the heart of enemy territory.
N-20 got an order for solo reconnaissance. He turned on his cloaking device and ran forward. He morphed into a blur, phased into a mirage, and became indistinguishable from space and the stars. He crossed the bridge and went out of the zone supported by tanks. If the commander was expecting a massive force just waiting to crush an assault, the commander expected wrong.
The buildings were arranged in a neat grid, but there wasn't much foot traffic between. The first building N-20 ran into was a blocky metallic prism with retractable support beams mounted into the ground, or undoubtedly the barracks. A block further in, an armory, and not much further were the warehouses.
He had gone as far as the commander wanted. No headquarters sighted, but it was bound to lie just behind the fog of war. Though, just by the barracks, a wounded marine leaned back, equally roughed up as he was. One shot could pierce worn armor and land the killing blow but alert of his presence.
A headshot: popped glass, bone and broken metal sounded like crunched popcorn. With his cloaking device still on, N-20 made a break back to the staging area. No turning back. One foot in front of the other, at any time sensors could sweep over his vicinity, followed by a swift blast finishing him off. But it never came.
"Job's done," the unsuspecting technician said. The last sparks flew from the his drill and the newly built bunker by the bridge.
N-20 opened the hatch and dove right in.
"Peace of fucking mind!" he sank in the booth just below the weapon port.
Dink! N-20 had never been in a bunker before, but it sounded like a rock thrown at a plate of metal. It was a bullet and more pelted the reinforced exterior.
The ghost peeked out and saw an enemy squad incoming, rather, those who had been on his tail. Though, their time was bound to be short lived. Pressurized air hissed from the neighboring siege tanks' armaments, and the distant ground lit with fiery blasts. N-20 did his part and started firing. Each shot was accompanied by the snap and clack of his gun.
His second kill. Not quite. A robot that counted nonetheless.
Three. The bullet put the ill-matched pyrotechnic out of his misery.
Four. A fellow ghost. A damn shame. She fought on the wrong side of the war.
When the hostile platoon was eliminated, the time came for the final push. When the fog of war lifted so revealed the enemy headquarters. True, hostile ground forces were sparse, but not suffice to say of the situation.
After the infantry and vehicles rolled through the chokepoint, N-20 was content to rest and remain in the bunker. However, alerts of an battleship flooded the communication channel. From the shadows, it emerged. Everyone knew its flak cannons were more than capable of decimating the field.
But N-20 wasn't just a foot soldier outgunned by the standard issue nor was he just a scout. He was equipped just for this situation. Switching the firing mode of his rifle, he loaded one grenade. High orbit, no drop, and enough psi to give an extra push, he fired.
His hit landed upon the underside of the ship. Centered where his shot landed, an electromagnetic pulse expanded. High enough to spare the friendlies, all digital systems: electronic or quantum halted.
No second spared for fanfare, every unit fired immediately and downed the enemy's desperate last means of defense.
All things considered for N-20, doing what he did in his condition wasn't all that bad.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Author's Note: I tried a market application centered around Ǧ1 to see if I would get anything in exchange for creating free culture. I used the crowdfunding feature and asked for a small amount. It turns out I did get something.
If you are wondering what Ǧ1 is, it is a free (liberty) currency based on the Relative Theory of Money implemented as a cryptocurrency. What stands out about Ǧ1 is that it isn't a speculator's hot potato.