Author's Note: This story begins about halfway through Retribution and will continue until the war is over. I know it will take me some time to finish it, so please be patient with me. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Cecily, Deb, David and Randy, all from the Captain Power list at Yahoo. You have answered my questions about the most minute details of the show and have been gracious enough to allow me to bounce ideas off you. In some cases – CJ, this especially means you! – we've come so darn close on ideas that I've hesitated to even continue, for fear of ripping off an idea. Yes, there ARE only so many ways this could go, so I do appreciate your generosity in allowing me to write this. Thank you to Kerry for allowing me to use the characters Kiara "Lark" Rutledge and Neil "Fox" Lockhart. I would also like to thank the rest of the gang at the CP list – you're an incredible group of folks and I have enjoyed our chats. As usual, I own no part of this show and if I did, well, let's just say we'd have known the ending a very long time ago. So here goes…
(minor changes made 5-28-06)
32-7 Mark 13; 1415 Hours
Dr. Stuart Gordon Power stared across the cabin of the Jumpship, his expression weary but determined. "Well, I'll tell you one thing. One way or another, I'm going to end this one. I swear it."
His closest friend and colleague, Major Matthew Masterson, remained silent, knowing the burden that weighed heavily on Power's shoulders.
47-12 Mark 25; 0104 Hours
Darkness had settled across the desert and a chill had quickly followed as the sun's warmth disappeared past the horizon. The sounds of night creatures had vanished years before, leaving nothing but an unsettling stillness in the air. Stars dotted the clear sky and the shadow of a mountain spread over the sand in the moonlight.
Several hundred feet below the surface of the desert, carved deep into the rock of the mountain, three interconnected rooms remained sheltered from the world above. The rooms had been created more than fifteen years earlier yet remained in the same condition as the day they were formed.
The subtle hum of a water purification system drifted from the shadows of the smallest room, going unnoticed by the inhabitants of the underground structure. They had long ago learned to dismiss any of the background noises and focus only on the mission they had been assigned.
Sergeant Timothy Jacqmain looked around the largest room, studying the seven other men assembled with him. He had worked with each of them on different operations and when he'd been told to assemble a team of his own, he'd chosen Corporal Gabriel "Griffin" Comstock, Sergeant Mitchell "Jasper" O'Reilly, and Corporal Franklin "Demon" Kurtz. They were the best at what they did and he needed nothing less than the best.
Griffin was monitoring the channels that had been installed less than two months earlier and hissed with disgust as static filled the air for the third time in less than an hour. "Jackal, I swear I'm going to put new transmitters in there the next time they're gone. I can't keep tabs on them if I can't hear them!" He slapped at the receiver once again and was rewarded with a reduction in the amount of static churning through.
Jacqmain shook his head, glancing at his communications officer. "Only if you brought the spare parts with you when we arrived."
They had been assigned to this hole more than a month prior, and while Griffin's temper flared at the unreliability of the equipment, no one showed the effects of being held in such a confined space. Their training had been rigorous, thorough. They were expected to maintain their composure until their tour was complete or they were called upon for duty. Another seventeen days would end their tour and they would be placed back into the rotation.
Across the room, he saw the leader of the second team going over schematics. Sergeant Lucas Sheppard was a quiet man who had earned his code name, Viper, from his ability to strike without being seen or heard. He had been Jacqmain's first choice, until the orders had been fully revealed. Jackal had nodded with approval when he'd heard the choices Sheppard had made: Sergeants David Wakefield and Malcolm Blaszczynski and Corporal Stephen Mandridge. Razor, Blitz and Hummer.
On paper, they were two distinct teams, each with their own assignments. In reality, they were essential to each other and the mission could not be completed if any of them failed. They were told as much when they were initially briefed and it became that much more apparent when they'd been sealed into the cavern the first time, nearly two years prior. This place would be their tomb if they were unintentionally discovered, but a lifeline if they were to reveal themselves. Their location was known to only a handful of people outside of himself and Viper and the leaders of the other teams on rotation.
Their mission was multifaceted: Should the headquarters of Captain Jonathan Power come under attack and the autodestruct sequence be set, a series of charges were to be deactivated on all levels of the structure. These charges had been carefully selected to retain the integrity of the command center. Their primary objective was to secure Power's supercomputer, Mentor, and retrieve everything it contained. In the process, they were to allow no harm to come to any member of Power's team. And they were to remain undetected.
Several hundred feet below the surface of the desert, they were approximately one quarter of a mile away from the Power Base and connected to it by a tunnel that led to the ground hangar. The entrance to the tunnel had been designed by the architect to blend into the wall without a trace. The locks could be released from either direction, but only if the correct codes were sent through the base's computer system. Or overridden, if it was an emergency.
The sound of a skybike echoed through the stillness of the cavernous room, reverberating for several seconds before the engine shut down. The gentle whoosh of a power suit being disengaged followed, then soft footsteps slowly faded, replaced by the stillness once again.
Jackal knew from the sound of the footsteps that it was Corporal Chase who had returned to the base. She had returned alone, which was an unusual tactic for Captain Power. The curiosity of the others had been piqued as well. He saw it in their postures and the hand of poker that had come to a halt at the sound of the skybike.
Their monitors came to life once again, this time coming from the command center. The voice of Power's computer, Mentor, spoke to Chase with no interference. "Readings indicate data chip contains no coded information."
So she was back to analyze a disk. She would be transmitting that information to the captain, who would undoubtedly be displeased –
The sound of a blast rumbled over the communicator and a persistent wail began, interspersed with staccato bursts of static. Then nothing. They all scrambled to their feet, grabbing weapons and pulling on packs and helmets.
Griffin fiddled for several moments with the sensors, then the communicator sprang to life again with a hiss of static. Words began to break through the noise after a hard slap to the unit and he kept the transmissions going, amplifying the signal as much as he could. They heard Pilot give the order to seal the blast doors, the siren wailing insistently in the background. Power's voice broke through, repeatedly calling her name. The intensity in his voice grew and they struggled to gain as much information as they could.
"Captain… trouble. … under attack…repeat, we are under attack! … one BioDread …troopers…penetrated the defenses. Jon, they're inside!"
Jackal and Viper exchanged looks. Even through the static, the fear was apparent in her voice.
"Gentlemen, we have two minutes to get inside the base. Chase is not to know we're there. That is a direct order. Understood?
The underground cavern opened into a tunnel almost five feet in diameter and extended as far as their lights would penetrate. Their footsteps echoed harshly, even as the static of Griffin's monitor hissed from the rear.
"…out…now! That's…order!" They could hear the desperation rising in Power's voice.
The two teams raced through the tunnel, plunging deeper into the mountain that housed the Power Base. Jackal checked his chronometer: forty three seconds had already been eaten.
Another full minute later, they reached the ladder leading to Hangar Seven, where the BioDread had broken through. Viper hauled himself to the top, Jasper on his heels. He coded in a sequence and eased the hatch open, all his senses straining to ascertain the security of their entrance. His green eyes caught on the two BioMechs with their backs toward him, their aim toward the corridor leading from the hangar.
He signaled to Jasper and they eased themselves from their hiding place. Jackal looked at his chronometer again. They had synched themselves to the countdown as Chase had engaged the autodestruct sequence. There were now three minutes, two seconds before the detonations began. And they'd lost communications from within the base itself. They had no way to know if Chase was out, unless they were to gain visual confirmation.
Two blasts rang out and there was a clank of metal against stone. Jasper signaled all clear and they poured into the hangar, running to the corridor. The groups split immediately into two-man teams and separated to the different levels. Jackal and Griffin ran straight ahead, seeing the destruction that had already been inflicted on the base. Fires were crackling slowly all around them and doors had been blown open, the contents of the rooms torched. Auxiliary lighting had kicked on and they both switched to night vision to aid their search in the darkened recesses.
Jackal found the first charge and signaled to Griffin, who located the corresponding one on the opposite side of the corridor. They disarmed each and advanced quickly to the next quadrant, every muscle tensed in anticipation of being discovered. Seven charges later, Jackal glanced at his chronometer. Twenty-six seconds remaining. They had one more set of charges to disarm before time was up.
47-12 Mark 25; 0127 Hours
The final commitment.
The thought ran through the mind of the man who was once known as Lyman Taggart, but who was now feared as Lord Dread. He walked down the dark corridor, the two BioMechs flanking him on either side, as if to stop him should he suddenly decide to change the plans that had been in progress for the last fifteen years.
He had not worked for so long to be deprived of this opportunity. He would become one with the machine. For the work he had done, for the sacrifices he had made, he would be given a glorious new body. An undying body of shining metal that would free him from the restraints of his human existence.
And once he had made this transformation, he would bestow upon those faithful to the machine their own undying bodies, to serve the Empire they had sworn to honor and obey. These Organics, his Overunits, would be among the first to join him as he brought his vision, his New Order, to fruition.
The stronghold of the Resistance, Captain Jonathan Power's base, would be secured in a matter of minutes. All the data, all the resources, all the secrets that it held would be his and he would use them to destroy the Resistance. These Organics were the ones that stood between him and his new world, one where emotions no longer interfered and logic prevailed.
He would rise from his mortal body in three days and after that time, his perfect new world would rise from the old.
Lord Dread stopped as he reached the door to the Transfer Chamber. He felt his heart beat faster in his chest in anticipation of what was about to take place. This was a feeling he would no longer be burdened by once the cerebral transfer was complete. He relished this thought and activated the door release.
The doors opened before him and he met the stares of the medical team inside. They appeared confident; just as they should have been. Dread stepped through the door and heard it close behind him, locking out the BioMechs that had accompanied him.
Four minutes later, Overmind began to slow, the undulations steadily decreasing until it ceased all movement.
Blastarr had not yet reported in with the security of the Power Base.
47-12 Mark 25; 0129 Hours
Griffin darted ahead and ducked instinctively as a shot flew over him, narrowing missing his helmet. "We don't need this now!" he hissed, firing back and taking down the BioMech that had strayed from the squadron.
Jackal heard Viper and Razor report in over the comm gear as their final charges were deactivated. He moved forward with determination as Griffin picked himself off the floor, muttering obscenities about worthless tin cans. The countdown was droning on inexorably; Jasper reported in. Jackal's eyes caught on the remaining charge and he made short work of it. Griffin was just finishing his own when the countdown stopped abruptly. The computerized voice announced the cancellation of the autodestruct sequence and Griffin let out a low whistle.
"BioDread must've shut it down." He pulled a small generator from his pack and slung it over his shoulder before resealing the pack. "Looks like we're going to be needing this."
Jackal looked at his partner, then spoke into his gear. "Confirmation needed on Chase." They both began trotting in the direction of the command center, poised for an attack by the BioDread or any stray Clickers. The other teams would already be well underway on their own checklists and he wanted this to be pulled off with the precision they were expected to have.
Nineteen seconds later, Jasper's voice exploded in his comm gear. "Chase is still inside, I repeat, Chase is still inside!"
Jackal was stunned. "Coordinates!"
Griffin smacked the communicator he'd slung over his shoulder only minutes before, when it had ceased working.
Chase's voice broke through more static. "…blow…power source..." Another harsh burst of static. "…love you Jon…"
"Dammit! She's at the power core! She's blowing it manually!" Jackal yelled into his gear, no longer concerned if they were discovered. No one on Power's team was to be inside when the base blew. It had been a direct order. He had not been given a reason and he had not questioned it. He had failed to confirm she had evacuated and he would pay dearly for it.
Jackal and Griffin changed directions immediately, sprinting down the hall from the direction they had just come. "All units, converge on her location!" Jackal ordered. "Prepare to cloak her!" They knew the layout of the base as if they'd lived there themselves and ran with determination. Ten grueling seconds passed before they drew near the room containing the power core, Griffin yanking at the release straps on the outside of his pack to remove a blanket.
They were nearly knocked off their feet as the blast of the power core detonation took effect, shaking the structure of the base so much that chunks of rock and concrete began to rain down on them.
47-12 Mark 25; 0131 Hours
"NO!" Captain Jonathan Power screamed, nearly leaping from his seat on board his ship, as if he could physically change the course of Corporal Jennifer Chase's actions.
"No…" A man's soft voice trailed off as he listened to the exchange over the communicator. The signal was lost as all lines of communication at the Power Base were broken. He stared at a small photograph on the table next to his bunk. "What have I done?"
In disbelief, he turned off the communicator and rested his forehead in his hands. Six minutes and twelve seconds later, there was a knock on his door.
Auxiliary lighting failed and all sounds ceased except for explosions. But the quadrants they were in held. Jackal grabbed the blanket from Griffin and hurled himself through the blown-in door, then stopped short as he heard the unmistakable whine of a digitizer. He caught Jennifer Chase's terrified gaze a split second before the digitization beam pulled her doubled-over body inside Blastarr.
Blastarr gave an almost triumphant laugh, then turned, digitizer still engaged.
Griffin slammed his hand onto the portable generator, engaging the localized EMP. The giant robot flickered as if having a convulsion, then its lights faded and it ceased movement.
Griffin and Jackal were still standing there, stunned, when the rest of the teams appeared mere seconds later. "Patch me through to base," Jackal finally said. Griffin hesitated for only a moment, then pulled a second communicator from his sealed pack. When the signal connected, he motioned to Jackal.
"Sir, the base has been secured. Blastarr has been deactivated but digitized Corporal Chase before we could cloak her." He listened for a moment. "Yes Sir. I don't know the extent of the injuries, but from her position upon digitization, I believe they are serious." He was silent again as the rest of the team looked at him for direction. "Yes Sir. Out."
Jackal looked at the hulking machine. "Let's get it out of here. Rendezvous at Hangar Seven with the Falcon. Remove all pertinent data from the memory banks, plant the pods, and prepare to blow the rest of the base. We have ten minutes."
Jasper, Razor, Blitz and Hummer each grabbed an appendage and began to haul the six hundred pound creature to the hangar. Griffin immediately headed for the command center while Demon returned to the charges. Viper and Jackal exchanged looks, each knowing what the other was thinking. How could this have happened?
With a silent shake of his head, Jackal trotted ahead of his teammates to the hangar and began to unload the cargo from the Falcon.
Nine minutes and forty-seven seconds later, onboard the Falcon, he and his crew heard the final charges blow inside the Power Base, effectively destroying or burying every vital piece of equipment that remained.
47-12 Mark 25; 0206 Hours
Searing heat tore through her, down to the cellular level. Every fiber in every muscle felt as if it was being ripped apart, one at a time. Her bones felt as if they were being crushed, slowly and deliberately. Every neuron fired at the same time, all relaying the same signal. Excruciating pain.
As her body finished the reintegration process, Jennifer Chase doubled over in agony, collapsing on the floor of the chamber. She began to cough and then vomited, tasting the blood that spilled onto the ground. All broken up inside. The words she'd said to Jon pounded in her head as hands clamped onto her and lifted her onto a waiting medibunk. She vomited again, even more blood than before. More hands were tugging at her clothing and she opened her bloodshot eyes to stare absently. My suit. Don't let them destroy my suit. She half-rolled onto her side in an attempt to expose the fastenings but was immediately forced onto her back again. A hypospray was pressed against her arm but wouldn't inject through the material. It was moved to her neck and she groaned involuntarily as the contents began to course through her system.
She became dimly aware of someone standing right in front of her line of vision, then of a mask being placed over her mouth and nose. Turning her gaze upward, she saw an older man, hair graying at the temples. A long scar ran from his forehead, across his nose and angled over his left cheek. With darkness closing in on her, she gasped three words, loud enough only for him to hear.
"Let me die."
She stared into his emotionless brown eyes, feeling strangely comforted by them. Then the darkness enveloped her, taking her away from the pain shooting through her body and the horrifying thought of what was going to happen to her and her Power Suit.
As her body became limp, the man silently traced the scarred fingers of his left hand along the circuitry of the blue softsuit, locating several connectors and separating them. He rolled the unconscious woman onto her side and pressed his fingers into the small of her back, feeling the soft circuit pack. Pressing several indentations on the pack in quick succession, he heard a beep. She was laid back on the bunk and he traced the circuitry again, in different locations. More connectors were separated.
For a moment, his eyes fixed on her face. So young. Yet so trusted that she was selected to be on that team.
He quickly pulled at the zipper that ran the length of the suit and it was tugged off her arms and legs. Large bruises were visible on her torso and legs; superficial wounds that would be healed with time. Her undergarments were removed and dropped to the floor. The med scanners swept across her body, readings spewing out the internal damage. A tube was placed down her throat and into her lungs, delivering anesthetic to keep her unconscious.
The man stepped back and watched as a blade sliced open her freshly sterilized abdomen. The surgical team worked with precision, uttering only a few words as the seconds passed. Time was not on her side. He smelled the burning tissue as wounds were cauterized and he looked down at his scarred fingers. The odor was seared into his brain from his own hand. His eyes returned to her face.
You must live. For his sake.
A steady, droning noise shattered the near silence in the room. An electrical charge was applied to her chest and her body arched briefly, then went limp again. The sound didn't change. Another charge was applied. This time, the noise ended and the team went back to their positions.
He stared at her face, unable to pull himself away from her. You weren't supposed to be there, Ari. Why were you there?
A hand on his shoulder startled him. "Your work here is complete Doctor. My instructions are to escort you to your quarters or your laboratory." He turned to see a young man in fatigues standing beside him, one hand on the gun in its holster on his waist. With a final look at the young woman, he left the operating room, the blue Power Suit carefully folded in his hands.