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Too Close To the Sun
By: David McFarland
            “Thirty seconds!” The RHIB, Rigid Hull Inflatable boat knifed through the water, it’s prow skipping across it like a bowling ball down the lane. It swerved to the right, its occupants lining the sides. Blank spaces sat where the seats had originally been; taken out for increased speed, mobility, and room.  The watercraft skidded across the water, and overall was indistinguishable from the night, the blue-black coloring merging the two.
            “Ten!” The same voice called out. The Lieutenant sat at the bow, his Shrike Assault Machine Gun in hand. Shrike’s themselves were marveled. Overall they looked like an M-4 or an M-16, but their midsection resembled that of the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, meaning the child of the two was a reliable Assault Rifle accurate enough for sniping with many capabilities for attachments, but it could use two-hundred round boxes, allowing heavy-cover-fire.
            The small vessel, just over twenty feet long, skimmed across the water as the depth neared only a few feet, then a mere one foot. A soldier near the back raised the outboard motor. With the sound of crunching sand and rocks, the rigid hull of the boat skidded up the shoreline. The entire boat actually made it onto dry, or at least somewhat moist, land, before the momentum was too little to carry it further onto the soft shores.
            Twenty-six feet slammed against the soft ground, protected by combat boots. All of the soldiers were completely surrounded in their protective armor, not quite black, more of a dark gray, with dark green, blocky camouflage mixed in.
            Thirteen soldiers, the front of them with a normally silver bar of a First Lieutenant on his shoulder, now blackened with a simple “Sharpie.” Reaching a dilapidated shack, two of them ventured inside. “Clear.” One of the two said, sticking his head back out, followed by the rest of his armor-clad body. After the rest of them moved on, all of them wearing red-tinted Infra-red Heat Goggles, moved on. 
            “Romeo One-Seven, take Eight through Thirteen, flank around the right side of the Island.” The leader, apparently Romeo One-One, said. They all knelt around him as he held a palm pilot in his hand, a stylis in the other to indicate the plans on a map. “Infiltrate the western side of Fort Triton and split into two groups; one for their security systems and another for their communications centers. Knock them out and plant the package, then get back to the RHIB.” The last word, which he did not speak out in individual letters, was said the exactly the same way as one of his favorite foods. However, eating the rubber hull of the fast insertion boat would be nowhere near as satisfying. “Meanwhile, I will take Two through Six up the tree-line to Fort Pike. We will do the same thing. Watch out for the baddies, shoot straight, and good luck.”
            “Yes sir!” Calls went out through the group. To someone outside their group, they, save the one arm moving around the stick stylis, all of them would appear as statues. Their voices didn’t carry outside their completely enclosed helmets, instead over minor encrypted radio channels, which were deciphered once they entered the other helmets. With a tiny touch to a piece of hardware and buttons over each of the shoulders right lung, they could change radio channels, listen to MP3s, receive and send email, pictures, access the internet, type documents… it was like a personal laptop right in front of their eyes.
            Their own white figures had to be outlined on their screens, as their body-armor absorbed their heat into a gelatin layer around their bodies, so their infrared visuals would barely pick them up as slightly green figures with splotches of pinks near the kinks in the absorbent.
            Splitting into two non-numerically congruent groups, the thirteen left their rapid insertion craft behind, its communications and detection section rising above the rest of it. One group neared the tree-line and entered it, and the second stayed along it, as planned. All of them remained crouched, lowering their profiles as they ran. Their combat boots made only a little sound against the dirt and shell mix.
            “Fort Pike is up ahead. Arachnos won’t be setting up this island if I have anything to say about it.” The First Lieutenant, the Mission Commander said. The troops around him were new to him, and him to them.
            “Fort Pike… E.T.A. is five.” The man next to him said, and that data was instantly in one corner of their visual Heads Up Displays in front of their eyes. Six men moved in a staggered line, allowing at least three of them a full view of their forwards, and three backwards, surroundings at any given time. Ahead of them, just barely around the curve of the large island, a massive structure, backlit by the moon and stars to show up its natural color of purple, loomed. The thing was massive, gaudy, and someone seemed logical to whom-ever had made it. ‘Villains really need to learn practicality.’ Romeo One-One though to himself, holding his weapon tight to his chest as he rank. On his sides a total of two more of the two-hundred round boxes thumped against his hips, ready to be strapped into the Shrike Assault Machine Gun, it’s M203 Grenade Launcher loaded as well, with six more rounds and two flares also at hand.
            As the six ran, they split into three groups of two. The last two, now about one minute away from the daunting structure, jumped behind what little cover they could find, which just so happened to be a nicely elevated point. One, with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the ‘Mini-mi’ version outfitted with enough gear to make it look more like any old assault rifle, which it wasn’t. The second, like his superior officer, also carried a Shrike. “Romeo One-Five and One-Six are in position.”
            The First Lieutenant was paired off with Romeo One-Two, who had an MP-5K, which like all the other weapons in the outfit, had a silencer on it. Both men continued their charge at the dark purple structure, bringing their weapons to their shoulders and pulling out two canister-like objects, with a nozzle and hook at one end and a grip around it, with a clip on the opposite end of the hook. The each aimed their new items at a grate in the site of the fort, sticking out via a large pipe. Almost at the same time they each pressed a small button, sending the hooks flying off the nozzle, which spat out a long, Kevlar and Spider Weave string.
Once the hook was safely latched around part of the grating, the First Lieutenant and his associate put the clip around their belts and pressed yet another button, and they were slowly pulled up the line.
“Romeo One-One and One-Two have reached Alpha Objective.”
“Romeo One-Three and One-Four have reached Alpha Objective.”
“Romeo One-Nine and One-Ten have reached Alpha Objective.”
“Romeo One-Seven and One-Eight have reached Alpha Objective.”
The series of calls came from each other at almost the same time. Perfectly planned. That was a problem. If your plan wasn’t going wrong at some point, it was inherently flawed.  Just as the last of the calls were being received by the Mission Commander, he was putting wire-like Primacord around the outside of the grating of the thick drain – or exhaust vent, whichever it had been intended for – and then climbed up onto it, with scant inches between himself and the building itself. Pressing a detonator the primacord exploded, shoving and distorting the grate inside the drain between his legs.  For a second, that was a disturbing though.
Both he and his partner swung down from the tops of the pipes, which, by their heat, now proved to be an exhaust vent… to what? After several seconds of walking, with steam collecting back into its liquid form on the roof of the cavernous venting system, it seemed like it was raining. At least he hoped it was water. The man continued onward, meeting silently with his partner where their corridors intersected. 
Also silently, the First Lieutenant produced a thick wire, which didn’t bent unless he forced it to, out of his pocket. Hooking it to the PDA from before, he slipped it through another grate in the ceiling, or more like a floor for anyone above them. Spinning it around, the camera on the end of the Fiber Optic wire showed nothing other than a hall, lit red, and piping. Retracting the wire, he straightened it, then put it back up through, this time looking at the ceiling. No one was above the grate, so they were free to proceed.
Without speaking, Romeo One-Two pushed up on the grate, which made a hollow sound as it slide across the floor. Pulling himself up, the soldier rolled out onto the new flooring, with his Commanding Officer behind him, then slid back the grate. The fiber optic cable had not lied. The halls were vacant. Their boots clicked as they slowly moved further through the interiors of the base, main weapons parallel to the ground, sweeping back and forth for signs of life. Their infra-red goggles went back to normal viewing mode, not altering the light any, when they each spoke the phrase, “Eye-Are Off;” Infra-Red Off.
The hallway they were in was made of mostly chain-link style grating, and even made up the walkways, only it was thicker and stronger. Long, orange colored, liquid filled tubes lined the walls in some places, and others there were power generators and capacitors.
As one, the two soldiers continued their course. Barely sticking their heads out to check around another corner, they saw a pair of Arachnos soldiers, each holding a staff. Simultaneously they popped out of their cover, each firing a three-round burst into the villain-tainted men. Due to the suppressors, the only sounds heard by the firer were the sharp ‘chinks’ made by the firing mechanism. The Le Mas Limited made Blended Metal rounds ripped through their armor like water through air. Once the bullets hit their bodies they turned into molten slag, tearing through their guts, flesh, and bones with devastating effects. As the two special forces men walked over their kill, literally, and flipped them over, they noticed the lack of vertebrae, lungs, heart kidneys, and most of their ribs, back-plates from their armor, and more gruesome details. And that was just three rounds each, all of which had hit. In fact, the Blended Metal bullets were so effective that both of them could see the chest-armor of the Arachnos men from their backs.
Villainy didn’t pay. And if it did, it came back to bite you in the butt.
Pressing on, the two men discarded the encounter from their immediate thoughts, and checked to see if it would happen again. Of course, it didn’t just happen again, but three more times. All three times it was two guards, and all three times their lives, like their innards, were torn from their bodies with only three perfectly placed rounds each.
With the final of the four, the First Lieutenant’s partner had to reload, dropping the other thirty-round clip, with only three shots remaining, to the floor. Not a few moments after, they reached their final destination. The radio would be no good, as they had no time to make a way to use the bases communicators work for their, and otherwise the base was blocking their signal.
The Security Control Room of Fort Pike was huge, and filled with computers.  Both men, in a matter of seconds, cleared it of all life, adding some blood and shell casings to the floor, accompanied by body armor of their fallen enemies, useless and shattered. Reaching behind their backs, they both pulled out two Satchel Charges, with about ten pounds of Composition Four each. That C4 was placed under the control monitors of the security room, and one of those four charges was dropped into the grating beneath their feet, albeit after some coercing of the flooring with several rounds of ammunition. All of them had a small black box on them, and all of those were working just fine when the two of them left.
            “Can you raise them?” The partner of the First Lieutenant spoke up, as they moved down the halls. He was getting out another satchel charge, and stuck that to the back of a power generator, along with one of the First Lieutenants – or, more like, his last one-, which was simple enough. Once more, they looked around a corner, only to find a Fortunata and Mu Striker mulling over two of the dead bodies. Alongside theme were two very large humanoids, clad in thick armor and extra spider-like arms. Alongside those were countless numbers of Arachnos soldiers, or what seemed to be countless, from the First Lieutenant’s standpoint.
            “Nope. And that is the wrong way.” He pushed his associate back. “There, an elevator.”
            “I already checked that, it already only goes up.” The man said.
            “Just do it! Or they’ll find us sooner or later.”
            “Oh. Crap.” As the doors of the elevator opened to the top floor of Fort Pike, those two words escaped the First Lieutenant’s mouth. In front of them, at least two dozen of the Arachnos soldiers with extra spider-limbs, a half-dozen Fortunatas and Mu Strikers, and many robot-looking spiders with human faces, turned to see them open fire, mowing down several. The most prominent of the those turning was a face-less figure who’s image would have been burned into the First Lieutenant’s brain forever. The man, one of power, stood over six feet tall with a large cape handing behind him, his extra six Spider Arms erect behind him, his helmet covering his face and fur over his shoulders.
            “Romeo One-Five and Six, open fire!” The First Lieutenant screamed into his boom-mic near his mouth as his gun rattled away in a massive sweep of the area.  At that instant several tracers glanced over the armor of the Spider-Like robots, then a few more rounds, not visible to the naked eye, blasted through them.
            Getting smart quickly, the remainder of the Arachnos recruits took cover, firing back at the two soldiers who had long moved out of the elevator. One red looking beam of plasma struck the First Lieutenant at an odd angle, hitting one of his two ammunition boxes. All of the two-hundred bullets, still lined up together, went off, and it a display of power, ripped through the air – and enemies – with a massive ‘crack.’ The Mission Commander/First Lieutenant spun around with the massive force, falling to the ground. Now, only three men remained. One of them happened to be the menacing figure aforementioned.
            As the First Lieutenant was reloading his weapon, and his partner likewise, the figure rushed forwards towards them. “You boys aren’t half bad.” The figure picked up them both by their necks with blinding speed. “I guess its not fair that you won’t be able to share your exploits with your friends.” To add emphasis to his point, directly behind him Fort Triton detonated, flames throwing up hundreds of feet into the air, ash as well, and fragments of armor. “So… that is what you planned to do here, eh? Destroy my little Fort before I had a chance to pillage this island for all it is worth?” The man chuckled, then turned to one of the two men remaining at his side. “Check for explosives. Check everywhere, and there may be other intruders. In fact… count on that.”
            “Its about time you paid up for your deeds, Recluse.” Romeo One-One said. “Here and now!” His arms struggled to release the man’s vicious grasp that had them both handing in the air, their legs kicking about frantically.
            “I think not. I am doing nothing more than ridding the world of those who are weak! The weak must not be allowed to survive! It’s too bad. You are one of the strong, but you are weak-minded. Had you been under my command, you’d be one of my finest body-guards and most trusted operations personnel. Given glory and wealth. And power.”  The grip tightened around their throats. To some of his surprise, their throats seemed hard. Experimentally, he loosed his grip, and it went softer. He squeezed firmly again, and whatever was around their throats hardened protectively. Smiling, he raised them up higher, walking them over to the edge. “Now, how will you suffer for breaking into my base? In the Rogue Isles, breaking and entering is a crime punishable by death, you know.”
            While the monologue was going on, unbeknownst to Lord Recluse, his two captives were speaking to one another, quite nonchalantly. “Romeo Team, go back to the RHIB. We will be there soon.”
            “Roger that One-One. Romeo team is falling back. Are you sure you will be okay?”
            “Bet your wedding ring on it, One-Eight.” As he said that, the First Lieutenant’s hands, still grasped around Lord Recluse’s, glowed with red orbs around them. He couldn’t see it through the helmet, which blocked out all outside views, but he could see the expression on Romeo One-Twos face change to utter confusion.
            In pained reaction, Lord Recluse slung both of them over the edge of the fort, down towards the sharp rocks at the bottom. Over the channel for all other twelve men to hear, Romeo One-Two screamed like he had never screamed before. The end was finally coming. He wondered what report his mother would get from the National Security Agency. ‘Ma’am, your son was hit by a drunk driver on I-90 two days ago…’ was how it usually went.
            More startling to him was what happened next. His commanding officer, Romeo One-One, somehow moved laterally through the air as they both fell and grabbed him by the arms, then their descent suddenly slowed drastically, now only a few feet above the rocks. Then they were moving completely horizontally. Looking up at his rescuer, he saw no jet-packs, no jet-boots, no nothing holding him up. Just… him.
            “How are-“
            “Ask later. They’ll be looking for us.” Boom. Flames licked around them as the First Lieutenant flew on towards the RHIB’s last location. “Or not.” He alighted on the ground as massive chunks of the base hurled at them, grabbed Romeo One-Two in his arms like a baby, much to both of their discomfort, and instantly sped off at blinding speeds, leaving the shrapnel behind them.
            “Are you a-“ Romeo One-Two made another question, only to be cut off.
            “No. I’m not. I haven’t died in the line of duty yet.” The First Lieutenant said again, very sternly, like he was lecturing a child. Within one hundred yards of the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, which was mere seconds after saying those words, Romeo One-One set down his accomplice to walk the rest of the way.
            “Romeo One-One to Romeo Team, let’s go home.” He spoke before the rest knew they were alive. Even though most had feared the worst with the lack of communication after the explosion and the fact that none of them had even seen the two of them escape, and that they hadn’t been at the RHIB when he had told them to be there.
            They pushed the RHIB out into the water and boarded once more, turning the stealthy, open-topped craft around, its rubber hull once against skipping across the waters of the Rogue Isles as they left one of the under-developed isles in the chain.
            Not long after they met up with another, larger craft, an M-80 Stiletto. This once was a dark-gray, with many angular shapes, making it hard to see on radar. The back had a large hole in it, exactly the width of the RHIB, which wasn’t a coincidence. Designed for Navy SEALs, this one suited another group of operatives just fine. The insertion boat slid into the docking-port in the back of the M-80 Stiletto, entering the two thousand square foot area in its bowels. All of the men stepped off onto the floor and took seats immediately on one of the twelve bunk beds. They technically had one too many people aboard, only having occupancy for twelve passengers, but the M-80 Stiletto had some extra room for the thirteenth man.
            And at the moment, one of the other twelve knew why he was there. Placed there purposely to keep the rest out of harms way, to be a shield when they flew too close to the sun, lest their wax wings melt, sending them plummeting down to the Earth once more.


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