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Mortal Gods: “HVT” – Chapter 4

Mortal Gods: “HVT” Cover Art.
© Paul Hair, 2017.
Mortal Gods: “HVT” is an original story set in the universe of Mortal Gods. I am publishing this short story serially here at Liberate Liberty and simultaneously at Liberty Island Magazine. I will publish a new chapter each week (normally Mondays) until I complete the story.

Click on the “Mortal Gods HVT Serial” tag at the bottom of the post to view all the chapters of, Mortal Gods: “HVT.”


Note: This story takes place after the events of, “Like Hail and Fire, Mixed with Blood,” in the book, Mortal Gods: Ignition.

Chapter 4:

Ms. Chapman delved into how they planned to conduct Operation Caelus.

“RMD plans to launch Mr. White into space using a new vehicle the government has recently developed,” she said as she gestured to the slide. “The vehicle is capable of vertically launching into space and then flying—not gliding—back to the same location after returning from space.”

She indicated to her briefing assistant that she wanted the next slide. “For those who are interested in more details on the vehicle, they are available for review on a need-to-know basis.”

Adam didn’t know a thing about government or classified information or briefings. But one of the things that his sponsor—the unit member initially assigned to provide him orientation on how things worked—explained to him was that security was tighter here than she had seen anywhere else.

This meant that RMD members knew only what they had to know. Very few people were privy to most of what was going on. Even fewer were privy to everything.

This also meant not a lot of information was available as a hard copy. So there were no briefing packets here; no operation orders; no note taking even. No electronic devices either—not even secure ones.

The briefing assistant advanced the presentation to the next slide and Adam saw another stock photo of space. This one took up the entire slide and bullet points were printed over it.

“We will launch into the thermosphere,” Ms. Chapman continued. “The thermosphere begins around 85 kilometers above the earth’s surface. That converts to 53 miles. We will continue going until we reach 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. This way we will ensure that we are in the globally recognized definition of outer space,” she added. “And this is important—because this way we will no longer have to worry about respecting the airspace of sovereign nations.”

She continued talking as her assistant continued to advance the slides on cue. Adam listened as she briefed the room on how the RMD planned to launch him from a point in the continental U.S.

“Once we reach the 100 kilometers mark in the thermosphere, our vehicle will orbit until it is directly over the CAR,” Ms. Chapman said. She had a very clear speaking voice, with each word being very distinct. “Mr. White will then conduct a space dive directly onto the HVT’s position.”

A slide advanced and she continued. “For the past few weeks, we have been launching the exact same type of vehicle into space from the same U.S. location on a regular basis. The official reason the U.S. government gives for these launches is that it is testing new spacecraft,” she said. “The launch with Mr. White we be conducted in the same way so as to deceive China, Russia, and other nations about what we actually are doing.”

“Is this legal?” Adam asked. “I mean, is it legal for the U.S. government to operate in space this way?”

Ms. Chapman was not as abrupt this time. She forced a smile and held her hands in front of her. “RMD lawyers have assured us it is,” she said. People looked at Adam again. This time he met a few of their stares. He looked at one woman who quickly lowered her head and looked at the conference table. He looked at one of the men. That man tried to be more casual in looking away, turning his head back to Ms. Chapman as he adjusted his tie. Others didn’t wait for him to meet their eyeballs and they also looked back at their briefer. “No one has even publicly talked about the idea of deploying ground forces by space,” Ms. Chapman added. “The concept is so extreme at the moment because the technology doesn’t exist for anyone who isn’t using, um, a superhuman like . . . like you.”

“But I can’t survive in space,” Adam reminded her.

“Correct. But RMD has developed technology specifically for you that will allow you to do so,” Ms. Chapman said. “Part of the reason we rigorously tested your abilities during the recruitment process was so we could see what you’re capable of—what you’re capable of doing, that is. Those endurance tests, specifically the ones that measured how high you can fly, showed that you are nearly capable of flying into space with no special equipment. The equipment we’ve developed will make it so you can fly in the thermosphere.”

Adam just nodded.

Ms. Chapman then handed the briefing over to a familiar face: Ms. Bannister. Ms. Bannister would provide intelligence on the HVT and his location.

“As Ms. Chapman mentioned, Toumani Cissé is a Malian native. He was a former U.S. asset who manipulated the U.S. into funding and resourcing his own terrorist group,” Ms. Bannister said. The briefing assistant automatically forwarded the presentation to the appropriate slide. “He changes the name of his group every few months. So RMD analysts have come to call it the Cissé Conglomerate for the sake of continuity. Cissé has said he wants to create his own nation out of a number of African countries. But we’re not certain that’s true. Our intelligence collection and analysis indicates he’s probably more interested in acting as a mafia; someone focused on acquiring money and power.”

The next slide appeared on the screen and Adam saw a list of terrorist attacks and skirmishes Cissé had organized. “Regardless of his true intentions, he is a bad guy,” Ms. Bannister said. “He has murdered hundreds if not thousands across the region. And, of course, the U.S. feels responsible for that since it created him.”

She continued with the intelligence they had on Cissé. It was thorough and more than Adam could absorb. But she also briefed him on the amount of enemy forces he could expect at the target location. She said intelligence suggested that Cissé would probably have a platoon-sized or company-sized force surrounding him for protection.

And then she mentioned what the RMD wanted him to collect on Cissé.

“Once you neutralize the HVT, the RMD needs you to collect an iris scan, fingerprints, a DNA sample, photos of scars on his back, and both full body and facial photos of him,” Ms. Bannister said. “We need these so we can make a positive identification that we have successfully eliminated the threat. We will provide you with the equipment for this collection and train you on how to use it.”

Ms. Bannister wrapped up her portion of the briefing by mentioning that the U.S. had one human asset on the ground. That asset had developed pattern of life intelligence on Cissé. He also would confirm that Cissé was on site before the RMD launched Adam from space.

And then she turned the briefing back over to Ms. Chapman. Ms. Chapman ran through a detailed OPORD—operation order—for Operation Caelus from start to finish. Afterwards, she concluded the briefing and asked for any questions.

“How long will we have to rehearse this?” Adam asked. “Also, what happens if I tell you I have qualms about doing this?”

“One week for rehearsal; time is of the essence,” Ms. Chapman said. “And your previous actions along with our in-depth interview of you have made us confident that you will conduct this mission.” She paused. “So, will you?”

Adam said he would. She asked if there were any further questions. No one said a thing.

“Then it’s time to take you to get your special equipment for this mission, Mr. White,” Ms. Chapman said. “Once you have that, we will start our first rehearsal. And if everything goes as scheduled, you’ll be in space one week from today to get Toumani Cissé.”