|Mortal Gods: “HVT” Cover Art.|
© Paul Hair, 2017.
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.
Ms. Benton, Ms. Venter, and Mr. Serna joined Adam as everyone exited the briefing room. The four of them began walking towards the G-4 office. Two younger men, armed with Sig Sauer pistols in holsters on their hips, led them.
The younger men were security personnel for the RMD headquarters. They looked like clones, or at least twins, from behind. The pistols they carried were standard issue. No one pretended they’d have any effect against Adam.
Ms. Benton and Mr. Serna were white. Ms. Venter was born to Indian immigrants. All three were native Americans.
Mr. Serna served as the director of the RMD. Ms. Benton was the deputy director. Ms. Venter was the chief of staff.
Mr. Serna was a big man at six feet, two inches. But he still looked rather small next to Adam. Ms. Benton was also tall, a blond woman topping out at six feet. High heels made her even taller. Meanwhile, Ms. Venter was average height at five-six or so.
Even with the approximately 30 people who had filed out of the briefing room at once, the RMD hallway where the six now walked was empty. And with the two security men leading them, the others were nearly able to walk four abreast . . . sort of. Adam took up a lot of space, and at times that squeezed Ms. Venter to being slightly behind them. But she’d regularly squirm even with them again.
The RMD G-4 office was the logistics section of the unit. One of its responsibilities included providing Adam with any equipment, uniforms, and weapons he might need. So far, it had not come up with a single weapon he might need.
But it had designed the tactical uniform he now wore. And it would supply him with additional specialized uniform items and equipment he’d need for Operation Caelus.
The group reached the G-4 office. One of the security personnel badged open the door.
The G-4 office consisted of an entrance room. Adam saw there were several doors leading off it. They seemed to be offices for administration. All of them were closed except for one. That one had a name plate on it that read, “Karen Leahy,” on the top line and, “Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4 Logistics,” on the bottom line.
She and one of her subordinates were standing in the entrance room when they arrived. They led the new arrivals down a hallway connected to the entrance room. At the end of the hall, Ms. Leahy open a door that led to the large working area of the G-4 staff.
Soon a bevy of G-4 personnel were around Adam and issuing him new gear.
“The specialized flight suit will provide you protection from the near-vacuum of space,” Ms. Leahy said as Adam took a folded, black uniform from one of the G-4 personnel. The material was relatively thin. Still, even folded, it took up a lot of space. “The suit has an organic air compartment integrated into it,” Ms. Leahy said. “It contains other life-support features as well.
Adam set it down on a nearby table.
“Sign this,” she said. She handed Adam an electronic tablet and stylus.
“What is it?” Adam asked.
“That’s the form you need to sign acknowledging that you received the issued spacesuit. Take care of it. It’s government property and you need to return it.”
“The suit or the form?” Adam asked.
Ms. Leahy tittered.
Then she and the G-4 staff issued Adam a specialized helmet and air hose. The air hose hooked up to the suit and helmet to deliver the oxygen and other air to him. They also issued him the biometrics toolkit he’d need to collect the biometric data from Cissé.
Following that, they issued him other equipment along with protective knee pads and elbow pads. They required Adam to sign for all of the above items.
“Why am I receiving knee pads and elbow pads? How are they going to help me?” Adam asked. He signed multiple forms on the tablet. Then he picked up one of the foam and hard plastic kneepads and looked at it more closely. There wasn’t anything about it that he could see that would offer him any protection that his superhuman durability didn’t already provide him.
“Remember the risk assessment portion of the briefing?” Ms. Venter asked him.
“Part of what we have to do once we identify risks is to develop mitigating actions in response to them,” she said. “And the knee pads and elbow pads were part of those mitigating actions,” she said.
“I guess I didn’t pay attention very closely to that part,” Adam said. “But what risk did you identify to my knees and elbows that this equipment will in any way mitigate?”
Ms. Leahy leaned forward. “Just be glad you weren’t issued a high-visibility reflective belt. We almost actually did that—”
Ms. Venter interrupted her. “That was only going to be for travel to the facility—”
And now Ms. Benton interrupted her. “Let’s not get sidetracked.” She looked Adam in the eyes as best she could. “Mr. White, RMD leadership made the decision for you to receive and wear this personal protective equipment. So you are required to do so.”
Adam looked back at her.
“I-I mean SOP is that leadership defines potential hazards and threats, and d-develops methods and means to reduce those risks,” Ms. Benton said, pulling the cuff of her left sleeve with her right hand like a little kid would do. “And the knee and elbow pads are some of the—”
“I’ll wear them,” Adam said. He tossed the kneepad he had picked up towards the other one and two elbow pads he had placed on top of the folded uniform. Those items sat next to the helmet and air hose. “So how do I return to the delivery vehicle if the helmet gets damaged?” he asked. “Or the air hose or some other part of the life-support system?”
“Take care of them,” Ms. Benton, Ms. Venter, and Ms. Leahy said in unison.
The women looked at one another. Mr. Serna and Adam looked at them.
Ms. Leahy cleared her throat and then pointed at Adam’s helmet. “You’ll receive more guidance on it when you start your training. But like the briefing mentioned, the helmet contains the HUD—the heads-up display,” she said. “Remember, that has your GPS and other guidance systems in it. They’ll display important data on your visor. And those data will help you locate the HVT. They’ll also help you to find your way back to the delivery vehicle in space.”
Adam picked it up and looked at the inside of the helmet. The visor didn’t appear special. But he noticed audio earpieces incorporated into the helmet. There was other unique circuitry and designs in it as well.
“And that’s why Ms. Chapman recommended that you remove it and stow it somewhere safe when you land on target in the CAR. You don’t want to get it damaged during your assault.”
“No. I remember that part of the briefing,” Adam said.
The RMD OPORD for Operation Caelus called for it to be executed in daylight. There were two primary reasons for this: the human intelligence asset on the ground reported that Cissé’s pattern of life had him at his safe haven most often in daylight. Cissé conducted reconnaissance, operations, and other activity at night.
The other reason was that the U.S. wanted to send a show-of-force message to the world. It wanted the world to know it had a new capability.
Adam set the helmet back down on the table.
“Any questions?” Ms. Leahy asked.
She nodded her understanding. And then Adam looked at Mr. Serna. “So why did you give me the call sign of Probus?”
“Wishful thinking,” Mr. Serna said.
And then it was time to start training.
Adam packed up all his new gear along with what additional gear he had in his quarters. RMD personnel required for the mission were now moving to the site where they would train and launch. They would not be returning to RMD headquarters until after the operation ended.
They changed into casual, civilian clothing as part of their cover for their movement. They also used nongovernmental civilian vehicles and traveled in multiple, staggered convoys. These procedures contributed to their effort to hide their identities and numbers.
Adam traveled in one of the middle convoys. It took between two to three hours to reach the training and eventual launch site.
He started his training by going through a simulator on the first day. After that, he trained and rehearsed with the crew of the delivery vehicle. First they flew inside the atmosphere and Adam jumped from there. They then progressed to rehearsing in the thermosphere over U.S. geography.
Six days went by quickly. And when a week finally passed, Director Serna gave the final approval to execute Operation Caelus.
The delivery vehicle looked like a cross between the retired space shuttle and a modern unmanned aerial vehicle. It was about 40 feet long and held four people—one of which would be Adam.
Adam and the three others on the operations team were geared up and ready to go. The delivery vehicle was fueled, prepped, checked and inspected, and in position for launch.
Dr. Mitchell spoke with each member of the operations team, asking them some basic questions to verify they were good to go.
She quickly went through the questions when she reached Adam. Then she leaned closer to him. “What are you going to do if something happens to your life support system? I mean, if it gets damaged while you’re fighting, where will you go?”
He leaned towards her. “I thought about that,” he said. “I’ll likely fly as high as I can, and then violate some nations’ airspace until I can land somewhere where the U.S. can pick me up. I’ll deal with the international incidents after that.”
Adam and the crew boarded the delivery vehicle. The crew consisted of Mr. Morse, the commander (who was also the lead pilot), Ms. Sherman, the pilot (who was actually the co-pilot), and Mr. Flanagan, the flight engineer.
During their week of training, Adam mentioned something about how it must have taken them a lot of preparation and training for the flight before he had even agreed to do the operation. He had asked them what they would have done if he hadn’t agreed to it. They all replied with some sort of variation of how they just would’ve been glad for the experience and skills they had acquired during the training.
About a half-hour after they boarded, they launched. Everything went normally. Within minutes they reached the thermosphere. And then Mr. Morse began piloting the vehicle into an orbit towards Africa. Once they reached their specified coordinates, he and the crew locked the vehicle into a near geostationary orbit above the Central African Republic.
Ms. Sherman was in charge of communications. The human asset the RMD had on the ground had to contact the RMD tactical operations center at the U.S. launch point. If the HVT—if Toumani Cissé—was at his safe haven, the RMD TOC would relay that intelligence to Ms. Sherman.
Five minutes passed. Then seven. Finally, after ten minutes, the RMD TOC advised Ms. Sherman that the human asset had confirmed that Cissé was on site. She gave Adam the signal to go.
Adam moved out of his seat to the airlock. He put on his helmet and secured his air hose to it. Then he donned an assault pack on his back. It contained the biometrics toolkit along with other gear he likely would not use. Finally, he readjusted his elbow pads and knee pads. Then he entered the airlock and shut the door behind him.
The delivery vehicle confirmed the inner door was secure.
And then Adam opened the outer door. Nothing was now between him and the entire universe.