|“Sodom by the Susquehanna”|
Cover Art. © Paul Hair, 2017.
Merchandise hadn’t entered or exited the Los Angeles warehouse in ten years. The number of its broken windows were close to equaling the solid ones. And it was as if the rust dripping down the side of the structure and into the earth was decaying everything near it—abandoned vehicles, crumbling docks, and cracked pavement. Even the ground was stale and lifeless, like dirt hidden from light and rain for decades at the bottom of an unfinished cellar. The 1989 Chevy van, with peeling paint and rotting dents, looked like just another piece of junk a quarter mile away from the building.
“Three more coming up,” Christina York said from inside the rear of the Strategic Effect Group van. Images of two men and a woman grew larger on glowing, dust-covered monitors.
A SEG officer inside the warehouse shot out a thin line of blue energy from his finger and hit exactly where he aimed, to the left of his enemy’s spine. He flicked his finger to the right. His two teammates killed their targets too.
“That makes 30,” Christina said. Her black-clad teammates quietly laid the human remains on the concrete floor and continued advancing.
The Workers’ Prosperity Alliance had organized, recruited, and become operational without anyone noticing it. If it wasn’t for the SEG and its intelligence collection, the U.S. government still wouldn’t know the WPA existed . . . or that its leaders had smuggled in the superhuman they had used to create the biological weapon of mass destruction.
“Target area in sight,” the first SEG team leader radioed over the secure comms. The second team leader echoed him.
“Good copy,” Christina advised them both. Adam White sat next to her. He nodded and leaned back. Even that small movement rocked the vehicle just a bit.
Three SEG officers were on each team of the assault element inside the warehouse. A seventh officer hovered high in the sky with a measurement and signature intelligence—MASINT—collection device attached on the chest of her uniform. One of the monitors in the van displayed what it collected: an aerial view of the surrounded room, with a blob radiating in a spectrum of colors right inside of it.
“We’re losing sight of the WMD chemical tank again,” Christina said over the comms to the aerial officer. “Turn slightly to the left.”
She followed Christina’s instructions.
“Perfect. Hold there,” Christina said. The blob radiating in a spectrum of colors was now in the center of the monitor.
Inside the warehouse, one of the team leaders made a knife-hand and pointed it at a subordinate before pointing it at the targeted room. The subordinate moved towards the door and shoved a small cable underneath it. A tiny camera on the end of it sent a video feed back to a device she held in her other hand.
“The president ran on a promise to tear down the capitalistic evil upon which this nation was founded!” a short man near the far end of the inner room yelled. The eyes and ears of the rest of the WPA focused on him.
The female SEG officer swept the cable from the left to the right, gradually capturing everything and everyone in the room as it passed over them.
“He came from here!” the short man howled. “He said he was one of us! And he broke his promise! Now we’re going to make him pay—we’re going to make this country pay!”
The SEG officer slowed moving the cable when the modified chemical tank near the center of the room appeared on her handheld device. She and her superior studied it for a second before she resumed sweeping the cable at normal speed.
The WPA leader jabbed his finger towards the chemical tank. “We just finished our months-long work on the device. And we thank Enrique for his sacrifice.” He pointed at a man with dark hair and a mustache. The man lifted up his arms and his shirt sleeves pulled down, revealing a spur on the inside of each wrist. “We also thank our scientists who figured out how to extract, store, and aerosolize enough of his biological venom to make the weapon fully operational. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re about to do.”
Some approving shouts; some applause.
“Tomorrow we will load the weapon onto the tractor trailer. We will drive it through downtown Los Angeles, dispersing the chemical as we go! We will kills hundreds! And we will sicken thousands!”
Cheers erupted from the WPA. The female SEG officer retrieved the cable and shut off the handheld device, shoving everything in the assault pack on her back.
“Looks like 200 enemies or so,” her superior relayed to Christina. “Platypus is in there with them. And the only change to the chemical tank since we collected intel on it is that it’s ready to go.”
“So everything is just like we assessed,” Christina said to Adam.
“Neutralize the enemies and secure the weapon,” Adam said to the team leader. He shut of the comms. “Platypus,” he chuckled. “I still can’t believe we went with that name. It doesn’t even make sense. The spurs aren’t on his ankles and his venom isn’t just painful, it’s deadly.”
Both SEG teams stacked single file along the walls next to the doors on the opposite sides of the room. There was a five count and then one team burst into the room right after the other.
Maroon energy shot out of the hands of one SEG officer. It cut down ten enemies and its noise suffocated terrified screaming. His five teammates followed that with a burst of blue lava-like energy, thermobaric blasts, shockwaves, a torrent of acid, and M4 carbine fire.
Twenty-three members of the WPA died before the rest of them reacted to the shock attack. They slowly started moving into defensive positions and fighting back with the pistols, rifles, and machine guns they had with them. Two of the communists had M79 grenade launchers. But a blue-lava blast vaporized over half of both their bodies before they could use them, and the launchers clattered to the floor as if ghosts had dropped them.
The monitors in the van raged with jumping images and a mixture of the turned down volumes from all the body cameras. “It’s a massacre,” Christina said.
“Good,” Adam replied.
“It hasn’t been 30 seconds yet and I think they’ve already killed over 100.” Christina’s eyes darted back and forth across the wall of screens.
The comms snapped with a hint of static. “We have what looks like five people fleeing a building adjacent to the warehouse,” the airborne SEG officer said. “Looks like they’re headed for a nearby SUV. Advise on course of action.”
Five squirters moved on a black and white thermal video feed. “Standby,” Adam said.
“Hard to tell if they’re carrying weapons.” Christina leaned forward, squinting at the screen. “Some of them have something in their hands.”
“Gotta be rifles,” Adam said, his face inches from hers.
“You’re positive?” she asked.
“No. But it sure looks that way.” He keyed the comms to the aerial SEG officer. “Engage and destroy.”
She acknowledged before reaching out her right arm towards the SUV far below her. The five racing people reached it and piled into the vehicle. Her hand and wrist slightly glowed and a small, organic projectile that hovered over the back of her wrist formed. It vibrated for another second before jetting straight towards the SUV with hypersonic speed.
It hit the light truck with such kinetic energy that it blew all the doors, including the tailgate, straight off it before ripping apart everything else. Metal flying against metal created sparks that ignited the fuel from the rupturing gas tank.
“Targets eliminated,” she advised, the ball of fire collapsing into raging flames.
“Danger close on that one. Can still feel the ground vibrating,” Christina said.
“All enemies neutralized at the target,” a team leader from the warehouse reported. “I say again, all enemies neutralized. About 150 dead—Platypus included—and the rest have surrendered. Over.”
“That was quick. Guess you were right about you not needing to be on the assault element today,” Christina said to Adam.
“You doubted me?”
Christina smiled. “Good copy. Will contact NORTHCOM,” she said to the team leader, referring to the U.S. Northern Command unit that would now clean up. “Hold until the unit arrives and then depart immediately. Maintain PERSEC throughout; do not reveal any identities.”
The team acknowledged. Christina contacted NORTHCOM. Five minutes later she was behind the wheel of the van with the ignition running and Adam sitting in the passenger seat. She waited for him to give the order to rendezvous at the prearranged rally point with the rest of their teammates. But the director of the SEG contacted them on a secure line first.
“We need you to return to Harrisburg as soon as possible,” she told Adam.
“We will as soon as we’re finished here,” he said.
“I understand that,” she said. “But no delaying at all when you’re done there. We need to brief you on an attack that just occurred in Harrisburg. You likely won’t have any down time once you’re done in Los Angeles. It looks like you’ll be going directly into a new operation.”