Operation Search and Expunge (2/5): Breach

Illicit Drift, Narijic System, Freeport Loop – Mission Elapsed Time +0:00:01

In the base of the crater in which the pod had impacted – aided by the requirement for stealth of the illicit drift, which couldn’t afford to reveal its position by installing local defense systems, never mind by actually using said systems – a brief mist hung in the void as the heat-charged thermal goo abruptly vented.

A moment of stillness to allow it to disperse, and the forward body of the pod cracked down its mid-line and opened, a humanoid figure pulling itself upright from its cradle of impact foam.  Me, Operative Morria.

Well, in mind, anyway.  My internal self-image doesn’t all resemble the Jímar-class single-op ‘shell they assign us for these missions, thank Ithával – hairless, sexless, regolith-gray skin the texture of old leather directly wedded to ceramet armor-plating.  And, more relevant to the immediate situation, without any particular need to breathe…

Enough fresh-reinstantiate woolgathering, Morria, I reminded myself.  “A slow incarnation is a dead incarnation,” as they say, and don’t let that distract you either.  There would already be local security cycling the locks to check out the impact site.  I yanked the equipment packages out of the pod, and stashed them around me, the pinch over one shoulder, grenades and the breacher charge over the other, weapon in hand, then fired up local wireless and ordered a self-diagnostic.  Straight-line blue.  A moment to order the pod into self-destruct and check the composite had started to deliquesce, and I was off in a high, bounding run.

*             *             *             *             *

The same consideration, of course, was why I couldn’t enter through the locks, either.  Well, shouldn’t.  Beating up on the local security might be fun, but very much outside mission parameters.  Which is why three minutes later I was not approaching the locks marked on my plan, but rather a flat spot in the asteroid wall where the habitat excavations had brushed a bit too close to the surface and been reinforced with a fused-wall.  I brushed the regolith aside, slapped the breacher to the surface, and leapt for cover while it drilled itself in —

The ground pulsed, and with a silent roar air fountained from the wound torn in the habitat, bringing with it a litter of smart-paper and aerogel mugs and other light stuff caught in the outflow before the spacetight doors slammed down.  A couple of bodies came with it, too, who must have been standing right next to the wall when it breached.  One was a kalatri in Voniensan uniform, I noted absently, adding his now perpetually-surprised features to the log-vlog; that wasn’t in the mission plan.

Speed is life.  I flicked a red-banded grenade, HE and needles to flush out the non-oxyeaters, into the hole and dived in after it, pirouetting to scan the room.  Nothing but corpse-char and wrecked office equipment; excellent, but half the drift would have felt the twin detonations.  Service duct.  There.  All was going as planned, now to keep moving, taking out the air and the automation as I went…