Ed and I sat on the roof of the two-story St. Mary's School building. From the heat of the fading late-Spring day, the smell of the soft tar roof invaded our nostrils. It wasn't an altogether bad odor. For a few moments we had reminisced about our younger days when we had attended class at the old Catholic school. We chuckled, recalling the burn of a ruler across the knuckles by an old nun, hanging out on the playground, basking in the heat of a hot hot summer, running around on the streets of the city, with that same smell assaulting our senses. Unfortunately, events of the past were not our main focal point.
"He isn't going to make it. His skatejets are about out of juice," Ed said with a pair of binoculars pressed to his eyeballs, looking southward down Turner Avenue. He was watching our friend and fellow classmate Tony Hendges zip down the cobbled street, that had been chewed up by artillery bombardments, with a bucket of KFC tucked under his arm and a LAV-25 light-armored assault vehicle giving chase close behind.
The assault vehicle was lashing out with hot lead from its 25mm chain gun at the guy. The vehicle was having a hard time locking onto the fast moving man, however, the chunks of roadway the LAV's guns were throwing up were making Tony's maneuverability very difficult. Luckily Tone's flak jacket, with its Deflective Field Generator powered up, was still fully charged or he'd be riddled with bullets and street debris.
As Tony headed our way, shooting across the intersection of Turner and Bridge, one of his WIMS-Wheeled Individual Mobility System-skatejets sputtered and totally cut out on him. He amazingly kept his balance with one skatejet functioning (the thrust of which would send an amateur on his back) as he lost half his speed. The assault tank seemed to gain yardage with leaps and bounds.
"He's toast if we don't do something!" Ed exclaimed, dropping the binoculars and looking my way as I suited up with a mini-flight pack. Most of our weapons were out of range to be of much help. What we had that would be in range of taking the LAV out of commission we didn't want to use in fear of giving up our position.
"I'm on my way. Better be ready with your AT4 just in case things get tight," I told my friend as I stood up upon the roof ledge and pressed the DFG power button to energize my battle fatigue's reflective shield.
I leaned over the edge and dropped off the side of the two-story building. Before kissing the pavement, I leveled out and shot around the corner of the church that stood on the south side of the school. Tony was practically in my arms as we nearly collided at Turner and First Street. I grabbed the guy by his jacket collar and veered straight up into the air, up 150 feet. The assault tank screeched around onto First to follow us, its' tires kicking up a plume of white smoke and rubber.
"Could you have cut it any closer?" Tony said quite clearly over the roar of the wind as he spoke into his tactical radio strapped to his helmet. Though it didn't outwardly show, I could tell he was genuinely more thankful than upset.
"I was hoping maybe you could make it without assistance. After all, we're low on rocket propellant, too." I said into the wire-thin microphone of my own headset as the LAV fired its' 7.62mm machine gun at us. I felt the bullets bounce off the leg of my reflective shield. I carried Tony around Broadway and up (300 feet up!) over the steeples of the church. We dropped onto the roof of the school rather roughly as I cut loose the mini-jetpack, letting it sail off over the expressway to the east. I was hoping the assault vehicle would follow the jet trail and stray away from our location.
We hugged the rooftop, getting of good nose full of the warm tar smell, and listened to the whine of the LAV-25's diesel engine as it circled around the block. It slowed a little on the street as it rolled past the front of the school building. Ed cradled his rocket launcher, ready to pop up and fire if it came to that.
We all exhaled in relief as the LAV revved and sped away.
"Just once I'd really like to take a potshot and blow the snot out of them!" Ed grumbled setting the anti-armor weapon down near his feet.
"I'm sure you'll get your chance with this sector abuzz with so much activity," I responded. It seemed the closer we were to the downtown area of the city the more enemy armor and troops we ran into. It was definite bad news.
My hometown of Grand Rapids was at war. The current mayor (an ex-chemical arms dealer) had taken advantage of his post and, along with some of his top aides (friends from his former days no less), had unleashed a chemical weapon within the city three months ago. From the initial news reports, Mayor Ondesen had informed the outside world that a lethal virus had made him quarantine the city and asked that no one from the outside assist until he found out exactly what was happening. What he had unleashed was a non-lethal neural toxin that effected the frontal and occipital lobes in the brain. These areas of the brain maintained behavioral and emotional reasoning and visual recognition-thus the chemical was an almost hypnotic drug, if you will. The mayor must have been very proud of himself when he had ousted the people running the city police force and the areas National Guard units and put his own group of people-a small army of approximately 1,000 from initial intelligence reports-in place. The city of 300,000 had been evacuated though not all citizens and business owners had left. My friends and I had been out of state at our Special Forces training when the news came over the wire, when the truth had come out of what had happened, that our city was in peril. Mayor Ondesen demanded the release of a number of Middle Eastern political prisoners (more friends from his glory days) or he would release an even stronger toxin, this one quite lethal. Knowing the layout of the city, my friends and I had been assigned as part of the task force to take down this mad man.
Who'd of thought such a terrorist attack possible in the 22nd Century?
Part of the mayor's plan had already been foiled. Bravo Company had infiltrated the inner city, where the mayor and his cronies were camped out, and taken control of the situation where the lethal toxin could not be used. The actions had killed one of Ondesen's best friends, infuriating the man, making him dig in even deeper within the city proper. He had intensified the struggle by sending his forces out into the neighborhoods, killing innocent civilians.
We had effectively moved most of the remaining citizens out of town-gotten them the hell out of Dodge. The few that remained in town became watchdogs and soldiers to fight for their city. The goal of the entire team was to eliminate Ondesen before he got his hands on any other chemical weapon, which, for all we knew, he may have hidden somewhere downtown.
That had been five weeks ago. Things had gone to hell since then. Bravo Company had all but been wiped out as they tried to takedown Ondesen and his lackeys. It was Alpha's turn, the few of us camped out in the neighboring areas, to deal with the mayor. We had crept and clawed and kept our heads low enough that-splitting up into two smaller groups of six-we were actually getting closer to the inner city, hoping to infiltrate the downtown area and end this thing once and for all.