Arrows of the Leviathan - Chapter 34 - Standoff
Daniel and Reyes retreated to a nearby room. The tiny chamber wasn't far from the 3t3s’ destination. But "safety" wasn't the best word to describe their situation.
"Got an exit?" asked Daniel impatiently as the intrusion klaxon continued to blare.
There was a burst of static on the line. “Working on it,” Markus said into his headset.
Gideon hurried over to the mission commander and sat in front of the holographic display. Projected before him was an overhead view of the compound.
He saw two wireframe individuals moving through the complex, with abbreviated identities floating above their heads: Locke and Reyes. Gideon picked up a free headset from the console and held the mic close to his lips.
“Daniel,” he said, “looks like your best bet is to head up to the roof. The Norseman will come to pick you up.”
Daniel’s wireframe body stopped suddenly, then turned and seemed to stare right at him.
“Remember the Yamanouchi mission?” Gideon asked. “That’s the playbook.”
Markus suddenly muted the outgoing transmission and addressed the assembled crew. "Negative. we're not taking the risk. Rossi, spin it up, let’s go." He marched over to the pilots and pointed to the skies ahead of them.
The woman didn’t move. “Rossi,” he ordered again. “Spin it up.” She looked at him, then at the co-pilot Joon, then back at Markus. Markus caught her eye and pointed his finger at the window.
“Let’s go,” he commanded.
The group stared in disbelief. How could he offer abandonment as an option? "What?" Gideon started toward the commander while Loki and Rossi continued to stare Markus down. Rossi settled it. "We aren't leaving them behind."
Markus turned around, his eyes burning holes into Gideon’s soul. Rossi swiveled around in her seat to face them.
Angrily, Gideon rested his hand on the worn, reliable 9mm stashed in his side holster. This didn’t sit properly with Markus. He grasped the Glock in his leg holster.
The speakers throughout the Norseman crackled with static. "What's going on up there? We need an exit!"
“We aren’t leaving them behind,” Rossi said firmly, her hands raised in a non-threatening gesture, but Gideon and Markus had reached an impasse, fingertips cautiously touching the edges of their pistol grips.
Loki piped up and offered a way out. “Markus, let me get this straight. Your objection is the fortress defenses, right? What if I told you I could neutralize them? The primary system is easy to defeat, and there’s an exploit for the augmented AA systems on Panther. I can shut them down.”
“Exploits cost money,” replied Markus, as if speaking to a child.
“It’s one million Ducats for the zero day.”
Joon let out a low whistle. Even Rossi spun in her chair to face away from Markus, accepting that the argument was lost.
Then Markus did a very strange thing. He looked up at the Norseman’s ceiling and seemed to eye a small, blinking blue light no one else had noticed before. Suddenly, the light turned green. He looked down to his crew, his countenance changed. He smirked and released his weapon’s grip.
“I still think this is a very bad call,” he said, pointing at the display showing the four castle towers. “That zero-day exploit could fail. Who knows what other surprises are in store?”
“Panther says the reputation of the seller is impeccable.”
Markus looked unconvinced, but despite that, there was a confidence in what he needed to do next. Like a good soldier, whatever objection he had melted away. “Proceed.”
Gideon nodded, hand dropping away from his hip while dashing back to the console to sit in front of the holographic display.
The rest of the crew resumed their duties, behaving as if the standoff had never happened. The tension was replaced with an almost clockwork precision. This highly-skilled team was a well-oiled machine.
Rossi swiveled forward in her seat and hit several switches on her console.
“Taking off,” she said as the turbojets began to rumble, vibrating the airframe. She tapped a few keys on a numeric keypad and then flipped a red switch. “Deactivating cloak.”
She turned to look at Joon and gestured at the flashing wireframe of the Norseman on the viewport. “Stand by countermeasures.”
Joon nodded and typed in a command on the keyboard in front of him. The wireframe of the Norseman disappeared, replaced by notifications.
ELECTRONIC WARFARE SUITE READY
Air rippled around the aircraft, the edges of its hexagonal armor plates blinking as the active camouflage shut off.
The noise suppression system was disabled, and the roar of the engines filled the night sky. Afterburners engaged and blasted the water the Norseman was floating on into a boiling cloud. From afar, it appeared as if a rocket had taken off from under the water. The Norseman rotated towards Goa, then vectored the engines to fly towards the fortress.
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