Boots on the Ground

“General, we have signals.” The voice broke out over the incessant beeping and chiming of computers and consoles. “Two of them, a minor six and a minor seven.”

The General turned and stepped in that direction, his boots ringing against the metal flooring. “Show me.”

The young scanner technician, a girl in her early twenties and too fresh-faced to have seen combat in her life, nodded and let her fingers danced across her control console. The screen she was watching changed from the numbers and dials that it had been, and now showed a topographical map, highlighted a full rainbow of colors that indicated the differing elevations. The map itself was gridded out, indicating a city as viewed from high above, perhaps even the rim of space. The technician touched her screen, and the view closed in, picking out a particular section of the city and zooming in like an old-fashioned telephoto lense.

“Here,” She pointed out, “The canal in sector B-7.” The map showed a laser-straight body of water that ran through the center of the city. In it, two amorphous blobs of size and motion that the scanners were struggling to keep in focus and updated. “They seem to be headed directly toward the shelters.”

“Hmm.” The General grunted, folding his arms over his chest and letting his teeth click together. Herbert Lucien was old enough to have seen combat. In fact, he was one of the only survivors of the last great war, the one where humanity had scraped and scrimped for every last meter of turf, mud and brine. Now, he was fighting a new war, a different war, one of humanity’s own making and possibly of their own destruction.

These were bioweapons, two of hundreds, perhaps thousands, impossible to classify in any way beyond a scale of mass. They were abominations, amalgamations of species from all across the globe, genetics and DNA spliced, twisted, tweaked, and violently violated. People had called it mad science, raping the laws of nature, but this was war, and those scientists would be damned before they let their lifes’ work be wasted without purpose as the world died around them.

And now it was those same creatures that threatened the existence of everyone, everything, everywhere.

“Well, let’s stop that in its tracks.” The General said, turning from the technician to look at a lieutenant who stood at the far end of the war room, “Let’s get some boots on the ground.”

The lieutenant nodded. “Yes, sir.” He then nodded to another technician, this one with an earpiece who sat in front of a small bank of monitors. “Give the order.”

The communications technician nodded, then put two fingers to his earpiece and touched a frequency control on his board. “Attention ground control, this is the Starbird. General Lucien has given the order. Defense team to sector B-4, we have a minor six and a minor seven, repeat, six and seven. Good hunting.”

“Make sure they know the stakes.” The General’s eyes fixed on the communications officer. “No playing hero, there are lives at stake. We can’t afford to lose this one.”

The officer nodded, and the general turned back to the scanner technician. He tried to think of her name, of any of their names. They were all young, so young. “Officer Jag, keep me in the loop. If they change course, they stop, they order takeout, I want to know it.”

“Yes, sir.” Her fingers danced on her board again, bringing up all of the numbers and dials that she could somehow look at and decypher into something more than meaningless gibberish. “And, sir?”

“Yes, Officer.”

“It’s Jaeger, sir. Officer Kate Jaeger.”

Lucien looked up toward the ceiling for a moment, taking just a moment to cover the indignation at being corrected by a subordinate and the embarrassment that the old man had gotten someone’s name wrong. “Noted. Thank you.”

“Sir, I have the ground control officer.” The communications tech said. What was his name? Carey? Carver? “He wants to speak with you.”

“Put him through.” The General waited to hear the chirping noise before speaking again. “This is General Lucien.”

“General, this is Colonel Gannet.” The voice was cut with static and fuzz, but still came through. “We’re a little short on drivers down here, General. Permission to engage the enemy directly?”

Lucien sighed and closed his eyes. “Permission denied, Gannet. We need you in the situation room. Get your drivers out there.”

The voice sounded resigned. “Yes, sir. But be advised, General, most of my boys and girls are on leave. I’m going to have to put greenhorns out there.”

“Did you train them properly?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And do you trust them to do their jobs?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then get them out there. We have two minors headed right toward the shelters, they need to be stopped now, and they need to be stopped for good. I don’t want anything left of them but paste. Are we clear?”

“As crystal. Scramble order is going out, the drivers are on their way.”

The General nodded. “Affirmative, ground control. Starbird out.” He waved at the technician to close off the communication link. “I swear to Heaven he sleeps in that ready room down there.”

“Sir, minors are changing course.” Officer Jaeger said, “They are leaving the canal and heading deeper into the city, still on course toward the shelters.”

“Keep an eye on them. Relay any more changes in direction directly to the ground teams.” He moved his arms around behind his back and clutched his hands together. “It’s out of our hands now, people. Pray to whatever god you believe in, because it’s up to whatever little screwups Gannet puts into those suits of his whether or not a lot of people die today.”

Next Chapter: New Blood