“Why Physics?” Cpl. Tom Akins asks, lowering his hand after being acknowledged by the briefing C.O. in the ready room. “Hell, Son, why not?! It’s a damn machine ain’t it? They’re good at math like girls and twice as quick about it. Why wouldn’t a Toaster try to convert the whole universe into numbers and equations? Makes sense to me!” returns the Colonel, a little exasperated. “What you gotta worry about is the training. This thing has who-knows-how-much black-ops spook training from the old Agency, and that ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at. You run up on this target without being squared-away and you buy the farm.”
Lt. Brian Hoskins raises up his and the Colonel nods at him expectantly. “So we’re gonna peel this Toaster away from the Anarchists it’s hiding with and bring back it’s stack or it’s head. Gotcha. Now it’s the crew that it’s embedded with that worries me. That’s a weird bunch-a mooks, right there. Prizefighter, Head-Shrinker, Merc and a cat-lovin’ car salesman? That’s too oblong a group to not get a second look. What’s the intel on that bunch. Could be some kinda re-activated TITAN sleeper-cell.”
“Little of this and a little of that,” returns the Colonel, “Fight-girl’s as suspicious as they come, suspected criminal background right outta the gate. DO NOT ENGAGE unarmed…” Cpt. Mike Hardwick snorts derisively at that and studies his Ranger tattoo avoiding the C.O.‘s gaze. Colonel Everett West lets that one slide and gets back to his intel breakdown of the known accomplices. "The Shrinks a pushover, but the brass have an unarmed DO NOT ENGAGE flag on him too for ’classified’ reasons above my pay grade, but you heard it here so don’t go trying the strongarm him and get some nasty surprise."
“Now the Ballerina ( slang. A reflex boosted female assassin in the employ of a major corp ) is trouble only if she knows you’re coming. Solid recon/sniper operative for Medusan Shield, we bought her whole combat record from ‘Shield so you can review her story after the brief. As long as she hasn’t prepared for you and posted up top of a kill-zone waiting for you to bull-in, your jake.”
The Colonel goes on, “Now, fuck that shyster and his pussy. I don’t care if he’s collateralized in the OP.” Nods of agreement ripple acorss the soldiers in the room. “Just get Iso-7 out with the head intact and back here where our Eggheads can take it apart.”
“Now we got a fair budget on this one and the requisitions will be fabbed by 09:00 next Deuce, so you’re going in with fair to bangin’ kit and enough loadout to get the job done. I don’t want any excuses. I want to see a head. In a bag. On a lab table. Don’t forget, you are the second team to be tasked with this extraction. Review the previous missions XP thoroughly and don’t make the mistakes of your predecessors, Gentlemen…” The Colonel pauses a minute to eyeball the assembled soldiers, “Now get ready to rock! HUA?”
“HUA!!!” shouts the Jovian assault team Spartan-7 and breaks up for the pre-mission prep.
Before anyone can leave the room a smartly uniformed Military intelligence officer walks int the room and straight up to the colonel. After a brief exchange, the Colonel calls everyone back to their seats before they can file out into the halls. " ‘Agent Smith’ here has a little addendum for you, I gather. Buttin seats and eyes from and center ladies," The colonel commands, “this wont take long.”
Cpt. Cyrus Burns turns to look at the Colonel for a second before taking a stand at the podium and Mesh-feeding new readouts to the AR display at the head of the room.
“This operation is going to bring you into contact with person’s of interest of the Security Council’s Vice Commander, General Brown. As such I think you can understand the sensitivity of that I am about to tell you. This information has been cleared for your security clearance and is otherwise classified and all that that implies. The tertiary target operating under the name “Stan Johnson” is a secondary target. The SwarmCat carried by mister Johnson is a Priority target and must be extracted with at least the cyberbrain or cortical stack intact. That is a minimal expectation, Gentlemen. Whole retrieval is preferable. Is that clear?" Mumbles and head nods murmur through the briefing room.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SHIT!!” bellows the Colonel. “Sir, YES SIR!” shout the soldiers, three of them actually standing bolt upright at attention before sitting back down. The Colonel nods to the Cpt. Burns to continue.
“Do not underestmate the Cat. Intelligence indicates that it is some sort of lethal bodyguard smart-pet for Target Johnson.” A string of high definition images plays across the interface, showing Barsoomian rebels Ruster biomorphs, scratched and hideously swollen by toxins in unzipped bodybags filthy with Martian red dust.
“These rebels encountered the Cat armed with improvised assault vehicles and military-grade hardware. As you can see…” Cpt. Burns clicks through several more images, “…they did not overcome.”. “Additional gear is being assigned for the purpose of restraining the animal. It is also to be Black-Bagged and under no circumstances released unless it is to the custody of the debriefing officers that will receive you upon your return for post-op review.”
“This entire mission is graded as Hard Target status. Maximum prejudice is advised. Collateral damage is expected and pre-pardoned by the High Command.” Some ‘Yeeeahs’ drift out of the assembled troops.
“That it?” The Colonel asks Cpt. Burns as the images stop on the tactical display. “Yes, Colonel.” replied Cpt Burns.
“You heard the Spook!” the Colonel shouts, “Move out and gear up!” The Intelligence Officer, an African-American can’t quite be sure if that was a reference to the old-school slang for military intelligence or an oblique reference to old-Earth racist slang for humans of color. The Colonel doesn’t stand around long enough to give him a chance to ask. This will go down in the Colonels record. Cpt. Burns thinks to himself ans he has his muse save and upload the XP of the incident into the Colonels personnel file.