False Flag: Beach Party USA (Part 3 of 3)
Painting by Demar Douglas
It's A Surprise
After several near misses left holes in the USS Arizona memorial, an errant Riverjack veered out of control and jumped the shore, landing inside. A large explosion erupted and a cloud of smoke billowed outwards.
The smoke obscured the fact that only the back half of the swift boat detonated. A diminutive figure emerged from the wreckage and shucked off a matte black carbon fiber impact sheath, revealing a white naval commander's uniform underneath. She stashed the sheath back into the remains of the Riverjack and tapped some buttons, moving away as quickly as possible.
As she moved off, the boat began to dissolve from within due to some form of acid. Once she was out of sight, a secondary detonation obliterated all signs of the vehicle.
An American Tragedy
After downing his seventeenth Bushmaster in a row, Skywolf -- a dark complected indigenous American with a specialized cowboy hat helmet in a pressurized flight suit, felt an impact in the back of his W.A.R. Hammer. Wrecking Ball cackled as she zoomed by in her magnetically-propelled Keeljack sphere and Skywolf realized the chopper was done for.
Frantically activating his seat's alt mode, he pulled the W.A.R. Lock free from its mooring and checked to make sure he was securely fastened to the jet pack. He hit the emergency button and the entire front of the helicopter fell off, bouncing harmlessly off of one of the Constrictors and fortuitously landing on a Riverjack below.
As the rotors ground to a halt and the chopper went tail first towards the ocean, Skywolf jumped and activated the jet pack's boosters. He took to the sky and peppered passing Bushmasters with fire from a rifle attached to the pack before heading for the beach, knowing he was outmatched in the sky.
"Skywolf to Martial," he said through his helmet mic, even watching his downed helicopter detonate against the bridge of one of the Constrictors, crippling it and sending it down towards the water. "Things don't look so good from up here, sir. Enemy forces retain a three to one advantage."
Below, as Red Panther recklessly swished the wheel of the Red Runner to and fro, the Fix coldly disintegrated Racers as they zipped past. "Fix to Martial," she said through gritted teeth. "That matches my findings, we are taking losses that don't match up against what's left on the field, sir!"
Still guarding the injured Defender, the Martial clipped a Fer-De-Lance driver through its open left side, sending the whole thing plowing into a dozen Sea Snakes on foot. He heard a gigantic detonation as Wrecking Ball's Keelback smashed through the supports for the blockish Arizona memorial before flying out towards the ocean, making speed in the direction of the off-shore Constrictor. The Martial sighed as the memorial began to list and sink.
With that blow struck, the rest of the Union forces began to withdraw. The surviving Riverjacks picked up Fer-De-Lance crews abandoning their jeeps and the Bushmasters bee lined for the airborne Constrictor, flying southwest at a downward angle towards open waters.
"I'll get 'em, Martial!" Red Panther yelped before noticing the Fix's left hand on his shoulder, her head hanging low.
"Belay that, Panther," Martial said, breathing hard as he stood up.
One More Time
Some miles away, on the roof of the First Hawaiian Center, Onyx Dragon breathed heavily, both hands gripping the handle of his remaining katana. He stood slump shouldered, numerous rips and slices in his mask and his gi, staring down a similarly beleaguered Raven, a tuft of blond hair poking through his sheer balaclava, holding a hunting knife and a katana, chest heaving from exertion.
"How many times are we gonna do this dance, little brother?" Dragon yelled with a slight laugh. "How many times before one of us falls? Do you think this is what Old Man Shelby wanted?"
Raven spat and sidestepped, looking for an opening.
Dragon laughed. "I guess I won't hear you complain, after Tangier, huh? Not from this far, they should have code named you 'Whisper.' I would have killed Rock & Soul if you hadn't gotten in the way, little brother."
Raven jumped like he was going to charge but saw the position of the sword and thought again. The taunting was getting to him.
"You probably think this is just another day at work," Dragon laughed, "that you have another enemy trapped. The ending will be different whether you like it or not!"
"It's gonna be ..." Dragon began when a shot rang out and Raven's left calf exploded in a spray of blood. Losing his balance, he toppled and fell off the side of the building.
Dragon grabbed his broken second sword and glanced over the side. Plummeting below, Raven scrambled at the numerous pouches on his costume. Seconds later, about half way down, a compressed air tool fired a hook through one of the windows and Raven saw his descent roughly arrested.
Dragon smiled and said, "Good job, Sterling." He then tapped his ear and said, "I was starting to think you forgot me, Anhinga!"
On the balcony of the penthouse suite at the Moana Pacific West Tower, some blocks away, Maraud carefully packed up the last pieces of Snakebird's sniper rifle, his dark brown face visible under his mirrored red mask as he chewed on some table grapes. A few feet away, Anhinga, the Snakebird, Condesa Isabella De La Maza, the financial mind behind the Union of the Snake, shook her long wavy brown hair and adjusted her floor length silk robe as she held the smartphone near her face.
"You're literally the only one aside from my dear Maraud and the Organizer who calls me by my actual code name," she said, her dazzling smile aimed at the skyline. "I'd never forget about you, Dragon. You're the only one who could get me to take a break from my vacation. Good thing Connor doesn't get jealous. Your ride should be there any second."
Dragon looked up and saw a rectangular metal backpack with two metal handgrips arcing over in front and a rotating propeller descending. He quickly slid into the arm straps, secured additional straps around his waist and through his legs and tapped the pack. The rotor began to spin more powerfully and he ascended into the skies.
"I could never keep up with the kind of lifestyle either of you lead," Dragon said as he drifted away from the building, "so he has nothing to worry about. Anyway, I'm going to Caracas to do a thing for your dude, so let's call it even, huh? Enjoy your time off, peace."
Dragon tapped his ear again before grabbing the handgrips and guiding himself over the city.
Two minutes later, Raven burst through the rooftop door and limped out, glaring at the silhouette of Onyx Dragon disappearing into the sky. He sighed inaudibly and sat down, exhausted.
The Kansas City Shuffle
Back over at Pearl Harbor, the mood was somber as first responders helped evacuate the wounded and groups of Defenders worked to identify the dead. Smoking wreckage still floated in the water and lay in pieces all along the shore.
With his leg in a splint, Raven walks over to a spot near the water where Red Panther, the Fix, Skywolf and Jester (wearing his one black suit and heavy sunglasses) stood watching the Martial work the press corps.
"... addressing virtually identically intense threats in Manhattan, Miami, the Philippines and here," he said, gesturing as he looked from one reporter to the next, "all within the space of three days ... my team is stretched thin. Hopefully, Senator Warren can reconsider her opposition to our budget increase so DangerWatch can be better equipped to stop attacks like these. Even with the support of the naval base here, the battle was over in fifteen minutes. Any more questions, please issue them to Lieutenant Deadline in our press office, thank you."
A wall of Defenders opened behind him and he stepped through, with the troops closing ranks after he passed. He walked over to where his teammates were standing.
"Today could have gone better," the Martial said.
"Raven fell off a building and caught a sniper bullet through the leg," the Fix shrugged. "None of us died. It could be worse."
"Let me lay done good news on you all, then," Jester offered. "That Constrictor that Skywolf dropped his chopper on? We found an undetonated fuel-air bomb that would have flattened everything for more than half a mile. We stopped that. Gotta take the wins when they come, 'cause all this could be gone and we all could be dead."
They all took a beat to consider that.
"Let's hope my dad agrees," the Martial said finally. "Wheels up for Sentinel Station in thirty."
As they all started walking towards the waiting W.A.R. Horse, the massive armored personnel carrier brimming with gun emplacements, the Fix said, "I'm ordering from Dumpling Home the second we are wheels down in San Fran. Who's with me?"
There were numerous grunts of assent as the Martial watched them climb on board. As they filed on, his phone vibrated and he took it out of his shirt pocket to find a text message from his father, team leader General War Dog.
"PROVISIONAL BLACK BUDGET INCREASE ROLLED INTO PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL REPAIRS," the message read, "GREAT JOB, SON"
As Jester was the last to board, the Martial smirked and swung himself through the door.
About a hundred feet away from the W.A.R. Horse, pulling out of the lot, Brown pulled the baseball cap down on his head, dressed like an EMT. He climbed into the back of a waiting ambulance that had a female naval officer inside -- the same one from the crashed Riverjack -- and pulled the door closed behind himself.
As the ambulance pulled away, he took off his cap and regarded the officer, smirking at him from under an oxygen mask.
"A pretty big production just to sneak you back into the States," he sighed, "but I think you can cut the invalid act, Viceroy."
She pulled the mask off and smiled, saying, "First, Addison and Madison expect to win the rebuilding contract here, so I'm a reason for today's show, not the reason, despite the Organizer's insistence that I'm on deck for the new season. I'm on the top five most wanted lists in forty seven countries, I can't exactly book a business class flight. Still, this ambulance is comfier than the inside of a hollowed out Riverjack. Just let me rest until we get to the Triumph Trust distribution center, eh, Shop Steward?"
"Can't rest that long," he said, wagging a finger. "We have to switch vehicles at the hospital, so rest until then. After almost clipping a wing on that prototype jet heist, the Organizer has a lot for you to do that will get us a big slice of the new infrastructure bill working its way through Congress."
She laughed, "The reward for good work is more work, then, mm? I guess it beats no work."
As the ambulance disappeared into traffic, Brown reminded her, "Job security is the main reason we got Union jobs."
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