Whatever the Cost
Papa, I'm sad.
The words echoed in Richard's mind louder than the long-ranged plasma rifles at his side.
The echoes never stopped.
[Sir! Their Eastern flank breaks!]
[Continue firing as if it doesn't, lieutenant.]
The lieutenant's face disappeared from Richard's feed. All these years and the young lieutenant still missed obvious war tactics. If you want to create an opening, create first a weakness. Richard had the advantage in both men and tech, why would he do anything differently? There was no need to make any grand statements. No. There was too much at stake.
Papa, I'm sad.
More and more neon lights lit the sky. Their illumination littered the toxic river at General Richard's feet. They were a sign, a sign that victory was near.
The general surveyed the battlefield on his Display Feed. The map rotated per Richard's requests as status updates came by the hundreds: kill confirms, death alerts, troop movements, ammunition counts; much more. Richard's surveyance was as detailed as it got.
Seeing how he served one of the richest corporations in the world, he expected nothing less.
An alert beeped on his screen and the General allowed his young lieutenant to speak once more.
[General! The Western Flank has collapsed as well!]
[Have all the scientist's been evaluated?]
A pause. [Yes, sir.]
The young lieutenant disapproved of his general's tactics, but Richard had no plan of wasting human lives when they could be saved. He let the rescue copters land and take off as they will from the besieged megabuildings. As long as his scanners showed his objective's location, no unnecessary human lives would be taken.
If the objective were to move, however, no cost was too great...
Papa, I'm sad.
[The scanners show another round of copters is heading this way. Once they have rescued all the additional staff, we advance. Set the troops in position.]
Another pause, longer. [Yes... general.]
He doesn't have to agree with my methods, as long as he follows orders. Richard had all his subordinates chipped upon deployment: immediate self-termination. Treachery of any sort was impossible.
The troops started moving towards the megabuilding complex. Richard soon boarded his personal carrier and started heading towards the base. A leader who wasn't willing to get his hands dirty will forever be stained - his father's favorite phrase. Richar's carrier hovered outside the complex perimeter, waiting for the copter to complete its final loading.
The copters flew and the troops stormed the premises.
After the last line of resistance fell, the status updates became sparse. Not all scientists made it out it seemed, which explained why the objective had yet to move. This perplexed the general to no end. Why wouldn't they secure it? The scanners couldn't lie however, and he needed to press forward.
[Sir! Do you wish for an escort?]
[No, lieutenant. I wish for you to set up a perimeter and await my return.]
[Do you not trust your general?]
Richard's carrier landed on the same platform the rescue aircrafts used. Much to their annoyance, the general waved off his personal guard. This was merely procedure, as the general's augments made him a literal war machine.
He had to do this alone.
Papa, I'm sad.
Richard's boosters got him inside the complex in the blink of an eye. Checking his scanners for any movements in his path. There weren't any. He zoomed through the empty hallways; drives, disks, dashboards scattered throughout. They sure left in a hurry... Smart. All was going according to plan as the objective -
Started to move!
Richard's Display triangulated all the feasible routes the package could take. One led to a secret exit near the Fabricated Gardens. Richard was never a betting man, but when the time called for it...
The package stopped as Richard entered the Fabricated Gardens. Empty. If it wasn't for his state of the art scanners, the disruptor might've actually gotten away with his last minute ploy.
It was here. Below this cluster of bushes. The general spread his palm and a beam removed the inferior sightal barricade. A man in a lab coat huddled inside a hole, a brown box tucked underneath his arm.
The man nodded. "I... couldn't let you have it without a fight!"
The man did not flinch. Courageous this one. Richard felt sick to his stomach. Another good man... What have you become, Richard?
No cost too great.
The general evaporated the scientist's face while his bravery still showed. A clean death. The least he could do.
Richard bent down to gather the package. He then ran to the secret exit at the end of the garden. Once there, he placed the package on the floor. His arm expanded in all directions as the lazerss ingolfed the box in brilliant light. With the scannable chip destroyed, Richard opened his storage apartment on his back, and placed the objective inside.
At the carrier platform, the young lieutenant's perplexed face said everything. "Sir... we lost sight of the package, how..."
"I misjudged. The scientists had an ace up their sleeve, lieutenant. I was too hasty, too assured of my self." He stared the boy down. "A lesson for us all, eh? Do not worry, I will take full responsibility for this failure with upper management."
The corp's board confirmed the general would suffer severe repercutions. He was to report to HQ first thing in the morning. A demotion was to follow. Richard was sure of it. He welcomed it gladly though.
Alex ran over, huggis his father's legs.
"You're home early." Martha smiled, smelling of baked bread. "Is everything well?"
Richard crouched, opening his storage unit and removing the box from inside. He unrolled it to reveal a black and white feline. A 'cat' it was once called. At the sight of the fragile creature, Alex's eyes went wide as saucers.
"Richard!" Martha gasped.
"It is yours, son."
The boy timidly picked up the cat, holding it to his face. The feline licked his nose, and Alex burst into laughter.
Martha looked at her husband with pursed lips. Richard nodded. They would have to deploy emergency measures for this stunt. Life was about to get very difficult.
But what was life worth, if not to hear your child's laughter?
The cat meowed. And Alex sang.
This was a 'Picture is wroth a Thousand Words' contest entry. The contest image being:
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Cover image source.
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