In the year 2127
Earth is undergoing near ice age, there are global oil and mineral shortages and atmospheric pollution is at an all time high. Earth Gov is strictly enforcing discipline on the global population. Liberals hold the hope of emigrating to the new Martian colony to get away from Earth Gov's restrictions and Earth's worsening climate.
The recently self sustaining Martian colony has declared independence under the name "Republic of the Red Planet" AKA "Red Republic", this is being kept secret from most of the Earth populace by the Earth Gov.
A number of large objects of unknown origin have been detected passing through the Sol system. On closer inspection they turn out to be powered, technological artifacts of an alien civilization. Earth Gov and the Red Republic secretly send crews out to the investigate the alien presence, only to find the artifacts are deserted. The artifacts appear to be under power and generating their own gravity.
Both sides send further crews to salvage as much alien technology as possible in the hope of finding some form or interstellar drive, terraforming technology, cheap power source, the secrets of generated gravity or the origins of the alien craft. Earth Gov's code name for the this mission is "Pentagon Project", inspired by the strange pentagon like symbol marked on the alien artifacts.
You have been selected to join the elite forces of Earth Gov's Black Operations Executive or the Red Republic's boarding crews.
August 12th, 2127 AD, 18:23
The taxi from the airport stank of burnt dust from the whining heater and sweat from the day's fares, Korj would be glad when the journey was over, the squeaking of the ineffective windscreen wipers was grating on his nerves. That and two burly strangers he was sharing the cab with. Hard eyed, clean shaven fellows like himself, wrapped in thick overcoats to keep out the cold, now sweltering in the blast of the heater's only setting. Still, it was better than trying to drive yourself in a strange city, at night, especially in this weather. Snow had been falling here steadily for four days by the time Korj and his travelling companions were dropped off at the agency.
"Not what I expected of Texas..." grumbled Korj as they made their way toward the glow of the agency's glass and steel reception. The guy in the grey overcoat was still chuckling when they got to the automatic doors, despite the ice and snow.
The air-con unit over the door rattled into life and thawed them out as they presented their credentials to the guards in reception. Korj took in the sights as he waited for the others to be cleared. Usual agency stuff, the armor backed reception desk, handy panic buttons and the concealed auto-guns and blast shutters over the glass doors and of course the Earth Gov logo mounted above the desk. Subtle, thought Korj, not so subtle a security expert like him wouldn't notice though. The guards weren't subtle. Their bug eyed, full face, black, face guards and shiny body armor made them look like giant insect of some kind. By the look of their MKII Earth Gov assault rifles and Bladerunner sidearms, well armed giant insects.
The world was filtered through a blindingly bright ruby for an instant as the guard's retinal scanner read the unique pattern of nerves from the back of Korj's left eye as the other guard swept him with a metal detector wand, the kind that would also sniff out chemical explosives or narcotics on it's other settings. Korj had left is Colt safely in a luggage locker in Prague, Earth Gov was hot on travel security, always had been. Still, Korj knew from experience six ways to slice out Gov guards, just using the ceramic monomer blades, like the one concealed in his shirt cuff.
A secratery relieved of the visitors of their heavy coats they were ushered into a waiting room, where maybe twenty others were waiting. A glance around the room was enough for Korj to recognize a few faces, guys from the business, old colleagues, old enemies and some faces known only from the dossiers he'd checked out in his career. Their was a murmur of low conversation, small talk, killing time, waiting for the real show to start. Killing was something these guys knew how to do, veterans from the Asiatic hot zone, African bush wars and cold war cyber-ops, easily enough battlefield experience to overthrow a small country, if their was still such a thing. Korj was about to try and find a drink, having given a nod of recognition to Heller twins from Chicago, when their host arrived.
Short guy, 5ft 11 or so, crew cut, receding grey hair, a little tubby, his dark green Earth Gov uniform tight around his waist, but his eyes gleamed hard and sharp, like the two, gold, general's stars on his shoulders. He spoke with a deep, gruff, US accent, and the assurance of an officer of long-standing who expected to be listened to and obeyed. "Gentlemen, sorry for the delay, if you'll follow me the briefing can begin."
All conversation stopped and almost silently they followed the general into an auditorium on the same floor. More guards were in evidence inside and outside the room. This made the audience of mercenaries uneasy. Korj estimated their was maybe five of the audience with enough skills to take all the guards and maybe eight more crazy enough to try. The General noticed the restlessness of the group and delved strait into his presentation.
"The material I am about to present to you is Classified information, this building has been cleared by Earth Gov security. The guards are merely here to prevent the intrusion of un-authorized personnel. For the duration of this mission you will will know me by the code name 'The Duke'. Let's gets started." with these words the lights dimmed and the projection screen was filled with strategic maps of a facility that Korj found familiar, yet was unable to place, until the video reconnaissance was presented.
"As you know gentlemen, our Mars colony became fully self-sufficient this year, this is a great achievement for humanity and Earth Gov, the pinnacle of a hundred year plan." Korj found the video was instantly familiar, Earthnet broadcasting had been broadcasting, with great glee the progress of the Martian colony all his life. The designs peculiar to Martian construction explained the oddities in the strategy plans. Korj could hear the yawns already.
"What you don't know is..." the general paused dramatically as the screen blanked out, pitching the room into blackness. "Only one week later the self-centered S.O.B's declared independence from Earth Gov and have stopped shipping minerals and data back to Earth" The screen fill with the face of an unshaven man with a split lip and a red headband shouting something to camera from a trashed room somewhere in Mars Colony. This had the attention of the room again. Someone in the back of the room yelped "Awwweee yeah! We gonna kick some Martian arse!".
The general's wry smile was lit by the flickering light of the man silently ranting on screen. "You'd think so wouldn't you?" muttered the general. Switching the screen to an orbital view of mars colony he continued as battle statistics scrolled over the screen. "That was four months ago, we dispatched teams to the M.C. to restore order at the time. Seems like they were ready for us." The final stats on the screen were red, 100% losses. All dead. The room became very quiet, as mercenaries winced, combat veterans shuffled, suddenly uncomfortable. No one liked a job at those odds.
"As if that wasn't bad enough, two months ago we saw this." The screen blipped once more. whatever replaced the battle stats on the screen was fuzzy and pixilated and grey scale, the technical overlay meant nothing to Korj, an unfamiliar format.
"What is it?" a voice from the crowd asked.
"That's what we wanted to know. We caught it on our short range orbital telescopes. Whatever it was, it came from outside our star system and it' hot. Well, hotter than space anyway, which the boffins tell me means it has it's own power source." replied the General.
"Aliens!" someone whispered. A buzz went round the room as the General plowed on with his presentation. "Since the Martians have control of our best telescopes we were forced to make another launch to investigate. This is how it looked when it passed Jupiter."
The fuzzy blob was replaced by what looked like an asteroid field, of junk, drifting past the eye of Jupiter's great storm. Hundreds of irregular, metallic pieces, tumbling though space. The statistical overlay said the smallest chunk was 1500 meters long. "The investigation team sent this back before they want in to take a closer look.". The field was replaced by a close up of a single piece, it looked like something man made. Pipes, girders, metal plates and antenna, worn out, battered, bent and pockmarked by meteorite impacts but definitely a made thing.
"The pilot had trouble maneuvering in the debris field. Until that is they realized that several of these chunks are generating their own gravity." The audience murmured once more. "As you may or may not know our best physicists have been trying to crack gravity tech for the last thirty years, to no avail. If we can control this technology the cost of space development and global travel could be significantly reduced. The investigation crew knew this and decided to board one of these fragments....".
The screen was filled by a dim hand held camera shot of three Earth Gov issue space suits, walking warily down a hallway, the walls were bare, corroded metal, the floor some kind of metal mesh. The hallways way lit not just by the suit's lights but by what looked like dim florescent light tubes. The audience watched in silence as rooms and hallways unfurled on the screen, waiting for the alien to leap out and disembowel the camera crew, but it never came.
"Deserted, for God knows how long." Growled the The Duke, "But they still have power, light, gravity and even some pockets of breathable air. The investigator team conceded that didn't have enough know-how to properly study it though, so they moved out of the debris field to report back to Earth Gov, when they saw this...". The debris field and Jupiter filled the screen once more, then zoomed in, tracking an small black, speck, picked out and identified on a tactical overlay as the MCS Euphrates.
"A Martian colony shuttle. They've seen it too, and they need that tech just as bad as we do. This is where you come in. We will be sending research teams into the fragments to research it's technology, but first we need to make sure it's safe, from the Martians and whatever else might be up there, so you'll be going in ahead of the science teams to secure the research zones and any materials the tech guys want.". A chatter of low conversation stirred in the audience. We had our mission.
The interior video started again and froze frame as a suit light passed over an design the metal wall, the only one in the whole vid, it looked like the Greek letter lambda in a pentagon. Finally the lights faded up, the presentation over.
"Gentlemen, welcome to the Pentagon Project...."
copyright matthew rye 2004