The Gate of Promethei Terra
J. L. Young
A doorbell chimed. An elderly man’s finger tapped the icon on the table beside his big comfortable chair. The movie he had been watching paused and was replaced by the image of a young woman. “Hello?” he greeted the woman standing outside his door.
“I’m looking for Gunny Sergeant Sawyer Gibson.”
“Go away, I’m not buyin’!” He stabbed a digit at the icon. The movie resumed.
A moment passed. The doorbell chimed once again. He tapped the icon and the woman appeared. “I told you I’m not buyin’.”
“And I’m not selling anything, Sir. I’m here to speak with Mister Gibson about an incident that happened during the war.”
He lifted himself out of the chair. When he reached the door, he tapped the pad. The door slid a quarter of the width of the opening. He looked through the gap, “What incident? Who are you?”
“I’m Andromeda Ibanez, a journalist with the Post.” She presented her credentials. “A recent freedom of information act request had been granted and all information regarding an incident at Promethei Terra on Mars was declassified.”
“If it’s been declassified, you already know everything,” he replied.
“Yes, sir. But, I would like to hear your story.”
Sawyer Gibson tapped the full-open icon, “Please, accept my apology. I don’t get many visitors. Please, come in.”
She stepped across the threshold and into the quaint apartment. It was spartan save for a family portrait and a shadowbox filled with medals. Within the shadowbox was an image of three men and a woman in military garb.
Sawyer had taken to the small kitchen adjacent to the living room. He procured a few orbs of water and some glasses. He noticed his guest looking at the picture. “That was my team.”
“Is this the fireteam that infiltrated the stronghold at Promethei?”
Sawyer began speaking and a flashback transported him back to the gate of Promethei Terra. It was the night of the incident.
A petite woman in tactical armor came into view through the ultraviolet night vision composite scope. She stood perpendicular to the bastion. “Fawn, you’re up,” Gibson whispered. She silently stepped to the center of the gate, magnetically attached a micro-electromagnetic pulse device, and activated a timer. The woman sought refuge by the bastion. Ten seconds elapsed.
“Ready weapons. Let’s put ‘em to sleep,” Gibson ordered his team. He led them through the door in the gate.
Gibson spotted four guards on a tower and signaled to his team. They each took aim. Simultaneously and silently, their weapons discharged. Each of the guards collapsed where they stood.
They infiltrated deep into the compound. The others in the team scattered to perform their search. Gibson caught sight of another guard, back turned to him. He closed in, slapped his hand over the guard’s mouth and plunged his knife into his heart. The Sergeant concealed the body behind a stack of barrels.
As they rehearsed, Gibson’s team rallied at the stronghold. Fawn attached another micro-EMP device to the lock. It triggered an explosion. The blast enveloped her and threw her to the ground. He took to her side. CPR was ineffective. He attached a pair of leads from his suit and charged it to two hundred Joules and committed. Her heart didn’t respond. "I told her, 'I’m coming back for you.'"
Al-Seleh tossed a flash/smoke grenade. They cleared the lower atrium. He stepped toward a stairwell and tripped an anti-personnel mine. It shredded his armor and body. He bled out before Gibson and Turgenev could stop the bleeding. "So much blood," Gibson choked.
The muzzle flash of an ancient rifle caught Gibson’s eye and Turgenev fell against him. The Sergeant fired his pulse pistol killing the gunwoman. Turgenev was killed by a improvised anti-armor round.
Gibson climbed the stairs and dropped prone at the top. He cast several flash/smoke grenades into the upper atrium. By the time the smoke abated, only one of the hostages was alive, a little girl.
Gibson realized he was sitting silently with tears dripping from his chin. “I never got to talk to that little girl. She was so scared. Extraction was quick. I stood silent at their funerals. I led them to their deaths. I was responsible for the deaths of fourteen hostages. I failed them.”
Andromeda took Gibson’s hand, “You didn’t fail me. I was that little girl.”