Killzone 2: A TSA Story

Killzone 2: A TSA Story

Two Helghast soldiers were cautiously approaching the prone body, unable to tell if it was dead in the darkness, when an ISA trooper came sprinting from a warehouse straight towards them.  A wild burst of fire scattered the Helghast, sending them scrambling for cover in the dark doorways of the administration office block.

“Hodgi, get up.  Get up!  Move it!”

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

Torr grabbed the back of Hodgi’s body armour and pulled him upright.  With his free hand he fired another random burst before the Helghast could respond, and then he turned and ran, dragging Hodgi with him.

“In there.  Go, go.”

Bullets accompanied their retreat, kicking up dust around their feet.  They ducked inside the warehouse.

“Over there.  Behind those boxes.”

Hodgi stumbled forwards, although he bore no signs of injury, and slumped against the wall in between stacks of metal boxes.

“Thought I was dead.  Couldn’t think.”

The warehouse was big enough to house Helghast troop transports, but was almost empty except for stacks of boxes near the back wall and a couple of rusting jeeps.  An office was in the far corner, nearest the doorway, with a stairway leading to the gantry that wrapped round three sides of the building.  They couldn’t let the Helghast take that, the warehouse would become a fun fair shooting gallery, with Alpha team the prize-winning targets.

Crouching beside Hodgi, Torr rested his rifle on a box, aimed at the doorway, and waited.  He could hear the voices just outside the massive doors as he scanned the warehouse for the rest of his troop.  Riley gave him a thumbs up from behind a jeep, and then the Helghast cover fire started.

Bursts of muzzle-fire cast light and shadow around the warehouse.  Alpha team used the half-light to aid their aim, but this gave away their positions and the shuddering intensity of the crossfire forced them to duck back.

Swarms of bullets zipped through the air around Torr’s head, inches above the metal boxes he was crouching behind.

“Hodgi.  Hodgi!” Torr screamed over the firefight’s noise.

“Damn it, man up.  Or we’re gonna die here.”

With his back to the warehouse wall, barely able to hold his rifle, Hodgi’s eyes bled fear.

“Can’t.”

Torr turned back towards the swarm, waited for a lull and quickly popped up.  Loosing a few rounds he scanned the warehouse for the Helghast’s positions and then dropped back behind cover.  He wiped his hand across his face and frowned; there were two doors at either end of the gantry, meaning the Helghast could gain access without coming through the front door.  Ten metres to his left, stood behind a jeep, Riley nodded towards Hodgi, and Torr shook his head and tapped his temple.

The slap-slap of booted feet alerted Alpha team to movement, and bullets again pinged off the wall: They were being stalked methodically.  Torr had counted eight Helghast, but they were only the ones he could see.  He looked over to Riley and shrugged.

And then jumped to his feet.

                                                                                                                  

Approx. 24 hours earlier.

“Torr.  Riley.  Bates.  Get over here,” Captain Vance shouted across the crowded mess hall.

“Hey-hey, mission time,” said Torr.

Rising from their seats they walked towards Vance and to the soldier stood behind him.

“This is Hodgi.  Get friendly: the four of you are going on holiday.”

* * * * * * * *

The briefing room appeared empty with only the five men, Vance stood by the screen that was displaying mission details, with the other four sat in a line on the front row of desks.  Vance was taking them through the basics.

“Helghast transports are serviced at these stations.  They contain massive fuel reserves.  They’re well protected with anti-air, and there is a strong ground presence at all times.”

“How are we going to get inside, sir?” Hodgi said.

“We’ll just roll up…” Torr said.

“And knock,” Riley said.

“Yeah, we’ll knock.  On the door.”

“And do a who’s there.”

Bates laughed and Hodgi’s face lit up so red he could have hung on a wall and pimped prostitutes beneath.

“Listen,” said Vance, “we’ve located one of the most important of these stations.  It’s on a route we believe is used to ferry a lot of Helghast troops.  And we want to take the station out of commission.”

“Right, so after the punchline we blow it up,” Riley said.

“Last time you blew something, I heard Torr couldn’t piss for a week, Riley.  Be quiet and listen.”

Riley bowed his head and risked a glance at Torr and Bates who were like school-children struggling to keep their laughter from the teacher.

“This is not just a demolition.  The security at these stations is tight and it will need to be shutdown before you can safely plant any explosives.  We also believe there may be valuable intel in the computer systems, so you’ll be getting that too.  Then you can blow it up.”

“Who’s the tech guy?” Torr asked.

“Hodgi is.  He’ll shutdown the security systems so you can plant the explosives, and then he’ll get the intel.  You’ll rendezvous here,” Vance said, bringing up a satellite picture of the station, “and detonate the explosives.  We’ll pick you up during the chaos.”

“So, how do we get in?” Bates said.

“An air team is going to fake a raid on the station and you’ll drop in about one click away, hole up – that’s the holiday – and infiltrate the next night.”

“Won’t they be on high alert then?  We’ll never break in with that kind of heat,” Riley said.

“They’ll be looking up, not down which is how I usually look at you.  Theory is they’ll be flying a few extra shifts leaving the base with less men on the ground.  It’s risky, but it might slow down the Helghast enough to give us the edge.”

“How come, no offence, we get Hodgi here?  Where’s Michael?  We always use Michael for stuff like this?” Torr said.

“He’s MIA.”

“What?”

“You heard.  And that’s all I can say.”

“But?”

“That’s it, we’re done here.  Get your kit, write your mails, and get ready.  You’re leaving in four hours.”

As Bates and Hodgi left the briefing room, Vance held the other two back.

“Hodgi is new.  Very new.  He’s had all the same training as you, he just hasn’t put it into practice yet.  So, look after him.  Because if he doesn’t come back, and even if you two are dead, I will come down to find you and kill you again.  Do you understand?”

Torr and Riley understood all too well.  They’d been assigned one of the most important missions of the war: and it was to babysit?

                                                                                                                   

Approx. 3 hours later

Dan Vek looked up from his breakfast and smiled as his wife Rev carried their son, Philip, into the kitchen and sat him down on the tabletop.  Vek was dressed in military fatigues and Philip tugged at the shirt’s breast pockets like they contained a hidden supply of chocolate.

“He wanted to talk to daddy.  Before you left.”

“Philip, you behave for your mother,” Vek said.  Philip’s face exploded into a grin at the sound of his name.  Unable to properly talk he tapped Vek on the nose and gurgled instead.

“How long will you be this time?” Rev asked.

“It’s just two weeks,” Vek said.

“Just…”

“I know.  I know it seems like a lifetime for you.  But two weeks is better than three months like last time.”

Rev pursed her lips and nodded.  She started to get food ready for Philip, and she wasn’t sure if it was because he needed to eat or because the distraction would stop her tears.  Vek put Philip in the high-chair and then moved close enough to circle his arms around his wife’s waist. 

“This damn war,” she said.  And now the tears couldn’t be stopped.

“Dam wor, dam wor, dam wor,” Philip said.

“Watch your mouth, woman,” Vek whispered, “Our son doesn’t need to hear that language.”

Rev pushed him away and saw the grin that told her he was joking.  Always joking, trying to take the stress away.  It is a damned war, she thought, there’s no joke.

“I have to go.  The pickup’s in ten minutes.”

“I know.  Everything’s ready and Philip has put something in your backpack for you.  Don’t look until you get there, ok?”

“Sure.  Time for daddy to go, Little Man,” Vek said, reaching down to lift his son from the chair and kissing his forehead.  He handed Philip to Rev and kissed her.  She followed him to the front door, where he gathered his kit, and stood in the doorway as he walked to the transport that had arrived at their home.  He looked back at her.

“Remember, it’s just guard duty this time.  One of the service stations.  The ISA don’t even know where they are.”

He jumped into the back of the transport and waved as he was driven away.

                                                                                                                   

Approx. 2 hours later

Vance stood in the middle of the ISA dropship, standing straight despite the brief-but-quick swaying movements.  Torr, Riley, Bates, and Hodgi – Alpha Team – were sat two-a-side listening.

“Remember this, those decoy ships are risking a lot.  Don’t mess it up.”

“Team talks,” Torr said.

“He’s good at them,” Riley said.

“Yeah, Hodgi is probably going to die though.”

“Harsh.  He may only lose a limb.”

The laughter stopped abruptly when a nearby explosion caused the dropship to violently rock from side to side.  Vance staggered slightly, but immediately regained his balance, standing as though a force 10 couldn’t move him.

“That was too close.  The Helghast don’t want us messing with these stations.  Now, remember the plan and stick to it.  We’ll be back for you once the charges go off.  Understand?”

The troop nodded, and Vance strode towards the cockpit to check in with the flight crew.  Once he was gone, Torr unclipped his seatbelt and leaned forwards towards Hodgi.

“We give you a hard time.  It’s our way of saying hi.  But this mission is serious, and so are we,” Torr gestured towards Riley and Bates.  “You’re new, so we’re going to look out for you.  We’ve all got our assignments.  But if it comes down to it, you do what we say, when we say.  Ok?”

“Yeah, I understand,” Hodgi looked relieved.

“Right, pants off and bend over,” Riley said.

* * * * * * * *

Dan Vek was choosing which bed was his for the next two weeks when the noise from the station’s security alarm started to melt his ears.  Sirens wailed and Vek and the other newly arrived Helghast looked at each other in disbelief.  The sleeping quarter’s doors burst open and another soldier rushed in.

“ISA air strike.  Get ready quick and follow your defensive assignments.  It doesn’t look serious, probably just scouting, but it’s not good that they found us.”

Vek started to dress in his combat clothing, wishing that the sirens would cease, and as he pulled some kit from his pack a piece of paper dropped to the floor.  Quickly checking no one was watching, he opened the folded paper and realised this was what his son had put in the pack for him: It was Philip’s child-like attempt at a picture of his dad fighting.  I hope there’s no fighting now, he thought.

* * * * * * * *

“This is Sulu One, repeat this is Sulu One.  We are hit and are going down.  We are…”

The transmission ended and on the cockpit of Alpha Team’s dropship Vance closed his eyes and hung his head.  A second passed before he opened his eyes and started to make his way back to where Alpha Team waited.

“Ten minutes, sir,” the pilot, Murdo, said.

Vance nodded and left the cockpit.  Losses were not just part of war, they were the point:  Inflict enough and the enemy would wilt like thirsty flowers.  The higher up the command you went the less each loss mattered, until they became chess pieces.  But Vance never forgot the real cost, which is why he noticed the pilot’s voice had carried a faint quiver.

“Ten minutes.  Ready?” Vance asked.

Alpha Team nodded, all seriousness now.

“Good.  We just lost one of the decoys.  We lost it so you could do your job.  Do not let me down.”

Vance took Torr to one side.

“Have you spoken to Hodgi?”

“Yes, sir.  He knows what to do.”

“Keep him safe.”

Torr nodded and rejoined the team while they performed last minute checks that no longer needing performing.

“What do we say, boys?” Riley said.

“If we’ve not got it now, we’ll buy it when we get there,” Torr and Bates responded.

And then Alpha Team were ready to jump.

                                                                                                                   

The immediate darkness covered Alpha Team like the blackest cloak, but in the distance they could see light from the decoy attack on the service station.  They’d landed safely and moved quickly to gather their gear and rendezvous around Torr’s signalling device.  Finding a place to hide was their next objective, but without being able to use any light it was going to be dangerous.

“Everyone here and ok?” Torr whispered, and saw three barely visible nods in response.

“I passed a ditch on the way here.  We should check it, probably a good place to lay up,” Bates said.

Torr nodded for him to lead and they followed him.  The ditch was steep-sided and over ten feet deep, so they climbed down to find a hiding place.  Once at the bottom the light from the service station attack didn’t reach them and they moved slowly to let their eyes adjust.

“This what you had in mind, Hodgi?” Riley said.

“I saw the same recruitment ads as you.  So, no.”

The rest of the team had to suppress their laughter.  “Be all you can be” wasn’t a slogan that brought images of night-time ditches to your mind.

Time slowed in the ditch as though the blackness absorbed it, so when Torr looked at his illuminated watch the passing of only five minutes seemed cruel.

“Why don’t we just go and hide in the service station?  It’s close, probably warm, and we need to go there anyway,” Riley said.

Torr signalled for the team to stop and they all held their positions in silence.  He pointed ahead and up and the faint outline of a bridge was visible.  They started to move again until they were close enough to see the bridge properly.  It was wide enough for a few people to walk side-by-side, and where each end was built into the ditch’s side there was a hollowed opening the team could use.

“It’s not big, but no one will see us even if they walk over this thing in the light,” Torr said.

“Come on, Hodgi.  This is the holiday part remember?” Riley said.

“Yeah.  Like the recruitment ads.”

                                                                                                                   

Vek woke, stretched, and listened to the snores.  The previous night’s raid had been unsuccessful and there were no casualties, but he was scheduled for night patrol again and instinct told him the raid wasn’t the real problem.

* * * * * *

“This is it.  One click at speed, Bates makes the insertion, and once we’re through we split up and rendezvous at the warehouse when we’re done,” Torr said.

The rest of Alpha Team said nothing, so Torr turned and started the high-speed yomp to the Helghast station.

* * * * * *

“You must be joking, Vek.  No one is going to try and get in this place.  That raid last night was nothing.  If they knew these stations were here they’d have come in hard.  Scouting mission gone wrong,” Antsev said.

“I look forward to the ‘I told you so’,” Vek said.

“What?  You want us to be attacked?”

“No, you idiot.  Talking to you is like arguing with a neurotic woman, and I’m losing brain cells just doing it.”

Helghast soldiers laughed at Vek’s remark, even more so because of the truth of it.

* * * * * *

Breathing hard Alpha Team pulled up short of the station’s fence.  Searchlights were scanning the ground around the station, the Helghast in towers turning them in seemingly random patterns.  After a few seconds movement there would be a break, and Alpha Team observed this pattern five times before Bates attempted to breach the fence.  One of the reasons the stations never attracted attention was the relatively low level of boundary security: a basic looking wire fence didn’t look important on satellite images.  Bates was through it in seconds, the equipment discarded, and then he was gone.  Torr, Hodgi, and Riley followed.  Once through the fence, Riley turned to the right and disappeared round the side of a single-story building.  He would wait with Bates for fifteen minutes while Hodgi disabled security, then the bombs would be planted and they’d be away.

Torr and Hodgi went left and ran past a long building with windowless walls.  When the wall ended they stopped and scanned the area for movement before running across the gap to a stairway leading up the outside of a brick building.  Torr drew a combat knife and signalled for Hodgi to follow as he started to climb the stairs.  The searchlights were on the move again, but wouldn’t be able to focus on Alpha Team now they were inside the perimeter.  At the top of the stairs Torr stopped and crouched and held his hand up for Hodgi to stop.  Torr signalled down, and Hodgi looked and saw two Helghast walking directly underneath the stairway.

“That dumb ass, Vek.  I’m not a woman.”

“You bitch like one.”

As Antsev turned his head to the other man Hodgi saw the glowing Helghast eyes for the first time.  The two Helghast walked on and cut down the gap Torr and Hodgi had just been waiting at.

Torr had seen Hodgi’s reaction.  Whether it was fear from seeing the glowing eyes or just the realisation that they had come so close to being spotted, he didn’t know, but he wasn’t happy about either possibility.

Torr put his hand on the door handle, but Hodgi motioned for him to stop.

“Perimeter security is relatively weak, but through that door is the nerve centre,” Hodgi whispered.  He pulled an electronic device from his pack and switched it on.  It emitted a near silent beep every two seconds, which slowly turned into a continuous tone.

“It means there are cameras sending signals.  I can fry them for a short period from here, but they’ll be back online in thirty seconds.”

“So, I’ve got that time to clear this floor while you get to the server room and disable it fully?”

“Yes.  Clear the monitoring station first.  It’s the only place they can raise a station-wide alarm from.”

“I should get a trophy for this.”

Torr sheathed his knife and drew a silenced pistol, before looking at Hodgi and signalling three-two-one.  Hodgi sent the signal to temporarily disable the cameras and then he and Torr were through the door.

Hodgi sprinted down the corridor towards a door at the far end, hoping all the way that the camera over the door pointing directly at him was no longer sending an image.  He reached and entered the room, and turned and locked the door behind him.

Torr was right behind Hodgi, but stopped and burst into the last room on the left.  Two chest shots took the first Helghast before he’d drawn his weapon, and as the other soldier reached for his weapon a headshot ensured it remained untouched.  The monitor station was clear, but the noise from the running had alerted others to their arrival.

Torr exited back onto the corridor and saw a Helghast trying to leave the way he’d arrived and sent two shots through his back.  He slumped to the floor, half inside and half on the stairs outside with the door wide open.  Two more Helghast appeared out of rooms to either side and Torr calmly advanced down the corridor popping rounds into facemasks.  The fallen soldier on the stairs suddenly spasmed and his weapon made a clanking sound on the metal stairs.  Torr ran to him and dragged his body back inside and closed the door.

Hodgi emerged from the server room and gave Torr a thumbs up.

“All done.  Cameras running a loop from last night when everything was still calm.  And I’ve got the data too.  As much as I could.”

“Good.  Watch the door to the stairs while I rig this floor.”

Torr moved through the server room and monitor station laying charges.  Once he’d finished laying the last of them he joined Hodgi at the door.

“We’re set.  We’re going solo now until we get to the warehouse, ok?”

Hodgi nodded, but Torr saw that look again and wondered if he really was.

* * * * * * * *

Riley was inside the warehouse waiting.  He’d expected Bates to be here first, but as the station was quiet he presumed the plan was still on track.  He again risked a look outside and realised the calm was about to be broken; Hodgi was sprinting towards the warehouse with two Helghast behind him.  Turning back into the warehouse again, Hodgi swore.  A sound made him look up and he saw Torr sneaking into the warehouse.

“Who’s here?” Torr asked.

“Me, but take a look,” Riley said pointing to where he’d seen Hodgi.

Torr looked: Hodgi was on the floor and the two Helghast were walking slowly towards him.  Torr holstered his pistol and took hold of his rifle.

“Find cover and get ready to fight.”

                                                                                                                  

Now

Torr stood in the face of the Helghast onslaught and sent volleys of fire back at them.  Surprised, they scattered to avoid it, and during the momentary confusion Riley slotted two of them.  Crouching again, Torr turned back to Hodgi, and alarm spread across his face as Hodgi shoved him aside and raised his rifle.  It burst into full auto-fire and the Helghast who had risen up from behind the box Torr was crouched behind was thrown from his feet.  The bullets kept coming and Torr, almost deafened, had to fight to get Hodgi to stop.

“Just treat every last one of them like that,” Torr screamed, his deafness affecting his voice.  “Now move along there.  I want you to pop up and fire a couple of rounds every few seconds.”

Hodgi, powered by adrenaline, crawled to where Torr had indicated and started to return fire as ordered.  With another attack point the Helghast were forced to regroup for a moment.  Torr looked to Riley, and following his pointing hand he looked up and saw that a sniper had moved into position on the gantry above.  Riley made a tapping gesture against one hand and then indicated an explosion with both of them.  Torr understood: they’d have to detonate now and hope the resultant chaos would afford them a chance to escape.

Torr nodded and beckoned Hodgi back towards him.  He explained what was going to happen and then looked back to Riley to signal him to do it.  The Helghast had regrouped and were again starting to flush them out, while up above the sniper was in position waiting for a careless head to pop up from cover.

It was like thunder had tried to tear apart the ground and the night was filled by a sound so vast it was as though there was no room for anything else.  The sniper had been rocked hard by the blast and had fallen from the gantry, his body mangled on the floor.  The other Helghast had run from the warehouse, more worried by the sudden appearance of massive explosions and fires than the ISA troopers.

Alpha Team ran to the doorway, but Torr stopped as his battered ears picked up the sounds of an injured Helghast soldier on the ground.  Torr looked down at him and raised his rifle.

“No, please.  Please, I have a son,” Vek said.

“Pity for him he doesn’t have a dad,” Torr said, taking aim straight for the head.

And then Torr’s gun was pushed down towards the ground, and Hodgi was in his face.

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Come on, we’ve got to go,” Riley shouted.

Torr shoved Hodgi aside and slammed his rifle butt into Vek’s face.

“Least he can’t shoot us on the way out,” Torr said.

* * * * * * * *

The station was ablaze and chaotic and Alpha Team made straight for their insertion point.  They had deliberately entered through an area where no charges were to be set, so the Helghast would be going one way to fight fires while they tried to leave.  As they ran between buildings they could hear shouts all around them, but none were so close that the person shouting might spot them.  As they came around the side of the last building before their insertion point Bates crashed into Riley and sent him spinning to the floor.

“I figured it had gone snafu when you amateurs blew the charges early!” Bates said, anger covering his face.

“You can kick our asses later.  We’ve got to go,” Torr said as he helped Riley back to his feet.

“Friendly fire, eh?” Riley smirked.

Alpha Team quickly moved toward the insertion point while Torr tried his comlink to call in the pick up.  Static crackled in his ear before he picked up a clear signal.

“This is Alpha Team, we need a pick up.  Now.”

Alpha Team continued to move away from the fence, all pretence at stealth forgotten now they were clear of the perimeter.  The searchlights were scanning wildly across the landscape.

“Negative, Alpha Team.  We have a new RZ for you.”  It wasn’t Vance’s voice.

“What?  Come get us.  Now.  Get Vance.”

“That’s a negative,” now it was Vance. “We’re inbound over the capital.”

“Today?  You knew this was happening today and you sent us in?”

“Yes.  Is it done?”

“You’re damn right it’s done, and we will be if you don’t get us out of here!”

“That’s a negative, Torr.  We’ve got a new RZ, close to the capital.  Rendezvous with Alpha Squad at Corinth River.  You’ve got eight hours.”

The End

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –