Jayceon (Lima One Juliet) could hardly believe the proposal for the job when he read it. An anonymous tip from an apparently rogue Syn had come in, giving away the time and location of an upcoming exchange between his synthetic guild and a band of Cleaners in a refiner state. The Syns were apparently turning some type of contraband over to the Cleaners and this one didn’t want it to happen. The request was simple; Take out everyone at the site of the exchange and return back to their hideout with the contraband. Further instructions would be sent when the mission was accomplished.
A million questions filled Jayceon’s head. What was the contraband that was valuable enough to order the extermination of this Syn’s fellow guildmates to protect? Surely this was no shipment of Space Dust. While the Dust trade was absurdly lucrative, there was no way that someone would turn their backs on their own guild over a simple Dust trade. Why was Jayceon’s band of variants being chosen to intercept it? Could the intel even be trusted or was this some sort of set up?
Jayceon had a feeling that if he and his band of Skins were successful, they would have to stock up on gear before they extracted. Not only did they risk provoking the guardians of the refiner state where the exchange would go down, but the survivors from this guild of Syns as well, if they were found out. Jayceon had a feeling that people would be looking for this contraband if they took possession of it and that would mean that a lot of people would be gunning for them.
Jayceon called in a pair of his most trustworthy guildmates to brief on the job; Mick was the guild’s work horse. He had been wounded time and time again while in combat but nothing seemed to slow him down, let alone kill him. Mick had been shot, stabbed, beaten, set on fire and even thrown off of a building but the guy just kept coming back for more. Despite the history of pain inflicted upon him, Mick was one of the funniest people that Jayceon had ever shared a battlefield with. While Jayceon would never admit it, Mick’s short, stocky, bearded appearance may have had something to do with it.
Second on the roster was Caramel. Caramel was enthusiastic, athletic and reliable. Caramel was one of the most loyal members of guild and completely selfless. When it came to their band of Claws, Caramel was the glue that held everyone together. No matter what the task, Caramel was always up for it, if it was in the best interest of the group. Jayceon knew that he could be trusted and that he wouldn’t turn down the mission. Caramel had an unorthodox style in combat that relied almost exclusively on speed, but that was just part of the Caramel package.
The job was full of red flags and Jayceon knew it. With that said, he couldn’t help but resist the romance of it all; Mysterious contraband, a turncoat Syn, the allure of something deep and meaningful. While the risks were glaring, Jayceon, Mick and Caramel would be infiltrating a Refiner State before going guns blazing to hijack the mysterious cargo and extracting if they didn’t die first.
While Jayceon’s guild had run operations and extracted in refiner states before, this one was different. Instead of scavenging for supplies and exiting quietly, this mission was an offensive one. Many Claw operations in refiner states end without any sort of conflict whatsoever, let alone gunfire. Claws ran into each other in the wild sometimes but many of them just let each other pass. While some Claws would shoot you in the back and take the supplies off your corpse, most people wanted to see tomorrow. This mission would require Jayceon, Mick and Caramel to eliminate any and every target that they came across, to keep their presence and the whereabouts of their contraband, unknown. This was a surprise assault.
The trio of Claws met up in the Armory to gear up before embarking on the mission. Jayceon didn’t have to be told what his companions would arm themselves with. He had run enough missions with them to know how they liked to equip themselves. Mick strapped himself with a fully automatic, magazine fed shotgun and an oversized revolver which he had customized with a scope. The idea of putting a scope on a handgun seemed somewhat ridiculous to Jayceon but Mick was a heavy load kind of guy. Caramel was more about stealth and finesse. Caramel holstered nothing but a slim-built pistol on his hip. He often bragged about his close quarter combat abilities which he referred to as “gun-fu.”
Jayceon himself went with a more balanced loadout. He equipped himself with a relatively standard Assault Rifle, outfitted with a simple optic, best for medium range exchanges. He also brought along a fully automatic pistol which was best for tight spaces in which the Assault Rifle might become unwieldy.
As the trio finished suiting up, Jayceon reached for his helmet. There were many helmets like it, but this one was his. Each Claw operative sported a helmet not just for protection, but also identity. Claw helmets were equipped with a unique design called a VisorCortex which identified them in the field under a unique call sign. Jayceon was known as Lima One Juliet. He stared at the display on his helmet, a sprawling maze of light that formed a semi-circle pattern, surrounding a rondel in the center. This helmet had accompanied Jayceon on every mission that he had ever completed and would stay with him until his last. He spun the helmet around and secured it over his head to complete his ready up ritual. It was “go time.”
The ride to the refiner state was relatively uneventful. Caramel sat in the passenger seat, cleaning and re-assembling his pistol, while Mick laid across the back seat, reading an issue of “DRCCSAPM!” Jayceon drove in silence, reviewing the details of the mission while pondering the potential consequences. Jayceon knew that completing this mission would give his guild some type of mysterious asset that they could utilize or leverage for some gear of serious value. He was also concerned about the blowback if they were found out. Even if he, Mick and Caramel managed to extract with the contraband, if any interested parties became aware that it was them who had it, their entire guild could be at risk. It might be better for the three of them to die in action than to escape but get outed. It all depended on what it was that they were intercepting. At the very least failure meant that they were provoking not one but two potentially hostile forces by mortally disrupting their trade. He tried to put it all out of his mind as the trio reached the refiner state. It was time to operate.
Getting to the location of the actual exchange was a relatively average affair for refiner state infiltration. The intel that they had received gave them information on Cleaner patrols so avoiding them was all about patience. They would move throughout the refinery by sticking to shadows, shimmying along ledges and climbing to stay out of site. If they were found out, the deal might get called off altogether.
Jayceon and his companions made it to high ground overlooking a helipad where the exchange was set to take place. The sun had gone down and night had set in. A series of catwalks and ziplines were scattered across the air space below them. The cityscape had a certain beauty to it from their vantage point. While society had become dark and ugly since the Climate Wars, the wonder of lights speckling the sky was a site to behold. Helicopters buzzed by and police sirens filled the air waves. While they could observe the world that they lived in from afar, they were in a different world in the refiner state.
Jayceon reviewed the plan with the team. He would stay up high and cover both Mick and Caramel from the current vantage point. Caramel and Mick would split up and pinch the unsuspecting factions from either side. Caramel would attempt to take down as many as he could quietly before things got loud. Jayceon reminded both Mick and Caramel that if things got hectic, they would need to cover his right side. Jayceon was blind in his right eye. With no further instructions, Mick and Caramel started in toward their respective places of attack.
The trio of Claws waited patiently until the meeting began to take shape. A group of Cleaners showed up first, which made a lot of sense. This was their territory after all. A few minutes passed before a trio of Syns escorted by a Cleaner emerged from an elevator and walked toward the Cleaners who awaited their arrival. One of the Syns held a black case, while his companions flanked him on either side, holding assault rifles. That had to be the “package” being traded. Jayceon again wondered what could be inside it before focusing back on the mission. He hoped that the case didn’t get shot when things got hot.
The Cleaners far outnumbered the Syns. Jayceon counted ten Cleaners spread out across the helipad while the Syns were only three in number. Jayceon wondered if the Syns weren’t in for a double cross by the Cleaners who could overwhelm them even after the exchange had been made.
Mick was huddled down behind cover, gripping his shotgun with two hands. Jayceon looked for Caramel but couldn’t find him. He had just seen him what seemed like seconds ago but now, he was no where to be found. Caramel was known for rapidly repositioning but Jayceon couldn’t properly cover him if he couldn’t keep track of where he was. Jayceon’s eye scanned the area below when he felt something touch the back of his helmet. It was the barrel of an assault rifle.
Jayceon raised his hands and slowly stood up. His could-be executioner didn’t move or speak. Everything seemed to be moving in excruciatingly slow motion. Jayceon slowly started to turn around to present his front side when he made eye contact with the person that had discovered him. It was a Cleaner. Had the Syns sold them out? Was their intel bad? Had the Cleaners simply boosted security in light of the deal?
Jayceon sighed out loud. “Fuck it,” Jayceon said, pausing for just a moment before he pushed the Cleaner’s assault rifle away with his left hand and reached for the pistol on his hip with the right. He pushed the pistol into the Cleaner’s stomach and held the trigger, shredding the Cleaner’s insides with a spray of bullets. Before the Cleaner could fall to the ground, Jayceon hip tossed him over the railing with his left hand, sending him free falling for a solid three seconds before he hit the ground, splattering Mick with blood upon impact.
Mick glared up at Jayceon with an unimpressed expression. Jayceon looked to the Cleaners and Syns at the exchange, who had obviously heard the gunfire if they hadn’t also seen the man free falling to his messy death below. Several of the Cleaners pointed their weapons in Jayceon’s general direction. He still had the high ground and darkness in his favor. The remaining Cleaners and Syns now had their weapons trained on each other. This could work.
A loud “boom” rang out. It was a sound that Jayceon recognized and feared. The Sniper Rifle clapped as a round pierced the skull of one of the Cleaners below. Wasting no time, Jayceon opened fire with his Assault Rifle to take more combatants off the board. Virtually everyone in the refiner state seemed to agree, opening fire along with him, with no idea who was friendly or hostile.
With the stealth approach no longer viable, Caramel emerged. He sprinted straight into the thick of things, pistol in hand, darting in and out of cover, getting closer and closer to the targets. Within seconds, Carmel was in melee range of a pair of Cleaners, sliding straight between the nearest one’s legs and firing a pistol round into his abdomen as he slid by. Caramel put pressure on his front leg which quickly stood him up. In the same motion, Caramel put his pistol into the stomach of the nearby cleaner, fired a round and then quickly followed it up with a second round to the head as the Cleaner hunched over from the gut shot, presenting the back of his skull which now hosted a hole in it. Another sniper shot rang out but wasn’t aimed at Jayceon, Mick or Caramel. Another Cleaner dropped.
Mick went full send. Mick emerged from cover with his automatic shotgun, holding the trigger down as he ran forward, closing the distance between himself, the Cleaners, Syns and Caramel. Half of those who were standing only a minute ago now laid dead or wounded. Mick added to the casualty count by filling one of the Syns with an entire magazine’s worth of buckshot. Given their synthetic make up, they were usually harder to kill.
The remaining Cleaners took cover as the surviving pair of Syns attempted to flee toward the elevator. Another high caliber shot pierced the sound waves around them as another Cleaner dropped dead. Another headshot. Who had the sniper rifle? Did the Syns post a sniper somewhere in the refiner?
Jayceon looked down and realized that a Cleaner was aggressively pushing toward Mick’s position, who was pinned down by gunfire. The remaining Cleaner’s seemed to be combining efforts in an attempt to eliminate one threat at a time; Unfortunately for Mick, that meant him. Mick pressed against a shipping container for cover, drew his revolver and exploded the head of a wounded Cleaner who crawled nearby. The Cleaner pushing Mick attempted to flank around the shipping container but Jayceon opened fire from above to push him out of position. This gave Mick the opportunity that he needed. Mick quickly spun around the corner, shotgun in hand and hit the unlucky Cleaner squire in the chest with a shotgun round from point blank range. The impact of buckshot sent him sailing off the edge of the building, spiraling to his death on the ground below. Jayceon wondered how long he would be in the air before he smashed against the ground. The gore that would be left behind wouldn’t be pretty.
Another sniper shot rang out and clipped the Syn without the package in the head, who awkwardly tipped sideways onto the ground. The last remaining Syn wrenched his companion’s dead body in front of him and took cover behind it; A clever tactic.
As far as Jayceon could tell, five Cleaners remained standing. Mick was still pinned behind the shipping container and Caramel had leapt over a railing to get out of dodge, remaining unseen, since. They had to get possession of the package and ensure that no one lived to tell the tale. The remaining Cleaners fanned out and moved together toward the last Syn standing. The two Cleaners on the right side of their formation fired in Mick’s direction while the other three pinned down the Syn who was blindly firing a weapon over his dead companion’s body, which clutching the case with his other metal hand. Seemingly out of no where, Caramel pulled himself up from over a ledge, pistol in hand and fired a shot into one of the Cleaner’s legs. Caramel was out of sight as fast as he had appeared.
The group of Cleaners hesitated as one of their men went down, which was the opening that Jayceon needed. Jayceon ran over to a nearby zipline and grabbed on. If he timed this right, and didn’t get shot, he should end up on the ground and within range of Mick. Caramel was still a wild card that Jayceon couldn’t predict. He rapidly slid down the zipline with his pistol in one hand, spraying bullets down at the helipad with no clear target other than to create chaos and put his potential assailants on defense.
Right as Jayceon touched down on the ground, he heard the boom of the mysterious sniper rifle again. He watched as the round finished off the Cleaner wounded by Caramel, exiting his body and penetrating a second who dropped to the ground, motionless. Two Cleaners, one Syn and one unidentified sniper left.
The Syn holding the case suddenly stood up and ran toward the edge of the platform, putting his back to the sky. He still held the case in front of him. The intention was clear. If anyone shot him, he would fall backward, off the Refiner building altogether and take whatever was in that case, with him.
Jayceon made it over to Mick, who was still covered in the blood of the Cleaner that Jayceon had sent to his death from above. “I appreciate the shower Jay, but I took one before we came,” he said sarcastically. Caramel suddenly approached, crouch walking toward them to avoid being spotted. “What’s the plan,” he asked?
“I don’t know,” Jayceon said. “Have either of you seen where the sniper fire is coming from?”
“Negative,” Caramel said.
“Hell if I know,” Mick concurred.
“If we expose ourselves out there to make a run at this case, are we going to get dropped too,” Jayceon questioned out loud? “Maybe we should wait for the Cleaners and the Syn to settle this before we make our next move.”
The sound of glass breaking overhead was followed by the sudden sound of a zipline in use, in close proximity. The trio of Claws raised their weapons upward, but the figure passed by almost as fast as they could get their bearings. It was a Claw geared unlike any other that Jayceon had ever seen. It wore Black and Gold armor with a Visor Cortex that sported a skull design with protruding accessories that resembled horns. As the unidentified Claw zipped by, Jayceon noticed a gray, almost tiger-stripe like design on its body armor.
Jayceon, Mick and Caramel spun around, standing up and giving their position away as they watched the Claw who zipped straight toward the Cleaners and Syn. In one swoop, the golden Claw deployed a wing suit and tackled the Syn off the building as they both disappeared from view. “What the fuck” Mick exclaimed! “It’s the god damned Batman!”
“Jesus Christ, it’s not Batman,” Jayceon said but in truth, he was confused himse. Jayceon raised his assault rifle and put down both remaining Cleaners who stood looking over the edge of the refiner state, aiming their weapons downward. Jayceon, Mick and Caramel ran to the edge of the helipad and looked down. The golden-armored sniper had made it to the ground and jumped into a bright red sports car. Their car. And drove away.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Jayceon said.
“The Diablo,” Caramel exclaimed!
“What the hell do we do now,” Mick questioned, with urgency. “How are we going to get out of and away from here?”
Caramel replied first, “Unless one of you packed wingsuits, we’re going to have to fight our way out.”
“Our objective just drove the hell away, with our ride home. We need to get out of here, now” Mick said.
”Did someone else have our intel? And who was that Claw,” Jayceon asked out loud, knowing no one would have the answers.
“We can chat about it here and wait for more Cleaners to show up or we can get out and sort everything out. Your call,” Caramel said.
Just as Caramel finished imploring the group to leave, a helicopter rose into view from below. “Get in,” the pilot broadcast through the external radio. The three men looked at each other but without a better exit strategy, didn’t have much of a choice. The trio jogged to the edge of the skyscraper and jumped into the chopper. All three still had their weapons hot, unsure of the pilot’s intentions.
Jayceon leaned forward so that he could see the pilot’s face. It was a Syn. “Who are you,” Jayceon questioned.
“Names’ McCoy,” replied the pilot in a calm tone.
“Where are we going,” Jayceon asked.
“Away from here. Do you know what was in that case,” McCoy beckoned.
“No,” Jayceon replied.
“It was an ozone bomb. I know because I’m the one who sent you after it. And you just let it get away,” McCoy said.
“Ozone bomb,” Jayceon asked, suddenly feeling stupid.
“Upon deployment, it will open a hole in the ozone layer, making hundreds of miles around its detonation uninhabitable for God knows how long,” McCoy explained.
“An entire city could be Chernobyl’d with one bomb,” Caramel asked?
“Let’s hope it doesn’t. We’re going after it,” McCoy replied.
“Do you know who that was in the wing suit,” Jayceon asked? “I’m assuming that he has it.”
“Yes and no,” McCoy replied. “Claw #1993. Most of us just call him ‘93.’ No one knows what his agenda is or where his allegiances lie. We just know that he’s dangerous. He has a long history of solo ops. To some, he’s a legend. To others, he’s a threat. A lone wolf who attacks with violence, speed and momentum.”
“So is he planning to use the ozone bomb,” Mick asked?
“Your guess is as good as mine. We know that the Cleaners did, which is why you were dispatched. We don’t know how the Syns got it, why they were selling it to Cleaners or now, why 1993 is after it. What we do know is that we have to find it before an entire city goes off the map. It looks like this mission is just getting started,” McCoy implored.
“Fuck me, Jayceon, what did you get us into,” Mick said.
“Don’t act like you don’t like it, Mick,” Caramel chided.
“Yeah, who am I kidding,” Mick said. “This is hero shit. This is the most excitement that I’ve had all week! Pilot, can we stop by our place so I can pick up my LMG?” McCoy didn’t reply.
Jayceon slapped a new magazine into his Rifle and angled himself toward a window to disconnect. As the chopper navigated the night, he couldn’t help but stare at the sky, pondering how Earth and its climate itself had been turned into weapons. His mind went to 93 and his intentions for the ozone bomb. Did he intend to deploy it? If he did, where would he use it? Was he a terrorist or would he use it against someone? Would he sell it to the highest bidder? He wasn’t sure which scenario he preferred. Or maybe 1993 intercepted it to stop it from falling into the wrong hands as they had unknowingly been tasked with? Whatever the case, Jayceon intended to find out.
Contraband: A Deadrop Story is an original story set in and inspired by the Deadrop universe. All rights to Deadrop and its universe belong to Midnight Society. The author nor the contents of this story are affiliated with Midnight Society or official Deadrop lore.