2:49 AM 25 JUNE 2017

The helicopter blades over my head should sound like a dragon chopping the air with metal wings, but they don't. The engine doesn't even hum. This is a helicopter I've trained on multiple times before, but using it for a mission is... different. Much more intimidating, and I'm not one to be easily shaken up. The ocean underneath us writhes over itself with the only sound of the night – something like tap water being sloshed around in a cooking pan. It's natural noise, blocking out the unnatural silence of the black flying machine above it.

I'm Wiz. That's what they call me, because I was top of my class at the Bastille. That's what we call the military school where we train. I'd been there for five years before I finally graduated, so that puts me at a solid 22 today. Yes, 22. I started when I was fifteen. My parents were government workers, and I was a... wiz. Skipped three grades, and when I -

Commander holds up his hand at the front of the copter. There are seven of us here – just the amount we need. No more, no less. We're top of the line. Even if they wanted a few more agents here, they wouldn't be able to find any.

The helicopter starts to slow in its forward motion, so I know we're almost where we need to be. The Island. That's its name, nothing else. About five hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii, around five square miles in size. It has a thin rope of a beach around the coast, and then a thick forest that brushes over the rest. We've got images from satellites and from planes flying overhead, and that's all we've got.

No one who has stepped foot on the Island has ever stepped off.

This morning, we're going to change that. We're here to get rid of whoever, or whatever, lives on this island.

Not for nothing, of course. Tensions are rising between The United States and North Korea, and we've been told this island will be used as a military buffer so that Hawaiian citizens won't be put at risk. It's a smart decision, but I have to say, I'm not fond of genocide.

Then again, these... people, have killed far more of our men than we have theirs. In fact, we haven't killed any of them. It's been a one way street. I'm sure you're wondering why I'm thinking all this in a calm demeanor. I mean, I've basically just admitted that this mission is a death sentence. That's because it would be, for any other group of soldiers. They sent the others in first as tests, to see if they could hold up. They couldn't.

So they sent us.

The helicopter slows to a stop, and I slide my eyes to the scene below. There it is, sitting in the water like a plain, bold, physical threat. Just its existence is a taunt. The woman next to me grabs her grapple pack and scoots to the opposite side of the copter, preparing to jump. She and Commander have known each other for a long time, I think. Her name is Tam. They came from the same place, even though I'm not too sure what place that is, exactly. When we all talk, they never mention their pasts. Ever.

I'm in the back row next to her, so I see my squadron in front of me all slide to their respective sides, and I do the same. I jiggle my grapple pack – it's secure. If anything happens, I'll just swim. Hope you're not afraid of water.

Commander raises his fist, and we all put our boots on the edge of the outside of the helicopter. It hovers so silently, you'd think it wasn't running at all. The kind of tech they used to build this thing is just... out of this world. Like nothing anyone's ever seen before.

I focus on the Island, and where we'll be landing. The beach, on the southwestern edge. Whenever the Island is observed, the least imaging is done here. Every squad, team, or explorer who has ever landed here has done it on a different area of the tiny dot of dry earth. This way, we won't be expected.

Commander punches down.

I jump.

We all jump.

I glide down through the air, attached to my heavy-duty grapple line. I have a skin-tight watersuit of body armor wrapped around me, a pistol strapped to my hip, two five-inch knives holstered right above my wrists, and a cyanide pill nestled in my collar. I have night-vision contacts pressed into my eyes. No one on this planet has ever been trusted with them, except for us. You probably didn't even know they existed until right now. Maybe, when we survive this mission, they'll become standard issue.

The sight of my squadron is beautiful. Eerily beautiful, I have to say. Watching them fall through the black air with me, all completely and totally focused on the goal. It feels like we're descending for hours, and then the moment hits.

My boots touch sand, and we're here. The Island.