Saturday, April 26, 2014

Running from the Past, Part 2

Sorry for not putting this up yesterday. I hope the story makes up for the oversight. As for my Battlecorps writing, all three stories are still going strong. All are over 2,000 words and still on track.

Here's part 2 (Or chapter 2). Not sure if I should divide this up into chapters yet.


“Team Two, go!”

The two shadows moved across the snow-covered lawn with quick, short strides, weapons moving to cover all possible angles of attack. In seconds, they reached the shadows of the stone building that was their target. Silently, they slipped into position on either side of a thick wooden door. One of the pair attached a small box to the door, right over the lock.

“Team Two in position,” the other one whispered into the small transmitter attached to his facemask. “Wolf and Cobra.”

“Team Three in position,” said another voice five seconds later. “Eagle and Shark.”

“Team Four in position,” A third voice said three seconds after that. “Tiger and Viper.”

“Team one in position,” a fourth voice said. “Dragon and Lion.”

“Team five, in position,” A fifth voice called out. “Jackal and Mantis. Road is clear.”

“Remember, no witnesses,” Dragon said. “And make sure you leave the evidence. We go in three... two... one.”

As soon as ‘one’ echoed in their ears, there was a small ‘pop’ as the box attached to the door exploded, shredding the lock and opening the door with some violence. One went in low, the other high, sweeping the room with the compact machine guns. The room, some sort of storage area, was dark and silent. Moving quickly, they crossed the room to another door in the far wall. One of them tested the door handle and found it moved easily.

The door lead out into a hallway – and the first guard. Dressed in a suit and tie, and carrying a machine gun slung over his shoulder, he wasn’t expecting any trouble. He stopped short at the sight of the two armored and armed men in black who had suddenly appeared and desperately tried to raise his weapon.

Two short busts from the intruder’s silenced weapons knocked the guard back and down. Moving quickly, the pair advanced, one checking on the downed guard, the other covering the hall. One quick look told the intruder the guard was dead. Each intruder grabbed a leg and dragged the guard into the storage room. Wolf knelt down next to the body and removed a small scrap of fabric from a belt pouch. He carefully placed it in the dead man’s had and closed the lifeless fingers around it.

As they stepped out into the hall again, machine gun fire reverberated throughout the house. Over the radio, a voice said, “Eagle here. We’re pinned down in the main hall.”

“Team Two,” said Dragon, his command voice was calm and cold, like ice.“Assist Team Three. Team Four, move to point Alpha Three and wait for me. We have six minutes.”

“Negative movement on the road,” Jackal said.

Six minutes – the length of time it would take the target’s backup security force to reach the house. Team Two moved down the hall at a half-run toward the sounds of the combat, weapons ready.

The hallway lead out into the main hall of the building, where a gun battle was underway. Team three was trapped behind a pair of now shredded couches, while a trio of business-suited guards rained down machine gun fire from a balcony overlooking the hall.

One of Team Three let his machine gun hang by its sling and removed a grenade from his vest harness. He pulled the pin, let the arming lever spring free. The throw was on target, the explosion killing or wounding the guards.

“Team Three clear,” said the team leader on the radio. He gave Team Two a ‘thumbs up’ gesture. “Thanks, Wolf.”

“Team Two and Three, sweep the second floor,” the command voice said. “Team One and Four, ground floor. Five minutes.”

The four intruders moved towards the staircase in the corner of the hall. Two covered while Three advanced up the staircase. As soon as Three reached the top of the stairs, Team Two dashed up the stairs. At the top, they separated, Three going to the right, Two to the left.

The hallway was straight, about fifteen meters long, and ended with a window. There was three doors on each side, with a couple of paintings on the wall between the doors and a small end table under the window. Only a few lights were on, because most of the household had been asleep, and no one had thought to turn the rest on in the shock of the attack.

Two had moved down the hallway to almost the first set of doors, when two guards stepped into the hall from the second set and opened fire on them. One was firing an assault rifle, the other a handgun. Both intruders dropped to their knees and returned fire, their burst slamming into the two guards and killing them. The intruder on the left side of the hallway grunted as he fell. Lobo knelt next to him. “How bad?” he asked in a soft voice.

“Collarbone,” the wounded man replied. In the dim light, the wetness just about the body armor on the right side of the body. “The vest stopped the others.” He groaned in pain. “Hurts like hell.”

“Can you continue?” Wolf asked.

Cobra nodded.

“Wolf to Dragon,” Lobo said. “Cobra has been hit, but is still active.” He removed a small package from the wounded man’s harness and unsealed it. He slapped it over Cobra’s wound. Immediately, the patch sealed itself to the wound, pumping in antibiotics and blood coagulate to help seal the wound.

“Understood, Wolf,” Dragon said. “Any sign of the targets?”

“Negative, Dragon. We have six rooms to clear.”

“You have four minutes.”

“Understood, Dragon, Wolf out.” He helped his partner to his feet.

Cobra allowed his machine gun to hang free, and akwardly pulled his pistol from its holster. He motioned to the door on the right side of the hall.“You enter, I cover.”

“Right.” Wolf replied, pulling a grenade from his harness. He pulled the pin and let the arming lever slip free. With grunt he rased his foot and slammed it into the door, cracking the wood around the door’s lock and slamming it open. Even as the door flew open, Wolf tossed the grenade in and flattened himself against the wall. The grenade exploded with a thud that was still audible, despite the noise dampeners each intruder wore. Wolf counted to two and darted inside, Cobra following him as far as the doorway.

The room was a bedroom, unoccupied, but had been in use, if the state of the bed was any indication. Besides the bed, there was a night stand, a bureau, two overstuffed chairs, and a couple of lamps. There were a pair of windows in the far wall, their panes shattered by the concussion of the grenade. Wolf could see two other doors in the room, one on the left, the other on the right wall. He motioned to Cobra to cover the door on the right, then darted across the room to the one on the left. He flattened himself to one side of the door and placed his hand on the handle. With a quick jerk of the hand, he threw the door open, dropped to one knee and leaned around the edge of the door jam, machine gun up and ready to fire.

Nothing but an empty closet greeted him. “Clear,” he said, standing and moving toward the other door and repeating the process. The bathroom was also empty. He moved back to the doorway leading out into the hall and motioned to the door across from the one they were standing in. Cobra nodded.

It took them two more minutes to clear four of the other rooms, finding nothing in the way of occupants. The basic layout for each room was the same -- bed, closet, and a bathroom, with windows on the opposite wall. The last door on the right was closed and looked slightly different from the others. Wolf touched the door. “Steel,” he whispered to Cobra.

“Tiger to Dragon,” the radio crackled. “Secondary target found.” There was a dull thud, the sound of a silenced weapon. “Secondary target eliminated.”

“Understood,” Dragon replied. “Two minutes.”

Lobo removed a box similar to the one they had used on the outside door and attached it to the door above the lock. Both men stepped back just before the box detonated, destroying the lock. Even as the door swung open, Wolf pitched a grenade into the room. It exploded, and he darted inside, Cobra covering him from the doorway.

Despite the wreckage, it was unquestionably a children’s room, with a bed and a crib in opposite corners, a few toys, some child-size furniture, and a changing table. Wolf motioned for Cobra to cover the door on the right while he checked the door on the left wall. He flattened himself to one side of the door, placed his hand on the handle, and jerked it open. He dropped to one knee, leaned around the edge of the door jam, machine gun ready –

– and found himself staring into the blue eyes of a three year old boy....

Jägare’s eyes opened and he sat up quickly, his hand halfway to the pistol on the table next to the bed before he realized what had happened. He ran a hand through his dark short hair and scowled. Can’t I have one night’s sleep in peace? He glanced at the clock on the table, and scowled even more. Daybreak in another hour. Not much use trying to get any more of it.

He carefully scanned the room, which was lit by a pair of small lamps, until he was satisfied he was alone. He threw off the heavy fur and two blankets he had sleeping under and swung his feet over until he sat on the side of the bed. He didn't wear much when he slept, usually just a pair of shorts, relying on the heavy blankets and furs to keep him warm. There were a number of scars that ran across his body, most of then white with age. The coolness of the cabin’s air raised goose bumps over his skin, but he was use to it by now.

The cabin was five meters by four, a large room built into the base of a cliff face. The back wall and one of the shorter walls was the cliff face itself, still showing the marks of long hours of work to smooth it to a rough consistency. An overhang supplied most of the ceiling, leaving a height of three meters from it to the floor. The front of the cabin, the other short wall, and what little of the roof the overhang did not provide consisted of two meters of the same military-grade dura-plast used by the people in LaCroix, In addition to keeping out the cold and dampness, the walls were also resistant against the firepower almost all man portable weapons, a prudent choice considering the firepower his enemies could bring against him, if they ever found him. Besides the military strength steel door leading outside, three small windows, each set about head height, allowed natural light to enter and acted as natural firing posts.

The interior of the cabin was comfortably, if somewhat crudely, furnished. Besides the bed in the corner, there was a wardrobe, several chairs, two bookcases, a table, and a gun rack, all locally made from the hardwoods that were Cascade’s main export. The floor was made from the same wood, rough-hewn and thick, with several throw rugs scattered across it A stove sat in another corner, with a large pile of logs next to it. Several blankets hung around the room, one hiding the mouth of a cave when Jägare kept his extra supplies, while another one separated the bathroom from the rest of the cabin. A compact reloading station for ammunition sat next to the cave mouth.

There were a few examples of modern civilization about. The pair of lamps, a satellite phone, the small computer, and an old, but still serviceable, Tri-D didn't look out of place, as all of them had passed though many hands before they reached his. The electricity was supplied by a solar powered generator next to the cabin, sufficient for his modest needs.

Jägare threw on a pair of trousers, a flannel shirt, thick socks and mountain boots. Now dressed, he walked over to the stove and checked the firebox. Finding it still aglow with embers, he added wood shavings, bringing the fire back to life. After adding a couple of logs, he filled a battered coffee pot with water from a barrel next to the stove. After he retrieved some coffee, a cup, and a freeze-dried meal from a cabinet, he ripped open the bag containing the meal, and poured in some of the water from the pot, allowing the heating element at the base of the bag to activate. He placed the coffee pot on the stove, then went and sat at the table holding the small computer.

The security program was still running, monitoring the sensors Jägare had burred soon after he finished his cabin. All units showed no signs of anyone or anything violating the perimeter. Satisfied that no enemy was coming, Jägare leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and thought.

The dream again, the ever-present reminder of why he was out on the edge of known space. He didn't need to be reminded of the events, the circumstances that showed him that he wasn't like his fellow warriors. Opening his eyes, Jägare stood and went over to a small section of the back wall of the cabin. The stone looked like it was firmly attached to the rock face, but it was actually a carefully concealed hiding place. He worked the rock loose, revealing a roughly formed hole several centimeters tall and nearly the same width. He reached in and felt the small box that was the only purpose for this secret place, the last remaining link to his old life.

He walked back to the table and sat down, placing the box on the table and stared at it for a few seconds. Slowly, he reached out and opened the box.

The sole object that laid there was the insignia of a small elite force under the direct command of the Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation. A group whose name was whispered among all the Great Houses, rumored to be responsible for many deeds, many deaths. A group that was known by the stylized skull pin each member wore when they were in uniform.

A pin like the one that was in the box.

The pin of a Liao Death Commando.

Jägare stared at the pin for several minutes. He should have gotten rid of it long ago, but something had always stopped him from doing so. Pride? Guilt? He wasn't sure of the main reason, but he’d kept it anyway and would take it out once in a while and stare at it, and remember why he was here and not serving the Chancellor like every other member of the unit was doing.

Unlike most of the others in the Death Commandos, he’d been a line soldier who’d used the skills he’d learned as a hunter on his home world of Bharat to become one of the top snipers in the Confederation armed forces. When he was approached with the offer to join the Death Commandos, he couldn't say no. He had become one of the few, elite warriors on which the Chancellor relied upon to protect the Confederation from all its many enemies. And he had been proud to be one of the chosen.

Until he found himself looking into the face of a three-year old boy with blue eyes and an innocent expression. It was then that a flaw in his personality come to the forefront. Despite all the strict training, the psychological tests, the stringent background checks, and the constant surveillance, Jägare found he had one thing that made him dangerous to everything he was.

He had a conscience.

An armed soldier he could kill without hesitation, an adult he could assassinate without remorse. Up to that point in his life, he thought he could execute any order given to him with no compunction. But when he found himself staring into those blue eyes, something inside of him said ‘no.’ When confronted with the choice, he couldn't bring himself to kill a child, especially one armed with only a stuffed bear and a confused expression. So, at the time, he had done the only thing he could do – he’d just said ‘clear,’ closed the door and prayed the child stayed silent until they were long gone.

Fortunately, the target’s backup security forces reacted quicker then the plan had called for, and the team had been forced to withdraw early. The primary target had escaped, so the mission was basically a failure, but the secondary target, the man’s wife, had been killed and the evidence the team had planted would lead the local authorities to believe a radical environmental group had been behind the attack. No word had been mentioned about the child in the news reports, so it was possible that no one knew he had seen and spared the child.

But the entire incident had shaken awake something deep in his soul, and it began to entered his thoughts over time, slowly eroding away his sense of duty and honor. It didn't ease his mind, as he stood guard in the Celestial Palace, to watch and listen to the Chancellor – the man who he had sworn a personal blood oath to – order the death of innocents, in the name of the state. What was even more disturbing was the Chancellor allowing his obviously insane sister to take control of an assassin cult. The rumors that came out about the cult, stories of violence and sex that made even the most harden Commando feel uneasy.

He would lay in his bunk at night and consider his thoughts. Was it right for the State, any State, to order the death of a child? Was it right for the State to condemn a three year old boy for the actions of his parents? How could a State kill people, innocent civilians, in the name of ‘self-defense?’ Questions and others like them floated on his mind, becoming stronger over time. At each turn, the answer to those question became ‘no.’ Finally, he had no choice....

The whistle of the coffee pot told him the water was boiling. He stood and retrieved the pot, returning with it to the table and pouring the hot water into the cup. He dropped three cubes of coffee into the water, allowing the cubes to dissolve before he stirred it with a spoon. Once satisfied, he sat down again and started eating the now hot meal. Every so often, he would glance at the pin and his thoughts drifted.

He had done the unthinkable – he had walked away from the Death Commandos and the Chancellor, turned his back on his state, all because he couldn't kill a child – any child – in cold blood.

The actual act of leaving hadn't been that hard to set up, but it had taken time. Three years after staring into the face of that boy, a raid on a dissident’s home in the St Ives Commonality, to repossess data stolen from the Maskirovka, provided the opportunity he had been waiting for. The plan called for a HALO jump to assault the home a mansion located on the cliffs overlooking one of the most dangerous stretches of water on the planet. All it took was a ‘failure’ in his parachute and a splash down in the rough seas, well known for it’s ocean predators. It would appear to all that he had been killed and eaten in the rough seas. In reality, he had swam his way several kilometers down the coast, waited for a couple of days, then started his journey to a new life.

It took him two weeks to reach the nearest city that had a spaceport, living off the land and avoiding any contact with the locals. Using one of his alternate identities that was unknown to his superiors, he boarded a DropShip heading to the Taurian Concordat. Over the next several months, he made his way across the Concordat, occasionally changing his identity and slowly altering his appearance with the help of a few shady plastic surgeons along the way. Using the last of his identities, that of Ian Jägare, he chose Cascade in the New Colony Region for his final destination. While it was only a little more then a hundred and thirty light years from Confederation space, it was mostly an area ignored by the Chancellor in favor of the real threats of both the Free Worlds League and the Federated Suns.

And here he started building a new life for himself, free from the specter of killing children or other innocents. But the child’s look still haunted him, even after several years. Part of him wondered what would have happened if he had killed the boy. Could he have lived with himself? He didn't know, and that was the most disturbing thing of all.....


Back to writing,


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