Archive | October 2010

A Little White Lie – Part 15

Finally on planet, the mission’s just getting underway and already things are going wrong. People are dying and the quarry is missing. What else can possibly happen to screw up Wil’s night?

Wil cursed quietly. What had they done with the lunatic? Muttering every obscenity he knew, Wil searched for his men. He found them both by the door, their throats cut. He could do nothing for them, so he moved away. Emory closed their eyes, murmured a prayer and followed Wil, shutting the door softly behind them.

A thorough search of the suite revealed nothing. Aurialonus was not there. The objective now was to get the prisoners free. If he had to, Wil swore he’d set the whole damn palace on fire just to smoke out the petty dictator.

Remembering the booby trapped door to the balcony, Wil and Emory cautiously made their way out of the bedroom. From sheer vindictiveness, the two Marines cut the throats of the unconscious guards.

Nothing stirred in the palace. It resonated with sepulchral silence. Even the usual sounds a large building makes in the cool of the night did not seem to penetrate. It was as if a muffler had been wrapped around the palace grounds, deadening the ambient noises. Wil realized it had been sound proofed.

Using Wil’s tracker, the two men made their way downstairs to the ballroom. It was slow going as each doorway had to be checked for explosives. Not having Krall’s eye or experience made it more difficult. Wil did pretty well, but there were things even he might miss.

Emory held up a hand, stopping their progress. A questioning look from Wil, and he pointed to their left. A door was open and they heard voices from the end of the hall. According to the palace plans Wil’s eye accessed, there was a kitchen down there. Servants, guards, fanatics? To be safe, they rolled two knockout bombs down the six foot hall, listening as the bodies hit the floor.

Next stop was the ballroom door. They waited outside for a signal from Ben. Wil saw them on his scanner. They were close, but not moving. Vitals showed green, but something was keeping them stationary.

Time to backtrack, Wil decided. Go out the way they knew was safe and go see what the hell was wrong. A cryptic motion to Emory and he ran back upstairs, out the adjoining chamber and over the line to the wall. He did a quick perimeter check, then slid quietly to the ground. They followed the path they had seen the others take and made their way to the back of the palace.
* * *

Things had gone well for Ben’s team until they got near the doors. The people camping around the palace grounds were more scattered and prevalent than anticipated. There were tents everywhere with the odd person rolled up in a blanket near a statue or under a hedge. They nearly stepped on two of them and had to cut a couple throats just to get by.

The Marines hadn’t counted on robotic dogs. Their recon had not revealed their presence. Ben could think of no way to disable them. Knock out gas would obviously have no effect. So far the dogs had not alerted the soldiers, but it was only a matter of time.

“What now?” Wallace signaled.

Ben shrugged. The dog nearest him gave a low, metallic growl.

Freedrick shifted his weight slightly, earning another growl. He whispered into his comlink. “Those dogs steel alloy?”

Wallace replied just as softly. “Not top of the line, that’d be no.”

Freedrick smiled, eyeing the four dogs with gleeful anticipation. Cracking his knuckles, he stepped forward slowly. “Drop the gas, I’ll take ‘em.” His smile became predatory.

Ben and Billy slowly pulled the pins on two gas canisters and tossed them as far as they could. Waiting a few seconds for the gas to take effect, Freedrick took another step forward. The dogs growled again, moving toward him.

“Nice doggie,” he crooned, taking another step. The point dog leaped toward him, the robot legs launching it directly at Lance’s face. He blocked with his brawny left arm, grabbing the dog with his right.

The other three dogs followed, all getting a firm grip on his forearm, their powerful, metallic jaws grinding against the bone. Moving near the wall, blood dripping from multiple wounds, he swung with snakelike swiftness, dashing the lead dog’s head against the stone.

The dogs hung on, digging in their teeth, shredding the flesh. Blood gushed but Lance merely swung at the wall again. Three more strikes and the lead dog’s head shattered, a ruin of metal, wiring and plastic. The other dogs shivered, shuddered and fell off Lance’s arm as he dropped the lead dog on the ground.

“Take out the first, the others die too. They’re linked as a team.” Just to be safe, he stepped on their heads, cracking the cranial casing, and removed the control chips, grinding them under his heel.

“Drop the rest of the gas,” he said quietly. I’ve got a bleeder in my hardware.”

“Hardware?” Billy looked puzzled.

Lance held up his dripping arm. Billy realized the fluid was blue not red.

“Cyber synth-blood,” Lance told him. “If it all plays out, I’ll be useless.” He took a kit from his belt and started sealing his leak as Ben and Billy moved away to drop the gas.

“Weird shit,” Billy muttered. “Just ain’t right.”

“None of it was right,” Ben whispered.

“How much more of him, you figure?”

Ben gave him a withering look. “Ask him,” he moved away to drop the gas.

A Little White Lie – part 14

Finally on their mission, the team is now going after their various objectives. Wil’s hoping all will run smoothly, like clockwork. Why is it that things rarely run like the scenarios?

The second shot was successful and Emory went across followed by Wil, Bennett, and Krall. Lance, Ben and Billy headed down via the ropes Emory had attached. They repelled along the inner face of the wall, landing lightly at the bottom. They were on the wrong side of the building and had to go around. At Ben’s command, they moved cautiously into the confines of the gardens.

Wil watched until he lost track of them in the dark. Motioning the men forward, he sent Krall and Bennett through the adjoining suite. He clamored over the balcony railing after Emory, who was already squatting by the door. Holding up a hand, Emory showed five fingers, then added two more. Seven people inside.

Using a soft tap on his mike to signal Wil they were in place, Bennett indicated four more outside the door. There were usually six, so where were the other two?

A little sleeping gas and the guards went down. The door to the suite was unlocked, but Krall stopped before entering, checking carefully for booby traps. His paranoia was elevated, this place gave him the creeps. Whole mission stank like bullshit!

Wil was not the only one equipped with a cybereye. Krall’s was specifically attuned to explosives and their components. Having the capacity to record and retain information he came across, it was quite sophisticated. The man’s expertise in tandem with it made it nearly infallible.

He saw a trip line, a single strand of filament, thin as a golden hair, running across the base of the doorframe. He signaled Wil to hold and checked more carefully, finding this was merely a dummy. The real trap was further up, and not very high tech, but surely lethal.

Around the door frame, holes had been drilled and filled with lead pellets. If the door opened without the thumb print of one of the guards, it would explode. “Explains why it wasn’t locked,” he thought.

Ripping the glove off a guard, he held it up to the scanner. A green light flickered on and the door eased open soundlessly.

The other two guards were inside and had not been affected by the sleep gas. Leaping at them unexpectedly from the dark, the two Marines hardly had time to yell before they were down. Enough sound escaped Krall’s lips for Wil to hear him. None of the team would have broken radio silence if it wasn’t important, so Wil and Emory prepared to enter the chamber from the balcony.

Easing the door open, they crept in low, but Emory hadn’t thought to check for explosive devises like Krall had. Had they been upright, their heads would have been taken off. As it was, shrapnel flew in dozens of directions, stinging their skin through their protective clothing.

“Wil, two!” Bennett gasped, his breath ending in a guttural gagging noise. Wil knew he was dead. Nothing more was heard from Krall.

The two guards attacked Emory and Wil as soon as the smoke cleared. If they had thought to shoot the two interlopers, they might have been successful, but they rushed them instead, knives out, brandishing them wildly.

The guard nearest Wil fell suddenly, scrabbling at his throat. Blood went everywhere. The second guard hesitated a moment too long, Emory took him out with a projectile hook to the eye. The man’s head exploded as the hook expanded in his skull.

Another guard lunged at Wil from the shadows, flailing his arms furiously. Yet another leaped from the opposite side of the room, jumping Emory from behind. As Wil blocked the flurry of blows from his assailant, he realized these and the first two accounted for only four of the seven original occupants.

The guard threw a lucky punch, getting in under Wil’s guard landing on his chest. With a howl, the man fell back, clutching his knuckles. He had hit Wil’s utility and ammunition belt that was strapped across his chest.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?”

The guard looked up in surprise as Wil’s fingers came up and jabbed him in the throat. He collapsed with a wheeze, eyes rolling up in his head.

Emory was not fairing well. The guard was somewhat shorter than Wil, but about thirty pounds heavier. Wil ended the disagreement with his blade to the back of the man’s neck. The guard collapsed, spurting blood all over Emory and Wil.

With the back of his hand, Wil wiped his face, smearing the blood in ruddy streaks. A quick look around the room showed him that they were alone, except for corpses. The bed was empty! Where the hell was Aurialonus?

A Little White Lie – Part 13

It’s now or never for Wil and his team. Things change rapidly when dealing with a psychopath. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Word came after dinner that Aurialonus had changed plans. The youngest daughter was to be executed the next morning if his demands weren’t met. In addition, he’d demanded fifty million Uberbucks, the standard denomination of cash on Starflatz.

“That’s roughly seventeen thousand Galactic,” Krall told them. “Stupid lunatic can’t even ask for a decent amount of cash. Uberbucks aren’t negotiable anywhere but Starflatz. Does he actually think he’s gonna stick around once he’s got it? Moron,” he muttered. “What bullshit!”

“He’s not gonna get to spend it anyway,” Wallace pointed out as he gathered his gear. “We’re gonna kill him first, right?”

“A fool and his money are soon parted,” was Bennett’s contribution. The others stared at him. “What? I ran out of stuff to read in the brig, so I started a book of quotations.”

The team loaded into a shuttle which took them down to the planet. They landed at the one spaceport which was not held by Aurialonus’ troops and set up their base there. If anything went wrong, Ray would call the ship and Penny and Ishanti would go in, guns blazing.

Penny pulled Wil aside, apart from the others. Kissing him hurriedly, she gazed intently into his eyes. “Don’t die on me!” She whispered intently.

Wil allowed himself a moment of pure emotion, the last he would have until the operation was over. He kissed her deeply, all his unexpected desires for her expressed in that one act.

“You be safe,” he told her.

He turned to the rest of the team, switching to professional mode. A last glance at Penny and Wil disappeared into the darkness.

Aurialonus wasn’t too smart setting up his security. The prisoners were easily accessible on the ground floor on the back side of the palace which was flanked by the royal gardens.

Their surveillance showed no more than ten armed guards near the prisoners and about that many more on the second floor where Aurialonus slept—most of whom were outside his door. They weren’t guarding the balcony, positioned on the roof or any of a dozen other places Wil would’ve put people.

However, bivouacked around the palace grounds were several hundred soldiers who worshiped the ground Aurialonus trod upon. Since these soldiers and guards prayed every three hours even during the night, timing was dicey. Wil chose to go in two hours before dawn. Most of the soldiers were asleep and the guards were drowsy after being up all night watching the prisoners, guarding their leader and, in the middle of it all, praying fervently.

First they had to get over the seventeen foot wall circling the palace compound. Eight feet thick and made of native stone, it was nearly as hard as a diamond. Time for the monkey to earn his keep.

Emory produced lengths of fine, strong filament and fastened one to a grapnel hook attached to his weapon. Taking careful aim, he shot. A dull thunk and the hook automatically expanded in the stone, anchoring it safely. Emory scrambled up to lower lines for the team.

Watching the little man scamper up the line, Wil felt a shiver of doubt tickle his spine. It would be just as easy for Emory to alert the guards and have them waiting at the top of the wall.

A line dropped in front of Wil. Lance had another line in front of him and a third a few minutes later fell in front of Ben. Two men to a line, they scrambled up, lying flat on the wall before dropping to the ramparts. Emory was nowhere to be seen.

Wil switched to his cybereye, incorporating a special tracking feature. A sophisticated tracer located Emory a few feet away, moving toward the second story rooms of the palace. He was looking for vantage point from the wall to the balcony outside Aurialonus’ chambers.

Signaling the team, Emory attached another line to his gun mounted hook. He had chosen a spot where the palace was slightly closer to the wall. A quick scan with Wil’s cybereye showed that room was empty. Emory took careful aim, pulled the trigger and watched the hook and line play out across the empty space. It was the merest whisper in the dark, followed by a metallic chink of metal against metal, rather than the dull thunk of hitting stone. Wil and Ben exchanged a glance. That might have been heard.

The team lay flat on their bellies until Wil did a short recon. Using his cybereye, he checked for movement among the guards. Nothing. With a nod, he told Emory to try again.

A Little White Lie – Part 12

The final member of their team, their “monkey” has just shown up. It doesn’t seem like anyone is particularly glad to see him, except Penny. Corporal Emory, like the others, seems to have trouble with authority. Wil’s willing to work with that. However, there is also an aura of suspicion surrounding Emory–something he’s not unmindful of.

“You were called three days ago, what took you so long?” Wil asked as pleasantly as he could.

“I had some unfinished business I had to take care of, sir.” He made the term of respect as disrespectful as possible. Wil draped a long arm around Emory’s shoulders from which the little man couldn’t squirm.

“Anyone ever explain to you how the military works, Emory?”

“I’m not sure I get your meaning.”

“Well, it’s like this. I outrank you, as do the most of the people in this room. I don’t expect much, only for you to do your job right and show me the respect I’ve earned for more years than you’ve even been alive.” His grip on Emory’s shoulder tightened until the little man winced. “I’m glad we understand one another, Corporal Emory, I’d hate to demote you.”

Emory said nothing. The other men in the room glared at him, making him sink in on himself even more. The tension in the room was broken by the entrance of the two women. Penny and Ishanti were exchanging pleasantries when they walked into the room full of angry males. Stopping suddenly just inside the door, Penny looked at each in turn, staring openly at the small man who seemed to be the center of the problem.

“Who’s this?” Her eyes fixed on Wil, saw the muscle working in his jaw and knew he was furious about something.

“Corporal Emory.” He snapped a salute. “Reporting for duty.”

Penny looked at him and said nothing. Ishanti returned his salute automatically and muttered “At ease,” from habit.

“I’m happy to see you, at least,” Penny tried to smile and ground the charged atmosphere. “Now I don’t have to climb!” Her laugh seemed to pull Wil out of himself and he chuckled weakly next to her.

“That’s good anyway,” Ishanti added quietly.

“I need a shower, sir, and a meal. Please,” Emory added as an afterthought.

Again Penny jumped in to save Wil from the urge to tell Emory where he could put his meal and shower.

“I’ll show him, Colonel,” Penny remarked in passing as she steered the nasty tempered man past Wil and Ben. “Bennett’s cooking tonight,” she said casually as she walked past.

Behind Emory’s back, the other men grinned and crowded through the narrow doorway to follow them down to where Bennett was fixing the evening meal. In less than 30 seconds, the yelling started, followed by broken dishes and what sounded like knives slicing the air. A few moments later, Penny came up to Wil looking satisfied with herself.

“Emory and Bennett took a strong dislike to one another, Colonel. I’ve had them both thrown in the brig.”

“Just overnight. We’ll be making our maze run tomorrow and I have to brief them first.”

“As you wish, Colonel.” The sway in her hips taunted him.

“We have our whole team now, Colonel.” Ray said with a twinkle in his eye.

“Not much of a team, is it? If Aurialonus doesn’t kill us, our own team members might!” Wallace interjected.

Adam Krall came in, scratching absently and yawning having awakened from his afternoon nap. “What’d I miss?”

A Little White Lie – Part 11

Wil’s putting the finishing touches on his team. He’s now found the last member of the team and has sent Ray to get her.

Ray walked over to the weapons range with care across the pocked and uneven field. He was looking for Abrams who was a long range weapons instructor. He saw a group of recruits getting their first lesson. Wondering if he’d ever been that young and green, he walked toward them. A fresh faced corporal trotted up and saluted. He looked about twelve, Ray thought.

“May I help you, sir?”

Ray returned the salute, once again enjoying his new rank.

“I’m looking for Sargent Abrams.” The corporal pointed to the tall, athletically built woman who was bellowing at some private for fiddling with his safety before he was told. When she had finished, the corporal approached her, pointed to Ray and spoke quietly. Abrams put the corporal in charge of the class and walked stiffly over to Ray, not bothering to salute.

“This better be important! I’m right in the middle of a class!”

“Sargent Abrams, on behalf of Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, I apologize for the interruption, but it’s a matter of some urgency. I am following his orders.”

“So urgent it can’t wait an additional thirty minutes?”

“Yes.”

He resisted the urge to tack ma’am on each sentence since he outranked her, but it was difficult. He brought her quickly up to date with the Aurialonus situation. Abrams hesitated one moment more, then stalked over to her corporal, speaking to him for a few minutes. She walked back over to Ray.

“I’ll get my things.”

Ray followed her to her quarters, walking behind her on purpose. It wasn’t in deference to her, he just liked the view. Damn, that woman could strut! He stayed behind her all the way to the shuttle, giving her a hand up.

“Lieutenant Schmidt?”

“Yes, Sargent?”

“May I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Is there some reason you’ve been staring at my ass for the last thirty-three minutes?”

He chuckled, trying to think of a plausible excuse. None came to mind. Had to bullshit his way out as usual. “Well, Sargent, I’m a country boy and was raised to appreciate the beauty of nature.”

“What’s that got to do with my ass?” She cocked her head to one side, eyeing him critically.

He held his hands out about the width of her rear, cupping his palms. “Well now, what’s more natural than a man watching an attractive woman? By damn, Sargent, your ass is thing of beauty!”

Abrams sat quietly a moment, then she started to laugh. “Schmidt, that’s the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard!”

“Yes, ma’am, it sure is. But it don’t make it not true.”

She gazed at him, eyes moving up and down his body as if cataloging every inch. “I think I’m going to like you, Schmidt.”

He smiled his most winning, charming smile—the one women melted over. “I certainly hope so, Ma’am.” He saluted her teasingly. “Call me Ray.”
* * *

Aurialonus made demands again, gesticulating wildly, roaring in anger. Mediators tried to clarify his stipulations, but no one could figure out what he wanted. Time was running out.

The team was as ready as it could be, given the fact their monkey, Emory, had yet to join them. Penny was briefed on his part and had put in long hours with simulation climbs, but nothing compared to the real thing.

“What if he doesn’t show?” Ben asked Wil worriedly.

“Then we use Penny. Won’t have any choice.”

A commotion in the adjoining room erupted suddenly and Wil heard Ray’s distinctive bellow. Rushing through the doorway, Ben and Wil saw the men surrounding another man he didn’t know.

The man was just over five feet tall, slightly built and wiry. His dark hair was close cropped and his bright blue eyes were hooded like a snake’s. They flickered from one man to another, sizing them up. He didn’t look afraid, just extremely alert as if he were on synthstims.

“What goes on here?” Wil roared from the doorway.

The men surrounding the smaller one moved apart allowing him to pass. Wallace tried to punch him, but Lance restrained him, catching his fist in a vice-like grip.

Setting down his duffel, the little man adjusted his uniform. “Emory reporting for duty, Colonel.” Shuffling his feet, he glanced up at Wil who towered over him by about two feet.

“No rank or salute for a superior officer?” Ben growled.

Emory’s eyes flickered over toward Ben, complete loathing simmered there. Wil’s gaze lingered on Emory, gauging him. There was something Wil couldn’t place. It caused disquietude.

“Corporal Emory reporting, sir!” He snapped a short, saucy salute with a glare at them all. None of the officers returned his salute and he did not look as if he expected them to.