A Little White Lie – Conclusion

Wil’s puzzled look remained frozen as she touched his temple and he remembered. The day they had been brought to the lab for the first procedures, there had been a medical technician with a special instrument.

“They put a chip in your head, so a signal can be sent out, killing you instantly.” They had made it sound like it was for protection, his as well as others. Why had he forgotten?

“He hasn’t any chip.”

“But all us super soldiers got that, didn’t we?”

“I’m not exactly like one of you,” Emory said, sidling into the room. Penny nodded at him as he sat on a chair near the bed. “I’m a special case.”

“Why?” Wil found it almost infuriating that this little, weasely man was special, somehow superior to him.

“I’m the chaff,” he said softly, his face clouding.

“He doesn’t know, Randy,” Penny said gently, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“They did some more experiments, stuff you guys don’t know about. When they had you under, they took samples of sperm and ova.” A glance up at Penny got an encouraging nod. “I’m the by product of one of their in vitro experiments. They wanted to make super soldiers from scratch. I was a failed experiment. I’m what’s left when super heroes mate!”

He was angry, hurt. A life of being shoved aside and told he wasn’t good enough had left him bitter.

“But it’s saved your life, Randy.” Penny interrupted him before he got too carried away. “That’s why he’s survived all these missions and everyone else died. She couldn’t control him. But he couldn’t hurt her until now.”

“Why not?”

“There was a program, subliminal, running through her. As long as she was conscious, it made it impossible for him to protect us. But Ishanti knocked her out as they were getting in the car. Once she was unconscious, Emory could act. I about gave him a black eye though, until he explained.

Emory chuckled quietly, relaxing for the first time since Wil had met him. “I had to talk faster than I ever have in my life. Thought I was going to lose an eyeball or something.”

“Well, a ball of some kind, but I doubt it would have been your eye.” Wil looked up at Penny, his old smile back on his face. “Mind explaining that whole knee in the groin?”

“I had to get your attention, it seemed the best way.”

“Kind of harsh!”

“It worked, didn’t it?” Her tone softened, her eyes held his for a long moment.

Clearing his throat, Emory looked embarrassed and excused himself.

“Hey,” Wil called after him. “Thank you. I owe you my life, kid.”

Emory turned around and faced him, a soft smile playing at his lips. “And I owe mine to you.” In a rush he was gone.

Wil watched after him in puzzled silence, wondering what on earth he meant.

“Greyling has some explaining to do,” he sighed as he kissed Penny deeply, inhaling the fresh, clean smell of her hair and the spicy scent of her cologne.

“Don’t be hard on her,” Penny said, unbuttoning his shirt as she pushed him on the bed. “She tried to protect us.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” he kissed her. “But right now, I don’t want to talk.”

“Neither do I.”

“You know, Penny, I could fall hard for a girl like you.”

“Good.” She smiled, kissing him passionately as she shoved him down on the bed.


A Little White Lie – Part 23

Wil woke feeling as if he’d been hit by a tank. His mouth was dry, his eyes hurt and his head felt swollen. The ringing in his ears had been replaced by a pounding like a pile driver.

As soon as he struggled to sit up, Penny was beside him, giving him a supporting hand. Her eyes held concern, not just on a professional level. She flung herself at his chest, grabbing him tightly as if her life depended upon this one embrace. Wil lost his balance, collapsing on the bed once more.

“Penny,” he said thickly. “What?”

“Oh, Wil, I was so worried! Don’t ever do that again!”

“Whadidido?” He could barely enunciate.

“That woman.”

“Rashima?” His head was clearing. “What about her, where is she?”

He felt a burning in his loins, uncomfortable and evocative.

“She’s dead.”

He sat up, pushing her roughly aside. “What? Who?” His movements were erratic, dangerous, as he swung his arms around wildly.

“She was shot, Wil.”

There was a long pause as Wil worked through this information. “Dead.” His voice sounded flat and emotionless.

“Yes. Wil, she was a siren.”

“Whazzat?” Blinking fast, he tried again to clear his wooly head.

The name conjured up an image, a definition began to take form in his mind. Smacking dry lips, he shook his head, trying to clear his eyes, but only made himself dizzier.

“Fuck me,” he groaned as he lay back down.

A glass pressed against his lips. He drank automatically, spilling a good bit on the bed. The pounding faded to a buzz like barber’s clippers. His mind was clearing gradually.

“Penny, start over, all I remember is this – Oh God! This woman, she was so beautiful, exotic.” He felt a burning sensation in his loins again. “Ow! Why do I hurt?”

“Wil, look at me.”

He focused on her face with difficulty. “Penny?”

“Wil, if you don’t focus for me, I’m going to hit you.”

He blinked slowly, tried to clear his head again and failed. “Feel like shit,” he mumbled. “There was this girl.” He mused again, rolling over, hoping to sleep and dream of the woman in white.

Smack! A sharp slap clipped him on the left cheek, snapping his head sideways. He caught her hand before she could get him with the back swing.

“What the hell was that for? Penny?”

She grinned at him, kissing his smarting cheek. “You’re back! Oh, thank God! What do you remember?”

“Lots of explosions, Aurialonus, and some woman. There was something about her.” His eyes glazed over again and Penny slapped him sharply once more. “Will you please stop doing that?”

“Not until you snap out of this!” She popped him again, but less hard. “She was a siren, Wil. Do you know what that is?”

“One of those women, Greek mythology, sang and lured sailors to their deaths?”

“Something like that, only this one is a telepath who lures men to her, controlling them, making them her tools. I thought she had you for awhile.” Her voice drifted off. “She’s been the problem, all along. She was sent to kill us.”

“But Emory?”

“In all these other operations, she’s turned the men against one another. Only Emory kept his head.”

“Why? What makes him special?”

“No chip.”

A Little White Lie – Part 22

Princess Rashima isn’t what she seems. It took Wil longer to figure it out than usual. Does this mean something even more diabolical is going on than he thought?

Wil guided the horse with his knees, subtle and continuous, leading them gradually to the primary pick up point. Ben and the others should be there by now. Emory, Wallace and Freedrick had probably already been picked up and would be waiting for them. Now he was bringing in this Trojan horse, Rashima. Whoever she was, whatever organization she worked for, he hoped to discover before she could harm his people or screw up his mission.

She stopped the horse, sliding from the saddle to the ground. Wil held her blanket clamped in one lax hand, falling slightly from the horse’s back, sliding off to one side. She was too annoyed to notice him put one foot on the ground beside her and let his other leg slip down as he leaned on the horse for support.

A snap of her fingers brought him out of his pretend trance and he smiled down at her, leaning over to kiss her on the lips. For a moment, she pushed away, but he persisted and she gradually responded to his touch. His hold around her tightened, pressing his chest against her and he turned so she was between him and the horse’s side. A shift of his weight and she was well and truly caught.

Grabbing a handful of her long, dark hair, he took his mouth from hers, trailing his fingers down her neck, tracing the line of her breast. She stayed a moment more with her eyes closed, then realized the position she was in and the fact that he was obviously not under her control struck her. Ashen faced, she struggled to free herself. His smile faded, replaced by a mask like visage which had been known to intimidate even the hardiest of warriors. Rashima shrank away from him, terrified.

“Who do you work for, Rashima?” His hand gripped her brutally, fingers digging in, bruising her flesh.

“No one, I work for no one.”

“Oh, baby, you don’t lie well.”

His grip relaxed, his hands moved to her body, working their way around in subtle and provocative ways. He kissed her lips, her neck, her shoulder. He could feel her powers affecting him and fought for control.

“Don’t make me hurt you, Rashima. You are too beautiful to damage like that. Just tell me who you work for, I’ll let you go.” His lips brushed her ear.

“I don’t know,” she whispered, her head against his chest as if in defeat. The tenseness of her body belied her.

Despite his determination not to let her get to him, he was weakening. She was beautiful, she felt good against him, she smelled like fresh flowers and gentle breezes. He wanted her like he’d wanted no other woman in his life. She had to be his! His lips pressed hard against hers.

A warning sounded in his mind, some sense saw below the surface of what seemed so real. Someone said his name. Did he hear a voice? Yes! A woman was saying his name. It wasn’t Rashima. He felt lightheaded, intoxicated.

“Rashima,” his voice was hoarse with passion as he slipped her gown down from her breasts.

“Wil!” There was that damn woman again!

Lashing out, he found his arm pinned behind him, a knee placed firmly in between his legs from the rear, pressing up dangerously against his testicles.

Rashima was still sandwiched between him and the horse, her dark eyes glowing with a desperate passion. Rough hands grabbed her away from him, shoving her toward a waiting vehicle. Wil called out in anger and distress, trying to follow, but was held firmly. He saw Ishanti clip Rashima on the jaw as she shoved her into the car.

A few dreadful minutes passed as his head cleared, leaving a harsh ringing in his ears and a pounding headache. Penny held him more gently now, leading him to the front of the armored car, protecting his head as he ducked inside, falling onto the seat. Shoving his long legs over, she slid in beside him, putting the car in gear. In silence, they drove back to the waiting shuttle. Wil crawled like a child from the car, stumbled to the shuttle door and was hauled in by Ben and Emory.

“What do I do with her?” Ishanti’s voice sounded harsh.

Wil’s ears were ringing like a four alarm fire.

“She under? Tie the bitch up and throw her in the back. I want to question her when we get back to the ship,” Ben’s voice cut in.

“No,” this was Emory. “Kill her.”


“Kill her,” Emory said with finality.

A shot rang out, Wil heard a body drop, but he was too disoriented to care. He fell asleep in a heap on the floor.

A Little White Lie – Part 21

Wow, an over abundance of dictators! Wil’s found not one, but two! Not only that, he’s also found another member of the royal family, a Princess named Rashima. She’s beautiful, clever and devious enough to drug Aurialonus. She helps Wil out of the palace. Despite her help, Wil still doesn’t trust her. But then, chances are good he wouldn’t trust his own mother.

Realizing this could be a clever trap, he followed cautiously, weapon drawn, silent as a cat on the thick carpets. Rashima stopped by an ornately carved door which she pushed open quietly. It swung inward revealing a naked, heavy set, old man asleep on a lavish four poster. He was drooling and snoring loudly.

“You could have killed him yourself,” Wil walked over to the bed, wondering what he was going to do with a naked old man.

“Yes, but then no one would have believed that he was dead when you discovered the imposter. I’ll help you carry him out. He’s disgusting, but we can wrap a sheet around his nakedness.” She grimaced slightly at the idea, handling the sheet delicately.

Wil roughly bound Aurialonus in the sheet and hoisted him casually over his shoulder. Turning, he saw the princess eyeing him speculatively.

“All men are not created equal,” she said, her eyes lingering on his tight glutes. “I saw him with disgust, but maybe some men are not so bad.”

Wil chuckled with a hint of rancor. “Princess, some of us are down right evil. You’d better get a robe, it’s cold.”

She grabbed a blanket off the bed. “There is no robe, my clothing is upstairs. This is the bridal suite.” She snorted in disgust. “As if I would marry such a pig!” She spat at the unconscious, fat man in disgust, then led the way through more doors, down passages and into a long, stone hallway.

The sounds of the destruction at the palace faded to nothing and noises of the night intruded themselves instead. Crickets, night birds, horses whickering. The stables! Wil suddenly was filled with hope that this mission would succeed.

“Princess, I could kiss you!” He walked to a nearby steed, dropping his burden over its back, tying Aurialonus’ hands and feet together under the belly.

She grinned, raising a speculative eyebrow. “I might let you.”

Wil laughed at her and she winked, swishing her blanket around her as he helped her onto a horse. Hopping up behind her, he took the reins of the other horse in his hand.

“Hold tight,” he told her, taking up the reins to his horse, clucking softly.

Wil took a moment to get his bearings and turned slightly east, heading toward the pick up point.

“Where are we going?”

“To meet up with your family.”

The Princess stiffened slightly, her back pressing against his chest. Her right hand dropped behind her, between his thighs.

“Oh, we do not have to do that right now, do we?”

Her hand continued to roam. The hairs on the back of Wil’s neck began to rise. His hackles were never wrong.

“Princess, how old is your little sister, Ambra, the one who was to be executed today?”

“Ambra? She is six, no seven.” Her hand moved rapidly, trying to arouse and distract him. He closed off his mind to her movements and sat straight in the saddle.

“When is her birthday?”

“Why does it matter? She just had a birthday, so I get confused. Now stop the horse, I beg you. The saddle is rubbing my bottom raw.”

He eased the horse to a standstill and Rashima turned slightly toward him, drawing his face to hers, pressing her breasts against his chest. He felt her hand reach for his gun belt, but he beat her to it.

“Nice try, Rashima. You had me going for a bit, but there is no Princess Ambra. You didn’t do your homework too well. Who sent you?”

She tried to hop down, but he caught her under the chin with his right hand, the left still holding the reins of the other horse. She spat at him, trying to claw his hand to free herself.


He saw fear in her dark eyes, but she had not given up. The timbre of her voice changed, her features softening as she tried her different tactics.

“Does it matter why I’m here? What matters is the two of us, nothing else.”

She stared directly into his eyes and the faintest glimmer of a warning flashed there. She was a telepath, a powerful one, and she was trying to unlock something in his mind. She dropped the phoney accent, her voice falling into the cadence of a hypnotist. Wil pretended to go along, relaxing against her, letting the reins dangle from his limp fingers.

Satisfied, Rashima took the reins to both horses, clucked her tongue and continued along the same heading they had been following before they stopped. Wil continued to lean against her, letting more and more of his weight push on her shoulder. Being over seven feet tall, he was a large and heavy man. She was not over five foot seven and slight of build. She tried to push him off her as they rode.

A Little White Lie – Part 20

Having found Aurialonus, Wil and Ben have to get him to their extraction point and off planet. Now comes the fun part, getting out of the palace and back to the ship.

Aurialonus looked puzzled, then rose gradually from his chair, staggering against the wall. Ben grabbed him roughly by the elbow, forcing him ahead of him at gunpoint. Moving at a snail’s pace, the three men made their way back upstairs.

The people in the kitchen had woken up and were struggling against their bonds. Wil took their gags out, telling them to be still and he would free them. When the maid saw Aurialonus, she spat at him, making a rude gesture, recognizable in any language. Aurialonus seemed to fold in on himself, suddenly looking very old.

Dragging and shoving him roughly, Ben and Wil forced him to the ballroom and through the doors to the terrace. Shouting and gunfire greeted them. Dragging Aurialonus back inside, Wil swore loudly.

“The gas wore off, I can’t believe I forgot!”

Ben looked outside. “They’re coming this way,” he muttered urgently.

“Got any bright ideas?” Wil was furious with himself and he was taking it out on Ben. Both knew this, and let it slide.

“You’re the genius, I’m just a grunt. If you don’t get brilliant fast, we’re dead.”

“Back to the kitchen. Take him.” He shoved Aurialonus at Ben. “Get the servants out.”

“What are you doing?”

“Giving them a Krall cocktail.”
He shut and locked the doors, dashing for the king’s bedchamber as Ben half carried Aurialonus back to the kitchen.

In the darkened bedroom, Wil ducked through the doorway and dropped by Krall’s body. The Marine demo expert was covered in items of heavy destruction. Wil regretted his death, mostly because it was damn inconvenient. They could have used him now. The fact another human being was dead on the floor hardly fazed him. It might bother him later, right now he hadn’t the time.

Using his knife, he cut straps, stripping Krall of all his toys. With a wicked smile, he concocted a little surprise of his own design, grabbing items at random from the room. He made three bombs in less than a minute. The soldiers outside were finally organizing and planning to rush the castle doors.

Running across the hall, he found a room overlooking the terrace. Crawling out the door, he peeped through the balcony balustrade. Setting the timer on the first bomb, he hurled it over the edge.

As it exploded with a satisfying blast, he heard the howls of men being ripped apart. The second bomb followed the first, landing to the other side. Horrified shouts reached his ears as the men below tried to figure out where the shower of death was coming from.

The third present was a little different, full of all manner of debris from the bedroom. It also had a special ingredient Krall had fondly called joy juice. It was Krall’s own concoction and similar to nitroglycerine, only less unstable and more volatile. This he dropped right over the edge of the balcony on the lip of the terrace where the men were attempting to enter the ballroom.

Flinging himself back into the bedroom, he flattened himself on the far side of the bed, hands over his ears. He saw the flash of the explosion before the kaboom rocked the palace. Pandemonium and panic reigned as the soldiers all tried to run away at once, knocking one another down and trampling each other.

Taking further advantage of this disorganization, Wil slipped out to the balcony once more, unslinging his weapon. He opened fire on the chaos on the lawn. Bullets flew from his weapon, laying down a veil of lead and explosive pellets.

Howling like a Civil War Rebel, he hurled smoke bombs, grenades. One last blast from his weapon and he heard it click on an empty magazine. Grabbing up Krall’s and Bennett’s guns, he ran full speed down the stairs and slid down the bannister the last few feet.

Behind him, he heard the blasts on the ballroom door as the soldiers finally entered the palace. More screams, howls and curses followed. Wil trotted leisurely to the front door, checking Krall’s weapon, satisfied it had a full clip. He sauntered to the door and froze. Not dogs this time or soldiers, but a very beautiful, dark haired woman in a filmy, white nightgown was pointing a very lethal looking weapon at his balls.

“Who are you?” She demanded as all hell broke loose behind him.

It was only a matter of moments before the soldiers made their way into the main palace.

“Who are you?” He repeated, hoping to distract her. It didn’t work.

“Why are you here? Have you come for Aurialonus?”

His silence confirmed this.

“Thank God!” She put the safety back on the weapon and lowered it.
“Come this way, quickly!”

Wil trotted after her. “Who are you?”

“Princess Rashima,” she said over her shoulder as she ran. “I was to be tonight’s prize, but he could not manage it.” She took the gun, holding it in one hand, letting the tip drop limply. Wil chuckled.

“It might have been the drug I put in his tea.” She shrugged. “Hurry, while he still sleeps.”

“But we got him already,” Wil remarked.

She raised an eyebrow, glancing over her shoulder.

“You got his double, which you would have discovered as soon as you began to interrogate him. Then it would have been too late. Come.” She gestured urgently.

A Little White Lie – Part 19

The royal family has been rescued, so half the job is done. Now, Wil needs to find the raving lunatic, Aurialonous. Leaving the others to convey the king and his family to safety, they go in search of the dictator.

At the kitchen on the ground floor, they found the people Wil and Emory had gassed earlier. A cook, maid and butler sat at the table, out cold. Two guards had collapsed by the door. They left the servants tied up and gagged, but killed the guards.

A narrow stone stairway spiraled downward. It led to the servant’s quarters and wine cellar. Chances were good if there were a bolt hole for the King, it would be down here. It was the most defensible place in the palace.

Switching to infrared, Wil surveyed the cellar walls with care. They were thick, solidly built, probably part of the original structure dating back several hundred years. Cursing silently, he accessed the map once more and headed for the wine cellar first. It was to their right, down a damp, sloping tunnel, smelling of niter and mildew.

A systematic check of the area didn’t disclose any hidden mechanisms. Even the racks of wine bottles were built into the walls, hewn from the stone face of the bedrock. Wil examined it all with his cybereye, looking for the hint of a seam. The wine cellar was a dead end. Frustrated, they retraced their steps.

A long, dark hall continued in front of them, doors on either side, servants quarters. Wil switched again to infrared, stopping and scanning each room as they went down the hall. All of them there were empty.

Three doors from the end of the hall, Wil hesitated. He couldn’t see anything through the door, meaning it was shielded. This door was securely set in the wall and bolted inside. Wil figured a little plastique would do the trick to open it. He wasn’t an expert like Krall, but he could make something crudely effective. He set the charges and they took safe positions down the hall from the door, blowing it with a remote.

The explosives made a muffled thump, the door flying inward in pieces. Nothing happened. Moving quickly and silently, they cautiously picked their way into the room. Two men lay dead, killed by the impact of the door. Neither was Aurialonus.

On the wall behind the dead men, Wil saw the barest hint of a seam in the brick. It ran along the lines of the mortar, but little was hidden from his cybereye. He and Ben began a thorough search of the room looking for the control mechanism to open the door. Wil was ready to blow out another section of wall, but Ben had an idea.

“Could it be a voice code?”

“Hell if I know.”

“I’m guessing a password. Think about it, a command attuned to a particular voice could be risky. But a password, anyone can say and it will open right up. I mean, considering how lax the security has been so far, why not?”

Wil chuckled, he had to admit, twisted as it was, the idea was logical. A frown replaced the smile. “We’re no closer than we were then, we don’t know the password.”

“Something easy to remember. Something about the family, a pet, even the name of the city?”

“Gundesburg,” Wil spoke clearly and loudly.

Nothing happened. The names of all the royal family did nothing either. Five minutes guessing and they were out of ideas.

“Damn Aurialonus anyway!” Wil grumbled. A click sounded and a hiss of escaping air. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He and Ben took defensive positions, waiting. The door eased open and inside they saw the crumpled form of the petty dictator.

“You suppose the shock of the explosion killed him?” Wil asked.

Ben shook his head, stepping carefully toward the man seated on a hard wooden chair.

“No, he’s breathing. Sound may have stunned him.”

Wil nudged the inert form with the tip of his gun. The man stirred slightly, mumbled and slowly opened his eyes. Their guns came up and he raised his hands in surrender.

“It’s over,” Wil said harshly in the native tongue of Starflatz. “Get up.”

A Little White Lie – Part 18

The mission isn’t going exactly as Wil had hoped. He’s already lost a few men and he still hasn’t found Aurialonus. However, they have rescued the royal family and Wil got to have a cool knife fight. Things are looking up. Now, if he could simply find the wretched dictator, he’d be happy.

Wil looked around for Emory and didn’t see him. Ben didn’t appear alarmed, so he waited. Emory came back a few moments later, smiling smugly. A whispered conference with the king, who smiled and nodded, and the grin widened. He trotted up to Wil.

“Royal stables to the south. Twenty-five thoroughbred horses, all saddled by the grooms. They are still loyal to the family and as soon as I explained what we were doing, they were happy to help. The guards there are no longer a problem.”

He chuckled remembering the short, brutal battle that had taken place. Pitchforks and riding crops made formidable weapons in the right hands.

“Can all of them ride?” Wil asked hopefully.

Emory nodded, “Yes, sir. The king confirmed it.”

“Get them out of here. Ben, you’re with me. We’ve got to find Aurialonus.”

Ben’s lips snapped shut on his comments, knowing it would be pointless to interject common sense. He gestured for the others to leave.

“Contact base camp when you get off the palace grounds. They’ll meet you,” Ben told Lance.

“Good luck,” Emory said, suddenly worried. He looked as if he wanted to speak to Wil, but there was no time for him to find the right words.

Later, he promised himself, he would talk to Wil and try to explain. If there was a later. Sighing inwardly, he squared his shoulders and took point, leading the way to the stables across the gardens. The men in the garden were still out, but the gas would last only another ten to fifteen minutes. They hustled along, careful where they trod, even a gassed man would wake if someone fell on him.

Wil and Ben exchanged a look, which in Wil’s case could have meant anything. Ben’s was one of puzzlement. Aurialonus had never been the main objective, but Wil was determined. Probably his bizarre code of ethics again.

“How do you propose to find the lunatic? He could be anywhere.”

“He’s still here.”

“How do you know?”

Wil shrugged, moving his weapon to the other hand as he drew a cheroot from his shirt pocket and lit it. “Matter of pride. He’d never give up when he’s come so far. To him, the palace represents power. Even without hostages, he considers himself as King. He’ll stay.”

“What a putz.”

“Yeah, well no one said he was smart.”

They were picking their way across the ballroom; empty save for dead bodies. They had no light, but each man moved with confidence in the dark.

“Got to be a safe room somewhere, a bolt hole,” Wil wended his way toward the servants stairway at the back of the house. There was a veritable warren of these, he knew since the blue-prints of the castle were feeding through his cybereye.

A Little White Lie – Part 17

Things could have gone more smoothly for Wil and the others, but overall, this mission hasn’t been too bad. Yes, they’ve lost a few men, but they’ve found the royal family and it looks like our heroes may get them out alive.

The third man dropped his weapon, hands on his head. Lance yanked him to his knees, cutting his throat. The final fanatic grimaced at Wil, tossing his gun aside, drawing a knife, he invited Wil to fight.

It was a pointless waste of time, Wil knew it, but he loved a challenge. The man had earned a right to fight for an honorable death, and Wil adhered to an odd form of chivalry fathomable only to himself. Ben saw the look in his eye and started to round up the family members. With the help of Lance and Emory, he herded them out of the room.

Crouching in a fighting stance, the guard motioned Wil again as the lithe Marine sized up his opponent; shorter, but just as heavy, and well muscled. His confident movements showed Wil he knew what he was doing with the knife.

Standing with nonchalance before him, back straight, Wil presented an inviting target. He waited. A twitch in his cheek, a flinch of his right hand, and the soldier launched his attack on Wil, roaring like a lion.

Wil dodged the swinging knife, ducking under the other man’s guard. A sharp blow to the ribs sent his opponent reeling a few steps. Wil heard three ribs shatter. Breath coming in gasps, the guard prepared more carefully. His next attack was better planned as he took a running leap, his booted foot aiming for Wil’s midsection. Breaking stride, he dropped onto the lead foot, weaving an intricate pattern with the other; a powerful arc caught Wil behind the knee.

A lesser man would have been howling, his knee dislocated. Wil dropped and rolled sideways, using the momentum of the kick to propel him away from his attacker. Landing on both feet like a cat, he faced the soldier once more.

Lunging wildly, the guard rushed Wil, apparently deciding it was time to stop playing. Wil leaned backward, evading the whistling knife assault with ease. With a furious bellow, the man ran at Wil, attempting to tackle him.

A blow to one arm broke it, a knee to the chin shattered the jaw. Gasping and retching on his own blood, the guard fell to his knees, exposing his throat. In his good hand, he held out his knife, hilt first, asking for a quick death. He had earned it, having fought honorably. Taking the proffered knife, Wil drove it through his throat, severing the spinal cord. The lifeless body collapsed at Wil’s feet.

All the family were out now, lined up on the terrace, shivering from cold and fear, as Wil leisurely walked out the door. Ben had paired them up, an adult with each child.

One man stood alone, the king. Wil could have picked him out in any crowd, for he carried himself with pride. Despite his disheveled appearance, he looked like royalty. With a brief smile of thanks, he took his place in line giving his shoulder to his injured son.

A Little White Lie – Part 16

Things aren’t going quite as well as Wil could have hoped. Already, he’s lost some of his team. He expected casualties, but not minutes into the operation. What he doesn’t know is that his fun is just beginning.

Billy walked in the opposite direction, going carefully and cautiously. A few minutes later, they rejoined Lance, whose arm was bound in flesh colored plastic.

“You okay?” Ben asked, concern for his man and the safety of the team foremost in his mind.

Lance nodded. “Good as new.” He flexed powerful fingers.

They moved forward together, preparing to enter the ballroom from the terrace. Taking up a three point position, they examined each door. Lance stopped to check for explosives. Ben waited impatiently for him to finish.

Strangely, no explosives were on the axillary doors. Only on the main terrace door did they find crude booby traps, hastily done by amateurs. There was no alarm, another puzzler. These people sure didn’t think in
terms of security.

Movement to the west side of the terrace caught Ben’s eye and he signaled a hold. He and Wallace dropped to the ground while Lance moved into the deep shadows under the eaves, easing himself parallel to the wall. A click and flicker of light revealed Wil’s stony visage and Emory’s diminutive shadow in front of him. The other three relaxed a little.

“Ben, you’re losing it. I made all kinds of noise to let you know we were here,” he muttered.

“Aurialonus?” Ben asked.

Will shook his head. “Pay attention, ladies,” he stepped forward, taking point bedside Ben. “On three.” They counted silently as Lance eased the door open. Swinging inward, it gently tapped someone who was curled up on the floor.

Startled dark eyes in a pale, frightened face jumped open, but the little girl made no sound. Finger to his lips, Lance leaned in. His hair glowed slightly in the ambient moonlight. He did a quick recon of the room, scooped up the little girl, and deposited her on the terrace. He held up five fingers, then one. Six men in the room.

Wallace moved the girl gently to the side between two statues, motioning for her to be silent and stay put. In an uncharacteristic gesture, he took a small poncho from his fanny pack and laid it over her shivering shoulders. A tiny, cold hand touched his briefly before the child settled down with a smile.

Wil was in first, Ben right after with Lance and Emory in the rear. The guards slept with hands on their weapons. Three by the inner door to the palace, one by each of the outer doors. The others must have gone into the hall. Careless, Wil concluded and highly beneficial to his team.

Ben stumbled over a guard, falling noisily against the wall. With a yelp, the man tried to jump up, hands caught in his weapon strap. It was enough noise to alert the others, all of whom leaped up, trying to fire. One yelled for the men in the hall. Ben’s knife ended the guard’s life, but the damage was done. Wil cursed as he dropped on the floor. Ben squatted behind the dead guard. Lance ducked back out the door, aiming into the dark room. Emory had time to flatten himself behind another statue, sliding down the wall.

The corridor door burst open, the sentries rushing, guns blazing, shooting anything that moved; two of their own men. A ricochet caught Lance in his damaged left arm and another random slug buried itself in Emory’s thigh. Not serious, but annoying.

Members of the royal family had the sense to stay low, but pandemonium ruled for several seconds until the team members sorted themselves out enough to kill the guards.

Ben got two, Lance shot a third and Emory threw a knife with lethal accuracy at a fourth. Six down. Two members of the royal family clipped a guard in the knees, bringing him to the floor, where they summarily pounded him unconscious. One prince was hurt, a poorly aimed shot had caught him in the shoulder. Not a crippling or mortal wound, Wil noted automatically. He calmly shot the gunman in the head.

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.