I'm sorry for releasing this chapter so late. I just got back from holiday so I didn't have time to write. Anyways, thanks to my fans and editor, SYPHON. Just a warning to all those action lovers out there. This chapter is not an action chapter but one that builds up charater and relationships. As usual, constructive critisism is always welcome.
Recess“A victor’s biggest weakness is his complacency”
– Major Thornton
Sergeant Lane let her weep for a while. He knew that bottling things up inside never did anyone any good. He called for the Forger
and it would be arriving in about fifteen minutes. Sergeant Lane ordered Trent to get the madman whilst Cissy and Jude would wait for the Forger
in loading bay three. Trent walked to the room where the madman was and stopped just outside. He put his ear against the door and listened to see if the madman was conscious. Trent could hear the man raving about “fades” and the end of the world. Trent sighed and went in. The man was still lying on the floor, struggling to break free from his bonds. However, once he saw Trent, he started crying. Trent was a little too surprised to react.
“Mommy! Mommy! Help me!” the man wailed. “The fades are coming! Help me!”
Trent rolled his eyes. “Shut up and get up. I am not your mommy!”
This only made the man cry harder. “Don’t disown me mommy! The fades will eat me!”
Trent pulled the man roughly to his feet and turned a deaf ear to his ravings. Trent was sure he would go mad to if he continued to pay heed to the madman. Trent brought the madman to loading bay three. The Forger
was already there. Willy and Kumar were helping to bring the casualties on board. Nora was at the ramp and had some sort of can in her hand. As the casualties were brought past her, she sprayed them with a fine blue mist. Trent dragged the madman to Nora and before he could say anything, Nora sprayed the blue mist at him. The mist smelled like raw fish and Trent wrinkled his nose in disgust. Nora then proceeded to spray the madman and strangely, he shut up.
“Nanites. Makes sure you don’t bring the bacterium on board. Orders from up there. I had to spray the whole damned ship,” Nora explained.
“With that?” Trent asked incredulously, pointing at the can.
Nora laughed. “No. Of course not you bonehead! I used the big spraying machine. This can is just a portable one.”
Trent lowered his eyes, embarrassed at his lack of common sense. Nora told him that he could go to the briefing room first. She would take care of the madman. Trent took the lift up to the briefing room, welcoming the air conditioning with open arms. Sergeant Lane and the others were waiting for him. Trent took a seat and listened to the de-brief. He noticed that Sergeant Lane looked haggard and exhausted, sometimes stopping in the middle of a sentence and then, struggling to remember what he wanted to say. Nobody could blame him. Being in the CC for about three hours was no picnic. Trent did not pay much attention until he heard the words “going home”. Trent immediately sat up straight and listened intently.
“We have a survivor, albeit a mad one. Our orders are to bring him back to earth. We are going home,” Sergeant Lane announced with a smile.
The six marines in the room gave a loud cheer. They could go home. Trent was suddenly thankful that he found the madman. After they had calmed down, Sergeant Lane dismissed them. The marines had the remainder of the day to themselves and half of the next day as well. After that, they would have some light training. Sergeant Lane did not want them to lose their edge nor did he want to push them too hard. The first thing Trent did was to take a nice long shower, washing the sweat, blood and dirt off. He came out of the shower feeling new and refreshed. The next thing Trent did was go to the canteen. Trent took some food and ate. He was more thirsty than hungry and downed three bottles of isotonic drinks without even realizing it. In the end, he was feeling quite full. Trent walked to the infirmary, giving the food time to be digested.
The madman was put into proper restraints and sedated. He had a blazed look in his eyes, as if he was daydreaming. Nora was operating on all the major injuries while Timothy was checking on those in the healing tanks. Alan was up and walking, going on about how rich he was. Trent wondered why Alan just didn’t go somewhere else instead of sticking in the infirmary. Trent guessed that only those in the infirmary would listen to Alan, mainly because they were stuck there. Jake was still lying in bed and timothy went over to check on him. Five of the healing tanks were occupied and inside were Maria, Zack, Leonardo, Ronald and Pamela. They were still unconscious as the nanites did their work.
“How are Sam and Edward?” Trent asked.
“Sam’s in stable condition now. Edward still needs a bit of work but he’ll be fine. Nora’s a great doctor,” Timothy said.
“What about them?” Trent asked, pointing to the healing tanks.
“They will be out in a day or two. Just like Alan.”
“Wish Alan had stayed in the tanks a bit longer.”
“Me too,” Timothy said and chuckled to himself.
Jake asked Trent to fill him in on the mission. Trent did not like going back to those horrific memories but he did. Jake was part of the squad and he had the right to know. Anyway, Jake would surely find out what happened sooner or later. As Trent progressed through the mission, Jake’s eyes widened in anger. He cursed the Kharaa for a few minutes before getting under control again. Trent and Jake talked for a while before Trent took his leave. The foremost thing on Trent’s mind was sleep. He made his way to his cabin and passed Willy on the way. Willy opened his mouth and was about to say something. Trent glared at him and Willy hastily shut his mouth. Trent did not want to hear any of Willy’s crap, especially not now. Finally, Trent got to his bed and flopped down onto it. He let exhaustion claim him.
The gray haired man wore a suit and strode into the white house. His nametag cleared him through one the highest levels of security. The man looked liked a bureaucrat, suitcase and all. The expensive shoes and suit had been bought just two days ago. The man had black, cold eyes and a moustache. He had an average looking face, one that you would see and forget ten minutes later. That was Ace’s purpose. To be forgotten. Ace was on surveillance and recon, scouting before he made the kill. To make a hit successful, he must have correct intel. He had informants and sources within the white house but this time, he wanted to be extra sure of the information. After all, it would be a high profile kill, something to boost his reputation and ego. Ace was unarmed. Smuggling a weapon into the white house could be done but was extremely difficult. However, he did not need one today. If a crisis arose, he would use his hands, which were deadly enough, or he would improvise. The tag he was wearing was a fake and only under close scrutiny from professionals could expose it as what it truly was. Ace was quite proud of this particular forgery since it was the hardest to do.
Ace stepped through the metal detectors and let the security guards check his identification. All the time, he had his back to the cameras that were mounted on the walls. Once he was clear, he went to the lift. It took him to the second level and he got off. Ace passed a few secret service agents, committing their faces to memory, as he may need them later. A secretary was about to walk past him but he stopped her. The secretary appeared annoyed, until she saw his tag and gave him a smile.
“What can I do for you sir?” she asked.
“Next week’s schedule. Do you have it? My secretary lost it and she’s going all over the place looking for it. I don’t know where the hell she is and now I need the schedule urgently,” Ace said, adding a little impatience to his tone.
“Sure. I have an extra,” the secretary said and handed a copy over.
Ace thanked her and continued walking. She must be new
, Ace thought. A secretary who had been working in the white house long enough knew not to just hand documents over. Ace needed a better reason for the next time. He came to one of the meeting rooms and turned the doorknob to see if it was locked. It wasn’t. He stepped in and surveyed the room. He took out a listening device and planted it under the table. Ace walked out and looked around. Nobody had seen him go in or out. Ace went to different rooms, planting bugs in different places, most of the time, right under people’s noses. Sometimes it was the phone, sometimes the light. Bugs went into air conditioners, fans, drawers, projectors and in extreme cases, the wiring. Ace always had an excuse if somebody caught him. But nobody caught him. He was too good to be caught. Nobody would catch his bugs either. They were the latest and Ace had modified them a bit. Within hours, a quarter of the white house was bugged. Not a single person looked twice at the best assassin in the world. Next, Ace went round asking secretaries for schedules or information. He would use his “rank” to get all the information he needed.
The assassin walked out of the white house twenty hours later, his briefcase much heavier. He went into a shopping mall and changed his disguise in the toilet. Ace came out as a blond deliveryman carrying a cardboard box. He went to his “delivery van” and put the box in the back. There was still a lot left to do. But first, he needed some sleep. He drove to one of the many apartments he owned and got some shuteye. Four hours later, Ace woke up. Ace had some calls to make.
“Hello Ian,” Ace said, using his hand phone. All of his contacts also had hand phones. “I need some information. Something about what is happening next week.”
“Fine. Where do you want to meet?” Ian asked.
“Café Boom. Same place. At two a.m.”
“Fine. See you there. Don’t be late.”
“I am never late,” Ace said and hung up.
It was ten. Ace had four hours to do some work. He went to his study spread the documents on a desk and began reading through them. Occasionally, he would write some notes or draw an X on a map that was pinned on the wall. Ace tried not to write too much. Handwritings could be traced. Ace had three different styles of writing but it never paid to be careless. When it was one in the morning, an alarm clock went off. Ace packed all his stuff and put them back into the cardboard box and then locked it away in a safe. Then he changed his appearance again. He would be a green haired punk with a fake nose ring. Before going out, Ace checked whether the explosives were in place. If someone broke into the apartment or the police was dong a search, Ace could easily blow the house up by remote. He did the same thing with all his apartments.
Ace walked all the way to the café. It was only six kilometers away and Ace was used to it. As he walked, he took in the atmosphere and kept it in his head. The assassin was always learning and perfecting himself and his disguises. Always keeping a look out for the changing environment was a must. At one fifty, Ace stepped into the café. He chose his customary dark corner and sat down. He slouched to mask his real height and waited. As he waited, he surveyed the café, looking for anything unusual but there was none. The regulars were here and there did not seem to be anybody watching him. Five minutes later, a short man walked into the café. It was Ian.
Ian spotted Ace and went to sit opposite him. As usual, Ian couldn’t see Ace’s face as it was in the shadows but he could make out a nose ring. Another of Ace’s disguises, one for everyday of the week. Ian slid a file across the table and Ace took it. He skimmed through and nodded in satisfaction. Ian gave a polite cough and Ace looked up.
“Yes?” Ace said.
“Getting this piece had some risks.”
“I know. Ten good enough for you?”
“That would do very nicely,” Ian replied.
Ace took out his palm top and proceeded to transfer the money. Ian left the café first and went back to his home. Ace left five minutes later, making sure nobody was following him and went back to his apartment. He took out the cardboard box and went down to his car, which was parked next to the “delivery van”. Ace drove the car to one of his secluded bungalow houses and unloaded everything into the house. The bungalow house he was at was one of the five storage houses he owned. All the important files were kept in the five houses and each of the houses had state-of-the-art security systems. Ace went to the basement and went through a series of biometric scans to go in. In the basement were hundreds of files and surveillance equipment. He put the files on his desk and went to the surveillance equipment. Ace picked up the earphones on his desk and put them on. Instantly, he could hear every sound in the white house. Ace rotated through the bugs, hearing what each one picked up. Since it was three in the morning, there was not much conversation. Ace then began to listen to recordings of what happened during the previous day.
It was six in the morning before he stopped. Ace was not very tired as he had gone through **** that was a lot worse than just listening. The jungles of Vietnam were one example. Two days without sleep and tracking down the elusive Weasel. Ace smiled at those times. The Weasel, his number one nemesis, or rather his ex-number one nemesis. The Weasel had escaped in Vietnam but Ace caught up with him in Switzerland. That was all in the past and Ace’s job was in the present. He went to get some sleep. When Ace slept…
Trent woke with a start. The dream had come back again. He strained his mind to remember what it was but again, it slipped away. However, the feelings remained. The feelings of pain, anguish and anger. Those too, began to fade. Trent got up and changed into his Frontiersmen uniform. Trent checked the time and saw that it was seven in the morning. Jesus, I’ve been sleeping the whole day!
Trent thought in surprise. He walked to the canteen to get something to drink. Kumar was mopping the floor in the canteen and he gave a friendly wave to Trent. Trent waved back and took a drink. Nobody else was in the canteen and it was quite quiet.
“Trent, I’m sorry about the squad,” Kumar said.
“You don’t have to be sorry. It’s not your fault anyway. It’s the **** Kharaa. Blame them.”
“How is Sam? I didn’t have the time to check on him. Willy gave me a lot of work.”
“Sam is going to be fine. The casualties are going to be fine. Nora and Timothy to a fine job.”
“I know. They healed a cut on my little finger. I got to mop the floor now. Or Willy will go crazy.”
Trent laughed and finished his drink. He went to the infirmary to see if Sam was all right. When he got there, he was quite surprised. The infirmary was full of people. Maria, Leonardo, Ronald, Pamela and Zack were out of their healing tanks and lying on beds. Sam and Edward were also on beds but they had bandages on them. Jake could walk already but he stayed in the infirmary to give the patients some company. Alan was nowhere to be seen and that was a good thing. John, Jude, Lewis, Nicholas, Cissy and even Sergeant Lane were also there. The madman was strapped down onto a bed but he was no longer shouting and raving. Instead, he was humming tunes to himself.
The infirmary was quite packed and it was filled chatter. Nora and Timothy were moving around and checking on their patients. Cissy was sitting next to Sam and Trent walked over to them. He found himself a chair and pulled it up beside Sam.
“Hey Sam! Glad to see you’re up,” Trent said with smile.
“Yeah. Me too. Is it true we are going back to earth? Cissy told me but I think she’s lying.”
“She’s not pulling your leg. We are going home.”
“See?” Cissy said. “I wouldn’t lie to my hero.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Will you stop calling me that? I would have done the same for anyone. That ‘my hero stuff’ makes me sound like I’m your boyfriend or something!’
“Okay then,” Cissy agreed. “But still, thank you again.”
“So Sam, still think that the Kharaa are misunderstood? They split your stomach because it was a form of greeting?” Trent asked sarcastically.
“I still think they are misunderstood. They are not what we imagined them to be. They are worse!” Sam joked.
Cissy and Trent laughed at that. They continued to talk all the way to lunch and then, Nora proceeded to shoo the entire squad out of the infirmary. They proceeded to have lunch and after that, light training. Sergeant Lane ordered them to the shooting range and made them practice. The marine’s shooting was good but it needed to be a lot better. Trent used different weapons and was at the shooting range for an hour before Sergeant Lane ordered them to stop. They then proceeded to the track where they ran a few rounds as warm up. This was followed by a series of hand and leg exercises that made them sweat but wasn’t exhausting. Two hours later, Sergeant Lane dismissed them. They would come back to the track at eight, after they had eaten dinner.
That was the routine for the next week. Shooting and physical training. Sometimes, Sergeant Lane would throw in a session for the tactics they would use. Within days, those that were in the healing tanks could join in the training. Edward, Sam and Jake could only join in the shooting, as they were not yet ready for the physical training. Sam seemed to be a different person after he got hit. Not that he changed for the worse. Instead, he became more open and lively, socializing more with everyone. Sam even got Willy to stop yelling at him. Everyone asked him what he said to Willy but Sam wouldn’t tell. Trent had told his family that he was coming back to earth and they were all very excited. They had told him that news of the survivor was all over the news and it might be the Frontiersmen’s big break.
Cissy was always following Sam around. She felt like she owed Sam a debt of gratitude. Sam would say that when they got back to earth, all she needed to do was buy him a beer. Then it would be even. Soon, they realized they had a lot in common. They both liked to read, jog and both of them also loved oriental food.
Back on earth, the press was waiting. The Frontiersmen had to cordon off the spaceport at which the Forger
was going to land. The press smelled a huge story and was camped outside the spaceport, cameras waiting. The Frontiersmen had armoured cars for the marines on the Forger
. The cars would bring them to the Frontiersmen headquarters. The marines would be interviewed there and the madman would have treatment. The roads the Frontiersmen were using had to be blockaded against the hordes of reporters and crazy Kharaa fanatics. Especially crazy Kharaa fanatics. Even after the shocking statistics, those idiots still believed the Kharaa were still trying to establish contact with humans but the Frontiersmen never gave them the chance.
There were also the insane religious fanatics. They believed that the Kharaa were the “deliverers”, much similar to Jesus. When Trent first heard this, he laughed his **** off. On the twenty-first October, two weeks and three days since it left, the Forger
came back to earth. The marines were eagerly waiting to get off. Their families were waiting there for them. When the ramp opened, the marines proudly stepped down the ramp. However, it all went out of them when they saw the families of the fallen. The families looked hopefully at the marines, trying to spot a brother, sister, son or daughter. When they saw the face they knew so well, they would rush up and hug the marine. If they didn’t see the marine they were looking for, they would look puzzled and instantly look at Sergeant Lane.
Sergeant Lane would then go round to the families and break the news to them. It was a depressing sight. Families would break down and everyone would start crying. Trent did not feel that he should be overjoyed whilst others were mourning. One father could not take it and kept asking Sergeant Lane where his son was. Soon, the marines and their families were ushered into the armoured cars. The families that had lost were taken to another area where they would go through some financial details. The armoured cars made their way to the Frontiersmen headquarters. Cameramen and photographers lined the barricades and hurriedly took their pictures and films. It made Trent feel like a movie star.
The cars made their way without much incident until they almost arrived at the headquarters. A man in a checkered T-shirt threw eggs at the cars. He then stripped off his shirt and the words “E.T. Killers!” were tattooed on his chest. Trent could not suppress his laughter as the scene struck him as hilarious. Guards quickly pushed the man onto the ground and arrested him. The cars passed before Trent could see what happened to the man. Finally, they came to a road that went underground. A barrier blocked it and once the motorcade arrived, the barrier was lifted. The cars went down the road for ten minutes and they came to a huge brightly lit car park. The marines were separated from their families and told that they could see each other again in around six hours.
The marines got into lifts and went down to B-14. It was quite a weird experience for Trent. The lift went down instead of up and it was quite fast. It felt like the drop of a roller coaster. When the lift doors opened, they came to a very clean looking area. Trent could almost see his reflection on the floor and the whole place smelled of air freshener.
“Nice place,” Trent observed.
“Yeah,” said Sam. “Did you see the guy who threw eggs?”
Trent nodded. “He reminded me of you before we joined the Frontiersmen.”
“Very funny,” Sam said and gave Trent a light punch on the shoulder. “Then did you see the woman dressed as an onos? That was hilarious.”
“How can a woman dress up as an onos? She would have to get on all fours and be god damned fat!”
“That’s what that woman did!”
This got both of them laughing. They didn’t realize how loud they were laughing until they saw the whole squad staring at them. Then, they clamped their hands over their mouths and tried to shut up. The marines walked down some corridors and passed a few interesting rooms. They could look through the glass and see what was happening in the rooms. Scientists were working hard on computers and holograms. Trent could see some scientists design huge spaceships and one was even testing out a flamethrower that was used in world war two. It was a treat for Trent as he always wondered what happened in the scientists’ lab. The marines went to the left, then to the right and back to the left again. They came to a corridor with forty doors. A woman wearing a long white coat received them.
“Welcome! My name is Dr. Lazer. Me and my colleagues are here to question you on the survivor. We will ask questions like what condition was he in, stuff like that. Now er… who is Ronald?”
Ronald raised his hand and Dr. Lazer directed him to a room. Everyone was directed to an individual room. Trent got stuck with a balding, fat man and somehow, Trent immediately didn’t like him. The man seemed to have this condescending attitude where he thought he was smarter than Trent. It was probably true but Trent didn’t like him all the same. Thus began five and a half hours of questioning.
Trent was back home. He was sitting with his family eating dinner. They were extremely glad to have him back in the house and Elizabeth had cooked all of his favourite dishes. Walter had cancelled a meeting just to be back home with Trent.
“Glad you’re home safe and sound,” Kent said.
“Me too,” Trent replied.
“Let’s not talk about the TSA or anything like hat. I hear enough of it on the news,” Elizabeth said.
Trent nodded in agreement. He wanted to forget about his work for the moment. “I heard the government is raising taxes again. Is it true?”
“Sure as hell it’s true. They keep on taking taxes but I don’t see them doing anything with the money. I bet it goes into their pocket,” Walter complained.
“I’m sure they do something with the money. We got a just a fair government,” Kent countered.
Walter choked on the glass of water he was drinking. They continued talking about politics and taxes all throughout dinner. They were basically talking Greek to Trent. Elizabeth served a hot dish of apple pie for desert and then, the topic changed. Kent started talking about Walter’s new girlfriend.
“Walter, tell Trent about your new girlfriend,” Kent had suddenly said.
“What’s there to talk about? You all heard it.”
“But Trent hasn’t. You want to hear, don’t you Trent,” Elizabeth said.
“Sure I do!” Trent said. “What’s she like?”
“She’s an economist. Doing pretty well in her field. Her name’s Dona. Great personality and a very giving person. That’s about it really,” Walter said.
“Any pictures for me? How does she look? She’s not fat is she?” Trent teased.
“No! Of course not!” Walter said in mock outrage. “She’s more beautiful than all the supermodels in the world.”
“Beautiful to you could mean King Kong,” Trent said.
The teasing continued until desert was finished. The family went to bed quite early. Walter had to fly off the next day whilst Kent had to open his flower shop early next morning. Trent was just deadbeat and went up to his room. It was quite unchanged and the only difference was that it was a bit cleaner than before. The bedroom brought back many memories of joy and pain. Trent went round the room, looking at all his stuff as if it was new. His computer games were stacked neatly on the shelf. Trent picked up his favourite one, Half-Life 4, and looked over the box. At one point of time, he was quite hooked onto it. Trent opened his drawer and noted with satisfaction that the magazines were there. He looked at the very bottom of the pile and saw his favourite magazines. Good thing his mother didn’t see them or he’d be in trouble. After “touring” his room, he went to sleep.
Trent woke up at six the next morning. However, he didn’t feel like he got a lot of sleep. Trent had been dreaming again. It was the same recurring dream he had for the past week but he just couldn’t remember what it was about. Only the feelings lingered behind but they made no sense anyway. Trent made a point to see a psychiatrist. He was sure his missions brought about these dreams. Besides, not being able to recall a recurring dream was very weird.
Trent got into his Frontiersmen uniform. He was to report to the Frontiersmen training facility by eight. They were going to meet at the track. Sergeant Lane had to keep the training up. Trent went down for breakfast. Walter was already gone, on his flight to a meeting. Kent was stuffing cornflakes down his throat, a sign of a very late man. Elizabeth was taking things slow and easy. She asked if Trent would like an omelette and Trent nodded his head. The omelette was absolutely delicious although Trent wished that he could have a chocolate bar. Trent loved chocolate better than anything else. However, eating it in the morning just didn’t fit. Once he finished his omelette, Trent took the bus to the training facility.
The bus ride was crowded as usual. It was filled with people in business suits and other people going to work. Trent was the only one wearing a Frontiersman uniform. He got quite a few stares, some hostile, some approvingly. When Trent got off the bus, a woman suddenly called him a “****” for killing Kharaa. Trent was about to shout back but the bus had already driven off. It was seven thirty when Tent stepped into the training facility. There were quite a few sweaty marines walking around. Trent spotted Joe giving a bunch of new marines a tour of the place. Trent wanted to wave at Joe but he decided that Joe probably wouldn’t recognize him anyway. However, when Joe walked past Trent, he gave a friendly wave, momentarily stunning Trent with surprise. Trent walked to the track and saw that Sam, Zack, John, Jake and Ronald were already there.
“Hey guys! What’s up?” greeted Trent.
“Nothing man. Just chilling,” Zack said, trying to sound like a punk.
“That doesn’t even sound punk!” John commented.
“So? How was your day?” Sam asked Trent.
“Great. Had a little family time. Ate dinner with the family. You know,” Trent said. “And did you go home? You only have one family you know.”
Sam shifted his weight uncomfortably. “Well… I kinda went back home.”
“What does that mean?” Trent asked, one of his eyebrows raised.
“I sent them a postcard,” Sam said sheepishly.
“What the hell? You sent them a postcard? They’re your family for Christ’s sake! You only get one! Go home and visit them. It would make them a lot happier,” Trent said.
Sam suddenly looked angry. “What do you know? You have a nice family! You don’t have any damned family problems. You think I like it this way? It’s just so hard. I appreciate what you have done for me Trent but next time, stop giving me advice about my family problems!”
Trent was taken aback by Sam’s sudden outburst. The rest had stopped talking and were now staring at them. There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence before Trent apologized. There were a few more seconds of uncomfortable silence before Sam apologized. Conversation started up again but it was now more wary, cautious. Marines slowly trickled in for the next half an hour and at exactly eight, Sergeant Lane arrived. He did a head count and realized that they were one short. The missing person was quickly identified. It was Pamela. Sergeant Lane was just about to call her when she came running in. Even though she was only two minutes late, Sergeant Lane was still pretty mad. He made her run a few extra rounds and do a few extra push-ups.
After the track, they went to the shooting range. Trent was surprised to see that the shooting range had been upgraded. Instead of stationary targets, they were now shooting at moving skulks. They jumped all over the place, hung onto ceilings and walked on walls. It really helped the marines as it emulated the real-life scenario. Of course, now the marines were not doing as well as they did before. They missed seventy-five percent of the time, except Sam of course. They kept firing till lunch. At the canteen, they talked about the new shooting range and how much they needed to improve. Once lunch was finished, Sergeant Lane told them to proceed to the lecture hall. Most of the marines groaned in mock agony. They thought that the lectures were already over for them but that was not the case. New things were being discovered about the Kharaa everyday.
The marines went back to the familiar lecture hall and took their seats. Cissy sat next to Sam and they were talking about the Kharaa. Somehow, Sam had gotten Cissy interested in how the Kharaa functioned. Trent never would have thought that was possible but Sam somehow managed to do it.
“I am not very sure about how xenocide works,” Cissy told Sam. “Can you go over it one more time?”
“Xenocide is where a skulk would focus all its energy within itself and explode. It’s similar to the kamikaze pilots the Japanese used during world war two. Once they explode, bone fragments would be turned into miniature missiles. That’s the basic explanation of xenocide,” Sam explained.
“Do you know how long we are staying here?” Cissy asked.
“About a week. Probably less. We have to continue defending our bases in the Adrian Arm.”
“Oh. Then do you want to go out for a drink tonight? I still owe you a beer. We are probably moving out soon anyway,” Cissy said. “Unless you are not free.”
“I’m free. Sure.”
Cissy was about to say something but Dr. Strom came in. Sam’s attention immediately focused on the lecture. The lecture went on for about three hours. Some new information was covered and Dr. Strom also informed them that a flamethrower was currently in production. The marines wondered when they would have the new toy. As soon as the lecture was finished, the marines quickly went to simulations. Sam stayed behind for a few moments, discussing some theories with Dr. Strom and then, quickly rushed off to rejoin his squad.
“Hope we get the flamethrower. Wouldn’t mind having it,” Leonard commented.
“I just hope it makes our job easier. That’s all” Trent said.
“If the flamethrower comes out, we all got to bring some sausages and chicken wings for the barbecue,” Zack joked. Everyone gave a chuckle at that thought.
Sergeant Lane was already waiting for them. Chatter was cut to a bare minimum as the marines suited up. The current scenario was that they were fighting cloaked Kharaa. It didn’t go well at all. The whole squad ended up dead except for Nicholas. The remainder of the day was spent going through the scenario again and again. When the day ended, the marines gave a sigh of relief. Sergeant Lane ordered them to be back the next day and not to be late. The marines hit the showers and changed to civilian clothes. Trent, like most of the marines, went back to his family. He didn’t know whether he would make it back after the next mission. He had to treasure his family while he can. War had taught him that.
Sam and Cissy went to a bar. Cissy finally got that beer she owed Sam. They chatted about their lives. As the night passed, Sam gradually opened up. He told Cissy about his problems, especially about his family, and she told him about her problems. Sam found out that she was abused by her parents and had ran away from home. Both of them went off, understanding each other a little better.
Ace had been doing his surveillance for a week now. Everything was planned and ready. All factors had been taken into account, even the weather. Ace had checked and double-checked the details of everything. And once that was done, he rechecked the whole thing again. It was one in the afternoon, one hour before the kill. Ace had his weapon hidden and vehicle ready. The disguise was also in place. Ace would be the hurried businessman. Ace currently had deep blue eyes, brown hair with center parting, chubby cheeks and a fat body. The everyday businessman who never got to exercise. For his outfit, he chose an expensive suit, matching black shoes, an inconspicuous red tie and a Rolex watch. Ace carried a briefcase, in it the weapon.
The president would be in his limousine. He would definitely be leaning out of the window and waving, trying to gain support for the election. The limousine would travel from fifty-first all the way to the Washington hall. On the way, the limousine would pass by a clock tower. Ace would be in the clock tower and waiting to make the shot. The assassin had spread false rumours that he was somewhere in Asia on a contract. Hopefully, the security might be slightly relaxed but that was just hope.
Ace drove his car to a parking lot three blocks away from the clock tower. Security was already in place but that was not a problem. Ace had it all planned out. He already knew the guard rotations by heart. He looked at his watch and was satisfied to see that it was one forty, twenty minutes to go. The guard rotated every two hours and the next rotation was in ten minutes. Ace patiently waited in his car for eight minutes and then, got out. He walked to the clock tower and was there just in time to see the guard change. The new guard patrolled the area outside the clock tower, to make sure nobody like Ace got inside and took a shot at the president. Human traffic was nonexistent around Ace, as most people had gone through another more convenient way. Ace started to jog towards the guard, looking visibly flustered. Ace kept on glancing at his watch and his surroundings, giving the impression of a man who was late and was not sure where he was. He bumped into the guard purposely but made it look like an accident.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” Ace said in mock apology. “Hold on. You know this place right? Can you give me directions to Times New Roman Road?”
“There is no-,” the guard began but he never finished his sentence.
Ace gave a well-aimed chop to the guard’s neck and immediately covered the guard’s mouth with his hand. Ace could feel the guard exhale against his hand. The assassin did not waste any time and broke the guard’s neck with one brutal twist of his arm. He looked around to see if there was anyone but the coast as clear. Ace dragged the dead guard into the clock tower and locked the door behind him. He glanced at his watch and saw that he had nine minutes left. Just right. He began to climb the stairs of the six-story tower. The assassin’s legs made short work of the climb and he made it to the top within a minute. At the top, the assassin opened the briefcase and put on a pair of gloves before he began to assemble the sniper rifle.
The rifle was using armour-piercing bullets even though it was not necessary. However, it as better to be safe than sorry. The scope Ace was using had a hundred time zoom capability and could even be switched to infrared view. The clock tower was very old and still used the old clockwork gears. It still had the two arms of time and the round clock face. The clock face was made of reinforced glass that was tinted. Ace could survey what was happening outside but remain unseen. As Ace screwed on the silencer, he looked at his watch. It showed the same time as the clock tower and that was imperative if Ace should make his escape. With one minute to go, Ace lay down with his sniper rifle in front of him. He looked through the scope and waited.
With thirty seconds to go, the motorcade arrived. Ace could spot the president’s limousine and aimed. The president was leaning out of the bulletproof window and waving to his crowd of supporters. Why have bulletproof windows if you are not going to use it?
Ace thought. Ace started counting down the five seconds to two o’clock. The rifle’s crosshair was on the president’s smiling face. Five Four Three Two One
There were two sounds slightly louder than hammer dropping. At the same time, two things happened at once. One of them was that the president’s head exploded into a red mess and his body fell back into the limousine. The second thing that happened was that the clock tower’s bell rang twice, masking the rifle’s retorts. Ace observed total chaos below him. People were screaming as secret service agents rushed to the president’s limousine. The chaos was perfect for Ace to slip away unnoticed. The only thing Ace didn’t expect was the hole his two shots made. It was slightly bigger than he would have liked but it was of no consequence. Once the forensics team got to the clock tower, he would be long gone.
Ace quickly dismantled his sniper rifle and put it back into his briefcase. Next, he took a card from his pocket and placed it on the floor. After doing so, he pulled the gloves off and shoved them into his pocket. Ace quickly made his way back to his car. He dumped the briefcase in the trunk and started up the car. He drove out of the area before the cops could notice his car.
Three hours later, the forensics team climbed the clock tower. They cursed the government for not putting a lift in the damned building. When they got to the top, they gasped. The area was cordoned off with yellow tape. In the middle of the cordoned area was a card, lying facedown. One of the forensics scientists put on his gloves and flipped the card over, already knowing what he would see. It was the ace of spades. The assassin’s signature. The forensic scientists worked for a few months on the case but nothing turned up. They didn’t expect anything to anyway.
The sunlight faded and the lamps lit up to take its place. Traffic increased slightly as more people drove home for dinner. Sam stood on the sidewalk absorbing it all. It had been a long time since Sam had been in the neighbourhood but that did not mean that he was not recognized. Mrs. Hallshaw, an ex-neighbour, had said “hello” and someone else whose name he could not remember had slapped him on the back and greeted him warmly. It had been a long time.
Across the street from Sam was a house with a garden. It was his home. Sam was still undecided on whether to go in or not. He really wanted to go in and embrace his family again but he also dreaded the argument that would most likely ensue. Sam was too busy debating with himself to notice a familiar Lexus drive down the street. The Lexus turned Sam’s house and a man got out. The man was balding and fat but from one look you could tell his mind was as sharp as ever. Sam still didn’t notice the man when he walked towards Sam.
“Hi son,” his father said.
Ten minutes later, Sam was back home. He was sitting in the living room with a glass of water in his hand. His mother, a corporate executive, was not yet home. The rooms were almost the same as before, with one difference. It was colder. Not in a physical sense but in a homely sense. Pictures of his childhood that used to be so proudly displayed on the shelves and tables were now gone. The rooms now only had meaningless expensive furniture that somehow seemed to distance Sam further away from his home. Only the garden still preserved its warmth. Sam could see that his parents have been working on the garden. Not a single weed could be spotted, the grass was mowed into a soft green rug and the flowers grew splendidly. It was an hour later when his mother came home. She saw father and son sitting down, facing each other and just drinking water. It was a few seconds before she ventured a “hi”.
Sam returned the greeting. He wanted to go and hug her and he also did not. Happy experiences clashed with the unpleasant ones. It was a strange sensation. Sam tried to recall their names from the recesses of his memory. A “Serene” and “Michael” finally floated into his mind after a few seconds. Serene sat down next to Michael. Sam just looked at them and they looked at him. Finally, Michael switched the television on with the remote control. It was the news and a female news presenter was going on about the falling oil prices. Suddenly, she touched her earpiece and her eyes widened in surprise.
“This has just come in. A shocking incident has occurred near Washington hall. When the president’s motorcade was on its way to Washington hall, a shooter fired on the president’s limousine. The president was hit twice in the head and died instantaneously.”
Here, the woman stopped, stared into the camera and let the message sink into the American people.
“The incident occurred at two o’clock in the afternoon. We have reporter Mary Clark on the scene.”
The image on the television changed. The scene was crowded with police, secret service agents, reporters and normal everyday citizens. Mary Clark stood next to a lamp with the street as the background. Even though the area was very crowded and busy, nobody came close to the camera and reporter.
“We are here live from Able Street, near the Washington hall and at the scene of the president’s assassination. We have been kept here until now for security reasons. The police has cordoned off the area and put barricades. They are attempting to trap the assassin in this area although they have yet to come up with suspects. Nobody is sure where the assassin hid when he took the shot but we are sure that he used a high-powered sniper rifle and armour piercing bullets. The police and the secret service are not available to give details. Most of the president’s supporters are still in shock over the assassination. The first lady was immediately driven to a secure location, following the assassination. We got a glimpse of her as she was being driven away and she appeared to be in a deep state of shock. We currently do not have any more specifics at the moment. Back to you Clarice.”
Michael switched the television off. They were all slowly digesting the information. Sam was the first to break the silence when he said “Oh my god!” His parents just nodded their heads. Sam got up and went to the toilet. When he came out, he saw his parents talking but once they saw him, they kept quiet.
“What were you talking about?” Sam asked.
“Nothing,” Serene replied a little too quickly.
They continued to drink water. Sam wanted to say something but he didn’t know what. There was a huge gaping hole in his family and he was not sure how to close it. Sam noticed his postcard on the table with some embarrassment.
“Did you like my postcard?” Sam asked sheepishly.
“Yes,” Serene replied.
“So how are you?”
“Fine,” Michael said and Serene said the same thing.
Sam could see this was getting nowhere and he was getting a bit frustrated but he was not giving up now. “Do you want to go out for dinner? I know this nice restaurant.”
“No,” both parents replied
Sam sighed. “So what do you want to do?”
Michael looked at Serene. A look was exchanged between the both of them and Serene nodded. “Son, have you considered quitting the Frontiersmen? We have seen the statistics and we worry about you. Can you consider it? You are a very talented person Sam and it would be a … slip of opportunity being in the Frontiersmen. I hear there is a job vacancy for a bacterial researcher in SempCorps.”
“I am set on what I want to do,” Sam replied firmly. He was keeping himself in check. He did not want this to end up like the other times.
“I know you are a very determined person. You are fighting for a good cause. But think about what you are missing. Is being out there better than being back here on earth?” Michael asked.
“I know what I am doing father.”
“Son, your qualifications allow you to rise higher than most people! Think about what you are letting go. Please, consider it. I’m not forcing you or anything. It’s your life and you live the way you want. I am just giving advice for my son. Advice that will benefit my son.”
“Sam, listen to your father,” Serene said.
“I know what I have to do. The Frontiersmen is where I feel at home. I have friends there that understand me, who give me the support I need. I can call it my ho… second home. It is dangerous, I know but the satisfaction is there.”
Michael shook his head. “I do not believe it. When you were a kid, you always wanted to go into research. What happened?””
“I still want to do research,” Sam said. He watched his parent’s reactions. They were both smiling now, glad that their son had come to his senses.
“But not the research you want me to do,” Sam continued. “I’m going into military research. After the war is over.”
Now there was a mixed reaction. His mother seemed content enough that Sam was going to research. She didn’t really care which one he went into. His father, on the other hand, was frowning again. Michael wanted Sam to get out of the Frontiersmen sooner and he had also wanted Sam to go into bacterial research or something with a more promising future. Military research was not one of the “high end” jobs. Michael attempted to dissuade Sam but Sam was firm. In the end, Michael had to settle for the deal. However, Michael still had hope that he might turn Sam. Sam was quite satisfied with himself. Nobody had shouted and they were still sitting in one room. It was going very well indeed. They talked a bit more now about everyday affairs. Sam could feel himself opening up a little more.
Serene and Michael decided that they should go out for dinner. They brought Sam to a really expensive and luxurious place. It served the most wonderful steak and they immensely enjoyed their dinner. They didn’t really say much to each other over dinner but at least it was a step forward. When dinner was finished, Michael footed the bill. He let Sam look at the receipt. Sam almost gasped in surprise at the cost. Michael dropped a subtle hint that if he went into bacterial research, eating at expensive restaurants would be quite the norm. Sam pretended he didn’t hear that point. Sam needed to get back to the training facility and said “goodbye” to his parents. Michael even offered Sam a handshake and Sam took it. A handshake was better than a scream telling him to “go to the blazes!”
Marcus was too busy the whole day to be bothered with the news. More funding had been cut form the Frontiersmen and the Admiral had given him quite an earful. Reports, files and summaries were piled on his desk. He didn’t even have time for lunch or dinner and he had to plow through the day on an empty stomach. However, the work took his mind off the food. It was only by one in the morning did Marcus finish his work. He packed everything he needed in his briefcase and drove home in his BMW. Just his luck that both his chauffeurs were sick and he had forgotten to get a temporary one because he was too busy with the immense workload. On the way home, he stopped by a twenty-four hour fast food restaurant. Marcus ordered a hotdog and wolfed it down. There was a television in the restaurant and it was running news about an assassination. Marcus dismissed it as unimportant.
He got back into his car and turned on the radio. The WBC was the most reliable news station and Marcus listened as he started the car. Marcus almost backed his car into a lamppost when he heard the news report. He switched stations, checking the news, just wanting to make sure. They were all reporting the same thing. The assassination of the American president. The first thing that came to Marcus’ mind was Dan. Now just wait a minute, Marcus[/i ]thought. It might not be Dan. Think the situation over. Marcus spent the rest of the trip home bringing up theories and eliminating them. In the end, he always came back to the same damned person. When Marcus reached his house, his wife noticed something was wrong with him the moment he stepped into the door.
“Hello Kathy dear,” Marcus said wearily. Both his mind and body were extremely exhausted.
“Hi dear. Rough day?” Kathy asked.
“Yeah. Philip gave quite a lot of trouble today,” Marcus replied as he placed his suitcase on a table.
Marcus took a shower and after that, got a martini. He took his drink and sat down on his expensive French sofa. Kathy massaged Marcus’ back, loosening the muscles. Marcus let out a sigh of relief. He was quite lucky to have Kathy as his wife. She was smart, committed and seemed to grow more beautiful everyday. Marcus knew Kathy hardly went to the gym and wondered how she managed to keep her slender figure. Kathy was a counselor for alcoholics and she was damn good at what she did. Marcus constantly wondered what he would do without her.
“Care to share your woes? I know something is biting you Marcus.”
“Nothing’s biting me. Just tired, that’s all.”
“It’s not just that. I can tell. What is it?”
“It’s nothing. Just some matter at work.”
“Okay then,” Kathy said resignedly. “Did you hear the news?”
Marcus nodded. “Shocking. Wonder who did it.”
They talked for a while more before Kathy said she had to retire to bed. Marcus told her he needed to finish up some work first and kissed her goodnight. When Marcus was sure she was sleeping, he called Dan using his vid-phone. Dan picked up and the screen showed a very sleepy Dan.
“Yes? Great time to call,” Dan said.
“Did you do it?” Marcus asked, cutting right to the crap.
Dam immediately straightened up. His eyes became clear and alert. It was only because Dan was unprepared did his reaction slip through.
“Do what?” Dan said, feigning ignorance but it was too late. Marcus saw all the signs.
“Why? Why did you do it?” Marcus shouted into the screen.
Dan did not appear to be affected by Marcus’ outburst. “Why not? Why do you care? You are not involved. You’re Clean. Stay out of it. Be safe.”
“How can I not care?” Marcus asked. “You just killed the god damned president of the united states of America! Jesus! I knew you were planning something but I didn’t know what. I never expected it to be this big. I should’ve stopped you!”
“Marcus, you listen carefully here. We have been friends for a very long time and you know me,” Dan said, his voice suddenly low and dark. “You know better than to cross me. I can have you taken out. It would hurt me deeply to do it but when it comes to business, it is all about the money.”
Marcus remained silent for a while. He knew what Dan could do and what he was willing to do. Dan was not somebody you messed with and hoped to get away. “I know Dan. And I also know you committed a crime.”
“Who hasn’t? I know you have. The senator job? Remember that one? You were in on that one.”
“Don’t you dare blackmail me!” Marcus roared. “I will take my chances. I know how to get out.”
“But will Kathy still be with you? Be with a man who had a hand in killing one of the most powerful men in Washington?” Dan asked, seeing that his comment had struck its mark.
Marcus was livid with anger. “You leave Kathy out of this!”
“Only if you learn to keep your mouth shut.”
“Fine. You win! You may think you have everything Dan but there is one thing you will never have.”
“And what may that be?” Dan asked, curious to know the answer.
“A conscience!” Marcus said.
Dan laughed at that. “Marcus, where I am, I cannot afford to have a conscience. Now let’s not let this episode sour our friendship. In time, you will learn that I did this for our benefits. It’s all about the money.”
Marcus shook his head in disbelief. Dan was a cold-hearted ****. Marcus had his share of wrongdoing but at least he repented. Dan would stay the same as always. Marcus took a sip of the martini and put the glass down. He noticed his hands were shaking. From fear or anger, he did not know.
“Marcus, with the president gone, we will have unlimited funds. I have control over the vice president. He will be the next president and when he wins the election, he will do anything I say. The frontiersmen will no longer be our problem. We can give it to the military or ask for the funds we need to keep it running! You will see that all this is for the greater good of the TSA.”
“Money talks Dan. Someone will find out.”
“You’re right. Money talks. But I am paying the most money. And now that I have the vice president, or should I say soon-to-be president under my thumb, I can control the whole of America. Nobody will dare stand up against me. I can rule the world!”
Oh my god! Marcus thought in horror. He really is corrupted by power!
From the Shadows...