Saturday, March 31, 2007

Just 'cause - Chapter 13 - Mindfields

For every soldier doing guard duty, the unknown is the greatest threat: they are instructed to stay alert, to avoid falling into a rut, but complacency does not knock on your door and loudly announce its willingness to enter. Instead, it creeps up on every soldier, quicker on some and slower on others, until they start acting in patterns that require minimal physical and mental activity. Add to that the usually problematic duty rotation and the low appreciation, and most soldiers will quickly bleed effectiveness.

Suppose that you are one of said soldiers, a Hand of Glory operative manning the only street access to your mountain base at the Brazilian coast. A truck shows up at your roadblock, and you walk towards the driver, asking him for his ID and Fahrbefehl. He gladly hands both over, answering your queries in perfect German. The truck reads as a supply carrier, which checks out with your security briefing for the day. This is, in fact, the truck that was sent out three hours ago for just that purpose; you forego inspecting the cargo because, dammit, your shift is up in 5 and you haven't eaten anything decent all day. You walk back to the driver, hand him the papers and tell him that he can pass; he smiles - a small smile, impersonal but at least it's there - and makes his entry with a hasty "Schoenen Tag noch!". You wave him through, then you formally pass your duty to the relief soldier waiting for you to get a move on, secure your weapon and walk inside to have a microwave'd burrito.

You have just let Peter Krueger into your base.


Krueger did not, in fact, have any idea as to where he should be driving the truck, but that was not a significant obstacle; what little of the Hand base had been built to be level with the ground outside - if technically underground, by virteu of being built into the mountain - was designed for efficient operation, not obfuscation, and he quickly found the motor park; noting the light staffing, he parked the truck in a far corner, told the soldiers on duty that he'd be back to help them unload the cargo after he'd grabbed a bite, and walked behind the truck. Krueger had, in fact, just given them the right excuse to ease up on the unloading speed of the truck they were handling now; with his promise of help, it made sense for them to wait a few minutes instead of blindly jumping on it, not to mention the prior job was still in progress - work smart, not hard. Safely out of their sight, Krueger opened the passenger's door - and Trinity climbed out, a little shaken up after ducking down in the shotgun seat's legroom for ten minutes. She was also wearing a Hand uniform, though the fit wasn't as good as on Krueger. Then again, he was the one who'd had to make it through the inspection. Together, they hurried for the nearby cargo elevator and took it down.

"That was way too easy," Trinity said.
"We got lucky. Besides" - Krueger leaned on his accent - "zis ist meine 'hood."
"I'm glad you're working for the good guys."
"The other guys," Krueger replied; Trinity shrugged.

The elevator reached its lowest point; they were now in the underground storage facility, and among the stacks of boxes stood a logistics management soldier (read: crate-handler), who gave Krueger and Trinity a cross look; after reading their shoulder insignias to make sure they weren't officers, he came at them with an angry expression on his face.

"Was soll die Scheisse? 'Las-ten-auf-zug', oder koennt ihr nicht lesen?"
"Tut mir leid, wir hatten es eilig," Krueger said and stepped out of the elevator; he started looking around the place while the logistics guy closed in.
"Das kannst du dem Leutnant erklaeren!"

Krueger spotted what he'd looked for; he took another few steps forward, cocked his head to the side and said "Broom closet."

Before the soldier could reply, Trinity had him in a sleeper hold; after a few seconds of struggling, he slumped down, unconscious.

"Now what?" Trinity said. "We don't have anything to tie him up with."
"We are in a supply depot...drag him into the closet, I'll go looking for some rope."


With the soldier securely bound, Krueger slipped the man's epaulettes onto his own uniform for an instant promotion; Trinity decided that she might as well ask.

"So what rank was that before?"
"And now you're pretending to be..."
" that better?"

Krueger looked at her for a second, sunk into brief thought, wanted to say something, then thought better of it. He considered his answer once more, raising his finger as if to lecture her, then rethought his position, stroked his chin and finally shrugged.

"It's got three bars," he said. Trinity gave him a look, but decided not to press the issue.

"Now, where did they bring the missiles?" Krueger asked, more rhetorically than anything; Trinity pointed to another door slightly behind the elevator. It read "Schwerlastaufzug".
"I do know some German," she said.

Krueger pointed to the padlock securing the door; in response, Trinity walked over to it, concentrated for a second and then ripped it clear off.

After a moment of hesitation, Krueger said "I'm glad you're working for the good guys."


Doctor Krueger's first reaction was to stand there with his mouth agape; by sheer coincidence, that was also his second and third reaction, and given the odds, it may very well have been his fourth, fifth and sixth, if Trinity hadn't yanked him out of the doorway and behind a few conveniently positioned crates.

"Nobody said they had aircraft elevators!" he whisper-screamed; Trinity rolled her eyes.
"They're the Hand of Glory, Doctor. They think big."

In this case, Krueger's inability to focus on anything but the first ludicrously big item he'd seen was an actual boon to his mental stability, for if he had looked past said elevator - currently in the slow process of lowering an entire heavy cargo flatbed truck with one of the missiles aboard -, he might have noticed that they were standing in what was, for all intents and purposes, a WW2 era submarine pen, only built into a mountain; the underwater exit was, well, completely underwater, making the installation invisible from prying eyes - except for the tunnel entrance outside. Without the time advantage of travelling via Dr. Algernon's fringewalk, they would never have had the opportunity to follow the missile-bearing trucks and locate the base.

Speaking of which...Trinity sat down to concentrate while Krueger got a few more looks at the ludicrousness of it all and took mental notes for his yet-to-be-devised plan. A minute later, the color faded from Krueger's vision; he turned around to see Algernon crouching behind him, wearing that strange trenchcoat of his over body armor and holsters. One more convert to the Simmons School of Fashion, Krueger noted with some resentment, then turned to the recently-conscious Trinity.

"There's something down there in the water, but I can't see it from here," Krueger said. " idea would be to find a computer terminal, maybe I can do some damage from there..."

A gargantuan, ceiling-mounted crane moved towards the elevator; a baker's dozen of Hand operatives moved to a) undo the chains that held the missile to the truck and b) attach other, heavier chains for moving the missile with the crane. Algernon peeked out from behind cover and spotted a large underground vehicle storage, with three empty carrier trucks; the area was mostly unguarded, with an adjacent fuel depot - and the stairs leading up to the pen's control center.

"Let's get to it, then," Algernon said and reached beneath his coat, retrieving his 1911A1 and a Mark 1 Trench Knife. "I'll distract them."


There was, in fact, another set of intruders in the Hand of Glory base. As fate would have it, they were not interested in the Hand's activities in the least; indeed, with their rationality long gone, they simply hungered for revenge upon one man - the one man within 10 miles who could fight them.

Gray blades at the ready, they closed in on their target.

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