Friday, June 15, 2007

Just 'cause - Chapter 21 - Das weisse Licht

When Mark came to again, his ears were ringing and his left wrist was a painful mess. The entire room was ruined, with parts of the roof collapsed; the armored structure still held, even though there was now a horrible tear in the Kevlar spall liner. He picked himself off the floor - there ought to be laws against being smacked around like this, he thought, then surveyed the situation. The doctor was unconscious, knocked against the table and sprawled all over the floor.

Rowena was awake and screaming; Mark refocused his eyes, then saw Done hanging over Rowena, shielding her from the falling debris with his body. He was still conscious and slowly righted himself - no serious injuries, just a lot of pain. He tried to say something; Mark tumbled toward him, not understanding a word. His feet were unsteady from the explosion and his prior use of painkillers, but eventually he managed to regain his equilibrium and pinched the bridge of his nose. The ringing in his ears slowly faded as Rowena's screams became louder.

"...tailed!" John Done shouted; Mark shook his head and wondered where his rifle had gone.
"Nobody behind me," he managed to stammer. A nearby chair looked inviting; Mark sat down, unholstered the Delta Elite and racked its slide. "They're here now. We have to get out."

Rowena still shouted; Mark managed to ignore his pain for a few seconds and focused his momentarily limited attention on her.

"Cut me loose!" Rowena howled; Mark nodded to Done, who undid the straps that held her to the table; she sat up, rubbed her raw wrists and resumed giving Mark attitude. "What. The. Fuck," she said with her indoor voice. "I don't fucking remember THAT bullet!"
"We'll talk later. Now..."

Done opened his jacket; without comment, Rowena grabbed her pistols and jumped off the bed, only to twist her face from pain on impact.

"Sucking chest wound," Mark said with a dirty chuckle. "God's way of saying 'Slow down'."

Somebody was digging through the rubble. Mark's left arm was good enough to sign for quiet and defensive positions. Together, the three agents formed a quick ambush; John Done took point, what with lacking any serious wounds. The security door opened with a groan, then spewed forth a Hand of Glory soldier, his flash/bang grenade still clipped to the harness.

Mistake Nr. 1.

The first shotgun shell took the poor man's jaw off clean, killing the soldier almost instantly; the soldier behind him had his hand broken when Done slammed the heavy door closed on him. Capitalizing on the surprise, he ripped it open again, snatched the incapacitated soldier as human shield and gave the third Hand minion a chestful of 00 buck. Mr. Limp-Wrist was flung back down the hallway as Done dodged back, popped the spent shells from the shotgun and pressed against the wall to reload. Mark went next; snatching the flash/bang from the fallen pointman, he used a nearby coat hook to pull out the safety pin, flung the grenade through the open door and pressed against the other side of the doorway.


Rowena spun to gain line of sight to the hallway outside and found the rest of the strike team clutching their ears inside the hallway; they hadn't taken cover aft the first counter-attack.

Mistake Nr. 2.

Her twin pistols belched fire, showering the six remaining Hand soldiers with a fusillade of armor-piercing bullets.


Strapped into his custom battle armor, Freyr stood on top of a Glory half-track, a nasty gash over his right cheek expediently stitched together with thread. Had he not worn the armor, his other unhealed wounds would have been obvious. Oberleutnant Pantoja (yes, freshly promoted) had seen Freyr's resurrection - now he wondered whether he'd get any sleep this night. The Child of Eve flexed his new prosthetic arm, the loud clacking of solenoids an audible reminder of his fate.

"Another attack, Herr Major?" Pantoja asked with barely concealed disdain; the child soldier ignored him for a moment, then climbed over to the half-track's autocannon.
"I'll take care of this."

With a nod from Pantoja, the Shocktroopers waiting at the entrance withdrew. Freyr didn't fail to notice that the men were reacting to Pantoja's orders, not his own. He shelved his urge to get back at the upstart officer for the moment, then aimed the gun at the safe house's wall and opened fire.


With another shot, Mark finished off the last shocktrooper while Rowena frantically shuffled the ammunition from one half-used magazine into the other.

"Ammo count!" he cried out.
"10!" Done shouted, his shotgun at the ready. "14!" Rowena returned. Mark weighed the Delta Elite in his hand - 5 rounds, give or take 1. "Six!" he shouted, ever the optimist.
"Where's the back door?" Rowena asked, slamming the new magazine into her left pistol.
"Do Archer safe houses have back doors?"
"Every Archer safe house has multiple exits," Rowena recited from both the Field Manual and personal experience. Done's look met a stairway in the back of the room - bingo.

"Over -"

There was no "there!", but there was a hailstorm of bullets on the way "there!". Like a power tool gone horribly wrong, the autocannon outside stencilled the wall with bullet holes. The walls were made to withstand explosives and rifles, not 20mm rounds.

"Go below!" Done shouted, even as a bullet screamed by so closely that he dropped the shotgun in reflex; without comment, Rowena threw herself onto the ground and crawled towards the stairway, keeping her head down while the wall above her traded its structural integrity for an uncanny artistic resemblance to swiss cheese. Plaster hopped off the wall en masse, raining down on Rowena like an uncomfortable metaphor.

As quickly as it had started, the barrage stopped; Mark slowly rose from his semi-crouched all-purpose "Oh Shit!" pose and grinned.

"Bring more ammo next time, assholes!" he shouted, and before John Done had the time to appreciate the irony in that statement, Rowena stopped listening to that because she'd heard something else.





She barely managed to roll out of the way when Freyr crashed through the wall, forcing his body through the (albeit weakened) armored structure in that charming bootleg Physical Adept way.


"Do we join his attack, Herr Oberleutnant?"
"Nein, keep back. We have lost too many people already. The Major is where he wants to be, and I wouldn't want to ruin his plan with my ...incompetence."


Done was the first to pounce and first to be rebuffed; Freyr gave him a kick to the midsection that threw the burly man against the peppered wall. Rowena aimed her gun from the ground, but couldn't make her shots stick. Freyr rushed her and wanted to jump on her; her only instinct was to kick out his knees, leaving him to do the Platoon move. Rowena tucked in her legs, rolled backward and fired again, but the resilient Child of Eve was already moving again; Mark came at him, flashing his gun, but Freyr rolled inside the Enforcer's defense, rammed his elbows into Mark's guts, then grabbed his collar and hauled him over his shoulders, slamming him into the ground.

Taking the heat off Mark, Rowena fired again, expending the last rounds in her gun on a closing Freyr. When the slide locked back, she spun on her heel, dodged Freyr's new arm and slammed the empty pistol against his skull. Done came up behind him, grabbed his arms and hooked them, spinning the child soldier in front of him like a shield. Mark took the hint, aimed down his pistol sights and fired five times. (Hey, whaddaya know - his first guess was right.) Freyr grinned, gave Done a taste of his elbows and knocked on his chest.

"Bulletproof," he said. Mark did what came naturally and hurled his empty pistol at him.

Freyr easily dodged, plucked Rowena's next punch out of the air with his bionic arm and hurled her to the ground. Mark backed away further until he hit the surgeon's table; his fumbling right hand found a scalpel. He didn't put up a fight when Freyr grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up; Done and Rowena were still picking themselves from the floor.

"You're Simmons? I was expecting more of a fight."
"Heh. Man, I remember my puberty...I was, like, this little scrawny kid, but I got real big and mean, real fast...that was a trip..."
"Puberty? What the devil are you talking about?"
"One thing sucked, though. Had to start shaving everywhere."

Mark had never met body armor with armpit coverage. This one was no exception.

If Mark had possessed a deeper understanding of anatomy, he might have named the Axillary artery as the source of the blood spilling from beneath Freyr's arm, but all he knew was that the skin there was soft. Freyr had to release Mark even as his system tried to kill the pain, and Mark added a headbutt to Freyr's nose as an encore; he fell to the ground and had to fight his throat for another breath, but Done wasted no time. He grabbed Freyr again, slammed him into the wall - face first - and set his foot against the child soldier's back, bending the injured arm back with both hands. Freyr howled in agony, but Done knew that this was only temporary.

Rowena knew what he wanted her to do. She fell forward and started running, picking up speed, then jumped off, her right leg locked into weapon mode. Stressed beyond even its limits, Freyr's elbow snapped.

The furious Child of Eve pushed Done off and threw a punch at Rowena. Thanks to her last second evasive maneuver, it put a dent into the ground rather than her skull. Done grabbed a nearby stretcher and smashed it over Freyr's back, but the impact showed little effect other than drawing the child soldier even deeper into his primal rage.

Mark's eyes slowly focussed again, and he spotted something black beside him.

Oh, there's the rifle.

Rowena delivered a series of kicks to Freyr's face, shattering his jaw, but she still lost ground. Done tried the stretcher-slam again, but this time Freyr caught the medical implement with his bionic arm and ripped it out of Done's hands, then slapped Rowena to the ground with it. Running out of weapons, Done spotted his previously-discarded shotgun on the ground and lunged for it, intent on teaming up with Mark in the "Firearms" department. Freyr whipped around and flipped the script on Done, hitting him in the back with the stretcher; the mercenary tumbled to the ground, closer to both the shotgun and his personal pain treshold.

"Yippie-kay-yay!" Mark shouted from his corner; Freyr turned to see Mark aiming the rifle at him.

In the history of firearms, this may have been the worst time ever for an AR-15 to jam.

Freyr howled a bit of laughter (and pain), but his enhancement package had endowed him with a superior sense of timing: two seconds had passed.

Two seconds.

Long enough for Done to recover?


Long enough for Done to get the shotgun?

Mistake Nr. 3.

"Motherfucker!" Done screamed, finishing both the quote and the fight with two barrels of 12 to a boy of 13.

Done got up from the ground and hurried over to Rowena; when he tried to pop out the spent shells, he found the gun's lock ruined from the close call with the autocannon. A chamber explosion could have taken his hand off; Done briefly thanked the God of Guns, then discarded the shottie and helped his young charge up.

"We have to..."

Freyr's mechanical hand dug into the wall, slowly drawing the mangled body upward.

"Schwester..." he moaned as he rose to his feet.

"Get out?" Mark offered; they did.

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