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The Exchange - Part 3 - Espesa
Posted By: Dispraiser<Dispraiser@netzero.com>
Date: 31 December 2003, 7:36 AM

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The Exchange


      17:30 Hours, Local Orbital Time Sunday April 3, 2540
      Stealh Ship, Lunar 4 Orbit




      Part Three - Espesa


       The lanky man was disturbed. Why had he let them creep so far? Initially, they were just a block to help him keep control of the party, but now they were rising to power. Something had just happened, and he wasn't sure what it was. Now that Adam was back he would ask what had happened, and exterminate the problem. He slid the magazine into a small Colt handgun before drifting into the next room.

       "What just happened planetside!?!" an angered man yelled, hitting a desk.

       "Sir, we exist.", a larger man replied.

       "I know. That doesn't inspire any obligation within me, though. I can't let you continue this project."

       "For several years you have watched the AE program grow, and protested its every move. You claim to support the people and humanity, but yet you would let the atrocious Spartan program continue? You need to decide your stance!"

       "I already have."

       "So have I."


       The spy ship drifted silently though the starry Lunar 4 sky, within, a lone gunshot ringing, unheard. A symbolic rebel shell casing drifted from the gun. Today, the loner would rise.



      02:30 Hours Sunday April 3, 2540
      Full House Club, Lunar 4


       I was pushed up a set of stairs and into an executive room. A lone table sat in the middle of the room; a single man to accompany it. He sat as if it were an alien environment to him. His feet rest on the table, and the wood desk had many deep, jagged cuts running its length. For a fleeting moment I believed it was ONI who had captured us, but soon recognized the truths of my entrapment. I had originally believed the room to be empty bar the man at the desk, both two figures emerged from the shadows in the corner of the room. One of the men from the corner of the room set a large, silver knife and a gold pistol on the desk. A heavy pair of feet descended firmly to the floor, a set of hands replacing them on the table, nearly instantly. Max and Maria were shoved to my side. The guards that had escorted us into the room left promptly, and closed the door silently behind them. I began to take noticed of the sheer number of metal spikes protruding from their faces. The man behind the desk cleared his throat, shattering my thoughts.

       "I have a proposition for you." His voice echoed, "But first, let me explain something to you. You are in my club. This is my world, and I decide what happens. That warning aside, I'd like to introduce myself, and my two aides. I am King. To my left is Ace, and to my right Duke. As you may have noticed, both carry HKU rifles, and will shoot you if you try to escape, kill me or anything that doesn't please me." He continued, "Now, my proposition: I have been told that you hit my strongman. Word is that he is dead. Normally, when they are killed we seek revenge, however, I am very impressed by this. I have heard that you struck him down in only one punch."

       "You have heard correctly." Maria snapped.

       "I figured it was you. I could tell. I've always been good at reading people. You stepped into this office and I saw the fire in your eyes. You on the right too, I can see passion. Instead of death, I offer you acceptance. If you want to join the Full House, each of you will become a member of the royal family."

       "And if we don't accept?" Max asked.

       "Well, think of it this way; you are in my club, surrounded by my allies. I have two of my best gunmen with rifles leveled on your heads. Weigh your choices based on that. There are four more machine gunners in the corners, and only one way out."

       "Alright, we don't accept! Kick their asses!" I yelled to Max and Maria.

       "I am the King! No one leaves alive unless I say so!"

       Max flew to the first target, leaping across the room. He grabbed the end of the HKU submachine gun and spun it to the owner's head, discharging the rifle into Duke's head. Ace spun, finally reacting to Max's arrival and fired several times. Max hurtled Duke at Ace. His body absorbed all of the gunfire. Meanwhile, Maria had jumped towards King. He began to reach for the gun on his desk, but Maria kicked the underside. The gun and knife tossed into the air, hovering for a few eternal moments. As the gun descended, Maria snatched it form the air. She spun and leveled the sight on one of the riflemen's head. She pulled the trigger once before pivoting to kill another. I stood perfectly still, terrified, as Maria fired past my head, cutting my ear, and into one of the gunmen. King grabbed the knife from his desk and stood to stab Maria. She flipped the gun backwards over her shoulder, held it to his head and smiled.

       "May we leave?" asked Maria.

       King stuttered in shock, "Go!" King shouted.

       The Spartans started to file out the door, reloading their new HKU rifles. "Wait, take him. We'll use him to get us out."

       "I believe we are more capable on our own. You are not under my command, however, therefore you can do what you wish."

       "I'll take him." I replied, "King, up. You're my hostage." I walked behind king, made sure he was unarmed, and bound his wrists with my shoelaces. I picked up an HKU rifle from the ground and pressed it against his head, "Try anything and you die." I paused, "I've been waiting to say that to something for so long! Max, kick open the door. Make us known." I yelled.

       "Got it." Max smashed the door to the ground and waved his rifle around the room. "Everyone down!" he yelled. I found it odd that everyone listened to him. They all knelt, hands on the backs of their heads, besides the riflemen. Red dots suddenly swarmed to Max.. He ducked in the door as hundreds of bullets shredded the walls around his former position. Though he lie on the ground, one bullet still clipped his leg. I watched as the wound eerily healed itself.

       "Mr. Willard, escort the king to the exit. Instruct him to order his soldiers to lower their weapons." Max ordered calmly.

       "Right.", I said. I walked to the door as the gunfire stopped. The room fell silent as his followers wondered what to do. "Tell them to put down their weapons, King!" I yelled.

       He hesitated long enough to convince me to press the gun against his head harder. "Put your guns down subjects." He muttered. The gang members lowered their rifles and calmly stood erect.

       "Get them to spin around, all of them! Backs to the walls! And get her to get me those clothes off the bar! Bring them up here!"

       "Do what he says!" King yelled.

       The woman threw the clothes to my feet. I kicked them back to Max, who was standing and walking towards the door.

       "Anyone does anything I don't like and he dies!" I shouted, starting down the metal staircase. I noticed one of the younger gangsters was nervous and seemed panicked. I feared he might grab his rifle out of confusion. Heedless, I continued down the staircase. Max and Maria followed slowly. "Clear a path to the door!" I yelled.

       People slid like a fluid to make a path to the door. I paced along, watching the entire room to see if anyone was showing any signs of wanting to shoot. I was within a yard of the door. I smiled, tasting freedom. Suddenly a single gunshot rang. I spun to see that Max had fired, killing the twitchy, young gang member. I felt a sharp pain in my spine, and fell to the ground, stunned. King leapt into a crowd of civilians. The gangsters started reaching for their rifles as Max grabbed my shirt and dragged me from the bar. Gunfire followed us out the doorway and onto the sidewalk.

       "Maria, get him in the car!" Max yelled, slamming the entrance to the bar shut, "Cody, keys!"

       I tossed the keys to Max. He caught them and was within the car in moments. Maria leapt into the back seat and me to the front. Before I could slam the door shut it closed itself, the car leaping forward. Three armed men ran to the street and began firing on the car. Glass shards rained in the car as gunfire split the windows. As I shielded my eyes from the exploding glass Maria gestured for me to fire back. In the momentary eternal confusion continued I raised my rifle and leveled the sights at the general area of my enemies. I started to pull the trigger, but stopped myself. I had never felt such a feeling as I did at that moment... It was an ineffable emotion, and I had no idea what the cause was. A bullet tore a jagged hole in the seat mere inches from my heart. I was caught in some bizarre trance, though. I stared through the sights of the rifle, but I couldn't bring myself to pull the trigger. I had never killed a man before.

       Maria shouted for me to fire, but I couldn't. I lowered the rifle and looked forward. We were about to escape from our assailants around a corner that lie only a few distant seconds away. I looked to Maria and Max, then into myself. How could I be so greedy as to threaten the lives of these two, who had given everything they had known to save my life? I sat, pondering whether I should help my allies as a crimson trail answered my question. Maria looked idly into the distance. She held her rifle lightly, but knelt fully erect. Her eyes had already dilated; a result of the pain. She stood, wavering in the air as the arc of blood fell. As the last crimson tear splashed to a tumultuous halt, she fell. Angelique golden hair traced her forsaken path to the ground. As she settled to a stop we swerved around the corner. I felt the first pains of a familiar emotion replacing the indescribable forerunner. Guilt...


       08:11 Hours Sunday April 3, 2540

      NAPP Inn, Lunar 4



       "How's she doing?" I asked. Blue light filtered in through closed blinds. The thin, vivid bars of light traced perfectly straight line on the ground, scattering to fit the curves of a humanoid body on the bed. Max had been sitting by her side for almost five hours.

       "She'll recover." He replied.

       "What happened?"

       There was a pause, "One of the bullets pierced her blood sac. Her body has done the best it can to pinch off the penetration, but it will still take another hour or so to finish healing her to near normal health. Now she could move, but at a much lower speed than usual. Moving her would also double her recovery time."

       "I'm sorry." I said. I hadn't fired once to defend her from attack, but she had risked her life several times to save mine.

       "For what?" Max asked.

       "I'm sorry for not shooting back. I didn't fire, and I owe it to you two to do whatever I can to help. I mean, you two are risking your lives to keep me out of danger, and the one time I could do anything to help you, I couldn't fire."

       "Was your rifle jammed?" Max asked.


       "Were you out of ammo?" Max continued.

       "No." I replied.

       "Do you know how to fire a rifle?"

       "Yes." I replied.

       "Then what could have possibly stopped you from firing."

       "It's hard to explain." I hesitated, "See, in our society Humans put a very high value on life."

       "That is understandable."

       "Well, many people claim pacifism just to avoid this. I don't really know how to explain it, really. I guess what I'm trying to say is that humans hate to kill each other."

       "That is a lie. At the camp we were taught modern human history. There has been several large wars every hundred years for many, many millennia. Humans love to kill each other."

       "No, we have to kill eachother sometimes."

       "You had to kill them to defend yourself."

       "I know, but when it comes to killing, humans don't tend to think straight."

       "Is that why they kill, or why they don't kill?"

       "Never thought of it that way, but probably both. I think that if we all had the choice none of us would kill anyone. Most people are inherently good. Some people are bad, but they were made that way by something."

       "Am I bad for killing people?"

       "Not really... I'm not sure how to explain this right, but in War most things are irrelevant. If every soldier though they would go to hell for killing their enemies then war would certainly be a lot less common, to say the least. As long as an enemy soldier can cause you harm, they have been decided as fair game."

       "I suppose, then, that I am justified as a soldier."

       "You are. I think I should have been too, but I was too late to come to that conclusion by the time I did. What I need to realize is that a threat is a threat, and it should be destroyed. But I still don't know if I would be able to kill someone if I had to."

       "Then I suggest you make up your mind quickly."

       "What? We're safe here."

       "Really? I hear a Pelican about two miles off, probably two or more, that is. I also heard movement in the woods across the street around five minutes ago. As you might also know, the first thing a LFCT raid team does before a raid is cut the power to a building. Under normal circumstances we wouldn't be able to tell, since we are in a dark room. Our lights were off to start with. But look at the Alarm on the night-stand. Blank, and plugged into the wall."

       "Shit! What do we do! There's a balcony in the back, it's only a ten foot fall! We can escape that way!"

       "It's probable that every exit is covered by now. Besides that, without the car we'd be dead."

       "Well, there's gotta to be some way out of here!"

       "Down!" Max yelled.

       I dropped to the ground as a dozen bullets tore through our room. I covered my head as glass continued to rain.