Hermes Trismegistus - Prologue
Posted By: Tursas<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 06 June 2001, 6:59 pm
Bob checked around the corner for obstacles, quickly leaning out from a squatting position. Twenty yards away he saw two guards talking to one another; one was lighting a cigarette and gave it a long pull before glancing up at his partner and saying something unintelligible. Both were decked out in the green fatigues of the COWS national guard, their only weapons being their pistols (probably old Berettas, Bob thought) in black Cordura holsters slung low on their hips in the western fashion, and radios patched to their shoulders. In the dull fluorescent lighting of the hallway, both seemed to be taking their jobs rather lightly, which was good for Bob.
The man peeking around the corner was on a 'low-key' demolition op in the 'heart' of enemy territory. 'Heart' because of the high volume of electrical power produced here for use all across the state. 'Low-key' because the powers that be decided that this target wasn't important enough to mandate an aerial strike. Sure, this was the power station that supplied to most of what was formerly Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and lower Alberta, and sure the local garrison was in need of some 'disturbance', but for some reason it wasn't a target worthy enough for The Chair of the Coalition to sanction the destruction of with an air strike.
That was where the big C had made his mistake, Bob thought: there were just too many loose ends. Sure, if he failed to plant the bomb, or was even captured, it would not matter to anybody on the Central Committee; it would be completely overlooked by a government caught up with the war with the European Democratic Holders, because this mission was worth nothing more than the paper that its requisition documents were printed on (which had probably already been burned, he thought). What they did not take into account, however, was the vulnerability of their man on the ground; the consequences of failure were much, much more potentially devastating than anybody had cared to ponder.
Bob drew a breath, and rising, turned the corner with his silenced submachine gun directed at the head of the first guard. The action clicked and the man fell dead like a dropped bag of potatoes. The second guard, whose face and torso was splattered by the blood of the first, and also instantaneously stunned by the sudden death of his colleague, did not manage to turn to look at Bob before sharing the fate of his partner.
Bob paced towards the two cadavers strewn on the ground without even looking at them. He stepped over them, still covering the rest of the hallway with his weapon. Silently, he stalked down the wide passageway, attempting not to allow the babble of Center to break his concentration. Now the only immediate threat was the discovery of the central office of this compound that two of its guards were not responding to their hourly check-up calls.
Bob reached the end of the hallway, turned the handle to a door that led into a stairwell, checked that nobody else was using the stairs, and continued down towards his objective.
Five minutes later Bob was running down the dark hallways of the plant, trying to get out before the bomb went off.
"Bob, are you ok? That guy didn't hit you very hard did he?"
"No, I'm fine" Bob responded to his miniature headset, racing for the exit. A two round burst from his submachine gun had quickly killed a graveyard shift plant worker after ambushing Bob between two mammoth water pumps with a large wrench.
"Well however you are, you won't be alive much longer if you don't start to REALLY haul ass. You only have two minutes."
"Great," Bob replied. "And how long will it take to reach minimum safe distance in that piece of crap?"
"Not long if you're judicious with the accelerator, but even you are going to have difficulty escaping the police on the outside. It looks to me as though the local cops have come to watch. I'm sorry to say it, but I think this might well be your last mission Bob." This statement was laced with fatalism, but Bob didn't pick up on the significance of the message.
"Yeah, right. That's what you said last night." Bob yelled over the din of a row of generators. He didn't need to yell, but it felt better to be able to hear himself.
"Don't you get cheeky with me Robert," the voice of Center replied. "It's your own damn fault that you were almost captured on the Border. You have the training to evade patrols - that's why you're the one living on the lamb, so to speak."
"Thanks for bringing it up." Bob replied, as he was rounding to corner to the north door of the building.
"You might not want to do that."
"Your transport has been captured. There's a whole smack of COWS waiting just outside the door."
Bob skidded to a stop in the dark, spacious hallway and squinted at the exit about ten yards away, "How do you know that?"
"How did I know that the thug jumped down at you, stupid? There are security cameras on the front of the building. Two jeeps and about five men to my count, and that's only outside that door. And you should know that there's a couple of Nighthawks out there too."
"How can you tell that there're Nighthawks?"
"I'm not stupid man - soldiers don't just fall out of the sky."
"A FRIGGIN AIR CAVALRY UNIT?!?" Bob turned to cover the corner that he had just rounded. "SINCE WHEN DO THE COWS HAVE A FRIGGIN AIR CAVALRY UNIT GUARDING A FRIGGIN ELECTRICAL POWER STATION?!?"
"I dunno." Center replied. "but there's no time to talk now, we need to find you another way out."
"Like hell you do," Bob responded, putting two rounds into the first of four guards running at him from the alley of generators. This was going to get tricky.
Outside, in the darkness, armed representatives of the Confederation of Western States waited: a whole counter-terrorist unit of them.
Soon enough now, Chief Commander Gary Simmons guessed, the last of the guards inside the building would be bumped off. Because his concern of friendly fire would then be abated he would then allow himself to send in his men against the latest operator from Central Intelligence to make the mistake of going up against his counter-terrorism task force. He didn't like to think of the unit as belonging to the government; Gary Simmons was the type of man who owned everything he controlled. This included the barracks that his men slept in, the seaside military base they trained on, and the small (very small) delegation of paper pushers requisite to his rank.
Five men stood ready at each of the two main doors of the building, and another five were poised to enter from the roof. All were armed, equipped and trained to the most rigorous of counter-terrorism standards -- they were some of the most elite of the elite troops in the service of the CWS military faction.
Simmons still wondered though, as he listened intently to the chatter of automatic fire over the radio mounted on the dashboard of his transport, what kind of man it was inside that building at the moment. What kind of man, he asked himself, was it that managed to evade detection alone on a journey of over a thousand miles of this continent from the border, defeat a company of armed and trained guards, and hope to escape back over the same thousand miles to safety? A man not smart enough, Simmons smiled; in crossing the line of the fenceless perimeter of this compound, that man had tripped an infrared sensor scheme that had automatically alerted the local civil authorities of his presence, and started a host of hasty phone calls that had ultimately brought Simmons and his men to this place from their cross-training with the local regiment.
The drone of the Nighthawks began to fade towards the perimeter. It couldn't be too long now until the guards were all finished off or were triumphant -- the radio mounted on the dashboard of the old hummer continued to chatter with the sounds of automatic fire and guards yelling at each other. Soon, the noise died and only the whispers of a single guard, too frightened to move, were audible over the moans of the dying.
"Please help. Anybody who can hear me, please help."
Eventually, even the whispering of the single guard stopped. Whether because of pure terror, or because of sudden death, Simmons couldn't tell. His men were getting nervous though, so he gave the go code.
The groups sprang into action: with a refined precision that comes only after thousands of hours of intense training, the leaders opened the doors as the rest of their fire teams covered the entrances. Quickly they filtered into the building, covering every approach to their positions as they made their ways through the structure.
The radio waves were now interspersed with the whispers of his teams as they passed certain pre-determined waypoints. Team Alpha was the first to come across the remains of some of the guards. "Commander, we believe that the tango was here."
"You're not paid to guess where the tango was, Alpha leader," Simmons replied with disdain. He was about to voice the rest of his opinion, but was cut off -- very abruptly -- as the backpack filled with high explosive triggered.
The explosion was tremendous. The ground on which the power station was built shook. Everywhere, man, machine and building shattered into billions of pieces. The earth seemed to rattle in its foundation.
Bob felt the concussion wave of the blast, knew that he would be very lucky to live as a vegetable, and escaped into the waves of unconsciousness.
The plume of the mushroom cloud began to clear.
The small band of local cops who had come to watch the festivities on the perimeter of the compound rubbed their eyes behind their nightvision binoculars after the flash of the bomb. Then they checked again that the power station and it's matrix of transmission towers had completely vanished. One of them began to cuss and kick the scrub. The others watched in amusement as their lieutenant began to swear loudly about how this would mean no promotion for him, and how he might be retired early for this foul up. It also meant that the local town would be without power for a long time to come, and incidentally, the local military barracks would have to act as policemen in the riots that were sure to occur in the local townships.
The officers were too busy being silently amused by their superior's antics to notice that the heavy overcast above the station, now rubble, had begun to glimmer a greasy silver, although dawn was a good three hours away. Two other things even less explicable they also missed, although they would have been hard pressed to notice them even if they had been searching for them.
As though from a dream, two pencil-thin beams of greasy-brown light broke through the overcast, displacing vapors as they descended. They probed everywhere, searching for something -- bending and twisting like tornadoes as they ran lightly along the ground. They stopped. Soon, both focused on the senseless body of a man, sliding slowly down a cracked drain pipe on a thin tide of steaming coolant towards the river that fed the station, scarred and barely alive. Carefully, as though trying not to damage further their injured cargo, the lights wrapped themselves around limp legs and held them close as they lifted their load ever so gently towards the clouds. They ascended, gradually at first, accelerating upwards. Two kilometers the body traveled; always upward, always limp. The overcast continued to shine it's dull greasy silver.
Finally, the body, still limp, began to wake. Even through the haze of semi-consciousness Bob was surprised to find himself unexpectedly rushing upside-down through warm, damp air, two kilometers above the earth's surface. Shocked, Bob lost all consciousness.