About Me

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Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?

 I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A New Kind of War (Reptile)

 "Hector Kojima was another attempt with the CIA, but instead the focus was on psychic intelligence. Using electronic enhancements we tried to tap into the brain wave patterns in an attempt to read people's mind. An invaluable asset for the CIA if we could get it to work. We thought we figured a way out how to, but we misunderstood how the chemical of the brain worked." Joseph stopped.
 "So what was the result."
 "Ugh, the results were, unusual. The chemical make up has little to do with thoughts, thoughts and memories are electronic synapses in the brain, the chemicals we thought were going to be thoughts were emotions. Hector Kojima was able to pick up some memories, but they were tied too heavily to emotions, sometimes he'd be wrong. But, ugh..." Clark could tell Joseph's stress was high, but the stutter was gone, it was pure honesty coming out of him, "he could guilt people, change what they saw and felt to a level. It was still an asset, a success we had not anticipated."
 "What's his involvement doing here? Why would he defect?"
 "I-I don't know. Captain, there's a lot of unusual things happening at a level I think I may only be scratching at. Hector, Zane, Lee, to some extent myself and even you are involved by organizations that planned this far too well."  Clark was up, he needed to move, he moved and communicated, knowing both were equally valuable at the time.
 "You think this was all coordinated?"
 "Well, no, not like that." Joseph had picked up on the skepticism. "But there's too many major factors at play here, too many large coincidences. I have some theories, but, I don't know what level each one is at." Clark came up on the security door that had the disk he needed. The guards were gone, likely the ones he had engaged earlier.
 "Try me. I need the information, because Lee was cryptic before he died."
 "Well, ugh, well Zane isn't really human."
 "Yeah, one of your super soldiers, right?" Clark breached and entered solo. The room was desolate.
 "Well, ugh, no not exactly. I mean, what I'm thinking is borderline conspiracy theories."
 "Focus Doc, how is Zane not human."
 "Well, do you believe in Vampires?"
 "Doc?" Clark stopped solid in the room in front of the safe. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
 "Well, ugh, not how you're thinking. See, vampires the mythical sense of them, exist in every culture, and there's a reason for that. They aren't like the fairy-tales, but is it really hard to believe we share this planet with another species?"
 "So there's a species of them? Vampires?"
 "They aren't, well, vampire is the wrong word, but it's the closest we have to it. See, ugh, during the Second World War, scientists on both sides realized there was another humanoid species we share this planet with, they look just like us, aren't all the different from us, but much more predatory. Ugh, well, both sides tried to find and recruit as many as possible. It was the Germans who thought first to try and use these people to create a super race, ugh, like a perfect soldier." Clark put in the combination, 09221991, the safe opened, and square floppy disk sat inside a lone safe.
 "Yeah, the Super Man race, the perfect race, I thought it was more genetic perfection they chased. Blond hair, blue eyes type stuff."
 "Well, ugh, that's just how we portray it to the public actually. To some extent, it's ugh, true." Clark turned and began to pie his way out around the corner heading out. "The originals, they had blonde hair, a blue almost glowing blue eyes. They're a site to be had! I ugh, only have seen videos." Joseph put a break in.
 "But Zane looks nothing like that."
 "I know, ugh, I know. I had my suspicions, but see Zane isn't pure. The Germans tried to replicate and breed with the creatures as much as possible, experiments by a Dr. Voigh, it wasn't until a defector came to the Americans that the extent of German research came to light. At the ugh, end of the war, the Americans and Soviets took up trying to replicate what the Germans didn't finish. Zane is one bred from the captured samples."
 "Zane is a Nazi?"
 "No, no, that's too simple. Zane was the result of captured biological materials. Remember that man floating in the tank, Zane was created the same way. Creating a womb in a massive test tube to grow a man, a creature, to be the perfect predator. Ugh, the soldiers you're facing, they're all, enhanced with traits taken from the creatures themselves."
 "Yeah, well, they're resilient little bastards."
 "I can't imagine what a pure creature would be like."
 "I don't really want to know." Clark knew better than to try and use the elevator. He cut across the bay where the firefight had broken out. He needed to get to B2, but he couldn't waste time searching for stairs going down. The facility was massive, he'd waste too much time and risk getting caught. He was low on ammunition, only two full magazines to his rifle left, then he'd be stuck with his sidearm.
 "Doc, I need to switch over and report to my command, I'll contact you back when I am finished." He switched his radio over. He moved to the elevator. It was an industrial lift, it would be far too loud to use. He peered through the gate that protected the shaft. The elevator was down, at B2 from whoever last used it. He could see a service ladder on the side near the corner. Clark tried to raise the gate, it was latched down. Once more he pulled the cutter from his kit as he clicked his radio.
 "Hound 6 this is Dog 6, come in."
 "Dog 6 report, we lost contact after you took contact."
 "Roger, had to fight, I am clear of contact, be advised, the masked man is dead."
 "You killed him?"
 "Negative, the defecting soldiers did."
 "What is your current mission progress?"
 "I have the disk, I'm making my way towards B2 now. Hound 6, request further information on friendly forces."
 "Friendly forces are one hour from your location; however, they can not move until the rail-gun is neutralized."
 "Understood, are there friendly Agencies in the area?"
 "Negative Dog 6, situation has not changed."
 "Is there any indication there are others who came with the masked man?"
 "Negative, we continue to scan the area with our abilities, we pick up no further activity." Clark had cut up about six wires, half way, almost enough to slip through.
 "Understood, I'll continue mission and report back as necessary." He early gagged at the very situation he now found himself in. He understood classification, but withholding information in such a way was dangerous, or did the General really not know? Lee Coppola had said he was behind on a lot of information, did he mean just about SoA? Where were the other agents in his team?
 Clark had cut enough to fit through the gate. He pulled the piece up and slid through, holding onto the gating on the thin ledge he now stood. He slid over to the side and grabbed a hold of the ladder going down. Before starting down he clicked his radio back over to Joseph's channel.
 "Doc, I'm back."
 "Hey Captain." Here was the lack of stutter, but something else that came through his voice. Some relief? He wasn't sure.
 "Tell me more about this server I'm about to sabotage." Clark started the long work down the ladder.
 "The system is one of several servers that exist as, ugh, like a personality. Each one is assigned similar, but, um, ugh, slightly altered roles. Each role is to make the entire war machine autonomous in about a decade."
 "So replace troops too?"
 "Not so much ground troops, no. I never had enough access to see everything, so I don't know the intricacies of the program. I'm not even sure the program's name honestly. But ugh, um, this system would take care of immediate strikes, not too unlike the MAD theory that exist between the U.S. and the Soviets."
 "MAD? Mutually Assured Destruction?"
 "Yes, exactly, ugh, so that's how the program started, a system that could retaliate even if there was no government left to order it. It became apparent that these systems could be used to coordinate several defensive systems, and then there's the inclusion of ugh, well, my work."
 "How does your work fit into this?"
 "Well, ugh, remember the self healing tanks we talked about?"
 "Well, ugh, the big use was in troops. See, the healing properties were based off that species I told you about, ugh, the vampire like people, they are able to heal remarkably quickly. Replicating it synthetically was easier than directly ugh, well, I guess copying it. We found we could suppress neurological signals, or trigger different ones depending on the environment the soldier was in. The next step was to link it to a system where we could shut off certain responses to soldiers." Clark gritted his teeth as he continued down.
 "Blocking fear, inducing adrenaline, you could block a lot of the shocks of combat with that."
 "That's the idea, ugh, well the problem is... ugh what else are we blocking?"
 "Hmm, yeah, do you really want your soldiers coming home without guilt?" As if to answer his own question. "We've been killing each other for centuries, coping with our own actions make us human, allows us to define what is right and wrong."
 "And the control the system would have on the armed forces. B-but it um, was done with the best intentions." Clark wanted to finish the saying, the path to hell is paved with the best intentions. He didn't.
 Clark set his feet on solid foundation at the bottom. He had to climb on top of the elevator it self, as it was blocking the entrance into the next bay. Looking about, he found the service hatch that allowed him to drop down into the elevator and thus, into B2. Joseph didn't stop talking.
 "I-it's nothing new. Governments have always tried to find ways to create strong, loyal soldiers. Until this break through, either drugs or intimidation were required. Neither were found to be so effective."
 You can't intimidate your intimidating force. Clark moved into B2. There was a long path way, he could see several protrusion farther down the hall where the tunnel turned or had entrances cut into. it.
 "I was too young to have worked directly on Zane himself, he seems to be the most successful result." Clark moved down the hall, keeping break between himself and the wall, ricochets had a habit of traveling along the wall, the wall only made you feel safe. "I have some theories as to why they never, ugh, um, tried that method again though." Clark saw rubble near an intersection in the tunnel. Something, wet, and fleshy lay near by. "All the ugh, current events leads me to believe my guesses were right, that ugh, they lost their chances." Joseph clicked off the radio for a moment.
 "Doc..." Clark stopped at the intersection. The wet fleshy object on the ground a crushing truth.
 "The tunnel was blown in B2, it's completely collapsed in."
 "Ugh, there's, ugh, another tunnel farther down, a service and storage tank that permits access to the other side. Ugh, there's also all the offices and smaller passages."
 "Yeah, Doc, it looks like they may have..." He clicked off, the human arm pale and loose, the hand contorted. Bluing occurred along the forearm.
 "May have what?"
 "Never mind, I'll try and go for the passage ways."
 Clark saw a cut away, a narrow cut away coming up along the wall.
 "Ugh, Captain, I don't think you'll be able to use to use the passage ways." Clark was coming up closer to the cut away, it was some sort of viewing port, a long port into some sort of industrial room.
 "What is it Doc?"
 "There are um, a lot of soldiers in the narrow passageways and offices." Clark could see through the port, it looked into a chamber, piping and a heavy catwalk crossed over a large exposed tank of water.
 "Then I have to take...." Clark stopped, staring into the port, his radio still keyed. "What fuck is that?"

 Zane stood before the massive rail-gun, it took up the center of the cavern, water remained subtle, icy and stagnant. The tunnel ran a long length, with a set of tracks on both sides all the way to the fridge outside air. Two ports, one on each side of the gun allowed docking for submarines. It was here that a single submarine took in the last of the cargo that the SoA and Zane's men loaded in.
 In the last hour they had learned something far more interesting than they had expected while trying to bypass the rail-gun's security. At first they thought the security system had been mechanical only, then it quickly became apparent that it was also electronic, when they dived into that, with the help of one of the researchers, they learned it was an entire system being locked by a signal. It wasn't the signal that interested SoA though, it was how the server was responding, it wasn't just receiving their signals, it was communicating back and forth. The server was sending a complex signal to other systems. The signal was scrambled and there were still security measures they could not bypass, but Zane's commander knew what it was, and their focus shifted to gathering as much information on the the server the rail-gun contained.
 Zane's icy eyes shifted hard right. Heavy clicking shoes drew his attention away from his men's work. Turning, he saw the man.
 A tall, lanky, man, his cheekbones sharp, a white receding hairline was combed back. A soviet khaki peacoat fluttered up around his dark suit and vest he wore, out of place of his environment. Zane imagined he looked very much like the very common and silly professors that populated American universities, spewing the very vile they claimed to hypocritically be against half way around the world. They man's eyes were thin, sunken in, behind a thin bridged nose, his stare more icy than even Zane's.
 "He is here."
 "How do you know?"
 "Because..." the man took a deep inhale, closing his eyes, "...his thoughts flood this place." Opening his eyes again. "You know, he's not all that unlike you."
 "I'm no pawn, not any more. I know what I am."
 "Mm, you know, he could be a valuable asset."
 "It's not my concern, he dies, he dies. My mission is complete."
 "Aw, will you be leaving with the submarine?"
 "No, I'll leave with the helicopter, ensure nothing interferes here before they are safe in deep waters."
 "And what of our friend? Don't you wish to see your own flesh and blood?" Zane narrowed one eye, lifting the opposite brow. 'The Regret' as the man went by, seemed extremely out of place in the SoA, not a soldier, not a real agent either in Zane's opinion.
 "I don't have time to talk sense into ever government pawn."
 "Mm, is that how you deal with your own regret? The soldiers whose perils you ensured? The good soldiers from around the world, who you murdered under a guise from a shadow government?"
 "You know Mister, I think it'd be safer if you rode out on the submarine, wouldn't want you falling out of the chopper mid-flight." Zane began to walk away, he wanted to observe the work more, but knew he'd soon start justifying killing The Regret, and that there would be no regret.
 "You both enjoy the killing, I wonder if it comes from your source material?"

 "C-Captain?" Joseph's voice had become hoarse from calling for the umpteenth time. There came a click. Joseph had to pry his free hand from his scar, the warmth of embarrassment washing over him again.
 "Doc, I don't know what I just say, it looked like a giant lizard just climbed out of water dressed as a man." A coldness flushed Joseph's body. His scarred brow yanking at his frail efforts to show emotion. He had to seat himself, he had worked himself into a squatting stance.
 "It's, ugh, it's Reptile, that's the project name at least." Joseph set the radio down, his hands had become cold and clammy.
 "Yeah, not too creative are you?" Joseph looked at the radio that had squawked back at him. Joseph steadied his arms. He kept a conscience thought of where his hands went. He took a firm hold of the radio and keyed it.
 "He ugh, wasn't mine, ugh, not directly at least." He let go of the key, took a breath, swallowed, breath, now talk. "Reptile was earlier, before I ever came to the team. They took the work they had captured, and instead of trying to fill in the missing pieces with the right genetic material, they supplemented it with other animal information. Technically, it shouldn't even be possible, but the other specie's DNA allows more adaptability." He let go of the key. How much trouble would he get into for helping this man? Was honesty punishable by death? Was death the worse that could happen?
 "So Doc, you just made a fuckin' mutant because you all could?"
 "Well ugh, there was a reason behind it." He swallowed, justifying another's work like his own child. "The man had been an OSS agent, came back severally deformed, similar to Agent Coppola." Breath, swallow, breath, be honest, now talk. "There was a rumor, during WWII that a Japanese platoon had been wiped out by, ugh, crocodiles. Someone, ugh, not me, decided it would be useful to have loyal something to ugh, always be in the waters ever since." Swallow, breath, don't touch your damn face, now talk. "Project Reptile was the result. But ugh, he was incarcerated here after he proved to be too volatile."
 "Yeah well he's walking around now, why was he too 'volatile'?"
 "He ugh, he was um," be honest, it wasn't your work, you owe 'them' nothing. "h-he killed civilians, a lot of them. W-when confronted about it, he admitted to it. Said he, ugh, he enjoyed feeding on them."
 There was a silence. Joseph's stomach knotted and rose.
 "Ugh, C-Captain, you there?"
 "Yeah I heard you. Jesus, you guys ever stop and think maybe, just maybe you shouldn't?"
 "It was a different time..." Joseph trailed off, he released the key. Nothing he could say would justify anything. Sure, the Soviets were evil and he knew first hand their experiments weren't even done on volunteers. But, was there a line he had crossed. Joseph had long come to believe he was no longer fighting communism, but in fact, in some odd fashion helping them and in turn, they weren't so much different from communists. "Captain, I-I don't know why Zane released him, but, ugh, be careful, please."
 "Is there anything else I should know about this, thing?"
 "Ugh, the purpose was to make him adapt to amphibious operations, ugh, so he's at home in the water tanks."
 "What are these water tanks for anyways?"
 "Ugh, they're um, storage tanks for water about to be turned to heavy water, for ugh, nuclear use. The ugh, um, heavy water is ugh, stored in a contained tank in another area."
 "Hm, this place is just getting better and better. I'm going in."
 Joseph heard the radio click out. He set the radio down and looked at the monitors, one showed just the corner of the door the captain was about to enter. Joseph swallowed hard, his fingers tracing the the fine line where his scar and skin came together. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Convention

I had a great time at the convention last Saturday (8/20/2016) and got the opportunity to meet some amazing local talent. I did not participate in the costume contest this year since my costume was not ready and I refused to attend without a complete outfit; however, I did show off my personal chest reactor (see pics below for proof).

Walking in, it started off with a bang. Thankfully I was worth more alive, and more so, was able to escape.

  Soon after my escape, I ran into a member from the Northern Army seeking to eradicate zombies. His pup was somewhat, stoic, but claimed I was infected. No worries, I'm a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, I was walking fine within the hour.
His efforts can be seen here:

Oddly enough remnants of INGEN were found in the area. Some poor creature decided the front wheel of the abandoned vehicle was a safe location for a nest. Oh, if only Grant could see us now. The vehicle along with an unseen Mystery Machine van are all works from a Justin Webb who can be viewed here:

 My journey taught me not all demons are horrible, some are just photogenic.
 Evading zombies, demons, and bounty hunters I met E.M. Smith, author of The Shadow of Olympus after a short talk, I acquired the book and received a nice hand written note inside. You can't really be an author without reading, and I look forward to reading his book. It can be purchased here:
 Then soon after I met T.S. Barnett, author of the series Under the Devil's Wing which as she said in her own words was her attempt to create a character with no redeemable qualities (so, me?), I am excited to see how she went about her work, and you know, seeing her dressed up as Mad Max helped a lot. You can follow her on twitter at @TS_Barnett or Instagram: tsbarnowl. Her website is located here: 
Another author I had the distinct pleasure of meeting is Jeremy Laszlo, author of multiple books but more notably to me the series Left Alive, and he has a van covered in zombies! His lovely wife also creates coloring books of intricate detail, both were great company and I spent a bit at their booth, having fun discussing writing and publishing options.  His work can been seen and purchased on his Facebook profile located here:

 Another example of custom pieces you could pick up at the convention is this handcrafted wood box. Inside the light source is a tea light (or so you think). It'll accompany me on many of my future writing adventures.
 I got to see some incredible work in regards to Steampunk and decor, the gentleman obviously spends a lot of time and effort into creating unique weapons and accessories. I was unable to picture or purchase any major end items; however, above are two examples of small items his partner creates. Being a writer of horror, it was an easy pick for me. 
His work can be viewed and purchased at:
 Dr. Maw greeting an astroidmech droid.
 What can I say? Harley Quinn has a soft spot for guys with Arch Reactors in their chest.
Here is another great example of the amazing work that people dedicate themselves to. The kind lady at Pagemaster Studio takes beloved books and creates 3D standing memorials to their source material.... from the source material itself! Her work can be seen here:

Another great worker who I now regret not getting any photos of (either of him or his work) is the owner, maker and mad scientist behind DemonCrafts. What really pulled me towards his work was a steampunk style, self contained, solar panel box. You can link your devices to it, and keep your outfit running all day, and in style! But looking at his other work, he has a great line of affordable leather armor and accessories. He allowed me to try out one of his shoulder pieces and examine in depth his pistol belt which he had crafted. Patrick "Demon" Taylor also does custom ordered work, so he doesn't know it yet, but he'll utilized for many of my own personal endeavors!
His work can be seen here:

Then there is the story of my (temporary) arrest. Gotham Police Department had caught onto my evil doings and arrested my female compatriot and myself. Of course, unbeknownst to them, I am an amazing escape artist and Arkam Asylum could not contain me for long. Comic CONvics is a great fun way to raise money. Basically you place a bounty on anyone, and the police go out and arrest them. They are then taken in to be photographed for a mugshot. Proceeds all go to the Ronald McDonald House. Their work can be seen here:

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Convention is Here!

This coming weekend is the Pensacola Comic Con, and I will be attending! Unfortunately, my own cosplay costume is not ready yet so I will not be in the associated cosplay contest, but I still look forward to seeing you and all of the artists there.


Be on the look out for a future posting with pictures and memories!

-S. S. Fitzgerald

Friday, August 12, 2016

A New Kind of War (Information)

"There are complications we did not foresee." Zane used the radio equipment inside of the Hind-D helicopter to communicate back to a Sons of Arms headquarters. The voice inquired back what complications.
 "The weapon has multiple fail safes we were unaware of, my soldiers also report multiple intruders. I know we shot down two helicopters, but I believe there's a special visitor here."
 The voice on the other end informed him he would not see any support for several more hours due. He would be on his own. Zane looked out the open side of the helicopter. Several of his snipers, had been killed, and the Jackal was recently found dead. But those deaths did not match with the reports from the third floor and fourth floor sabotage in the research wing.
 He scratched at his thick beard in frustration. These infiltrators were sent here by them and they are traitors. There of course was the possibility that he could recruit something even greater against them though. Until then he had an old friend he needed to greet.
 Leaving the helicopter behind, he and his four man escort moved through the new snow flurry that moved in on them.  They went around the South end of the research wing. A massive loading lift gave access to the lower levels. It was how large materials was brought in and transported to the lower levels of the facility. To one side several heavy machines sat parked collecting more snow on their tarps.
 The large lift doors sat open from their previous use. Stepping inside there was enough room for two tanks to side side by side. For the five of them, the barren steel room that was the lift was vast and silent.
 Zane's ID card activated the lift. With heavy grinding, the shutters closed off the entrance, and the elevator started its decent down. The lift moved at a crawl, but it gave Zane the opportunity to think.
 If the United States did not think they could gain access to the nuclear capabilities, there would have been a concentrated effort to retake the facility with a major force. What was the only barrier to that being true, was how complex the electronic security was. It was a network which they did not even know existed. There was a signal coming and going that prevent them from manually operating the device. 
 Next, the other priority of his mission was to get as much of the research and information and equipment loaded and out to the SoA. So far they had been very successful. They had moved most of the genetic material and research already. There was the body still up on the third floor, but the major component he was missing was Dr. Gregory Joseph. He was the key to continuing the work and giving SoA an edge. He couldn't imagine how he slipped through his soldiers. A lucky break would have him turn up, otherwise, these intruders were proving to be even more complex than he needed. Regardless, without the doctor, they could still make due, that mission was accomplished. The next submarine would come into the rail-gun's bay within three hours, and then his men will begin to load up experimental machines. The only thing left will be to get the rail-gun itself to respond, then the U.S. would never dear to strike out at them.
 The lift stopped at the bottom of B2.  The gate opened to the lift, and unlike the facilities above, here the walls were still exposed, stone walls with part steel part stone ceiling. His boots clicked along the painted cement flooring that lined the large room. Pallets, mostly of the magnetic shells and supporting industrial equipment lined the room.  
 At the end of the room his old friend was waiting for him. Juan Gaitanis was the peek of experimentation, but more so, an astounding fighter. He was an imposing man, six feet and seven inches, and shoulders wider than the best whisky barrels, arms the like cider-blocks, his teeth only added to the equation. But a combination of his war injuries and experimentation had left him looking nothing like that man he was born to be. In fact, that tightened the bond between Juan and Zane. Juan was the antithesis of what was wrong with the traitorous system. Juan had been through genetic torture, given his mind, body, and soul to ideals and the founding, only to be betrayed and labeled volatile. When things got dirty, a real fight, the reality of the fight, they tossed him aside, and literally locked him in a chamber, unsure if he should be killed or simply forgotten.
 It was his opinion society didn't like men like Zane and Juan, and they didn't like them because they looked too much like what they feared. The violent controlling predators of society, but unlike others similar to Zane and Juan, they were made this way.
  Juan wore cargo pants and a H-harness which held his pistol. He was shirtless, showing off the rough lime colored scales. A humanoid dragon, his face was wide and split with a sickly pop when his mouth opened revealing the haphazard line of human and crocodile like teeth. His eyes bulged, the human still there, but the innate reptile coloring had become sharper and more consuming from the time Juan had spent in isolation. His long webbed feet did not smack the ground as he walked, but thudded from the heavy weight. The short stubby tail that formed his lower back out waved with controlled sways.
 The two grabbed hold of each others arms by the forearm in a brotherly embrace.
 "Juan, good to see you adopting to freedom so well."
 "Fresh air is nice." His heavy accent had gone away, his voice was horse, but the voice alone was no less human.
 "I'm sorry it wasn't under better circumstances, but we are finally taking the first steps to crafting our own world."
 "Our own world? Sounds nice after a year of isolation."   
 "It'll be more than nice, but we have some issues that I need your assistance with first." Juan blew a heavy breath out of his nostrils that had been relocated to the back top of this skull.
 "I'm listening."

 Clark had entered the weapon's development portion of the facility. The main bay he entered was vast and lined with large manufacturing machines.
 He moved slower than he usually would have, forcing himself to do things right. The paranoia, the enlightenment from Doctor Joseph, with the ever growing distance between him and his command spider-webbed through him, like mortar between the bricks of despair.
 A grunt pulled him fully into the moment again. It came from around a corner to Clark's right. He moved forward. He could hear rustling. Pieing around the corner, step, by short step, Clark revealed more of the scene.
 Two figures stood with their backs to Clark, locked in a death embrace. A tall, thin, wiry muscular humanoid figure held one of the genetic soldiers. The soldier still twitched in the humanoid's hands for a moment before going limp.
 Clark could only see a part of the profile of the humanoid. The white face was flat and smooth, like a mannequin's, a single 'Y' shape engraving glowing a lit blue. The body was almost bare, the arms exposed, but an olive drab coloring looking more like the thin armor seen on vehicles. The torso looked like it was welded together with some form of body army which was plated to allow movement but gave the boxy look of being reactive armor. The pants the figure wore were smooth, straight and green, blending in with the exposed portions. The boots were large, black rimmed boots with armor like plating along the sole. An unusual futuristic looking weapon was clasped to the right leg of the figure.
 The body the figure held slumped down to the ground, and before Clark's eyes, the figure disappeared. Clark sighted his rifle to where the figure had just been standing. He heard heavy steps that hurried away. He scanned with his eyes above this sights. There was nothing there but the body the figure had been holding. Had the body not been there, he would have thought it was all a hallucination. Hell, it still might be an hallucination. Clark edged around more. The gap between the two pieces of industrial equipment was barren with the exception of the lone dead body.
 "Dog 6, this is Hound 6." His radio clicked. He stayed frozen, not wanting to move in the event the figure came back, but relented and responded.
 "Go ahead."
 "I saw it via camera too, we do not know who this lone operator is."
 "Hound 6, he just disappeared before my eyes."
 "Affirmative, he appears to be using some form of quantum camouflage."
 "General, you're going to have to speak grunt to me, quantum camouflage?"
 "Quantum camouflage has been a secret project recently in the field testing stage, especially in and around the Pate Facility. Quantum camouflage focuses on bending light waves instead of using a pattern to distort the wearer's body."
 "It's optical camouflage?"
 "No, optical camouflage implies an optical reflection is being produced, what you saw was a bending of shadows and light waves to distort the figure. Regardless, Captain, assume the individual is hostile. Hound 6 out."
 Clark moved forward and took a knee next to the dead body with the mass of pooling blood. The throat had been completely cut out, the tongue exposed through the massive slit. Clark looked back over his shoulder, nothing was there, at least nothing he could see.
 "Fuck it." Clark switched his radio over to speak to Doc.
"Doc, it's me."
"H-hey Captain."
"I need you to shed some light on something." He paused. "I just saw a disappearing soldier."
 There was a long pause. Doc didn't respond.
 "I heard, c-c-can you ex-explain more?"
 "He looked almost like he was wearing a suit, but it was too tight around the arms, like it was his very skin. Armored. His face was blank, with some, lights."
 "A b-blank w-white face?"
 "Yeah." He nodded, he didn't think he was too crazy with Doc's confirmation.
 "Umm, hmmm, i-it sounds like..." Doc let go of the transmit button.
 "Doc? Doc it sounds like what?"
 "Well, ugh, b-before I worked here, my work was d-done at Langley, Virginia. The work w-wasn't terribly d-different but a focus on r-robotics took precedence." Doc put a break in the traffic. "I-it was the predecessor to the 2040 Program. W-we took a-an old V-vietnam veteran, a former CIA a-agent who had lost his a-arms and legs to d-do our work. We rebuilt him with very advanced technology, t-things that a-aren't stable. L-last I knew though, h-he wasn't anywhere near field t-test ready."
 "Yeah, well I just saw him. Why didn't you continue the work?"
 "W-well technically I did, j-just here. T-the project on agent Coppola was consumed by the CIA, a-and I c-came to the Wolf Unit. C-Coppola w-wasn't even able to walk without s-support last I saw him! A-and the light b-bending tech was decades a-away."
 "He's also carrying a weapon I've never seen before. Boxy looking, short, but not like the weapon the soldiers here carry."
 "Hmmm, was there anything e-else?"
 "Well, not much, I think he's the one who shot up those soldiers in the stairwell. I picked up a shell casing. It was marked FN."
 "Ugh, it-it sounds like t-the XP90. I-I can't be sure without seeing it, b-but it's only an experimental weapon c-created to satisfy NATO for a p-personal defense weapon. Great armor piercing capabilities f-for such a s-small weapon. I-it is s-suppose to be in p-production by 1990."
 "When did you last see him, the agent I mean?"
 "T-this was a-all four years ago."
 "Alright, I'll talk to you if I see anything else."
 Clark let the information sink in. He thought it was odd how the general could spew off information like a machine. But there was sobering honesty with what Doc told him. He considered telling the General that the man was CIA, but he wasn't really sure of that. Doc hadn't seen the man in four years, there was no saying it was the same man, let alone sent here by the CIA. He would need more accurate information before trying to send a report back, if he really wanted to send one at all.
 Clark moved on, but there was a tingling along Clark's neck. A similar feeling he had in an operation in South America. They had been sent in to eliminate communist cells that were operating in border regions of Ecuador. Which, was a half truth, unbeknownst to them at the time, they were also eliminating political threats to one of the local generals. The CIA had been pulling their strings along, getting what they wanted without ever having to do any dirty work themselves. The entire operation stunk from the beginning. But they were good soldiers, God, Country, and Duty. They did the mission, and they didn't complain when they were finally let in on the loop.
 Yeah that tingling feeling.
 Clark found himself in another bay. The floor was made up of individual grated panels. Some places he could see through to the bottom, others he could see were solid, made to support extreme weight. There were several unusual looking vehicles, unusual, hell, nothing looked like this. Rows of them existed. The ones he was closest to looked like what would happen if a kid had taken a dune-buggy and strapped legs to it. It was a  single seat, like a motorcycle with similar looking controls, and two dog legged stubby legs instead of wheels. None of them looked operational, the last few were covered in tarps. The row on the right were much bigger, tank like vehicles, but they were all draped in tarps, which he was appreciative of. Their masked outlines made them look like they would be giant spiders. He didn't want to know what a giant machine spider looked like.
 Down along the row of shorter vehicles on his left there were more soldiers with a rolling loader. They were taking one of the short vehicles and loading it onto the gurney. Two others walked along the rows, patrolling along the large spider like tanks. Even here, inside they are paranoid and on alert.
 "Hound 6, this is Dog 6."
 "Send your traffic." Instant response, what is he doing, just waiting right next to the radio?
 "I'm in a vehicle hanger in B1. It looks like our friends are moving the vehicles out, likely stealing them."
 "This is troubling. Captain, your mission remains the same; however, if you are able, we must stop the transportation of those vehicles into enemy hands."
 "Understood." Clark couldn't get into a firefight. He was greatly out gunned, five to one, and he wasn't sure if there were others. He couldn't do anything about it in the immediate time. An opportunity would come, but he didn't know how or when.
 Until then, he would need to figure out a way to move, he couldn't with them loading up vehicles and a roving patrol on foot. He looked down at the grated panel floor. There had to be a way. 

 Juan took four of the soldiers with him along B2's main corridor. He and Zane agreed, there was either multiple insiders working against them, or a team had infiltrated the facility. Personally, Juan believed it was a combination. The damage discovered by the patrols outside indicated someone had come through the fence, but the internal sabotage was something someone inside had done. I will find them and feed on their decaying flesh.
 A long tongue, warped with boils slithered up between his reptilian lips and licked where his human nose had been.
 That left him with the objective to secure the water bay next to the rail-gun. There were two main routes. The equipment tunnel, and the maintenance bay. The offices and vents provided other means to access the area, which were easier to contend with. There weren't many of Zane's men, and they were being used for ever task as only a handful of SoA forces had arrived. Given his options, he would do as he had experienced before, in another life, he'd blow the equipment tunnel. That would limit what vehicles Zane could capture from B1, but he was told that was secondary as they had achieved their primary objective. The offices and the vents, he would put the soldiers dedicated to defending the area along routes where the vents could accessed by a man, and the offices secured and patrolled. That left only the maintenance bay. The bay, was a long tunnel, there was a sport path that was large enough for men and medium sized equipment to be moved along. All the steam pipes, air-shafts, and gauges that had nothing to do with the actual working converged here for easy access. It was also left open to treated heated water used to create heavy water for other operations here. That's where he'd place his ambush. Channelize their guest into heading one way.
 Then there was the final problem Zane brought to him. The scientists and researchers who absolutely refused to cooperate with Zane. Zane Lumbard had extensive experience, so even to the predatory urges of Juan himself, it was surprising that some still held out, even when Zane had to be more, persuasive, than he was to others. Only a dozen remained. The others, either out of fear or persuasion submitted and had already departed the Pate Facility. Juan would have to deal with the more reluctant ones. He could just feast on them, it's been far, far too long. But that would take long, and be time consuming. And even being glutenous he couldn't do it it to all of them.
 The captives would be coming along any moment, he knew how he'd handle them. Save what little resources they had. He watched as the soldiers finished the last of the explosives along the tunnel. As they backed out the captive scientists and researchers came down with their armed escorts. Many of them were soiled, beaten, bloodied, bruised. Some limped, their clothes hanging on them in tatters. Good, Zane showed no mercy. He had feared Zane had gone soft, or kept some silly ideals of right and wrong. You couldn't change if you held onto anything of your old self. There was no place for such ideals in their new world. The men recoiled at the sight of him. Others gritted their teeth, recognizing him and remembering. He remembered too, he remembered them!
 "Line them along the wall." The soldiers had the captives kneel along the wall, still restrained, looking at the wall. They shook, expecting the inevitable firing to begin. But instead, Juan and the soldiers left them there, on their knees.
 The was a long pause. The researchers and scientists began to fidget. Looking left and right. No sign of guards. Their swollen and bruise eyes looked to one another. An opportunity to run. That was the last fleeting thought before they became like tissue paper, the explosion came.

 Clark had picked up one of the grated panels and crawled underneath it. It wouldn't help him if he was seen through in the areas where the panel was grated and could bee easily seen through, but it would allow him to cross the way faster and without having to be seen upright. The depth was greater than he had thought, there was almost enough room for him to crouch and move, but doing so with his rifle and kit in a duck walk made it too slow. He moved quickly in a high crawl.
 Like a sledge hammer beating concrete it came. He felt the ground tremble. Jesus Christ, what the fuck was that? He stopped his movement. He didn't hear panic or confusion from the soldiers above.
 His radio clicked.
 "Dog 6, report."
 "I don't know what that was."
 "Satellite image images show a piece of the field above just caved in. Looks like they blew something with charges."
 "Could you see anything with the camera system?"
 "Most of the surveillance systems on B2 are down, several prisoners were seen being moved into B2, but we do not know what caused the explosion."
 "Understood, I will report any findings."
 "Roger, be careful. Hound 6 out." Clark twisted the knob on his radio and switched channels.
 "Doc, you hear me?"
 "Hey C-Captain. What was that?"
 "I was going to ask you the same."
 "It wasn't you?"
 "No, I was hoping you could see something on your monitors."
 "I s-saw them take a f-few of the researchers to B2, b-but couldn't s-see what happened."
 "How many went down?"
 "About a t-t-twelve. They looked like they were in b-bad shape."
 "Hmm, alright, I'll call back if there's anything else."
 Clark had crawled along the tight corridors to the point where all that faced him was a solid wall of concrete. He couldn't go any further and was being forced to take his chances back up top. Though he knew this was the length of the bay, he also knew the soldiers were still around, working, and patrolling. He squatted, he couldn't see much, but he didn't hear anyone near by. He put his hands up and began lifting the panel above him.
 "Contact!" He heard a masked voice call out. His heart sank. His blood ran cold. This was it, this is how I die, pushing a fucking panel off my head.
 A burst came out, like an electric saw in the air. Nothing cut through his skin. He pushed up and the panel came off. The air was alive with rounds whizzing back and forth. Clark scoot on his butt against one of the massive legs to the spider tanks. They weren't shooting at him. The loud chemical pops of a firearm bounced off the walls. Clark looked around the corner. At the far end he could see the mannequin man, using a steel crate as cover as he fired long bursts from his weapon at multiple targets advancing in on him.
 Clark took the opportunity, he edged around the corner. Breath out, squeeze, squeeze. A controlled pair. One of he soldiers dropped, his partner mechanically turned and fired. Clark retreated to cover. The burst tore into the machine's leg. A white gel oozed out. He was up, moving to another vantage point.
 Two soldiers down, he'd seen one go down as a result of the fire being laid down from the mannequin man.
 Clark rounded another corner searching for targets, he saw a blur at the far end of the room. The mannequin man moved at such a blinding speed. The soldiers tried to gain a sight on him. Clark tried his hardest to track the man as well. He went straight for a corner, his feet moving so fast, he didn't even realize where the man had gone until he was up in the air. He had kicked off the corner and launched himself at such a speed, it was his gun fire that gave away his new location. The soldiers had sprayed the air with bullets trying to hit the flying target. The man was now on Clark's side of the bay.
 Another soldier down. Clark fired another pair. Missing. A burst came in respond. He saw the man rotate his sights on him. Shit, shit, shit! Clark couldn't shift his sights fast enough, but the man didn't fire. He breathed. A burst came, the man fluttered back, rounds had caught him the chest but he recovered and fired back.
 Clark moved sideways, heel to heel, moving parallel on the targets. The first soldier came into his sight picture. He fired another controlled pair. The soldier flinched, and turned on him. Clark fired another pair without hesitation. The soldier sank to his knees, and struggled to stand again. Jesus. Clark fired twice more, and the soldier finally fell back. The man crouched, and like a grasshopper, leaped, finishing several meters from where he had jumped. The tracking lone soldier continued to fight, undaunted by the situation. His rifle buzzing in the air. Another burst, the man stuttered back but fired a long steady stream back at the soldier. There was silence as the last soldier fell.
 Clark swept the area with his rifle as he advanced forward. The man was moving already, stumbling, but Clark had to clear the area of possible threats. He still wasn't sure what the man would do if confronted. He noticed the man moved with his back to Clark, not rigid and confident, slumped, and wildly, not stumbling, but twitching. He moved to where the bay turned. Clark didn't call out, he followed with distance between them, losing him on the corner but not wanting to move quickly and make a mistake. Clark turned the corner. The man was heading through a door. He was pulling himself away from the wall that he had collided with. Clark moved, cautious, his rifle at the low ready.
 The man fell and slumped on the ground. Clark didn't hurry his steps, still too unsure of the man's intent. The wall that the man had ran into a moment ago dripped with what looked like old milk, the liquid strung along the wall the entire length where the man had smeared it.
 The man had rotated to a sitting position, his back to the wall for support, facing Clark. Clark steadied himself on the man as the man's arm raised his weapon. Clark sighted on the man, his finger nearly engaging the trigger. But the man didn't aim directly at Clark. The man's arm twitched in the air, not in a human fashion, but as if a machine was trying to engage a movement and a gear kept slipping. The arm hovering, clicking back and forth.
 The glowing 'Y' shape looked up at Clark on the otherwise featureless face. Clark suddenly realized he didn't know what to do now. How to engage with conversation, if he even could engage with conversation with... that.
 "I thought you all had died." A heavy voice came as if it were speaking through a plastic cup. Clark didn't know how to respond. The Y shape split open, like flaps of a wrapper coming undone, the stone cut face made him think of Robocop. "I saw your helicopters go down." Clark realized the white liquid was pooling on the floor. The man's arms poured the white substance out, but two round had pierced the breast area, the black armor seeped out red, like a normal person.
 "Who are you? Who sent you?"
 "My name is Lee Coppola. I was sent here by the Agency."
 "Why wasn't the Agency working with us?" Lee smiled, a devilish smile, a smile like he knew someone was onto his game.
 "You're behind on a lot of information. Who are you?" Clark didn't see any harm sharing the information. He looked around the corners, he didn't see any cameras spying on him.
 "Captain Clark Duncan." The man tried to nod, but his neck was stiffening unnaturally.
 "Well Clark, our government is going through some very radical changes."
 "What do you mean?" The man ignored him.
 "The terrorist group here isn't your average run of the mil radicals. I was sent here specifically to ensure the assassination of a key member with a team." He tried to readjusted but it was as if the man only had control of his core, and his limbs were suddenly just useless "We watched your team get attacked as we were observing on the other side of the facility." The milky substance had stopped flowing, the limbs became stiff, only the core of the man moved now. "There is a man here, you need to know about Clark, if you're going to do anything, you need to know about him."
 "You're not making any sense." Clark assumed the man was going into shock. He knelt down next to him. The man looked at him from the the corner of his eyes, seemingly unable to turn his head.
 "You need to do it, the man goes by the title, The Regret, his real name is Hector Kojima. He's a traitor Clark, to the agency."
 "Why didn't the military know about this? Why..." Lee cut him off.
 "He's not just any agent Clark, he will mess with your mind, change the way you see things. Don't fall for it Clark, you need to kill him."
 "I'm not going to listen to anything he says, now...." Lee's face became still, not as a dead man would, but as a machine that just stopped working, like the battery died in the middle of the usage. Clark backed up, the chest wounds poured out blood like an oil leak.
 Clark stood up and looked down at the body. The limbs stiff and rigid, the right arm still up in the air holding the rifle. Do cyborgs dream?
 He switched his radio over, and keyed up to Joseph.
 "Doc, you read me?"
 "Hey C-captain."
 "Agent Coppola is dead. He's pouring out blood and some, milky substance everywhere."
 "Oh..." Joseph kept the radio keyed down while he regathered himself. "His enhancements can't repair his human core, that's why his body was plated with armor. His limbs were c-cybernetic, somewhat s-s-self healing, basically a powered exoskeleton in place of where his limbs use to be." Clark let Joseph ramble, he couldn't interrupt anyways over the radio. "I-I c-can't believe h-he's d-d-dead." Joseph let off on the radio.
 "Listen Doc, he told me some stuff before he went. I don't know how much was real, he could have been going into shock. He said something about a traitor to the agency working with SoA, a man named Hector Kojima." There was an unnaturally long pause over the radio.
 "Captain, I think I need to start being more honest with you." There it was again, Doc's stutter disappearing.
 "I think so too." He didn't know what he was getting into with the comment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A New Kind of War (Questionable Characters)

 Clark took the General's word that the doors would be sealed. He moved towards the North side of the research wing. He once again pied around the corner of the wing. The ground dropped down to a leveled field. The drop was steep, but a walk way lined the way, snaking around close the building. There was a gated compound that filled the leveled ground. Chain-linked fencing with C-wire along the top.
 The far edge Clark spied two soldiers patrolling the area. They did so at the low ready, something had them spooked. They must be on alert from the firefight with the Jackal.
 Clark started down the path towards what he assumed to be a power plant of some sort.
 "Captain," his radio clicked, he keyed back that he was listening but kept moving as the General spoke, "that gated area is one of the external power and heating stations. It doesn't provide direct power for equipment within, but is dedicated to climate control. We see two patrols in the area. Proceed with caution. Hound out."  
 Clark kept his eyes on where he saw the two man patrol going, they had been going the other way when he was coming down the incline but now being level, he could not see where they were. He reached the fence, stopping where the fence met the building. Multiple electrical conduits ran along the walls back and forth from the building into the power installation.
 From his kit he removed his wire cutters once again. He began to quickly snip the wire links of the fence, knowing full well he had no one covering him as he worked.
 Clark peeled back the link enough to squeeze himself and his bulky gear though. He didn't sink too much effort into pushing them together to hide his presence.
 He turned. There were six generators, they all stood far over his head. The two towers closer to the facility were larger, having conduit pieces larger going into what he assumed was the heating units themselves.
 Clark thought to try and gain access by entering through the heating conduits, but not wanting to keep his back fully exposed to where he came from he went to move around the opposite side.
 Clark began to pie around the corner again of the first tower. He snatched himself back. Two more were within the gated heating installation.
 He didn't have many options and he was running out of them.
 He flexed his muscles to stun his own caution and darted out to the next tower.
 They had missed him. He let out a long breath. He could hear their steps growing closer as they were approaching. He waited. He edged closer to the opposite edge. The soldiers came around the corner. Clark was not there to be discovered. They continued their route, turning along the wall where Clark has once stood.
 Clark had gone around the corner and was now on the other side of the wall. He took careful steps, too loud of movement would give him away. He was thankful the concrete was heated, his tracks would have betrayed him. He went to the other side of the tower, now in the center of the rows, he strained his hearing. He could hear them moving, they made little noise. Somewhere deep in him, he was amazed at how professional the soldiers were all the time. Even the most elite he had worked with couldn't be 'on' all the time as they say in the business. Everyone is still human. 
 Hearing the soldiers were moving away along the long side of the fence, he pressed away from the wall. He went back for conduit, now on the opposite side. He wouldn't have much time, the soldiers only had  a small area to patrol.
 Clark began to cut along the underside of the conduit. The material resist, and he pressed harder. A heavy blast of hot air hit him causing him to teeter back on his heels. He could feel his face become wet from the snow and ice melting on his beard. He came back and cut a larger slit he could fit through.
 Looking at the confined space he already was feeling encumbered. He quickly deducted there was only one way to do it properly. He loosened his harness and took his kit off. With that, his one sleeved jacket was off. He folded it haphazardly and jammed it under the conduit. It would be discovered if they looked too closely but he needed to move. With his kit back on, he slid his head into the slid of the conduit.
 There was less room inside than it appeared from the outside. The material was thick, and there was heavy insulation. Clark was forced into a prone low crawl the second he had only half his body inside. His gear, kit, and rifle caught on everything, he cursed his holster which made it even more difficult to squeeze through the slit he had cut.
 His back and legs burned. He went instantly from freezing cold to sweating with the heat blasting at his back. The air was thick, stuffy, he was pulling it in instead of breathing. He crawled forward, his rifle under him against his chest, the barrel probing in front of him. He was in such a rush he hadn't thought to pull his small elbow joint flashlight up. It was complete darkness before him and behind him.
 He'd been in a similar tunnel before, years ago, when he went to selection for the Green Berets. It was about a hundred meters, with one elbow turn, and it ended in a small cubical made of brick which you had to climb out of. They did it at night, it was a team building obstacle course, and there were several other obstacles that came before and after it. Despite the entire struggle, the mud pit, the rope climbing, the exhaustion and sleep deprivation, this tunnel had become a greater challenge.
 There wasn't the reassuring sound of someone behind or ahead of you. There wasn't the confidence of all the success, in fact, the entire mission had been a colossal failure for him so far. And the goddamn heat.
 Every little scoot he made he felt as if the conduit was getting smaller. He couldn't tell by feel, or the roaring air behind him. He just felt it, and the squeezing in his chest trying to pull in air.
 His rifle barrel hit something solid. Shit. The last thing he needed was to find out this was a grate to stop debris or a filter. He couldn't go back in danger of being caught, and he couldn't rustle around trying to cut through whatever it was in the dark with no space to work.
 He slid over his rifle and with his hand touched the unseen obstruction. He felt up and up and up, oh thank God. It was the joint leading up. From how it looked on the outside, it would go up at ninety degrees about a four foot distance, then another ninety degree turn into the facility.
 Clark had to contort his body and twist his way so he could press himself into a squat. He stood up slowly, stopping when he felt his head tap the corner. Standing at a low hunch hurt, and he scrambled to get his rifle out up in front of him.
 Before lifting himself up into another crawl he was sure to unclasp his small flashlight from his kit and turn it on. A read beam sliced through the darkness. It didn't help much, the walls of the conduit were black. As he slid up, the conduit sagged between the area where met the wall. Clark found himself disorient as he slid forward. His light swinging back and forth. The blackness before him blended so well with the walls. Gaining his bearings he moved forward again. He was thankful that it seemed comparatively he had always seemed to see better in the dark than his colleagues. Maybe that was just in his mind.
 Clark's progress felt like inches. He dared not think of time. His uniform was becoming wet not from melting frost now but from sweat. He needed to get out of the conduit. And an answer to his desperation came before his eyes. The success born from visceral aspects bred in warriors with determination. It came as an illusion, white light seeped in from some place ahead of him. The conduit widened, he felt a slight slide as its girth widened. He felt wires running along the sides and overhead.
 The conduit shifted to a shaft, and Clark came closer to the source of the light. Against the wall on the left there was a fuse box, and to the right was an aluminum vent. Clark peered between the slits, it seemed to let out into a stairwell.
 Clark turned his light to the edge of the vent. He could make out where the latch went from the door and secured the vent to the wall.  He forced his knife up from the awkward position and then the blade into the small space between the latch and wall. He wedged, bending the vent some until it caught the latch. He forced the latch up and the vent swung oven. He snapped his wrist out and caught the vent, not wanting to  risk it being loose and falling, but a sent of hinges allowed it to swing.
 Clamoring down, Clark found his feet firmly on artificial ground of a floor. He picked up a copper scent and ignored it. His senses were out of whack from the vent. His eyes even strained under the odd hospital type lighting.
 Now to his left he had a flight of stairs going up, to his right a door way, directly in front of him was a flight of stairs that started a spiral down.
 "Hound 6, I'm in." He knew from his constant communications the General was monitoring his communications.
 "Captain, you're on the first floor. The scientist you seek worked on the third floor. Be advised you may need to figure a way out to access his laboratory." 
 Right never could be easy. Clark scanned both stair wells with the barrel of his rifle. The copper smell persisted. He began his first step up, he turned and moved up backwards, his rifle trained above scanning the area he'd be moving. He paused.
 The next flight up, along the wall. And indentation, it looked like a pock mark from a rifle's bullet. He moved up further to the next landing and saw the entire second floor landing was riddled with the indentations. Moving towards the next flight of stairs he caught the first glimpse of something slouched on the next landing. A dark dome, a white puff, he had no misconceptions of what it was.
 Clark rounded up to the next landing in a similar fashion, but he divided his attention both on the stairwell leading up, and on the slouched figure. As he was half way up the steps he could confirm it was one of the soldiers from the installation. His white uniformed blossomed with entry wounds. The The masked and goggled face remained motionless. Still, Clark moved on the soldier with caution, his rifle trained on him. As he neared enough, he kicked the rifle out of reach from the body.
 The body didn't move, there was no twitching or spasms. Clark knelt down to the body. Touching the arm he didn't feel a pulse. He began to stand until the wounds caught his eye as unusual. It was red, but had an unusual bluish hue to it. Like the blood was turning a bruised purple.
 He pushed up and pushed the thought off as a combination with the unusual lighting of the interior. He passed by the locked door on the landing and looked up at the next stair way leading up, several more of the soldiers lay dead on steps and landing of the 3rd floor. The walls were riddled with more and more intense markings.
 Clark moved up to the third floor, he moved with caution along each body, unsure of their status until he passed each covered face. 
 Clark's boot stepped on something small, hard, round. He lifted his boot. A single shell casing, brass from a weapon.  He remembered what the General said about the soldiers here, and it was true, all of their rifles were the unusual boxy looking weapons he had passed. He knelt down and picked up the spherical tube. Looking at the back next to the shot primer he saw 5.7x28 FN.
 He pocketed the oddity. His gears turned. The mushy computer he called a brain came back with no results. He had never heard of the round, nothing in any NATO or Soviet bloc country took such a round.
 He tucked the thought away. He moved to the third floor landing. It looked as if the soldiers had fired in all directions, creating a bubble 360 of rounds in the air. But Clark noticed a lack of enemy bodies. Either the dead didn't hit anything, or their target were able to extract their dead and wounded.
 The third floor's door stayed ajar. Blood smear down along the door stopped at another dead soldier, the door unable to close with his leg keeping the door from sealing shut. Clark pushed the blood covered door open and it stayed in the fully open position within the wall. Stepping over the dead he moved in along a long modular corridor. The following main room took up the entire floor length of the building. Clark entered with the only option, speed and surprise. He swept across the room, with his muzzle, nothing, nothing, nothing. The corners were clear. Center of the room. Man!
 Clark stopped, his sights settling on a massive vat with a man inside. A large, square, transparent vat was the centerpiece. A blue tint came from whatever the man was suspended in, tubes and machines swam in and over took parts of him.
 There came a click from his radio, Clark lowered his weapon as he gave the vat of the naked hairless man a wide birth, similar to how he would treat a dangerous leashed dog.
 There was another body off to his right. He took note, it wasn't a soldier. The dome was cracked, blood poured from the nose. A smear of blood ran along the wall with bits of bone and brain matter. He hoped it wasn't the good doctor.
 "Dog 6, this is Hound 6."
 "Go ahead."
 "Be advised, my operators here have been able to patch me into the security system for the Pat Facility, we can monitor your moves from the cameras in various parts of the facility."
 "Shit." Clark swore to himself before responded. "Are they able to see me as well?"
 "Negative, only we are able to see you, we cut off the SoA from using the system." He let out a sigh of relief. He hadn't considered the internal security systems.
 "General, there was a firefight in this wing. Several of the soldiers are dead, it couldn't have been a divide among their own, I found shell casings I don't recognize."
 "The researchers were taken hostage from there. It is possible they tried to resist." Clark chewed that and spat it out immediately.
 "General, this is a casing I've never seen before. A 5.7x28 marked FN." There was a long delay.
 "You're right." That goddamn monotone. "That is an experimental round under evaluation right now for a new weapon system. Captain, there may be more going on there, report any further findings. Hound 6 out."
 Clark would have thrown his radio set if it wasn't a headset he was wearing.
 A ruffling caught his attention. His sights snapped up. Far corner, near a computer system. There was a locker set up in the corner. Clark moved closer. Something had moved. He knew it. He paused, held his breath. He could hear panicked heavy breath trying to calm itself. Clark moved closer. The something was in the locker.
 Clark closed the distance between him and the locker. There remained about fifteen feet. He stopped.
 "Come out!" Clark barked. He heard a startled rattle. Someone was hiding inside.
 "I-I ugh... I..."
 "I said, get out!"
 "I-I can't!" Came the mousy voice. Clark was about to make the demand again, and then, humorously, realized, the person was literally trapped in the locker. There wasn't a way for him to open the locker from inside.
 Clark stepped forward. His finger on the small latch to the locker. He pulled it up and back pedaled. His arms braced. A thin, tall thrashed figure was revealed. A goddamn zombie?! Clark sudden felt foolish.
 The scarred face shivered at him. The smell of urine was present, and a dampness still clung to the man's pants.
 "D-don't shoot."  The man raised his feeble hands up showing to Clark.
 "Who are you?"
 "D-Doctor J-Joseph." Clark couldn't tell if the man just had a speech impediment or if he was still scared shit-less, probably both.
 "I'm Captain Duncan, United States Army, Hound Unit." Clark lowered his weapon.
 "I was sent for you, you know how to disable weapon systems assigned to this facility?"
 "Y-yes. Jesus, y-you look like him...." He trailed off and before Clark could ask. "Where's your team?"
 Clark's honest stayed back. "I'm all there is."
 Gregory Joseph lowered his hands. He looked looked around the floor as if he was tracking a small bug running in a zigzag. One hand moved up to his scarred side and fluttered there.
 "Ugh, yes?" His hand shot down. A look of shame washed over him which he sudden hid. "Ugh, y-yes, yes. I know how to."
 "I'm going to need some information. What happened here?"
 "W-we were working on our research for the unit here. I suppose they went rouge, I-I don't know." Clark could see the doctor settle down. His speech was getting clearer, there was no overt speech impediment. "The, things, they just came in and took my research team hostage. Killed poor Christian when he resisted." Gregory couldn't bring himself to look at the blood smear, let alone the body. "I h-hid in t-the lock-locker. There was s-so much shooting. I d-don't k-know about that."
 "The things? You mean the soldiers?" Gregory Joseph looked at Clark. He could see the complex inner workings computing the odd question.
 "You don't know? T-these, these men, t-these soldiers, well they a-aren't just soldiers." Gregory swallowed hard. "The unit here is called the Wolves, it's based around the i-idea of the n-next generation special forces.  Gene manipulation on each one, t-they a-are enhanced."
 "Fuckin' seriously?" Clark rolled his head in disbelief. "This place just get better by the second." Clark looked at the doctor, who had hung his head. "Alright Doc, I need to know more about this place. There's a rail-gun here, right? Your friends, your little super soldiers, are using it to ransom the United States."
 "W-well the rail-gun was one of our e-early projects. I-I wouldn't w-worry so much on t-them using the gun immediately, the fail safe will p-prevent that."
 "What's the fail safe?"
 "Pate Installation is a-actually a m-massive computer. It-it's made to protect a super server which does the target acquisition. T-this server receives all information f-from a satellite for guidance."
 "Alright, so how do I need to stop them from taking control?"
 "D-Destroy the server. W-we have a-a program to put in-into the server in the event we were overrun."
 "I can't physically destroy the server?"
 "N-no, not sh-short of destroying t-the facility."
 "Where is this program? How do I use it?"
 "W-we keep i-it in a CD in the weapons d-development level. T-the server access is-is next to the rail-gun in t-the B2 level."
 "Alright, I don't have access to any of the floors here. Is there a way to get around the security system?" Gregory looked down, his scars glistening with his thoughts.
 "M-my card will get you a-access to t-the B2 elevator, b-but I d-don't have access to the weapons d-development floor on B-B1 anymore. I-I may-maybe able to give my-myself access using the sec-security room on the fourth f-floor."
 "Alright, let's start there."
 "Y-you know. Y-you look a lot like Zane Lumbard."
 "Major Zane Lumbard?"
 "Y-yes!" There was a sudden hesitation. "D-do you k-know him?"
 "Of him. He's suspected to be the leader of the separation that happened here. I suppose our beards make us look similar. Gregory nodded hesitantly, or absently, Clark couldn't tell. "So before we leave, what's with the floating naked guy?"
 "It's ugh, um, ugh the next level for the Wolf Unit here. It's-it's ugh..."
 "Classified, got it, don't care. Let's move."
 Clark took the point. He moved forward, stepping over the dead baggage keeping the door open. The heavy copper smell still lingered in the air like some diabolical stew. The flight of stairs leading to the next floor was empty.
 "God..." Gregory announced as he saw all the bodies.
 "I need you to keep quiet Doc." Clark started up the stairs, slowly, scanning back and forth. The next landing was clear. He heard his radio click again.
 "Captain, you made contact with Doctor Joseph I see." There must be a camera some where Clark thought.
 "Roger that Hound 6, we are moving to secure assets for the mission."
 "Good, did he tell you anything about the situation at the facility."
 "Negative, he had been hiding during the take over." There was another odd pause before Clark heard the next transmission.
 "Understood, report any further discoveries. Hound 6 out."
 "W-who was that?" Clark looked back at Gregory.
 "Commanding officer for this operation." Clark stated flatly as he moved to the door on the landing.
 Gregory moved to use his card on the door. Clark motioned for him to stop for a moment. He wanted to be in the right position to fight if there was anything on the other side. He gave the go ahead with a simple thumbs up after moving to an angle on the door.
 The door slid open. There was a short hall, then a long room lined with multiple doors. Clark moved in swiftly. Nothing in the long room. four doors lined the room. The one to his immediate left was open, it was a narrow stairwell leading up. Most likely the roof access. The next two doors on the left were sealed shut. The final door was on the right, it too was open.
 From the far room on the right Clark heard movement. He backed up. Quickly he yanked Gregory by the collar with him. He yelped. Clark shushed him. They slid back into the stair well. Clark edged up to the door leading into the long room. He breathed deep, preparing for a firefight in the small room, and listened.
 "Report." Came a small static voice from the open room across the way. A beep sounded.
 "The security room in the research wing is empty. The communication equipment has been sabotaged. No sign of the intruded who did it." A covered husky voice called back.
 "Understood. Return to B2." A beep sounded again.
 So they still have communications too. Clark considered the implications, wondering if it was possible they could pick up his communications.
 He heard two pairs of boots moving. He braced, but they turned, heading down the other stairwell that with the dead along the landings. Clark peered around the corner. He saw no one.
 "Alright Doc, where to?"
 "T-there." He indicated to the room where the soldiers had been investigating.
 Clark approached the door in a low move with his weapon ready. It was a short room. Vacant. Inside, along the left wall was a series of radios. He could see the base station had been smashed, he didn't check, but he was sure if the radios had been sabotaged that the security keys had been 'Z'ed out, basically wiped. There was a weapon's rack, several M16 rifles were still in the rack, locked with a padlock by a metal bar. There was a series of controls, and monitors on the left wall. Interestingly enough to Clark, there was also a rack next to the rifle locker of radios, but specially the very type of experimental radio he carried with him.
 "Alright Doc, do what you got to do."
 Gregory moved to one of the consoles, there sat a small boxy device. He took his ID card and slid it into a receiver. A small panel allowed him to see his own security certificates. Pulling the card out he looked at Clark.
 "I-I'm a-all set."
 "Give me the card." Gregory handed the card over.
 "Am-am I n-not going?"
 "I can't have you stumbling around with me. You'll get killed."
 "I c-c-can handle m-my own." Clark looked down at the doctor's still damp pants.
 "I'm sure you can Doc, but I can't risk it." Gregory's face contorted, the car tissue pulling back, stiffer than his untouched flesh. Suddenly it loosened. He looked at Clark's hip, causing Clark to look down in alarm but he saw nothing out of the ordinary.
 "I-I know!" Gregory moved, with awkward swiftness to the rack. "I-I c-c-can't t-talk on your secure line. B-but if I use this radio, I c-can talk to you. If you n-need me." Gregory took one of the radios from the rack. He began fumbling with the keypad.
 "Doc, I wanted to ask. With that radio on the wall over there damaged, how am I still able to talk to my command?" Gregory looked up at him. His jaw slack and open in surprise, not knowing what to say. One of his hands went up to his scarred side and began twitching along the ridge where the flesh met the scar. "I was told they could only hear me because of the relays set up here." Gregory yanked his hand away and back on his own radio.
 "Ugh, um, the r-relays are s-separate." Clark was about to probe but as Gregory worked he continued to talk. "A-anyways, t-there are other b-base stations." Clark nodded to himself.
 "There, if you n-need me, my c-channel is 141.012" Clark pulled his radio up and set another channel to the frequency so he could switch between multiple places at once. "I-it w-won't be secure, but w-we can talk."
 "Will you be safe here?"
 "Y-yes. W-when you leave I c-c-can seal the door and I c-can monitor t-the consoles." Clark moved over the console. There were six monitors he saw as Gregory took a seat behind the console. Two of the monitors were down.
 "Where are these cameras?"
 "O-one on each level. T-this f-floor and B-B2 are down. I-I can work to f-find other systems t-to check t-though." Gregory used a control and flipped one of the feeds labeled B1 over. "T-There, that room h-has the CD in a safe." He saw another room, more the door than the room, but two of the soldiers were standing outside the door. It looked like another security room similar to the one they were in.
 "How do we know they haven't taken the CD and destroyed it?"
 "O-only s-select few k-know of it. Myself a-and a m-man n-not here."
 "Zane doesn't know?"
 "N-no. Zane shouldn't k-know much about the s-server a-at all."
 "Alright, and how do I get into the safe?"
 "T-the code is 09221991. I-if you forget, r-radio me."
 "I got it. Do you know who would have sabotaged the radios?"
 "N-no." Gregory turned away from the monitor to Clark. "I, I considered it as well." There was clarity in Gregory's voice, as if thought drove away the nervous stutter. "I, assumed your team...."
 "Doc, I'm the only one."
 "I don't know, maybe one of the staff."  Clark stared intently at Gregory. The disappearance of the stutter gave question, but he halted his own thoughts and perceptions.
 "What is on B1?"
 "I-it's our w-weapons development site."
 "For the rail-gun?"
 "N-no, biomechanical machines."
 "Machines t-that rely on organic s-sytems to operate." There it went again, suddenly he spoke clearly. "It's all what we call the 2045 Program. Its focus is on creating stronger more adaptive genetic person using machines. But at the same time, using a machine to rely on organic attributes. I took over the projects and have led the research. We created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and rat DNA. Applying that to large vehicles, you could have a walking tank, that could regrow limbs instead relying on armor and tracks to keep fighting. For the normal grunt, we could use this line of thinking to regrow limbs, strengthen normal assets, change the metabolic rate to require less food. More so, we can stop neurological synapses that hinder combat effectiveness. Combat stress, and shell-shock would be blocked. a cybernetic organism."
 "Jesus Christ Doc, is that what I'm facing out there?"
 "W-well n-no." The stutter was back. "M-maybe t-the first attempt, but n-no where near the p-perfection of w-what I said." Clark clenched his jaw. Despite his advanced training, and education, and vast experience, he was just a grunt. Ethics wasn't his battle, and he still had a mission. 
 "Alright Doc, seal the door behind me."
 Stepping back out into the stairway with the door sealed shut behind him, he switched over to contact the General.
 "Hound 6 this is Dog 6."
 "Dog 6, report."
 "Asset is secure, moving on to primary objective."
 "Understood, is there any further information."
 "Affirmative, there appears to be another saboteur loose. The enemy is searching for him, and a base station was destroyed."
 "Understood, be advised there are no other friendly forces in the area that we know of. If there is, they are internal." That was possible, but Clark didn't see that from what he'd seen.
 "General, this unit I'm up against, Doctor Joseph informed me about them. I'm, I'm against some unusual odds." There was the long pause again. Clark wanted to key up to force a response.
 "Captain, the doctor likely told you too much. The Wolf Unit, the unit that is rogue, is the opposite from you and your unit in every way. From the method to their biological make up. The Wolf Unit is also an experiment itself. Each soldier has gone through hours of gene therapy enhancing their natural ability. They had proven extremely effective up to this date in covert operations around the globe. I don't see why you need to know any more, Captain." Clark bit his tongue.
 "Understood, continuing mission."
 "Hound 6 out."

Friday, August 5, 2016

A New Kind of War (The Jackal)

 Randal squirmed on the ground. Grunts of pain came and went through the icy air. A momentary amazement passed over him. Despite the pain and fear, Randal never once looked back at him, doing so would have given away his position and made him a target.
 Randal fluttered his legs, his left leg like a fish out of water as his right fought to get traction. He was trying to push himself out of the open. Clark held his breath for the death shot. It never came. He finally dared to move. He didn't know what else to do. Any decision was better than no decision.
 Clark popped up to a knee. Exposing himself. He scanned the building with his rifle. He saw nothing. Something was going to happen. His heart pounded. His sight narrowed. Still he saw nothing. Nothing came. His breath quickened. How long would it take for the sniper to acquire and kill him? From what he'd seen, he should be dead already. Nothing. He went back down, his ears ringing with blood pressure.
 He heard his radio squelch. He responded.
 "Last calling station, this is Dog 6, say last."
 "Dog 6 this is Hound 6, what is your situation?"
 "I am pinned out by sniper fire. One causality, one KIA."  He realized then that he never reported the fact he made contact with Birdman.
 "I saw the engagement from satellite. The sniper has relocated, he is no longer in your area."
 "Hound 6 can you be sure there are no other shooters in the area."
 "Negative Dog 6, you need to move, we are tracking multiple hostiles converging on your location."
 "Hound 6, advise relocation."
 "Three hundred meters around the west wing you will find the housing connexes, contact back once you've relocated. Hound 6 out."
 Clark had to breath hard. The adrenaline dump hit him and he was suddenly very numb from cold. He thought about it too much and knew he had to move. Regardless of what was told, he popped up, slightly off center from where he had been, scanning with his rifle. Randal had moved several feet. Clark sprinted to him. His gloved hands yanked at Randal's gear as he slid onto him. Randal yelped in pain.
 Clark didn't spend time looking at the wound as he tried to get Randal up on to his back. He'd fireman carry him, but he knew the round had struck deep in the hip area. He wouldn't be walking.
 "F-uck you." Randal spewed in pain through his gritting teeth.
 "Yeah, fuck us buddy." Clark had his right arm under and around Randal's right leg. It was a horrible position to be carried it, but it was the only option now. He was sure as he ran past the helicopter, towards the west wing of the facility he'd get clipped by a shooter, that a round was come flying out tearing through his flesh and bone. But the shot never came.
 He huffed, heavy thick breathes came from him in the rigid brisk air. He rounded the corner of the west wing and saw the stretch of connexes the General had referred to. There were four rows, each row contained several hundred of the containerized housing units which were built back to back on each other to utilize the full length of the connex container. On the far right, in the distance, along the heated walk way moved a four man fire team of the goggled soldiers.
 Clark began to move down the walk way, he could get to the other row before the fire team converged on the west wing. Clark turned and began to huff his way down between rows three and four, or that's how he rationalized it in his mind.
 He thought he was growing warmer from moving with the added weight of Randal, and a wet chill dripped down along his back. The realization that he was soaking up Randal's blood had to be pushed away.
 "Can this ride get any rougher?" Randal spat at him.
 "I'm getting you into one of these things."
 "T-that'd be smart." Randal went limp, and then jerked back to Clark's relief.
 Clark tried a unit on his left, the door was stuck locked. He could try and break in, and leave himself exposed longer while making noise. He tried another, damn it, locked. He went further down, locked, locked, locked again. Motherfucker, one of you don't lock your door and I know it. Locked, and once again, wait no, unlocked. The door opened, Clark swung his rifle around widely in the short room with his left hand. No one was inside. He leaned over, and Randal slid off his back with a gritted groan.
 Clark shut the door behind him, and checked outside the window on the door through the paper blinds. He saw nothing.
 Turning back, the heavy repugnant aroma of coppery blood had already engulfed the room. Randal was quite, his breath shallow and his eyes were fluttering.
 "I got to see what we're working with here." Clark pulled a knife off his kit and began to cut away the pants and undergarments around Randal's wound. He pulled back the clothing, exposing the bloody flesh to the warmth of the heated container. The wound was not in the leg, but higher, where the hip met the leg. Blood came out steadily, heavy bright crimson.
 Clark touched Randal's hip to steady him.
 "Argh! Don't." Heavy labored breathes came out Randal. Clark had yanked his hand away faster than a child does to a burning stove.
 Clark had only touched Randal momentarily, but had felt that the hip and probably the femur were shattered on his left side.
 Randal's breath was labored, but shallow again.
 "That was too fast." Randal said low in a wet voice that smacked the warm air. Clark stared at him dazed, thinking at first he meant how fast they got to the container, but that's now what he meant. It was fast to Clark, the shots from the shooter came fast, precise, especially for the distance between the two targets. It was almost super human, but he knew in his clear mind things came off that way with adrenaline going, with fear, with getting your ass kicked. "It's warm here."
 "Better than in the snow." But then Clark saw the drooping eye lids heavy with the burden of life.
 "It doesn't hurt." Clark had put his hand behind Randal's head in time to feel the limpness as if he'd fallen asleep. Clark sank down to his knees, his forehead pressing against Randal's arm, his face pushed into the cheap fabric covering the simple stranger's bed.
 He heard his radio clicking, someone trying to raise him, and he ignored it. He swallowed hard, a hard try lump slithering down his throat. His nose began to leak, he felt his eyes watering. He mumbled an apology. An apology for his continued failure. For his lack of resistance. For the entire ordeal.
 The radio clicked again.
 It boiled inside of him. He pulled up with a ferocity which had no target. He keyed the radio and with no discipline called back.
 "Dog 6, report."
 "Causality is KIA, completely mission ineffective." He almost outed the General at that moment but just let go of the key.
 "Negative Dog 6, you are trained to operate independently and will do so until the main force arrives." Clark's mouth hung open. Did he hear it correctly? Did he not understand the reality of his situation? He was cut off, with his entire team wiped out. This wasn't some training exercise or problem solving situation. Even more insulting was the General maintained his flat monotone voice, there was no hesitation, or inflection. Like he was reading a gaddamn script.
 "Hound 6, I say again, my remaining operators were wiped out by..." He refrained from swearing, "... sniper fire." There was a longer pause, just static after his transmission.
 "Captain, I understand your situation, your mission has not changed. Said sniper is believed to be a renowned sniper from Chechnya, the Soviets nicknamed him The Jackal." There was a drawl, the first he had heard. "We have satellite visual, he is moving in on your position. Captain, aside from being a well known sniper, the Jackal operates as an officer for the SoA. Captain you will need to eliminate this threat and HVT before you can continue your mission." Clark waited. That was the end of the transmission. He wouldn't mind at least putting a bullet the bastard who claimed Randal and Birdman from him.
 "What's his position?"
 "We are tracking you being in B sector. The sniper is moving along F sector of the billeting, he is unaccompanied. Captain, if there was a time to strike, it's now."
 "Clarify, these sectors, I'm in B, that means the other side if A correct?"
 "Correct, move quickly, our satellite footage is lagging by several seconds to a minute."
 Clark threw aside his remorse and guilt. He forgot about how ridiculous the mission was and suicidal. He would get his opportunity for at least one thing that made sense. Clark checked the chamber on his rifle before bursting out the door, plunging back into the cold. With his head on a pivot scanning for threats and rifle at the low ready, he moved from what was B sector to C sector in a single bound.
 His headset clicked and the General spoke to him.
 "Use caution Captain. This sniper is renown for his abilities. Rumors from Soviets who survived encounters claim he's so good he's able to stop his heart to take a shot." Clark shook his head as he came to a corner and began to pie around the 90 degree corner.  "Of course this is just over excited rumors, but you don't get a reputation like that with lucky shots."  The next side was clear as well, meaning no one opposed him between D and E clear. "Captain, stop."
 Clark took a knee down between two of the containerized units looking down the clearing between D and E.
 "The Jackal is about to round the corner of F now."
 Clark moved his sights to the corner of the container at the end of E. It would be roughly a three hundred meter shot. The weather and suppressor working against him.
 He slowed his breathing.
 A lean dark figure rounded the corner moving low. Clark's sights went slightly higher than center mass. No sooner he squeezed the trigger he a snap from the sniper and a flash. He could feel his eyes widen, his pupils grow, his body tense. He swore he could see the bullet coming right at him. He slid back. The heavy round slammed into the container behind him.
 "Jesus..." Clark blurted. How the hell did he acquire me so quickly? Clark had the drop on him, and they fired at almost the same time.
 "Captain, the sniper is moving, towards the D sector side."
 The bastard was moving in and changing positions at once. He had to do the same. He back tracked and came out on C sector. Moving west in hopes of closing the distance.
 "The Jackal is coming out on your side."
 Clark moved between containers he'd wait for the sniper to move out and then catch him with an angle.
  "Tell me when he's out."
 Clark began to pie the corner he had just taken back out to C sector. Staying away from the cover as much as possible while slicing the corner into smaller manageable pieces.
 He saw the flash first. He ducked back in hearing the heavy round pierce the container behind him. He felt a tugging at his shoulder. He had sliced it perfectly, and just as he saw the first glimpse of the sniper the round had been fired. Jesus how keen are his eyes? That was about a 200 meter shot at a target less than three inches exposed for only a second. He looked at the tugging in his arm. His winter jacket was frayed. The bullet had passed right next to his arm and just about tore the arm off the coat.
 "Captain, the Jackal is prone."
 Clark tore at his jacket, the sleeve came off and he tossed it aside leaving his left arm's BDU under clothing exposed to the elements. He moved swiftly down along D sector to close the gap between him and the Jackal. He went what he thought was about hundred and fifty meters.
 "General where is he?"
 "Still prone, he hasn't moved."
 Clark came back cutting towards C and B sectors. He knew the rough location, that the Jackal was closer to C sector. He knew how he'd do it now.
 Clark didn't stop to breath or pie the corner. He took a long stride out and fired in the rough estimation of where the sniper was. He saw the dark figure to off to the left. The first round missed, slamming into concrete. The sniper was turning. In a blaze it muzzle was towards Clark. Clark squeezed the second round, knowing this would be his last if he missed. The correction was made.
 The Jackal curled up. The rifle dropping between the heated concrete and snow. Spasms of pain caused the Jackal to sputter away. For a moment the thin figure stood up trying to gain his balance. Clark almost fired again but saw the heavy stumble of a death throw. Clark closed the distance. He could see on the dark grey uniform where two blossoms of red velvet sprung.
 His shot from earlier had landed the mark. And his third shot had sank into the Jackal's shoulder.
 The Jackal stumbled back, the pain from both old wound and fresh seizing him. He fell back onto his ass.
 Clark put himself between the Jackal and fallen sniper rifle. The Jackal stopped struggling, shivering in pain, looked up at him through the balaclava. Clark centered his rifle on the Jackal's face, but in the soft light but jaded eyes he didn't see the anger returned. He didn't see fear. He only saw acceptance.
 The Jackal kept one hand wrapped around his abdomen where the most blood pooled from an old wound. The shoulder wound steamed but was left unattended as the Jackal moved to remove his mask.
 Clark tensed, his finger nearly involuntarily squeezing the trigger.
 A soft narrow chin was first exposed by the slow removal of the mask. Plush lips, and a curved nose, the first strands of short choppy blonde hair came until the face was fully exposed.
 Clark lowered his sights off of her face and but kept the rifle trained on her. Her face quivered in pain, and the a pale ghost of a former face stared back up at him.   
 "You look, just, like, him."
 A soft accented voice slipped through the pain, and before Clark could respond, the Jackal was no more.

 A snow flurry moved in as Clark stared down at the body of the former sniper. A twinge of relief washed over him. The realization that the sniper had still performed amazing with a bullet lodged in her guts made him consider, if briefly, how it would have ended had he not fired when she first rounded the corner at E sector.
 Clark began heading for the center research portion of the facility. He ducked in between two containers and keyed in his radio.
 "Hound 6, target neutralized."
 "I saw, impressive work. Did you get anything from her?" Clark keyed back a to respond but said nothing. He stared down at the ground, breathing heavily before letting go of the key. "Captain are you alright?"
 "Yes, I, she, she said I look like him, I didn't get anything from her."
 "She likely was delirious in her last moments. Captain, you stopped a murder to a ruthless terrorist organization. The Jackal, as she was known, was targeted by several Soviet special police agencies and special forces groups. The age old tension between Chechnya and Russia was suspected to be her motivation to fight with the insurgents across the land."
 "You sound as if that's not the answer."
 "Obviously she joined the Son's of Arms, they have never been known to have a large presence in the brewing conflict in Chechnya."
 "Then why was she here?"
 "We'll never know for sure now. But your mission remains. You must find Gregory Joseph. It appears you're heading to the research wing first. The doors are magnetically sealed, you'll need to find another way in."
 "General, I need to know more about what I'm facing here. Aside from the SoA, who is this unit here? Their gear looks American, but it is nothing I have seen."
 "Like you, they are the next generation of thinking towards special forces. They are specifically here for equipment and advanced experimental weapon testing. They then use this gear in the field in covert operations. The weapons you see them carrying in is based off a German assault rifle that failed due to NATO standards. It fires a case-less projectile electronically. It seems they used the armory to outfit themselves with them when they took over."
 "I thought there was only two groups of ten in the Hound Unit."
 "In the Hound Unit yes, but a split in military thinking created this unit, as of yet they have no official designation. They specialize in destabilization of regions through direct action, as opposed to your training of building and creating a local resistance force within a population."
 "The two mentalities from Vietnam never figured out who was right then, huh?"
 "Doesn't seem so. Back to your mission, Captain. Hound 6 out."
 Clark sank onto his knee. All his training, and even all his years of experience had not prepared him to fully conduct an operation alone. Yes, they were trained to operate as individuals, something learned from centuries of espionage, all put to a practical application on the modern battlefield. But it hadn't prepared him to lose his whole team in a single gap of only a few hours.
 He pressed back up. No one quits.  He remembered his instructors at selection saying. If you quit, you stop fighting, if you stop fighting, you're dead and we don't train the dead. He wasn't dead, far from it. He switched out his magazine for a fresh one before stepping back out towards the objective.
 As Clark moved towards the research wing, of all the burdens and troubles in the world that faced him, all that floated through his mind was, the General has an unusal monotone voice on the radio.