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Tunguska [short story]

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Backgammon

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« on: <12-15-11/2041:58> »
So, I used to write a lot, till I took an arrow to the knee (in the form of having a baby), So, one of the things I've been wanting to get back into is, you guessed it, writing a bit. So, tonight I finally conquered both writer's block and lack of free time and sat down and wrote something. I wanted to write something I could finish in one sitting, so that's what I did. However, in my great googly moogly mind, this is the first of a triple-intertwined story. Ideally, I'd like to slowly write it off a bit at a time. But, to not make it sucky for you, dear audience, I want to make each installment fairly open-ended so you don't feel gipped having to wait for the next chunk to enjoy the current chunk. So, anyway, he's the first story, born from staring into the cold snowy plain at night.

Comments and criticisms are welcome.
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Backgammon

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« Reply #1 on: <12-15-11/2042:38> »
Marik stood looking into the null of the tundra before him. The lights from the camp a few klicks away glowed a bubble that dissipated into the miles of nothingness around. The cold air felt like judgment. It held the silence of the tundra with limp, outstretched arms, too weary to give much effort, but an old guard diligently holding its charge. You could be alone out here. You could rage and yell at the sky, but the cold would not answer you. It would just burn your lungs as you opened your throat and to teach you your lesson: nobody, nothing, cared. As it should be. Either man or dead, no pretension.

He heard the crunching of the snow behind him. The effort to look wasn’t worth it with his coat. You had to completely twist your body to see past the sides of the hood. It was a calculated carelessness that, in a way, brought peace to Marik. If it was death he would have chosen not to fight it. What carelessness. Almost like a cherub of once upon a time.

Vasili didn’t say anything at first, but Marik could tell, with annoyance, the boy was simply holding back to try to be stoic like the rest of them. How he admired them. But the boy could not keep his peace for long; the jitters were not easily ignored.

“They don’t know what’s coming, hey?”

Marik stared at the black air before him. The boy would be poetic. Clumsy, but he had no experience. Marik imagined the cold air snaking into him, infiltrating him. Maybe they were all just infected by the spirit of the tundra. God knows the wolf-people spoke of such things.

When Marik didn’t pick up the conversation, Vasili continued. “All this space and we have to kill each other, hey? It’s almost like we could live in peace out here, maybe. In the city, when I kill, it’s not like this. This, this feels more serious, you know. Like more grown up.” Marik realized with a sense of boredom what the boy would perceive as a mistake before it happened. A useless prophecy he had to live through immediately as the boy shifted, catching what the innocence of the cold night had made him say. “I mean... I’m a man, Marik. I just meant, you know....”

Before the boy could embarrass himself further, Marik turned without paying any heed to Vasili and headed back towards the snowmobiles. Vasili hurriedly caught pace with him. “Marik - “ at this Marik graced the boy with a look “I won’t let you down, I promise you”. At this Marik answered with a faint regret Vasili could not perceive “I know.”

Spetsnaz and Simon were professionally checking equipment, bent over the back of the snowmobiles acting as tables. They both shifted their heads the slightest amount to eye Marik and Vasili out of the corner of their hoods as they crunched the frozen soil. Marik eyed them back in silent communication and they both shifted their eyes away. Marik reached his snowmobile and picked up his rifle, testing all the moving parts.

Simon spoke up: “Alright, it’s time. Spetsnaz, head into position. Hold radio silence, we will wait for your shots before passing the sentries. Vasili, stay with Marik and do what he says. You understand, - ?”. He almost added “boy” automatically but caught himself. Marik noted the deliberate restraint, and saw Vasili vigorously nod his head. He’d noticed too the sign of respect, or lack of disrespect, whichever. He practically beamed with joy at belonging with them. Marik gazed back at Simon, who caught his eye and gave him a dark look. “Just stick with me and keep your head, everything will be fine, Vasili”, said Marik, still holding eyes with Simon.

Simon turned his head to sweep them all, as did Marik. Spetsnaz was eyeing them both calmly. Like a married couple, Marik could read from his mind. Yeah, yeah... Spetsnaz pivoted on the spot and headed out into the darkness without further adieu. The crunching of the snow faded moments later. Simon and Marik jogged out as well, with Vasili in tow. The boy quickly took the lead a few steps ahead, as Simon and Marik fell in step closely next to each other. They had a few minutes of hustling before them, so Simon had time to murmur a few words to Marik.

“You ever think about having children?”

The topic surprised Marik, but Simon’s face was blankly honest. Then, Marik caught on. “Why, because of the boy?” When Simon nodded, Marik shook his head with a smile. “That doesn’t make me good with children, Simonka; it just doesn’t make me an asshole”. Simon grinned at that.

It was Marik’s turn to fire off a frank shot. “You ever think about it?” The context took a moment to sink into the other man, but it made him lose his grin. He answered plainly, in comfort. “I have nightmares, sometimes, yes. I won’t pretend otherwise. We’ve been through enough together. Will this time change things? No, it won’t. What’s one more drop in the bucket? Is he more innocent that the wolfskins? Less? Doesn’t matter.” The two broke off and arrived at the mark in silence. They dropped prone where Vasili was already lying, watching the camp through his binoculars.

They all lay flat for a moment, until Simon made a bare movement to point to the right. A tiny pinprick of flash had shone out of the far darkness. They did not hear any result from it, but could assume. A guard rounded the outside corner of the encampment, walking with bored steps, head hunkered down in his coat. A second pinprick of light and the guard’s head jerked violently, and he fell.

“Alright” was all Simon said, and they moved in. Simon broke off, aiming his direction toward the center of the encampment. Marik corrected Vasili’s course to match his own, more towards the far left of the camp. They were all running now.

As planned, they heard Simon begin his part. He bellowed rage and opened fire. Cries of alarm and surprise followed, then the explosions of hand grenade. Answering fire, automatic, too long, random. Blind panic. Simon’s gunfire stabbed precisely. A dagger wrapped in black satin.

Marik didn’t worry about that side of the camp. He ran when in open ground, halted when in cover, checked his angles and continued on. With him, Vasili jerked his weapon backwards and forwards, side to side. His breathing was hard. He was terrified and confused, but to his credit, fighting it well. He kept up with Marik without question. Marik made sure he was following. Thankfully, the boy had enough sense not to open fire at anything. They hustled from trailer to trailer as they made their way to the objective. From some of the trailers they hung against emerged their occupants, shouting in that dialect unknown to Marik, barely dressed but clutching old assault rifles. They ran towards the fighting. None noticed the two men.

They reached the last trailer before the radio center. Simon was mopping up further away. Secondaries were going off as fuel reserves and ammo dumps went up. The camp was in chaos, though the fight was clearly one sided. These were not fighters. Just desperate men and women that believed in a cause and thought they knew what a fight would be when it came. Those that grew up fast enough fled would live. Those that played soldiers would meet Simon and see they were wrong, and die. Marik thought of the silent tundra around them. Cowardice was nothing to the plains. Only survival, and even there, nothing cared.

Marik kicked open the door of the comm center. A beast whipped itself around at him and roared, fangs and claws bloody. Marik held his trigger, unimpressed. The wolf-man shuddered and roared as its body was wracked by the impacts, but a dozen assault rifle rounds will ruin any monster’s day. The crack of his automatic fire ceased with the beast slumped against the wall, gore dripping down. Marik scanned the rest of the room and could see nothing other than the tables covered in paper and electronics. He turned and looked at Vasili. The boy was staring wide-eyed, mouth open at the dead shapeshifter. Marik stepped in.

“Shit” he said, as he dropped his rifle and rushed to the back of the room. He pressed both hands against the throat of the young man slumped against the wall. He was still alive. His mouth tried to work words, the eyes behind the glasses swam but tried to focus on Marik. Vasili ran to his side, alarmed, one more thing to be alarmed about in a night of such things. “What? Who is he?”.

Marik removed his hands from the torn throat. Blood gushed out of it in waves. Marik looked at his bloody hands, grimaced and wiped them against his fatigues. “Comms tech. Won’t be telling us anything.” Marik took a new look at the dead shapeshifter. “He... he killed him? Doesn’t he work for them?” asked Vasili, looking between the shifter and the extinguishing tech. Simon walked in the door just then, the night outside mostly quiet again. Simon appraised the scene and caught Marik’s eyes just as the man said “Yeah, works out that way sometimes.”

Simon looked at him inquisitively. “What is it?”

“Tech’s dead. I was just about to check the computer” answered Marik, nodding to the equipment on the back wall. Some blood had splattered on it.

Simon legged over the debris on the floor and
rushed to the terminal. He started fiddling with it. Vasili stood over his
shoulder and watched the screen, a mix of pretending to follow what was going
on and curiosity all over his face. The comms boy had died. Marik stared at his
face. He was clean, smart glasses on. A city boy, no doubt. Believing in the
cause, bringing in valuable technical expertise from some university program
his parents had paid for. Fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and
abused, for the rightful balance between Nature and Man. The comms boy dead eyes had focused on
Simon, inched from him, right before he bled out, betrayed and confused. Simon
hadn’t even noticed him. Marik shrugged and headed for the corner of the room,
where on a crate laid one of the enemy’s favoured make of assault rifle.

Simon uttered and especially long swear string. “We’re too late. It’s gone. America, from what I can tell here.” He sighed and closed his eyes. He did not look at either Marik or Vasili. “There’s some intel in here” he spoke, looking at the floor. “I don’t understand it but maybe Gregory’s men will”. He uttered a curse concerning the hairy genitals of prostitutes, turning his back to the terminal. “Spetsnaz?” he asked, speaking to his discreet radio. “Ya boss.” came the answer through the channel. “We’re done here, we missed our target. We’re cleaning up and we’re coming back. Rendez-vous in five.”

Vasili looked from the terminal, to Simon, to the terminal, to the dead tech boy, to Simon. “What... what does it all mean? What’s going to happen? What... Will we still get paid, right?”

Simon paused at the threshold of the trailer’s door. He held there for a moment. He turned the corner of his eye past the boy, to Marik. “Yeah boy, we still get paid”, he said, softly. Vasili frowned and opened his mouth to ask a follow up question, then turned towards Marik when Simon stepped out of the trailer. He did not have time to even change expression as Marik opened up on him. The boy shuddered as the bullets impacted. Most went right through him, at this range. He fell to his knees, then sideways. Marik watched him. He deposited the Yakut rifle on the floor and walked over to Vasili’s body. He looked down into the boy’s face for a moment, before checking the boy’s gun and the rest of the details. Everything looked fine. The kid had kept the firearm they’d given him. Hadn’t even questioned the dogtags. Marik couldn’t feel remorse.

He left the trailer and joined up with Simon. He hadn’t gone far. He was standing just a few feet away from the door, staring into the night of the tundra. Simon broke from his stare and looked at his teammate. Marik nodded. “I don’t know if they’ll really buy it, but he looks like one of Otsana’s. Ex-military, black market gun... all looks right. He didn’t even say anything.”

Simon didn’t move. “Lamb to the slaughter. It wasn’t our choice, you know”.

Marik shook his head. “Don’t get sentimental; you’re not even the one that did it. Let’s move before that wolf’s friends show up. I don’t feel like tangling with Spirits.” Marik started, but added “What do you think? About the data? Anything good?”

Simon frowned and motioned Marik to follow as he started his jog away. “Some stuff. Something about organic data. Injectable. Complicated shit. Not our problem anymore.” Marik thought about Vasili and the comm boy. He didn’t say anything for a long time. He took a deep breath. The cold burned his throat. “Yeah.” he finally said, as they hurried into the cold night.
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Deepeyes

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« Reply #2 on: <01-20-12/1138:57> »
Nice read!!

Backgammon

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« Reply #3 on: <01-25-12/1244:56> »
ZOMG a comment!!

Thanks, I appreciate the encouragement :)
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Deepeyes

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« Reply #4 on: <01-26-12/2012:10> »
ZOMG a comment!!

Thanks, I appreciate the encouragement :)

LOL!! True one at that too! It WAS very fun to read ;) Keep on writing! :D

Angelone

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« Reply #5 on: <02-13-12/2237:31> »
I like it, hope you get more time to write more.
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