Subject: [FFML] [fic][orig][see note]Chronicles of War, Ch.11
From: Jared Waddell
Date: 11/29/2005, 1:27 AM
To: "ffml@anifics.com" <ffml@anifics.com>

Attached again.

NOTE: This was previously posted as ch.10 until I realized my numbering
error. It has some revisions though, so the first half should flow much
better.

12 & 13 coming by this weekend (hopefully).

Fic below.
----


		
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-- Attached file included as plaintext by Ecartis --
-- File: Chapter 011.txt
-- Desc: pat578694258

Chronicles of War

Part 1: Way of the Storm

------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "He gay in triumph, and Mercutio slain!
     Away to Heav'n respective lenity,
     And fire-ey'd Fury be my conduct now!
     Now Tybalt, take the 'villain' back again
     That late thou gav'st me, for Mercutio's soul
     Is but a little way above our heads,
     Staying for thine to keep him company.
     Either thou or I or both must go with him."

    - "Romeo and Juliet"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 11: Oops

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Walking through the empty hallway to the Food Court, Ed expected every
sound he and James made to be unnaturally amplified. He expected
accusatory, sinister echos to be formed by his every footfall. He was
waiting for the shadows to come alive and assault them, sucking away
their lives while cutting out their still-beating hearts. He expected to
feel cross-hairs drawn on the back of his neck with every step. No one
was shooting at him yet. It strange how recent experiences had changed
his outlook on life so dramatically. Now he expected to be shot at; the
absence of flying bullets now made him uncomfortable.

Even on this overcast day, there was no such things as a hard shadow in
the mall. It was open, and peaceful, and serene. It was white-on-white
with bland cookie-cutter decorations breaking the monotony with
unimaginative shapes cruelly parodying good taste and style. It was a
mall, honest and unassuming.

Ed was intensely disturbed by the utter absence of noise James made when
walking. He had known people who were quiet and could literally
disappear into a crowd, but this was a deserted mall with no shadows and
an architecture that amplified every sound as it bounced back to your
ears and yet, no sound.

By all that was sane, James should have been making a distinct 'tap tap
tap tap' as he walked down the hallways next to Ed, but if the guard
didn't keep catching glances at his old friend out of the corner of his
eye, he might as well have been marching down this hallway alone.

James had chastised him before about talking while they were being
hunted, so he pondered. While his eyes scanned the hallway for anything
out of place--such as the odd black-clad mercenary armed with automatic
weapons--while his brain tried to imagine what James the assassin would
make of this situation.

Did James find it enormously funny that he was pitted against merely
part-time killers--soldiers who acted only on orders? Was he scared? Was
he afraid of dying? Did he have a grand plan already formed, assuring
victory with a minimum of hassle, and allowing him to make light of a
situation that would paralyze lesser men?

Did James sleep with one eye open, his fingers tensed on a loaded gun?
Did he spend every waking moment ignoring or trying to forget endless
nightmares that tormented him every night? Had he spent his considerable
spare time in high school training? Did he devote hours and hours to
planning his escape, to running off just days after graduation? How on
earth did he come to kill people for money?

Ed sighed as quietly as he could, and a tornado of sound hit his ears.
The entire situation was a mystery. The people hiding in the mall. The
man who put the bombs in here and baited James. Hell, James was a
walking enigma. He glanced at his friend again. A silently walking
enigma. Trying to find the answer to one question about the man
immediately set you loose in a jungle of a million more questions--some
pretty, some irrelevant, but many hidden and deadly. Ed wanted to look
anyway. For some reason, he wondered who trained James.

The tall guard mentally shook himself, and glanced at the ceiling. The
hallway was almost twenty-five feet wide, with small booths--like little
island stores--set in the center. None of them could be more than twelve
feet wide, Ed knew. Anything wider would get in people's way. Like he
and James were getting in the way of someone else's plans.

The pair turned left at the T junction, passing the central kiosk, and
the Food Court came into view. A forest of wooden chairs with matching
tables were set in front of the 'Cinnabon.' The renown cinnamon-roll
shop marked the halfway point of the north-south hallway, with the Food
Court at the far north end and the central kiosk at the southern
junction. Nothing blew up. James and Ed moved into the copse of chairs
and tables. Ahead of them were more of the island stores, stupidly
numerous this time of year.

At the wide three-way junction set at the southern end of the Food
Court, there stood a twenty-two foot tall Christmas tree. Ed thought
that detail needlessly boring when he read it off of the information
plaque in front of the 'Giving Tree,' as it was called. Who cared how
tall it was? It was damn big, and perfect for hiding behind. Ed noted
that it now sounded strange to him to think of the giant tree as
anything but something to hide behind.

Lacking any proof for his theories, Ed figured that James had either
information or objects of great value. The man had something that
someone else wanted, and that someone else had sent mercenaries after
him. The whole situation wasn't the act of terrorist, despite how the
cops were calling the thing. Although these bastards did have their hand
on a very real red button of doom, that did not make them terrorists.

They had a goal that centered around James.

They had a reason for being here.

Ed decided that the time had come, to ask the assassin next to him just
what was going on here. He had to sound casual. He had to pretend not to
be scared. "So, why do you think these guys are after you?"

James' face had 'intense concentration' written all over it for a
minute. He finally glanced at Ed and said, "I'm sorry, what'd you say?"

Ed stared at James, thunderstruck. He took a minute to wrench his mouth
shut and repeat the question, "Why do you think these guys are after
you?"

"Oh. Well, I have some theories. Naturally, I can't share any of them
with you."

Every warning bell in Ed's head went off at the same time. "Why not?"

"Because knowing them is a threat to your safety."

Suddenly the image of James sleeping with a loaded gun in his hand
seemed perfectly fitting to the person standing next to Ed. Trying to
keep his voice level, he continued, "You think they're after you."

"Yep," James said, "That bastard on the phone specifically asked for me.
He asked for me by name. Then he called me Rick Genoni. I've never heard
that name before. It's not an alias I've ever used. I don't know who
Rick Genoni is--yet. This guy acted like I was Rick Genoni and James
Rahn was the alias."

"So he's looking for Rick Genoni and he's convinced that's you."

"Right. So for the moment, he's after me."

"Why not pull out?"

"Because when you're fucking somebody, you don't pull out."

"George Carlin," Ed noted aloud, "Any idea who he is?"

James, oddly, didn't sound concerned about his dramatically shortened
lease on life. "All I can say for sure is that he's got access to
government equipment and control of government troops. It wouldn't
surprise me if the bombs are tamper-proof and he plans to blow up the
mall once he's captured me just to erase the evidence of government
involvement."

People were trying to kill him, but James acted like this happened all
the time. Ed reasoned that it must have happened all the time. You don't
make friends by killing people.

Ed glanced back at the chairs. So far, he had not spotted anyone
following them. Up ahead, if these guys were as smart, an ambush would
be waiting for them.

It happened once he looked away, and even as the words rang out in the
hallway, he felt like he's stared at a painting of trees and bushes for
an hour, only to look away when someone else walked up and announced
that they could see a deer standing in the scenery.

"PUT YOUR FUCKING HANDS UP!"

James was firing before Ed could even hear the echo. Two figures had
popped out from behind one of the islands directly before them. The
bullets ran true to course, hitting the first man with the force of a
thrown hammer, knocking him out of his crouch and onto his back, blood
spraying into the air.

Ed was fumbling his way into a proper shooting crouch as James sent lead
at a second man, who cowered behind the island. A hand hit him in the
ribs, sending him sprawling. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw James
fall, twisting as he dropped, and opening fire on a jewelry store that
took up the inner corner of the junction they had passed.

Ed flipped onto his stomach during a lull in the continuing exchange of
bullets, and crawled back against a small kiosk that held a map of the
mall and several advertisements. He was halfway between the cluster of
tables and the island store with the other man behind it. Nothing nearby
would protect him from bullets.

"Just great," he cursed. The hallway abruptly went silent, and he saw
James dashing at the island store where the shooting had started. The
second man came up aiming and firing, though his shots missed the madly
running and jumping James by a margin so small that for a moment Ed was
certain that his friend was just being excessively masochistic. James
got to the island without getting any major holes, slapped the man's gun
right out of his hands, then jumped right onto the counter. The soldier
drew back and whipped out a knife, attacking James before he even got
off the counter. James somehow dodged the strike and slammed the
soldier's head into the counter. Ed was about declare such a thing
impossible when James grabbed the soldier's neck and both dropped to the
floor and out of view.

Checking his gun, Ed glanced around the other side of the kiosk he was
pressed up against, exposing his head for a split-second. He counted off
one second, then looked out again, bringing his gun up as well. A head
appeared behind the counter of the jewelry store. Ed was preparing to
aim when a gunshot sounded from the island James had jumped into.
Startled, Ed sprayed bullets wide, prompting the man in the jewelry
store to duck.

"Fuck!" Ed screamed. Even as he tried to order his hands to stop
shaking, two more heads popped up from behind the counter, the bodies
they were attached to begging throwing hand grenades at him. Then James
tackled him, obviously finished with the soldier in the island. He was
grabbing the grenades practically out of the air and returning each one
with interest. He emptied the rest of a fresh clip from his MP5 into the
store for good measure, then threw himself on top of Ed.

Ed grunted. Having someone jump on top of him was not his idea of fun.
Then the jewelry store blew itself into shiny, sparkling little pieces
of flaming junk.

Bits of debris rained down around the pair.

"Ambush," James said into his ear.

Ed answered instantly. No thought was even necessary to figure out where
this was going. "The music store."

James was on his feet in the next heartbeat, offering a hand to Ed. The
guard was about to scoff, noting that he had James by at least eighty
pounds. Then again, James had pushed him over as easily as one might
take a sip of tea. Taking the offered hand, Ed was pulled to his feet
and the two friends were off.

Friends? Yeah, Ed liked the sound of that.

----------

When a person witnesses a traumatic event, they experience an
involuntary sympathetic reaction. Basically, the adrenal gland goes into
overdrive and the brain responds by improving its memory a hundredfold
during the event.

People who have survived car crashes or other life-threatening events
often speak of a moment of 'slow motion,' a moment where they can
remember every detail of what they witnessed to an inordinate degree, as
if they had a great deal of time to take in everything.

If a person witnesses something traumatic, even though they are not
physically injured, the adrenal reacts the same way, allowing them to
remember every detail of 'near misses' or the visibly painful deaths of
others.

The average person will experience several such moments within their
lifetime, and will recall them with exceptional clarity for many, many
years.

Kat was having one such moment right now.

She had been standing there talking to one of the hostages, a young man
by the name of Peter who was oddly calm about the whole affair. Being
taken hostage, that is. He was admitting he was highly religious. He was
telling her he had faith. He was standing there, talking to her, saying
that at moment, being afraid was going to accomplish nothing. She had
agreed with him, and she was nodding. And there was a spray of blood.

She was screaming and could barely hear herself over the pop-pop-pop
sound of a gun going off.

Then one hundred and eighty pounds of determination and purpose slammed
into her. She hit the ground faster than she thought possible, and
wondered why up became sideways. Next, she realized that James was using
his body as a shield, covering her.

He returned fire. She watched spent rounds tumble out and bounce off the
floor, shiny casings marking attempted murder with each metallic clink
against the polished floor. Her mind ignored much of this and spent a
second trying to note the fact that Peter was... She tried again. Peter
was...

"Stay down!" James was yelling.

She wasn't aware she had any say in the matter. The shouting, she wanted
to say, was unnecessary. She could hear someone screaming. She wanted to
know who, and why. Someone was struggling.

"DOWN!" James said, with emphasis.

The person struggling, the person screaming, that person was her. And
all that blood, where had that blood come from? It seemed hard to think
about this, so she ignored for a moment and went limp.

Just relax, she told herself. Reboot brain.

She spent a minute watching James again. He was still moving, still
shooting, emptying the rest of his clip at unseen assailants. Unseen
from her point of view, that is. Muscles under her hands moved like
water, yet were as hard as iron under her fingers.

He jumped to his feet in the next second, either not realizing or not
caring that blood was now smeared all over his face too. He was walking
away from her. There was--

She closed her eyes. She didn't want to think about. She wasn't sure if
she could. Peter was--

She cursed herself and got to her feet. Everyone else appeared shocked,
staring, cowering...but Ed was ready. Grim. If his mouth were pressed
closed with any more force, his lips would be invisible. As it was, he
already looked the part of a silent and emotionless sentinel. His body
language conveyed, in one movement, more than any torrent of expertly
crafted words possibly could. The large gun held in his hand, fingers
tightened around the grip like steel bands, said what his face and body
could not.

James was walking towards someone, a someone in clothes Kat vaguely
recognized as belonging to a soldier, all black-on-black with heavy
boots polished to a high gloss. She could tell just by the way that
James was walking that he was going to kill the soldier.

The man--no, a boy easily three years her junior--was already shouting
like a man begging a hurricane to spare his family. "I surrender!"

He appeared to be surrendering. His arms were out from his body, hands
open and empty.

He repeated the plea, "I surrender!"

Kat could see every drop of blood in her mind's eye. A detached part of
her noted that the wound must have been obscured from her line of sight
because she couldn't actually see the origin of the blood. It must have
been on the side of...of Peter. Yes, Peter's neck had been hit. Hit in
the side.

She tried again to put everything together. Peter was dead. Peter was
shot. Putting 'Peter' and 'dead' in the same sentence was still an alien
concept to her, apparently. Well, now she knew she had to be shock.

So, move on. Next thought.

James was going to kill the soldier that shot Peter.

Out of the frying pan, she mused. Certainly, some part of her wished the
soldier were dead, and that part of her wanted to stand still and watch.
The rest of her, however, acted like a rational being.

She didn't want to see any more death.

She ran. She had to reach James.

----------

James stood but a few paces from his enemy. The soldier was young, with
sandy blond hair, green eyes and a fair complexion spotted with
freckles. He didn't wear any kind of uniform James had ever heard of,
but he stood at attention like a good little soldier. Also, the gun he
had already thrown on the ground was military issue. The gun that had
been used to kill the man Kat had been talking to. It looked like the
whole thing was an accident, if such a term could be sanely applied to
their situation.

There had been two soldiers. The second, older one, lay dead on the
floor. He had been hold an M16 and aiming above the crowd, firing a
warning shot. The younger was just there to help keep the hostages
distracted--or frozen in fear--while the older man gunned down James.
Good set up, until the kid accidentally squeezed the trigger of his
pistol too hard, shot the one of the hostages, and James took down the
older man.

James held his gun loosely at his side.

"Hi," he said.

The young man pleaded his case, "Jesus. I'm awfully sorry."

"I know. It was an accident, I could see. But you aren't the leader, are
you?"

James waited for realization to reach the young man's eyes. It didn't
take long. About one second even. Eyes widened too late.

James shot the youth through the throat.

The bullet, he mused, must have deflected off of the spine--not much
penetrating power in a 9mm--leaving the boy in conscious control of his
body while he lost the ability to speak and keep his life's blood within
his body.

Kat was at his elbow, watching him, watching the young man die. Her eyes
were flat, expressionless. Like the lens of a video camera, they took in
every detail, recorded everything, even though nothing had reached her
brain yet. It might take seconds, it might take days, or weeks. She
didn't look eager to remember what she was saying. She didn't want to be
here.

James knew what he looked like, starring down at the young man with a
look of pure fury written across his features. Inside he wondered if he
could chance getting a bite to eat from the restaurants in the food
court. Damn he was hungry.

"What," she managed to say.

James' face took on a distant look. He tried to sound like a respected
General. "Imagine you're plotting the plot to end all plots. You're
trying to capture someone who's impossible to capture. You're going to
put people's lives on the line. You're going to break the rules. You
pick your men...and do you tell them everything?"

She looked at him. "What?"

James looked her in the eye. "To whomever they work for, these soldiers
have about as much individuality and humanity as a pile of bolts. You
throw tons of them at your problem and pray they'll be able to solve it.
You don't explain your plans to them. You lie and feed them bullshit
stories. You cram propaganda down their throats twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week. They can't know what's really going on, because if
one of them is captured, they might spill the beans. Then you wind up on
someone's hit list and get a forty-five caliber wake-up call at one in
the morning."

"You mean to tell me that you killed him just because he--"

"He couldn't put a stop to this; he didn't have the authority. He didn't
have names and places. He couldn't tell me why he was really here. He
could only say he was following orders, and that's the truth. Can't
argue with that. I need the big boss. The leader. I need to plan him a
wake up call with good ballistics and a top-notch escape plan."

"He surrendered."

"He didn't have a white flag."

"He said he was surrendering."

"He was NOT!" James shouted vehemently, "He's got a backup gun and three
knives! He didn't look at me and tell me he surrendered. He was just
looking for another out, biding his time! He didn't hold up a white
flag," James insisted, "Look up the laws."

"Laws? FUCK LAWS, JAMES! He was unarmed!"

Without looking away from Kat's gaze, he kicked the body. A single
stiletto slid out of a pocket on his vest. Unfazed by Kat's shouting,
the assassin calmly offered her his gun. "You want to take care of the
rest of those bombs? You want to talk down his friends?" He paused.
"Would you like to get rid of me?"

Kat folded her arms over her chest and scowled. Her eyes stayed locked
on his, but she didn't speak. Her breath rushed in and out between her
teeth with a slight whistling sound.

As if that says anything, James thought, and turned away from her and
the dead body. Had the boy really been trying to surrender? He didn't
buy it, but that was in the past. James Rahn couldn't raise the dead. It
didn't matter any more. At most, he could apologize to the kid's family,
if he lived that long. He was suddenly very tired. He was now very tired
and very hungry and he'd just killed quite a few people in cold blood.

"All I wanted was some goddamn turkey," he muttered to himself.




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