Subject: [FFML] [fic][original][DRAFT] Chronicles of War, ch18
From: Jared Waddell
Date: 1/11/2006, 9:30 PM
To: "ffml@anifics.com" <ffml@anifics.com>


This one's a mess. I expect to revise it again tomorrow.

Previous parts at:

http://www.geocities.com/rick_spiff/index.html

Begin fic ----------

Chronicles of War

Part 1: Way of the Storm

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

    "If a man hasn't discovered something that he would die for, he
     isn't fit to live."

    - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

Chapter 18: A Fluid Situation

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

Kat was worried.

Worrying was a common state when one was preparing to make a major life
decision. Since Kat was considering a move to some city she had only
visited once, some three thousand miles away, she had some leeway to
worry over her future. Her worrying, as of this morning, had condensed
to a single matter that would be decided with ultimate finality by
lunch.

Would she live to see the end of the day?

Right now, handcuffed next to James Rahn--also handcuffed--in a mall
stuffed full of explosives and psycho gun-toting terrorists, little
concerns like leaving behind her home, city, county, and state of birth
didn't even rate as a concern. Right now her concern was a five-foot,
seven-inch tall demon drawn straight from Hell.

The demon looked like a man who hadn't seen a bed, a comb, or a shower
in more than a month. His eyes were bloodshot, rimmed with a network of
thick red veins that pulsed with his palpable anger. A thin beard had
once followed a proud, square jaw. Days of untrimmed growth now made his
face appear long and gaunt rather than strong and solid as the single
line of hair would have. His clothes were black, as all of the
terrorists were, and wrinkled as if he'd been living them for weeks. His
nose had been broken in more than a few fights, and a thin scar along
the bone over his right eye made his entire face appear slanted to one
side, like it was ready to just slide off of the skull underneath.

The only good thing she could say about his appearance or hygiene was
that his shaved head left nothing to be messy, or full of lice, dirt,
and bits of week-old food.

"Karl Banks." The man said the instant they were inside. He hadn't said
another word since, instead sending the pair of armored assholes to the
front of the store while he waited patiently with his new hostages in
the storage room.

James had a slight grin on his face the entire time, and it showed no
sign of weakening.

Finally, the ugly demon named Karl said his third word. "Explain."

James took a deep breath and began speaking in a calm, measured voice.
His words rang in Kat's ears like a college professor giving a lecture.
"In the beginning, there was only dust, heat, and gravity. In time the
dust fell to the gravity, and was crushed so brutally that a great heat
began to grow. This went on for a few million years, until stable fusion
ripped through the dense cloud of cold and dark dust, and our sun was
born. Fast-forward a few billion years, and here we are. Does that
explain enough?"

"No," Karl said. "I need to hear the in-between. I need to know where
the fuck Rick fucking Genoni has run off to, why the fuck James fucking
Rahn is his goddamn perfect double, and how the fuck this perfect
fucking double knows how to kill Marines, Army infantry, and Navy SEALs
a handful at a time. Lastly, I need to know where Rick fucking Genoni is
and you are going to fucking tell me if it's the last thing you have to
say."

"If you know this Rick person, I'd really like to be introduced to him.
I think we'd have lots to talk about."

Karl didn't look amused at James' retort, but he only pulled out a
massive knife and began to pick at his nails. After a moment of silence,
he gestured for James to continue.

"We got off on the wrong foot," James said pleasantly. He mocked looking
over his shoulder at the handcuffs keeping his arms behind his back and
shrugged. "I'd offer to shake your hand, but I'm...a little tied up at
the moment. Anyway, I'm James Rahn, and this is Kate Dogson, an old
friend of mine."

Her anger felt sharp, sharper than anything else she had felt today, and
when James put her on the spot, it turned deathly cold. Putting as much
of that frost and hate into her voice as she could, Kat offered,
"Charmed."

Karl smiled back at her and started on the last finger of his right
hand.

"Isn't she something special?" James added a big goofy grin at this
point. "So, now that I've made my introductions, it's your turn."

The demon finished his right hand and shifted his stance, making the
AK-47 sitting on the cardboard box behind him visible. "Karl Banks.
Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps, Recon Force One."

"I'm an engineer. What's it like to be in the military?"

"You should know, you've got some serious military training yourself."

"Sorry," James shook his head apologetically. "I was never in the
military."

Kat glanced at him. Her mother was the only other person she had seen
shake their head like that, and then only when she was catering to
ignorant guests that she had to kiss up to.

Karl was on the second finger of his left hand. "Bullshit. How long have
you been doing this?"

"Pardon?" James asked.

"Working as Rick's double," Karl continued his nail cleaning without
glancing at James.

"What makes you think he has a double?" James sounded honestly confused.

Karl lifted his head. "I'm looking right at him."

James snapped back into his lecture voice, "See, this is your problem.
You can't problem-solve creatively. I'm not who you think I am."

"Really?" Karl deadpanned.

"I am...BATMAN!"

"I don't know him," Kat offered.

Karl threw the knife at James. There was no hesitation in his movements.
He looked like he did this every single day of his life, making it
second nature. Talk, throw knife. The knife went flying past James and
embedded itself into the boxes behind him.

Time sped back up. Kat realized that Karl was looking intensely at
James. He didn't look at all surprised.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," he said slowly.

"What, you missing?" James said, his tone still pleasant, his face still
holding the ghost of a smile.

The demon began to come to life, and Kat flinched back at the verbal
assault--to say nothing of trying to endure the flying spittle. "You are
Rick Genoni's double! He's been planning this for years! He has backers
with deep pockets and no fucking morals, DOESN'T HE?! Plastic surgery!
Acting lessons! What else! Did they burn off your fucking fingerprints?!
WHO the FUCK set him up?! WHO WAS IT?!"

James replied only with sass. "The guy that narrates Taco Bell
commercials."

"You're a dead man!"

Kat didn't know how she was going to cover her face. Everything was
falling apart. The terrorist was going psycho on them, they were both
handcuffed, and James was going to die first and she was certain, dead
certain, she was going to be covered in blood in a few seconds. Could
she close her eyes? Her mouth? Would she close her eyes?

"Wrong."

The voice that spoke was filled with such absolute conviction that for a
second, Kat wondered who had said it. Then she turned to James and saw
his face.

The plastic grin of a used car salesman was gone, replaced by a face
taunt with emotion. She knew--she felt--deep in her gut, that this was
just the surface of James' anger. Just a light drizzle and gentle breeze
preceding a hurricane.

With one word, she believed him.

"Am I?" Karl asked.

"Yes. You don't understand, power, Lieutenant of the United States
Marine Corps, Recon Force One. You know nothing. You are the not the
manager of this operation, and you know very little of what your men,
your government, or what your god thinks of you. You don't believe in
one very important human emotion. You don't know what you stand for. You
kill people in the name of freedom, having no understanding of what
freedom truly is. And if you kill for fun, in my military, operating on
behalf of my country, under the orders of my President, I'm going to
kill more than just you. Don't you fucking GET IT? It's OVER! You've
LOST!"

"Very impassioned." Karl grabbed the AK-47 and pointed it at James. "And
very misguided."

"I don't need to know everything about you to win. I don't need dirty
tricks or overwhelming force, and neither do my fellow man. I don't need
to be right or wrong, because those things have no meaning in the world
you've build. You don't even know if love is real. How can you beat me?"

"Love? What does love have to do with this?"

Amazingly, James decided not to make a joke about the obvious popular
music reference. "I don't decide to fight on a side or for a cause,
Karl. I love my fellow man. I protect what I love. I protect it and I
fight for it, and I do everything I can to preserve and nurture it. You
destroy. You're a machine taking orders. You kill and murder and hurt
people so someone else will have something to gain. Your life is
meaningless. You are a target. You are...a tool. I am a tool as well,
but I...I serve and protect."

Karl smiled, his gun never wavering from its target--James' stomach.
"Spoken like a true cop, James."

"I don't like witty mottos. People are important. Without people there
would be no tragedy, no appreciation, no nation, no state, no power, no
weakness, no riches, no poverty, and no meaning. Life is important;
everything else is chaff in the wind."

"And you think you're going to kill me now?"

Kat felt raw panic rising in her chest as the soldier spoke and couldn't
say why.

James was already moving. His hands flashed forward as he half-stepped,
half-turned in place. The handcuffs that he had expertly picked without
anyone in the room realizing it, came flying at Karl's gun, catching the
barrel a second after it began barking.

Bullets raked the boxes behind Kat as James charged. Karl was bringing
the gun down but it was too late. He couldn't have been eight feet away,
and with one lunge, James had slapped it aside with one hand.

The Marine reacted instantly with a kick aimed squarely between James
legs. Rather than choke on his own privates, the assassin turned the
strike into a glancing blow off his leg, and kicked the AK out of Karl's
hands. James fended off a clawed hand, fading back, grabbed a computer
monitor from a wooden bench a few feet away, and tossed it at Karl,
right over the other man's fists.

The attack had been launched so suddenly that Karl had no time at all to
block. The monitor buried him like a brick hitting a terrier.

Kat spent a moment looking at the unmoving body on the floor before she
remembered that she was breathing like she was running a marathon. James
looked at the body as well, his face inscrutable. She didn't know this
man. She had never seen him before in life, no sir. She chuckled
bitterly, "You think you know somebody."

"Tell me about it," James said without looking at her. "I'm sorry."

Sorry for what? Kat had been about to ask, then James grabbed her and
shoved her over the boxes Karl had been standing in front of. They hid
James from view like a solid wall, waist high.

James had sent her body spinning as he pushed her over the boxes, so
that part of her landing was cushioned by her shoulder, the rest by her
body. The force of impact was spread out so that nothing felt broken,
but she would be sore and bruised like a prize fighter by this evening.
Just before she opened her mouth, she remembered the armored guys that
had captured them. It was very easy to remember them now, as she could
hear them burst into the room like a heard of elk.

Then there was gunfire.

And a brutal cry like a man tearing his soul in half.

And a moment of silence.

Then a muffled crunch and snap, sounding so much like ice wrapped in a
towel and hit with a hammer, sound too familiar. Kat froze.

James' head and the smoking end of an M16 appeared over the edge of the
boxes. "Sorry about that. No time to pick your cuffs."

"I'll live," she said in a daze. Had James... "Are they dead?"

Damn her mouth. She'd just lost him with those three words. Some day,
she would learn some tact. She promised.

"Yes. Karl's knocked out, though, and I have no intention of waking
him."

"Was that display for my benefit?" She asked.

"I don't think I have anything to say to that," James said.

Kat squirmed a bit, feeling the handcuffs bite into her wrist. "You mean
you don't want to offer an opinion, or you mean you don't know what I'm
asking for?"

"The later."

She took a deep breath, summoning some clarity of thought--or so she
hoped. "Did you give that speech for my benefit?"

"No; that's unnecessary."

Bastard, she cursed. Bastard! He was reading her like an open book with
a study guide.

"That speech says how I really feel," he continued, "but don't tell
anybody. My bad-ass reputation for being a callus bastard will suffer if
you do."

He smiled, bringing out a cute dimple that had no right being on his
face. "Don't worry," she put courage she did not feel into her voice,
"your reputation is intact, and shining like a polished gem, I might
add."



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