Some might even be for the better. ;)
Previous stuff at:
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 of mind when one was preparing to make a
major life decision. Since Kat was preparing to move to a city she had
visited only once, she felt entitled to worry a little about all the
things that could go wrong. Yesterday it was worrying about which of her
nick-nacks would get broken in the process. Something always did, it was
a rule. Would she entrust the rose vase from her late grandmother to
fate, or would the tri-fold of pictures from high school be sitting in
the car next to her for the three thousand mile drive across the
country? As of this morning, her worries had condensed to a single
concern that would be addressed before lunch.
She never thought she would be wanting to worry about useless trinkets
from her unenviable past.
Right now, handcuffed next to James Rahn inside of a Radio Shack a mall
stuffed full of explosives and psychotic gun-toting terrorists, talk
about broken glass and sentimental value sounded laughable. Little
concerns, like leaving behind her home, city, county, and state of birth
didn't even rate. Right now her concern was a five-foot, seven-inch tall
demon straight from Hell.
The demon hadn't seen a bed, comb, or shower in more than a month. His
clothes were black, as all of the terrorists' were, and wrinkled as if
he'd been living them for weeks. His eyes were bloodshot, rimmed with a
network of thick red veins that pulsed with hatred. A thin beard had
once followed a proud, square jaw. Days of untrimmed growth made his
face appear long and gaunt, rather than solid and strong. 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 hygiene was that no part of
him looked like it had recieved better care than any other part. Nothing
stood out as too clean or too dirty. He was simply one big ugly mess.
"Karl Banks," the man had said the instant they were inside. He hadn't
said another word since, instead sending the pair of armored assholes
who had caught them to the front of the store with hand gestures. Once
they were gone, he gave the pair of handcuffed arrivals a derisive snort
and proceded to stare at James as if he expected a tree to start growing
out of the top of the man's head.
The entire time, James looked like a ten year old as Disneyland.
Finally, a third word came out of Kar's mouth, "Explain."
James took a deep breath, and did his best to imitate a PBS narrator
when he replied, "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 know where the fuck Rick fucking Genoni has
run off to, why the fuck James fucking Rahn is his goddamn perfect
double, how the fuck this perfect fucking double knows how to kill
Marines, Army infantry, and Navy SEALs; and lastly, I need to know where
Rick fucking Genoni is and you are going to fucking tell me if it's the
last fucking thing you 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 before I cut his balls off and feed
them to him."
Karl didn't look amused at James' retort, but pulled out a massive knife
and picked at his nails. After a moment, he gestured for James to
"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,
Karl smiled back at her and started on the last finger of his right
"Isn't she something special?" James added a big goofy grin at this
point. "So, now that I've made my introduction, 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 have got some serious military training yourself."
"Sorry," James shook his head like a mother chiding a young child. "I
was never in the military."
Karl was picking 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 narrator voice, "See, this is your problem.
You can't creatively solve the problems before you. Let's start with
something simple. A concept you can grasp; I'm not who you think I am."
"Really?" Karl deadpanned.
"I don't know him," Kat stated, inching away from James slightly.
Karl threw the knife at James. Kat could picture him throwing knives at
strangers with one hand while he ate his corn flakes with the other.
This man was no stranger to violence. James stood his ground like this
happened all of the time.
Kat took a second to look at the knife sticking out of the cardboard box
behind James, realizing after a second that it was directly behind
James, not specifically off to one side.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Karl said slowly.
"What, you missing?" James said, his tone still pleasant, his face still
holding the ghost of a smile.
Kat flinched back at the verbal assault that resounded from the dirty
man before here, and was both impressed and disgusted by the fact that
his spittle could hit them at ten feet. "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
"You're a dead man!"
This was a car wreck in slow-motion that Kat couldn't look away from.
James was handcuffed and flippantly trying to piss off an unhinged
murder machine. They were going to die and she would never get to worry
over her glass chess board and matching crystal chess pieces even though
she had only the faintest idea of how to actually play the game. She
would never again wrap a hand-made mug from her best friend Crystal, who
took a handful of valium in the restroom last year and was removed in a
black bag, in twelve layers of newspaper because it was the only thing
from her that Kat could hold in her hands remember her by. For one
fleeting second, she wondered what would befall her once James was dead.
Would it be quick, just a flash she'd never live beyond?
The word came out of James' mouth like a gunshot. It was a bullet of
conviction and truth that Kat's mind simply could not reject.
Karl was riveted to the floor where he stood. "Am I?" He asked.
He was. Kat believed it with every fiber of her being.
"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
destroy more than just you."
"How eloquently dillusional." Karl grabbed the AK-47 and pointed it at
James. "Remember that even if you survive, the FBI will gift wrap your
ass and hand it to the government on a silver platter."
Kat didn't even look at James when he answered. Her stomach was rolling
like she was on a storm-tossed ship. Any second now, any second now...
"I'll take that into account when I come up with my exit plans."
"You do that. I almost want to cut you loose. I'd love to see the look
of futility on your face when you realize you've already lost."
"You aren't allowed to shoot unless I'm literally attacking, are you?
See, that's part of your problem. You don't act in the interests of
Karl lowered the gun and shot James in the leg. The man scream and
twisted as he fell. He landed hard on his side, hand hands still cuffed
behind his back. Through gritted teeth, he hissed out, "I'll win. You
don't love your fellow man, you fear them. You fear your commander, your
country, your family, your men, and the public. How could you every act
in the interest of people you're scared to death of? I love my fellow
man. I love the public. I love humanity. Government? The government can
go rot in a hole for all I care."
"Love?" Karl asked.
Kat looked at her friend, her head spinning. She was desperate to do
something, but felt powerless. She wasn't used to dealing with this kind
of situation and the corny dialog it invited. She looked at James'
handcuffs, wishing there was some way she could just get him free. For a
moment she forgot to breathe.
James' handcuffs were unlatched.
"That's it?" Karl asked.
"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."
James was already moving. His handcuffss flashed through the air like
silver lightning, knocking the end of Karl's AK-47 to the side. Bullets
raked across boxes and shelves as the gun barked. James charged through
the chaos and clutched the gun just Karl was bringing it to bear on him.
There was no struggle for the weapon. The Marine aimed a kick between
James' legs, and the assassin stomped on the attacking leg before it
moved more than an inch off of the ground. The next attack was a
crushing elbow to the head, followed by fingers raking across his face.
Karl kept his grip on the gun even as one of James' fingers smashed an
eyeball into pudding.
With a primal roar, Karl pushed James away. The assassin stumbled, the
AK slipping through his fingers. Then the Marine rushed him. Kat didn't
even have time to call out before the two met. James grabbed a computer
monitor from a bench to his right and threw it right over Karl's
viciously flying fists. The monitor hit Karl like a brick hitting a
terrier, instantly dropping the derranged man.
Kat spent a moment looking at the unmoving body on the floor, words to
express her feelings raced through her mind like motorcycles on a foggy
night. A glance at James, and one thought came to her. 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 was milliseconds from spitting those thoughts out as
words when James casually threw her over the boxes and workbench Karl
had been leaning against.
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.
There was gunfire.
And more gunfire.
Then a brutal cry like a man tearing his soul in half.
Then a moment of silence before a muffled crunch and snap, sounding so
much like ice wrapped in a towel and hit with a hammer, so much like
something else she had never heard before and wasn't sure she wanted to.
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. Couldn't she
say something nice. Maybe a 'thank you,' sometime? Lessons in tact would
be a worthwhile investment in the future, she decided.
"Yes, but our dear friend Karl is knocked out, and I have no intention
of waking him."
"Was that display for my benefit?" She asked, then chastised herself.
Tact, girl, tact!
"I don't think I have anything to say to that," James said.
Kat squirmed, 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
She took a deep breath, summoning some clarity of thought--or so she
hoped. "Did you give that speech for my benefit?"
He looked about to launch into a lengthy explanation, but changed his
mind as his mouth opened. "No."
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 callous 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
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