Subject: [FFML] [fic][original][DRAFT] Chronicles of War, Ch19
From: Jared Waddell
Date: 1/20/2006, 10:49 PM
To: "ffml@anifics.com" <ffml@anifics.com>


It's a mess. Didn't even get revise more than a third of it before I had
to post it. And 21 isn't finshed. And 22 isn't started. And the way
things are going, I'm going to miss posting next week. Still, for the few
(if any) who care, here it is.

Previous versions are at:
http://www.geocities.com/rick_spiff/index.html

Begin fic:

---

Chronicles of War

Part 1: Way of the Storm

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

    "I believe I can see the future/
     'Cause I repeat the same routine/
     I think I used to have a purpose/
     Then again, that might have been a dream.
     I think I used to have a voice/
     Now I never make a sound.
     I just do what I've been told/
     I really don't want them to come around."

    - Nine Inch Nails, "Every Day is Exactly the Same"

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

Chapter 19: A Trivial Matter

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

James stormed into the music store like a bull on a crack high. "Well,
that's one problem solved."

Kat was a step behind him. She leaned against the counter for support,
staring at the surface, eyes blank, while James placed a small pile of
electronics at her elbow.

"What problem?" Ed asked.

"The guy in charge here," James replied with meeting his friend's eyes.

"The boss dude?"

"No, just the guy in charge here."

Ed frowned in concentration. "I'm not following."

James stared at the far wall as he explained, "Lieutenant Karl Banks.
Nice fellow, but a bit of a sociopathic megalomaniac. He's the ground
commander or something of this little troop."

"So, he commands the soldiers?" Ed summarized.

"Well, yes. He doesn't command the overall operation, however." James
finally looked at Ed and smiled like a card shark. "The good news is
that he's got a nasty concussion now."

Kat's head rotated to face James, moving like a separate life form. "I
thought you killed him."

"A Lieutenant?" Carl asked, stepping out from behind Ed as one would
step clear of a large tree.

"Yes, a Lieutenant of the United States Marine Corps Recon Force One,
and no, I didn't kill him." James said smoothly.

"He was a sorry fucking excuse for a person," Kat added.

"He's a fanatic," James responded politely. "What made you think I
killed him?"

"You hit him with a television!" Kat exclaimed.

James pointed a finger at her, offended. "It was a computer monitor."

"Whatever!" Kat snapped. "You killed the...the..."

James ignored her in favor of looking critically at his nails, blowing
on theatrically and he finished her sentence with a lazy, "Underlings in
body armor."

Kat's mouth closed audibly.

Ed looked back and forth at the two, then sighed. "So you knocked their
leader out of commission and killed two more. Excellent." He rubbed his
hands together like a mad scientist receiving a shipment of uranium.
"How many do we have left?"

James slowly pulled a cigarette from somewhere and brought it to his
lips, prompting a glare from Kat. "Plenty. Our next target is the Bon
Marche, but first...I'm going to try to break something expensive." He
stepped away from the counter and gestured grandly at the electronics
laying on it.

The individual items were easy to identify--a portable television,
several small cable connectors, and a pair of universal pliers. How they
were to fit together, or if they would work, remained a mystery.

"You looted Radio Shack?" Carl asked, disbelief coloring the word 'loot'
as he dragged it out of his mouth. A collection of tired glares were
focused on him.

"No. I'm going to check out the Bon's cameras," James explained.

"With that?" Ed pointed at the pile.

James nodded. "With that." Then his phone rang. He pulled it out and
answered with little fanfare, while Kat sent a look at Ed that said
'he's getting way too used to this.'

"This is James." He listened for a minute. "Well, I would have to say
it's because someone doesn't want my old name coming out." A pause. "If
I knew who it was, I would have already dealt with them; I didn't even
know it was blacked out in the first place!" Another pause. "Well, fuck
no I don't remember it. Look, my father's name is Sean, and my mother's
name is Diana. Figure it out for yourselves." He nodded his head for
another minute, listening carefully. "I suppose I'll see them then. The
Bon Marche is the next target. Thank me later."

As he hung up, Kat asked, "What'd they want?"

"The police want to know why my old last name is blacked out of all of
the school records and missing from their computer system." James' eyes
suddenly went wide. "Wait, do you guys remember it?"

Ed and Kat looked surprised, then eager, then at each other, then
puzzled.

"No?" Ed said uncertainly.

James' face went blank. A team of technicians and a recording studio
would have needed a week to detect the emotion in his voice. "Fucking
great pair of friends you two are."

"It's not like I meant to forget!" Kat shouted.

James lit his pilfered cigarette and blew a cloud of carcinogens at the
ceiling. Then he looked at the electronics on the counter, pulled a
couple of batteries from his pocket, and made a little mark on the map.

----------

Ed stared at the ventilation grate. Under normal circumstances, this was
the kind of activity reserved for special people who lacking the mental
capacity to change their own clothes. These were, by no means, normal
circumstances.

James stood next to him, checking that various things were in the right
place. Terry, one of the music store's employees, own a coat that fit
James fairly good, and as it had enough pockets to confuse an octopus,
he offered it to James when the assassin went looking for something to
hold his weapons and electrical equipment.

Ed used a pocket knife--taken from where, he couldn't precisely
recall--to unscrew the grate. Once he was finished, he stood back and
admired his handiwork.


The idea was that James would climb inside this bit of ducting, slip
into the Bon Marche via the roof, hook up his camera thing, and see what
the terrorists were up to before charging in. They were right next door,
in a tiny shop that sold small jewelry and pierced young girls' ears.

The basic problem with the plan was that James had no idea if he could
get out of the duct once Ed sealed him in. James had assured him,
repeatedly, that it was a minor detail, and should that problem arise,
creative problem-solving methods would be employed. James would also be
without a radio, but that was a necessity. It wouldn't do him any good
to have one if he were sneaking around, and if he weren't sneaking
around, he'd be fighting, and shooting with one hand and talking into a
radio with the other didn't appeal to anyone.

James slipped inside, took his MP5 from Ed, and said only two words
before disappearing into the dark, "See ya."

Ed started putting the screws back in, then paused and said, "Yippie ki
yi ya, mother fucker."

"I heard that," echoed back from the darkness.

Ed smirked, and went back to work.

----------

Inside the duct, James felt he was doing the dumbest thing possible. It
was only through sheer determination that he climbed straight up a forty
foot tube of polished steel coated in a thin layer of low-resistance
dust. At the top he faced an enormous fan, thankfully stopped, and had
to figure out how to get around it.

"Modern HVAC equipment," he said to himself, "doesn't use fancy
propeller-type fans as shown in the movies, but has instead moved to
'squirrel cage' fans, which are much more efficient for a given volume
of moving air, and leave absolutely no fucking room for me to slip
through. Unless I was a half-inch thick, which I'm not. Wonderful."

He pulled out a short length of pipe and jammed it into the fan to keep
it from moving, should it start up and want to turn him into
conveniently thin slices of James. Then he bent the fan with his bare
hands so that there was was room to squeeze by it and into the main
'unit.'

"They don't build 'em like they used to," he said, one foot braced on a
metal lip no wider than his pinkie finger. He reached around a huge
cooling radiator and popped open the latches to the access door. A
little more shoving and metal bending, and he was out.

"Yes!" He hissed in quiet victory. He quickly followed up with, "Damn
it's cold."

Getting down was the easy part. He spent a second disabling the massive
heating/cooling units by flipping switches, then pulled open the access
door to the Bon Marche's unit and kicked the radiator out of the way. It
took a bit more kicking to get the fan out of the way.

Cursing his lack of rope, he slid down the duct.

----------

Limbaugh stepped away from the command van's console. "What the hell are
we supposed to do? Guess?!"

"He did give us his parents' first names," Bates said.

Dan set the papers faxed to them from the school district and shrugged.
"Words fail me."

"Everything else has his new name." Limbaugh said, hovering over Bates.

The Chief of Police opened the door to the van and stepped inside. His
cheeks had turned a deep pink and his hair looked like a tornado had
nested in it. "Give me an update."

The two detectives exchanged a glance, then Bates picked up the fax.
"These are James...Rahn's high school records. His original last name is
blacked out."

"Social Security Administration?"

"His records were destroyed two years ago, and the D.O.L. doesn't have
anything either." Bates summarized.

Camiens took the papers from Bates and stared wordlessly at them for a
long minute. "I want to start a covert investigation on James Rahn. Keep
it off the record."

Bates blew out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "Can you
tell me why, sir?"

"A Dave Handleton called my private number a few minutes ago. Claimed to
be an associate of James Rahn. Very polite, very cunning. Didn't tell me
a damn thing. Wants to help us out, see if we need anything, but I don't
know him from Satan."

"He offer to send you a box of sweaters?" Dan asked.

Cameins ignored the comment. "I had Chris run a background check on him,
which came out totally legit."

"Weird," Limbaugh said. "Especially now that it's been over an hour
since..."

Cameins pressed ahead. "Just start digging--quietly."

"Yes sir," both detectives said instantly.

The Chief turned to the last man in the cramped command center. "Dan,
forget about trying to negotiate with this guy. Call it a hunch, but I
don't think we'll really get anything useful out of him. I'll be
checking in with SWAT if you need me."

The door was opened and close in the space of two seconds, leaving
silence locked inside the van.

"Who does he think he's fooling?" Dan said out loud.

"Dave Handleton." Limbaugh dropped into his seat. "I'm calling Chris."

----------

James looked out of the grate, his ears straining to detect what his
eyes could not. After a few moments of patient waiting, he heard the
sound of boots moving across a thinly carpeted floor. To the right.
Maybe a dozen feet away and moving away from the wall. James put his
hand against one corner and pushed out hard enough to hear the drywall
crack and loosen slightly.

The foot steps stopped.

James repeated the process on the other corner, and the foot steps
stayed maddeningly quiet.

He paused his escape to tap the side of the duct rhythmically for a
moment.

He heard a click and a voice whisper something indistinct. If there was
a reply, it was far too quiet to carry distinctly. He pressed on the
third corner, tapped the far side of the duct for a moment, then pressed
on the fourth corner, which didn't give.

The hesitating foot steps moved towards the duct erratically. The
soldier swept through the clothes racks carefully, then walked along the
wall. As he approached, James synced his breathing to the soldier's
movements. The soldier was four feet away when he tensed his legs, two
feet away when he held his breath, and directly in front of the grate
when he kicked.

The metal shrieked as it gave way, blotting out the cracking sound of
drywall being turned into powder. It slammed into the soldier's knees,
James' feet right behind it, and the soldier went down. James rolled
right out of the duct and onto the floor, slipping a knife into his
target's throat with one hand while the other twisted the man's gun so
that his spasming finger wouldn't cause it to go off.

He had to stomp on the hand to get it to let go of the gun, but by then
there was no way that the man could be saved. He stomped on the radio
twice, and blinked as it remained stubbornly undamaged. He bent down and
turned it off before whispering, "Now, the game is afoot. Whose foot
remains to be seen."

He worked his way towards the rear of the store, feeling like he was
twenty and darting through the shadowed halls of a mansion built like a
military fortress instead of a fluorescent-lighted cathedral of
capitalism. Both situations were similar in the ways that mattered--a
group of well-armed military types were trying to find and grievously
injure him, and salvation lay behind an innocent-looking door meant to
be used only by the natives.

Thirty-five seconds later, James stopped counting and stared in relief
at the door marked 'Employees Only.'

----------

In the music store, Ed found himself watching in fascination as Kat ran
her fingers through her hair for the twenty-fourth time. How did the
woman still have hair? Oh yes, terrorists didn't take over the mall
every day, that must be it.

"Could you stop that please?" She asked for the seventh time.

Ed stopped tapping his foot.

A moment passed in silence, then Kat broke their rhythm. "You really
think he'll be all right?"

"Honestly, I'm more worried about us than about him. He's lighting a
hornet's nest on fire, and it's possible that everyone here will either
get stung or burned."

Kat chewed on her lip for a second, then ran her hand through her hair
for the twenty-fifth time. Ed resumed tapping his foot.

----------

James found the cabinet he was looking for and was scanning the cameras
within a minute. Unfortunately, the scene outside was exactly what he
didn't want to see--the soldiers were preparing for an assault. The body
he'd left by the vent was gone, a massive bloodstain marking his
handiwork. Patrols had moved inside the building, and the entrance was
now guarded against a person trying to escape, rather than invade.

He dumped the electronics and checked his weapons. The MP5 was backed up
with five full clips, two grenades were in his pocket, and he'd hit the
mother lode in knives, with seven hidden on him. The Glock he'd came in
with was doing backup duty with four extra clips.

They wanted an assault, they were going to get an assault.

He exited the Employees Only door and walked out to the main isle,
submachine gun held loosely at his hip. Trendy, overpriced winter wear
lined the isle, but James preferred Terry's comfortable threads.
However, he didn't discount the possibility of snatching a coat later.
When he was halfway down the isle, a soldier stepped out from behind a
rack of leather jackets and opened his mouth just in time to be cut down
as James nailed him like a cardboard cut-out.

He swung the MP5 to his left and drew his pistol with his other hand. He
only had to a wait half a second before a second soldier did a corner
check from the same spot his partner had met his end. James fired the
pistol almost on reflex, and nailed the peeking soldier in the side of
the neck. As the soldier's body jerked, James switched the positions of
his guns and let a burst from the MP5 hit the man's body.

He dropped to the floor, checking his flanks for more terrorists in
hiding. His eyes locked onto a pair of mirror-polished combat boots on
his left. One round from the pistol sent their owner crashing to the
floor, and a second sent him to Hell.

James rolled to the left, under a clothing rack, and came up with a gun
pointed in each direction, trying to look at both ends of the isle at
once. He spared a glance at his latest kill, then froze. There was a
repeating sound, like someone scraping their foot on a carpet issuing
from the end of the isle where he'd dropped the first two soldiers. He
laid on the floor, and saw the second corpse performing some
exceptionally creepy postmortem twitching.

In a word, Eew.

He made it to the end of the isle quickly, then fell back, moving from
cover to cover as bullets whizzed over his head and chewed into the wall
behind him. After a second he saw that most of the shots were going
high, and adjusted his tactics accordingly. He stalked forward, moving
out from behind racks of clothes for only a second or two at a time. The
shooters had already given away their position, and in less than thirty
seconds, James had made his bullets earn their keep.

That took care of one of the four corners of the bottom floor. He had
three more corners on this level and another whole floor to deal with.

He grinned.



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