Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Episode 28

The Commander was among the first to approach the van. Smoke was still spewing out, as if it were some warped, overturned cauldron.

Nobody dared to touch it. Perhaps it was the bubbling pools of rubber that warned them. At any rate, the van exuded a heat that grew almost unbearable as they moved nearer. A few didn't approach at all, contented to watch the dancing flames.

"That's for killing all my men." The Commander said, softly. No longer did he smile. The charade was over. "Hose the van down and retrieve their bodies. Whatever's left of it."

The Commander turned away, flipping a handphone and auto-dialling.

"How many dead?" He asked, wasting no time for greetings. He listened in grim silence as the man at Internal told him early numbers and projected casualties.

It was a big mess-up, alright, he thought, watching smoke weave grey patterns above the ground. Somebody has to take the blame.

There was smoke ... and perhaps a hint. Of Something Else. The Commander flipped his phone shut, ignoring the report. There was a brief movement ... no, it had to be his tired mind playing tricks on him - even so ...

There was a blur black outline in the smoke.

The Commander squinted; he told himself it was just his imagination, but took out his gun anyway. The outline was still there - of a boy, it seemed. A plume of smoke blocked it from the Commander for an instant, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

Then it was back.

Damn. The Commander seemed indecisive for a moment, staring at the outline, frustrated at the night, tired by the ordeal. Emotions were pulling and pushing his battered mind; his worry of the red tape he'd have to deal with, of the court martial he might get -

So the Commander raised the gun, trained the sights and fired. The shot made soldiers turn; the Commander saw the black outline collapse.

"Sir?" asked one of the engineers. "Is everything fine? Would you like us to scout the area?"

"No, no." he admonished. "Its nothing. Absolutely noth -"

Another figure had appeared.

This time soldiers saw it. Everyone froze, staring at the outline. A dumb conscript placed his hand on the smouldering van, yelled and started hopping around in pain. No one paid him any attention.

"Who're you?" the Commander ventured, gripping his gun until his knuckles turned white.

"Well," the shadow called out, " Your men've destroyed the transport, what else do you want?"

The Commander raised the gun again, as did the soldiers.

"Useless - what makes you think i'd be killed?" the voice came floating back.

They opened fire; the outline fell. Another appeared in the smoke.

The Commander suddenly understood. "Oragi," he said, and motioned for a captain to contact the Nobu strike teams.

"I wouldn't do that if i were you." the voice chided.

A slight rustle, a breeze. With a cry, the captain fell convulsing to the ground.

The Commander's face showed fear as he stepped away from the fallen man. His gun was shaking in his hand but he kept his voice firm.

"Alright. Who're you? We're an army here - you can't play this charade for long -"

"Who says we have to?" The voice cut him short. "You destroyed our van, now you're telling us we can't play with you, have a little fun -"

"Have all the fun you want." The Commander said. His fear vanished, and all the men knew it was just another facade. From behind his back he took out his mobile phone and waved it for the shadow to see. He dropped it.

Even before the gadget hit the ground a boy in a skin tight suit had appeared in front of the Commander. Nobu division assasin - an Oragi.

"A ploy," said the voice, bemused. "And now you've brought a proper fighter. Leveling out the playing field, are we?"

The Commander smirked. "The rest of his team are on the way. Have all the fun you want."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Episode 27

A van stopped outside the chalet. All the Toskan men stepped out of the shadows, aimed, fired.

Little silver holes appeared in the paint of the van, ricocheting off the ground, sinking into reinforced tires, slamming into the bulletproof glass. By the time they stopped firing it looked more like a leapard than a vehicle.

The Commander raised a loudspeaker.

"Congratulations," he started. "Bravo, bravo."

Silence as the men reloaded and blocked off every possible escape route.

"You outsmarted all of us in that rescue of yours. Very admirable of you to come up with sucha dashing plan."

The men aimed their semi-automatics at the van again.

"But," he continued, "Stupid of you, really. You forgot all about the equipment we have."

The men opened fire, this time tearing sizable chunks of metal out from the vehicle's frame.

Silence. The commander scrutinized the tinted windows.

"Go on," he said. Two Toskan men came out from behind him, priming a rocket launcher. They aimed, they fired. The missile zipped under the vehicle and tore the wheels apart, sending it crashing onto its side.

The Commander waited for the smoke to clear.

"You're not going to survive if you go on like this." he said. "I'm willing to let you all live, if you come out now."

No reply. The van lay dejectedly in its side, two wheels gone and one pathetically spinning, oozing melted rubber.

"We still have three of these slugs." he said, with the air of someone enjoying coffee, "One of which is armour piercing."

The rest of the men had reloaded and were aiming their semiautomatics at the windows.

"I'm a reasonable man." he said. "If you don't force us to waste so much time and ammo we'll not maim you."

He took out a cigar and lit it, put it in his mouth and blew a smoke ring.

"Oh, and those windows can only last a limited amount of impact."

The blasts of the semiautos turned the windows into cracked black panes. Something inside the van shifted.

"Ready to come out?" he smiled.

Whoever it was shifted again, but no door opened. The Commander snapped his fingers and produced a small remote control.

"I'll humour you. Why ever can't you escape?"

He pressed something. A nearby amplifier crackled to life, playing from a pocket PC. It was a girl's voice:

"Concrete structure," - a slight pause - "At least its next to a decently high building. We can make our escape through that."

"You can't be serious." - It was a boy's voice.

"Oh, but i am. It'll be a lot safer than trying to get out through Internal."

A long, pregnant pause. The amp emitted sounds of a distant crowd and the spray of water. It sounded happy - a world away.

"We have to go now." The boy said.


"Chong Fen and Jean's back from City Hall, and there's a Toskan van coming up."

A short pause here. Then -

"Yes, female voice said, "Let's."

The Commander tapped the control and the amp clicked off. "Sound familiar?" he asked, beaming. "Scout pigeons all around, no small wonder we thought you were amateurs."

He blew another smoke ring, and then pressed on. "Another thing that confused us. The actual plan at Internal was good - our scouts could not confirm anyhing on ground level. Until, of course, we called in a magister - found out immediately all the guards within were down." He looked almost annoyed at this.

The Commander tossed the cigar down and crushed it with his boot. "Enough chat. I'll probably find out someway or another. Come now - I've told you why you can't escape, that we'll not maim you, and you're wasting our time. Five seconds."

The men all raised their guns.


The two Toskan soldiers behind him inserted another projectile into the launcher.

"Three - "

A click. The Commander smiled. Van doors slid open, revealing a solitary hand enveloped in darkness. The van was still on its side and the hand was the only thing they could see.

"Too late." he said, "Kill them."

Gunshots errupted all around and the projectile sliced the air in a beautiful arc, sinking under the armour of the van. Perhaps it was worthless - a couple of soldiers had already tossed in grenades through the open door.

A flash of light, a concussive roar. Bits of metal, glass and melted tire flew.

Smoke shrouded the entire clearing.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Episode 26

The trip back was still tense, although the stress was lessened somewhat. Jean had taken out her med kit and was treating Kyioshi's wounds as best she could.

"What did they do to him?" she asked.

Jason shrugged tiredly.

"Whipped him, punched him, electrocuted him, gave him a soothing potion, did it all over again, fed him soap - the works."

Jean shook her head and took out another syringe. Chong Fen shot her a curious look over his shoulders but had to keep his eye on the road.

Yuki and Alec were side by side, Alec asking for details on the Toskan unit. Yuki smiled and tentatively put his arm around her.

"Nice hair ..." Ceri could hear him mutter. Kierra and Milo were sleeping, leaving only Jason to watch over Kyioshi. Sabriye was sitting next to Ceri, but only because Taylor had taken up the seat next to Alec, and was pointedly ignoring everyone by staring out the windows.

"Your friend Ross," Sabriye said, folding her arms. "Is really annoying. How'd you put up with him?"

"Why do i have to answer that?" Ceri asked, face blank.

"Because," Sabriye said, "a few hours ago i found out why he isn't that useless."

Ceri looked at her, brows slightly raised in surprise. Then he turned back to the front, face in neutral.

Sabriye was watching both Yuki and Alec, and how one had an arm around the other.

They seem so close, so fast, she thought. How long before i get this unfeeling idiot to get involved in something?

Sighing, she leant agaisnt him. No reaction. The van rumbled on, moving away from the city and towards an uncertain future. Stars were twinkling by then; a couple of bats flying overhead. Sabriye pulled away, and empty, echoing feeling at the pit of her stomach.

Like a snake, his hand reached and found hers. This time there was no reaction from either of them, only perhaps the slight beginnings of a smile on his lips. The van rumbled on.

Ceri's blog extract

Got them cornered.