“From what I understand the object you failed to acquire was worth considerably more, as much as say a thousand times more on black markets worldwide. Either the pirates had no idea what they were being asked to hand over or the money like the handover was an elaborate ruse. I just don’t understand why they would do that.” Davis said.
“What‽ In what way would the transitional council have any interest in backing the local Sunni warlords?” Aimee retorted.
Ali Barba stepped forward in the slightest of ways. Of all present he seemed most at ease. He was an undercover developer of localised assets, otherwise known as a spymaster. He’d done some spy training, but it wasn’t intended to turn him into a CIA operative. Ali Barba had a talent for befriending and relating to, the Arab world. He seemed to instantly put people in this region of the world at ease with themselves. Those who knew him variously preferred to believe he shared their religion. In truth he was Buddhist, but practised this in secret. It suited his purpose for those he mingled with to believe he was a pious Muslim, Christian or Jew.
“My current batch of informers, all local merchants, or what’s left of them anyway, they all share a common thread. Word is Deadly Eastern Wind has received a blessing from god. One so powerful that a single demonstration of its power was enough to convince the leader of the transitional council, President Lafi-Amur Daz Mohammed, to cease hostilities immediately and pursue a binding pact of non aggression. But I know right? As if that really makes any difference in this part of the world. I mean. Shit come on look up at the rising body count, people. You’ve all looked around those corners. Been the ones to see the fields barren, the villages bare. Where are the bodies? Then you see a dreadful sight, a human body, pushed days beyond rightful human endurance, limping along wracked by her hunger. So yeah lasting peace in Somalia, probably not, not even as an end game. This is an active conflict zone, and the pirates in this region are providing plenty of incentives for foreign powers to proactively protect their shared sovereign borders.”
“Stay on task solider!” barked Sarge harshly. Sarge hated it when soldiers got philosophical. Not because intelligent insight was bad, but because not staying on task, one hundred percent of the time got soldiers killed in a war zone. And they were in a war zone. A fact they had discovered to their detriment only yesterday. God protect their souls. Once more guilt swayed with anger, the eternal loss of a commander. That feeling that it really should have been him.
“Do we have any idea what this demonstration was?” asked Tim curiously.
“Yes” Davis intoned.
Davis’s face went taunt, a thing that Tim had never really seen his affable friend do before. Always in control, always full of fun. Davis exuded the devil may care attitude that the bravest of men only dreamed of. It was precisely because he never let anything get under his skin, that his reaction was all the more curious. Tim didn’t have long to find out.
“Deadly Eastern Wind is well known for taking western aid workers prisoner. About twenty minutes ago they are believed to have lined up one hundred and twenty young men and women against a brick wall over two hundred metres distant. People whose only crime was having a good and generous heart. They plugged the lattice uranium into a modified laser cutter, and put it on wide beam. The amount of power normally required to cut a one metre wide line at a distance of two hundred metres is colossal yes Tim?” Tim nodded, and Davis continued,
“The laser started at the left. It didn’t just blow the wall apart, it fucken obliterated it. In the end every single atom was reduced down to nano particulate. As it passed by the only thing left were the heads of the taller males falling to the ground. My contact said that by the end of it, about half the witnesses had thrown up. There was nothing.”
He paused, his eyes were hollow, he seemed to hate the more he went on, like a bright fire that burned with a purity undiminished by the passage of years.
“I want to find them. I want to find them and I want to fucken kill them. I want to kill them all. RAARGH!”
Not for the first time Tim wondered what his friend had seen when he was young. Davis was so driven, would literally move mountains, if you asked him to. He was incredibly good at what he did and most of the time pretty principled, but there were some things that would really set him off.
Instead Sarge stepped forward and gripped Davis in a warrior arm grip, right arms locked at the forearm.
“Mate! That’s what you Aussies’ say isn’t it?”
“In life many things are painful, of those things that are painful many things can make you lose your mind. Nothing is certain, but that life is a cruel and cunning mistress. When you are lost, trust the one that finds you. When you are found, thank the one who saved you. Never forget, never let yourself forget what we have seen this day. One day, one day soon you will repay all that is lost. One day you will avenge.” – The voice of Bear, Cub standing like a ghost in shadow somewhere hidden next to bear.
Sarge broke the ice, looking now up into the taller man’s eyes.
“You have my word that my men and I will help you track these mofos down. I doubt there can be much left but we will try and get Intel involved to help identify the bodies so we can get some word back to the NGO’s and the countries involved. Let’s gear up and get on that chopper, I want to catch me some ter-ro-rists.”
“Boss we got a problem. The transit of our gold shipment from Europe to Australia has been hijacked.”
Firehead had always been direct, even now when it was likely to be a deathwish. His boss looked at him with cold blue eyes, the aggressive nature of his stance and manner nothing compared to what Firehead knew he was capable of. Aggression was just a tool to keep the rank and file in line. Here it served only to underscore the stressful situation that both men now found themselves in.
“Jeezus Christ mate! You better have some better fucken news than that for me.” His voice was menacing, etching the flat gravel timbre of his tone. Like a chainsaw cutting through stone.
“As you know we equipped the ship with numerous GPS monitoring equipment, a crew of mercs, and several internal security devices. We also kept the nature of what was in the holds a secret, even from the captain. No sense in being double crossed. What we didn’t reckon on was those cunning bastards the Blue Tiger clan. The same fuck knuckles Davis and I ran into earlier today. It seems from our European chapter that the captain was turned early by holding his family hostage. The bodies turned up floating along the Seine yesterday. Phone records we acquired show Blue Tiger operatives have been in contact with his mobile phone for about three weeks prior to that.”
Firehead paused to take a quick drag of his ciggie. It could be his last guilty pleasure, the boss wasn’t looking happy, cop it square, and be a fucken man. Either way it was too late now.
“Firehead ya’gonna have ta make sure next time, none of these idiots we hire have families. With the level of surveillance the clans and cartels have access to these days it’s no wonder even an operation with this level of secrecy has come unstuck.”
Firehead didn’t change outwardly, but inwardly he was confused, he had half expected at this point to be copping a knife to the gut. His boss had done worse for less. He had just about lost seventy percent of the gang’s asset base. In one go. What was going on, the boss should have been fucken ropable by now.
“Ok boss; good news, although Blue Tiger appears to have had their black hand in turning the captain, they were never in control of the vessel. The GPS and internal security is still active. Internal sealed monitoring reveals that a Somalian pirate team have taken possession of the boat off the east coast of Somalia as it passed through the Gulf of Aden. Further analysis has revealed they have it at a makeshift dock. They have multiple teams working around the clock at trying to tear their way into the holds.”
“So tell me Firehead... Why the fuck is that good news?”
The bosses face was still calm. Weird Bill thought, it should be going bright red by now. Firehead knew he didn’t have much time, but damned if he was going to go out all stressed out. He took another drag, and then drained half of his beer glass. The nicotine and alcohol was shear magic and instantly brought about a feeling of whole body relaxation. A burp ended the interlude and signalled he was continuing with his report.
“Because boss, the GPS tells us exactly where they are. The holds were state of the art fit outs. The idiots are using standard low grade cutting tools. We know they don’t have lasers. I’ve done some calculations and it’s going to take them at least another week to crack the first hold and get an idea of what they have. The holds themselves are shielded from x-ray, subsonic, radar and thermal scanning.”
The Bosses face hatched a nasty smile. The full length scar that ran from his forehead across his left eye to his cheek started to twitch. A sure sign that he was hatching one of his cunning plans.
“So... we have a window of opportunity. At least until the Blue Tiger clan relocates the missing pirates. We can only assume they too have been double crossed.”
“Why do you say that boss?”
“For the simple reason that if they had not, our informants would have only located a burnt out boat and a dock facility that had been blown to smithereens. Every pirate within 100 km would be dead. I dealt with Blue Tiger in my younger days in Thailand. They are the completely ruthless killers.”
Now it was his turn to perform the ritual of taking a cleansing draught of beer. As he exhaled his smoke, he spoke. And as he spoke, his fingers slowly rolled over an open map with pencil markings, and ruler lines.
“Ya are going to Somalia, Firehead, on next plane out of Sydney. Now here is what you are going to do...”
The shadows moved vaguely. All was quiet inside and out. A strong wind ran through the street, pushing half closed window shutters open, banging them eerily. Large pools of midnight shadow pervaded the inside. The inn was empty; at least that was something a passing stranger would never have wondered any further about. The place screamed; a place full of ghosts. The locals were a superstitious lot and always gave it a wide birth. Even at midday. The ghosts were alive in here though. From the nearest wall a ninja just “appeared”. He moved forward and bowed in his masters presence. The first ninja was soon joined a couple of moments later by a second.
All were standing, ignoring the furniture arranged around them. All along the walls of this inn were murals of ancient life. Scenes of simple bucolic pleasure and blood thirsty victory.
The leader was distinguished by a larger build; he was in short a hulking monstrosity. However it was his bright red eyes that indicated seniority. The eyes seemed to glow with residual power that even now leaked out and bathed his face in an unholy ethereal glow. As if the light was refracting off of a light and insubstantial mist that floated around his face.
He stepped out now and addressed the two underlings before him.
“There has been a small interruption in the plan. Strategy E has been modified to include contingency 7 as part of main strategic objective. Secondary objectives are still on track for completion. We will be allocating additional resources to the America strike. This part of the operation must not fail. Take my word and make it so.”
The first of the underlings bowed deeply, never taking his eyes from his master. He then turned and strode from the room.
“There is at least one”
He turned on the underling, cowering him with a glance from his eyes. All knew that to displease the master was a by rule the shortest road to a quick and painful death. The master could kill with his mind, and often used bad performances as a way of reminding those watching the price of failure.
Yet he did not turn on the minion. In fact he looked right through him, for even now it confused him. His master had never once spoken of this.
The training in mind magic was costly indeed. Ten years of physical conditioning from the age of five. Ten years of mental conditioning in the form of nearly non-stop meditation. Then twenty years of continuous practise in concentration. He had learnt all the tricks. The hidden symbols that opened up to lost worlds. The words of power that cast him far beyond himself, recast in some forms as Tiger or a Dragon. And the shear cost. The personal cost to his soul, was in a sense incalculable.
“That is an adept or above. I want you to take a message to our monastery in the Haung Dong Mountains. Tell the old master that there is one who is my...”
He really didn’t want to keep talking. His ego made him stop, but his sense of duty to the Blue Tiger clan overrode it. The minion didn’t move. The ninja did not even contemplate pre-empting his boss. Did not even move a muscle. Interrupting your laoban in Blue Tiger business could be a fatal one time mistake.
“Tell the old master that if he wants this adept out of the way, I’m going to need the Toaken Sword, and his two best protégés. Go! You are sworn on pain of death. Your reward for success will be to forget this mission completely. Fail and you know the consequences! Now Go!”
The ninja bowed low and turning loped easily from the room. He would not stop until he had reached the heliport. There would be a pilot waiting. A sleek jet black chopper, its blades running, would be ready to jump.
Undefined segment of reality, Midnight, The Dreaming
A huge bear hunched drearily forward, only partially aware of having a body, and not of being a vague spirit presence. Ahead of him some metres away a younger cub bear also hunched wearily forward in an almost identical manner.
Why were they now awake again? Had they not already gone through the great dreaming. The door on that segment of their lives was by rights already over. And yet it seemed that it was not, or else something was very wrong with reality. Cub turned around instinctively sensing his brother, at which point Bear knew they were truly dreaming within distance of reality.
They had been asleep in the great woods. A forest no longer in existence in the desert of outback Australia, they were nonetheless content to hibernate forever in the land of their birth.
Now something, somehow had broken a seal that could not be broken. A seal on death, from which life was not meant to escape. That meant a guide must have walked down a very dark and very dangerous path, and there was no way they would have come all the way. So they had actually found a path? But then it would be very hard to follow. Very faint. His eyes would need to be sharp.
Instantly he was alert and running. Catching Cub by one arm as he hurtled along the forest path. The two of them dashed forward together, sensing the danger following, roaring now behind them. Bears in full flight are scary creatures, and these things were supernatural in strength. Anything in their way simply smashed apart as they trampled along the forest floor.
An almost invisible trail to read, an enemy that could not be fought, chasing at their heels, and death as the only option should they fail? Bear liked those kinds of odds. Actually he like those kinds of odds alot, he lived for them. Cub growled his appreciation and spurred forward taking his turn at point. Yeah this was gonna be fun. Suddenly he didn’t feel tired anymore.