A guard stood faithfully at the end of the hallway, blocking any entrance or exit from the room that contained the holding cells. There was only one occupant, and Parker was certain he had information that would be vital to their upcoming operation. Deep down, Parker knew that the man very well could be clueless to the big picture of what the LRA wanted, and his certainty that the man knew something was likely just a projection of his hope that there was some tidbit of intelligence that would save them from having to run a desperate attack through two days of travel through deadly wilderness. the very thought of this mission made his gut turn. For so long he had been trained by the trials of his trade that to travel in numbers was too great a risk, that the only way to travel in the wilds was quickly, carefully, and quietly. He had always believed in leaving as small a footprint as he could manage-- or none, if possible-- and traveling militias made a lot of footprints.
The guard stepped aside as Parker and Reuben entered the hallway. The two were immediately struck with the stench of day-old defecation. The prisoner came into view, sitting in a fetal position in the corner, likely trying to conserve his heat in the chilly cell. He looked pale, a bit sickly. In the opposing corner, there was a pile of feces and a puddle or urine, contained as cleanly as possible. Parker had not realized the cells lacked toiletries.
The man looked destitute. Parker could tell by his coloration that he was getting increasingly dehydrated. Although his time in the cell was between twelve and sixteen hours, Parker realized he probably had not had anything to eat or drink during the entire time, and understood how that sort of punishment can take its toll. For a moment, he pitied the man, but the moment fleeted as Parker recalled why the man was in the cell, and why they were there to question him.
"What's your name?" Parker asked sternly,
The naked and sore runner stirred in his cell, weary eyes peering at his inquisitors. His voice was hoarse as he spoke, saying, "Alan Paddock."
"Too broken down for bullshit, I see," Reuben observed.
"You're not the average Runner. What do you do, Alan Paddock?"
Taking in a heavy breath, the prisoner wetted his lips, then said, "I'm a hitman."
"Oooh, an assassin. Scary," teased Reuben. "Come on, chump-- you can do better than that. If you were a big bad hitman, I'd have heard of you."
"Amateurs spend their time trying to make sure you've heard of them," Alan said with a sickly chuckle. "Professionals make sure you haven't."
Parker and Reuben fell silent, casting each other a glance. There was a pause before Parker spoke up. "What's an assassin doing working for the LRA?"
"I'm not working for the LRA. I'm working for Garret Freeman."
The name stung in Parker's ears. Director Garret Freeman was at the head of the LRA and had become a personal friend of Parker's throughout the years of work they shared together. A chill ran down his spine at the thought of his boss hiring a hitman,
"Did he send you to kill me?" Parker asked.
Alan peered at him and replied, "There's a bonus in it for me if I do, but no, that was not my contract. He wanted me to stir up a hoard and lure them to the walls, then leave the gates open for them. He wanted me because I know how to travel quietly and how to control the walkers out there."
"Why are you rolling so easily?" Reuben asked. "Why tell us this?"
"I took the contract because it paid well, and I got a third up front. But the job was bullshit, and it was a pain in the ass-- especially when my horde tripped over you morons, and you started slaughtering them and messing with my route." Taking a breath, Alan added, "And I don't necessarily like the end result of what I was told to do."
"That's where all those damn corpses came from when we were meeting with Noric and Andrew," Reuben realized. "Fuck. It makes sense now."
Alan scooted closer to the bars of the cell. "What are you looking for? Hoping I know some secret weakness for a strike-back mission?"
"You're a hitman. You always have contingency plans, right?" Parker reasoned, "What do you know about the LRA?"
"I've got some information that might be useful," he stated. "But it's hard for me to talk right now. You get me some water, I'll give you what I know."
With a scoff, Reuben shook his head and said, "How about I shoot you in the foot, and if you don't tell us what we want to know, I shoot you in the other foot? How about you tell us, and I'll think about giving you something to keep your upcoming gunshot wounds from getting infected while you stew in your own shit?"
Parker set a hand on Reuben's shoulder, calming his companion. "I can see you're not keeping up well," he stated. "I'll get you some water. But if you so much as twitch in a way that I don't like, we're doing things Reuben's way. Understood?"
The assassin nodded hopefully, and Parker motioned for Reuben to stay while he went to fetch his hydration pack. For a moment, as he walked down the hall and turned toward the private quarters where his effects were, he reflected on the fact that he was fetching water for a professional murderer. But a small part of him believed that although he had done terrible things, he was still a man, and all men deserved some decencies, no matter how horrible they might be. That was a thought Parker was not sure he was comfortable with.
Only a few minutes later, he returned with a mug and his canteen around his neck. The guard stepped aside again and Parker grimaced at the smell as he stepped back into the hallway, glancing to Reuben, who had a disgusted look on his face. Parker knew he was disgusted not with the smell, but with the fact that this killer was getting mercy.
After pouring some water into the mug, filling it only about halfway, Parker unclasped the snap on the holster of his pistol. His right hand grasped the grip as he offered the mug through the bars with his left. Alan, with his palms up, reached for the mug. Parker felt his breath catch in his throat and his chest tightened for a moment. He wondered if the assassin was capable of killing him in their current positions. How would he do it? Parker had seen his work before, and there was no doubt in his mind that the man could kill him with relative ease, maybe even when naked and dehydrated in a cell.
But the assassin grasped the cup and pulled it back slowly and gently, while Parker retracted his hand through the bars. The exchange was uneventful. Alan drank down the water quickly.
"If I like what I hear, maybe you'll get more," Parker said.
Alan took a moment to let the liquid saturate his throat. Then he took a deep breath and aimed his gaze at Parker. "I stashed my bag in a trench outside the north wall," he stated. "It's not far from the alley between the ironworks center and the abandoned building next door. You can see the trench from the end of the alley. Inside my pack, there is a map of the LRA facility. All the entrances and exits-- the complete floor plan. It's in a folder, along with some notes on the armament of the security and their shift changes." The two listened intently, both surprised by the depth of the information the man had. Alan smiled and said, "Contingency plan, in case Freeman didn't want to pay up. I always get my money."
Parker glanced to Reuben, then back to the prisoner. "Fine," he said, tossing the canteen into the cell. The assassin dove on it with a surprised gasp, pulling the top off and sucking down the water. The two turned away from the captive and moved down the hall.
"Keep an eye on him," Reuben said to the guard as they passed. The officer nodded and grasped his Stone-2070 tightly in his hands, turning to face cell.
The two walked in silence down the hall back toward the private quarters again, before Reuben patted Parker on the shoulder and said, "You think he's telling the truth?"
"I do," Parker stated. "I know desperation when I see it. And I think showing him a little decency might have warmed him to us a little."
"Whatever," Reuben said. "If you want to cuddle with a mangy rabid killer dog, I won't stop you, so long as it gets us results."
Parker did not reply. Upon reaching the private quarters, the two went to their cots and began to suit up in their outdoor gear. Reuben had just finished, and Parker was just grabbing his rifle, when Hatch walked in and spotted them. "What's going on?" he inquired.
"We got some information from the prisoner," Parker said. Hatch perked up a bit and Parker went on to say, "Said he stashed his pack a ways from the north wall, and inside is a map of the LRA building and information on the security force there. Could be exactly what we're looking for. We were about to go check it out."
"Negative," said Hatch, shaking his head. "That's my job. I'll have some of my guys look into it. You two need your rest."
"I don't think so," Reuben said. "I've been itching to get out of this place ever since the firefight."
"I've already got a patrol in the area," replied Hatch. "Head out and tell them what's going on. This could be an ambush and I don't want you going out there alone. My patrol should be right around the north gate by now."
The two nodded, and departed quickly. Parker did his best to put the soreness of his arm out of his mind; it was painful to put on his gear with the injury, but he would not let it get the better of him. The two walked in silence through the facility to the door that led outside, moving down the walkway toward the north gate. Reuben waved to the guard in the tower on the wall, who turned the winch that opened the gate. The two Runners strolled through it, hearing it clatter closed behind them, scanning the foreground for the patrol.
"There they are," Reuben said, tapping on Parker's shoulder and pointing toward the crest of a hill further north. There were four men, all wearing the black attire and armor of the facility security, and armed with Stone-2070 rifles. Parker nodded and the two moved towards them.
Moments later, they caught them and the two groups met. Parker and Reuben were hastily introduced to officers Lanley, Baker, DeWitt, and Soreolas. It only took a moment to explain the situation to them before they diverted to look into the situation. On the way, the group exchanged small-talk; Parker learned that Jackie DeWitt, the female officer in the group, was the ranking officer of the four, and that Marc Baker was her brother. She was a young widow who kept her late husband's last name. Arlo Lanley was the group wiseass, and Reuben took a liking to him. Henrik Soreolas was the smart one, always making shrewd observations and warning the group when something did not feel right. It quickly felt like everyone knew each other and were old friends.
"There's the trench," DeWitt stated, pointing toward across the field. Parker could see the ironworks factory and the abandoned building not far beyond it. The force of Runners they had fought must have used the alley to get close enough to dig the trench without being spotted by the security towers. The hill between the wall and the row of buildings kept the area in a convenient and unmonitored pocket.
The six approached the trench carefully. "Lanley, watch that alley. Baker, Parker, Reuben, establish a perimeter. Soreolas, you're on point. If you see the bag, let us know."
Everyone set to their business. Parker and Reuben decided that, for now, it was best to listen. The two remained outside the trench, kneeling and arming their weapons. They scanned the area around them and saw no perceivable threats. Baker had hopped into the trench to the rear of Soreolas, while Lanley and DeWitt inspected and watched the alley.
A moment later, Soreolas' voice rang out. "Found it!" he called out. He pointed to a large brown ruck that was tucked neatly into the corner of the trench and covered with twigs and brush to keep it inconspicuous. Parker glanced back to see it.
DeWitt approached, as did Baker. Remaining outside the trench, DeWitt called out, "How do we look?"
One after the other, the officers called "Perimeter clear!" Reuben and Parker did as well, following the others. DeWitt looked pleased as she then looked to Soreolas, nodding to him to proceed.
Soreolas leaned over the front pocket, and Baker knelt down to check the side pockets. Lanley approached from behind them to see what was inside the pack. "Make sure you check the bottom of the main compartment really well," Baker commented. "Sometimes these rucks have little secret pouches in the bottom."
Soreolas groaned, and looked up to Parker. "Did the guy say which pouch it--"
Suddenly there was no more sound. Parker blinked to see a flash of light and a cloud of dust. Half a heartbeat later, he was lifted from the ground and thrown tot he side, slamming into the hill. A massive veil of dirt hung over the air. The familiar ring of a deafening explosion echoed in Parker's ears. His insides felt like jelly and his legs refused to work. His mind raced as he reacted faster to the sudden explosion than before; after ensuring he had all his body parts, he quickly scrambled to sit up, the world around him spinning. A mangled Stone-2070 rifle was imbedded barrel-first in the hill beside him, buried up to the magazine in the earth. Scraps of bloody cloth and flesh rained from above. Parker realized he had a splash of blood on his right side-- not his own.
The ringing subsided to screams and cries of agony and devastation. Parker lifted a hang to his rattled and scrambled head. With a gasp of filthy air, he stumbled to his weak feet, and shuffled towards the epicenter of the blast. The trench had been torn open, like a wound with ripped stitches. A severed and ravaged leg, disembodied at the thigh, was draped over a section of the torn earth. Where the bag had once laid, there was only a massive smear of splattered gore, with red bones jammed into the earth and scraps of flash shoved through the dirt. Parker could hear the screams getting louder. He looked right to see DeWitt slowly sitting up-- she appeared more or less unharmed. Hurrying to her side, Parker saw Reuben not far from her. He was standing, wandering like a lost child, through the dark cloud of bloody dust that lurched around them. He was covered in blood spatter.
"Sound off!" echoed the female voice in Parker's ears. "Sound off!"
Parker pushed a voice from his lungs, but no words formed-- only a disoriented holler of affirmation. Reuben's followed a moment later. There were no other yells, save one perpetual scream of agony. Parker stumbled in the direction of the scream only to find Lanley lying in the dirt. A good portion of his midriff was missing. There was a bone jutting out of his shoulder and another from his leg, but it didn't look like his own. Parker quickly realized that whomever was standing nearest to Lanley had been blown apart and the bones became shrapnel.
A moment later, DeWitt was kneeling at his side. Reuben had wandered to them, and was standing over the mangled officer. Parker glanced over his shoulder to see that the dirt cloud was settling, and coming over the hill from the facility was a group of security officers coming to help.
Lanley coughed violently, then screamed again, a hoarse and agonizing scream. Parker winced at the bloodcurdling cry of pain. It seemed louder than any explosion. Walking wearily toward the oncoming assistance, Parker waved his arms to bring them directly to the wounded man.
Last edited by Tribunal Power
on Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.