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Authors: Jason Halstead

Wanted (35 page)

BOOK: Wanted
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Indecisive and terrified, she was distracted by the sight of the rotors spinning on the grounded helicopter. Her panic doubled with the realization that the mercs might be leaving. And if they were, they would be taking Dustin with them… what happened to Carl she could only guess. But first she had to deal with the scorpion. It was watching her, perhaps three inches from her arm while it sunned itself in the morning light. She stared at it, wondering what she could do. Moving slowly away might provoke it. Moving towards it? Yeah, not a chance! She cast about, looking for ideas, and then found herself wondering what would Carl do?

The same Carl that had been bitten by snake. He’d killed the snake and then protected himself from the venom while he rushed to get the cure for it. Great for him, Tanya had no cure. She pursed her lips angrily. Would Carl pull away or would he lash out? She nodded. She knew Carl. He took the offensive. He didn’t wait to react, he acted.

Tanya moved her left arm slowly. It was out of the scorpion’s line of sight, but even still she did not need the rest of her body shifting because of it. She reached behind her, feeling carefully until she found what she wanted. It was the empty cigarette carton. The red white Marlboro logo was faded with weather and dirt, but she figured it was still solid enough to suit her purpose. She brought it back carefully then, in a move only possible by a trained gymnast, she jerked her right arm away at the same time she introduced the carton as a makeshift baseball bat. The scorpion went flying, bouncing off the concrete and landing down the incline that the expressway was built upon. She watched it for a moment and saw it flip itself back over then scuttle away into obscurity beneath some rocks.

Tanya’s heart began to settle, but she gave herself several deep breaths to aid it while she made sure the insect was not summoning up some distant family to come and overwhelm her. Then again, she wondered if scorpions even had relatives. Weren’t they solitary insects? She tossed the concern aside when nothing else presented itself, then remembered the campground as her immediate sense of danger passed.

She positioned the rifle then peered through the scope. Her body was under her control at all times, but what she saw caused her to gasp in surprise. Captain Garza stood near the chopper, which was outside of the campground. The trucks and hummers of the mercenaries were parked nearby as well. It was obvious that they were leaving. Carl was there, supported on each side by a soldier. Carl was a wreck.

Tanya dialed in her scope to the maximum magnification and swore softly. His face was bruised, bloodied, and cut. One eye was swollen almost shut and the other did not look like it had fared much better. His lips were split and his nose broken. Blood, dried mostly, ran from his hairline and from various tears and cuts on his cheeks. Dark spots colored his clothes as well, proof that the beating had not been contained solely to his face.

He stared at Garza with his one open eye, and Tanya knew it was a look of contempt. His abused lips twisted up in a mocking smile as Garza gestured like he was saying something to him. She watched the captain lash out and send Carl’s head jerking back from the impact of another blow, then saw the merc cradle his hand from the strike. Carl picked his head up and spat out some blood, then he just stared at him again.

Tanya shifted her rifle, looking about. She gasped as she made out the face of her brother sitting in the helicopter. She looked back quickly, bringing the rifle back to Carl and saw him staring straight at her. She stiffened in surprise. How did he know? She saw him smile then and, almost impossible to see, he nodded his head.

Was it a message? Was he telling her something? She gasped as she wondered if he was asking her to shoot him and end his torture. That wasn’t his style, was it? She stared, willing him to give her some sign or tell her what to do. He turned his attention back to Garza instead, who had now drawn his pistol. Was this it? Tanya wondered if Garza was finished with him. Did Carl tell him where she was supposed to be then he had smiled when he saw her elsewhere?

Her thoughts shattered when she saw Garza’s hand jerk and Carl double over. The soldiers on either side struggled to hold on to him as he nearly collapsed. The distant punch from the pistol reached her then, confirming what her eyes had seen; Carl had just been shot.

What she saw next amazed her. Beaten, abused, tortured, and now shot at point blank range, Carl stiffened up and tore free of the surprised soldiers that held him. He had pulled a knife from one of their boots and sprang with it at the mercenary captain. Garza must have been as surprised as she was, for he did not react in time to stop Carl from driving the knife into his throat and out the back of his neck.

The two wounded combat veterans landed together on the ground. She watched in horrified awe as Garza’s mouth gaped. He tried to talk but only blood came out. His body would not respond. Carl lay on top of him and slowly rolled off. One hand went to his belly where he had been shot, a hand that had fingers broken and twisted in unnatural positions from the torture he had endured. The other hand he used to send a final message to Garza, that of universal sign language produced with a single finger.

Stunned, the other mercs only now began to react. They rushed forward to separate the two men and check on their dying leader. She could hear the noises coming from the campsite now too, shouts of surprise and outrage. Then she saw Carl’s body jerk again but she could not see why. A few seconds later she heard the report of another gunshot being fired. She stared, tears running down her dirty cheeks as a man moved just enough to let her see Carl staring in her direction. One arm outstretched, she saw him twist his mangled hand into a thumbs up for her to see.

Tanya pulled away from the rifle, unable to bear seeing anymore. The death of her friend and savior was something she could not bear. It was too horrible, too unfair! Not seeing it was even worse, she discovered after a moment. She looked again and saw one of the mercs acting as a medic. He was gesturing for Carl’s body to be placed in the chopper alongside Garza’s corpse. He boarded the helicopter as well, all in a rush, then the chopper lifted off nearly noiselessly. The motorcade followed suit quickly, all save for a two hummers and the 8 men that rode in them.

Tanya became aware of another noise then, one that had been in the background but something she had been unable to process at the time. It came and went, but she knew on a deep level what it was and who made it. Without words to convey her grief and outrage, Jessie was going into hysterics.

Tanya could feel herself sniffing and fighting back sobs as well. Things were getting blurry for her and the world seemed to suddenly be a very dark and scary place.







Dusk was fast approaching and still Tanya had not moved. She had cried on and off most of the day, too overcome with grief to form a plan. Finally, some measure of peace had come, though it was only because a phoenix had arisen out of the ashes of her sanity. Now she had a plan. It was cold and calculating, but it would set her in motion.

She waited, knowing she had one shot, maybe two if she could time them close enough. She moved along the edge of the highway, staying off the road and easily hiding from the infrequent vehicle that dared to drive down it. She found a spot that she judged closer to the campground, between 800 and 900 yards, and with the makeshift headquarters of the remaining mercenaries still in plain sight.

Now she waited as the sun set in the west. Her range was dialed in and she had picked one of her targets. She was just hoping she could find a second one before she ran out of time. Finally, she saw a merc heading for the house. She waited until he was at the door and reaching to open it. She stroked the trigger as intimately as if she had been caressing a baby.

The rifle bucked. Her rifle. It was hers now that Carl was gone. She had come to terms with that earlier, accepting the loaned weapon to now belong solely to her. It was all that she had left of him. All that mattered, at least. And now she used it to avenge him, to do the work he would have done for her had he been there.

Before the bullet reached its target, she had shifted the rifle the couple of degrees necessary. Her finger sent out a second message of vengeance just as the first bullet dropped the guard who was entering the house. All that remained, aside from the twitching corpse, was the exploded gore that ran down the door and sprayed over the entryway floor. The second bullet hit the generator, causing it to spark and send out a great puff of smoke before it rattled to a metal on metal screeching halt. Tanya was already capping her scope and ducking down, insuring that her cover was in place.

Firing twice was a foolish thing. It made it easier for a mark to find her location. So close together though, she felt safe, especially given that the destruction of the generator and the noise caused by it would camouflage the sound her rifle made. She waited and watched until the sun finally set. Both the soldiers and the people behind ran around, though the mercs stayed under cover as much as possible. They were looking for her, but they didn’t dare to leave the concealment of the campground.

Tanya slipped away once the night had come. She was hungry and weak from lack of sustenance, but the fire in her belly urged her on. It protected her from the weakness of her flesh. The electronics that controlled her nervous system did not care how hungry she was, though they passed the message to her. They would still make demands that her body would follow until it gave out on her.

She crept silently to the campground, her mood matching the dark nature of the night. Only seven soldiers remained, and four of them were on patrol. They moved quietly in the dark, but Tanya had watched and marked them. After a full day of observation, she knew their paths and their timing. She knew when striking would be the easiest. Of course they would come for her, but she was ready for that too. The magazine was loaded and she had a round in the barrel waiting to be sent on its mission of vengeance. When they rushed her she’d pick them apart one at a time. It didn’t matter if they rushed through the wash she positioned herself above or off to a side, she could see them and, more importantly, she could kill them.

The chosen mercenary emerged from between two trailers. She had been waiting for him. It was his time. His time to die. It was dark out, but her scope gathered in the necessary light. She wished she had a night vision model, Carl had told her of those, but hers did a good enough job. Good enough for her, and far too good for the mercenary who fell to the ground before his helmet, which had captured the slug as it exited his skull. It skidded across the ground and came to a slow spin on the sandy ground while she worked the bolt on her rifle to introduce a new round.

The shouts started almost immediately. People were running, a very few towards her, others away. The first Maelstrom merc who poked his head around the corner of the trailer to see where his companion had gone saw nothing more. Tanya’s second bullet dropped him where he stood and left a spray of fine red mist on the side of the trailer.

Tanya had barely finished bolting the next round in place when she saw a head jerk around the corner and then pull back. She fired, cursing under her breath even as she did so. The round punched a hole in the side of the trailer, missing the fleeting target. She pulled the bolt back and pulled the bullet out quickly, then slipped two into the magazine before replacing it in the chamber and closing it.

A flare shot up into the sky as soon as she settled back in to peer through her scope. Tanya let out a chuckle. The fools were providing her with light! She watched as a hand reached out to grab the most recent corpse and pull it back to safety. She’d considered shooting it, but decided it was a waste of ammo. Besides, she still had other Maelstrom targets remaining and she had already missed once making an amateur mistake.

Tanya settled in to wait. The flare drifted across the night sky and eventually fizzled out and died. As soon as the light faded she saw movement to her left. She swung her rifle over and waited, not making the same mistake she had made earlier. The merc dove behind a prickly pear cactus that had trapped some blowing sagebrush and looked around. Tanya could see him fidgeting, but the lack of light made it impossible to know where to shoot.

She circled back carefully, moving her rifle within the concealment she had set up for herself. The movement beneath a trailer further removed from the deathtrap she had set up proved that her suspicions were right. The mercs were trying to flush her and flank her. It was too dark for her to be sure of her target, but she was not going to give them a chance. She took her best guess and sent another thundering bullet into the shadows. Her reward was a grunt and some cursing, the tone indicative of a severe injury.

She also earned a yell from the other mercs and a spattering of bullets that burst from the merc hiding behind the cactus. They dug into the wall of the wash in front and beside her. Only a few rocks she had worked into position beside her saved her. A shard chipped off the rock still stung her cheek.

Tanya brought her rifle back over, chambering a new round, and fired it almost before she had stopped moving. Her actions were smooth and precise, the result of both a lifetime of training in complete physical control and the computerized hardware that assisted her every movement. She cycled another bullet into the barrel in time to see two more mercs, fresh from wherever they had been resting, rushing out towards her on either side of the wash that led away from her and towards the campground. One fired another flare into the sky, giving them a better view of her exposed hiding spot.

BOOK: Wanted
9.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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