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v4 Sneak Preview #3
Topic Started: Jul 1 2010, 05:28 PM (1,463 Views)
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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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With a snap, Christina Stockton struck a match on a nearby tree, and raised it to light the cigarette dangling from her mouth. In short order, the smoke was rising skyward, and she felt herself calming as the wonderful nicotine filtered into her system. It was her eighth in the past hour, but damned if she cared about the state of her lungs. She didn’t expect to live to a ripe old age anyways. She was part of one of the most notorious terrorist organizations on the planet, and even if, by some miracle, she wasn’t killed in a commando strike, the odds were pretty good Danya would get bored or suspicious or have to cover something up, and she’d be killed then.

Not that it mattered. She didn’t care if she lived or died, not anymore. She had nothing left to live for, really, except for her friends. All of her friends were terrorists too. Sure, there was also her family. The family that had abandoned her, ignored her, pushed her around. She hadn’t spoken to any of them in years, but she had set it all up so that, on her death, all the money she’d saved, all the pay for her years of work in the SOTF program, would be delivered to them.

At which point, the FBI or some other organization would surely stop by to have a little chat. She wished she would be able to see it.

“Hey, Domino!” came a voice from behind her, and she turned. Shamino Warhen, her partner on this mission, was waving at her to slow down.

“What is it?” she called back to him. Shamino was a tall man, strong and somewhat intimidating at first glance. His long, black moustache and shaved head (now a bright red from sunburn) gave him the appearance of a b-rate Bond villain knock-off, and he almost never smiled. Still, once you got to know him, he was one of the funniest men on earth, at least, when he was relaxed. On the job, he was all business.

“I found a good spot for one,” he replied.

“Fucking finally.”

Christina turned and jogged back to where Shamino stood, her heavy pack bouncing up and down. She looked at what he was gesturing to: a tree with a small hole in the side. Looking into the hole, though, she saw that the tree was dead, and that the inside had rotted away. Probably some sort of horrible beetle or parasite. The hole looked just big enough, though...

She slung her pack off her shoulders, grunting. Of course, Shamino was being a gentleman, letting her get rid of her devices first, so she wouldn’t have to carry as much. Any other partner, she’d have slugged for that.

She dug one of the small boxes out of her bad, and tried to push it into the hole, but one corner caught. She growled deep in her throat, then shoved harder. A piece of wood splintered off, and the device fell with a clunk to the bottom of the hole. She leaned in close, and was unable to see it. Good.

“Only a hundred or so more to go,” she complained.

Shamino looked up at the sky, his red forehead wrinkled in thought.

“It’s getting towards noon. We’re behind schedule. Danya won’t be amused if this isn’t done in time.”

“Fuck that! He doesn’t even really need these things, and we’ll have plenty of time. Worst case, we just roll ‘em down a hill or something and say we’re done.”

Shamino raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

Christina coughed, the cigarette falling from her mouth, as she slung her backpack on once more. She started walking again, silently, then stopped about fifty feet further on.

“Fine,” she said. “You’re right. Danya’ll fucking kill us if we don’t do this right. Last time was a disaster, and we can’t let it happen again. Even though it had fuck-all to do with cell phones.”

“Can’t be too careful,” Shamino said.

The devices they were lugging all over the island were jammers, designed to knock out any reception to the omni-present mobile phones some of the students would surely have. The jammers were powerful and universal, capable of keeping absolutely any calls from being made. Not that there was reception here, anyways. The one cell tower had been dynamited early on in the conversion of this island, and they’d triple checked it already. Still, Danya was afraid that one of these high school students, these fucking kids, would somehow be able to construct a contraption to circumvent it all, and go screaming for help to the military or something.

Christina paused briefly to light another cigarette. She wondered whether some of the kids would find the butts, and, if they did, what they would make of them. It was, of course, highly possible that they would be removed by one of the cleanup crews. Hadn’t the American Civil War been won as a result of some abandoned cigars?

“You coming?” Shamino called.

Three hours later, they stopped for a brief lunch outside the sawmill. They ate in silence, Christina scarfing her food so she could have a few moments to smoke in peace. As she did, she looked back the way they’d come. From the sawmill, a road wound down through the felled forest, a graveyard of fallen trees and lifeless stumps. It was different from the part of the forest they had spent the morning in, and Christina found it somewhat eerie, but it had far more hiding places, so they’d managed to get back on schedule enough to allow for this brief break.

Along the road, tracks from years of truck traffic were permanently ground into the dirt, even after some time of abandonment and weather. In the middle of the road sat a huge truck, still with a cargo of logs. Just to be sure, Christina had checked it over while Shamino secured a pair of jammers nearby. The keys had, of course, been missing, but the cleanup crew hadn’t been quite as thorough as Danya was fond of. Christina had taken a few minutes to render the truck un-hotwireable, cutting out the important lines and stuffing them into her pack. Then she’d gone ahead and cleaned up, made it hard to see, just to be sure. Who could tell what Danya wanted? The sadistic bastard would probably laugh his ass off watching some hotshot try to hotwire the thing, only to find it impossible.

Danya was the one part of her job Christina had a real issue with. The man simply gave her the creeps. She tolerated the deaths of children, because, well, they were mostly monsters anyways, mostly spoiled, middle-class prats, or idiots who coasted through life, and even those few who were worth something were contributing to the overpopulation of the planet. She had enough justifications worked out to keep the guilt at bay for a lifetime. Danya, though, didn’t seem to need them. He seemed to enjoy the carnage, the death and destruction. Maybe he had some hidden reason behind it all. Maybe there was a cause, a noble purpose. More likely he was just nuts.

Nuts. That was what the whole world was. Christina found herself lighting another cigarette and crying softly. It didn’t make any sense. Why was she here? What had gone wrong? She’d had an awful life, yeah, bastard father, drunkard mother, uncle who hit her, but how did that lead her here? When did she become a killer?

That’s an obvious one...

Test Run Eight, it was called. Somehow, it figured into Danya’s plans. It all had a purpose, but damned if Christina could remember what it was at the moment. She was alone, separated from her group during an attack. Attacks? There weren’t supposed to be fucking attacks. This was a test run, training or some shit. They were slaughtering high school kids, for fuck’s sake.

But there was, indeed, resistance, and now she’d been cut off from the rest of her team, all because she’d panicked and gone the wrong way.

She crashed through the underbrush, on the verge of a meltdown. They had to be near here. She could hear gunfire, gunfire all around her. Were the other teams having this much trouble? Had she somehow just gotten the worst fucking luck possible?

She stumbled out into a small clearing, and froze. There were two figures there, but they weren’t her teammates. They were kids, just kids. Kids with guns. They were holding pistols, and looked as shocked to see her as she did them. They started to raise their pistols, but Christina was just a little faster, and pulled the trigger on her assault rifle, spraying them both with bullets.

The girl on the right opened her mouth, but didn’t make any sound. She tipped over and fell, hitting the boy standing next to her, and they both hit the ground together. The boy moaned for a couple of seconds, then was silent.

“Heh. Just like dominoes.”

Off to the side, she saw her team. They must have noticed she was gone and come back for her. It didn’t make sense, though. Why do that? They were risking themselves for her, risking getting ambushed again, and for all they’d known, she was already dead.

“Come on,” another of them said, gesturing to her, “Domino.”

They all laughed.

Later, as night was falling, they were back in the forest. They’d placed all the jammers. The island was absolutely free of cell phone reception. Everything had been done in triplicate. There were no mistakes on this.

They’d run a little late; some of the areas had been difficult to deal with. Still, they were finally done.

Christina stretched and yawned, and said, “Wonder what tomorrow will bring.”

“Me too,” Shamino said. Now that they were pretty much off duty, his bearing had eased greatly. “All we’ve gotta do is report back to base.”

Christina nodded, and made the report by radio. Danya sounded cheerful enough. She sighed in relief. She didn’t care if she died most of the time, but some days, when she did good work, were almost worthwhile.

Then, the musical beeping began. Christina watched in horror as Shamino fished his cell phone out of his pocket, flipped it open, and said, “Hello.”

She let her backpack fall to the ground, then kicked it savagely. How? How was it possible? They had triple checked everything! The island didn’t have reception in the first place. She looked at the heavens and screamed, at the top of her lungs, “What the fuck?”

Shamino looked over at her, completely calm, and displayed his phone, open to the ringtones menu. As he said, “Gotcha”, she realized he had simply played a prerecorded ringtone.

For just a second, she felt an incredible urge to leap for his throat, but it quickly subsided. He was just blowing off tension, just trying to stay sane. And, now that she thought about it, it was almost funny. Before she even really knew what was happening, they were both laughing loudly, alone in the dark forest.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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