1. Enemies by Katharine
2. Joint by Katharine
3. Loaded by Katharine
I look back now and I think, I really was doing okay. I'd thought that I wasn't, that I should have been doing better, but I was wrong.
I was living in Santa Clara, had a job tending server farms for one of the smallish companies that contracted out to retailers, was working with some good folks who weren't spoiled little hipster bitches that'd whine about the lack of Google-legendary job perks, was making decent money. Not a lot, but I could pay the rent and keep current on my student loans. I just wanted a little extra, so I accepted a headhunter's offer for a programming stint in a cryptology lab. Next thing I know, they're offering to pay off my loans if I do a little extra work. Then they cover my rent in exchange for a little more work. I'm halfway through that project when I realize what they're really asking me to do. I'm not testing SSL platforms for some Wall Street giant—I'm hacking into the logistics network of the Earth Defense Command.
I'd give it all back if I could. I wouldn't have just declined the offer—I would have run away as fast as I could. I want to give it all back. I didn't have a worry in the world before this, I had no real problems, no enemies at all. Now I have five, and I am so afraid.
Bradbury's Jar Week 99 Prompt: JOINT
Fanfiction by KFM, 2013. Characters Copyright Tatsunoko Productions, Sandy Frank Entertainment, and KFM. Please don't reproduce without permission.
"Don't trust him to comply," Jun Himuro warned.
"I don't." Mareccu Dumenau, the commander of G-Force, inserted a new magazine into the rifle he'd seized and chambered the first round into place. Around them were scattered Gallactor operatives—some drastically sliced open by the edge of his boomerang blade, others gunshot. Beyond them down a brightly lit access was their quarry in hiding, Dmitri Drakos. A statistician and programmer who had willingly allowed himself to be immersed into Gallactor's ranks and was since paid handsomely by the Earth Defense Command for each clandestine data transfer he'd sent to them. Before Jun had realized that he'd allowed Gallactor to track each transfer and thereby attain access to their own servers.
"I mean it. He'll expect to see you with that. He'll be prepared for it."
Raising the weapon one-handed, Marc gave a grim smile. "He's never dealt with anything like this."
"Don't come near!" Drakos screamed when Marc found him right where he was expected to be. Standing at the far end of the Gallactor base's control center, clutching a tablet computer with his hand poised millimeters above its touchscreen. Where if shot, the weight of his hand going down along with his body might activate the malware he'd delivered to the EDC's command and control systems.
"Dmitri," Marc spoke back. "You know why I've come. It's time."
"Yes, and you owe me safe passage." Drakos edged farther back. "You promised me this."
Marc approached anyway, deliberate and calm. "I did."
"Then I will go out that door," Drakos motioned to his left. "You will not follow. You touch me, I open everything." He gave a wild roll of his head to indicate the expanse of the room and everything that laid beyond it. "All your souls, I bare."
Drakos glared at him. "Gallactor's too. All the world to see, what bastards you are. All the world to see what depths you go to kill each other, all the world stuck in the middle."
Marc stopped, quiescent. "Then you've been wasting your time. If you've seen what we have so far, you'd realize this."
"And what is that? Bloodshed, horror upon horror?"
"That the world already knows it's stuck in between. And that all it wants is for it to be over." Marc's gaze, even and impassive before, suddenly turned cold. He lowered the rifle. "To that end, you're not helping."
Jun leaped out of nowhere, a lightning flash of crimson behind Drakos's body. In one fluid motion she wrenched his arm away from the tablet and then open-palmed struck him, and with it came the sound of bone and ligaments snapping as loud as the crack of a whip. Drakos dropped, howling, the joint of his elbow shattered beyond hope.
Jun picked up the tablet, confirmed that the malware remained inactive, then deactivated the device and tossed it aside. Marc came forward and pressed the muzzle of the rifle against Drakos's chest. "Now it's time to take you home."
Bradbury's Jar Challenge No. 145, May 2014 by Katharine (KFM, Disturbed in NorCal) Characters(c) Tatsunoko Productions and Sandy Frank Entertainment. Please do not reproduce without permission.
"Sonoma is leaving now."
The voice of Lieutenant Jun Himuro was just a bare whisper in the earpieces of her commander and his second, so low it could not be discerned by normal human hearing above the susurrus of wind through the tall grasses that covered the Calaveras hillside, nor the drone of insects that flew nearby.
Yet to the heightened hearing of the G-Forcers well hidden in that tall grass and the shadow of a large oak tree beside, her message was clear, the appearance of their objective was imminent. This one they'd codenamed "Sonoma" for the wineries he owned and used as a cover for his dealings with the Gallactor Syndicate.
Stretched out behind a spotting scope, Commander Mareccu Dumeneau sent back one click through his communicator to acknowledge her and relay their readiness. At his left was Lieutenant Commander Jay Randall, lying very still and calm behind a sand-colored Heckler and Koch carbine rifle.
"Black Mercedes C-class," Jun reported. "Driver in front, Sonoma left rear passenger. No other seen."
"Loaded in the trunk," Marc lowly surmised.
"Probably. Hope so."
From their elevated and east-facing vantage point they could see where the two-lane rural road below made a sharp curve westward, putting the afternoon sun directly into the driver's eyes. Farther up the road, workers were in the process of necking the lanes down into one with traffic controls, and a heavy excavator began cutting into the embankment alongside, dropping freshly dug dirt and stone into a waiting dump truck, the commencement of a road-widening project.
A flagman stationed himself on the road just in time to be spotted by the approaching Mercedes. Slowing to a stop, the driver lowered his window, squinting into the sun as he hollered at the worker.
"Now," Marc ordered.
Jay lightly tapped the trigger.
The driver's body jerked then listed to one side, held up by his seatbelt.
"Shoulder down into chest cavity," Marc spoke. "No splatter. Perfect."
Jay thumbed the rifle's bolt action, expelling the shell and chambering the next round. By the time his motion was done, they both saw through their scopes the passenger leaning slightly forward, as though trying to talk to his driver. In Marc's scope, Sonoma's head tilted far enough forward that his face could be seen through the opened window.
"Six centimeters right," Marc advised.
Beside him, Jay only scarcely shifted; the tensing of one arm and the relaxing of the other, just enough to minutely move the rifle's muzzle a hair's breadth of space. They both saw Sonoma's face go from quizzical to florid in the span of a heartbeat, as he realized what had just happened...and what was about to.
Jay's shot entered his neck just above the collar of his Kevlar vest, and angled downward through his chest to the small of his back. Contained by the vest, the round did not exit into the seat of the car. Just as the similarly protected driver had gone, so had he.
"Cleanup on aisle four," Marc then relayed.
"Done," Jun acknowledged.
Immediately the flagman waved down the excavator and dump truck, and both vehicles approached the Mercedes. They watched as the worker and truck driver dragged the bodies out of the car and rolled them into the truck's hopper, and the excavator's operator dropped a fresh load of dirt over them. The road worker stripped out of his safety vest and tossed it and his hardhat into the dump truck's cab. As the truck drove off with its load, he popped the trunk of the car, glanced in, and then gave a quick signal of affirmation.
They saw him make a second gesture, a calming, quieting motion. They easily read his lips as he spoke at the trunk's interior: It's okay, you're safe. Stay still.
Then, gently, he closed the trunk, and slipped into the driver's seat. Another flagman in the crew stepped forward, and waved him through.