A Note from the Author....
I was browsing my vault of unfinished short stories recently, and ended up finding several that I felt had good potential. This is the first one that I cleaned and finished up. For those of you wondering, I did base the title off of my name; I thought it was rather fitting for the storyline. The majority of this story is straight from starcraft history, except for the two big twists that I added when I realized how I could pull this all together. Enjoy the read, and it's not quite as long as it seems.
“It has been arranged,” said a large man with a very serious tone.
The room in which he stood was dark and narrow, with a wall of screens and keyboards at the far end. The ceiling showed specs of illumination where the dimmed lights were placed in a somewhat uniform pattern. The man standing on the other end of the room was in his early twenties. He stood peering at the screens and didn’t turn around; he merely stood there with one hand behind his back.
“Excellent,” he remarked as a puff of smoke drifted from his lips. He lowered the cigar and rotated to face the larger man.
He stood near the door with armor covering his entire body, not leaving anything exposed.
“The Confederacy has been itching to do this, and the information you provided managed to convince them to follow through,” said he as the armor creaked. “The briefing date is set, and all I need now is your equipment.”
The man nearest the screens nodded and motioned towards a table against the left wall.
“There’s your equipment,” was the reply as the armored man approached it and sorted through the contents. “Everything is right there, including your money. All you need to remember is to make the operation as obvious as possible. The Confederacy will try to hide it, but with that bomb you should be able to defeat their purpose.”
The larger soldier glanced up as he twisted the rectangular device in his hands while the other man opened his mouth.
“I was told that you were the best in your field, and I expect you to live up to that.”
“You’re clear,” the guard said to me as he returned from the console on the wall.
He handed me my ID card back and I nodded to him as he buzzed me into the restricted zone of the command center. I stepped swiftly into the next room and stopped as the door behind me closed. The red light above the door in front of me turned yellow. I turned to the right as a tray slid out from the wall and I gingerly set my C-10 Canister rifle onto it, followed by both of my glocks. I pressed the small button next to it and the tray went back into the wall, followed shortly by the yellow light above the door turning green.
The hall on the other side was wide and bustling—various military personnel were scrambling through doorways and down other corridors that branched off from this main one. I moved quickly through the crowds of people until I came to a door on the right. I twisted the handle and pushed it open; the dim lighting making it difficult to see during the transition from the operating room-like illumination in the hallway to the darkness of the briefing room.
A long table was the centerpiece of the room. There were around fifteen chairs that stood petrified in their places along it, though one chair had been moved out slightly and there was a figure in it.
“Morning, Jack,” he said to me as he looked up from a document on the table.
“How’s it going Eric?” I asked as I dropped into the seat across from him.
“Eh, so-so,” was the reply as he glanced at the sheet again. “Would be better if they hadn’t interrupted my leave for this shit.”
“Have you heard anything else since you got here?” I queried with a sigh.
“No, they’ve kept me in the dark about it,” Eric answered. “It sounds like this operation isn’t something the Confederacy wants many people to know about.”
“They love to keep secrets,” chuckled I.
I hadn’t known Eric for very long, but I had been on three missions with him in the past two months, and he had proven himself to be a ghost worthy of reckoning. His skills gave mine a run for my money, though he didn’t consider himself to be any better than me. His average stature and approach to situations was deceiving when someone encountered his personality, as he was capable of telling off just about anyone, and could take down even the most impressive foes in hand-to-hand combat.
The door opened suddenly and I twisted around to see the third member of our covert-ops team.
“Jerry!” I cried as I stood up and faced my long-time friend.
He greeted me back cheerfully as I embraced him.
“What happened to Greg?” asked Eric from across the table.
“The leg wound he received on my last operation was worse than the doctors thought, so they called me in,” said Jerry.
“Sorry to disappoint,” he added as he took a seat.
The door opened once again, and we stood to salute the captain as he entered.
“Sit down, sit down,” said the captain as he dropped the case he held in his arms at the far end of the table.
We all took a seat once again, and the captain switched on the screen behind him.
“As I’m sure all of you know, there has been great political unrest in the senate about Korhal IV lately,” he started. “This is due greatly in part to this man.”
A picture of a man at a podium came up on the screen and I stared at his ragged features as I tried to remember the name that I had associated with the face.
“Angus Mengsk,” said Eric suddenly, which sparked my memory and I remembered many of the things that had been in the news recently.
“Yes,” said the captain. “It has been over forty years since we’ve had a rebellious senator.”
“He’s trying to introduce new ideas into society, not be a terrorist,” said Jerry.
“That may be so, but the things he’s saying are directly challenging the Confederacy’s power, and therefore he must be stopped,” the captain continued.
“You want us to assassinate him?” questioned Eric.
The captain merely nodded his head.
“We’ve received inside information about the inner-workings of Mengsk’s security at his mansion, and with that information we should be able to get you in there, kill him, and extract you,” he said.
“How will this help the Confederacy?” I asked. “If Mengsk is assassinated, won’t that cause people to believe that it was us?”
“Yes, but the things Mengsk has been saying lately has been upsetting more than just us. If it was the Confederacy, people would think that we’d use bombs or a more blunt approach to the situation. There are very few people that know of the existence of ghosts since the program is fairly new, and many of them are in our military, therefore sending you will make this much easier.”
“What kind of garrison are we looking at in terms of guards?” queried Eric.
“If the information we have is correct than there are about twenty active guards and an extra thirty that can be there in under three minutes if an alarm is tripped,” said the captain.
“And if the information is wrong?” said I curiously.
“If it’s wrong it will make little difference because you’re insertion and extraction times are within seventeen minutes of each other; the first twelve of which is during the shift change so it won’t be hard to get in.”
“So we’ll have five minutes to abide our time waiting for extraction with a full garrison on patrol?” Jerry wondered.
“The drop ship will be close by if there is an issue, or if you take out Mengsk quickly,” answered the captain.
I nodded as I looked over the briefing sheet which Eric had been examining earlier.
“A frontal assault?” I asked as I read the words.
“Yes,” replied the captain. “The mansion is covered extensively on every side as best as we can see, and the front is the easiest entry point. Surrounding the perimeter of the building is a ten-foot hedge wall, which would cause an enormous amount of danger if you attempted to scale it. The front has an opening for vehicles, and there is also a checkpoint a good ways down the road.”
“So why don’t we just hitch a ride on a car already going in?” asked Jerry.
“That was my initial desire, but there are no supply trucks scheduled to be going there at the time we need this done.”
“I know that the time on this is tight, but you three are the best in this program,” the man finished.
The television wasn’t much more than a drone to me as I sat relaxing on the couch. There wasn’t much more that I wanted to do than spend time with Rachel, since I rarely got to see my beautiful daughter anymore. She needed her rest though, as any eight-year-old did. So I had nothing more to do than sit in think in my small living room, a place that would now stand empty for long periods at a time. My decision to join the Confederate Marine Corps had been an enormously difficult one to make, especially having a daughter without a mother that needed to have a father. Six years of petty jobs in various places had taught me that small wages weren’t going to cut it, and after I had tried everything possible, I had one final option. As far as I was concerned the only good thing about the corps was the pay, which was substantial considering the six-month periods in which I was away from my girl. She never wanted me to do it, and it was likely that she still wasn’t happy about it.
That little plan fell apart three days ago however, when one of the majors aboard my cruiser approached me with an offer. When I heard that the amount of money that could come out of it, I had to completely restructure the manner in which I was thinking. The program, codenamed “Ghost” in the military was one of the most secretive things in the military apparently, and the opportunity to be trained to become a Confederate assassin didn’t seem like such a bad idea, since I would get leave every six weeks as well as a substantial amount of money. It would also mean that Rachel would spend far less time with my deceased wife’s parents, and more time with me. The thought of the program caused me to remember what they’d told me during the conversation with the major. It turned out that my parents had lied to me when I took that stupid Confederate standardized test when I was Rachel’s age; the test that identified possible telepathically gifted individuals. As I thought about that I stood and grabbed a piece of paper from the counter in the kitchen. Rachel didn’t know it had come, and probably hadn’t even known what the test had done for her. I read it over once, and wondered if she should know, or if I should give her the chance to live a normal life like my own parents wanted for me. The results of her test were what the Confederacy titled “extraordinary”, since there were a very select few with her capabilities. I still remembered what the major had said to me though, about how the people being placed into the Ghost program were not in a class as high as Rachel. He said that people like her couldn’t endure the mental conditioning that was necessary, and that it could be dangerous.
As I sat pondering all of the possibilities for Rachel a door opened down the hall and I looked to see my sleepy-eyed daughter walking slowly towards me.
“Daddy,” she said with a slightly worried tone.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked soothingly as I got up and switched off the television.
“There’s someone in my closet,” she said quietly.
“Oh really?” asked I amusingly as I snatched her up in my arms and started to carry her back to her room. “Well, let’s just take a look, shall we?”
“Okay,” she replied quietly.
I opened the door into her semi-dark room and stepped in, setting Rachel down on her bed as I walked over to her closet. She glanced at her night-light once before looking back, seemingly not too worried, and I figured she was just looking for excuses to stay up late.
“Anyone in there?” I asked in a joking manner, before I slid open the closet doors and peeked in. “Come out, come out where ever you are….”
After poking around the hangers and checking the floor I closed the closet doors back up.
“It’s empty, sweetie,” I stated as I sat down on the bed next to her.
“But I heard breathing,” she continued.
“I’m sure that it was just your imagination,” I said reassuringly.
Rachel laid back down quietly as she reached under her pillow. She pulled out the crinkled photograph that I had given her shortly after my wife’s death. It was taken in front of our old house back when Rachel was just a baby. I thought back to that house momentarily as I remembered trying to sleep there after her death, and realized I had to get away from the memories, so Rachel and I came here.
I smiled briefly at my daughter as she looked at the picture, and then set it down gently on her chest.
“Are we still going to the zoo tomorrow?” she asked quietly.
“Of course,” I said as I kissed her forehead and got up. “And you better get some sleep so you can be well rested for it.”
“Good night daddy,” she said quietly as I closed the door.
I breathed deeply as I walked back to the couch and switched the television back on. After a minute of watching, I heard Rachel scream. I got up quickly as it intensified greatly, before I heard a gunshot. I ran as fast as I could back down the hall, and as I reached the door into her room I heard glass break. I walked in to find Rachel lying on the floor next to her bed in a pool of blood.
“Rachel!” I cried as I dropped to my knees next to her and picked her up.
The hole in her neck was gushing blood, as was the exit wound on the opposite side.
“Oh Jesus!” I cried as I searched around for something to try and stop the bleeding as tears streamed down her face. I placed my hands on her neck as I looked around, my eyes stopping on the picture that now lay on the floor covered in blood.
“Please no! Oh, dear God, please!” I cried as tears started dripping down my face as well, not knowing how to help my daughter.
“Make i-i-it st-t-t-op daddy!,” she croaked out, making the moment even more horrible for me as I realized the pain that she was in.
I stared at her face in horror as I watched blood drip down her chin and her hands shake; things that I had seen many times on the battlefield, but would never wish on a child. I stared into her eyes and she stared back as she faded away. I watched as her eyes fogged up, and then observed the light of life leave them as her head fell back, dead.
“No….” I cried as tears slipped down my cheeks and I placed my bloodied hands on my head.
After several seconds I looked up in rage. The first thing that I noticed was that closet door was hanging open, which made my heart sink as I ran towards the broken window. I looked out at the neighborhood as several people walked out onto the street in search of where the gunshot came from. I moved back over to my daughter and I lay down next to her, trying desperately to remember if there had been anything in her closest that wasn’t supposed to be there. As those thoughts floated in my mind another horrifying one came to me: I could have prevented it.
My hand jolted upwards and a small shockwave rippled through my arm as the corresponding sound reached my ears. It happened twice more as the pistol in my hands fired; each slug blasting through the cardboard targets in front of me. After having relived that horrible night three years ago in a dream I needed to let off some steam and get my mind away from my daughter. I exhaled sharply as I ejected the empty clip and slammed another in. I had raised it level with my eyes once again when the door opened behind me. Twisting around, I noticed Jerry standing there.
“I see you haven’t changed much,” he remarked.
“You know me, I can’t go a day without getting off a few rounds in here,” I replied with a grin, before turning and picking up my radio. “Johnson, rapid fire.”
“Yes sir,” came the reply as I turned my back once again to the shooting range and shut my eyes briefly.
I drew my second pistol as I reopened them.
I spun around after the word left my lips and opened up as more of the targets moved quickly across the range, some going up and down and others moving across the plane.
Every slug that left my weapons in a glorious flash struck a target at the center mark. After several seconds I ceased, and Jerry and I observed the damage.
“I see you haven’t lost any skill either,” Jerry said with a chuckle as I set both guns down. “You can always tell when they need to make this harder. It’s when you don’t miss a single target.”
“It’s good to have you back working with me again,” I said to him as I turned to face him. “It’s been far too long.”
“Yes it has,” replied Jerry.
“What’s up with Eric?” Jerry continued.
“I’m not real sure,” said I honestly. “His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last week and they won’t let him get out of this hellhole to go and see her.”
“That would piss me off,” said Jerry.
Silence followed for several minutes before Jerry spoke again.
“I…never got the opportunity to tell you how sorry I was about Rachel’s passing,” he said quietly.
I inhaled deeply and quickly as horrible memories resurfaced about my daughter.
“It’s ok,” whispered I. “How have you been doing?”
Jerry was silent for several minutes, during which I decided to clean up the range quickly as he attempted to find a way to respond. Judging by the look on his face he knew what he had to tell me, though he wasn’t sure how.
“I’m getting out,” he stated finally.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m done with all of this shit,” Jerry continued. “I’ve spent twelve years murdering the Confederacy’s rivals, and with each passing year they get greedier and have more enemies. I can deal with that just fine, but when we’re forced to spend seven straight months on active duty I have to draw the line.”
“Is it even possible to get out?” I wondered out loud. “I was always under the impression that one of those papers we had to sign before training signed over our soul to these guys.”
“Normally it does,” remarked Jerry irritably. “But I’ve found a way to get away from it all nonetheless. I can’t spend my life like this, that’s what I’ve figured out by now.”
“How are you going to do it?” said I.
“I haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but I managed to find a hole in the system that I can exploit without getting my ass shot as a deserter,” he answered.
“Wow,” I whispered as I started over towards the door.
Jerry turned to face me as I reached for the door handle.
“Jack,” he said quietly with a very hopeful voice. “Will you come with me?”
I stopped and turned back to face him. The expression on his face worried me slightly; it was as if he was afraid that someone would hear us.
“I don’t know, since Rachel….” I trailed off as the words left my mouth unexpectedly. “…This is my entire life now.”
“Please,” whispered Jerry, slightly more desperately this time.
As I was about to inquire as to what was wrong, the door behind me opened and Eric poked his head in. He took several seconds to glance back and forth at our faces before speaking.
“The captain wants us to be ready for departure in thirty minutes,” he said finally.
He waited there momentarily, half expecting some reply from one of us and half hoping to hear what we had been talking about before he had walked in. He closed the door after neither Jerry nor I spoke, and so I glanced back at him. His expression had vanished completely and he walked past me before exiting the room. I stood for a moment before I shut off the lights and followed him.
The night air was brisk and cool, just as many summer nights were outside the capital city of Styrling on Korhal IV. The one thing I had not been used to seeing was absolute darkness around me, since most of the time on the planet I spent in and around the cities. One would never think that it could be so dark four miles outside of the capital. I propped myself up on one knee as I watched the drop ship speed off into the distance, likely looking for a good spot to set it down and wait. I flipped my visor down quickly as Eric’s voice echoed through my helmet.
“Okay, we’re on the clock; let’s get our asses moving,” he said as I flipped on my HUD and switched off the safety on my rifle.
The three of us started moving shortly thereafter as we headed towards the dim lights just ahead. The outer perimeter of Mengsk’s mansion was bustling with guards that were still on duty.
“Three minutes until the shift change; cloaking on,” I said as I hit the button on my suit and watched my arms and rifle become translucent.
Eric and Jerry, who were both in front of me, disappeared also so I switched on the heat vision and their bodies re-appeared in a multitude of bright colors.
Ahead of us was a remarkably large and decorated building. It was easy enough to tell that it was the mansion since most of the Confederacy’s senators lived very lavish lives. A nine foot hedge surrounded it, which minimized the amount of the three story building that we could see, though there were no lights on upstairs.
“Two guards to the left,” I said as the two-man patrol rounded the corner of the hedge wall nearest us, and we halted to be certain that we didn’t make a sound.
I trained my rifle on one of the men’s heads, as did Jerry so that should either so much as glance over in our direction they’d both be dead within half a second.
“Clear,” Eric stated as he began moving once again.
As soon as we reached the hedge Jerry and I stopped aiming at the two men, and focused our attention on the foliage blocking us.
“I’ll check it out,” I whispered as I spotted a small hole in the wall.
Moving extremely slowly I managed to push the smaller branches away from me to open it further and I moved through it on my stomach. Nearly a minute later I reached the other side and stared through to a large courtyard. There were still no visible lights inside, though another guard with a hound stood only twenty feet away from me. As soon as I saw the dog I froze, though it turned its head and emit a low growl. The guard spoke quietly to the dog as he turned his head towards the hedge where I lay, and shined his flashlight on it. I held my breath as he began to walk towards me with the dog in the lead. Its growl got a bit louder as I slowly reached back and removed my eight-inch blade from my belt. The hound stopped just in front of me and it sniffed the base of the hedge, inches from my face. After a moment it bared its teeth and I knew I could wait no longer. I thrust the knife out and it pierced through the dog’s neck, silencing the bark that it was about to emit. At the sight of the blood and squeak that the dog emitted the man opened his mouth to yell for help before a round tore through his temple. Blood splashed across my visor as he was thrown to the ground silently. I looked over and saw a bright red color beside me, knowing by the shape that it was Jerry.
“Good timing,” said I as I quickly moved out of the bushes.
He followed me as Eric crawled through next. I scanned the courtyard briefly to be certain that it was clear. Eric and Jerry quickly shoved the two dead bodies into the hedge where we had come through, and then we proceeded carefully to the double doors. I stared at the lock briefly before Eric walked past me and placed a key into it.
“Handy to have guards carry keys,” he said as he turned it slowly in an attempt to keep quiet.
He pulled it open as Jerry and I slipped in quickly. I switched my night vision on over the heat vision, making the features of the pitch black room a bit clearer.
“Clear,” I stated as I pulled up a map on my HUD. “The quickest route to Mengsk’s room is through the foyer.”
The other two acknowledged my statement as we moved to the door directly across from us. I opened it slowly as Eric aimed his rifle down the hallway behind it. He nodded and Jerry and I moved through it. As we rounded the next corner we heard voices and halted as two people walked through the doorway leading into the kitchen. Both members of the kitchen staff headed away from us before I inhaled again.
“Jesus, Mengsk has his own cooks,” Jerry remarked.
“Good to see our taxes are spent wisely,” I chuckled.
We walked into the foyer as the two people opened the front door and headed out. As they locked the door the three of us scanned the balcony up above us for movement. I stared at the two staircases on both sides and then looked at Eric and Jerry.
“Jack, take the left, I’ll take right,” ordered Eric.
I obliged as I moved slowly up the stairs and scanned the second floor.
“It’s clear,” Eric said, beating me to it.
Jerry came up shortly thereafter as I spoke.
“Mengsk’s room is down the hall, be as quiet as possible so that we don’t wake his kids on the way,” Jerry said.
“Seven minutes left,” said I as we started down the central corridor.
We moved as quickly and as silently as was humanly possible, cutting communication as we went past Mengsk’s son’s and daughter’s rooms.
“Shit,” whispered Jerry suddenly.
“What?” I asked.
“My cloaking device isn’t working,” said Jerry.
I turned off the heat vision and noticed that he was entirely visible. There was a sudden noise behind us and I turned around frantically. One of the doors opened and an eleven-year-old girl stepped out into the hall while rubbing her eyes. Jerry stood frozen as she started to come towards us, though she never looked up. As she reached the door into the bathroom she opened it and looked up. Our eyes met as she stared right through me to Jerry.
She screamed and my heart sunk as she took off towards her bedroom.
“Get her!” cried Eric as he turned back to face the door to Mengsk’s room.
Neither Jerry nor I hesitated as we ran down the hallway as she shut the door. I didn’t even bother to try the knob as I heard her lock the door, and Jerry quickly kicked it down. Her scream intensified as he moved into her room, and she got into the corner as she screamed for her brother’s help. I heard another door open down the hall and I watched as another boy came rushing in. I had expected it to be Arcturus, Angus’ eldest son, who was already involved in some pretty big issues for his age concerning his father’s politics. It wasn’t him however; it was his younger brother, who was sixteen. He held a bat in hand and charged towards Jerry. I slammed into him quickly, knocking him off balance and removing the makeshift weapon from his hands. I placed them into a lock behind his back. An alarm went off suddenly and I looked to Jerry. After he glanced at me briefly he stared at the girl, before he took out his pistol. My eyes widened as he fired a round into the child’s neck. Numbness fell over my body as I watched the gun fly upwards from the recoil. The son got away from me and charged towards Jerry as he screamed in horror at what had happened. I couldn’t believe it myself as I watched my friend turn towards the boy with an expressionless face and fire another round into his forehead.
“Come on!” cried Jerry as he ran past me and back into the hall.
For some reason that I couldn’t understand, my ears blocked out his words as I ran for the girl that lay on the floor choking. I didn’t know why I felt such a distracting emotion in a most crucial time, though I frantically placed my hand over her throat in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Tears streamed down her face as she attempted to cry. It was useless. I could do nothing but sit there and watch as her voice faded off and her eyes looked deep into mine. I watched in horror as she continued to choke, and as her face began to lose its color I saw Rachel. I wasn’t holding Mengsk’s daughter any longer, but rather my own as she lay bleeding and dying on the floor. A tear slipped down my cheek as that memory returned to me, before I heard shouting in the hall. I forced myself to get up and I left the room before seeing several guards storming up the stairs. I fired several times as I took out the first three, forcing the others to halt in confusion. I turned and glanced at the doorway into Mengsk’s room, which was open. I switched my heat vision back on as I rushed in, scanning the room. Lying in the bed was a woman who stared blankly up at the ceiling. I ignored the wound in her forehead as I searched around and found more blood on the floor. A broken window on one side of the room caught my attention, and as I ran over to it I noticed a ladder leading down into the courtyard we had entered through earlier. At the bottom was Jerry, along with Eric.
“What the hell happened?” I asked frantically as I hit the bottom.
“The fucker had a God damn shotgun!” cried Jerry as he held his bleeding shoulder.
“Who?” I asked.
“Mengsk!” Jerry shouted. “My cloaking device got disconnected and now the entire op is fucked.”
“The hell it is,” said Eric as he glanced around. “He’s in the basement.”
Eric pointed to the small window on the ground at one side of the courtyard. It was open, though no light could be seen inside. The alarm in the background shut off suddenly, and voices could be heard both upstairs and on the other side of the mansion.
“Jerry, get your ass into those bushes and get your cloaking device working again,” ordered Eric. “Jack, come with me. We’ve got to get to Mengsk before he manages to get away from the compound.”
I acknowledged him and watched Jerry move quickly over to the hedge wall. Eric and I moved over to the basement entry as the voices got closer, and so I glanced around the corner and stared down a walkway that lead to the front of the mansion. Nine solders were stalking towards us, each of them with rather frantic looks on their faces.
“Eric,” I said as I watched them get closer and closer. “Move around to the front and hold there in case Mengsk manages to get his ass out of the house. I’ll go after him and see if I can’t kill him.”
“Alright,” he replied as he too glanced around the corner and quickly started walking towards the soldiers, cautious to not alert them to his presence.
As I kneeled down by the window I heard a frantic voice, as well as the sound of things hitting the ground. The first thought that came to me was that he was trapped. I slid down into the extremely dark basement and flipped my night vision on. That theory faded as I stared at the doorway that led to a small staircase. I turned as something hit the ground and shattered to my left. He was looking for something. As the sound of his rummaging ceased I noticed something that disturbed me: he was sobbing. I flipped on my heat vision after I was incapable of spotting him.
There was still darkness in front of me as my heart skipped a beat.