The DarkForest Defense Contracting Company's briefing room was alive with the conversations and hearty laughter of former military personnel. The men were summoned for their next assignment, and were awaiting their superior's orders. Upon his entrance, Rudy "Gonzo" Gonzales made it clear to his employees that his presence was to be greeted with silence, "Okay, okay! Everyone shut the fuck up and put your eyes on me, we got work to do." The men did exactly as they were told. "First order of business, we got two new guys in the building. Everyone say hello to Felix Castro and Walter Smith," this order was followed by an overwhelmingly unenthusiastic greeting, "These guys are fresh from the Middle East, and have plenty of trigger time under their belts, so no one has to worry about working with some amateurs. With introductions out of the way, let's get down to business..."
Gonzales referred to packets outlining their next assignment.
"DDCC has been contracted for the extraction of illegal chemical weapons from the McKay Research Facility in Huntsville, Texas. This is a low-profile, high-risk hometown assignment, guys. This ain't no VIP escort or bodyguard job. This job has been in prep-mode for the last two weeks. We have acquired two sports-utility vehicles which are waiting for us, fully-fueled, at our Hunstville base of forward-operation. We will be entering the facility at night, and we will be seizing a chemical compound dubbed, 'Alpha 27-S.I.' This is an extremely volatile compound, gents. We will not be fucking around on this one. We also have orders to capture and detain a Mr. John McKay if he is present in the facility. A color photograph of Mr. McKay has been provided for you in your briefing materials. Memorize the face because as soon as you leave this room, all of your shit is going in the shredder. Any questions?"
Felix Castro was quick to respond, "Just one, sir. Why the fuck are we doing this? This is a cop problem, not a defense contractor problem." His statement was joined with a united agreement from the room.
"Apparently the United States government feels that this unit is more qualified to handle the task at hand. When we get a job, we don't ask questions, we just do the fucking job. Understood?" The room soon became alive with a united, "Yes sir!"
Gonzales continued, "Good, I'm glad we get it. Now gear-up and get your asses to the roof. We are hopping on the bird and doing this job tonight." Castro and Smith excluded themselves from the collective, enthusiastic uproar that followed.
Castro and Smith partnered-up for the assignment, which was to be expected. They had endured several years of military life, as well as several years of military contracting, together. They were battle-buddies for life, as Smith had put it several times before. Castro took great comfort in their partnership, as Smith was the only battle-hardened counterpart that he was able to get along with on a personal level. After collecting their equipment, and performing their weapon checks, Castro stopped his partner in the dim locker room hallway.
"I don't like this shit, bro. Something doesn't feel right. This is some serious "under the rug" shit." Smith agreed silently, but kept his response limited to a simple ultimatum, "If you say we walk, then we walk right now. I got your back, no matter what."
Castro took a moment to consider the implications of leaving and finding employment with yet another contracting firm, but more importantly, his poor financial situation. It would be the collection of problems resulting from walking away from the job that would overwhelm his original instinct, "Let's do this. Stay frosty." Smith smiled brightly before punching his partner lightly on the shoulder, "Oohrah."
Helicopter blades thumped at an audacious volume, leading most of the men to utilize earplugs or headphones. Gonzales stood before his group of seven, once he received a thumbs-up from the chopper pilot. He bellowed his announcement in competition with the chopper blades and the team's collective attempts to nullify the chopper's loudness, "Two minutes! Two minutes until touchdown!" The men took notice and forced themselves into full-alert. The two minutes turned into one minute, which turned into the heavy thump of the chopper touching ground.
The forward-operating base turned out to be little more than a freshly-cut clearing in the countless miles of pine-forest which resided parallel to the Texas-based Interstate-45. Dead pine needles and pine cones were whipped into a miniature storm beneath the force of the Apache's blades, a potential threat to the eyes of the men, had they not elected to wear tactical goggles. Combat boots padded toward the center of the clearing, where two black SUVs had been parked bumper-to-bumper, previous to the team's arrival. Gonzales was the last to exit the bird, before the chopper crew lifted the rear compartment's ramp, and the chopper began its ascent and eventual disappearance beyond the treeline. Gonzales began barking his orders as soon as he realized his voice had the advantage over the quickly-vanishing helicopter, "Team Bravo-One get to the SUV in the front, Bravo-Two, to the rear! Walker, you'll be driving for Bravo-One, and Castro will be driving for Bravo-Two! Move!"
Both Castro and Walker moved to their assigned positions after Gonzales tossed out the vehicle's keys with his orders. Smith made a quick dash for the front-passenger seat of Bravo-two's vehicle, but his attempt was defeated by Carter, another member of Bravo-two. His victory came with a smile and the statement, "Shotgun, bitch," before he climbed into his seat. Smith grinned as he climbed into the backseat with Collins to his left. Castro watched Gonzo climb into the front passenger seat of Alpha-One's SUV before hearing his voice over their ear-piece-based comm system, "Alpha-Two, you will follow our movements to the facility. From there, you will take up a position to the rear of the facility and enter the building by way of crowbar. You will do this on go-code, 'Alabama'. Repeat, breach the compound on, 'Alabama'. Stay close. Gonzo, out."
As Alpha-One embarked upon its journey through a freshly-cut trail that eventually ended on the interstate, Castro felt it. The flood of adrenaline that took control of his heart and thrust him into life at two-hundred miles per hour. He focused on his breathing in an attempt to calm himself before Alpha-One exited the interstate and began a series of turns which eventually lead to the facility. Just as ordered, Castro and his colleagues swiftly dismounted from the vehicle following their screeching-halt in the facility's rear parking lot. Upon his exit, Castro released the SUV's hatchback before retrieving the crowbar that had been provided for their assignment. The men quickly formed a line, back-to-back, shoulders against the wall as Castro wedged the crowbar's hooked end between the door and its aluminum door frame. Smith, Collins, and Carter each produced their pistols as they awaited Gonzales.
"Alabama" was shouted three times, but Castro wedged the door open with an audible crack before the second instance of the word. The door splintered at its lock, and the building's fire alarm sounded immediately. Castro held the door open for the other three men before following them into the darkness of the building.
Smith led the team, their path illuminated by his tactical flashlight which occupied his left hand. His right hand, a tight fist around the grip of a Beretta M9 nine-millimeter pistol. Smith's adrenaline was on full-blast as well, as he made quick work of several doors along the narrow hallway of their path. The team worked swiftly to examine each room in hopes of finding their objective, but only found disappointment, as Alpha-One would beat them to the punch.
Gonzales had taken the initiative to be the first man through the front door of the facility for a reason only obvious to himself; he knew exactly where to find Alpha 27. His silencer-clad pistol was drawn as soon as he exited the vehicle, and his outstretched thumb would press the button of his earpiece to give the men in the back the go-code. Immediately following his three, sharp declarations of "Alabama", he stood before the service desk of the facility. The desk was occupied by an elderly security guard with an expression of utter confusion. His mouth fell agape, as if to speak, but Gonzales swiftly silenced his potential verbalization by raising his pistol and firing two shots, which resonated in low-thumps throughout the room, into the guard's chest. The security guard's mouth remained wide open as his lifeless body slumped backward in his rolling office chair.
Gonzales motioned his team to follow as he continued down the main hallway of the single-story facility, ignoring the rooms that his team opted to to breach and search. He arrived at his destination, a wooden door bearing the engraved words, "DEVELOPMENTAL STORAGE". He forced his weight forward in a solid kick, the door standing no chance against his intrusion. The room remained free of personnel, but full of storage lockers ordered by number. Gonzales removed a small key from his pocket and placed it in the keyhole of the locker numbered '27'. The locker contained a test tube rack filled with 16 tubes of what appeared to be blood. Gonzales carefully removed the rack and set it on a table behind him before retrieving a small black duffel bag from his attached gear. He ushered the rack into the safe confines of the bag as he exited the room to a group of confused mercenaries who stood ready in the hallway. One of them began to speak, "You cool Gonzo? Why the fuck did you shoot-" Gonzales quickly took control of the situation by appealing to their desire to follow orders, "Shut the fuck up and hold your fucking position, we got problems."
The lie was not exactly a lie, as any man that remained in the building would soon be faced with a serious problem. Gonzales once again activated his comm to alert Alpha-Two to hold their positions as he made an exit from the facility toward the SUV in which he had arrived. Gonzales had made a terrible mistake in the assumption that all of his men remained in the building.
Following the frustration in finding absolutely nothing of worth in any of the facility's rooms, Smith had decided to take a break for a cigarette. Castro, being a loyal partner, decided to follow for safety reasons. Collins and Carter gave no defiance to their temporary abandonment of work-related responsibility. Both Smith and Castro sat with their backs to the right side of the SUV, opposite from the facility. Castro began to voice his frustration to his partner, "This is fucking bullshit, bro. We shouldn't be here. There ain't no fucking way this is legal. If this shit gets out, it means our asses." Smith was slightly amused by his partner's frustration, and he responded as he brushed the underside of his gloved-left hand against the jet-black hair of his goatee, "Don't worry dude, once we get our checks, we'll tell these guys to fuck off and we'll get contracted somewhere else. I know you're sick of Iraq and Trashcan-istan, so we'll just look for some bodyguard work, you know? We'll pull some serious green babysitting slutty pop stars and over-paid sports heroes. You worry too much, dude. Everything's gonna be fine." Smith's final sentence would prove to be the most ironic statement of his life.
Both men felt an intense heat on their backs the moment before they were face-to-face with the concrete that was previously at their feet. They were greeted with ringing ears, disorientation, and a shower of light debris delivered from the explosion site that was previously the McKay Research Facility. Castro was the first to regain his sense of awareness, being greeted by the eerie illumination of giant flames behind him. He turned to look, his vision still somewhat blurry, but he understood that the facility was now completely engulfed in flames. His first thought was to make contact with any of his teammates that might still be alive, so he pressed the 'talk' button of his comm earpiece, "This is Castro. Smith is down. Fuck. I don't... I can't hear shit. We need medical assistance." Castro decided that tending to the newly-awakened Smith was a better bet than trying to contact the people that he knew were dead.
Smith moaned, but still managed to laugh as he reached for his still-burning cigarette which rolled back-and-forth in front of him, "What the fuck happened, dude? Did we just get mortared?" Castro could not find humor in his friend's inquiry, as he was now preoccupied with the headlights of Alpha-One's SUV, heading directly for them.
Upon entering the SUV, Gonzales set the duffel bag containing the recently-acquired substance known as "Alpha 27" into the passenger seat. He started the vehicle and after driving an adequate distance, he stopped and removed a cellphone from his front-left pocket. There was a single number saved in the phone's address book, and the number in question belonged to a bomb with a cell phone detonator. This particular bomb had been planted at the facility a week prior to DDCC's visit. Upon the bomb's detonation, Gonzales found himself pleased with the ominous explosion that appeared in his rear-view mirror. It wasn't long, however, until he felt his heart sink and his blood run cold with the sound of Castro's voice emitting over the comm airwaves.
In a fit of blind rage, Gonzales immediately forced the vehicle into a sliding u-turn, much to the dismay of his tire treads. Streetlights became an increasing blur on both sides as his speed increased, only to decrease as the flames, produced by the explosion he had manufactured, came into view. He scanned over the front of the parking lot, looking desperately for Castro with no luck. It was when he pulled his vehicle to the rear of the flaming building that he witnessed Castro helping Smith to his feet. He followed his first instinct, which was to capitalize on the opportunity to run over both of the men with his SUV.
Despite Castro's fading disorientation, he sensed the impending danger in front of him. His first reaction was to shove Smith with all of his might in an attempt to get his friend out of the vehicle's path. He then made a hard dash in the opposite direction, toward Alpha-Two's parked SUV. Castro managed to slide across the hood of his target just as Gonzales slammed into the vehicle, sending Castro flying several feet away from the vehicle. Castro would once again lay unconscious on the pavement.
Gonzales knew that he had missed, and his anger reached critical mass. He disregarded Smith completely, as Castro had been the center of all of his frustrations. With his pistol drawn once again, he exited the vehicle and raised the muzzle of his pistol toward Castro's unconscious form. Gonzales suddenly flinched as he felt the impact of safety glass stinging the side of his face, the unmistakable sounds of gunfire erupting behind him. His only option became escape, and he dove back into the driver's seat of his vehicle as several rounds impacted on the side of the SUV. He managed to speed off as Smith emptied the last of his magazine into the back of the escaping automobile.
Despite being shoved to the ground, and emptying a magazine of rounds in an attempt to eliminate a target, Smith managed to keep the butt of his burning cigarette clenched tightly between his lips, "Motherfucker! Get some!" was his cry as Gonzales escaped. Smith spat the frayed butt of the cigarette he had failed to smoke, from his lips as he shuffled toward his waking friend.
"Did we get him?" Castro's voice was strained, the sound around him replaced by a harsh ringing, and his vision was a hazy mess.
"Fuck no, dude, he's getting away, we gotta go!" Smith hooked his arms underneath his partner's shoulders as he lifted the downed mercenary to his feet. Together, they entered the remaining vehicle and began their pursuit of the man that had attempted to take their lives.