The Eradication of Hate - Prologue
Drake popped a pill. Quicklime – a citrus flavoured blend of Modafinal, MDMA and cocaine. Quicklime boosted awareness, made everything sharper, heightened the senses. Ratcatchers introduced him to the pills when he worked alongside them in the old underground tunnels. Ratcatchers could see in the dark. Ratcatchers wore sunglasses to reflect the light from their flame throwers. Drake bought a pair of retro aviator's to fit in with the rest of the crew. His reflection was unstoppable, but he soon tired of the crew.
Drake checked his weapon and screwed the suppressor in place. He engaged the safety and dropped the weapon into a shoulder holster slung across his broad shoulders. He pulled on a short leather jacket, pushed the poppers home on his black leather gloves and buried his blond hair beneath a black wool cap. Drake checked his reflection in the rear view mirror, smiled and climbed out of the vehicle, the Quicklime cushioning the drop from the cab. The night air smelled clean and the rustling of animals brought the surrounding woodlands alive. Drake knew the kill would be clean and easy – if everything went to plan.
He donned a night-vision headset, switched it on and waited for the world to turn green. He didn't have to wait long. Drake adjusted the focus, checked his equipment and headed into the depths of the woods, his ears searching for the sound of running water. All around him naked trees embraced one another with skeletal fingers, their branches bowing low and reaching high into the moonless sky, surrounding him in a cage of twisted wood. Pine cones and broken twigs littered the ground and the pathways hung with ugly cobwebs, huge balls of dusty silk concealing tent and wolf spiders grown fat on autumn's menu. Drake waded through them, avoiding fragile twigs and dried leaves, his head singing with anticipation. In his mind the woods were mapped out in fine detail, the route a line of intense light emanating from a myriad of water filled footprints, like the parallel halves of a green world split by a stream of moving silver.
As the river bank came into focus Drake's senses hit overdrive, his body alive with Quicklime induced adrenalin. He edged towards it and slid up the edge on his belly, stopping at the crest and scanning the details on the far side. Across the river he could see a large tent backed up into a clump of trees and partially camouflaged with netting and fallen branches. From the air, the tent would be invisible, from the ground easily defended from invasion. Drake knew an attack from the front, where the land lay flat and devoid of cover, would fail immediately and a strike from the river would be virtually impossible without alerting the occupants, the strong current would see to that. He would have to cross ten feet of freezing water without making a sound if he wanted to take the occupants without alerting them or their security team to his presence, no mean feat, even for him.
Drake cast his mind back to the meeting with Colonel Navis and the intelligence report regarding the men he'd come to eliminate: Christopher Chamberlain and Thomas Cheshire, leader and deputy leader of the opposition respectively.
'Chamberlain represents a threat to government policy,' Navis told him. 'He cannot be allowed to stand at the next election, he's becoming far too popular. We've managed to keep him off the air but the rumours are still circulating and the National Party are losing public confidence. I needn't remind you who signs our pay checks, Drake...'
He hadn't, but that didn't make the job any less palatable and he had to keep repeating the mantra that had become all too familiar over the past few months:
Targets, that's all they are, just targets.
The intelligence report was sketchy and badly prepared, nothing more than the location and description of the target area:
2000 FEET SOUTH OF HAWKHILL, NORTHUMBERLAND. WOODED AREA (ADJACENT TO RIVER ALN). C & C KNOWN TO USE FISHING/CAMPING TRIPS TO SUBVERT LISTENING DEVICES. KEVLAR TENT, BULLET PROOF, A NON-NEGOTIABLE TARGET FOR SNIPER'S. SECURITY (BOUNCER'S): QUANTITY UNKNOWN BUT PROBABLE WAR VET'S. END OF REPORT.
'Why not use a missile?' Drake had asked and Navis had replied, 'An air strike would do the deed admirably but, since the targets are to be neutralised without alerting the free press, it's out of the question and far too expensive anyway. Stealth is the only possible option, Drake, that's why I suggested you for the job.'
Drake slid away from the bank, pushed the headset away from his eyes and lay on his back, thinking. The river was both key and obstacle so the only real option was to use it against them; but would they take the bait of a very old trap? Would they leave the safety of their bullet proof tent to investigate the sound of disturbed water? No, these were men with tactical minds, officers in fact, veterans of the Grinder; and what do officers do when their base comes under attack? They give orders, that's what officers do. Officers send the soldiers out to get their heads blown off while they sit tight behind their electronic fences and bullet proof facilities, making decisions that will ensure their own safety for as long as possible. But Drake didn't know where the bouncer's were because the intelligence report wasn't as clever as it should've been.
Drake crawled back to the top of the bank and listened. The river flowed eastward at a gentle pace, the water breaking over outcrops and fallen branches as it flowed beneath an old railway bridge towards the North Sea a couple miles to the south. Drake calculated the noise level and found it acceptable providing he took his time, a luxury the freezing water wouldn't offer. And what other obstacles existed? He switched the night vision to infra-red and scanned the opposite bank, making fine adjustments as he followed the terrain. He quickly began to see anomalies, a line of orange markers bisecting the field, and he knew the infra-red had detected motion sensors. Drake counted five, each one a yard apart from its neighbour, each one primed for the slightest touch from an intruder. He counted five but knew there would be more closer to the tent and he knew the last line of defence would double for the first line of attack. These were motion sensors with teeth.
Drake checked his equipment and was about to make his decent towards the icy water when something caught his eye. Someone was moving across the open ground on the other side of the river and whoever it was wasn't alone. Drake pulled the headset down and quickly switched back to night vision. He counted three men moving carefully, their bodies bent low, their arms cradling automatic weapons, their origin horribly familiar.
The mission had been double-teamed.
Drake moved closer to the river, drew his weapon and settled in to watch the show, his eyes dancing the Quicklime twitch in anticipation of an unexpected diversion. Intervention was definitely on his mind.
The attackers divided. Two flanks, one point. The flanks went wide, the point went direct. None of them saw the motion sensors. None of them heard the alarm. None of them knew they were walking into hell.
Drake knew. Drake saw the movement behind them. He breathed a deep sigh and drew a bead on the nearest bouncer, the target beam switched off - he didn't want a dancing red dot giving his position away.
One of the flanks stopped moving. He'd spotted the sensor and was obviously wondering what to do about it. He scratched his head...
Drake muttered, 'Unbelievable,' and shot the bouncer, his weapon offering a muted cough with no muzzle flash. He saw the bouncer fall and zoomed in on the point. The point's shoulder-mounted NP badge filled the scope.
National Police. Not Navis’ men.
Somebody had issued a duplicate order – a three man death certificate. Drake, who rarely swore, whispered a colourful expletive and went back to scanning for bouncers. It wasn't his job but he was going to act as defence anyway.
The head scratching flank edged away from the sensor. He was waving his arms at the point but the point didn't see the signal – a bouncer did.
Drake watched the flank's head explode, spun in the direction of fire and scanned for the shooter. He saw nothing. He looked back at the point who was standing very still. He looked at the remaining flank who was already running away, then he saw the shooter. Drake switched the beam on. The red dot found the shooter. Drake fired twice. The shooter fired once. The shooter and the flank both went down at the same time. The point fired twice at the tent and ran towards the river, towards Drake.
So much for a diversion.
Drake moved. He crawled away from the river and made his way to the woods, the sound of splashing water covering his own footfalls. He reached the tree line and turned around, scanning for the point. Nothing. No National Policeman, no splashing water but plenty of ghost's. The bouncer's were in force, scattered and alert, armed and extremely dangerous. Drake stepped into the woods, counted to ten and got his bearings. Behind him raised voices began to pollute the air. In front of him something bright cut through the green world, too fast to see, impossible to avoid. Drake went down hard, his left thigh on fire, the headset hanging like a drunk from a lamppost. Behind him someone dragged a chain over a cog, the sparks flying every which way, the splinters cutting a shape in half right in front of his eyes. Drake heard a voice say 'You owe me' and saw the man with the NP shoulder-patch running into the woods.
Drake rolled under a thicket, unhooked his belt and tied it around his thigh, stemming some of the blood, but not all of it. He gritted his teeth, lay very still and waited. He tried not to breathe. All around him bouncers prowled the woods, the excitement in their voices fading to grunts of disappointment as the early mornings sport slowly came to an end. Eventually they faded away completely, but not before the bodies were collected.
Fifteen minutes passed before Drake dragged himself out of the bushes, collected his equipment and hobbled back through the woods to the vehicle. The mission was screwed but at least his transport was still where he'd left it. He pulled himself into the cab, started the vehicle and headed for the nearest medical centre, the credentials hanging around his neck guaranteeing him instant treatment. He was going to need it.
Last updated on December 2, 2011
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