"We're here! Drop! Let's move, move, move!"

The dead silence that had its hold on the block broke, tumbling to the ground with a clatter like boots on pavement. The streets were clear, a rare moment where no cars moved on the street and the ubiquitous pedestrians of the Commercial District were content to walk elsewhere. It almost seemed fated, like it was suddenly 3 A.M. in a pre-Snowfall Virginian city. The only noise now was from the cacophanous clomping of Bravo Team's boots against the composite pavement of the street.

Inside the underground parking garage, Robert Loehmann paced nervously, the brim of his security staff cap moist with sweat. Money was a lovely thing, he thought, but it couldn't be spent if he was dead. How long will they be?! He started violently as a banging noise came from the IHDP shutter of the garage. His heart in his throat, Robert fumbled for the switch to raise the shutter. It slowly clambered open with a shrieking noise that Robert swore it had never made before. As it rose, ten feet in black military boots were revealed.

Once the shutter was about a meter up, the lead figure ducked and came through. The others followed suit quickly, revealing a small team of five figures in riot gear completed by helmets with goggles and masks. Each one had a number of weapons and magazines on his belt and carried a compact, dangerous-looking automatic rifle. The sight was extremely unnerving to Loehmann, particularly as the entire team trotted toward him with their rifles at the ready. They stopped just in front of him.

The noise of an intercom crackled forth from the lead figure's helmet. "Mr. Loehmann," a woman's voice issued forth from it. "I hope you've got a new job lined up."

Loehmann gave a jerky, frightened nod.

"Great," said the lead figure. "Hope you don't die. The elevator and stairwell lock, please."

"Uh," Loehmann said, sweating bullets. "I hope you don't die either."

"The elevator and stairwell lock, please," the voice said again.

"Right," replied Robert, manipulating the computer's controls to activate the elevator and release the stairwell's locking mechanism. There was an audible click from the doorways to both.

"Thank you," the lead figure replied, then her intercom clicked off. The team started hustling toward the stairs.

"Chief," a voice came through the Commander's intercom. "Why the stairwell? We're not taking it."

"We are," Commander Trevelyan replied on the intercom. As they reached the door, she pulled a somewhat bulky device from her belt, about the size of a few rifle magazines tied together. She manipulated a few dials on it.

"Why? We're to take the elevator," Lieutenant Peace replied, confused. The other three Operatives stood back and waited impatiently.

"Neg," Misty said, turning around and slamming the device into Peace's gloved hand. "This bomb is going to the first floor and you're going to see that it gets there. You've got a minute."

"Iyesukuristo!" Peace shouted, snatching the explosive and hurrying to the elevator. He tossed the thing in and slammed the first floor button from outside of the elevator. He withdrew his arm hurriedly and looked back at the Commander, who was already ushering the rest of the team to the stairwell.

The lead Team member's outer intercom clicked on again. "Mr. Loehmann, please lock the stairwell door behind us when you hear the signal," she said.

"What signal?" Loehmann asked, but the Commander was no longer listening. After a moment, all of them were through the door. A few moments later, there was a deafening noise and a horrific groan of bending and melting HDPlastic from the elevator shaft.

"The signal." Loehmann said to himself drily, and punched the button for the stairwell lock. He allowed himself a brief sigh, then hurriedly grabbed his coat and his pistol. "It's time for me to clock out."

The door to the Security Office blew inward with a compact detonation, spraying shards of plastic against the surprised staff. The two halves of the door, bisected messily by the explosion, flew through the air and collided with one of the security personnel, knocking him to the ground and unconscious. Bravo Team spilled through the door to minimal resistance, taking cover behind meter-high cubicle walls as the four standing security guards drew their weapons and started to open fire.

Commander Trevelyan, crouched fully behind the wall, raised one hand and gave a quick flurry of tight gestures. Lieutenant Peace, who was a meter away and closest to the opening in the cubicle wall, nodded and gestured to the other operatives. They braced their guns atop the wall and unleashed small, measured bursts of gunfire. The security staff took cover as Peace unhooked a grenade from his belt and primed it. Commander Trevelyan used the moment to run, crouched, across the gap in the walls unmenaced. She headed toward the left side of the room.

Peace tossed the grenade as Trevelyan rounded the corner, guarded by another cubicle wall but now in a direct line from an opening in the far wall. There was a deafening bang as the concussion grenade went off, and there were shouts of pain and confusion from the rear side of the room. Bravo Team wasted no time; as soon as the grenade went off they emerged from cover, advancing on the rear of the room and stepping over the body of the knocked-out security officer. One operative remained behind the cubicle wall near the room's entrance.

As Bravo team reached the far side of the room, a security guard came abruptly from around the corner, his arm raised and a sword held in it. Before the Team had time to react he brought the blade down; the razor-sharp plastic edge bit through an operative's armor and cut a solid six inches into his shoulder, shearing through bone. The operative dropped his gun and collapsed to his knees, pulling the blade down with him. Seeing that the blade was stuck, the security officer moved to take cover again, but he was too late; his head was messily divided by a controlled burst of gunfire from the operative near the entrance.

Lt. Peace and the remaining operative moved into the rear division of the office, where they were immediately fired upon by the two security guards inside the room. Lt. Peace rolled toward the minimal cover of a table; the other operative was struck by two bullets before he managed to take cover behind the door to the rear division. As Peace brought his gun to bear, he noted that a uniformed figure with grey hair was disappearing through a door in the back of the area.

"Dukakis," Peace radioed tersely.

"Pong," Trevelyan replied.


Lieutenant General Dukakis retreated into the computer room as his men fell one by one to the forces assailing them in the next room. "Unready," he growled. "How could they be so unready!" He moved to the computer, quickly tapping out a relay to send to his superiors. "God damn mercs."

Before he was able to send the message, the side door to the room flew open, encouraged to do so by a heavy-booted foot. One of the mercs had come around the side. Dukakis stepped forward to meet the figure, neatly pushing the automatic rifle aimed at him aside. He grabbed the gun with both hands and shoulder-checked the figure, slamming him hard in the chest. The figure released the rifle, which Dukakis cast to the side.

Dukakis drew his pistol as the merc drew his and each grabbed the other's wrist as they attempted to bring their weapons to bear. Locked in a grapple now, the combatants held their pistols pointed at the ceiling and struggled to gain control. They held their position for several seconds before Dukakis's aging muscles began to give way. Realizing that he would lose, Dukakis allowed his muscles to relax, and dropped his pistol. The merc released his wrist and grabbed his own hand, using more force on Dukakis and bringing the pistol closer to him. Dukakis quickly brought his hand under the merc's and brought it up, painfully slamming into his wrist. The merc cringed silently, forced to drop the pistol.

Still locked together and unable to reach the ground where the two guns lay, the two combatants allowed their stalemate to stand for a few seconds. Each was winded and unsure of what to do. After a second of tense silence, Dukakis reached about for his knife with his free hand. Expressing a sudden reserve of strength, the mercenary reached down and knocked the knife from Dukakis's hand just as he was drawing it. He then grabbed Dukakis's arm, spun him and tripped him, forcing the Lieutenant General to the ground and bending his arm painfully behind his back.

Dukakis was on the floor, now, with no weapons in reach. He'd been overcome. The merc kneeled beside him, catching his breath. The Lieutenant General noticed that the gunfire had stopped in the next room. Dukakis heard an intercom crackle to life. A woman's voice, out of breath and with an adrenaline-laced edge, emitted from the merc's helmet. "You've still got it, Lieutenant General," the woman said. "It was an honor."

Dukakis was quiet for several seconds. "Misty?" he finally said.

There was a brief, uncharacteristic giggle over the intercom. "Maybe."

Dukakis couldn't help but give a rueful smile. "...I always said you'd go places, kid."

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This vignette by Dog.