Section 5: A blade in the moonlight
The hall was dimly lit by a light that shone from the bottom of the stand, pointing directly at only those who stood in front to be addressed. This meant that those in the light were unable to see those on the other side’s faces properly. A clever disguise for the higher ups of the mysterious Black Clad Legion.
Nightwolf stood firmly in front, his eye’s slightly downcast; a sign of respect towards the Black Clad’s who now focused their attention directly upon him.
Finally, after a short silence one of them spoke out in a deep, calm voice. “Nightwolf. I assume you are aware of why you have been summoned?”
“Yes, sir.” He replied as calmly as possible. He was feeling slightly uneasy being here this time. He knew that his failure to protect the War Machine would result in punishment, and from what he’d heard of other who’d failed he was almost afraid. But he maintained his poise, doing his best to show no signs of fear.
The same man spoke out. “Then there is no need to explain the seriousness of you being here.”
“Here it comes.” He thought to himself. “This might be the end.”
“You will need to be punished. Unfortunately the punishment deemed suitable for what you’ve done is unsuitable for our current situation. Already we have The Three who were in charge of our outside operations, which leaves us with having to take care of it ourself, which means starting a new. So we will continue to hire you and the rest of your clan for the time being until we no longer have a use for any of you miserable ninja.” Though he couldn’t see the man speaking, he imagined him sitting there, staring evilly at him with a smirk on his face. “If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to redeem yourself. Until then no longer will you be going out on any mission on your own. Your Clan leader will take your command now.”
Another light flicked on a few meter from Nightwolf’s left. A strong looking man, a scar across the right eye and his hair tied into a short tail, a brutish looking, slightly damaged Kevlar covering the sleek looking ninja costume. He wore a mask, almost like Nightwolfs, which covered most of his face, leaving his eyes to be seen.
Another man spoke, this one’s voice not so deep and even less calm.
“Hawk! Nightwolf is to be placed constantly under your command. We will not risk any more stuff ups anymore! No that from now on, any more faults from any of you will result in prosecution. Sylvana, you will go with them.”
Another light flicked on Nightwolfs right this time to reveal a silver-dyed haired woman, her eyes shimmering when the light hit them, an evil smile on her face. Nightwolf began to consider another sentence other than this. He’d always disliked Sylvana’s presence. Her cold hearted nature and disregard for human life made her an uncomfortable person to be around. She never used to be so cold when she was younger, but all her time spent killing and perfecting her killing had changed all that, and the fact that she occasional attempted to flirt with him made things even uneasier between them. He sometimes found it hard to believe that he once liked her.
The first man spoke again. “Hawk has your new mission objectives. You are dismissed.”
They all bowed and slowly took two steps back before turning and leaving, the front lights turning off and a new one illuminating the exit door turning on.
As soon as they left Silvana spoke out. “Good work, Damien! They’ll never release our prisoners now!”
“Shove it, Sarah! It’s not my damn fault. Those Agents are more crafty than we…”
“I don’t want to hear your stupid excuses!”
“Well I don’t…”
“Could you both shut up?” Demanded Hawk.
They both stopped him their tracks, paused before replying with, “Yes master.”
Hawk let out a quiet sigh. “I don’t see why you two both fight. Back in the old days you used to both get along so well.” Nightwolf suppressed a laugh. As far he was concerned he had never got along with her.
They walked down the shadowy corridors before hawk finally stopped at a door, hit a pin code and ushered them in. With a quick motion for them both to take a seat, he moved over and sat down at the end of the table, removing his face mask as he did to reveal another small scar along his chin.
He cleared his throat before speaking. “It seems they’re losing trust in us since the last mission.” Sarah gave a sharp glance at Damien when he said this. Hawk noticed this. “And don’t be too soon to judge, Silvana. You were in charge of keeping the last of the Three from being killed, and you failed.”
“At least I had more reason than he did to fail. I had to compensate for multiple agents, not just one.”
Hawk gave her a sharp look and she quietened down.
“They want us to guard convoy which will be coming in from Russia. With the FSA all over their movements, we’ll need to make sure that they don’t attempt an attack to stop the ‘items’ from getting to their target safely. They’re building up for something big now, and another failure will not go down well here. It is imperative that we succeed. Our mission start at 0600 hours, tomorrow, and we leave to meet up with the convoy at 0500.
“What? “ exclaimed Damien. “That’s a bit early! We only just got back from our last instalment, and they already want us to head out without even a chance to rest?”
“We don’t have a choice in when we are sent out. We depart in two hours. I suggest you go pack your things. If you want to rest you can do it on the ride there, but there’ll be no time for it now. If they want us to head out then we must do it!”
Both Damien and Sarah looked glum after the new news. They’d both hoped to be done with their constant bombardment of missions and at least have some rest. But, deep down, their desire to rescuer their captured comrade’s was stronger and even though their bodies and minds were weak they had no choice but to press on.
Hawk stood up. “If you have any questions, feel free to meet with me later before the mission. I have other some work to do for the time being.” He walked off through the door, leaving Nightwolf and Sylvana alone. Then, without warning, she did something that made Damien remember the Sarah he knew when they were both just kids.
“I wish this would all finally just be over and done with.” She was staring at her hands on the desk. Nightwolf wasn’t sure if she was talking directly at him or to herself. “To be honest… I’m getting sick of all this senseless killing.”
Damien looked at her with concern for her on his mind for the first time in years. The conflict must’ve have finally made her snap, because the Sylvana he knew never talked down about the brutality of her career, in fact she seemed to lavish in it. For a split second he almost moved to comfort her, but before he could decide she stood up, looked at him and half laughed before she exited the room herself.
Damien continued to sit down for a moment longer, thinking about the situation.
“And I thought things were bad before. If it’s changing Sarah’s attitude… then it’s far worse than I thought.”
At that he exited the room himself to get ready for the enduring mission ahead.
The helicopter ride to where the convoy was based at ended up seeming longer than it was. The chopper was cramped in the passenger side, the windows were almost too dark to see out and with what you could there was only cloud and rain.
Sylvana had returned to her normal self now and she stared hungrily at her Ninja-to, occasionally gazing absentmindedly outside the window making the Damien think that maybe things were still getting to her a possibility.
Hawk sat, arms folded, eyes closed. He hadn’t said a single word since the meeting and didn’t seem like he would say anything else until he was giving out orders when they reached the convoy.
Nightwolf wasn’t all too cheerful about the current turn of events. He was starting to get frustrated with having to constantly deal with the FSA, especially Lia. Ever since that day back at the Chanūte Dé Mon, when he spotted Lia there, things had just seemed to go down hill, and worse than he could have ever imagined.
He recalled the night up at the fortress. His mission was simple. One of the Three was planning on betraying the Black Clads and therefore had to die. For once, of the several months he’d been stuck under their command, he was able to help strike a blow at them, even if it no longer seemed a concern. Then she showed up, ready for a fight. At first he’d thought seeing her at the restaurant was purely a coincidence, but from then things had finally began to become clearer.
Then she had to show up again. This time to destroy something he was being forced to protect. Truthfully, he’d have helped her put it out of use, but to do so would result in the deaths of his imprisoned comrades, and that was not an option he could take.
He started to bite into his lip at the thought of almost getting her killed. Then, before he could think anymore Hawk tapped him on the shoulder.
“We’re nearing our drop off. The convoy will be deploying almost immediately after landing, so get moving straight away, no dawdling!” He ordered, pointing out the fogged window at the line of five trucks.
The helicopter landed and the doors glided open to allow a crisp, cool breeze to make its way in. Outside the sky had begun to mix between night and morning, a darkened distance with part of a moon lingering in what stars remained, with a orange glow emanating over the snow-capped mountainside further towards the north. Once again the wind whipped up a chill that hit Nightwolf in the face. It had little affect however on him due to the fairly warm suit he wore.
“Come on, Nightwolf!” Called Sylvana. “Are you coming or not?”
He snapped out of his temporary daze and ran for where Hawk and Sylvana had taken seats on the back of a truck where two other men in woollen coats had started to have a smoke. Almost as soon as he hopped on, Hawk waved to the driver and the truck’s roared to life, and with a quick jerk were off once more on their long journey south.
* * *
The first day was long and dull. The trucks had managed to complete half of their trip before stopping to make a temporary camp where the other men took to cutting holes in the frozen waterhole nearby and fishing while other sat around smoking and roasting meat over BBQ’s fashioned from empty barrels. Hawk disappeared for almost an hour during this stating that he was going to scout out the area which left Damien and Sarah alone to sit and watch as the other roamed about joking and messing around.
Even more bored so than he was, Sylvana had taken up to complaining about the lack of action there was and eventually started trying to convince Damien to go off scouting with her. After half an hour of protesting the idea, she gave him a hateful glare and ignored him for the next two hours to come, which didn’t bother him at all.
When the trucks were on the move again it was nearing seven in the afternoon. The sun had swapped places with where it was the in the morning and now cast a pinkish aura across the sky. Out of some random thought, the colour of the sky reminded Damien of something familiar he’d seen before. Something beautiful and elegant. Without knowing it, Lia once again slipt into his mind and he recalled a night they’d spent together at the same restaurant he’d killed Mulheimer. Recounting the thought reminded him once again of the previous encounters he’d had with her, and suddenly a rise of concern washed over him.
He shook his head to clear the thought and forced himself to think of something else. Anything else. Then finally Sylvana deemed it possible to talk to him once again and plopped herself next to him.
“Day dreaming, are we?” She said sleepily.
“What? No, just thinking.”
“Close enough.” She pushed her legs through the wooden frame of the railing and kicked them back and forth playfully. “You know. This whole mission has been pretty quiet so far.” She stopped kicking her legs and gazed into Damien’s face for a moment as if waiting for a response, then looked back out of the forest. “Not as much snow anymore. Harder to track those who’ve been along here.”
“Are you trying to imply that you’ve noticed something suspicious?”
“Maybe.” She said sarcastically.
Damien felt a sudden prick of annoyance, but kept his cool rather than snap at her. “Well, if you’ve seen something, then why don’t you report it to Hawk.”
“Oh, he’s got enough on his mind already. Besides, I think he’s already onto it. I was just wondering if you were too.” Once more she stared at him. “Or have you been day dreaming too much to notice that we’re being tracked?”
It was as if a signal had been let off right as she had said it. Damien saw it, a cone-shaped, metallic object with a stream of flame shooting from its back, gliding right towards them. In his best attempt, he withdrew his blade, shoved Sylvana out of the way, and with a marvellous act of both courage and idiocy he smacked the missile off target. It ricocheted off, glided up and exploded only a few meters over head.
* * *
There was a scream, a sharp pain. A seamless sky flew out from under before gravity seemed to return to normal and the real ground showed itself and hit Nightwolf hard across the back. He tumbled before a mound of wet snow cushioned his battered body from rolling any further.
His vision was blurred and a bitter copper taste filled his mouth. He spat, a blob of blood and possibly a tooth stained the snow next to him. His sword had flung out of his grip and skidded to a halt, slightly covered by mud and snow, a few meters away. A truck had overturned and caught alight, and the one he presumed he once stood upon was missing part of the rear, along with most of its cargo, but not enough to stop it from going on.
A bullet whizzed past him, puncturing the snow next to his head. He withdrew a 9mm and scanned quickly. A man donning the same uniform that all FSA wore took aim. He was a bad shot and missed two more times before a bullet from Nightwolf’s own gun hit him in the head.
“Nightwolf!” Ordered a voice much like Hawk’s. “Cover the trucks!”
He acted quickly, spying another two men; one with a gun taking aim, another crouching down with an RPG in hand. Damien fired, a full clip being used to bring down one man as he half sprinted, half stumbled to the next.
Noticing his down team-mate, the man took aim and fired. Much to his luck, the gun was empty, and Damien was able to get in close without concern of being shot by the man and ran him through. He quickly removed another blade, a small, three-inch kunai, and stabbed it into his neck; a killing blow. Then as soon as he retracted the sword he snatched up another kunai and threw it with deadly accuracy, piercing another man through the neck causing him to fall over and writhe in agony.
Taking no time to consider finishing the job, he snatched up a loaded gun and ran for the now speeding trucks, firing randomly at the enemy as he did Another missile buzzed off, hitting another truck directly, it’s front, erupting in a glamorous flame.
Debris rained down once more, a door landing almost right on top of him as he ran for the nearest car. Hawk stood at the rear, a machine-gun in hand, carefully taking his time to nail anyone who came to close or seemed likely to land a close and fatal hit. Sylvana emerged at the end of the truck, blood trickling down her forehead and a bloodied graze across her arm. She reached out to Damien, pressing her body down flat.
“Grab on, damn it!”
Damien reached out, almost stumbling yet again, but managed to pick up the speed just enough to grab her hand and get pulled on. Hawk signalled once more to the driver and with a familiar jerk the engine roared triumphantly and the truck sped off at high speeds.
Damian and Sarah sat back against what railing was left on the truck, breathing heavily.
“Now… we’re even.”
Damien recalled the outrageous feat he’d acted out before by smacking away a missile, then with no reason at all cracked up laughing.
Bewildered, Sylvana stared curiously at him. “What on earth are you laughing about?”
He stopped for a moment. “I don’t know. Guess it was all that sudden excitement! Must’ve gotten to me.”
Still puzzled, Sylvana stood up and moved over to a more sturdy part of the truck near the front end. “You’re crazy.”
“Not as much as you.” He replied almost too quickly.
Hawk seemed not impressed. “Keep on the lockout. They wont give up the chase that easily.”
Damien nodded and forced himself to stop laughing. He then resumed his duty of standing watch over what little remained of the convoy.
The rest of the day drove on until the sun had disappeared over the horizon and stars had taken its place. It was a clear night this time, which made it easier to spot any more ambushes, though after the previous attack they didn’t think there’d be another too soon. However, Nightwolf could have sworn he’d seen human figures rustling in the bushes. Watching and waiting for the time to attack once more. But it seemed that an attack would not come. At least not this night.
Rather than take a break, the drivers swapped with someone else and the convoy continued to roll on. They weren’t going to take any chance, wether they would be attacked at night or not. Another ten hours drive and they’d reach their destination. Once there they would no longer need to fear being ambushed anymore. Though with previous episodes, they might still find themselves being caught in combat even after reaching the Black Clad head quarters.
Damien could feel his eyelids getting heavier now. He pulled the torn sheet closer around himself to shelter out the cold air. Sylvana had done the same, taking up a place not far from him, snuggled deep inside a sheet of her own. Damien thought he noticed a strange pattern in her actions, as every time he looked over and she noticed, she would shiver slightly as if she were too cold, perhaps in hopes he would go over and huddle. Damien, however, was not in the least bit interested, and even if he were there was no room for doing so. Not on a mission. Not when there was so much already at risk. He couldn’t be distracted anymore by anything or else he’d be jeopardising everything they’d been working for.
The brief thoughts of his imprisoned comrades; of what they were being forced to suffer as a result for their foolish actions, was enough to rouse a strong ambition in his heart and the cold around him seemed to lift off him like hot steam was rising from around him.
He stood up and walked over to Hawk.
“Master, would you mind if I talked with you for a moment.”
Hawk’s deep gaze lifted momentarily for him to look at Damien. Then he turned his focus to the dark forest nearby.
“If you must.”
“Master, I was wondering when we will be getting the other released?”
Hawk continued to stare out. Damien felt as if he’d made a solemn mistake by asking the question, but the urge to save the others was too strong to neglect.
“They must’ve told you. Right? They seem to trust you.”
“I do not know, Nightwolf, and I doubt I’ll be told.” He turned his gaze back to Damien. “However, what I do know is that they’re planing something big, and that the longer we remain under their service, the more dangerous it’ll get for us and the prisoners. It’s best you don’t ask about these things. Now get back to your post.”
Damien felt as if he was being toyed with. By asking for an answer to one question, he’d been filled with two more.
“Is there anything else you can tell me that doesn’t end in riddle, Master?”
“No, there is not. Now give up trying to get information out of me and get back to your post. We’re still being trailed, remember?”
Damien opened his mouth to speak again, but thought twice about it. “Yes Master. Sorry to have disturbed you.”
He returned back to where he was sitting, his mind once more clouded by thoughts.
* * *
There was a shriek of laughter coming from inside the building. A face poked its head through. Who was it though? It seemed familiar. Damien made his way over to the door, excitement brewing inside him. There was something good on the other side of this door, and he wanted badly to get inside and find out.
He got closer to the door and reached over, then found he couldn’t quite reach anymore. He had shrunk, no longer a full-grown man, but a child, small and fragile, eyes gleaming with innocence.
He recalled, suddenly, a way inside. He snatched a large rock that marked the pathway and slid it over. With it as a boost he was able to wrap his tiny fingers around the handle and open the door.
The door opened and revealed dark hall, a lantern overhead with mistletoe dangling from underneath. He ran in, turned the corner, and then darkness fell once more. A heavy figured stood tall over a woman and two other children on the ground. A sharp, silver object dripping red onto the woman’s face which then ran down her cheeks like she was weeping. He turned, looked into Damien’s face and smiled.
Strong arms picked him up from behind, words were said, a pain jabbed into his arm, and he was frozen.
His eyes were no longer innocent.
* * *
Damien’s eyes opened to reveal a face staring down at him, the sun’s light illuminating around her head like a halo. With a few blinks his eyes settled on the figure and reveal it to be Sarah.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to wake the hell up, that’s what I want.”
Damien groaned. “This better be worth it.”
She moved away to let him sit up and take in the surroundings. They were no longer driving along the dusty road which wove in and out of the forest, but settled now inside a dark and foreboding and steely cave. It finally clicked in that they’d managed to arrive at the HQ safely. Or at least safe enough.
Sylvana hopped off the truck and began to walk off. “Come on. There’s another debriefing supposedly.”
Damien quickly stretched his arms and legs and hopped off the truck. The cave returned to the Earth as it spread along towards the entrance, then back to a more manmade structure as you moved in deeper until finally you were at the finally gateway which led into the Black Clad’s deep weaving labyrinth of corridors and rooms. Of course, it wasn’t that hard to navigate at all, so long as you knew where you wanted to go and didn’t stumble upon the wrong place causing delays.
Sylvana stooped off through a doorway and Damien had to almost run to keep up, then once he rounded it he found himself almost face to face with a forklift. The drivers shouted at him to be more careful and he quickly apologised and continued to run after Sylvana. He figured that she was heading off towards the meeting room, and sure enough, after weaving through more lengths of corridors, they came to a doorway where Hawk stood leaning against a wall with his arms folded and the same distant look in his eyes.
He drifted back to reality just in time for the doors to open and a deep voice called from within.
As usual, the room was dark, with lights shining only upon those being addressed, and not those behind. They took their place and stood, eyes slightly downward, waiting for their new orders.
“These pests are starting to get out of hand.” Spoke a voice, one which Damien had not heard before. It wasn’t too deep but held a calm authority about it, and there was a hint of a French accent. “There is a task for you. One in which I’m sure you’ll be willing to undertake, especially if it means redeeming yourselves and the release of another prisoner.” There was a short pause to allow the message to sink in before the man spoke once more. “Go to the hanger. There is a jet, which will take you to your target. This mission is of high importance, and to fail will result in… I believe… execution of your fellow comrades.”
Damien felt the man’s evil smile directed upon him and a fear swept up inside of him. Not because of the glare he felt, but of the sudden extreme necessity to succeed more than ever before. He felt sudden like a toy, being thrown around and used with no control at all. He would rather have not risked it, but if he didn’t then they’d kill the prisoners regardless simply to prove who was in command.
“You are dismissed.” Ordered the man, and they left the room.