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DOR – Daughter of Renbattle


  • Serenity
    Keymaster
    Serenity

    The air was thick with anticipation, as the men huddled around the camp fire discretely sheltered by the ravine in which they were currently camped. The chilly evening breeze had a sharp bite to it but men, led by commander Dogg, were seemingly unaffected by the conditions. They had a fine tuned resolve, a passion that could not be curtailed and determination that would not be matched. They had a deep respect for their leader and his second in command, Captain Warmonger. These men had been on many missions together; they had faced down insurmountable odds and had always come back Alive.

    Three days before SmokinFury had gotten the call, the call that no one wanted to hear, Serenity had been captured and was being held captive in the guerrilla camp which, his contacts told him, was located just outside of Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia. Sitting back in his leather chair, SmokinFury had slammed the phone down and had finally given into the agonizing pain that was ripping his body apart, sucking the very life out of him. As the head of the world’s largest supplier of military hardware, RenBattle, he had known that sooner or later he might become a target. He had never even considered the possibility that his daughter, Serenity, would be used as a pawn for ransom.

    How was he going to tell his son in law, CplBrian that his wife had been torn from their lives? Dialing the base he reached CplBrian’s secretary, Jaybird.

    “Good morning Jaybird, Fury here.”

    “Good morning sir, I assume you would like to speak to General CplBrian?” Jaybird answered. Her voice was like a fresh morning breeze, like a golden drop of sunshine, whispering through the many miles of phone lines.

    Usually looking for any excuse to spend a few moments on the phone chatting to Jaybird, this morning SmokinFury did not have the time or patience to participate in the usual chit chat.

    Jaybird knew that something was wrong by the tone of SmokinFury’s voice when he said:

    “Yes, just put me through.”

    “Yes Sir.” She responded and dialed the Generals emergency intercom.

    “General, SmokinFury on the line and he needs to speak to you ASAP.”

    “Thank you Jaybird, please put him through.”

    The general was always friendly and Jaybird wondered how he could keep up his positive attitude with the stress that he had to deal with every day. Putting the thought out of her mind, she quickly connected SmokinFury to General CplBrian.

    “CplBrian, I do not know how to tell you .. ” His voice trailed off as the emotions were threatening to overcome him.

    “Dad, what is it?” CplBrian had always referred to SmokinFury as Dad as they had become immediate friends when Serenity had introduced them 5 years before.

    “Ser.., Sere.., It’s Serenity son.” SmokinFury finally managed to stutter out.

    Now worried and immediately on edge CplBrian asked quickly; “What is it, what’s wrong with Serenity?”

    “I just got off the phone with a man by the name of 1Ijac. He said that he was speaking on behalf of an organization known as the Liberators and he is holding Serenity captive.”

    “What, what the hell are you talking about, are you trying to tell me that my wife is a hostage, a hostage of some idiot with the name 1Ijac?” CplBrian screamed into the phone, losing control of his calm demeanor.

    “Listen son, we have to do everything that we can to get her back.” SmokinFury responded; “but we need to keep our composure if we want her back alive. 1Ijac has demanded 200 million US dollars and 3 Apache gunships in return for her life.”

    In the kraal, 1Ijac hung up the phone, pleased with the way he had managed to pull this off, so far. Turning towards his most trusted lieutenant, Bullfrog805 he said; “Now my friend, we will get what we want and pay back SmokinFury for this.” He pointed to the patch over his right eye. Thinking back to the battle 15 years ago, he recalled being taken hostage by Captain Kleptomaniac and then being tortured for 27 hours straight by Corporal SmokinFury. At one point during the torture, a moment that he recalled with minuscule detail, SmokinFury had shoved a yellow paper clip in his eye, costing him half his sight. The pain had been excruciating, the humiliation unbearable but he had survived and not just that, he had thrived. Living on his anger he had waited for a long time for this.

    “1Ijac,” Bulllfrog805 muttered, “what if it does not work? What is SmokinFury refuses to pay us the ransom?”

    “My friend, you have been with me a long time, you and your brother Kamikazee helped me escape that night and together we have battled all odds.” 1Ijac mused. “Besides, even if they did try something stupid, do you not think that we are prepared?”

    Bullfrog did not have to think that over as Evilsage had been a master at munitions and had foreseen and taken care of ever possibility.

    Serenity could barely see the light through the weaving of the coarse sack tied round her head, but she could tell it was day time. She tried to remove it, but a sharp pain in her wrist served only as a reminder to her predicament. Blood trickled from her nose, down onto her lip. Before she was able to focus her thoughts the sack was pulled of her head along with a clump of her hair. She screamed in agony as her eyes struggled to focus through the sweat and tears.

    A fierce deep monotonous voice pierced her cries telling her to shut her whining. She caught sight of its origin, a tall muscular brute of a man stood behind her. His stare made her look away. He grabbed her chin from behind, yanking her head back forcing her to take another look. Her captor had a dirty patch over one eye, his face was beaten with scars, his stinking sweat dripped down onto Serenity’s face. She broke away from his grasp in disgust, and shuffling around she looked straight at him. A feisty one we have here, hey boys, with the laughter still hanging in the air, he clenched his fingers around Serenity’s throat and lifted her off the floor. She thought death was imminent and flashes of days gone by ran through her busy mind. As her grip on life faded, she heard her captors voice once more, “keep your mouth shut and don’t give me no trouble and you just might make it out of here alive, understand”.

    He released his grip and Serenity fell to the floor like a dead weight. She fought for breath, fainting as her lungs filled with air. Being just 27 years old, she did not want to die, she wanted so much to be back home in Kissimmee with her loving husband CplBrian.

    “Captain Warmonger, please assemble everyone” Commander Dogg asked.

    “Hey listen up guys,” bellowed captain Warmonger, “The commander wants us ASAP, assemble at his tent on the double.”

    Getting up from the fire, Warmonger noticed a strange look suddenly pass across Rust05’s eyes but just as quickly, it was gone. Instinct, Warmonger had learnt was something never to dismiss lightly. He would definitely be keeping an eye on Rusty05 during this mission. Sauntering over to the commander’s tent, Warmonger took his place with his men.

    “Okay men,” Commander Dogg began, “we all know why we are here, what it is that we have to do, but I want to say this to you again.” Pausing for effect, Dogg scanned the eyes of the men around him in the glow of the fire. He was proud to be serving alongside such a distinguished group of veterans, men that would give their lives for the right cause.

    “We all know,” Dogg continued. “That General CplBrian’s wife has been kidnapped, you have all read the dossier on 1Ijac and you know what he is capable of. He is a conniving, brilliant minded man driven by rage. He lost his sight to SmokinFury some time ago and now he is back for vengeance. Do not,” Dogg raised his voice, “DO NOT underestimate this man. The moment that you do, you are dead.”

    Warmonger thought back to the briefing two days ago when he received the information from his commander as was asked to undertake this perilous mission on the other side of the world. 1Ijac, it had been reported, had once been a promising navy seal but something went wrong and now he was a “man for hire”. A man without morals, without principle and a man who seemingly cared about nothing except money. The real concern came in the fact that he had established an incredible entourage of some of the most feared terrorists in the known world.

    The briefing contained little information about where 1Iajc was located but information from a spy within the Liberators organization, a man known as TheHardSkinnedRhino. His information had proven to be reliable in the past and there was no reason to doubt it now. The kraal was located 25 kilometers west of Bulawayo which was the second largest city in Rhodesia. Since Mugabe took over as president democracy no longer existed and the man who could afford it, got treated like royalty. That was what a dictatorship was all about. 1Ijac was no exception as he had amassed a fortune over the last 10 years and he was considered by many, to be the second most powerful man in Rhodesia, those who dared to say even went as far as saying he was the most powerful.

    Commander Dogg thought back to 6 months ago, when he had last been home. He had been having an affair with Serenity and this mission was about more than just saving the General’s daughter. It was about saving what was the best part of his life. He had known that CplBrian was in Washington meeting with President Thor. That night Serenity had come over to his house.

    “Serenity,” Dogg mused “You know that we cannot keep this up, you know that the General is going to find out sooner or later.”

    “I won’t be the one telling him anything my big panda, will you?” Serenity mocked.

    That mischievous smile once again stirred such intense feelings within Dogg that he felt reason sliding again. He looked over at Serenity who was seated on the love seat in his living room. Her legs were slightly apart and she caught his eyes drifting down. Playing the coy girl she opened them a little wider and was pleased to see the reaction that this caused from Dogg. She had come here for one reason and one reason only, to try and satiate the burning passion that she was feeling for Dogg.

    “My oh my Serenity.” Dogg’s words were somewhat slurred, “you have no underwear on, what are you trying to say?”

    “Commander?”

    Dogg was jerked back to the present by the voice of Warmonger, “Sorry captain, my mind drifted there a bit, now where was I?”

    He was thankful for the cover of night because he did not want his men to see the embarrassment play across his face. He was a professional, he could not allow distractions like this.

    “Damn Serenity.” He thought, “Damn her and the effect that she has on me.”

    1Ijac stood unzipped, urinating against a tree, lost in his thoughts he remembered how things used to be. A slight pain in his eye was all it took to wrench his mind back to how things were now.

    Walking back to the camp he scanned the horizon. The trees stood proud against the horizon and a stark sun beat itself upon the dusty soil. What he wouldn’t give for a few drops of rain, the arid surroundings where great for a while but now they had burned away what little humanity he had left.

    He thought for a second, but only a second, what has life ever given me that I haven’t had to take for myself. He didn’t often show any sign of weakness and he didn’t want his men to think he was soft. In that split second the beast within him took over, his hand reached for the pistol tucked firmly into his belt and without any thought or consequence he calmly reached for the grip.

    Clasping it firmly he aimed, and fired. The recoil sent the pistol in the air, with the feint stench of gunpowder and death he placed it back into his belt. Lying slumped on the ground was one in the clip, a pawn maybe, but it showed his men he was not to be trifled with.

    Calmly he walked over to his soldier, the shot had passed cleanly through his thigh. A trickle of blood seeped out from beneath one in the clips hands, his pain written in his eyes.

    1Ijac smiled at him, “next time you cheat me at cards, make sure I don’t get to know about it”. As sudden as the event had unfolded 1Ijac disappeared.

    Sitting in his Rondavel, which was located on the west perimeter of the kraal, near the main entrance, Bullfrog805 laid out his collection of knives, in anticipation of using them again. Bulldog805 took great pleasure in his collection of knives, his favorite being the “Green Beret or Yarborough knife. It was fairly long at 12 3/8 but this was definitely what he liked to refer to as a Man’s knife”. At all times he would carry his customized nylon sheath strapped to his wait with five high carbon steel throwing knives with a black, no-glare finish on either side. These are 4 1/2 in. overall knife length. Fondling these knives, the way a normal man might caress a beautiful woman, Bullfrog805 recalled many cases where his life had been saved by his leopard-like reflexes and the ease at which he could throw these knives at distances of up to 50 meters with pin-point accuracy.

    “Bullfrog805, what the hell are you doing?” demanded Wheels, his towering bulk blocking the doorway.

    “Get out of here, you poor excuse for a human.” Muttered Bullfrog805.

    “Don’t tell me, you’re still upset because Essaya1 chose me over you?” snickered Wheels.

    “She didn’t chose.” stated Bullfrog805, rising from the mat on the floor, “You gave her no choice, you threatened her family, her dignity and her honor, her ”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Interrupted Wheels, “six of one and half a dozen of the other. That is your interpretation of events, not mine or Essaya1’s.”

    “I swear an oath to you Wheels, when 1Ijac is no longer around to protect your sorry ass, you are mine. We will settle this once and for all.”

    At that moment 1Ijac came across the yard and approached the Rondavel. “Bullfrog, I need to speak to Apothecari, set up a meeting.”

    “Sure thing boss, I’ll just go and see if she is available.” Bullfrog805 replied as he left to walk over to Apothecari’s Rofdavel.

    Apothecari was one of the most respected sangoma’s in the entire country, her exact age was unknown but many had guessed her to be over a hundred years in age. This was the one person to whom 1Ijac gave all his respect as she had been the one to guide him and take him under her wings for the last 10 years. A Zulu by birth, Apothecari was one of the few remaining witchdoctors who practiced the ritual shaking of bones to heal the sick and also connected spiritually with the tribes’ ancestors. With age came respect, and 7 years ago, Bullfrog805 had saved Apothecari from certain death when a crocodile had snapped its jaws shut on her left leg on the banks of the Zambezi river. Without even thinking, Bullfrog805 had jumped into the river as Apothecari was being dragged down into the murky depths and he had single handed slit the throat of one of the most feared of Africa’s predators. From that moment on No-one was granted an audience with Apothecari without Bullfrog805’s intercession. That is itself was unheard of in Africa as an umlungu (The term used to describe white men dated back to when mirrors were first seen by the natives of Africa “The name Umlungu means” “People who practice Magic”) was never given such a high level of respect.

    A few minutes later Bullfrog805 returned, “Boss, Apothecari will see you now.”

    Walking over to Apothecaris’ Rondavel, 1Ijac stopped three feet short of the door which was the custom.

    “Sawubona Apothecary.” Said 1Ijac. In respect, he did not say anything further, it was for Apothecari to invite him in by returning the same greeting of “I See You.”

    “Sawubona, 1Ijac, please come in.” For a woman of such an age, her voice was like that of a child, sweet and inviting.

    1Ijac entered into the confines of the Rondavel to see Apothecari sitting cross-legged in the middle of the room. Her mat was spread out before her and upon the mat was a pattern of bones that she had just thrown while 1Ijac was waiting at the door.

    “I know why you are here, 1Ijac, you want me to tell you that you are doing the right thing.” This was not a question but rather a statement of fact from Apothecari as she already knew what 1Ijac was going to ask.

    “The bones tell me that you are in danger, and you need to tread very carefully. There is a dark could be hanging over you and the hyenas are ready at the door. Be warned, the future is written in these bones but you have the power to change it” Apothecari, folded her hands back in her lap and lowered her greyed head.

    1Ijac knew that he need not ask anything further so he backed up to the door and bet over, exiting. “Sola Kahle”, Stay well.

    “Samba Kahle” Responded Apothecari which meant Stay well.

    SmokinFury had always been a reasonable man; he had treated everyone with respect and gave to numerous charities. Before President Thor had become president the two men had been close friends, they had spent many hours on the Potomac River fishing for bass. SmokinFury had been an avid sports fisherman and the men had become inseparable. When Thor decided to run for president 6 years ago, it was SmokinFury who contributed the largest percentage of the funds needed to get him elected into office. To be sure that there was no impropriety; the funds had been channeled through so many international accounts, dummy organizations and phony conglomerates, that it would take decades for anyone to trace their origins. The truth was, no-one really cared because President Thor was by far the most popular and loved of all the presidents. In the elections he had won a landslide victory with 72% of the votes and last year he was re-elected with an impressive 85% vote.

    After SmokinFury had gotten off the phone with CplBrian he got into his specially modified Rolls Royce Phantom which has set him back $320,000, and drove down New York Av NW and then onto 15th St NW. From there he turned right into Pensylvannia Ave and pulled up at the gate to the White House. By now all the guards knew him by sight and he was given free roam of the White House at the express permission of President Thor.

    Meeting the president, SmokinFury said, “Mr. President, I have some bad news.”

    “Please Fury, when we are alone, none of this president nonsense,” Responded President Thor. “Just call me Thor as you always have.”

    “I just got off the phone with 1Ijac, do you remember him?” asked SmokinFury. President Thor had been in the same battalion 15 years ago. He had ordered Captain Kleptomaniac to carry out the interrogation of 1Ijac.

    “Sadly my friend, yes, I do remember him. That is a part of my history that I do not wish to repeat.”

    “Well, history has come back to haunt us.” SmokinFury cast his eyes down and allowed his voice to trail off.

    Thor could sense the desperation in his friend, and he could not bear to see him looking so down trodden so he asked; “My friend, what is it, what is wrong?”

    “It is your god daughter, Serenity, 1Ijac has kidnapped her.”

    No longer able to hold back the emotions SmokinFury began to sob uncontrollably. His body felt like it had been submerged in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean as a coldness swept through him and the stark reality of the situation settled in. He felt as if the jarring from the shaking would shake him completely apart, which is how he felt.

    Walking over to his friend, Thor put his arm around his shoulder. “We will get her back; you have my complete support and the support of this fine country.”

    Pulling himself together, Fury managed a faint smile. No matter what hardships had come his way, his good friend always had a way about him that managed to have a soothing effect on him.

    “Okay men,” Commander Dogg continued “I want all of you to get some shut eye. We have a long march ahead of us in the morning and I want you all to be alert and ready for anything.”

    The one good thing about working for the world’s largest supplier of military hardware was that they had the latest technology at their disposal.

    EVA was a satellite that had been developed and launched into space by RenBattle. It had many different functions, most notably were those at recognizance, infra-red scanning and military applications.

    Currently it was located some 450 kilometers above where Command Dogg and his men were located.

    Back in Washington, in a secret bunker, the transmissions were being monitored by Almo57 and his team of scientists. Almo57 had been the primary designer of the satellite and he had felt a sense of loss when it was finally launched three months ago. The capabilities of the satellite had not yet been fully tested and Almo57 was itching for the opportunity to test it. Staring at the banks of computer screens as well as the main image on the 60′ x 20′ screen, Almo57 couldn’t see very much.

    “Suicidal” called Almo57, “Switch to infra-red mode and let’s see what we have?”

    Switching over to infra-red mode took 35 seconds while the transmission sent the instructions and the for the lens to be rotated. Across the screen there flashed up numerous red dots, most notable were the 50 grouped together which Almo57 knew to be Commander Dogg and his team. There were other dots moving in random patters which he guessed to be wild animals in the vicinity.

    “Please change the scanning radius to 10 kilometers, taking the group as point 0, and switch to HRM mode.” Said Almo57. This time the image changed but the group of 50 changed from red to a deep shade of blue. HRM, or Human Recognition Mode, was an experimental addition that Suicidal had assisted on. It factored in human body temperature, rough sizes and weight, the placement of the most heat and postulated the results to be human in form. The only caveat to it so far, was that the larger species of monkeys a=often showed up incorrectly.

    From this view, the control room could closely monitor the group to ensure that they were not being snuck up on. The moment another blue dot appeared, alarms would be triggered and they would be able to zoom into that location to verify what was there.

    “Gentlemen” said Captain Warmonger, “You all know the drill. We are in Africa; it is nothing at all like being back home in the States. Out here, you can be killed by the wildlife far too easily. All of you have been given designated spots around the camp ‘Use them. You need to take a leak ‘Go to that spot as it is the only way that we will keep the likes of lions, leopards, hyena’s and the like from carrying us away in the night.”

    “Now hit the sack.” Warmonger finished.

    Laying down on his sleeping bag, Warmonger stared up into the starry night. There were no city lights to obstruct the view, no pollution to haze everything over. Out here, in the wild, it was nature at its best. Looking to the south, the Southern Cross was clearly visible and is a brilliant constellation consisting of several bright gems in the shape of a cross. The brightest is Alpha Crucis, which is actually a triple star system. One of the stars is about 650 times as bright as our Sun and another is almost 1,000 times as bright. Beta Crusis is a blue star, and Gamma Crusis, at the head of the cross, is an orange coloured second magnitude star. The star denoting the right-most corner on the cross, Delta Crusis, is the faintest of the four. In this part of the world ‘The Southern Cross was used for navigation and both Australia and New Zealand have it on their national flag. Strange, how at times like this, the strangest childhood lessons suddenly came back.

    Warmonger smiled in the night remembering how it had been when he was raised in this land, only to leave when whites were being hunted and crucified by an angry nation of Shona and Matebele. Warmonger’s thoughts drifted back to his finance, Jaybird back home in Orlando. It had been five and a half months since he was last home.

    “Sweetheart,” Warmonger had said, “You know that I have to go away again tomorrow but let’s make this night count, let’s enjoy each other’s company and have nothing but good memories as we depart.”

    Jaybird, deeply upset at being parted from her fiancé again was standing in the bedroom of their 4-bedroom home, tears streaming down her cheeks. “You know I don’t want you to go.” Jaybird had replied.

    Walking over to her Warmonger had put hands on her face and pulled her closely to him. He could feel the heat of her tears soaking through his shirt as Jaybird laid her face on his chest.

    Pulling her face away from him, he stared into her brown eyes and was immediately struck with the profound sadness that he could see in the pools of her eyes. Bending slightly, he kissed her lightly on the lips.

    Immediately Jaybird responded by pulling him closer and holding on tighter. Her hands started to loving massage the middle of Warmongers back. Opening her lips, she leant into Warmonger to be greeted by an already open mouth. She could taste the saltiness of her tears, and she was sure Warmonger could to. But at that moment, something magical happened, it was as if all worries ceased to exist, all pain disappeared and all inhibitions faded away into nothingness.

    At that very moment, all that mattered was the passion that was building. Pulling Jaybird away, Warmonger reached over and pulled up her dress so that she was left standing in her white bra and silk chiffon panties which hugged her body tightly to leave very little to the imagination. At the same time Jaybird began working with a fervour to remove Warmongers’ T-Shirt and short, revealing his muscular, well-trimmed body. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on it’s the years of military work had fine-tuned him to a perfect man, at least as far as Jaybird was concerned.

    Taking Jaybird by the hand, Warmonger led her over to the bed and gently laid her down with her head on the pillow and her silken black hair spread out. Lowering himself on top of her, Warmonger could feel the sensations rocketing through his body, engulfing him like a raging fir, burning out of control. Putting his hands behind her back he gently unclipped her brassiere and removed it to reveal.

    The stillness of the night was shattered by the sudden and unmistakable roar of a male lion. Lions are considered to be highly intelligent and hunt in groups known as prides. In Africa, lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo are considered to be the big five. The big five is a term used by hunters to describe the most fearsome of all the African wildlife. That roar sent shivers through Warmongers spine but from the sound of the second road that immediately followed the first, he could tell that the lion was moving away from the camp. Despite the unsettling sounds of the African wild, Warmonger was soon fast asleep.

    After leaving Apothecari’s Rondavel, 1Ijac was immensely troubled. He had always trusted the sangoma, but this was the first time that he recalled her predictions to be ones of a dark and dire nature. An ominous foreboding hung over him like a festering maggot dining on carrion. He was still trying to puzzle the meaning of the dark cloud hanging over his head when TheHardskinnedRhino approached.

    “Sir,” started Rhino, “Can I have a moment of your time?”

    TheHardSkinnedRhino had entered into 1Ijac’s life only a year ago when they had been on a raid into Lusaka across the Zambezi river in Zambia. At the time, 1Ijac and his men met with a lot of resistance while leaving the country and he had lost 32 good men that day. TheHardSkinnedRhino had proven his worth by leading them out of the area and back into Rhodesia. Since then Rhino had become a good friend to 1Ijac, always joining him for an evening of card playing.

    “Sure, what’s up?” asked 1Ijac.

    “I was worried about Serenity. Don’t you think that RenBattle will send the best of the best to rescue her?” enquired Rhino.

    “Most likely, yes, but that is what I want. That is why I have surrounded myself with the incredible group that I have here. There is not a single member of the Liberators that will not give up their life for me, I treat them well, give them what they need and take care of their families. And I will add this, should any one of you dare to contemplate crossing me, I will castrate you and feed your testicles to you. After that I will hang you by your thumbs and after removing pieces of your flesh, I will insert maggots into your wounds and wait until they slowly eat away at you and you will be shown no mercy, you will die for your treachery, you will pay the price, DO YOU understand me?” 1Ijac shouted with spit flying from the corners of his upturned mouth.

    Rhino was taken aback somewhat by this and he tried his best to conceal the sudden, awful feeling that came across him. When he wormed his way into this group of men, it was for one purpose and one purpose only ‘To convey messages back to the GDI and General CplBrian about the activities of the Liberators or otherwise known as NOD. He knew the inherent dangers of the mission but he didn’t think any mistakes had been made.

    “Whoa, 1Ijac, what is all this about?” asked Rhino.

    “I met with Apothecari” snapped 1Ijac, “and the news is not good, now what did you want?”

    “I was only worried about our future and besides, I wondered if you might be up for a game of poker?” Lied Rhino, trying to change the topic.

    “No, maybe some other time.” Replied 1ijac as he stormed off towards the Rondavel where Serenity was being held captive.

    Serenity had propped herself up against a dirty mud wall, trying desperately to hear what was going on outside. The voices chattered endlessly and the only words she managed to decipher were the angry words of a man asking if someone understood him. From the voice she could tell that it was the same man that had earlier visited her, the one with the patch. Her disheveled exterior reminded her of that first night rolling in the fields at home with her new love. His bulk had so shattered her strength and turned her into a trembling wreck. Thoughts of pink lipstick and channel no:5 ran through her mind. Oh what she wouldn’t give for a hot bath and a glass of wine. She rested her head against the wall and fantasized momentarily.

    The air was hot and she struggled to breathe. She tried time and again to wriggle free from her bonds. The rope cut into her wrists and the pain felt like a fire. Scanning the room, she searched for any means to slacken the ties. Nothing, absolutely nothing. She became despondent, feeling her shoulders slump as though all was lost. No she said silently to herself, I won’t give to those evil manipulating bastards. Her anger was her salvation, and as she strained at the ties once more she felt them slacken. Just enough to give some respite to the pain, but enough she knew, till she had the strength to try again. Maybe next time they would give.

    Hearing the sound of approaching footsteps, she quickly moved back to the bed that contained nothing but a flea infested mattress and an old, grey worn out blanket.

    After the discussion with SmokinFury, President Thor decided to contact ToxicAvenger who, besides being a good friend, was also the Director of the CIA which had replaced its predecessor, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), in 1947 after World War II.

    There is more to the Central Intelligence Agency than what most people assume. Most associate the CIA with trench coats, international undercover operatives lurking in the shadows, spying on everyone, being what the average person calls “Big Brother”. One of the main tasks assigned to the CIA is to conduct counterintelligence activities as relating to national security at the behest of the President. With RenBattle providing over 85% of all military hardware and services, the kidnapping of Serenity was an immediate concern and not one to be taking lightly.

    Having appointed ToxicAvenger to his current position, President Thor was able to reach him anywhere and anytime. With some, the appointment of ToxicAvenger had been a source of contention as it was supposed to be a nomination and then backed up by Senate approval, but what President Thor wanted ‘He got.

    Picking up his Motorola 9505 satellite phone that had special modifications to ensure absolute security, President Thor dialed and reached ToxicAvenger at home.

    “Good evening ToxicAvenger, we have a situation that needs your immediate attention.” said President Thor.

    “Yes, sir, Mr. President, if it is about Serenity, I am already on it.” replied ToxicAvenger.

    “As I knew you would be, as I knew you would be.” President Thor smiled to himself, despite the seriousness of the situation. He always knew that he could trust ToxicAvenger to be one step ahead; sometime he may just have to ask how he does it.

    “I have already been in contact with Sealycamp, and have a complete dossier which I will get over to you immediately, with a complete HUMINT (Human Intelligence) breakdown of 1Ijac.” responded ToxicAvenger.

    Sealycamp had been employed by the Directorate of Operations (DO) department of the CIA, some 35 years previously. He was ToxicAvengers’ most trusted field agent currently located in Lusaka in Zambia. Sealycamp knew everything about anyone Southern Africa, his field of responsibility included, Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Malawi. Being an expert interrogator, information was obtained in a variety of way and he prided himself in his ability to get anyone to divulge their secrets.

    Early that morning at around 5:00 a.m. the camp awoke as if on cue. Not one man slept past 5, their years of service had allowed them to develop an internal clock so accurate that it still baffles some scientists as to how people can awaken themselves at a specific time.

    Stretching, Dogg looked across the ravine to where a herd of Impala were grazing in the early morning mist. It is often said that antelope prefer eating when there is dew on the ground as it makes the grass so much sweeter. Dogg couldn’t help but to be awestruck at the magnificent sight being revealed to him as the sun began its slow arduous task of breaking up the night. Just off to the east the sky was changing from dark red into brighter shades. As the sun rose, winning its battle against the blackness of night, the dew reflected the brilliant rays of light showing a multitude of colours. Reds changed into orange, then yellow and finally blue as the twinkling starts all but disappeared from sight. Sighing contentedly, Dogg had to admit that this inspiring show of nature made everything else pale in comparison, even the many wonderful experiences he had taken great pleasure in with women from all over the world. The beauty of an African sunset and sunrise could not be rivalled, not even by the innocence of a beautiful virgin as she gave up her childhood and became a woman the moment she felt that first thrill of succumbing to the masculinity of Doggs’ nocturnal expertise.

    “Okay men” said Dogg, “break camp and let’s get this show on the road. We have a long, hard trek ahead of us.”

    With incredible swiftness, all signs of the camp were eradicated; the ashes of the previous night’s fire were removed and put into the brook which was just to the west of where they were camped. Warmonger had seen to it that 10 men had gathered branches and swept up any signs of footprints or human presence.

    A noise, ever so slight, stirred the early morning blackness of the room. 1Ijac screams into the void, only to be greeted by nothingness as he lay in total darkness with sweat pouring from every inch of his body. His heart races like a locomotive out of control and breathing becomes more arduous as he struggles to escape the clutches of the dream that tormented his soul and threatened to devour his very essence. With sudden clarity, 1Ijac realizes that this is no dream; something is covering his face cutting off the life sustaining flow of air. He is being suffocated. As he struggles against his assailant, he begins to lose the battle and the chill of death seeps through his bones. The last thing he remembers before submitting to the clutches of death were the words “How do you like them apples”.

    Sitting bolt upright in bed 1Ijac is simultaneously happy and troubled. Happy to realize that it was, after all, nothing but a bad dream, once that he could recall with such clarity, even to the extent of his breath catching at the thought of suffocation. He was troubled because ever since the meeting with Apothecari, omens have been rearing their ugly heads. With a stark realization, the puzzle suddenly made sense; all the pieces fell neatly into place. Getting out of bed, quickly slipping on his khaki short and shirt, 1Ijac ran over to Bullfrog805’s Rondavel.

    Surprised that his lieutenant was already awake and busy at work sharpening his knives, 1Ijac said: “Bullfrog805, get Kamikazee and TheHardSkinnedRhino and come over to the isikole. There was a Rondavel in the centre of the kraal which had once been used for a school; it was now a place where 1Ijac conducted various business functions.

    After about 10 minutes of waiting, Bullfrog805, Kamikazee and The HardSkinnedRhino sauntered into the isikole which was roughly three times the size of all the other rondavels. Walking over to where 1Ijac was seated, the three men took their places at the table.

    Rising to his feet, 1Ijac leaned over the table and looked directly at TheHardSkinned Rhino. Being only two feet wide, 1Ijac’s face was within inches of TheHardSkinnedRhino’s nose. “My friend,” sneered 1Ijac, “you have underestimated me”.

    Flinching from the stench of the Umqombothi that 1Ijac had enjoyed the night before; TheHardSkinnedRhino was immediately afraid, afraid for his very life. Umqombothi is a traditional beer drunken by natives of Southern Africa; it is extremely flavourful but is far more potent than the typical weaker beers of the west.

    “Sir, as much as I may appear to know everything and as much as I may amuse people here with my pedantic prose, I must confess, I know not of what you speak.” replied TheHardSkinnedRhino.

    With a roaring laugh, emanating from deep within his body, 1Ijac stood erect, his muscular body overshadowing the furniture in the room. “You are hilarious,” bellowed 1Ijac, “I am not a fool, I am not awe struck by your clever retorts. Bullfrog805 and Kamikazee, string him up.”

    The centre of the Rondavel was 13 feet high and embedded in the beams overhead were two iron rings. Looped through these rings were ropes that were often used to string up antelope that had been killed. The ropes went back to the left corner of the Rondavel and were tied to a post there. Under normal circumstance, the men filet biltong her but on the rare occasion, the same device was used as a torture mechanism.

    Yanking TheHardSkinnedRhino to his feet, Kamikazee and Bullfrog805 dragged him over to the ropes and kicked his feet from under him. Crashing down on the mud packed floor, TheHardSkinnedRhino had no chance to react or fight back as his head hit the floor with an audible thud. Working like professionals that had performed this task numerous times before, the two were like skilled artisans and in perfect synch with each other. Before long, TheHardSkinnedRhino had been bound at the wrists, one rope to either hand and hoisted up so that his arms were stretched over his head and his toes were barely touching the floor.

    Still dazed from his head hitting the floor, The HardSkinnedRhino, now at a loss for words barely managed to squeak out the words, “I don’t understand, why?”

    1Ijac, smiling now, simply said “You are a spy.”

    Both Kamikazee and Bullfrog805 were surprised and shocked by this sudden revelation as they had equally shared many secrets with TheHardSkinnedRhino during their late night chats.

    “You came here a year ago,” answered 1Ijac “and since that time, I have lost a great many men, seen far too many missions fail and I have never understood why. Not until yesterday when Apothecari told me that there was a dark cloud hanging over my head and that the hyenas were snapping at my door.” Pausing to allow the words the opportunity of sinking in, 1Ijac continued, “and then last night, I had a vivid dream of being suffocated. Now tell me, what do you always say when you beat me at cards?”

    Shaking his head, trying hard to refocus, TheHardSkinnedRhino, replied “I don’t know.”

    Unfazed, 1Ijac walked over to the fire pit which was in the front of the room, by the door. Picking up a red hot poker, he calmly walked back to where TheHardSkinnedRhino was restrained and without a moment’s hesitation; he thrust the poker into TheHardSkinnedRhino’s side.

    A white light blanked out his vision as the poker seared flesh and sinew and without control, TheHardSkinnedRhino screamed out in agony as the poker pierced his flesh. The blood curdling scream reverberated against the walls and carried out across the veld.

    Anyone who may of still been asleep, were immediately awakened.

    “Now, would you care to try again?” asked 1Ijac.

    This time, TheHardSkinnedRhino immediately responded, “How do you like them apples?”

    “Thank you,” replied 1Ijac “Now we’ll find out what else you know and who you are working for.”

    The scream that ripped open the morning, tearing the peaceful tranquility of the African sun rise from its glorious emergence, also shattered the relaxing visage of Serenity’s dreams. With a start, she awoke and looked around her, taking in the brutal reality of her dire situation. At least her captives had been decent enough to remove the sackcloth from her face. With her bladder bursting, she tried hard not to have to use the bowl that had been provided for her. The contents from the day before had still not been removed and the repugnant odor of urine and feces assaulted her senses. Fortunately, the shackles of propriety and decorum, has already been cast off and Serenity tried to walk over to the relieve herself. Rising from the bed, her knees buckled from the lack of nutrition and she fell to her knees, wincing in pain as her mind tried to keep her sanity in check. At last, on all fours, she reached her destination and lifting herself up, she gingerly removed what was left of her trousers and underwear. Squatting over the bowl, Serenity found temporary relief as she emptied her bladder of its contents.

    1Ijac, back in his element of being in control, drew great satisfaction from the ease at which he had managed to get TheHardSkinnedRhino to start talking. Wanting to find out more he asked, “Rhino, you don’t mind if I call you rhino do you?”

    TheHardSkinnedRhino, lifted his chin from where it had been dejectedly hung against his chest, looked at 1Ijac and knew that the question was purely rhetorical in nature. To answer at this point would be to invite more agonizing pain.

    “Now,” continued 1Ijac, I want to know who you work for and what you have told them.”

    Trying to think about how to answer, TheHardSkinnedRhino glanced over and caught a glimpse of a fist hurtling through the air at his face. Trying not to scream out as the pain rocked him to the core; he felt blood starting to trickle from the corner of his left eye. By sheer will power alone, he stayed alert as the pain permeated the atmosphere in palpable waves.

    “You had best answer Rhino.” Said Kamikazee as he rubbed his right hand, feeling the impact of the punch to TheHardSkinnedRhino’s face.

    Blinking through the tears that were uncontrollably streaming down his face, TheHardSkinnedRhino saw 1Ijac reach into his pocket and putt out a yellow paperclip.

    As he started to unfurl the paperclip, 1Ijac said: “This my friend, is but one of the many uses for a common household paperclip.

    Many years ago, this took my right eye, and now I will show you how it feels.”

    Advancing towards TheHardSkinnedRhino again, 1Ijac’s thoughts were interrupted by the buzzing he felt coming from his left hip.

    Reaching down, he looked at his pager and saw the words: The Lion is awake, nearby.

    1Ijac had been clever enough to invest in numerous high technology devices such as his Motorola 9501 iridium pager. This was, the salesman had told him, one of the only pagers that could receive messages from almost anywhere in the world. It worked off of Iridium’s low orbit satellite system in which there were 66 satellites deployed servicing the globe.

    “Kamikazee, Bullfrog805, we have trouble coming, get everyone together. The HardSkinnedRhino, this is not over yet, just hang out ere and I’ll be back,” sneered 1Ijac as he left the isikole.

    The earbud in Dogg’s ear buzzed as it came to life.

    “Commander, we have a situation.” Said Suicidal as he checked, and rechecked the logs that EVA had been spewing out. “EVA picked up communications from your locale about 5 minutes ago.”

    Lifting his right hand in a clenched fist, Dogg gave the signal for everyone to go low. As they all crouched down in the tall grass, Dogg spoke into the microphone attached to his left lapel. “Say again?”

    With incredible clarity, Suicidal came back over the radio, “We have a communications alert. Someone has just sent a message over the Iridium satellite system from your location.”

    With a sickening feeling in his stomach, Dogg was almost reluctant to ask the next question, “what was the message?”

    “The Lion is awake, nearby” came back the reply from Suicidal.

    “Thank you, Dogg out.” Calling to Warmonger, Dogg said “We have a leak, a message was just sent from someone here and I am positive that it is to alert the guerrillas.”

    “Well sir, we need to keep order so let’s keep this between us and proceed with caution. May I also suggest that every man s to be in teams of two and never to leave each other’s sides?” replied Warmonger.

    After passing back the message, the 50-member team teamed up in two’s and they gingerly arose and proceeded with the march.

    In the centre of the kraal was a large open area, about the size of two football fields side by side, which was used for marching drills and other sports activities. 175 men were currently gathered awaiting instruction from their leader, 1Ijac. A raised platform had been crudely constructed from 2×4 pieces of wood that served as a stage. Walking up the 2 steps and standing in the middle of the six foot by six-foot platform 1Ijac looked over the heads of his troops, pleased that so many people had come to help with his cause. Of the 175 men, 152 were zulu’s who had yearned for freedom from the tyrannical rule of far too many people. The Zulus, once a proud nation under the reign of King Shaka, fell from glory following Shaka’s assassination in 1828. In 1838, at the battle of Blood River in South Africa, the zulu nation had suffered their first real defeat and then in 1879 at the battle of Ulundi, Lord Chelmsford led the British troops and crushed the Zulu nation dividing them into 13 separate kingdoms. 1Ijac was a master of psychology and he understood how to get people to do what he wanted them to do. Playing on the pride and passion of these loyal people, he had created a following of blood thirsty warriors. No longer needing the traditional assegais or throwing spears, these men had been trained in the art of bush warfare. The remaining 23 people were highly skilled mercenaries and terrorists from all over the world who knew that the real driving force here was the mighty dollar.

    Raising his hand over his head, 1Ijac addressed the warriors. “The time has come, my friends, to take back this land, to regain it for your people. There are men on the way here now, who would stop at nothing to see that you do not get what is rightfully yours.” Starting to raise his voice as he saw the crowd stirring and more men stand tall and proud, 1Ijac continued. “I say we fight, we fight to take back this land, a land that you have shed your blood for. A land that your ancestors died for, in battle. This is your land. Do not let these people take it from you.”

    Kamikazee smiled to himself as 1Ijac stirred the crown into a fighting frenzy. He marveled at the abilities of 1Ijac to do this and to still keep a straight face.

    “Now, join up with your chiefs and they will instruct you further.” To the deafening war cries of “Bayeti nkosi”, 1Ijac stepped down from the platform and walked over to Kamikazee. Roughly translated bayeti nkosi is a zulu term for greeting a king.

    “Kamikazee” began 1Ijac, I want you to take three men with you and scour the terrain for any signs of the troops that are en-route. Take the 4 recon bikes and see if you can spot anything.”

    “No problem.” answered Kamikazee. Turning his back he went over to where Wheels was standing. “Wheels, get Pedro Pickles and Lugia33 and join me at the depot. We are going out on a recon mission.”

    5 minutes later, Kamikazee, Pedro Pickles, Lugia33 and Wheels were checking the machine gun mountings on the recon bikes to make sure that they were secure and fully stocked. The most impressive feature of these bikes was the technology that had been used to equip them. A computerized system transmitted images to a display inside the rider’s helmet. At the touch of a button which was mounted on the left handle bar within easy reach of the rider’s thumb, the image could be changed from infra-red, camera, bike status, weapons and guided missiles of which there were two. Larger than a normal bike, to accommodate the additional hardware, the recon had been fitted with special stabilizers to counter the recoil effect of the missiles being fired.

    The 7.62mm sub machine gun barrels jutted about 7 inches in from of the rider by just above the front tire. Checking the hardware one last time, the four mounted the recons and started them up.

    Having been forewarned about the intensity of the African sun, Commander Dogg and his team were somewhat prepared for the heat. One of the biggest problems experienced in the scorching heat is damage to your eyes. Commander Dogg had glasses specially made for his team that consisted of unobtaninium ear socks the improved adhesion to the head when you perspire. The lenses were polarized for the glare and were rated for 400 nanometers, meaning that they successfully blocked out the full UV spectrum of light. The lenses were also modified to be photochromic so that they got darker in light and lighter when it got darker, thus improving the vision of the wearer.

    As they marched through the morning the temperature rose from 20 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees by the time the sun reached its zenith at noon. The sweltering heart was oppressive and Dogg knew that if he didn’t rest his men soon, they would start dropping from heat exhaustion and their judgment would become impaired which would render them useless once the fighting started. Squinting through the heat shimmer, Dogg could vaguely make out the shape of trees up ahead. For the entire morning they had been marching through an open plain covering about 8 kilometers an hour which was a good, fast pace and Dogg was proud that his men had not complained once during the arduous run.

    Seeing these trees again for the first time since his youth, Warmonger never ceased to be amazed by the enormous baobab tree. With a circumference of 20-25 meters the trees were huge and often referred to as the upside down tree because the branches looked like roots sticking out of the ground. The sharp contrast between the plains that they had just covered and the forest they now encountered was breathtaking. Hundreds of mimosa and marula trees covered the area with a few baobab trees breaking up the dense coverage. Just off to the left of where the men now stood was a murky brown river, some 8 meters wide.

    “Okay men,” said commander Dogg “we will rest up here for an hour. We only have about 40 to 50 more klicks to cover before we are at the fringes of 1Ijac’s camp and we want to arrive in the dark.”

    “Get back” shouted Warmonger but it was already too late.

    Locoboy72 had walked into the river too cool off and without warning, from the murky depths of the river; a crocodile lunged forward and had clasped its jaws shut around Locobiy72’s torso. Turning over and over the crocodile spun Locoboy72 with such ferocity that his screams died faster than anyone had time to react to. Drowning rapidly, Locoboy72 disappeared below the surface into the crocodile’s lair.

    Having been instructed that no one was to fire under any conditions, the men could do nothing except watch with horror as they saw their friend and comrade being killed by the African crocodile.

    “Men,” started Warmonger “I instructed you not to go within forty feet of any river bank without coverage.” Feeling his breath catch in his throat, Warmonger was reluctant to continue but he needed to reiterate this lesson for the remaining troops. Removing his hat and cloth that was used to protect his ears, neck and shoulders from the sun, Warmonger wiped the sweat from his brow before continuing. “Crocodiles can lunge up to thirty five feet out of the water to kill their prey, they are dangerous and not to be messed with. Now settle down, rest and stay clear of the river.”

    As they eased the bikes out of the kraal, Kamikazee spoke into his microphone, “Pedro Pickles, you and I will go north, 50 kilometers, head east and circle around and come back from the south. Wheels, you and Lugia33, head out south and follow the same pattern west and come back from the north.”

    “Ten four on that, Kamikazee” said Wheels in response.

    As the four bikes left the kraal, Apothecari rose from her mat and stepped out of the Rondavel into the early morning light. Sighing contentedly, she walked over to the isikole where she knew TheHardSkinnedRhino was being interrogated. Opening the door, Apothecari entered and looked at the body of TheHardSkinnedRhino dangling from the rafters. Feeling a momentary flutter of pity for the man, Aopothecari walked over and touched the wound in his side.

    Startled out of his fever induced sleep, TheHardskinnedRhino almost kicked Apothecari, but showing remarkable restraint, he held back. “What do you want Sangoma?” he huskily asked.

    “My son,” replied Apothecari, “you need to tell 1Ijac what he wants to know. I have foreseen this moment in the bones and if you tell him, you will live, if you do not, you will surely die this day.”

    The soothing, melodious tones of her voice immediately calmed TheHardSkinnedRhino and he managed a faint smile.

    Reaching over to the table, Apothecari picked up a mug of water. Standing on the bench to be able to reach his mouth, she held the mug to hip lips.

    Drinking greedily, TheHardSkinnedRhino felt some of his strength seep back into his weary body. “Thank you Sangoma”

    Without looking back, Apothecari walked out of the isikole and met 1Ijac coming in her direction.

    “It is done 1Ijac, he will now talk” said Apothecari as 1Ijac came near her.

    Thanking her 1Iajc re-entered the isikole to finish the interrogation. There was no need to question what she had done or why, 1Ijac instinctively knew that Apothecari was helping him by talking to TheHardSkinnedRhino. There wasn’t even a moments doubt as to her intentions.

    In the cool shade of the mimosa tree, Dogg had closed his eyes and was being lulled to sleep by the beating rhythms of the African wildlife in and around the trees. Startled from his reverie by a cackling from overhead, Dogg opened his eyes to see a black face peering down at him from the branches with mock inquisitiveness. The monkey had a grizzled yellowish-grey coat, white whiskers and chest and a long, black tipped tail. Knowing that this was a vervet monkey, Dogg watched amused as it scurried up to join the remaining troop that was playing high in the branches of the mimosa trees. Thinking back to the dossier that he had read and what it mentioned about vervet monkeys, he knew that they were sociable and gregarious in nature. Off to the left he could see a mother cleaning her young with meticulous efficiency.

    “Commander!”

    Dogg sat up to see Lieutenant Dhitman66 approaching with Rusty05 in tow with a rather sheepish grin on his face.

    Seeing Lieutenant Dhitman66 approaching Commander Dogg, Captain Warmonger got to his feet and walked over as well.

    “Command,” said Lieutenant Dhitman66, “I think we have a problem.” This time he reached back and grabbing Rusty05’s shirt he yanked him forward and pushed him into view. Reaching out his hand he handed what looked like a modified cell phone to Dogg. “I was just taking a piss,” continued Dhitman66 when I heard talking coming from the shrubs. Rusty05 was there talking into this phone and I know that it is not regulation gear.”

    Getting to his feet, Dogg towered over the frail frame of Rusty05 who cowered in fear, knowing the reputation that Dogg had for dealing with insubordinates.

    Dogg said but one word, “Explain.”

    “Sir” began Rust05, “with due respect, I cannot”

    A dark shadow visible crossed Dogg’s features as his eyes focused and his right hand came up with such force that Rusty05 felt and heard his nose break under the impact.

    Staggering backwards and clutching at his broken nose, Rusty05 knew that he had to tell the commander what he was doing.

    Dogg took a few steps forward and s ready to strike out again when Rusty05 muttered, “Wait, I’ll tell you.” Trying to wipe away the blood that was streaming from his nose, he continued; “I work for SmokinFury.”

    Shocked at this, Warmonger could barely contain himself as he snarled, “Prove it, I do not believe what you are saying.”

    Pointing at the phone, Rusty05 said, “press send, there is only one number programmed into the phone, it will connect you via satellite directly to SmokinFury.”

    Looking at the phone, Dogg pressed send and there was barely a pause when he recognized the voice on the other end as it said: “Yes Rusty05, anything new?”

    “No sir, this is commander Dogg, not Rusty05.” Replied Dogg, “why the hell do you have a spy in our camp, where is the trust, the loyalty, what the hell is going on?” Visibly agitated and annoyed, Dogg waited for a reply.

    “Commander,” began SmokinFury, “there is no disrespect to you. I will take you into my confidence; I have asked Rusty05 to report everything to me as we are fairly certain that someone in your troop is reporting directly to 1Ijac. We have intercepted communications and in the past far too many coincidences remain uncounted for.”

    Dogg was about to reply when suddenly, the sounds of the wildlife ceased and the unmistakable noise of an approaching vehicle could be heard. Taking immediate control, Dogg spoke into the phone “I have to go, we have a situation, I’ll get back to you.” Pressing end he looked at Lieutenant Dhitman66 and instructed him to take Rusty05 and get his nose looked after but to remain out of sight.

    “Warmonger,” continued Dogg, “get these men ready now and get invisiblesniper up in that tree over there” he said pointing to what looked like the tallest tree in the near vicinity.

    A soft whistle from Warmonger and all the men immediately took cover. “Invisiblesniper get into position in that tree and make sure that we are not seen.” said Warmonger as he took position behind the baobab tree.

    Climbing into the tree, invisiblesniper took his H&K PSG-1 snipers rifle from his back. Wrapping his legs around the branch on which he was now sitting he rested the rifle on a cross branch and looked thought eh modified scope. Typically, this rife was equipped with a 7.62 mm 20 round detachable box and a Hendsoldt 6×42 scope. The scope ensured accuracy up to 600 meters but Invisiblesniper, being a professional had replaced the scope with one that allowed accuracy of up to 1000 meters and the box contained 32 rounds that could be fired in rapid succession.

    Sensing, rather than knowing anything for a certaintly, Lugia33 spoke into his microphone “Wheels, hold up something does not feel right.”

    Having been on the bike for 5 hours now, Lugia33 was tired and weary from all the riding. Clicking the button by his left thumb he switched the display to infrared mode as he pulled up along side Wheels. Looking into the tree line that was 800 meters ahead he maneuvered the bike handles to scan the trees. Picking up numerous signatures he was about to warn wheels when a sudden hiss interrupted him and he looked over to see Wheels’ head jerk backwards. The bullet had entered the helmet just above the visor and without pause had ripped through Wheels head as if it were a watermelon. Wheels would never know what happened as his died instantly.

    Opening the throttle, Lugia33 quickly pulled the bike to the left. This quick, automated reaction was what saved him as the next bullet passed through the fuel tank and embedded itself into the radio, thus cutting off all communications. Rapidly accelerating with adrenaline pumping through his body, Lugia33 did not notice a third bullet had entered his right leg and blood was gushing out. He had barely gone 1400 meters when dizziness overtook him and he fell. Being thrown clear of the bike, Lugia33 landed with a thud on the ground as his left arm snapped from the pressure and his head hammered into the ground. Being saved by his helmet, Lugia33 now felt pain coursing through his body as it rebelled against the sudden onslaught of pain and stimuli.

    Blinking through waves of pain, Lugia looked up into the face of what looked like a lion, but it couldn’t be, he blinked again trying to focus but the last thing he heard was the deafening sound of a lion’s roar as his throat was ripped mercilessly from his body and 400 pounds of solid muscle came crashing down on hi now lifeless form.

    Blinking from the scene as it unfurled before him, Invisiblesniper climbed down from the tree and gave the all clear signal.

    Watching the wise old Apothecari walking away, 1Ijac couldn’t help but contemplate on the situation unfolding. He had known that SmokinFury would not pay the ransom, that was not the issue. From his informant he had also known that Commander Dogg would be sent to rescue Serenity and what an Irony that was. Commander Dogg, the defender of all that is pure and right but yet, the same man that thought Serenity was fair game even though she was married to the esteemed General CplBrian. Ah yes, the sweet irony that CplBrian saw fit to send Dogg out to rescue his precious, pure wife. A wife that wasn’t so pure after all. Walking up to the door to the isikole, 1Ijac was thankful and grateful for the invaluable information that he had acquired at a huge cost. There was, he thought, nothing that money could not buy.

    Being hardened by his bleak past and driven towards an almost maniacal insanity, 1Ijac drew great pleasure from watching the suffering of those that he tortured. Over the years he had learnt how to bring a man to the brink of death, only to mercilessly pull him back and begin again. Torture was, after all, an art form unto itself, he thought as he walked back into the isikole and saw TheHardSkinnedRhino dangling from the rafters.

    TheHardSkinnedRhino head the approaching footsteps of 1Ijac and feigned unconsciousness. He knew it was 1Ijac due to the fact that 1Ijac had been injured from a piece of shrapnel fired from a mammoth tank a few years previously. He could vividly recount the story as 1Ijac had told it so many times. While out on patrol in Mozambique, 1Ijac had come under fire from an ambush. There were apparently 6 mammoth tanks and multiple humvees. 1Ijac had described how everyone in his patrol had died but he had managed to escape by burying himself under mounds of elephant manure. The mammoth was capable of 100 mile per hour speeds and its deadly dual 120mm cannons and Mammoth Tusk Missiles had made short work out of everything. One of the tanks had been strafing and a piece of the shell had cut through the muscle on his left leg, giving him a permanent limp.

    Walking up to the TheHardSkinnedRhino, 1Ijac grabbed his hair and yanked his head back with such force that a handful of hair came away in his hand and he saw, with glee, blood beginning to seep down the sides of TheHardSkinnedRhino’s head.

    TheHardSkinnedRhino felt the agonising pain shoot through his head like a locomotive out of control. Trying not to give 1Ijac the satisfaction of his screams, he bit down in his tongue, drawing blood there as well.

    “Well, my friend. How do you like them apples?” Mocked 1Ijac. “You have once chance, one chance in which you get to decide if you die quickly or painfully.”

    Looking at TheHardSkinnedRhino’s face, 1Ijac was almost driven to immediate orgasm by the shock and pain that he saw register on his face. “Now, tell me, who sent you?”

    Straining to see though the blood and teas pouring down his face, TheHardSkinnedRhino was about to respond when a new pain emanating from his left had caused him to scream out in shock. Looking up at 1Ijac he saw that his left pinkie was being help by 1Ijac and a knife was in his right hand, dripping with his blood.

    “Now, I never fingered you for a spy,” Laughed 1Ijac wagging the severed finger in front of TheHardSkinnedRhino’s nose, “but you need to be quicker on the responses” .

    Looking now at 1Ijac, ThehardSkinnedRhino saw him put his finger to his lips and 1Ijacs’s tongue snake out and lick the blood from it. He knew, in an instant that 1Ijac was totally, unequivocally deranged and that he had no option but to talk. “DragonofHell” he whispered.

    “I can’t hear you” sang 1Ijac as he put the tip of his knife into the stump that once was TheHardSkinnedRhino’s left finger, and started to twist, “I can’t hear you.”

    Screaming out in agony as the excruciating pain almost caused him to black out, TheHardSkinnedRhino stammered “It is DragonofHell, he …” taking a deep breath, tying to fight through the nauseating waves of pain, “he threatened me to spy for him. If I did not, he would kill my wife and children.”

    Taken completely by surprise, 1Ijac stepped backwards hardly believing what he just heard. Completely forgetting the existence of TheHardSkinnedRhino, 1Ijac stormed out of the Isikole screaming “DragonofHell, DragonofHell, come here now.”

    Blinded by rage and driven by anger so pure that if it could be bottled, 1Ijac could make a fortune. DragonofHell was his blood brother. He had married his sister only 2 years ago. Seeing DragonofHell approaching, 1Ijac saw the fear in his eyes and knew instantly that it was true, that his worst enemy was his closest confidant. Barely able to constrain the anger that was bursting forth, 1Ijac said, “Tell me why, why did you deceive me?”

    DragonofHell knew that this day would come but he had not expected it just yet and was therefore unarmed or even prepared.

    “Bullfrog805” shouted 1Ijac “strip him and take him to the run” . Looking at DragonofHell, 1Ijac continued “I will not torture you, you will now play my game.”

    Bullfrog805 had heard the shouting from 1Ijac and had come out to see what all the ruckus was about before being given the instruction to take DragonofHell to the run. The run was a strip used for landing aircraft outside the camp but it was also used for entertainment in a rather barbaric display of chase the mule. The only problem was that Spot, as he was named by 1Ijac, was the chaser and the mule happened to be any unfortunate person who crossed 1Ijac. Whenever the run was about to be undertaken, the entire camp gathered alongside the airstrip to watch the spectacle.

    Sprinkling Impala’s blood on the naked form of DragonofHell, 1Ijac said “I will give you a 200-yard start, it you make it past 250 yards, you are free, if not, you know what happens”. No one had ever made it further than 220 yards so 1Ijac was not worried.

    Spot, was brought forward. He was a slender, 125-pound beauty. He had a yellowish/tan fur coat with black spots about 1.9 3.8 centimeters in diameter covering almost the entire body except the white throat and abdomen. This was none other than a magnificent cheetah which was renowned for being the fastest animal on earth. Reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, the cheetah could outrun any animal. It was a marvel of creation, with every facet of its body being designed for speed. Special paw pads, non retractable claws, large nostrils and lungs to provide for quick air intake, a large liver, heart and adrenals. A long, fluid, greyhound-like body is streamlined over light bones. Small collarbones and vertical shoulder blades help lengthen the stride. The tail acts as a rudder for quick turning; the eye’s retinal fovea is of an elongated shape, giving the cheetah a sharp, wide-angle view of its surroundings. The spine works as a spring for the powerful back legs to give the cheetah added reach for each step. The only down side is that the cheetah could only maintain its speed for 200-300 yards.

    Spot was making a loud chirping sound as he knew that it was dinner time. Being raised by 1Ijac, it was almost tame. As 1Ijac released the rope around its neck, Spot took off and like a blur it streaked out across the runway towards where DragonofHell was scampering to get away. Like a graceful ballet in motion, Spot closed in on its prey and with unbelievable agility it rocketed past DragonofHell and spun around on its back legs and launched through the air in one fluid motion. Its claws, razor sharp, sliced through DragonofHell’s jugular and he fell spluttering like a baby. As Spot’s claws dug into flesh, the momentum of his speed was arrested and now he stood over DragonofHell like a prize fighter. Within seconds DragonofHell’s lifeless form was being devoured by Spot.

    Dogg was fuming mad. Calling Almo57 on the radio, it took a tremendous amount of self-control to hold his temper in check. “Why were we not notified?” It was a simple question and Dogg wanted nothing more than a simple answer.

    “I am not sure that I know what you mean?” was the response from Almo57.

    “We almost came under attack from 2 NOD troops on motorbikes. Why didn’t EVA pick up their heat signatures?” demanded Dogg.

    “Sir,” began Almo57, “We didn’t’ see any heat signatures approaching your location. I can only but speculate that NOD has developed some kind of Stealth shielding.”

    This was not what Dogg wanted to hear. How was it possible that NOD could circumvent satellite tracking, how did they even know that GDI would be using satellites? At this point there were more questions than answers and Dogg did not like the possibilities. Hanging up the phone, Dogg said, “Warmonger, we still have a problem. Nod knows we are coming and they are prepared. Do whatever it takes; I want to know who the hell is communicating with them.”

    “Okay men” said Warmonger “Time to wake up and move out. Let’s get this show on the road again.”

    Arriving back at the Kraal later that afternoon, Kamikazee was worried. He had been trying for two hours to get Wheels or Lugia33 on the radio without success. After parking the bike he walked over to what had once been the isonto, or church. Two missionaries had come over from Canada to try and impress upon the natives of this land, their views and perceptions of the after-life. They had, for a while, successfully carried the message of Jesus and how he gave up his life for everyone, regardless of colour, creed or religion. Unfortunately, during the uprisings of 1982, the missionaries had been cruelly executed along with thousands of other whites. For a while, the isonto had stood unoccupied as a reminder to all about what had happened. 1Ijac had converted this to his communications centre.

    Inside the isonto a couple of monitoring stations had been set up. All of 1Ijac’s vehicles had been outfitted with tracking devices using Satamatics systems. These units transmitted regular position reports through Satamatics unique satellite-based service. The two computers that had been set up were Dell PowerEdge 6600 servers with quad Xeon 2.8 GHz CPU’s, 32GB RAM and 836GB Storage space. The power issue had been resolved by obtaining a high end generator. The batteries of the generator lasted for 12 hours under a single charge from either diesel or from solar energy. Despite the power demands of the servers and the radios, the generator lived up to the challenge and 1Ijac was very pleased with his acquisition.

    Entering the isonto, Kamikazee saw that Butsludge was busy at one of the terminal. Butsludge was a computer genius genius and it appeared that there were not many things that he did not know about when it came to computers. 1Ijac had enticed him many years ago with the promise that he would always have whatever computer he wanted, no expense spared.

    Addressing Butsludge, Kamikazee asked “Butsluge, I cannot get in touch with either Wheels or Lugia33, can you pinpoint their bikes?”

    Switching screens, Butsludge brought up the TracerLink program. This program worked in conjunction with the Satamatics equipment and allowed for real time monitoring and positioning of all the vehicles. With a few click of the mouse, Butsludge was able to zoom in on the and he said “They are roughly 45 kilometers west of here, and they are not moving.”

    With that, Kamikazee knew that something had happened. They must have encountered Dogg’s troops so now he had a good idea where the attack was coming from but he needed verification. Finding Spartan, Kamikazee told him, “Spartan, I want you to take your APC and scout the location that Butsludge will transmit to your GPS. It looks like Wheels and Lugia33 have encountered the enemy and are down. I want to know what happened.”

    “Yes, sir” responded Spartan. He was grateful to finally be doing something constructive as the days here in the Kraal were far too mundane and boring for his liking.

    Walking over to his armoured personal carrier, he gazed lovingly at the M60 machine gun mounted on the roof. The APC had been equipped with light armour that was impervious to gun fire. The vehicle was capable of 140 mile per hour speeds over good terrain and could carry 5 people. After getting his troop together and getting everyone into the APC, Spartan checked the GPS and saw that his destination was 45 kilometers due west. Hearing the twin turbo diesel respond, Spartan felt a chill of anticipation creep up his spine as he eased the APC out of the kraal.

    Drudging through the heat and wild grass, Dogg felt the vibration of his receiver. Pressing receive on the radio he heard Almo57 on the other end. “Sir, EVA has picked up a heat signature and it is rapidly approaching your position.”

    Dogg, after hanging up the radio, held up both hands and gave the sign for immediate cover. The squad broke out their specially modified blankets and lay down flat on the ground, covering themselves. Not wanting to take any chances, in the event that the enemy had infra red cameras, Dogg had seen to it that they were able to mask their heat signatures completely.

    Warmonger lay quietly under his blanked and heard the vehicle approach until it was almost on top of them. A muffled cry was drowned out by the sound of the engines and he knew that it must be an APC. After the vehicle ha passed, the men knew that they had to wait at least 5 minutes before moving again.

    Standing up, Dogg asked for a head count and quickly saw that one person was missing. Looking over to where Warmonger was kneeling, Dogg asked “Warmonger, what’s up, what is it?”

    Standing up Warmonger replied “It is Bhaley, sir, he …” With genuine empathy and remorse, Warmonger found it hard to continue as Dogg walked over.

    Looking down, Dogg saw what remained of Bhaley, his mangled body was barely recognisable. Looking away from the macabre sight, Dogg leant over and threw up. The APC had hit Bhaley head on and completely destroyed every inch of what once was a good man.

    Leaving the run, Bullfrog805 bumped into his half-brother, Sphinx4545. There was a long standing rivalry between BullFrog805 and Sphinx4545. Although they had the same mother, their fathers were different. Spinx4545 had been born three years prior to the birth of Bullfrog805 and his brother Kamikazee. When he was just one year old, his father died from ALD, Alcohol-induced Liver Disease. Hearing the stories recounted many times during his youth, Sphinx4545 had developed an intense passion for hating alcohol whereas Bullfrog805, it seemed, lived to drink. When they were little boys, Bullfrog805 and Kamikazee often teamed up and proceeded to annoy, humiliate and beat Sphinx4545 at every conceivable opportunity.

    The rivalry intensified, especially between Bullfrog805 and Sphinx4545 to a point where they could not be in the same area together without a fight breaking out. 1Ijac had been acutely aware of this but had chosen to bring all three brothers on board. Bullfrog805 has risen to the challenge and become 1Ijac right-hand man but Sphinx4545, often shy and reserved, preferred to remain in the background and had become very proficient in the art of Kyokushin Karate. This was an art form that Sphinx4545 had mastered, unbeknownst to his brothers. 1Ijac had been in a bar fight in Bulawayo some years before when he witnessed the remarkable display of full contact karate from Sphinx4545. 5 men has attacked 1Ijac and with relevant ease, Sphinx4545 had put 3 of the 5 in hospital and the other 2 were injured enough to run away like scared little girls.

    “Get out of my way” said Bullfrog805.

    “No” was the response from Sphinx4545, “Not any more, the buck stops here. I am sick and tired of you and your pretentious attitude. I am tired of the way you have treated me all these years and I have let you get away with it.”

    Bullfrog805 began laughing and through the tears that were beginning to flow from laughing so much, he managed to say “You, you let me get away with it?” Getting control of himself, he now glowered at Sphinx4545. “You are a punk kid, you couldn’t take a piss without help from one of your boyfriends.”

    With a show of remarkable restraint, Sphinx4545 merely said “Care to see, brother?”

    “See what, you and I fight! This will be easy” responded Bullfrog805.

    G_O_GRA, who happened to be listening to the argument between these brothers quickly walked over and said “Hey guys, I can arrange this and sell tickets. I am sure most of the men here will pay to see you two finally settle the score.”

    Looking at G_O_GRA, Bullfrog805 said “Sure, why the hell not? Let’s settle this once and for all. Winner takes the pot. Okay by you Spinx4545?”

    Sphinx4545 knew that the question was a rhetorical one but he wanted closure on this bad chapter in his life. Being a fair man, he responded “I agree but G_O_GRA gets his share, 20% like usual for setting it up.”

    “Great” responded G_O_GRA, “I’ll set it up for an hour from now here at the run.”

    1Ijac, upon hearing about the proposed fight from G_O_GRA did not object at all. In fact, he welcomed it for a few reasons; the morale of the men needed a boost before that ensuing battle that was sure to come, and he wanted the bickering to stop. Although he considered Bullfrog805 a very close friend, he thought it was time for him to be humbled.

    Later, standing at the edge of the run, G_O_GRA made his usual superfluous announcement for the benefit of the entire camp that had gathered to watch this spectacle. “Now, the rules are as follows, there are no rules.”

    A few laughs erupted from the crowd that had gathered on three sides.

    Bullfrog805 looked across at Sphinx4545 and thought that this would be an easy cake walk as he had at least 40 pounds on his older half-brother. With a slight, subtle move, Bullfrog805’s hand moves to his belt and without warning, a throwing knife is hurtled through the air at Sphinx4545.

    Caught off guard and not completely prepared, Sphinx4545 barely had time to move as the knife buried itself into his left arm. Feeling the knife slice through his muscle on his forearm, Sphinx4545 grimaced in pain. If he had not moved, the knife would, at this moment, be buried deep within his heart.

    Grasping the knife by the handle, Sphinx4545 yanks it out of his arm and he sees that it is one of Bullfrog805’s well known 4 ½” throwing knives. Throwing it to the ground, Sphinx4545 looks over at Bullfrog805, knowing now, as did every person gathered, that this was no ordinary fight. The festering hatred from Bullfrog805 could be felt in palpable waves of emotion.

    Grabbing another knife, Bullfrog805 released it, aiming, once again at Sphinx4545. The only thing that he now wanted was to make sure that this sorry excuse for a brother did not live to see another sunset.

    Now, alert, Sphinx4545 moved ever so slightly and the knife went whistling by his left ear. Almost immediately, another knife flew by. With barely enough time to think, a fourth knife nicked his right ear drawing blood. Looking across at Bullfrog805, Sphinx4545 saw the surprise register in his brother’s eyes. No one had ever managed to successfully dodge four of his knives before.

    With sudden clarity, and concentration, time seemed to stand still for Sphinx4545 as he saw the fifth knife coming at his face. With grace, both hands came up and in one fluid motion snapped closed on the knife which was caught expertly in his hands. Dropping it to the ground, a gasp arose from the onlookers. They were astounded to see that Sphinx4545 seemed to be unfazed.

    In an instant, Bullfrog805 knew that he was in trouble, he had underestimated his brother and had not thought to bring more than 5 throwing knifes. Removing his Yarborough knife from its sheath, he looked over at Sphinx4545 and said “Come on, you have been lucky, let’s see what you’ve got, boy.”

    Sphinx4545 and Bullfrog805 walked towards each other, like tiger’s cages, circling, looking for an opening. With surprising speed, Bullfrog805 lurched forward, slashing his knife at the chest of Spinx4545. but it connected with nothing but empty air and Bullfrog805 found himself off balance as Sphinx4545 dropped to the ground and his leg snaked out catching Bullfrog805 behind the knees. As Bullfrog805 drops to the ground, Sphinx4545 open left hand connects with his brother’s right ear.

    Jumping back and up onto his feet, Sphinx4545 assumes the jigotai or formal fighting stance.

    With his ear ringing Bullfrog805 gets to his feet and tries to shake the dizziness that he is feeling.

    “What’s wrong brother, cat got your tongue? You didn’t know that I could fight did you?” Looking now at Bullfrog805, Sphinx4545 continues, “Now I am going to give you a lesson in humility and you will learn what real fighting is about”

    With expert precision, Sphinx4545 launches through the air and a mawashi geri connects on Bullfrog805’s left ear. Spinning backwards and collapsing, Bullfrog805 start to fall to the ground as Spinx4545 lands perfectly on the balls of his feet. Without pause, a mae geri or front kick land squarely on Bullfrog805 sternum pushing the air out of his lungs.

    Now, on the ground, gasping for air, Bullfrog805 can barely perceive what is happening. As he struggles to focus, a sudden pain in his left leg causes him to lose consciousness.

    Looking at Bullfrog805, Sphinx4545 see a 3 meter long black mamba snake speed away. Black Mamba snakes are one of the most feared snakes in Africa. Although olive green in colour, they are called black mambas because of a very distinctive inky blackness on the inside of their mouths. The snake actively bites its victim and then races off at speeds of up to 20 kilometers an hour to wait while the neurotoxins take effect and the prey dies. The venom blocks signals from the brain passing through the nervous system to the muscles which causes systemic paralysis. The prey will die from suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles of respiration.

    Reacting, without thought, Sphinx4545 rushes over to his brother and shouts for the anti-venom. If it can be administered in time, Bullfrog805 may live to see another day.

    With great reticence, Dogg’s troop sets off again across the bush veld. As every man walked past the pulverised body of Bhaley, it was like a magnet, drawing in their fevered curiosity. The gruesome sight served as a stark reminder to all that despite the tranquility and breathtaking beauty of this country, they were here on a mission. A mission that included the very real possibility of death. In a few hours the sun would be setting and Dogg wanted his men to reach the designated rendezvous which was just 10 kilometers west of 1Ijac’s camp before night fell. This wild country was dangerous enough and at night the danger intensified astronomically. The final resting place before they were to engage the enemy was at a watering hole shielded on all sides by magnificent rock formations. It was speculated that some five hundred thousand years ago the “Kabwe man” or Rhodesia Man inhabited this region. What made Zimbabwe an ideal archaeologist hunting ground was the discovery in 1921 of a Rhodesia Man skeleton 60 feet below the surface. The skull had a round hole in it which, according to a reputable German forensics authority, was caused by a bullet. The question to which many wanted answers still remains a mystery but different ideas have sprung forth such as aliens, an advanced society or maybe the whole concept of carbon dating is, in fact, wrong.

    Warning his men to stay alert and to pick up the pace, Commander Dogg set a fast pace which was easily matched by his 47 remaining troops.

    Meanwhile, further West, Spartan checked his display panel and saw some commotion not far ahead around two points of focus. Stopping 50 meters short of the first spectacle, he saw an overturned bike on the ground. Barely able to distinguish the body because of the gathered vultures, Spartan ordered, “Gunner, clear the area.”

    With a loud stutter the M60 machine gun sputtered to life and within a couple of seconds, 13 vultures lay dead or flailing on the ground. The M60, although designed for ground units, had been an ideal addition to the APC. Capable of firing 550 cyclic or 200 rounds per minute rapid, the gun was a godsend. What made it so reliable was that, although the barrel overheated, it could be changed within seconds and a new barrel installed, ready to go. 1Ijac had seen to it that there were 3 spare barrels and over 50,000 7.62mm armour piercing rounds in the APC.

    After the din had died down, Spartan and the four troops stepped out of the APC and gingerly approached what remained of the body. To Spartan what was amazing was how many vultures had gathered. Typically these carnivorous birds would not be seen around dead animals or bodies until the second day of death when the body had begun to decompose. Vultures, by nature fed on rotting meat which they located with a keen sense of smell. All he could assume was that there must have been another dead animal close by.

    All that remained of the body was a head encased within the helmet and a partial left foot. Scraps of clothing lay around the body and from looking at the helmet and head; Spartan could easily distinguish the bullet hole that had prematurely terminated Wheel’s life. Under instructions to recover the bikes, Spartan and his men carried the bike and mounted it on the right side of the APC using the bike mounts that had been installed.

    About a kilometre and a half further they found the second bike. Getting out of the APC again, SPARTAN approached the bike and just beyond the front wheel, the ground was bloodied. Looking closely, Spartan could see a number of large lion paw prints in the ground and it appeared that a body had been dragged off into the tall grass.

    Turning back to the APC, Spartan shouted, “Get this bike loaded and let’s get out of here.”

    Just then, a loud roar off to the left diverted Spartan’s attention and he barely had time to react to the thunderous sound of a lion approaching at full tilt. Preparing himself for the worst, Spartan tried to run back to the APC. Feeling something tear at his right foot, Spartan fell to the ground. Rolling over he saw the lifeless body of a lioness with its claws embedded in his boot. Looking now at the APC, his gunner was grinning broadly in the sunlight. Spartan had not heard the M60 chatter to life as the rounds mercilessly ripped through the lioness.

    Getting to his feet, Spartan could barely believe his good fortune. “I know better,” he thought to himself, “This should never have happened!”

    Carrying the bike that once belonged to Lugia33 back to the APC, they mounted it on the left side, when Spartan looked down and noticed a bloodied track. Looking more closely, he saw a piece of camouflaged clothing caught up in the tread. Trying to puzzle over the implications of what he saw, he got back into the APC and radioed the discovery back to base

    Apothecari quietly approached the isikole and walked inside. Her heart lay heavy in her chest, its weight bearing down on with a force so overpowering that she found herself mourning the predicament that she had been placed in. Walking over to TheHardSkinnedRhino, she removed a syringe from her shawl and gently inserted it into his arm and depressed the plunger. Knowing that this was something that could elicit the wrath of a large number of powerful people, Apothecari could not and would not allow this man to suffer like he was. Her genuine empathetic nature prevailed as she had decided on a course of action to help him.

    Looking at the stump that was once his little finger, Apothecari brushed away the flies that were gathering to lay their eggs. What precipitated her response was the fact that it would only take between 8 to twenty hours for the eggs of the flies to hatch into maggots. Having studied entomology before embarking on this mission 11 years previously, Apothecari knew what inherent dangers lie in leaving open wounds untreated, especially in these hot weather conditions.

    “What have you done to me woman?” was the startled response from TheHardSkinnedRhino as he felt a burning sensation starting to creep downward from his arm.

    “Do not fight it, my friend.” Was the gentle response from Apothecari “I am not who you think I am. What you see is nothing but a façade.”

    Trying to register the implications of what he had been told, TheHardSkinnedRhino responded by asking, “What do you mean, nothing but a façade?”

    “I know who you are my friend, I know why you were sent here and I also know that you lied about DragonofHell” pausing momentarily to catch her breath, Apothecari continued “You never did like DragonofHell, ever since he suspected that you might be a spy. He could never confirm it and you played him and played him well. You knew that he was sleeping with 1Ijac’s sister and his wife.”

    TheHardSkinnedRhino knew that his secret was known. Yes, he knew that DragonofHell was about to inform 1Ijac of his activities and the ideal opportunity had presented itself for him to save his life and remove an obstacle in the way of his completing his mission. DragonofHell had died thinking that 1Ijac knew about his sleeping with his wife, he never suspected that it was something far more serious to 1Ijac and that was disloyalty.

    “Now,” continued Apothecari, “I am going to tell you a story about who I am. In me, your salvation from this predicament surely lies. I am 28 years old, I joined a secret alliance when I was only 10 and was recruited for this mission at 16. My body, what you can see, is not what it really is. There are 50 members known as the GDI special ops group. We have infiltrated every major terrorist organization under assumed identities using technology far superior to anything that you have ever seen or even know about. My appearance has been specially altered by experimental molecular nanotechnology. The 1940’s heralded in the biggest cover-up of all time regarding Area 57. We recovered a device in a craft that has taken many years to understand. It was an amazing assembler that was capable of producing self-replicating nanobots, some of which I just injected into your arm. Nanotechnology has allowed us to manipulate atoms and molecules, making it possible to manufacture, replicate, and distribute any substance known to humans as easily and cheaply as you can replicate data on a computer. My appearance is a result of a programmed nanobot sequence that allows me to look 100. The image only lasts for three hours at a time before I revert back to my original appearance, which is why I spend all my time in my Rondavel and only emerge when absolutely necessary.”

    TheHardSkinnedRhino began to think that he was caught up in some kind of elaborate joke, maybe he was just hallucinating and Apothecari was really not in front of him telling him all about a fantastic, futuristic phenomenon. “Are you kidding me?” was all he could think of to say.

    “No” was the emphatic reply, “This is not something that I would kid about. You know that Commander Dogg is on his way to rescue Serenity; this is the end of my mission as I am once again allowed to return to what may be left of my home. The nanobot I injected into your arm, will heal your finger and help it to grow back, after which time they have been programmed to perform one last mission before your body expels them. All short term memory from the past 48 hours will be erased; you will not recall anything about your torture or about what I am telling you.”

    Content with the decision to help TheHardSkinnedRhino, Apothecari looked at him once more with a longing in her eyes before turning and leaving the Isikole.

    Acting purely on impulse, Sphinx4545 took off his belt and tied it as tight as possible just above Bullfrog805’s left knee. This would help to slow the path of the venom through Bullfrog805’s body. Feeling for a pulse at the ankle, Sphinx4545 found none which meant that the tourniquet was tight enough. Grabbing a stick from the ground and tearing off his shirt, Sphinx4545 also created a splint and wrapped his torn shirt around the bite mark, which he saw, was just above the left ankle. This helped to immobilize the leg. Next, Sphinx4545 began mouth to mouth to help Bullfrog805 breathe as the neurotoxin was causing his lungs to not get enough air. Within 2 minutes, Kamikaze came running up with 5 ampoules of polyvalent serum. The label on the ampoules indicated that the serum had been manufactured in the South African Institute for Medical Research. The anti-venom was a light yellowish to light brown clear liquid.

    “Come on, come on, where’s the needle?” fretted Sphinx4545.

    Grabbing the ampoules and needle that Kamikaze proffered, Sphinx4545 broke off the tip of the first one and emptied its contents into the needle. Not having time to swab the area of application, he inserts the needle into the muscle of the left leg and empties the contents very slowly into Bullfrog805’s leg. Grabbing a second ampoule, its contents are injected into Bullfrog’s right arm. Each ampoule contained 10ml of antivenom and 20ml is generally sufficient but that is ultimately decided by the condition of the victim and the amount of venom injected into the body. Almost immediately a gasping sound from Bullfrog805 indicated that he was able to breathe unassisted again. The only thing left to do was to keep him immobilized for at least one hour to give the antivenom chance to neutralize the venom, after which time Bullfrog805 should be okay.

    5 minutes later the sound of an approaching vehicle indicated that Spartan was arriving back at the kraal. As the APC sped across the veld and approached the runway, the men saw the 2 bikes mounted on either side and instantly knew that the news was not good. The information radioed in earlier had not yet been communicated to the men.

    Pulling up short of 1Ijac’s Rondavel, Spartan stopped the APC and jumped out. “Okay men, get these bikes cleaned up and readied, we will need them very soon” .

    Walking into 1Ijac’s Rondavel, Spartan saw 1Ijac scowling and pacing the floor. “Sir, we found the bikes from Lugia33 and Wheels, as you already know but, one thing that I did not radio in was the fact that I found blood and a bit of clothing on the APC’s track”

    Stopping his pacing, 1Ijac looked at Spartan, he did not need any more bad news, not today. “Give it to me” he demanded of Spartan.

    Quickly handing over the piece of camouflaged cloth, Spartan said “As you can see from the colours, it is not ours. I believe that on the way out to reconnoiter the site where the bikes were detected, we must have run over someone hiding.” Being reluctant to give the next bit of news, Spartan cast his eyes downward and took a deep breath.

    “What is it, spit it out” demanded 1Ijac after seeing Spartan’s hesitation.

    “Well sir,” began Spartan, his eyes not making contact, “Our infrared thermal imaging was active and we did not pick up any human heat signatures.”

    The APC had been retrofitted with an active thermal imager for easier target acquisition. It was capable of detecting humans over a mile away and vehicles over 5 miles away.

    “If we actually ran over someone” continued Spartan, they were either dead and have been for quite some time or else they have something that prevents our scanners from picking up their heat signatures.”

    This had not been a very good day for 1Ijac and he was not impressed. Wheel and Lugia33 are dead, TheHardSkinnedRhino is spying for DragonofHell and GDI. DragonofHell is dead, by his own hand admittedly, Bullfrog805’s life is in the balance and now it is likely that they cannot detect the advancing troops. No, not a good day at all. “What else could possibly go wrong? Get Evilsage and bring him here now.” Said 1Ijac.

    Thankful to be leaving the stifling, oppressive atmosphere of 1Ijac’s Rondavel. Spartan hurried out before 1Ijac could possibly call him back.

    A couple of minutes later, Evilsage marched proudly into 1Ijac’s Rondavel, “Sir,” said Evilsage as he quickly saluted 1Ijac, “You asked for me.”

    “Yes, I did” responded 1Ijac. He had always liked Evilsage because no matter what happened, he remained loyal, obedient and never questioned his authority. His decorum was always without question and his expertise in munitions was second to none. “I need to know what you have done to prepare us?

    “Sir, yes sir.” Was the quick, respectful answer. “I have a map of the area, I’ll show you.” Walking over to the table, Evilsage rolled open the map to show the vicinity in and around the kraal. “From our intel, we assume that the attack will come from the south, south west side of the camp. The northern side is completely protected by the river and there are so many crocodiles there that extra protection is not completely necessary. I have, however, set up a line of claymores just in case. To the east, by the runway, I have deployed 4 Light Tanks one mile out. They are camouflaged and are equipped with thermal imaging scanners.”

    Pausing with his finger on the location of the first of the light tanks, Evilsage sees 1Ijac no and so continues. “The west up to the river is covered by the berg or mountain 5 miles out. At three miles, on the koje I have deployed 6 chemical troops and 4 snipers. That gully over here by the small hill where they are, is an ideal place to use the chemical weapons. There are numerous trip wires and claymores there are well, so I do not think that they will come in that direction. Our only weakness is to the south as there is no natural protection. 3 miles out, I have deployed two artillery units, 4 light tanks and 2 flame tanks. All vehicles, by the way, are equipped with DIRCM’s, Directed Infra-Red Counter Measures, which will prevent most heat seeking missiles from acquiring. We also outfitted all with jamming devices to prevent satellite detection and as long as the drivers stay put, we shouldn’t be detected.”

    “Here by the base, the perimeter is guarded at 500 meters by a ring of tripwire-activated PMR3 mines. These cover a ring of about 20 meters wide and encircle the entire base with the exception of the 100-meter entrance leading out to the run. We have 10 rocket soldiers strategically positioned, another 6 snipers in the guard towers and a few other surprises in the event that anyone gets past our defenses.”

    Looking at Evilsage, 1Ijac knew that he had made the right decision bringing him on board from Kosovo. “What about an escape route?” enquired 1Ijac.

    “Ah, that’s my little addition. Right here at the north most corner of the kraal is an entrance to a very, very old cave. It leads into an underground system of tunnels that are not known. One exit is here.” Pointing at the map on the far side of the river, Evilsage continued “and as you can see, it brings you out on the other side of the river. We have two buggies hidden at the cave entrance for a quick escape.”

    “Thank you, Evisage, dismissed” said 1Ijac.

    “Yes sir.” Saluting, with a quick about turn, Evilsage marched out of the Rondavel leaving 1Ijac pondering over the information.

    Bullfrog805, blinking in the sharp late afternoon sun opened his eyes to see the concerned face of Sphinx4545 looking down at him. Still dazed and somewhat confused he manages to say “What the hell are you doing looking at me.”

    Startled by the evident hostility and anger of the words from Bullfrog805, Sphinx4545 fell backwards, sitting firmly on the ground, annoyed by the immaturity of his half-brother. “Do you even know what happened to you?”

    “Hey guys” said G_O_GRA who was sitting on the other side of Bullfrog805, “Allow me to interject if you will. Bullfrog805, you and I have been friends for a long time, I have stood up for you countless times and we are good buddies right?”

    Barely managing to turn his head in the direction of G_O_GRA, Bullfrog sullenly admitted “Yes, you are right. We have been through a lot together.”

    “Well then,” continued G_O_GRA, “allow me to enlighten you my friend. You were in a fight and you were definitely getting your ass kicked by Sphinx4545 and I do not judge you for being annoyed but, he saved your life.”

    Lifting his head off the ground, Bullfrog805 tried to shake his head because he did not believe what he was hearing. Sphinx4545 and G_O_GRA immediately reached out to help Bullfrog805 into a sitting position. “Get off me you moron” shouted Bullfrog805 looking at Sphinx4545 with venomous eyes.

    Without warning, G_O_GRA lifted his hand and delivered a sharp, stinging slap to the back of Bullfrog805’s head. “Shut up for one minute, just one minute, you hear me?”

    Reaching back to rub his head and blinking away the tears that were forming in his eyes, Bullfrog805 looked at G_O_GRA, and saw that he was visibly perturbed and asked “What did you do that for?”

    “Just for once,” began G_O_GRA, “for once, shut up and listen. Do you see that splint on your leg, well, do you?” G_O_GRA’s voice was now rising in annoyance.

    “Yes” was all the Bullfrog805 managed to squeak out as he put his head down, fighting the waves of dizziness that he was feeling.

    “Well, Sphinx4545 had you down but in the middle of the fight a black mamba attacked you and you almost died. Sphinx4545 was the only one who reacted and he saved your life by giving you mouth to mouth and administering first aide. Do you understand what I am saying?” finished G_O_GRA.

    Looking over at Sphinx4545 who was sitting visibly shaken, Bullfrog805 asked “Is it true and if so why?

    Without hesitation Sphinx4545 answered, “Because you’re my brother and I love you man. Despite everything that you have done to me over the years, I love you and I did not want to fight but enough was enough.”

    Getting all choked up Bullfrog, eyes glistening responded “I, I, I don’t understand, I thought you hated me, that is why I have been like I was to you all these years.”

    “No, I never did hate you, I just wanted you to respect me and not blame me for the way my father treated our mother.” Said Sphinx4545.

    Getting up, Sphinx454 and G_O_GRA help Bullfrog805 to his feet.

    Without warning, bullfrog 805 threw his arms around Sphinx4545 and said “I am sorry, so sorry for being such an asshole to you, I love you too my brother.”

    With their arms around each other’s shoulders, the two brothers walk back into the kraal, Bullfrog805, limping and Sphinx4545 supporting him. It was a sight to behold and 1Ijac smiled as he exited his Rondavel and saw that the two were finally acting like civilized human beings.

    The sun appeared to have a voracious appetite for consuming all moisture with ravenous urgency. The march into that late afternoon started to take its toll on Commander Dogg and his men. As the sun began its final decent into the horizon, the relief from the heat was immediate and welcome. Like a breath of fresh air the suffocating heat dissipated and made way for a breathtaking display of beauty.

    From the bright blue skies of the hot and humid day, a magical transformation began to occur before Warmongers eyes. The mountains in the distance offered a picturesque backdrop to the peaceful tranquility of the suns fond farewell to the day. Blue made way to yellow and orange with a tinge of red. With reticence the day tried to maintain its grasp on the departing sun and in anger the skies turned from light soothing colours to an angry crimson red as the sky erupted in a fiery display of annoyance.

    Stopping, unashamed, Warmonger gazed at the skies waging war as the colours put on a display that took everyone’s breath away. The multitude of colours that Mother Nature was displaying was enough to momentarily cause all the men to forget about where they were and what they were about to do. The earth, in humble submission stood still, for a moment, in respect to the power of the sun. For one brief moment in time, words failed to describe what was happening, failed to describe the beauty of the sunset, failed to comprehend the magnificence of creation. As suddenly as it had begun, darkness came like a blanket covering the country side. With the darkness a silence enveloped the country and momentarily nature stood still, man and beast alike. Without warning, as if a spell had been broken the sounds of the night erupted from the stillness as if right on cue.

    Sighing contentedly, Dogg ordered his men to put on their night vision goggles. All of the men had been equipped with third generation AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles. Special head harness allowed these units to be worn over their heads thus leaving their hands free for other tasks. On each, a compass had been installed so that their direction was clearly indicated on the top part of the lens. All team leaders had a 5 power magnifier lenses to facilitate field conversion for long range observations as well as infrared lenses that could be flipped over the existing lens. The AN/PVS-7 has a quick-release fastener for one-hand mounting and dismounting, a high-light cut-off to protect the image intensifier tube which also protected the troop’s eyes in the event that a bright light was suddenly turned on.

    Within 45 minutes they had reached their destination. The rock formation that they now saw was a solid wall, almost like someone had reached down and sculpted a 200 foot wide barrier. There was a small crevice that Dogg has been informed of which led through a small tunnel and opened into an enormous cavern, except that it wasn’t a cavern as the stars were clearly visible above. The feeling that Dogg has was like walking into an enormous Roman colosseum except here, a waterhole was visible at which wildlife often took sanctuary to drink.

    “Okay men, we rest here for 8 hours and then at 03:00 hours, we will move in on 1Ijac and his camp which is less than 10 kilometers due east of here. I want no noise, no fires, nothing, just in case there are any troops in the near vicinity.”

    As the men began to settle down, Commander Dogg walked over to Captain Warmonger and said “Warmonger, at zero hundred hours, I want you to head out with the Rogue Team and see if you can get around the north western side of the camp. Our radars indicated that there is an opening by the river but you need to exercise extreme caution as the local wildlife in that area is none too friendly. Now get some shut eye.”

    “Yes sir.” Said Warmonger as he walked over to where Corporal Bullseye was aimlessly pacing around in circles. “Pray tell, what on earth are you doing Bullseye, walking in circles like a caged monkey?”

    “Evening Captain.” Replied Bullseye “Don’t mind me, this helps me to relax and focus. Did you need something sir?”

    “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do” replied Warmonger “I need you ready by zero hundred hours. Inform 2fast4ne1, HardTarget, Immortal-1, The_Widow_Maker and Untaouchable that we will be leaving as an advance party to flank the north of 1Ijac.”

    “Will do, good night captain” said corporal Bullseye.

    Lying down on the ground, not bothering to use a blanket as the heat of the day had settled to a comfortable level, Warmonger closed his eyes and was immediately asleep as the exhaustion of the day overtook him.

    Approaching Dhitman66 now Dogg said “Lieutenant, I want you to leave with 10 troops at zero one hundred hours and cut due South and approach the camp from that direction. It should take no more than 3 hours to get in position. Wait at bravo check point until you get my signal. That should place you within 2 kilometers of the camp. Also, arrange a detail to stand guard.”

    Thankful that the time was finally drawing closer to rescuing Serenity and seeing his fair maiden again, Dogg leant against the wall of the cliff and was soon fast asleep, dreaming of Serenity and what they could be doing together.

    Sitting on the floor of the Rondavel, Serenity tried, desperately to maintain control of her emotions. The last few days had been overwhelming, first being snatched from her home and if that wasn’t bad enough, the men had come while she was relaxing in a luxuriating bath. The three men had said very little as they stormed into the bathroom and rudely yanked her out of the bath and pushed her, naked into the master bedroom. The humiliation of standing in the bedroom, with three strange men gawking at her had been embarrassing, to say the least. Although she kept trying to push the image out of her mind, it insinuated itself back into her consciousness and she realized, for the first time, that she had taken a perverse pleasure in seeing how her beauty had affected those men. Recalling every detail, she thought back to what had happened.

    “Get dressed.” The taller of the men had demanded. “You’re going on a long trip.” That remark elicited a snicker from the other two men who was eyeing her.

    With her red hair hanging wetly at her shoulders, and her large, round eyes alert with fear, she recalled how she had turned around and bent over to pick up her underwear from the floor. One of the men had come towards her at that point, obviously overpowered by the sheer animal magnetism of the sight being presented to him and had cupper her breast in his hand. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, Serenity had frozen and did not move.

    “Jinkins,” roared the same man that had previously spoken, “our orders are clear, you are not to touch her.” At that remark he had sent a solid boot to Jinkins’ back that set him sprawling across the bed. “Do you understand me?”

    “Bullfrog805 how can I possibly not be enticed? Look at her, look how beautiful she is, come on, no one will know. Just five minutes, come on. It will be fun.” Was the response from Jinkins.

    “Get out of here you filthy disgrace, our orders are clear, wait outside the door, you too G_O_GRA. And you, get dressed now.” Said Bullfrog805.

    That was the last thing Serenity recalled before Bullfrog805 had stuck a needle into her arm and she lost consciousness. The next thing she was lying on the floor with a sac cloth tied over head and someone was pulling it off with some of her hair. Now, almost a day after she has obviously arrived here, where ever here was, she was afraid that she would never live to see her husband again or Dogg.

    Dogg, were there any regrets? Did she like cheating on her husband? All of these thought s came crushing down on her as humiliation and sorrow began to overwhelm her. Her she was, being treated like a queen by CplBrian and in response, what, she decided to have an affair with Commander Dogg. The ruggedly handsome man that he was had proven to be an aphrodisiac to her and she could not, would not say no to his advances after she had met him for the first time. Her own husband had introduced them at a Barbeque one afternoon and Dogg had been immediately spellbound by Serenity’s beauty. The passionate affair had begun and the sexual tension was so overpowering that mere thoughts of it now got her excited all over again. Reaching down, Serenity pushed one hand into her panties and began twisting her pubic hairs around her index finger.

    “No, I cannot do it.” Realising that she had spoken aloud, Serenity was abashed at what she had done, was doing. “Please God, I have not spoken to you for so long. I have not respected you or the sanctity of my marriage.” Serenity began praying for the first time in over 15 years. Having been raised in the Reformed faith she had given up on God a long time ago after seeing her twin sister die from cancer.

    “God, I am sorry, if you see fit please help me make it out of here alive. I promise that I will live a God fearing life from now on, respecting my husband. If it is not your will, and I should die, please forgive me for being a fool, for being so selfish and not respecting my husband. Forgive me, please.” Crawling over to the mattress, Serenity lay down in a fetal position sobbing uncontrollably. Wishing that she had never betrayed CplBrian, wishing that this nightmare would be over.

    1Ijac walked over to where Evilsage was making final preparations at the parade ground. 60 men had been gathered and were listening attentively as Evilsage instructed them on the positions that they were to take up. Night was beginning to fall and 1Ijac knew that it would only be a matter of time before the battle began. He was pleased that everything was going according to plan. His close friend had instructed him a few days previously on what was going to happen and how they were to be attacked. The only detail left unaccounted for was the exact time that the attack would commence. Standing quietly behind Evilsage he listened to the incredible detail that was being laid out for the men. Evilsage had an unbelievable knack for tactical deployment. He was a master at munitions and a genius at bush warfare.

    After Evilsage dismissed the men, he turned around to see 1Ijac standing there smiling. “Sorry sir, I did not know that you were here.” Said Evilsage.

    “Oh don’t mind me,” replied 1Ijac, “You are doing an incredible job. I have one more job for you in the morning, after all of this is over.”

    “Yes sir, anything.” Responded Evilsage.

    “I will be leaving for a while and I want you to kill TheHardSkinnedRhino. I want an example made, a really good example made of him for the men. It may be a while before I return and I want to ensure complete, unwavering loyalty in my absence. TheHardSkinnedRhino will serve that purpose and you need to make sure that his death is painful and I mean really painful. This cannot happen tonight as I need everyone’s attention on the fight that is almost upon us.”

    As a result of the satellite information, Warmonger had ensured that the Rogue Team were equipped with enough equipment that could easily be discarded for easy rappelling and then climbing back up the cliffs. The Rogue Team had been selected for this mission because of their previous rock climbing experiences in the Andes.

    “Come on guys” shouted Warmonger taking the lead “This is the army, no time for slacking off. I want you to keep up with me.” Setting a fast pace, Warmonger wanted to reach the top of the cliffs within a half hour. Running at night, even equipped with night vision goggles proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Warmonger reached what had been called the drop point in 40 minutes, a little behind schedule.

    “What are you, a bunch of pansies?” asked Warmonger as Corporal Bullseye came up behind him some 2 minutes later. “That was the easy part, the fun begins now.”

    Panting, out of breath Corporal Bullseye responded, “No sir, I had to stop to help 2fast4ne1, he tripped and sprained his ankle.”

    “Okay men, you’ve all seen the photographs, this rock face is littered with fissures, and it should make for an easy descent down to the river.” Said Warmonger as he knelt over the edge and found a perfect point in the granite wall to insert his Black Diamond double axel camming device.

    Seeing Warmonger take the lead, the 6 men of the Rogue Team quickly followed suit and before long Petzl attach lock carabiners had been clipped into place and each man threw out his Mammut Flash Superdry 70m 10.5mm rope after looping it through the carabiner and an HB Wales Sheriff flexible belay device. Rappelling down the 30 metre cliff proved to be uneventful and quick. Within 10 minutes all 7 men were standing on the river edge.

    “Okay, get that rope put away and move out” said Warmonger.

    As they were nearing the point of ascent, a shot suddenly rang out from behind Warmonger, looking back he saw that 2fast4ne1 had fired into the river. “What are you doing?” demanded Warmonger.

    “There was a crocodile and I could swear that it was coming towards us.” Replied 2fast4ne1.

    “You’re an idiot, how far do you think the sound of that shot will carry? Do you ever think before you act? You have now put us all in danger if there are any Nod troops nearby.” By now Warmonger was infuriated with the performance of 2fast4ne1 who had proven to be more of a hindrance than an asset.

    A few minutes later they had inched themselves far enough around the mountain that it was time to tie in and begin the climb up. Being a little more difficult and not wanting to take chances, Bullseye immediately took control and ensure that his two best men started up first. WidowMaker and Untouchable began upwards, laying nuts every 3 meters and connecting additional carabiners for security. Within 35 minutes they had reached the top and tie off the ropes. Next Warmonger and Bullseye followed, then Immortal-1 and Hard Target with 2fast4ne1 bringing up the rear.

    As the men were getting ready to move out, 2fast4ne1 was about at the top with Warmonger reaching down to give him a hand. Without warning, Warmonger looked 2fast4ne1 squarely in the eyes, withdrew his hand and whispered, “I warned you but you would not listen.”

    A blade caught the moonlight as it slashed through the rope and a short lived scream ended with a splash as 2fast4ne1 hit the river 30 meters below. Running over to the cliff edge Corporal Bullseye asked “Sir, what happened?”

    Holding the rope in one hand, Warmonger looked at Bullseye and said, “Dammit, I told you to check the ropes, this one is frayed and it has cost us a good man. When we get back someone will have to answer for this.”

    Looking down into the river, Warmonger adjusted his goggles to zoom in on the spot where 2fast4ne1 had landed in the river. A swirling commotion confirmed that crocodiles had made very short work of the snack that had been offered to them.

    Smiling inwardly Warmonger said, “Okay, this is just a minor setback, we need to make up time, let’s get a move on.”

    After dinner with 1Ijac, the only nagging uncertainty that was eating away at Evilsage was the placement of the mines around the kraal and the deployment of the claymores at the river and in the gulley. Being a perfectionist by nature he wanted assurances and needed to speak to Wizard17 to put his mind at ease.

    Walking over to Wizard17’s rondavel, Evilsage heard voices from within so he stopped to listen to what was being said.

    “Okay, Ghost my boy, you need to pay attention because there are no second chances when you set mines.” The voice of Wizard17 resonated back to where Evilsage was standing with authority and calm.

    “Now, in order for you to take over my skills as a mine layer, you have to grasp the concept of the history of mines and being 25 years old, you should have no difficulty.” Said Wizard17.

    “Dad, how long have you been doing this?” Inquired the voice of Ghost.

    “I am 56 and I took over the trade from your grandfather when I was just 16. I have never had a single accident and I expect, no, I demand the same from you. There are three basic anti-personnel mine types as you know, blast, bounding and fragmentation mines. The mines we set in the gulley and by the river are R1M1 mines similar to the M18A1 fragmentation mines, with the exception of being able to be triggered by a trip wire. Those around the kraal are a combination of all three for maximum efficiency.” Said Wizard17.

    “But why use blast mines and bounding mines together, shouldn’t just blast mines be enough?” asked Ghost.

    “Yes, If we are expecting armored vehicles to rush us. We buried the R2M1 blast mines about 5 centimeters below the ground, with FBM anti-tank mines close by. The M16 bounding mines are set specifically for use against infantry. If one person sets the mine off, any other personnel in that vicinity will perish. The blasting head will explode after launching itself about a meter into the air.” Continued Wizard17.

    Overhearing the conversation put Evilsage at ease and just as he was turning to leave the rondavel, Wizard17 stepped out and said “I thought I heard someone, Can I help you with anything?”

    “No” responded Evilsage “I did not mean to eavesdrop but the conversation I overheard between you and Ghost answered all my questions. Good job on the mine deployment.”

    “Thank you. Here is a copy of the mine locations for you.” Responded Wizard17 “Just in case anything should happen to me and you need to move anyone through the mine field around the camp.”

    Suddenly, the stillness of the early evening was shattered by a loud explosion from inside the rondavel and the door was blasted outward by the shock wave. Scrambling to his feet, Wizard17 rushed into the rondavel to see the mutilated body of his son lying on the floor, his body riddled with steel balls. The same balls were all over the front side of the rondavel as was the door. From looking at the blast pattern Wizard17 was able to clearly see that Ghost must of accidentally triggered a R1M1 claymore mine and the 700 steel balls had made short work of his life.

    Falling to his knees, cradling the bloodied head of his son in his lap, Wizard17 cried out; “Why, why, why?” With tears streaming down his face he continued mourning “Why didn’t you listen to me, you should never of armed the mine?”

    The question was purely rhetorical and Evilsage looked on in horror from the doorway as he watched Wizard17 bend and then break under the loss of his only son, a son that he had raised on his own. A son that had meant everything to him.

    At precisely zero one hundred hours, Lieutenant Dhitman66 and 10 troops left the sanctuary and headed in a southerly direction. Their instructions had been to head south for 3 miles, get to the low area of the mountains and then east for another 4 miles before cutting directly north and arriving at checkpoint Bravo, 1 ½ miles south of 1Ijac’s camp. With the climbing of the low area of the mountain, Dhitman66 knew that it should be about 2 ½ hours to get to the other side of the mountain, at which point they would have to progress very carefully as they no longer had the benefit of EVA to pinpoint the enemy’s positions.

    Earlier that evening Commander Dogg had informed him that a communications call from Almo57 had indicated that EVA was not responding to control functions. A preliminary investigation indicated that software glitches in the command and control computer system caused the satellite to spin out of control. Communications may possibly be reacquired, Almo57 had said, if the spin realigns the satellite with the base station but it would be a t least a few hours before the results are known.

    Not happy about being in the dark, Dhitman66 has reluctantly set out as planned. Not sure why he was experiencing such a case of unease, he tried to shove the feeling from his mind. He had, after all, been more than accustomed to not relying on technology but something just did not feel right and intuition had taught him that these feelings cannot be ignored.

    Speaking into his microphone Dhitman66 said “Corporal Sublimesk8music, when we get to the other side of the mountain, I want you to take 4 guys and get in front of me. I will follow you after 10 minutes to provide cover and cut a bit further west.”

    “Yes sir” responded Sublimesk8music “but is there a reason for deviating from the plan?”

    “You are in no position to question me corporal, do you understand?” said Dhitman66.

    “My apologies sir, no offence intended, just curious” replied Sublimesk8music.

    Looking at his watch, Dhitman66 was pleased to see that they were already on the other side of the mountain in an hour and forty five minutes, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. “Okay corporal Sublimesk8music, you know what to do and stay alert, we do not know what to expect.”

    “Roger that lieutenant” replied Sublimesk8music.

    The bright moonlight lit the bush stretching towards the low hills ahead of Warmonger and the Rogue Team. The only sound permeating the otherwise ethereal silence of the night was the shrill whistle of cicadas. After about 45 minutes Warmonger heard a sound off to the left and turning he saw an impala buck’s horns outlined in the moonlight. The buck took a step forward and then thumped it’s forelegs on the ground as if warning something off. Switching his AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles to infrared mode, he could make out the outline of a lioness about 400 metres away. Thankfully the wind was blowing away from the lion so it did not detect the scent of the approaching 6 men. At that moment the impala suddenly veered around and with a graceful leap it raced away from the lioness that, by now, was in full pursuit of its evening meal. Contrary to popular belief, most hunting by lions is done at night time where the lion’s exceptional night sight is a great advantage.

    Looking back towards the koppie which was less than half a mile ahead Warmonger barely had enough time to drop after seeing a sudden red flare on the top corner of the hill. A bullet missed his head by mere fractions of an inch. A sniper had apparently seen them coming. With perfect calm and poise, Warmonger sighted his own rifle on the area that the shot had come from. Zooming in he could clearly make out the head of a man crouched behind a rock overlooking the bush and their current position. Squeezing the trigger meticulously Warmonger watched as the head disappeared from view as the round found its mark.

    “HardTarget, take WidowMaker and head for that gulley up ahead. Corporal Bullseye, take the left flank at 200 metres. Immortal-1, take right and Untouchable, you are with me, we’ll give them covering fire. If one sniper is here there is a good chance more troops are hiding in the vicinity so stay alert.” Said Warmonger.

    The microphone in Warmongers ear cackled to life as the voice of Dogg came in loud and clear. “Captain, in 30 minutes we will be heading out. Give me a status report on your position.”

    “Yes sir commander. We are currently at the gulley and have just come under fire from a sniper. I have taken him out and we are cautiously approaching as we speak. 2fast4ne1 unfortunately did not make it as his rope snapped as he was nearing the top of the climb.” Responded Warmonger.

    “Blast our confounded luck.” Said Dogg. “Unfortunately casualties are to be expected.”

    “Okay sir, I’ll meet you at the kraal” said Warmonger, not worried about their conversation being overheard as their communications equipment was outfitted with 256 bit encryption and the possibility of someone decoding was pretty much non-existent.

    Repositioning himself on the ground, Warmonger surveyed the hill ahead for any infra-red signatures which would indicate the presence of any other troops. Finding none, he turned his scope towards where corporal Bullseye was taking up his position. Looking over at Untouchable, he could see that his attention was diverted. Taking a deep breath, Warmonger’s finger slowly eased the trigger down and another round was expelled from the chamber. Travelling slower than normal sniper rounds due to modifications made to his rifle, the bullet flew true and straight and entered Bullseys’s left ear. He never knew what hit him as his already lifeless body fell quietly to the ground. The rifle that Warmonger held had been modified so that it could be equipped with a silencer and to work properly the muzzle velocity had to be kept below 330m/sec, the speed of sound. No one would know what had just transpired, not even Untouchable who was just 30 metres from him.

    Without warning a cloud of green gas erupted from just in front of HardTarget as a chemical trooper jumped out from the foxhole that he had remained hidden within. HardTarget, unprepared, felt the tiberium gas enter his body as the toxins rapidly disintegrated his organs. WidowMaker, some 20 paces behind, fired at the trooper who immediately dropped dead. Just behind WidowMaker another chemical trooper emerged but he did not have enough time to fire as a shot from Immortal-1 quickly ended his life.

    WidowMaker, turning to see the troop fall dead behind him spoke into his microphone “Thanks, that was too close.” An explosion then rocked the night as 30 claymore mines, simultaneously exploded in the gulley. Not paying attention to where he was going, WidowMaker had stumbled on a trip wire and his body was shredded by thousands of pieces of glass and steel fragments.

    “Corporal Bullseye” said Warmonger into his microphone. “Meet me at the entrance, do you hear me?”

    No response was forthcoming from the lifeless body of Bullseye, as he knew none would be. “Bullseye, do you hear me?”

    “Captain” said Dogg over the headset, “What is going on.”

    “Sir, we are under attack, HardTarget and WidowMaker are down, and there is no response from Bullseye.” Said Warmonger.

    “Listen up Captain” said Dogg “I want you to ignore the north, head south and we will meet up at the bottom tip of the koppie.”

    “Yes, sir” said Warmonger.

    “Okay, you heard the commander, Untouchable and Immortal-1, let’s double time it out of here. Keep an eye on that hill.” Said Warmonger.

    It was just approaching 3:00 a.m. when Immortal-1 whispered into his mic, “Sir, left 300 meters, do you see him?”

    Zooming in on the hill, Warmonger could clearing see a man standing next to a tree urinating. “Take him out.”

    Kneeling in the grass, Immortal-1 brought up his rifle and fired at the figure by the baobab tree which dropped out of sight. Moving his scope to the right he made out another figure crouching in the grass, looking out to the south. Without thinking another shot rang out and that troop died.

    “Good job Immortal-1, good job.” Lets move it as we are almost at the intercept point with the commander who should be here in half an hour.

    “Sir!” shouted Butsludge running over to the rondavel where 1Ijac was still standing, staring at the gut wrenching site of Wizard17 mourning the loss of his son. “Sir!”

    Snapping out of his trance 1Ijac responded, “Yes, what is it?”

    “Your pager, you left it in the communications centre and it just went off.” Replied Butsludge.

    Taking the pager from Butsludge, 1Ijac saw the message: “3 Barks in the tunnel”. 1Ijac had a source within GDI known as “The Lion” who had been keeping him up to date with the movements of the GDI forces closing in on his position. The message, he knew, meant that Dogg will be in the tunnel at 3:00 a.m. and he would be prepared for it.

    At ten that evening 1Ijac sought out Spartan who, he was certain, would be found at the parade ground. A traditional part of the Zulu culture was once of drink and dance which was the main form of entertainment. Traditionally only young, unmarried men and women would participate in the dancing which generally revolved around a large bon-fire. Copious amounts of beer and food were consumed while melodious singing was heard. The men would dance around and bring their legs high up in the air and then bring them crashing down to the ground so that the entire area reverberated with the sound. Here at the Kraal, however, the singing and dancing was being undertaken by all. It was a night in which the fighting passion of these men was stirred and their pride fuelled.

    Zulu, which means people of heaven, are extremely proud of their heritage and their traditions. They are descended from the Nguni people, who lived in central or east Africa, a mystical land called Embo. The Nguni moved south sometime during the early 17th century, and a small group settled in the fertile valleys of Zululand. Malanela and Nozinja had two sons, the second was named Zulu which translated meant heaven. He was, by all accounts, a spirited and determined young man, and his marriage signalled the beginning of a new clan, with all their descendants proudly perpetuating the name of Zulu.

    Finding Spartan, 1Ijac approached him and said “Spartan, Dogg will be coming through the caves at three in the morning. I want you to take your APC, conceal yourself so you cannot be detected. I want Dogg brought back here, alive”

    “What about the rest?” Said Spartan.

    “Leave them, it will be good for our boys here to have a challenge. My intel report says that Dogg likes to lead the left flanks, taking him down should be easy.” Said 1Ijac.

    “How will I know who is Dogg?” Asked Spartan.

    “The Lion has taken care of that. A Radio Frequency Identification tag has been sewn into Dogg’s jacket. The RFID is a passive transponder that will emit a signal in the 2.5 GHz range when you bring this receiver within one kilometre of the tag.” Said 1Ijac as he handed Spartan the modified receiver.

    “Typically you can only read up to a few feet but my contact at Texas Instruments managed to get this prototype reader so do not lose it.” Continued 1Ijac.

    There was a series of caves and tunnels though the mountains which, if known, could take a person from one side to the other. A small entrance marked the beginning of this complex and it was here that Spartan was headed as he loaded up his troops and drove the APC out of the Kraal. About 400 metres north of the cave entrance was an outcropping that could easily conceal them from anyone coming out of the caves.

    Reaching the location at around eleven that evening, Spartan set about concealing the APC. The engine was shut off, camouflage was deployed over the vehicle and the DIRCM’s were double checked. Walking a couple of hundred metres to the north, he turned around and looked through his infra read goggles and could barely distinguish a red dot. Walking back to the APC Spartan saw one of his men smoking a cigarette.

    “You idiot, put that out. You should know by now that we do not smoke while deployed. Do you understand me?” Spartan was extremely agitated as small mistakes like this could easily cost him his life and he was not prepared to die, not yet.

    Apothecari was uneasy as she left her rondavel that night at eleven. Skirting the parade ground where the evening’s festivities were winding down, she headed towards the isikole where TheHardSkinnedRhino was still being held captive. After watching TheHardSkinnedRhino for the past year and feeling the unfamiliar stirrings of passion, Apothecari was glad that she had finally confided in someone. An enormous weight had been lifted off of her shoulders and she knew that what she was about to do was the right thing.

    Entering the isikole, Apothecari walked over to where the ropes were tied, releasing them, TheHardSkinnedRhino fell to the ground with a thud. Running over to where he lay, Apothecari felt for his pulse which was barely detectable.

    While trying to revive TheHardSkinnedRhino, the door to the isikole was thrown open and the booming voice of BullFrog805 said, “Who are you and what are you doing?”

    “Don’t be silly Bully, you know it’s me, Apothecari” she said, getting to her feet to face Bullfrog805.

    “What, do you take me for a fool? Apothecari is over a hundred and you are no older than 30 so do not play games with me.” Said Bullfrog805 as he removed his Yarborough knife from its sheath and took a step towards where Apothecari was standing.

    Being far too preoccupied with what she had to do, Apothecari had made a fatal mistake and had left her rondavel without initiating the change sequence from her nanobots. Instinct took over and the hesitation from Bullfrog allowed her that split second to make a decision. A knife hurtled through the air towards Bullfrog805 and buried itself to the hilt in Bullfrog805’s left lung, just above his heart.

    Clutching at the knife, his eyes wide with surprise and fear, Bullfrog805 collapsed to the ground and lay gurgling in his own blood, each breath a marathon as he felt his life slip away.

    Casually walking over to Bullfrog805, Apothecari said, “Didn’t your mother teach you not to play with knives. Live by the sword, die by the sword you foolish boy.” Grabbing the knife, she exerted all her force behind it as she twisted it into Bullfrog805’s heart and his eyes clouded over with the onset of death.

    Kneeling once again at TheHardSkinnedRhino’s side Apothecari lifted his head gently off of the floor and opened his mouth, tipping her flask of water she let a few drops fall on his upturned lips.

    “Come on, come on, I know you can do it. Your body is weak and you need to drink to get your strength back.” Putting her flask down, Apothecari moved around to his head and placed it in her lap. Tenderly she wipes away the hair that had, at one point, been drenched in sweat. Now being dehydrated, it had dried and stuck against his skull. Like a mother tending a sick child, she cajoles TheHardSkinnedRhino, trying to get him to start drinking.

    “Please, please let it not be too late.” Said Apothecari silently in prayer.

    After about 30 minutes TheHardSkinnedRhino’s eyes flutter, fighting against the glue of sleep that had fused them together, fighting a feeling of nausea that started to rise from his bowels, fighting against the demons that had inhabited his fever driven sleep. Finally, all vestiges of sleep are eradicated and he blinks once, twice and sees the face of the most beautiful woman he has ever seen looking down on him with such tenderness, such compassion that, for a moment, he thought he had died and gone to heaven.

    “I,” Was all that TheHardSkinnedRhino succeeded in saying as his throat, constricted in retaliation against the dryness.

    “Shhh, don’t try to talk.” Whispered Apothecari. “Here, take this and drink, slowly.”

    Reaching for the flask being offered, TheHardSkinnedRhino pressed it against his dry, chapped lips and began to drink the life giving water that it contained. Slowly at first and then with increased urgency as his body hungrily devoured the water, TheHardSkinnedRhino began to gulp it down.

    Grabbing his arm, Apothecari said, “No, you must drink slowly, resist the urge. Your body will not be able to handle too much.”

    Another fifteen minutes passed before TheHardSkinnedRhino is finally able to get his legs to respond. Struggling against the excruciating pain he fell backwards, only to be caught by Apothecari who was looking on with concern. Leaning into him now, Apothecari gave TheHardSkinnedRhino some much needed support.

    Felling his head spinning, TheHardSkinnedRhino looked at Apothecari and said, “Who are you?”

    “It is a long story my friend.” Began Apothecari, “But I am none other than Apothecari. Do you remember anything?”

    A look of utter disbelief and bewilderment came into TheHardSkinnedRhino’s eyes and he asked, “Apothecari, how, when? The last thing that I remember is playing poker with 1Ijac and then waking up here.” The confusion that he felt was like being trapped inside a giant spider’s web and the more he struggled for understanding, the tighter the web pulled until his head began to throb against the probing.

    “Here, eat this.” Said Apothecari handing him some bread. “1Ijac knows that you are a spy, a lot has happened and we need to get out of here, now.”

    Taking a step forward, TheHardSkinnedRhino’s legs failed to interpret the signal and they both fell on the floor with Apothecari landing on top of TheHardSkinnedRhino. Feeling Apothecari’s sweet breath on his face, TheHardSkinnedRhino looked into the large pools of her eyes which were only a few inches away.

    Fighting against the urge to press her lips against his, Apothecari gingerly rose to her feet and helped TheHardSkinnedRhino to his feet again. The unspoken words were clearly understood by both as a bond had been formed and something incredible transpired between them, no words were necessary to describe the fluttering of butterflies that each felt in their stomach.

    “Rhino, I need you. We have to get Serenity, do you remember her?” Asked Apothecari.

    “Yes, I do remember that.” Replied TheHardSkinnedRhino.

    After 10 painstaking minutes had passed they were at the door of the isikole as each step had become easier to take and TheHardSkinnedRhino felt the strength begin to flow back into his body. Cautiously opening the door, Apothecari looked out and seeing no one around, she quickly ushered TheHardSkinnedRhinointo the darkness and headed away from the parade ground towards the rondavel that Serenity was being held captive in which was in the north west area of the kraal.

    Seeing a guard at the door, Apothecari said, “I will distract him, will you be able to sneak in behind and take care of him?”

    “Yes, I think I will be okay. My strength is almost back to full.”

    “Okay, go and follow my lead” finished Apothecari as she walked towards the front of the rondavel.

    “Stop, who are you?” said Ndebe brandishing his gun towards Apothecari as she approached.

    “Don’t mind me big fella, 1Ijac sent me to keep you company.” Replied Apothecari.

    Looking at this beautiful woman approaching, Ndebe lowered his gun and his broad smile showed his obvious pleasure. His brown features were barely distinguishable in the night and as he took a step towards Apothecari, TheHardSkinnedRhino approached from behind and in one fluid motion snapped his neck.

    Together they lowered him onto the stool that was by the door to make it look like he was sitting calming keeping guard.

    Glancing around to make sure that they had not been heard, Apothecari removed the beam that was holding the door closed and they entered the rondavel only to be greeted by a stench so repugnant that Apothecari felt herself begin to vomit. The overpowering stench of human excrement was unbelievable and in the far corner a dishevelled figure cowered in fear.

    “Please, no more, please.” Begged Serenity as she saw the outlines of the two figures enter her prison. “Please, no more.” As she began to violently sob in fear.

    “Quiet.’ Demand Apothecari and immediately Serenity complied as the sobbing died away.

    “We are here to help we need to get you out of here. Can you walk on your own?” Asked Apothecari.

    “Yes, yes I can.” Responded Serenity.

    Anxious to get going and worried about the troops that came under attack with Captain Warmonger, Commander Dogg began walking around the campsite. If it were up to him, they would of already moved out but sticking to a predetermined timetable was of paramount importance and could be the difference between life and death. Glancing down at the sleeping troops, Dogg viewed them as a father might view his children, with compassion and care. Not wanting to use the word love to explain his feelings about other men, Dogg thought of it rationally as more of a duty than anything else. Some of these men had families to return to, children to care for and lives that meant a great deal to someone else, whether that be wife, parents, children, family or even friends. It was his duty to care for these men and to ensure that they would be returned to their loved ones.

    A whisper, barely audible, reached Dogg’s ears and for a moment he thought that it was his imagination but there it was again. An unmistakable whisper of someone in deep conversation was coming from the right corner of the sanctuary. Stealthily creeping forward, Dogg advanced towards the source of the whisper, careful to not disturb anything that might warn the person of his approach.

    Lowering himself on his belly Dogg crawled the last few metres until he was within earshot of the conversation. He couldn’t make out who it was as his back was towards him but he did understand, finally, what was going on.

    “Yes, we are still on track.” The man said.

    After a brief pause, “No, Dogg does not suspect a thing.”

    Another pause, longer this time and then, “I am sorry, I was ordered to do it and failure to do so would have tipped them off.”

    By this time Dogg was visibly upset and his anger welled up inside him and rage built to the point of eruption, as he knew that the spy in his camp was here, right in front of him. Knowing that he could not say anything until the conversation was ended, Dogg exercised considerable restraint as he fought to remain calm while the conversation continued.

    “Yes, I will distract them when we out of the tunnel and join up with Spartan, Lion out.” With that remark the man in front of him removed an earpiece and lowered what looked like a small walkie-talkie to the ground and covered it with some branches. Standing up, he turned around and by the light of the moon Dogg could clearly see that it was Invisiblesniper.

    Rising up from his position of concealment, Dogg faced Invisiblesniper and said, “So, explain this!”

    Caught completely off-guard, Invisiblesniper did not know how to respond so he simply said, “Explain what sir?”

    “Do not dare be coy with me, I overheard enough to know that you were communicating with the enemy, now explain yourself.” Dogg said with his voice rising.

    With the sudden loud conversation between Dogg and Invisiblesniper, several of the men started to rise from their sleep.

    With a hasty movement Invisiblesniper brought up his rifle but being ready, Dogg’s own rifle butt came crashing down with brutal force snapping Invisiblesniper’s right wrist and his rifle fell harmlessly to the ground.

    Crying out in pain, Invisiblesniper clutched his right arm and held it to his chest, his face ashen and tears streaming down his cheeks.

    With his rifle trained on Invisiblesniper, Dogg ordered the men now gathered to strip Invisiblesniper down to his underwear so that they could search for any other devices. Speaking into his microphone, Dogg said, “Suicidal, are you receiving me?”

    “Yes sir.” Came back the voice of Suicidal from Washington.

    “Get SmokinFury and General CplBrian on a conference call immediately and patch them through to me, we have a situation here.”

    “Will do, give me a minute and they should be ready.” Suicidal said.

    “Sir, we found this pager in Invisiblesniper’s pocket.” One of his men said as he handed a Motorola iridium pager to Dogg.

    At that moment the voice of SmokinFury came over his headset, “What’s going on Commander.”

    “Well sir, I would like to wait for the general to come on line before I inform you of our situation.” Dogg replied.

    “Go ahead Commander,” General Cplbrian said, “I am already here waiting to hear of the situation.”

    “Invisiblesniper is the traitor. I heard him in deep conversation with the enemy with a walkie-talkie that had been stashed here. We also found the pager that was used to communicate the earlier message. What should I do with him as we cannot afford to have the operation jeopardised by taking him along?” Dogg Finished.

    “Commander,” began General Cplbrian, “He is the enemy and should be treated as a POW, in spite of personal feelings. What I would suggest is that you tie him up and leave him at your current location. After the mission has been completed, retrieve him and bring him back her for interrogation.”

    “I agree with the General.” SmokinFury said.

    “Yes sirs, I’ll report back in once we have rescued Serenity.” And with that the connection was terminated as Dogg turned towards his men, “Get everyone up, we move out now but stay alert as the operation has been compromised.”

    Invisiblesniper was tied up and left by the opening of the sanctuary and being the last man to leave the cave opening Dogg leaned in towards Invisiblesniper and whispered, “I hate traitors, you will not return.” With that he thrust his knife directly into Invisiblesniper’s heart and calmly walked out behind his men.

    A few minutes later, Command Dogg and the remaining troops were at the entrance to the cave system.

    “Okay men, we have all seen the photographs and we have the map drawn by our man inside the organisation so the route through these mountains should be fairly easy. Do not, under any circumstances, lose sight of the man in front of you. We should be on the other side well within half an hour and once there, radio communication should be terminated and we will proceed after forming up.”

    With that brief conversation Dogg took the lead and ducked down into the narrow opening that marked the beginning of the tunnels through the mountain. Immediately, after entering the tunnel the stench of guano and stale air assaulted his nose. Guano, he knew, was the fecal matter of bats and was highly sought after for use as a perfect natural fertilizer. There is even talk about the use of guano for anti-coagulants which may one day be used for human heart patients. To keep light down to a minimum Dogg broke a cyalume light stick. He was always amazed at how the light sticks worked and from what Warmonger had told him, the light stick contained two chemicals and a dye. The chemicals typically used are hydrogen peroxide and phenyl oxalate ester. A glass vial inside the plastic tubing of a light stick keeps these chemicals separate. It is only when the chemical light stick is bent and the glass vial inside breaks, releasing its chemical contents into the plastic tube, that the chemicals mix and produce light. The colour of the light is dependant on the dye and in this case 9,10-diphenylanthracene was used to give off a blue light. By its dim light he could read the map and still be able to use the night vision goggles that they wore.

    After numerous twists and turns, splashing through water that was waste deep in some areas and fighting off rats that he swore were the size of cats, Dogg and his men emerged on the other side of the mountains in 45 minutes. Slower than planned for but expected considering the circumstances. It was now 3:45 a.m. and Dogg used hand signals to get his men into formation. Taking the left flank, they started to move out heading in an east, northeast direction, expecting to join up with Captain Warmonger within 10 minutes.

    Looking at the receiver, Spartan was immensely pleased to see that it was working as planned. A strong signal indicated that Dogg was only 200 metres from his current position. Sighting his rifle that had been equipped with a night vision scope Spartan could make out the bodies of about 30 or so men that were beginning to form up. Centering on the figure closest to him, he pulled the trigger and the man dropped as the tranquilizer dart found its target and the ketamine mixture took immediate effect.

    Waiting a couple of minutes to give the men time to get well past them, Spartan started the APC and saw 31 dots highlighted on his infrared radar screen. Almost immediately all but one faded out. Putting the APC into gear Spartan headed for the dot that had been the closest. As he drove right next to the body, two of his men opened the door and scooped the body from the ground. Racing back across the open veld, Spartan headed for the kraal where he knew 1Ijac would be waiting.

    “Commander!” called Warmonger into his microphone. “Commander!”

    Having been hidden under their infrared blankets for the past half hour, Warmonger, Immortal-1 and Untouchable had witnessed the scene unfolding before them about 700 metres to the south west of their position. Warmonger, knowing that Dogg always walked the left flank, was fairly positive that it was he who was just taken by the NOD troops in the APC. Having seen the APC race off across the veld in the direction of the Kraal, Warmonger had his doubts about the fate of some of the men who had immediately taken cover under their blankets when the APC’s engines roared to life. With the image of Bhaley, still clearly imprinted in his mind, he had no desire to see another massacre, especially one of such a terrible nature.

    Speaking into his microphone Warmonger said, “Okay men, stay where you are and scan, search for any and all heat signatures. Do not move until it has been verified that we are in the clear.”

    “Sir,” Immortal-1 said, “800 metres straight ahead and to the left.”

    Swivelling around to face the direction from which they had come, Warmonger zoomed in, scanned left and saw nothing and then started a slow scan of the hill top. Barely perceptible was the unmistakable signature being registered. If it had not been for the HRM module built into a few of the AN/PVS-7 night vision goggles, the signature could easily have been mistaken for wildlife. Thankful for the incredible work that Suicidal had done over the past few years to get their prototypes up and running, Warmonger sighted his rifle and took careful aim. With his index finger gently applying pressure on the trigger, he felt the recoil of his rifle but instinctively knew that he had missed his mark. His modified rifle was not very useful over distances like this.

    “Immortal-1, Untouchable on the double move out and get that guy. The rest of you, stay put. I do not want to lose any more men tonight.” Warmonger said.

    1Ijac, having been in far too many battles and hostile encounters in his life time had never gotten used to the incredible surge of adrenaline that he felt coursing through his body just before the fighting began. Some men slept soundly but not 1Ijac. He was nervously pacing the kraal but that nervousness was, in no way, indicative of his being afraid. That he was not. Worried, maybe but definitely not afraid. The only thing that had ever scared 1Ijac was the thought of losing his identity, of losing he independence. That, in part, had largely contributed to his going rogue so many years ago. His nervousness was a side effect of the energy that he felt and he did not want to leave before Dogg had been brought to him. He had a personal score to settle with the infamous Commander Dogg that dated back to their high school days. It dated back to a time when he and Dogg were once friends and the unfortunate incident that terminated that friendship.

    Just before 4:00 a.m. that morning his reflection on the past was interrupted by the sound of Spartan’s approaching APC that pulled up in front of the isikole. By the time 1Ijac had reached the isikole Spartan had already clambered out and was helping to lift out the body that he hoped was commander Dogg.

    Looking down upon the face of the drugged man, 1Ijac smile gleefully as he realized that Spartan did not let him down and neither did The Lion. Some time ago, he and Invisiblesniper had been doing a counter insurgence into what was South West Africa. South Africa had occupied the German colony of Sud-West Afrika during World War I and administered it as a mandate until after World War II when it annexed the territory. In 1966 the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) launched a war of independence for the area that was soon named Namibia and in 1988 South Africa ended its administration of the region. Independence came in 1990. They had stumbled, quite by mistake, into a lion and Invisiblesniper had killed it with his bare hands after his rifle had jammed, thus earning him the nickname of The Lion. Having become good friends, Invisiblesniper had been invaluable in providing information to help amass their fortune that was located in several accounts in the Caymans and in Switzerland.

    Like a kid in a candy store, eyeing out the latest candy cane in stock, 1Ijac addressed Spartan, “Get him strung up inside. It is time to play.”

    With 1Ijac laughing, Spartan opened the door to the isikole and stopped dead in his tracks. The interior was well lit and the body of Bullfrog805 lay sprawled just inside the entrance in a pool of blood.

    “Sir,” Spartan said calling to 1Ijac, “You had better come and see this.”

    Stepping inside the door, the laughter froze in 1Ijac’s throat as he saw his trusted lieutenant lying, dead, on the floor. There was no doubt, what so ever, about his being dead as there was far too much blood. Kneeling down at Bullfrog805’s side 1Ijac pulled apart the blood soaked shirt to revel a large wound, obviously through his heart. Glancing up and looking around he almost forgot that TheHardSkinnedRhino had been tied up and seeing that he was also missing caused his heart to miss a beat.

    Jumping to feet 1Ijac screamed, “Spartan, find TheHardSkinnedRhino, now. I want him found and killed. I want whoever killed Bullfrog805 to be dead. Do you hear me? Dead, no exception. Find that bastard now, now, now, now. And get Dogg Tied up where TheHardSkinnedRhino was.”

    Rushing to get Dogg tied to the rafters, Spartan wanted to be out of the way of 1Ijac because when he was mad, there was no telling what he would do. Rationality and reason failed to register and it was only a matter as to who would bear the awful brunt of his current rage.

    Leaving the isikole with three of his men, Spartan retrieved the body of Bullfrog805. He would be placed in his rondavel to wait for morning when they would cremate him. Glancing backwards he caught sight of the look in 1Ijac’s eye and knew that Dogg did not stand a chance. Closing the door quickly he instructed two of the men to stand guard.

    Corporal Sublimesk8music was angry, angry with Lieutenant Dhitman66 for correcting him in front of his men. Friends and family alike had often mocked him while growing up he because he was a stickler for detail. Every item had its place. In his office, pens and pencils were perfectly aligned, edge-to-edge. Pencils were always sharp and papers were perfectly stacked. If you happened to walk into his office, you would be hard pressed to know that anyone worked there, as the typical desk clutter just did not exist. Even his coffee cup had its spot on the top right corner of the desk, on a coaster. If a single drop of coffee happened to spill, it was immediately wiped up. Discarded paperwork was never in the garbage can as Sublimesk8music had a personal shredder. His in and out trays were so well organised that a total stranger would have no difficulty in figuring out what he was up to. At home he would not let his mother iron his clothes, as she never did get the creases to line up correctly. His t-shirts were perfectly square and his underwear folded and lined up. Shoes were always polished and his personal bathroom was so immaculate that you could eat off of the floor.

    A year ago, his mother had finally convinced him into that he belonged in the army. She had hopes that some of his idiosyncrasies could be eliminated. At 23, he was bright with an IQ of 140 at the last time of testing but what he had in intelligence, he lacked severely in social skills. This explained why he was only promoted to corporal and not to lieutenant like he thought he had deserved. Silently cursing his lieutenant, Sublimesk8music marched on, somewhat oblivious to his surroundings. Staring at the bright moon overhead, he had an epiphany of sorts. He would, when he returned home, leave the army as soon as possible. He would leave his home of 23 years and get away from his mother who, he was sure, had affected his life far too much. He would move far away from all family and try to make it on his own. Smiling now as if all of the world’s problems had been resolved in that single instant, he gazed ahead. Suddenly, the world went black as a loud explosion rocked the countryside.

    “Corporal are you okay?” Came the sound of one of his troops over his headphones.

    Realizing, in that instant that his attention had been diverted and that his night vision goggles had automatically cut out all light from the explosion, he snapped back, like a rubber band being released from its tension, to reality.

    “Down, down” He shouted into his microphone.

    Removing the goggles he looked ahead and saw a steak of flame followed immediately by another explosion, closer this time but still 200 metres off to the north. Knowing that if they stayed in their current position, the next shot would not miss.

    Immediately grabbing the 66mm anti-tank rocket launcher from his back, he sighted the laser on the position where he had seen the burst of flame. The M202A1 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) is a shoulder-fired rocket launcher with a 4-round clip and four tubes With the laser locked, Sublimesk8music depressed the trigger and the first armour-piercing rocket left tube 1 and fired straight and true. A plume of flame followed its trajectory until it impacted the tank.

    The incendiary Thickened Pyrotechnic Agent (TPA) rocket shell pierced through the tanks two inches of armour with relative ease and detonated inside. Sublimesk8music was glad that they had changed rockets at the last minute after he had insisted that he needed armour-piercing rockets capable of piercing up to twelve inches of armour. The sudden increase in pressure and heat simultaneously ignited the ammunition that had been haphazardly stored in the tank. Multiple explosions could be heard as the tank exploded, immediately killing the two men that had been inside.

    1Ijac stood, his eye boring into the lifeless form of Dogg who was hanging before him. Not wasting a moment, he removed a syringe from his jacket pocket and crudely thrust it into Dogg’s arm. The anti-serum took immediate effect and Dogg groggily awoke as he strained at his bonds.

    Staring into the scarred face of his captor, he took charge of the situation, trying not to show his fear. “So, my one-eyed friend, we finally meet again.”

    Without thought, hesitation or remorse 1Ijac punched at Dogg. The first blow connected just below the eye and split the skin so that blood began to seep down his cheek. The second connected in his solar plexus and knocked the wind from his lungs. Gasping for air as his lungs fought for control, Dogg felt his world turning upside down. The next brutal blow connected on the left side of his face and the salty, metallic taste of blood instantly filled his mouth. Two of his molars snapped with the force and he felt the pieces of his teeth shoot across his tongue as if they were balls in an arcade game trying to get down through the gates. Reflexively spitting his teeth out with a torrent of blood, Dogg tried to breath through the pain that seemed to emanate from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

    Blinking through the sweat and now Dogg’s blood that was spat into his face, 1Ijac stopped his onslaught and spoke for the first time. “Revenge is sweet, no?”

    “What are you talking about? What revenge?” Dogg said as he spat more blood out of his mouth.

    1Ijac lifted his arm and wiped the blood from his face with the sleeve of his jacket. With each passing second his rage was subsiding and he felt control returning. Wanting Dogg to suffer was something that he had often dreamed of and now, here he was, living that dream.

    “Do you remember Karen Chambers?” 1Ijac said.

    “Karen who?”

    “Karen Chambers, from our high school years.” 1Ijac replied.

    Trying to figure out what 1Ijac was rambling on about Dogg said, “No, I can’t say that I do and what, pray tell, does that have to do with the price of eggs in Singapore?”

    This time Dogg did not even see the blow that connected with his nose. Involuntarily shrieking out in pain, he immediately regretted his feeble attempt at witticism. Having been involved in many brawls over the years and having his nose broken at least 6 times, his nose seemed impervious to the assault to which it was subjected and did not break.

    “Honestly, I do not remember that name.” Dogg, almost inaudibly, muttered.

    “Karen was the girl that I was in love with, we went to our prom together and we would have been married if it were not for you. Do you at least have the decency to remember the night of our prom?” 1Ijac asked.

    Dogg’s head jerked backwards and his eyes flew open, as he immediately knew what 1Ijac was referring to. So many years ago, he and 1Ijac had been high school chums, almost inseparable. They had been on the football team together and there was even talk about 1Ijac being signed up for the NFL, possibly even Dogg. He had been the quarterback and Dogg had been the receiver and together they had scored many touchdowns helping their team to be state champions 3 years in a row.

    On the night of the prom Dogg had a little too much to drink and had seduced Karen, who may as well of been engaged to 1Ijac. The two of them had gone behind the rafters where 1Ijac found them 2 hours later. Not a word had been said, from that moment on until today.

    “Ah, I see you remember.” Said 1Ijac as he took a step back.

    Dogg, flinching, closed his eyes as he expected another barrage of fists to further humiliate him. When no blow was forthcoming, he opened his eyes to see 1Ijac standing there with a knife in his hand and a cruel grin on his face. “What, you are going to kill me over something that happened so many years ago? For goodness sakes man, we were kids, get over it.”

    “We may have been kids, but after that night I never spoke to Karen again, I never pursued my dream of becoming a football star and I lost interest in life. Your ignorant stupidity and selfishness did more damage than you will ever realize.” Catching his breath, 1Ijac continued, “Did you not think that sleeping with someone else’s girlfriend would have ramifications? Did you not, even for a moment consider the feelings of other people or did you just plain and simple, not think?”

    “She was just another girl, there was nothing to it.”

    “Exactly,” 1Ijac said, “To you she was just another girl, to me…Well to me she was my life. She meant so much to me and you destroyed that for what, a brief night of sex?”

    Dogg said nothing further as 1Ijac walked up to him and grabbed his shirt as he lifted the knife, above his head.

    GDI

    • Thor = President of the US. Friend to SmokinFury. Had ordered Captain Kleptomaniac to interrogate 1Ijac. God Father to Serenity.
    • SmokinFury = Head of RenBattle, world’s largest supplier of military hardware. Serenity’s father. Tortured 1Ijac 15 years ago as a corporal under Captain Kleptomaniac and removed his right eye with a yellow paperclip.
    • CplBrian = General. Serenity’s husband.
    • Dogg = Commander of GDI forces. Affair with Serenity
    • Warmonger = Captain. 2nd in command of GDI forces. Engaged to Jaybird. Attacking 1Ijac from the north with Rogue Team.
    • Dhitman66 = Lieutenant. Attacking 1Ijac from the south.
    • Serenity = Daughter of SmokinFury. Wife to General CplBrian. Affair with Dogg. Kidnapped by 1Ijac.
    • Jaybird = CplBrian’s secretary. Fiance to Warmonger.
    • ToxicAvenger = Director of CIA. Good friend to President Thor.
    • Kleptomaniac = Captain. Ordered by Thor to torture 1Ijac 15 years ago.
    • Rusty05 = Works for SmokinFury as a spy within the GDI forces.
    • TheHardSkinnedRhino = Spy in 1Ijac’s camp. Works for General CplBrian. Tortured by 1Ijac.
    • Apothecari = Witchdoctor. Deep undercover in NOD camp and has been for 11 years. Uses nanobots to age her appearance by 70 years.
    • Almo57 = Designed EVA satellite.
    • Suicidal = Works for Almo57. Added HRM to EVA.
    • Sealycamp = Employed by CIA for 35 years. Located in Zambia.
    • Locoboy72 = Eaten by a crocodile.
    • InvisibleSniper = Sniper. Killed Wheels.
    • Bhaley/Source = Run over and killed by Spartan’s APC.
    • Bullseye = Corporal. Leader of Rogue Team.
    • 2fast4ne1 = Member of Rogue Team.
    • HardTarget = Member of Rogue Team.
    • Immortal-1 = Member of Rogue Team.
    • WidowMaker = Member of Rogue Team.
    • Untouchable = Member of Rogue Team.
    • NOD

    • 1Ijac = Leader of the Liberators a.k.a. NOD. Once a navy seal, now a mercenary. Wants revenge on SmokinFury for taking his eye.
    • Bullfrog805 = Lieutenant. Right hand man to 1Ijac. Brother to Kamikaze. Half brother to Sphinx4545. Saved Apothecari from crocodile. Expert at knives. Kidnapped Serenity.
    • Kamikaze = Brother to Bullfrog805. Half brother to Spinx4545. Rides recon bikes.
    • Evilsage = Master of munitions. Expert at bush warfare.
    • Wheels = Married Essaya1. Hated by Bullfrog805. Rides recon bikes. Shot by InvisibleSniper.
    • Essaya1 = Married to Wheels but forced to. Previously engaged to Bullfrog805.
    • Pedro Pickles = Rides recon bikes.
    • Lugia33 = Rides recon bikes. Killed by a lion
    • DragonofHell = Married to 1Ijac’s sister. Blood brother to 1Ijac. Having an affair with 1ijac’s wife. Framed by TheHardSkinnedRhino for being a spy and killed by a cheetah.
    • Butsludge = Computer genius.
    • Spartan = APC driver.
    • Sphinx4545 = Halfbrother to Bullfrog805 and Kamikaze. Beat Bullfrog805 in a fight and saved his life.
    • G_O_GRA = Sells tickets to sports event. Friend to Bullfrog805. Kidnapped Serenity.
    • Jinkins = Kidnapped Serenity
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