“Give me just enough information so that I can lie convincingly.” Stephen King
The world was screaming—and it was oh so satisfying.
The broken, sickly wind fought with the raging fire that crept its way over the scorched land. The heady aroma of death slithered through the fragmented seams of reality.
One could say that such a horrific sight would stain the soul with so much fear that it would shrivel and curl in on itself, but the warzone only made his soul swell with pride and amusement.
Hefting his gun over his shoulder, a deep breath escaped him. The sound of the weak and defenseless men merely calling themselves soldiers improved his mood by a thousand fold. Whoever had trained these fools had clearly had no experience in military protocol, training, or tactics. You were supposed to break them first, down to nothing but a withered, hopeless, and weak shell of a man, and then you rebuilt them from scratch, crafting them into the cruel and heartless war machines they were supposed to be…an instrument and servant merely waiting for the command to tear into enemies and leave nothing behind.
A smirk appeared on his face. His foot connected with a wounded man on the ground, planting itself firmly against his chest, hearing and feeling his rattling and hoarse bloodstained breaths. The man had been shot repeatedly in the chest and side, yet none of the poisoned bullets had pierced his heart. Large pieces of shrapnel had embedded themselves into the skin, sinking deep and slicing through main circulatory veins. Locked in a battle filled with eternal yet brief suffering and torment, the insides would merely shrivel and die from lack of blood flow. Large, bloodshot blue eyes stared up at him, pleading for some kind of assistance, knowing it would be futile but having some kind of godforsaken, damned hope anyway.
This man would not even make it if he tried.
The heavy military boot pressed down. With a sickening crunch, bones were crushed mercilessly. Blood poured from the agape mouth and wounds, so hot it could be felt through the thick leather. The man’s eyes rolled back and in a matter of moments, he was gone.
With a satisfied grunt, the killer wiped the sole of his shoe on the charred ground. Footsteps crunching through the scorched bodies and land, he made his way over to the large transport vehicles that served as part of his escort.
A man stood to order the surrounding men with a deep, powerful voice, standing with his feet planted wide in the traditional military stance. The fading sun illuminated the horror-stricken land, revealing the man’s face. Beady black eyes gleamed almost impishly through the shadows cloaking his face. Thin, cracked lips were set in a scowl that was so deep it seemed to be etched into his face. Crow’s feet were patterned around the tiny eyes, making them seem even smaller. The irritated disposition of the man did not change as the killer approached him.
“Ah, Valentino!” the man grunted in a thick Spanish accent. “We have what we came for. The trucks are full and ready for transport. All of the commodities are prepped and ready.”
Valentino smirked coldly. “Are they, now?” With a movement so swift it was as if he had not changed positions at all, he had the smaller man pinned to the nearest truck with a dull thud.
“What are you doing?” the other demanded, struggling to escape and failing rather miserably.
Valentino sneered. “‘All of the commodities prepped and ready’?” With a vicious tug, he tore the other’s shirt open, revealing a military-grade gun strapped haphazardly—as if it were secured in a hurry—in a holster.
Recognizing the larger man’s rapidly darkening mood, the smaller man spluttered and scrambled for words he knew would please the other in some sort of way. “I-It was only a small taking, s-sir. Y-You remember what happened to my own weapon, d-don’t you?”
Valentino narrowed his eyes. “That was a result of your dimwitted foolishness. I know and understand your greed, Esperanzo. But what I do not understand,” he continued, increasing the pressure on the other’s throat, “Is why you thought it okay to steal from me.”
Esperanzo gasped, trembling in the iron grip securing him. “W-Would I not be more valuable to you with a weapon, able to defend myself, than without? W-What good is a lieutenant if he is not armed and ready for battle?”
The taller man sighed, rolling his dark eyes. “You were never ‘ready for battle’, my dear Esperanzo. You were only ready to usurp me by any means necessary, including assassination.”
The Hispanic man shook his head frantically. “No, no, of course not; I am ready to defend you. You are the best leader among us. You have had the most military and leadership experience, and no one would dare be a fool to challenge you.”
Valentino’s cold gaze fixed on other, piercing him to his very core. “You are lucky I need you…for the moment.” Abruptly pulling back, the man released the other and left, leaving him staring.
“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” Stephen King
When we arrived at the post, unadulterated horror greeted us with a dark grin. It waved in the wind, as content as a child receiving sweets of some sort.
A snarl tore from my chest and I inadvertently increased my pain. Holding back my rage I scanned the area. There seemed to be no survivors, but…there…that faint and broken breath.
“Over there,” I hissed to Aiath, nodding in the direction of the sound. He nodded, shifting his weight to better carry me, and followed my direction.
Sviatoslav, one of the men who had immigrated to the United States with me after I had left Russia, sat leaning heavily against the jagged remnants of a wooden post. He was holding a hand over a wound in his stomach, dark fluids pouring out from beneath it. His breaths were ragged and his eyes were dim with the light of the near-dead. He seemed to be staring into space and did not notice our arrival.
“Put me down,” I ordered Aiath, who somehow found it in him to not protest. I forced all vertigo and fatigue away and approached the former Russian soldier.
“Sviatoslav.” I spoke quietly and my throat was dry, making my voice cracked and hoarse.
The once vibrant icy gray eyes shifted, landing on me. In an instant, they widened and he tried to move futilely.
“No, stay where you are.” Even in my weakened state, and even though Sviatoslav had been a higher ranking official than me when I had first arrived in his hometown, something in my tone made him automatically stop. “Tell me what happened.” My ice-cold hand trailed over his heated one; I was uncaring of the thick blood streaming over my own.
Full, cracked lips moved, yet no audible words escaped that horrid cavern of a mouth. But then I realized that he was speaking and was not able to do so any louder.
“Ambush…” A cough rattled throughout his beaten chest and beads of blood streamed from the corner of his mouth.
Rage bristled within me, its sharp hackles raised. “Who?” I gently shook his uninjured shoulder. “Sviatoslav, who did it?”
The man shuddered, moaning in pain. “Spasateli…led by…Valentino.” He gasped, broken chest heaving and the charred skin crackling. “Took…everything. Gone. Be…careful…” Before I could get another word out of him, his body went limp.
Baring my teeth at his corpse, I rose, my sickness put on hold so my full fury could be released like a god waiting to unleash its wrath upon the disrespectful and ungrateful beings beneath it. Aiath was there immediately, and he made to help me, but one dark look from me ceased all of his efforts. I moved past him to glare at the war zone, taking in any and all details that would help me identify the murderers. I recognized even more of my soldiers—Jake, Avalon, Maria, Nikita, Korra, Yuri, Ruslav and his brother Ruslan—and it made my wrath fester and boil.
Aiath was awaiting orders.
With a deep sigh, I came to my decision.
“Put him out of his misery.”
The roar of his rifle echoed in my ears.
I will have my revenge.