Battle of the Hangar
At 4:00 am in Argentina, the newly promoted Captain entered General Gulez’s office. The General stood looking out of the broken window. “Are my troops gathered, Captain?” he asked; his tone as cold as the brisk icy wind that blew down from the mountains that morning.
“Yes, sir,” the Captain replied promptly. “Everything’s ready and awaiting your orders.”
Gulez gazed hatefully out the window. “Morrison and his terrorist friends will rue the day they crossed me,” he hissed. “They’ll wish they’d never been born before I’m done with them.”
Just then, a private burst in the office with a folder in his hand. “General,” the private said urgently as he approached the desk, flashing a salute. “A message just came over the wire.”
Gulez wheeled around and snarled, “I told you not to come in here unless it was important!”
“But it is, sir. It has the highest priority level on it with instructions that it’s for your eyes only,” the private replied, shaking with fear has he handed the paper to Gulez.
Gulez snatched the folder out of the private’s hands. “Did you read it?” he asked frigidly.
“No, sir,” the private replied. “I know better than to read such a message that’s for your eyes only. See for yourself. The seal on the folder is not broken. All I did was bring it here to you from your intelligence chief.”
“It’s a good thing this seal isn’t broken,” Gulez snapped as he broke the seal on the folder. “Now get out of here, maggot!” The private fled the room in relief as Gulez looked at the communiqué. His face twisted in rage as he read it. Crumpling and throwing message on the desk, he cursed and blasphemed. “So these fucking foreigners want to play with me, do they,” he snarled. “I’ll make them wish they had never heard of General Ramone Garcia Gulez! I don’t care if this Beowulf is the most wanted and capable assassin ever to live. He’ll not escape my wrath! I’ll have all their heads on my wall! They’ll not interfere with my ambitions any longer! Captain…We have an execution to perform. Let’s go!”
“Yes, sir!” the Captain said, fleeing before the General as he stormed out of the office.
Down in the motor pool, sixty soldiers stood around waiting for their orders. They were segregated into groups of five and six as they talked amongst themselves, mainly about how much they hated the General. The Captain ran into the motor pool and shouted, “Attention!”
The soldiers immediately snapped to attention, standing in formation as General Gulez stormed into the motor pool. “Why aren’t I moving, Captain!” he barked.
“You heard the General! Fall in and move out! To the airfield!” the Captain barked. The soldiers immediately piled into their heavily armed jeeps.
“Thomas! I want you in front,” the Captain ordered as the jeeps fired up.
“Yes, sir,” Thomas replied stiffly.
The convoy of nine jeeps moved out with Thomas’ jeep in the lead. The General’s jeep, driven by the Captain, remained two jeeps back from Thomas’ jeep and five more jeeps followed. All the jeeps except for the General’s jeep were filled with men and equipment. Only the Captain and the General rode in the General’s jeep. They raced out of the town headed toward the airfield as dawn began to break over the horizon.
Meanwhile, Morrison made his way back to the hangar from the ambush site where he first met Hannibal and Harry. He reached the hidden truck and was in the process of concealing it better when he heard a rustle in the trees above him. A slight breeze blew through the trees as he looked around. When he did not see anything, he continued to hide the truck before pulling Peter’s body out of the back seat and closing the door. As he positioned himself to carry the body in a firefighter’s carry, he heard the rustle again. This time much louder and nearer, coming from the nearby bushes behind him. He slung Peter over his shoulder and turned around. Selina appeared out of nowhere in front of him and pushed him back up against the truck. “What do you think you’re doing? Why’re you outside the perimeter? And don’t lie to me because I’ll know if you do,” she demanded with her clawed hand around his neck. She extended her claws just enough so Morrison could feel them digging into his neck. “I knew you were up to something last night when you asked how to get in and out of the perimeter,” she growled, searching his pockets and finding the remote for the perimeter.
“I was just setting up an early warning,” Morrison replied cautiously, sweat beading on his forehead as his expression gave away his fear. “I set another trap that would disable their vehicles, and then covered our tracks this way. I was trying to buy us some more time so we wouldn’t get caught with our pants down.”
Satisfied with his answer, Selina relaxed her grip. “I’m sorry I doubted you,” she apologized. “I thought you were up to no good.”
“Well in a way I was, but not for us,” Morrison replied with obvious relief. “I thought I’d bring Peter back to the camp so we could bury him since I was already here.” Just then, as the sun rose, a series of explosions echoed through the woods from the direction of the town. “Right on time,” Morrison said with vindication. “That would be General Gulez coming to kill us.”
“Come on,” Selina urged and they raced through the woods back to the hangar. As they darted through the underbrush, she asked, “What kind of trap did you set?”
“I scattered more mines all over that field and road where I ambushed the convoy the other day. If we’re very lucky, it’ll have killed the General,” Morrison answered as they approached the perimeter. Selina deactivated it with the remote she’d taken from Morrison and they rushed through the perimeter. Once through, Selina reactivated the guns. As they ran to the hangar, everyone poured out onto the airfield through the office doors.
“What’re you doing?” Harry asked pointedly when he saw Morrison with Peter’s body slung over his shoulder.
“Buying us some time,” Selina answered as Morrison took Peter’s body in the hangar and deposited him in the first office next to the exit. A couple more explosions rumbled, echoing across the airfield. “He set a trap down the road with some mines where he first encountered you and Hannibal. If we’re lucky, they’ll have to approach by foot,” she informed.
Morrison re-emerged from the hangar offices and Hannibal asked him, “Is this true? Did you go out of the perimeter to set a trap?”
“Yes, it is,” Morrison admitted. “I went out with a pack full of mines from the bunker and set a trap before dawn, hoping that it would slow him down. I also covered our tracks and hid the truck better as an added precaution.”
Hannibal’s face flushed in anger and he grabbed Morrison by the shirt, pushing him roughly against the wall of the hangar. “You idiot,” he snapped, “didn’t I tell you not to go out without telling me? You put us all at risk by doing that on your own!” He let go and turned his back to Morrison, swearing under his breath trying to calm down.
“I’m sorry, Hannibal. It won’t happen again. I swear it,” Morrison said as he rubbed his neck where Selina had grabbed him.
“You’re very lucky that I’m a forgiving man now. Twenty-seven years ago I would have killed you on the spot for such disobedience,” Hannibal snarled, glaring at Morrison. “Where’d you find him, Selina?”
“He was camouflaging the truck and retrieving Arabella’s friend,” Selina reported. “He didn’t lie to me when I asked him what he was doing. It was in our best interest.”
“Johnny didn’t mean to get out of line,” Arabella called out in Morrison’s defense. “I’ve known him for years. He has always been honest with me and always looked out for us. I trust him with my life.”
Morrison smiled at Arabella, feeling a small bit of vindication. “I promise you. I had the best of intentions,” he said humbly.
Another explosion echoed from the woods. “All right,” Hannibal said, softening his countenance. “No harm done. Just next time, let us in on it. We could’ve helped. We’re a family here. We have to stick together in this.”
Hannibal extended his hand and Morrison took it, shaking it firmly. “Deal,” Morrison replied.
“How much time do you think you’ve bought us?” Hannibal asked as Nathanael hovered behind him.
“I don’t know. Maybe an hour or two,” Morrison answered. “We won’t have much time once Gulez finds his way through the mine field.”
“All right…in that case, we must be ready. Battle stations, people,” Hannibal ordered as another explosion rumbled from the woods. They all went back into the hangar to get ready.
While Hannibal and his team prepared for the imminent attack, six of the nine jeeps, including the General’s jeep lay burning wrecks in the meadow where Morrison ambushed the convoy a couple of days earlier. The first six jeeps had struck land mines. Ten soldiers, including the Captain, lay dead…burned and mangled in the explosions that wounded fifteen more, some seriously. When the General’s jeep hit the mine, the explosion killed the Captain instantly and flung Gulez from the jeep like a rag doll, burning and briefly stunning him. Thomas likewise was thrown likewise when his jeep ran over the first mine. He took some shrapnel in the leg, which did not do much damage. It only grazed his leg and didn’t embed in his flesh; however, he did receive some mild to moderate burns from the explosion. The last three jeeps became disabled from the shrapnel flung by the exploding mines; pieces of metal flung with lethal force into the engines of the jeeps, demolishing them.
At this point, the General put the soldiers clearing the mines from the road by hand. He cursed and raged, pacing like a wild beast as the soldiers removed the mines. Twelve more soldiers perished when the mines they were removing went off in their faces, reducing the General’s forces to thirty-eight. The General raged, threatening the soldiers with immediate death when they didn’t move fast enough for his liking. The wounded were treated as the mines were cleared and after nearly an hour and a half, the soldiers broke through the minefield. They left the ruined jeeps behind and proceeded on foot.
Thomas limped along, following the truck tracks for almost a half a mile when the tracks abruptly disappeared. He stopped and began to search intensely for the tracks. To those around him, he pleaded, “The tracks are gone. Help me find them before the General sees.”
They pressed forward slowly, searching the road intensely as the General approached from behind. “What’s the hold up!” he snapped.
“The tracks are gone, sir,” a soldier reported. “It’s as if the truck vanished like a ghost.”
General Gulez’s rage boiled as he threw the soldier aside roughly. He flew to the front of the column where Thomas and several other soldiers searched intensely. Thomas never saw him coming. Gulez fell upon Thomas from behind. He clubbed Thomas across the back of the head and he went sprawling across the ground. Everyone stood back as Gulez pounced on him like a cat, grabbing him by the throat and lifting him high in the air. Thomas struggled in vain against Gulez’s iron fist. “I thought you were the best! How in the hell could you lose the trail of a fucking truck?” Gulez roared. Thomas gurgled…unable to respond as the General’s hand clamped down, cutting off his air supply. “I’ll not tolerate this kind of incompetence!” Gulez bellowed furiously.
Thomas’ eyes began to roll back in his skull when a soldier suddenly burst forth from the group and begged, “Please, put him down, General. He’s the best we have! You need him!”
Gulez wheeled around to see who dared to challenge him. A small soldier stood there, pleading for Thomas’ life, “Please, sir. You need him! He’s the only tracker we have left!”
The soldier bravely rushed forward, trying to get the General to release Thomas. Gulez swung his other arm in a great backhand sweep like a scythe, catching the soldier across the face, sending him sprawling ten feet across the road. “You dare to challenge me, worm?” he barked, tossing Thomas across the road like a rag doll. Thomas smacked against a tree, winding him and breaking his leg with a loud snap. He coughed and wheezed as he tried to catch his breath, grasping his leg in pain.
Gulez pounced on the soldier who had stepped forward and lifted him by his neck, pulling the man nose to nose with him. “You mutinous little maggot!” the General snarled. “Who do think you are to question my command!” Then to the rest of the troops he bellowed, “Let this be an example of what happens to those who question my command! I do not tolerate insubordination!” He squeezed the soldier’s neck and he turned blue. The General twisted his hand in a jerking motion and a crackling sound emanated from the man’s neck as it snapped, killing the soldier. Gulez threw the man into the bushes as if it were a piece of trash, the body landing in a heap. Turning to Thomas, who was being tended to by several comrades, Gulez hissed, “Consider yourself lucky, tracker; the next time you fail me, I’ll rip your spine out and have it mounted with your skull. You hear me, soldier!”
“Yes, sir,” Thomas gasped as his comrades set his broken leg.
“Now, on your feet!” Gulez barked.
Just then, a soldier came running down the road. He ran up to the general and saluted, reporting, “Sir…We’ve found the truck. It’s a half a mile up the road hidden in the bushes and deserted.”
“Good!” Gulez sneered. “At least someone around here knows how to track a god damned truck. Move out…to the airfield!” Gulez took the lead and his troops followed, leaving the dead soldier in the bushes. Thomas and his comrades brought up the rear, helping to carry him. They conversed amongst themselves as they moved along.
“He’s gone too far this time,” a small soldier hissed angrily. “He didn’t have to kill Zack.”
“Yes, he has, Sam,” another soldier agreed. “I’ve had it with him. I’m ready to leave his ass in the wind.”
“Be careful what you say, Jonathan,” Thomas rebuked softly. “People have deserted before and he always finds them. When he does, they die a most grisly death; however, whoever is helping Morrison must be a force to be reckoned with otherwise the General wouldn’t be in such a rage to eliminate them.”
“Well, I don’t give a shit anymore,” Sam replied venomously. “I’m leaving that fuck. You’re welcome to come if you want. I’m willing to take that chance. I didn’t want to be here anyway. He forced me in, as he did you all. I’m tired of taking his shit.”
“That’s true, Sam,” a large soldier agreed. “None of us want to be part of this. I just found out a couple of days ago that he had my family killed for no reason. I have no reason to stay now. I’m with you.”
“You all realize he’ll see this as treason,” Thomas said as mild shock began to set in. “But I think we all know that he’s eliminated our families. We just don’t have any proof of it yet.”
“Hey, I have an idea,” Jonathan said quietly. “We could desert and join with Morrison and his friends.”
As they talked, they slowly began to get some distance between themselves and the main force of soldiers. “That’s not a bad idea,” the large soldier said. Just then, as they passed by the hidden truck, he saw something flitting through the trees like a ghost. Not sure what it was, the large soldier kept it to himself.
“You’re right,” Thomas admitted. “We need to get the hell away from him. Maybe we’ll get our chance when we meet up with Morrison and his friends. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity.”
The large soldier then noticed something large moving through the trees again and was sure that he wasn’t seeing things this time. “Guys…I think we’re being watched,” he said as they slowly closed on the rest of the troops.
“What makes you say that, Ned?” Sam asked.
“I’ve seen something moving through the trees for the last couple of minutes out of the corner of my eye, something big. I don’t know what it is or if it’s even human, but I’m sure that it’s there and watching,” Ned replied.
“Maybe it’s Morrison,” Jonathan said, “or one of his people.” As he spoke, the hangar came into view about a quarter of a mile away and all hell broke loose. The sensor-operated machine guns and rocket launchers opened fire, mowing down soldiers with deadly accuracy. Just then, gunfire began to rain down from the trees and from every direction. Ned, Sam, Jonathan, and Thomas separated from the main group and made their way around toward the backside of the hangar without being seen.
Within ten minutes, twenty soldiers lay dead on the road with the rest of the troops having fled the field and General Gulez was missing. Hannibal and his people emerged from their ambush positions and gathered just inside the perimeter. Selina and Nathanael joined them from the trees as Hannibal gazed over the terrible scene. Arabella looked on in horror as she saw the mangled and shredded dead strewn over the road. Hannibal sighed as a tear came to his eye. It brought back terrible memories of his past, particularly what he had done as an assassin. “What a terrible waste of life. I didn’t come here to fight, but explore,” he hissed gloomily.
“It was unavoidable,” Selina consoled. “Your experienced has kept us safe again.” Suddenly, the perimeter guns opened fire near the rear of the hangar and everyone ran in that direction, diving for cover. The perimeter machine guns fired for a few seconds then stopped. They waited for a moment as the guns tracked.
A voice called out from the bushes, “Don’t shoot! We surrender!” A white handkerchief flew out of the bushes tied to a rock and the machine guns ripped it to shreds. “Please, don’t shoot! We give up!” the voice cried out again after the guns fell silent. Hannibal rose, and walked forward with his AK-47 and attached grenade launcher ready for anything.
“Stay here and keep me covered,” Hannibal ordered them as they hid in a crater near the front of the hangar. “Give me the remote.” Nathanael took the remote from his pocket and tossed it to Hannibal, who walked to just behind the perimeter, deactivating the perimeter in that area. “Come on out, and no tricks!” Hannibal barked.
Ned and Sam emerged from the bushes with their rifles over their heads. “Don’t shoot. We give up,” Ned said.
“Throw your guns away,” Hannibal ordered and they tossed them aside, well out of reach. “Now, the pistols,” Hannibal ordered and they tossed away their side arms. “Who else is back there?” he asked pointedly.
“Two friends…one has a broken leg and some burns,” Sam stated.
“Throw your guns down and come out or your friends die badly,” Hannibal ordered severely. Jonathan helped Thomas walk out into the open. Hannibal immediately noticed the rather bad state of Thomas and softened his countenance towards them. “How did you do that?” he asked.
“The General did that to him when he lost your tracks,” Sam informed.
Hannibal lowered his weapon slightly and asked, “What do you want?”
“We’re tired of Gulez’s abuse. Most of his troops were pressed into service with Gulez holding their families as hostages to insure their cooperation,” Jonathan hissed. “Since it’s pretty obvious they’re dead, we want to join with Morrison and get the fuck away from Gulez.”
As he spoke, Morrison walked up with his rifle ready. “What do we have here?” he asked.
“Deserters apparently; do you know them?” Hannibal asked.
Morrison walked up to them and carefully looked them over. “Yes,” he answered. “But only by reputation. They’re among Gulez’s top fighters. I do know that their heart was never in it. The General has held their families hostage so they would fight in his army.”
“What’re your names?” Hannibal asked.
“I’m Ned and this is Jonathan, Thomas, and Sam,” Ned announced.
“Do you know anything about the condition of my family?” Thomas asked weakly.
Morrison’s face fell as he answered, “I’m afraid so. Are you sure you want to know?” Thomas and Jonathan nodded and Morrison said, “They were killed about two months ago and their bodies dumped in the landfill. I saw their bodies myself after they were dumped.”
A wail escaped Jonathan’s lips and Thomas uttered a curse on Gulez. “Do you know about my family?” Sam asked. “I haven’t seen or heard from them for almost a year now.”
“They were killed six months ago when their house burned to the ground with them in it,” Morrison reported. “I’m sure the General had it done. Members of my militia tried to rescue them, but were unsuccessful. I’m sorry.”
Rage and hate rose in Sam. “He’s going pay for this!” he growled.
“I think he may have already paid for it,” Hannibal said. “I’m sure he was in the front when the firefight started.” Turning to his team, he called out, “Hey guys! It’s all right. I think we’ve found some more friends.” Hannibal lowered his weapon and waved to the deserters. “It’s all right,” he said in a friendly tone. “Pick up your weapons and come on in.” Thomas, Jonathan, Ned, and Sam stepped inside the perimeter after retrieving their weapons and Hannibal reactivated the guns. “We’re actually here on an archaeological expedition. I never wanted to get caught up in your civil war,” he told them as he led them toward the others. “But it appears I didn’t have a choice about it.”
As the two groups came together, Ned, Sam, Jonathan and Thomas stared in astonishment at Selina and Nathanael, their mouths hanging open. “I’d like you to meet the members of my expedition,” Hannibal said pleasantly, noticing their reaction as Selina and Nathanael stood before them with Harry and Arabella. “I’m Hannibal and this is Selina and her father Nathanael. That’s Harry standing next to him.”
They stared, absolutely flabbergasted by the two alien cats that stood in their presence. Jonathan finally found his tongue and asked, “What are you?”
Nathanael chuckled. “We’re Lynxians, son,” he replied. “We come from a planet on the far side of the galaxy called Kaitia.”
Sam walked around Selina, looking her over from head to foot in amazement. “May I...” he asked, hesitantly reaching out to touch her arm.
“Why yes. Go right ahead. I don’t bite…at least I haven’t today,” Selina said, finding the whole episode rather amusing after such a bloody skirmish.
Sam hesitantly touched her arm and stroked her fur gently. “This is incredible!” he said. “I’m touching a real alien. And she has such soft fur too.”
“And very beautiful I might add,” Ned said, extending his hand to her. “You’re a truly pleasant sight in this dark place.”
Selina smiled and grasped his hand firmly, shaking it. “Thank you, sir,” she replied.
Arabella moved forward and began to look over Thomas as a doctor. “You don’t look good, Thomas,” she stated.
“You know them?” Harry asked her.
“Why yes. I have treated all of them at one point or another over the last year or two. They have no love at all for the General,” Arabella replied.
“Speaking of the General, where is that lousy son of a bitch?” Morrison asked. “We’d better find his fucking carcass.” He started to walk to the area where the battle had occurred.
“Can you help me get him inside the hangar, Jonathan?” Arabella asked, referring to Thomas.
“Sure,” Jonathan replied as everyone else went to the battlefield.
Hannibal deactivated the perimeter guns so they could check the field. They checked around and found only the dead. They searched for nearly twenty minutes. “He isn’t here! Damn it!” Morrison cursed. “Where was he when he came up here?”
“Gulez was in the front. We were in the back, carrying Thomas after Gulez broke his leg,” Sam said. “We never saw what happened to him.”
“Shit! This isn’t good,” Ned cursed. “You’ve surprised and beaten him. If he’s still alive, he’ll never stop until he has all of our heads on a plate.”
“Well, there isn’t anything we can do about that now,” Hannibal said. “By the way, what does he look like?”
“Gulez is about seven feet tall, very muscular and has a thin mustache,” Jonathan stated.
“Hmmm…I seem to remember seeing him at the outset of the attack. He stood there as if he thought he was invincible. The last time I remember seeing him, he was being dragged away by a couple of soldiers just before a rocket exploded where he was lying. The sentry guns had mowed him down, but not apparently killed him,” Hannibal reported.
Just then, Nathanael emerged from the shredded bushes, dragging a giant of a man. “This one’s still alive,” he called out. “I think it’s the General because of his uniform.” Everyone converged on Nathanael’s position to see whom he had fished out of the underbrush. Nathanael laid him on the ground as everyone gathered around.
“I’ll be dipped in shit and called ice cream! It’s the General,” Ned declared. Gulez lay unconscious on the ground with moderate burns and several bullet wounds in places that were not lethal.
Rage filled Sam’s features. He ran up and stomped on Gulez’s face, leaving a boot print there. “That’s for killing my brother and family, you fucking shit!” Sam shrieked...his face beet red with rage.
“That’s enough!” Hannibal barked. Hannibal looked at Gulez’s wounds and deemed they were superficial. Gulez stirred and Hannibal said, “Nathanael, Ned…Tie up that snake and take him to the hangar. Selina…you, Harry, Sam, and John find some shovels so we can bury these poor fellows. I’m not going to leave their bodies for the buzzards. We have much work to do.” The group split up, leaving Hannibal alone amid the corpses. He walked around the battlefield and wept as he gazed upon the dead. “Why Lord? Why does death have to follow me everywhere I go? I didn’t want this and I still don’t. Please, forgive me,” he prayed as he knelt down amidst the bloody death all around him.
Nathanael and Ned were walking back to the battlefield when and saw Hannibal kneeling among the corpses. Nathanael stopped and restrained Ned. “Hold up,” Nathanael murmured.
“What’s he doing?” Ned asked, noticing Hannibal kneeling in the middle of the corpses.
“He’s very sensitive to bloodshed,” Nathanael stated. “He hates and detests a waste of life like this. Just give him a moment.”
As they stood watching Hannibal, Morrison, Harry, and Selina approached with shovels in each hand.
“What’s going on?” Morrison asked as they saw Hannibal kneeling in the middle of the battlefield.
“He’s mourning the loss,” Selina stated, tears filling her eyes. “This is something he didn’t want. Wait here.” She handed the shovels to Nathanael and went to Hannibal.
As she reached him, the others watched him stand and hug Selina. They hugged for a minute, and then he waved, calling out, “Come on! We have a lot of work to do!” Everyone went over and began the process of burying the dead along the edge of the airfield. They spent three hours burying the dead, with the last to be buried being Peter. Makeshift markers were set up for the dead with the dog tags of each soldier hanging on the marker while Peter had a special marker created for his grave.