Chapter 4: Improvising
“That’s right, suicide. That’s what that sounds like!” stressed Riley.
Agent Cipher and Riley were still inside the café where they've met, hiding behind one of the booths. About one minute after Cipher had formally introduced himself as an agent of the Global Intelligence Service who was working undercover inside this terrorist group, a T-Croc type APC had rolled down and stopped on the road outside of the building.
The T-Crocs were large, eight wheeled armored vehicles, that could fit up to eight people inside and had a machinegun mounted on their top. Four people had climbed out of the vehicle after it stopped and they quickly broke into the store next-door. Riley and Cipher managed to hide in time, but now they were unable to leave without alerting the APC.
This fact did not seem to bother the mysterious intelligence agent, who was gripping both of his .44 caliber magnum revolvers in his hands. “That may be so,” he whispered “…but our only other option is to wait here.”
Riley took a careful peek out one of the windows. Someone was manning the turret for sure, but Riley wasn’t sure if the driver had left or not. Cipher was right about the fact that the two of them could take care of the gunner if they were fast enough but taking control of the vehicle before the other four soldiers took notice didn’t seem possible. Waiting inside the café was probably the safer and better idea, but they wouldn’t stand a chance if the soldiers decided to loot this place as well.
They did not have any alternatives as far as McConnel could tell. Unless…
“Do they know that you’re an agent of the GIS?”
Cipher remained silent for a few moments before he replied. “I would be a remarkably incompetent agent if they did. Are you suggesting that I try to lead them away?”
That was a good idea, but Riley had a more interesting, and definitely more reckless one.
“How about you beat me up and take me as a prisoner instead?”
Even with that helmet of his, Riley could tell that the agent was confused by that idea. “I do not see what that would accomplish.”
“It’s simple,” explained Riley. “…you drag me out there as your prisoner, and not only will you gain their trust, but I’ll also be taken to where all of my people are. We both win.”
The agent shook his head. “We do not even know what they did with the captured people. What if they simply shot them in the back of their heads and threw them into the ocean?”
“Well then you’ll have one less clueless idiot to worry about, and I’ll get the chance to meet some of my family again.”
It was Cipher’s turn to look outside the window, but his timing was wrong. As soon as he put his head above the table, a gun went off on the outside and hit the table they were hiding behind. Riley jumped from the sudden noise and the impact, and the agent firing his magnum so close to Riley’s head did not help at all.
“Time for plan C! Run!” shouted Cipher as he fired his second pistol as well.
McConnel got up from the ground with ringing ears and dashed to the counter of the café. In a quick motion he jumped it and ran towards the back door. The door was probably locked, but he didn’t bother to check it. Riley charged the door with his shoulder as fast as he could and bashed it open, then ran outside the café, towards one of the longer back alleys. Cipher was following him closely as he was firing at the enemy squad behind them. Riley took a quick glance backwards and was somewhat relieved when he only saw two people after them.
As they reached the next building in line, Riley decided to try something. He quickly ran into one of the buildings that had its backdoor open and signaled to Cipher to continue retreating. The agent did not argue and continued down the alleyway. Once the two enemy soldiers reached the building, Riley tackled the one on the left and gripped the pistol he was wielding. The other one stopped and aimed his weapon.
McConnel heard a gun go off somewhere, and a moment later the other enemy soldier collapsed dead with a hole in his head.
The one Riley was keeping on the ground was still struggling to break free, but a series of headbutts and punches delivered by the caffeine addicted reporter eventually stopped him. Once the soldier stopped moving, he leaned closer to check the man’s pulse. He was still alive, and Riley let out a relieved sigh as he got off from the man and sat down on the ground, clenching his head. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to headbutt someone so many times.
Cipher walked over to McConnel. “Not bad for a cameraman,” he stated. “…but we should get going as fast as we can.”
“What about him?” asked Riley, pointing at the unconscious terrorist.
Cipher did not answer, but instead pulled out a rather threatening looking knife from his vest’s upper most pocket. “He’ll talk if he wakes up,” he said rather casually.
He was about to make the killing blow before Riley grabbed his arm. “Come on agent, he’s no threat to us. Let’s just stash him in a dumpster and lock it.”
“And how exactly is starving to death in a dumpster any better than getting killed while you’re not even conscious?” Cipher asked.
Riley felt rather conflicted. This man was obviously one of the people responsible for the current state of Blackfortress, but killing him this way felt somewhat wrong for Riley.
“Well, what if we took him with us?”
Cipher looked at soldier for a while before he finally spoke up. “He’d slow us down, but you gave me an idea.”
“I’m not the only GIS agent who was sent here. I’ll take him to my colleagues for interrogation and give something for the APC to shoot at while doing so.”
“Well…” Riley replied “…I mean that sounds good, except for one thing.”
“And what is that one thing?”
“You getting disintegrated by machinegun fire.”
Cipher put his arms on his hip. “Have some faith, McConnel.”
Riley rolled his eyes, and then looked at the downed soldier. “So what about me?”
The two of them heard the distant sound of a vehicle travelling somewhere not too far from their alleyway. Cipher leaned down to put the man over his shoulders and looked at Riley. “You’ll have a more important task. Something that only you can accomplish.”
“Oh?” said Riley with a smile on his face. “And what is that task?”
Cipher reached for something in his vest’s left pocket and pulled out a dusty picture. Riley took the picture, and on it, he saw a very old and weathered looking metal box, with markings on it.
“What is this?”
“I do not know. I only know that when we arrived at the city, we were told to keep our eyes peeled for this box.”
Riley kept looking at it. It was dark grey and probably made out of some kind of metal based on the rusty exterior. The markings on it may have been actual letters or numbers at one point, but by now they did not resemble any sort of writing Riley knew about.
“So, what do you want me to do? Because I certainly don’t know what this is.”
Riley heard the vehicle again, but this time from a lot closer. Cipher gripped the body more strongly.
“Then find out what it is, where it is, and why the bloody hell is it so important that they raided an entire city for it! I will contact you as soon as I can!”
Cipher began running off another direction, but Riley wasn’t done with the conversation just yet. “And how do you expect me to do that?!” he shouted after the agent.
“Improvise! You said you are good at that, did you not?” yelled back Cipher as he dashed off.
Riley threw his arms in the air as he was watching the agent run off with the knocked-out soldier, and more importantly, his coffee. He then turned back towards the spot where they fought off their last two attackers and walked towards the dead soldier. He was using a TTP-30 handgun, which was a rather uncommon sight outside the Gredrurgian Republic’s military. Not only did it look very different from Riley's old revolver which he tossed away at the café, but he couldn't even tell where the magazine release button was on the weapon, let alone how to unlock it.
Still, he couldn't exactly afford to be without a weapon now could he?
He picked up the handgun and a few magazines from the dead soldier, despite not having the faintest idea of how the gun worked, and then began running towards the exact opposite direction Cameron had gone towards.
As Riley opened the can of beans that he found inside the abandoned supermarket’s storage an hour after his daring escape from the café, he took note of the rather large hole in the building’s roof and the scorch marks around it. Something exploded here, and there was a good chance that the artillery that killed Collins and another friend of Riley’s was the one responsible for this hole too. That cannon was among the things that Riley had to somehow find and disable sooner or later.
“Anyway…” he continued into his camera “…I still don’t know how this Cipher guy expects me to find a single box in such a massive place. The only thing that I’ve been able to determine so far was that the case must have spent considerable amount of time deep in water, as evidenced by the rust marks on its casing. The case was probably waterproof too, since the contents seem to be valuable enough that its worth raiding an entire city just to find it.”
He sat down on the wooden box in front of his camera and took a look at his watch. It was 3am, but he couldn’t sleep now. He had to finish his work first.
“But, this does not mean that I don’t have any theories about the box’s whereabouts, even if the only information that I have is that it exists apparently. Considering that this group of terrorists or dissidents or whatevers only attacked the city just now, it’s fair to assume that the box was somewhere else all this time, meaning that it must have been either dug out inside the mines, or brought here from another place.
He took another bite from the canned beans. It was surprisingly tasty, albeit a bit too cold.
“If that’s the case,” he continued. “...then I could get to Blackfort Airport and Black Harbor, where I’d probably be able to find a list of items and packages that went through customs and work my way from there. However, there is a slight obstacle in my way…”
Riley reached for his backpack on the ground and pulled out the city map that he had brought with himself from his home. He unfolded it and showed it to the camera.
“A few months ago, the Commander of the Blackfortress Naval Guard, our city’s defense army, had ordered the construction of an extra SAM site near north-east Blackfortress, to deter people from attacking the airport. While this would be a great and very useful thing to have on normal days, it’s a giant and very dangerous obstacle currently. From what I could tell, pretty much all the SAM sites and military outposts are under heavy guard, and the areas around these places are very heavily patrolled. I’ll need to find either a disguise or some heavy armaments to get to Blackfort in one piece.”
He paused for a moment as he took a bite from the beans. “Or ya know… some fricking help, since I’m the only one doing all the work here!”
The camera beeped once, which signaled that its battery was almost depleted. Riley hopped off his box and picked it up.
“My battery’s running out, so I’m ending this log here. This is Riley McConnel–”
The camera suddenly turned off.
“…still reporting from Blackfortress.”
Riley woke up to the sound of the supermarket’s door being kicked down. Without hesitation he hopped up from the makeshift bed he made out of a few sacks of flour and peas and bolted towards the shutter gate that separated the storage area from the rest of the store.
He found himself facing three black armored soldiers who were all carrying either a handgun or a bottle of something.
“Well good morning my––” Riley started, before he had to jump away from the incoming bullets. The ear-shattering sound of the handguns woke him up better than any alarm clock.
He smashed the gate’s closing button hard enough to tear his skin up, and once the gate closed, he ran back to grab his stuff and get his camera off from his portable charger. He hastily put away all of his gear, then started looking for a way out. With the shutter gates being closed, his only other way out would have been the backdoors, but Riley barricaded them and broke the lock before he went to sleep to make sure he couldn’t get flanked while sleeping. His only option was the hole on the roof, but he wasn’t nearly athletic enough to jump up to it, which meant that he had to get creative.
His first idea was to use a wooden crate as a platform to jump from and catch the hole’s edge, but after two failed attempts and a new scar on his nose, he gave up on that idea. The next plan was to do something similar to what pole jumpers did, but he couldn’t find a large enough stick in the storage to execute that idea. As he was getting more and more desperate, he figured that he may as well just kindly ask his attackers to stop trying to beat their way through the gate and discuss this conflict peacefully, but the only answer Riley received was in the form of a bullet fired at the gate.
Since there weren’t nearly enough movable crates to make a stair, Riley decided to combine his two previous ideas.
He grabbed a few more food sacks and placed them in front of the box to make a sort of ramp. He then grabbed the longest stick that he had found previously, and once he took up the correct position, he sprinted forward with the pole in his hands. About three meters away from the box he thrusted the stick into the box’s top, which gave him enough momentum to finally fly up high enough to reach the edge of the hole. He almost fell again as the concrete piece he grabbed with his right arm broke off, but he managed to regain his grip. He pulled himself up, mere moments before the gate was smashed open.
He rolled away from the hole in the roof and began running madly towards the edge of the building where he simply jumped off from since it wasn’t that high. Following his little acrobatic show-off, Riley continued dashing towards the north as he kept looking for a manhole cover. He finally found one in the middle of an intersection, and without wasting a moment he opened it, and dropped down into the city-wide sewer system. He closed the lid on his way down and proceeded to take a deep breath of the smelly and disgusting air of the dark and gloomy tunnels.
If I don’t get my own statue after all of this, I’m gonna be pissed, thought Riley. He wasn’t doing this whole one-man rebellion for the purpose of getting famous, but it would have been nice to know that at least someone had appreciated his efforts so far.
He sat down for a minute to catch his breath and wake up properly, and afterwards he grabbed his camera and his map and turned on the camera’s light.
The sewers were dark, smelly, damp and as far as he could tell, completely devoid of life. They also connected pretty much every major region of the city, and he could certainly use them to make his way to Blackfort Airport, provided that he did not run into any patrols down here. He wasn’t that worried about it though, since the two heavily armored soldiers mentioned that the sewers had not been properly searched yet. He put away his map once he made sure that he knew where he was going and began walking forward.
Riley still wasn’t sure what to think of his encounter with Agent Cipher. On one hand, it turned out that he had an ally in the city who seemed to know what was going on, but on the other he just gave him orders and then told him to get moving, similarly to the Sapphirian captain that made Riley lose his job as a frontline reporter. As an optimistic fellow, he figured that Cipher wouldn’t leave him on his own for too long and that he would be here to fight as well, but Riley had been disappointed in his previous leaders before.
The thing that worried him more, however, was that even with the help of Cipher and his supposed team of agents, they didn’t have nearly enough firepower to take on the entire terrorist army that had entrenched themselves in the city. Sooner or later they would be outnumbered and reactivating the GCSA tower would certainly get every single soldier in the city to rush to their location. Their only realistic option was to grab the mysterious box and then get the hell out of the city before the enemy would catch them, even if it meant leaving behind all of the civilians without any clue of where they would be taken to.
And even if they knew where they were, rescuing them would have been a suicide mission…
I'm just an average dude from Hungary who has way too much time on his hands. I started writing a couple years ago as a hobby, partly because I wanted to practice and improve my English, and partly because there's just something amazing about inventing new worlds and people from scratch and then writing about their deeds and adventures.
At this point I honestly can't imagine myself putting down my writing pen ever again, and I would like to wish lots of luck to every other writer out there with their projects!
Favorite genres: Science Fiction, Adventure, Military