1. My Lonesome Song
A man walked into his room after a late night shift. He was sulking a bit, or perhaps his coat made him look like that. The apartment complex hallways were poorly lit. The walls were very old. The air around him was chill. He complained about the place regularly to his friends.
“Jesus, considering this is the uppity part of Lancaster, you’d think the head twats at the OCIA could afford some decent heating appliances. Honestly, could the OCIA have shafted me anymore than they already have?” he said in whisper.
He complained more under his breath as walked into the flat provided by his superiors and the Secret Intelligence Service.
He examined the place again as if he was walking in for the first time. It was a flat of decent size, although everything was crammed into two rooms; a bedroom with a bathroom and a shower, and then a kitchen which was the laundry room and the living room as well. The walls were painted a bland white, and the only window was next to the couch that allowed him to sit and watch the latest football (soccer) match.
The man walked into his room groaning. Apparently, working with people from North Point was awful. Or, perhaps, that was him acting like he was above them.
As the man sat down to watch some late-night programming, someone was knocking at his door. He moaned with annoyance as he walked to the door to answer. He opened the door only to be standing in front of a familiar, burly figure.
“Kenny Curtis!” he shouted with joy. “What the hell are you doing up here in Lancaster?”
Kenny Curtis, as mentioned before was a large man who was also black. His officially listed height and weight was six feet, eight inches tall with a stocky 250 pound frame. Yet, he had this larger-than-life presence that always made him seem bigger. His multiple tattoos, scars, and buzz-cut only added to his menacing stature. At least that’s what the people thought of him.
“Fucking Kenny, what brings you here?” the man asked.
“Not much Syd,” Kenny replied. “Just got back from a meeting with some SIS gentlemen. Rather pleased with the progress.”
“You always speak in that dignified, Maryland accent, Kenny,” Syd said.
“I may be an Osean citizen, but I was born and raised here, Syd. I picked up ‘Papa’s’ accent by accident.”
“Right, so tell me about them SIS dudes,” Syd replied nonchalantly.
“Well,” Kenny started, trying to find the proper words, if there were any, “The situation is very complicated. The OCIA-SIS network is doing fantastic, glad to be a part of it and all, but things are getting tense. Some unrest in Golau, y’know, ‘Sheep-shagger Country,’ has the SIS higher-ups tied up. Likewise, Leasath’s recovery after their thing with Aurelia has been of great interest to the boys in the OCIA. But, of course, the Network’s priority is Sapin. Big stuff, Syd ole’ boy. Informants say a coup is imminent and a WMD in development. Sounds like all the previous wars put together, almost.”
Syd took it all in for a moment. He rubbed his chin a bit, searching for some words that would help.
“Sounds like every single conflict in the past, what, 30 years?” Syd said with annoyance. “It’s always the same. Country A’s dealing with this and Country X’s dealing with that and it all somehow mixes improperly and a war breaks out or some other shit. The only thing that sounds different is what those prick mercs did in Nemey, and even that was a fuck-up. Does Todd even have a job after he authorized that? Do we still have the files of the ones that survived?”
“Yes and yes,” Kenny replied.
Syd slumped in his chair for a moment.
“It’s always the same,” He continued. “Why can’t things be different, Kenny? Why do things have to stay the same?”
Kenny’s shrugs served as his replies. He never cared for Syd’s Mary-Sue tangents or his politics, but he understood him. He was his friend after all. He knew he had put Syd in this mood this time and got out of his chair to leave.
“Well, Syd,” he started as he stood up to depart, “I must leave for now. OCIA has me working like me ancestors on the plantation.”
Syd got up to shake Kenny’s hand, and after that Kenny was on his way.
Syd was restless after that, hastily pacing from his front door to the window on the opposite end of his flat. He was in a “tizzy” as Kenny would call it. He became wound up every time world politics was involved. The OCIA obviously wasn’t meant for him, but his skills as an analyst and fighter were too valued for the OCIA to let him go. He was stuck. Sort of ironic, at least in his head. But was it really?
He calmed down after about 15 minutes of pacing. He decided to make a bowl of cereal.
Before he could sit down and eat his cereal there was more knocking at the door. He walked back out of his room to answer it. It was the late night mailman dropping off some mail. Syd bid the mailman a friendly adieu and shuffled through the mail. It was the usual junk mail and a letter from the spouse, but one letter caught his eye. Addressed to “Barrett, Sydney M,” and without any clear postage marks, he knew where it was from immediately.
“Really,” he said, chuckling slightly. “We’re resorting to this kind of correspondence? C’mon, OCIA.” He opened the letter carefully, and starting looking through its contents.
It read as follows:
Agent Barrett, in this letter there are some photographs of a weapon an MI-6 agent sent before he went missing somewhere in Gran Rugido. The quality is in HD, so you shouldn’t have a problem examining the enclosed photos. The weapon has been codenamed “Skyring” for the time being. Notate what you see and report to the SIS office in Lancaster tomorrow on your own time, but do so before the end of the day. Good luck, Mr. Barrett.
“Great,” Syd said as he gave out a sigh with a hint of irritation as he walked to his desk. He put the photos on the desk and grabbed a chair. He sat in it as he examined the pictures. He rubbed against the five-o’clock shadow on his face as he looked at the photos and took down notes about things that seemed worth noting. He stopped rubbing his face and brought a particular picture closer to his eyes. The weapon didn’t seem conventional to him at all. It looked like a ring, almost. Nothing in front of it or behind it; it was a simple, giant ring. He grabbed another photo to confirm his observations. He noticed something blue glowing underneath the ring in this picture.
“Propped up by such a platform? Is that even possible?” Syd asked himself aloud with astonishment. He jotted down the single line:
Single ring supported by a platform that allows it to float.
It was enough, Syd thought.
Syd was wide awake the next day, walking the streets of Lancaster, hoping to do a bit of soul-searching. It was Christmas time in Lancaster, and everyone was in the Christmas spirit. He hadn’t thought about Skyring since last night, and that was fine with him. He didn’t wish to show his face to the SIS until the very end of the day.
Syd had another task, though. He was to meet a couple of private military gentlemen at a café. The meet was ordered by Todd Blackburn. He had looked up the files of the people he was going to meet and he couldn’t believe it. They were the same exact men enlisted by Todd to drop into Nemey. He questioned their motives as he moved closer to Logan’s Café, the place they supposed to meet. He couldn’t even begin to reason with himself as to why they wanted more relentlessly hellacious tasks.
Didn’t they get enough when half of them were wiped out in Nemey? Syd asked himself as he walked into the café.
He saw the two gentlemen already well-in to some sort of conversation. He walked up to them and bid them hello. One was white with red hair, the other brown with dark hair.
“Hello,” Syd said flatly. “Are you the two I am supposed to meet?”
“I dunno, who’s asking?” the brown one replied.
“The OCIA.” Syd replied back.
“Then, yes. Yes we are, Mr…?”
“Ah, yes, you’re a friend of Todd Blackburn?”
“Indeed I am,” Syd said as he took a seat.
“I’ll have you know he hasn’t paid us back for the bullshit in Nemey.”
“I can’t really do much for you,” Syd said as he shrugged.
Syd examined the café for a moment while they figured out what to say next. It was properly lit, at least for him. The walls were a nice off-white, and the floor was tiled with a white-green checkered pattern. The tables looked like they were made of oak, accompanied by black, metal chairs. The entire front of the café was made of glass, which was bad, as Syd was thinking of the worst possible scenario at the time.
The brown-skinned man chimed in again.
“So, Mr. Barrett,” he started, “I have a feeling you’re going to ask us to go into an extremely hostile environment to take something out, right?”
“You could say that.”
“Then what is it?” the man asked impatiently.
“Recon in Gran Rugido,” Syd replied.
“Looks like I’m going home then,” he said with feigned pleasure.
“You’re to leave this coming Friday on a plane to the region of Catalunya. Blaugrana is the capital of the province. You’re to recon some separatist activity while you’re there for some OCIA interest. Then, that same Monday, you’ll be transported by train to Gran Rugido and begin your mission there. Is that clear?”
“I believe you’re as clear as you could be, Mr. Barrett.”
The trio removed themselves out of their seats. As they were walking out, Syd wanted to catch their names as he had already forgotten them.
“Oh, by the way, what are your names anyways?” he asked.
“I’m Julio Lopez, Mr. Barrett,” he replied. “My friend here is Vitaly Ivanov.”
Vitaly shook Syd’s hand.
“We have a third associate that came with us, Joel Nylund, but he’s exploring Lancaster right now. It’s his home away from home, you see. His people were exiled out of Wielvakia earlier this year. Sad, really.”
Syd nodded, understanding what Julio meant.
“Now Joel’s people are back in Nordland with the Norgens and the Suðurlanders. Actually, he’s out here with a Nordlander that played for Lancaster United. Nils Falk, I think his name was. Oh, yeah, if you do meet him, don’t mention Lancaster City.”
They shook hands and went their separate ways, hoping to meet again, which they would, no doubt.
That evening, Syd found himself meeting with the head of the SIS in his office on the third floor of the three story main headquarters. He was an older fellow, of about 50. His office looked as old as himself, donned with medals dated back to 2004. They were sitting down, Syd in one chair and the SIS head in his chair behind his desk.
“You must have been a real hero, Mr. Ferguson.”
“Well, back then of course. It’s been 17 years since that bloody conflict happened. You see that medal, Mr. Barrett?”
He pointed to a medal that was in a frame with an old, folded ISAF flag.
“That medal came from the Megalith operation.”
“So that actually happened, huh?”
“I thought when it was destroyed everyone knew of it.”
“Not exactly, Mr. Ferguson. I think everyone mixes it up with some other silo that existed in Usea before in 1998.”
“Please, call me Reginald, Mr. Barrett. And I wouldn’t know about that particular silo, I didn’t join the military until 2000. They loved me enough to make me one of the elite by 2004.”
“The silo was kind of a big thing in Usea.”
“I was a simple farm boy with a dream back then.”
“Well, Reginald, I think you and I know why I’m here,” Syd said.
“I believe the OCIA told me you were coming down here to give me your analysis on the photos my agent sent?”
“Out with it.”
“Well,” he hesitated.
“C’mon, young chap.”
“Sir, it’s a floating ring.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Syd was still for a moment as Mr. Ferguson’s eyes seemed to scan him.
“A ring, you say?” he asked him.
“Yes. I’ll leave the photos with you so your analysts can I either confirm or not."
“Yes, I do believe that is best,” Mr. Ferguson replied, closing his hands together on his desk.
“I shall be leaving then,” Syd said as he got up and walked out the door.
Somewhere else in Lancaster, Julio and Vitaly sat opposite to Joel and Nils at their table in a small restaurant.
Julio kicked off the conversation.
“Joel, any word from Danny and Marcus in Eire?”
“No, they haven’t a thing to report. Scotsland proved to be just as empty. They’re in Galou now.”
“I hear Eire’s gonna split. People in the north want to join the United Kingdoms of North Point. People in the south want nothing to do with them anyways,” Nils said.
“Now you chime in,” Julio told him. “Tell me about yourself, Nils. You got out of the military in your prime, walked-on to Lancaster United, and become one of their greatest players, and you played for, what, seven years? Leading scorer all seven years you played? Football’s a god damned funny sport.”
“I was in the FSK, Mr. Lopez,” he replied. “Tough years those were. Getting a spot on a premiership team was nothing compared to what I endured in the military. Football sort of became an outlet during downtime with my friends on base. Ever since that war between Osea and Yuktobania,” he paused, but continued, “Nordland was a mess. Wielvakia was a mess. Eastern Osea was a mess.”
“Well, Mr. Falk, it sounds like you have a story to tell. I’d like to hear something.”
“I guess, Mr. Lopez. I’ll explain it like this: think of Nordland as North Point. We have three regions, all with their own national football teams. They are, in no particular order: Norge in the north, Rovaniemi in the south, and Sudurland in the southern tip. Sudurland and Rovaniemi tend to fight a lot, and one day the Rovans got tired of it and a good majority of them left. They migrated to Wielvakia, and, well, the Wielvaks wanted nothing of it, but took them in anyways. Parliament had to twist their arm. This was all when Joel was a mere baby, so this was in the 80s, for those who care about years and the like.”
“So, what happened then, Nils?” Vitaly asked with genuine curiosity.
“Well, the Wielvaks got tired of the Rovans in 2003, and suddenly they were in limbo. Soon after that, the small Nordic island of Nordjylland unilaterally declared independence from Wellow in 2004. And after that, the Vltava Incident occurred in 2006. At least 100 displaced Rovans were killed in the Capital Square of Wielvakia. And then, to add to Eastern Osea’s problems, the Massacre at Reykjanes occurred in Sudurland in 2010. It was quite possibly the worst day of my life. I quit the military that day at the tender age of 28. I played football at Lancaster United after that, and became what they described as a ‘legend’ of some sort.”
Nils proceeded to drink his coffee, leaving the rest of the group to introspection.
Deep, Vitaly thought.
Syd and Todd Blackburn were sitting in an Osean embassy office, mulling over operations. However, Syd grew bored and decided to pick Todd’s brain about the PMC gentlemen he met in downtown Lancaster.
“Well, Todd, you’re really gonna get them killed this time,” Syd said angrily.
He was looking at Todd as the man that sent the small PMC group to their deaths, or what he thought would happen.
“Gran Rugido’s just too hot for a proper soldier,” Todd replied smugly.
“I say, when did that lot lose their humanity?”
“When they stopped fighting for their countries.”
“Oh, and that strips them of their identity as individuals, I forgot.”
“Fuck you, Todd. No reason an Osean SEAL can’t handle it.”
“Why waste precious resources when a disposable one presented itself to us? They wanted it, I’m only giving them what they want,” Todd replied back with a grin.
Syd had heard enough and barged out of the embassy office.
He’s changed since the incident back in Osea, Syd said to himself as he looked up toward the night sky, trying to grab a star as if he were a kid again.
No, I guess I can’t reach for the stars yet.
Edited by Weedus Christ, 30 July 2013 - 10:17 PM.