Lightning Strikes Twice

I observed the makeshift camp from my position in the tree. The humidity in the air made every movement of mine sticky and sweaty. I was used to the brisk temperatures of my home back in Toronto. The intense sun and humid green mess of foliage was something I wasn't too used to. Thankfully, I didn't have much weight on my lanky frame, except for my weapons, gear, first aid pack, and light Kevlar vest. I looked through my binoculars, and scanned the enemy camp.

We were about a mile north of the river Momance in southern Haiti. Ahead of us were a number of makeshift canvas tents and shelters occupied by well armed Haitian men. They carried a blend of nasty weapons with them, from machetes to M16 and G3 assault rifles. The men were all dressed in ragged, thin clothing, and many seemed to have scars across their bodies. The group of bandits were located in a clearing in the woods near the river, preying on any travelers who moved down the dirt road unguarded. Underneath many of their tents were white plastic boxes marked with red crosses. Crates of food supplies lay opened and their contents scattered about. It was as though a charging bull had smashed the crates, scattering the contents around the bandits' camp. The crates had been stolen from the international relief effort, taken by force from the people who needed them.

We had two targets located in the camp. I spotted a tent with two armed sentries holding M16 rifles in their hands. These two seemed to be the tallest bandits, and were undoubtedly selected do to their size and intimidating appearance. The canvas tent seemed to be a larger one, indicating this was probably the leader's. This band of thugs was lead by Rene Christophe. He had been a member of the Tonton Macoutes, the ruthless secret police that ensured the bloody rule of two nasty Haitian dictators, Papa Doc and Baby Doc. After Baby Doc's ouster, he and some other loyalists had turned to banditry and terror in rural areas. He had been captured for a while, but escaped with much of his gang after the earthquake. With all the problems with poverty, internal strife, political corruption, and natural disasters, the last thing the country needed was an asshole like him. On the way here, I had seen villagers starving to death since he had stolen food and medical aid destined for them.

Through my binoculars, I glanced him in the tent. He was like his online profile had stated. He was a middle aged, dark skinned man dressed in a set of ill-fitting camouflage fatigues from his younger years. He had a scar across the left side of his face, given when a woman he was assaulting fought back with a machete. Recalling the story of what had happened to her still made me sick.

Sitting across from him was a white man. He had a shit-eating grin on his face, golden-white hair, blue polo shirt, and khaki pants. Recalling the online profile, I knew this was Richard Brown, a missionary from Holy Cross Ministries and different sort of monster. Having cheered a certain religious figure's uniformed, racist, and tasteless remarks about Haiti, he was down here to win converts by any means necessary. Judging how the two were talking, it seemed both were on friendly terms. Brown handed a suitcase of cash to the bandit, making Christophe's eyes grow wide. Brown was apparently trying to get Christophe to continue raiding every relief effort he could, save HCM's. Being the good Christians that they were, Holy Cross Ministries only gave assistance to Haitians who swore to convert. He also ran fake charities to increase HCM's coffers. It was this vomit inducing reason that Brown was our second target. I haven't killed anyone before, but scum like this made me want to.

"Trace, got a view of either target?" came a female voice over my headset. Our marks-woman, Elise Jaeger, was obviously anticipating this.

"Both targets located in northwestern section of camp," I reported. "Two large sentries in front, and medical crates kept out back. Is extraction team ready?"

"In position," came a confident male voice. "Give us the word, and they're compost." Kimura and Lionness were both in position.

Despite nominally being the medic due to my nursing degree, I was the leader for this op. It was my first time, but I had pressed the nervousness to the back. Since I had the best view, it was logical. I pulled out my Makarov pistol and flicked the safety off. It had been loaded with special tranquilizer rounds, rather than the normal lead ones. I'd prefer to send people to sleep rather than to Hell, even if they belonged there.

As soon as I gave the order, though, my coworkers would start killing. I would have been responsible for killing, even if I didn't pull the trigger myself. I knew if I waited much longer, though, we'd loose the chance to get both of them and the supplies before they vanished onto the black market. A lot of villagers would starve and die from supplies that these bandits had taken. In addition, a prototype medical robot was packed into some of those crates. We were to ensure that the prototype was also accounted for. I painfully ceased mentally weighting hesitation over my job.

"Commence the operation," I told them. "I'll observe, and intercept if either target retreats south."

"The Valkyrie will send them to Valhalla," Elise confirmed.

"Ready to roll," Kimura radioed back.

It was then a grenade flew out of the underbrush on the western side of camp. The gang did not yet realized what had happened when the lethal sphere exploded. Every piece of debris around the grenade acted as shrapnel, killing or wounding several of the thugs caught in the blast. I looked away, and observed the tent where the two targets were located. Christophe had pulled out a pistol and dashed out of the tent to look around. Brown just dashed south, using the chaos to make a getaway. Given the road and his car was north, he really didn't know where he was going. It would be easy to corner him after the camp was mopped up.

There was a rifle crack from the eastern side of the woods, and one of the sentries out front of the leader's tent fell dead. The other guard returned fire with his M16, spraying wildly into the woods. A rifle shot from Elise's G3 to the chest dropped him, and Christophe darted behind his sentry, trying to shout orders in the confusion. His men began to fire wildly into the eastern woods, trying to follow their leader's direction. The camp had devolved into a confused mess, the best sort of condition to catch an enemy in.

"Kimura, Lionness, go while they're distracted!" I ordered over my headset.

Two figures emerged from the nearby woods, each clad in similar digital camo uniforms. The man and woman wore no insignias, save a lightning bolt patch on their shoulders. The man was a Japanese-Brazilian with his jet black hair pulled into a ponytail and dark shades covering his eyes. He held a Tavor assault rifle in his hands, with an M203 grenade launcher slung underneath the barrel. A Taurus Judge revolver hung from his hips, and a sadistic grin was on his face as he opened fire at the bandits. Kimura always enjoyed this part.

Beside him was a British-Indian woman with her dark hair covered up by a helmet. She held an MP5 in her hands, covering his flank. While I couldn't see it, I knew she had a special weapon her father had placed there.

A man charged at the duo with a machete, only to have a third shot from the eastern woods drop him. Two of the thugs charged the duo entering the fight with their machetes, but a blast of MP5 rounds dropped one. I winced as the other one made it within slashing distance of Lioness, shouting as he telegraphed his downward strike. I knew either he or Amanda Singh was going to die. I looked away in disgust. I had grown used to the cacophony of shouting and gunfire, maybe even gunshot and blast wounds, but knives were disturbing to watch.

I looked away for an instant, and then looked back out of an instinctual, morbid curiosity. I looked down, and saw an outcome I had expected. Amanda Singh had slashed the man with her kukri first. She quickly returned the bloody blade to its sheath before continuing her advance. She and Kimura pressed forward, cutting through the mass of confused thugs like a bullet through butter. I saw Kimura wince for a moment, and blood appear down the side of his uniform. He had been grazed, but his adrenaline was still too high to notice his own blood. He did seem to notice he had some sort of hit. The look on his face changed to one of anger, and he fired another grenade in the direction he had been hit from.

Suddenly, I felt a blast of pain on my own back. I fell forwards from the tree branch, only barely holding myself up by a single hand. I had been shot in the back center of mass. I hopped my light vest had caught it, and it was a light caliber round. I pivoted myself to see the person who had shot me. I could see Brown pointing a snub nosed revolver up at me, grinning to himself.

"Stay still!" he shouted as I dropped from the branch.

I bent my legs to absorb the impact as I landed. Still having momentum, I rolled towards the corrupt missionary with my body tucked into a ball. He evidently had never seen a traceur in action. He was about to get off a second shot at me when I sprung forward at him like a coiled spring. I shoved his gun away with my free hand, and delivered an elbow to his face with my other hand. I saw his head fly back, and his gun discharge wildly into the foliage. Quickly, I stepped my foot in and twisted my hips. My sweep tossed into the air like a bag of trash tossed into a dumpster. He landed prone on the ground. I pulled the revolver out of his hand, and slid it into my belt. I quickly placed two tranquilizer rounds into his torso, sending him into dreamland.

"Lightning strikes Brown!" I shouted. "Target two neutralized!"

I turned my attention back north, and saw Lioness and Kimura had mostly mopped up the camp. The dead and dying covered the ground, and our third member emerged from the eastern woods. Valkyrie had been laying in a sniper's blind in a ditch, making it nearly impossible to see her while she took careful, singular shots with her rifle. Now, she barreled out of the woods in similar digital camo to what the rest of us wore. She also her lightning bolt patches on her shoulder. Her golden hair was pulled into a ponytail behind her head. Her HK G3 was spitting death as she stormed forward, picking off the few remaining bandits.

Christophe cowered behind his last bodyguard, who held his empty M16 like a lance, as if it would ward us off. He shouted something in Haitian creole, threatening the trio with his empty pistol. A now grinning Kimura blasted the towering bodyguard in the face, and Rene Christophe tried to run. He stepped over the corpses of his men, thoughtlessly stomping on the faces of the dying as he ran for the road.

"Alive, remember!" I ordered the trio.

Elise Jaeger fired her G3 again, blasting the fleeing man in the knee. He crumbled to the ground, and continued pulling himself forward.

"Lightning strikes twice!" our sharpshooter boosted. "Objective secured!"

Valkyrie and Lioness walked over to the Haitian gang leader and pinned him to the ground. Lioness slapped some cuffs on him and breathed a sigh of relief. Valkyrie leaded the wounded man towards our truck, which we had hidden near the road. Kimura went among the dying, finishing off the wounded with his revolver.

"You don't need to do that," I replied. "There's been enough killing today."

"Nah," he grinned and chuckled sadistically to himself. "You can never turn enough of these assholes into maggot food. Still, they're small fish next to the worst of 'em. Not like they didn't have this coming."

The weight of the unconscious missionary was getting to be a bit much. Amanda was kind enough to help me with Brown. Thankfully, he had only been packing a thirty eight revolver. Anything more than that could have been worse. I'd rather not be a casualty on my first time in command.

"Trace, ya did good," Lioness said as we assumed a two person carry for the unconscious victim. "I know there's a lot of killing, but it comes with the turf."

"Hopefully not my turf," I replied. "Anyway, I just want to get out of here. No sense waiting around this nasty place. God knows what kind of insects will come out."

I could see Kimura grab the suitcase of cash on the table. He flipped through it, and then angrily tossed it aside, scattering its contents. "Dammit! It's all counterfeit!" the Brazilian muttered.

"It's money provided by a church," I turned to face him as we loaded the missionary into the car. "Did you really think we'd be dealing with honest people here?"

"Guess not," he shrugged. "But I got some cash from those idiots there."

"You at least should give some to the victims," Lioness added. "It was probably stolen from them to begin with!"

Kimura grinned. "Oh, I will. I also want to give them something else," his grinned went from ear to ear. "Hear me out here."

I'll admit that I wasn't overly fond of his idea at first. But he was so damn persistent, I gave in. In a way, I, Mike Logan, had become an accomplice in another death. Deep down, though, I guess I felt some kind of vindication for it.

We drove out to one of the nearby villages, which we knew that Christophe had tormented. We handed out some of the money and aid destined for that village, as well as a special gift that Kimura had convinced me to leave them. We threw Christophe out of the vehicle, with a sign on him that read "Do what you want with him" in the local dialect of French. As we drove off, I could see the villagers drawing out machetes, and I quickly looked away from the rest. While we were preferred to bring back both alive, our clients were only really interested in two things, the medical robot and Richard Brown. The robot parts had been secured, and Brown was now awaiting delivery to the international stabilization mission. Our mercenary group, Fulminata, had fulfilled out contract mostly. Sometimes close enough could feel better than completing all your objectives well, even if you'd regret some decisions of yours later.