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ISBN-10: 1-89484-171-9
Genre: Science Fiction
eBook Length: 180 Pages
Published: October 2002

Total Readers: 2

From inside the flap

Pilot had been dead for just over 5000 years. But he still got around pretty well! Itís amazing what a demon in the service of Satan can get into. Inside his ancient leather jacket, a brown rat stirred, troubled by dreams of cats no doubt. Pilotís nightmares were far worse. Itís not easy to forget 300 years in the Lake of Fire. Now he sat astride a large and dangerous jet-bike, the best that 23rd century military technology could supply. The rat woke and crawled up onto his shoulder, sat and surveyed the view. Beautiful green rolling hills with azure blue skies punctured with puffy clouds of grey anti-aircraft missile explosions. It almost looked like Wales. Pilot looked at his pet rat, an animal that inspired almost universal hatred. ?What will we do today?? he asked his familiar. ?Kill, maim and torture?? he said, imagining that the rat had answered, as after all, a rat cant talk. ?Ah, the usual so!? He pressed an immaculately manicured thumb to the starter button, and with a lion-like growl the engine started. With no ceremony or parting quip, just a fly catching smile, he flew off towards the distant gunfire, the grass and wild flowers bowing to him in his jet-stream wake. He would add his own bit of homegrown Hell to the conflict. After all, practice makes perfect, and he had been in practice for thousands of years.

DeathCraft (Excerpt)



It must be Tuesday. Tuesday was a day Orlok could never get used to. Wednesday was fine, it was the middle of the week and you were nearly there. Thursday too, was good, because it meant only another day to Friday. Friday was the best. Anything on Friday could be put off till Monday, even if you didn't work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, chances were someone else along the chain of command did, and they wouldn?t know ?it? ?till Monday. Saturday was the day you left to do all those things you have been promising yourself all week, but never did anyway. Sunday was a day of rest, whatever religion you were. Monday was bad, but you knew where you stood with Monday. It was an honest day, cruel but honest. Tuesday was a bastard day. It was nowhere on the calendar, just a stop gaps day to fill the week. If Tuesday...

He usually found himself rambling off when there was killing to be done. He ached to move from his death-like position in the shallow crater but it would be too soon, a couple of minutes and it will all be over. These last few minutes always got him in the bowels. Fear? Yes, but fear of failure, not of the confrontation itself. A look at the hooded monitor glowing softly a few inches from his face showed that the three soldiers were only half a klick away. The itch in his left thigh was back. Orlok thought about taking a sip from the bottle strapped to his jacket but dismissed it. There would be plenty of time soon enough, or else a thirst wouldn?t matter. The golden sun was up only a few hours and it was already melting the rocks. And there were plenty of those here. If you wanted to be kind you could describe this place as a rock desert. There was no vegetation, just stones, scree and sand. He wished the soldiers would take a couple of hours to reach him, then the sun would be almost behind him and he would have an advantage. If the sun was behind them, he could play an advantage from A Book Of 5 Rings. The sun. How long had he been here? The sun had set and risen twice since he lay down in the shallow crater and he hadn't moved since. Thank God for drugs. The bottle on his jacket contained a drug originally developed for bedridden patients in hospitals. It reduced a patientís restlessness, prevented bedsores and allowed full circulation for those in the prone position. But Orlok found it also worked fine if you wanted to lay in wait for someone for a few days under the constant eye of the enemy. His camouflage also helped.

Another glance at the silent monitor showed the soldiers only one hundred meters away. This was it. Time to die. A terrible and lucid thought flashed through Orlok's mind. Was the gun loaded? He ignored it almost as soon as it occurred to him. The killer was always paranoid before the feast. As he stood up, the rifle in the crook of his left arm, sand fell all about him like petrified rain. Reality stopped; there was only Orlok and the three soldiers. Blood and adrenaline pumped in his temples. In his brain there was only one conscious thought, 'This is what it is all about'. The killer had sprung the trap and it felt good.

The paper sheath on the muzzle of the rifle looked anything but foolish as it bore down on the first of the three soldiers. Orlok fired three shots. He wasn't even aware of the high-powered rifle recoiling against his upper arm. The three soldiers were hammered to the ground in a pool of blood and bone fragments. Orlok straightened himself now, finally free of the fatigue of waiting. Shifting the rifle from his left arm to his right and replacing it with a large automatic pistol, Orlok stalked to where the dead lay. He was cautious about approaching them. Soldiers pumped up on drugs could live long enough to detonate a grenade, and he had heard stories recently about soldiers who had explosives strapped to their bodies, wired to explode a few minutes after all brain functions had ceased. These were rare as the ?live? soldiers around them usually objected. Still, Orlok was always cautious, and expected everything. The tiring part about any mission was thinking of everything, all the time.

Three so young. Three so dead. He had made three good shots. The closest had been shot in the chest and had most of her back removed. With the other two Orlok had been more adventurous. They had been decapitated. When he had made sure they were all dead, he threw a handful of dry dirt on the chest of each simulating the Roman tradition of burial.

After collecting his things, Orlok Fletcher started the long walk to where he left his transport. He wasn?t a big man, a mere 5? 9". Sandy hair, a throw back to his Celtic/Nordic ancestors. Pale blue eyes that a previous cruel partner had called ?watery?. But there wasn?t an ounce of fat on his entire body. He was lean and sinewy from years of exercise and black belts in several martial arts. He deliberately avoided building up muscle, preferring speed and agility over brute strength. He smiled when he remembered describing himself as having a íswimmers build?.

He tried to not allow his thoughts to dwell on what he had done. He did not relish the act. He grudgingly admitted, again, that he was a killer. Not a murderer, a killer. A hired killer. A tired killer. Over 50 hours lying on the ground, not moving, not sleeping, relying on technology to protect his biology. Spray-on silica to deflect radar. Anti-thermal fatigues to confuse infrared cameras. Camel hydration, liquid nutrients, drunk through a straw to cut down on movement in case anyone were watching. Urinating into a bottle. A hand-held silent monitor to warn him of oncoming entities. For what? A General in a misguided guerrilla army that was supposed to pass this way the previous night. He wouldn't be coming now. Another failed mission. Orlok walked slowly, the rifle slung over his shoulder pointing down. The equipment chattering at his belt. He dug out his pouch of tobacco and rolled a cigarette. When he lit it the taste almost overwhelmed him. Smoking, or rather the lack of it was the part of a stakeout he disliked most. It must be an addiction. A quick glance at the monitor told him that there was nothing to worry about for miles. The walk was doing his muscles good and soon he was covering the ground at a mile-eating pace. The cigarette soon joined the dust that his kevlar covered boots kicked up and was replaced in his hand by a bar of chocolate. The staple diet of killers.

Eight more miles to the east lay his transport. He would be there well before sunset. The thought was comforting, the view was less than so. Barren land covered entire continents. There was little natural wildlife on the planet; the unnatural ones had killed them all. Man had killed them with his wars and his lust. His mind was wandering again. He told himself to pay more attention to what was at hand, than to what his so called brothers had done years earlier. He needed to get close to the General. Close enough to kill him, anyway, and that didn't have to be too close in these days of labour saving devices. But Orlok didn't like using bombs or missiles unless he had no option.

His transport was cleverly disguised as a car. Well, it actually was a car, albeit a flying one. It was half-buried under the erratically shifting sand dunes. After checking that all was as he had left it, Orlok opened the door with difficulty and eased himself into the driver's seat. There was just enough room among the sophisticated equipment, computers and sensors arrays behind the pilotís seat for him to place the rifle in its rack, the pistol was placed on a magnetic pad on the dash for easy access. The blinking green light on the console finally caught his attention. Someone had tried to contact him while he was away. They had waited this long, they could wait till after he dined. He opened a can of ham, and activated a can of coffee, heating and opening it simultaneously. They tasted gastronomic. A check of the onboard monitor, more powerful and accurate than the hand-held one, revealed nothing in the area. Orlok retrieved the frequency of the incoming message from the radio's memory and set his transmitter to it.

"Caretaker here," Orlok said, using his operational code name. The static crackled and he waited. Only someone in the Company would know his codename for the present operation. Even if someone decoded his transmission, a name would not do him or her any good. Still, Orlok wondered why the Company would want to contact him before the operation was completed. The waiting entered its second minute and he became dangerously comfortable in the cool interior of the car. Dragging himself out of his laziness, he placed his thumb on the print-reader and the powerful engine started.

"Caretaker, this is Albert. It's bedtime," a faceless voice said.

?Bedtime?, the codeword for 'come home'. This show was over before he was finished. ?Albert?, codeword for priority one, message to be executed immediately.

Once the engine was up to optimum power, the mini-nuclear reactor took over and the pitch of the engines changed, becoming almost silent. Orlok was reminded of the power of the beast he had mounted and gently let it pull itself free of the sand dune. When he had finished shifting around in the driver's seat, making himself more comfortable, Orlok allowed the wheel-less car to turn to the east and raise itself several feet from the ground. Then, opening the throttle with his left hand on the collective and his right around the joystick, he sped forward and upward. The vehicle looked for all the world like a flying sleek sports car (minus the wheels). Anti-gravity engines still had a long way to go, but if they could make a car like this fly, then they had really achieved something in Orlokís opinion. As he flew over the plains and hills Orlok admired the morbid beauty of the land but he was glad to be away. Still he did not like leaving an assignment even if it had turned awkward.

It must be Tuesday.