Monday, 13 July 2009

Permanent Death, Episode 5 - This Idiotic War

I woke up in a safe house and went outside, heading west to Pala. I passed a guard post along the way and got into to bit of a scrap, losing my vehicle to enough stray weapons fire to put it out of action. I picked up a new one at a safehouse, also picking up some more diamonds and a tape recording of Reuben’s interview with the Jackal before I make my way back to Pala.

In town, I go to pick up the only mission available to me. It’s for the UFLL, as apparently the APR has given up on me. Gakumba meets with me alone – which is strange considering he’s always had some other mercenary there as a witness before. It’s unsettling, but his diamonds are good and I’ve still got no other leads on The Jackal.

His mission is a dangerous one as the UFLL leader wants me to assassinate his counterpart in the APR and further destabilize the conflict. It would appear that he is feeling the strain from my work for the UFLL and is retreating to a house above the Goka falls. If I take him out then the other side can consolidate power here in the north and maybe I can finally make a start on tracking down the Jackal once and for all. As it is now I can’t hardly drive 100 metres up the road without some mob of trigger-happy yahoo’s deciding to shoot first and ask questions later. Maybe if the UFLL actually gains control I will be able to more around a bit more freely. The guard on the way out looks at me with shifty eyes. I know something is up.

Before I head out of town, however, I visit Father Maliya for a third time. I’m running a little bit low on pills, but I’m not quite dry yet. I accept the fake passports he gives me, figuring if I get a chance I’ll drop them off in exchange for some malaria meds. But I’m not going to go out of my way – not unless I get desperate. I check my map on the way out. Unfortunately for these civilians, it doesn’t look like they’re exactly on the way. I’ll probably wait till I’m out in the desert somewhere and toss the papers.

Arriving at the north-eastern most bus-station, I get in a car and, eschewing the roads for fear of running into a patrol, drive through the fringes of the desert until I reach the fort, where I rejoin the road. Passing through a checkpoint with a minimum of fuss, I reach the small foot-track leading to Goka falls. There is a sign in the middle of the scrub. An odd spot for it, to say the least.

I started up the track, crouching low and staying underneath the waist-high palm fronds to stay out of view. I had no idea how well many guards would be protecting Tambossa so I kept my silenced MP5 at the ready. Reaching the point where the track doubled back, I could hear a guard whistling as he stood overlooking the path I’d just come up. I cut short his whistling and the body rolled away, becoming hidden in the long grass. I continued on and, pausing at the crest of the hill, noticed just how bright an evening it was. The full moon was bright enough to be casting shadows from the trees overhead and in this light I wouldn’t be able to remain hidden for long.

I had gone all of 10 metres when I had to make a mad dive for cover off to one side - a guard was walking up the path towards me and had I been a second slower would have spotted me instantly. Thankfully, he wasn’t paying much attention and his body dropped to the ground with a dull thud, laying smack-bang in the middle of the path with no cover between it and my position. I ground my teeth and skirted off the right, taking up position behind a large moss covered rock.

I could now see both the dead guard on the path and what I presumed to be the building that contained Tambossa inside it. The chatter of the guards increased, betraying a note of tension and I surmised that the body on the path had been discovered. Ignoring it for the moment, I whipped out my monocle and peered towards the hut. To my great surprise, I spotted Tambossa staring back out at me from an open window! It was too great an opportunity to pass up and, with his guards rushing about in a panic now, I took aim and fired.

Suddenly, soldiers were all around me shouting and firing in my direction. Shards of the rock I was crouched behind sprayed my face and chest. The sound of weapons fire behind meant that, with a sinking feeling like a punch in the gut, the penny dropped. My attack was just meant to be a feint – the spearhead of the major UFLL push – and I was now caught in the middle between the APR in front and the UFLL behind. I turned and ran, desperate to punch a hole through the advancing UFLL troops.

I took out three of four soldiers in quick succession, abandoning my stealthy MP5 for my PKM machine gun with its reassuring weight. Somewhat miraculously, I managed to take out most of the UFLL soldiers with my desperate attack. Behind their lines now, I spied a lone soldier guarding the track from behind and eliminated him.

I made it back to the Goka falls signpost, my mind still reeling from the betrayal. It took me a second to realise that it was my phone ringing that was causing my pockets to vibrate and I answered to hear Reuben the reporter’s voice on the other end. He said he needed to meet with me right away. Lacking a better plan, I agreed.

When I got to the lumber mill, Reuben told me that the UFLL was making their push and consolidating power in the north, just as I’d suspected. They were also, however, rounding up all the civilians and foreign nationals for goodness knows what reason. Reuben seemed to think that it wasn’t anything good, and I was inclined to agree. He gave me a choice – to meet with Michelle and Warren at Mike’s Bar and try to hold out there, or to hot-foot it to the church in Pala and help the civilians (including Father Maliya) escape. Pala sounded like a death-trap to me, knowing how many soldiers would be in the town already and if the APR was truly coming apart in the north, then I’ll bet they could count on a whole lot of defections.

In hindsight, the choice was an easy one to make. When I’d tossed out the civilian papers I’d already written them off in my mind as a lost cause, but I pretended to consider the other option. When I got to Mikes and heard the gunfire I wasted no time in attacking them from behind. As the last one went down from a long range shot he pulled out a flare gun and launched a flare high into the air above the bar.

Inside the bar, Michelle was visibly distressed and Warren and Nasreen had already taken up positions at boarded up windows around the bar. I helped Michelle push a heavy, 1950’s style Icebox in front of the door. No sooner had we done so than all the windows in the bar blew open as the soldiers now surrounding the bar opened fire. The withering force of the opening volley took down Michelle and Warren, but dust obscured Nasreen. I couldn’t tell how much longer she survived for but it couldn’t have been long. I crouched in a corner next to the bar. I tried valiantly to take some of them with us, throwing grenade after grenade and emptying a plethora of slugs and then shells out the open windows.

I don’t remember what it was that eventually brought me down, but the next thing I knew I was on the back of a truck, having been mistaken for dead. The next thing I remember after that was the pavement rushing up at me as I fell off the back of the truck, reopening fresh wounds. The sand and wind was howling and the best I could do was turn my back to the brunt of it and try to get off the road and die in peace. I blacked out again.

When I woke up it was because the pain was so intense, manifesting as a crimson sheen over my vision. I heard a voice say something like “stop squirming” and with a wrench the pain flared once more and subdued. To my intense surprise it was the Jackal to whom I now owed my continued survival. He sat next to me for a few minutes and gave me an update on the situation with the UFLL but at the sound of some jeeps pulling up outside he took off out a window.

Greeves came inside and told me the same stuff as the Jackal, the UFLL was consolidating its hold and everyone was getting out and heading south. He said he’d leave me a jeep if I promised to go back up north and murder the bastard that turned on me and my merc friends. He said Tambossa would be easy to find as he was giving a speech somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Weird place to hold a speech. I wonder if Greeves had anything to do with it.

Either way, it was only too easy to spot him when I reached a hill to the west of the convoy. It looked like they’d stopped on the road because of a broken down car or truck or something. It gave me an opportunity I was only too happy to take advantage of.

After spotting him with my monocle I only needed one shot.

And that was it – I was done with this whole mess and it was time to move on. The Jackal was obviously also heading south and I now felt a strange pull towards him - it wasn’t the same as before where I just wanted to find him and kill him. Now when I next met him it wouldn’t be enough to just end his life I wanted something more. I wanted to get understand – to get inside his head and see the world through his eyes. On the way south I passed the hut he had dragged me into and saved my life.

I had to fight my way south, as Greeves had told me to meet him in the small town of Sefapane once I’d sorted out Tambossa. As I drove into the town I couldn’t shake a slight feeling of déjà vu. Another crummy town and another shaky attempt at peace.

As I walked into the room to meet Greaves he was on the phone. I overhear him say something like “problem solved” as he sees me and hangs up. He then proceeds to explain what he wants me to do – help someone sail a ship of guns into Port Soleo under a UFLL flag and basically drop the match into the gas tank that is this conflict. “We’ll be back fighting this idiotic war in no time”, he tells me.

I believe him.


ben said...

I bit it just after where you are now, after you ferry the boat to the town and everyone goes ape shit crazy.

That guy, THAT FRICKEN GUY, said the back exit would be safer, but it's completely enclosed and there's no buddy rescue at that point =(

Rupert Rouch said...

Next episode?