Sunday 11 October 2009

Permanent Death, Episode 10: Plausible Deniability

The sky was a glary white colour and rain spattered the ground in thick, uneven drops. Holding my map up to the sky to keep the face of it dry, I planned my route.

The mission the APR commander Tambossa had given me was to blow the Mertens-Segolo pipeline – the one that pumps water out of the lake and into a neighbouring country. Greaves seemed to have reservations about cutting off the water supply to a neighbouring country. That could just be because he is getting kickbacks from the company, but I have no way of knowing. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me. Tambossa has more gold on his chest than many small African nations and Greaves, his mercenary advisor, seems to equally enjoy the spoils of war.

Even after taking a bus to the south-western corner of the map the morning’s glare is still hanging around, as is the rain. Perhaps it came with me from Pala.

Going inside a safe-house I slept out the rain and the sunshine that followed it. Leaving at dusk, I stepped out into a dusky, orange haze.

A guard post is across from me, separated by a small valley and about 100 yards. I approach from the east as the darkness lengthens and get off a couple of dart rifle shots before drawing the attention of the soldiers. A number of explosives went off in the ensuing fight and before long the whole checkpoint was going up in smoke.

I walked down the path to the Taemoco Diamond mine where I was to get the explosives powerful enough to sever the pipeline. Starting with the guard in the tower, I made use of my dart rifle again before swapping to the always handy shotgun.

It was getting a lot of use, however, so while in the middle of fighting my way down some stairs it promptly jammed and I had to hammer the stuck cartridge loose.

Grenades and Molotov’s were applied to the problem of soldiers and when the coast was clear I picked up the explosives and fielded a call from Andre. I had noted his failure to call when I first picked up the mission. He wanted to meet, so I obliged, trekking through the bush to another nondescript safehouse.

Andre’s plan (he’s always got a plan) was to really mess the pipeline up by busting the emergency stop valves or something so that when the real damage was done to the pipe it would rupture and overflow more than just the water that was already in the pipe. Or something like that anyway.

I made my way to the pump control shed by climbing up onto the overhead pipe itself, sneakily taking the guards out with my dart rifle from a safe distance. Getting inside the small shed and blowing up the controls alerted a mortar crew on a nearby island, and I had to run to get away. Only by crouching in the jungle did I lose his attentions, his eyes like a hawk. How he could see enough of anything in the dark to land a range-finding mortar clean next to me, I’ll never know.

Off to the main pipeline, I approached using stealth. Taking down the first guard I saw, I attracted a number of others, one of which decided to throw a grenade into the bush I was using for cover. Seeing it coming plain at my face, I sprinted to get away and it exploded quite close behind me.

Having lost my cover by diving into the open ground of the road, the soldiers proceeded to try and add ventilation to my body with their bullets. Needless to say, I hurriedly got back into the cover of the bushes and returned the favour.

Strangely enough, the guards never rushed my position and instead chose to pepper me with near misses and wild shots from an inordinate distance. I’m not sure if they were trying to stay close to guard the pipeline, fearful of an attack from multiple directions by multiple assailants, or if they just weren’t sure where I was because my weapon was silenced.

Either way, they stood around in a big, unmissable line so much like soccer players defending a penalty shootout. Except I wasn’t kicking a ball at them, and they weren’t falling to the ground from simple groin injuries.

Eventually there was only the sniper on the tower left – and I’d saved my last dart rifle shot for him. I aimed and pulled the trigger only to have the rifle mis-fire and jam. I duck back behind cover and batter at the rifle to eject the cartridge. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to re-use a dart that has already gotten stuck in the chamber already, but I give it a shot, making sure not to miss. I don’t.

With no one else around I gather up some supplies and plant the explosive on the pipe, standing back to watch the sparks fly. It goes off with a happy bang and my mission is complete. Andre calls from the mine, saying that he can see the water rushing in to fill up the diamond pit.

I dive off the side and into the water and realise just a second too late that I have done something incredibly stupid. Even falling into water from high enough can kill, and there are also rocks at the bottom of the cliff. A sinking feeling comes over me but the fall blessedly isn’t long enough to either kill me or leave me in suspense for long. I make it safely, but it was close. Damn close.

I take a boat down the newly formed creek – formed by my own actions with the pipeline, no less, and it is a little bit empowering to know that I can have such an effect on the environment.

At the mine I spot the soldiers attacking Andre and quietly take some out with my dart rifle.

I swim over to his side of the diamond mine as the centre of the pit is now completely flooded. Using my silenced MP5 to take out the rest of the soldiers, I hear some moans of pain and purple smoke – Andre is down. I’ve been waiting for just a moment like this to have a plausible reason to take him out, so I reach for his side arm and place it against his head.

But then I hesitate. This isn’t the way I want this to happen.

Instead, I put some morphine into him and get him on his feet again. He thanks me and goes back to his usual jocular self. Still the feeling of wrongness persists, and I realise that I still need to kill Andre. I tell myself that now I’ve placed a gun against his head he won’t forget it. I can’t turn my back on him so he needs to be eliminated.

It feels wrong, but I pull the trigger, aimed square at his head. Further wrongness – the shot doesn’t kill him, and instead he just limps lamely away from me, a desperate and pitiable thing. The second shot succeeds where the first failed and Andre lands awkwardly, face down into the dirt and grass.

It still feels very wrong to me, which is appropriate I suppose, since there’s nothing right about death, but I didn’t want it to be like this. I feel annoyed that it was such a lame ending to his life – no epic battle, no blaze of glory. Just another meaningless death in a meaningless place.

To make myself feel a bit better, I blow up my jeep on the way back to the bus depot, reprising my earlier premature memorial to Andre’s death.

It makes me feel better.

1 comment:

Nels Anderson said...

Poor Andre can never catch a break, eh?

Thanks Ben, very awesome.