Alpha, p.6
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       Alpha, p.6

           Daniel Schmidt
 

  Chapter 6

  For several days I limped around my apartment, so sore I could hardly move. I nursed my wounds, got plenty of sleep, and waited. Then one morning a loud banging on my door woke me. Sunlight streamed through the window, and I realized I felt much better, my headache was gone, and the soreness was fading.

  I dragged myself to the door and found Mr. Blond – I mean Mr. Big – on the porch. He introduced himself as Walter. A mountain of a man, he was much taller than me and probably had forty more pounds of muscle. His very light blue eyes stared at me as he spun a coin in his hand just like the one Christine had given me. His voice boomed as he asked, “How you feeling?”

  I forced a smile. “Never been better.”

  “Good, now let’s go, it’s time to get started,” he said, motioning outside.

  “Do I need to bring anything?”

  “Nope, we’ll give you everything you need.”

  I followed Walter down to his vehicle, a newer model truck with four doors. He tore out of the parking lot, and as we drove we talked about how I had handled their tests. To my relief he told me everyone was impressed when he told them about what I had done. We drove northwest out of the city, towards the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks. We followed a dirt road that led up toward the mountains, and then we passed through several gates and ravines before coming to a large brick house.

  The house was tucked into the aspen trees, which were in their full autumn glory. Red, yellow, and orange leaves floated softly to the ground, turning the ground into a vibrant hue that matched the trees. The house was also on high enough ground to overlook the valley below and in the distance, nestled between the hills, stood the city. A few hundred meters past the house the ground rose dramatically and changed from mere hills to the mountain where the changing aspens made it look like it was on fire.

  “I’ll show you around the house before we go meet everyone else,” Walter said, parking near the front door.

  Inside, the house was spotless, clean, and tidy, with everything in its place, and it smelled like freshly baked bread. The floors were oak and the walls were painted a light brown.

  “Welcome to your new home,” Walter boomed, raising his arms. “It’s not much but we have a lot of fun here.”

  “Who is ‘we’? Who else is here?” I asked.

  “We have one squad, about fifteen guys who live here. Those fifteen guys are split up into three teams. You’re going to be part of my team. You answer to me, and if I’m not around you go to the squad leader Sergeant Barnes.”

  Walter showed me the kitchen, which looked well stocked. “You cook?” he asked.

  “No.”

  “Well you better learn. The new guys cook all the meals.”

  Walter then showed me the gym and game room, which was complete with billiards, TVs, and card tables. We then started up some stairs. He took me to a long hallway, one with five doors. He took me to the last door and pushed it open. There were two beds inside.

  “This is your room. Your roommate is Carlos. He’s also on our team. You’ll meet him out at the rifle range.”

  Lying on my bed was an odd assortment of clothing, undershirts, a ballistic vest, an M4 style assault rifle, a silenced MP5 sub-machine gun, a silenced pistol, a bayonet, and a radio. Under the bed I saw several pairs of boots and shoes.

  I picked up the bayonet. It was military issue, long, heavy and strong. It had an attachment that would affix it to a rifle, and it had the same five symbols etched into its blade that were on the coin Christine gave me. “You guys use these?” I asked, spinning the large blade in my hand.

  Walter shrugged. “We’re required to carry them. The boss likes us fully stocked. Anyway, there are more clothes in the closet. The rest of your equipment we can get in the garage. The assault rifle is only for emergencies. When we’re out on mission we use the silenced stuff. We don’t want to attract any attention if you know what I mean. And we need to blend in when we are on mission, hence the odd assortment of clothing,” Walter said.

  His mention of a mission made my heart skip a beat, but he offered no details.

  “Grab a coat out of the closet there,” he said, motioning.

  I selected a coat in the closet, hoisted the ballistic vest onto my shoulders, and grabbed hold of my weapons. I followed Walter back down the stairs.

  This was supposed to be a terrorist organization so I expected propaganda and ideological slogans written all over the place, but there was nothing that indicated who these people were or what this place was.

  We walked into the garage, and along the back wall was shelf after shelf of military equipment and bullets. Walter had me grab various pouches to put on my vest to hold my magazines and radio. I attached the pouches, and after rearranging them several times Walter seemed satisfied that my jacket hid them enough.

  He had me take off my jacket, and he put a sling over my right shoulder. He then connected the MP5 sub machine gun to it and tightened it until the butt stock rested near my armpit and the muzzle stood near my belt. I threw my jacket on and only a small portion of the barrel protruded out the bottom. He had me let go of the rifle and slide the jacket over it, and then he had me walk around.

  I had to press on the muzzle near my belt to keep it from swinging, but it was all but concealed beneath my jacket. Walter then had me practice pulling my jacket partially open to expose the MP5 and pulling it up to fire with both hands. Next we arranged the pistol on the vest and ensured the jacket covered it sufficiently. Then we attached the radio and ran a wire up to my ear.

  I started loading magazines for my rifle and pistol.

  “What’s a typical day like around here?” I asked.

  Walter smiled. “I’ll destroy you in the weight room every morning. Then after breakfast we usually go out to the range and shoot for a couple of hours. After lunch we train as a squad and have a class on something like first aid or navigation. After dinner we usually train for a little in the dark, then hit the sack.”

  “Sounds like we’ll be busy,” I said

  Walter shrugged. “Sometimes. We’re on a rotational basis with another squad. We handle missions on odd weeks, they get the even ones.”

  “Sound like a good time.”

  “It is. We train hard but on our off weeks we get to have some fun. Sarg even lets us go into town sometimes.”

  “What kind of missions can we be expecting?” I asked, loading another magazine.

  Walter chuckled. “Let’s get you trained up, and then we can worry about missions.”

  “The other squad isn’t here?” I asked.

  “No, we don’t know where they are. They don’t know where we are and that’s the way it has to stay… Hurry up with those magazines already,” Walter said, slapping me across the back.

  Once I loaded my magazines we walked outside and towards a hill near the back of the house. I saw some crude plywood structures at the base of the hill with groups of four men practicing going into the structures and shooting targets. Others were standing around watching. As we neared, several of them turned to look at us. None of them spoke and Walter walked up to a tall man in his late 30s who I had never seen before.

  “Sarg, here’s the new guy.”

  Sarg did not turn to look at me. He just clenched his jaw.

  Walter looked at me. “This is your squad leader, Sergeant Barnes.”

  I nodded and there was an awkward pause, and then Sergeant Barnes said, “Let’s take a walk kid.”

  He turned and walked back towards the house. Sergeant Barnes was a few inches taller than me and had broad, thick shoulders. His hair was dark but he was starting to go bald. He had a large, square jaw and several days of stubble showing.

  “You were in the Army?” he said.

  “Yes,” I replied.

  He nodded. “You ever deploy?” he asked.

  “Four times between Iraq and Afghanistan.”


  He nodded again, “This place runs kind of like the Army but without all the red tape. Do what you’re told, train hard, and I’ll take care of everything else. You probably have a lot of questions and I’m gonna tell you you’re not going to get a lot of answers just yet. In time you will. Have fun and listen to Walter, he knows what he’s doing.”

  Sergeant Barnes stopped walking and looked at me for the first time. I was struck by his light but intense eyes. “Whatever you think this place is, I guarantee it’s not it. It is a whole lot more than you could ever imagine. Just know we fight for a worthy cause, one worth your life. Hell, one worth all our lives. Stick with us and you’ll find out what we are fighting for, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a chance to die well for that cause. Welcome to the brotherhood, Paul.”

  Sergeant Barnes extended his hand out and I shook it.

  “Go link up with Walter again,” he said as he walked back towards the house. I was struck by what Sergeant Barnes had said and watched him as he walked away. He reminded me of a few old Sergeants I had known in the Army, the crusty ones who had been in combat too long or too many times, the ones who always seemed to have something on their minds but never said what it was. That something was the violence they had experienced, the comrades they had lost, and the decisions they couldn’t take back, decisions that would haunt them the rest of their days. I knew exactly how he felt.

  I turned and jogged back to the plywood structures. I found Walter standing next to two other guys. He introduced the first as Carlos, a tall, dark and very muscular man probably in his late 30s. The other man was a guy named David. David was short and thin with a square jaw and light brown hair. Walter then took me and introduced me to the rest of the squad.

  Walter spouted out all the guys’ names but I was hopelessly lost after the second guy. They all looked fit, trim, and hardened, men who had seen their fair share of war. They all welcomed me and then quickly went back to training.

  Walter took Carlos, David, and me to one of the plywood structures. We practiced lining up close together at the door, something we called stacking, and then going in and clearing the room. I had been taught a slightly different way, but it didn’t take me long to get on the same page. Walter explained to me that when we received a mission we would be “securing” one and only one person. I assumed they meant kidnapping only one person, but I kept my mouth shut. Walter explained we were to secure that person and get them out. Everyone else there was to be killed. The person we were to secure was called “the package.”

  Other teams started putting targets into our room, painting or putting something on each one and then telling us what “the package” was painted with or had on it. We were expected to shoot all the targets, except the package of course. The first time we did this I was the second man in and found three targets. We were told the package had a red scarf around its neck. I quickly identified the middle target and the red scarf; I turned my sights to the left and put two rounds in the chest area and one in the head of the target. I had never fired a silenced weapon before and was surprised when all I heard was the bolt sliding back and forth. I had, however, shot an MP5 sub-machine gun before, and it fired smooth just like I remembered.

  I quickly figured out David was the best shot in our team. He could fire one bullet through a target and nearly all his subsequent shots would pass through the same hole as the first or come very close. He knew he was good and showed off sometimes by shooting just the eyes or the nipples of the target. Walter slapped him in the back of the head whenever he did this.

  We continued clearing rooms until the sun started to dip below the trees, taking the temperature down with it. Carlos and I were sent back to start cooking dinner while the rest of the squad continued training. Carlos took the lead and started pulling out pots, pans, and items from the fridge. He had me start cooking some pasta while he chopped up vegetables. No one else was around and I figured it would be a good time to start gathering intelligence.

  “How long have you been here?” I asked him.

  I was relieved when Carlos didn’t hesitate to answer. “Six months or so.”

  “How many missions?” I asked.

  Carlos held up two fingers, and then said, “They don’t come around very often.”

  Carlos seemed comfortable talking, so I continued. “Who are the bad guys? Who are we shooting out there?”

  Carlos stopped chopping the vegetables and my stomach sunk. I thought I might have crossed a line but to my relief he answered.

  “We call them the Legion, don’t know a lot about them but while we’re trying to rescue the packages, they are trying to kill them.”

  I was about to ask why when Carlos continued. “There are a few things you should know about the Legion. They wear kind of a dark gray uniform, with gray ballistic helmets and carry M4s and .45 pistols. You’ll know when you see one, they are pretty distinct. Dark grey everywhere with no markings or patches,” he said, motioning all over his torso. “And in charge of them is a guy we call the Alpha; he is very dangerous. Last mission he got two of our guys.”

  Carlos ran his hand over his head, from ear to ear. “The Alpha wears the dark grey fatigues like the other Legion soldiers, but his helmet is different. He’s got a crest running across the top, from the top of one ear to the other, about three inches tall. He looks like those ancient Roman centurions who wore the horsehair plum on their helmets. We think it’s some communication device, like an antenna or something for their radio. He also wears a mask. It looks like one of the masks hockey goalies have except it hides his eyes more. Anyway, like I said, the Alpha is the leader and very dangerous. If you see him, you let everyone else know and fire everything you have at him.”

  I was not expecting anything like what Carlos had said. “Who are these guys? Government? Cops?” I asked.

  Carlos chuckled. “Like a lot of things around here, there are a lot of theories but no one really knows. Some guys say they’re government, and some guys think they’re some evil corporation. I really don’t know and don’t really care.”

  I had so many questions but settled with, “And who are the packages?”

  Carlos smiled. “I won’t spoil that one for you. You’ll have to wait for a mission to find that out.”

  I heard a door slam open and saw Walter’s massive frame come barging in.

  “Where’s our food!” he shouted with a huge smile on his face.

  Carlos stuck the knife into the cutting board in dramatic fashion and nodded his head at Walter. I thought the two were going to fight but Walter let out huge laugh and yelled, “I’m sooo hungry!” He then stormed upstairs. The rest of the squad came trudging into the house and many more shouted about food and their hunger.

  Carlos and I finished preparing the food and the whole squad sat down at a long wooden table. Sergeant Barnes sat at one end while the spot at the other end was left empty. Since this was my first meal with the squad, I expected to be singled out and told to introduce myself or do something, but everyone just started digging in.

  Several different conversations started up around the table. A few guys talked about rifles, a few others talked football, but the main conversation centered on Walter and his booming voice. The guys around me asked a few general questions like what units I had served in and what sports I played, but for the most part they left me alone. As I listened to the conversations and laughed at the jokes, I started to feel more calm and relaxed, like I was around old friends. This felt odd. I was brand new to this place, these people, and I was undercover, which meant I should have felt on edge.

  I noticed Sergeant Barnes didn’t join in any of the conversations. He glanced around the table occasionally, but for the most part he kept his eyes on his plate. When not shoveling down his meal, he used his spoon to push around the food on his plate.

  Christine walked in after about fifteen minutes. She wore jeans and a tight-fitting sweater, and
her fair hair was in a single braid, resting on her shoulder. When Walter saw her he yelled out, “Christine!” and started banging his fists on the table. The rest of the men soon followed suit into what became a roar. She smiled and laughed softly. She told us good evening and then sat down opposite Sergeant Barnes.

  Walter got the attention of everyone at the table and started into an animated story. Everyone’s attention centered on him, everyone’s attention except Christine’s.

  I glanced her way for a moment and found her eyes on me, a pair of sparkling blue gems, which looked almost fake. She kept them on me for a few seconds and then smiled and looked down at her plate. I felt perplexed by his beautiful woman and Walter’s words were lost to me. I was brought back to reality when the guy next to me bumped my arm in a fit of laughter.

  I looked around the table and knew I was enjoying this place too much already. I had only known these men for an afternoon, not counting my savage trial, but I already felt like a part of them. They were soldiers just like me, they thought like me, I shared their humor, and I felt totally at home among them. I had not felt this good in a long time and yet a sickening feeling crept into my stomach. I remembered why I was here; I remembered what Luke had told me, I remembered what I had to do, I remembered these men were terrorists and kidnappers. And I remembered I would have to betray these men and send them all to jail. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and I feared my face went white. I glanced around the table to see if anyone noticed and saw everyone was still engrossed in Walter’s story, oblivious to my peril, everyone except Christine, whose eyes were once again upon me.

 
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