It took two days to hitchhike, bus, and walk from London to Liverpool and the docks. It was a huge sprawling city and the shipyard was no less impressive. A landscape of concrete, steel, and those endlessly stacked containers all being shipped and shifted into and out of the country. Eventually, after some extensive negotiations with the captains of a number of vessels I found myself a ride on a freighter heading for Boston. The crew were all typical Scousers, always talking and gossiping in their thick warbling accent. At least they weren't wielding machetes and assault rifles and trying to hack me to pieces or perforate my skull. I could deal with annoyance. Being dead was kinda hard to fix. I stood on the bridge and watched England disappear into the distance in the overcast British light.
We'd not been on the sea for even a day when it happened. It was night time and we'd reached open sea. The sea was a bit rough and a steady rain was falling from a sky wreathed in iron clouds. I sat in my cabin staring into the choppy waves through the porthole. I needed to get back. If this rain became a full blown storm it might slow us down maybe a day or more. I couldn't allow that to happen. I needed to get back to my team. My friends, my comrades, my family. They needed me, and I didn't know what sort of S^*t might be going down while I'd been away. Then I heard it. The whirr of chopper blades, only just louder than the low growl of the ship's engine and the wind. It looked like the bad guys were here.
I scrambled from my cabin and rushed onto the deck as fast as I could. I was nearly invisible in the darkness, my black pullover and combats masking my form. I could see the crew moving around in their bright yellow raincoats and boots and just over the tip of the prow, I could see the shadows of four men fastroping from a transport chopper. I moved. This was dangerous. All they had to do was kill enough members of the crew and I was finished. I couldn't get this ship to the other side of the Atlantic on my own. With no food I'd starve, alone in the middle of the ocean unless someone came to the rescue. That was provided the soldiers didn't cap me themselves first. I scrambled up three decks of stairs and burst onto the bridge. The captain looked at me astonished and I tackled him to the ground just as the window in front of him shattered, a bullet whisking through his hair.
"Holy mother! That was a gunshot! Did you see? A Goddamn gunshot!"
"Shut up, and stay down." He shut up. "The soldiers are at the other end of the ship. That one was probably a sniper. Chances are they're all moving down this way to kill you and I need you to stay alive to command this ship. Under no circumstances stand up or leave this room, do you understand me?"
He nodded in assent and I crept out of the room at a crouch.
I slunk through the shadows in the now heavy rain. It lashed at my eyes and distorted perspective around me. At least it would be the same for the enemies. That meant shooting me at long range would be difficult which would suit me all the better. Since I was unarmed I needed a close quarters fight. That was what I was going to get as I crept through the maze of containers which occupied most of the main deck. The shadows were constantly shifting and warping in the moonlight. I heard footfalls, far too fast for crew members wandering around. I crouched and backed against the nearest container. Peeking around the corner I saw them. Two mercenaries, both in black uniform with goggles and helmets, silenced M870 shotguns in their shoulders. They were carrying the Marine model, that meant they were supplied by someone with resources and proper gear. These had to be Stalker mercenaries. They moved efficiently and methodically, checking their quadrants and scanning for targets with their weapons. All the time the second man covered the first man's back. If one couldn't see, the other could. Professional. I almost admired them. Almost.
They approached my position. I could tell from the sound of their boots on the metal flooring. I waited just on the edge of the corner. I needed perfect timing. A second too late or too early and my arm, leg, or head would be blown clean off by the shotgun spray. Just as I saw the tip of the shotgun barrel reach the corner, I moved. I snatched the barrel away and jerked the shotgun. The butt of the weapon twisted and smacked into the first man's jaw stunning him. I spun him around and grabbed him as a human shield blocking the second soldier's shot. Using the weapon I had taken I pumped a cloud of shot pellets into his chest. He was lifted back as if punched by a huge fist of air. I shot the other mercenary too and moved. The other team would have heard and would come looking. I needed to set a trap.
I moved around another container and crouched where I had a clear view of the bodies. Within a minute the second two soldiers showed up. I noted they all had a blazon on their arms in the shape of a double edged dagger in red. Any clue to their identity was vital at this stage. The two newcomers bent to check their comrades' vitals. This was my chance. I sprang. I pumped the shotgun and blasted one of them off his feet. The second man rushed me and slapped the shotgun down before I could reload the chamber. I swung at him with the butt of the weapon but he ducked, parried and slapped my arms aside this time, forcing me to drop the weapon. An effective disarm. I closed distance with him as he went for his own gun, elbowing him in the jaw before he could draw it. He swung back with a series of punches which I had to block frantically, hardly able to see through the rain and the darkness. Then he made his mistake. He went for a high kick. At that one moment I just about smiled. I leaned back as his foot curved in a round arc towards my temple. Then I leaned back. He spun himself around and slipped on the wet metal surface. Amateur. No point in such an inefficient technique in this situation. Sure it's a one hit KO but the risk is death. Shouldn't have taken the risk. I swept him as he stumbled off balance and he slammed to the ground, dazed. I stomped his groin and pinned him down with my knees. Time for a questioning.
"Strikeforce Charlie, Number three, Red regiment!"
"Who are you working for?"
"Strikeforce Charlie, Number three, Red regiment!"
"What is your objective? Who is your client? Answer me!"
"Strikeforce Charlie, Number three, Red regiment!" He answered his identification again then looked straight into my eyes with a cold, dead, gaze. "Red Stalker will kill you all."
I saw him bite down. His body began to jerk and convulse and his eyes rolled into his head as he frothed at the mouth and died. He'd bitten a poison pill hidden in his mouth. I stood up and left his body on the floor. The blazon on his arm seemed to glare at me defiantly, almost mockingly. He had mentioned a Red Stalker. That must be one of the elite officers of the Stalker organisation. If he was part of Red regiment then Red Stalker was his commanding officer. Just one of the members of Stalker was controlling this operation then. Members of the 'Red' division of Stalker I presumed. They were all more willing to die than give away more vital information than that, however. Now I was certain. The team were in danger. I had to get back. I looked down at the spasming corpse on the cold metal floor of the ship as the rain fell across the Atlantic.