Why was it every time he opened his eyes Tarlo found himself somewhere different? This was a question he had often pondered, not in the existential 'the universe is never the same from one moment to the next so by definition I am somewhere different', kinda way. But in the actual way, the morning before his last raid he'd opened his eyes and been in a field on Craw Hill overlooking the port. The next time he'd opened his eyes he was charging at a man in uniform, lancer firing from his left hand to leave a gaping hole where an eye had been. It seemed to him that whenever he tried to remember his life he always started from a moment of 'eye-opening' like a bookmark in his own memory.
Just now, for instance, he had opened his eyes to the red gloom of an emergency light positioned just above his head. It reflected dimly from the flat metal surface of the cargo cart they were in. This last bookmark at least he knew the reason for. They had been in for a 6 hour ride in discomfort. He had gone to sleep.
Opening his eyes he immediately put on a pair of sunglasses. While this may have looked like a bad idea given the murk and gloom that made it so hard to see already, there was method to his madness. These simple looking sunglasses were actually state-of-the-art vizors with embedded nano-computers and a tactical heads up display. This delivered straight to his vision information like, their current GPS location, a satellite image of the surrounding area with beacons marking his squad mates and yes, in the top corner the feature he most needed right now, a clock. Making a subtle movement with his augmented arm he sent a signal flipping the display from standard local time to the mission countdown he needed to see right now. Only an hour to go.
Sighing Tarlo stood up from the position he's assumed on the floor, knees up, back against a wall. Walking around the transport cabin he knocked several inconspicuous looking crates and barrels then stood waiting.
It didn't take long for his effort to be rewarded as one by one the crates popped open and the barrels came apart revealing no less than four fully grown men in dark next gen combat suits.
The first tumbled sideways out of a crate all gangly limbs, though, when it stood the dark shape was only of average height, if a bit on the lean side. A low muttering of curses and murmurs provided a quiet accompaniment.
Within a minute a barrel practically burst apart as a hulking giant unfolded to loom over the piles of cargo in the cart. Not that you would know he was there, in the gloom the giants dark skin was practically invisible. Noisily it set down a large metallic hulk and started inspecting what looked like a chunky belt.
The third and final emergence was preceded by a long rectangular container, stood precariously on its thinnest side, seeming to rock about with a frantic urgency before finally toppling over. This seemed to have hit the right spot as the lid quickly popped and out dashed a smaller, squatter shape than the rest. Hector (Hec) quickly fell into line with the others.
The squad were all out of transport and making final preparations now. Tarlo smiled as he thought of how much noise they made considering they were supposed to be an ‘elite squad’. Almost like the good old days.
Ahh the good old days, full of turmoil, drinking and robbing a few poor sons of bitches in fact the only thing keeping them together had been, well, love. It was a quality they all shared. They had done since before their ‘re-adjustement’. That's what it had been called, the weeks of training to get them up to shape and mentally enforce their mandate to follow orders. Being captured hadn't been too bad, they had been given a choice as it turned out. They had been one of the top criminal bands active in New Trenton. Their group had robbed banks, stolen entire cargo shipments and even held a councilman hostage once. In short, they had been useful.
So when captured they had been given a choice. Go to trial and face a definite life imprisonment or even worse, a short drop and a quick stop, or be put in a special program where the government would make use of their special talents. They may even get to stick together if they were good. Just have to be formally trained and assessed first is all.
Trained and assessed his right boot!! The commander knew who he was getting, made sure to make their lives miserable. At least they'd had lives right? But none of them would give in, they were family, they loved each other like brothers and nothing could change that. Nothing.
After the tale about to unfold was done even Tarlo, whose one constant desire for his entire life had been to live and keep holding on to sweet life, would consider the possibility that maybe it would have been better to face the gallows.