DeMarco spun behind the pillar, narrowly dodging the incoming burst of 7.62mm manstoppers. His weathered hands worked furiously to drop the spent magazine from his H&K MP5K and retrieve a fresh one from the pouch on his left thigh. He slammed the clip home and slapped the bolt forward, loading a round into the breech.

It was show-time again. DeMarco stepped from cover, spotting the masked man with the Kalashnikov, training it in his direction. The MP5K came up, fully extended on its harness, and spat a three-round burst. He watched long enough to watch the 9mm Parabellum slugs make their impact in the man's head before turning to the dead man's comrade, shooting him in the face, as well.

DeMarco moved diagonally as he spotted the remaining six soldiers move to cover. One of them was too slow about moving, and DeMarco triggered the submachine gun, drilling the man just above the ribs, where his side plates failed to protect him. The man had a slow, painful death ahead of him, but DeMarco didn't pity the man.

He'd chosen to play the game.

The soldiers began to return fire, and DeMarco reached another pillar, pressing against it and closing his eyes as the bullets sought after his flesh. He lunged low into the fray, acquiring another target in his sights. The MP5K chattered, and the man fell before DeMarco had scrambled back behind cover.

Four left to go.

Damn, DeMarco cursed. Wish I'd brought some flash-bangs.

He rushed forward towards another pillar, spinning to his right at the sound of footsteps. One of the soldiers was flanking him, and DeMarco cut that counterattack short with a triple dosage of 9mm slugs. As he reached the pillar, things grew eerily quiet, and the sound of rustling clothes reached his ears.

They were regrouping for their final stand. That much he knew. The question was, what?

Quietly, DeMarco stepped from behind cover, keeping his MP5K at the ready as he started on a path reverse to the soldier he'd just killed in the act of flanking. His tan rubber-soled boots helped to keep his steps quiet, but it was all the time spent sneaking through woods and jungles from California to Thailand that kept his footing silent.

"There he is!" a voice cried in Russian.

Fuck you, DeMarco snarled mentally, firing the MP5K and killing the man who'd sounded the alarm. The last two came at him from two different directions, battle-roars soaring from their lips as their AKMs barked their death cries towards him.

Always engage the nearest threat.

He listened to his training, rotating right slightly and placing three rounds square between the soldier's eyes, a reddish-pink halo surrounding his head as the bullets scrambled his brains. Instead of turning to face the final man, DeMarco let his MP5K fall on its harness, left hand drawing the Glock 19 from behind his back and training it one-handed on the soldier's face.

His finger twitched twice. Time came to a screeching halt as the the bullets whizzed through the air, connecting with the soldier's face and ripped through skull and gray matter. The soldier's body went tense, then relaxed forever, crumpling lifelessly to the ground.

DeMarco stood upright, surveying the battlefield from the other side. The stench of death wafted to his nose. Twenty years ago, he might have regurgitated out of repulse for what he'd done, for what he now witnessed.

The fact that he didn't even twitch stood as a testament to his hardened soul.

DeMarco holstered the Glock and held the MP5K's pistol grip in his right hand, moving towards where the guards had begun their offensive. He found the leader's body and knelt beside the corpse, hands moving all about the navy blue Battle Dress Uniform, searching every pocket until he came up with what he'd been hired to recover.

The bracelet didn't seem like much. It was of poor quality, the kind you would find in a street market in a major city. It'd seen some use before finding its way to DeMarco's grizzled hands. Part of the man wondered what was so important about the piece of jewelry in his hands that men would fight and die to recover it.

That thought was cut short by a sudden, blunt force to the small of his back. He cried out, falling forward, the bracelet sliding out of reach. DeMarco writhed and fought to turn over, facing his assailant.

"Ah, DeMarco," the man said, his prominent cockney accent instantly identifying him.

"Ralston," DeMarco breathed through gritted teeth. "You son of a bitch."

"Temper, temper," Ralston chided, lowering the M203 grenade launcher that he'd used to fire the beanbag round that brought DeMarco down. "No need to get worked up, mate."

"I'll give you a need," DeMarco snarled, starting to bring his MP5K up.

Ralston raised the M203. "From fifty meters, the beanbag was a solid strike. Point blank, it'll kill you. I'd rather you alive, but it's your call, sport."

DeMarco considered what Ralston said, and slowly moved his hand away from his weapon. He was a mercenary, as was Ralston. There was no point in dying for your client-why go to war for money when you wouldn't be around to indulge your spoils?

Ralston studied DeMarco. Longish, jet black hair clashed against vibrant blue-green eyes. His chiseled jaw was covered in a five o'clock shadow. A black T-shirt and a tactical gear rig covered his slim but cut upper body, and khakis and boots clothed his equally fit lower body. To the untrained eye, DeMarco was undoubtedly a deadly man.

Ralston knew DeMarco, however.

"You're letting yourself slip," Ralston told him, running his left hand through his long, blond hair. "You should've walked away when you had the chance." He shrugged. "Well, you'll have plenty of time to beat yourself up over decisions past."

"What do you mean?" DeMarco demanded.

"The Moscow police don't appreciate firefights in their city, much less their cathedrals," Ralston informed him. "The FSB will fight to get a hold of you, and if they do…well, word around the campfire is that they keep Lubyanka maintained …special prisoners."

Before DeMarco could retort, Ralston checked his watch. "They'll be here any minute." He stepped over DeMarco, scooping the bracelet off of the floor. "I'll do you one last favor. The Militia is less likely to kill a subject that's unconscious."

DeMarco didn't have time to brace himself for the blow. His vision faded in and out and his ears rung as his body fought to hang on to consciousness. He managed to stay lucid long enough to watch Ralston fade away into the darkness of the cathedral. DeMarco finally succumbed to the pain, the sirens the last thing that he heard before the dark engulfed him.

The End

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