In the day everything is white but in the night everything is black. The only light is the light that comes from your flashlight and when you’re trying not to be seen you keep it low. There is no way of telling what’s hiding in the darkness and how much of it is trying to kill you. It’s easy for even the most seasoned outdoorsman to become confused and lost and that’s when you’re not carrying a dead guy in -80 weather. You can’t see where you step or where your feet are, and the crack of a twig can make your heart stop.
They walked through the darkness with Mercy in the lead followed by Ferin, Tarlish, and Parlin in the back.
“We should be just about at the village.” said Ferin
“Good, because I could really go for a sandwich and a nap. What about you?” asked Parlin.
“I’d like a good sleep too,” agreed Ferin.
“I just want to get out of this cold,” added Tarlish.
“I don’t have anywhere else to be,” said Mercy.
“What do you mean? There are tones of places better than here,” said Parlin.
“I have no family, no home, no previous job experience other than fighting, no one knows who I am, I don’t know anybody, no one’s calling me to go anywhere, and I have no reason to go anywhere. The cold doesn’t bother me and neither does hunger. You are lucky, you know what you want and you know how to get it. After I’m done with you I have no idea where I’m going or when I’m going to get there. I don’t have anywhere else to be,” explained Mercy as they walked.
For a minute everyone was silent.
“What?” Parlin asked breaking the silence.
Just then there was a click and a bright flash. Everyone dropped to the ground but got up when they realized they weren’t under fire. Parlin was lying on the ground. Tarlish started toward him but Mercy held her back.
“It’s a self resetting booby-trap. If you go near him it’ll get you too,” Mercy explained.
“Why did it only get him? We all walked through it!” said Tarlish tears in her voice.
“I’m still alive!” said Parlin in a pained voice.
“Ok then, grab onto this rope,” said Mercy as he through a rope to Parlin.
Mercy hauled Parlin up to the group.
“Should I carry him?” asked Ferin already getting a white blanket from his pack.
“For crying out loud you could at least pretend I’m going to live!” said Parlin. He still had his attitude and seemed desperate to hold onto it until he died.
“Well we have to carry you somehow,” said Ferin.
“Why can’t I walk?” asked Parlin.
“Because you don’t have any legs!” explained Mercy.
Parlin looked down and stared blankly at where his legs should be.
“Don’t worry, we’ll cut you an eye hole so you’ll still be able to see where we’re going,” said Mercy.
After they wrapped Parlin up they continued to the village. They approached from on top of a hill overlooking the village.
“There! Do you see those lights?” asked Ferin.
“I wonder how long until they realize there isn’t anyone in the village,” said Mercy.
“I think they just did,” said Tarlish. They watched as the lights went out throwing the village into complete darkness.
“So what now? Are you just going to let them get away?” asked Parlin.
“No I have a couple tricks up my sleeve,” said Mercy as he flicked a switch on his arm.
The whole village exploded in a spectacular fire ball. Mercy sat staring at in transfixed.
“What is it?” asked Tarlish.
“I just remembered that they’re fireproof!” said Mercy still transfixed on the blaze.
“How much did you get paid to blow up our village?” asked Parlin.
“I didn’t, it’s just one of the bonuses of this job,” replied Mercy.
“There they are!” yelled Ferin pointing at two black figures who were running from the blaze. One of them was clearly moving slower than the other.
“Is he--?” started Tarlish.
“Yep, he’s running on one leg,” finished Ferin.
“What? Whose running on one leg? How is that even possible?” stammered Parlin.
“Don’t just lie there! Shoot!” yelled Mercy.
They all started shooting but not before the black soldiers made it to the tree line. Mercy jumped up, cut the ropes holding Varkin to his back, and sprinted down the hill.
“Where are you going!?” yelled Tarlish.
“There is no way I’m getting outrun by a guy with one leg!” yelled Mercy. “Take Parlin and get to where the villagers are! I’ll catch up with you,” he yelled into the radio.
Mercy tore through the trees without slowing. Adrenalin was in his veins and it would have taken a herd of charging elephant to stop him. In no time at all he caught up with the one legged soldier and stabbed him in the back through his armour with a bowie knife. He didn’t even slow down but kept right on charging through the trees.
That’s one down, now where’s the other one? Thought Mercy.
Just then Mercy stumbled into a clearing facing one of the black soldiers.
Mercy raised his rifle but the black soldier didn’t move.
“Things sure have changed huh Mercy?” said the black soldier.
“What do you mean?” asked Mercy.
“The world, the people, and you,” he responded.
Mercy felt his aim drifting and he pushed his rifle back toward the black soldier.
“Why did you stop?” asked Mercy.
“There’s no way I’m going to out run you. Not on one lung anyway,” he responded.
“How true that is,” said Mercy.
“What are you going to do? Shoot me?” asked the black soldier..
“That’s what I intend to do,” replied Mercy.
Mercy fired a five round burst, three rounds hit him and the black soldier went down like someone had dropped a forklift on him. He turned and tried to fight his curiosity as he walked away. He didn’t make it five steps before he turned and walked back over to the fallen man. He pulled off his helmet and was instantly shocked with recognition. He remembered his days back on the Toratotalaternion, days spent training with…
He slammed the helmet back down and did what little he could with his limited medical recourses. He had not much time till he expired and a lot to do in it.
Seven hours later he was at the meeting point with the villagers. The fleet from Talramagon had arrived and they were getting out of here. In the crowd Mercy was able to find Tarlish.
“He always hated the cold,” she said softly.
“Parlin’s dead?” asked Mercy.
“No,” replied Tarlish. “Not yet anyway but we don’t have anyone who even knows what’s wrong with him. That mine did more than blow his legs off at the knees.”
“Those Seaportians rarely do anything pretty. However I do know a doctor who has never had anyone die in his presence and it just so happens I’m heading there next,” Mercy said.
Tarlish hugged Mercy.
“Thank you for saving us,” she said, “But why did you get such a big fleet to come here?”
“Were taking the scenic route through Thral space and we have to be able to put up a fight,” he answered.
After the wounded had been loaded into the medical pods in Mercy’s ship, there wasn’t much to do but wait for the five day trip.
“Looks like your getting your wish,” Tarlish said over the radio. “You know where your going next.”
Five days later they came out of the space bubble created by the fleet to travel faster The moment the fleet popped back into Real Space, Mercy opened up a private radio channel to his special doctor. The irritated voice of a Daer-Man replied to him gruffly.
"Mercy, what do you want this time? It better not be-" He was cut short by the mercenary.
"Drashka, I need your medical assistance." The voice came back, loud and angry now though with rather hapless tinge to it.
"I've told you to stop bringing me dead people!"
"Calm down, he's not dead yet. Now I'll be there in a day or two." Without another word, he switched channels, but before he could speak, he stood still, he couldn’t help but glance out of the window. He stared transfixed at the immaculate beauty of the planet below. The rivers and lakes and the lush green land. Thoughts of the passengers in the medical pods shifted to the back of his mind.
“You know,” he started into the radio. “I’ve been looking for a place to set up my base. I think I just found it.”
To Be Continued