• Zee

Moore's Four - Part 1

Part 01

-Prison complex, whereabouts unknown-

Savannah Docherty sat hunched over on a wooden slab that was barely fit to be called a bed, her brow, lip and nose were bloodied and swollen. She could feel her brain still rattling in her skull and her ribs burned and bit at her with the smallest movement as she feebly attempted to remain upright. She had expected far from a warm welcome home when she was captured in an assault just two days ago. Her claustrophobic cell had been occupied for less than 48 hours, but her former employers, the Cormandian Federal Army, or the CFA, appeared to be less than kind to traitors like her, especially after everything she had done.

There would be no court martial for Savannah, she would be tortured until they broke her, then they would drag her out onto a stage, tie her maimed, emaciated husk of a body to a post, and execute her with a slit to the throat. Years ago, she would’ve been among those in the crowd naively celebrating justice. Back then they used a firing squad, but these were trying times, it was best not to waste the ammunition. Savannah wondered if they got a kick out of it. Watching the abject shock and terror of their victims as the last meagre seconds of their life poured from their jugular. She gradually laid back onto the wooden slab, clutching her side. The discomfort of the hard wood under her barely mattered. The beatings just a couple of hours before had left her too exhausted to care.

She couldn’t help but think of her impending execution. It was only days away, yet she wanted to show no such terror, no such shock. In her mind, she envisioned welcoming her death with a smirk. But only time would tell. Many a man had been tied to that post with the same air of cocky defiance she wanted to bear. Many of them had fallen foul of the sheer horror that grew within them as they stared down the barrels anticipating the finality of their fate.

Her mind wandered back to the assault, how it all just happened too fast, air strikes had scattered the group, she and others had tried to escape in a car, but they were chased doggedly along the roads, unable to shake their foe from their tails. It all came to a sudden end when the road before them erupted into a ball of flame, dirt and debris, the driver swerved to avoid it careening off of the road and into a tree. Then, she woke up here, tied to a chair in a drab, dark room with a smell of blood, sweat and fecal matter insulting her senses. She wondered if any other members of the group were in the same prison complex, or if they were even still alive. She heaved a breath with a wince, her eyes began to feel heavy. With a silent prayer for their safety, they slowly closed.

-Camp Clancy – Lareau County – Federal Republic of Cormandia-

Gwen Moore pushed the barbell over her head with a strained breath. Her sweat-soaked skin shimmered in the improvised gym lighting. It highlighted a curious scar which cut a valley into her skin, just below her deltoid on her right arm. Burn marks around the edges gave it a far more jagged appearance. It was just one of many scars decorating her body like medals, and after several years it still bit at her. But she pushed through. Her triceps and shoulders ached and shook as she held it over her head… Four… Five, then down slowly with a clenched jaw. She re-racked the bar barely mustering a smile. It was good to have a gym again after so long.

Scott Morrison emerged from the floor entrance and sauntered over to her, eyeing the racked bar, silently calculating the weight in his head. “How many did you get, boss?”

“Four sets of six.” She puffed.

“Not bad for your age.” He smiled wryly.

Gwen looked at him with a raised brow. “I’m 38.”

“Yeah, that’s like, 86 in this line of work.”

“Still not too old to kick your ass.” She glared at him with a one-sided smile as she stepped over to remove the plates from the bar and re-rack them.

“Sure, keep telling yourself that, grandma.” He chuckled, Gwen swung her right leg out toward his backside, biting her lip to conceal a cheeky grin. Her eyes caught his, his face filled with a mix of amusement and anticipation as her foot landed its blow.

“What are you here to do anyway?” She asked him.

“Pops caught me. He told me to go find you and report into the ops centre.”

Gwen paused putting the weight plate back on the rack. “Where’s Petrov?” She once again continued with re-racking the last plate as she awaited his response.

“Not too sure yet, thinking probably out on a run.”

“Cool, go get Petrov, I’ll get cleaned up and meet you outside our bunk.”

Scott nodded, and stepped away with a wink. Gwen once again found herself unproductively glaring at the back of his head with a smirk as he left. She shook her head and made for the bunk tent. It was barely 100 meters away, but the hustle and bustle of camp operations made the walk seem longer. Engineers were hard at work fixing up barriers and emplacements, infantry were getting ready to start their patrols. They greeted her with a deliberate downward nod as she passed them, which she gratefully returned.

In her tent, she quickly grabbed her field uniform and a towel, heading off to the showers to clean up after the first heavy gym session of the day. She returned fully dressed with her wet hair quickly squared away into a ponytail. Morrison was stood outside, accompanied by Damian Petrov. At six-foot-four, Damian was the taller, broader man of the two, both still managed to tower over Moore’s five-foot-two frame. They were already dressed in their full combat gear, with their rifles slung over their chest at condition zero. Gwen dropped her PT kit on her cot bed, put on her plate carrier, her helmet and slung her rifle over her chest. With a fist-bump with Petrov, they moved on toward the ops centre.

Many of the soldiers in the camp instantly recognized and looked on in quiet awe at Moore, Petrov and Morrison as they passed by. Their equipment was distinct from the other camp-goers, their high-cut helmets were fitted with lights and headsets mounted directly to their rails. Many of their comrades did not even have helmets and many more were using helmets from 40 years ago with questionable integrity. Moore’s team had eloquently set-up plate carrier vests which looked far more ergonomic, and far more manoeuvrable than the captured and surplus equipment the other soldiers in the camp were kitted up with. Many of the other soldiers elected to simply go without. Hand-sewn chest rigs from old field uniforms were commonplace. People were content exposing themselves to the deadly threat that came with it for the sake of agility.

They arrived at the ops centre. Colonel Arbour looked up from his desk at them. His face wrinkled under his furrowed brow and he beckoned them closer. Many under his command knew Colonel William Arbour as “Pops”, though no one dared say it to his face. It was a name given not just for his age, but for his fatherly dedication to those below him over the years. He was a stern man, a fervent disciplinarian, but fair and even tempered. Gwen had known him since she first joined the Cormandian Liberation Front 15 years ago. Back then, they were a group of two-dozen with a base of operations in an apartment in their town.

“You asked for us, sir.” Moore stood to attention with Morrison and Petrov at her flanks. Arbour nodded.

“Mattias has gone dark…” He started, folding his arms over his chest. “After his assist with taking this place, he was giving us some good intel on troops amassing at Novaton airfield, we were thinking that they were prepping for a major counter-attack on Camp Clancy to try and take it back from us. Then, out of nowhere, mid conversation with our intel team, Mattias stopped responding.” Gwen briefly glanced over to Morrison and Petrov. “The intel team have been hard at work trying to work out Mattias’ last known location, and CFA radio chatter leads them to believe he may have been somewhere near Carth village at the time. At least two air callsigns and a mobile infantry platoon were communicating between each other in that location. None of our guys were operating anywhere nearby so it flagged as anomalous.”

He pointed out Carth village on the map, Petrov and Moore leaned in slightly, eyeing up the distances between Carth and Camp Clancy, and also Novaton Airfield.

“I need you to go and recon the area, investigate, find out the whereabouts and status of Mattias. If Mattias is dead, I need you to shift focus and recon Novaton airfield, get us a new estimate of numbers and if you can, slow them down until we can get reinforcements in from the north.”

“Thinking we’ll need an intel team nearby, to relay comms and work up anything we find. It’s gonna be risky communicating directly with you guys so close to Novaton.” Moore responded. Petrov nodded, still focussed on the map.

“Thinking it might be best to go with vics too, rather than go in on foot, bring in some heavy stuff just in case. And if things get a little hot under the collar we can egress out in a pinch.”

“Agree. I’m thinking let’s keep the intel team at arm’s length, about 20km off to our south. Then we head up off the roads to about 5km south of Carth just behind the mountain, that should conceal our engines to anyone who might still be in the area. We leave the vics under tree cover and head up on foot for some initial recon. If the coast looks clear we’ll head into the village and investigate.” Moore looked up to Arbour. “Any word on civvie alignment in the area, sir?”

“We’re not sure, but given the proximity to Novaton they’re not likely to be friendly, so watch your backs.”

“Got it, in that case, I’d say let’s try to go in under cover of darkness, so pack some NV equipment. We’ll be less recognizable at the very least. Morrison, pack extra medical supplies in case we find Mattias. I’m not anticipating he’ll be in good shape.” Morrison nodded. “Petrov, pack the vic with whatever heavy equipment you feel we’ll need, I’m thinking at least a couple of launchers couple of satchel charges, maybe a few cratering charges too.” Petrov grinned from ear-to-ear.

“You got it, boss.”

“Alright, saddle up. I’ll get an intel team prepped.”

-Prison complex, whereabouts unknown-

Savannah’s sleep was far from peaceful. Pained screams echoed along the corridors. They jolted her awake each time. She laid on her back wondering who the poor soul was. Someone she knew? Someone she had helped to hunt down? Her guilt built up in the pit of her stomach at the thought of it. She had helped to hunt down some of the CLF’s finest, many were killed, too stubborn to go down without a fight. Some had no choice.

How could they justify it? She thought to herself. What made her think this was okay not so long ago? She simply didn’t know any different, she supposed. For the majority of her childhood, she was fed a steady diet of grains and propaganda in a refugee camp. She grew up grateful for their hospitality. Her mother never let her forget that the CFA had saved their lives. Oh, how her tune had changed. Her former comrades, bright and young themselves, probably had similar stories.

She had grown up hearing that the liberation front were evil terrorists, beyond redemption, in the jam-packed school that did nought more than prepare them for service in the Cormandian Federal Armed Forces. They killed without remorse. She saw the horror of their attacks first hand, droves upon droves of new refugees with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They were terrified, bloodied, all with the same exhausted expression on their face. The liberation front had done it, she remembered CFA troops saying. Those bastards.

Did the CLF have refugee camps? Were they saying the same thing? She’d never know. Just more idle thought to distract from the pain for another moment.

Her cell door opened. She sat up and watched as four guards entered. All of them were armed with batons, one of them had brought chains, another had brought a cattle prod, a third had brought a bucket.

In any other circumstance, she would’ve laughed at the one carrying a bucket. Instead, she gulped down a pang of dread. Now it was her turn to wake her fellow prisoners.

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