Post Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:23 pm


<font color="yellow" style="font-size: 15pt">Never was sure where I was going with this. It came out to be an exercise in sensory technique and getting into the mind of a psycho. The double twist ending just didn't have enough punch for my taste. Take it as an example of how to take some great story telling technique and go nowhere with it.

Derek O'Toole crouched in the brush, his Automag loaded with two hundred rounds ready to blast the enemy. He'd situated himself in the perfect cover. Gant and his thugs wouldn't detect his presence until he put three rounds into each. He'd enjoy hearing their cries of surprise and seeing the explosions of crimson on their bodies.

The bastards deserved to die. They hunted him like an animal, cornered him in a canyon and shot at him until his ears echoed with the sound of their guns. He fought back but they only laughed at his ineffective retaliation. The thugs pinned Derek under heavy fire while Gant circled and shot him from behind. They left him for dead in the weeds. It had all been a game to them. They wouldn't think so this time.

Gant will get his shots between the eyes. Derek's back still ached from the hit he took behind his left lung.

Derek knew what he would say when he had Gant staring down the barrel of his gun. "Aren't paybacks a bitch?"

He checked his extra ammunition. The other six hundred loads were ready in case this became a fire-fight instead of a no-contest guerrilla strike. He wore camouflage painted head armor equipped with amber tinted goggles that provided extra motion sensitivity in the dim light of the undergrowth. The heavy boots and jungle camies were marine issue bought from the surplus store. He left nothing to chance.

Even through the heavy mask he could smell his own sweat mixed with the rank odor of rotting vegetation and dry sage. Birds chirped in the trees and a lizard scampered over a log nearby and into the brambles.

Despite his efforts to stay calm, his heart pounded. The steep sided wash lay twenty yards to the north. They were hunting, so they would use a quiet route that afforded the most cover. Derek checked and this gouge in the river bank was the best access. To the west the high bank provided poor footing and a difficult descent through whip weeds and rocks. East, the paloverde bushes ended abruptly at the wash's edge. They wouldn't pass through there for fear of alerting any prey they were hunting. No, being good hunters they'd use that cut. Once across the wash, the trees would force them to line up like ducks in a row in front of his waiting gun.

Derek held his breath to keep the sound from echoing in his helmet. Did he hear something in the undergrowth? His finger twitched on the trigger.

Have to wait until they're all in the open. Watch for them to split up in those olive trees to the left if I don't get all three.

Another crunch of wood. Derek estimated a range of forty yards. He thumbed the safety to the off position and hunched down in the foliage. To prevent a telltale metallic glint from giving him away, he pulled weeds and brush around the polished black muzzle of his gun.

Here they come.

He flexed his fingers. The ribbed protective gauntlets became less binding as perspiration from his hands lubricated the leather. The beat of his heart thudded in his ears.

More movement in the thicket, twigs cracking. Derek verified that his hand was limber and placed a finger on the trigger.

Holding his breath again, he gauged the distance. They'd paused. Had something gone wrong? Did they know about the ambush? Everything would be ruined.

A shadow wavered behind one of the paloverde bushes. Derek focused. Two silhouettes shifted, barely discernible in the green light.

Come and get it, boys.

A third shadow slid past the lead two and stopped before becoming visible at the gap in the riverbank.

Can't be Gant, he moves too good. Someone tipped them off all right. They're being too cautious.

He gripped the gun tighter. Sweat trickled down the middle of his back, plastering the thin material to his flesh. A swarm of gnats buzzed around his helmet. With steely control he kept himself from flailing at them. One buzzed through a slot in his mask and up his nose.

Tears welled in Derek's eyes. He could feel the stupid insect wriggling in his sinus. The itch became a massive urge. His hand quivered against the need to claw away the face armor to get the thing. One quick movement and they'd sight him.

He gritted his teeth and snorted to clear his nose. Somehow the bug had gotten lodged and wouldn't come out.

Oh god, don't let a gnat ruin my plans!

The itch was incredible. He wanted to scream. The figures bunched by the opening, ready to make their way down the cut.

The gnat trying to make a nest in his nose hair had shredded his concentration. Hands trembling and sweat running down his face, he blew again. The bug came free. The monstrous itch went away.

The point man froze.


Breath locked in his chest, Derek aimed at what he could see of the leader. He saw the muzzle of a gun and part of the man's arm.

Derek heard movement at the west end of the wash. The man pulled back.

Damn, who else is out there?

A branch snapped on Derek's left. He moved his head a fraction to catch a glimpse of it.


He looked back in time to see the lead man roll behind the cover of the near side of the riverbed.

Is it me, or is something else making them uptight?

Derek flexed his fingers. His heart pounded. The thunder threatened to block out his vital auditory senses.

Another sound to the west. He tried to catch sight of the cause. The thick brambles beyond the olive trees kept him from being sure if something moved or if it were simply the breeze blowing branches around.

He glanced back in time to see the flash of a pink arm band tied around camouflage material. The form ducked down where the first went.

That's them for sure. Have to wait until they come out.

The straggler stayed behind the paloverde and moved east.

A sinking feeling hit Derek in the stomach. If the guy found another way across the wash, Derek's line-up would be trashed. The vegetation farther east provided good cover. It would force him to divide his fire. It would make it difficult to get even two.

No sign of Gant. He and his thugs started out together. He knew they'd be coming down from the rocks on the north side of hill, that's why he'd positioned himself here.

Derek heard another sound from the west but movement in the wash drew his attention. He caught a glimpse of a figure moving up the river-bed in a crouch. The sound of boots on sand and rocks. The man hunkered down where the other two were stationed.

All right, boys, what's on your minds?

What was bugging them? That movement to the west? More boots on sand and rocks.

Gant. It had to be. He gripped the gun tighter-- right between the eyes.

Five rapid reports.

A man screamed.

Figures scrambled in the riverbed. Gant's thugs were shooting at someone to the east.

Shots tore through the foliage behind two men scrambling toward him for the cover of the trees.

Derek opened fire. Five red explosions erupted on the first man's chest.

"Augghh! Hit! Hit! Hit!" He slammed down behind a tree.

Derek kept shooting as the one following tried for the cover. Shells exploded on the trees and creased down the man's side in red blossoms.

A renewed fire fight down in the wash drowned out the man's cry. The firing in the riverbed became more intense as more weapons started firing on both sides.

Shit, I can't let someone else get Gant!

He shrugged the brush off.

A man bellowed behind him. "Surrender! Now!"


His finger twitched on the trigger.

"Don't make me pop you again, Derek."

I'm dead either way.

He never caught sight of the hidden assailant before four shots exploded into his headgear at close range...

The shrill sound of a whistle echoed from downrange. The screams of the victors mixed with the groans of the defeated. Words drifted from down-range.

"Where the hell did that guy in the riverbed come from?"

"Damned if I know."

Derek felt three raps on the top of his helmet. "O'Toole you take this too serious. This is paintball, not freaking Viet Nam!"

Derek rolled over and pulled the trigger four times. The first three shots exploded against Gant's goggles the third splattered against his mouth guard.

"Splegahh!" Gant spit paint out of his mouth. "God damn it! What the fuck do you think you're doing?" He raised a gloved fist.

Derek stood, keeping an eye on the man. "Getting even is all."

Voices loud and nearby. "Hey, what's wrong with these guys? They're not moving."

He saw Gant's eyes widen behind the mask. The man grabbed him by the shirt. "What did you do...?" His voice cracked and his skin was already turning blue.

Derek pulled Gant's hands away and backed up. The man flailed at his helmet, gasping and convulsing.

"Paint rounds laced with arsenic and DMSO4 gel. You know, I was wrong. Paybacks aren't a bitch-- they're a blast."

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