Previously: When SSO agent "Shrike" offers him a chance to settle an old score with "Kingfisher", now an alleged traitor, Captain Santiago becomes embroiled in a cloak-and-dagger game between the Duchy of Verde and his homeland, the Republic of Iverica. Santiago fails to prevent Kingfisher's assassination of the Vasqqan head of state, Subiri, but manages to confront and defeat Kingfisher in the storm drains of the Vasqqan capital. However, after a watery intervention gives Kingfisher a chance to speak, Santiago quickly learns that his mark, Kingfisher, is no traitor at all, but a double agent still loyal to Iverica. Now, Santiago must confront Shrike, the real traitor who had masterminded the debacle in hopes of recovering the sensitive documents Shrike has gained possession of.
A UNION DIVIDED | CHAPTER III, PART 1
17th of October, 2018
They were hopelessly lost. Wandering in the labyrinthian storm drains without a map, Santiago and Kingfisher could only hope to pick path after path of dark, dripping pipeline. This space was a far cry from the cavernous expanse of the main ducts they had battled in just a few hours ago.
Between the two, there had been an unspoken agreement of sorts--forged somewhere between the principles of a mutually sought retribution against Shrike and a kind of enemy of my enemy pact. At the moment, the only evidence of trust in their new partnership was the carbine Kingfisher had returned to Santiago's hands. It was clear that the spook did not trust the jaded SOAR officer, but the gesture seemed necessary to cement their partnership--at least until the mission ended with the death of their mutual enemy.
Still, the pair had been slogging through the ankle-deep slurry in wary silence of one another, sharing few words but never letting the other out of sight.
At least, that was the case until Kingfisher, who had taken the fore, froze and signalled with an upheld fist.
"Mér!", he muttered.
"What?", Santiago had his carbine raised, sweeping the rear.
"Footsteps, still some ways off", whispered Kingfisher in reply.
Then they heard the voices. It could only be the SSO kill team, as the Guardia Civil were unlikely to wander the storm drains during a deluge. Kingfisher tensed. Perhaps sensing that the spook was preparing to bolt, Santiago interjected.
"Wait--this could be a good thing. If they think you're still my prisoner, we could tag along, use Plover's map, and make a break for it. This place is a maze, we could lose them easily"
"Puté, that's bleeding mad", but Kingfisher sounded uncertain.
He knew as Santiago did, that all the other options would likely lead to them in Vasqqan cuffs.
"It's our best shot", Santiago insisted.
Not long after, the kill team had found, more like crashed into them at an intersection. There had been a brief exchange of raised rifles and shouting, but once it was clear that it was Santiago--with a freshly zip-tied Kingfisher in tow, the situation settled.
Santiago noted the kill team was two members short, casualties of the flood no doubt. Though despite that, they had managed to retain Teresa in their custody, who was now glaring at Santiago through her soaked red locks.
The greeting was cold, but there was still some relief in Plover's voice--owing more to confirmation of Kingfisher's state of capture than the sight of Santiago's botched face.
"Start talking, what's our plan for getting out of this damp hell?", Santiago resumed his usual tone of easy swaggering, masking the tension tightening in his calves.
"I've ascertained our position. The airstrip is a no-go, we're too far. SSO has a contact inside the Guardia Maritima boat pool, we should be able to secure a skiff back to friendly waters."
Santiago's mind raced. It was almost too perfect. He knew Shrike would be taking a ship, he said as much. If Kingfisher's new intel was true, he'd be making for Verde instead of Manille. There was only a matter of cutting Plover loose somehow.
"Perfect. Lead the way."
Plover turned to take point, consulting his plastic-sleeved map. Kingfisher and Santiago exchanged glances.
Teresa, watching all the while, did not miss their gestures.
The group marched along. In between the minutes of the march, Santiago and Kingfisher held a hurried conversation of hand signalled messages. They were bringing up the rear of the formation, so no one had caught on to their plotting. No one, except for Teresa, who cast furtive glances back at the pair, frowning all the while. Kingfisher caught her eye and nodded to her. If anything, Teresa's frown deepened even more.
Plover had shared landmarks and map information with Santiago earlier, who in turn, signed the information to Kingfisher. It was decided that they would make a break for it at one of the cisterns they would pass--a tower-sized silo used to hold excess water in case the tubes were overwhelmed. The plan was simple--on the mark, Santiago would cause a distraction and they would bolt down the planned route to the boat pool, using the floodgate marked on the map to cut off the rest of the bewildered team.
The opening to the cistern was coming into view, ahead its cylindrical base lay illuminated by the red glow of service lamps. Kingfisher looked to Santiago, who returned a minute nod and flipped his safety off. As the group emerged from one of the capillary tubes into the hollow tower that was the cistern, Kingfisher quickly scanned the interior.
He found his mark. The floodgate. His calves tensed and he took a deep breath.
The signal came when Santiago shouted, calling out phantom contacts behind them while firing his carbine at the dark nothingness of the tube they had just emerged from. The alarm was enough to distract the kill team, all of whom wheeled around and opened fire down the tube as well. Santiago began edging backwards, letting the kill team form a firing line in front of him. He slipped a flash grenade and a smoke grenade from his rig.
At the first sign of the team's distraction, Kingfisher began his wild sprint, dashing towards the sluice gate. There was a shout of alarm, and one of the men turned his weapon towards the darting Kingfisher.
The flash grenade that Santiago primed went off, blinding everyone else. Kingfisher hadn't been careful enough as he ran with his forearm across his eyes. He slipped on the muck and went sprawling into the ankle-deep dregs.
Then, Santiago's smoke grenade went off, smoke billowing around the enclosed space. There was shouting now, the kill team was verily confused, coughing and milling about.
Just as Kingfisher regained his footing he felt his collar yanked upwards. He turned to face his assailant, meeting the descending carbine stock face-first. The weapon butt slammed into the bridge of his nose. Plover had somehow caught up to him. The young agent now stood triumphantly over him, his weapon's muzzle aimed squarely at Kingfisher's forehead
The carbine let loose two rounds.
No kaleidoscope of memories came. There was only pure, naked shock as the muzzle flash enveloped his vision.
A moment passed before he realised he wasn't dead. Coming out of the wince he was holding, he realised that Plover was convulsing at an odd angle, bent backwards, head tipped backed with the carbine pointing wayside. Teresa was behind Plover, her zip ties constricting his windpipe as he tried to shake her off like a wounded tiger would if it had a monkey around its neck.
Not wasting another moment, Kingfisher cocked his right leg back and sent it lashing out. The boot heel connected with Plover's crotch, ending his struggle and allowing Teresa to gain control. There was a crack, audible through the shouting and shooting. Plover fell, his head lolling at an odd angle.
Teresa scooped up the carbine and kicked Kingfisher in the ribs.
"Move it!", she shrieked at him.
Kingfisher didn't need to be told twice, he scrambled to his feet and half-staggered, half-sprinted for the flood gate.
Santiago had already been waiting at the gate entrance, firing at the scattered kill team returning wildly inaccurate fire. The smoke had flooded the constricted space, with no formation and muzzle flashes lighting up all around, the operators' resistance was of little effect.
Only as Kingfisher and Teresa slid into the tube did they finally respond in good order. Though it was too late, for Santiago had already flipped the gate's manual trigger, sending the heavy 3-ton slab of steel into a whining descent.
As the gate squealed shut, the noise of firing and shouting was abruptly muffled, punctuated only by the dull tolling of rounds thrumming off the thick metal.
Santiago was panting heavily. As was Kingfisher, blood streaming through his nose. And as was Teresa who had Plover's carbine levelled at the both of them.
Your granny a tranny.