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Ashley Sanders strutted down the hallway leading to the primary AA towers Dwayne had been defending this whole time. The image of Markus laying in a pool of his own blood was disheartening. Ashley did what she always did: Her job. But it had never crossed her own emotions so violently. Part of her was happy she could carry through her orders. The rest was disgusted with her actions. How could she kill a friend. No. Markus was more than a friend to her. Their relationship was blossoming into something greater. That is, before she ordered the men under his command to kill him, then shot him in the back with his own rifle.
How could she do this? How could she heartlessly kill Markus? She gripped the two files in her left hand and snapped her eyes shut. Markus’ bleeding body’s silhouette filled her mind. She brought her free hand to her cheek and wiped away yet another tear. Her own words flooded through her mind.
“Would you kill an innocent to preserve peace, or let the innocent man live, but put a whole people in harm’s way?” It was the exact question Ashley asked Markus before setting out on this mission. Markus’ response soon followed.
“Peace comes at a cost.” Markus said. Ashley stopped and crossed her arms as the memory pierced her heart. “The common good is more valuable than one person.” Ashley remembered the doubt in Markus’ eye as he answered. “Even if the person is innocent.”
Ashley drifted to a window overlooking the ocean. The files in her hand contained information that would change the face of the Separatists.
The files in Ashley’s hand consisted of everything. It consisted of Ashley. Her true name. Her true family. Ashley recalled back to when she first became an Elite. It was out of a perfectly crafted plan. Her sister wasn’t born a Separatist. She was born of a different nation. A secret nation. A nation run under the noses of the Separatists. They called themselves the “Black Peace.”
The “Black Peace” were independent colonists fringe world planets. Most Separatists don’t even know they exist. They revered themselves for their exceptional sense of honor, duty and valor. They trained her sister from birth in an underwater facility, where she was born.
Ashley, however, was born on Separatist soil a few years later. Although Ashley was Separatist by name, she was Black Peace at heart. The Black Peace planned to use Ashley to take the first step in their master plan. She, too, was trained early after birth.
It was only until the two became older they realized they were training to destroy the Separatists. For what reason, Ashley never could understand. But it didn’t matter. From a young age she was molded to hate the Separatists.
The day came that Ashley was ready. Ready to infiltrate the Separatists and tear them from their cradle of power. She was accepted to become an Elite after joining their military. The first step of their master plan. From there, the Separatists had accepted an enemy into their ranks.
The first step in the Black Peace’s plan was simple. Ashley would steal the next generation of weapons from Devroy Manufacturing and frame the name “Devroy” in the process. Infiltrating the system, she worked as Devroy Manufacturing’s secret observer. The Elites put one of their own in the company to keep an eye on it’s doings. Ashley got in close with the leadership. Jacob Devroy called her by name. “Susan” was another alternate identity she went by. “Susan” was a secretary working for Jacob Devroy himself. What nobody knew, however, was she was feeding in false evidence and sabotaging the company.
It was only a matter of time before somebody took notice of Ashley’s false evidence of treason. When they did, the police began to set up a storm on Devroy headquarters. A few days before the raid, Ashley was ordered to confirm Devroy’s guilt. She hacked Jacob Devroy’s terminals and recorded the false evidence she had planted weeks earlier. Ashley received orders to extract herself, but wanted to avoid any and all suspicion from Jacob Devroy. She knew he was a sharp one and preferred to avoid being targeted as a suspect in his mind. She decided to stay in the building during the raid.
Everything was going exactly as planned until an emotional decision was made on a whim. The decision to save Markus. She had read the reports on him and knew practically everything there was to know about his character, past and personality. She knew he was about to lose his father and felt pity for him several times. Dealing with her emotions, she tried to get passed it and carried on. It was only until Markus Devroy came strutting into the doors to make amends with his father when she realized it would be the last time Markus would ever see him. So, she brought the whole BlackJack squad in to save him. It was the least she could do.
Unbeknownst to Ashley, however, was the fact that Markus was going in to become an Elite and would have never been condemned by the Separatists as previously thought. It was during the flight back to safety when she got word from Elite command to ensure his safety, making her efforts worthwhile.
Now she had someone closely tied to Devroy Manufacturing in her midst. If he found out her true identity, she would be finished. To make matters worse, he was inserted into the same squad. Ashley knew things weren’t going perfectly as planned by now. Pity continued to reign in Ashley’s heart as time went on and she fed him information on his father several times. She didn’t really care how much he knew about his father’s trial.
To Ashley’s horror, she got news that a Black Peace facility was going to be hit. It was the shore above the hidden city where her sister lived. She knew she had to act. Nobody could get the information pertaining to Jacob Devroy’s innocence or everything would topple. So, she used her Elite status to evade command and destroy all evidence before they could discover it.
What Ashley didn’t know, however, was the newest recruit of the BlackJacks, Ramey Brossen, was onto her. He had been monitoring her private status updates she had been sending back to Black Peace command. He had also been keeping tabs on everything else she did. When Ramey was given the task to reinforce a regiment in need of assistance in the middle of the battle, he secretly planned to stop Ashley. He didn’t know what she was planning to do, exactly, but he knew enough to know how important it was to stop her.
Instead of outright attacking Ashley, he engaged her in other ways. He hacked the defense mainframe in the complex and activated every mech in Ashley’s vicinity. He also sealed every door she tried to enter. Eventually, Ashley caught on to what he was doing and, using the same defense mainframe, locked Ramey out of the system. She knew he wouldn’t give up, however, and was forced to order a nearby pirate squad to take him out.
She assumed he was dead when his GPS indicated that he hadn’t moved in over ten minutes.
When she saw Markus had found Ramey, then began moving towards her position, she began to panic. He couldn’t be allowed to discover the truth. The Black Peace’s plans must continue. It’s what she was born to do. She never anticipated it would get so personal. She ordered several squads to move on his position, but he evaded them all. She even used her Elite status to order his squad to kill him. Somehow, he evaded all attacks.
It was only until she was trying to convince Markus to leave the data files behind when she realized saving him was the worst mistake of her life. At that point, she knew she had to kill him. A horrible feeling of guilt passed over her as she did what she had to do. Killing Markus was the hardest thing she had ever done.
In the other file, the one about Devroy Manufacturing, it held every step of Ashley’s plan. It contained her objectives, orders, status updates, everything. If it was recovered by the Separatists, her mission would be ruined. She was lucky she recovered both in time. It drained her to know she had to kill two friends to do it.
“Ashley!” Dwayne’s voice called from the doorway ahead. Ashley jerked her head towards Dwayne and squeezed the files in her hand tighter. Dwayne slowly approached Ashley and they locked eyes
“You okay?” He asked with a soft voice, despite the trembles of battle still present in his mind.
Ashley looked back out the window at the ocean. No. She was not okay. She was just forced to kill her fellow citizens of the Black Peace, then forced to kill two friends in order to protect them.
“I’m fine.” She responded plainly. Dwayne continued to look at her before turning to join her gaze out the window.
“I watched Ramey’s medevac fly off personally. I would say his chances of survival are…” He paused when he noticed Ashley’s body language. She clearly didn’t want to hear what he was saying.
“Is the new kid okay?” He asked ignorantly. He was assigned to guard this AA tower and hadn’t heard anything from any of the Blackjacks since. The two’s eyes locked again. A pause endured until Ashley began to break into sobs. Dwayne drew close and comforted her with a hug. Her body shook with each sob.
Dwayne didn’t know the specifics, of course, but he was bright enough to know an emotionally damaged friend when he saw one. They stood in silence for thirty seconds before a Separatist soldier interrupted them.
“Elite Walter?” He shouted from the doorway. “You might want to take a look at this.” Dwayne released Ashley and looked at the soldier for an explanation as he approached the AA gun’s control room. Walking through the doorway, he examined the large monitor in the middle of the room. A single Separatist shuttle flew slowly across the radar screen.
“The shuttle came from a landing pad currently under hostile control. It could be filled with enemy soldiers. Standard protocol also states that she shuttle should report in before attempting to leave the atmosphere. This shuttle hasn’t done so. Orders?” Dwayne examined his face, then returned his attention to the screen. He then held down a button on the desk.
“Shuttle 021, this is Separatist control, report.” A short silence endured before Markus’ voice came through the speakers.
“Separatist control, this is Elite Murphy-“ Markus couldn’t make out any more than that. His lunges refused to exhort any more air.
“Markus!” Ashley shouted from the hall. She stormed into the room and froze in disorientation when she couldn’t decide whether she was hearing things or if she really did hear Markus’ voice.
“Markus?” She asked again. Her heart sank when she realized she would have to finish the job. He already knew too much. She clenched both fists and exhaled deeply.
“Dwayne, get your men and-“ She paused and tried to think of a good reason why he should leave her alone with the AA gun controls. “Secure that landing pad Markus launched from.” Dwayne nodded and whistled sharply. Three heavily armored men followed him out the door.
“No! Dwayne-“ Markus shrieked from the other end of the radio. Ashley quickly shoved the radio off the desk. It bounced off the ground, effectively crippling the transmission between the shuttle and the tower.
“Hurry. I’m taking control of his shuttle and sending him back to the landing pad. I want you to be there.” Dwayne examined Ashley carefully, then the static filled screen that used to have Markus’ face on it.
“Ashley?” He asked slowly. “Is everything-“
“Now!” She bellowed, taking a seat and typing on the console. Dwayne lingered for a good ten seconds before leaving the room with his men. Ashley sighed deeply and turned her attention to the AA cannon’s controls. She couldn’t believe she was about to subject herself to the same pain again. It took her fifteen seconds to take control of his shuttle and bring it into a U-turn.
“Ashley, don’t do this.” Markus pleaded through static. She turned his shuttle to hit the ridge of the landing zone. It would at least look like an accident. Ashley could see Markus struggling to regain control of the shuttle. His attempts proved futile. Another tear dropped into Ashley’s lap as Markus continued to fight the joystick.
“Ashley, I forgive you! I don’t know why you’re trying to kill me, but please, we can work this out!” With the tap of a few keys, Ashley had his shuttle soaring at full speed on a collision course with the rock wall.
“At least tell me why I you are doing this!” Ashley thought for a second before yanking the transmitter’s cord from the wall. The static filled screen turned dark and Markus’ transmission fell short. Ashley couldn’t bear to hear his voice. It was like looking into an animal’s eyes before butchering it or holding a loved one close before they die. A horrible feeling of agony swept over her. She was about to murder Markus. Again. How she planned to live with herself after this was unknown.
I had planned this story all the way out since the beginning, but only now do I feel disappointment for it's ending. I'll need a few more segments to tie everything up, but the story is pretty much over.
Devroy Manufacturing didn't seize my writing potential like I thought it would. It did teach me unteachable lessons about writing, however, and I don't know where I'd be without it.
Actually, aside from what could be considered a cheap out, that's the start to a damn good heart-wrenching ending.
Like I said, I'm kind of disappointed in the ending. I would still love to know what you think, though. (As I unfold the final pieces)
Ashley’s thoughts were ripped from her mind when she heard the familiar sound of a blade leaving it’s sheath. She stood up and whirled around. A young man, roughly twenty-five, stood alone with his knife drawn. Ashley’s psychological training told her he was confused, determined, discouraged, enraged, sympathy struck, anxiety filled. She could tell he was uncertain of his future. He wore the standard Separatist soldier’s armor.
“Elites represent the best of the best. They embody courage and determination to do what’s right, even when orders contradict.” Ashley took a deep breath. “I’m pretty sure murdering the same innocent man twice isn’t in the Separatist’s best interests.”
“Stand down, private. No need to get yourself hurt.”
“Is hurting your own people’s soldiers in the Separatist’s best interest?”
“I’m warning you: walk away.” Ashley’s emotional pain was far greater than any pain Charles could put her through. Private Charles Walker stated his conclusion plainly.
“Unless you aren’t looking out for the Separatist’s best interests. Which is also why you are keeping those data logs for yourself.” He motioned to the two files in Ashley’s hand.
She shifted her attention to the monitor. A large warning window indicated the collision would occur in two minutes. She could defend a console from a mere soldier for two m-
Walker’s fist connected with Ashley’s face and he followed it up by thrusting his knife into her abdomen. She blocked it and threw a punch of her own towards his face. He ducked under it and picked her up into a double leg take down. It seemed as though all those years wrestling in high school paid off. Charles dropped her on her back several feet away from the console.
Instead of furthering his advantage, he left Ashley on the ground and quickly dashed for the console. With the stroke of a key, the shuttle’s coarse was modified just enough to result in a violent crash landing rather than certain death.
Ashley quickly recovered from the take down and charged Walker with her own drawn knife. She made three quick slashes at his abdomen, which he barely evaded, before swiping at his face. The blade slit his cheek and warm blood drew from his face. He kneed her in the gut as hard as he could, but not before she shoved him against the wall.
She re-adjusted the course of the shuttle before turning her attention back to Charles. She pulled her fist back as far as it would go and thrust it for his head as hard as she could. He barely threw himself to out of the way before her fist came smashing into the wall. Her knuckle plating left quite the mark on the metal wall behind his head.
Ashley approached Charles and kicked him straight in the face with all her might as he was fumbling to his feet. She then curb stomped his abdomen as hard as she could. His voice let out a burst of pain. She then came barreling down on his chest with her knee. It connected with his chest plating with a loud clash of metal. Ashley brought her knife to his throat and smirked.
“I expected better of a Separatist soldier.” Ashley stated with cold blood. She made a point to specify that he was a ‘Separatist’ soldier, rather than any other soldier. But there weren’t any other soldiers out there, Charles thought. Were there?
“I admire your perseverance, but it was all for not.” She spoke with fake confidence.
Although strong and untouchable on the outside, on the inside Ashley was bleeding. Even though Markus was barreling down to his death, he had still lived long enough to drive a stake through her heart.
Ashley drove her knee further under his sternum. His face scrunched as it’s pigment turned red. “The Separatists shall burn!” She bit off.
“So this is how you let him die?” Charles squeezed out his words. “Years of training, hardship, strife.” Ashley hated the man she was killing. She hated the wound he festered with every word he uttered. “Just to be betrayed in the end by his closest friend.” Those last two words cut Ashley deep. Closest friend. Ashley was Markus’ closest friend.
With a burst of rage, Ashley thrust her open hand to his throat. Walker’s right hand grabbed her wrist and made futile attempts to free his neck. Tightening her grip, she quickly changed the subject of their brief conversation.
“Look at you,” She scoffed in his face, “You’re weak! Pathetic!” Ashley was struck with confusion when he hardly took notice of her taunts. He mumbled and struggled to force out what sounded like gibberish. She chuckled sinisterly.
“You can’t even speak!” She leaned in close, just inches from his face. “What?” She asked in more of a taunting manner than actual curiosity. Charles lacked the strength to pull Ashley’s grip back just enough to belt out his reply. He continued to struggle in silence. Ashley released his throat and he violently gasped for air. Ashley stabbed his chest with her knife as hard as she could. A sneer couldn’t help but cross her face.
Charles gagged and drowned in the blood accumulating in his throat. His wide eyes couldn’t seem to accept the pain he was enduring. His legs weakly struggled to shift, but the weight of his armor stopped them from getting anywhere. His vision began to fade along with all his other senses after not being able to inhale anything but blood.
Standing up, leaving her victim paralyzed, Ashley looked out the surrounding glass walls into the horizon. She could see the dot in the horizon was growing to become Markus’ shuttle. Pain boiled in her soul and she displayed it with a distraught frown. She turned her attention to the cliff that would soon become a pillar of debris and fire. Charles coughed up blood, which fell back and splatted on his bruised face. Ashley looked into the eyes of the soldier gone AWOL to save a friend. He was courageous, she gave him that much. He deserved to be looked in the eye for just a while longer.
His helpless stare drove Ashley to break their eye contact. She sporadically inhaled and turned to leave the room. Her business was done here and if she had to watch Markus’ shuttle explode or hear this man drown in his own blood, she knew she would end up weeping on the floor.
Ashley turned to face the door, then hastily fled from the scene she knew would haunt her for the rest of her life. The door sealed behind her leaving Charles to die alone. A broken hero. He grunted and groaned in between coughing up large sums of blood. He hadn’t noticed the monitor was silently repeating the same words.
“WARNING: Collision course engaged!” It repeated over and over. Charles gritted his blood stained teeth and took hold of the knife in his chest with trembling hands. His breathing became audible as he carefully extracted it from his bloodied body. The blade screeched as it came free from his armor. It slipped from his fingers and clambered to the ground.
“WARNING: Collision course engaged!” The words echoed off the walls and slowly made their way to his ears. Charles rolled over to his stomach and watched the blood steadily pour from his wound. His trembling arms refused to push himself up. He grunted and gave a futile attempt to catch his blood.
“WARNING: Collision course engaged!” The words forced Charles to his knees. His dizzied head swayed back and forth and he caught himself on… Something. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was. He could feel the blood between his fingers and the metal object.
“WARNING: Collision course engaged!” With another grunt, he forced one knee up and placed his foot firmly on the ground before resting his elbow on his knee. His vision blurred with each beat of his heart. Unknowing to Charles, he grunted with every exhale.
“WARNING: Collision course engaged!” Charles was filled with determination and wiped blood from his forehead before it trickled down into his eye. Pushing himself to his feet, he made a slow march for the console by the glass wall overlooking the cliff’s edge A.K.A. Markus’ grave stone if he didn’t hurry up.
“WARNING: Collision eminent!” Charles growled with rage and determination. Hoisting himself up with one arm, his fingers gracelessly danced on the console. Just seconds before he altered the course of Markus’ shuttle, it came screaming through the air at full speed.
Charles was temporarily blinded by the explosion that ensued. The cliff exploded and ten foot flames began to lick the air. The few remnants of Markus’ shuttle fell to the ocean bellow in balls of flaming metal.
Charles’ hand fell on the console which then showed several error messages that Charles ignored. The man held back sobs of disappointment. Disappointment that he let Markus down. He let this traitor – this monster – stop him from saving Markus. He was just seconds too late.
Falling to his knees, Charles caught himself on the railing beside the console. He watched as a mushroom cloud of flame and smoke bellowed over Markus’ permanent resting place. He slammed his eyes shut and refused to look a second longer at his failure. His failure to his duty. His failure to his nation. His failure to his family.
Charles groaned before his legs finally gave in. He retured to the floor in a heap of broken dreams, hopes and plans. He lay dying alone in his failures. He lay a broken hero with extraordinary courage – but not quite enough to finish the job and fly into the sunset. Charles relived his marriage from day one. He could imagine him and his wife on their first date. If he didn’t know any better, he would say she could hear her laughing. But despite all his efforts, Charles couldn’t seem to imagine her face. Her beautiful face. It seemed to find a way out of his mind. The love of his life had escaped his final thoughts.
Reaching into his chest pocket, he pulled out a picture of his wife and newborn. He gazed into the picture for three seconds before he noticed the top half had been sliced clean off by Ashley’s blade. The rest was too blood stained for his weary eyes to make out. All he could pick apart was a woman’s headless body holding something wrapped in cloth.
Charles didn’t realize he could hear each beat of his heart until it stopped. He dropped his head back when the ruined picture found it’s way out of his hand. He could feel the cold steel floor against his warm neck. The last thing Charles heard was the final assurance of his failure.
“Warning: Level three crash on landing zone seven.”
Nice. A well done end for Charles. Not too surprising, but I didn't see it coming. Well done.
Thank you, thank you! I could tie some loose ends with Ramey, or I could end the story here; what do you think?
KO, your input will be invaluable here. I would greatly appreciate your feedback :)
Ramey Brossen’s eyes parted open and he gasped for air. His chest spiked with pain. The first thing he noticed was his lack of discomfort, other than his lunges which pulsed with tension and pain. His staggered breathing along with his focused eyes told the nurses he was awake. Ramey heard the sound of someone shushing him before a nurse’s soothing fingers massaged his arm.
“Take it easy.” The nurse inserted a needle into his vein and pressed blue liquid into his bloodstream. Ramey’s bruised face was cleaned and his wounds patched. His armor was replaced with a hospital patient’s outfit.
“Mar-“ He caught himself before he revealed Markus’ real name. He quickly corrected himself and uttered his code name.
“Relax, you need some rest.” The nurse stood up and left the room. Ramey relaxed a little in his bed and looked around. How long had it been since the battle? Was Markus alive? Did he stop Ashley? Questions swam around his head like a fish in an ocean of thoughts. The more he thought, the more questions came into his head.
“Excuse me,” He beckoned to a nurse who was preparing him food. “How long have I been out?”
“A good two days.” She replied. Ramey gritted his teeth and frowned. It was too late for him to do anything. All he could do was hope Markus finished what he started. Ashley’s plans couldn’t be accomplished. Whatever she was doing had to be stopped.
“C-could you turn on the news?” he asked, gesturing to the television on the wall. The nurse glanced at it, then sighed before turning it on. The front headlines were the raid on the facility. Sky shots of the war-torn facility were on every channel. Details of the assault were everywhere. It took Ramey five minutes to find what he was looking for.
“Although evidence supports the existence of a databank held by the pirates, all logs seem to have been purged. How this was done amongst the chaos is unknown.” Ramey exhaled deeply and tried not to lose hope. Markus could have salvaged something from the data banks before they were destroyed. He watched the broadcast for twenty more minutes to learn more details of the attack. The casualty count was in the almost a hundred and the wounded was almost double that. For being a relatively small pirate group against the most powerful military in existence, they fared much too well.
Eventually Ramey fell back asleep and the nurse turned off the television. When he awoke, the nurse informed him of a visitor wanting to see him. Johnson appeared in the doorway. Neither of them had words. They spoke clearly enough with their eyes.
“How many losses?” Ramey finally asked. Johnson drew close so he could hear Ramey’s faded voice.
“Ashley and Dwayne are MIA.” He told him.
“And the boy?” Johnson’s eyes were glued to the floor for a good ten seconds before he responded.
“He’s confirmed KIA.” Silence reigned in the room until Ramey finally accepted the truth that Ashley had most likely carried out whatever she was doing and Markus had taken the fall. She was, after all, the better soldier and everybody knew it. The two mourned in silence until Johnson’s palm-Comm beeped a few times. He sighed and left Ramey to rest. Ramey didn’t rest, though. He knew Ashley would come after him. He was the only loose end. He would find Ashley and make her squeal. He would hide in the shadows, then strike when she least expected it.
I think I would squeeze out the effort to make a better one if I didn't have another story on my mind already. It just didn't seem right to leave this one hanging when it was so close to ending.
The length is 66 pages exactly :P
If I was to actually publish it I would do the following things:
1) Add MUCH more depth to both Markus and Ashley. They both have incredible potential, but I really didn't expand on it enough.
2) Add more catch phrases and referable things. These things make the reader smile and say, "This is actually pretty good." I would have added much more of these memorable quotes that would stick in the reader's mind.
3) Expand Ramey earlier. Ramey had an amazing backstory. He was a last-minute character I threw in, but actually ended up stealing the show. I would definitely introduce him earlier and expand on his backstory. ie, his murdering of a family as described a few times.
4) Take out the boring parts; or at least make them intriguing. Often times when I re-read stuff I wrote, it can be just plain boring. I read somewhere that readers want to experience life without the boring parts. I prioritized realistic-ness and smoothness over this and it caused the novel to suffer.
5) General clean up. I opened a lot of paths that I never closed. Opened many Ideas I never satisfied. Showed the reader many paths I never took them down. All-in-all, it really deteriorated the story.
Would ya'll add anything to this list?
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