Prologue: Fiery Retribution

by Erik Setzer

Jordi Kausch crouched in the underbrush, watching his team as they worked. Hugh Schubert was setting up a series of explosives around the perimeter of the rebel base the team was assigned to take out. Art Windham was kneeling beside Jordi, keeping his sniper rifle ready in case anyone noticed the commandos.  Lynn Adair was monitoring communications. Kurt Fleming was attempting to keep the base's security systems offline while Allan Bank stood by with his pistols, ready for any surprises.

So far, so good. But nothing ever stayed perfect for long.

Jordi pulled his commlink out of his jacket and keyed it to the squad's frequency. "Demo, you done yet?"

Hugh's voice came back. "Almost, Lead. One more to set and - there. I'm all finished here."

"No problems with the job?"

"Not here. I think One's getting a bit bored. Anything on your end."

Jordi turned to Art. "You seen anyone since we've been here?"

Art turned to look at Jordi. After the six months they'd spent together, Jordi still couldn't get used to Art's intense stare. made even more daunting by the haunted look in Art's eyes.  "I've seen a lot of people, but none of them were a danger."

"You made that call all by yourself?"

Art smiled. "Since they were all in buildings either asleep or doing the horizontal mambo with their subordinates, I think it's safe to say they couldn't have done much even if they knew we were here."

Jordi turned away and shook his head. He turned the commlink back on. "Deadeye reports no bogeys here, but a lot of bed action."

Hugh's reply was a low chuckle.

Allan's voice came over the commlink. "Our job's done here, so it's time to head home, eh? No need to worry about enemy politics."

Jordi snorted, then said, "Right. Let's get out of here.  Assemble behind the tree line." He turned to Lynn. "You have my liquid?"

"Right here, Lead," she answered. "Flammable and long burning just the way you like it."

"Thanks, Radio." Jordi took the container of flammable fluids and walked out into an open space between the woods surrounding the base and the base itself. He walked around slowly, pouring the liquid onto the ground . As he walked, he moved around to create a design with the liquids, barely visible in the moonlight. When he was finished he returned to the tree line, barely two meters from the start of the liquid "design".

"Ready to set off the charges, Demo?" he asked.

Hugh nodded. He pulled a small box from the sack he had thrown over his shoulder and pressed a sequence of buttons on it.

Explosive charges went off all across the base. The force of the blasts caused many buildings to collapse. Those that didn't were heavily damaged. Glass, concrete, and steel debris was thrown dozens of feet into the air. Fires burned everywhere, lighting up the previously dark installation.

"Pretty good job." Kurt said, admiring the damage and chaos caused by the explosives.

Jordi pulled a cigarette out of a pack in his jacket's pocket and placed it in his mouth. "Finest sight I've seen today," he said, fishing for a match. Finally he came upon one, then lit it. Cupping his left hand around the flame to keep it from burning out, he brought the match to his cigarette and lit it.

He inhaled deeply, feeling the heat from the cigarette warm his throat. He took the cigarette out of his mouth with his left hand, then tossed the match onto the flammable liquids he had just doused the ground with. Flames ignited immediately, and with them came a roaring noise for an instant as the flames spread quickly. Heat washed over the commandos as they turned away.

"Let's dump this joint," Jordi said, replacing the cigarette in his mouth.

"Boring place anyway," Allan commented.

The six soldiers walked away from the formed installation, the light from the fires within it silhouetting its destroyers.  As they disappeared into the depths of the woods, a large flaming design burning in the grass was the only evidence of those who did the deed. It would not be until later that the rebels would see what that design was, when they could survey the damage from above. Just seeing it made their hearts sink when they realized what it was.

It was a two-headed eagle.