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Burn Away

by Hartley Harms

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11

Chapter 3


“My name is Tharin Hawkwood,” he said, standing in front of three figures. Blood soaked were their claws and mouths. Two males and one female stood at attention exhausted as their new employer spoke to them, “You three have proven yourselves worthy, therefore I am making you my lieutenants.”

Tharin turned away from the group to leave the prison pod, stepping over a lifeless corpse as well as a pool of blood. The three looked at each other, panting and unsure of themselves. More than anything they were relieved to be out of the cells. They followed Tharin out of the pod and into the hallway, watching as orderlies and doctors ran past back and forth. Tharin led the group back up through the chaos and into the Warden’s office where he had made an effort to fix things up a bit. The desk was put back upright and many supplies were returned, though shards of glass still were littered about on the floor. Tharin took a seat in his former mentor’s chair before looking up at his recruits.

“I suppose I should brief you on our project here,” Tharin said as he opened one of the drawers in the desk to take out a small notepad. In it were the lists of prisoners in the Warden’s personal pod, “We will be taking care of a potential leak. Two targets and that’s it.”

“Who are they?” The female asked as she stepped forward to lean on the desk, locking her elbows. Tharin eyes up the collar of her uniform, reading the number before cross referencing in the notebook. 
  “Maxine, is it?” he asked as she nodded back, “One of them is a former prisoner, an escapee long before your time here,” Tharin added as he turned the computer monitor to show security camera footage from the escape.

“Wait, what?!” One of the males exclaimed as he stood up and got in Tharin’s face, “If that guy broke outta’ this place then I want to give him a fuckin’ medal. I want no parta’ this bullshit. You can lock me back up.”

“Calm down and shut up,” Tharin said commandingly as he glared at the surprised chupa, “If he leaks what’s been going on here then it’s only a matter of time before some H.A.D.E.S. goon squad shows up and puts a bullet in all of our heads.”  The man gulped and stood back, “You don’t seriously believe they would go through the trouble of relocating you, do you?  Those war machines would toss grenades through your food ports and chalk the losses up as ‘collateral damage.’”

“What about the other one?” The other male asked as he stepped up. Tharin looked back at the notebook for a moment, “She broke them out, so she clearly doesn’t fuck around. What kind of operation do you see this being?”

“That’s a good question, Dante. I don’t exactly know what to expect,” Tharin replied as he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, “They’re both wild cards, at this point, it’s been so many years.”

“Well, we certainly have our hands full,” Maxine spoke up, “We need a solid idea of what we’re going into.”  She turned to Tharin and looked him in the eyes, “I need to know what I’m walking into, or I’ll take my chances with that grenade. I’d rather not botch this thing and wind up in some other hell hole.”

“That’s a good questn’, what IF we fuck this up?”  The pensive male asked as he sneered at the other two.

“That’s the gambit, Martin,” Tharin said calmly as he looked at his subordinate, “We do this right and we all walk away free as anyone else, and we never see each other again… or we all die miserably, but then again, that’s what we get if we do nothing. With the Warden gone there’s no defense if that escapee leaks what’s been going on here. This place gets raided and we’re all dead anyways.”

“Alright, alright I get it, I’m in,” Martin replied, putting his hands up in defeat before sighing and cursing to himself, “I assume you have some place to lay low?  Preferably not in this frigid armpit’a Sirca?”

“There were plenty of transport relays. The nearest one is in Qoppa,” Tharin said calmly.

“Is there anything you need to get out of here?” Dante asked as he got up and moved to one of the bookshelves to look over what was in them.” 
  “No, we won’t be staying here for much longer,” Tharin said as he stood up from his desk and walked to the Warden’s liquor cabinet, taking out four glasses and one of the bottles of whiskey, “I’m just making sure that all of the data collected on that prisoner gets destroyed. If he does go public with this than at least we’ll have some time and plausible deniability. I’ll make sure all of our records are erased too.”  He poured himself a glass of whiskey before opening one of the drawers in the cabinet and taking three ice cubes, dropping them into his glass, “Would you three want a drink?  At least to steel your nerves.”  Maxine chuckled and stepped up, taking the bottle and dumping it into one of the glasses, filling it up to the rim. 
  “I’m no stranger to murder, but I won’t pass up a drink. It’s been too damn long,” she said, pounding the whiskey back before wincing and throwing the glass onto the floor, shattering it and smiling, her teeth showing as she walked to the door of the office, “Let’s get the fuck out of here and get on with the rest of our lives.”  Dante followed her out of the room as Martin looked intently into Tharin’s eyes. There was no contact between them as Tharin was busy staring into his clear, umber drink, watching the ice swish around in the glass as he shook it. He took the rest of the drink at once and tossed the glass out onto the floor and walking out of the room. Martin took one last look at the shattered glass before following the other three.

The group made their way to one of the staff dorms, giving the new recruits a chance to shower off and clean the blood and tissue from their claws and fur. Tharin went to his own dormitory to retrieve some of his own clothes, having told the others to rummage through the other rooms to find anything suitable. The three returned after some time sporting some well-enough fitting streetwear. Tharin stood at the door of the staff lounge talking to one of his co-workers, giving them the names of his party. The other three sat around the lounge waiting. It was much more comfortable than the rest of the facility. The floors were carpeted and lined with drywall rather than concrete and there was actual furniture. Maxine and Martin took some time to enjoy the comfort while it lasted. Martin laid out fully on the sofa as Max sat in a recliner.

“Alright, you three,” Tharin said as he turned inward to the lounge to address his lieutenants, “We’re leaving now. I’ve got a couple co-workers informing the others of our records too so none of us can be implicated in anything. You are all being marked as dead with the others; this way none of you will be on the House’s radar anymore. We will be leaving in one of the transport trucks. I would have us in something with a lower profile, but it’s all we have that can get through the snow and rough terrain.”

“Are there other cars at this safe house?” Dante asked, standing up and stretching a bit. Max and Martin climbed out of their comfy seats and joined up with Dante and Tharin.

“Yes, there will be plenty to choose from when we get there. We will spend some time at the safehouse planning and gathering intel before we move out. It will be a long drive from there.”

The group departed and walked the labyrinth of hallways before arriving at the intake center. All of them had been through here at one point. It was much a pain point for the recruits, yet they held their heads high as they climbed into one of the trucks they were brought in on before driving out into the snowy abyss of Sampi to make their way west. They had left during a snowstorm and had to navigate the forest trail via RPS. They plowed over small saplings and finally broke out of the dense forest. Snow quickly began to build up on the truck’s windshield. Tharin made no attempt to wipe it off since there was only roughly ten feet of visibility anyways. The group trekked on through the snowstorm, making their way westward to Qoppa.

Tharin’s group exited the Quarrel Mountains and drove down through the trail towards the border into Qoppa. There were no checkpoints the way the more populated provinces had, and it was much easier to sneak in and out. The four drove down from the mountains and onto a dirt road that led west to Stigma. The climate was a hot, stark contrast from the snowy altitudes of Sampi. Wind swept the desert blowing dust and dead, dry plant life. Small creatures and lizards scampered away as the truck drove past. Martin leaned his arm against the rear driver-side window to peer out at the scenery. The group was nearing an old ghost town. Tharin slowed the truck down as they drove through.

“Our safehouse is in this town. It’s uninhabited, has been for years,” he said as he rounded a corner in front of an old gas station. The buildings looked like they were withering away in the wind, “This was an old weapons testing site from years and years ago. Nobody stays here now, not even squatters.”

“A perfect place to keep prisoners as they make their way to that fuckin’ place back in Sampi…” Martin added as he scowled and looked out at the apartment blocks that had been demolished by missile fire. Tharin didn’t respond, he simply continued down the winding streets as he drove into a residential neighborhood. He pulled into a cul-de-sac and circled around to the house directly in the center. He pulled the truck into the covered garage and got everyone out.

“The safehouse is down in the basement here. Head on down to the cellar and make yourselves comfortable,” he said as he pulled a flap down over the garage to conceal the truck, “We’ll be here for a few days and then we’ll head out to Episemon, but we’ll be taking the more trafficked roads.”  Tharin walked down the steps of the storm cellar, closing up the doors before flipping the lights on. The safehouse wasn’t as luxurious as the staff quarters, but it had plenty of amenities. Max took no time picking out a bunk from the bedroom as Tharin went to a small key cabinet on the wall just to the right of the entrance. Inside were a grid of car keys hung up, ones used by the facility staff to get in and out. He picked one out and slid the keyring off of the rack before closing the cabinet up and walking back to the rec area. He twirled the keys around his finger before dropping them into his pants pocket. The rec area was rather small, having just a couch a chair, and an old TV with the kitchen behind it. Dante and Tharin took the couch and chair while Martin went through the kitchen. It was barebones and didn’t have many appliances outside of a single burner stove and a small toaster oven.

“Jeez, how often do people come through here?”  Martin asked as he turned to Tharin, “Don’t you have a rule or somethin’ where people bring in some groceries?  It’s all just canned shit and MREs.”

“We did, but after our target broke out the Warden tightened security up and we started leaving the facility less and less,” Tharin replied as he turned the TV on and began flicking through the channels, “We got sick and tired of having to throw everything out whenever we brought new prisoners in.”  Martin frowned and took a can of beans from the cabinet and tossed them onto the stove burner.

Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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