The joyful sounds of a lavish dinner party drifted out the french doors to the large garden. In the darkness, hidden beneath the low branches of a leafy shrub, two figures watched. Their faces were smudged with paint to reduce any reflection from the moon which was just now peaking out from the clouds. They did not speak to one another but gazed intently on the stately mansion directly before them. Trudging down the driveway in front of the house, a pair of heavily armed guards were muttering to one another in hushed voices. Behind them, on the upper balcony they could just make out another guard standing in the shadow as he scanned the grounds. Aaron tore his eyes from the movement of the guards and glanced over at the slightly older man lying beside him. Bryce was his mentor and closest friend. Bryce had entered the service a couple years ahead of Aaron because he was a couple years older. Once Aaron had joined up, he worked to get them transferred to the same unit. Together they had served throughout the world in various conflicts for the past several years. They were inseparable as brothers and unstoppable as fighters. When Bryce sought to join the covert squad Aaron had followed him. Now here they were on what could possibly be the most difficult mission of their careers.
The guards had reached the end of their patrol route and turned their backs as they started walked back the way they had come. Bryce gestured to Aaron who nodded in return and they both scrambled from their hiding place and raced across the open ground till they reached the side wall of the mansion. Crouching, they drew their pistols and awaited the sound of pursuit. The chattering and music in the mansion went on unbroken and there were no shouts of surprise or warning from the guards. Bryce crawled to the corner of the building and quickly peered around the front before pulling back to where Aaron waited.
"The front is no good. We'll have to find another entrance," He whispered in a barely audible voice.
Aaron took the cue and moved swiftly toward the back of the mansion with Bryce covering behind them. Aaron eased his head around the corner. The fools!
He thought. This was going to be easier than we thought
. He verified that there were no guards in sight and then moved around the corner. He was halfway up a ladder leaning beneath one of the second story windows before Bryce had come around the corner. He had the room secured and was listening at the closed door as Bryce hefted himself through the window.
"If our intelligence is correct, the plans will be downstairs. We need to grab them and get out. . .preferably without being seen." Bryce was pointing at a room on a small blueprint of the mansion he had pulled from his pack. "Looks like this is next to the ballroom." He stuffed the blueprint back into his pack and made a sweeping gesture. "After you."
Aaron smiled and listened once more at the door before easing the handle around and pulling it open a crack. He didn't see any guards or guests so he pulled the door open the rest of the way and moved into the hallway. He heard the audible click of a weapon being cocked and was spinning before the first shot of the assault rifle had left the barrel. Three more rounds had buried themselves in the wall, chasing the spinning figure of Aaron before he managed to get his sights on the guard crouched behind a statue and pulled his own trigger. The guard went down, the rifle tumbling onto the floor beside him. Bryce was in the hallway checking the guard as Aaron made a quick self-assessment to make sure he had not been hit.
"They know we're here now!" Bryce had holstered his pistol and was tossing the sling for the guard's assault rifle over his shoulder. A shout from below confirmed his observation along with the pounding of boots across marble floors. Down the hallway a lone guard appeared, his weapon at the ready. Bryce dropped him with a short burst from the rifle. "That way!" He yelled pointing to where the guard had just come from. They raced down the hallway and Bryce's assumption proved to be correct; this had been the guard stationed on the balcony outside. He had been the only guard on this side of the house. Bryce led them out onto the balcony and observed that the guards were no longer stationed out front. As expected, all the guards had run inside to catch the intruders. He gestured to the railing next to one of the thick columns. "Shall we?" Without waiting for a response he released the rifle, letting it swing on the sling wrapped around his shoulder, grabbed the railing and vaulted over into nothingness beyond. He allowed his weight to carry his body back toward the railing as he swung underneath the balcony, releasing his grip at the moment that would drop him by the front door. Beside him, Aaron had performed the same maneuver and landed at almost the same exact time. He had grabbed the other assault rifle and now held it at the ready.
Together they kicked in the double-doors, sending several guards sprawling, and began taking surgical shots at the surprised guards. Bryce and Aaron swung left and right, covering each other as guards popped out of doorways only to be shot down before their weapons could be brought to bear. Those guards that did managed to get a shot off were firing blindly and in fear without taking the time to acquire their target and aim. Three on the large stairway tumbled down as they were struck. Another was firing wildly from behind the railing on the second story when he was struck. His body pitched forward over the railing and crashed to the marble floor below. As the last reverberations of gunfire faded away into an eerie silence Aaron was already moving.
"C'mon! Before they send reinforcements!" Aaron raced off, threading his way through the maze of rooms with Bryce following at his heels. He glanced left and right through each doorway until he pulled to a stop in front of a large oak door. "In here. This has to be it." He tested the knob before turning it fully and pushing the door open. It swung smoothly on well-oiled hinges before bumping into an obstruction out of sight. Aaron frowned, before stepping back and then placing a solid kick into the door. It smashed into the obstruction but was stopped abruptly before it disintegrated into a cloud of oak splinters, the blast sending Aaron and Bryce tumbling backward.
"Destructo-Bot!" Yelled Bryce as he regained his feet and dodged into the room. Behind him Aaron was taking shots at the cyborg that was moving deftly toward Bryce. The bullets ricocheted off the metal assassin, digging into the wooden paneling on the walls. Aaron re-holstered his pistol and quickly began to dig through his pack.
"I could use some help here!" Bryce leaped from behind an ornate chair as it exploded in a shower of flaming upholstery. He rolled around the table in the center of the room ending up next to the cyborg. He raised his rifle like a club, but before he could bring it down the Destructo-Bot gripped his throat and raised him off his feet.
"Got it!" Aaron pulled a small metallic cylinder from his pack and raced through the doorway just as Bryce's body flew past him. Bryce hit the wall with a sickening thud and crumpled to the ground. "Nooooooo!" Screamed Aaron and he raised the metal cylinder.
"Aaron. Time to come in for your bath." Aaron slowly lower his hand and looked over at his mom standing in the doorway of their house. "And no lip this time mister, or you'll be in bed early all this week."
Aaron moaned under his breath as he began picking up several toys scattered on the lawn.
"See you tomorrow?" Bryce handed a couple more toys to Aaron and turned to head down the street, "We have a Destucto-Bot to take care of."
Aaron nodded, "After lunch." Bryce headed down the street toward his own house as Aaron stepped inside and closed the door. He walked to his room and dropped his toys on his bed. As he stepped back into the hallway on his way to the bathroom he glanced over at a figure half hidden in the shadows. "Report, Commander,Ē he said, motioning for the figure to come closer.
The man stepped from the shadows and saluted. "Captain, the Baron has mobilized his entire fleet. They decimated us in the strait. Your personal command sub is the only ship we have left."
Aaron gritted his teeth, "Baron Von Death has gone too far this time. I'll have to handle this personally." He glanced at the Commander, "Have air support standing by. I may need to be pulled out in a hurry." The Commander saluted again and then disappeared into the shadows. Captain Aaron watched him go before turning and walking up the gangplank to his sub.