Project Unnamed: Memories
by Ingvar Mattson
|part 1 of 4|
In the late 21st century, the empires of corporate feudalism conduct industrial espionage less with spies than with commando raids. The combat teams are supported by mages trained in teleportation and extrasensory perception. But in harm’s way, even advanced powers may not prevail against veteran infantry...
It’s dark. I am buried underground. I have less than 24 hours of air. On the surface, there are people looking for me and if they find me, they will do what they can to kill me.
While there’s still hope, I shall do my best to write my story down. Let me begin with where I am and why. I am three metres under the surface, in a purpose-built bolt-hole. There is no connection from the bolt-hole to the surface, and I really should be getting out before the air runs out.
Unfortunately, I am here because I have half an army after me. Well, at least a platoon of crack Volvaab troopers. I can feel them on the surface, scanning for me. As long as I don’t do anything stupid, I should be OK, at least until my air runs out.
When I get home, I’ll request some leave. I need to wind down, in comfort, hugging my sweetie. Well, that is if she can get leave. Most people say that it’s better to get involved with a civilian rather than another member of the Corps. That way, there’s only one partner that risks being left alone after a mission has gone wrong.
Me, I say that is unfair. If I am prepared to have my loved ones grieve me if a stray bullet hits, I should be prepared to grieve for the same reasons. Fair enough, Anna is in the intelligence division, it’s not as if she were out in the field as much as I am, but when she is, she doesn’t have the same edge I do. I’ll try to sleep some; it should conserve air.
Johan woke up happy that fine, crisp March Tuesday morning. He was bubbling with delight, as any 10-year-old tends to do on his birthday. He was looking forward to the big party that would happen after school. Even Daddy would be home for that, not a usual thing, these last few months.
Johan’s father, Sven Gustafsson, was somewhere in the world. He was a military man, with the Free Stockholm Mercantile Corps, specialist units (whatever that was) and hadn’t been home more than occasionally since school started last year. Johan missed him.
After breakfast, Johan started walking the 200 metres to school. The classroom was about as chaotic as normal and quietened down as their teacher, Ms Jonsson, entered.
Johan was tingling with anticipation as the teacher began: “I have an announcement to make...”
Johan thought, She’ll ask everyone else to stand up and sing for me...
Ms Jonsson continued. “It’s always hard, when loss like this hits our school. Especially for the pupils who are most affected. It is to my extreme sorrow that I have to tell you that during the night, a FSMC data-gathering raid on the Volvaab-Partena headquarters went wrong. All eight brave soldiers are dead.
“On this raid five of the soldiers were close relatives to you, my pupils. In a few minutes, there will be someone from FSMC to pick you up and take you home. There will be weekly therapy sessions for those who need them. Now. Johan, your father. Marie, your father. Niklas, your mother. Stefan, your eldest sister. Sven, your father.”
Numb, Johan stared into empty air, thinking, Dead? But... No. As he was trying to come to terms with his father’s no longer being there, two uniformed men walked in. “We’re sorry for your loss, we’ll have you home and safe with your families shortly. If you can put on your coats and shoes, we have a bus waiting outside.”
Johan and the other children got off their chairs and started putting coats and shoes on. The uniformed men walked them outside to a white mini-bus. They set off and Johan was let off outside his door, where his mother was waiting.
“Mommy!” Johan said, “the men say Daddy is dead. That can’t be true, can it?”
Wiping her hands on the tea towel slung over her shoulder, Johan’s mother said, “Unfortunately, he is. You see, your father was a spell-weaver for a reconnaissance unit with the Mercantile Corps, and as he was about to die he did what he promised me the day we got married and teleported the little locket with my hair that he wore around his neck. It’s on my chest of drawers, for the first time in twenty years.”
Johan sniffled and went inside. “But, Mommy, how? I know as well as you do that Volvaab-Partena is nowhere near here, how can someone manage to grab the locket and sneak it in to our house in such a short time?”
Johan’s mother shook her head. “Son, as I said, your father was working with a military unit, specialising in teleporting things, both over short and long ranges. No one snuck in behind our backs and placed that locket in the bedroom. Would you like orange juice with your breakfast, Johan?”
Johan looked at his mother. Breakfast? he thought. Breakfast, on a day like this? When my father is dead? How can she be so calm? “Mom! Don’t you understand? He’s dead!”
Mother looked at her son. “I know he’s dead. There’s nothing we can do that can change that. We can only remember him as the good, caring father he was and the loving husband that was home far too little lately. Ah, well. Would you like your egg soft-boiled as normal or hard-boiled?”
Still breathing. Still relatively calm.
They’re still prowling around, up there. They’re not shielding at all. It’s the most unsubtle search I’ve ever been the target of. I’m wondering if they’re being unsubtle on purpose, to accustom me to heavy-minded hunters? If that’s the case, they’ll probably get sneakier searchers in in a few hours and hope I decide it’s safe to ’port back to the surface.
It’s interesting, in a way, how this little raid managed to twist their noses this bad, we didn’t do anything vastly outside normal. Just your average industrial sabotage. It’s not as if there weren’t a level of declared hostilities.
It’s the way Volvaab-Partena have tried muscling in on FSMC territories. If they’d stayed at just undercutting our contracts, I don’t think it would’ve gone this far, but trying to annex outlying villages in Free Stockholm was taking things to an unacceptable level.
Oh, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Johan Svensson. I am a battlefield mage with the Free Stockholm Mercantile Corps. I’ve been with the Corps for seven years, but I’ve only been “in the field” for the last two years. Prior to that I was in basic training or being force-fed magic theory during the days and its application on the battlefield during evenings and weekends.
You would’ve thought it would be sweet, wouldn’t you? Join the Corps, get sent to uni on your normal pay. Party like a mad thing. But, no, you get sent to uni. You do have somewhere to live. Unfortunately, it’s a shared house, owned by the Corps. Fair enough, there’s usually no military classes in the weeks, but we usually lost one day every weekend to FSMC. Still, we were kept busy and out of trouble, I guess.
Volvaab-Partena. Today’s little exercise was a daylight raid to the old Saab building here in Linköping, to get our paws on some paperwork, to determine if VP were trying a take-over. We’ve become a bit more vigilant since they started a take-over bid for Smara, right at the northern edge of Free Stockholm. We didn’t like that. At all. Especially since it was a take-over bid of the “walk in armed” variety. So, we keep close tabs on them and when they start interfering with us or our business partners, we start interfering with them.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find any papers. As luck had it, we ran straight into the Volvaab chief financial officer and her grunts as we entered the building. They started shooting, so I fried her brain while the rest of the squad handled her bodyguards.
She must have managed to trigger her emergency beacon, because the next thing we knew, there were choppers bloody everywhere, and we ran. Oh, how we ran. Back to transport. That worked quite well, until the tires got shredded in a roundabout. We decided to split up, half the squad dashing one way, the other half following me up into the forest. Anyway, time for another rest.
Copyright © 2009 by Ingvar Mattson