Story time is back again. This one I’d call a thriller. It has light Sci-Fi elements but they in no way form a large part of this tale (its about 15,000 words long). Past that I’ll let you know that this is a small groups efforts to stop one man from wielding more power than any single person should ever be allowed to hold. With that I hope you enjoy, Storm The Summit.
“Incoming!” Is the only thing that can be heard being screamed by one of the members of Zeta team while they are aboard the oblong box which is kept suspended by four rotor blades. Each of the rotors and the shrouds surrounding them are affixed to the upper corners of the body which is known as a Finch.
On instinct alone Jaxson Orin known to everyone as Jax spins around. He had been faced toward Claribel Hu the pilot of the Finch and querying as to how far out they are from their intended drop point. It matters little now. Nevertheless, Jax has managed to turn just in time to see a rocket of some kind lancing toward the open side of the Finch. Ferris is on that side firing wildly at the shooters a good distance below them. The shooters are positioned haphazardly around the various terraces of the Linqi Corporation headquarters tower, Linqi Lance. It’s a stupid name. Jax has always thought so but it fits well with what he knows about the character of Linqi’s CEO Mortimer Davidson. The man is beyond arrogant. He’s the epitome of what people hate about the uber rich and is hell-bent on keeping Jax and his Zeta team away so he can finalise his power grab of Linqi. If he succeeds he will be the single most powerful man on the face of the Earth. That is bar none and that is what scares the various authorities. Especially, as he has shown many a time before that it is either his way or be left to decay. Those are exact words that once passed his lips. To make matters worse some of his choices have been borderline psychotic, but as the CEO of the largest corporation in history he has managed to keep his place. Jax can only imagine what might happen if he isn’t stopped from executing the board of directors. Worse still is why it was ever written into their contracts that the shares would be passed and divided among the surviving members should one or more of them die. It’s like the terms were written by Mr Davidson himself. They weren’t. In truth, they were written by the now long departed founder of Linqi, Jefferson Linqi. The exact reasons as to why he had such a thing written in were the man’s own, he never shared them and thus they died with him. It was in a freak accident that he perished. If it were not so long ago Jax would swear Mortimer had a hand in it but he hadn’t been born when it had occurred, so that ruled him that out.
Still, the fact that it happened before Mortimer was born, he’s in his fifties, should give you some idea of how long the corporations’ founder has been gone. Plus, with his entire family having expired in the same plane crash it in many ways made sense that the corporation, which at that time had been fledging in comparison to what it is today, would avoid uncertainty and a problematic transition of power by having such a clause embedded in the fine detail. Fine details that ran for hundreds upon hundreds of pages and that each employee who served on the board had to agree to if they wished to hold such a position.
Jax shakes himself free of his daze. It seems in all the time he’s spent mulling over details of the past no real time has passed whatsoever. Just as well, Jax thinks as he forces his body into action. He leaps for Ferris who is still firing down below with reckless abandon and with complete obliviousness at the danger hurling itself toward him. Typical Ferris, Jax thinks as he reaches the man decked out in the standard body armour and tactical gear including battle cap. Still, it doesn’t change Jax’s actions and why he grabs a hold of the straps across Ferris’ shoulders and hauls him away from the mounted gun. Ferris roars angrily and thrashes trying to break free. If Jax didn’t know the man better he’d swear he’s determined to die. Regardless, Ferris is unable to mount a worthwhile resistance and is dragged away just in time as the Finch banks. The incoming rocket projectile as a result zips through the open side door of the Finch right where Ferris had been perched and out the other side. Jax handed even considered whether the other side door had been open when he’d decided to risk his own skin. If it hadn’t have been it wouldn’t have mattered as the Finch would have exploded into a shower of flaming debris.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Ferris roars angrily while scrambling to his knees. He’s still completely unaware that a rocket nearly ended his life and zipped through the interior of the Finch. It’s why he comes whaling around on Jax, who isn’t entirely sure whether his Zeta squad mate is bellowing at him or Claribel the pilot. It would make the most sense for Ferris to be going off at Jax, but Ferris’ eyes keep flitting Claribel’s way. Still, his face is red, angry and deeply furrowed with rage. Ferris always gets like this. The only reason he’s still on Zeta is because Jax vouches for him. Maybe he shouldn’t because his recklessness is way over the line these days. At one time he’d operated close to it but now he’s fully over it on near enough every op they run.
“Saving your bacon Ris.” Jax barks using the shortened version of Ferris’ name while glaring at him with green eyes. This is a stare Jax uses whenever he needs someone to understand that he isn’t playing around. That this is serious and that lives could and should have been lost in the moments prior.
“I meant our sorry excuse for a pilot, Jax. She almost had me slide right out of this fucking bird!” Jax isn’t sure he believes his squad mate but can’t refute that his eyes are very much turned her way.
“Oh can it you sorry excuse for a…” Claribel begins only for another member of Zeta, Teddy Julian, to cry, “Fresh incoming! Brace!”
“Oh shit!” Lister can be heard saying as Claribel turns her attention instinctively toward what’s incoming. Nevertheless, she sees the projectiles too late, thankfully they’re only bullets and nothing explosive, but banks hard all the same. The four members of Zeta scream and swear but manage to grab hold of various edges and bars inside to keep themselves from being unceremoniously flung from the exposed interior of the flying black box fashioned from a reinforced metal frame that is wrapped is armour glass. Rounds pepper the hull of the Finch. Not all on the outside. The unmistakable sound of rapid thumps fills the ears of all five of those aboard the aircraft while Claribel banks at an increasingly sharp angle. During the increasingly sharp bank angle she also pulls up, effectively circling the building. If they were not under fire she wouldn’t have to circle but they are.
If you’re wondering why she’s gaining altitude it’s because Zeta are meant to be dropping on the roof of Linqi Lance. She knows the name meant to convey the general shape of the building. Though, in truth the lance shape only really relates to the lightning rod, satellite assembly that serves as the very pinnacle of the tower of armour glass that rises up into the air. It’s massive and monolithic and appears as if it cute the sky in two. In a manner as if it was sent down by the gods. It wasn’t and Claribel couldn’t care less about anything other than keeping the Finch airbourne right now. Rounds continue to patter against the hull of her bird. Her CO is going to have a fit when she gets back to the depot and he inspects the damage this flying box has suffered. Claribel doesn’t care at the moment. She’s only been following orders, his orders, and so he’ll just have to deal with the damage. Why these Zeta boys came to her CO, Drake Matheson, she will never know. Top secret blah blah some other excuse and so can’t it be blah otherwise it might be blah blah blah. Claribel didn’t pay attention to that side of the briefing. It didn’t matter to her as to the why she was being deployed, only that she was and so all that mattered to her were the cargo, Zeta, and the destination, Linqi Lance. Everything else was superficial and unimportant in her eyes.
At least that was what she thought at the time. Now, she wishes she’d paid a little more attention as to what might be the death of her tonight. In fact, the demand that this be done at night should have set off enough alarm bells to make her pay closer attention but she hadn’t. On the few instances she had tuned in to listen to detail she didn’t care about and quickly tune back out she heard some ramblings that gave nothing away but were meant to placate. Good reason in itself not to waste time listening she thought but it appeared to achieve its intended goal of getting Drake on board. He must have served with these guys once had been and still is her conclusion.
Finally, Claribel flicks the joystick of the Finch in the opposite direction. It has the desired effect and results in the Finch transitioning out of its bank and back to being level once more. Several of Zeta breath sighs of relief. She does to, just keeps it low enough for them not to hear. In truth, she was convinced during that manoeuvre that someone would clatter at least one of the protruding turbines. Somehow they either weren’t fortunate enough to hit one or didn’t try. She tells herself it’s the latter. That makes her feel a whole lot better about…
Right then, and as if on cue, they are assaulted by a second wave of bullets. “When the fuck is this going to end?” Teddy screams at the top of his lungs. Poor Teddy hates flying and only deals puts up with it so he can stay in Zeta. And by deal with it that means bitching and moaning or screaming at the top of his lungs when things go a little awry. This situation is a lot more than a little awry and so Jax won’t begrudge him his outbursts. Unlike Ferris, Teddy knows when and when not to gob-off.
“Fuck it! I’m returning fire.” Ferris cries with a snarl carved across his face. He is eager, as always, to enact some major violence on those who dare take them on.
“Denied! That is an…” Jax begins to shout in reply. Sadly his order falls on deaf ears. That’s why he trails off without finishing it. To do so would simply be a waste of breath because Ferris, who already has the mounted gun in his hands, opens fire with a renewed vigour and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for blood. It’s the side of Ferris that worries all the other members of Zeta. They’ve seen it every now and then. It’s what they term as when Ferris goes feral. A red mist descends and he will do what he wants, when and as he wants. Listening to orders goes out the window, or in this case out the open side of the Finch. Lister looks to Jax and notes his CO’s dejected look. It lasts a couple seconds, maybe, at most but it’s there long enough for him to notice it. Lister knows it’s hard for Jax to keep Ferris in Zeta and the rabid dog does nothing to make it easier a good chunk of the time, which Lister imagines must make it problematic, to say the least.
“What are your orders?” It’s why Lister offers such a query not long after. He feels the need to know what the plan is, if there is one. If there isn’t and they’re on, play it by ear and hope, he’ll fully understand but he feels compelled to ask nonetheless. It might also distract from Ferris and his brazen insanity.
“Stop that stupid son of a bitch from getting himself shot by…” Jax never gets to finish that statement as something slams into the underside of the Finch. Everyone, save for Claribel who is strapped securely into her seat, is thrown up off the deck of the aircraft. Screams fill the air. Claribel finds it difficult to concentrate with all the noise, but thankfully after so many years of piloting her body goes into running a series of checks and changes to systems that are entirely reflexive. If Zetas pilot were not as experienced that might have been the beginning of their end right there but Claribel has been flying nearly as long as the members of Zeta have been fighting. That’s saying quite a bit about the brown eyed and blonde haired woman whose face is blank, save for a slight muscle twitch that makes the lower left corner of her lip move a couple millimetres every few seconds.
Following a period of weightlessness the members of Zeta crash back to the Finch’s deck. Unsurprisingly the first to speak is Ferris. “Are you trying to get us killed you dumb bitch?”
“Fuck you.” Is Claribel’s calm retort to the enraged Ferris. Her eyes don’t drift from her consoles or the view out the cockpit window. It’s an endless flat expanse of glass that curves around the boxy front of the Finch only to disappear beyond the limits of her peripheral vision.
“We aren’t getting to the roof boys. There’s too much incoming flak. I’ll get you as close as I can but…” Claribel begins only to be cut-off by Ferris who still boiling shouts, “Not good enough! You are being paid to get us to the roof so that’s where we’re going!”
“Stand…” Jax begins only for Claribel to come in louder and remind, “Yeah and how we going to do that when he can’t even handle the shit we have incoming from these terraces?” I’m a pilot not a miracle worker. Jax, keep your dog on his leash before I dump him off my bird to see if he can fly.”
Ferris actually stops. It’s shocking to the other members of Zeta. They have never seen Ferris lost for words. In fact, all he does is stand there, his back to the open side he’d been shooting from, blinking rapidly over and over. Jax’s brow furrows. He knows, hell they all know, except their pilot, that this is very uncharacteristic for Ferris. He never stops. Not until he’s forced too. So why…
At that moment a trickle of blood is coughed up by Ferris. Quickly it runs down the length of his chin and then a little ways under it before dripping onto his tactical vest below. Jax’s eyes go wide. Someone in the squad swears. To no surprise they too have realised what is wrong with Ferris. Jax leaps forward. Ferris is off-balance and flops backward. If they were on solid ground it wouldn’t matter, but up nearly a thousand feet in the air it’s a big issue. This is especially so when you consider that Ferris is near the edge of the open side of this aircraft. Jax reaches but his fingertips barely glance across the fabric that spans Ferris’ chest before he’s gone. Jax screams. Claribel asks what’s going on. She can’t see from where she is. No one answers her. A second later she finds out when the tracking dot on Ferris registers him below the Finch. A few quick calculations but truthfully he’s already out of her reach. If they weren’t being assaulted by weapons fire she might have risked attempting to retrieve him, but it’s too late really. She knows that.
“FUCK!” Jax spits some time later. For the moment the incoming fire has died once more. None of them are aware of that. They are all too busy mulling over the loss of Ferris. He might have behaved like a rabid dog on operations but he was a member of Zeta and a friend.
“What’re your orders Jax? I need to know where you want me to drop you boys off.” Claribel says breaking the heavy silence that has hung between the four of them. She didn’t want to be the one to do it but saw little choice.
At first Jax says nothing. Rather, his eyes remain fixed on the spot Ferris had occupied. Finally he shakes himself loose. A thousand things that have been going through his head, he’s forces aside for the moment. If he survives this he’ll deal with them then. Now is not the time. He and the remainder of his squad have a job to do. It’s not officially sanctioned by their superiors at The Agency but that is only because of the influence Mortimer Davidson has over so many and at all different levels of society. The sad truth is that there are people who regard him like a messiah. Jax doesn’t get it but he’s spent his life in the field getting dirty, staining his hands with blood, so he doesn’t have the same outlook as the desk-bound who only see things from a limited viewpoint that comprises primarily of comfort and safety. There is no way many of them would feel the same if they’d seen even a handful of what he and his… His thought trails off. He shakes himself free of his thoughts for a second time and then after a quick glance to check on Teddy and Lister he makes the short crossing across the Finch to converse with Claribel.
“Get us as close to the roof as you can.” Jax’s voice is soft. It isn’t an order. It’s a request. She isn’t one of his team and while she might be being paid for this, what is happening is a whole lot worse than what Drake signed her up for.
“I’m sorry about Ferris.” Claribel offers in response.
Jax nods but says nothing. In all honesty he doesn’t know what to say. Ferris was a friend, a colleague but also a dangerous violent man and a royal pain in his ass. It doesn’t change the fact that he deserved to live. Everyone deserves to live. Except for Mortimer Davidson, that is. He holds a special seat. The root of most evil committed today in this world. After all, what most people don’t know and if they do refuse to believe is that he funds and inspires violent factions all over the world to resist the established order. Some of those groups have even succeeded in replacing apparently lethargic regimes that benefited more than many citizens liked to admit with a regime of exploitation and profiteering. Jax doesn’t understand how he hasn’t been taken down for the raft of charges that could be attributed to his name and wouldn’t have thought being the CEO of Linqi would offer that level of protection to save him. Seems the green eyed man is clearly wrong, or would be if The Agency weren’t sending him and his boys in. One less boy now, Jax thinks before hearing Claribel announce, “I can get you as far as the last public terrace. Any higher up and we’ll be gunned out the air before you get a chance to jump.” She doesn’t add how she knows that. Jax has enough on his plate without being told that there are automated anti-aircraft weapons ready to shoot the Finch out of the sky if they so much as crest the lip of the roof.
Jax nods taking note of what Claribel does and does not say. It speaks volumes, whether she is aware of that or not. Then the green eyed man queries, “How’s your bird holding up?”
“You don’t want to know.” Is Claribel’s succinct reply that tells Jax all he needs to know without any actual detail being given.
“Thanks.” Jax feels an overwhelming urge to say.
“Thank me if we get through this.” Claribel replies before advising, “You’re going to want to brace for this, it’s going to be a hard continuous bank ‘til we get to the terrace where I’m dropping your asses off.” A smile flashes across her face, which manages to be both slim and round at the same time. Jax nods once then pushes off against the bulkhead that separates the cockpit from the rest of the Finch’s interior. A quick turn thereafter and he’s face-to-face with Teddy and Lister. The only difference between the men and him, if he’s honest, is the colour of their eyes. OK, the shapes of their faces and their features too but the main distinguishing factor that is noticeable at a glance is their differing eye colours. Teddy’s are blue while Lister’s are a dark brown. Both men are looking to Jax who orders, “Grab hold and don’t let go. This is going to be a very bumpy ride.”
“As if it hasn’t been already boss.” Teddy manages a wry cheeky smile but makes no effort to argue the toss, unlike Ferris would have. Rather, Teddy grabs a hold of the internal overhead running bars. There are three in total. Two are near the open sides of the Finch while the third is an equal distance between the other two, which means it runs down the dead centre. It’s mounted just below the headlining, or where the headlining would be if this were a civilian specification conforming Finch. This one has had the headlining, meant to help deaden the sounds of whooshing air and the engines, ripped out to save a bit of weight. After all, four large guys with full assault gear and a host of weapons is pretty heavy. Far more than the twin passenger Finch, which is what this variant is, should be carrying.
The weight saving wasn’t really enough. This Finch is still an unhealthy amount over the maximum allowance but it was all that had been available without using one of The Agencies own Finch’s. That would have raised eyebrows and inevitably led to questions Zeta and the few above them who have greenlit this operation do not want to have asked in the first place.
With Lister, Teddy and Jax bracing, Claribel banks hard without dropping a lick of the speed the Finch has been attempting to maintain. The force of the bank strains Lister’s arm muscles while he clings on for dear life. There is not a shred of doubt that if he were to lose his grip he would be flung wide out the side of the Finch and left to plummet to his death. In some ways like what happened to Ferris. He’ll miss the loose cannon of the squad. He was a hazard, to put it mildly, but he was their hazard. Lister sighs deeply. The sound of the exhale is lost in the noise as the Finch strains and creaks to maintain such a severe bank while continuing to climb. Lister looks to Teddy who is, unsurprisingly, very green around in the face due to this manoeuvre.
Teddy would love to hurl. He can feel his body demanding that be his reaction. He refuses to oblige. He needs his hands to stay where they are, clamped around the overhead rails. He too knows what his fate would be if he took even one hand off. Teddy knows his limits and that he isn’t the strongest, physically, member of the team. He isn’t supposed to be. He’s Zetas tech guy, a hacker according to some. He wishes that were true. He is nowhere near a hacker. If he were he could subvert and crack systems without the use of the gadgets he’s equipped with. Truth is, he simply understands a little more about the hacks compared to Jax and Lister. They could probably both execute them if push came to shove, but defer to Teddy. That gives him a place in a squad he otherwise would not have. Other squads don’t have such a defined role. The tech stuff falls to whoever is closest and not under fire in whatever moment it’s required.