Benecio del Toro as Ison Rickard
Djimon Hounsou as Alain Dassault
Dana Kareglazaya as Kara
[ Syria-Iraq Border, Earth ]
[ Ten years ago ]
Rickard leant out of the dropship, staring back at the city trailing away on the horizon behind them. Tall pillars of smoke rose from the ruined metropolis, its burning skyscrapers painting the sky above black, as ground- and orbital- based laser weapons traded shots with eachother amidst a backdrop of continuous AA and missile fire.
"Was it still worth us getting involved, Captain?" asked Dassault, a dark-skinned frenchman who paced the cabin behind him, cautiously eyeing their captive, who knelt, bound at his hands and knees, with a bag pulled over his head. "Command never gave us a mandate for intervention."
"It was an ethnic cleansing, Lieutenant." replied Rickard, pulling a cigarette from his plate carrier and lighting it. "That was our mandate for intervention."
The dropship set down some distance into the desert, next to a bombed-out desert temple that had no doubt been a point of refuge for many of the varying factions that currently fought in the war gripping the regions. The soldiers piled out, dragging their captive with them and throwing into the shade of one of the remaining sandstone pillars. Ison Rickard leant forwards, tearing the bag from the man's head. He gasped for air.
"Who are you? How dare you show up and drag me from my home in the middle of the-"
A gunshot rang out across the desert plains as Ison loosed a shot from his rifle into the man's foot. Some of the younger soldiers looked away nervously. Dassault adjusted his dark green beret, observing the interrogation from behind a pair of tinted aviators.
"I won't ask you again."
"We had no choice!" cried the man, jerking forwards in pain, and a half-hearted attempt to cradle his damaged foot. "These people... They have always hated the Kurds! It was only a matter of time before they struck, so we had to strike first! You spacenoids don't understand - you come to our planets to solve our disputes with force, and then act surprised when you never find any permanent solutions!"
"We don't get paid to solve disputes, Mohammed." replied Ison, pulling his cigar away from his mouth. He reached behind his back, unclipping a canteen of water from his belt, before nodding to Dassault. "Just armed conflicts... like this one here."
Two balaclava-wearing soldiers stepped forwards, one grabbing the detainee by his ankles, one by his shoulders. They lifted him up, dragging him to a 30-degree slope that had built up around the base of the pillar, and laid him back down. By this point Dassault had already stepped forwards, unwrapping a cloth from around his bicep.
"No, please! Anything but that - I'll tell you anything!"
"Oh, I know." replied Ison, unscrewing the cap on his canteen. "We've just got to make certain of that."
"No, please!" cried Mohammed as Dassault stepped forwards, pressing the cloth down into the man's face. His voice was reduced to a murmur as he struggled against his restraints, powerless against the soldiers holding him down at either end.
"Now..." said Ison, leaning down next to him, holding the canteen of water above his head. "...we're going to start with a very simple question, Mohammed. Can you guess what it might be?"
"...The nukes? The gold! I'll tell you - whatever you want to know!"
"Whatever I want to know?" he replied, smirking, though with no hint of genuine enthusiam behind his empty, hollow eyes. "Okay, Mohammed. New Order released Substance, their most critically acclaimed album, in 1987. But can you tell me which track on that twenty-four track album recieved the most radio playtime in the year it was released?" he asked, humourlessly.
Ison emptied the canteen over Mohammed's covered face. He screamed, struggling against his restraints. "Lies, Mohammed. We can't have lies." replied Rickard, nonchalantly, standing up and taking Dassault's canteen from him. It was all an act he had been through dozens of times before. He returned to Mohammed, unscrewing the canteen and holding it out above him, ready to pour. "You said you'd answer all my questions correctly and you haven't, so you've lied. And I'm fairly sure in your Koran it says not to lie, or to say anything that's a bad word or offends anyone, so I think I have to punish you on Allah's behalf, as well."
"And so do we." replied a voice from above, as gunfire tore through the interrogation session. Dassault's right arm was blown clean off by a blast of green plasma fired by an invisible attacker, but the cyborg's automatic defense mechanisms kicked into place, his left palm opening up and dispensing an airburst napalm shell in the direction of the attack. Some of the attackers screamed out as the liquid flame engulfed them, but more still surrounded them, firing at the soldiers who had their backs against the temple wall.
"Take cover!" roared Rickard, unclipping his rifle from the back of his armor and returning fire. The attackers were impossible to see through their active camo armor, and the situation was compounded by the growing dusk, sheathing the battlefield in darkness, illuminated only by muzzle flares and explosions. Rickard's forces were taking heavy casualties against the uninidentified assailants, and as the survivors pulled into hiding behind the pillars of the temple, the bodies of their comrades lay strewn across the desert surface. The plasma fire was intense, pinning them into cover, sending chips of sandstone flying through the interior.
Rickard slid open the under-mounted grenade launcher on his rifle, and locked an EMP charge into place. Popping out of cover, he fired it, scattering a conical shower of glimmering blue particles in the direction of a group of assailants. Their active camos flickered out of existence, though they barely had time to comprehend this before Rickard lined them up and put a railround through each of them. The fire eased up on his flank, and he ran out, sliding another EMP round into his gun. By this time his fellow soldiers had caught on to the idea, and were returning fire with EMP-charged shotshell. The tides of battle turned as the remaining section of the surrounding force was caught between Rickard moving around to their side - now wielding his rifle in one arm and his pistol in the other - and the counter-attacking soldiers holed up in the temple.
Five minutes later, the battle was already over. Rickard ran to Mohammed, but the man was already dead - he had been caught in the crossfire and hideously burned by the plasma fire of his supposed rescuers. He sighed with disappointment, before turning to look at the bodies of his own men.
"They caught us by surprise." he said, sorrowfully, lighting another cigar, "But they were amateurs. Give a couple of Mujahideen some advanced technology and they think they're all Superman. They'd never look for a way to counter the oldest trick in the book."
"Boss..." replied Dassault, turning to him. That a black man could be truthfully described as having 'all the colour drained from his face' suggested something about the sight he had just seen. "...There's a... reason... they're all amateurs. Look..."
Rickard looked at the bodies of the assailants strewn across the ground, and the cigar fell from his hand. "Jesus fucking christ." he said, as one of the surviving soldiers pulled his helmet from his head, throwing up into it.
"They're... teenagers!" cried one of the men. "He... He looks just like my son!" he added, falling to the ground, sobbing. "These aren't fucking soldiers, Rickard! This isn't what we signed up for-"
At that point, a child's cry echoed out across the battlefield. The few men unnaffected by the revelation readied their rifles, but Rickard threw his to the ground, running in the direction of it. A young girl lay by a rocky outcrop, clutching at the side of her face. She was unconscious by the time Dassault and Rickard arrived, but her pulse was still stable - the only round that had landed on her had caught her in the side of the head.
"She's still alive..." he said, a faint glimmer of hope hidden somewhere in his voice.
"What do we do, Rickard?" asked Dassault, already expecting Ison's answer. Rickard did not reply, instead reaching down and cradling the girl, picking her up. Dassault understood immediately. "For those who are slain on the battlefield, there's Valhalla. For those who are born on the battlefield..."
Rickard pulled a cigar from his plate carrier with one hand, and lit it. "There's us."
[ Present Day ]
Kara observed the battle from the edge of the sea wall, looking down at the battle through a set of binoculars - which, really, was one more 'nocular' than she needed. She clipped it to the back of her belt, and drew her pistol - a heavily modified P99 with a long slide barrel and integrated suppressor.
"They've taken control of the facility." she said, pulling her long, silver, wolfish hair into a ponytail as she spoke.
"I can see ." replied Captain Rickard, through the comms piece in her ear. "How many?"
"Four, I think." she said, pulling the eyepatch that covered her right eye taut. "Specialists, but lightly armed."
"Can you take them?"
"Sure. Probably." she said, checking her equipment, paying specific attention to the maneuvering gear affixed to the shins and forearms of her form-fitting stealth suit.
"That doesn't sound like a definitely."
"You're right, because it's only a probably."
Rickard chuckled. "Very well, then. because the armed individual known as Saint Blank has acquired weapons likely to lead to a large-scale conflict, I hereby assign you a mandate of intervention to terminate them and their organization. Don't over-extend yourself, kiddo."
She stood up, turning so that her back faced the city below.
"Wouldn't dream of it." she said, smirking. She jumped backwards, drawing her hand across her face as her stealth field activated, and she descended into the slum below.