Image Credit: Beeple

“This is not how I wanted to spend my Christmas, Nico,” I said through gritted teeth.

More like chattering teeth, because I was freezing my ass off.

“Yeah, yeah, whine all you like after the drop,” Nico said over the comms. He was currently flying a helicopter through a goddamn blizzard and the side door was open.

I, of course, ran through the parachute checks once again. It can’t hurt to be too cautious about these things, especially when dropping off into rough, icy terrain on your own.

“Approaching drop zone in ten,” Nico said and tilted the helicopter, adjusting our course. The wind was howling and my nose was…

Well, my nose felt like it was going to fall off.

I gripped the tether and the quick release and waited for my mark. I had that queasy feeling in my gut, no sane person wants to drop from a helicopter into a whiteout from kilometres up in the air, but someone has to do the shitty jobs around here, and that someone is me.

I’m Deimos. Deimos Çelik, pronounced like Che Guevara, though we’re nothing alike. For starters, I like to take showers. And we’ve probably fought the same amount of wars, but I’m not doing it for ideology and all that skata.

I’m just doing it for the money.

I’m a mercenary, a hired gun, an enforcer, call it what you will. If the money is right and if kids ain’t gonna get killed, I’ll consider the job. I don’t do the nasty ones, but I have no illusions about the ones I end up doing. The people that hire me aren’t exactly on Santa’s list of present recipients.

“Three!” Nico shouted over the blizzard.

Right. Time to jump. Sorry, no time to chat about me, maybe afterwards.

I clicked the quick release and held on by my own, frozen fingers. Sure, I had a proper survival suit on, no armour, of course, what are you, nuts? Just a Kevlar. But it didn’t do much, simply because it was freezing outside.

“One, go go go!”

I jumped without hesitation. Missing the mark was a stupid thing to do. Even if something went wrong, at least if you make the mark for the landing zone your people would know where to look for your splattered guts. I know that the image of a parachute guy comically hanging from a tree comes to your mind, but this isn’t the case. This is…

Well, you’ll see in fourteen seconds.

I dropped like a brick, waited ten seconds, pulled the parachute release and got jerked up like a marionette.

A marionette with a big-ass rifle!

I had four more seconds to clear my own landing zone or I was toast from the automated anti-air guns.

Hence, dropping in the blizzard. I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t necessary.

I aimed my rifle using the WAR aiming. WAR is Weaponised Augmented Reality. It’s basically what civilians use to mess around all day with reality shows and internet celebrities. We use it to kill people and blow shit up. WAR needed about a second to lock onto the anti-air turrets, a second which I didn’t have.

Falling like a brick makes you invisible to optics and radar, but opening a parachute so that your head doesn’t drop like a melon? That was easy pickings for the anti-air turrets, and I was a falling duck with a big, fat target on me.

I had three more seconds to take them out. “Come on, come on…”

WAR kindly painted the targets for me. I aimed and fired quicker than I have ever had in my life. There was a satisfying crunch and a flash of an explosion.

And then I hit the tree branches. “No no no!” I said out loud, trying to avoid them.

I got tangled up in a tree like a goddamn rookie. “Vlaka, Deimos, vlaka,” I slapped myself, mostly because I needed to get some feeling back in my frozen face. I pulled out my knife from my leg holster, never leave home without it, and cut the parachute ropes.

And I fell like a melon on the icy ground. “Ouch! Couldn’t it have been soft snow or something?”

“Are you on site?” Nico said from the comms. He sounded anxious, but I didn’t give a skata about him right now. He was safe and sound up on his helicopter, the smug bastard, and I was on the ground. The very cold, hard ground, if I may add.

“Affirmative.”

“Going radio silent.”

I released myself from the parachute and started to run north. No, of course I couldn’t see shit, but I do have a compass. WAR showed me the proper path a second after I started moving. That delay was understandable in enemy territory, but too many rookies had lost the top of their heads because they were sitting around like idiots waiting for their WAR to guide them. No, sir, you duck and take cover, then get your bearings. I swear, this GPS generation can act very stupid sometimes.

I strafed and zig-zagged, just in case. The air defences were out, but there could be ground ones too. Actually, with my luck, there would definitely be some aimed right at me.

Nothing fired at me, that was a good thing. The bad thing was that the blizzard, which was giving me a nice window to infiltrate, was also still blasting the terrain. I was within survival range, not freezing cold yet. But surviving and fighting are two entirely different things.

I aimed my rifle at some dark spots and things I thought I saw moving. WAR would paint the targets if there were any, but I wanted to have my instincts sharp. I approached the southern wall of the compound. There was commotion from inside, and there were guards losing their shit. WAR translated their foreign language. Someone had blown up their anti-air turrets.

Gosh! Who might that be? What a vandal!

I found a guard all on his own busy with his radio, and promptly sliced his throat from behind. WAR rewarded me with mission points for the kill. This made my stomach turn, but there was no time to philosophise right now. Things to steal, people to kill. Oh, yeah, I can’t say which nationality these guys were, or which language they were speaking. This was a top secret mission, so consider that info redacted.

The guard, he was too young, I noticed with a pang in my heart, bled out on the icy ground. There was a muddy path with ice on it, well used. It also had tire tracks, wide ones. They were carrying something with trucks around here. Hm…

Intel was still spotty, and usually I wouldn’t have taken a job that required me to go in blind like that. I raised my rifle and watched the bogies on my WAR running around the compound. I took cover to the side, there was a guard post. I checked for monitors to get more info, but there was nothing! What a backwater compound this was. No cameras on the perimetre? Were they checking them from somewhere inside? Damn. Nevermind, I was still blind. The whiteout was harsh outside, I couldn’t see anything after ten metres or so. Visibility was slightly better inside the compound with the surrounding walls, but not by much.

WAR was intelligent, or at least that’s what it looked like with its vast capabilities. It blended together massive amounts of data to predict and point out enemies, automated defences, heck, even traps. It used everything it could find, radiowaves, WiFi signals, internet of things devices by hacking their backdoors, even gait prediction on thermal scans. Everything, more things than a human could see with his narrow and pathetic band of senses. It translated all that into a neat visual interface on my ocular implants. I observed the guards and saw my window, so I ran in a dead sprint towards the middle. Keeping my wits sharp, I was ready to react to anything. And my reaction time is not bad, if I may add.

I took cover behind a bunch of crates. They didn’t have any signs that said they were ammunition or anything explodey like that, so I hid there. Rifle raised, I didn’t even need to hide all that well. I could barely see the guards and they definitely couldn’t see me. And I was cheating. WAR was, let’s say, a soldier’s wet dream.

I extended the barrel of my rifle and steadied my elbows on the crates, then took aim. There was a red splotch of a man on the top floor. An officer, definitely, by the way he stood around and the others ran about. There was another person beside him, sitting. No, laying on a bed or something.

Wounded, perhaps? Someone suffering from frostbite?

I caressed the trigger, like touching a freezing nipple.

One shot, one kill.

The officer went down, he didn’t even twitch.

The soldiers heard the gunshot, so they became even more frantic. It was impossible for them to pinpoint my position from a single shot through a wall, so I didn’t relocate just yet. In different conditions, playing the sniper like that, I would have relocated immediately. A sniper that nests is a sniper that’s dead. No famous person said that, I did.

I took two more soldiers out with three quick shots, and then ran like hell to the other side of the compound. I was open wide, easy to spot, easy to hit. Bullets whizzed behind me. They were too slow, they shot up the crates where I was like ten seconds ago.

Poor little wimps.

I crouched behind a truck. Oh, there you are, my sweetness! I couldn’t even see it from the other side of the compound, this visibility sure is crap. I made a gesture to WAR and marked the spot so I could return to it after I had asked those soldiers to please stop shooting at me. I went around to the back and threw the tarp aside. There was something there, most certainly.

It was big.

It was round.

And it was frozen.

Big, round snowballs. That was the mission objective. I shrugged. Of course it wasn’t just snowballs, but I wouldn’t reject a mission that paid 200.000 euro for a simple retrieval. I noticed there were two big, round snowballs along the back of the truck, tied down. I threw the tarp back and went round the driver’s side. This was going to be an easy mission, it seemed. In and out. I checked the truck. Fuck, the keys weren’t on it and it was at least fifty years old. I sent a request to WAR to try and hack it, costing me WAR points. WAR said it couldn’t hack it, it was dumb. No, it didn’t say ‘dumb,’ it said something like ‘Non-iot devices detected.’

Same end result.

Skata.

My instincts said to duck, motherfucker!

So I did.

Bullets pinged right on top of me.

Fuck, they’re shooting up the merchandise. How inconsiderate. The mission did say they wanted the big, round snowballs intact. No, it didn’t call them that, WAR called them something boring like, ‘spherical objectives.’ But I liked to call them snowballs, ’cause that’s what they seemed to be.

I returned fire. I wasn’t gonna just sit there like a chump. Unfortunately, from this angle WAR had nothing to play with and couldn’t paint the targets for me, so I just shot back at them old school.

I heard a grunt, so I definitely got one of them.

They cursed at me and I chuckled as WAR translated for me. “Chicken head! Fuckdick!”

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“No, you’re the fuckdick!” I shouted back and tossed a grenade at them. Didn’t I tell you? I love grenades. They’re like little gifts from me to every fuckdick in the world who wants to kill me.

Kablowie. Their position turned to rubble, little fires burning on frozen ground. That was ironic. I charged at them, taking the offensive. “Aaargh!” I shouted my war cry and shot another fuckdick in the fuckdick. “No more fuckdicking for you!”

I felt bad, watching him clutch his fuckdick, so I took him out of his misery with a double tap in centre mass.

The place next to the entrance was a pile of supplies and folded up tents, possibly stored away for a warmer time of the year.

I went inside the main building. The officer was down, and I didn’t know if there was another to rally them up and organise them. Shock and awe works for a little while, and I was a fool on his own charging an enemy compound.

An auto-turret swivelled towards me and I saw the barrel. I didn’t even have time to gulp, I was dead.

WAR showed a red ‘X’ over it and a ‘Defences disabled,’ message. ‘Mission points deducted from total.’

Fucking fuckdicks! Taking out payment points because they actually helped me finish the mission? This wasn’t unexpected of Ares, but still. It was shitty. I was getting shot at. I was freezing my ass off. I was putting my ass on the line for a pair of big, round snowballs. And some dickless executive decided that, no, if our operatives need help on the field to accomplish our own shady missions, we’ll CHARGE THEM FOR IT!

Fuckers.

I went inside and hit them like a storm. I needed to earn some more points or the payday from this fiasco wouldn’t be enough to pay Nico, his gas-guzzling helicopter or the ammo I wasted. I found a terrified soldier inside. He pointed his rifle at me, trembling.

“You poor little fool,” I said and stepped up to him.

He threatened me with his rifle.

I snatched it out of his hands, then clubbed him over the head with it. It gave me no WAR points, but I wasn’t gonna take out a man who had peed his pants upon seeing me. No really, he had a dark spot on them and everything.

Thankfully, I found another soldier inside who wasn’t a rookie, who took a shot at me and grazed my Kevlar. I winced and shot the fuckdick back on the face. He dropped like a sack of balls.

He had a radio, and I took it. It wouldn’t help me much but WAR could tap into it, extrapolate data and show me the positions of the enemy. I told you it was a soldier’s wet dream.

WAR painted a guy behind the wall who was carrying his own radio. I simply hid around the corner and waited for him to approach. He got a mouthful of my boot in his face. “How does your mud taste like? Frozen, right? That’s what I thought,” I said, and then sliced his carotid.

I kicked his pistol away and didn’t even bother to watch him bleed out. I took the stairs, and WAR suddenly flashed red in my face.

TRAP.

Well, fuck. I froze in place, not that hard to do since my ass hadn’t warmed up one bit since I dropped from the helicopter, and inspected the steps. Yup, there it was, a pressure plate on the second step. I just hopped over it, no time to disable it. I just let WAR paint it so that it would remind me when I came back down. It would have been very embarrassing to survive a trap only to fall right into it when coming back down.

I got on the top floor, that was it, the building was quite small. And I turned, feeling confident by WAR not showing me anyone around.

Where would the keys be? In the guard post, which was empty. Or in the officer’s desk. I pointed my rifle and went towards it.

And then I came face to face with the barrel of a gun.

The woman holding the gun to my face was rather sexy. “Who the fuck are you?” she asked in English.

“”I’m an operative. I’m not here to hurt you, if that’s what you’re worried about.” My hands were in the air.

“Drop it,” she demanded. She was wearing a uniform, but it was too large for her. It definitely wasn’t her own, and perhaps the officer had given it to her to wear. That raised another question, why was this hottie out here in the cold centre of nowhere to begin with, and why had she lost her all her clothing?

Since this wasn’t a teenage fantasy, I assumed that it didn’t fall in ribbons as she fought these men. It made more sense that she had simply gotten all wet from the snow and needed a change.

Still, the shirt drooped at her front, making a rather exquisite décolletage. She wasn’t wearing anything underneath, and the view behind the gun and deep down her breasts was quite lovely.

I didn’t drop my rifle. I just let it fall from the strap on my side. “You know, it’s just that, I just replaced the last rifle I lost. I keep getting into these situations, a hot babe aiming her gun at me, me putting my rifle down, me forgetting to pick it up after I had disarmed her. It sucks having to buy a new one every time.”

She raised an eyebrow. It was black, like the rest of her hair. “Oh?”

She blinked.

I gestured my WAR and activated my stimpack. I usually saved it for bigger things, but right now I just needed the increase in reaction time. I pushed her gun to the side and disarmed her before she could blink with her wonderful eyelids.

When she opened her eyes again, her gun was in my hand, my other hand was around her waist and I was stealing a kiss from her.

She resisted for a second, then gave in. “Mmm!” she complained and pushed me away.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. I’m just here for my balls,” I said.

Her eyes went wide.

“No, no. Not that,” I said, calming her down. “The truck. Where are the keys to the truck?”

She stood defiant. I looked around the room. The officer was dead on the floor, lying in a pool of blood, his head cracked open. That was my doing. There was a bed in there, it was a mess, sweaty sheets and bodily fluids, but not the naughty kind. I could instantly tell this is where they treated her.

“Look, my name is Deimos. Who are you?” I said and looked around the room, then rifled through the dead man’s pockets.

“I-I’m Flora.”

“A-ha! Keys! Finally.” I stood up and looked around one last time. “Nice to meet you, Flora.” I took her hand gently in my own. “Look, I don’t think you wanna stick around. I’m pretty sure the only reason you haven’t been gang raped so far is because the officer protected you, right?”

She looked at the dead body and swallowed deeply. Then she nodded. “Yes. He was good to me.”

“I’m sorry I took him out.”

She turned her wonderful eyes at me, looking shocked.

I checked with the mission objectives. There was nothing about a prisoner of any sort. This wasn’t a rescue mission, it was strictly retrieval. Heck, those bastards at Ares Defence would probably find a way to subtract WAR points if I helped her out. But I couldn’t just leave her here.

“I will not hurt you, or defile you. But these guys might, and I haven’t taken out all of them yet. They still think I’m downstairs, but that won’t be for long. Will you come with me?”

She considered her options for a long moment.

“Tick-tock,” I said, tapping my wrist.

“Oh, what the hell. This frozen ass-end of nowhere sucks, anyway,” she said and stepped beside me.

I took another good look at her. “A potty mouth! A woman after my own heart,” I said and then went to the exit.

WAR blared red at me, there were at least six men coming up the stairs. “Fuck, I was hoping they’d fall into their own trap.” I looked around, Flora was worried but keeping silent. Good girl.

Then I had an idea.

“You’re fucking crazy!” Flora screamed as I held her tight on my body.

We both fell from the floor above. The tents were not comfy, at least not comfy to fall on from a broken window from the first floor while holding on to a dark-haired broad.

She felt nice against my body.

After the shock, she recovered and pushed me away. We stood up, kicking our way through supplies and frozen fabric. “Come on, they’re coming back down,” I said and grabbed her hand.

We got to the truck, I pushed her head down. “Hey!” she complained, moments before bullets pinged on the metal around us.

I returned fire. I wounded one guy, perhaps on the leg. I tossed my remaining grenade at them and rushed to get inside the truck. Flora didn’t need and invitation, she was already pushing herself inside towards the passenger’s seat, keeping her head down, her ass in my face. I pushed her ass inside. Normally I’m a gentleman, but we were getting shot at. No time for chivalry.

I turned on the ignition and the truck sputtered and died. “No, no, no!” I cried out, rifle in hand. I returned fire from the broken window.

“You need to let it warm up a bit,” Flora said, hiding on the foot space next to me.

“It better work,” I grunted and tried it again. There was no way I could get my big, round snowballs out of here without the truck. Nothing.

I got shot at, again. I ducked, and returned fire. “We’re too exposed.”

Flora agreed with a whimper, holding her head next to my leg.

I tried it again, and the engine roared. “Finally.”

I just stepped on the pedal and tore up the mud, taking a big turn crashing the supply crates. I kept on forward, smashed the gate and got out of the compound.

Flora sat up on the seat and looked back. “Are we safe?”

“For now,” I said, driving blind inside the whiteout. WAR was showing me the terrain and I was going at least forty kph more than what I was supposed to under these conditions, but fuck these conditions, people with rifles were coming after me.

“You’re gonna get us killed!” Flora screamed when I hit a ditch.

“Don’t worry, I got it,” I said, clearly not having it but still trying my best.

After a few minutes I slowed down. Flora seemed exhausted, but more relaxed now.

“So, what were you doing back there?” I asked, driving much more carefully now. The blizzard had stopped but the mud roads were a death trap.

“I’m a geologist. I discovered the spherical artefacts.”

“My big, round snowballs?” I asked, pointing a thumb at the back.

She chuckled. “Yeah. If you’d like to call them that.”

“What are they?” I said, hitting a bump.

“I don’t know yet, I didn’t have time to study them properly. The conditions, we weren’t prepared…”

“We?”

“Yes, me and my partner. It was too cold, we didn’t have the training nor the proper equipment. We were in a precarious position, so we called out for help.”

I nodded deeply. “And the fuckdicks showed up.”

She looked out the window. “Yes. They killed him. He was just asking for help, reaching out to them. He was so happy, smiling that we were saved…”

“I see.” This was hard for her, and I tried to communicate that it was okay for her to not tell me.

“They killed him on the spot. Shit, they left him there. I’m sure his body is still on the exact same spot, his limb position and everything.”

Okay, she was chatty. “I’m sorry.”

Flora turned to me and pressed up against my shoulder. “I’m freezing,” she said, pressing her lips together.

I rubbed her back with my hand. “Yeah, just stay close to me. We’re almost at the evac point.”

Flora nuzzled her face up to my neck. “Mmm. This is better,” she mumbled.

“Better, right.” I didn’t know what was happening. Ladies are not my forte. Oh, I know what to do with them, I just don’t understand them. Was she coming on to me? It was normal after an adrenaline rush. Still, she was sick, cold, perhaps even frostbitten, we didn’t exactly have time to inspect each other’s toes. And the whole saviour thing, it was normal to feel grateful after someone had pushed you out of a window and ran out from bullets with you.

But how grateful?

Like, making out, grateful?

“Deimos, my saviour,” she said, and started a cute little snore.

Yup, she was out, sleeping on my arm, pressing on me with her soft parts. I laughed and kept on driving to the evac point. Mission accomplished, time to deliver my big, round snowballs.

The end.

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