Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 115: Acceptable Loss

This is the 115th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Acceptable Loss, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 25th March 2013

Word count: 882

The story:

“What’s the plan?” the soldier asked.

“Kill the enemy, rescue the other hostages, and find a way out of this dump to safety,” Rubi said.

“And how are we going to do that?” the soldier asked.

“Well I’ve got two guns, but I suppose you can have one,” Rubi handed over a pistol shaped ray gun.

“Thanks, and it’s in my colour too,” the soldier said looking over the pink gun.

“Its what they had on them. Not sure they care much for coordination,” Rubi said dismissively.

“The names Goldberg, Left Tennant his majesty’s Royal Marines,” the soldier said holding out his hand.

“Rubi, of no where,” the mercenary said.

“How’d you find me?” the soldier asked.

“Luck. Some damnable invention of your government transported me here. Yours was the first cell I found. Don’t suppose you know where the others are?”

“Well six of us were captured, but I think they put me here because I’m the only soldier. I don’t know what they did with everyone else,” Goldberg said.

“Okay get ready to move, we’ll go towards the centre, that’s where I’d put them. If not, that’s where the head honchos are going to be, they might tell us if we ask nicely,” Rubi said looking around the door. “Clear,” the he called back and stepped out.

The soldier stood still a moment, and then decided to follow.

Heading towards the centre of the structure proved easy.

“Not many guards,” Goldberg noted.

“We’re on the wrong floor,” Rubi said, “You are expendable in case of attack. They’ll concentrate their people when we get closer.”

“Why didn’t the damnable machine put you closer to the centre?” Goldberg asked, as Rubi leaned around a corner ray gun at the ready.

“That infernal contraption isn’t that accurate. You’re lucky I didn’t come arrive outside the complex. I’m lucky I didn’t become part of a wall,” Rubi said, “Come. That should be the centre, we’ll find some kind of maintenance hatch and go down.”

After an hour of patient looking the two men found a hatch and went down. Then they went down again.

“How much further?” the soldier asked.

“I don’t know,” Rubi said, “I’m just waiting for someone to start shooting.”

As they went through the next hatch, Rubi got his wish, the air was rent by ray gun fire.

“Told you,” the mercenary shouted, as he dived for cover and returned fire.

Goldberg went for the wall on the opposite side and returned fire. “What now?”

“Kill them,” Rubi shouted, and jumped completely out of cover and fired at the attackers.

The two men worked their way down the corridor as the bodies fell before them. When one gun ran out of charge, they would switch. Rubi was maintaining two guns at a time, he never stopped firing.

“Stop!” someone shouted. The firing ahead of them ceased. In response the two men held their fire.

“We can do this easy, or we can do it hard,” Rubi shouted.

“Well easy isn’t as easy as you think,” the voice that had called before shouted back.

“Give us the hostages, and no one else has to get hurt,” Rubi called back.

“There are no hostages, they left already. Give up now, and we’ll let you walk away. I’ll even let you take the fascist pig with you,” the voice called back.

“Deal,” Rubi shouted back.

“What?” Goldberg asked in a loud whisper.

“Hostages are gone, and our luck won’t hold much longer. I get paid for results, this is a result,” Rubi said back.

“There’s an elevator three corridors back, on the left, it will take you to the hangar. No one will interfere with you. Now go, and don’t return,” the voice said.

In the hangar they chose a sturdy, and reliable small transporter. As the hovercraft took off.

“So what gives?” Goldberg asked.

“Who says anything gives?”

We’re rushing out of there, an hour ago you were set to kill them all,” the soldier noted.

“We have a schedule to keep,” the mercenary looked at his wrist computer.

The soldier seemed stunned, but couldn’t really argue with the man that had saved his life.

“See,” the mercenary pointed at his wrist computer, on the display big and clear was a countdown.

“What’s that to?” Goldberg asked, noting it was close to zero.

The computer beeped, and suddenly the ship lurched heavily to the side. The soldier glanced out of the window and saw edges of an explosion.

“We couldn’t let them have the hostages, some of the biggest brains in the Empire. My mission was to teleport in, see if it was possible to affect a rescue, then clear out if it wasn’t,” the mercenary explained. “Can’t have a bunch of terrorists creating new super weapons can we?”

“So you think they were still there?”

“That place has been under surveillance since you were taken there, we’d have seen if they got out. No, they were there alright, but with no clue where, and the enemy numbering the hundreds, it was a judgement call.”

The flight back to the cruiser San Francisco was in silence. The soldier knew he would have done the same if his orders demanded it, but he couldn’t help but feel he’d let the scientists, his friends, down.

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