tagSci-Fi & FantasyLife as a New Hire Ch. 35

Life as a New Hire Ch. 35


This story plays fast and loose with Ancient History and Linguistics; be warned.

Either you embrace Change and are destroyed by it, or you resist Change and are overwhelmed by it. What is your choice?

Editing magic performed by KJ24 and Shyqash, plus contributions by the regular gang of brigands and neer-do-wells.

There is a bit of mangling of the Iliad going on. I apologize to Homer and the countless singers before him who carried the Iliad down through the dark centuries until the Greeks figured out how writing works.

Yet again, no sex.


(Where we left off)

"Ooohhh..." I groaned. I hurt. Without my soul to sustain it, my body had begun to shut down and now it was trying to kick-start things back into action. Long drawn out pain...

I felt long strands of hair drape across my neck and lips gently touch my forehead...Dot. She was guiding me home. I still hurt.

My felt a crippling pain in my heart and my lungs were leaden. I was fighting back to normality. Complicating this process was the adrenaline secreted moments before 'La La Land'. It felt like lava was trying to rev up my cramping muscles. My eyes flicked open.

[Romanian] "HE'S ALIVE!" someone shouted. It sounded like my loyal Menner.

Eyes crept open. Sure enough, it was Romanian Master Corporal Menner. I didn't know his first name. Rachel was on one knee beside me and something was wrong.

"Rachel?" I croaked.

"Charlotte is dead," she stated the fact, devoid of emotion. Charlotte had been her 'family' ... more so than any person of similar birth. "Vincent is in a bad way. The rest are not going to die soon."

This was not the time for saying 'it was worth it', 'did she suffer', or any of that crap. No words could possibly suffice. I forced my aching muscles to push off the ground until I was on my knees. I pulled her into a tight embrace, both arms, her chin resting on my shoulder.

"Don't," she ordered softly. "There are three of them still loose." She needed to protect me.

I pushed back. We were both crying. My eyes were a mess. Rachel contained her pain, limited its expression to a small handful of tears. I looked past her to the body of Ajax. He was on his back, his eyes staring off to eternity until the worms took him. By the bloody mess of his clothing, that bastard had gone down hard and in fierce torment.

How the Romanians were going to explain his ruptured organs, shorn muscles and the toxic stew that was his bloodstream wasn't my problem. He was dead. SzélAnya, the Dragon Goddess, had slain him for her own reasons and for mine.

[Romanian] "Your plan worked, Hercege Nyilas," Menner congratulated me. "I'm not sure how. I didn't kill him and I didn't see you hurt him, but he's as dead as they come."

[Romanian] "How many?" I asked him. It took him a moment to send the question up the network and get back a reply.

[Romanian] "Col. Giurcă (commander of 61st Mountain Troops Brigade which was custodian of the Romanians I fought beside) wants to talk with you immediately," Menner responded.

[Romanian] "Casualties?" I repeated.

[Romanian] "So far seventy-three KIA, 63 wounded; some will not survive," he told me. That was one of the dark sides of ballistic armor mixed with high-velocity bullets and grenade launchers. With armor, you were more likely to survive getting hit; but if you were hit where the armor didn't cover, you were more likely to die. "The ridge was very bad."

The ridge...where Charlotte died. It turned that out of the fifteen Romanian Mountain Troops who swept up their side of the ridge, only four lived. The Mycenaeans had been hellishly fierce, shrugging of lethal wounds long enough to get off one more shot - fire off one more grenade. At those point blank ranges, it had been a bloody mess. Of those fifteen Greeks on the ridge, only one escaped and two were found wounded. The other twelve draped their bodies among the slain Romanians.

In the final analysis, the soldiers of the 24th Battalion, reinforced by Vincent, Saku, Rachel and Charlotte, had held that ridge and cut off the retreating enemy. The last handful of Ajax's men chose to fight it out from the ravine. Most of them died with their pride. Only three more badly wounded Greeks had been captured there.

Ajax had brought fifty-one men and one traitorous Amazon to the Castle of the Seven Skulls. Three escaped, five were wounded and the other forty-four, plus Ajax, had perished. I stood up. Menner handed me my discarded P-90. Rachel hooked my dropped tomahawks to my harness. I climbed back up the ridge ... because I didn't know where else to go.

I didn't like what I, Cael, had taken from all of this. Hate would have been a better descriptor. In the entire fight, I hadn't killed a single soul. The one Greek I had wounded was killed by someone else. No, I had to feed Ajax to a Goddess to kill him. I felt...small. The troops, a mixture of the two battalions, saw me in a new light however.

From the force coming in from the west came tales of Ajax's prowess. Too many men he aimed at died while he remained unscathed, despite his repeatedly risking his person. By the force of his personality alone, he slowed the advance of a 150 men. Had I not killed him, they wondered how many more of them would have ended the day in a grave as well?

Menner had avoided notoriety and laid Ajax's corpse squarely on my shoulders. I had grappled with Ajax. The rocket fired by Menner clearly hadn't killed the man, so the soldiers hefted his demise on me. How could I tell them I fed a monster to a monster...just one they could not see? Instead of blaming me for the rows of the dead...

[Romanian/Hungarian] "Magyarorszag es Erdely Hercege," they whispered, or gave me a nod.

Their story was straight forward. Like some nobleman of old, I had led my men into battle. I wasn't seeking glory. I was seeking to save as many on my side as I could. It was tough for me to believe I'd accomplished that goal. For centuries, voivodes, boyars, knights, counts, dukes and princes had shed blood over these valleys, fields, hills and mountains for their own wealth and for the safety of their peoples.

To these people, I was first off the helicopter (though that was actually Rachel). I'd intuitively led the race to the ruins that placed those stone barriers in our hands as a fortification to fight from and denied those aged walls to our enemies (though that was mostly Grandpa and the Captain). I had led the charge to the beleaguered left flank, just in time to reverse our near loss there (though I knew I'd never swung a blow, or fired a round).

Finally, under the observation of over two dozen Romanians, I alone had slammed the door to the trap shut and then killed the enemy leader in hand-to-hand combat (though no one had actually witnessed me administering the death blow due to the fallout from the grenade Menner had launched). I knew I was a completely unworthy hero. Night was swiftly creeping upon us.

"Hercege," the Captain called out. I could see the sadness in his eyes. His men lay dead around us both. "A helicopter will take you to the Brigade HQ. You need to go now." I held up one finger. I had to do this. I found Charlotte's lifeless body. One bullet had sheared off the right side of her neck. Another had shattered her right jaw. Her corpse, so beautiful in life, was ugly in death. She was mine now, forever. My memory.

[Old Kingdom Hittite] "Thank you, Sister," I whispered as I kissed her forehead. "Wait for me in the Halls of our Ancestors, for I know you are welcome there. Thank you for all your care for me."

[Romanian] "Take care of that leg, Master Corporal Menner," I directed my accomplice in murder. "Never forget that you did something very special today. Together, we killed a monster and you saved my life. I promise I won't forget it."

Menner nodded to me, I nodded to the Captain and off we went. Rachel was always close by. Chaz and Pamela appeared out of nowhere.

[Romanian/Hungarian] "Magyarorszag es Erdely Hercege," the men said as they pointed me out to each other and the new arrivals. Had they been joking, I would have been far happier. But my existence wasn't comedy to them. They were allowing me inside their fraternity, these men and women, because of things they thought I'd done - not things I'd done.

Later, Chaz would set me straight. How many men I killed was irrelevant to these Vânători de munte - Mountain Huntsmen. They were honoring my bravery, initiative and willingness to go forward without being reckless. I had a plan, I'd stuck to it and that had contributed to their victory. They were giving me respect because I mourned for their casualties in the same way I mourned for my own. Their fallen had not died in vain, because I cared for them and was wounded by their passing.

It hadn't hurt my case that I 'led' people like Chaz, Pamela, Rachel and Charlotte into battle. Saku was...different. Mona tended to their grievously wounded with the same skills she'd lavished on me. She worked side by side with her Romanian counterparts flawlessly. I had little doubt that Katrina would be proud.

"Cáel," a feeble female voice called out. It was Kwen (aka Molpadia / Kwenhamai / Death Song). I stopped by her side, but didn't kneel. She'd been shot in the left bicep, right thigh and calf. Odd were good she'd live. "Ajax?"

"Dead," I replied. "Very dead."

[OKH] "Did he...restore...?" she mumbled.

[OKH] "No. He was never going to do that, and you knew better," I said.

[OKH] "Kill me then and let me return to face Oblivion," she sighed, utterly hopeless.

The Captain was impatient. He could wait.

[OKH] "Kwen, what you did was wrong and you will have to answer for your crimes. You betrayed us without cause. You murdered children and captives," I informed her. "There is no getting past that."

[OKH] "I know," she mumbled. I was missing something.

[OKH] "You let that girl escape, didn't you?" I was feeling numb all over again. Kwen didn't answer me, yet it made sense. In her heart, she knew she'd gone wrong and she knew Ajax would never pardon her mother. So she'd sent word to the one man who might grant her an Amazon warrior's death.

[OKH] "The girl didn't divulge your secret," I gave off my own sigh. Why was my life so complicated? Kwen had wanted me to kill Ajax, so she sent that girl to the place I'd most likely be. Then she relied on my loyalty to the Amazons to bring me to this place with whatever forces I could muster. She'd probably expected me and a dozen Black Hand assassins, not an army.

[OKH] "I will inform the Council of your actions and let them decide," I offered. I had to go. We picked up four fighters of the 24th as we jogged the 1.2 km down to the blood-soaked fields where the battle had begun. The blown up Eagles had blocked the unpaved road on our end and Combat Engineers were still sweeping the road for hastily laid booby-traps the rest of the way down.

The slaughter fields for the 22nd Mountain Troops Battalion were a chaotic mix of military medical staff and the Serviciul Mobil de Urgenţǎ, Reanimare şi Descarcerare (SMURD - the national emergency medical response unit) all over the place and it was clear they weren't enough to handle the carnage. The eyes of the living and the dead were equally disturbing.

I knew I was on a schedule and I owned the Romanian Land Forces a good explanation, but I couldn't just leave. I saw one lightly-wounded soldier, his palms resting on his forehead, sitting on the ground, bereft. I squatted beside him.

[Romanian] "Hang in there," I said as I put a hand on his shoulder.

[Romanian] "Was it worth it?" he stared into my eyes.

[Romanian] "No," I responded. "I lost a friend and she'll never be replaced. I can tell you what we did today had to be done. Those men had to be stopped and we were the one's close enough to respond in time."

[Romanian] "Oh..." he looked back down to the trampled grass.

[Romanian] "Remember how you feel today," I said to him from the depth of my spirit. "You are not the first man to hold your spot in your squad and you won't be the last. Take everything from today and pass it on to the next man who may someday have to perform as you did. You carry on because we all must. Make something good out of this by not forgetting. Learn and teach," was my empty advice.

I had his gaze once more. Against my wishes, I also had the attention of several of the soldiers around me.

[Romanian] "You are not wounded," he noted as he touched my body armor. It was certainly beat all to hell. I didn't believe he was condemning me.

[Romanian] "I am Magyarorszag es Erdely Hercege," I grinned. "While my people have heart, I cannot be killed. Together, we are invincible." The insanity of that proclamation seemed to reach him. He gave a weak grin. Some of the men around us chuckled. "I have to go," I patted his shoulder. "They want to blame someone for all of this and it looks like I've won the prize."

More laughter. In that moment, we were all in this military community. I didn't have their particular Esprit de corps, their training, or their heritage, yet we'd been in the same fight and killed the same enemy. They had a different view of me than I had of myself. Who was lying to who?

An IAR 330 Puma Helicopter was waiting for me, though the four troopers waiting for me were new ...and somewhat peeved. They were from the Batalionul 610 Operaţii Speciale "Vulturi" (The 'other' Eagles). They were part of the Romanian Special Forces. They'd been too far away to get to the firefight in time, which seemed to be the major reason for their unhappiness.

Playing couriers for my person didn't please then either. My cohorts from the 24th handed me over. Two patted me on the back and called me 'Prince' before taking off. They had a battlefield to clear up and three Mycenaeans to hunt down. The 'Eagles' weren't sure what to make of my other bodyguards, so I made it easy on them.

[Romanian] "They go where I go," I gave them a grim grin. "They keep their weapons. In case there is any confusion, this is not a matter for discussion." The Sergeant in charge responded with a curt nod. We boarded the helicopter and lifted off.

"You did well Cáel," Chaz informed me. "Given two or three years, you'll be a good soldier."

"Thanks. That's not what I wanted. I don't like killing people, or getting people killed," I replied.

"Exactly," he nodded. "I don't want a teammate who wants to kill the enemy. I want a guy who wants to keep me alive and is willing to kill others to do it," he explained in a rather paternal pattern. "There is a huge difference."

[Hungarian] "What did you tell that young man?" Pamela asked me. I retold the conversation as best I could. It took me a second to notice that two of the Special Forces guys were listening intently.

(The Politics of 'Not' Being Dead)

The rest of the trip was made in silence. They dropped us off at the edge of Miercurea Ciuc - home base of the 61st Mountain Troops Brigade, of Professor Loma and from whence all this craziness had originated. The meeting was already awkward before I arrived. It only got worse. Where to begin? Well, Russia, the United States, the UK, Romania, Hungary and Ireland were now all interested parties. And I had gained two personal distinctions:

1.) Not only was I now heralded (and not really joking anymore) by some sources as Magyarorszag es Erdely Hercege, I was thereby re-awakening old nationalistic and territorial fears. Hungary didn't want a Prince, yet they did have an anemic Monarchist party. I might not be a Hapsburg (the last royal house of Hungary), but I could possibly be misconstrued as a long-lost Árpád scion (first King and founder of the Hungarian state), which would be even better.

A crisis was looming in my ancestral crucible. It seems I already had a webpage in Budapest and six hundred "friends" within 24 hours. Worse, they had some pictures of me. Besides being 'of regal bearing' in the descriptions, I was sexy-hot and a soldier of fortune - a modern day 'Wild Geese ... (Goose?)' who was wanted for questioning in a, or perhaps multiple, murder(s) involving either a duel over a woman's honor or killing a dozen armed gangsters who prayed on young innocents newly arrived to the big city.

I wasn't alone. My trusty companion was A.) an ascetic Jedi Mistress (my own, personal Yoda), B.) an ancient witch schooled in the necromantic arts (apparently the reason I couldn't die), or C.) a Cold-War Era SMERSH (too much James Bond) assassin repaying an old debt to the descendent of an anti-communist partisan she'd killed years ago - eerily close to the truth for once. That, plus the TEK investigation, were Hungary's main points of concern involving me.

2.) I was now a person involved in significant events for half a dozen nations on the world scene.

Let's start with Romania. Okay, foremost, I was responsible for the single deadliest day in modern (post-WWII) Romanian Land Forces history. There was no covering this up. Close to one hundred men and women had died in combat - and then you added the forty-some dead Amazons, many of them apparently tortured, and this was a political and public relations nightmare.

No one doubted their troops behaved heroically. That wasn't the problem. The political conundrum was how could they explain Ajax and his fifty seasoned killers penetrating into central Romania with no one being aware of the danger? A few politicians wanted to blame Székely nationalists (by that, they meant the ethnic minority who 'vaguely' wanted Transylvania to rejoin Hungary) ... except they had me, the Hungarian Prince, leading the charge.

Life would have been so much easier for them if I had died. Yes, I could read the minds of those politicians. Screw a girl, then her younger sister, and then his wife, who all say they love me, and you'll recognized the emotional intent a father directs your way. (I'd only done that once, and once was enough.) I was getting that vibe again.

Unfortunately for them, I wasn't dead and three big time foreign governments (and Ireland) seemed really curious about me, my performance and my mortality. So dragging me out back for a firing squad wasn't going to happen. Riki Martin of the US State Department was there and she told me a representative of the US Military Mission was on his way up to debrief me. Russia's sexy military attaché was still on site and looking happy for some reason. Flaviu, who had some experience with me, was soon to be gone; replaced by some person who had some serious lettuce before his actual name and didn't know me from didly. Not good.

The UK had one of their diplomats coming up as well, just so I didn't get lonely. They weren't driving up with the Irishman, or the American. No one considers their carbon footprint in a crisis, I swear. But wait! It gets better. My Romanian Special Force dudes had brought the rest of their company (around a hundred new buddies) with them...they seriously didn't want me to get homesick and wander off (because, you know, I liked living and freedom).

The Romanian army shouldn't have worried. It seemed that there were some US Army Rangers with NATO in Kosovo, Albania, or Bosnia and Uncle Sam was expressing a desire for them to 'stop by'. Maybe they could share their C-130 with the British paratroopers who were equally concerned about my well-being. I just hoped everyone was going to play nice when the Spetsnaz arrived. Putin was suddenly (and surprisingly to me, anyway) my new pal. I had a feeling I'd soon be discovering my secret Russian heritage if I wasn't careful. I was thinking maybe I could squeeze an Order of Lenin, or a Hero of the Soviet Union out of him. I heard they both looked nice, were obsolete and came without an actual pension.

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