Chapter One

There is a man on the rooftops above who wants to kill me, Anders thought, his eyes scanning the evening sky. He had taken temporary refuge between two rusty dumpsters full of rotting filth, but he suspected they would provide good enough protection from a sniper’s bullet. The space was so small that the only way to get in was to turn his body sideways, his shoulders smearing the light brown goop that coated the walls on either side in sickly intricate patterns. Anders didn’t notice, instead focusing on the small strip of skyline he could see from his vantage point.

Seeing nothing, he fell back on his training. Anders dwelled on what he knew, tallying the different facts in his head for the hundredth time.

I’ve got to get four blocks to the east to have a chance- but even that’s based on old intelligence.

I don’t think the bad guys know I’m here. No one’s spotted me, and any gunshots have been sporadic and far off to the west.

The good guys know I’m missing and perhaps presume me dead, due to the fact that everyone else died in the crash and there’s been no rescue attempts.

I will not be captured alive. These sick fucks will torture me for sport, even if they don’t think I have any information. Better to go down fighting.

A sudden crash lurched him from his mental inventory and he slightly lowered himself about six inches further into the muck, his muscles straining in the awkward position.


His muscles began to catch fire and he placed his left fingertips on the ground in an effort to better distribute his weight.

Hey, look at this!  The voice had come shockingly close to Anders’ left, but he dared not move for fear of being heard.

What is it? This new voice was definitely older- at least, Anders thought, more experienced.

A stray cat is poking around that garbage. Perhaps we can find something to eat.

Anders quickly realized what the cat had discovered, and what the young man would quickly find.

After the flash of white had hit the helicopter, he had been thrown clear and fallen fifteen feet into the mud below. The bird had crashed twenty feet away on its side. Acting on instinct alone, he half-crawled his way to the wreckage and peered inside. The other three soldiers were clearly dead. The pilots had received the worst of it- blackened human shaped lumps filled their seats.

Then he saw Stockton, his face covered in minor burns. Had his legs not been crushed and bent at such an unnatural angle, he could have passed for being asleep. A quick check of his pulse confirmed Anders’ suspicions. Dammit. Stockton hadn’t deserved this. Anders and the two pilots were experienced soldiers- Stockton had been in basic training six months before, and this had been his first real mission.

Easy in, easy out, they had said. Bullshit.

Increased gunfire and chanting could be heard in the distance. He glanced back at the two pilots’ remains, then at Stockton, and made his decision. He dragged Stockton’s corpse out of the helicopter and threw it over his shoulder, quickly heading toward the alleyway where he now hid. Seeing the loose bags of garbage, Anders quickly fashioned a temporary grave, removing Stockton’s sidearm and ammunition before covering him up. Although he was not terribly religious, he remembered seeing Stockton clutching a small Bible a few weeks ago.  He mumbled a quick prayer before retreating to the safety of the two dumpsters.

The sound of rustling plastic snapped Anders back to the present.

Look, Dad! It’s a dead soldier. The young man had seen several of his friends and family fall in death, but never an American.

Cover it back up, his father immediately ordered, glancing nervously around. This is not our business.

But Dad, maybe we could find…

Do it now! Despite his own words, he picked the boy up off the pile and began covering up the soldier himself.

Anders hadn’t heard much of their conversation, as his attention had been diverted by movement on the roof.

Stop or I shoot! The heavily accented voice shattered the relative silence of the alleyway, reverberating forcefully in the confined space.

The father and son instantly turned and began to ran, following the same instincts that had kept the stray cats alive in this festering hell. Better to risk getting shot than face a certain death later. Anders would have done the same.

A gunshot rang out and the younger boy fell, letting loose a deafening scream.

Anders, without thinking, returned fire.