December 7th is right around the corner, as is the launch of the next installment of Collin W. Buechler’s MI86 series. This book is presently available for pre-order at Amazon as an ebook, with delivery automatic on December 7th, just in time to remember the heroism of our brave men and women who died at Pearl Harbor.
In volume 3 of the series James Dennesy and team head to Greece and Norway in search of artifacts critical to keep out of the vile Baron von Sterb’s control, a man with revenge in his heart for what happened to him in Prague. A sample character building scene from the second story in the book “Operation Gunnerside” follows the leap. We pick up with the MI86 agents sitting at a campfire with the team from Operation Gunnerside after a long day of skiing. (more after the jump)
“Good day’s progress gentleman,” stated Joachim Rønneberg cupping his hands around a tin cup filled with freshly brewed coffee as the team sat around the campfire that night.
“Even the American started to figure it out,” stated Knut as he nudged the Gunnery Sergeant in the ribs. The group of Norwegians burst into laughter.
James looked at the man, “Thanks’ again for saving me.”
“No problem, I would do it for anyone on our side.” Looking over at Lance the Norwegian smiled, “well almost anyone.”
“I think Knut just wanted to show us why he was such a lady killer on the slopes growing up,” chided Fredrick Kayser.
“It’s obviously not his good looks,” added Poulsson as he puffed away at a pipe. “Seriously you look as though you were clubbed as a baby,” joked Einar Skinnarland. “I’m surprised Hans didn’t make a run at saving the American.”
Hans Storhaug smiled as he took a large mouthful of freshly cooked fish into his mouth. “I thought the loose Knut did admirably.”
“Yeah but weren’t you some kind of professional skier before the war?” inquired Knut.
“I spent a lot of time on the slopes, but that seems like a lifetime ago. What about our American friend? What did you do prior to joining the Marines?”
Staring down at his feet the Gunnery Sergeant laughed internally to a joke only he could hear. “I’m just a poor farm boy from North Carolina. I grew up picking tobacco and I thought that was going to be how I died. I never would have imagined seeing the world like this.”
James turned his attention to the sky, which was filled with a rainbow of waves washing ashore high overhead. Even though he had seen star filled nights as a boy in rural North Carolina, he had never seen the Northern Lights. “What are those?”
Looking skyward Joachim smiled, “Those are the reflections of dead maidens, they are watching over us. It is a good sign, the old gods have our back, and maybe we will succeed where others have failed after all. Don’t you think Fredrick?” Joachim slapped one of his men on his back and the group erupted in laughter
“James, those are the Aurora Borealis. Scientist believe they are caused by something called solar flares.” Rachael Erstweather whispered into James’ ear, barely loud enough for the man to hear over the boisterous laughter of the Norwegian men.
“Thanks Rachael, I didn’t think it was spirits,” replied the Marine quietly.
“I didn’t think so, but I think with everything we have experienced this past year it might be nice to know there is an afterlife. One where you can look down from the heavens and watch over the people we care about.”
“I would like to think my mother is up there somewhere, watching over me; but I don’t think she would like the thing I have become.”
Rachael sighed, “When are you going to accept the fact you are who you are, the monster does not define you.”
“So you admit that I am a monster?”
“That’s not what I meant Gunny. Whatever you emerged from the Lazarus chamber as, you have proven yourself a braver man than any other I have ever known.”
“Thank you Rachael.”
“Hey you two, what are you doing whispering to one another like a bunch of love sick kids.” Lance sat down on the downed tree the group was sitting on and warmed his hands on the fire in the center.
“None of your business Lieutenant,” snapped Rachael sharply.
Tilting his head in the general direction of the woman James added, “What she said.” The Marine took a large bite of the fire roasted fish. It was delicious and cooked to perfection over the fire. “Joachim, what is it with you Norwegians being able to cook so spectacularly well?”
The Commander laughed even louder, “We are trained how to cook what we catch from an early age. Those of us who cannot learn to cook die from hunger.”
James hoped the man was lying and decided to respond with a laugh. The Marine’s instincts appeared to have been correct and he turned his attention back to his fish. “What was that about Gunny?” inquired Lance.
“Just that guy George and his brother could smoke dear so it tasted like it came straight from my childhood, this fish tastes just like my Uncle Bob’s catfish.”
“Maybe they just share similar spices?” added Rachael.
“No, it tastes just like my Uncle Bob’s cooking.” James took another bite.
“Maybe your Uncle Bob and Joachim got the recipe from the same source. Is it possible that it’s a family recipe and you have Norwegian heritage?”
“Nope, I am one hundred percent English colonial. My family came over on one of the first boats after we got kicked out of England.”
“I don’t have any idea then, just eat your fish and relax a little.” Rachael turned her attention to a piece of fish and picked several bones out of it before taking a bite.
“You had to play games with the cooking didn’t you?”
“You know I did,” stated George as he stared at the figure through the cloud of smoke. “I like when my agents are in a good spirit.”
Arcturus stretched a long skeletal finger out at the board between the two men and grinned. “Your pieces are already on the board, his are not.”
“My opponent likes to wait until the opening to announce his pieces.”
The spindly Arcturus exhaled a cloud of brown smoke, “I do not blame him. His king has been badly wounded several times.”
“My king is dead, the only reason he is still in play is because the rules of the game are flexible.” George smiled and flashed a wide and toothy grin from within his long flowing beard. Placing his elbow on the checkered game board the large man examined Arcturus carefully. “I will assume your presence here is an indication of you having chosen sides?”
Exhaling a cloud of thick, pungent smelling smoke the thin man smiled, “Do not assume anything. I prefer to stay neutral as are all the keepers. I am here to represent my client, your opponent should he encounter difficulties arriving. He has contracted me for that service.”
“Always the smooth talker aren’t you Arcturus?” George was not pleased with the thin man’s ability to squeeze through the tight spaces between words.
“I have spent centuries as the head of the merchant’s guild, our interests are not served by picking sides.”
“How can you claim neutrality in this situation?”
“We provide services to both sides. We do not play favorites.”
“How can you say you are doing good when you provide the means for thousands of deaths among the Mensch?”
“If not for your resistance the Mensch would not be killed. You could just give in and accept his governance and there would be peace.”
“You can’t believe that.” George leaned back in the large overstuffed chair he was seated in and attempted to find some fresh air. There was none.
“If given over to him the world would be at peace. Those that disagree will be silenced and all would submit to him out of fear.”
“There would be no freedom. No chance to be different. No ability to make more of yourself.”
“Such things can be overrated.” Arcturus smiled. His yellow, stained teeth glinted in the candlelight provided by the chandelier hanging overhead. “One might consider the security of having no more fighting, no more violence and no more crime worth that price.”
“Then such people would be foolish,” George slammed his fist onto the table with the game board on it. “I demand to know why he has not shown up again. This is the third time he has sent a surrogate.”
“I do not know the answer to that. I am simply a provider of goods and services. The service we keepers are providing today is one of flag bearing.”
An ornately carved wooden box appeared on the table in front of Arcturus. It was six inches wide, by six inches tall. The length of the box appeared to be twice that distance. The wood was onyx in color, as though charred by the heat of a thousand fires. Opening the lid Arcturus found the game pieces he was waiting for held in place by fine, black crushed velvet. There were two layers of pieces sixteen in total.
“He has sent a full set this time,” smiled Arcturus as he eyed the pieces carved out of black stone.
“I did not realize we were to have brought a full set. This is unfair!” decried George as he looked at his three white pieces on the table.
“The rules of the game do not require ‘fairness,’ only the two sides bring pieces to the table. You know as well as I do that you are in fact holding pieces in reserve. You have six more with you.”
“But those are meant for other purposes.” George pulled a thin box made of hemlock wood from inside of his jacket. Opening it carefully he noted the six pieces within the box and reluctantly placed them into play. He knew he would have used them to counter the superior numbers his opponent had laid out if he hoped to win this match.
He took each of the pieces out and contemplated each carefully before setting it on the play field. His strategy would have to change if he wished to win both battles as he had planned. There was no way around it, he had fallen for his opponent’s machinations.