A Fire Still Burning by Daniel Ikuma

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SUMMARY: A mercenary team is sent to a post WWIII city to investigate an old government compound. What they find is anything but what they signed up for.

A Fire Still Burning
One
1700 Hours, September 14, 2143/ Lineean Sector
A yellowish haze smothered the post-apocalyptic cityscape, compounding the stagnancy of the vista. Defiant vestiges of humanity's golden age towered overhead, scattering the diluted light cast by the late-afternoon sun. The contrast of light and dark illuminated the ambient dust, creating tangible rays of sunlight. Despite the obvious evidence of a once bustling city, the utter depravity of activity and life silently mocked the accomplishments of civilization.
The mercenary's pupils dilated as the helicopter crossed the nearly solid line between the light and dark. A noticeable drop in temperature resulted from the dearth of sunlight, but she ignored the chill. Strong gusts of wind tore through the open doors of the helicopter, generating a fierce howl that drowned out all other sounds. It whipped back the mercenary's shoulder-length brown hair, revealing the pale complexion and angled features of her face. She was an attractive woman in her early thirties—too attractive, many felt, for her line of work; this much was apparent even through the lightweight armor she donned. The male mercenaries and scientists had been brazenly eyeing her ever since the team had been assembled. Can't blame them. They're men. Not to mention I'm not your typical merc. leader. They'll get over it. But the moment one of them lays a hand on me... A sudden smirk flashed across the mercenary's face, drawing curious looks from the six other passengers. Her grin abated as quickly it had come, and dark brown eyes now gazed out indifferently at the landscape. Damn, she thought. We won't make it back before dark.
Two days ago after completing her latest assignment, she had reported to Command, the overarching mercenary organization that controlled the Lineean Sector. In need of money, the soldier of fortune took the highest paying mission available. The other three other hired guns were sufficiently experienced; she wouldn't have to bear their weight: Sam "Papa" Gibbs, in his mid forties and of African descent, had been a Delta Force operative before the war. John Eldin was slightly younger but had been freelancing for the last fifteen years. Tak Kazejima, close in age to herself, was a crack shot with a sniper rifle and always managed to get out of tight situations. At least that's what his file said.
The mercenary's thoughts shifted towards her puzzling assignment: they had been tasked with escorting a group of scientists to an old U.S. government compound. She hadn't been given any details; in fact, she didn't even know what they were looking for. Information was only distributed on a need-to- know basis; since it was generally known that the former U.S. government had kept many secrets that might me dangerous if exposed, Command tended to keep most people in the dark when concerning government related material.
Nonetheless, it peeved her that she was leading an operation and was ignorant of its essential purpose. If shit hit the fan, though, the scientists' business would soon become hers.

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