Dragon's Watch 1: Gargoyle|
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Copyright ©2004 Shelby Morgen
An Authorized Excerpt
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Don't look down.
Nowhere on the enlistment forms had there been anything about heights. Von hadn't lied. Not really.
The water twenty stories below covered the streets and rose up past the first floor of all the buildings in what had once been downtown Philadelphia. Von had to fight to contain the nausea that threatened to become overwhelming.
Nothing for you down there any more. No reason to look down.
Well, there wasn't any more up, and looking over wasn't all that much better. There was a Gargoyle on the building across the street that looked like a dark gray granite Dragon. Von had never really liked Gargoyles. Creepy shits they were, staring down at the remnants of humanity like vultures, waiting for the end. The Gargoyle wouldn't have much longer to wait.
How the hell am I supposed to focus with a Dragon staring at me?
Ranger's Code. You used to be able to recite the damn thing word for word. Let's hear it, Ranger.
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!' Isaiah 6:8."
Von sighed. That didn't help much. No one gave a shit about codes any more. No one gave a shit about anything except survival, and that was a losing battle. Nothing that happened here today would make any difference.
It was over.
The stone Dragon was the only one who would ever know, and he sure as hell didn't care. Damn Gargoyle. He was waiting, staring off across the remains of the city, trying to act like he wasn't watching. If a stone carving could have an expression, the Gargoyle looked disinterested. Almost bored.
Maybe I'll fall off. That should brighten up your day, Dragon.
What the fuck are you doing, Ranger? Concentrate, shithead!
Twenty stories up hanging off a ledge might not be good timing for philosophical discussions with a slab of carved granite.
OK. Ranger's Code... I will uphold the honor, prestige, and morale of my Ranger unit. What was next? The faster, farther one... yeah. A Ranger is the perfect soldier. A Ranger moves farther, faster and fights harder than ordinary soldiers.
Well, Von had done all that. At least the farther and faster part. A hundred and twenty five miles since the ambush last night. Black Hawke's "Commandos" wouldn't expect a counterattack. Not now. Not here.
Shit. The Dragon was gone.
Von whipped around, searching frantically for the stone Dragon.
There he was. Sneaky bastard. Now he was on the building to the left, his tail curled along the edge of the ornate window trim, trying to blend in, as if he'd always been there.
No. Granite didn't move. It was simply a theme. These buildings were all built nearly two centuries ago, when the Gargoyle thing was hot. Weird, twisted architecture. Nothing even remotely efficient about them. Each one trying to outdo the other with their parapets and arches and carved stone accents, complete with Gargoyles.
So where were the others? There were plenty of Gargoyles, but only one Dragon in sight. How come only one Dragon was ever visible at a time?
Oh my God.
In silhouette, it was easier to see that the Dragon was anatomically correct. If a cock that size could be called correct. A cock like that would give you nightmares... or wet dreams.
Focus! Forget the goddamn chunk of rock!
Yeah. OK. Right. Long, slow, deep breaths. Lower the heart rate. Reduce the heat signature. Blend into the stone. Cool, gray stone.
I will keep myself mentally sharp and physically strong. I will shoulder more than my share of the task at hand. I shall not fail my unit. Surrender is not a Ranger word.
The door to the roof burst open. Eight "Commandos" appeared, with black bandanas tied over their heads. The matching headgear added uniformity to what would otherwise have been pure chaos. They were all dressed in black, but there the similarity ended.
Their "uniforms" consisted of everything from black leather to heavy black denim accented with vinyl. Anything they'd been able to loot. Nothing was consistent except the color -- and the size of the weapons stuffed in their waistbands. Every one of them a 9 mm Beretta. But, hey, they were black. They matched the team colors.
Berettas must be in style this season. Either that or they'd bought a case of the things at a surplus auction before the Net went down. And from the looks of things they had plenty of ammunition.
Where the hell had the Dragon gone now?
Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
You've been out in the fucking sun too long, Von. Get a grip.
Steady breathing, that was the key. Become one with the building. In. Hold. Out. Hold. Even the heartbeat took on the rhythm of the lone rooftop generator. It didn't matter. The "Commandos" weren't expecting trouble. They didn't bother to search the rooftop. They were just waiting. Why would they expect any resistance at all any more? There was no one left to fight them.
No one but Von.
Not long now. The whir of the helicopter sounded in the distance. All eyes turned toward the horizon.
Where were we? Oh, yeah... Surrender. Surrender is not a Ranger word...
Then the hard part. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.
Not even if he takes a bullet for me. Not even if he's lying there in my arms, bleeding to death.
"You can't let 'em take me alive. Do it. Do it, Von. Do it!"
No. Dear God, no...
Don't think about Jackson. Now is not the time.
The Dragon was back, his tail wrapped around the balustrade on the building's ornate cathedral roof. Great. When the kick from the Glock 45 knocked Von off the stone ledge toward the water some twenty stories below, perhaps the fucking Dragon might decide to swoop down to save her.
Forget it, Von. You don't get saved. You're a Ranger. A Ranger on a mission.
I will never embarrass my country. I will display the courage required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
The noise of the helicopter was getting louder, drowning out all other sounds, all other rational thought. No problem there. You ain't gonna be the lone survivor. Blend in to the stone. Follow the lines. Stiff. Angular.
One Riot, one Ranger.
All right, so that one was the Texas Rangers. So what.
The door to the helicopter opened. Von stepped out of the shadows.
Hawke's face went gray for a moment before he remembered to smile. "Hey, bitch, you don't know when to die, do you. You kinda messed up, but that's OK. You can still be my cunt. Ask me nice, and maybe I'll let you suck my dick."
At the sight of Von's weapon, he laughed. "Gimme me the gun, bitch. Ain't no clip in it. You outta ammo."
Von smiled as she pressed the barrel of the Glock against his balls. "I always leave a round in the chamber."
This one's for you, Jackson. See you in hell.
From his perch on the neighboring rooftop, the Dragon slowly turned his head toward the sound of the bullet's report, as if he'd finally found something worthy of his attention in the world of the dead and dying.
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