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Special Forces Chapter II: The Wasteland

August-September 1980, Kabul

The next two days saw Dan reaping the rewards of his iron constitution, his body fighting an infection that never fully materialised. Remaining silent with gritted teeth, visions of death and destruction, and pretending to be fine. He smirked and swore with the other guys, just like he'd always done. Taking a shit was the hardest, even the coke he had managed to get on the black market wasn't enough to blind the agony. Biting into his sleeve when he had to take a dump, almost choking on the fabric, just to keep quiet in the rickety shelter that served as the loos. Got pissed as a newt the third day when they allowed him twelve hours off duty. Booze and mates, the only way to exist.

He'd handed the camera in to develop the pictures, got back images of Russian soldiers, drunk, out for trouble, sating their appetite for destruction. Searched amongst the nameless faces until he found the one. Tall, blond, and a fucking bastard, destined to die. His research was legitimate, setting resources in motion and the bloodhounds onto the trail of the 'Soviet Hero'. He soon got what he wanted: Name, rank, and more beyond.

Captain Vadim Petrovich Krasnorada. Paratrooper in the 'Glorious Red Army'.

He'd get the man, sooner or later, to obliterate the memory of Nothing.

* * *

A week passed, a body managed to heal untreated. Dan coped until he got his next briefing. Another task, another mission. Another fucking press conference.

He stuck to the disguise of a messy-haired leftover-leftie hippie reporter with suicidal tendencies of covering every war torn scrap of shitty country. A far safer look than the close-shaved, military appearance he could have mustered had he been in uniform. Instead wearing a crumpled mix of army surplus kit and civilian clobber, all sweaty and dishevelled, the standard outfit of any war correspondent.

Dan was late, deliberately so, had lingered outside and missed the Big Heads' arrival. Couldn't give a monkey's arse about the speeches, was more interested in scrap heaps and garbage, Kabul's stinking debris surrounding the conference hotel. He was blending into the crowd, except for his height and built. The accent fake, doing a passable job as Canadian press by hiding his native Scots Highland accent, smoothed down by years in the army.

He entered the lounge, quickly checking over the assembled press, seated like sardines and frying in hot air. Remaining in the back, he stood close to the doors, casting his gaze to the front.

Suddenly freezing. Couldn't believe his eyes.

The Russian bastard.

Dan didn't flinch. Nothing. Just a twitch of his hand. Yet the recognition hit him square in the chest with the full force of a punch that wasn't pulled. Hatred surged and pooled in the pit of his stomach, but he forced himself to stroll casually towards the centre of the room, leaning against the wall. Watching.

* * *

Vadim was dressed in his uniform; ranks that were real, unit symbols that weren't, the whole regalia of a para captain. He had polished the star on the peaked cap, then made sure it had exactly the correct angle. Wearing uniform was a bitch in Kabul. He was sweating, but he was a military advisor, and that meant keeping up appearances. Just another trick in the book.

This was not an invasion. It was brothers helping brothers. He remembered the party line, remembered what they'd told the conscripts, about building schools and getting Afghanistan up to speed, developing it, and, of course, defending it against the West, most of all against the Americans, who, whenever they meddled in Asia, made things even worse. And that meant something in this hole.

Invaders didn't host press conferences in run-down hotels in central Kabul. The place swarmed with soldiers on security detail, and more officers, more senior than he was; he was mostly here for the cameras anyway. He knew the spin doctors pissed themselves with glee that at his presence. His job was to look imposing and reassuring, maybe answer a question or two.

The room had been packed since before the conference started, and the Afghani politicians looked exceedingly uncomfortable in their ill-fitted suits. The General was there and looked hung over, eyes red, meaty face profoundly dispassionate. Vadim had positioned himself near the Soviet flag, which, symbol of symbols, seemed very red near the Afghani flag.

Cameras flashed. It was a mob with a hundred heads, hundreds of lenses, and he thought what fucking madness, to expose himself like that. The usual stuff: We're friends, united in a big, happy, socialist dream. A new order, marching towards peace. No talk of confrontation, no talk about how they showed muscle in the face of the West.

More cameras flashing. Some reporters noted down everything, others, a lot of long-haired khippies who looked worse for wear probably because of the lack of air-conditioning here, didn't bother writing. Those were the smart ones. They were bored by the party line and waiting for Questions and Answers.

Such a decidedly non-Soviet pastime.

Vadim had been staring off into the distance, eyes unfocused, deeply bored, yet he was not supposed to move a single muscle. He was decoration, and decoration didn't move. The crowd was one stirring, restless mass of shifting bodies. People heading for the toilets and coming back, or drinking water, some were eating, some fanned themselves. A lot of layered movements, following no order, no necessity. People moved because they were people. The constant, restless shifting of the herd.

The memory of a different crowd: Thousands of people, flecks of colour in the stadium. The sound they made. The roar that almost made his heart stop when he had heard it the first time.

He blinked and forced his attention back to the present. Began to look at the crowd, singled people out, assessed them, didn't bother to store the information. Had no value. But then. Right in the centre at the back. A tall man.

Vadim's eyes narrowed. Was that possible? Just as he had convinced himself that the man had been anything but press. He had put up too much of a fight, stayed operational all the time. Fought too hard. His stomach muscles tensed, and he knew it was him. It was like ice on his face. A shock. His eyes scanned the man for weapons, no way he was a reporter.

That very moment the man raised his eyes, made momentary contact and smirked briefly. Even across the distance there had been a flash of recognition.

Vadim inhaled, kept breathing steadily. Fuck. Alive. It had been dark, right? That man shouldn't have been able to recognise him. He'd worn combat gear without most of the weapons, fairly casual. He was polished now, intangible.

Forcing himself to follow the line of questions, Vadim feigned interest while he could feel his blood surge. The colours in the room became brighter, much like on drugs. This was hardly the place for it, but his instincts came back, powerfully.

The man had looked at him. What, six yards away? Close enough to feel him, not nearly close enough. Vadim remembered the smell of Vanya's blood, and how hot the man's flesh was, how desperate. Square jaw, dark eyes, tousled hair. He liked the face, good features, cheekbones, chin, nose, all well-defined. Judging from his built and stance, the man knew about potential, about discipline. Knew about war and struggle.

And he knew it had been him. How on earth did he? There were plenty of captains. Lots of men that were even bigger. Vadim's chest expanded, as if to take in more air as he returned that gaze. He should have undressed him, he reflected. But he had been too drunk. No way to take time. No way to savour the full potential of that body. Bottom line: What a waste.

Never mind the bastard had killed Vanya - and deprived him of his favourite toy in the absence of real game, plus forced him to answer questions why on earth comrade Ivan had been mugged and killed alone in a dark alley. Resistance fighter. Low level insurgents. Sad, sad story, but it reflected badly on Vadim as a superior.

Q&A time. One of Afghans allowed reporters to speak. One after the other.

Vadim watched the man raise his hand, just like any reporter who wanted to ask a question.

* * *

At last it was Dan's turn to join the circus of lies.

He directed his eyes once more onto the medal-gleaming piece of Russian shit. Making certain once and for all the bastard had recognised him. That, and more. A promise, a deadly one.

"Captain Krasnorada", tiny pause, he had done his intelligence homework and he cherished the power that knowledge brought, "with all those reinforcements streaming into Afghanistan and, specifically, Kabul, and with numbers daily rising, how can you reassure the population that there will be discipline amongst your men and safety for the civilians?"

He smiled, a moment of sarcasm, shared between hunters.

The game had just begun.

As the man said his name, Vadim could feel tension in his shoulders. What the … He guessed they had given out his name, as in: Your questions will be answered by … and then a long list of names. Spin doctors.

Concentration. The English language had articles, he tended to forget that; not enough practice, and the language lessons had long since stopped. "We understand there is concern among the population." He knew the General approved of the turn of phrase, the fact he didn't say "I", but "we". He knew his doctrine. "And we assure you that the soldiers are well-disciplined and are well-aware of their mission to forge iron bonds of eternal friendship and mutual support with the Afghan population."

There. A complete un-answer.

Dan smirked, this sort of answer had to be expected. "Thank you, Captain. I am confident your reassurance extends to everyone, not just the Afghanis."

He slouched back against the wall, feigning renewed disinterest while he could hardly wait for the conference to be over. He had to shadow the bastard, needed to know everything about him.

What he ate, where he shat, whom he fucked.

Vadim gave a curt nod, as if it was beneath him to correct himself and extend Socialist goodwill to the rest of the world. It was about competition, and not about world peace. Fuck that.

At last the reporters left him in peace. To them, he toed the party line, and tearing into a henchman when the General was in the room wouldn't do. There were some reporters from other brother-states, and they asked all the right questions. They had official approval to be here, and they made the most of it.

Vadim's eyes moved across the crowd, but couldn't help resting on the relaxed tiger. The looks, the power. He wouldn't mind a repeat performance. He wouldn't mind wrestling the man, fighting him. With a knife, without a knife, epee, fencing, whatever.

He waited until the conference was over, everybody important ushered out, the press types mingling a bit. Keeping his eyes on the man, who did not hurry to get out of the boiling room. A quick glance. General, senior officers - they couldn't wait to get out of here. He made a half-assed excuse, then moved towards the man who had stayed at the back throughout the remainder of the conference. Careful. He had a pistol. But the main deterrent was that there were still press people around.

Dan slowly straightened from his slouched position when the Russian came towards him. Raised his head until it was level, his face showing nothing. Empty stare, only a man who had himself under as much control as he did could be devoid of any expression when faced with his rapist. But then Nothing had happened. Nothing at all.

He kept his hand close to his thigh, at the place where one of the knives was hidden. He'd come prepared; had made a mistake one week ago, wouldn't make another. Dan mocked in a deceptively soft voice, "Well, well, I didn't know they trained up Russian soldiers as circus ponies?"

"Term is 'Soviet'", said Vadim, more in a reflex. He stepped close enough to talk, and far away enough to see any movement that came from the other man's centre. Shoulders moved first in an attack, it took a master to hide it.

"Soviet, Russkie, who the fuck cares." Dan delivered the casual insult with a grin that never reached his eyes.

Circus pony. Vadim lost momentum. He had felt more like a potted plant, or a Christmas tree in that show, but he liked the voice. Americans sounded as if they were talking around a hot stone, every sound washed out the same, but there was structure in this man. "You, also, seem to be man of many talents."

Dan shrugged. Alert to the n'th degree, but only his eyes showed it. Awake and ruthlessly willing. "Talents? Yeah, I'm not just a good photographer, pretty good writer, too." Playing dumb, but with little effort. Neither of them was stupid, hunter and prey, roles undefined. For a moment Dan's nostrils widened, wondering if he could smell the Russian's blood, long before he'd smashed the bastard's face in. He'd taste it one day, had to remain patient until then, he'd get his prize when the time was right. Shifting slightly, he bent one leg and casually pushed the sole of his boot against the wall. Appearing relaxed, but able to propel himself off that wall in a split second.

Vadim stood tall, could feel his blood pounding. The aura of danger, of challenge, the man was giving off heat, heat of a kind that pulled him closer, into danger. He stood his ground, but felt how his body heated up. One thing to get hard from a scuffle in a dark alley; one thing to do it because he was half drunk and bored to random violence. Another to look the man in the eye, in broad daylight, with press close enough to enjoy an inexplicable stabbing between an American reporter and a Soviet military advisor. No, Canadian. Not American. Tree leaf, white, red, not the star-spangled banner.

To be alone. To allow the fire to flare up, no holds barred. Vadim wanted to press him against the wall, turn him around, fuck him again. Harder. Longer. And again. Until both their bodies couldn't take any more, and then cut his throat.

Vadim said nothing.

Dan smiled coldly at the tell-tale silence, a truly nasty expression on his face. "All on your own, Captain? Don't you Russkies always turn up with a second in command?" The serrated blade of Dan's verbal knife sliced leisurely through the sticky air.

Vadim recoiled. Vanya. Fuck him. He'd lost a man on a private hunting expedition. Vanya had born the brunt of the fire, the raging torrent, Vanya who fought and resisted and still sucked him like his life depended on it. Gone. Off to Russia. Vadim tensed, just as if the attack had been real rather than words. This was getting too close. A fascination for a strong body did not go together with the same man having killed Vanya, and no way to prove it. He needed a fuck. Or a fight. Both. If only he could have both. "My second is inconvenienced." And grinning a double grin, festering blue and green in a hot metal tin in storage at Kabul fucking airport. He would probably explode before touching home soil.

"Inconvenienced?" Dan smirked, the sense of revenge was coiling in his stomach like a lazy snake, sunning its smooth muscled length in the glow of hatred. "I'm sorry to hear that, Captain."

Sorry? That grin was not sorry and his dark eyes were cold. Eyes of a professional killer.

Dan glanced at his watch, pushed himself slowly away from the wall and shrugged. "Look at the time, I got things waiting. Well, I hope your 'inconvenience' won't be too much trouble." Shouldering his bag, the Canadian flag grubby, but still prominent. No one wanted to be an Americanski these days.

"I'm sure we'll meet again." Dan's voice had turned even softer, smiling sardonically. A promise, a threat? Or just a platitude.

Vadim wanted to hit the other, wipe the grin off, then realized that the bastard had turned the tables on him.

He didn't step back, followed the man's motion and almost got chest to chest with him. Smelling distance. Close enough to feel his heat, and remember. "I do not want to keep you longer than necessary", Vadim said in a low voice. "I am sure your mission is important. More important than indulging me. And yes, we will meet again. I have feeling I know exact place." Eyes narrowed with challenge. Dangerous. Fucking dangerous to return to the scene of crime.

Dan's ugly smile faltered for a moment. The bastard had come physically too close. The same scent again, the same heat. "Do you? Really?" He got himself back under control and his dark brows lifted. "Good for you." Yes, he knew the place, too, and he would be there, tonight.

Dan turned to walk away after the Soviet Captain had pulled back into a safe distance, leaving a throwaway comment in Russian, "Until the next time, Russkie." A dangerous game, his Russian accented but fluent. Cat - mouse, tiger and moth. The dance in the flame had begun.

Vadim snarled. The man was full of surprises. Special Forces. He had to be. Mercenary, most likely, because there were no western troops in the country. And that made him an enemy. He would do nothing forbidden. Meet with an enemy, trying to capture and interrogate. He'd return sated, with knowledge. And ash on his skin.

He left the hotel, walked into the glare of the sun. He was sweating, he needed to find a way to get rid of the tension. But then, he needed the tension for tonight. He knew it was too risky, and he should rig the whole place. Hide weapons. Prepare the arena. Vadim couldn't wait to get out of that fucking dress uniform. Back to basics, strength pitted against strength, skin to skin, mad, intense, snarling rage and power. Intoxicating, just the thought of it.

* * *

Dan got a lift back to his camp that didn't officially exist. How he needed to smell that bastard's blood; hear the rattling breath of death; feel the steel drive into muscle and flesh. Tonight the Nothing would be wiped out forever.

He would go back to Kabul and into a rat infested alley. Better equipped this time and with a deadly purpose.

* * *

Vadim picked a fight just for the relief it brought. They knew he was tense, and somebody said something about Vanya. Something that implied that Vanya had been too fucking drunk to see what was coming.

Absolutely legit thing to say. And absolutely legit to fly off the handle at that. Vadim dropped the long bar of the weights, just dropped them, the cast iron hitting the concrete with a metal thud, and Vadim was already in fighting mode, just blindly attacking the lieutenant who thought he was tough.

Eventually, it was a bunch of other junior officers that pulled them apart - after the lieutenant had been losing. Up to that point, people were too busy betting on the outcome. He snarled, then left the other, blood and death in his gaze, but of course not for the hapless comrade. He wanted to run down a wall, wanted to take the energy and do something with it, something outrageous, tiring, satisfying, something as real and cruel and intense as he could possibly do.

Still no showers. Hard to clean himself with a rag and a little water, shave, too. His hands were shaking, as if he was on withdrawal or dehydrated. He tried to find a moment's peace, tried to jerk off, but just couldn't take the spike off. Not enough. The physical reaction happened, sure enough, but he was on edge, worse than getting shot full of drugs before a competition.

The country got to him, and the memory of the one perfect moment, equal powers hell bent on destroying each other. He left the barracks as soon as he could, wore his camo, and a pistol, knives. Yes, the AK too, but didn't really expect to use it. He didn't want to make too much noise. It was, strangely enough, also about restraint, cleverness, about control. And that was what was driving him insane with need.

* * *

Dusk was settling and the approaching night saw Dan dressed in trademark camo trousers and army boots. Shirt and jumper thrown over it, wrapped in a well-worn dirty parka. It got cold at night in this hell-hole, and he had covered his head and part of his face with a dark rag. Not only to protect from the dust, as was the custom amongst the local men, but to disguise his features, no matter how dark they were.

By the time he arrived in the city night had fallen. Dan was cautiously circling the scene of crime, before silently pulling himself up a wall. The bird's track across the roofs, the safest option at night.

Unaware yet but wary of the Russian who had arrived at dusk, hiding in an alley with camo paint smeared over the pale features and darkened hair. Vadim was climbing up a ladder after checking the surroundings for booby traps, while Dan was still waiting for what felt like an eternity. An impatient man, he had learnt patience throughout the years. Stakeouts for days and nights, often impossible to move nor make a sound.

Dan was checking the surrounding buildings, roofs, windows - shit holes that contained the rotten dregs of human life in a city of fucking dust. Finally sliding down through the roof into the abandoned building where a scent hit his nostrils. Sweat and blood, death and decay, bringing back memories of a physical pain he'd never believed he would ever encounter.

The air was dusty, laden with threats, but the dark rag around his head made him breathe in his own sweat, not the putrid air. Dan went to crouch motionless in a corner, hidden in darkness and blending into the shadows.

Waiting, focussed, all senses alert. He knew the bastard would come, counted on it. For reasons he could not decipher, but it didn't matter jack shit to him why the Russkie would be drawn back and right into his extinction. All that mattered was his own reason. Revenge. Inflicting pain and ultimately death.

Finally! The ghostly shuffle of dry wind, but Dan's senses made out the systematic presence of a human. A faint scuffle, even an expert recce could not disguise the sheer bulk of a heavy body. The Russian cunt, no doubt. His personal enemy. He would let him come close, willing him nearer, the knife firmly in his hand. He'd always preferred the up-close and personal blade; bullets were for wusses.

Vadim had moved away from the hole in the ground, crouched near it. The darkness could hold a platoon of men. Eyes getting used to it. He wished he was a cat, a lion, an owl, or, indeed, a bat, one of the various unit symbols. Recce. Move silently, see and hear everything. Even if bats were technically blind. He could feel his throat vibrate, as he sensed like a snake. The instructors had told him to trust his guts, see with his mind. Sometimes, the animal part of his brain picked up things that the human part discarded as white noise. He was wide open, feeling out into the darkness.

The place hadn't changed much, as the darkness seemed to become less dense. Vanya's blood had to still be here. Over there, where he had died. Some specks on the wall opposite. Cutting a throat was a messy business.

Vadim moved deeper into the room, still crouching, to be as little of a target as possible, moving his feet carefully, not shuffling, not grinding bits of rubble into the ground. Old trick, Vadim reached for a piece of stone or dirt, and tossed it into the corner, where it rolled, clattering. 'Where are you?'

Dan's senses were so overly alert, he felt his nerves strumming against the confines of his spine, burning lines inside the marrow of his bones, mixing with the white noise of the blood in his ears. There. A sound. Blood and bones, sinew and flesh; tonight he'd cut him open.

"Welcome home, Russkie." Dan whispered in Russian.

Vadim's lips twisted into a smile at his native language. He had trained this one well. He already spoke a civilized language. Something strange and arousing about the fact that the man spoke at all. Like speaking during sex, when every word was more intense and went straight through the skin. He knew where the other was now, eyes found the silhouette, broken up, of course, and he straightened a little, as if in greeting. His body shivered from the voice, it was like breath on his face. Or in his neck, and he was still so far away. Hard to guess, but he'd say about two and a half yards.

His own voice similarly low. "Your Russian is not bad. You haven't lived in Russia, but you had good teachers." It was the salute just before fencing. He could be terribly old-fashioned against an equal.

Dan chuckled softly, an eerie sound in the darkness. Deceptively gentle and strangely amused. Then a soft shuffle, and his body melted in one smooth motion out of the shadow, into a square of moonlight from a window that gaped torn and wide open like an eternally screaming mouth.

With all the confidence only a justifiably arrogant motherfucker like him could muster, Dan casually pulled the rag from his face, revealing teeth, gleaming in the dull light. A grin like a baring of fangs. "I'm afraid they couldn't have taught you much. Haven't you ever heard of the first maxim? Never leave a comrade alone, dying like a bleeding pig."

Vadim studied the way the moonlight traced the man's cheekbone, line of ear, the darkness of hair. Stubble. Firm, strong skin he wanted to sink his teeth into. Wanted to draw blood. Vanya. He missed the things he could do to him. Their silent communication. "If he had followed orders, he would still be alive." The absolute, shocking truth. Instructors had stressed the point that sometimes, some people were too fucking stupid to survive. Like people going out of their way to find danger. It was possible. And because of that possibility, it was irresistible.

"Don't be so sure he would still be alive, Russkie." Smooth words, soft voice. Dark as a caress, hiding the venom of hatred.

"You know my name." Vadim moved closer, made sure the light didn't interfere with his vision, but also allowed the man a closer look at him. No dress uniform this time, nothing hid his features. "And I know what you are."

Dan did not move nor react, only his head followed the movement, studying the other. Almost same height, same built, same muscles. One dark, one blond underneath the camo paint. His own body slightly less bulky and perhaps half an inch shorter, a negligible difference. Watching the Russian dispassionately. Just a man, a man who had done Nothing and would die for Nothing. Yet he could not help being struck by the eyes, glowing in impossibly pale brightness in the darkness of the room.

He smiled, the only movement in a statue-still body. "I know your name, your rank, and probably your number." Dan knew a lot more, only that afternoon some of the requested research had come back. A sports hero, a pentathlete, well-well. His brows raised, once again the amused chuckle, as if they were having tea in Ascot on the lawn. Civilised conversation, not two deadly enemies; two beasts on the prowl. "You know what I am, Russian cunt? Go ahead. I'm all ears."

The voice. The kind of voice Vadim could listen to, whatever it said. Even better when it was a challenge. He had the feeling the man was not reluctant to start, it was more like he thrived on the same energy that coursed through himself. He knew, he could taste the quality of time. It made him ravenous with desire, the same dark flood he had unleashed before. But this time, the tiger knew what he planned.

Vadim saw how the silver light tore one side of the face out of the darkness, the rest remained in twilight. Perfect. 'Don't move', he thought. 'Stay there, right here'. Magnetic fields, pulses he could feel everywhere in his body. It was an effort to breathe. He shook his head, even at the insult. Enough to draw knives in the barracks. It seemed like twisted tenderness to him, especially with that voice. Like Vanya sometimes called him bastard when he had jumped him and fucked him in the night.

'What you are', thought Vadim. A merc. A soldier. He was the heat Vadim wanted, needed, to burn, to turn the world into ash. He was the glint of a blade at midnight. Vadim breathed laughter. "You are a memory. A perfect moment."

Dan raised one brow, higher than before. Perfect dark arch, one side of his face illuminated by moonlight. "What?" The Russkie was fucking insane. Then sudden anger, the smooth amusement gone in a flash. Perfect memory? Perfect fucking memory of fucking what? Of the Nothing that still burnt deep inside? That perfect fucking violent memory. Dan's eyes caught fire, even in the low quality of grey-dead light, the burning was overwhelming. Anger, to much anger waiting to be unleashed, but he had to remain focussed.

"You can stuff your memory down your own throat, motherfucker." Even when snarled, Dan's voice retained the darkness. No softness, now, but the pulsating energy of hatred and anger. "It's the last thing you'll take with you."

Old rule, Vadim thought. If you fight, don't talk. The shift in the man's voice gave away the shift in his intention. Vadim jumped back, feeling the other's blade rip through the air and slice across his chest, just catching the shirt. 'Good one', he thought, that guy knew how to fight. He pulled back, one hand sliding to the sheath against the small of his back. If he could incapacitate him. Once more. If he could only taste all that strength just once more. That had to be a mistake, fighting meant being willing to kill, but a dead body could offer only relief, never strength. Before he fucked a corpse, he preferred his hand. Much saner option, too.

"Yes. And I'm your memory, too", Vadim snarled, waiting for the next attack. "You won't forget me. Never."

Dan laughed coldly. "You're Nothing, Russkie. Nothing." He didn't want it to be over soon, he could have killed the man before he had ever entered the building. More deaths from his hand than he cared to remember and none of them meant anything. Except this one.

His eyes taking in the movement of the Russian's hand, certain it held a weapon. Dan guessed the movement that would follow, judged the distance and his booted foot sped upwards, straight towards the other's chin, before he could use the weapon for a sufficient attack. Hell, yes, his body was a killing machine, and not a victim of Nothing.

Committing too much into the attack, while part of Vadim's mind was not in it, and he pressed into it, overbalancing. He had anticipated a lunge, and wanted to meet it half way, playing strength against strength. The kick hit him in the face, rattled teeth, bruised his lips and split them in several places. That man had a talent to make him bleed. Vadim staggered back, trying to catch his balance, and wasn't quite sure where the knife was, but he tasted his own blood. That sobered him for a heartbeat, just in time to hear, close, a sound that turned his blood into acid. The whoosh of a rocket propelled grenade.

Absolutely everything paled against this threat. "Incoming!" Vadim shouted, and dove.

"Fuck!" Dan almost missed the sound in his moment of triumph. His head flew round, body ready to follow, but nearly too late, and he was thrust backwards with the full force of the impact, losing his balance but throwing his body weight into the movement. The building a sudden hell of deafening sound, dirt, mud-bricks and wattle, like projectiles of destitute.

Vadim hit the ground, almost hit his face again, covered his head and neck and felt the explosion wash over him. Deafened, ears ringing, the world turned into one high-pitched sound and clouds of acrid dust. Stuff rained down on him, that explosion must have taken the front of the house clean off, and the whole structure could just simply collapse right now, burying him in a pile of stuff.

Dan was choking, wrapped in a cloud of dried goat shit, he landed on something hard and yet soft and yet hard and ... his head knocked sideways, hitting a wooden beam. He was disoriented, blinded by debris and dust, desperately trying to breathe before knocked out for a moment, sprawled on top of this something ... something.

Vadim thought a beam was coming down, and tensed, using every muscle in his body as brace against the weight. His ears rang, painfully, the dust bit into his lips, he moved only a bit to pull the scarf before mouth and nose, still choking on the dust. Vadim wrestled the panic, couldn't hear a thing, expected the ground to give way, but it was impossible to say, or see, or even guess what had brought the attack. No surprise, this was Kabul, and there were insurgents. He only hoped it was more or less unintentional. He coughed violently, felt close to retching.

Eyes stinging, watering to wash the dust out, and with a groan he could feel, but not hear, Vadim checked around with his hands. A boot. For a moment he thought it might be his, and that meant his boot was touching his hip.

The panic was back. No pain. But they said it didn't hurt at first. Fuck.

He wanted to scream, then, breathing harshly, and choking, he forced his mind to work. Fuck it. Panic now, and you are fucking dead. Think of fucking Vanya.

Vadim turned around, tried to move under the log, assess the damage and his position, he felt like he was in water, needed to work out where the rest of his body was, relative to the other parts, and finally understood that he was in one piece. Fucking piece of engineering genius. Small wonder he was shit at demolitions, unless it involved rigging a hand grenade.

He rolled, feeling the weight on top of him shift and could feel it had a pulse, that it was choking, and that it was his enemy. Vadim wiped the tears from his face with his arm, and forced himself to breathe as little as possible, tasting nothing but blood, dust and all the shit his body came up with to cleanse his mouth and nose. Spit, more blood, tears.

Vadim reached up for the other body, felt his chest heave, and despite the situation, that weight and that closeness, fucking dangerous as it was, he was hard, he was alive, and the guy's leg pressed against him just right. He had hardly enough oxygen to think, let alone straight, as if that ever had been an option, but the lack of air made his body tingle. The enemy was so fucking close. Maybe wounded, maybe unconscious. Clearly alive. He took the leg and pressed it against himself, baring his teeth at the feeling. Fuck, yes. He didn't care about control just now, he wanted, needed to take advantage.

Vadim's hands moved to the other's belt between their bodies, pulling it open. Hump him, anything, just needed to purge that madness. Starting to pull down those trousers, moving underneath to get some friction. The very fact he was still alive and all the stuff that was pent up inside made him insane with need. He was aware what he did, but he didn't care.

Dan was still caught in darkness, but started to fight for air, lungs hurting like fuck. Dark and gone, and who was he and what the fuck, and choking, retching, fighting. Unable to breathe, Dan forgot about the Russkie; about explosion and insurgents; about anything at all. Nothing mattered, except for the burning, blinding fire of pain in his lungs. No oxygen, couldn't gasp for air, couldn't get anything in nor out of his goddamnedmotherfucking lungs. Couldn't orientate himself, couldn't see nor hear, nothing but the deafening sound in his ears of explosion, hammering heart and screaming lungs. Fuck. Fuck!

Surfacing, he could feel manhandling, unable to fight it. That fucking Russian bastard!

Eye to eye and face to face, staring straight into the ice blue insanity. The sensations of hands on his body, once more roughly handling him. The same shit again, violent grinding and pushing against him. That was it, enough to give a surge of strength and the pain in his lungs exploded as he bucked upwards, throwing himself away from the other. Dan opened his mouth and drew in a breath, forcing in more of the fucking dust, before breaking down on his knees, convulsing violently, throwing up shit from his lungs and crap from his stomach. Coughing up dust and hatred while thrashing wildly, arms flailing.

Vadim went right after him, wanted to finish it, grab the man, have him, take him, rip him apart, fight. Just going straight after him, keeping close, not allowing any distance, no respite from the intensity. No way. The other was in no state to fight, but he would resist. Vadim grinned, still hardly breathing, he was a swimmer, he could control breath.

Dan was still mindlessly retching and thrashing blindly, even vomited which should get anybody's mind off fighting. Vadim grabbed him anyway, crashed into the ground on top of rubble, which hurt in several places, then a completely instinctive, no way that was planned, meditated or anything, punch hit him right in the groin. The force enough to stop breath, stop heart, stop all thought. Fighting what was not pain, but the fucking sky coming down.

The punch didn't register in Dan's oxygen starved brain, still blind, struggling to survive, frantic gulps of dusty, at last stale air getting back into his lungs. Finally breathing, painfully, doubled over on his knees in the rubble.

Knees. Rubble. No one touching him. No force keeping him down.

Dan was still coughing, eyes watering, hardly able to see, but there, a shape writhing in pain on the ground. Increasing sight with every lung wrecking cough, wiping a sleeve across his eyes, he was smearing blood, sweat, tears and dust into a camouflage of pain, and then yes. Fucking yes!

"Fucking bastard!" Hardly human sounds, scratching-croaking from shit-filled lungs and tortured vocal chords, but Dan staggered to his knees. Full-on hatred for the curled-up man on the ground, he could hardly keep his balance, but the strength he managed to get behind his first lunge was born out of seething anger.

"Fuck you! Fucking Russian cunt!" Dan kicked towards the bastard's ribs, once, twice, harder, kicked his army boots with a ferocity born out of greed for revenge, putting all his weight behind the attacks.

Vadim tensed his body, tensed what little wasn't taut, and needed to get away from the rain of kicks, as they pierced through his consciousness. The man could kill him right there. Getting up was impossible, as if every tendon in Vadim's body had shortened, halved. He sometimes fucking did this himself, sometimes pulled a guy up by his shoulders, tripling the pain. He saw the ripped open wall, decided he could easily make that fall, but needed to move at least another three yards.

Dan would have laughed if he had had the air in his lungs, watching the motherfucker getting smashed like a beetle on its back. This satisfaction was better than any dripping cunt he'd ever stuffed, and more intense than any fuck.

Vadim saw the boot coming for his face, and with more strength and control than he thought he'd had, moved. It made him almost scream with pain, but while he suppressed the sound, Dan was howling in agony when the Russian's boot impacted with his shin. "Shit!" He flew backwards, managing to curl up just enough to prevent the worst damage when hitting the pile of rubble opposite the torn open wall.

Dan shook his head, fuck, it hurt, but he had to continue, had to kill, to maim, to bring pain to that cunt, and how fucking good it was, how all-consuming, he'd never felt anything like it. He needed to smash that face in, so badly, he could feel the need in his throat. It tasted of blood and sweat, of anger and hatred. He was crawling on all fours, needed to obliterate that fucking face, cut out the goddamned eyes, smash in those mocking bastard lips! With a hoarse cry Dan lunged forward again, throwing himself onto the other, managing to straddle the bastard.

Dan's first punch slipped its aim, hitting Vadim's jaw, but the next ones came in rapid succession, hitting that mocking face as often and fast and hard as he could. Intend on smashing the nose, maiming jaw and cheeks, and tearing open those fucking lips and blinding-bright eyes, turning them into a bleeding pulp.

Vadim couldn't find enough breath, his ribcage hurt, even though that pain was nothing near the pain that was searing his groin. The weight was too much to drag with him to the hole in the wall, he needed to get away, absolutely needed to retreat, because winning wasn't even a possibility any more. There was a cold, white blue feeling. Fear. Fear so intense he hadn't felt it in a while. Especially as a somebody caused it, not a something. It was like drowning, drowning with his hands tied on his back.

He defended against the blows as good as he could, but he was too sluggish, too damned hurt to threaten his enemy's life. Knife. Where was the fucking knife? The enemy rolled over him like a tank, the fear became madness, struggle again, fuck the pain. He could hurt later. Vadim's hand found a piece of rock, nice, sharp, pointy end, and, gripping it like a caveman that had just invented murder, brought it down with all the force he had left on the enemy's kneecap, twice, and hoped it was the kneecap, rewarded by a howl of pain. Blinded by the blows to his face, another jab at the tense thigh muscle, suddenly free, and with an effort as if he had to lift a car, pushed himself up, and began to crawl, belly crawl over the rubble, towards the torn-open wall.

It looked like a dragon had taken a bite right out of the side of the house, and before Vadim could even consciously decide whether he could risk the fall, not that there were any other options, the much tortured floor gave way and he fell, hitting the ground so hard he almost passed out.

The patter of feet. The next thing he could see with his blood encrusted half-blind eyes was a bunch of goat-fuckers moving up towards him. And he knew with absolute certainty that those were not the guys that had invited them into the country.

No pistol. No strength.

* * *

Dan had forgotten everything but the utter satisfaction of smashing in the chiselled features of this fucking face, until pain hit like a steel rod through his kneecaps, and he screamed like a wounded animal. Losing balance, tossed aside, he held his knee, his thigh, curled like a maggot, barely noticed the other crawling towards the opening. Both worms, both lost in pain. Then nothing. Silence.

Minutes to fight the pain that was consuming him, throbbing in legs, joints, everywhere in his body alike. Some parts on fire, others dull and torturous, but then voices. Steps, Sudden kerfuffle. Shit. Insurgents? Fucking goat-fuckers? That Russian bastard was his. His! No on else's. He'd kill him, maim him, destroy him and he'd laugh while doing so.

Crawling towards the open wall, Dan didn't lose balance, gripping with torn and bloodied hands on wooden rafters that stuck out from the tormented building like an old hag's rotten teeth in a collapsed mouth.

"Fuck." The Russkie wasn't going to cut it. Afghans. Four of them, no fucking chance, the hated bastard lay helpless on the ground.

"Fuck off!" Dan shouted, "his death is mine, fuckers!" He let go and jumped onto the street below, hardly keeping balance at the impact with his knackered knees.

* * *

Fuck no.

Amid the curses, the rocks they picked up to pelt him with - a fucking stoning like in the fucking Middle Ages - and all Vadim could do was wish he had his pistol, or could properly move. His ribs were on fire, he felt completely fucked up, couldn't even scream, only felt blood run from his face, blood and spit, both eyes starting to swell shut. If he didn't get away soon, he was dead. He was already halfway there. And one thing they had told him: Don't let the Afghans get you alive. Stoning was apparently one of the nicer things they did with the enemy, and even that fucking hurt.

Curses. Son of a dog, dog, swine ...

Stones, hitting, less painful than the blows he'd received just a minute ago. Vadim spit out a mouthful of blood, and began to crawl, favoured his left side, because something was seriously wrong with the ribs on his right side, every movement, every breath was fucking agony, and he didn't even want to check his teeth.

As he started to move, they began kicking him. Always count on the enemy being cruel. Somewhere, he heard shouting, then he grabbed one filthy skinny brown ankle, pulled the Afghan towards him with what strength he had left, had the holdout knife out and sliced through the man's Achilles heel. Take that, goat-fucker.

The answer was a howl, and Vadim hoped it would attract attention from a Soviet patrol. He would get shit from them for the rest of his posting here, but fuck, did he want to see some MPs or just a bunch of groundpounders, fucking conscripts would do, as long as they were fucking armed. He kept the foot in his grip, and stabbed it, piercing the bastard's foot with so much force that the blade hit the dirt road underneath.

Fuck yeah. And if he had to fight with his teeth, he would. He fucking would.

Nobody would take him alive.

* * *

Dan panted, worried, would he fall over or would his knees hold up. Thighs in agony, kneecaps on fire, fists bleeding, he had to grab the next best wall to steady himself for the time it took to catch his breath. Immediately scanning the surroundings. Fuck. It was dark, too much movement, too many men and one body crawling on the ground, but then ...

The howl of pain. That Russian fucker wasn't dead yet. Good.

This time Dan hadn't come without a weapon. Not the rifle he would have preferred right now, but a knife and a pistol was better than nothing. He reached for the pistol in the bulky folds of the grubby parka, aimed at the Mujahideen guerrilla closest to the Russian bastard. He wasn't supposed to kill them, but he'd be fucked if he let them kill his prey. That Russkie was his and his alone.

The one being stabbed still screaming, another one shot, letting out the cut-short sound of a man dying, hot square where it killed the fastest. Dan didn't bother with the one that the Russian was dealing with, he trusted the motherfucker to know how to kill - even when left crawling in the dirt.

Three more, and he almost laughed when one brought an AK-47 out, as he threw himself behind a pile of rubble. "That Russian fucker is mine!" Crawling towards them, unseen, ignoring pain and exhaustion, keeping up his speed, he could see the one with the automatic close enough and smirked. The throwing knife was in his hand, whistled through the air and embedded itself in the Afghan's throat, before he even bothered to think about what he was doing.

Simple task: take out those men between him and his ultimate target. He was damned good; he was fucking SAS.

Two left. Thank fuck for their poor equipment and the lack of suitable weapons.

* * *

Vadim was reacting with only his brain stem clear and intact, everything else hurt too much. The adrenaline helped him deal with the pain and stun, his whole body felt one bloody, bruised, screwed-up mess, and he still wasn't home. The guy with the AK shot in some other direction, had sense enough to not shoot his still squirming friend with the unpleasant hole in his foot, who would find it very hard to get up. Now, or even ever.

Vadim pulled himself along the man, an obscene crawling/mounting motion, rested on the squirming body and punched the knife straight into the Afghan's neck, from the side, then fumbled around for a gun, and found something even better. He pulled it off, counted, cooked the fucking grenade, because he was just that side of insane, because it was Russian make and therefore the timer was everything but reliable. It was like holding a world in his hand, death, madness, and the inevitable hammer of a Norse god. He sweated like an animal, then tossed it amid the enemies, and rolled off the body he was lying on, pulling it between himself and the grenade splinters. Another deafening sound.

Stuff rained down around him. Just stuff. Smell of dust and raw steak.

* * *

The explosion was deafening, Dan felt it was almost worse than the RPG, thank fuck he had been behind cover. He'd laugh if his ears weren't ringing so loudly and if he weren't covered in fucking debris again, this time with the added pleasure of scraps of flesh and bits of bone raining around him. That Russian cunt was even better than he had thought. It would make his revenge that much better.

Dan was peering out from behind the rubble, he scanned the alley, but none of them was alive. Except for that big pile of blond arsehole over there, but he wasn't going to allow him to die. Not yet. No fucking way.

He didn't have much time, patrols would soon be there and he couldn't get caught. No Soviet soldier would buy the pretence of a reporter, not the way he looked; not in the middle of carnage.

Vadim was breathing, gathering strength for the escape. Hoping the merc would lose interest, was too wounded to give chase, and maybe, maybe, attract some positive, helpful attention. He could use backup, now. His eyes felt sore, were throbbing, and he could feel the blood run out of the corner of his mouth. He just turned the head enough so it could drip out. He didn't have enough strength to spit.

Dan came out from behind his cover, limped as fast as he could to the Russian, who sensed something draw close, a motion from the corner of his eyes. The merc was still around. Oh fuck. Vadim had tricks up his sleeve, but he was exactly one trick short. The merc shouldn't be able to walk, he thought, with misgivings. He should be just as fucked up as he was.

Dan smirked down at the bleeding mess, half-covered by the dead body of the Mujahideen. "Good." He delivered another kick, not giving a shit that his fucked knee was trying to kill him. He needed one last time the satisfaction of destroying that face, directing the force of his boot against the jaw. "You're still alive."

The force spun Vadim's head around, his neck protested, one of five hundred voices in his body, riling against what had happened and that he hadn't taken more care. The pain was blinding. He wouldn't fucking give up. He wouldn't fucking pass out. Stay there, he pleaded with himself. Stay focused. Couldn't hear a thing.

Dan turned, the sound of soldiers on patrol coming rapidly closer. Even in Kabul it wasn't a daily occurrence that grenades were thrown in the streets. He sneered, once more in Russian, "Until next time, cunt." Limping as fast as he could into the opposite direction of the patrol. Getting away, back to camp and some medic's attention. His OC would welcome the information about the insurgents.

Something hoisted Vadim up, he felt hands, and then he felt a car around him. He thought he saw Soviet uniforms, then he let his head fall back.

* * *

When the adrenaline started to wear off, Dan became rapidly aware of the real extent of the pain his body was in. Didn't matter. He had to run, getting back to camp wasn't the easiest of tasks, but he managed to find transport with some witless goat herders. Whatever they really were, he looked down on those leathery Afghanis, all goat-fuckers and dimwits to him. He couldn't give less of a shit about any of them, but then he didn't give a monkey's arse about the whole conflict, even genocide. He did what he did and he was goddamned motherfucking good at it.

To kill.

Not this time, though. Would have been too fast and damn, that Russian was good. Seemed the Soviet paras were at least as good as their own, if not better. As good as the SAS, though? Shit, that had to be seen.

He arrived back in the 'non existent' camp before the light of dawn. First a debriefing, then a medical check-up. He'd never get it the other way round unless they'd declared him dead. At least.

Dan had already had the debriefing with his direct superior, and was sitting in a plastic chair beside the operating table, just in his skivvies in the medic's tent, slightly better equipped than the rest. One arm on the table, cleaned with spirits and numbed, while the doc was suturing a cut. He'd managed to miss in the adrenaline rush that one of the explosions had cut his arm far worse than he had thought. In the other hand a bottle of whiskey, the paint-stripper kind, swigging mouthfuls while chatting away with the medic about the joys of rear action with a willing bird.

A sudden presence entered the tent while he was in the middle of describing that enormously fat arsed bitch he had fucked on his last day in Blighty. The presence coughed and stood with his brows raised. "Staff Sergeant McFadyen, I am duly impressed." The upper-class voice and demeanour of one of the most senior ranks.

Oh shit. Holy shit, but in fact, also fucking funny. At least in Dan's world.

"Sir!" He couldn't stand up but saluted with the bottle in his hand, hit his jaw instead, right at a tender spot and cursed under his breath. He was officially off duty right now, was drowning the aches and pain legitimately with booze, but the failure of proper decorum could still bust his arse. Even his. As unlikely as it was. "My apologies, Sir."

"Accepted." There seemed to be a slight hint of amusement in the cultured voice. "McFadyen, I need to talk to you."

Dan's eyes narrowed, this was a novelty. Something big and something different and something entirely suicidal. "Of course, Sir. I should be stitched up in a few minutes."

The Colonel nodded, "See me in the Captain's tent."

"Yes, Sir." Dan raised his brows and shrugged his shoulders at the doc, when the top dog had left. He didn't have a fucking clue what that one was about, but he'd find out. Best get another swig down his throat before it all became official once more. He needed action, not duties.

Several mouthfuls of cheap whiskey later, Dan's arm had been stitched up and bandaged, struggling one-handed to get back into his clothes. Not uniform, no need to, not here, not right now, no matter the decorum 'Her Majesty's Men' usually preferred. A pair of clean trousers and a polo shirt later, he turned up in the Captain's tent, where they were already waiting for him. A Colonel. He had been right. This was the big one.

"Please sit down, McFadyen." The cultured voice again, and he did as he was asked to. Not that he had an option. "You have shown considerable skills and knowledge, and we are aware that you are the most experienced personnel of the Special Forces when it comes to this kind of mountain region and, I must add, to this kind of warfare."

Dan's brows rose but he said nothing. At last, at fucking last someone was putting into words what he'd known long ago. Goddamned 'Friendly Brothers', yeah right. Those bastard Russians wouldn't know what a brother was if he fucked them right up the shitter.

Good metaphor. Not.

"I don't want to talk around it but I'm getting straight to the point. We want you to link up with the Afghan Mujahideen resistance movement inside Pakistan, and then return, if need be, to the Afghan mountains, to make an assessment of what training and material help is needed."

Dan's brows rose even higher. Surely, that was the greatest fucking lie of 'straightforwardness' he had ever heard. "Sir, with all due respect, are you saying you want me to round up Mujahideen insurgents, train them, equip them and organise them to fight against the Red Army? I assume the West is less than happy with the way the Soviets are piling into Afghanistan."

A perfect example of what no-nonsense and straight to the point really was. The Colonel nodded slowly. To his credit he didn't allow himself to be visibly taken aback. "Yes." At last to the point. "These are your new orders. McFadyen, you will be flown into Pakistan in ten days' time and in the meantime, you will stay here. Is this understood?"

Dan realised he had one chance, just one, to refuse the duty. It was asking a lot, even for someone from the SAS, but he'd be shot to hell and back if he'd rejected such a chance. "Yes, Sir. Understood." He grinned.

Just one spanner in the works, one thing that pissed him off - he'd miss his chance to destroy the fucking Russian.

He'd had part of his revenge, it would have to do.

* * *

Vadim woke up due to the absence of pain, then stared at the white wall, feeling blissfully unpained. It was still all make shift, gear hadn't all arrived yet in sufficient quantities, then again, there was not a flood of wounded or dying.

There were some guys parading around. Afghani politicians, he gathered from the way they acted as if they were still the bosses in this blighted country. Vadim got to shake a hand, mumbled something, was patted on the shoulder. Poor man had walked into an ambush. Let him rest up.

The gear people didn't like the fact that he had lost the assault rifle. He couldn't remember where it was gone, and they took it out of his 'pay'. Which meant that back home, his family would be in trouble.

One day, a medical officer showed up. "You are one lucky comrade", he said, clearly avoiding the 'bastard' or whatever he wanted to say. "Found something in your uniform."

Vadim glanced at him, tired against the afternoon light. "What? A pack of weed I go to the brig for?"

The doctor shook his head, stepped closer and dropped something onto the bed sheet. It was a lump of reddish metal, and Vadim recognized the shape.

"Human molar. This is gold." The doctor grinned like Vadim had managed to somehow rob a bank while unconscious. Teeth were flying everywhere in an explosion. They sometimes had to be peeled out of the living flesh. The thought that one dead insurgent had tried to bite him and failed even in this made Vadim laugh. "Yeah, thanks."

Fucking gold tooth. What a twisted reward. His family would freak if he sent them that.

A week later, there was a blue ribbon for the Christmas tree.

'For valour.'

Special Forces Chapter III: Hatred and Hell
Warning for Readers

The following work of fiction contains graphic homosexual interaction, violence and non-consensual sex. With this work of fiction the authors do not condone in any way any form of intolerance and injustice, e.g. racism, sexual harassment, incitement of hatred, religious hatred nor persecution, xenophobia and misogyny. Neither do the authors through this work of fiction promote violence nor make light of such grave matters as genocide, any taking of human life, murder, execution, rape, torture, persecution of sexual orientation.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby accept and agree that this is a work of fiction and does not reflect in any way the opinions of the authors. The authors do not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the fictional characters.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby indemnify the authors against all claims and actions whatsoever arising from reading the work of fiction.

All characters are fictional. Any similarities with living or deceased people are coincidental. In case of real life events, creative license has been applied. Special Forces is intellectual property of Marquesate and Vashtan. Copyright © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.


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Published 9 September 2006