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Mishiida Alexander

Stalking Shadows

“Truth always hurts, for it is lies which are meant to please.”

Chapter Five: Hired guns

Truth is always as stingy as slander, but the two can be no closer in intent than the two geographic poles of the Earth. Slander is borne either out of malice or hatred, and its’ only intention is to hurt the one abused. It seldom reflects any truth about the affected party, and when it does, it is never intended to induce a positive action on part of the victim, to effect an improvement in their situation. Truth on the contrary hurts because it forces the targeted to reflect upon their failings, something they have conveniently pushed aside so it doesn’t glare in the face. Truth is always intended to motivate a positive action from the individual that would set right what ails at the time. A critic with an honest heart would in fact go a step further, and provide both the reasons as well as solutions to the anomaly. Taking the truth with a pinch of salt and putting one’s head down to fix the issue is the only path worth treading along thereon.

Lies on the contrary, they flatter to deceive, for that’s what the intent is. Lavish praise sounds amazing for it pumps the ego, but does it ever point out itself, or motivate an individual to reflect upon their shortcomings? Lies are designed to please for the speaker might have an agenda to push under the listener’s nose. Lies not only leave their audience deceived in the end, but also disadvantageous when they fail to see through the designs of those with malefic intentions.

But living in a world where words lie and actions deceive, it is inaction which exposes the true intentions of a person. Take the example of Colonel Rick for instance; the eagerness with which he sought to safeguard Alexander and Mishiida, then Alexander’s parents, it underscores the love and regard he holds for them in his heart. His actions speak on behalf of his heart. When you love someone, you are the first to act in their favour, and also the first to reprimand when the loved ones err. And those who are good at heart, they are good for everyone. No wonder Rick is worried about Carl’s safety as he desperately clings to his phone waiting for a response from the other end.

“What’s happening there Carl, answer me,” Rick repeats himself for the umpteenth time.

“Just a hobo sir,” Carl’s response reassures everyone, “Too drunk to speak.”

“Be careful son,” Rick quips, “Alright, I’ll see you in the morning then.” And Rick turns to Alexander and instructs him, “Keep going straight until I tell you where to turn.”

“But where are we heading to,” Alex asks.

“You will know once we get there,” Rick however doesn’t seem keen in divulging the details, “Take your next left and keep driving until you get to an old shack down the road. We are leaving your caravan and devices there.” He then turns to Mr and Mrs Rai, and pulls out a very old model mobile phone, “Here’s your new phone for the next few days Mr and Mrs Rai.”

“That piece of crap,” Alex gives it a passing glance as he concentrates on the road, and is clearly not impressed with its’ aesthetics, “Even the cave man had an advanced set! Why don’t we just leave my mobile with them?”

“This mobile does not have a GPS technology, hence not traceable outside the network service provider,” Rick answers his reservations, “And the network this one works on is defence operated, hence immune to breach.”

“What makes you think my mobile is being traced,” Alex’s concern reflects in the tone of his voice.

“It might not be, but we don’t have time to inspect just now, and I don’t want to take any chances,” Rick replies, “We don’t know the enemy yet, we haven’t established his motives, modus-operandi, or even a pattern in his behaviour. Hence precautions have to be our first line of defence.” Rick’s face then turns grim as he comments, “I just hope Corbett will get Hayley out of harm’s way quickly.”

And indeed it is time to check up on our beloved Hayley and what she’s up to. The last we overheard her conversation with Corbett, she was gently reminding him that they have a wedding scheduled to be solemnised in under a week’s time, one she expects to proceed smoothly and in line with the original schedule. Corbett is under threat of losing his only functional eye, and intestine if anything un-expected happens. The next conversation, he was clearly told, would be after the official kiss to the bride. Perhaps we should check up on her in her hospital, where she is on the night shifts at the moment. Should we go in as patients or sneakers? Well, sneakers might be a better option.

“How are you doing tonight Mr Phil,” Hayley is doing the rounds, checking up on her patients in a ward on the second floor of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We sneak up right behind her just as her mobile phone buzzes once again. She smiles at her patient, puts her hand in her overcoat pocket, pulls out her phone, looks at Corbett’s name on the screen, and disconnects it.

“Could you please draw the curtains for me?” the elderly patient under Hayley’s care, Mr Phil requests her, “The early morning light wakes me up when I don’t want to.”

“Sure Mr Phil,” Hayley nods her head as she quickly moves to the window to draw the curtains. Something however catches her eye as she strains her eyes to look out in the dark. We quickly rush to the window and look outside, but notice nothing suspicious in the surrounds. Hayley shakes her head and draws the curtain. She steps away from the window just as a nurse walks in.

“Good evening Doctor,” the nurse greets her.

“Evening Margaret, please take special care of Mr Phil tonight, for he will be discharged in the morning,” Hayley replies as she turns around and flasher her magical smile at the patient.

“I’m telling you, you shouldn’t have fixed me up,” and emotions overcome Mr Phil, “Now I will suffer everyday thinking of you. My daughter looked just like you I swear; same eyes, same smile. I wish someone could give me one more day with her. I swear I won’t let her get out of my sight.”

“Now you don’t be silly,” even Hayley couldn’t hold back her tears, “If you say I’m like your daughter, then listen to me. Stop crying this very moment.” At this point Hayley’s mobile phone beeps again. She pulls it out and excuses herself, “Now if you just excuse me for a minute, I’ll come back later at night to have a look at you.” She gently presses Mr Phil’s week hand and turns around to walk out of the room. We follow her every footstep as she reads the text message she just received from Corbett. The message however is scaringly bold, “Your life is in danger Hayley. Please call me immediately. I need to get you out of their!”

“Nice try, but guess what, you lose,” Hayley however takes the issue as a joke, and much to our concern, puts the phone away in her pocket again.

The phone rings and she nonchalantly pulls it out and disconnects it again, and continues her walk down the corridor. No sooner does she open the door of the next room in the dormitory, a painful shriek tears apart the comforting silence of the ward. It’s come from Mr Phil’s room, and is Margaret’s voice. As Hayley and us turn around startled, the door to Mr Phil’s room is smashed out of its’ hinges and flung into the corridor, with Margaret’s body crashing out alongside. In a flash ward boys, attendants, nurses, doctors and patients from other rooms rush out as Hayley looks on horrified and motionless. We immediately rush to Mr Phil’s room, only to find a lifeless Mr Phil lying on the floor, and the window smashed open. We rush to the window to see outside, but its’ too late. The assailant seems to have made good his escape from the second floor ward, and into the darkness of the night. We rush back into the corridor where some staff is already busy trying to revive the lifeless nurse. We look at Hayley who has been left completely shaken by the incident. She fumbles with her mobile as she dials her fiancé with a trembling pair of hands.

“Hello Booboo,” her voice is barely audible as she whispers to Corbett as soon as he answers the call, “She’s dead! They’ve killed her!”

“Who’s killed whom? Are you alright first?” Corbett’s concerned voice booms from the other end, “I am just about there, not even a minute away. Stay where you are, preferable with a crowd. I’ll be there in like two seconds.”

Sometimes one wonders what worth is a life within a community where individuals are just a number amongst the crowd; unnamed ordinary persons. But then most individuals never strive to be counted out of the crowd. Most are content with being a number as long as the one known by their name works for everyone’s benefit. Community welfare is a hobby for some, an adventure for others, and a break from monotonous life for many more, but it’s a passion only for a rare soul or two. And it is these who make community welfare their soul’s mission, who leave a lasting imprint on the psyche of public. Those who wish to be remembered as the greatest by history, their actions and deeds have to be amongst the greatest too. Nothing ordinary will suffice!

As soon as the investigators leave Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Corbett is on road again, this time his lady love around his arms though, who’s seeking soothing softness of emotions as she rests her head on one of the hardest shoulders in town. Corbett’s four wheel drive has suddenly developed a flying gear in the gear box. Where we are headed to is still a mystery for all Rick said on the telephone was to “bring the princess down-town Paringa.” Not surprisingly, we find ourselves being taken for a ride along the same road that we left Alex’s caravan on. This time we will go all the distance though.

“You see that humble shack over there on the side of the road,” Corbett kisses Hayley on her head and asks while stroking her hair with one hand, while he continues driving with his other, “That’s military’s secret electronic surveillance and espionage centre. Much of the facility is underground. We are going to replace all our electronic devices with standbys provided by them, as well as swap our vehicle here.”

“Why?” Hayley exclaims in shock as she lifts her head from his shoulder for the first time in nearly an hour, “You are scaring me now! Is this that serious?”

“I don’t know love, but I assume it is, else there would have been no reason for Colonel Rick Roxon to pick Downtown Paringa,” Corbett responds grimly, “And changing gear and wheels heading out to Downtown Paringa is the written protocol explicitly followed to its’ tiniest detail.”

“They won’t ask me to change my clothes will they?” Hayley innocently asks.

“They will scan them for any electronic devices, and if all’s clear, then no,” Corbett answers her query as we hold on to our clothes for our dear lives. It’s good we are the fourth witnesses after three dimensions, hence not subject to humiliation except by ourselves. But for now we enjoy the discomfiture of Hayley as she’s subjected to all the scanning procedures, before being handed a mobile phone the size of a brick, in place of her regular slim-line gadget.

The minutes might be flying by as if going on a holiday to Bahamas, but a hard day’s work is clearly visible in the reddening eyes of Corbett. He has seen and done a lot in one day, but to earn his rest he needs to rush across a few more kilometres of the bush, and get us all to a place we only know so far as Downtown Paringa. But as long as we get an air-conditioned bedroom, we won’t mind stretching ourselves a bit, will we?

“That’s Downtown Paringa,” Corbett informs us all, pointing towards an open stretch of bush with no signs of a thatched hut, leave alone a downtown. Perhaps the long day has finally taken a toll on his brain we suspect!

Hayley looks around rolling her neck like an owl, stressing her vision to spot a thing before finally giving up like us, “I see nothing!”

“It’s underground,” Corbett replies and then pushes a button on the dashboard of the vehicle we have been travelling in for the last half an hour since we left that espionage centre. A small tray pops out with a wireless set sitting on it. “This is Private Captain Alistair Corbett calling Downtown Paringa,” he speaks out loud while holding a button on the wireless set, “I am arriving under direct instructions from Colonel Roxon, and have company.”

“We are expecting you Private Captain, please proceed,” a voice from the other end replies, as a few hundred meters in front of our vehicle, two lights lit up out of the ground. As our vehicle approaches the lights, we realize the lights mark the passage to the underground facility.

Corbett makes quick work of parking the vehicle, and the two cuckoos retire for the night, with Corbett comforting his still terrified love. And to think of it, we can certainly kill time watching this old romantic comedy on the television right now. That sofa in the mess area looks really comfy. Oh well, why not?

“Good morning Sir,” Alex voice wakes us up as he addresses Colonel Rick who is sitting on the table right next to the couch we fell asleep on watching that boring flick.

“Good morning Alex, where’s Mishiida?” Rick asks him as we get up to make ourselves a cup of coffee with that joke of a coffee machine in the corner.

“Women Sir,” Alex responds like a man married twice over a fifty year period.

“Which women?” and Mishiida’s artificial voice asks him from behind. It’s good the replacement gadget she’s been provided by the espionage centre uses the same voice sample.

“No women!” Alex is petrified in an instant, “I was just using the word as a metaphor.”

“Sure,” Mishiida types in the word quickly as she steps right next to Alex and puts her forehead on his, staring hard into his eyes.

“Colonel was asking about you,” Alex tries to divert the conversation.

“Good morning Sir,” Corbett too seems to have woken up early, in spite of his long previous day.

“How’s Hayley doing?” Rick asks him straight away.

“Still shaken,” Corbett replies, “Asleep right now! Should I wake her up?”

“Booboo, are you here,” and to everyone’s surprise Hayley walks into the mess rubbing her eyes.

“Booboo,” Alex chuckles and Rick gives him a glare.

The bliss however is broken by a sudden harsh beeping sound and everyone looks around to see what’s gone off. A grunt from Mishiida points out the source as everyone turns around and looks at her. Mishiida however appears as if she’s been stunned. She lifts her wrist bearing her famed band, and starts fiddling with the device. Her frustrated grunts quickly rise in volume.

“What happened?” Alex is immediately concerned too and steps next to her, putting his arm around her trying to comfort her. She finally flings her hands away in dismay and gives out a loud yell. Glass shatters!

“What’s the matter?” Rick jumps on to his feet.

Mishiida quickly starts typing in her communication gadget, “Get me to my craft, quick. They have found it, and are sabotaging it.”

“Who’s found your craft, and where is your craft?” Rick asks.

“Her craft is buried just outside my hometown,” Alex replies, “About an hour from here.”

Mishiida quickly types in her gadget, “I don’t know who they are, but they are destroying my craft. Get me there quick!”

“Everybody move,” Rick exclaims, “Hayley, you stay here with Mr and Mrs Rai though.”

“No, I’m coming with you,” Hayley however insists.

Given the time at disposal, reasoning is not an option. No words are wasted and everybody rushes to the parking bay, and hops into one of the vehicles. One hour appears to be too long a time when a road vehicle can be made to fly. And it can be made to fly because of the sirens and flashing lights it is equipped with. We too are hanging in there, squeezed together in the back.

“But why did you two leave her craft unattended?” Rick asks out of frustration.

“It was safely buried by her,” Alex explains.

“Safely buried,” Rick laments, “Such a marvellous piece of engineering safely buried in the desert!”

“We were trying to save fuel,” Alex reasons, “You know it runs on Uranium, right?”

“Well, fair enough,” Rick shakes his head, not sure how to contradict the reasoning.

But with every passing minute Mishiida seems to be getting more and more impatient. “Relax! I’m here with you,” Alexander comforts her, holding her hand tightly in his. Mishiida grabs his hand in both her hands, but inadvertently squeezes it hard. The pain makes Alexander’s face go read, but he doesn’t let out a whimper, lest his girl would feel uncomfortable.

Corbett literally flies everyone to the site in no time, but as it turns out, it is still beyond time. The once safely buried craft now lies scrapped like a tin box in the open. Mishiida expectedly lets out a shriek, but mutes it to save damage to the vehicle everyone is in. She jumps out of the vehicle and rushes towards her craft. Rick and everybody else follow her as well. She turns around and stops everyone in their brakes. She motions with her hands for everyone to stay there.

“Let me come with you,” Rick requests her to which she reluctantly nods.

“Can I come too,” Alex asks hesitatingly, and she immediately folds her hand and shakes her head in negative. She and Rick then proceed into her craft while the other three wait outside.

“Why didn’t she let you come in?” Corbett asks him, not hiding his surprise.

“You see that big crater? There used to be a dilapidated house over there,” Alex replies pointing to a big crater a few hundred meters in front of the spot where the craft was buried, “It was really cold that night, so I turned what looked like a temperature control knob for the air-conditioning, all the way up from blue to red. There was a button next to it with a symbol that looked like power. Well, things happen not always as you want them to!”

“Oh! Great!” and Corbett nods, imitating an impressed expression. We shake our heads and decide to look inside the craft.

Mishiida’s agony is beyond limits as she frantically checks the smashed interiors of her craft. Not only has her craft been completely lost, she seems to be interested in finding something else, which appears to have gone missing.

“What are you looking for?” Rick asks her as she searches every nook and corner of her craft frantically. She finally gives up in despair, collapsing to her knees. Rick steps up to her and puts his hand on her head, trying to console her, “Hey girl, don’t worry! We all are here with you. We will find your criminals and help you get your justice before we get ours!” Mishiida, breathing heavily, finally raises her head. Her eyes then fall on something, and she quickly springs to her feet. She notices a small device with a unique symbol sticking to the side of a seat in the cockpit. She immediately removes the symbol from the device, looks at it, turns around and grabs Colonel’s hand, and without saying a word makes a dash for the exit, almost dragging Rick along. There seems to be no time for communication by sound as she jumps out of the craft, yells out to everyone, and points in the direction of the crater.

“What happened?” Alex asks stupefied.

“Don’t ask, run,” Corbett exclaims as he grabs Hayley’s hand in one hand, and Alex’s hand in the other. He nearly drags both of them.

The five of them make it to the crater almost at the same time, and barely have they jumped in and fallen flat like us, Mishiida’s craft blows up into bits and pieces.

The chaos over, Mishiida finally gets up and walks out of the crater, looks up at the sky and gives out a loud yell.

Rick walks up to her and asks her, “Who are they?”

Mishiida gathers herself and grabs her communication device, “They are assassins!”

“Assassins,” Corbett is as shocked as everybody else, “But why are they taking a revenge on us?”

“They don’t work for revenge,” Mishiida replies using her device, “They don’t have loyalties!”

“But then who will send assassins after us, or you?” Rick asks surprised.

“I don’t know,” Mishiida replies, “But you have only two weeks to get them. After that I will not be able to help you.” And Mishiida gets up and walks away dejected.

“What does she mean she can’t help us after that?” Rick asks Alex.

“I don’t know,” Alex replies shaking his head and adds, “yet.”

“Then go find out,” Rick tells him. Alex nods his head and walks up to Mishiida to comfort her. She collapses into his arms and starts crying.

“But how did they find out her craft’s location?” Corbett asks Rick, but before Rick can reply, his phone ring goes off.

“Sir, we found a strange looking object in Alexander’s phone,” the voice at the other end informs Rick, “Doesn’t look anything like human technology.”

“I think I know how,” Rick looks at Corbett and replies to his question, and then adds, “What I don’t know yet is; how many of these assassins are we dealing with?”


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