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Ties That Bind - Carpathian Mountains
Routine.  It could be a comfort or a killer, depending on the person or circumstance for sure.  Order, chaos, time, purpose...these were all necessities in the wild world of rambling and things to contemplate as one is held captive by the decision of Fate.  Death.  What was death?  Nothingness?  Life then was what, the opposite?  And who had the answers?  Why wouldn’t they share?  Selfishness?  An old pact, ancient and secret?  What the hell was the point of it all?

The message was like all the others, nothing had been different.  Copy and paste.  They called and Nika, their weapon, dutifully answered.  Like she always had.  The drop was set in dense forest.  Romania or Ukraine?  The mountains and woods presented a rolling terrain welcomed for the challenge it offered and already she had crossed and recrossed the old borders so many times she’d stopped glancing at the HUD to see which country she occupied.  Old-growth trees grew up rather than out, no doubt compensating for their thick numbers, toward a sun that seemed farther away somehow.  It would get darker quicker here which wasn’t a problem really, just food for thought.  The length of the hike wasn’t abnormal either, especially for the times.  Gliding into this mess had been impossible for a couple of reasons.  Clearly the trees would have none of it and then her bosses were a paranoid bunch.  The exact location of the drop was only revealed by proximity.  As in you had to just fucking find it.  Sometimes that was rather maddening.  Whatever it was she was supposed to retrieve though had to be at least marginally portable as she was already two hours into this hike.  That put it in the middle range of the goody drops on the all-time list.  So, not bad.  Yet.

The micro drones cast a net around her.  Eyes and ears.  Still she used her own senses, only glancing at the HUD if something interesting popped up.  Which nothing did and that was great.  Time was passed singing to herself, mostly old cartoony songs from the stuff her parents had watched as kids and she was able to tuck her love interest neatly into a corner.  That Liv was there at all was significant.  A brief picture in minds-eye drew a dimpled smile.

Thirty minutes later saw a slight opening in the trees.  A squat camouflage polymer case beckoned.  Nika took a knee and the code she was given parted the lid.  There was a small hard-shelled pack, which she slung onto her back, no questions asked.  Why would she?  It wasn’t the first time.  She clicked the chest strap closed with one hand and reached for a box of what she assumed were the latest anti-evil darts.  Please and thank you.

The explosion, small and focused, caught her unaware.  Despite dampers and the armor of her helmet and face shield, the flare from the surgical blast did it’s job.  Nika staggered backward at the force of the concussion and fought to regain her footing.  A sustained ring drowned out all other sound and time.  The flash had birthed a million suns flaring bright yellow and blinding white before fading to black again.  She felt her boots on the rough ground as she backed away from the case.  One step, two.  Then the surface was smooth.  Made.  She reached out.  Where the forest air should be, was, only moments before.  Her gloved fingers touched glass and the world exploded into light.

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