Michael's first solo mission came sooner and was much bigger than he expected and he felt a little frightened. It's been two days since the group split and he was trying to stay out of sight as much as possible, because the land in London became a little too hot these days. He was using one of the Order's hideouts, an apartment much smaller than the one he was in when he was "recruited". It was small, dark, it smelled like something died here, but there were no cameras, it had a small bed and a running water. It was a home for now. There were at least three times more policemen these days, security checkpoints, random police raids et cetera. Michael successfully contacted Arthur's ID forger and now was on his way to the dead drop. By now, he was running and jumping from one roof to another like it was the most normal activity in the world, as easy as breathing.
He stopped for a moment and allowed himself to take a look at the city. The sun was setting and the whole concrete jungle was bathing in darkening orange colour. Michael had no way to know, but the pre-war Londoner probably wouldn't even recognize it if not for Thames. Most of the old dominants were either gone or run-down. Everything was. Everything, except for the government buildings. Because only the government and the Party were important. As far as they were concerned, everything else could go to hell. He turned his head to the left and there were the greatest insults of all. Four 300 meters high, pure white pyramids. The ministries. War. Torture. Lies. Starvation. Michael thought their official names weren't even doublethink anymore, they were just outright irony and sarcasm.
He frowned, disgusted and lowered his head down to the street. There was one of the security checkpoints. More like police brutality checkpoints he thought. Guards pushing people, beating the less obedient ones with batons, dragging some of them to vans. Those wouldn't be seen ever again, or they will become regulars of Chestnut tree Café. Broken shells, waiting for death. Michael didn't understand one thing. He lived in this. He saw this all, it was nothing new to him. So why didn't it ever affect him? Why didn't he really SEE this until now? He felt like he was a newcomer to this country, he felt different from those people down there, even though few months ago he would probably be one of them.
Nothing I can do for them. At least not now he thought and started running again. He felt his heart beating, roof tiles under his feet and cold air on his face. He felt alive and free. After passing several roofs, Michal was accompanied by a black cat who, ran by his side for a while, making Michael grin. Let's see if you can do this thought Michael and made an extra long jump, almost slipping from the edge of the roof. I must be an idiot, I almost killed myself because of a cat he thought, amused. He looked back. The answer if the cat could make the jump would not be answered, for the animal simply lost interest and started cleaning itself.
"Oh come on, you are no fun" he called but was ignored.
With no more fooling around, after few minutes he jumped on an old, square two storey house with a small garden that had a tree, some bushes and several benches in the middle. By now, it was already covered in shadow. He checked for cameras and when he saw none, he climbed down as quickly and quietly as he could, hearing the grass rustle under his feet, and two birds still singing on the tree. Michael smiled a little, for the first time in days. With the tree, grass, benches, flowers in windows this place felt almost idyllic to him. His old place was a small flat in an ugly concrete cube as he called in, with nothing but more of those around. This place had a soul.
Then he shaked his head. Back to business he thought. There was a small chalk mark on the bench, so the package was here. They agreed on the hour, so it isn't here for long. That's good. Putting it under the bench would still be too dangerous, considering how things were right now. The package wouldn't be far, but Michael would have to find it, that was another part of the agreement. Luckily, over these few days Michael had more than one chance to train the Eagle vision, checking pretty much every random passerby. He took a breath and felt the strange but by now already familiar pressure behind his eyes. The world went dark except for few objects, the chalk mark among them. As he turned around, he saw something in the corner, but it was covered by something.
„Oh, you got to be *one of the birds singing especially loud* kidding me" he cursed.
The package was in a corner, hidden behind a particulary thorny rose bush. Michael had no choice but to crawl there. It hurt like hell and he did it while constantly cursing silently, but he was able to pull the package out of there. He walked to the bench and sat on it for a while, deciding he deserves a little rest. He opened the package. There were all kinds of IDs with the name Oliver Daves on them.
„Oliver? Seriously what have I done to that forger..." he mumbled and continued.
He knew he had to north Africa and there probably was no other way, but it still half surprised him when one of the IDs read Private Oliver Daves and there were dog tags and name tags to sew on a uniform. There was also a letter telling him the whole uniform with boots would be too large so he has to steal it, where are the barracks and a time and place where a transport to the airport leaves from. Two days from now.
He sighed. „Great, so now I have to infiltrate the barracks, steal a uniform, get out and infiltrate a military transport AND that when the city's full of cops... Just great. „
He decided he should get there as soon as possible, it was already dark so his chance of success was probably highest now, but first to his luxurious apartment. He walked to the wall and looked at the only disgusting thing here, an omnipresent poster of the Big Brother. Michael stopped, still watching the poster, slowly raised his left arm, then his middle finger, put on a hood and started climbing. He got on the roof and looked around the dark. An occasional flashlight, nothing he couldn't avoid by now.
He really did get there without any trouble, entered through an opened window, took of his hoodie, threw in on the bed and went to the bathroom. The flat was darker than the outside and the temperature was maybe only slightly higher. In the bathroom, Michael lighted several candles around the sink. Geez, I'm such a romantic he thought sarcastically. He took a razor from a drawer and started almost shaving his head. He tried not to make himself completely bald, just a really short military cut. When he was done, he washed his face and head. When Michael took a towel ad got water out of his eyes, he raised his head, looked at himself in the mirror and to his surprise he almost didn't recognize himself. Not just his face, his eyes looked much harder and livelier. Either way, with this even just walking in the streets shouldn't be much of a problem anymore.
Michael left the place soon after, deciding not to come here again, so he took everything, including his new identity and dog tags. Not that he would miss the place too much. It took him about an hour to get to the barracks. He was walking past it, looking as innocent and uncaring as anyone else, but he was searching for possible entry points. The barracks were several buildings making a U shape around an empty concrete area lit by several lamps. One of those buildings had to be a storeroom. There was almost three meters tall wall with barbed wire around the whole place. That wasn't a way in. Wide streets around it, no way from the roofs either. There was just one gate with a guard. Soldiers were leaving, they probably had their last leave. Killing one and taking his uniform was not an option, eventually someone would find him. They would find a dead soldier without a uniform. Michael had no illusions about the army, but even they would probably figure that out, and last thing he needed was the military police searching for impostors. Just beating and robbing one would be the same, except much faster and possibly with his description. He came up with only one solution. One that would take confidence and balls of steel.
Well, I didn't want to live long anyway he thought and walked right to the gate. His heart was beating so loud he was sure the guard can hear it. He took the dog tags from under his shirt, showed them to the guard and without a word walked past him.
Michael froze. He prepared to run but he knew he would be dead before he took the first step. He imagined the guard was probably aiming at his back right now.
"Don't let an officer see you like this, mate, or you will be neck deep in sh*t, ok?"
Michal was barely able to nod. He couldn't believe it really worked but somehow it did, even though he probably just cut about ten years from his lifespan. Still wondering how he got in here alive, he tried to stay in the shadows and soon he found the place. Locked, of course.
Michael looked around, there was no one around, the patrolling guards were on the other end of the place. Luckily, one of the things Arthur taught him was picking locks, but he was still just a newbie. It took almost four minutes and lot of silent and internal cursing until he heard the *click* and he got inside. He was in a big dark room with a lot of high shelves and a long counter in front of them. Michael jumped over it and started searching for what he needed, which wasn't easy in the darkness, especially finding the right sizes. When he finally put on the jacket, the door opened and he was blinded by a light from a guard's flashlight.
"Stay where you are! Hands where I can see them!" shouted the voice behind the light. Michael had no choice but to do as he was ordered.
"Come here. Slowly". The hidden blade and weapons were in Michael's bag, lying on the ground so he had no way to get to it. He slowly climbed over the counter and went to the guard.
"Calm down, it's okay mate" tried Michael to calm him down.
"Shut up, whoever you are, you're going to the major. Get moving, bastard, and no funny business".
Michael was walking past him with the guard aiming on him. The assassin newbie moved, disappearing from the light. He pushed the guard's rifle to the side. A shot came out. Right hook to the guard's face. He returned the favour with hitting Michael's side with his stock. The assassin stumbled but returned to the fight. He managed to kick the guard under the knee. Left straight to the kneeling guard's face and the soldier is on the ground, groaning. But in that moment, five more barge inside. Well, more like four men and a giant. They eyes wander from the soldier on the ground to Michael and back. No words except on of soldier's "shit". Michael takes a quick, deep breath and throws himself among them. There's no shooting now, they wouldn't risk shooting each other by accident. Michael tries moving between them, almost like some form of fast, painful dance. He hits and he gets hit, but after few minutes, there are four new bodies on the ground and only battered Michael and the giant others called Frank are standing. Michal was much slower now and his whole body hurt but he hoped Frank's condition is worse. He threw a punch. Frank managed to caught his wrist and headbutted him. It was night but Michael's world just got a lot darker and it wasn't about to get better. Frank didn't let go of Michael's wrist and instead kept punching the still shaken assassin.
Michael barely saw the giant's fist coming. It was coming closer and closer and suddenly he was tied to a chair in some office, had blood in his mouth and he wasn't sure, but it felt like he lost a tooth. A slap to the face brought him to full consciousness. It came from a tall man with round glasses and a military haircut and a uniform with insignia of a major and name tag "Townsend".
He grabbed his face and looked at him closely. "Who are you, scum?"
Michael somehow managed to remember. "Private Oliver Da...Daves... sir".
Another slap to this face, this time with the file he brought with him. "You mean this? I asked who are you and what were you doing at my base. I should just dispose of you, you know?"
I need to make something up, now, this is bad bad bad.
"That would be bad... sir" he mumbled.
Major sat behind his table, looking amused. "Oh, is that a threat? What will you do, entertain me, please"
"I... won't do anything..."
This just can't work
"...but those who sent me... that's a different story" said Michael, trying to look confident.
The officer got a serious look. "And who... no, that's bullshit, you're just making it up"
"This stays between you and me, major" said Michael.
"I was ordered to infiltrate and monitor your unit and send reports from Africa"
"I'll admit I'm new and this was an amateurish attempt, but it will be bad if you as you said disposed of me. Or you can call somewhere, reveal something you're not supposed to know, see what happens".
Michael could almost see the process of major's realisation that he had no other choice. He was frowning and grinding his teeth. Finally, he got up and angrily punched a wall.
"They just do what they want, don't they? Someone just randomly decided to... " he took a deep breath. "Do you have any sort of military experience? I don't want you to stick out".
"No sir, I don't. But I think just knocked out five of your men".
"That you did, bastard... I will make it look like a last minute transfer and speak to those six. They are at the infirmary but you need it too. So you will wait here". With that he left Michael. A guard entered, major Townsend whispered something to him and left. The guard just stood behind Michael by the door and didn't say anything.
Honestly, Michael knew he was just lucky tonight, but for now, he didn't really care.
Major Townsend returned after about twenty minutes together with a medic. He reluctantly untied Michael who stretched his arms. There wasn't much the medic could do except cleaning the wounds and giving him cool gel pack and some painkillers.
Two days later when he was leaving with the unit, it didn't really seem like the six talked with anyone, because everyone was treating just as they were supposed to. He jumped from the truck among the last and he saw a giant cargo plane with lowered back ramp. There were tanks, trucks and cars just driving inside and it didn't seem like it was going to get full anytime soon. When he boarded, there were long rows of seats on each side of the plane, now more than eighty percent were occupied. The soldiers were trying to talk to each other over the roar of motors and shouts of officers. Michael took a seat on the left side of the plane, near the cockpit. After a minute, someone was shaking his shoulder.
The soldier had to shout like everyone else. He was younger than Michael, barely eighteen it seemed.
"Hey! I'm Marty! Marty Spencer!" he put his right hand to Michael.
"Daves! Oliver!" shouted Michael back and shaked the hand. They started talking and barely noticed when the plane took off.
The morning after the separation, James, The Chestnut Café
As much as James tried to just fit in, he looked like an apex among these people. He just tried to sip his tea, ignore them and pretend to be interested in all the bullshit coming from the telescreen. None of them really watched this place, it was well known, which made it perfect to meet his contact. It was a dock worker who showed up about forty minutes after James. The moment James saw him, he left money on the counter and was more than happy to leave this depressing place, trying his hardest not to slap a man in his forties loudly cheering at the latest "victory of Oceania".
He got to a car with the worker.
"Glad you could make it. So, can I trust this man?"
"I hope so, it's my uncle".
James laughed. "Where did you live your whole life? It could be your own damn father and he still could be a rat."
The worker sighed. "Sad but true. But I trust him. He hates the Party as much as you do".
"Oh, there are a reflexive vest and a hardhat in the back, took them". James did as he was told.
It took almost five hours to get to Liverpool, by then their faces were already known and the searching begun, but it didn't bother James because he was about to leave.
The car got to the gate to the area where only employees are allowed. The man by the gate leaned in the window on the worker's side and he showed his ID.
"And he?" he asked and motioned to James.
"He's new, I will take him to the boss" lied the worker.
"OK" was only thing the man said and opened the gate.
"The boat is in 22D, my uncle's name is Tom Walsh. Trust me, he's a good man"
James soon found out for himself, Tom seemed like a good man, if a little crazy sometimes. They got on the way across the Irish sea. Tom had a small fishing boat, there were nets everywhere and the boat swayed from side to side, making James a little dizzy, but he tried to hide it. They got together really well, Tom called James "stripper" (Airstrip One), which James hated and called Tom "islander" which pretty much every Irish hated. Yeah, they got together really well.
After few hours, James could finally see Ireland. When they got to the Dublin port, Tom took care of the ship while James waited on the pier and looked at the sea.
"Come on stripper, you have to meet others, you can look at the water some other time!" shouted Tom from behind.
"Yeah yeah, coming..." said James and took a one last look to where his home was before he followed the old fisherman.
They went to a small underground inn near the port, "Walsh's". James raised an eyebrow when he saw the sign. "It's yours?"
"Nah, it's Danny's, he's my son".
There weren't many people inside, except for Danny, a man in his thirties behind a bar and few people drinking in the corner, smoking and playing cards. That little light that was coming from the outside made the smoke more visible.
"Hey dad, glad to see you. Who's that?"
"A stripper" answered Tom immediately and left through the doors behind Danny.
Awkward silence was broken by Danny. "You better keep your clothes on, stranger" he grinned.
"I see the sense of humor runs in the family" noted James, making Danny broke from grin to laughter. Then Tom returned
"Where are Sean and the others?"
"I don't know, they have their own lives" shrugged Danny
"Get them, we can finally continue".
Danny froze. "You mean... because of him?" he motioned his head to James.
"What's happening?" asked James, puzzled.
"A dream of our ancestors is happening my friend. A liberation of Ireland. And you will help" said Tom and left.
The day of separation, Lisa and Arthur, north of London
They were driving through the countryside, passing villages, small cities, fields and forests. It was still little foggy from the morning. After about two hours, Arthur took a left turn from the main road and drove to a small farm. They passed several horses and fields with tractors before they got to the main building.
"I never was here" noted Lisa.
"Of course not, there was no need for you to" simply answered Arthur. "This is one of our bases, one of the biggest, and right now, the Order's main person of interest is here too."
"Who is it?"
"Oh, you will see soon enough" said Arthur as he parked the car. A they got out, a woman around Arthur's age made her way to them, smiling.
"Arthur, it's good to see you" she said and hugged him.
"I can say the same, Mary" replied now smiling Arthur.
"Lisa, is that you?" Mary asked when she let go of Arthur. "Oh my, girl, last time I saw you you were this small" she said laughing and showed the height, making Lisa blush.
"And what brings you here, Arthur?" Mary asked as they all walked inside.
"Nothing good, Mary, we were forced to leave and we have some bad news the leaders need to know. Can we see them now?"
"I think they are all downstairs" said Mary and Arthur with Lisa started walking that way. Mary caught Arthur's arm. "Arthur, what's going on?" she looked worried.
"They found the Apple and are conducting experiments". Mary let go of his arm and the look on her face told Arthur she understands how bad it is.
Arthur and Lisa got to the basement. There were guarded wooden doors. Arthur quietly asked the guard to go ask if they can enter. After the few seconds, the assassin let them in. There was a large table with many different maps, plans and documents on it. Around it were many different people, men and women of different age, from a young man maybe younger than Lisa to an elder lady. Behind her was a man with a moustache and a patch over right eye. He looked like her bodyguard. Even just his posture told Lisa he was a skilled fighter with experience.
It Arthur took about half an hour to explain everything, Lisa was mostly silent and only talked when asked. When they were dismissed, the went to get something to eat. They sat across each other and talked.
"... and that man with eye patch looked really dangerous"
"Yeah, Richards IS dangerous, but I thought you would be more interested in the woman he was guarding, considering, she is one of the most wanted people in this country" said Arthur, watching Lisa's reaction.
"Really, who is she?" said Lisa, taking a bite.
"The only survivor of the Buckingham palace massacre, Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II" said Arthur, amused by a sight of Lisa choking on food. In the end, he took mercy on her and hit her back few times.
"H-How? I thought they all died?"
"Almost. When general Anderson betrayed his country and opened the gate, my father personally got her out of there. Too bad he couldn't take anyone else. Anyway, she's with the Order ever since, moving all the time, she doesn't stay on one place for more than few days.
After few minutes, they only received a message telling them to stay here and wait for further orders.