The guard glanced down, carefully placing the rugged soles of his combat boots so that he avoided making a sound. The tightly-laced leather footgear fit him snugly, especially the right one—he kept a blade hidden there.
He was young, but he was trained and confident, an efficient killer. His hard lean body vibrated with violence and testosterone; it oozed out in his sweat and soaked into his tight-fitting clothing.
The boy’s cold dark eyes glittered as he squinted and scanned the underbrush around him. Black tactical gloves tightly gripped his modified AK-47, ready to spring to action at the slightest alert and spit swift burning death.
He was prepared to do it. He was paid to guard, not to question what he was guarding or why. He was there to kill anyone he saw. It was a job he was good at—a job he enjoyed.
He was twenty-three and just under six feet tall. He kept his russet hair short for strategic purposes; long hair gives opponents a grip during hand-to-hand combat. He flexed his muscular legs, encased in black military-grade cargo pants; above, a skin-tight black compression t-shirt camouflaged his broad chest
The young merc was very familiar with hand-to-hand combat—he’d already had the experience of killing a man and watching him die, kicking, in his arms. He enjoyed it—it got him hard. He knew he’d found his place in life. He loved killing, and he loved getting paid to do it.
So here he was, peering into the woods for intruders—and desperately hoping to find some. He didn’t know what behind him was so important or who was supposed to be coming to jeopardize it; it didn’t really matter. He was getting paid good money and he had the chance to take a life.
Cold and arrogant, the hard young merc’s cruel eyes glinted as they attempted to pierce the shadows. Half-hard at the thought of killing, he really wanted someone to be there.
Someone was there, but not the someone the guard wanted.
Mac was so close to the young hardman he didn’t need the night vision goggles anymore; in fact, he could almost reach out and touch the punk. The gun was that only reason he didn’t—at the moment, it directly (if unknowingly) at Mac, crouched deep in the underbrush a yard away. So he paused. This kid was young, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous.
Slipping his hand down his own thick, muscled leg, Mac gripped the hilt of the Ka-bar combat knife hidden in his boot sheath. He silently withdrew seven inches of razor-sharp carbon steel, darkened so it wouldn’t reflect any surrounding light, not that that was a problem in this situation. Mac could see his target, but just barely. It was enough, though—enough for him to see the kid turn slightly to the side.
Mac’s body, taut and hard with well-trained muscle, was a killing machine; it sprang onto action as if a switch had been flipped. In the blink of an eye, death came to the young mercenary—swift, brutal agonizing death, but not so swift that the hardman wasn’t aware of what was happening.
He heard Mac first, of course, as the professional killer launched himself from the underbrush, and pivoted to face the attack. He wasn’t fast enough—a sudden blow from behind knocked the gun out his hands; at the same moment a gloved hand was clamped across his mouth, the fingers digging in mercilessly as the powerful hand clench tightly.
The merc was stunned by the lighting attack; the overconfident punk had thought himself equal to anyone. He needed to shift his weight, if he could grab this fucker’s arms and tuck under just right, he could throw the dude…
Then Mac yanked his head back and pressed the blade against the boy’s throat. The hardman, young, but experienced, had just enough time to realize what he was feeling when the older, stronger—better—killer began cutting his throat.
Even with a sharp blade, it took Mac a few second to saw through the punk’s windpipe. The flesh itself parted easily, but the trachea was tough and rubbery; Mac was forced to tighten his grip on the unfortunate merc’s face to vise-like intensity. He cut through the thick tube of cartilage as the youthful hardman’s muffled squeals increased in pitch and intensity before subsiding into a desperate, wheezing gurgle as the esophagus was penetrated.
Mac kept up the agonizing, inexorable pressure, his fingers brutally clutching the dying kid’s face, until he’d slashed the boy’s throat open practically to the spine. Then the ruthless killer planted the thick sole of his utility boot on the kid’s ass and shoved him forward. As the dying merc stumbled forward and fell to his knees, the silent specter of death slipped back into the darkness.
The guard’s hands flailed desperately at his torn-out throat, fingers clawing at the horrific wound. Things were going gray and cold; the vicious punk had done this to enough men to know what was happening—he was bleeding out. Some dark corner of his mind, as it faded to black, wondered if his assailant had had a hardon…
As the thought crossed his panicked mind, the young merc lost control of his bladder. As hot piss flowed down his legs into his boots, he voided his bowels helplessly, the earthy stench of bodily waste mixing with the hot coppery smell of blood on the cool night air.
Then the icy nothingness stole in and the kid flopped forward. He died alone in the dark, spending his last few seconds on earth drowning agonizingly in his own blood, his face planted in the mud.
Frank wondered what Joey was doing. He wasn’t worried about the boy; the kid was a professional and could take care of himself. He’d known that from the moment he’d seen the kid’s cold, soulless eyes.
Frank’s face was colder and more soulless. He was thirty-eight and had been a hired mercenary since he’d left the Marines fifteen years ago. He knew that Joey could handle himself because he was good judge of men—how hard they were and how tough they’d be to kill. Joey had reminded Frank of himself at that age—young, hard, and full of hormones that drove a bloodlust. Joey got off on killing, Frank had realized, just as much as Frank did himself.
The experienced hardman had smirked at Joey’s tactical gear, though—it was the mark of an amateur. Frank himself had dressed his strong, sinewy body in more casual clothing—tight jeans tucked into a pair of plain black leather combat boots. A dark t-shirt under a brown leather jacket completed the ensemble, along with a gray knit cap over his short brown hair.
He was armed as well, holding his AK-47 up and at the ready. From a thick black leather belt around his waist hung a twelve-inch scabbard containing a massive hunting knife. Peering into the underbrush, Frank was caught up for a moment in a gliding beam of moonlight that glinted from his cold green eyes and darkened the shadows on his lean, hard face. His grim, tight-lipped visage was an archetype for a hardened killer.
And he had no idea that within five minutes, he’d be nothing but mangled, quivering meat, cooling on the forest floor.
The attack was swift, silent, and brutal. Mac had approached within five feet of the guard, letting the man pass by him before springing out from behind.
Frank was taken by surprise, in more ways than one. He’d been sure enough of his own skill that he’d neglected some basic precautions—a final lucid moment of regret for is arrogance that flashed across his mind as a powerful arm wrapped around his throat and yanked him backwards, off-balance.
Frank knew the move; he knew what to expect—he just wasn’t fast enough to stop it. The muscles in the small of his back tightened—a useless move. His fall was broken, as he expected it would be, by the razor-sharp tip of a blade that pierced his leather jacket like it was wet paper.
Before Frank could react, nine inches of sharp icy steel had penetrated his back just below the ribcage, the serrated edge of the blade slashing effortlessly through the merc’s flesh, muscles and organs with only the slightest change of resistance to indicate the type of tissue it was cutting through.
Not that anyone needed to be told. Mac knew he was slicing through the hardman’s kidney and spleen because that was where he was aiming.
And Frank knew, because he could feel every inch of it. Just to be sure, though—and to keep his target immobilized by shock—Mac twisted the blade viciously, reaming the sharp cutting edge and cruelly honed serrations deep inside the merc’s shuddering body.
Adrenaline flooded Frank’s system in an uncontrollable wave as he rose up, his feet curling in agony involuntarily inside his boots. When Mac jerked the knife back out, he slashed it wide, almost literally cutting his way out; only the shock prevented Frank from screaming in horrific pain.
Then, before the shock subsided, Mac put an end to Frank’s ability to make any sound at all. Whipping his arm around in front, the dominant killer rammed his blade down with a swift, powerful motion. In a split second, the long wicked steel shaft pierced Frank’s chest, slicing between his ribs and puncturing his heart like a balloon full of blood. The dying hardman gave a loud grunt as the impact to his chest drove the air out of his lungs—then was unable to inhale again.
All Frank found he was able to do was shudder and suffer silently in the crushing iron grip of the rock-hard warrior who was neutralizing him so efficiently. He trembled for a few seconds of mind-bending pain as his quivering heart sliced itself into lunchmeat on the blade impaled in his chest.
Then the jerking sack of meat that had moment before been a talented killer slid to the ground. As Mac rolled the corpse onto its back and withdrew his knife, the dead man’s boots combat carved furrows in the dirt as the body kicked mindlessly in its death throes. Mac had vanished back into the woods long before the cooling pile of meat stopped shuddering.
There was one guard left, Mac knew—and he knew he needed to interrogate him. Mac had been assigned to retrieve a certain item located in a structure ahead. This last guard would know where the item was inside. Based on the intel he’d received, Mac knew that last dude knew more than the others—and was more dangerous.
The last guard was in his early thirties. He’d dressed completely in black, much like Mac had, to become almost invisible in the shadows under the trees—excellent camouflage for a hunter.
A tight black jumpsuit emphasized the hardman’s tight, muscular body; around his slim waist a webbed utility belt was wrapped. Two knives, a pistol, a baton, and several less identifiable weapons dangled from it; the merc was prepared to inflict swift, brutal death one anyone he targeted. His combat boots were black waterproof fabric with rubber soles that allowed him to move quietly.
He was good, but he wasn’t too good. Above his hard, handsome chiseled face, a few golden curls had escaped from under his black knit cap. They glinted in the moonlight—just enough to catch Mac’s eye.
He shifted slightly to the right, centering himself on the guard, who was still unaware of his presence. He wasn’t unaware for long, though.
The hardman heard a faint stirring to his left and whirled to meet the threat, only to find that he was half a second too slow. A swift shadow split from the surrounding darkness and slammed him up against the tree behind him. A large powerful hand in a leather glove clamped over his mouth. The tips of the fingers were free; they dug painfully into the guard’s cheeks as his lips were sealed. At the same time, the guard felt the icy touch of a blade at his throat; the knife was still razor-sharp despite being stained with the blood of two men.
“Awright, motherfucker,” Mac growled in a gruff whisper. “I’m gonna ask some questions and yer gonna answer. Gimme a bad answer or no answer and you’ll be gargling yer own blood. Ya feel me?” He lifted his hand from the man’s mouth.
“Fuck you,” the guard sneered, “I dunno nothin’ and wouldn’t tell ya if I did.”
“That was a bad answer,” Mac said quietly and, clamping the dude’s mouth closed again, stuck the knife into his flank. It was a controlled thrust, only about an inch and a half deep—just enough to pierce the jumpsuit and the guy’s flesh and puncture the oblique muscles. The merc gave a loud grunt, his face grimacing in pain—that part of it not covered by Mac’s glove, at any rate.
“I can do that a hundred times with killin’ ya,” Mac said. “Start talkin’. You know what I’m here for—where is it?”
“Toldja I don’t know nothin’. Besides, yer just gonna kill me anyway.”
“I might let ya live—if you’re helpful enough. If not, you’re gonna die slow and hard, asswipe.” Mac pressed the blade against the hardman’s throat again, this time with more pressure. A thin line of slowly-trickling red appeared. “All I have to do is press a little harder and you’ll be bleeding out like a fuckin’ stuck pig. Now talk, damn you!”
The guard knew death was staring him in the face, and acquiesced. “There’s a cabin two clicks to the east,” he said sullenly. “It’s in there.”
“How many men between here and there?”
“None, man, we’re it. No one’s s’possed to know it’s here. How the fuck did you find out?”
“Shut the fuck up, asshole, I’m askin’ the questions. Now tell me ‘bout it, bitch.”
The merc glared up at Mac, then sighed, knowing his life depended on cooperation. “It’s in a case on a table. No traps, no alarms. Someone’s s’possed to come by for it in the mornin’.”
“I don’t believe you,” Mac growled, cutting the dude’s neck—not enough to be dangerous, but enough that the guard felt it.
“I swear,” the man moaned, fear overcoming his bravado, “I’m tellin’ the truth, man swear to God—don’t hurt me.”
“Good,” the older, more experienced killer murmured thoughtfully, “Good.”
“So—so I did what ya wanted, right?” the guard asked anxiously. “Y-ya ain’t gonna kill me, right?”
“Wrong,” Mac said evenly and buried his blade to the hilt in the merc’s belly, all seven inches of cold steel piercing the hardman’s firm flat abs and sinking into his belly.
The guard gave a deep, despairing moan, his hands clutching at Mac’s wrists in a vain attempt to pull the knife back out of his guts. His eyes, wide with shock, turned to those of his killer’s. “I-I cooperated,” he gasped in frantic confusion, “I did wh-what ya wanted…”
“Stupid sack of shit—only reason I kept ya alive was to get info,” Mac sneered. “I don’t need you anymore. Ya told me everything ya know; now you’re useless. Time to die, fuckwad.”
Gripping the merc’s shoulder tightly, Mac used his other hand to rip the knife upwards, slashing open the dude’s torso. It took a few seconds of nightmarish agony for him to saw his way through the well-built guard’s abdominal muscles, but Mac was powerful enough to hold the man down and gut him like a deer.
Stepping back, Mac held his knife up. The hardman stared in horror at the blood-streaked blade, curls of flesh dangling from the serrations. His hands had been clenched to his belly in pain—for some reason, he reached out to Mac at this point, his hands outspread in a futile supplicating gesture.
It was his last mistake. As soon as he let go of his torso, there was a loud slurping thump—and the dude’s intestines slid out of his sliced-open abdomen, landing in a stinking, quivering pile of tangled meat on the dude’s own boots.
His back still to the tree, the guard slid down to a sitting position, his lap full of his own guts. He looked back up at Mac as the latter approached, but the dying man was too far gone in shock to speak. He could only look up as the stronger, more expert warrior spoke.
“Stupid fuck,” Mac muttered, “All alike, you young punks. Think yer hot shit, but ya fold like a pussy the minute things get tough.” And with that, he unzipped his fly and drew out his dick. As the merc started to fade out, he could see his killer was holding the blade in one hand and his semi-hard cock in the other; both were seven inches long.
Things went gray for a moment, but suddenly warm liquid was splashing in the hardman’s face. With a great effort, he opened his eyes for the last time—to see that the man who had successfully interrogated and wasted him was expressing his final contempt by pissing all over him as he died.
“Ain’t worth takin’ time for a piss break,” Mac jeered. Then the guard’s eyes dilated. He shuddered violently under his golden shower for a few seconds, then slumped over onto the ground, his own piss flowing out to mingle with that of his killer’s.
Mac stuffing his dick back into his jumpsuit, Mac turned to the east. He still hadn’t decided if he’d wait in the cabin till morning; part of him wanted to give whoever showed up a vigorous, violent welcome.