By Robert E. Carvalho

The Beacon Street Mission was a crumbling mess of a building.

It sat in a war zone neighborhood in Boston. In the distance the glittering corporate towers of the city's skyline were visible. They were only miles from the mission, but might as well have been on the moon. The residents of the neighborhood were the lost. They were the poor huddled masses of the underbelly of the city. The desperate resident lived a precarious existence on Beacon street. Most knew they would never get out of there. Some tried to delude themselves into thinking there was a way out. They still clung to the American Dream of a better life.

The rest knew the truth, the truth that the American Dream was dead- buried a long time ago. The mission was a small island in that sea of desperation. It was place to get hot meal and a warm bed to sleep in, even if it was just for a night.

The mission also served another important service. It was stop on the New Underground Railroad, a place of sanctuary. It was one of the many places across the country were fugitives could rest, however briefly. The railroad was the only way to escape the new slavery of America, corporate slavery. The corporations controlled the country, everyone knew it. They did what ever they wanted and the government was powerless to stop them. They made the poor and desperate sign their lives away to them in exchange for a steady paycheck. Once you signed on the dotted line, your life was their's to control. If you wanted to leave, you couldn't. They would have you arrested- or even killed. The laws had been rewritten to allow it.

If you wanted to quit you either ran or you died.

It was Friday night when they arrived at the mission. They arrived separately, they didn't dare spend much time together anymore. The six of them had been one of the best corporate black operations teams in the country. In the three years they had worked for the Oldman Corporation, they had pulled off the impossible time and time again. They had stolen data from the most protected facilities. They had assisted in the defection of some the biggest name scientists to the company. They had removed some of the most troublesome rivals. They were the best in the biz, no one even came close. They were all professionals, the best of the best corporate soldiers.

Now, they were on the run.

They had broken the cardinal rule, they had refused a job from the CEO. They had been replaced by another team and ordered to disband. That was when they decided to run, to get on the railroad and run for it.

The first into the mission was the team leader and his assistant. He looked like any other bum on the street, but was no bum. He had served in the US army before joining Oldman. His name was Colonel Quentin Rogers, and he was one of the best. He had served in the Mid Eastern wars and was considered the best the Special Forces had to offer. His signing up with Oldman was considered by many to be quite a coup for the company. He did his job well and was respected by all for professionalism. He held himself and his team to a strict code of honor, he was the last of the true warriors in a time of killers. He never quit and never left a job unfinished.

The Colonel was followed in by Scorpio, his second in command. Scorpio had been with the Colonel since the Mid East. He was a tall, attractive Mexican man with long hair and a mustache. He could have been a model or actor, except for the scars that covered his body. The years of combat had left him with many reminders of the battles he'd been in. He was a professional like the colonel, he lived by the same code. He scanned the building with his cyberoptic eyes, checking for signs of ambush. When he was sure it was safe, he used his internal radio to signal the rest of the team. In an alley across the street, a group of homeless people crowded around a fire burning in an oil drum. Two of them detached themselves from the group and headed for the mission.

They seemed an unlikely team- one was tall and blond, the other was short, muscular and black. They walked across the street, checking to make sure they weren't being followed. They moved carefully and deliberately. The two of them had seen more combat than most Marine regiments. Scorpio met them at the door and let them in. The new arrivals were a soldier and a street hustler. The tall blond was a southern kid from the hills of Arkansas. His name was Bobby Lee, named for the confederate general. He was strong and a deadly shot with any firearm. He had been recruited into the company right out of high school. He could be naive and impulsive, but he always kept his cool under fire. He might have acted like a kid most of the time, but put a gun his hand and he was deadly.

The other man with him was Anton " Top Dog " Jackson. He had made a name for himself on the streets of Boston as gang leader. He had won turf wars against some the biggest gangs in the city. His reputation had finally caught the eye of a company recruiter. He was the team's street connection as well as a capable fighter. He was tough, but he had a heart of gold when it came to kids. He loved kids, they reminded him of the brothers and sisters he had lost in the projects of the city.

The last two team members made their way into the mission. They were the team's computer expert and the team's espionage man. The computer man was know only as the Iceman. He had been a hacker as a kid, until the police finally caught up with him. He had been given a choice, sign up for corporate service or go to prison. He had decided company life was better than jail, so he had joined up. He was the best at beating computer security, he'd never been beaten on the net. He loved his computers, but didn't know how to deal with people.

The espionage man was a true ninja, like his Father before him. Tommy Leung was from an old ninja clan. He could have worked for a Japanese corp., but his mother was white. The Japanese companies didn't like half breeds. It didn't matter that he was the best- he wasn't pure blooded, that was something that the Japanese corporations couldn't forgive. Tommy had decided to work for Oldman and had done so with distinction. The team use to joke that he could break into the CEO's office anytime he wanted. He was serious and efficient, like all good ninja.

The six of them were led into the basement of the mission by one of the volunteers. The studied every inch of the building as they went, in case they needed to get out quickly. They couldn't break their habits, not yet. Their caution was what kept them alive- that, and their unity. Separated, they would be caught, but together they were unbeatable. The basement of the mission was clean, but falling apart like the rest of the place. The volunteer led them to a pile of crates on the floor.

"Move the big crate on the left," he said " you'll find the door you need."

Scorpio lifted the large crate with ease. His augmented muscles barely strained in spite of the nearly five hundred pound crate. Under the crate was a ladder leading down below the mission. Scorpio used his mechanical eye's night vision to pierce the darkness. He could see a rough floor below. The six of them all had augmented hearing , allowing them to hear the people in the room below them.

" Tommy, you go first," said the Colonel " make sure it's all right."

Tommy nodded and drew his pistol. He dropped down the hole, he didn't need the ladder. He hit the bottom and surveyed the area. He could see a single door in front of him He opened the door carefully, his pistol ready.

" Greetings my friend," said a cheerful voice " you can put your gun away now."

Tommy could see an older man in priest's garb in front of him. He had an open and warm look on his face. Tommy lowered his gun slowly, watching the man.

" I trust you are Mister Leung? My name is Father Mathews and I am the conductor on this stop of the railroad." " All clear," Tommy called through his radio. The rest of them headed down the ladder and assembled in the room with Tommy and the priest. They all sat down and began to relax. It was hard for them to relax now, the effects of being on the run. They set their weapons down, but always within arms reach. The priest handed them food from a box on the floor. It was army rations, but it was fine by them. None of them dared to use their credit accounts, so food consisted of what they could find. They ate in silence as the priest just watched and smiled.

" So, " he began " you are the great Colonel Rogers? I've heard a lot about you over the years. I was a chaplain in the Special Forces during the Mid East wars. I've been hearing about your exploits for years."

" Really, I can't say that I've heard your name Father. What group were you with?"

" The fifth group, why? You wouldn't doubt a priest would you?"

" I might, a little caution is good. Caution is what keeps us alive. How long have been a conductor?"

" I was with the railroad from the beginning. I was a member of Amnesty International- before it was outlawed, that is. So, why are gentlemen on the run? I thought men like yourselves stayed with your job."

" I'm a soldier Father, not a killer. We decided to pass up on a little job that the CEO wanted done. He wanted us to clean up a mess his son had caused. It seems the little bastard had raped a school girl. The girl's family couldn't be bought off, they wanted to press charges. They even threatened to go to the press. He ordered us to kill the girl and her family. He said the company couldn't afford bad press coverage. We decided that was enough, so we took off."

" I thought it might be something like that, as I said men like you don't usually go underground. I'm use to dealing with scientists or technicians. Do you have any plans for the future?"

" I don't know Father," answered Bobby. He was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall.

" I know Father," replied Iceman " there are some bank accounts in the Caymans that need special attention."

"I hear there's work for mercenaries in Mexico," replied Scorpio " civil wars are big business."

" I plan to go to Japan," said Tommy " I think I might spend some time with one of the monasteries."

"What about Colonel? Do you know were you are going to go?"

" I don't know yet Father, but I'm getting too old for this shit."

" I have another option for you gentlemen to consider. What we do here and at other places like it is dangerous. The corporations are using their security forces to try to wipe us out. We are a threat to them and they know it. We need people to help protect us, people like you. As I said, we usually only have scientists and technicians with us. We could use your help to keep ourselves safe. We can't afford to pay you much, but we can offer you something else. We can offer you the chance to make a difference. We can offer you the chance to help other as we have helped you..."

" I've never been big on causes," responded Rogers " besides I want to get out of the fighting business."

" Don't you remember the motto of the special forces? De opresso liber, to liberate the oppressed. You should also know you won't have to fight that much, we don't have a lot of trouble- but some. Please, we really need your help. The Nakagima Corporation has already been here once."

" I don't know about you Colonel," said Bobby " but it sounds good to me. I'm sick of fighting for these corps, I'd like to something good for a change."

" Would you mind if I did a little work on the side?," asked Iceman " I need the money for my deck."

" As long as you work by remote hookup, from outside the mission, then feel free. I hear that you're one of the best out there. Is it true that you hacked into the Treasury computer?"

" There was never any evidence that I did that, but yes, I did it. I wasn't going to steal anything, I wanted to see if I could do it."

" I understand that you were arrested for that crime... Is that why you were working for Oldman?"

" Yah, it was a condition of my release. A lot of corporations do it, they get cyber-thieves released and force them to work for them, It's how most of them get their black ops deck-jockeys." As the Father watched their discussion, the five of them suddenly stopped. The all looked like they were listening to something, something he couldn't hear. They looked tense, he knew the look . It was the look soldiers got before combat. He'd seen the look enough when he was a military chaplain.

" Father- get the people upstairs out of the building, now. Bobby, go with the Father, cover him. The rest of you prepare an appropriate welcome."

The stunned priest didn't know how to react. Bobby grabbed his arm and led him up the stairs. The young warrior pulled out a savage looking smart machine pistol. He carried the gun with the practiced ease of a old veteran. He could hear the commotion of the others preparing to make a stand in the basement.

" Come on Father, we've got to try to get the people out of here."

" What's going here? Why do we have to evacuate the building?"

" We've got company, looks like a hit squad from Oldman. We have some of Top Dog's old home boys watching the outside."

" Won't they be waiting outside? "

" They're looking for us Father, they'll probably leave the rest alone."

He knew Bobby Lee was lying. Corporate hit teams didn't like witnesses and the homeless wouldn't be missed. He knew that running was the only chance that most them had, he only hoped God would protect them. The two of them burst into the cafeteria, Bobby watching the front door.

" Everyone listen to me," shouted Father Mathews. " We have to evacuate the mission- we are about to be attacked!"

The people looked up from their plates of food, stunned. They looked at the Father and saw in his face that he wasn't lying. As one, they gathered up their meager possessions and ran for the door.

Bobby was already waiting at the door. He flung it open and scanned the area. Without warning, he began to fire into the alley across the street. His cyber-optic eye glowed red as he scanned for targets. He stepped boldly onto the front stoop and continued his withering cover fire.

"Get them out of here," he shouted to Matthews over the gunfire. " I can't keep them pinned down all night."

Matthews began to herd his frightened flock out the front door of the mission. The people ran down the street, screaming. The still unseen enemy began to return fire. Bobby was pinned down on the stoop, cut off from the door. He continued to fire back, but the return fire was stronger. The enemy fire was concentrated on Bobby, so the people fleeing the mission were somewhat safe.

Matthews watched as the people fled and his mission was shot to pieces. Suddenly, he heard the sound of gunfire coming from other places in the mission. He turned and saw Scorpio heading out the front door. He held a gun that looked bigger than even his considerable bulk. He raised the gun and began to rake the opposite side of the street. The gun used explosive tipped rounds that caused the street to erupt in smoke and fire. Bobby watched Scorpio's cover fire shatter the enemy across the street. He turned and dove into the door.

Top Dog stepped into the hallway, a rocket launcher on his shoulder. Bobby grabbed Matthews and pulled him into the cafeteria. Scorpio stopped firing and jumped in after them. The fire flared and roared out the front door of the mission. The rocket slammed into alley and detonated. The alley exploded, spewing a large fireball across the street.

The alley erupted in a second explosion, shattering windows in the mission. Top Dog lay on his back in the hallway, the combined force of the two explosions had sent him flying. Scorpio took up position by the door, making sure all was clear.

The Colonel stepped into the hallway and checked on Top Dog. He came to, a huge smile on his face. " Now that's an explosion, boss!"

" Take it easy Dog," replied the Colonel " are you all right?"

" I'm OK. I can't believe it, they must have been carrying some heavy duty hardware to cause an explosion like that."

" Colonel look out!" yelled Scorpio.

Rogers spun around and saw a man standing over him, a wicked looking sword in his hand. Rogers went for his gun, sure he wouldn't make it. The black dressed figure swung his sword. Scorpio took aim with his machine gun.

The figure's arm suddenly stopped in mid air and fell on the floor. The Colonel saw Tommy standing beside the black-dressed man, his own sword drawn and bloodied. Tommy moved like a blur and severed the man's head. Everyone in the hallway was silent for a moment.

Tommy sheathed his sword and picked up the severed head. He removed the ninja mask from the head and looked at the face. He grabbed the head by the hair and held it up for the others to see. " It appears that we have taken care of our replacement team."

" Looks like Oldman is going to need a new black ops team," replied the Colonel " maybe we should apply."

The rest of them started to laugh. The pressure and excitement of the attack over, they began to relax. The pressures of living on the run made them happy to relax, even a little. They knew that in taking out the replacement team, they had bought themselves some time.

" Gentlemen," Father Matthews spoke up" now that this over perhaps you could answer my question."

" What question Father," replied Rogers.

" Will you work for the railroad? As you can see, we need the help."

" I'll think about Father, I'll think about it."

The team gathered up their equipment and headed back to the basement. They looked tired, but happy. Father Matthews smiled as he watched them walk away. He had them, and he knew it.

Copyright 1997 by Robert E. Carvalho


Bio: I'm twenty five years old and I grew up in Fall River, Mass. I've loved the genre of cyberpunk ever since I read Nueromancer by William Gibson. I'm a new writer and hope this is only the beginning. I'm currently working on a movie script, as well as more short stories. I work in Boston for Shreve,Crump and Low, jewelers. That is until, I can support myself writing.

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