The Lost Platoon (AIASP)

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posted on Feb, 18 2008 @ 02:18 PM
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Prague, November 18, 2011

River Phoenix was nearly clipped by an aged, rumbling taxi as he crossed the cobbled street in Old Town. The driver was oblivious, as most were in Prague. Crossing the street, particularly at night, was always a test of fate. He glanced at its tail lights as it sped along the land and disappeared behind the canyon of buildings a few yards away, its fan belt still squealing in the distance.

That was his second close call tonight.

River hopped onto the sidewalk again and made his way down the flight of metal stairs planted into the stonework foundation of one of the city’s many ancient buildings. Prague had been soaked all day in an icy rain, leaving a chilled sheen on the streets and facades. The man followed a stone path through the arched doorway of a hotel and down a flight of stairs hewn from the foundation into the popular Bily Konicek’s restaurant.

River emerged into a cavern. Much of the clubs and hotspots in Prague were carved into the stone block foundations of the city’s history. Bily Konicek’s was no different, a nightclub and restaurant forged inside the arching stone walls of what could have easily been a dungeon centuries before. Black steeled wine chillers and a mahogany bar were stark contrasts to the aged rock rising high above him.

A pretty blond Czech with pink highlights in her hair and the hinting sparkle of a nose ring asked his name in English and then led him to his meeting. Like many of the women in Czech Republic, the girl’s pale features were somewhat hard, her nose slightly prominent, but River found her nonetheless alluring and coyly sexual. It was why he had made the country his home for the past six months.

Hugh Cross stood as River approached, and for a moment River was taken aback by how much his friend had aged in five short years. Certainly more so than would be expected. The young girl smiled and left River to the small table just off the sprawling bar.

“River, time’s done you justice,” Hugh said, embracing his sinewy form. “Thanks for meeting with me.”

“Absolutely, Hugh. I was happy to hear you were in the country.”

They sat as a waiter grabbed an empty martini glass that left a shimmering water ring on the darkened tabletop. River ordered a scotch, a drink that would probably last him the entire dinner meeting, knowing Czech’s bartenders predilection to be generous in their pouring.

The conversation began small enough, time to catch up on events and politics within the Pentagon stateside before the lines on Hugh’s face deepened as the man’s mind dwelled on the real reason for the meeting. River was patient. He waited, allowed his friend to strum up whatever inner strength or resolve he needed to approach River.

“Have you spoken to Lawrence Kalley lately?” Hugh asked, his fingers absently toying with the stem of his third martini.

“You’re kidding, right?” River eyed the man, who continued to stare into the frosted glass. “I haven’t spoken to Kalley since going freelance. He’s a company man, through and through. He certainly has no respect for mercenaries, particularly those who broker weapons deals on the side.”

“Yeah, maybe. But he still thinks highly of you. Says despite the jump to the dark side, you’re still annoyingly principled.”

River chortled. “Defining characteristic, I suppose.”

Hugh downed the rest of his drink and finally brought his eyes up to the horizon.

“My son, Boone, has gone missing, River,” he said, his voice so weak, it barely crested above the din of the restaurant.

“Boone? What happened?” River leaned forward.

“I don’t know. He was on vacation a month ago in Turkey, of all places, and just stopped answering his phone. The embassy sent someone to the Hyatt, where he was staying, and indicated there appeared to be a struggle in the room, some furniture overturned, the bathroom mirror shattered, but there was no sign.”

River remembered the freckled boy more than the man he became, the kid who liked wearing surfing shirts and dreamed of riding waves along the North Shore even though he lived in the suburbs of Virginia. A sweet, polite kid whose innocence was so noticeable when you spent your career in the backstabbing world of politics.

“You don’t believe he was on vacation?”

“I don’t know. He was stationed in Afghanistan for the DoD; wouldn’t be surprising if his vacation was actually an assignment,” Hugh said. “They’ve been nice, but really not forthcoming with information.”

“Any theories?”

“Lots of theories, just no suspects.”

Hugh then leaned in, much more intently, the animation on his face returning as if his face submerged from the static and snow of an old television.

“Then I started getting text messages from Boone two weeks later,” Hugh withdrew a sleek phone, its screen bright and shifting in colors. He scrolled through some saved messages. River noticed a sizable list from Boone. Hugh stamped a button and showed the screen to River.

AIASP

“I received ten of these over the course of the past three weeks. All of them saying the same thing,” Hugh finished.

River took the phone from Hugh, silently remarking just how tense his friend’s grip was, as though petrified of allowing the last remaining ghost of his only son from his control. River scrolled through the other repeating messages. AIASP.

“A name? An acronym?” River commented.

“Yeah, I thought of that too. Could be, who knows?”

“Maybe your son’s phone is just malfunctioning?”

Hugh head shook with enthusiasm, his pain and desperation emerging from his graying hair and his weathered face. River could detect the pungent alcohol on him turning sour. His friend had been drinking long before River walked into Bily Konicek’s.

“No. I had a friend at NSA make some inquiries to the provider. They are all original messages, all actively sent from the phone.” Hugh’s voice cracked a little. “It’s his way of telling me something. Where he is, I think.”



[edit on 2/18/2008 by behindthescenes]




posted on Feb, 18 2008 @ 02:18 PM
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The music at the club began to swell and intrude on their conversation. The late night crowd of short dresses, skinny bodies and teased hair all flirting with rich and plush foreign nationals was supplanting the once-intimate atmosphere from the dinner crowd. River eyed the crowd and noticed one alluring brunette giggling over a drink with her friend as her eyes darted shyly his way. River weighed the idea of staying on after sending his friend to his hotel and meeting her.

“Maybe. Or maybe someone, one of his abductors, is just toying with you.”

Hugh now let all pretense of calm aside and looked manic. “Please, River. I need your help, your connections. I need you to find my son. Alive, bring him home. If not…”

A tear, then two, then three, streamed from his eyes. Hugh placed his thumb and middle finger against the corners of his eyes and squeezed, fighting to stave off the emotions.

“If not, you want me to exact justice.”

Hugh let out an anguished, almost animalistic cry, just for one brief moment. The man gritted his teeth, and then slowly his face returned to a natural, if not hauntingly neutral, composure. His friend withdrew an envelope from his plaid sports coat and slid it across the table to River.

“I’m asking this more as a favor than anything else. I certainly can’t afford much, especially on an Army pension. But I’ve given you everything I have.”

River took the envelope and slipped it in his pocket. No sense leaving anything on the table that would attract any more attention. The Czech Republic certainly had become one of the most Westernized, most successful, of all the former Soviet satellites. But River knew that didn’t mean there could be one or two innocuous people there very interested in what a retired Army general and an American ex-pat with questionable ties to various intelligence circles were meeting about. Particularly with one of the party doing his best not to make an emotional scene.

“We’ll talk later about compensation.” River now sat back and engaged in his business mode. “I’m going to need any names you can give me, Hugh. Coworkers, superiors, friends, lovers. I’ll dig as much as I can, Hugh, but you understand that a detective I ain’t.”

“I know. But you know how to get information, how to find information. I mean, Jesus Christ, the CIA came to you to find out what was going on behind the scenes during the partisan war in Iraq.”

River, held up his hand, silently commanding his friend to keep his voice down. Hugh looked almost as if he’d been slapped, scarred and ashamed.

“I’ll help you, Hugh. More out of friendship,” he said. “But understand, I’ll be digging into your son’s life, top to bottom. I find in situations like this, the victim’s own life is as shadowy as the people who’ve abducted him. I’m just warning you, you may not like what I find.”

Hugh appeared deflated, an abstract of the stern commanding figure Gen. Cross was during the Second Gulf War. The transformation disturbed a part of River that was used to constancy and dependability. But then again, this was the general’s only son, a boy he remembered him doting upon for as long as he and Hugh were friends.

“I don’t care. Just find him.”

River glanced back down to the phone and studied those last enigmatic text messages again. AIASP.



posted on Feb, 19 2008 @ 02:43 AM
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That was a good story....very well written.

A very clever story too.....a good twist on the AIASP theme.

Gonna give you a star for that....


Nice work.

Regards,

JQ.



posted on Feb, 19 2008 @ 12:48 PM
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A nice start. Very intriguing.
This story has a great rhythm between the dialogue and narration. It's really well written.

But I have to ask: why RIVER PHOENIX?
Such a distinctive name...I must admit, I found it very distracting.



posted on Feb, 19 2008 @ 01:46 PM
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Originally posted by Essedarius

A nice start. Very intriguing.
This story has a great rhythm between the dialogue and narration. It's really well written.

But I have to ask: why RIVER PHOENIX?
Such a distinctive name...I must admit, I found it very distracting.



And you know, you're right. I like the name River, but Phoenix was never intended to be the last name of this character. It should be Jordan.

Obviously, there is an allusion here...



posted on Feb, 19 2008 @ 03:15 PM
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That's cool.

It's just that when I think "River Phoenix" I think:




posted on Mar, 20 2008 @ 11:22 AM
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Awwww - I wanted this story to continue SOOOO much!

What happened? Where's Boone? Did River find out where he is, who he's with, what AIASP means?? Darn it!

Oh well - kept me riveted, that's for sure. Although, the setting could have been just as easily Budapest, etc. - many of the former Iron Curtain countries are now and have been the "...most Westernized..." etc.

Are you Czech?

I liked your description of the City and the people there: this would make a great story to read on a train trip through old Europe... if it would only keep going!



posted on Apr, 2 2008 @ 11:00 AM
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No, I'm not Czech, but thanks for what I perceive as a compliment to the authenticity of the setting. I simply did some research on the area on my own.

The story is continuing, although since this is a short story competition, I'm not sure how I'll play that out in an abridged fashion.





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