It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The Orange Bloom {PSC2017]

page: 1

log in


posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 11:47 AM
The Orange Bloom [PSC2017]

Sally hung, swaying from an outcrop, fully two hundred metres above the dry, rock strewn desert. Her shoulder burned as the taut, bunched muscles creaked and a trickle of blood ran down her forearm from where the hard, red rock cut into her knuckles, wedged deep in a crack. The jam hold she was using was something possibly as old as climbing, even now, after thirty plus years of using it, it still hurt like a mother...She grunted and her biceps swelled almost to bursting point as she hauled herself up to the next hold, fingernails chipping as she scrabbled to gain purchase on the loose, dusty surface. Swinging her leg, she swivelled her body and released her fist to let her hand slip from the crack.

She was up! She rolled over from her belly to lay on the small plateau that topped this outcrop like so many others in this part of the desert. Chest heaving as she panted. Sweat making pale little trails through the red dust that caked most of her skin, she took a few moments before she sat up and smiled as she looked around, awestruck at the vision before her. There was something so right about looking down from a perch that she had climbed up to. Even more so when the climb required every ounce of courage and tiny sliver of skill she possessed. She thought back, momentarily to the hills in Brecon, where she had first learned the beauty to be had from simply walking up to gain the sense of possession...Her lips curled into a smile as she remembered the gut wrenching agony of the “Fan Dance” Multiple laps of a circuit that encompassed the summit of Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales and, for her, a personal milestone that saw her become only the second woman ever to pass selection.
“Hmm. If you can do selection, you can do any damn thing you put your mind to.” She murmured, the long gone words of her old Staff returning unbidden after all these years. The smile faded as she remembered attending his funeral a few years back and seeing the gaps in the line of old friends.

She reached into her little chalk bag, wincing as her skinned knuckles caught at the seam and pulled out a small lighter and two cigarettes, wrapped in cling film to keep them clear of the chalk. She carefully unwrapped the package, pleased to see the smokes still intact and settled back, lighting one up and letting the smoke fill her lungs. Everyone frowned on smokers, but for much of her life, she wasn't really expected to live long enough to get lung cancer and was far beyond even the fittest of heart surgeons, so she allowed the vice, enjoying the exercise of her iron will by limiting herself to five cigarettes every other day while also indulging in the cloudy high of the nicotine.

Twenty minutes later, she was on her way back down. Much more quickly than she ascended. Going up, she had free climbed. Eschewing the use of ropes and pitons for bare hands and strong muscles. Accepting the risk as part of the price for the personal glory of having pitted herself against the world once more and winning. Coming back down, she used a 60 metre Dyneema cord and cam cleats. Stopping every 20 metres or so to pull the rope down and secure it once more. Even with all that “faffing about” she still made the foot of the butte in good time and enjoyed her second and last smoke of the day while she waited for her little camp kettle to boil. A brew at the end of a climb always a special moment that was kind of like a full stop, telling the universe that this was the end of the current paragraph in it's story of her.

The tea gone, along with her last cigarette, she packed up her meagre camp and tightened the last bungee down over the bulging kitbag that took up most of the rear fender of her old Bonneville. The bike was a relic, much like her, really and the thought made the crow's feet at the corner's of her eyes sharpen as she smiled.

She'd paid an exorbitant amount to have it shipped over from England, needing it to come by air, rather than the cheaper option of a crate on a cargo ship. This was a holiday, not an emigration. Just something to reward herself for sticking with a life that had come so close to breaking her, mentally as well as physically. She banished the thought with a grim shake of her head as she kicked the old Triumph into life and twisted the throttle, revelling in the thunderous echoes coming back off the rocks and the metallic tang of the engine heating up.

Two weeks earlier.
Sally stood dead still in the dark hallway. Crouching low at the bottom of the grand staircase, she tilted her head to one side, breathing softly, holding her mouth open so as to reduce the noise of each breath and maximise her chances of hearing the slightest sound. It was an old trick, but that was the thing about old tricks, if they didn't work, they never got passed down from generation to generation. Survival of the cleverest maybe...Darwin's theory writ small. Hearing nothing she proceeded across the oak panelled hall, each step an exaggerated pantomime as she endeavoured to make her way without the slightest squeak from the most sensitive of floor boards.

Her head shook, just a little at the madness of tonight's assignment. She was to infiltrate Stoneacre Hall, the ancestral home of the Duke of Lancashire and retrieve a vial of bone dust, reputed to have been from St Edmund, the ninth century king of East Anglia who had been used as target practice by Viking archers. How it had ended up here, hundreds of miles North was something she couldn't guess at, but, her boss, Brigadier General Sir Colin Sparrow had insisted that it was the thing she should retrieve. Not because he actually wanted it, but more because of an ongoing spat between him and the Duke, who was also lately the man in charge of security for the Royal Palaces. There had been murmurs along the grapevine that the two men had clashed over the deployment of people and equipment until the Duke had informed Sparrow that “I see no reason to believe that anyone would be foolish enough to attempt to gain access to what are already some of the most highly protected properties in the world!”
Knowing that the Duke had used his own security arrangements as a blueprint, Sparrow had set out to prove just how vulnerable he was. So far, this night, Sally had parked her bike in a nearby village, climbed from the window of the cute little bed and breakfast she had taken a room in, run five miles across moorland and picked her way through the woods surrounding the Duke's estate. That was the easy part. She'd had to suit up in her “long johns” a one piece suit of thermal insulating material printed with a standard woodland camo. Pulled up the hood and placed the mask over her face, finally pulling on her gloves and settling a low light monocle in place over her left eye. The monocle did more than enhance her vision in the near light less woods, it scanned hundreds of frequencies and enabled her to see infra red trip beams, even the faint glow of electricity around the various pressure pads she had encountered. There was a low level radar around the house also, but, that was successfully circumvented by taking an oblique course that spoofed the Doppler detection and allowed her, over the course of a tense fifteen minutes, to arrive at the rear of the big house, where she was able to climb up the aged stone work and wriggle into a gap under the eaves of the roof.

edit on 16pFri, 21 Jul 2017 12:03:16 -050020172017-07-21T12:03:16-05:00kAmerica/Chicago31000000k by SprocketUK because: spelling

posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 11:48 AM
“One door to go” she thought to herself as she slithered along the wall, not quite touching it. She scanned the frame and listened for a good two minutes before she reached out and attached a wire to the door handle. The other end disappearing into the cuff of her suit and, after a few seconds, a little green tick flashed in her monocle to let her know that there was no voltage in the handle and that she could turn it without setting off any alarms. She pulled hard on the handle once it was fully turned, making her shoulder crush tightly to the heavy wood of the door and she took a step in, the action reducing the chances of anything squeaking as the big door opened.

Nothing stirred in the small room. It looked like the back of a chemist's shop. Shelves lined each wall, filled from end to end with bottles and vials. She let out a breath and realised that she had failed to plan for this. The pictures she had obtained not quite making her understand the difficulty of telling one small, glass bottle from a thousand just like it, in the dark when she couldn't make a noise. She closed her eyes and took a few breaths, reaching out with her consciousness..Something many would ridicule her for, she knew, but, those same people would refuse to look up from the feet of a man they were stalking, with their knives in their hands in the jungle at night, less they feel those eyes on their backs. She edged to the left, feeling drawn to the centre shelf and her hand reached out for a bottle with a faded, curling paper label. “Edmund the Martyr” it read in ancient copperplate and she smiled, triumphantly. “Damn girl, you still got the bitch craft” she thought and turned slowly to ease her way back out.

She could have just ran for the door, thrown it open and headed for home with all the alarms going off. Her mission would technically have been accomplished. There was an attitude in The Regiment though, that if you are going to do something, do it right. Get the job done and leave everyone else scratching their heads as to how on earth these shadows did what they do when seemingly no mortal being could have.

She crept down the cellar steps, gliding through the blacker darkness behind the wine racks. The musty smell of old cellar mould catching at the back of her throat and the cool air stinging her uncovered eye. Reaching the back wall, she popped a small magnet from a pocket and stuck it to the reed switch on the tiny, semi circular window before popping it open with the blade of her knife. It was an old Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, the emblem of many special forces units around the world and, though there were better utility knives she could have chosen, the matt black killing steel had been hers for so long she couldn't imagine ever going to work without it. She listened for a further two minutes before levering herself out of the window and settling it back not quite flush again. Crouched low down by an acacia bush, she scanned for the patrol that she knew was due around now. The buzzing of a small drone approached, flying at around twenty metres it circled the property and she waited for it to pass by before darting to the fringe of woodland beyond the billiard table smoothness of the lawns. She didn't have to worry about the radar, knowing it wouldn't be switched on during the drone runs and was crouched safely within the low bushes just beyond the line of silver birches by the time the drone came back around for it's second sweep.

She was waiting in the plush anteroom of the boss's office at Nine thirty the next morning. The smell of Whitehall reeking of power and purpose, a more concentrated version of the old money aura of Stoneacre. She smiled, smoothing down her skirt. Meetings here were always mufti and even now, there wasn't a person alive (who knew) who could not stare at that tan beret with it's winged dagger badge. Some had, once upon a time made the mistake of doubting her right to wear such a thing. Broken noses and crushed ribs had shut up many a loud mouth...Not just from her either. The days of choosing between uniform and civvy wear were actually over for her, she'd officially retired as WOI after twenty three years in the army. The next ten were spent on detachment, same sort of work, but far more money but with far less backup.

The general will see you know “Staff Sergeant Major Harling.” The young, rosy cheeked subaltern manning the desk called out and she rose, smiling at him for the expressions that his use of her old rank caused to bloom in the faces of those she had shared the space with for the last twenty minutes.
She walked up to the tall, double doors, knocked once, firmly and waited a heartbeat before pushing through.
“Staff!” Called Sparrow, “Damn glad to see you made it. Everything cushty I trust?” He raised an eyebrow expectantly as he waved her over to a seat in front of his huge, oak desk. Something like a relic from the court of King James the First.
“Yeah, all good, boss. Went like clockwork.” She answered, using the old address for her former CO
and current boss. Not many people ever called the Brigadier General anything other than Sir and those who did, were either family, or people who, like her, had passed selection and served with him.
He grunted at her nonchalance, seeing it for the proud, professional soldier's understatement that it was. He knew there weren't all that many people still serving who could have done what she did, much less any on the retired list. He held out a hand and the small glass bottle appeared from inside a perfectly fitted jacket and she placed it into his palm. “That jacket.” He rumbled, “Von Furstenberg.” It was a statement, not a question. He knew this because his wife owned many such examples and he shuddered each time he saw the receipts.

“Yes Boss.” she said with a grin “Can't be turning up at the ministry in jeans and heels, can I? Don't want people thinking I'm some Labour Party goon.”

He actually laughed then and placed the glass bottle in the top drawer of his desk ready for his later appointment with the Duke “You know, it might be fun if you were to stay back and see the old bugger's face when I present him with his family's most prized heirloom.”
“I don't get why it wasn't in a safe or something Boss, I mean, if he cared that much about it.”
“Oh, he over thinks things, he has this idea that a safe is the obvious place to look, thought it would be save among the jars of toad eyes and newt tails no doubt. I must say, you did rather well, how long did it take you to find it amid all that junk?”
“Not long, boss, I'm good at what I do.” She said with a grin. “You got anything else for me?”

edit on 46pFri, 21 Jul 2017 12:43:46 -050020172017-07-21T12:43:46-05:00kAmerica/Chicago31000000k by SprocketUK because: spelling again

posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 11:49 AM
He chewed his moustache for a moment as he toyed with the thought that was in his mind and nodded, finally speaking only once the words seemed perfect.
“Yes, Staff, I do.” He reached into another drawer and pulled out a plane ticket within a small folder “I want you in Hokkaido by Wednesday. Meet a chap called Roger Gordian from the consulate, tell him you are there for the Chrysanthemum festival. He'll fill you in. It'll take you about a week, get some rest, and know now, that this is a wet job, so make sure your affairs are in order.”
Sally took a breath, committing everything to memory as she read her instructions before handing the folder back and pocketed the ticket. “Got it Sir.” She said, dispensing with the more familiar title as the gravity of his demeanour struck her. She stood and said “I will let you know when it's done.” Then she turned on a heel and left the office not seeing the worried look on her old CO's face, nor the grim line of his mouth as he pondered the storm he was sending one of his best troopers and oldest friends into.

“Well, Roger, you could have been fun if I wasn't on the clock” She mused as she watched the slim man make his way along the crowded platform, head and shoulders towering over the massed ranks of Japanese salarymen, racing home to their wives or to one of the city's many “love hotels” to meet girlfriends or escorts. Her lip curled in distaste at the culture. Despite many advances, Japan was, to her eye, still hobbled by a misogynistic and oft times perverted culture. In fact, the briefing from Gordian had puzzled her, since targetting a known people trafficker was, she'd have thought a job for the police, and the Japanese police at that. She could only imagine that the fingers of the Yakuza had reached so deeply into the local police force that Her Majesty's government had decided to sort things out for them, which begged the question “why”. Not that she could have asked anyone, and even if she had, the answer would have been “Need to know, old boy” or in her case, “old girl.” It just didn't make sense, she shook off the thought, it wasn't helping and would probably only distract her from her mission.

She stopped off to buy an old looking, but serviceable racing bike from one of the back street cycle shops that seemed to surround her hostel. A nice little place that was at least clean, if it lacked the trappings of one of the better hotels. Her cover was, after all, that of a Westerner sopping off for the festival then touring by cycle for a week before heading home with saddle cramps and fond memories to keep her going through the next six months until she could take time for another such adventure.
She rode the old bike, fingers pushing at the brake levers to drop a gear or two as she negotiated the narrow streets, then pulled into an alley by another cycle shop. She looked up and down, seeing no eyes on her and stamped down onto the metal spokes of the front wheel. Just enough to bend three or four and buckle the wheel a little. She then walked into the shop and explained in pidgin Japanese and mime that she wanted her wheel fixed, and oh, maybe a few spare spokes, a puncture kit, spare tubes and some small multi tools. Once she had what she needed, she headed off and made a few more stops, black, Lycra running gear that was all the rage, she frowned at the way the pants were more like lingerie than sportswear but realised there was nothing to be done about it. A couple of single Chrysanthemums, in odd colours, products of genetic engineering, she was informed, rather than some kid in a back room with a spray can. Hence the eye watering price.

A meal of Chicken Yakitori...sweet chicken kebabs, and a can of Sapporo, delivered by an unsmiling waiter who clearly thought women shouldn't be drinking beer, especially when out on their own, rounded off her evening and she went back to the hostel. She was relieved to see she still had the room to herself. One of her worries was that she would be saddled with some chatty Aussie gap year type who wouldn't leave her alone for longer than a minute.

Her mobile cheeped, she looked down and swiped a finger across the screen to read that her aunt Lizzie's Yorkshire terrier, Galby, had recovered from his tummy bug. “That's such a relief, love to all.” She typed back as she acknowledged the go signal with her own code to confirm she hadn't been compromised.

It was almost ten and she spent the next 4 hours quietly working before, satisfied she had done enough, she placed everything in it's proper place and collapsed onto the small pallet like futon that was her bed. She was out almost immediately and, after what seemed no more than ten minutes, her alarm cheeped happily, bringing her back to the world of the living.

She drank half a pint of water, then spent the next thirty minutes stretching on the floor, finishing with fifty push-ups, twenty five on each arm and a further fifty pull ups in the doorway. A shower took care of the sweat and the cold jet she finished with drove the last of her sleep from her body. Dried and with her hair pulled back in a tight little pony, she sat and ate a breakfast of dried fruit and a starchy rice ball as she looked over the programme she had bought with her ticket to the hotel which was the centre of the festival and the current home of her target.

For today she was wearing a thin, cream linen pant suit and matching, flat ballet pumps. The height heels would add not nearly as important here as at home. A black, miniature chrysanthemum sat poised in her buttonhole and she smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She patted herself down, checking for bulges or bumps that would ruin the look of her suit and, satisfied there were none, she turned and headed out into the summer heat of the city. The temperature must have been almost thirty degrees and she felt sweat starting to prickle between her shoulder blades as she made her way through the streets, clutching her small bag in that way tourists do when they imagine they are surrounded by thieves.

The gin sling was icy and perfectly dry as she sipped at it in the hotel bar. Security had been tight, as expected. A combination of the Aum Shinriko cult and a global up tick in Islamic State sponsored attacks making the normally uptight Japanese security services, positively paranoid. A middle aged Western woman with an interest in flowers wasn't too much to be worrying about and, though the guards had patted her down with enough thoroughness to make her think they should have exchanged numbers, she had entered without incident. A respectable forty five minutes had been spent perusing the stalls and smiling at some of the more outlandish displays before she retired to the bar. There, she had waited until it had filled up just enough to allow her to slip a small piece of sharpened spoke into the micro switch of the staff door, linking the bar with the maze of corridors that allowed a huge number of staff to keep the hotel running without getting in the way of paying guests.

posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 11:50 AM
Another half hour tour of the main hall followed, before it was time for another drink. Sparkling water this time, no sense in letting too much alcohol dull her senses, she waited, then slipped, unseen through the doorway and ran along the corridor, looking for one of the storage rooms she knew had to be there. Finding it, she slipped in and quickly changed, replacing the linen for Lycra and mesh, the shoes for a pair of Vibram soled trainers that were supposed to mimic being barefoot.
A thin band of cut inner tube circled her thigh, holding two, carefully bent lengths of spoke and two straight, sharpened lengths. She pulled the back off her phone and removed a small card, wrapped in aluminium foil from beneath the battery. Tossing the foil away she slipped the cloned, employee ID card into an arm band, similar to the one on her leg and listened at the door. Satisfied the coast was clear she exited and turned right, heading for one of only three lifts in the entire building that serviced the top floor.

As the doors opened a startled Japanese man holding a small pile of breakfast trays gaped at her. He was still gaping as he hit the floor, unconscious from the blow to the side of his jaw. She dragged him in so his feet cleared the doors and used her own card to activate the keypad, pressing the symbol for the top floor.

She breathed hard as she crouched in front of the doors. Her shape like that of a sprinter, waiting for the starting gun. She held a sharp, skewer like length of spoke in her left hand and two, foil balls in her right. As the doors pinged, she squeezed her right hand shut, crushing the balls together, the heat instant as she leapt out and threw it down the hallway. Her left hand jabbed out, sending the spokes into the neck of the burly Yakuza who was sitting outside the lift. The notches she had cut into each, tearing his carotid artery and severing the vagus nerve as she dragged her fist back and ensuring that the only thing he would be able to do in the next twenty seconds was die. She leaned down, taking his gun, a horrible little Skorpion machine pistol, she would have preferred a Sig or Browning semi, but beggars can't be choosers, she thought. Lifting the runner's mask up over her mouth and nose, she ran into the thick, acrid smoke caused by the reaction of the rubber cement, bleach and alloy shavings from the bicycle frame she had carefully wrapped in foil the night before.
Rolling, she burst through the large, double doors at the end of the hall at thigh height and two, quick squeezes of the trigger despatched both guards who were aiming pistols far above her head in a deafening rip of sound. She regained her feet smoothly, swinging the machine pistol to centre on the grey haired man sat cowering behind the bikini clad Japanese girl with peroxide hair that had, a few moments before obviously been sitting on his lap but now looked as though she might be about to pee on it. “Would serve him right, too.” She thought, just for a moment. Before she gestured for the girl to go over to the couch and stepped across the office to stand before him.

He started to babble something but she cut him off, driving the twin skewers into his thigh, all the way down to the bone and ripping them back out in a spray of blood and cacophony of screams. She jammed the pistol into the side of his face, the barrel still smoking hot and hissed into his ear “The Orange Bloom. Give it me right now or you die.” Her voice cold, devoid of emotion and, carrying the certainty of death if he never complied. He didn't dare defy her. Merely pointed to a button on his desk and when she nodded, pressed it. Releasing a small metal cannister in a hiss of nitrogen. She reached for it, the cold metal burning her fingertips as she slid it into her thigh band, then she shot him in the face before emptying the rest of the magazine into the girl.

She was back in the bar, dressed in her suit within 6 minutes of first opening the service door, the little piece of spoke buried along with the picks and the longer skewers in a large plant pot, holding a peace lilly. She sipped at her water then left. She was two whole blocks away by the time she heard the first of the sirens, and, three days later was checking her baggage back at Heathrow. An official car, a Jaguar XJ sped her through the traffic, blue lights clearing a path through the black cabs and white vans. There was no waiting at the ministry this time. She was ushered through and, after an uncomfortable few minutes in the General's private bathroom, she passed the small metal cylinder over to a serious looking man with a biohazard case. “Great, thanks for telling me” she thought then she asked “What the hell is it Boss?” To which he replied
“Need to know, Staff, sorry, but you can work it out I have no doubt.”

edit on 48pFri, 21 Jul 2017 12:44:48 -050020172017-07-21T12:44:48-05:00kAmerica/Chicago31000000k by SprocketUK because: spelling gah!

posted on Jul, 21 2017 @ 07:14 PM
a reply to: SprocketUK

Very well written!

I enjoyed it.

posted on Jul, 22 2017 @ 04:35 AM
a reply to: chr0naut

Thank you

posted on Jul, 23 2017 @ 04:24 AM
a reply to: SprocketUK
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and love the character.

posted on Jul, 23 2017 @ 06:20 AM
a reply to: TNMockingbird

Thanks. She was a bit more Lara Croft than I wanted. Maybe another adventure will make her more her own person.

posted on Jul, 23 2017 @ 11:43 AM
Great writing! Good job Sprocket!

posted on Jul, 23 2017 @ 04:55 PM
a reply to: Night Star

Cheers Nightstar

top topics


log in