Chasing Tomorrow ~ Original Group Story

It is the year 3000. A Cold War broke out in the United States, and the world is far from peaceful. But one special group of fighters are destined to save everyone. Immaculate training. Deadliest weapons. Super-high technology. Envied by their teammates, feared by their enemies, name known all around the world. They are the Trackers, a select elite squad of highly-trained fighters whose mission is to find the enemy's top secret files, and end the war for tomorrow.

Chapter 1

Aryan Levesque Dare ~ First Mission

I shook back my hair as I walked into the mess hall, my helmet tucked under one arm and my strategy notebook tucked under the other. There were soldiers in their uniforms everywhere, but I spotted my teammates quite easily. It wasn’t only through the shiny black vinyl uniforms and helmets that we wore instead of the plain green ones. It was also because we, being the Trackers, liked to sit together on our own table. Going back way before, the Trackers has always had a table for themselves, next to the floor-to-ceiling window. We were the sharpest team of only the best select fighters. We all went through the toughest training. To be selected for the Trackers was hard. It meant going through endless training and evaluations that lasted up to three years. Only flawless, perfect training precision could earn you that one priceless spot.

We weren’t just an ordinary team. We were a special, elite squad of select, highly-trained fighters. Our training was immaculate. Our fighting skills were tops of the top. We had the highest technology and the best weapons. MK-16 Carbines, Beretta M9 Pistols, M16 assault rifles, plus sniper rifles, shotguns, machine guns and grenade launchers, not to mention the anti-aircraft mission launchers and mortars. Four years ago, when I first joined the Trackers, we were given our first reward, which was an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, the best reward we ever got.

In the Trackers, we had six different positions, and they were all equally important. There were two sharpshooters, two assassinators, one front attacker, one weapon specialist, two escape artists, and one communicator. Each of us had dozens of heavy loads of missions on our shoulders. All of us went through the same training, and then we extended it to training that suited our positions. Sharpshooters had special shooting and aiming training. Weapon specialists worked with weapons and extended knowledge. And it was all equally long, hard, and grueling.

Our sharpshooters were respectable fighters, certainly. Kevin Gordon and Nadia Lynn Clarke. While their personalities were completely the opposite of each other, they had the same shooting abilities. And it’s seriously hard to describe them. Let’s just say that they could shoot the dead centre of a single leaf that was two hundred feet away, blindfolded and hanging upside down. It wasn’t even exaggerating their abilities. To be honest, it was covering up their true talents.

I was the assassinator, along with Francis Willows, or Frank as we liked to call him. Frank was another respectable member of our team, mainly because he was the oldest in age, but he had the undercover assassinating skills that I could only dream of. I remember Kevin and me, being the most experienced senior members of the squad, introducing them to their training. Never in my life had I expected them to turn out twice and thrice better than me. Frank and I went on several undercover missions together, and we had done it so many times, we had a sort of non-verbal communication, like we knew what one another was thinking without having to speak.

Elcalytia Proeza was the front attacker. A rather good one, too, if you asked me. Apart from being known for being loud and sociable, she rushed in front of every single attack. Just her being her usual confident, brave self was an encouragement for all of us to fight to the best of our abilities. We saw her as a role model, one that could boost our team confidence anytime. She was truly a good influence on all of us. She was also one of my better friend on the team, apart from Kevin, who was my oldest and best friend. Our personalities were so similar in many ways.

Then we had our weapon specialist, Kaitlin Moira Finn. Intelligent, quiet and smart, she was not one that you should underestimate, although she is underestimated often. She knew everything about weapons, and that was not an exaggeration. Whenever you heard gunfire, she could identify the full name of the gun used, followed by a bunch of facts about it. And she was always right. She could take a pistol apart and put it back together in less than thirty seconds. She could detonate bombs in the blink of an eye, and she knew weapons better than the back of her hand.

Our escape artists were more talented than you could ever expect them to be. Makani Minomoto was sweet, bubbly, and more than willing to prove herself. When she first joined the force, I had my questions about her. She seemed a little too keen and over-excited, as if the war, to her, was just another game of make-believe and not to be taken seriously. But I soon realized that she was the perfect escape artist. She soon became an undercover genius. She was underestimated by both some of the force and the enemy, making her a natural escape artist. Nobody would ever doubt her, the pretty, innocent young girl that has no clue what the real world was like. Makani was like a little flower, fighting against all odds and growing in the grilling heat and dust of war.

While Makani was a keen and smiley girl, Harmony Rose Powers was completely the opposite. She was, too, an escape artist, but she was nothing like her mission partner. The problem is that Harmony had been through a lot in her earlier years. We saw her as deceptive, cunning, manipulative, and also rebellious, competitive and unafraid to cross the lines when needed. But that was what we saw on the outside. On the inside, she was full of scars and bad memories that she wanted to get rid of. It was one thing that we never saw until it was too late. To be honest, we get on quite okay. I think it’s mainly because we understand each other in a mutual way.

And we probably wouldn’t ever get anywhere with our communicator, Ciara Elizabeth Reynolds. She, like Makani, didn’t leave the impressions of the best fighter, as she had no idea that the enemy was more than willing to kill her. But I soon realized that she was one of the best communicators there was. When we were on missions, she was the one to receive them and then pass them to us. She was also really cunning, always changing her hideouts so the enemy can never fully track down her signals. There was a risk, but Ciara was a risk-taker. And that was one thing that I admired most about her. She was never afraid of anything.

Kevin, Nadia, Frank, Elcalytia, Kaitlin, Makani, Harmony, Ciara and me – Aryan. Together, we fought under one single name, making the world fear and respect us. It was impossible not to. The last time we lost a fight was earlier on last year, when only Kevin and I were part of the Trackers along with seven other members. It was a nightmare that I wished I could forget.

It was another normal day, but we were all in our hideout, except for one person. Black Sparrow. Our communicator ran in with a message saying that we had to transfer. On our way to our new hideout, we were ambushed. The enemy surrounded us. We took out nearly a third of them, but when new troops arrived we were outnumbered. Their machine guns were propped up, spitting deadly bullets that found their way into your body and ripped you apart from the inside. Kevin and I were the only survivors. Our six teammates, for over three years, had died.

Black Sparrow had betrayed us. Since then, our major mission was to assassinate her when we got the chance. We had our new recruits earlier on this year, but nobody could ever replace my old teammates. My hatred towards Black Sparrow grew every single time I thought of this. Because of her, who I had once trusted, I lost my teammates forever. And she is going to pay the price for it. If I find her, I will kill her, the same way she killed my teammates a year ago.

Killing someone wasn’t even a big deal to me. I didn’t think twice before I took lives. Being an assassinator, your job was to kill people. I had once perched up on a mountain for three days straight waiting for a Conqueror general to pass by. I shot him straight through the head, and sending me a straight war exploit. I could kill people without thinking of the consequences. I had done it so many times, my hands were slick with my enemy’s blood. It was my job. I was proud.

They called me heartless, cruel, a girl made of stone. That was how I saw myself, too. I didn’t like what I see. I used to love that image I portrayed, the girl who saw murder as part of her duty, but it wasn’t that simple. I was an experienced killer. I was cold, cruel, and forever a mystery. But if I wasn’t, and if I had a personality like Makani or Ciara, I would have died a million times now. When you’re constantly pacing between life and death, going on high-risk missions, there was only one rule. Kill or be killed. It was the rule of war, one that cannot and will never be changed.

Kevin, as usual, had saved a seat for me. It was the one between him and the window, as always. He knew that I liked sitting beside the window, because it helps me think straight. I pushed my plate of food aside, and flipped open my strategies notebook. I had been using this notebook since I first joined the force, because I liked to draw all the different strategies and plans for missions. If you open it and look inside, it would probably be a bunch of messed-up lines, diagrams, arrows, shapes and dots. The codes at the bottom looked like a jumble of letters, numbers and symbols, all shaken up with some upside down and some sideways, then translated into hieroglyphics and rewritten with really bad spelling mistakes. To be honest, I was probably the only person in the whole world that understood the genius behind these masses of scribbles. They formed a full, dexterous battle plan, with every single little detail included.

I tapped the tip of my pen against the page, and ruled a straight line, as the two opposing sides of a battle. Then I began thinking. We had four main regiments that were taking part in the battle. I chose to represent them with four circles. If we moved the first regiment towards the far left, and the second regiment towards the lower right, we could keep the third and fourth regiment in our side. When the enemy charges, we could have the first regiment ambush them. I drew an arrow to represent the movement of the enemy. Then maybe the second regiment could back them up when the enemy is beginning to lose men. Finally, when they are nearly demolished, the third and fourth regiment can rush up and defeat them all. I drew two arrows connecting the four circles with the enemy – the triangles – and finished my plan with a great flourish.

By now, my notebook was filled with squiggles, lines, arrows and distorted shapes. It was a finished battle plan. I noticed that Harmony was looking at me with a curious expression, as if she wanted to know what I was doing. Kevin studied my drawing with his eyebrows raised. Nadia, who was opposite me, scanned it with the expression appropriate for studying a page of complicated algebra questions. I raised my head, suddenly aware of the attention that I was drawing to myself. “What’s going on? What did I miss?” I asked, frowning slightly.

“No problem,” Makani said quickly. “Ciara and I were just having a competition to see who could hold a block of frozen soymilk in our palms for longest without it melting.” She held up her hand, and it was dripping with light yellow liquid. She smiled sheepishly. “I guess it wasn’t one of my better ideas,” she admitted, and wiped her hand on a piece of paper that Kaitlin passed to her.

“Yeah, just keep it clean next time,” I said, closing my notebook carefully. Frank and Kevin started a conversation about the new grenade launchers that we were supposed to be getting later on this week. Elcalytia and Kaitlin sat quietly, munching on their tofu burgers and scooping big spoonfuls of frozen soymilk. Ciara and Makani were now laughing about a weirdly-shaped piece of tofurkey, while Harmony rolled her eyes, her scowl deepening. Nadia shrugged, and she pushed her plate of soydogs over to me. “Here, you can have one. I’m not too hungry.”

“Oh, will do,” I said, smiling. Soydogs were my guilty pleasure, no matter what happened. I could always use a soydog, even in the toughest of situations. I took the smallest one and bit into it. Although it was cold by now, the savoury taste still made me smile. Nadia smiled, and she brushed a piece of her stray blond hair from her forehead. “I like these, too,” she said, grinning.

Harmony got tired of watching the commotion around her. She leaned over and snatched the notebook from me. I didn’t bother to stop her, because she wouldn’t understand half of it anyway. She had tried numerous times before to decipher them, but failed every time.

“What are these blobs supposed to be?” she asked, her eyebrows crinkling. I smiled. “Those are our control quarters. The shaded blobs are the enemy’s control quarters. Then the circles represent the different regiments. The triangles are the enemy troops. You can see smaller squares in the circle, which represent the different squadrons, companies and batteries.”

Harmony raised her eyebrows. “Interesting,” she said. She almost looked fascinated for a while, until Makani elbowed her in the waist by accident. She immediately dropped the surprised expression and replaced it with a scowl deepening by the second. “Ugh, watch it, will you?” she snapped. “I can do every day without you little girls pestering me all the time.”

Makani’s eyebrows flew up, and she touched her chest lightly with her hand. “I’m not a little girl,” she said indignantly, standing up for herself. “I’m fourteen. I’m the same age as Aryan when she first joined the Trackers.” That was one thing I always liked about Makani. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself when she needed, and it was impossible to stay mad at her.

“Oh, whatever,” Harmony said, and she tossed the notebook back to me. I caught it and put it back in my pockets. “Okay, guys, stop it,” I said. Elcalytia immediately stood up as well. “Guys, stop it,” she said decisively. I grinned. Since the first day I saw her, I knew that Elcalytia would be a really good leader someday. And now, some of her leadership qualities were shining through.

I tucked my hair behind my ears, and pushed my chair back. “Okay, guys, we should be out at target training at eight o’clock. Remember, it’s on the hills today, and not in the training centre.”

“All right!” Ciara said, excited. “I wonder if the location of the shooting centre can affect your shooting abilities. I bet you three soydogs that I’ll be better at aiming outdoors than indoors!” She turned to me, her face full of excitement. “When is our first mission going to be, Aryan?”

“You’ll have to ask Lieutenant Castellan about that,” I said. I forgot that they’ve never gone on a super mission before. They’ve done heaps of mission simulations, including impromptu and unprepared ones, where they are told that they are on an actual mission when it was really a simulation. They’ve also gone on basic undercover missions, and killed their enemies, but they had never been on the real battlefield before. Most of them haven’t, anyway. I knew that Ciara and Makani haven’t. I wasn’t too sure about Frank, because he seemed kind of experienced to me, and Nadia probably has before, since she is one of the best sharpshooters that the Resistance ever had. I hoped that we had a mission soon, too. I couldn’t wait to hunt Black Sparrow down again. It had been a year. And one day, I would get revenge.

“I hope it’s soon,” I heard Ciara say. I smiled. I was about to say “Me, too,” when the door of the mess hall opened, and silence swept across the entire hall. Then, I stood straight, and saluted. It was a crisp and straight one. I immediately saw the entire hall doing the same. Beside me, Makani did one that was so full of energy, her face was practically red with glory.

Standing at the door was First Lieutenant and Regiment Commander Henry Castellan. He was wearing immaculate, dark-green uniform, handsome compared to ours. His chest was lined with coloured badges. His black hair was neat and perfectly in order, and his golden-specked hazel eyes gleamed like his platinum insignia across his shoulder. He stood straight and calm, one hand in his pocket and the other at his side. It was like the entire hall was holding their breath.

“At ease,” he said in a gentle but firm tone. When the soldiers slowly resumed talking again, he walked towards us. I noticed that his tracking device was still at his ear, and I figured that he had been working all night again. I immediately stood up straight. “Lieutenant Castellan,” I said, and he nodded gently, smiling. “How many times do I have to tell you? You don’t have to call me Lieutenant Castellan. Just call me Henry.” He probably thought of himself as a part of us and, to be honest, he was. The Trackers always had a tenth member, and that was the technical member. Apart from being the First Lieutenant of the Resistance, Henry was the Weapon Manager of the Trackers. He was in charge of all the weapons. At least he was nice to us. Our previous Weapon Manager made us clean all the weapons. Henry loved his team, his weapons and his fight more than he loved himself. He cleaned all the weapons personally, making sure that they were glinting clean before he would let us use them. He was the kind of person who would give his last bowl of food to a starving child, and that was why we all respected him.

“I’ve got a mission for you guys,” he said, and smiled mysteriously when we all widened our eyes in surprise, disbelief and joy. Ciara’s eyes were nearly popping out of her head, and Makani looked like she could hug every single person in this room out of excitement. He leaned closer. “I’m assigning this to you guys because I believe you’re the only people that can get it done. I’m going with you, too. Now, meet me in the weapon room after you’re done.”

When he left, we quickly scoffed down the last of our food, abandoned our plates in the washing cart, and sped off towards the weapon room. Henry was waiting there. He smile when we came in. “Now, this is an extremely important mission. Ever heard of the annual Winter Dance?”

Makani immediately raised her hand. “Ooh, ooh, I have!” She looked so desperate to say the answer that Henry just smiled and nodded at her. She took a deep breath to contain herself, and cleared her throat, causing Harmony to roll her eyes. But she did a good job with explaining. “The Winter Dance is a special dance to celebrate the arrival of winter. Although it’s kind of ironic since we only have spring, summer and autumn now, it’s still a great tradition. Anyway, the Winter Dance is held every year at the Hotel Grandissimo, down in Avenue Court. Everyone is supposed to go, and it’s a great celebration that continues on all the way past midnight.”

Henry clapped his hands. “Perfect! Great job with explaining. That was spot on.”

Harmony rolled her eyes again, and received a nudge from Nadia. She nudged back harder.

“So, here’s the mission,” Henry said. Frank and Kevin, who were at the far corner of the room, craned their heads to listen. Henry continued. “Black Sparrow will be accompanying the Brigadier General of the Conquerors to the dance as well. Our mission is to assassinate her.”

I inhaled sharply. Finally, after all this wait! Finally! Black Sparrow was going down!

“We have our men as well, who will be going undercover as the hotel’s waiters and waitresses. And we also have them hiding on the top floor, who will help you out when needed. Your job is to assassinate Black Sparrow, no matter what the cost. She know too much about us and our information. This action is vital, and must be completed.” Henry took a deep breath, and sighed. “This mission is very important. I will be going with you.”

“To give us direct orders?” Harmony muttered under her breath.

“Not to give you direct orders,” Henry said. “I have my own mission. I will be covering for you, and assassinating the Brigadier General himself.” His eyes flashed dangerously, and I wanted to back away. It wasn’t every day that Henry got angry. Maybe Harmony really pinched a nerve or something. But Henry shook his head. “No. Here are the weapons you can choose from.” He kicked a box at us, and we immediately jumped on it like lions jumping onto dead prey.

“We’ve got sniper rifles, M16 assault rifles, and grenades,” he said as he watched us marvel over the weapons we could use. I picked up one of the Beretta M9 Pistols and examined it closely. Henry saw me, and smiled. “These are perfect for sneaking in,” he said. Near me, Frank looked at a machine gun with awe, and Kevin was holding three or four guns at once, trying to decide which one he would use. Elcalytia and Ciara seemed to be treating themselves to grenades while Kaitlin took to examining the pile of MK-16 Carbines. Nadia looked like she was in pure heaven, gazing at a sniper rifle happily. Makani pretended to aim with her pistol, finding the perfect pose that suited her. Henry seemed to be amused at our reactions to the new weapons.

“They’re perfect,” I heard Harmony whisper. I had never seen her so happy since she first joined. In fact, her face actually showed pure delight. It made her immediately prettier, and I smiled, too. I knew that there was a sweeter side to Harmony after all. She just didn’t like to show it.

“Think you’re ready for the mission?” Henry asked.

“We sure are!” Kevin called while Elcalytia said, “Oh, definitely!”

I was the only one who saluted and said, “Yes, sir!” but Henry gave me a look. “Come on, Aryan. Seriously. Forget military rules for one day. You can do it.”

I laughed. “All right!” I picked up an armful of guns and grinned at my teammates. “Now who’s ready for some training?” I asked, receiving enthusiastic responses from everyone, even Harmony.

“Oh, and prepare your outfits, too,” Henry reminded us. “You’ll be going as you and not your undercover identity. This is a mission, guys, so we gotta be serious about it. Okay? Undercover identities can sometimes distract us, as I learnt from experience.”

“Experience,” Harmony snorted. “Experience from sitting in your office all day?”

Henry gave her a sideways glance. “Soldier Powers, if you have a problem, you can always skip out on the missions. They’re not for everyone, you know.”

Harmony looked as if she took a huge gulp of sour milk. She turned away and rolled her eyes. I shook my head. I didn’t get it. What was Harmony’s problem with Henry? She seemed to go against everything he said deliberately.

Kaitlin broke the silence, to our surprise. “Come on, you guys, we better get going!”

As my teammates rushed out of the weapon room, Kevin and I hung behind. He grinned. “They’re all seriously excited,” he said with a smile.

“Guess so,” I said. Something at the back of my mind disturbed me. “I don’t know about this mission, though.”

Kevin gaped at me. “You gotta be kidding me! You’ve been waiting for a year to kill Black Sparrow, and now you’re not sure if you want to do this?”

“It’s not that,” I argued. “It’s just that… well, I get a bad feeling about all of this. Like something is going to go wrong. I just thought it was weird. I never used to feel like this.”

“Oh, relax, Miss Hornet,” Kevin said, rolling his eyes Harmony-style. “We’ve got the best weapons. We’ve got several men there backing us up. Dude, we’re the Trackers. We’ve got them surrounded and all we have to do is shoot. Nothing bad is going to happen. Trust me.”

I thought this over for a while. “You’re right,” I said, shaking my head and smiling. “I’m just over sensitive sometimes. I guess that was nothing.”

But I really couldn’t be too sure.

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