The slight smell of diesel, sweat and metal filled the air, it was a little stuffy as no breeze could find its way into the truck that Will and Katalina had hidden themselves away in. They both wore dark clothes to help remain hidden, shirt and pants, black jacket over the top. Will wore his light armour underneath, it allowed him to move with little hindrance but would help in fight. They had followed the convoy of a dozen trucks out of Vilnius, all the way to the border with neighbouring Latvia. Lithuania and Latvia had just joined the European Union and this very night was the opening of the border. That meant that anyone travelling from Latvia to Lithuania could go through without the need to stop for a border and passport check. This was an ideal time for the convoy to move, although not all had gone according to plan. Apparantly there were still some restrictions on heavy vehicles and as such, the entire convoy had been pulled over for inspection. This had given Will and his team an opportunity to act.
He and Katalina had snuck aboard one such truck and taken the time to inspect the cargo. This one was indeed full of weapons, assault rifles mostly, AK-47s and ARX 160s. No ammunition, no explosives, no heavy ordnance, that was presumably in a separate truck.
The stop at the border was for the best part of an hour, exceedingly expedient for a convoy this large, no doubt some money changed hands. Chen and Jovan remained in the silver van that had been procured for the trip, Jovan drove as he said to Chen, ‘Would look strange to see Chinese man driving across border.’
‘Oh, vwell that’s fine then.’
The trucks had rumbled on for about two hours, Will and Katalina were able to talk in the back, the noise of the truck would ensure they weren’t discovered.
‘So how do you know Jovan?’ He’d asked.
‘I was born in Ukraine, under Soviet rule. We were oppressed horribly, no freedom. Although it got better towards the end, more relaxed, I never forgot those first few years, trying to live under someone’s heel. It wasn’t the worst of it, on the streets, crime was everywhere, people suffered. After the Soviets left, the crime only got worse. My mother and I moved to Serbia, I was still young, but we wanted a better life and we had heard that Yugoslavia had been more free, nice place.
But when we got there, we found that Tito had taken Yugoslavia to the grave with him. It was no better here, crime on the streets, you can not escape it Will. Crime from above is bad enough, but being afraid to walk to school or go to the store in your own neighbourhood is tough. I guess I always wanted to make a difference.
So when I was a teenager, I joined a gang, it was Derrick’s gang. He hadn’t been in charge for very long, but I could already see something special in him. For the first time Will, I could see someone who was in charge and who cared. He attacked and removed the most viscous criminals, he made others go out of business. Wherever he went, ordinary people lived a better life, only the bad men suffered.
At least that was true for a time, but then, I saw the cracks begin to show. Some people did suffer, some were killed by accident, by us, or the ‘bad men’, but either way, innocent people suffered. When I talked to Derrick about this, he didn’t care, it was a part of his mission to make Europe peaceful. I think he really believed that, perhaps he still does. Peace at any cost. But I think he has gone made from it. That is why I left. Yes, the streets were safer then before, less violence, but I knew that with someone who would do anything to achieve his goals, there would be more and more conflict. We had exchanged roaming bands of bandits for one warlord, only a small step up I would say.
That was when I met Jovan. He had a very small team, only two of them in fact, so I made three. We didn’t go after Derrick, after all, If he fell, who would replace him? Maybe just like in Serbia, someone worse would take charge. We worked to keep Serbia and the Balkans safe in our own way. Yes we do it for money, but we choose missions that suit our ideology, we punch up, not down is I think the expression. Once or twice we did go after Derrick though, once we learned of the Nameless creatures. That was horrifying at first. I’ve only had to deal with a few, but if we must face them, we will.’
‘You handled yourself rather well tonight.’
‘Well, I killed one more,’ Katalina smiled, a little shy, ‘but there are so many. Derrick has gone too far. We have been trying to move in on his operations, but now we must strike, we must finish them once and for all.’
They moved on in silence after that, Katalina lost in thought, Will staring at the back of the truck.
After they arrived in Riga, the capital of Latvia, it was after three in the morning, the sun would be rising in about three hours, Will hoped that they could sneak away before then. The trucks had arrived at a large compound and parked, forty minutes passed as they were inspected and there was a general buzz of activity.
Will was sweating, concentrating, his lips trembling as he repeated the words silently, ‘come on, come on, come on.’
‘Ok,’ he whispered, ‘hit me.’
Katalina drew a card and placed it down on the crate between them. Will sighed.
‘you’re vedy bad at poker,’ she gave her first hint of a smile, her Serbian accent and soft features were pleasant to Will’s senses, but he tried to focus on the cards.
Katalina laid down her hand, this time she did smile.
‘I give up, three games in a row, you’re too good.’
‘Well is dare anything else you want to do?’
‘Like what?’ Katalina didn’t reply, Will let the silence flow for a minute, then he realised something. ‘It’s quiet out there, has everyone gone home?’
They opened the large doors gently and snuck a look out into the compound, trucks parked, no sign of life.
‘Ok, let’s move.’ Katalina began to climb out of the truck, Will grabbed her gently.
‘Are you mad? We’re in the midst of a whole hive, we have a good hiding place, what exactly are we leaving it for?’
‘Time to find some answers. Sorry, don’t have time for anything else,’ she winked at him and slid to the ground gracefully. Will sighed and followed. They did find some signs of life, a few human men, truck drivers, walking around and smoking. The large building looked to be a disused Soviet era factory, converted into a large compound, big enough to store the dozen trucks of the convoy with room to spare.
Darting between trucks and shadows, which with intermittent lighting wasn’t too difficult, they reached one side, the smell of cooking wafted from underneath a nearby door. Will peaked through the small window of the door that led out of the main area.
‘That explains it,’ he said as he pulled his head back, ‘they’re having dinner, or breakfast. Looks like they’re getting ready to move again soon, we should get back in the truck.’ He looked again in the window, then pulled back once more, turning around, Katalina was nowhere to be seen. He hissed her name, ‘ Katalina’, and crouched low, searched for her. Only a few steps around the closest truck and he saw her, she came out from underneath the truck. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Nothing, she said innocently, ‘now come on, up here.’ She took his hand and keeping low they moved to a flight of stairs. They were metal and noisy, but there was enough ambience from the lunch room that they weren’t too obvious. Making their way up to the second level, they went inside a locked office, a situation easily rectified by Katalina, Will raised his eyebrows in approval, she was good, very good.
Inside, the small office was occupied by two empty desks, each with an old computer and files stacked up.
‘Help me look,’ she said, moving to one cabinet which slid open easily.
‘And just what is it we’re looking for?’
‘Any mention of shipping, invoices, and anything mentioning the European Union.’
‘The EU, what has that got to do with anything?’
‘Just look,’ she said, face already buried in files.
He obeyed, grabbing out odd pieces of paper, within two minutes Katalina combined her stack with his, slid them underneath her tight fitting jacket and they snuck back down the stairs. They reached the ground, their boots tapping across the concrete as the men spewed out of the lunch room. They returned to their truck without interference, Will practically pushing Katalina up the back of the truck.
‘Wait, one more thing.’
‘What? We have to go,’ he said, a tinge of panic entering his voice.
‘Just wait, I have to set this. From a zip on her jacket she removed a device a little too big for her petite hand.
‘That’s C4,’ Will said, a little confused.
‘Yes, I need to blow up a truck.’
‘What? We can’t do that, we’re tracking them remember, we can’t tip them off.’
‘Well that is awkward, because I’ve already set the timer on another truck, so are we going to blow up a second one or leave it at that?’
‘Damn,’ Will frowned but followed as Katalina crawled underneath the neighbouring truck. He kept watch, his hands sliding inside his jacket for the comforting feeling of his crescent shaped blades. He also carried a small silenced pistol, only silent weapons on this mission, but he hoped he didn’t have to use any.
The sounds of the men returning to the trucks grew louder. Footsteps, laughter, talking, all boomed across the crowded concrete building, sound bouncing off walls and floor turning it all into a mess of noise.
Will looked under the truck, couldn’t see Katalina properly but urged her to move faster, ‘come on, they’re here.’
‘Moment,’ her voice shot from the dark.
Will turned and could now discern two sets of footsteps coming close to them, most likely the drivers for the two trucks they were sabotaging and hitching a ride on.
Looking left and right, Will could see nowhere else to go, so he called to Katalina once more and lept up the back of the truck returning to his previous hiding place. The two men came closer now, he hoped they didn’t notice the door being left ajar. Nevertheless he knew they were about to board their vehicles and start them up. He could only hope that once inside the cabin they didn’t check their mirrors and Katalina could make her getaway.
After a few moments, the men said farewell, Will heard two doors open, a few moments passed, the two doors closed. The trucks rumbled to life, the floor underneath Will began to vibrate. They were deeper in the compound, he only hoped that the other trucks would take some time to move. He was partly right, after thirty seconds they’d not moved, but he risked a look through the gap in the door and saw that the trucks behind them were now beginning to reverse out towards the main road. Within moments they would be moving as well and Katalina would be seen. He withdrew to the back of the truck and held his breath, he let it out as he saw a figure leap up onto the truck and move towards him.
‘What the hell were you doing?’ He seethed.
‘Don’t panic,’ Katalina, ‘job is done.’
‘You could have got caught.’
Katalina smiled, ‘glad you care.’
‘So what was the point of all that, Jovan was particular about not upsetting the apple cart, and I thought we all agreed. We would follow the trucks find out who they were going to.’
‘That’s why we got the files, the second mission is to stop the weapons getting into the wrong hands, that’s what the explosives are for. You’re more uptight than I thought you’d be.’
‘Ok,’ Will frowned feeling he’d been insulted, but not sure if he should care at this point. ‘but what happens when two out of twelve trucks explode, you don’t think they’ll get suspicious?’
‘Of course, but it will be too late by then.’
‘Simple,’ she smiled sweetly, the most emotion she had shown since Will had known her, ‘I am very, very good at cutting people’s tyres. So good in fact that I know that the two trucks wont notice the slow leak for about half an hour. That way they will stop in the country side, pull over, the convoy will move on, and a few crucial minutes later, bang goes the trucks. The rest of the convoy wont know until they hear police and traffic reports late in ze day.’
‘How do you know that we’ll be at our destination by then?’
‘The documents I took told me that there are two regular stops, a town only an hour from here called Sigulda, den on to Estonia. So the convoy will most likely have moved on before de morning news kicks in, that’s at least two hours away and dat’s assuming the radio gets de information straight away, which I can assure you is very unlikely.’
‘Wow,’ Will said, there was nothing left to add so he close his gaping mouth. After a few minutes he thought back to the documents, ‘what did we take exactly?’
Katalina started to fish out the papers, getting out a small torch she began scanning them. He noticed that some of them were in Latvian.
‘You can read Latvian?’
‘Yes, partly, I started learning last week when we knew we’d be moving up here.’ She paused as she read. ‘Mostly it just tells us the movements of their shipping, this helps fill in some gaps, they’re definitely moving in to Estonia, and that probably means Russia as well.’
‘Yeah, thought as much.’
‘Right, but there are a few extra tid bits here.’
‘This,’ she showed him three separate documents. They were memos, typed and signed by names he didn’t recognise. One was in English, one was Russian and one was Lithuanian, he had no chance of reading that one.
‘Ok, and what are they?’
‘Well, more evidence to what Jovan and I suspect is the real plan of Derrick and his Nameless allies. The war you’ve been fighting these past two years Will, it’s all been the front line, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Derrick is no longer simply trying to bring the streets of Eastern Europe under control, he is infiltrating the very institutions that run the entire continent.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘I’m saying, Derrick isn’t just using his shapeshifters to upset a few street gangs, that was never the end of his ambition, he plans to take over and control the European Union itself and we’re the only ones that know about it.’
‘And the only ones that can stop it.’
(C) T.W. Norrich ‘The Nameless Saga’ 2017