Gladys Vandelay – Redemption
By: Rock Kitaro
“I believe in the Paramours! Understand?”
His voice echoes. I’ll never forget that night. Triumph and tragedy. Shrouded in blood, fire, and broken walls. Elliot, I believe in the Paramours too. I just lack the patience when it comes to satisfying my wrath. And I will have satisfaction. I’ll not be denied.
As the biting wind scraped against my cheeks, I just imagined those whores celebrating with champagne and cake. It was a job well done. They managed to frame the president and get their own puppet elected. And all it cost was the death of one of their own. Or was the First Lady really innocent collateral damage in their never-ending war on men? Didn’t matter. The turn of events, we’ll use to our advantage.
It was just after sundown as the sky turned dark and powdered with stardust. The snowy marshmallow slopes of British Columbia looked the same as when Breanne first brought to the secluded military compound known as the Villa. It was back when I was nothing but a teen with no direction, no passion, just a vacuum of bottled up rage. Now, I had direction. Now, I knew exactly what to do with all that rage.
My partner, the Andalusian Anna Marie, cruised an Apache chopper at 200 mph ready to unleashed hell. We came fully equipped with Hellfire missiles, 30mm cannons, Hydra rockets, M230 chain guns, and my personal favorite, an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun. I installed it myself. Refused to embark without it.
I needed to wrap my fingers around the handles. I needed to feel the raw energy as I squeezed the trigger. I needed to see my enemies evaporate within the sights of my crosshairs. I’d have it no other way.
“We’re coming up. Five minutes out.”
Hector Rodgers was an Army discharge clearly infatuated with Anna. He was on board for one purpose and one purpose only. To jam and hack the Villa’s comms system. He had already picked up the signal and began masking our approach. I knew he wouldn’t survive the onslaught. Anna insisted on bringing him along, but he didn’t have our training, our experience. We were about to go and kick the deadliest nest of hornets in the world. Everyone knows the stragglers always get stung the fuck up, so…spoiler alert.
As the glow from the perimeter lights got brighter and brighter, Anna and I exchanged a mutual glance. We were both wearing gray Emerson Navy Seal combat suits with short sleeves even though it was below freezing. Our pants had kneepads and ample pockets. Our bulletproof vests had built-in spine protectors and our boots were laced halfway up to our knees. We brought duffle bags full of goodies, bombs, guns, ammunition, all that.
Anna had a belt of field knives wrapped around her thighs. When I asked her why, considering firearms should primary, she wouldn’t answer. She didn’t say anything before liftoff. Just scary silent with this intense focus as if she was already getting shot at.
“Two minutes out. They’re gonna see us from the towers.” Hector warned.
“Show me the living room.” I said as I crawled over to his monitors.
Sure enough, an assembly of over sixty Swords were all having a ball. I saw creatures in cocktail dresses and casual wear. No diversity in their colors. Everyone was either in black or white. Everyone looked like their just got their hair done, their mani-pedis. And for me, it was like looking at a “Where’s Waldo.” But there…there she was. The center of the universe herself. Breanne Cunningham, one of the Armored Front, one of the Society’s elite generals.
I returned and stationed myself behind the machine gun, inhaling that icy cold air, visualizing the carnage. I was smiling. I shouldn’t have, but I was. A bit wicked of me but still, I was happy. The smell the gun powder, the ring of tinnitus following high-impact explosions…electricity rushed through my bones. I couldn’t wait.
“They spotted us, Canary. I’m bout to light it up.” Anna said, her voice coming through my earpiece.
“Wait!” I said.
“Yo, seriously? These bitches are scramblin’. Jumping over couches and shit. Damn! Who are these people?” Hector shouted.
“I said wait! Take us ‘round the towers.”
Anna swooped in at a low angle. The sentry guards started firing at us with rattling popcorn-like shots from their submachine guns. My eyes were peeled. Maybe one or two taps hit the chopper, but not enough to affect real damage. They needed to get their stinger missiles from the basement. But the snipers on the roof and towers could’ve taken us out. I’ve seen them at work. They’re good. So we needed to hit them first.
With two hands on the grips, I pressed the trigger and man…the .50 caliber tore through the towers as if the stone was made of sugar cubes. Three snipers spilled out of the first tower. I quickly aimed for the second but like I said. They were good. A bullet struck the metal just inches from my face and we were over 150 yards out with a cloud of snowy rotor wash serving as a veil. I smirked and return fire, whittling the tower to less than nothing.
Rockets screamed as Anna launched Hellfire and Hydras. The bombardment was spectacular, explosions galore, our declaration of war. Even Hector got on the controls and started shooting from the M230 chain gun. All the cars and limos parked in the driveway, that was Hector’s handy work, riddling them like soda cans stabbed by a devious a pre-schooler.
“Anna! The west wing!” I shouted.
She targeted the communications hub on the west wing while I blew out the floodlights. And of course they had an underground backup generator that came on five seconds after the blackout. By then, there were bullets hailing on us from all directions. Anna was shouting something, but I could barely hear her. My thumbs were squeezing the trigger so hard that they almost got jammed.
In less than a minute, we made the place look like it was caught in a California wildfire. Half of the roof had collapsed. Three of the four towers were destroyed. Bodies were strewn about and everyone was screaming.
The helicopter jerked up and down so violently that my head hit the ceiling. There was a hard tilt so all I saw the dark sky. And once it started in a tailspin, I was ejected.
I spiraled out of control before my body crashed through a wooden table in the backyard. I felt this intense pain as if my hip was cracked, and yet, a pistol was still in my hands. I remember chuckling, thinking for an instant how being a gunslinger to me was like breathing, an involuntary motion by which my muscles acted on their own to arm, aim, and fire.
Soon, I was back on my feet, skirting the edge of the pool as I picked off ladies who were foolishly blasting shotguns at me from long-range. I was too quick and the pellets that did hit were absorbed by the vest. I darted into the bushes and popped back out with headshots before they knew what hit ‘em.
“Oh! This bitch!”
A Sword whose name I failed to remember came charging at me. She scooped me up by my legs and tackled me backwards into a set of lawn chairs. I rolled on top and put two slugs in her stomach, one to her face.
Whilst still mounted on the dead Sword, I transitioned from pistol to my ARX battle rifle. Striding low, I shot at anything remotely resembling a human. Some were on fire from the explosions. I put them out of their misery.
The shattered sliding glass door was my point-of-entry into the Villa’s main living room. Fire crawled along the walls but its ceiling remained intact. I went in guns blazing. I saw girls in cardigans carrying vintage Colts. They were pissed.
I took two shots to the back before spinning to my knees and dropping the girl who was coming at me from across the pool table. A lamp crashed to my left. I glanced and lit up three Swords who were running my way. Had to keep moving.
Running down the hallway, there were explosions left and right. No one knew what was going on until I opened fire. Then…wouldn’t you know it. I saw a flash of black hair before someone shoulder-checked me over the walkway railing. I fell from the 2nd floor and it busted up my shoulder, dislocated. Out of pure rage and fucking adrenaline, I popped it back into place just as Scarlet made her superhero landing before my very sight.
She swung at me. I leaned back and recoiled so hard that I tumbled down a set of marble steps. My face was bleeding. She managed to land a cut below my right eye.
Scarlet was so full of herself. Not daunted in the slightest by the spreading flames or the smoke filing the air. She approached, shaking her head, taunting with, “I knew I should have killed you the moment I laid my eyes. Fucking cunt.”
She kicked me hard in my ribcage, but I grabbed her leg and used her momentum to swing her down.
“Haha! Seriously?” She chuckled.
It was ridiculous. Through sheer will and superior strength, she regained control of the leg I was swinging, planted her feet, and shoved me up against the wall before throwing punches as if she was breaking me down in the corner of a ring.
I side-stepped and swung my rifle like an ax, popping off shots whenever I had her in front of my muzzle. I kept missing. She slipped, bobbed and weaved better than most pros.
And as we struggled, I kept feeling this burning sting. It wasn’t until I belted her hip with butt of my rifle that she slowed down long enough for me to notice. There were spikes jutting from her knuckle rings. She scratched and punctured with each blow she landed.
“Come on! Where’s all that rage you talked about!” Scarlet jeered.
I grinned. The rage was indeed there. Even with my vision getting blurry and the heat scathing my lungs, I wasn’t about to run. Either she or I would die that night. There’s no getting around it and I’d have it no other way.
A stun grenade was detonated with a blinding flash of light and a bang that ruptured the eardrums. Another team of soldiers stormed in, and ironically, they were men. The fucking hypocrites had a backup unit of soldiers living in an underground bunker not far from the Villa. I guess even Anna didn’t know about them. She would’ve mentioned it.
I squinted at the blinding flashlights as the soldiers approached, hesitant and clueless as to whether I was a foe.
“SHOOT HER!” Scarlet screamed.
Shots rang out but not from them. Anna burst through the flames with her M16 and started gunning them down from behind. When she ran out of bullets, she pulled those field knives and started slicing hamstrings in a violent dance only she could perform. Krav Maga. It was magnificent. She was dropping two at a time, stomping out knees and stabbin’ necks.
Scarlet tackled me again, but this time I shoved her off with my rifle and did my utmost to mow her the fuck down. She took off running behind pillars and I gave chase. I could hear Anna shouting my name but I refused to take my eyes off the target. Scarlet grabbed an idle pistol and returned fire. I rolled a grenade her way and she went diving into another room.
A bullet whizzed by my ear just as the grenade exploded. It came from my nine o’clock at a high angle. A Sword was up there with a KSG pump-action shotgun. I could barely see her so I knew she could barely see me. I kept moving. Small pops came from the plaster in a straight line just above my head. I finally took cover behind one of those ugly marble pillars. Taking off my vest, I whipped it to the left. Sure enough, she fell for the decoy and shot at the vest. I peeked out to the right and shot her in the throat.
“AGH!” I groaned as a bullet scraped across my shoulder.
Scarlet. She came sprinting from the kitchen with her Glock. And as soon as she stepped into the hallway, Anna intercepted, rammed her into the wall and hip-tossed her to the ground. While they went at it, I checked my six and finished off the soldiers Anna merely wounded.
Scarlet was a warrior, I’d give her that. I didn’t think anyone could give Anna a run for her money in hand-to-hand combat, but there she was, in the flaming hot kitchen, throwing elbows and knees to the midsection. Thankfully, Anna was stronger, more aggressive with a longer reach. Anna blasted her with a furious combination of hooks and uppercuts before sending her sliding across the floor with a back-heel kick to the chest.
Scarlet was seeing red when she popped up. She lunged in with that spiked fist. Anna trapped her arm, elbowed her jaw, and picked her up to body-slam her over the granite kitchen island. When Scarlet did this break-dance windmill to stand up on the counter, I ended it with a bullet that ripped through her knee.
She unleashed this hellacious roar as she fell back on the counter with blood spilling over the side. With her hair sticking with sweat, Scarlet was still trying to get up. I shot two more women who came into view while Anna walked over to pick up a butcher’s knife.
I didn’t see Scarlet die. I wish I had. The fire was out of control and the Swords kept coming. The last I saw of her was while Anna carved into her neck with Scarlet’s boots kicking skid marks into the counter. I moved on.
Bodies were everywhere. As I moved through the corridor with my stock against my sore pulsating shoulder, I could feel my heart beating like a drum. Orange embers and floating sparks floated in the dark clouds of smoke. I couldn’t distinguish between walls and open space. The terrifying sounds of collapse and splintering beams amplified my anxiety. And then…I coughed.
In a flash, a white hand emerged from the smoke and grabbed my neck. I swear it was something out of my worst nightmares. The back of my head hit the wall so hard that my eyes rolled. And out of the smoke came her face like a pale faced ghost with lifeless blue eyes. I tried raising my rifle, but she easily snatched it away and tossed it down the hall like a mother discarding a toy. Anna was right. Breanne was terrifying.
“The Canary and the Andalusian. Two of my most prized pupils. At least they’ll say I can sure pick em. Only you two could possibly be capable of such…a PAIN IN MY ASS!”
I kneed her in her chest and she returned with a uppercut my kidneys that hit like a sledgehammer. I’d never been struck so hard in my life. I wanted to keel over from the pain, but she kept my neck pinned to the wall in that vice-like grip.
“I’ll tell you what. Even now with my house burning down all around me. I’m willing to forgive and forget if you two get down on your knees and swear an oath of loyalty to me. Here and now. To obey me with your lives.” She said.
“That’s all we ever were to you. Isn’t that right, Bre? Just blunt instruments. Tools to be used.”
Breanne looked down the hall to see someone who stood almost as tall as she. Anna let the bloody butcher knife fall from her finger tips, which stuck in the ground. Then she bounced her brows at Breanne as if to say, “lets do dis.”
Finally, Breanne let me go and faced off with the Andalusian.
“Get out of here, Gladys. Find Hector and take off.”
As if Hector was still alive. Before I could utter a word in edgewise, Anna and Breanne charged at each other like two lions on the pride. They locked up with handfuls of hair, grappling each other in monstrous bursts of brute strength. These were the Swords of St. Catherine. I stood in awe of these bare-handed gladiators. Every punch was brutal. I could feel it just by watching. Their long hair whipped in violent jerks and feral grunts. It finally got to the point where Anna wrapped Breanne by her legs and speared her through a wall that collapsed in behind them.
I tore off a bottom strip of cloth covering my midriff and used it to wrap around my face. Then, squinting my burning eyes, I ran the other way. I had no idea where I was going. Nothing looked the same anymore. Smoke filled the space like a thick fog of volcanic ash. My only instinct was to follow the direction of cold draft that brisked across my arms. I followed and it led me out onto the 3rd floor veranda of the observatory.
As expected. Hector was dead. His body was still pinned under the helicopter. There were survivors crawling in the snow away from the Villa. I was tempted to pick them off one by one, but I didn’t. I was trapped on the 3rd floor veranda with fire closing in. It all seemed so…I don’t want to say hopeless. But more so pointless. I knew it wasn’t pointless, but when you’re trapped in such dire straits, pointless is the overwhelming sensation.
Police sirens. They were coming.
Then, I saw Anna crashing out onto the back patio deck like a brick that was thrown through a window. She went rolling across the rubber gripped flooring where we once trained with Breanne leaping right behind her. Anna struggled to push herself up but Breanne punted into her ribcage. I saw the severe anguish painted over Anna’s face as she let out the most agonizing scream I ever heard.
I still had my ARX 160 battle rifle. Checked the clip. Three bullets left. I had no idea how I was getting down from the observatory. The fall would have killed me even if I aimed for the snow. But at least at least taking out Breanne would have been my parting gift.
With the fire warming my face like an open furnace, I stabled the stock of my rifle against my wounded shoulder. The drying blood drenching in my shirt served as a convenient cohesive. Turning on my infrared optics, I stared through the scope and aimed at the back of Breanne’s head.
Anna unleashed one last burst of aggression, a cross-hook combo that followed with a kick to Breanne’s body. The cross landed but Breanne blocked the left hook and caught Anna’s kick before lifting her entire body and slamming her to the floor. She quickly mounted and started raining down blows to Anna’s face. And when she clasped both hands on Anna’s neck, leaning forward with murderous intent, I fired all three rounds. Breanne burst like a pumpkin.
Suddenly the ground beneath my feet jerked in an inverted angle. A satellite mounted on the roof crashed down and almost hit me if I hadn’t moved. The access door from whence I came was engulfed in flames so hot that I was getting cooked. Cracks in the pavement webbed out across the walls, and the floor continued to sink in jerking successions.
Then, there was light. A blinding spotlight shined over me and I looked up directly into the lens. It was another helicopter, dark with no markings on it. Twas too dangerous for the operators to get any closer without getting caught in the flames so I guess they did what they thought was best. Someone shot me through the shoulder with a harpoon. My eyes went wide as the strike was unlike anything I had ever felt. I screamed as I was yanked into the sky with this excruciating pain that caused my legs to shake.
And from there…I blacked out. The last thing I remembered as my limp body banged into a few branches was the observatory crumbling into a cloud of fiery dust. The Villa was no more.