Simple Goal

By Margaret Price

Running, hiding, running, hiding.

Eroica didn't know how long he had been repeating this process. He wedged himself further into the questionable safety beside the fallen tree, taking refuge beneath a bush that tangled in his hair. He tried to make himself as small as possible as he assessed his situation.

How the hell did I let myself get talked into this? he thought, only to shake his head. He hadn't. He had jumped at the chance. Just look where his enthusiasm had gotten him. He glanced at the gun in his hands and gave a quiet snort. Useless thing. He didn't know why he still carried it. His team had already been wiped out by his relentless pursuers. No hope for himself now. It was just a matter of time.

It had seemed such a simple goal when the Major explained it. Just sneak into the enemy's stronghold and steal a single item. He'd done something along these lines dozens of times. Granted, this enemy was tougher than most, and the location more remote, but that only made Eroica more keen to do it, despite his team's reluctance. Someday, he would have to listen to them.

Someday, Eroica reflected ironically. Now his only goal was to get out. He waited several long, agonizing minutes.

Time to move again.

He slowly crept from hiding, looking around as he did so. He had not gone two steps when he felt the impact on his chest and looked down to see the splash of red. "No!"

The Earl's scream seemed to encourage more shots. He felt dozens of impacts; from the front, sides, and back. Where the hell had they all been hiding? "Damnation!" he screamed, throwing the gun to the ground.

There was a low chuckled followed by the Major's smug voice. "You're dead, Lord Gloria." He stepped out of hiding, pulling off his goggles at the same time.

"Was it really necessary to shoot me a dozen times over?" Eroica demanded as he too pulled off his protective goggles.

The Major did not reply. He took in the dripping Earl's very colorful appearance and found himself wondering abstractly just how many colors paintballs came in.


NOTE: What? You didn't really think I'd kill him off, did you?