He was shining his boots when the call came in.
Shine them, till I can see my face in them, Private, the major had bellowed in his face, after he came in from parade practice with a clod of earth stuck to the toe. He did as he was told, meekly, without argument. So he was squatted at the edge of his bunk, scrubbing furiously with a rough, wiry brush and a tin of cheap black boot polish. He could see the beginnings of a reflection in the left one. Smiling at his handiwork, he stretched his muscles after sitting in one position for a while, and cracked his knuckles.
Without warning, the base klaxon burst into frenzied squawks and the red alarm lights flared, spinning madly in their housing, illuminating the barracks corridors with their grim scarlet glare. He leapt up in confusion, looking around for his weapon, a squat, snub-nosed sub-machine gun, standard issue to the Panauan military. Orders came howling through the speakers and soldiers ran through the corridors, panicking, trying to find out what was causing the alert. Through the din, the soldier could just make out the speakers: "Intruder alert – armed and extremely dangerous, engaging in sabotage. All forces engage."
As he ran out of the building, half-shined boots hastily forced on, gun clenched in clammy hands, face white, he was thrown onto the ground and almost deafened by the roar of a nearby fuel depot exploding into glorious orange. The wave of harsh, oily heat washed over him. A harsh drone rang in his ears, muffling the sounds of the firefight, and he scrambled to his feet, struggling to stay upright. He tasted blood in his mouth.
He saw the base – his workplace, his home for months now – afire, the eight oil drums dotted around the place having apparently gone up simultaneously. Corpses were strewn across the landscape, all clad in the familiar red uniform. Staggering, he looked around for the interloper, and leapt back as a steel wire streaked past, slamming into the wall of the barracks. A tall, tanned man flew past, the cross around his neck glittering in the midday sunlight, as he twisted in mid-air, firing four, five, six shots from his own sub-machine gun. Each one found its target, and the soldier watched in horror as his major dropped to the ground, twitching and bleeding from the mouth as he died in agony.
Leaping from the wall of the barracks to the roof, the intruder switched to a shotgun strapped across his back, flinging a pair of grenades with his free hand in the few seconds it took him to swap weapons. One landed a few scant metres from the soldier, and he threw himself, hands strapped across the back of his head, into cover, rolling behind a low wall just as the grenade exploded, sowing the area with thousands of pieces of lethal shrapnel. He heard the soldier running past him drop to the ground as his throat, torn apart by the grenade's deadly needles, gave up its last, rasping breath.
The soldier crouched behind the wall, hands covering his ears, pleading with whatever gods there were to make the intruder tire, to make him die. But as he watched, the intruder leapt down from the two-storey barracks as if it were a child's climbing frame, sending two shotgun rounds into the chest of another soldier, who dropped backwards before he even had a chance to go for his gun.
The soldier's heart rose as he saw the distinctive red spot of a sniper rifle's laser sight trail across the intruder's chest. With a barely audible phut kind of noise, the bullet found its mark, and the intruder was knocked back, a pink mist spraying from the point of impact. We beat him! cried the soldier (though whether he said it out loud he was not sure), waving desperately at the sniper on the water tower at the corner of the base. His grin, wide and triumphant, vanished in dismay, as the intruder calmly stood, brushing dust off his lapel as if nothing had happened.
What are you...
The sniper never had a chance. Even as he laid his eye to the scope to take a second shot, the intruder extended his left arm, and the wire shot forth, straight at the sniper. The sniper was struck in the chest and seized by the grappling hook. With an almost casual flick of his arm, the intruder pulled him off the water tower, down to a grisly impact with the concrete forty feet below. The wire snapped back instantly, and the intruder allowed himself a small, vicious smirk.
The battle was, for all intents and purposes, over. The intruder calmly dispatched a pair of guards with his shotgun, the spent cases ejecting and flashing in the noontime glare. He looked around, and suddenly, he caught sight of the soldier, lying terrified against the low wall. The soldier reached for his gun, but it was not there. He supposed he must have dropped it when he ran and rolled to cover.
He did not have time to contemplate it any further. A white-hot ram of pain scythed into him as the bang of the shotgun rang out a final time, and he looked down, barely conscious, to see his abdomen ripped apart, twisted into a wretched, bloody pulp by the intruder's shotgun. The soldier looked up, hardly seeing at all, into the face of his killer as the monster in the shape of a man towered over him, drawing his handgun, holding it to the soldier's head.
The sunlight glistened and shone off the intruder's little silver crucifix, and the last things the soldier saw were his own shiny black boots, hot and sticky in the Panauan day, reflecting the cruel, hard features of the man who would take his life. The intruder flicked back the pistol's hammer, and gave a last victorious smirk down at the soldier. He said something in English, some cruel, sarcastic quip, and the soldier thought suddenly and inexplicably of his mother.
Then the man fired, and the soldier's thoughts were no more.