By Wayne Maxwell
Ellie, I’ve fought in and outlasted so many wars. Things were so simple country vs country, governments pining for power. Soldiers fighting, bleeding and dying to show their patriotism, but this isn’t that. This is a war fought in the shadows, for profit, fuel for the war economy. No real soldiers here, just mercenaries, hired pmcs and militiamen. Though they’re not men, they’re boys with guns looking for their next buck. I’m faced with choices every day Ellie, all bad. Here I am at base waiting to get the green light for my next mission along with a few rookies, tension in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife. We’re briefed, a basic rescue mission, a stealthy op, you know me, like a ghost on the battlefield in and out no mistakes. Though it wasn’t so simple, I had to make a choice, one I’m not proud of. I’m telling you because I need to get this off my chest and I trust you. Me and my team overlooked the base, it stretched down and over the war zone. Standard security coupled with untrained, unprofessional men, lacking any morality. We hadn`t entered open combat yet, but a mental battle had already begun among the rookies on my team. They were green, nervous and trigger happy and I knew I had to carry them through the mission, but I made the wrong choice. I told the team to move down the left side of the clearing. Then came the sound of boots and the rattling of rifles, I had led us straight into an ambush. We have captured, Ellie. I was thrown into a cell alone, cold, caged and isolated from the world and my team. But that wasn’t the worst part, my guard was a kid. He looked no older than David, but he had the eyes of a trained killer. Dark and fiery fueled by some kind of vendetta unknown to me, but it was there, I could see it in him, I’ve had it as well, you know that more than anyone. It wasn’t long before the interrogation began, basic roughing up, nothing special. About the most, they got out of me was a joke about Miller’s burger joint, you know the one on the corner of Amanda place, with the patties that taste like boot mixed with three-year-old tar. Anyway, this is a war for profit. So after days of dark dank captivity, my release was finally secured. $20,000 cold hard cash was the price. Personally, I think I’m worth more, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. I was going to be free Ellie, I just had to get through the exchange. On the way to the drop off I overheard a conversation between the guards, my team didn’t make it. I expected as much, they were too green for their own good, but in the end, it was my fault, I had failed them. My mistake cost them their lives and I have to live with that. The hostage exchange went off without a hitch as you can tell, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. You know the organisation is strict and doesn’t tolerate failure, so I had to pay for my mistake. I had my arm taken Ellie, painlessly thankfully and my rank lowered as penance. My arm was replaced with a basic bionic and I was given a new code name, Gray Smoke is no more. I’m writing this to you on the way to my next op, a mop up operation, more punishment from the guys upstairs I guess. Still better than being caged up. My contract will be up in a few years and I’ll be back in no time hauling a sack of money behind me and I can finally have that Sancho Panza cigar I left with you. I don’t know how much of this letter the organisation will censor I just hope you get it. Tell David I miss him and take care of yourself, sis. Caged “Punished” Snake P.S give the kid my old BB Gun it’s in the back shed.