Richard Atlas was satisfied.
Richard had been assigned to the massive battlefield known as Northern Ériu. On a rare, sunny day in this foggy, backwater place, one could see the vast green plains and majestic mountains that made up the land. One could take a stroll through the towns’ muddy streets, past the old stone houses that were still standing after three generations. It was supposed to be a peaceful place, a kind of rural retreat when nobles got sick of city life. But now? The plains and mountains were torn and burnt. The muddy streets had blood mixed with them. The houses that once stood were burnt husks, only to be hastily rebuilt and destroyed once more. This is a land ravaged by the people’s so called ‘revolution.’
And it was also the place that fulfilled Richard’s kleptomaniacal tendencies.
His squad was wrapping up a raid on some rich guy’s mansion. The fat blokes up there said that the target was a rebel or something, and that he would a “danger to the peace” if he wasn’t “put down” in time. To a man like Richard, it sounded like bullshit. He couldn’t care any less about the bloomin’ arsehole, but he was interested in what the old sod had.
The man had been hoarding a treasure trove of trinkets and weapons, rare finds that usually sell well in the market. But he wouldn’t be selling all of them though. He’ll be keeping the really cool stuff in his. . . already unique arsenal. His favorite in particular was an amalgamation of a gun and a brass knuckle, which the recently deceased rebel labeled as an “Apache Gun” in his small weapons museum. So who cares if he lost his rifle again? He hit the motherlode! He could pay his superiors the amount needed to reimburse the armory three times over if he wanted to! He could, with the Marqs from selling the items he had just… appropriated from the dead man behind him.
Speaking of said Marqs, most of the expensive shit that he stole was currently stashed within a russet leather satchel that he carried, well, everywhere. The rest of the stuff was pocketed within his black leather jacket and trousers. The jacket also did well to cover an unkempt white polo that he mostly just wore to avoid flak from his superiors about not wearing a single part of the damn uniform. For the items themselves, he had found several pounds worth of silver and gold in jewelry that should fetch a pretty coin in the market. He had also found several archaeological artifacts that some collectors would find quite appealing.
He won’t be selling the Apache Gun though. No, mate. He’s keeping the li’l beaut of a gun for himself.
His relatively good mood wouldn’t last for long though.
As his group was leaving the mansion after a job well done, the leading soldier had stepped down on a landmine. Richard only had enough time to see the flash of fire underneath the man’s feet before he knew what would come next.
The man exploded.
There the man went, his final mistake sending chunks of charred flesh and fresh hot blood down on the remaining men. The few that stood beside their unfortunate comrade were also taken by the ensuing explosion. This was why Richard always opted to stay at the back of the formation.
Jumping behind cover, he immediately set his steel grey eyes upon the scarred battlefield. He scanned for enemy contacts, even though he knew that the likelihood of there being any was low, as the landmine had probably been set up a few hours beforehand. However, Richard hadn’t survived countless warzones by being complacent. He survived by being one step ahead of his enemy, and being one step ahead meant relying on his instincts to get him out of this mess - or any mess, really- alive. This time proved no different. Rebel troops charged out of the woods with their guns blazing, screaming profanities at shocked troops. A few had the sense to dive out of the way in time, but the rest? They weren’t so lucky. Blood splattered everywhere, including his already burgundy hair, as the bullets pierced through flesh and bone, the men screaming in agony as they died before his very eyes. To most people, this would be traumatizing.
But to Richard, it was just another Tuesday.
He quickly ascertained the location from where the shots were coming from and found himself looking at a pack of near rabid looking insurgents, angry at the loss of a major source of funding and weapons. He did not like the look of the assholes. So he decided to make them disappear.
He made to reach for a weapon on him, but found only the small arm that he had just stolen, quickly remembering the fact that he had indeed lost his rifle. Realizing this fact could only make him say one thing.
A bullet ricocheted off of the rock he was hiding behind. He quickly shook his head clear of the distracting thought. If you talk, you die, and this case was no exception. But without a weapon. . .
To hell with that! He’s Richard Atlas, and Richard Atlas was infamous for doing one thing: Improvising.
He drew his Apache and checked the rounds. Full. Good then. He cocked the gun and swiftly marked his targets- his very close targets, who by some miracle hadn’t noticed him yet.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
One beat. Two beats.
Aim and. . .
Bang! One down.
Bang! Bang! Two, three.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
All six down, but he gave away his position. The rebels had noticed their comrades had fallen. They locked onto the man who did it, and with renewed rage, they surged forward. Their furious howls echoed across the battle as they brandished their guns, ready to put a bullet through Richard’s brain.
Time to improvise even more then.
He “borrowed” one of the separatist’s semi-automatic rifles - not like he was going to use it in the near future - and shot at the arriving reinforcements. One man versus a platoon. Difficult, but not impossible.
It wouldn’t be difficult for Richard however, at least this time, as it turned out that he wasn’t alone. Some of his fellow infantry had finally decided to get with the program, moaning and whimpering all the while, but still ready to fight back. He counted their numbers quickly. Thirteen against a platoon. That’s much fairer.
He sprang into action, his military training going into overdrive. The target rich environment was making his trigger finger very twitchy. He was going to fix that.
Short, sharp cracks of thunder left his rifle, which was immediately followed by the enemy combatants dropping like flies in front of Richard. Every now and then the enemy attempted to fire back, thinking that he would be an easy target out in the open.
He disproved them of that notion.
Slowly, he and his squad of twelve thinned out the wave of rebels, reducing their proud number of fifty to twenty, and eventually, to zero.
Or so it seemed. It didn’t hurt to check their status and their stuff. Before that though…
He searched his belt for something. Something extremely important to him, something-
Aha! There it is...
He pulled his flask off his belt and screwed the cap off, taking a deep whiff of the contents inside. He proceeded to chug down his 100-proof whiskey, the booze burning down his throat not even affecting his wits at the slightest.
But perhaps there would be something more important back at his base. For on the messy, stained sheets of his bunk, there was something strange lying there. Pristine and white. Crisp and blank. It was such an innocent little thing.
An innocent thing that would herald the beginnings of war.
An unmarked letter.