FUN N GAMES
A Merc Series Short Story
The Merc Series
“Are you sure about this, bro?”
Twenty-eight-year-old Mark Sung let out a sigh.
“No, Shane I’m not. That’s why I wasted the last five minutes explaining the plan. A plan I don’t believe I’m sure about.”
“A simple yes would’ve worked,” Twenty-nine-year-old Sean Bradley said, sticking up for his brother Shane.
While Sean was technically acting field commander of their mercenary team, Red Diamond, Mark was the team’s tactician and came up with most of their plan of attacks.
“You guys are such a pain,” Mark said with another sigh.
“Alright, that’s enough boys, we’re almost out of time. We good with the plan, yay or nay?” Clarissa asked, looking at her brother Mendoza.
He looked at Sean, who looked back at Mark.
“Nick’s the biggest threat. We take him out and everything falls into place. The girls will work to keep Ino tied up to allow us to take out Nick. We have an almost 3 to 1 advantage numbers wise. The girls have a 4 to 1 against Ino. It’ll work.”
“Why against Ino? Why not have them go after Kat?” Sean asked.
“Ino is the stronger of the two. Using the girls will allow us to keep her out of the main fight, then the rest of us can move in for backup.”
“But if the girls go against Kat, they could eliminate her, then come back us up,” Sean said.
“We won’t be around to back up. Nick and Ino together will have overrun us by then,” Mark countered.
Everyone stared at Mark.
Clearly, no one understood his logic.
He let out a third sigh.
Clearly, it was going to be one of those days.
“If Nick is paired with Ino, he won’t be worried about her because she can handle anything we throw at her, which means his focus will be on only one thing, taking us out. If we keep Kat with him, then he’ll be keeping one eye out for her to keep her safe. Which means he’ll be distracted and not fully focused. That’s how my plan will work. Got it?”
Everyone continued to stare at him.
And they all wondered why he didn’t talk much.
A loud siren rang out through the woods they were all in.
“Purge time,” Clarissa said jokingly.
“Dude, the first movie was so stupid. I made you all security systems that you wanted and paid for but now you’re mad at me because I solved a problem for you and made money,” Shane said, shaking his head.
He was a much bigger movie buff than he let on.
“Hashtag, don’t get me started,” Bobbi joked.
The others ignored them.
“Crap,” Mendoza said after wiping the sweat forming on his brow and smudging the camouflage face paint they all wore.
“It’s okay,” Clarissa mouthed at him.
She didn’t get to do things like this with her brother as often as she’d like and was excited for today. But then Mark went and split them all up.
“Alright, safeties off everyone, let’s move out,” Sean said.
He took the one smoke grenade they had while Shane took their only grenade.
“We can do this guys, there’s eight of us and only three of them,” Sean said, his voice louder this time.
“Keep telling yourself that, bro. Maybe it’ll stick.”
“Hey, get your head in the game, Shane. Right now. You need to be in the right frame of mind and we can handle anything.”
Shane nodded, even though he didn’t agree. The only thing he wanted to handle today was some cold beer and a hot, juicy burger. He didn’t like Mark’s plan or even understand it. His brother was right though, there were eight of them, but Mark’s plan had them splitting their forces in half. Which just seemed dumb as fuck to him, and no one wanted to listen to his plans.
Shane watched as Carol led Bobbi, Julie, and Clarissa away. He really wanted to catch a full view of Clarissa’s big booty in those fatigue pants of hers, but he could feel Mendoza looking over at him to see if he was checking out his sister’s ass, which to be fair was hard to miss.
From the side or the back.
So, Shane looked past the girls at the trail they were heading out on to take out Ino.
No. Not take out Ino, just hold her up, while he, Mark, Sean, and Mendoza took out Nick and Kat.
Four against two.
Instead of eight against three.
How did that even make sense?
Oh, wait, it didn’t.
Shane shook his head as he walked over to a section of ruins that made up a small corner of the mock up village that was part of their training course out in the woods behind Red Diamond’s secret eight acre compound in Maine.
He got into position.
This plan made no sense. But as long as he was still standing at the end was all that mattered.
Shane thought back to the cold beers and hot juicy burgers awaiting him at the end of this. And then he realized Clarissa would go swimming after all this, meaning a bikini bottom…
Shane checked his pockets on his vest, looking for his sunglasses.
He was definitely going to need those.
“Soooo, what exactly are we doing?” Bobbi asked, sliding up next to Carol, her sweaty arm touching Carol’s arm.
Carol instantly moved a step to the side away from Bobbi, putting some space between them.
Bobbi didn’t notice.
“We’re going to scout ahead and once we see Ino, we’re going to separate her from Nick and Kat. Then we’re going to take her out. Once she’s out, we’ll sneak back the way we came to help the guys.”
“Ahh. Got it.”
“I thought we’re supposed to wait for the guys to help us,” Julie said.
Carol stopped and turned to look at Julie and Clarissa, who were walking slowly behind them on the main trail out in the woods.
All of them were in full gear, minus backpacks, with matching camouflage face paint, and their hair was all up in ponytails. Even Carol had taken the time to put her hair up in a decent braid.
“Mark doesn’t think we can take Ino. I think we can. So, I say we do it. There’s four of us, one of her.”
“Those are my kind of odds,” Bobbi said with a grin.
Carol ignored her.
“So, what’s your plan?” Clarissa asked as she wiped the sweat away.
It was so hot and humid out already this morning. And it was still only May. What the hell. She didn’t do well in the humidity. Nor did it help that she was the biggest girl compared to the three blonde barbies she was paired up with and thus felt like she was just dripping in the sweat.
“Same idea as Mark’s to start, but the three of us will rush Ino and take her in hand to hand while you hang back, Clarissa, and look for any opening to take her out. You’re our best shot.”
“We’re allowed to do this?” Julie asked.
She was more puzzled than concerned.
“I don’t see why not. As long as we take her out, no one specified how.”
“Well, I’m in,” Clarissa said.
“Okay, but just so we’re clear, I’m not being used as bait,” Julie said.
They all looked at her.
“Really, don’t act like we all don’t know I’m the weakest link here.”
“Well, yeah, but you’ve got other talents,” Bobbi said with a leer.
“Cut that crap out right now,” Carol snapped.
Carol rolled her eyes, then started walking. Clarissa followed beside her.
“No one actually answered me,” Julie said, frowning.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just stick with me,” Bobbi said.
Julie wiped her forehead and said, “It’s so freaking hot out here.”
“You’re the one who wanted to come on more team missions with us.”
“This isn’t what I meant. And why don’t we have face masks on? Isn’t that a safety thing?”
Bobbi shrugged and said, “Something about more of a challenge or something.”
“This seems like a bad idea.”
“Look, we’ll be in the pool in no time. Once we take care of this team building exercise. Sorry, I mean ‘mission’.”
“We better be,” Julie said, and started walking.
Bobbi slapped her butt as she went by.
“Hey, now. Don’t let Carol see you doing that.”
Bobbi rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, yeah.”
“Move it you two, I have visual,” Carol said through their earpieces.
“Show time,” Bobbi said with a grin.
“Crap,” Julie said under her breath.
She was so not ready for this.
“Is all of this really necessary?” Ino asked as they waited for the siren to stop.
“Absolutely not,” Nick said before picking up his gun when the siren finally stopped.
“But we still do it.”
Ino stared back at him.
“It’s been a family tradition since I was a kid. Every Memorial Day Weekend, my dad and his Special Forces buddies would paint ball in the woods while my mom would prepare food.”
“She would serve the men?” Ino asked, not hiding her distaste at such a thought.
Nick chuckled and said, “Definitely not. She would only cook all the amazing food. They had to do everything else. Including setting up and cleaning up.”
“I see,” Ino replied.
She couldn’t imagine the woman she knew as Nick’s mom acting like.
The woman she knew was far too dangerous and lethal to be a simple mother and wife.
“Did you partake in these games?”
“Sure. I had to. My dad considered it important work. And I’ve never lost.”
“Never?” Kat asked.
She knew she should be surprised, but considering what she knew of Nick and his family, she wasn’t.
“Nope. Whatever team I was on always won. And I’ve survived every match, too.”
“Huh. That’s neat,” Kat said.
Ino said nothing.
“It’s all in good fun,” Nick said.
“Fun…” Ino said, making a face.
“Consider it another training lesson,” Kat added, helping Nick out.
Ino side-eyed Kat, but remained silent as she picked up her gun.
Her paintball gun.
The eleven of them were in the woods behind The Walker Compound, having Red Diamond’s second annual Memorial Day BBQ. Megan, Wade, and Morgan were out on the patio firing up the grill for the mound of food they were going to consume once they were done with this match.
Ino had protested at first but relented once she realized it was the three of them against everyone else.
At least the odds would be a little fairer to the other side.
Not a lot, but some.
No one else knew the actual history between Nick, Ino, and Kat. And that for seven years in Japan, they shared a life that no one could ever imagine.
Of course, back then Ino would have just as soon tried to kill Nick the moment she laid eyes on him and now here she was having a BBQ and paintball match with him.
Funny how time has a way of changing things between two people.
Especially with the stuff they went through.
“Is there not supposed to be masks with this game?” Ino asked as they walked.
“Oh, for sure, but my dad thought going mask less made people appreciate the game more. You don’t want to get injured, you better be on your A Game. Plus, even if there was, my mom wouldn’t let me wear one. As you can imagine why.”
“Uh, yeah,” Kat said, trying not to laugh even though it wasn’t funny.
Nick’s mom was on another level and Kat couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for Nick growing up as the son of the deadliest kunoichi and what kind of pressure that put on him.
The three of them continued to move through the woods at a slow pace set by Nick. The weather was far more humid that typical for May in Maine, but none of them said anything. Sweat had yet to form on any of them.
“Are you sure you want us to be out in the open like this?” Kat asked a minute later as they continued on the main trail.
“Yes. I want them to see us. Mark will send a group to cut Ino off from us.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he thinks she’s more of a threat than you.”
“I mean, he’s not wrong. But I’m way more fun,” Kat said with a grin before securing her gun.
She then did several front flips and took off running down the trail as fast as she could.
Nick handed something to Ino, who nodded, then he took off after Kat, running even faster than her. They both disappeared around the bend in the trail, leaving Ino all alone in the woods.
“What the hell,” Clarissa whispered.
“What?” Carol asked.
“I lost Nick and Kat. They just took off running.”
A thing of firecrackers went off to their right, and the girls all spun to face the noise.
Ino came up from behind them. She ran right past Julie, kicking her leg out from under her.
Julie fell down into the brush beside the trail. Bobbi turned only for Ino to roll under Bobbi’s raised arms and come up in front of Clarissa. Ino grabbed her by her camo shirt and did a monkey flip with her, sending Clarissa flying to the ground.
As Ino expected, Carol reacted faster than the others and already had her gun up and fired off a 3-round burst.
Ino was quicker though and side stepped the paint balls as they hit a tree, coating it with blue paint splatter.
Carol aimed again, but Ino kicked the gun from her hand. Carol, unphased by it, promptly sent a front kick to Ino’s chest, which sent her stumbling backwards.
Carol had just missed triggering the paint capsule on Ino’s chest plate.
Ino tucked herself into a ball and did a backwards roll, and came up into a defensive stance.
Which was a good thing because Carol came in hard with punches and kicks. Ino had discovered from her training with Carol that it was better to avoid coming into contact with any of Carol’s blows because even blocking them pushed her back.
The power the woman packed was incredible. Her punches were the strongest of any opponent Ino had ever faced before.
Woman or man.
Fortunately for Ino, the woods gave her the advantage. Carol aimed high with a kick and landed off balance on the dirt path, allowing Ino to connect with a palm strike to Carol’s side and pushing her into Clarissa, who was just picking herself up.
The two of them stumbled into each other and the brush underneath their feet caused them to trip and fall to the ground.
Ino couldn’t capitalize though, because Bobbi and Julie started shooting at her. She quickly broke into a sprint off the main trail and into the woods, through the trees. Paint balls hitting trees all around her but nothing on her. She vanished from them within thirty seconds.
Bobbi and Julie gave up their pursuit.
“Damn it!” Carol said, getting up.
“I mean, that could have gone worse,” Bobbi said, walking back over to them.
“Speak for yourself,” Clarissa said, brushing twigs and old leaves off her and brushing dirt off her chest.
“Ugh! I’m already sweating my boobs off.”
“Stop,” Carol said.
Clarissa sighed and moved away while mumbling, “Well I am. Boob sweat is no joke.”
“So, what now?” Julie asked before taking a sip of her water.
Why was it so freaking humid out already? It was looking like they were going to be in store for another hot summer this year.
“We need to find her and take her out.”
“She went that way,” Bobbi said, her voice already sounding defeated.
This game sounded way better when they were talking about it in the pool and drinking the other night. Not so much in the woods, decked out in almost full gear, and sweating.
Like lower back sweat sweating. She was one stop away from butt crack sweating and she did not sign up for that.
Bobbi needed to change into a bikini, consume an adult beverage, and hop in the pool asap.
And in that order.
“Did Mark’s plan account for her running away?”
“No, because we were supposed to pin her down with our ambush. Not her ambush us.”
“But if we know the guys are that way,” Clarissa said, pointing. “And Ino ran in the opposite direction. Doesn’t that mean we technically have kept her out of the way long enough for the guys to take Nick and Kat?”
“So, we just need to stay put then and stop her from coming back this way.”
“Ohhh, I like that. Let’s go with that plan,” Bobbi said.
Carol looked around the woods and the trail.
“Okay, that could work, actually. But we need to set up better so we can cover more space.”
“Umm, never mind. I don’t think it will.” Clarissa said.
“It will we just-”
“No, I mean, she’s coming right at us with a stick?” Clarissa interrupted Carol.
She was looking through her scope and sure enough, Ino had appeared from behind a tree and was running right at them with a 3ft long stick.
“Everyone, shoot her now!” Carol ordered, and started firing.
The others joined in with not much luck as Ino dodged and weaved through all the paintballs or deflected them away with her stick. Carol had seen nothing like it before.
Bits of paint splattered onto Ino, but not enough to take her out according to the rules.
She made it to Bobbi first, tossing the stick at her and catching Bobbi off guard, and was able to land with a jump kick to her chest.
Bobbi fell backwards, still in it, as Ino had missed triggering the paint capsule on her chest plate they all wore.
Once that was triggered, you were out. A hit to the leg or arm didn’t really count. Other than the stinging pain it gave you.
That was something Julie was about to find out the hard way as Ino went for her next, deflected Julie's gun away and used it to spin around her back and grab her, using her as a shield against Carol and Clarissa.
“Guys!” Julie yelled, but it was too late as they hit Julie instead of Ino.
The paint balls pelted her chest and triggered the paint bomb on her.
Julie was out.
Ino wasn’t done though, as she grabbed Julie’s gun and started firing back at them.
Carol spun around and took cover behind a tree.
Clarissa wasn’t quick enough and Ino lit her up in paint next.
“Damn it!” Clarissa yelled when her vest was triggered.
Clarissa was out.
Bobbi meanwhile, got back to her feet and looked around.
“This isn’t good,” she said while pulling out her small paint pistol side arm and fired at Ino, who by now had to let go of Julie.
She flipped out of the way before coming up at a sprint.
She fired a burst at the tree to keep Carol at bay, then spun around to face Bobbi, kicking the gun out of her hand.
“That’s getting annoying,” Bobbi said and sent a kick back, knocking Ino’s gun from her hands.
“How do you like it? Two can play that game,” Bobbi said and smirked.
Ino didn’t respond. Instead, she sent a flurry of strikes at Bobbi, who frantically tried to block them all.
“I don’t think this was in the rules!” Bobbi yelped as she moved out of the woods and tripped onto the trail.
She landed on her butt.
“So graceful girl!” Clarissa called out.
“Shut it! You’re already dead.”
Ino ignored Bobbi and Clarissa’s chatter and went for a foot stomp, hoping to trigger the paint bomb on Bobbi’s chest, but Bobbi quickly rolled out of the way.
She didn’t go far though as she hooked her left leg around Ino’s right as soon as she stomped the ground, catching her off guard.
Ino, in return, reached down to strike Bobbi, exactly what she was hoping for, catching her arm with both hands and trapping her.
Which normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but Carol had now come from out behind the tree and started firing.
Ino glanced at Carol, whose aim was off as she kept missing, then at Bobbi, who grinned.
Ino shook her head and with a strength Bobbi didn’t think was possible in the tiny Japanese woman, she pulled Bobbi up to her feet. Grip still held and all.
“Woah,” Bobbi said, stunned.
Ino quickly broke free, only to wrap Bobbi’s own arm around her throat and held it in place as she kept Bobbi in front of her like a shield.
Carol stopped firing.
“Stop or I take her out,” Ino said, speaking for the first time.
Her other hand was in a blade strike form.
“How did you let her do this?” Carol asked.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Bobbi replied.
“Well, better luck next time,” Carol said with a shrug and brought her gun back up.
“Wait, hold on-” Bobbi started.
Carol fired, hitting Bobbi right in the trigger, causing the paint to go off and making her useless as a shield for Ino.
Bobbi was out.
But Ino pushed Bobbi forward toward Carol as she made a run for cover. Paint balls nipping at her heels before she jumped off the trail and slid down a hill, causing Carol to lose sight of her.
“What the hell girl! Really,” Bobbi said, looking down at all the paint on her chest.
“You let her get away again.”
“Well, maybe if you were a better shot, this would all be over and I’d still be alive.”
Carol glared at her but remained silent as she loaded up more paintballs into her gun, then wiped the sweat from her face.
“I can’t believe you went full Speed and shot the hostage,” Clarissa said, shaking her head.
Carol said nothing.
“So now what are we supposed to do?” Bobbi asked, defeated.
“Wait for the sirens to go off, then we can leave the woods.”
“Oh, hell with that. I’m walking my big booty out of here now,” Clarissa said, standing up and brushing off her butt.
“I’m with ya girl,” Bobbi said and smacked Clarissa’s ass.
She stared at her.
“You missed a spot,” Bobbi said sheepishly.
“You coming, Carol?” Julie asked, ignoring the other two.
“I’m not out yet.”
“You could be, though,” Bobbi said with a wink.
“What? It’s freaking hot. This was supposed to be a quick fun game and look what the boys have turned it into. Dressed head to toe in gear, sweating in all kinds of places, not in a good way either, and are having freaking hand to hand sparring sessions with a chick who trains with Nick,” Bobbi said.
“We’re chicks who train with Nick,” Carol said, and instantly regretted it when she saw Bobbi’s expression.
“I’ll save you a cold beer,” Bobbi said, and led the others away.
Down the trail, back to The Compound.
To the BBQ.
And, most importantly, the pool.
Carol wiped the sweat from her forehead again. It wasn’t worth trying to change their minds.
“Guess that just leaves us,” Ino said from behind her.
Carol turned around to face her. That Ino had agreed to play along and paint her face in full camo and dress still surprised her.
What didn’t surprise her was that Ino was still unarmed.
She could have ended it right there when Carol turned around.
“Guess it does,” Carol replied and dropped her fully loaded gun to the side.
Ino gave the closest thing to a smile Carol had ever seen from her.
She assumed a fighting stance and waved Carol on.
Carol didn’t disappoint.
For the next several minutes, the two of them fought along the trail and through the woods. Carol stayed the aggressor almost the entire time.
Punches, kicks, elbows, knees, trips, flips, throws.
Neither woman held anything back that was considered fair and in good sport.
Which meant neither went for headbutts, joint locks, eye pokes, pressure points, etc. No dirty tricks. All clean and polished moves.
It wasn’t something they had previously agreed on either, just something they both communicated through their fighting. Something only women, as skilled in combat as they were, could understand.
They both had the same goal though.
Trigger the other’s paint bomb on their chest.
It would be Ino who got there first as she broke through Carol’s defensive block when Carol jumped to avoid a leg sweep and came down too hard, causing sweat to break free of her long blonde hair and run down into her eye.
She tried to wipe it away quickly, but that was all the opening Ino had needed and two finger strike under Carol’s raised arm, triggered the paint pack.
Ino did two back flips away to get out of the way.
“Shit,” was all Carol said as the paint covered her.
Ino, never one for words, simply bowed at her, then took off running back through the woods.
Carol let out a sigh before picking up her gun. She looked around to see if the others had left anything behind, but they had at least been good about policing their trash and gear.
She started walking down the trail toward the exit of the woods. No sense in hanging around here now by herself. She needed a drink in more ways than one, and while not one to usually go in the pool with others around, especially the girls in their bikinis, she was jumping in as soon as she got out of this gear.
Carol heard the sirens go off two minutes into her walk back, which was four minutes since she lost to Ino. Which meant the game was over and someone had won.
But who had won was the question?
Carol couldn’t help but to smile as she walked alone in the woods, covered in sweat, and the sun shining through the trees. She didn’t really care who won.
She had fun either way.
And that had been the whole point of this game.