Fenris Kystby, Norway

3 November, 0500 Hrs

Stan Tremblay looked down at the blood leaking from the puncture wound in his upper arm and said, “Oh, it’s on now, you pecker-noodles!”

His shoulder had only just started to heal from the trauma a few days earlier. He glanced up at the villagers surrounding him in a semicircle. Most of them were hanging back, but they wielded farm weapons, kitchen knives and even homemade torches. The man with the pitchfork, a villager he knew to be named Roald, was the closest. He reached out his bleeding arm as quick as a snake strike and snatched the pitchfork away from the man. Roald stepped back slightly, in shock. Then the glazed look returned to his eyes. A look all the villagers had.

A look of hate.

Roald moved forward to attack again, this time barehanded after the loss of his pitchfork. Tremblay swung the shaft of the pitchfork around in a wide arc and clocked Roald in the side of the head. The man crumpled to the grassy field. The others paused. Just long enough for Tremblay to bring the wooden pitchfork handle across his knee and splinter it like a toothpick.

“I’m done fuckin’ around with you people.”

The look of hatred surged in the eyes of the villagers, and then they all rushed at him.

Stan Tremblay was a pretty big guy. With his blue eyes, long blonde goatee and hulking size, he could have easily fit in as one of the local Norwegian mountain men. But his Russian accent was better than his Norwegian one, so when he had hiked into town looking for some peace and quiet, he had said he was a former Russian soldier. These people all knew him as Stanislav. None of them suspected that he was secretly a former Delta operator, one of five who made up Chess Team, a deep cover black ops group that faced threats to not only the United States, but to the whole world. When his last mission in Siberia had gone south, Tremblay, callsign: Rook, had felt he needed some time to get his head straight. After a journey aboard an Arctic fishing trawler, on his way from Russia to Norway, Rook had come ashore and just started walking. The land was desolate and windswept, and he figured if he couldn’t organize his thoughts in this remote place, then he wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere.

Instead of solitude though, Rook had found himself helping the locals with a predator that was eating their livestock. He had discovered some of the town’s dirty laundry, but certainly not enough to warrant a mob showing up on the edge of the farm where Rook was staying. He knew some of these people. They had just been expressing their gratitude to him days earlier.

As the first man, a stoic Norwegian named Baldur, got close, Rook swung out with his left hand-still clutching the business end of the snapped pitchfork. The outer rusted tine grazed the man’s cheek, but still he came on with a broad-bladed farm implement Rook had never seen before. Baldur made to swing with the heavy tool, and Rook stepped into the blow, smashing his forehead down on Baldur’s nose. A gout of blood sprayed through the air as the man recoiled. Rook hoped that because his size and gruff demeanor alone hadn’t been enough to make these people back off, maybe a few simple displays of violence would do the trick. He had started by talking to the crowd. But that hadn’t worked. All it had gotten him from the maddened villagers was a few puncture holes in an already injured shoulder. He glanced back at the farm behind him, where he had left his. 50 caliber Magnum Desert Eagle, concealed in the hay of the barn. He wished he had brought it now. Hopefully Peder, the old man that had been letting Rook sleep in his barn, would stay out of sight-or at least if he did come out, Rook hoped the man would have the sense to come out with the barrel of his well-kept shotgun leading the way.

Two more men rushed Rook. He poked the blunt end of the wooden shaft into one man’s gut. A cough of air burst from the man’s throat as he dropped to his knees. Before Rook could swing the pointed half of his damaged weapon at the other man, he felt a hard smack on his shoulder blade. The second man had hit him with the flat of a shovel.

A shovel? Seriously? These people were making him mad. He swung around in a full circle, bringing the wooden stick to the back of the man’s knees like an Escrima stick, then he helped the man’s descent to the sod by slamming the flat of the metal fork down on the falling man’s chest as he went.

“So much for a few displays of violence.” Rook saw that the villagers assembled against him were not backing down, and all had murder in their hearts. Even the woman, Anni, and her two children were in the crowd, each wielding some kind of improvised weapon. The thin blonde woman had a kitchen knife and her kids were armed with screwdrivers. He was about to say something about how if they wouldn’t back down, he was going to have to bring his “A” game. But just then he heard a scream of anguish from behind him. Rook glanced back and saw the barn had just erupted into flames-with the horses still inside. He recognized the voice as Peder’s, and he saw two more of the villagers that had circled around him were tossing kerosene cans at the blaze.

“Monkeyfu-” He was cut off by the blade of a pair of pruning shears slicing across his chest. A woman he didn’t know was about to take another swing at him, and a man was swiping a 2×4 at Rook’s head. He squatted low, allowing the swing to clear his head, and as he sprang back up to his feet, he let the woman have it with a left uppercut to the jaw, the wooden stick still clutched in his meaty hand. As her small body began to launch into the air, he kicked out with his left, booted foot, and caught the 2×4 man in the throat, just under his thick beard.

Another man Rook had seen in the village swung the blade of an electric hedge trimmer at Rook’s left side. The damned thing wasn’t even running, but the glaze-eyed Nordic man swung it anyway, as if doing so would finally end all his woes.

Rook took several steps backward. The people were getting too close. The fierce breeze in the early morning gloom would drive the flames on the barn harder. He had to ensure Peder and as many of the man’s horses as possible made it out of the flames in time. But the villagers were giving him no respite. It was as if the sight of the rising flames in the barn and Rook’s slight retreat had energized them. Where previously they were each taking pokes at Rook with their respective weapons, now they all simply ran at him.

“Hot friggin’ pancakes, you morons won’t give up, will you?”

And then the fight began. Rook started moving his feet and whirling his arms with the metal pitchfork fragment in one hand and the improvised Escrima stick in the other. Instead of waiting for the crowd to get to him, Rook headed into them and to the left. He smashed two men to the ground with his forearms, backhanded a woman with the stick on the follow-through of another strike and launched a kick at the midsection of a portly man in his fifties. Rook spun and struck with the weapons, taking down woman and man alike. When Anni’s kids made it to the forefront of the fray, he simply booted them away with low kicks, not putting his full strength into it at all. They flew away and their screwdrivers were lost in the short grass.

Even as hard and fast as he fought though, Rook was getting tired. His fingers were getting numb in the cold morning air, and the size of the mob wasn’t diminishing rapidly enough. Some of the men he’d put down at the start of the fight were getting back into it. Then he heard a shotgun blast from behind him in the raging flames. He glanced back just in time to see the man that had become his friend in the last weeks, Peder, fall down onto the ground, a villager standing over him with a large stick, and the shotgun falling away to the side.

Rook turned to sprint to Peder’s aid when he saw the man bring the stick down hard, end first, into Peder’s face.

“No!” Rook started pumping his legs but something tripped him up, and he went sprawling to the ground. His mouth filled with dirt when he hit. Then something whacked his leg hard. He rolled away from the impact and spit the dirt out of his mouth. He pulled his legs up over his head into a backward somersault, landing crouched on his feet. He had dropped the metal pitchfork stick and now had only his two-foot length of splintered wood. As his body came to a stop from the roll, he spotted what had tripped him up. It was one of Anni’s kids. A little boy no taller than three feet, his long blonde hair tangled and streaming behind him, his short sharp breaths huffing, making him look like some feral jungle boy. He had the screwdriver clutched in his hand again and was driving it forward right at Rook’s face. Rook swatted at the hand that held the tool’s handle, knocking the thing from the boy’s grip, but the kid kept coming on. Rook balled his empty hand into a fist and conked the brat on the top of his head, this time sending the little beast into unconsciousness.

Rook slowly stood, seeing perhaps twenty bodies on the ground, most of whom were writhing in agony, but a few of whom were still out after the damage he had inflicted. The problem was, there were thirty or so people still standing, and they were all coming straight at him like a tide of screaming soldiers in some sword-and-sandal epic. Rook took a deep breath. His face darted back to Peder and saw that the man’s body lay unmolested in the grass. His attackers were coming right at Rook.

And one of them now held Peder’s shotgun.