Bulldog’s Backstory Tale (Featuring Scorpio, Adrian, Roselli, Dorian, Ronin)
“Before we head in, I need to make something clear,” Ronin said, as the truck made its final turn towards the office. His flat English accent stood out in the crew of Australians, stranger still considering his Asian features. The man looked pointedly at Lincoln as the others leaned back.
“Yeah, we know,” Scorpio said with a laconic sigh, “you do the talking.”
“I’m glad you remember that,” Ronin nodded, without shifting his gaze. “But this is about the new guy. Let’s talk street name?”
Lincoln rubbed his chin. “Uh… You can call me Link.” It was almost a question.
Dorian laughed. “Like ‘The Missing Link?” He weaved his fingers intricately, and a small Cro-Magnon with Lincoln’s face danced in the center of the cab.
The tingle of magical energy raised the hairs on Lincoln’s neck.
Ronin was not amused. “Not a very good street name. In fact, for the sake of anonymity, I suggest not using any part of your given name in your handle, Mr. Tavish.”
“Wha—how?” Lincoln muttered in exasperation. His heightened anxiety spiked at the casual mention of his surname.
“You are quite recognizable from your time in the ring.”
Scorpio nodded at Ronin’s explanation, then turned to Lincoln. “You remind me of this pup I had once. It was a bulldog, but a right Aussie breed cause them’s the best. Named him Butch.” He grinned wide, “It was tough. And loyal. And a bit dumb. Seems perfect for you, digger.”
Lincoln smiled. He wasn’t offended, Scorpio was a pal from way back. Anyway, he was right. Lincoln was tough, loyal, and maybe a bit dumb. But he was smart with his fists and quick with a gun. Let the others do the heavy thinking.
“So, we’re calling him Butch?” Dorian asked with a hint of disdain.
“Nah, call me Bulldog.” Lincoln preferred that to Butch. Bulldog was clear. Butch could be anything, and the few he’d met before didn’t seem worth remembering.
“Bulldog it is,” Ronin confirmed just as the vehicle came to a halt at the first security checkpoint in the building’s parking garage.
“Your offer is interesting to say the least Mr. Roselli. I think we all agree that it is a respectable sum. However, due to the considerable up-front expenses we’re likely to incur operating at the level of requested subtlety and the extreme prejudice the target is known to engage with when aroused, I’m confident I speak for all of us with our counteroffer.
“An increase of the overall payment by ten percent and with one quarter of the total up-front.” Ronin’s demeanor was calm, collected. His posture and his tone projected respect even as he demanded a higher commission.
Adrian Roselli, their contractor for this job, was affable and pleasant. Being something other than the normal stone-faced suit and tie generally worked in his favor. The man was charming, and Ronin actually liked the guy. That threw him off his game, just a little, leading him to mentally review his plan several times. He initially considered a larger final payout, but decided his proposed counter was more likely to go over.
Roselli eased back, pausing to consider the terms. His hand went to his chin, exaggerating his pensive expression. His eyes glided from one member of the team to. He finally settled his gaze on Lincoln, grinning predatorially. The attention did little to calm the big man’s nerves.
“How about you big fella?” Roselli chuckled. “What are you bringing in the way of subterfuge and guile?”
Lincoln looked to Ronin, who maintained his composure but offered a slight head nod to the Aussie brute.
Somewhat emboldened, Lincoln smiled nervously and responded. “Well, I’m the insurance plan, just in case subtleties fail. If all goes well, I just drive the car”
Roselli’s grin grew wide, “Well, with that kind of insurance, who wouldn’t agree to a slightly higher premium.” He turned to Ronin, half rose over his desk, and extended a hand. “We have a deal. Ms. Smith will provide you with a burner to access the funds when the job is complete.”
“Final payment in certified sticks?” Ronin wasn’t really asking.
“Of course. The burner will also have a comm number, memorize and delete it before you dump the link,” Roselli said, needlessly.
Even Lincoln was wise to that measure. Scorpio snorted, “Not our first dance with the dingoes, mate.”
Roselli’s face dropped for just an instant before resuming the casual affability that seemed to ooze out of him. Lincoln wasn’t even sure if he’d seen it or simply imagined it.
As the group departed, Roselli called out, “A win by decision can be tough on a knockout fighter, Linc—er, Bulldog.” Lincoln paused at the doorway. “Be careful not to let your instincts get the better of you.”
Without reply, Lincoln walked out and closed the door. That was a man who did not enjoy being spoken back to. The type of man who needed to have the last word. It was certainly petty bravado, but Lincoln had to admit he was more than little rattled.
He also wondered if a time would come when anyone wouldn’t recognize his face. It was a violent world he was stepping into and violent people watched violent entertainment. He’d probably need a kind of mask if he was going to keep doing this.
His mind flashed to the uncomfortable gas masks he trained in as a rookie recruit, before he earned his place with the operators and elites. Maybe, he could relocate. Maybe he could get far enough away to a place where people didn’t recognize the Melbourne Mauler.
But what would that cost? To get everything he cared about moved that far away? To start fresh, without the baggage.
He knew the answer, though, and let the whole thing drop before it dragged him down.
The rounds cracking into the passenger side window were the first signs of trouble.
Well, not the first. Losing comms was the first, but they expected that, between the building’s shielding and their crew’s lack of electronics support. Missing the 11-minute rendezvous window was the next warning. Alright, so bullets were number three.
Lincoln focused his attention towards the gunfire. From this distance, the source wasn’t apparent. He was parked in the taxi zone, portraying a luxury driver in their Toyocorp RAV3N, waiting for some high-end clients. The plates would pass muster, even if the car was painted solid black, instead of the garish blue and yellow most cabs sported. He’d have to angle wide once the crew made their appearance, but it wouldn’t be conspicuous. He just needed roll forward and pick them up, right at the curb. But he didn’t see anyone running towards the street, no signs of panicked civilians at all. He shifted focused to the building itself.
The was all reflective glass, but a series of small black dots marred a window directly in line with him. They were low, there were four, and there wasn’t any other sign of an issue.
The pistol resting in his lap in hand and centered on Dorian’s translucent forehead. Lincoln quickly processed the information, concluded he was manifesting, fancy magicky stuff, and slipped the weapon out of view as Dorian’s ghostly presence finished the sentence.
“… are you? Dense? We need you!”
Dorian’s ghost glanced at the pistol, only just processing the speed at which Lincoln had moved. His expression shifted to slight concern. “That’s disconcerting.”
Without further question or explanation, Lincoln punched the RAV3N into gear and rolled onto the main drag. He activated a remote drive sequence and ordered the autopilot to follow a specific pattern he’d programmed in. Then he slid into the middle row of seats next to Dorian’s hovering form and pulled out a hidden assault rifle. He lined up four extra magazines on the imitation leather, then tucked into the corner for control and easy access.
Dorian’s ghostly presence shifted back as Bulldog moved into him, “I’ll jump back and tell him to get ready. It’s… only Ronin and I. We lost track of Scorpio three minutes ago.”
As Dorian faded, Bulldog considered this new information. Scorpio was a solid mate and Lincoln’s in with the team. They’d been greenies together back when they first enlisted. Scorpio was surprised a mundane could match him in the training pits.
They’d gone their separate ways, when Lincoln joined the SAS and Scorpio earned a place in some awakened spook team. Both careers were stopped short by extracurricular activities. Scorpio had apparently caught a forfeiture after some incident with a brigadier’s daughter. Lincoln took his walking papers a half step ahead of an investigation into a long-buried incident from his youth years.
He’d done his service proud with some fight money after that, but it wasn’t enough to get ahead of those investigations and the folks behind the scenes pushing for answers. A misspent youth can catch up to anyone.
He blinked. The thoughts were an unwanted and unneeded distraction as he scanned the exits for his mates. He didn’t spot Ronin and Dorian until they were five meters out the door and twenty-five from the pickup. He rolled the window down a crack and sat high to get a line on the exit they’d just come through. If trouble was coming, it would be from right behind them. Despite everything, the pair moved nonchalantly, blending with the suits headed for lunch.
His was so focused on the door he nearly missed seeing the nearest suits gawking upward. He heard the shattering of glass and saw the sparkling fragments falling alongside the body that must have broken the window on exit.
“Autodrive, initiate pickup.” The RAV3N received the voice command and started a slow backwards roll as if sliding out into traffic before leaping forward over the curb in a wide arc through the sidewalks.
The suits leapt out of the way as Bulldog issued a second command, “All windows down fifty percent.”
The windows lowered and he rotated, keeping his best line on the door. As the SUV moved, Ronin and Dorian joined the panicked masses, blending into the people fleeing both the falling glass and the incoming truck.
As the RAV3N rotated, Bulldog could see the broken window on the third floor. Leaning against the frame was Scorpio, holding a long knife at his side. His face was slick with blood and his suit was scorched along one side. He sagged, clutching his belly, where blood dripped from tattered cloth.
Scorpio was looking at Lincoln, then, glaring. The burly man tried to piece together what was going on. He looked to Dorian and Ronin, still moving to the van, then back to Scorpio.
Leaning into the window frame, Scorpio let go of his stomach and held his hand up. Blood dripped from two fingers extended and he began curling them in alternating waves, a tactical hand sign Lincoln hadn’t seen in some time. Two fingers out, rolling in slithering waves.
Scorpio pointed his blade weakly towards the ground below, where Dorian and Ronin were nearly on him.
The SUV was approaching the pickup spot quickly and Lincoln had only a split second to act.
“Autodrive, windows down,” he ordered. “Initiate smartdrive pickup, all allies.”
The RAV3N jerked with the command, drifting momentarily before regaining traction and shooting around Ronin and Dorian. The vehicle swerved beneath the ruined glass above and a moment later, Lincoln heard his mate hit the roof with a thud.
Alive or dead, he at least wouldn’t be left behind. Jerking into motion after the quick stop, the rear wheels spun out before lurching forward to pick up the other two. The program made sure to put the vehicle between the building exits—and any possible guards—and his teammates.
Lincoln focused on Dorian and Ronin as the SUV approached. He could see them shifting their gaze to the top of the RAV3N, concern evident on their features.
He had been betrayed.
As the SUV rolled up and the doors opened, Lincoln hopped to the third row of seating, giving them ample room to pile in.
Lincoln’s rifle barked twice, “I don’t care why. Hands on the roof.” Instead, they each grabbed one of their ears, crying out in pain.
“You’ll live. ROOF!”
They each slowly placed their hands against the top of the cab, blood seeping from where he’d barely nicked the tips of their ears. Lincoln could feel the hairs on his neck rise.
He poked the barrel at the back of Dorian’s head. “I feel like I was faster when you were astral. Think you got me on the draw in your meat sack?”
The hairs calmed.
“You’re worth more than gig itself. We had to try,” Ronin said, unapologetic in his best ‘negotiator’ tones.
“So, real job, but you side hired a hitter?” Lincoln asked.
“Yes, Mr. Roselli’s job was quite real. We have the—” Ronin moved his hand off the roof a few millimeters and Lincoln shaved a layer of skin with another trigger squeeze. .
“Nope. You hold that roof until we get to our destination,” he said calmly.
“And what about?” Dorian looked up, pointedly.
“He’ll be fine until we get there, or he’s not worth the trouble. I expect then you’ll mojo him back to health and hope he’s willing to let bygones be bygones.” Lincoln doubted that but didn’t think to say so.
It was only a few long minutes before they pulled into a parking tower and worked their way up to the fourth floor. As they pulled into a space, Scorpio slid down the front windshield and rolled off the hood, landing on his feet and slumping against a nearby pillar.
Lincoln ordered all doors opened. “Step out the other side. Keep your hands on the roof.”
As the pair focused on keeping their hands on the roof, he rolled out the back and slipped around the side smoothly, covering them without missing a beat.
“Scorpio, you good?”
“Peachy,” he replied before breaking into a fit of coughing and spitting a wad of blood.
“Patch him up. Ronin, call Roselli for the transfer. You keep comms open and don’t think I don’t have you both covered. You’ll transfer our cut into an account link I’ll send you. Keep your noses clean, maybe we’ll call it a day.”
Lincoln issued orders smoothly and they were followed to the letter. They’d known he was capable when they hired him, but neither had expected the back-alley rumors and street talk to be chip truth. You couldn’t blame them, though. It’s not every day you pick up a street rookie and find out he’s a battle-hardened bulldog.
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