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Chronicles of Skull & Crossbownes: The Atlantis File

By Timothy Gabriel

Synopsis

Introducing Timothy G. and Anthony B. Robertson, fraternal twins born three minutes, seven seconds apart. Raised in only the best of boarding schools. M.I.T. graduates with advanced degrees they were able to start their own successful company, RBE International. Also owners of a prominent art and antiquities gallery, they enjoying notoriety in the circle of high society. This, however, is their public persona.

Privately, on the dark web side of life, they garner the same degree of notoriety as they do in their public life, but they do so anonymously, as the brothers are known only by their working names of Skull & Crossbownes, costumed contract killers and mercenaries, skillful in the art of death.

CHRONICLES OF SKULL & CROSSBOWNES: THE ATLANTIS FILE is the first in a series of adventures of the twisted twins. It starts with, of all things, an attempted rescue mission in Central America and repercussions from the outcome. Following their rescue mission they are contracted for the assassination of Ms. Maxxima Torrera, Señora Muerte. A narcotics trafficker of infamous notoriety, the trail begins at her home in Cancún and ends in the Mediterranean Sea near where the lost city of Atlantis has reportedly been uncovered.

Jungle Trek

The night air was as thick as the jungle undergrowth the two men were trudging their way through. The heat was sweltering even in the middle of the night illuminated by a full moon. Although the two men were following a trail, it was so overgrown with leaves, vines and other entangling vegetation that it kept their progress limited to a slow crawl. This was bothersome to them because they were on a tight timeline, needing to be at their destination well before sunrise. They were relying on the darkness and the element of surprise to complete their mission.

   “Jeezus, I hate this shit!” was the whispered complaint from the man in the lead, whose professional working name was Skull. While it may not have been in vogue nowadays to be a costumed assassin, the garments wore by Skull and his partner in crime Crossbownes, who was also Skull’s twin brother, were multi-functional.

   First, their suits were environmentally controlled. This was accomplished by a system of mini-tubing spread in a complex web throughout the bottom layer of the articles of clothing that ran cooling water over their bodies. While in most temperate climates this radiator layer kept them more than comfortable, the heat and humidity of the South American jungle proved to be quite taxing for the system to handle adeptly. Both brothers were sweating profusely in their suits which were still keeping it somewhat cooler, so both of them could only imagine what it would be like had they not had them on.

   Second, the suits were comprised of a fabric the brothers themselves developed in the secret projects division of their real world technology company, Robertson Brothers Enterprises International, better known throughout the world as RBE International. Their moniker for it was “Dillo-rap” which was an abbreviation for the full name of their self-manufactured product, Armadillo Wrap. The composition of the fabric was a spandex-based material embedded with tiny ceramic plates. This was then layered and interwoven four levels deep to provide an all-encompassing garment for ballistic fragment protection. Layering of the hardened ceramic tiles spreads out the shock wave of the impact from a concussive force, keeping it from being concentrated in one spot. This not only provides fragment protection but small caliber bullet protection as well. The spandex base allowed for a form fit, keeping loose material from getting snagged on anything and providing for greater flexibility and ease of movement. Their costumes, with the force dispersion properties provided by the multitude of the micro-tiles, come in handy in their more lucrative business of either contract assassination or mercenary work. While Dillo-rap may have led to a substantial profit for them in the commercial market, the brothers decided to keep the material for themselves as part of their covert operations, preferring to use it for their own welfare and benefit.

   Snakes had been slithering all around them while small animals had scurried about their area the whole trip through the jungle. They were extremely thankful for the protection provided by their Dillo-rap suits and boots that had kept them from suffering from the numerous bites and stings they would have gotten without their special attire on. 

   Another beneficial side effect of the unique weaving and layering of the clothing was that the black fabric, along with its texture from the embedded micro plates, resulted in a digital camouflage effect so prevalent in modern tactical clothing. This effect assisted them in blending seamlessly into a shadowy environment, like a modern ninja suit.

   “You know, you only have yourself to blame. You were the one that picked the full-face hood to cover that big melon of yours, nobody forced you to wear it,” came the whispered retort of Crossbownes. He was laughing to himself inside. It was almost comical to hear his brother complain incessantly about the full-face mask for his suit. Crossbownes himself had chosen to go with an open mask with a fabric covering for his mouth. It was just a piece of shear mesh Kevlar-like material covering the bottom half of his face up under his chin. All he wanted was something to cover his bare skin, helping to conceal his true identity, something both the brothers took very seriously.

   “Gentlemen, if you would kindly cease your pointless banter and keep focused on your mission, please. You will also need to avoid the trip wires connected to a total of three Claymores twenty-five feet ahead of you.” That was the voice of their guardian angel. Mr. Lexington Smythe, the man that had always been there for them while they were growing up. His voice was a constant presence in their ears, calling out the numerous mines planted along the trail for unsuspecting interlopers. He was also somehow able to deduce where other booby traps were by “reading” the drone sensor feeds he was getting. How he was able to see anything through this thick jungle was still amazing to both of the twins. They had built the drone for Smythe according to his specifications along with their own brilliant intellect and imaginations. The sensor suite aboard the RQ-1 Predator type air vehicle was as robust as some next generation spy planes or satellites. That had to account for some of it.

   Lexington had been with them from the beginning, present at the hospital as their mother gave birth to them. The twins regard him as both butler and confidante. The only person they have ever known in their lives resembling a real family member. He virtually raised the boys himself since he was always present in their lives, attending to their every need.

   The older man knew from an early age that the boys were a little different, albeit not quite right in their heads, having to clean up more than a few of their messes. This suited him just fine though due to his off the beaten path nature himself. He had grown up in England. His parents were poor and there were never many extras or luxury items around the house growing up. He’d been a scrapper since he was just a wee lad, either beating up or getting beat up by all manner of kids. He’d had a moment of self-realization one day when after getting into a terribly bloody fight, he decided he rather liked the fighting and thought if there were a way he could find a way to make a living at it, he might set himself up for life. Not being able to afford a trainer or gym fees he turned to the military for training. Lexington was brilliant and managed to double up on classes and graduate early. He wasted no time in enlisting in the Royal Marines, thinking if there was a fight to be had, he could find it there. He excelled in the training and furthered his education as well as his fighting acumen. After his fourth year Smythe decided he wanted to challenge himself even further and signed up to join Her Majesty’s Special Air Service, the SAS, elite of the elite in British Special Forces. No one ever breezes through SAS training, but Lexington fared very well throughout the lengthy course of training to join the ranks. 

   His time in the SAS served his disposition well as he saw action in every clime and place throughout the world. There was no lack of fighting for him and he enjoyed the thrill of combat.

   His downfall in the service came when on an operation he was caught beating a prisoner with a bit too much enthusiasm, leaving the hapless man a bloodied and unconscious mess. An inquiry into the incident showed a pattern of brutality that was deemed too much, even for SAS standards. When the time came to re-enlist he was turned down the opportunity to continue to serve.

   It was sheer happenstance that led Lexington to the Robertson family. He had left England, trying to get a fresh start in the U.S. and was acting as security for a high-end night club when a scuffle with an intoxicated patron ensued. Being a high-end club, Lex’s uniform was a tuxedo which isn’t exactly known as fighting attire. With a grace and elegance provided by years of training and actual combat Lexington was able to render the offender incapacitated and look good while doing it. 

   His abilities went noticed by a man in the crowd that night that happened to get an up close and personal look at the security man. It was none other than Mr. Stephan Robertson, Skull and Crossbownes’ father. He was there celebrating the news that his wife was going to have twins. Stephan had made more than a few enemies in his merciless business dealings and the thought occurred to him that his offspring might be targets for people who may be looking to get even with him. Before he left for the evening Stephan made the cultured security guard an offer he couldn’t refuse and that was how Mr. Smythe came to be the protector and mentor for the sociopathic twins.

   Lexington’s service and support was invaluable to the twins as he covered for their whereabouts when they went on missions. Operational support was provided through the mission control center located in a secure room of their massive penthouse suite in New York City. From here he can access numerous websites, servers, systems as well as pilot the drone the brothers have used on many missions. It was the drone that was providing them the clues to potential pitfalls along the way to the target on this particular mission and a valuable resource in their line of work. In their legitimate business, he was the Chief Operating Officer and Curator for the museum as well as the antiquities store manager. These positions provide Lexington a great cover for their illicit dealings, above board transactions, and accomplish the mission of keeping him close at hand at all times.

   The brothers were another story entirely. Each was a certifiable genius, both of their IQ’s being in the mid 140’s. They both held master’s degrees in electrical and mechanical Engineering, with an emphasis on composite materials in their M.E. degrees. Their attendance and eventual graduation at the top of their class at M.I.T. had not gone unnoticed by numerous big-name high-tech companies, which had all offered them exorbitant amounts of money to come and work for them after they graduated. Because of certain personal motivations however, the twins decided to forego joining a big-name corporation and instead start their own high-tech company. With the capital backing they already had through their family fortune it was easy for them to get their own business off the ground. They used that company as a side project to their art museum and antiquities trading business, both of which were used as a cover for their real calling, their real passion, the profession they both adored, contract assassination and mercenary work.

   Right now, though, the twins were on the ground, slogging through the jungle, still having a tough enough time with their night vision goggles, or NVGs. Their goggles were not the traditional tube type of night vision devices though. Using their Electrical Engineering degrees, they were able to integrate flat screen and solid-state technology, combining them together, and condensing the conventional “toilet paper” tube of a normal NVG to make flat panel NVGs that hugged the face closer. The look of them was more like a set of ski goggles over their faces, rather than the bulky devices used by the military or seen in movies. It kept the overall weight of the device down which in turn reduced the stress and strain on the neck of the wearer. They were also able to incorporate a GPS navigational screen overlay on their eye screens to aid in keeping them oriented when the environment, such like the one they were currently in, did its best to confuse them. The navigation overlay was displayed much like a Heads-Up Display in a jet fighter although nowhere near as complicated. Tactical screens, such as friend and foe icons could also be broadcast onto the eye screens. The master GPS and tactical command computer were each a component of their equipment belt, connected via Bluetooth V technology. This technology is virtually undetectable with the signal being encrypted to a very secure level. Having the navigational page overlay was an extremely useful tool to have, especially in the jungle, desert, or forests where everything looked the same making it very easy to get turned around. This feature had saved them on more than one occasion.

   The camp they were approaching was nestled on the side of a smaller hill in a series of large hills sprawling across the Central American countryside. There was a total of four buildings in all, three in a row with the fourth lined up across from the other three. The hum of a small generator droned on in the background. There had been given serious thought to just switching off the generator to roust the camp’s inhabitants, taking them out one by one as they appeared. Instead, an even more subtle approach was chosen, sneaking into the perimeter of the camp then silently, one by one, taking out every member of the camp. They relished the challenge of eliminating everyone either in their sleep or as they sat there, fat, dumb and happy, totally oblivious to the danger that lurked around them.

   Lexington had been watching the camp for the two days it had taken them to transit to the spot where they were sitting right now, just outside the cleared perimeter. He had determined through the thermal signatures he had tracked that there were a dozen men in the camp, plus the target. It was strange for them to call someone that they weren’t trying to kill a target, but they were being contracted to bring the target back alive, so that’s what they were going to do. Lexington gave them clues to the whereabouts of the unsuspecting victims as they positioned themselves along the perimeter. There wasn’t much activity as far as deliberate movement, like patrolling, but there were people up and about.

   “You’ve got a single on the western end. Looks like he’s facing north,” Lexington’s hushed transmission came through their earpieces. The drone had detected the heat signature of both the man as well as his cigarette as he lit up on the perimeter.

   “I’ve got this one,” replied Crossbownes as he raised his crossbow for the shot. This was no normal crossbow though. It was a weapon designed and built by Anthony in the private lab of their technology company. A project only three people in the world knew about. Those three happened to be the only people on the mission common radio channel at this very moment.

   Anthony’s crossbow looks like the Bowcaster wielded by Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies. It has a crossbow frame with two large round orbs on the ends of the bow. These orbs were integral to the electromagnetic pulse firing system. Super cooled micro-magnets housed within the orbs provide the propulsion for the bolts fired from the upper receiver of the weapon. Using a micro super-cooling system to super-cool the mini-electromagnets the firing system uses a sequenced electromagnetic pulse to grab the bolt from the breech of the barrel, and then propels it through the rifled barrel of the crossbow at a variable speed. Anthony can dial up the speed of the bolt for maximum velocity, penetrating power, or distance. He can also dial it down to keep it from over penetrating objects or for a non-lethal stun capacity. Each bolt is made from a unique mixture of aluminized steel. There is a steel core for the magnetic properties necessary for the electromagnetic firing mechanism with an aluminum outer covering that the rifling vanes are machined into. These vanes act like the feathers on the bolts of other traditional crossbows, spinning the projectile for better accuracy. The rifling makes it extremely accurate for the first two hundred meters then rapidly decreases the further it goes after that because of gravity. The bolts themselves are the diameter and size of a normal number two pencil, though just a bit shorter. Depending on the mission and required ammunition loadout there are the options of a magazine with one hundred bolts or a drum of two hundred and twenty bolts. Anthony had opted for the drum for this mission. It increased the overall weight, but not knowing how much resistance there was going to be he opted for the larger quantity. He also carried two spare drums in his gear pouch. He was poised and ready to start lightening the load by expending more than a few bolts into some flesh and bone targets.

About the author

TR Gabriel grew up in west central Wisconsin. Interested in both the military and aviation early. After graduating from the University of Minnesota he began his military career, primarily serving as a CH-53E Helicopter Pilot. He and his wife enjoy riding motorcycle and spending time with family. view profile

Published on January 26, 2019

40000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Action & adventure

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