Monday, February 09, 2009
Ten Little Spies
by Toni Walker
While Ethan Fairchild and his team evaded Julian’s men, Julian had other plans in mind. He looked to his new recruit, Cypher, a professional hacker, the best in the business. He’d needed his help on occasion, and Cypher had provided it -- at a price. But to Julian Black, head of the notorious Black Council, price was no object.
“Can you do it?” Julian asked in a tone that edged on hopeful anticipation.
“This is not like hacking through a firewall, Black. This is hijacking a man’s mind.” Cypher’s fingertips whizzed across the keys of his laptop. It was specially made, his own design.
“I don’t need your opinion on the ethics of this. Can you do it?” Julian’s tone slowed and turned lethal.
“If those little nano suckers flowing through his blood have any sort of wireless signal, I can gain access to it.” Cypher nodded and frowned a bit. “It might take a while to decipher the gibberish in his brain, though. We’re breaking new ground here. This sort of thing has never been attempted.
Julian consulted the Blackberry that buzzed at his hip. Even he had someone to report to.
“I need you to do this thing as fast as you can. It won’t be long before Ethan will require a refresher of the ATP protocol Myers shot him full of last week. As you begin to tax the nanites, Ethan may become weaker. It’s a drawback we’ve got to be aware of. I don’t want you to kill him. I need him alive.”
“What about Computer Chip Barbie? The one you have on ice back there?” Cypher glanced back at the redhead woman who couldn’t have been more than twenty. She’d been out of service for six months as he attempted to rebuild her programming. “She not enough muscle for you to fulfill your little game with the Legacy?”
Cypher couldn’t see the red stain crawling up Julian’s neck
“Why I want them both in service is of no concern to you. Just do it. Make it happen.”
Cypher saluted the boss man as he exited barely glancing at the redhead in stasis. The man had balls of steel.
“Mac got Gia, Rudy and the others in stasis out of the basement.” Bobbie Sullivan said his voice filled with relief. Seeing his friends incapacitated was getting to him. He took a deep breath and continued his work.
“What about Jared?” Stephen Webb asked.
“He and Kaye went out after the Council goons who grabbed Dare and Alison. We’re not sure of their whereabouts,” Bobbie said. “These sudden disappearances are starting to freak me out. First Alison and Dare and now Ethan.”
“What are you talking about? I thought Ethan was looking for an egress route,” Stephen asked.
“That was over an hour ago and he still hasn’t contacted me. Not even wirelessly. I’m worried this sudden extended use of his nanites may be draining him. The last time he nearly died when the machines began feeding on his energy reserves. Myers didn’t tell us when he’d have to be dosed again. All I can say is -- the sooner we can get back to HQ and deal with this, the better I’ll feel.“ Bobbie’s confidence was shaken, but losing Ethan was not an option.
Dare Ransom wasn’t sure what Black wanted with him, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to let the bastard get the better of him.
Alison Corday was still beside him. She hadn’t moved since the gurney was wheeled into his fake ambulance façade. If he didn’t miss his guess, Black had made the mistake many had by confusing the identities of Alison and Kaye.
He’d never fallen into that trap. Their personalities were so different it was easy to tell one from another. But then again, he’d been married to their sister, Dyan for years.
“Everything’s going to be all right, Alison. I’ll make sure of it,” Dare whispered in a voice filled with tight emotion. She didn’t deserve to be pulled into the middle of this. He, however, had known this day would one day come -- the day he’d have to pay for his mistakes.
He did love Dyan. He truly did, but she’d been pulling away from him for years. He’d always expected she’d been seeing another man. He’d never had the time to investigate his theory. But the theory idea alone was enough to spur him into a mistaken relationship with Kaye who was unstable, edging on the side of delusional. She’d blown up in her mind their few brief encounters into a love affair of epic proportions. When this was all over, he’d suggest professional help. Until then, he just had to keep them all alive.
When the ambulance came to a hault, the hair on the back of Dare’s neck stood on end. He wasn’t sure what to expect when the doors opened but he’d been through this sort of thing enough times to expect trouble.
“I wouldn’t resist,” the driver whispered through the partition. “Those guys are just looking for a fight.”
Dare wasn’t sure why the driver had sympathy for their situation, but he couldn’t afford to trust anyone. Trusting the wrong people was a death warrant.
The guard who opened the door couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. He clutched a semi-automatic in both hands and waved it in the direction of a three-story brownstone. The building looked much like the architecture in London, so they couldn’t have gone far. All he needed was an opening to get him and Alison into the tunnels beneath the city. Once there, he knew he could easily get them back to safety.
“How can you be so calm?” Alison asked her nasal soprano voice didn’t fit with her smoky-eyed bombshell appearance.
“When I see a threat, I’ll let you know,” Dare mumbled as a guard shoved him from behind.
“Get moving,” the guard ordered.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you want, hot shot.”
Dare assessed his restraints as he stopped suddenly bumping into Guard No. 1. Guard No. 2 leveled a pistol at Alison’s head.
“Do that again and I’ll put a bullet through her pretty little head.” Guard No. 2 looked pleased with himself when Dare backed away.
They led him to an empty room on the first-level. The door wasn’t particularly strong and all Dare had to do was bide his time until an opportunity presented himself.
Alison punched Dare lightly on the shoulder. She wasn’t strong like her twin sister, Kaye. “Let’s not try to provoke the soldier wannabees, all right? I don’t want one of them accidentally shooting my foot off.”
Dare chuckled. “Nice to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Most of the drugs must have worked their way out of your system.”
“When I woke up this morning, this was not how I planned out my day.”
“It wasn’t high on my priority list either,” Dare said.
“I hope you know of a way to get us out of here.”
Dare stared at her thoughtfully. “I’m working on it.”
He liked to work on the fly. And Alison knew better than anyone how he could get himself out of a jam with only a paperclip. She didn’t see any nearby, but she knew it was only a matter of time.
“What do they want with us?” Alison asked as she watched Dare check for escape routes.
“No clue. I’m not really interested in why.” He found a loose large stone near the floor. He turned around and gave her a wink. It opened like a mini door. It was big enough for Alison to squeeze through, but not Dare. “We have to get out of here before they move us to a secondary location. Crawl through here and find help.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Alison protested.
“I’m a big boy. I think I can handle it.” He rubbed her arm in a comforting gesture. “Please, Alison. Go. Save yourself.”
“No.” She tried to protest more but Dare picked her up by the waist and shoved her feet through the opening. He was much stronger than she and before she knew what was happening he’d pushed her completely through and closed the opening.
“Damn it! Why did you do that?” Alison screamed as Dare shoved the large stone back into place. She pounded on the wall but her attempts made only hollow thuds against the surface. She couldn’t believe the nerve of that man, sacrificing himself for the greater good.
When Alison centered herself enough to turn around she saw a guard walk past an open window. She ducked behind a pillar just avoiding been seen.
“Mother of God,” she whispered her heart pounding in her chest. “That was close. Damn that Dare Ransom.”
She listened for the guard. When she heard nothing, she hurried past the window making her way to the side of the building. Alison figured the side or the back of the brownstone was where she had her best shot at escaping. She didn’t know, however, that an entire contingent of Black Council operatives had made their base in the belly of the monstrous facility. Each step she thought took her closer to the exit was instead leading her into danger.
He wasn’t sure at what point he’d passed out but Ethan awoke to a shaky feeling of sea sickness. Every slight shift in his weight caused the wood planks he was lying on to shift. He didn’t think much about the strange sensation at first, who would?
As he attempted to roll over and push himself up, the wood beneath him heaved to one side. Suddenly he was falling. The adrenaline shot straight to his heart as Ethan groped for a hand-hold. The slats between the wood planks were his only savior as the fingertips from one hand held on for dear life.
Ethan muttered a few colorful curses as his muscles strained under the exertion. He soon realized the plank he’d been on was built on a pivot point and fashioned over a hole so deep he couldn’t see the bottom. He was sure something nasty awaited anyone who managed to survive such a fall. Currently, he was hanging on to the board, his feet dangling into the hole.
This was obviously someone’s sick idea of a joke. And he knew of only one lunatic crazy enough to attempt it -- Julian Black. However, it wasn’t Black’s voice he heard wafting out of the shadows a few moments later.
“You seem to be in quite a dilemma, lover.” Octavia Kassoff’s blonde hair almost made her appear somewhat angelic in this dark tunnel. A light from above shone on her face, giving him a better view of the predicament he was in.
Her laugh echoed down the chamber. She’d set this entire situation up from the beginning. Octavia and her father, Isidor, along with his general nemesis, Julian Black.
“I’ve beaten worse,” he grunted readjusting his grip. His nanites were nearly out of juice. That had to be the reason he passed out. They were now greedily munching on whatever available energy was left in his body. If he didn’t escape soon and stop exerting himself, he’d be dead for sure. His death attributed to the tiny microscopic machines running around in his bloodstream.
“You think I don’t know about your condition? I do have a medical degree. And I know just how long you have before the nanites feast on every bit of available energy in your body.” The smug look on Octavia’s face said it all.
“You kill my brother,” Octavia said. “Now I kill you.” Ethan found it quite amusing how quickly she reverted to her Russian dialect. Now that she no longer had to pretend to be one of them, her true colors came out in her voice.
“An eye for an eye, is that it?” Ethan asked. He couldn’t already feel his grip slipping.
“I may not be religious,” she said. “But in some ways traditional is always best.”
She’d had ample opportunity to kill him over the years. He wondered why now, today, was so important.
“You’ve told me about your brother, Erik. Is this all because of his death?” Ethan asked attempting to pry information out of the Russian beauty.
Her face flushed red and she aimed her Glock at his head.
“If he had never known you, he’d be alive,” her tone was soft but tense.
“And what if I’d never known you or Isidor? You’d both be dead by now. I did you a favor. I gave you something to live for. Vengeance.”
“You are such a bad liar. I take care of myself, my father. We live on our own terms.” The Glock wobbled as she attempted to get her emotions under control.
“That’s a joke. You’re just a puppet for Black.” Every taunt chipped away her to perfect control.
“No. He wants to keep you as a specimen in his zoo. I only want you to die!”
Octavia shot at the metal pivot point closest to her. The board wobbled wildly as he shifted to avoid the ricochet.
Sweat ran down his face and the adrenaline rush he’d felt moments ago was now gone, eaten up by the nanites. He knew death was close now. All emotions had left his body along with the chemicals.
Octavia smacked the muzzle of the gun against his left hand and it gave away swinging wildly.
“I wish my father could be here to see this glorious day,” Octavia said a smile brightening her face.
Ethan wrenched himself up and tried to position himself over the pivot point running down the center of the planks. She only laughed at his attempts. Ethan overshot and nearly threw himself off. He grappled to keep his fingers clinched onto the boards.
The phone at Octavia’s hip jingled and she stepped down a side tunnel to answer it. “What do you want,” she hissed.
Ethan took the opportunity to make a second attempt, and this time returned to the position he’d found himself in upon waking. Sweat covered his face and his breath came in gasps. The nanites were doing a number on his system.
When he caught his breath, he pushed himself off the boards following the pivot point. Ethan stood and stumbled down the tunnel toward what he hoped was the exit. He attempted to use his nanites to send Bobbie a wireless signal but he wasn’t sure what would come through. He’d never felt this weak before.
Octavia returned to where she’d left Ethan still talking on the phone. When she saw he was gone, she screamed.
She peered down the deep tunnel, but only saw darkness.
“You made me miss it, you idiot!” she said into the phone. She snapped the connection closed and grunted. “Damn it!”
Bobbie Sullivan searched the security grid for Ethan. The system was quite efficient and complete. Ezekiel Zeller must have been a paranoid man.
“If Zeller wasn’t the one who planned this little strange spy reunion, why do you think he had a system this elaborate?” Bobbie asked.
Stephen Webb shrugged. “Rich men like to stay that way.” A sudden call on his cell had Stephen listening to the latest update. He closed the phone and turned to Bobbie. “Mac found Adrian Zeller. Looks like Jared tied him up in the basement to keep him out of the way.”
“It was probably for his own good,” Bobbie said. “I’ve seen his exploits on tv. He’s not the brightest bulb in the batch.”
“But he did know one little tid bit. He said he saw Franklin Fairchild morph into someone who’s description strangely resembles Julian Black.”
“Great. That’s all we need right now -- more adversaries,” Bobbie sighed. He sat up a bit straighter as he noticed something on one of the monitors. “Wait! I think I just saw Ethan.” His fingers whipped across the keys of his laptop. “There he is!”
“Where?” Stephen was ready to act.
“A tunnel off the chamber where we found Gia and Rudy.” He saw another flash on the screen and gasped. “Oh, God! Octavia’s down there too and Ethan just collapsed. How fast can you get down there?”
He turned toward Stephen but the man wasn’t there. He’d taken immediate action.
“You are only annoying me, Ethan,” Octavia taunted. Even if you escape, we’ll be able to get to you.
Ethan didn’t respond, he couldn’t.
She dialed Cypher on her cell. “Tell me you’re close,” she said to him.
“Only a few more clicks and we’ve got him,” Cypher said with giddy excitement.
“Good. As soon as you get a connection, do it!” Octavia closed the phone shoving it into her back pocket.
Stephen ran as fast as he could back into the catacombs beneath the Zeller mansion. He felt like a mouse running through a maze as he dodged up and down hallways and descended stairways. By the time he reached the chamber, he called Bobbie. “Where now, kid?”
Octavia appeared in the chamber from the left side shoving Ethan into the room.
“You thought you could escape this house, Webb? Unfortunately, you won’t be leaving.”
She shoved her Glock into Ethan’s hand. “Kill him.”
Bobbie watched helplessly as Octavia taunted Stephen. He could hear the conversation since Stephen’s phone was still open. He couldn’t understand what she was up to. Ethan would never shoot a friend. But what he saw wasn’t possible.
Ethan took the Glock, weighed it in his hand, then pointed it at Stephen.
“Kill him,” Octavia said again.
Ethan glanced at her with no emotion on his face. Then he swiveled toward Stephen and pulled the trigger.
Stephen seemed to fall in slow motion. Bobbie could only helplessly watch as multiple shots entered his friend’s body.
Bobbie stood shoving the chair away from the security station. He was speechless as Stephen’s body laid still in the basement and Octavia led Ethan away back into the tunnel.
“Somebody help!” Bobbie managed to choke out.