NB: For the love of god don’t blame me for the choice of song. It’s Lorne, camp isn’t in it. He could be Kenneth Williams’ long-lost son except well, well you know.
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (1/?)
The Arabian Desert, Saudi Arabia
“Is it working yet?”
His head scientist recoiled under his burning gaze. But then, men of science, while useful in their own way, were hardly the warriors of the faith, the men needed to defeat the Great Satan and his unthinking lap-dogs. “W..we think so,” the greying, bespectacled professor stuttered. “B…..but we need a l…live subject.”
“And so you shall have.” Fathi Burhan nodded and signalled towards one of his men. He looked down towards the small chamber beneath them. “You’re sure this is safe?” he asked. “we won’t be infected?”
“Oh yes.” The scientist nodded vigorously. “The virus isn’t airborne.”
“Excellent.” He fell silent as a strapped down man on a trolley was wheeled in, flanked by a pair of gun-wielding guards, and fork-bearded man in a lab-coat. The secured man was an Israeli agent that the Zionists had dared to attempt and infiltrate into his organisation. He smirked, the Jew bastard would pay horribly for his insolence.
“Ali,” one of the gunmen looked up towards the balcony. “When he,” he pointed towards the battered prisoner, not dignifying him with a name, “rises shoot him in the chest. Yassir,” the other gunman looked up, “if he gets up after a chest shot, shoot him in the head. Doctor,” he looked towards the white-coated man, “please begin.”
The doctor nodded nervously before injecting a syringe into an IV pumping into the patient’s left arm. Nothing happened for ten, sweat-generating minutes. Then the professor leaned forward, his elbows resting on the balcony’s steel railing. “It’s starting,” he whispered.
Burhan’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the Jew’s chest had begun to heave as if struggling to take in breath, his skin greying, and back arching as his nervous system went haywire, the muscles on his naked body writhing spasmodically. Burhan chuckled, if nothing else, the professor had created a most magnificent way of killing.
White foam erupted from the Israeli’s mouth, spurting a foot high. Even as it splattered down to land on the naked patient, his life support monitor flatlined and his eyes slammed shut, his body stuck in simultaneous rigor-mortis. Another tense few minutes passed.
”AHHHH!” The straps that had held the live Jew down were no barrier to his zombified self, ripping them off in seconds as he sat up.
”Ali!” Burhan yelled. The bulging eyed gunman started and drew his gun, plugging the undead not once but twice in the chest, the 9mm bullets smashing their way through the zombie’s chest. The zombie slumped back onto the trolley but started to struggle back up a second later. “Yassir!” The second gunman drew and fired. His slug smashed into the zombie’s head, sending brains and blood flying. The zombie fell off the trolley and to the ground, its corpse finally motionless.
Burhan stared down at the scene beneath him, heart pounding with barely containable joy. This would bring the infidels to their knees. “Doctor,” he turned to the biologist, “your analysis.”
“As you can see, the man had no life-signs and yet was up and moving, and stronger than a normal human being. The only way to stop him was through a shot to the head, ending all brain activity.” The professor shook himself as if coming out of shock. “However, the infected virus only has a life span of approximately a week, then the carrier will drop dead.”
”You said the virus wasn’t airborne. How is it transmitted?” he asked.
“Infection is caused by a bite to any part of the body. The speed of infection is dependant on the severity of the bite and strength of the victim.”
“And how does the infection progress?”
“The victim becomes feverish, and dies. Then rises. The process was accelerated in our test subject both because of the toxicity of the drugs and the fact we injected straight into his bloodstream but the infection rate is 100%,. Only those injected with the vaccine will be immune. Use of the vaccine post biting is useless. To all extents and purposes we’ve created the very first zombie.”
Fathi Burhan smiled. Oil, military power, and all other considerations would become unimportant. Soon panic would rule. Soon all who wanted to be saved from the zombie infection would be forced to bend their knees to him. And to Allah.
“Thank you, professor.” He paused. “I assume your notes, your drugs, and the serum are under lock and key here?” He smiled at the professor’s dog-like nod. “And just how many samples of the infection and the vaccine do you have?”
“The vaccine, 1,000 injections. Now we’ve been able to settle on the formula we should be able to manufacture 250 injections’ worth a day. The infection,” he waited patiently as the man looked at his clipboard. “We have the requested 400 injections all ready.”
“Marvellous,” he beamed. “And your projection model, how quickly does that suggest the general population will become infected?”
Again he waited for the biologist to flip through his clip boarded notes. Finally the scientist looked up. “Given that your people will be taking 20 people in each of the cities, we would expect them to have infected a further 20 each by the end of the first day. By the end of the third day we would expect an infection rate in the tens of thousands. At this point, the governments will move in military forces, but nothing short of the nuclear option and wiping the infecting areas off the map would make a difference.”
“Excellent,” he looked over the shorter man to his second-in-command, another short, but this time powerfully-built, man, “Fawzi?”
The man drew his gun and sent a round through the back of the scientist’s head, the man’s brains, skull, and blood erupting out of his head, and the shot ringing out through the room. The moment the scientist hit the ground, he looked towards Fawzi, absently wiping the scientist’s blood of his Saville Row tailored jacket as he did so. “Report.”
”Yes sir,” his right-hand man nodded respectfully. “We have sleeper cells waiting in Paris, Buenos Aires, Delhi, Moscow, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Lagos, Mexico City, Tokyo, London, New York, Washington, Lima, Bogotá, Los Angeles, Rio De Janeiro, Bangkok, Toronto, Rome, and Beijing. Once you give the word, they’ll snatch tramps off the street. Then, once our couriers have given them the drugs, they’ll inject themselves with the vaccine and infect their captives.”
“You have done well brother of the spirit,” he smiled. “In five days we will send our couriers to deliver our packages. And the day after that, before we infect the infidel population, we will give them a taster of Kazaa Hataf!”
* * *
“It's a celebration
Celebrate good times, come on! celebration
Celebrate good times, come on!
Celebrate good times, come on! Celebration.”
Lorne strode the stage, luxuriating in his crowd’s applause, grinning at any pretty senorita who caught his eye. His new club had gone with a native theme, all dark and red colours, with paintings of local scenes decorating the walls even as strobe lighting flickered around the club, illuminating its round tables at random. The moment his song ended, the teeming nightspot exploded into cheers. “Well thank you, thank you,” he bowed at the waist before straightening. “I’d love to say ‘Play It Again, Sam’, but I ain’t Bogie, and you people not me are the show. So I’ll hand the microphone over and let you people get the party going. Don’t disappoint me now!”
As he made his way through the crowded night-club, gracefully accepting his clientele’s congratulations, stopping to speak to the occasional local celebrity, Lorne couldn’t help but smirk at the route his life had taken. Ever since Xander had bankrolled his US. expansion, the money had been rolling in. Enough for him to start three new clubs, London, Paris, and now here. Life was good.
Reaching the polished silver bar, he perched on his stool and snapped his fingers. “Emir, sea breezes and keep them coming, there’s a pet.”
Three hours later and his mood took a downturn. “Oh dear,” he muttered as he stared at the turbaned man butchering, Edwin Starr’s ‘War’, “it looks like I’ll be calling Xander. Emir,” he looked towards the barman. “Get me the phone.”
* * *
“Hello, it’s good to -.”
He glared at the man sat in the shadows opposite. “Can we cut the chit-chat, I told you I’m not interested in working for you anymore.”
His former boss leaned forward, lined face breaking through the darkness. “You will on this job.”
“What is it?” he snapped.
He hissed when his superior pushed a glossy photo across the antique desk, instantly recognising the sneeringly arrogant face. “Fathi Burhan,” he snarled.
“Yes,” his superior nodded, “we have information on his whereabouts. Your mission, should you chose to accept it is the assassination of Fathi Burhan.”
He remembered the day he’d learnt that a car bomber trained by Fathi Burhan had drove into the middle eastern barracks where his cousin was serving as a US. Marine, killing him and six others, remembered the pain he’d felt. “I’ll do it,” he agreed.
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (2/?)
“Yeah Brill?” Xander looked at his screen, marvelling at the ease of video conferencing over computers. And with Brill’s encryption safer than any phone line. “What did you want?”
“I’ve branched out,” the spy admitted. “I’ve used the resources of the company to work on some pet projects. Amongst other things I’ve managed to develop a nerve receptor unit that makes artificial limbs more responsive to their wearer’s commands, a photo machine that can do the work of both a MRI and CT scanner, low-cost home security system incorporating retinal and handprint scans, and a home computer security system incorporating voice print recognition. And Angela has developed some educational software for kids, some communications software for blind people wishing to use the net, some compression and file transfer software, and some anti-virus software, spyware, and ad blockers as well as an intuitive parental-blocking system.”
Xander blinked. All that in just one year? Deciding that was what you got when you employed off the charts geniuses, he shrugged. “As long as my branches are getting the stuff on time and working, and they are, I don’t mind,” Xander replied.
”Yeah, I knew you wouldn’t,” Brill nodded. “But we don’t have the resources to put it all we’ve created into general production. We were hoping you’d back us.”
Oh, Xander thought quickly. “How much?”
“Sixty – eighty million start-up for me, twenty-five to thirty for Angela,” the former agent replied.
“Thirty-five percent of your stuff to you, thirty-five percent of hers to Angela, the other sixty-five percent to me.”
Brill looked surprised. “That’s generous.”
“It’s your ideas and work that’s created these products,” he pointed out. “You deserve a hefty cut.”
“Thanks Xander.” Brill nodded. “How do you want to do this?”
He smiled. “We’ll set up a umbrella company called A-Team Industries, set up a company dealing with your inventions called,” he smiled secretly, the memories warming him, “White Knight Innovations, and one dealing with Angela’s programs called Zeppo Computing . Move Slaynet under the same umbrella. I’ll organise a money-trail through the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein. Have you any idea how much this might make us?”
Brill looked down at the papers before him, lips moving as he tapped at a calculator on the desk. Finally the master-spy looked up, mouth opening. “Xander baby,” Xander groaned at Faith’s mocking coo from the adjoining room, every time he was on a conference call, she had to try and embarrass him like this, she was pure evil, “I’m aching for you. Please hurry!”
Brill coughed. “Sounds like you’ve got
your hands full,” the po-faced spy commented. “I promise not to keep you long.
After all, it doesn’t do to keep the ‘real’ boss waiting.”
”Don’t start,” Xander warned darkly. “How much?”
“It’ll take maybe the first year to show any profit, but…” The genius spy looked down and then back up again. “My share should come to around ninety million a year, Angela’s the same, yours from both companies just about three-sixty million in total. Then there’s the guidance systems and missile defence system Slaynet are working on. That should be another two hundred and eighty million for you.”
Xander’s jaw hit the ground. “Dollars?” Brill nodded. “Okay,” he collected his thoughts. “I’ll get in touch with my lawyers, have them draw up the papers. Get them signed, and you’ll get all the resources you need.”
“Thanks Xander,” Brill winked at him. “Give Faith a big soppy kiss from her Uncle Brill.”
“Everyone’s a comic,” he groused before ending the session. Walking into the lamp-lit bedroom, he scowled at the girl laid in their double-bed, her chestnut-brown hair billowing beneath her. “That wasn’t funny,” he scolded as he unfastened his jeans.
“I’m sorry honey,” the brunette threw the silken sheets off her. “Forgive me?”
For a second Xander stared mesmerised at the naked beauty, her ivory skin shining in the apartment’s half-light. “I think that can be arranged,” he grinned.
Faith grinned back at him. “Figured you’d say that.”
* * *
Faith smirked as her man rose, his face flushed and muscled physique glistening with sweat after their three and a half hour sex session. “Ah, have I worn the mighty warrior god out?” she teased.
Xander glanced over his shoulder at her, eyebrow raised. “Give me time to get a drink of water and I’ll show you how worn out I am,” he promised.
Faith laughed huskily, lips parting in a mocking smirk. “Can’t wait. Bring it on!”
“I will, I will,” her man vowed as he strode towards the bathroom.
“Yeah?” Faith raised her own eyebrow. “Money talks, bullshit walks, boytoy!” Laughing to herself, she slumped back on the bed, a soft, contented smile on her face. Life was wicked cool, the only thing she had to do was, worry furrowed her forehead, find a girl-toy for sis and then everything would be just about perfect.
Her musings were interrupted by X’s phone ringing on the bedside cabinet. “I’ll get it!” she hollered before sinuously rolling over, leaning over the edge of the bed, grabbing the phone, and turning it on. “Yo,” she growled into the phone. “Hope you’ve got a damn good excuse for interrupting this girl’s booty-call?”
”Well hello, Raven,” she grinned at the cheery voice. “It seems every time I ring you I catch you and Xander in the middle of intimate relations.”
“That’s ‘cause we’re always doing it,” she rejoined with an unabashed smirk.
“Oh Raven,” the voice giggled. “Don’t ever change. You’re like a peanut-butter sandwich to the king.”
Faith’s brow furrowed. King of where? Sometimes Lorne made no sense. Shaking off her puzzlement, she continued. “How ya doin’ Kermit?”
“Oh I’m happier than the Spice Girls at a photo opportunity,” Lorne tittered before turning serious. “And is that young Xander looking after you and that sweet sister of yours?”
“Yeah,” Faith nodded. “We’re five by five.”
“Good, ‘cause if he wasn’t, warrior god or not, I’d give him a swift kick in the seat of his pants.”
“Don’t worry about it, Kermit,” Faith chuckled. “If he didn’t he’d be carrying his nuts in a cup.”
”Please,” the club-owner shuddered, “male here.”
Faith laughed. The bathroom door opened and Xander walked out, his eyes questioning. Faith leaned away from the phone. “My other man,” she explained with a smirk up at Xander. “Ya know, the one with actual dress sense.”
“Ah,” Xander nodded in understanding.
“Lorne. You know, there’s rumours he actually wears them.”
”Wears what?” Faith queried.
”Well!” Faith snorted as Lorne’s shocked tone. “Just because I have an appreciation of women’s fashion doesn’t mean I want to dress like them! I’ve never been so insulted!”
”Stick around with Xander, ya will be,” Faith retorted. “See ya, Lorne!” She threw the phone to her man before rolling onto her back and mouthing ‘hurry’ at him.
Face reddening, Xander slowly turned away. “Yeah, Lorne. How did the club opening go? Damn,” Xander sat on the edge of his bed and began writing on a notepad. “You are joking?” Xander paused for a few seconds as the animated demon continued to talk. “No, okay. Well thanks.”
After he’d hung up, Xander turned to her. “What’s the sitch?”
“Lorne was at his Casablanca club-.”
“I thought you only gave him the money to start up USA. based clubs?” Faith interrupted.
“I did,” Xander nodded. “But it’s a major earner, enough so he’s been able to open three more clubs. With my okay of course.”
“Wicked cool,” Faith knelt up on the bed, eyes shining with excitement. “Where?”
“Paris, London, and Casablanca.” Xander smiled wryly. “He wanted to open in Rio, but I figured I’d never get him off the Copacabana to do any work.”
Faith snorted at the mental image of Lorne, in an Armani gold lame suit sat in a deckchair on the world’s most famous beach. Sobering, she raised an eyebrow. “So what’s the sitch?”
Xander’s glower was a little scary. “A Middle Eastern terrorist has got his hands on a formula to chemically create zombies. He intends to use it to flood Europe, South America, and America with them.”
“Oh wicked,” Faith breathed. Some people were just too dumb to let live.
And after they got through with them they probably wouldn’t be.
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (3/?)
Sweat pouring down his face, Xander looked around, eyes widening with wonder as he saw the city’s great buildings, some of which had been old before America had been discovered, much less colonised.
Of course someone else was less than impressed.
“I should be in shorts and a gym vest in this weather, I am roasting here!” exclaimed Faith from her position just behind him.
”Local custom won’t allow women to-.”
“I could give a fuck!” Faith cursed.
“Yeah,” Xander shook his head. “I got that the first six moans.” He swallowed as he summonsed up the courage to bring up another, potentially even more explosive subject. “When we get to the hotel I’ve had to book us into three single adjoining rooms.”
He heard Faith’s outraged gasp. “You have got to be shittin’ me!”
“It’s against Saudi law for unmarried couples to share a room,” Tara put in.
Xander winced at his girl-friend’s undiplomatic shout. “Faith, calm down.”
“Sooner we’re out of this hellhole, the better,” Faith grunted as they passed through a teeming bazaar.
Xander smiled secretly. He wasn’t so sure about that. Being Faith’s ‘boytoy’ certainly had its upside, but it would be nice to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep for once. “Hey Faith,” he pointed a near-by camel, its head sticking out from between two food stalls, “didn’t you date him once?”
“Nah,” came the reply. “Sure looks like my current guy though.” Faith crouched by the camel. “Tell ya one thing though, my man sure ain’t hung like a camel though.”
Xander’s mouth opened and shut. Okay, he’s asked for that.
* * *
“Okay,” Faith looked left and right as she followed her boyfriend down the derelict streets of downtown Riyadh, “this place looks homely.” The sun had long since set, leaving the once oppressively hot city cool and bathed in darkness.
But it was a darkness that failed to hide the city’s state of disrepair. People slept out in the night, huddled in rubbish as their sheets, leant against houses that were little more than shacks. The stench of death and refuse hung heavy in the air, and her Slayer-enhanced hearing picked up the sound of fighting as they dipped in and out of the district’s warren-like streets. “Jesus, next to this place, my pad in Boston was Disneyland.” Faith paused for a second. “Wait, that reminds me. Can we go to Disneyland?”
Both Tara and Xander turned to her mouths agape. Faith shrugged. “What, you two wanna catch flies? I always wanted to go, okay?”
“S…sure,” Tara stuttered before nudging Xander in the ribs. Her boyfriend managed a nod.
“Wicked,” Faith beamed before looking expectantly at her boyfriend. “Get a move on slowpoke.”
Xander let out a long-suffering sigh that made her want to slap him silly before continuing on his way. “How do you know the way?” whispered Tara. Faith grimaced, oh yeah, good question, she should have asked that herself.
”Lorne’s vision took him through the alleys,” Xander explained. “That’s why I had to,” Xander stopped and read a note, “book us in at the specific hotel, Lorne gave us directions from here to the man we needed to see. Left here.”
Faith shrugged before following her man and her sis into a narrow alley, its walls looking like a good kick from Tar, never mind her, could take them down. She looked down, nose wrinkling in disgust as she watched sewage splash over her feet. “Gross,” she muttered. Eyes narrowing, she glanced over her shoulder, searching the all-enveloping darkness. She thought she’d heard something but she couldn’t see anything. Deciding that given the conditions it was probably a rat, and, shuddering inwardly at the thought although she would never let X know, she hurried after the others.
After all, it was anything bigger planning to rob the dumb American tourists, they were in for a hell of a shock.
* * *
“We’re here,” Xander announced as he came to an almost whitewashed two storey house that, even with its rotting door, cracked windows, and peeling paint-job, was in a far better condition than the buildings surrounding it. Xander looked around with a sigh. Talk about depressing. He’d thought thirty billion dollars was a lot of money, but even with that fortune, he couldn’t solve the world’s problems, the poverty he’d seen in Brazil and here, and would doubtless see in other countries before he was through was beyond even his resources.
Shoving his despondency aside, he reached for the door handle and frowned when it creaked open. “Someone’s been here already,” Faith muttered.
“Looks like it,” he agreed. “Tread carefully.”
“Gee,” his girl-friend scoffed as she crept through the doorway, “like I needed that newsflash, CNN.”
Xander ignored the jibe in favour of looking around the darkened house. It was depressingly sparse. He could easily understand the anger that many of this area’s people felt both to their corrupt rulers and the western businesses and democracies profiting from their resources. Seeing Faith making her way over to the lamp by the inner door, he shook his head and let out a warning whisper. “Don’t.”
Faith looked over her shoulder, a familiar irritated gleam in her chocolate-brown orbs. “Been breaking and entering since before ya left junior high, Harris. I wasn’t gonna turn the light on,” she hissed. “Noise upstairs.”
“Oh,” Xander drew a shotgun and threw a Beretta to Tara. “Lead the way.”
“Gee,” Faith pouted. “Don’t I get a weapon to play with?”
“Oh please,” Tara muttered. “The double-entendre’s killing me.”
Xander coloured even as he raised an impatient eyebrow. “Fine,” muttered Faith before easing the door open, and creeping up the stairway. Reaching the landing, she pointed to the door directly ahead.
Xander looked at his girl and mouthed the words ‘how many?’.
Faith held up her index finger. Xander nodded towards the door. Faith raised her foot and sent it crashing into the door, flinging it open, before diving backwards to allow Xander to rush in. “Freeze!”
The man crouched on the rug-covered bedroom floor definitely wasn’t their contact. For one thing, he was perhaps a hundred pound lighter, fifteen years younger, and an American. For another, he was crouched over the corpse of the man Lorne had read. Xander shook his head as he noted the man’s hand edging towards his inner leather jacket. “Which syllable in ‘freeze’ didn’t you get?” he queried. “Stay still and who are you?”
The man stared at him for a second, Xander realised the man was short, but well-built, in his mid-thirties, and very good-looking. “My name’s Edward Hunter. I’m an American businessman, who had a meeting with Ali Jarez. I have some ID in my jacket pocket if you’ll let me get -.”
“Don’t bother,” Tara interrupted from beside him. “He’s lying, Xander.”
“Damn,” Xander groaned. “Our only contact dead.” Xander pulled back his trigger. “Now, I’m seriously losing my patience. Let’s get with the giving of answers part of the conversation. Why did you kill him?”
The stranger looked at Tara, disconcerted by her interruption. “Good, you’re learning. And your name?” Xander pressed.
“Ethan Hunt, I work for the US. government.”
”A spy?” After a second the man nodded. “And why where you after Jarez?”
“I was sent to meet him on the word of a contact who said he’d been working with a notorious middle eastern terrorist helping to make a new biological weapon.”
Xander chuckled humourlessly. ”I can safely say you have no idea. Who’s this terrorist?”
“X, we’ll have to do this later!” Faith hissed as she peered out of the window, into the moonlit night. “There’s a shit-load of police cars pulling up outside!”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (4/?)
Ignoring the three strange youths, somehow he doubted they were tourists; Ethan joined the girl by the window. “They’re not police, they’re the Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah,” he announced.
“The who?” asked the throaty-voiced beauty.
“The General Intelligence Service, the Saudi government’s secret police,” he replied. “They don’t exactly believe in the Geneva Convention or innocent until proven guilty.”
“Really?” the coal-eyed beauty snorted. “Next you’ll be telling me they still use the Rack.”
Ethan stared at the girl. “That and other less savoury methods.”
“Fucking A!” The teen looked towards the male who’d managed to pull a gun out seeming nowhere. “There’s only four car-loads of them, X, we can take ‘em.”
Ethan blinked, the matter of fact way the girl had spoken precluded the possibility of bravado. “There’s a better way,” whispered the quiet one of the two females. She pointed up at the loft opening. “Flat roofs, right?”
“Good idea, Tara,” complimented the male teen before yanking the roof ladder down. “Let’s motor.”
“Hey X,” Ethan stared mesmerised at the brunette’s curvy butt as she glided effortlessly up the ladder, almost running up it. “Ya notice how they turned up straight after we did?”
“I noticed Faith,” agreed the youth. “Convenient.” The teen pointed his gun at him. “You next. Faith,” the boy whispered up the ladder, “I’m sending Ethan up next. If he tries anything, don’t hurt him too much.”
“Ya’re no fun anymore, X,” the teen scolded.
* * *
Xander waited until Tara had made the climb before starting up the ladder himself. Already he could hear the secret police agents thumping up the stairs. “Yeah,” he muttered. “A definite set-up.”
Reaching the top, he pulled the ladder up, closed the roof door, and pulled out all the weights he kept in the Always Pocket so he could always have a work-out and dumped them on the door.
“How in the -.”
“Not now,” he interrupted. “That should keep them for a while. At least until they find other access.” Xander looked around, shivering slightly at the night’s chill wind, a shocking contrast to the day’s baking heat. The entire city was bathed in darkness, giving the city a stately majesty that the region they’d been in sorely lacked at street level. “What now?”
“We jump from building to building,” Faith calmly stated.
Xander stared doubtfully at his girl. The distance between each building had to be about 15 feet, and while he knew Faith could jump four times that with ease, and even for the rest of them it wasn’t a massive distance, one wrong step and you’d be lucky to escape with just two broken legs. “That’s great for you, what about me, him,” he nodded towards the silently watching stranger, “and Tara?”
“Don’t worry about me.”
Xander gasped as he turned to see Tara
levitating four feet off the ground. After a second he managed to speak. “So
that’s what you’ve been borrowing the Eternal Archive for.”
”That is wicked cool,” Faith commented.
“How in the hell-.”
“Later,” he repeated, eyes turning
towards the roof door as he heard thumping on it and shouts coming from beneath
it. He didn’t know what the agents were saying, but they did not sound happy.
”X,” he looked towards Faith, her eyes excited. “You dumbass. You’ve got the Always Pocket right?” After a second he nodded. “Pull out all the rope you’ve got with grappling hooks. I’ll jump to the next building, you fix the rope onto something on this side and crawl across while I hold the other end.”
“That could work,” Xander admitted. Ignoring the secret agent’s gasps he pulled out six coils of hooked rope.
“Six buildings then down to the ground,” Faith grinned. “Damn, I’m a regular Einstein.”
“He finished school didn’t he?”
”Damn,” Faith looked towards Tara. “Someone’s got snooty now they can levitate.”
* * *
Ethan grunted as he finished the climb down the sixth house’s drainpipe, body aching from the crawling he’d done in the last hectic hour, and mind spinning from the things he’d seen – levitating witches, boys with the apparent ability to pluck objects out of mid-air, and super-humanly swimsuit models. This was bizarre even by his standards.
“Who’s this terrorist you’re looking for?” the boy, Xander, demanded.
Ethan stared at the youth, trying to decide what exactly to tell him. “That’s classified,” he replied.
Xander snorted. “Oh please, in case you’re having trouble keeping up we’re not exactly your run-of-the-mill American tourists.”
“X,” Faith hissed. “Shadows, now.”
Ethan immediately joined the trio crouched against the wall, nose wrinkling as he hid in the street’s refuse. He resisted the temptation to twitch as a torch-light passed over them, heart pounding as he listened to the two agents at the mouth of the alley talk for a few seconds before moving on.
A minute later, and the brunette rose sinuously, a disgusted look on her face. “Garbage again, X. I am gonna need some new clothes.”
“You’ve got your own money, Faith,” Xander chastised the raven-haired beauty.
“Just for that ya ain’t helping me choose them.”
“With his fashion sense, good decision,” commented the witch.
“Ha, ha.” Xander crouched back down. “We’ll wait them out,” the youth decided. “Now,” the teen turned back to him, “who are you?”
Ethan shook his head. “Waiting them out won’t work,” he said. “This isn’t the US. where the police have to worry about bad press. They’ll just create a cordon and wait us out, then flood the area with bodies at daybreak, and rough up anyone they feel like until they find us.”
“Cheerful aren’t you?” Xander scoffed. “What do you suggest?”
“We grab one of their cars and make a run for it,” he replied. Having seen them in action he somehow suspected the kids wouldn’t exactly be passengers.
“I could go for that,” Faith hissed.
”You choosing the reckless option?” The youth shot the chestnut-haired lovely a scathing look. “Why am I not surprised?” The teen then directed a searching look his way. “I assume you’re pursuit driving trained?” He nodded. “And you’ve been to this city before?”
“Six times,” he replied.
“So you’ll know the roads better,” the younger man mused aloud. “Okay then,” the youth pulled out two shotguns from god knows where and threw one to Faith. “Faith, you’re on the backseat, shooting at any pursuit through the window. I’ll take the passenger seat.”
”What should I do?” Tara whispered.
“Keep your head down.”
“Ya can put it in my lap if ya want, Tar.” Faith’s smirk widened at Tara’s blush. “Why what a dirty mind ya have.”
“You’re obviously rubbing off on her,” Xander laconically replied. “Faith,” the young man threw the sultry beauty a pair of night-vision goggles, “you’re the quietest mover, you go and check things out.”
“Sure, General Harris,” Faith winked
before fixing the goggles and gliding soundlessly to the alley edge. A few
seconds later and she floated back to them, appearing out of the stygian
darkness like an apparition. “It’s a good news, bad news sitch, Xan,” the
suddenly serious-looking beauty reported. “He’s right,” the teen glanced
towards him. “There’s more of their crappy Ladas moving into the area. Good
news is there’s a car parked fifteen feet to the right of the alley.”
“And any agents near-by?” Xander asked.
“Its agents have paired up, a duo ten houses to the right, the others about twelve to the left.”
Ethan shared a grimace with Xander. Crest-fallen, the younger man stared at him. “That’s a problem. How long do you need to hotwire a car?”
Ethan shrugged. “Ladas’ security systems are easy,” he stated. “The only problem is if they’ve been customised.”
“Yeah,” Xander scowled. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.” Xander looked at them all in turn. “Let’s move to the mouth of the alley. The moment both couples are in houses, we move.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (5/?)
“Now,” whispered the brunette. Ethan followed the curvy teen into the street, using the shadows cast by the near-by buildings as cover before covering the few feet separating them from the Lada parked by the kerb, heart pounding and mouth dry as he expected an agent to step out from anywhere at any second.
He smiled as he eased the door open, his eyes catching a glint of something swinging in the darkness. “Keys are in the ignition,” he reported.
“Shit,” scoffed the raven-tressed beauty. “What sort of dumbass does that?”
“This isn’t America,” Ethan replied as he slid behind the driving seat, the others moving seamlessly into their allotted positions. “You don’t get it. People don’t steal here, especially from the government. And those who do, don’t live to regret it.”
“Ya know what’d work good for ya? A job at the Saudi tourist -, shit!” Faith’s tone changed suddenly. “The two in the house behind us have come out. Hit it! Down sis!”
Ethan himself ducked at the sound of the rear windscreen shattering as he pulled away from the kerb. Seeing the two agents piling out of the house ahead of him, their hands reaching inside their jackets, he yanked the car onto the kerb and drove straight at them. The last thing he saw before contact was the fear in their eyes, and then he felt a shudder and heard their screams as the car crashed into them, throwing them into the air like bowling pins hit by a bowl.
Pulling back onto the road, he yanked the car around a corner, tyres screeching, and bullets from the two agents behind peppering the air around them. He grimaced as he heard the sound of sirens in the distance. “They radioed us in,” he remarked.
“I heard,” Xander replied tersely.
“Hold on!” Seeing a car braking to a halt at the mouth of the road before him, Ethan yanked to the left, the car shaking as he clipped the other vehicle’s rear en-route to speeding past it. He’d barely got a quarter of a mile when two other cars roared around a corner and straight towards them. “Damn it!” Muscles straining, he yanked the car around in a shrieking u-turn, the smell of burning rubber filling his nose and lungs. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the car that had attempted to act a barricade moving to intercept them. “Xander.”
“Got it,” the youth leaned his shotgun muzzle out of the car window and fired.
Ethan looked into the rear mirror to see the car’s tyre burst and the vehicle career wildly into the path of one of the pursuing cars. He heard the screech of brakes but the car was unable to stop in time, instead it crashed into the other car, flipping it onto its side en route to skidding onto the kerb. But the other car just swerved out of the way of the crash and continued coming.
Seeing a turning coming up, Ethan yanked on the wheel again, spinning into the road. Seeing another car headed directly for them, he headed straight at him, flicking the head-lights on so to blind them, eyes flicking between the rear mirror and the car in front of him. At the last second, he yanked the car to the right, heard the screech of brakes as both cars tried and failed to brake, felt the ground shake as they collided, and saw the flames that erupted from both cars as they smashed together. Bursting out of the road end, he saw another two cars racing towards him from the left and veered right. Seeing an alley opening to his left, he yanked the car across the road and sent it careering into an opening so tight that he lost both wing mirrors upon entry, the mirrors crashing against the walls, leaving them littering the road. His eyes widened as he saw a fire escape hanging down where his car was heading. ”Everyone lean to the left!”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Xander yelled even as the teens obeyed. Gradually the light car leaned over to one side, its right wheels tilting off the ground enough to clear them of the fire escape even as their roof scraped against the other wall, blue sparks flying.
“Shit!” Faith yelled as they dropped back to the road, everyone jumping slightly with the impact, and speeded out of the alley. “Cat’s an even worse driver than you, X!”
The teen’s mouth opened in a defensive retort. Then his eyes narrowed as he saw another Lada speeding towards them, agents hanging out of every window, their faces contorted with rage as they fired round after round at them. Ethan’s jaw dropped as the kid did it again, kicking out the front windscreen before this time pulling a M72 LAW out of nowhere, quickly placing it on his shoulder, aiming and firing in one smooth motion.
The missile hissed out of the rocket launcher, sparks flying out of the rocket, and flew into the Lada’s front. The ground shook as the rocket collided. Flames spurted out of the car, the passengers’ screams drowned out in its boom, the force of the explosion flinging the car into a somersault that landed just feet before them. Not missing a beat or easing off the pedal an inch, Ethan yanked the steering wheel to his right, veering the car past the wreckage and passing so close that its flames licked at their car’s paintjob.
“Shit, X,” breathed the Slayer. “That was…”
“I’ve heard of these guys, Faith,” Xander replied, tone terse, brooking no argument, “they’re not getting their hands on either Tara or you.”
“Five by five.”
Seeing another two cars coming into flanking positions, he slowed down. Seeing Xander’s eyes harden, he shook his head. “Not now.” Seeing the passengers in both cars stick guns out of their windows, he hit the brakes full on. The two cars flew past them, the bullets they’d meant for their car instead crashing into their allies, the now damaged cars careering off the city road. “This way,” Ethan pulled the car to the right, gunning the engine as he pulled off the main road and onto a side, he glanced at the car’s fuel tank and grimaced. They must have taken a hit in the petrol tank, they were losing petrol too fast. Seeing what he needed, he pulled the car to a stop at the back of a still empty bazaar. “Get out,” he ordered. As his companions obeyed, he grabbed a discarded stall cover from the filthy ground and threw it over the car. “That should buy us some time,” he said. “There’s a sewer works near-by, we get into the tunnels under the city from there.”
“Great,” Xander stared at him. “Then we talk.”
* * *
Satisfied that they were safe, Xander lent across the sewer tunnel wall, secure in the knowledge that no-body was going to search the stinking passageways for them. “Okay,” Xander stared at the secret agent who, as Faith had pointed out, was even crazier than him behind the wheel. Although he preferred to call it daring rather than crazy. “So what’s your story?”
Ethan stared back at him. “What’s yours?”
Xander smiled wolfishly. “I asked first. And there’s three of us to one of you.”
“Xander,” Tara softly reproved. “Don’t be rude.”
Xander and Faith exchanged amused looks. Chased by government agents wanting to torture and murder them, and Tara was worried about manners? “My name’s Ethan Hunt,” the secret agent said. “I’m hunting a terrorist named Fathi Burhan-.”
“Tara?” Xander passed the witch the battery operated lap-top.
”And what am I supposed to lean this?” Tara asked.
”Jesus, moan, moan,” Faith put her hands on her knees and bent over. “Rest it on my back, sis.”
”Thanks,” Tara obeyed. After a couple of minutes, Tara looked up. “A general web search turns up a Fathi Burhan wanted for several terrorist acts throughout the Middle East, normally aimed at western governments or tourist spots. He’s twelfth on the UN’s most wanted list. I could do some hacking for more information?”
”No,” he shook his head. “That’s all I needed, thanks.” Xander looked at Ethan. “Go on.”
“We’ve been after him for years,” Ethan continued. “Two nights ago we received a tip that he was around here, a contact told me that the scientist we found dead was dealing with Burhan. Why are you here? Who are you?”
Xander shrugged. Turnabout was fair play, Ethan had shown him his hand, now it was his turn. “We got information that an unnamed terrorist was creating a biological weapon capable of creating chemical zombies. The scientist we found tonight was supposed to have worked on the project.”
“Zombies,” the secret agent snorted.
“Hello,” Xander nodded towards Faith. “Super-strong babe who can hold a rope carrying a man twice her weight.” He glanced towards Tara. “Sexy witch who can levitate. And moi who can pluck objects out of mid-air.”
“Okay,” Ethan nodded. “Let’s just say my world-view has under-gone a radical re-adjustment-.”
“He’s saying he believes us, Faith,” Xander translated.
“Uses more words than a Watcher,” Faith muttered. “What are we gonna do next?”
“I think we should have words with my contact,” Ethan suggested. “He obviously knows more than he told me.”
Xander nodded, liking the way the man had automatically included them. Perhaps he had potential for the Brotherhood. “Tomorrow night?”
“On one condition,” the older man looked at them all in turn. “You explain what exactly you all are?”
“Deal,” Xander looked up at the ceiling and then down the tunnel. “But let’s do our talking on the move. The further we are away from the city, the better I’ll feel.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (6/?)
Xander looked up at the knock on the door of the cottage Ethan had rented before meeting them. They’d decided that going back to their hotel would have been the height of stupidity. “Yep?”
“It’s me,” Tara called back. “I have those internet results on the subject you wanted.”
Oh, Xander glanced at Faith, interest quickening. He’d asked Tara to run a search on their mysterious companion. “Come in!” he called.
“Thanks,” the door swung open and Tara crept inside, door creaking shut behind her. After a customarily hesitant second, the witch sat on the end of the bed. “I..I tried to do the hack myself, but his records were embedded in encryption way above my head so I phoned Angela and she did it for me-.”
“And?” Faith interrupted, as impatient as ever.
”And he’s got Ultra-Clearance and is rated ‘Platinum-Level Useful’ by the US. Government.” Tara reported before looking at them. “It’s a rating system they use to rate our and other nations’ agents effectiveness. There’s six levels – Orange, Violet, Red, Silver, Gold, and Platinum in that order.” Tara’s eyes grew even more serious. We’ve met two operatives with Platinum level rating already, James Bond and Preston Lennox.” Exalted company, Xander raised an eyebrow, clearly Mr. Hunt was not a man to be messed with. “And,” Tara reddened, her voice trailing off.
”What is it, sis?” Faith prompted.
“You and Xander are rated as a Gold-Level operatives.”
Faith snorted. “Only Gold-Level, I’m insulted,” his girl-friend hugged him from behind before whispering in his ear, “how about we blow up a couple of cities, get our rating up to Platinum?” she chuckled into his ear.
”I’ll pass,” Xander winked at his girl before looking at the witch. “Anything else?”
“Mr. Hunt has a sixteen year record working with a government organisation called. I.M.F. He’s been decorated seven times in that period by three different presidents including a National Security Medal, Defence Medal of Valour, three Distinguished Intelligence Crosses, and two Presidential Medals of Freedom.”
“Damn,” Faith whispered in his ear, “guy must jangle when he walks.”
“That’s quite a haul,” Xander commented. “The Presidential Medal Of Freedom is roughly equivalent to the Congressional Medal of Honour.” Seeing the blank looks his remark received, he explained. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award a civilian can get.”
“He’d just recently retired, but agreed to come back to take out Burhan,” Tara finished.
“Recently retired, huh?” Xander’s forehead furrowed in thought.
“Thinkin’ about giving him the Brotherhood talk, X?” Faith asked.
“Considering it,” he replied before turning back to Tara as a troubling thought occurred. “Wait, you said Hunt had retired?” The witch nodded. “Why did he agree to come back?”
Xander scowled and rose as the wicca finished her explanation. “I think me and Secret Agent Guy need to have a talk. See you girls later.”
Exiting the bedroom, he made his way towards the secret agent’s room. After a knock on Ethan’s door received no reply, he walked downstairs. Hearing the sound of a kettle boiling, he made his way through to the kitchen to find the agent pouring himself a cup of tea. “I hope your personal issue with Burhan isn’t going to get in the way of our mission,” he declared as he entered, “if my girls get hurt because you’re personally involved in the mission, I will not be a happy bunny.”
”Personal issues?” the intelligence operative looked up at him inquiringly.
“Three years ago, Burhan organised the bombing of an US. middle eastern barracks. Six soldiers died, including your cousin.”
Pain flickered in the secret agent’s eyes, but was gone almost as quickly as it had appeared. Ethan motioned at the stool across the table from him. “Sit down.” After a second, Xander obeyed, eyes fixed on the older man. “Want a cup?” The man looked towards the kettle. Xander shook his head. “My father died when I was young, and so my Uncle Donald sold his place and moved in to help my mom run the farm. Uncle Donald was like a second father and Ed,” again pain flickered in the older man’s eyes, “was like my brother. So yes, I want Burhan dead. But I’m not about to risk tens of thousands’ lives across the world to do it. If for no other reason than Ed wouldn’t want it. And if that isn’t good enough for you, I guess it’s here where we part ways.”
“It’s good enough,” Xander finally replied. It wasn’t as if he had a choice, he needed Ethan for an in to his contact, and an extra pair of hands as talented as Ethan would come in handy. “How do you figure to get us access to your contact? He’s betrayed you once so I doubt he’ll be eager to see you.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Ethan dryly agreed before outlining his plan. “Abdullah Arif is a businessman catering to Saudi’s rich and powerful, all the royalty, top politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, and military go to him for luxuries that are forbidden in Saudi law. As a result he hears things that we’ve paid money for in the past. It seems now though he’s changed sides, a danger in my business. He’s got security and power, but I have an idea how to circumvent it.” Ethan talked for a couple of minutes. “What do you think?”
“Faith’ll hate the idea.” Xander chuckled. “I love it.”
* * *
Abudllah Arif smiled as he strode out of his club through his discreet back entrance, the latest American rock music blaring out onto the street, the sweat causing his $5,000 custom-made suit to stick to him. It had been another highly profitable night catering to the high-powered hypocrites of his nation, supplying the west’s decadent delights that they decided in their infinite wisdom the general populace didn’t deserve.
He nodded to the two suited guards, thoughtfully provided by the Defence Minister, stood beside his tinted window stretch limo. “Hey.”
He turned at the husky voice in the shadows by his club’s entrance, eyes widening at the vision of beauty before him. The girl stood leaning against the wall was around 5ft 6 with a slender figure and ample chest, her curves emphasised by a black Lycra dress that ended at the mid-thigh area of a pair of long, tanned legs, and wearing strapped high-heels that accentuated her muscled calves, a mode of dress that would get her stoned to death if caught by the authorities. Her lustrous black hair hung down onto her bare shoulders, framing a china doll face dominated by a pair of pool-like dark eyes and pouty red lips.
After a stunned second avidly drinking in the raven-tressed goddess before him he managed a smile. “Why hello, dear.” Just the sort of women he liked, western women were always such a challenge, he always loved the look in their eyes when they realised there was no hope for them, only obedience. And this one was a prize. Once he’d had his fill of her, he’d sell her on, either to one of his contacts or to one of the city’s brothels. Oh yes, there was both money and pleasure to be had here.
”Guy told me that you were the guy who could supply a girl with something to get her high. I’d be interested,” a glimmer of uncertainty entered the girl’s coal-black orbs, “if the price was right.”
”Ah my dear,” reaching out an hand, he stroked the girl’s long hair, marvelling at its silkiness. “A princess such as yourself does not have to pay a penny.”
“Well that’s kind,” the girl’s eyes narrowed. “Hey, what’s happening with your bodyguards, mister?” Puzzled, Abdullah started to turn. “Ooops, too late.” Something incredibly hard smashed into his jaw and the world went black.
* * *
”Like taking candy from a baby,” Faith announced as she caught the fat man as he fell, wincing slightly at the weight, guy had to weigh close to four hundred and fifty pounds. She’d advise getting a Stairmaster except he’d only snap it in half. Looking around, she saw Xander and Hunt had dealt with and were tying up the two bodyguards. “But next time Tara can play decoy for a change. Oh wait,” she winked at her sis to ensure her next comment was taken as a joke, “she couldn’t pull it off.”
“I could do it-,” Tara blushed as she realised everyone was staring at her. “Well I would, but I’m not brazen enough.”
”Brazen?” Faith looked at her man. “Should I be insulted, X?”
“Don’t involve me,” Xander smirked before sobering and turning towards Ethan Hunt as the secret agent threw the second of the thick-set bodyguards into the car’s trunk. “What’s the plan now?”
“We take this car somewhere discreet, and Abdullah and I have a talk,” Ethan said.
”His car?” Xander looked doubtful. “Isn’t that risky?”
”It’s got diplomatic plates,” Ethan kicked the licence plate for emphasis. “No police officer would dare stop this car without ministerial orders.”
Faith peered through the door as Tara opened it smirked. “Leather seats, choice.”
“Faith,” she looked towards Xander, “you realise there’s no room in the trunk for Abdullah?”
Faith groaned. “At least give me some rope to tie the fat-ass up.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (7/?)
Xander broke the tense silence that had dominated their car journey as the limo slowed to a halt outside an abandoned meat-packing plant. “What are you going to do with him?” Xander looked over his shoulder to the thankfully still unconscious Arif that Faith had laid on the floor and was now gleefully using him as a foot-rest while chugging down a bottle of champagne, two other empty bottles already littering the floor.
Xander shook his head, even with Faith’s near-legendary alcohol tolerance, he wondered if he’d have to carry her out of the car later. Realising Ethan was speaking; he turned to the intelligence operative. “Sorry?”
“I said, do you have some rope, some bottled water, a baseball bat, and some baseballs in that Always Pocket of yours?”
Xander stared at the secret agent in bemusement. “Why?”
Xander thought for a second, his mind doing an inventory. “Everything except the baseballs.”
“Good enough,” Ethan nodded. “And some scissors, a hammer, and a nail-file?”
Xander grimaced as he realised where the conversation was going. “Hold on-.”
“Torture is 90% mental,” Ethan interrupted with a glance over his shoulder. “A fat slug like Arif hasn’t got the nerve to sit through a war film, much less pull on an uniform. He’ll crack wide open. Oh that reminds me,” the agent turned back to him, “have you some fruit or something?” Xander pulled an apple out of his pocket. “A melon’s more dramatic, but it’ll do.” Ethan looked over his shoulder again. “Faith, can you carry Arif into the plant for me?”
Faith looked towards him for guidance. He nodded. “Five by five.”
* * *
Arif gasped as the water hit his face, forcing to awaken to an unpleasant reality, far different from the one he’d been imagining. From taking the exotically-beautiful foreigner back to his exclusive house, he now found himself tied by his feet and hanging upside down from the first-floor ceiling of a disused and foul-smelling building. Behind him he could hear the sound of feet. “Let me go!” he squealed. “I have friends!”
“Yes, and I thought I was one of them.”
His bladder loosened as Ethan Hunt walked into view, sweat beading down his forehead. “E…Ethan, old friend. What is this unpleasantness?”
“This is your fault,” he gulped as the American began placing objects on a dusty table in eye-view. Scissors, nail-files, hammer, and a baseball bat were put down and followed by an innocuous apple. “You sent me to a contact, and what did I find when I got there? A trap. Now, that hurt my feelings. And unfortunately, anger-management issues are frequently a problem with people in my profession.”
“I..it was just a coincidence,” he tried.
“Now you’re not only betraying me, you’re insulting my intelligence.” Abdullah gulped when Ethan picked up the baseball bat and began swinging it experimentally. “I loved baseball as a kid, played in all the little leagues and was really good too.” The spy picked up the apple in his other hand and began tossing it up into the air, its bounce almost hypnotic. Suddenly the agent flung the apple high into the air, gripped the bat in both hands, and swung at the fruit. Arif gasped as the bat smashed into the apple. The fruit exploded, chunks flying everywhere. “Wow,” Ethan turned to him, a faintly bemused look on his face, “just imagine the damage this could do to your knees. They’d shatter like glass.” The American paused. “Or we could just talk.” The American began swinging the bat again. “But it’s been so long since I played baseball. So maybe I should just take a few practice stro-.”
“I’ll talk!” he shrieked.
“Okay,” Ethan sighed. After a last regretful look, the American placed the bat back on the table. “Who hired you to set me up?”
“No-one.” Seeing Ethan’s eyes harden, Arif hurriedly continued. “That’s the truth. I just know there’s a general reward on foreign undercover agents, I arranged to split the reward for your capture with a general friend of mine.”
“After all this time buying information from you, I thought we had a relationship, I’m hurt,” Ethan shook his head. “Still, you’re co-operating now. If you keep talking for long enough I might forget about beating the crap out of you. Tell me what you know about Burhan?”
“I don’t -,” he paled when the American spy shook his head. “Certain elements in the Saudi army have given him a disused army base fifty miles to the east of the city. He’s been involved in some experiments, but I don’t know the specifics, I promise!”
”That’s alright,” Ethan nodded. “I do. How many men does he have with him?”
“About fifty.” Ethan grimaced at the number. Frightened by the smaller man’s disgruntlement, Arif hurriedly continued. “But it’s a lot less now, the word is whatever plan he’s been working on is very advanced.”
The American’s eyes narrowed. “And you know this how?”
“A number of his sponsors frequent my club. They’ve been drinking a lot of champagne recently, saying their investment is about to come to fruition.”
“Do they have heavy artillery or anything at this base?”
“I don’t know.” Ethan stepped towards him. “I don’t know!” he screamed. “It’s not like I’ve ever been invited there!”
“Okay,” Ethan nodded. “In that case give me the directions.” Sweat soaking him, he hurriedly babbled out the directions. Ethan nodded, picked up the instruments off the table, and turned to leave. “Thanks.”
Ethan turned back to him. “What?”
”You can’t just leave me here!” Arif shrieked.
Ethan smiled. “See if one of those friends you were trying to threaten me with comes and helps you,” the spy said before pulling the door shut behind him.
* * *
Ethan took some deep breaths as he stepped outside, using the clean air to wash away the grime of what he’d just done. Torture was a distasteful business, even psychological, and even when it involved dealers in human misery like Abdullah Arif. The fact he had to work with scum like him was one of the major reasons he was getting out of the intelligence business. He believed in what he did, but not enough to turn a blind eye to someone like Arif. “How did it go?”
He turned to Xander, forcing a smile. “He sang like a canary,” he reported as he passed the youth’s property back to him. “Burhan doesn’t know about us, that was just Arif profiteering on his own. And I know Burhan’s location.”
”And what about Chubby Checker?” queried Faith.
“Oh,” Ethan smiled. “I left him hanging around.”
“You can’t!” Tara gasped. “That’s inhuman.”
Ethan looked towards the group’s innocent. “Tara, that guy’s the equivalent of our own Mafia. Girls, weapons, drugs, gambling, anything he can earn a buck in, he deals in. He’s the scum of the earth.”
“And you deal with him,” the witch reproved.
“Yeah,” he didn’t flinch at the accusation in the honey-blonde beauty’s eyes and voice. “I did.”
“We can’t leave him here, that’s sinking down to his level,” the witch pressed.
“I wasn’t going to,” Ethan shook his head. If nothing else it was a terrible security risk, anyone could blunder into the meat-packing plant and discover Arif. “I just left him there for a few seconds to make him sweat. I intend to go back in, shoot him with a tranquiliser,” Xander nodded at his unasked question, “then when he’s gone to sleep have Faith bring him out. Then we take him back in the car with his bodyguards, and dump all three of them in the cottage’s cellar. Then, once we’ve dealt with everything tomorrow, I’ll phone the authorities and tell them what we’ve got stashed in the cellar.”
Tara’s mouth opened. “Sounds good to me,” Xander put in. “Let’s get back to the cottage, we’ve got plans to make.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (8?)
“So this is it?” Faith crouched down behind a desert shrub on a hill overlooking the terrorist base, eyes fixed on the headquarters below.
“This is it,” Ethan confirmed in a whisper.
“K,” Faith continued her inspection. The only gate through the surrounding wire mesh fence with barbed wire on top was at the front and guarded by six machine-gun wielding thugs with faces that would have their moms screaming denials about having anything to do with them. Guards patrolled the fence’s internal perimeter, a perimeter of perhaps half a mile on every side, their passing illuminated by the occasional flicker from their cigarettes. And a huge light on the flat roof of the compound’s only building, a grey-slabbed three-storied monstrosity, swung around the area in clockwise manner, offering haphazard lighting. “So the plan is, I jump the fence, go to the far end, plant the C4, and then blow it when I’m under one of the lorries. Am I right?”
“Yeah,” Xander looked more than a little discomforted by her easy acceptance of the hastily-outlined plan. Probably his macho gene coming out again. Which was kinda sweet, but damn, she kicked demon ass for a hobby, this was gonna be a cake-walk. “You’re sure you know how to use the C4?”
“Jesus, X,” Faith snapped as she snatched the C4 off Xander and threw it, the detonator, remote, and the timer into her black rucksack. “You showed it me half a dozen times already. I understand it, okay?”
“Understanding is a three-edged sword.” Xander reddened under his face-paint when they all turned to look at him with confused looks. “Kosh said that to Sheridan in Babylon 5, I’ve always wanted to-.”
“You fucking nerd,” Faith shook her head in disgust. How did she get lumbered with such a geek? Oh yeah, she smirked inwardly, it was the hours of bed-rocking sex that did it every time. “And the moment I blow the far fence?”
“We’ll start through,” Xander confirmed. “And meet you at the doors to the main building.”
”Wicked cool,” Faith rose effortlessly, eagerly eyeing the twelve-foot high mesh fence. “I’d say wish me luck, but when you’re as much as a knockout as I am -.”
”And as modest.”
Faith chose to take the high road and ignore big sis’ comment. Tar was probably just grumpy on account of the fact she wasn’t gettin’ any. “Luck ain’t really an issue.” Faith waited until the light had passed by and then exploded into action. Covering the fifty yards downwards’ run separating her from the fence in less than a second, dust kicking up at her passing blur, she bent her knees and sprang upwards, flying through the air with an awesome grace. Cold wind whistling around her, she pulled herself up into a ball, and cleared the fence’s barbs with feet to spare.
Hitting the ground on the other side on her shoulder, she quickly rolled behind a near-by rise in the ground. After a second she dared to peek up over the ridge, breath coming in tiny adrenalinized pants. Satisfied that her dramatic entry had gone unnoticed, Faith rose and glided into the shadows. Taking off at a run, she was soon at the building’s near side. Hearing muttered voices just around the corner, she dropped onto her face.
After a few nail-bitingly tense seconds, two pairs of hobnailed boots came into view, stopping right in front of her. Faith waited, but the two seemed reluctant to move on. Finally shaking her head, she reached out, grabbed their ankles and pulled. The two men let out strangled gasps before crashing face-first to the ground. Before either had chance to recover, Faith bounded up, landing on her knees between the two stunned men, her elbows simultaneously crashing down on the back of their heads, knocking them out. Grabbing their limp bodies, she quickly tied and gagged them, stuffing them in the small moat surrounding the building.
And then she continued on her way, gliding through the darkness like only a vampire or one of those who hunted them could manage. Soon she was at the area containing four army lorries and two tinted–windowed limos. Ignoring her natural impulse to let down the bad guy’s tyres she moved on until she was creeping between two lorries, cloaked in their brooding shadows. “Shit,” she muttered as she saw a pair of boots passing by the right truck’s hood and heading right to her.
Thinking quickly, Faith leapt from a stood position and onto the top of the truck. She watched as the guard turned the corner and carried obliviously on, his Steyr held loosely by his side. Faith sighed. She knew it was smart to just let him go past, but she couldn’t resist. Waiting until the man had passed by, she jumped off the truck, landing a karate chop to his neck as she dropped to the ground behind him.
“Jesus,” Faith muttered as she trussed up the unconscious body, nose wrinkling at his unwashed stench, and tossed him under the nearest lorry. “If ya’d just give me ‘til dawn, X, I’ll have the whole place cleared myself.”
Making her way to the end of the parking area, she crouched behind one of the trucks, head peeking around its back as she watched the two man guard pass by, one eye fixed on their progress as she rummaged through her rucksack. Pulling out the explosives and detonator, she quickly set up the C4. Realising the two man guard unit had ambled past, she rushed to the fence and gingerly placed the explosive down by the fence.
“Shit!” Faith groaned at the shout behind her. Twisting her head round, she saw the pair of thugs who’d just walked past charging back towards her. “And I’d nearly done it.” Leaping up, she started back towards the lorries, hoping to use them for cover. “Oh crap!” she yelled in protest as the two men drew their sub-machine guns and started firing, bullets zinging around her. Pressing the remote she leapt into the air, diving for the lorries like a soccer goalie stretching for a save.
The ground shook, her ears rang, and the black sky briefly blazed fire. Hitting the dry-caked ground shoulder-first, Faith had the briefest glance of part of the fence somersaulting into the air, and then she was rolling under the nearest lorry, heart buzzing with the familiarity of an old friend. She grimaced as a pair of boots appeared to her right and one to her left. Distracted by the explosion she doubted they’d seen her dive under the lorry, but neither man looked like he was about to give up searching for her just yet.
Deciding she’d have to do something about that, Faith snatched a hold of the lorry’s undercarriage, and, using it as leverage, first lifted her body off the ground, and then swung her legs out to the left. Her feet crashed into the back of the legs of the thug to her left, the man let out a surprised cry as he crashed to the ground. She was out from under the lorry in a half-second, just as the dazed man started to sit up. Faith’s elbow to the throat put him down again, and in the same smooth move, she’d snatched up his gun and sprung to her feet, twisting around the front of the lorry to put a three round burst into the face of the thug rushing around the lorry to confront her.
Bile rose in Faith’s throat as the man’s face exploded in a crimson mist. Reminding herself just what these men had planned, she stepped towards the one she’d taken the gun off and thrust-kicked him in the chest, the force of her attack knocking him back onto the ground and into unconsciousness. Realising she had to get to the others before she was cut off, she started to move away.
Then stopped as she noticed something. A smirk tugged at her lips as an outrageous idea formed. “Choice.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (9?)
Xander ducked instinctively as the sky roared and flamed in the aftermath of Faith’s explosion. A half-second later and he was up and rushing down the hill, the others following close behind, dust flying up in their wake, the ringing explosion rapidly replaced by the sporadic sound of gunfire and occasional frenzied shout. “Faith’s stirred up a hornet’s nest,” he said as they crouched beside the wire fence, Ethan using the cutters he’d given him to open up a hole.
“When doesn’t she?” replied Tara. Despite her jaunty remark, the witch looked as worried as he felt.
“We’re through,” Ethan interrupted with a whisper.
”Me first,” Xander muttered. Ignoring the fence’s jagged edges cutting into his hand, he yanked it open, and slid through, Desert Eagle .50 in his other hand, eyes fixed on the now chaotic compound. Keeping a hold on the fence, he waited until the others had climbed through before releasing his hold and rising. “Let’s go!”
They were perhaps two hundred metres from the building when its double-doors crashed open and a trio of sub-machine wielding thugs charged out onto the small runway crossing the building’s encircling moat, the bridge’s two foot high stone wall making it perfect cover for the guards. “Hit the ground!” Xander yelled as he dived to the ground, exchanging his Desert Eagle for an M16 in mid-fall. Bullets peppered the air around them. Even as he returned fire, he couldn’t help where his girl-friend was and if she was okay.
* * *
Faith smirked as she noted the keys hanging from the truck’s ignition. “Make it easy for us guys why don’t ya?” she gloated as she flung the truck’s door open and climbed in. “Damn,” she cursed as she realised the truck was a manual and she’d have to stretch to reach the pedals. “Okay, so I’m short,” she groused as she perched on the edge of the seat. “No need to rub it in, guys!”
A guard appeared in the doorway of the driver’s side, swarthy face contorted in rage. “Bitch!” he yelled as his hand reached for the pistol stuffed in his pants, his other hand reaching claw-like for her.
Faith shot out an elbow, catching the terrorist in the throat. “Women’s lib! Get a clue!” she yelled as the choking man fell off, hands around his throat. Turning the ignition on, she gunned the engine.
And ducked as the passenger window exploded, showering glass everywhere. “JESUS!” She screamed as she slammed a foot down on the accelerator. The truck screeched forward, gears grating as she discarded bothering with them in favour of just getting the hell out of dodge. Ducking down, eyes just peeking out above the steering wheel, she aimed the truck at the building, wincing with every bullet that crashed into the lorry or whistled above her head. “This place makes Boston seem like a tea party!”
When she was seconds from hitting the moat, Faith kicked the driver’s door open and leapt for safety, eyes fixed on the racing lorry. The vehicle’s momentum allowed it to partially clear the moat before it crashed into the building. The office block shook and the front of the truck crumpled like paper on impact, bricks and motor flying everywhere as the truck burst into flames before coming to a stop, its back end swinging precariously over the moat’s far edge. “Choice,” Faith gloated. “Wicked-, shit!” She cursed as the mud just in front of her puffed up, bullets peppering it. Rolling onto her back, she raised her stolen Steyr and sent the last of its rounds into two Arabs rushing up behind her, their bodies dancing manically with the impact of every bullet before crashing to the ground.
Springing to her feet, she charged on through the darkness, the confused and frightened shouts of the compound’s remaining guards all around her. Turning the building’s corner, she saw Xander and the others were pinned down by fire from a trio of guards on the entrance’s walled runaway.
“If ya want a job doing,” Faith shook her head as she increased her speed, racing onto the three bad guys’ blind side, “get a Slayer!” Kicking off, she threw herself into the air, clearing the moat and landing in a feet-apart crouch on the bridge behind the trio. “Hey guys, quite a party.”
One of the men grunted and started to turn to face her. Faith took him to his knees with a heel-kick to his hamstring, and then karate chopped him to the back of the neck. Faith leapt over the falling man, drop-kicking one of the two remaining guards in the back of the head, knocking him over the wall. Landing on her side, she rolled out of the way of a kick from the third guy before springing to her feet. Seeing the man’s gun coming up, Faith kicked out in a roundhouse, knocking the man’s weapon from him, before leaping off the ground into a toe-kick. Blood and teeth flew everywhere as her boot connected with the Arab’s mouth, the force of her attack lifting him off his feet and flinging him into the moat, his fall accompanied by a wordless cry.
Landing back on the ground, Faith peered over the wall. “Well,” she raised an eyebrow as she beckoned to her man and her sis. “What are ya waitin’ for? I could do this all on my own, but ya can help too.” Faith grinned as she picked up Xander’s muttered cursing. He was so easy.
In seconds her companions were with her. Looking around, she realised the vast majority of gun fire had finished, the defenders outside the building had either been neutralised or just flat out run. Xander tried the glass door and scowled. “Locks automatically from the inside, looks to be security glass too.”
“Let me have at it,” Faith suggested. “I’ll kick through it in a minute or two.”
”No time. They might re-group,” Xander shook his head before pulling out another block of C4. “Everyone back off,” her boyfriend instructed before sticking the explosive on the door.
The moment the last of them had cleared the bridge, Xander pressed down on his remote. The explosion rang out and the sheets of glass flew inside, as if punched there by a god’s fist. The smell of C4 still heavy in the air, Xander led them into the foyer, a single bulb illuminating the simple room, the mangled front of the truck she’d driven into the building sticking through the left wall, bricks and various debris littering the floor, the reception desk crushed into firewood by her makeshift battering-ram .
Xander laughed. “No need to ask where Faith parked the lorry,” he commented.
”All this practice and yet still she doesn’t improve,” added Tara.
“You two are a regular laugh riot ya know?” Faith glared at her buds.
“When you’ve finished with the comedy act, we’ve got a terrorist mastermind to stop,” Ethan reminded.
”Boy,” Faith shot the secret agent a disgusted look, “bet you’re fun at parties.”
FIC: MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (10?)
Hunt ignored her flippant comment to make his way to the wooden door at the back of the lobby, moving with the assurance of someone who’d done this sort of a thing a million times before. The spy creaked the door open an inch only to fling himself backwards, hitting the ground on his shoulder and the sound of gunfire filling the air. “Xander! Two gunmen on the stairwell’s landing.” the agent rolled to his feet. “I need a grenade.”
Her man dropped to one knee on the opposite side of the door to the agent. “What do you want? A concussion grenade? A MK3A2?”
“No,” Ethan shook his head, tone all business. “We need the staircase in one piece, so a stun grenade would be best.”
“Flash-bang coming up,” Xander threw the agent a M84. “I’ll open the door, you throw it in. Then Faith,” Xander looked over his shoulder at her, “can run in and finish them off.”
Faith plucked the protective goggles X threw her out of mid-air, quickly putting them on. “Gee, I get all the fun jobs,” she groused. “How many steps?” she asked as she stepped back a dozen paces and to the right of the door.
”Ten,” Ethan tersely replied. “Twelve at the most. On three?”
“One, two, three!” X’s heel slammed into the bottom half of the wooden door, partially kicking the panel in as well as flinging the door open. At the same moment Ethan dived across the open door, flinging the grenade as he fell to the ground.
The others turned away as the light flashed, but Faith was already moving. Leaping over Ethan’s prone body, she hit the door in mid-leap, tearing it from its hinges before bounding up the steps three at a time. Reaching the landing, she caught the thug to her right with an elbow, the force of her attack smashing into his jaw flipping him over the stairwell. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the other Arab attempting to struggle to his feet, hands reaching blindly for his gun. Stepping sideways, she kicked out with her right foot, heel crashing into the man’s face, knocking him into the wall behind, head bouncing off the brick with a sickening crack. A glazed look on his suddenly pulped face, the man slid down the wall to lie in an unconscious pile.
A grin on her face, Faith spun around to face the doorway she’d entered through. “Yo! Coast’s clear guys, haul ass!”
The door at the bottom of the stairs crashed open and her friends spilled through. Faith’s eyes widened as she saw Ethan’s hand-gun coming up and aiming at her. Flinging herself to the ground, she winced as she saw Ethan’s finger tug on his weapon’s trigger, two, three times, the gun jumping in his hand, fire spitting from its muzzle. “FUCK!” Faith waited until the spy had finished firing before leaping to her feet and swinging her gun up. “You bastard!” she screamed as she squeezed the trigger.
She reluctantly relaxed her grip when a pale-faced Xander stepped in front of the spy. “Faith,” her man’s voice trembled, “look behind you.”
Faith quickly glanced over her shoulder, eyes widening at the sight of two more Arabs lying slumped by the door behind her, the top half of their heads missing. They must have rushed out of the door behind her as she turned to shout the others in, rookie mistake. If not for Ethan…. “Oh right,” turning back to the front, she lowered her gun, and shrugged apologetically. “Thanks and sorry about that almost blowing your head off thing.”
Ethan smiled tightly. “Occupational hazard. Happens all the time,” the man joked as he and the others rushed up the stairs.
“Remember,” Xander threw the others pairs of protective goggles, “Burhan is a secondary target, destroying the third-floor lab is the priority.”
“How long have we got left?” Tara demanded.
Ethan glanced at his watch. “Twenty minutes at least before reinforcements get here, perhaps thirty.” The spy looked towards Xander. “Flashbangs?”
“Jeez,” Xander shook his head as he pulled out a pair of stun grenades, “I’m going to have to re-equip soon.”
”A visit to Yaz,” Faith wrinkled her nose. “Great, can’t wait to see God’s greatest gift to womankind again. Wanna me to kick the door in this time?” Xander nodded. “One, two, three.”
Her connecting kick ripped the door off its hinges, flinging it into the beige wall opposite. The moment the door broke loose, Xander stepped forward, flinging one grenade to the right of the corridor beyond, the other to the left. The corridor briefly illuminated in a light that would have been blinding but for their protective goggles, and then they were moving, racing towards the corridor’s far right end, to the marked stairwell.
They were just feet from the doorway when a door behind them crashed open. Before any of them could move, a slender Arab leapt out of the room, wrapped a long arm around Tara’s neck, and stuck a revolver to her head. “Now,” gloated the terrorist in faltering English, a tall man with the gaunt face of an undertaker, “you infidel pigs will pay for your insolence! Drop your guns!”
Eyes calm, Tara looked at her, Faith nodded slightly, muscles tensing and stomach churning as she awaited her sister’s move, sweat forming on her forehead. “Flamma!”
“Ahhh!” Faith gasped when the terrorist’s eyes widened in pain, his gun suddenly glowing red. Taking advantage of the distraction, Tara stamped hard on the man’s foot. “Ahhh!” The man shouted again. Her attacker’s grip loosening, Tara flung herself to the ground, and Faith raised her gun and fired round after round into the man’s head. The bastard would never lay another finger on sis.
“Faith,” she started at Xander’s voice in her ear even as she continued to pull the trigger, her gun’s empty click filling her ears, “he’s dead.” Faith looked down at the headless body at her feet, shuddering slightly. She’d done that? Yanking the empty clip out, she threw the magazine to the ground and quickly reloaded.
She shot Tara a concerned look. “Are you five by five?” Her sister smiled and nodded, falling in beside her as they continued on their way to the stairs. “How the hell did you get him to drop his gun?”
“I heated up his gun,” Tara replied as they started up the empty stairwell. “I made it too hot for him to hold.”
“Wow,” Faith winked at her best friend. “Always said ya were hot stuff.” She chuckled at Tara’s predictable blush. “You’re getting damn good at this magic stuff ain’t ya?”
Tara’s blush deepened. “I study at night after patrol.” Tara half-smiled at her. “I’ve got to do something while you and Xander are at it all night.”
“And there was me thinking ya had a glass pressed to the wall listening in,” Faith commented as they followed the guys onto the deserted top floor corridor.
“Ha,” Tara laughed. “Like I’d need a glass the noise you two make.”
Faith stumbled at Tara’s retort.
“Damn,” she smirked. “Xander is right, I am a bad influence. That was pure
filth, girl,” she grinned when her friend looked flustered, “I’m wicked
“Hush,” Ethan ordered with a glance over his shoulder. “This is the lab.” The man looked at the door, a steel-grey door complete with a key-pad lock on it. “Xander-.”
“Everyone get back,” her boyfriend interrupted before sticking a lump of C4 to the door, jamming a detonator in it and himself backing off. Faith turned her head as the door blew, the door and part of the wall falling into the lab, smoke billowing up. Xander hefted his gun. “We haven’t seen Burhan, he might be through there. Be careful.”
FIC: MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (11/?)
Xander carefully led the others into the apparently deserted lab. “Down!”
Reacting instinctively to his girl-friend’s shout, Xander joined the others in flinging himself onto the hard-tiled floor. At the same time gunfire ignited both from behind an upturned wooden table and a gantry above and to left of them. Rolling onto his front, Xander fired up at the gantry, grateful that the men stood upon it were armed only with pistols and appeared to be scientists. If the men had more firearms training and better weapons, their surprise attack would have almost certainly killed them.
His bullets splintered through the gantry’s wooden floor, ripping into the lab-coated duo, making them dance like puppets who’d had their strings cut before finally falling over the walkway’s railing. Their corpses made a wet, slapping sound as they thudded to the ground, their blood soon pooling beneath their broken frames. Ears still ringing from the shooting, Xander looked around, nodding in satisfaction when he realised that Ethan had likewise dealt with the man hidden behind the desk. Looking around, he saw the rest of the lab was relatively unaffected by the gunfire, the occasional shattered window, and one computer shot up, but three tables filled with various scientific and medical instruments appeared unharmed.
Which reminded him. “Uh, should we have biohazard suits or something?” Damn, it was a little late now.
“No,” Ethan shook his head as he rose. “The virus isn’t airborne, it has to be has to be injected or otherwise introduced intravenously to a person.”
”Cool,” Xander shook his head like he understood about half of what the spy had said. “In that case-.”
“Die American pig!”
Xander spun around to see a man he recognised as Burhan diving at Faith, the Arab’s eyes filled with bubbling insanity and his teeth bared almost as if he intended to rip her throat out with them. And, his eyes widened as he noticed the terrorist had a curved dagger slashing and stabbing at waist level, while his right hand held a syringe overhead.
Faith sidestepped the thug’s clumsy lunge, her foot snapping out to crash a heel into his outer knee. “Ahhhh!” the Arab stumbled but managed to keep his feet, his next knife slash ripping the left sleeve of Faith’s catsuit. Xander’s heart caught as he saw blood dripping from the slash.
His girl-friend didn’t miss a step. The air simultaneously rang to the terrorist’s pained scream and the sound of snapping bone, when Faith grabbed his knife wrist and twisted. “BBBITCH!” A look of fury on his face, the Arab lunged forward, syringe coming down.
Faith stepped inside the sweeping arm, twisted at the waist, and grabbed her attacker at the wrist and elbow, and flung him to the ground. A snarl on his lips, the terrorist attempted to rise. “Stay down.” She announced before stamping on the man’s throat.
”Why didn’t you just shoot him?” Xander demanded.
“It’s ‘cause of him I’m in this damn hellhole,” Faith replied as she examined her injured arm. “The bastard had to pay with a little pain.”
“Is that arm alright?” Tara asked.
Faith shrugged. “Stings a little, but I’m five by five.”
“Maybe Faith shouldn’t touch anything,”
Ethan warned after a satisfied look at Burhan’s body, “just to be on the safe
“I get to sit out the work,” Faith smirked. “I’m down with that.” Faith sobered. “I’ll watch for any guards from outside the doorway.”
Xander nodded. “Okay, what’s the drill?”
”We destroy everything in here,” Ethan replied. “Medical samples, notes, computer discs, computers themselves, and then we plant explosives around the lab and the outside of the building and blow the entire place. Especially look for a fridge.”
“Hey, if you’d ever seen X’s bedroom back in Sunnyd, you’d know you were talking to a master of devastation.”
“I’ll start looking,” Xander loftily decided to ignore Faith’s comment. A couple of minutes later and he found it, a thin, shoulder-height white box with a padlock on its door, the padlock’s chain jangling around the cooling centre’s silver handle. “Here, found it,” turning away he used his Desert Eagle to blow the padlock off before flinging the fridge open. Inside were six trays filled with rack upon rack of bung-topped test tubes, hundreds of them all filled with the same murky grey mixture. After a shiver at the certain knowledge of what exactly the test tubes contained, Xander looked towards Ethan for guidance. “What now?”
The secret agent glanced up from where he was setting fire to a collection of note-books. “Now you throw a timed explosive inside it. None of those samples can survive.”
“Okay. Timed for 10 minutes?” At Ethan’s nod, Xander quickly obeyed, slamming a lump of C4 onto the inside door before shutting the door behind him. After another shiver he turned back to Ethan who’d moved onto one of the computers. “I’m glad that’s over with.”
“No, no,” Ethan shook his head as he looked at the computer screen. “It’s not over.”
Xander hurried over to the computer. His brow furrowed as he saw a countdown clock with lines of unintelligible text beneath it. “I’m glad one of us reads Arabic,” he acerbically commented. “But what does it say?”
The suddenly ashen-faced secret agent turned to him. “That one sample’s already been sent out. To be administered in the next 30 and a half hours.”
Xander grimaced. That wasn’t great news for the victim, but he thought that the spy was over-reacting. “Bad for whose infected, but what damage can one sample do?” asked Faith a half-second before him.
”This sample could start a world war,” Ethan replied.
“Oh,” Xander muttered, deflated by the man’s crushing news. “Nothing major then.”
* * *
Camp David, USA.
“It’s here,” after a brief look up at the helicopter whirling its way onto the landing pad, Frank Horrigan rushed out of the house to meet the helicopter’s occupant, America’s first African-American president, David Palmer. “Hello, sir,” he greeted.
”Frank.” From within his cordon of well-armed, suited guards the world’s most powerful man smiled at him. “Good to see you, a surprise, but good.”
“You know me, sir,” he joked. “These retreats are such a cake-walk, an old goat like myself jumps at the chance.”
“Frank, I noticed but didn’t like to mention the walking frame.” President Palmer turned serious. “I assume everything’s set up?”
”Yes sir,” Horrigan nodded. Although the president was supposedly on a retreat, such a man was never truly off duty. As such he required satellite access to all the world’s news channels, a working and encrypted phone line, and the fastest possible internet connection in addition to his admin staff.
”Well let’s get inside then,” President Palmer suggested. “I’m freezing out here.”
* * *
A hotel room outside Maryland.
Fawzi paced the dingy hotel room, its peeling wallpaper, cracked ceiling, and faded carpet taunting him, reminding all of what the man they had come to punish had when compared to their people. But soon, so soon that would change. “Abdull has been unable to reach our leader for the past 24 hours,” he reported to his fellow believers. “I am unsure as to what has happened. I would contact some of other sources but,” he shrugged, “we were ordered to only talk to Burhan.”
“Then will we be going ahead with the mission?” asked one of his men. “If something has gone wrong-.”
“No, no,” Fawzi shook his head, eyes blazing as he glared at each of his fourteen companions in turn. There was a high probability that none of them would return from their mission tomorrow. Their deaths meant nothing though if it contributed to Islam’s greater glory. “This makes no difference. Tonight, the American President will be turned into a zombie. And the whole world will tremble before Allah’s wrath!”
His subordinates bowed simultaneously. “Praise be to Allah.”
FIC: MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (12/14)
President Palmer smiled as he looked around the camp. The snow-covered log cabins, the surrounding woods shrouded in white, it all made for a perfect Christmas card picture. Of course, there was always the barbed wire fence, but that was mostly obscured by the surrounding woods. His smile widened as he rubbed his gloved hands together and took a deep breath, enjoying the lack of pollution, the air’s crispness. Peering up at the sky, he watched the stars for a few seconds. “You know,” he remarked to the secret service agents flanking him, “whenever I’ve got a chance I like to watch the stars. Seeing something so old, so powerful reminds me how transitory we all are. Helps me keep a sense of perspective of just important any of us are in the grand scheme of things, if you know what I mean.”
He resisted the urge to chuckle when the two agents exchanged bemused looks, clearly wondering if there was a madman in the White House. “Yes sir,” one of the two, a crew-cutted, freckled youth who didn’t look much older than twenty, dutifully but also doubtfully replied.
Palmer sighed, his good mood fading as he reluctantly turned back to his cabin. Back to the real world, he had a pile of treasury reports on the deficit to go through. “Let’s go inside.”
“Yes sir!” he hid his amusement at the agents’ enthusiasm to be inside, away from the biting cold. Clearly the hardiness of youth was just a myth perpetrated by the callow young to make themselves feel better about their lack of experience.
Entering the rustic yet fully equipped lodge, he turned to his Chief of Staff. “Mike, can you organise a vid-conf call with the Treasury Secretary in one-,” he sighed as he glanced the height of the pile of papers awaiting him on his desk, “make that two hours.”
“Yes sir, certainly sir,” Mike nodded.
Palmer sat down, loosened his tie, and listlessly reached for the top document. “And Cliff?”
The White House steward was at his side in a second. “Sir?”
“A glass of bourbon please.”
“Thank you,” Palmer’s eyes narrowed as he began to read the first document. Even with the many servants, being president certainly wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. His memoirs were definitely going to warn all political aspirants of that fact.
* * *
Fawzi smiled as he finished running his computer program and read the results by torchlight, huddled in a copse some three hundred yards away from the camp’s fence. “It’s working,” he whispered. A loyal contact had given them all the passwords to Camp David’s communications network, and a computing genius had done the rest. The land lines all still worked, but any outgoing or incoming message would be routed to his computer rather than to its intended source. Now they need only concern themselves about cells, which weren’t as easily verifiable as coming from a legitimate source, giving them valuable minutes that might prove the difference between success and failure.
“The electric fence is down,” reported another of his men.
“And I’ve hacked into the security cameras,” added a third. “For the next twenty minutes the cameras will simply play back what’s happened for the previous twenty minutes. The general alert system has been cut out too.”
“Praise be to Allah,” Fawzi as he looked up at the imposing fence, wincing at the vicious barbed wire on top. There were some problems not even computers could solve.
”Praise be to Allah,” his men chorused before splitting into their five three-men teams.
* * *
“How long have we got?” Xander queried as their car sped around the nerve-shreddingly narrow roads leading up to the camp.
“Not long enough,” Ethan retorted, eyes fixed on the all-too poorly lit road. “It’s going to be tight.”
“What I don’t get is why we didn’t contact someone?” Faith chirped up from the back seat.
“And what do I exactly quote as my source, Faith?” Ethan snapped. “That I read a computer screen that said a bunch of terrorists were planning to turn the president into a zombie? They’ll think I’ve watched ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ one time too many!”
“Jeez,” Faith snarled defensively. “No need to be so damn snarky.”
“Yeah,” Tara supported, “that’s Faith’s job.”
* * *
“So I was telling the wife,” Roger continued his story even as Glen looked around the cramped underground bunker they were in, surrounded only by desks and screens. Finally his eyes returned to the screen as Roger continued, the other man his senior by close on twenty years and a continual complainer about his wife.
“Sandwiches,” Glen looked up from his half-hearted perusal of the security screens to see the White House steward, dressed in his immaculate white and carrying a silver tray entering the room via the door behind them. “Salad and chicken sandwich.”
“Damn it, Cliff,” exclaimed his partner, “you know you should knock.”
Cliff just chuckled, a twinkle in the weather-faced man’s eye. “Well if you don’t want these sandwiches…”
Roger laughed before looking at him, and
then at the mouth-wateringly baguettes. “I didn’t say that,” the agent
responded before snatching one of the sandwiches off the tray a half-second
before he grabbed the other. “Thanks Cliff.”
“No problem. You guys can’t do your job on an empty stomach,” Cliff looked towards the video screen. “Say, you guys realise your vid clock’s running almost twenty minutes slow?”
“What?” Roger squinted at the clock in the corner of the screen, then up at the clock on the wall, and then at his watch. “On no, you’re right!”
“Oh hell!” Glen pressed on the red alert button under his desk. His eyes widened when nothing happened. He thumbed the button again, again no expected klaxon. Leaping up, he reached under his jacket and pulled out his regulation .38. “We’re under attack.”
* * *
“Mr. President. This is a time of belt-tightening-.”
“I’m sorry Tony. But I can’t, no I won’t agree to this.” Palmer shook his head as he glanced down at the papers strewn across the desk, the secret service agents having positioned themselves outside his office door so he could have some privacy, “These suggested budget cuts are worse than political suicide they’re inhuman.” Head still shaking, he raised his head back to the computer screen “Why the cuts to welfare alone will…” His voice trailed off as he realised the computer screen had gone blank.
* * *
“Yo!” Faith cursed as Ethan slammed on the brakes, the sudden stop almost flinging her forward. “I thought we were in a hurry ya all?”
“We are,” the agent pointed to his left, “but look there.”
Faith followed the agent’s finger, squinting into the darkness. After a second she saw a tell-tale outline. “That’s a car,” Tara whispered.
”More than one, four in total,” Faith was thrown backward as the car jetted off again, “they’ve already got here, we’ll have to take them out inside rather than outside the camp,” Ethan retorted.
“Great,” Faith muttered. “’Cause the other way was so easy it was boring.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (13/14)
“Damn Joe,” Andrew Lukic, a third-generation Georgian-American and the first of his family to graduate college, shivered as the wind whistled around him. “It’s cold.”
“You know the drill,” his partner, a
burly African-American he’d been partnered with since making the Presidential
detail of the White House’s last incumbent three years ago. “You’ve got to take
the good with the bad-.” Suddenly his friend’s knees buckled, his body
shuddering as he fell to the ground.
“Joe!” Lukic barely had time to register the gaping hole in the back of his friend’s head and the blood bubbling out of it when he felt something slam into the back of his head. And then everything went dark.
* * *
Fawzi smiled as the two agents hit the ground, their blood turning the snow a so pretty pink. Today would be a humiliation and a massacre the Yankee pigs would never forget. Turning his attention back to the mission in hand, he spoke into his radio set. “Has the guardhouse fallen?”
* * *
“Who do you like for the Super-Bowl?” John Levers asked his partner in the well-lit booth by the compound’s gates, his feet on the desk as he thanked whatever gods there where that he wasn’t one of the unlucky slobs out patrolling in the cold and dark.
“I’m going with the Cowboys,” his partner, a tall lean man of Chinese extraction that bespoke of America’s easy tolerance of a multitude of cultures.
“You’re joking right?” Levers took out his cigar to laugh. “Have you even seen a game of football?”
His partner took no offence at his derision, instead smiling. “You know my sport’s soccer, a sport where the ‘World Cup’ actually involves teams around the world. A novel concept for you to get John, but at least try.”
A grin of his face, John flipped his friend a bird. “Bite m-,” his smile faded away. “Did you hear that?” he asked as he rose.
“Hear what? The sound of America turning onto the world’s number 1. spectator sport?” his fellow agent joked, the grin on his face indicating he hadn’t heard anything.
“A scratching at the door.”
“Yeah?” his friend joined him in standing. “Probably a deer or something.”
“Probably,” John agreed as he reached for and turned the door handle. The door opened to reveal nothing outside, no animals or other agents, nothing that could have made the noise. Puzzled, he looked down at the ground. His blood froze at the footprints in the snow. Heart pounding, he looked up just as two sub-machine gun wielding Arabs stepped into the opening.
His mouth opened in a desperate cry for help even as he was rocked by bullet after bullet. The last thing he saw was the flame spouting from his killer’s gun-muzzle, the last thing he heard was his friend’s pained cries.
* * *
“Excellent,” Fawzi smiled as report after report came in from his agents. All the Great Satan’s minions around the perimeter had been dealt with. Fawzi’s smile widened, the Yankee pigs would find tonight it wasn’t so easy fighting a war without their jets and satellites. “You have your targets, move to them.”
* * *
“Ah I can’t get this thing working,” Palmer looked up after his fourth unsuccessful attempt to get the video-conference re-established and smiled. “What a shame,” he chuckled before rising. At least now he could grab this opportunity to have some real time off. Walking to the office door, he flung it open and stepped outside. The two Secret Service agents stood flanking the portal immediately came to attention. Palmer nodded at them. “Relax, boys,” he ordered. “There’s no cameras here to look super-efficient for. I’m just going to get a beer.”
”I could phone Cliff for you, Mr. President,” a shaven-headed youth that looked just old enough to be out of high school volunteered. “Have him bring it to you.”
“No thanks Buck,” he shook his head. “I could do with the stretch of my legs.”
”Yes sir,” the young man nodded before he and his fellow agent fell beside the president at they walked through the hall-way and into the dimly-lit lounge.
* * *
Faith tore her gaze away from the Camp’s
gates looming up before them and looked towards Xander. “What’s the sitch, X?”
Her man was busy looking through binoculars at the compound. “The guardhouse looks deserted. They’ve already hit.”
“It doesn’t mean they’ve got to the President yet,” Ethan declared. Faith gasped at the car engine’s protesting screech as the agent rammed down even harder on the accelerator, forcing just a few more extra revs out of the car as they careered wildly towards the gates.
”Great,” Faith muttered as she looked over the edge and to the dark ravine below, “either we go off the road and die in a fiery ball. Or we make the base and end up being shot to pieces by a bunch of loons.”
“Having one of your bipolar days, Faith?” a pale-faced Tara whispered.
“Oh, ‘cause you’re not shittin’ in your panties-, oww!” Faith grunted as the car hit the gates, the hood buckling slightly with the impact as they sped in, the car coming to a shuddering halt just a few feet inside.
Almost immediately they were flinging the doors open. “Faith, go check the president’s okay,” Xander ordered. “The rest of us will deal with the other terrorists.” Xander threw her a radio. “When I radio you, meet us by the car pool around the back, this car’s done for.”
“I should be the one that-,” Ethan began a protest.
“She’s the one best suited for a solo mission!” Xander interrupted. “Go, Faith!”
* * *
Palmer stumbled in mid-step when the lounge was suddenly plunged into darkness. One of the agents grabbed his elbow, preventing him from falling. “Thank you,” he smiled at the silhouette.
”No problem, sir,” the agent replied. “That’s what we’re here for.”
The other agent spoke into his mouthpiece. “This Sanderson, we’re with Apple Pie,” Palmer’s eyes rolled at his codename, “in the-,” the agent’s voice trailed off. “We’re being jammed.”
“Jammed?” Even as he opened his mouth to query further he was unceremoniously pushed towards the wood-panelled floor towards the back of the lounge. “But how-.”
“No time, sir,” the agent’s voice was controlled but with an undercurrent of fear, “we have to get you to the basement-.”
“Ahhh!” Palmer wailed as he was flung to the ground by the force of an explosion rocking the house, the windows shattering, glass shards flying inward, showering them. His breath coming in stunned pants, he realised that now the sound-proof windows had blown he could hear the haunting sounds of gunfire and men screaming in their death-throes.
”Sir,” he felt his guards pulling him to his feet, “we have to-.”
“No,” he shook his head, realising that he was bleeding from his forehead, either from a glass shard or from his fall, “we have to help the others-.”
”You’re the priority-.”
”Ahh!” Palmer gasped as he was released and fell back onto the ground. Looking up, he saw his two guards crash to the ground beside him, their eyes staring lifelessly up at the ceiling, gaping bullet holes in their foreheads.
“And so,” Palmer looked up to see a trio
of silhouettes enter the lounge from the outer doorway “the mighty American
President lying on his belly, like the animal he is. How fitting.” Palmer
crawled over to one of the guards, hoping to find his gun. “I don’t think so.”
He gasped when the trio’s apparent leader kicked him in the gut. “We have other
plans for you.” The other two terrorists grabbed and lifted him to his feet,
clinging to his arms.
He spat in the lead terrorist’s, a short but thickly-muscled man, bearded face. “You’ll never win,” he snarled. “America will never give in to terrorists.”
The man smiled. “Defiant to the end. But once the terror of what we can do spreads, America will listen. And,” the Arab’s smile widened, “you will be the vessel by which we reach our goals.”
“See,” a husky voice said from behind the three terrorists. “That just ain’t gonna happen.”
MC 31 Nov ’00 Kazaa Hataf (14/14)
Palmer fell backwards as his captors flung him to the ground, needing their hands free to draw their guns and fire at the intruder, the darkness briefly illuminated by muzzle-flashes as they blindly pumped rounds into the voice’s general direction. And then the two guards flanking him crashed to the ground, his mysterious rescuer somehow hitting them both square between the eyes despite the darkness. “Bitch!” It was the leader of the terrorists, his voice had lost all of its mocking calmness, now it sounded hysterical. “You will die screaming!”
“Well your boss did that’s for damn sure,” the mystery woman chuckled. Palmer’s brow furrowed as he tried but failed to recognise the voice. He had two female secret service agents on his detail but this girl sounded both too young and too working-class to be either of them. “Cried like a little baby. You motherfuckers are real brave planting bombs, hijacking planes and shit, but when it comes to a real fight you’re just a bunch of spineless pussies.”
“Bitch!” the terrorist screamed again before racing forward. There was another exchange of shots, the crash of a body falling, and then a nerve-tingling silence fell. Heart racing, he rolled onto his hands and knees, and scrabbled blindly through the darkness, attempting to find a gun, anything he could use as a weapon.
“Jeez, your confidence in me is just touching,” he gasped as an awesomely strong hand grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt collar and yanked him to his feet. “I’m tearin’ up here, no really.”
Palmer caught a glimpse of a bewitchingly curvy teen with flowing raven locks, full red lips, and soulful black eyes. “W…who are you?”
The teen laughed throatily “Call me ya your guardian angel, Washington,” the beauty pushed him down onto a seat before crouching over the head terrorist and rummaging through his pockets. Palmer stared dazedly around the room. Even in the darkness he could see the over-turned furniture and the heaped corpses. God only knew what the room looked like in the light. “Got it!”
He turned back to the leather-clad girl and squinted. She was holding a cylinder or something in her hands, but thanks to the lack of light he couldn’t see enough detail to decide what it was. “What is that?”
“Some shit,” the curvy teen dropped the cylinder on the floor and stamped on it, glass crunching underfoot, “they were gonna inject ya with.” The girl paused. “Gunfire’s stopped, I better make like a tree and leave. Ya ever wanna get caught in a scandal with an intern, don’t forget not to call.”
”Wait!” he implored, struggling to his feet, but the girl was already sprinting towards the back windows.
Suddenly the doors crashed open and three figures charged in. “Halt!” yelled one he recognised as Frank Horrigan. “Or we’ll fire!”
“She saved me! Do not fire!” he leapt in front of his men, eyes wide and hands raised as he prayed that the secret services agents’ nerve and reflexes were as good as they claimed. “Do not fire!”
The girl’s words floated mockingly to him a half-second before the window shattered as she leapt through the window. “Thanks for the save, Washington!”
* * *
Ethan looked up from under the wheel. “Got it, car’s wired.” He noticed his two companions weren’t paying any attention. Both were instead staring into the darkness. The battle had been a tight one, but had finished with the entrance of a quartet of agents that had caught the remaining terrorists by surprise, allowing them to slip into the darkness. But he was sure they were calling up for reinforcements now, they had to get moving. “Any sign of Faith?”
“Nothing,” Xander replied, the youth’s voice thick with tension.
”That’s just ‘cause ya ain’t payin’ attention.”
“FAITH!” In a second the young man had spun around, grabbed the Slayer around her tiny waist and lifted her into a bear-hug.
“Jeez, X!” the raven-haired beauty threw her head back and laughed. “I remember my name, no need to deafen me with it.”
“Sorry,” Xander lowered the supernatural warrior to the ground. “The president?”
“Five by five, drugs destroyed.” Faith looked down at the car. “Are we ready to motor?”
* * *
The White House, The Oval Office, 2 days later.
“Jack, Frank, Sean,” he greeted the heads of the CIA, Secret Service, and the FBI as they entered his office, his Chief of Staff and the National Security Advisor already there. “Please, sit down.” He nodded to where the National Security Advisor was sat. “You know why I’ve called you here. The terrorists who attacked me, I assume you have some knowledge which group they belonged to?”
“They were members of a twelve year old group called ‘Allah’s Wrath’, led by a particularly nasty Syrian by the name of Fathi Burhan.” Palmer scowled, he’d read that madman’s file. “They operated out of Saudi Arabia with certain factions of the government and power structure covertly supporting them.” Jack Ryan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “However this group isn’t a problem any more.”
Palmer leaned forward, elbows resting on the gleaming desk he was sat behind. “I hope you didn’t act without my permission?”
“No sir,” the CIA chief shook his head. “Some 36 hours before the attack on you their base was destroyed, our sources report a body count of over twenty hostiles, including a number on the UN’s most wanted list and Burhan himself missing, presumed dead. We suspect internal fighting between groups in the terrorist community.”
Palmer chuckled. “I doubt that.” The three intelligence chiefs stared at him. “How did my rescuer know where to be?”
Jack smiled slowly. “Of course, her and her allies must have been the ones….”
“Yes,” Palmer nodded. “Exactly.” His face sobered. “Have any more agents died of their injuries?”
Horrigan hesitated before nodding. “The death toll’s up to ten now sir. Three remain in critical condition, another two are still hospitalised.”
Heart sinking, Palmer looked towards his chief of staff stood to his left. “I want time made in my calendar to attend the funeral of every man who died,” seeing the protest in his subordinate’s eyes, he shook his head. “Those men died for me, I’ll be there to see them buried. And any problems with the pensions and benefits etc. of those injured, they disappear, am I understood?” His subordinate nodded. “Good,” he allowed himself a tight smile before turning to the three men sat before him. “Now, the girl, any luck in tracking her down?”
After a second, Sean Archer opened his folder and fished out a glossy photo. “Based on your description we think it might be this young woman.”
Palmer’s eyes widened as the FBI chief slid the photo across his desk. “I….it’s her.”
“You’re sure this is the girl, Mr. President?” Archer pressed.
Palmer chuckled as he looked down at the police mug-shot before him. The girl was a few years older and a lot more assured now, but there was no doubt in his mind. “I’m hardly likely to forget meeting a woman that beautiful under those sort of circumstances am I?” He looked towards Archer. “Who is she?”
Horrigan looked at his Chief of Staff. “You’re going to have to leave.”
“Frank?” Palmer gaped at the Secret Service head’s nerve to give orders in his office.
”I’m sorry, Mr. President,” Jack interjected. “But Jim’s not cleared for this information.”
Palmer shook his head, shock after shock. “Very well, Jim,” he looked towards his right-hand man, “please wait outside.”
Once the door had closed behind his right hand man, Trenton spoke. “This file,” his National Security Advisor shoved a bulky folder across the desk, “was started on the orders of President Roosevelt in the early 40s, after his life was saved by a young lady very similar to the one you encountered. You are the only president since that day to see it. It’s Codenamed Slayer, and is one of only two copies in existence.”
Mid-way through the first page, Palmer looked up. “You are joking?” he incredulously demanded.
”No, sir,” Frank said for the four men sat opposite. “Every word’s the truth as far as we can ascertain.”
Just over thirty minutes later he looked up. “Okay, I think I understand what a Slayer is, now break it down for me why Faith Spenser is not working for the Council.” He listened with growing horror as Trenton explained the Cruicatmen. “I want to see the English ambassador tomorrow-.”
“Sir,” Archer interrupted, “he won’t know.”
“Of course not,” Palmer shook his still-swimming head. “And this boyfriend of hers is some sort of re-incarnated warrior god?”
“Our sources in the demonic community believe he is, sir,” Archer replied. “The truth of it is, we don’t know for sure.”
“But he is worth thirty billion dollars?” Palmer managed to get the number out without fainting.
”Closer to thirty-two billon now, sir,” Archer replied.
“But although Faith has deserted her post at,” he paused, trying to remember the city’s name.
”Sunnydale, sir,” Trenton put in.
“Thank you,” he nodded. “Faith hasn’t abused her powers in any way?”
“Yes sir,” Archer confirmed. “If anything, she’s been very active in helping people. Our records are somewhat sketchy but it appears they’ve saved the life of Tony Stark,” Palmer blinked at the mention of one of his main contributors, “decimated an ancient order of assassins, and helped thwart an attempt to brain-wash the UN. Security Council.”
“In addition,” Ryan put in, “they’ve prevented the rising of arch-demons in Canada and Brazil, demons with the apparent ability to end the world, or at least the human race.”
”And let’s not forget their most important accomplishment, saving me,” Palmer joked before turning serious. “I assume Alexander’s possession and Faith’s powers have caused them to draw attention from the world powers?”
“Very much so,” Trenton agreed. “The Vatican, the Watchers’ Council, the Illuminti, the Hellfire Club, the Knights Templar, the Brits, the French, German, Israelis, Saudis, Chinese, and Japanese, the world’s major crime cartels, the Church of Satan, ODESSA, the Thule Society, the Odin Brotherhood, and the Circle of the Black Thorn would all love to get their hands on either Faith or Alexander. Or preferably both.”
“And this group that they have formed, this Mithras Brotherhood, are they a danger to America’s security?”
Archer grimaced. “Uncertain, sir. All known groups seem be just to concentrating on controlling the demon population, but we can’t be sure if they have any more long-term goals.”
Palmer chewed that over for a few seconds. ”I want everything you have on the supernatural and all three of these teens. And keep an eye on their operations. I want weekly briefings on what they do,” Palmer decided. It appeared the trio had been very active indeed in helping people, but this secret army was worrying. ”But if anyone hurts a hair on her head, they’ll have the full weight of this office come crashing down on them.”
* * *
“So you’ll do it?”
Ethan stared at the young man sat opposite him in the downtown Maryland diner, the TV in the background still giving continual coverage of the attempted assassination. He’d already retired from IMF, sickened by the sort of people he sometimes had to deal with, the half-measures he was forced to take. But he knew he’d miss being able to feel he was making a difference and the buzz of the action. This was somehow cleaner than what he’d done, without the greyness that inevitably seeped into covert government work. “I’ll take Georgia,” he replied.
Xander beamed. “Great. Tara?”
The witch tapped on her computer for a few seconds. “We have two teams of eight in Atlanta, another team of eight in Augusta, and Savannah, Columbus, Macon, Athens, and Albany all have potential groups of six.”
Ethan smiled as the witch passed him a CD-ROM. “It sounds like I have a lot of work ahead.”
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