Current day, 9:53 PM, Radii Weapons Facility, Thompsonville, Virginia.
“Huh?” Kevin was flummoxed.
“Toss over the .45 and let me see your hands, soldier!” Cole barked.
Kevin wanted to lift his rifle and point it at Cole. “Dude, the freaking Feds, really? What about the money?”
“Stuff it!” Cole said, stepping forward and pushing his hostage with him.
Cathy shakily held the pistol, clearly debating her next course of action.
“Now, I won’t say this again, put it down soldier and move over there!” he commanded through gritted teeth.
“Fine!” Cathy slid the pistol across the floor and then crawled to the other side of the hall, near the slain security guard. A trail of blood streaked behind her.
Cole shoved Vance to the ground next to the injured woman “Tie them up!”
Kevin just stood there staring at his friend with new eyes.
“Are you waiting for the magic word or something?” Cole raised his hands in the air in confusion. “Please?”
Kevin slung his rifle over his shoulder. “Mother freaking CIA? Could’ve told me...Hey, bro, my name’s 007 and I’m a flipping super spy agent, dickhole guy...” he mumbled under his breath. “This is such bullshit.”
Cole shook his head, maintaining his weapon’s focus on the two security officers. “If I were you, I would leave this place and forget you ever saw me or my partner,” Cole said. “I hear Mexico’s beautiful this time of year, you know?”
The two veterans nodded in understanding.
“Look, at this place,” Cole said waving his free hand around. “...it ain’t working for the United States government. We believe it might be building shit for the highest bidder.”
Vance and Cathy looked at each other in shock.
“I know you guys ain’t those type of soldiers,” Cole said with a nod. “So, imagine if one of these G.I.Z.M.O.’s gets out into the United States.”
“One of them already has!” Vance sputtered. “Look man, I ain’t no traitor to my country! You gotta know that, sir! Doc said this was Black Ops, CIA authorized.”
“Hardly, now tell me, what do you mean, one has? One has what?” Cole asked.
“One of the units escaped. They’re hunting it down now. It had a tracker, but something happened. It was embedded in a Pekingese.”
“Yeah,” Vance replied, a look of shock on his face. “You know?”
“Damn it! Well, I do, now. So, any way to track it?”
“Yeah,” Cathy replied smartly.
Cole’s mind immediately went to his kids. “Alright, then who’s tracking it?” He asked and cut his eyes toward Kevin, meeting the still very confused man’s gaze.
“Was tracking it, but now they can’t find it,” Vance replied, glancing over to check on Cathy.
Cole exhaled in relief. “Great. Now, who’s they?”
“The Doc and our boss, DeJue. Vick DeJue,” Cathy responded with a wince. “Shit this hurts.”
“Where can I find them? Your bosses?” Cole pressed.
“The Doc’s probably at home by now sipping a latte or some such shit. Vick’s been out looking both day and night for 42,” Vance replied. “Over there in the security office is a computer tracking the locations of the SUV’s. Vick’s in Unit One.”
“Okay.” Cole nodded and then knelt down in front of the two soldiers. He peered at them intently through the eye holes in the mask. “Alright, here’s your story, the Chinese sent in an armed team of men to steal some info. You decide how many. They killed the security guard and got down into the lab where the G.I.Z.M.O. units were, surprising your team. You both managed to escape up here and were trying to stop them from getting out but more came in and surprised you from behind.” Cole narrowed his eyes at the pair. “Got it?”
Vance and Cathy nodded in affirmation.
“Good. We were never here.”
“Perfect.” Cole patted the woman on the face and then looked over his should at Kevin. “You got the pillowcases, erm, partner?”
Kevin grumbled and extracted them from his bag. “Here.”
Cole slipped the cloth over the two Radii Security team members’ heads and then stood, pausing before walking away. He looked down at Cathy’s wounded leg, the pool of blood, and then exhaled. Cole knew it might be a while before anyone returned, so, he glanced over at Kevin. “Hey, untie the guy in the chair and hand me the rope.”
“What?” Kevin inquired.
“I need the rope.”
Kevin shrugged and proceeded to undo the graying mercenary’s bindings. As the cord slid away from the the man’s wrists, the security guard with “Brunswick” on his name tag moaned. His eyes unexpectedly popped open and he turned his head around, frightening Kevin. “Hey!” The startled bar owner fell backwards and kicked at the back of the chair, sending the confused old man forward, his head rendering a hollow sound as it first banged the wall, knocking him unconscious again, and then smacked the tile floor for good measure. Kevin sat on his rear as if either unnerved or unsure of what to do next. “Okay, wasn’t expecting that.”
“What’s going on!?!!” Vance inquired excitedly from beneath the pillowcase. He bounced around with his hands behind his back. Was that Brunswick? Did you kill him?”
“I don’t know,” Kevin replied. “Maybe? The dude spooked me.”
“Hey? I need that rope,” Cole repeated. “Give it!”
“Fine! Take it, but for the record, that just didn’t sound good,” Kevin said, eyeing Cole through the holes in his own ski mask. He pointed at the body. “Don’t blame me if that joker right there don’t come out of this one with a new taste for lickin’ windows or somethin’.”
Cole shook his head and bent over, placing the rope around Cathy’s leg. “Okay soldier, this is going to hurt a helluva lot,” he said and tightened it into a knot.
“Jesus!!!” Cathy exclaimed through gritted teeth.
“There, now you should make it until someone arrives,” Cole said, applying the final knot.
“I suppose a thank you is in order, agent, but why should I say we are still alive?” Cathy asked from beneath the linen material. “The Chinese aren’t exactly Geneva Convention faithful, you know? They aren’t the leg bandaging kind, especially.”
Cole thought for a moment. “Tell them, erm, tell your superiors you heard one of the Chinese agents say, the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
“Sun Tzu?” Cathy asked in recognition of the phrase. “That’s a surprise, I wouldn’t have taken your country ass as the philosophical type.”
The nervous Kevin inadvertently snickered. “Yeah, his ass is more like Phil’s type...”
“Shut up, dumbass!” Cole spat at Kevin and shook his head in annoyance. “Honestly, tell them whatever you want, but it would behoove you to go with my recommendation. Now, you two, Count to 1000 and then forget we ever breathed the same air.”
Cole entered the security room, searched around frantically for the SUV’s tracking computer, and when he located the correct machine, snagged the laptop and both he and Kevin sprinted for the open Appalachian night.
Current day, 10:05 PM, Outside of Radii Weapons Facility, Thompsonville, Virginia.
“They’re comin’ out, ya’ll!” the radio squawked.
“Keep an eye on ’em,” Phil replied and then released the button on the walkie. He dialed up Ben on his cellphone, placed the device to his ear, and then when he heard only silence, looked down; noticing his signal strength indicator on the device showed no service. “Damn National Cellular and their shitty coverage,” he exclaimed.
Static. “Phil? They just went through the gate and up into the woods!”
“Alright, out them trees, fellas. I need everyone to meet me back at muh truck,” Phil said. “Time for a welcomin’ party.”
Current day, 10:09 PM, Outside of Radii Weapons Facility, Thompsonville, Virginia.
Cole tossed his bag of tools in the rear of the Prius, stowed the laptop in the back, and jumped into the passenger seat. He quickly opened the backpack taken from the lab and began extracting folder after folder from its interior. “Hey, Kev, you did get everything from that filing cabinet right?”
“Kevin?” Cole stopped searching. “What?”
Kevin stood on the driver’s side of the car, staring at Cole through the front windshield, gun in hand. “CIA, bro? Tell me you were just pulling one of your fast ones.”
Cole exhaled. “Look, there’s a lot to this story...”
“So, you are?”
Cole stared back at Kevin in silence.
“Alright, what about what you said about the G.I.Z.M.O. thingamajig’s? They really sellin’ them to the Pakistani’s and shit?”
"Pakistanis? That’s where your mind went?” Cole said and removed the sweat-drenched ski mask, his hair standing vertically away from his head. He slicked the locks down with an open hand. “Honestly, I don’t know what they’re up to. That’s why I’m here. I’m trying to find out.”
Cole stared back and then shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah.”
Kevin brandished his pistol. “Out!”
“Okay, hang on a sec. I gotta find out what my kids have in their possession. We both know what it is, but, I need to make...”
“Just get out of the car, Cole!”
Cole’s eyebrows lowered and his forehead wrinkled. “Come on, man! It’s my kids!”
“It’s a million dollars! Now, out!”
“Don’t Kev me, Cole Hitchens!” Kevin pulled the hammer back with a click and stared down the black barrel at Cole.
Cole raised his hands. He’d seen that look before and knew when Kevin wasn’t screwing around anymore. He sat the backpack down in the floorboard and then eased himself from the car.
“Walk! Over that way!” Kevin said pointing away from the Prius. When he felt Cole was sufficiently far enough away, he pressed the buttons on the door panel that rolled the windows up and locked the doors of the car. Continuing to point the pistol at Cole, he sat behind the steering wheel and turned the key. He could see the pleading look on Cole’s face illuminated in the headlights as they activated. Kevin spun the steering wheel and accelerated away from Cole. He watched the young man’s shoulders slump and his head drop in the rear view mirror as he drove down the rutted trail. “Backstabbing fed agent asshole...” Kevin mumbled.
“The hillbillies have left their placement in the trees and are returning to their vehicle. It seems they must have spotted Cole and Kevin leaving,” said Captain Li Qiang, once again standing in the limo’s open sunroof and this time with a pair of night vision goggles on his head.
“Captain, there is a small car driving through the woods, heading for the highway, Team Two reporting.”
“Roger, Team Two. Team One, do you have visuals on the rednecks’ trucks?”
“Captain Qiang, satellite imagery indicates they appear to be headed east.”
“Sir, the hillbillies have stopped in a clearing. The intersection of two rural roads. I believe they are preparing to rendezvous with the target,” Lieutienant Wei said over the tiny speaker.
“All teams move out! Keep your distance, do not let them see you.”
“Roger, Wei acknowledges!” the radio crackled.
Daniel looked down as his phone rang. He smiled and answered the buzzing device, activating the speakerphone. “Hello, Cole?”
“No, this...Kevin. The signal’s weak out here, hopefully...lose...you. I have...documents. Where do you want to meet?” said the stuttering, distorted voice.
Daniel looked over at Captain Qiang. “We will find you. Gather your men and wait.”
The captain grinned.