April 15, 2028
Safe House, London, England
Night had fallen by the time Garth and Chris had unsteadily landed the osprey on the London runway: the same runway where Matthew had first wished them good luck.
The men gracefully and honorably carried Allen’s body out of the transport, down the steps, and in to the dark, lonely bunker. Mournfully, they set him on the table in the empty lounge and covered his entire figure with a blanket.
The dreary room matched the soldiers’ emotions, as if the grey, unpainted walls somehow knew.
Meryl was the first to escape the heavy feeling of grief; unable to stand the dreaded pain anymore, she nearly ran outside.
Weak legged, she stumbled on the concrete and fell face forward. Scraping her hands and cheek against the hard ground, Meryl staggered to her knees and sat up slowly.
The dark clouds above started to froth like the antagonism that bubbled within her. Breath quickening, Meryl’s weak, saddened thoughts shaped her fury. She slammed her fists into the ground, cracking the stone around her as lightening flashed dangerously.
It all started because of him, she thought bitterly as the booming thunder followed the leader. Now, it could only end with Kai’s death.
Slowly, steady rain drops started to fall. The cool beads hit her hair and skin as the volley grew heavier.
The storm’s wind soon picked up, wailing and moaning, as if also mourning the loss of the deceased.
Blackbird watched as the fresh rainwater melted away the blood on her hands. The dried plasma on her cheek turned to liquid and slid down, dripping off her jaw.
With the pure, untainted elixir washing away her sins, it revived her vigor.
Meryl closed her eyes, stretched her arms out and accepted the storm as she swore to the sky that Phoenix would pay for his treachery. She vowed to the dark clouds, the striking lightening, and the booming thunder that he would never again rise from the ashes.
The captain sat in a lonely chair and bowed his head, hands wringing together. His emotionless expression revealed just how far the pain reached. The others, not knowing what to say, sat down on any seat they could find and prayed wordlessly.
After a long foreboding silence, Alec inhaled deeply and arose as he asked the room at large, “So, what’s the plan?”
“Plan,” Ira spoke finally. “What plan? We have no general; we have no plan. Kai has won.”
Alec would not fail so easily. He walked over to Ira and gripped his shoulders so tightly that it jarred him out of his misery. “Allen is dead and Wilson is a traitor. You are our commanding officer now. You are the commander of all the soldiers fighting to save their friends and loved ones, as we are. As Matthew did...”
The three companions looked at him then at Ira, their hopes slightly raised.
Ira shook his head dejectedly; he would not send his friends to die. The refusal however, did not waver Alec’s determination.
Just then, the bunker door opened and Meryl sloshed in. She was drenched from the torrential rains. Her hair hung limply around her shoulders as she stared at the men who stared back.
Alec grabbed a blanket and handed it to her, maybe she could help. “Kai said that we were important to keep alive. Why?”
She looked up at him without accepting the tempting wrap. He was at least a foot taller. “I don’t know. He said he wanted us alive to watch the world burn. He said…” Her voice trailed off as her eyes became blank and unfocused.
“Precedence…” she breathed and quoted, “Precedence are needed… They are better off alive…”
“What?” the men asked in unison, all eyes were on her.
“Oh no…” Her eyes widened as she looked at the men’s features. They were shocked and frightened at the look of horror on her face. “He was not talking about us. He never said precedence. He said presidents. His intention was not to keep you alive. He and Wilson were going to kill all of you as soon as you took off, but for some reason he wanted me alive. That’s the only reason he let us go. Phoenix is not one to show kindness.”
Thinking quickly, she paced back and forth until she practically made a hole in the ground. Her thoughts raced, hard and fast, encapsulating every moment, every word her deranged cousin spoke. “He is not after us; he and Wilson are after the presidents.”
Dumbstruck, Ira suddenly understood and jumped to his feet, “He means to capture them!”
“No.” Meryl declared, “He will execute them, publicly.”
Ira ran from the room. The others were hot on his heels as he burst into the general’s workroom; it was his now, after all.
Quickly, he rummaged through all the papers, until he found what he was looking for: a copy of the dossier with the details of the Russian and United States presidents’ conference on the cessation of war.
He examined the document, taking in every word and nearly shouting, “They are meeting in Paris! At the Palace of Versailles!”
“We need to save them!” Alec started to move but Garth stopped him.
“How? We are not prepared. We don’t have proper equipment. We don’t even have a layout of the palace and they could convene anywhere.”
Meryl looked at Ira, “When is the parley?”
He scanned the paper again, “The nineteenth of April, they are meeting… in the Hall of Mirrors.”
“Four days,” Meryl spoke quietly, more to herself than the others. She paced around the room, eyes closed as she recounted the building’s layout, her fingers moving in a motion, as if she envisioned the blueprints in front of her. “Okay, the Hall is on the first floor, second for us, straight back and upstairs if we go through the courtyard…”
“How do you know that?” Charlie questioned. “Also, how did you differentiate between his words, presidents and precedence?”
“I visited the palace with nana, years ago. I’ll draw up an outline of the bastion.” Distractedly, she walked to the door but stopped and looked over her shoulder, almost regretfully, she answered, “I taught my cousin word and mind games when he, Dragon, and Duck stayed with us.”
She disappeared into the hall.
“How she withheld this information for so long, I’ll never know.” Chris sighed in admiration.
They soon followed her out of the room only to find the woman standing as still as a statue in the hallway.
“Meryl?” Ira gently tapped her shoulder.
“What?” she turned quickly, “Sorry, I’m not familiar with this place. Where’s the armory?”
With a shaky grin, he took her hand and led her and his team to the armory to prepare for the final battle.