Somehow Alex found himself seated in the back of the moving van with Li eyeing him carefully and wrapping a blanket around his shoulders, in a daze he looked to his side and saw Camilla similarly garbed. His head seemed to be ringing like when the gunshot went off in the hotel room earlier, the whole world passed in front of his eyes in slow time, greyed and muted. The last thing he could remember was creeping into the flat and throwing his knife at the Hyena, everything after that seemed foggy.
He closed his eyes willing the images to stop.
In the front Amber Hex and Paulo were engaged in a heated discussion.
"What the hell happened in there Hex?" Paulo demanded quietly trying to divide his attention between driving and looking at Alex worriedly in the mirror.
"Throwing his knife at the Hyena was Alex's idea of distracting him so we could rescue Camilla." Amber replied through gritted teeth, conflicted on how she felt about the decision. She was almost giddy with the relief at rescuing their friend unharmed, but at the same time shocked at seeing Alex's solution and the current state it had reduced him to.
Paulo turned to Hex suspiciously "Did you know that was what he had planned Hex?"
Hex hesitated for a second, the discussion between him and Alex still mulling in his head, before nodding his head resolutely.
Amber couldn't hide her shock
"You knew?" she shrieked at him "And you let him go through with it anyway?"
Hex finally found his voice and brokenly confessed " He told me just before we entered. I didn't like the idea either, but honestly I couldn't see another way. I still can't." he shook his head sadly.
Paulo spoke up before things could get even more heated "What is done is done, we can't go back. We have got to think about the now." He leaned on the steering wheel "And right now we need to figure out where to go and what to do."
Amber gave Hex one last hard stare before looking away; it hurt Hex to have her look at him like that, like a physical pain in his chest.
"We need to find a small hotel in a quiet part of the city to lay low and plan our next move." He suggested quietly.
Paulo nodded his head enthusiastically. "A safe, anonymous place where we can get some rest"
"And some food" Amber pitched in thinking back to her requirement for regular meals. Having Diabetes sucked.
"Alright sounds like a plan" Paulo grinned.
"One last thing though" Hex warned, "We are going to need to ditch the van before we get there. It's something our enemies can look for to find us."
Paulo and Amber shared a look and nodded in solemn agreement.
It took Alpha force approximately thirty minutes to find a cheap hotel to stay in and a dark alley a few blocks away to abandon the van.
On her bed in the girls shared room of the new hotel, Camilla smiled to herself looking down at the clothes she had borrowed from Amber. They were very stylish and probably cost more then she paid for her flat. Not like her at all she decided. Camilla was more a desert boots, singlet and cargo shorts kind of girl, just luckily her and Amber cut a similar figure she thought looking down at the expensive jeans. Well for pants anyway she corrected herself bitterly as she tugged at the hundred-dollar top that was uncomfortably tight across her chest.
There was a knock on her door and the girls turned to spy Paulo at the door flashing his extravagant smile; beside him Hex and Alex were carrying plastic bags full of white takeout containers.
"Hey chicas, we've got dinner and we are all eating in the our room if you want to join us?"
"About time" Amber mumbled grumpily, climbing off her bed.
Camilla just nodded with a small smile and followed Amber and Li down the hallway. She couldn't help but notice Alex; quieter then usual with a distant look on his face and taking up the rear of the group.
They all sat down around the table and started helping themselves to portions of the rich food that the boys had picked up from a street vendor around the corner.
They ate in relative silence and it was Camilla who eventually spoke for the first time since her rescue.
"I can't thank you all enough for saving me back there," she said quietly keeping her eyes on her food.
Ignoring the embarrassed looks from the others Paulo gave his million-dollar grin again and suavely answered
"Don't mention it we never mind helping a pretty damsel in distress. Right Alex?" He added with a wink.
The joke had its desired effect helping to relax the tense atmosphere at the table and getting a smile from everyone, even Alex who had been the target.
Alex lifted his head from his plate and his friends were relieved to see life in the young mans eyes and a less troubled expression cross his face briefly before it was swallowed by the shadow he had been wearing all evening.
Camilla was especially glad to see this change come over him and had been worried about him since her rescue, the look on his face after he had thrown the knife had frightened her a little. Her blue eyes met his across the table and she threw him a small smile that he returned before speaking.
"I'm glad you're okay Camilla. We should be safe here tonight."
"I do feel safe with you guys," Camilla admitted, almost ashamed. "It's because of that I want to ask you; are you still willing to go with me to Solambia in a days time?"
The five friends shared a look among themselves before Amber piped up.
"We'd love to go Camilla, that's if you still want to go after what happened today?"
Camilla closed her eyes with a shudder trying to forget the smell and touch of the killer who had come so close. She frowned deeply and opened her eyes to stare at the teenagers with hard look.
"Yes, it's just as important, maybe more so now, that we do it. Lomada tried to stop us helping these people but we can't just stand by and let him starve the population that doesn't agree with him."
Hex smiled at the look of passion that crossed her face as she talked, I can see why Alex might fancy her.
Alex also found himself smiling he had indeed been caught by her passionate speech and couldn't help but answer on Alpha Force's behalf.
"Okay then, it's settled. We're going to Solambia."
The next day was spent recovering from the events of the last twenty-four hours and preparing for the mission onto foreign soil. Woken at noon by the intense heat, Alpha Force busied themselves sorting their belongings for the journey ahead.
Camilla was out at the market buying clothes, since she was unable to take any from her place before they left and Amber was getting sick of sharing.
Li leaned against her bed checking the condition of the harnesses and ropes they were planning to rappel in with on the following day. Beside her, Amber was poring over maps of the region they were inserting into. Both girls glanced up occasionally to worriedly glance at Alex who was still withdrawn.
By himself in the corner Alex double and triple checked his survival kit before returning it to his belt, his hand running sadly over his empty knife sheath. He felt unprepared going into a survival situation without his trusty knife, like a part of him was missing.
To distract himself he grabbed his Bergen to check over the demolition kit that kept in the top pouch, he was relieved to see that the plastic explosives hadn't sweated in the Egyptian heat. He quickly tested the detonator and ensured there was plenty of Det chord before packing it up again and replacing it into its top pocket. It had been hell to organize getting plastic explosives into the country, so with a little help from the UN he had been issued a small amount for strictly demolition work only.Hex was sitting on the windowsill in an attempt to negate the heat as he surfed through pages of information about the country and it's forces, he was slowly building up a better picture of the broken country and the secretive man who ran it.
Next to Hex, Paulo was reading through the paramedic textbook from his bag he was focussing on infectious diseases and malnutrition as the two most likely conditions he would encounter with the local populace. He no longer felt the need to flick to the more exciting pages filled with trauma and gore. He had been there.
Alpha force jumped to their feet ready to fight as the door suddenly swung open.
Camilla stood in the doorway overburdened by bags with an apologetic look on her face "Sorry" she mumbled, "I would have knocked but I don't have a spare hand."
Paulo and Alex immediately dropped what they were doing to help the girl with her bags, taking a couple each and placing them by Camilla's bed.
"Thanks guys" she smiled appreciatively, brushing a golden lock from her face. "Oh and Alex the small black bag is for you."
Surprised, Alex looked down at the small bag he had been about to place on the ground.
"What is it?" he asked curious, turning to face her.
Her mysterious smile gave nothing away.
"It's a surprise. You'll just have to open it and see now won't you?"
Alex nodded and reached into the bag cautiously; he felt his hand close around a narrow rectangular box about a foot long.
He withdrew the suspiciously heavy box, which was revealed to be black and silver, as his friends gathered around to see what Alex's new acquisition was.
Lifting the lid away, his eyes widened with amazement and excitement as he caught sight of the object nestled in between black foam in the bottom of the box. It was the most beautiful knife he had ever seen; as black as midnight with an exquisite six-inch carbon steel blade, in a semi-serrated tanto design and a non-slip Grivory handle.
His friends gasped, as he lifted it out of the foam and Alex felt his hand close comfortably around it's handle and turn the deadly blade over as he inspected it. It seemed to have a coating that repelled the light and the only mark on the single edged blade was a light engraving near the base that read Cold Steel.
Hex nodded to himself looking at the knife, it seemed the perfect knife for Alex; nothing fancy, just a nondescript, simple fixed blade, stained so it would blend in and extremely sharp.
Alex felt breathless as he looked up at Camilla completely lost for words, she met his wide eyes looking a little embarrassed.
"I know how much your knife meant to you so I felt like I just had to find you another one"
"I.. It.. It's perfect" Alex stammered as he stared at her hard, watching her hips sway mesmerizing, as she slowly walked towards him.
"That's not all of my thank you present" Camilla warned.
The rest of Alpha Force suddenly realized they had an important job to do next door and swiftly ducked out of the room, huge grins plastered to their faces.
Alex's breath caught in his chest as Camilla stopped centimeters away from him, she raised an eyebrow coyly at him and slowly sunk to her knees. She smiled to herself as she felt the boys whole body seize up as she took hold of his belt. Alex snapped to look down at the flower of silky blond hair his whole face feeling hot, carefully holding his new knife out of the way.
He felt a sudden snap as Camilla jumped back up with his belt in her hands.
"It comes with its own special sheath" she whispered, tilting her head with an amused expression, as she slid the black Kevlar sheath onto his belt and handed it back to him.
Feeling how red his face had suddenly gone Alex quickly dropped his gaze from Camilla's face, finding his view dominated by her tight low cut top instead. Blushing further and feeling like an idiot he turned his attention to putting his belt back on.
"Thank you" He finally said in a low voice,
"No thank you Alex... What you did back there.." Camilla started earnestly as she pulled him into a tight hug, a familiar warmth spreading down her body as his arm reached around her waist. Slowly and tenderly, she planted a gentle kiss on Alex's cheek, just below his ear so he could hear the luscious smack it made.
"Alex?" He suddenly heard Amber call impatiently from the doorway, shattering their tender moment "Quit fooling around in there we got to get going already."
Poking her head around the corner Amber smiled mischievously as she watched the two teenagers spring apart hurriedly from their embrace, the memory of her soft form pressed against him burning in Alex's blush. His cheek somehow felt hot and cold at the same time. The memory of the sound of her lips on him seemed to echo in his ears and he tentatively reached up to touch the infected spot, as she hurriedly turned away.
Ha I knew it, Amber thought triumphantly to herself, as she watched on. Hex totally owes me twenty bucks.