Lies and Truths
Chapter 4 Lies and Truths
*** Somewhere in the United States / Underground meeting chamber ***
A storm of dissent and silent suspicions shook the foundations of the council.
"Fact is, Smith didn't show up and neither did the intersect. We have nothing", came one of the voices from the shadowed faces in the round.
"We have two dead men. Killed by a crossbow."
"Exactly." One of the figures leaned forward. "And if she's in the game again, the whole operation is compromised."
Not a sound was heard, but for sure every member of this meeting had his hand on a weapon right now. The air was thick with tension and hostility. For several seconds it seemed very likely that it would erupt in a firefight. But then, the female voice was heard again.
"We need to stay calm. So far everything is within the schedule. And our enemy does what he's supposed to do. Operation Termite has rolled on."
"We can't strike without Orion OR the intersect!"
"We will have both in time. Trust me."
"Maybe your trust in Vincent Smith is misplaced. What if he has developed an agenda of his own? Maybe he's working with HER?"
"Vincent has no agenda. He's a killing machine following orders like a pitbull. Just as I said before, he made a scheme to lure the police into a trap by faking his death. He'll contact us within the following hours. We have to be prepared, then. If we have Orion, all we need to do is put the plug in. And concerning the traitor … I'm going to send a chopper into the area, and we'll tap into the satellite surveillance. If she has killed our two men, she'll have to answer for it."
*** San Diego / Temporarily NSA Base of Operations ***
The curtains in the ordinary hotel room were closed. The remaining members of Agent Casey's team listened stony faced to the transmission on the laptop screen. Casey himself tried his best not to look too grumpy, but inside of him, a whole taskforce of anger and annoyance was building up. His teeth crunched.
First of all, there was the news that General Beckman had been replaced. He had had his arguments with her before, but always he had respected her and – even more important – trusted her. This Colonel Stevenson, however…. And what was he telling them, on top of all! The intersect was gone? Dead?! A ranger patrol had discovered the burnt out remains of a lonely illegally parked trailer in the wilderness. The routine police check up had identified remnants of computer equipment and clothing with traces of DNA belonging to a certain Charles Bartowski and a Vincent Smith. As Smith had been reported dead already six years ago, the case rapidly had landed in the hands of the FBI, and from there, found its way to the NSA and Operation Intersect.
Bartowski dead? Casey couldn't imagine that. As annoying, embarrassing, pestering he thought this moron to be, he had gotten used to him, somehow. Well, not quite used, but… What the heck?! He just could not imagine him dead!
"…and as we suspect that this whole kidnapping was just a diversion", Colonel Stevenson said, and thus demanded their attention again. "…I declare Operation Intersect finished! At the moment, we have more important things to do. According to lately gathered intelligence we suspect that a group of terrorists plans a devastating cyber attack. The chaos created by that attack might be used as cover for an attack on the President's life. I want all of you to stand by for further orders of deployment!"
"Chuck is not dead", Sarah repeated shortly after with determination, when they were back in their own room. She kept her features straight, but Casey discerned the effort behind this. It was not good to get emotionally involved. He had told her so! But obviously, she was deeper involved than he had thought. The cyber attack and the danger for the President almost didn't bother her!
"Agent Walker, listen. I know this is not comfortable, but with the safety-"
"I wouldn't count on it that Bartowski is still alive", Cadie cut in and stepped up to them. "But I can assure you, Smith is." She sat down, threw her hair back and behaved just as arrogant as Sarah remembered. "That burned out trailer, that's definitely his signature. "
"Yeah, heard he's quite good in faking his death. "
"Not good enough for me." Cadie smiled coldly and caressed the blade she had stored at her belt. Sarah wondered what scores her ex-colleague had to settle with that Fulcrum agent. "We'll get him, this time."
"Our priorities have changed, in case you have not noticed", Casey answered and started to check his weaponry. He expected the call for redeployment any minute.
"They shouldn't have. If Smith is alive and Bartowski dead, it is most likely that Smith has what he wanted: the intersect. And if he does not already plan to sell it to the highest bidder, someone else might take it from him and sell it to those very terrorists planning a cyber attack. We MUST find him."
"You're not in command of this operation!"
Cadie shot him a glance, but remained silent for now. She needed them, the much she hated it. She had to find a way to use them to her advantage. Again, her fingers moved over her blade. Vincent, I'm going to get you this time, and make you pay! "Agreed, but you'd be wise to use the information I can provide, if… you want to save the President. Or am I mistaken? Do you rather want to cherish your pride, Agent Casey?"
Sarah observed her former colleague. Cadie surely knew how to manipulate people. She always did. It was good as long as she was in the Agency…But whom did she follow now? She was a poisonous snake and certainly didn't give a damn about the President!
"You want us to defy our orders."
"You want to save the President … and the intersect."
Sarah breathed deeply. Cadie had just poked the invisible knife deeper into her chest, and turned it with grim satisfaction. If there was a slight chance to get Chuck out of this; a slight chance he might still be alive, she would defy orders. Yes. But she didn't like the thought that Cadie knew her so well!
"We don't have a new deployment yet. And until we get one, we can go on the hunt."
"The country is big, where do you suggest we start?" Casey answered. "This evidence from the trailer is the only clue we have. Smith can be anywhere right now."
Cadie smiled. "But he isn't. He has killed two people in a little town in Nevada yesterday."
Sarah and her NSA-colleague frowned simultaneously, hearing this.
"Don't be so surprised. Of course I still have other sources! You'll get your confirmation from the police soon enough." She looked down at her finger nails as if that was the most important thing at the moment. "I know, what Smith would've done next. He will avoid cities; he will walk by night, through open terrain. He's a perfect navigator and was always top if it came to survive out in the wilderness. He will use transportation, but when he runs out of fuel, he'll leave them. No airplanes, trains, busses, anything involving unnecessary contact. I know how to find his tracks… The question is: Do you want to save your President or not?"
*** Meanwhile / Nevada ***
Vincent and Chuck slept under the open sky – that meant, at the moment Vincent was keeping watch and Chuck was tormented by a nightmare. Vincent observed him skeptically. It was too early for Bartowski to develop that kind of symptoms, wasn't it? So this was probably only an ordinary bad dream. He seemed to be a sensible person that could easily be shocked by harsh circumstances or some bloodshed. But if he continued to moan like that, he'd stir up someone. You never knew who sneaked around at night in the wilderness! And Vincent was sure to have half a dozen deadly people on his heels. So he rose, stepped over to the Chuck and grabbed him by his shoulder.
He practically jumped up. "Wa…what is it?"
"Keep your voice down!" Vincent pressed through clenched teeth. "You had a nightmare."
"Oh yep…" Chuck rubbed his eyes. "You were an evil Klingon cruiser commander and about to throw me poor Starfleet redshirt out of the airlock."
"Very funny. – What's 345 minus 26? When was the Declaration of Independence?"
"Answer my questions!"
Chuck did, saw Vincent nod and silently thought again that he was in the hands of a crazy guy. He tried to stay calm during the next odd questions. "You're trying to coach me through the next "Get Me Rich"?" He finally asked.
"Only making sure the intersect has not already started to scatter your brain cells."
Boom. Chuck swallowed and dragged the blanket closer around his shoulders. "It is true, then?"
"What reason do I have to tell you fairytales? You obviously have enough imagination on your own." He looked around, thinking he might have heard something and glanced through the night vision gear on his rifle. But there was only a little animal scurrying for food.
"Uhm… to convince me to guide you to Orion, perhaps?"
"When we get there, he'll be able to get the thing out of your head."
"I won't betray him!" He wished he would be as brave as his words, and his heart would not pound that frantically! When he saw Vincent's smile, his mouth became dry and he shivered even more.
"So much loyalty for the man who brought you in this condition…"
"It was an accident!"
"No, it wasn't", Vincent replied coldly. "Orion developed the intersect without any thought about its possible consequences. He was simply overwhelmed by the scientific discoveries and possibilities. And when he started to realize the ginnie he had freed from the box wasn't that nice, he just ran away and left others to kill and die for his ingenious plan. He was ready to mess around with other people's brains, but not ready to face the consequences."
"How do you know?!" Chuck snapped back. Yes, somehow he wanted to defend Orion! He was his only hope to get his life back! He had sounded sincere and trustworthy when he contacted him!
"Because …" Vincent stared at him, hesitating for a second. But then, with another little smile, he continued: "… I have the alpha version of the intersect inside here." He touched his head.
"H…ha… that's a good one." However he failed to laugh.
"How do you think I could keep up with you and Orion?"
"So why the bad guys should try to get the intersect if they already had it?"
"Because they didn't know they had it."
He lies. He tries something… whatsoever… He's totally insane. "So … uhm … you have the intersect. Fine. Why don't you just let me go, then? I mean, you said it yourself, I'm just a stupid little nerd who slows you down and-"
The next instant, Vincent threw him back, into the murky water course next to their resting place. Their bag followed. Before Chuck could notice the cold mud soaking into his clothes, Vincent was on top of him, pinned him down and dragged the thorny bush above them deeper. It was only then that Chuck heard the distinctive sound of a chopper moving over the field.
Now he GOT cold. He was freezing. It was disgustingly wet and right next to his head swam some little creature. And Vincent had considerable weight. Chuck squeezed his eyes. Why couldn't he wake up from that nightmare?!