*** A canyon in Nevada ***
The two opponents sneaked after each other for quite a while. They were closing in on their respective positions but, skilled as they were, managed to evade the deadly bullets. For a brief moment, Vincent had spotted his pursuer and recognized her. Could it have been anyone else? It was fitting, he thought. Cadie was after him almost as long as he was after Orion! So their paths crossed again, and this time, only one of them would walk away from the battlefield.
"Now you're going to pay for leaving me in that mud hole!"
He didn't reply, but a cracking branch revealed his position nonetheless. A hiss in the air announced that Cadie had harpooned a cable somewhere above him into the rock. And despite he moved fast, she landed next to him the next moment, disengaging the hook and firing simultaneously.
Vincent dove under her, whirled around and felled her with a harsh Karate kick against her legs. She lost her gun – but Vincent did the same. The very next instant she snatched a blade and the dance continued.
"Never thought to see me again face to face, didn't you?"
"On the contrary."
Another set of quick movements, kicks, evasive maneuvers. Vincent reached for his second pistol, but Cadie left him no time. She lunged forward – he grabbed her arm. She lost her ground, but her knife slashed his cheek, as he didn't roll aside fast enough.
Chuck had not stayed put. Of course not. Only the noise of the ongoing fight drowned his attempt to reach the watercourse. A last gab still stretched between him and the - what he thought – first step to rescue. That was, when he caught a glimpse of Cadie. And he flashed. Cadie McArthur… Five different aliases… wanted for weapons dealing…Involvement in terrorist activities…Verdict of acquittal…NSA Project Termite… Security level cancelled… Cyber espionage…
Chuck searched for a hold and grabbed the next best branch. It broke. The sound made him snap back to reality. Oh God… She's the baddie… He felt dizzy, tried to get his orientation back online – and saw Cadie snapping up from a half kneeling position. She darted toward Vincent with her knife ready to slam down.
Automatically, Chuck snatched the next best thing coming in contact with his fingers. It was a stone. He threw it and hit the target much to his surprise. Cadie was out of business.
Vincent struggled to his feet. Discerning his rescuer, his brows rose for a second. "That was quite professional, Bartowski."
Chuck swallowed and suddenly felt sick. "W…what if I have killed her?"
Vincent wiped away the blood running down his neck and looked down at the motionless woman. "If not, I'm going to finish the job." He grabbed his gun.
"Wait!" Chuck stumbled closer.
"You flashed on her, didn't you? You know she's one of the most dangerous people around." He pulled back the trigger.
"But is not the police supposed to question her? The authorities-"
The shot ended his words. "We can't burden with her", Vincent replied. "Her death might buy us just the time we need to reach Orion and put an end to all of this! – Now help me to put a patch on this cut; I'm not fond of leaving more signs for eventual pursuers!"
Chuck however had given in to the sudden wobbly feeling in his legs and he simply dropped to his knees. I've killed someone… or almost killed someone… Someone real, not in a computer game. Am I going to go to jail for this? Oh my God …
Vincent's hand sank on his shoulder, involuntarily leaving some blood stains there as well. "You saved my life", he said. "I'm not someone to forget that."
"Yeah… I guess you won't let me go as a sign of gratitude?" He smiled weakly.
"That would be stupid." A sealed field dressing landed in front of him. He opened it with trembling fingers. Vincent sat down next to him.
"It's going to be a nasty scar", Chuck said, merely to distract himself from things as dead and much blood, while he tried to handle alcohol pads and patches.
"I don't intend to win the next man of the year contest. – Tell me everything you have flashed on! Any places? People?"
"I know she was a member of the FBI once, but her security clearance has been cancelled, and that she was wanted for several crimes. She was a member of Project Termite."
"She was the initiator. – Okay, two patches are enough! You weren't supposed to mummify me!" Vincent stood up and started to file through Cadies pockets, while Chuck continued:
"I flashed on a few places, but I can't identify them for now. Streetsigns. Numbers."
"We'll check with my database, when we've reached safe ground again." Vincent stored another knife and ammunition in his own pockets. "Any names?" His fingers touched the hull of a cell phone and next, some notes on paper. He retrieved everything.
"Ellington. … And I saw some faces. A bald guy with mustache, shaking hands with a thin blond guy with glasses."
"Stevenson", Vincent murmured and tried to activate Cadies cell phone. Of course it was heavily secured. "The Termites are finally ready to strike, it seems. That was the reason she was after me that tenaciously the last month. I was the only one that could pose a problem to her schemes. She knew about my little secret."
"The … first intersect? You said, no one knew." Chuck had that particular feeling again to get caught in a maze of lies.
Vincent took a small device from his pocket and plugged it into the cell phone. "I had a weak moment back then." He typed something - obviously to no avail. "I need to get access!"
"I can… " Chuck hesitated for a moment. What was he about to do?! On the other hand, he already had done a lot more today. A little hacking would not make it worse, would it? "Maybe I can hack the source code."
Vincent smiled shortly. Thanks to the swelling and the patches it became a sinister grimace. "It already HAS a hacked source code. Termites use their own programs to communicate to avoid tracking. But – we might be able to combine efforts and crack it." He looked at the paper notes again. For now they were as cryptic as the cell phone. "We need to get away from here first. Let's go!"
Chuck forced himself not to look back, when they stepped down into the watercourse and walked ahead toward the sinking sun. But there was one question he couldn't hold back. One that was bothering him since the beginning. He wasn't sure why he thought Vincent might be any more honest about this than days ago when he had kidnapped him. However, he had to try…
"When we find Orion… what are you going to do? Kill him?"
Silence. A long silence. Only the splashing sound their feet made in the water could be heard.
"I intend to get my life back", Vincent finally said. "What's left of it." That was all he said for the rest of the day.
*** The secret underground base ***
Once again, the council members sat in the darkened, only by singular point lights illuminated chamber.
"The national security codes have been changed according to our plan." Despite the good news, the voice was crisp and cold like ice. "The gates are open to flood the brains of this nation, but we still don't have the intersect! Years of planting operatives and gathering information will be in vain!"
"This is our fourth meeting and we can't report any success to our leader!"
The words opened another wound burning in that secret council already for a while. "He or she should be here right now!" Another member said. "But where is he? We report and what happens? Nothing?"
"Would you have liked it more if the Leader had ordered to kill you, because you're a useless member of this organization?! We can be grateful he tolerates this leniency!"
"We might walk right into a trap of the government."
"So far, the government walked in all of OUR traps! Ellington is dead. The FBI has no ideas how to react. The police are following planted leads into nowhere. Beckman is out of the way and -"
"And Smith is MIA."
The door on the other end of the room opened that very moment and a person stepped in. Clad in robe and mask like all of them, using a voice scrambler. The person held up a cell phone triumphantly. "A message from Vincent. Didn't I tell you he would not let us down? He always gets his prey and brings it back."
"What does it say?" grumbled a voice from amidst the council.
"He has the intersect and we are supposed to meet him at Flat Point Creek, the old Air Force Base, in Nevada. "
"You're sure this is not a trap by HER?" None of them ever said her name, they only referred to her with the pronoun or as 'the traitor', as if calling her name would summon the forces of evil. But Cadie McArthur's face haunted them nonetheless…
"Vincent used the correct encryption with the latest algorithms. We should not waste any more time!"
*** Back in the Cave ***
In the nightly cave, Agent John Casey woke up – and threw up. He couldn't remember ever having felt so shit since that one party at high school. He tried to rise, but stumbled back against the rocky walls. For an undefined time he crouched there, while his memories and senses made their way back into his brain. He heard someone moaning and recalled that he hadn't been alone…
"Agent Walker? …. Sarah?"
Only after several attempts her words became understandable. "…has injected us something…" Crawling on her four, she fumbled her way through the darkness. "Why … didn't she … kill us?"
"Maybe she thought she had and only picked the wrong dose." He growled and rubbed his head.
"No. That's not Cadie. If we're alive, she left us alive for a purpose."
"In any case, that bitch has outmaneuvered us! She's gone, and I bet our weapons with her!"
They both knew that an attempt to take up pursuit would do no good right now; not at night, not in their present condition. They needed to wait for day break! It became tough, torturing hours, especially for Sarah. All kinds of bad scenarios flashed through her head, circling around what has happened to Chuck? To her, it did not make a big difference whether he was in Smith's or Cadie's control at the moment. She had come to know both of them as cold blooded killers. And Chuck was - she smiled sadly and yet full of love at the thought – Chuck was such a unsuspecting child sometimes!
They discovered Cadie's body at first sunlight and Sarah thought to know what that purpose was. "She expected us to go after Smith, if she fails." Sarah looked around, checking and assessing the crime scene. Undoubtedly, there were Chucks footprints. So he was alive and at least able to walk. There was still hope! "She hated him that profoundly she wanted to make sure he doesn't get away."
"Had she worked with us instead of knocking us out, we probably would've overwhelmed him!" Casey replied angrily. He couldn't forgive himself that he let all of his happen! He was supposed to be more vigilant, to be stronger to be whatsoever – in any case, he was NOT supposed to get drugged with tranquillizers by that bitch! "We have no way of knowing where they went. And they are probably hours ahead of us. And …" He made a face as if experiencing physical pain. "We are unarmed."
But Sarah wouldn't give up now. "They stepped into the water and continued their way. We'll do the same. We'll find the spot where they left and follow them further. Smith does not seem to know about us – or he would've killed us. This is an advantage we can't let pass. Come on!"