*** In Nevada ***
The agents had loosened his ties, but the odds had shifted considerably to Vincent's disadvantage. He couldn't completely suppress a spike of anger and desperation. He had been so close! And now those idiots were about to destroy everything he'd achieved in the past days! Thankfully, Bartowski didn't tell all of his secrets. So there was still a small chance he could make it; a chance to could get rid of those agents! This time, he had to be extremely careful and cautious, because there wouldn't be a second try…
His gaze fell on the shards of a framed photograph that one of the shots had brought down. It showed a man with a little child on his lap. For one brief moment, Vincent was far away and Chuck saw a shadow of sadness flit over his features. Then, Casey's voice demanded their attention again.
"So, you're sure we'll find Orion there?" the agent asked and made a gesture toward the computer screen that showed the detail of a satellite photo from a nearby town.
"As I said", Vincent answered, "I've been monitoring Orion's movements for a long time. I've combined my research with the one your friend Bartowski did. And the late Mrs. Cadie was on his tracks as well. All our information points to that area in Robertstown."
"You could've followed a false track."
"I never did, neither did Bartowski. We only were not fast enough. This time, with the combined help of the CIA and the NSA we'd be more lucky, I suppose." Had this been irony or a hopeful statement.
Casey opted for the latter and sneered.
"The area is still too large for a commando style operation", Sarah said with a more professionally air. "We need to narrow it down."
"Well, sadly we weren't able to complete our calculations because of your interruption."
"How much time do we still have until the Termites will strike?" Sarah asked.
"A day at most. And even Orion needs time for a counter measure."
Chuck stared intently onto the screen. He felt the urge to proof himself useful. "Let's think about what he would need! A place with not too easy access and multiple exits. A good enough power source…"
Casey nodded "A basement, probably."
"But not too shielded to hinder him from tapping in wireless grids…"
"Okay, let's look at those houses again!"
Half an hour later, they had isolated the most likely hiding spot in sleepy Robertstown. A house that had once been a bank and that still possessed the thick walls in the basement, where the safe had been standing. In the adjoining building, AT&T had their spot. As far as it could be discerned from the satellite images, the ex-bank had a main entrance – of course, but also two rear exits, not to mention the windows in the second floor that provided access to the roof of a small building in the rear. All in all a pretty good place! The question remained if Orion was really there or if this was one of his diversions and IF he was there – would they be able to catch him? Once again, Vincent's eyes were on the shards of the photo. I have to get Orion. This time, I HAVE to get him! He stood up.
With a swift movement, Casey blocked his way. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Secure a chopper. There's a small airfield nearby. Unless you're able to fly…"
"I am", the agent answered. "And no matter what stories you've told Bartowski, I don't believe you and you'll stay under guard!"
Vincent displayed no emotion, as Casey took the plastic rope and tied his hands behind the back again. For now, he didn't bother. It was night and the airfield not very far to go. This had been one of the reasons he had chosen this outpost in the first place. If there was one thing he absolutely didn't need, it was contact with the authorities. He was sure he'd be able to handle those agents, but being "freed" by the police and/or arrested would've proven a major obstacle. However, obviously the locals had not heard – or not paid attention to – the gunfire some hours ago. He still considered suppressors one of the best inventions of all time! So there was no reason the police should interfere now in this little transfer to the airfield.
*** Later ***
Agent Casey had landed the helicopter on a nearby field and the unlikely team had managed the rest of the way by foot. Robertstown was a typically Nevadaen-outback place, not much busier than the village they had started their journey from. The main street had been pimped to attract tourists, but at this hour, every little shop and café was still closed. Their target building sat in an even quieter side street. Casey, Walker, Smith and a rather happy Chuck – because he was reunited with Sarah – took position in the windowless apartment of a run-down house nearby and waited. Casey kept a close eye on Vincent and his hand close to his gun. He still wasn't very comfortable with the weapons he had bought while catching up with Vincent and Chuck. They couldn't have been very picky, though. It only had been a small firearms store, they had no time and not enough money. And the owner had not been very impressed by a CIA or NSA ID card… Patriots were scarce those days, Casey thought once again while watching Vincent staring through the binocular.
There, he put the glasses down and turned back to the rest of the 'team'. "It's him."
"Yes", he emphasized as if he spoke to an imbecile child. "Height, figure, posture, walk – it's all a 100 percent match."
Casey took the binocular himself, though, but now the man they had stalked for several minutes, was inside the building.
"We should act now", Vincent pressed. "I suggest you're covering the yard, agent Walker the roof. Bartowski will go in from the front, with me as back up." A moment passed. "You need to trust me. We don't have much time, do we?"
However, Casey was very reluctant to trust anyone after the disaster they just had been through with Cadie. And Sarah would've rather liked to see Chuck out of harm's way instead of posing him as bait! The seconds ticked by. It was early in the morning and it was the day of the Termite's supposed strike. They wouldn't wait until they had sorted things out here… Casey wished he could check back with General Beckman. But since the interruption one and a half days ago she had not called again, and he didn't dare to contact her because of the risk to expose the ongoing secret counter operation! Dammit! He wanted to execute his orders, do what was right – and now that probably meant to fully trust Smith?! That was one of the hardest decisions John Casey ever had to make!
"I can handle it", Chuck assured with a forced smile, and yet had to suppress the shiver in his voice.
Casey shot him a grumpy 'no one asked you, moron'-look, but Sarah nodded. "This is an exceptional situation. So we have to do the exceptional and just – hope it turns out well."
"I don't want to answer a court martial for delivering the long wanted weapon right into the hands of our enemy."
"Our common enemy is project Termite", Vincent said. "And something tells me they'll win because of your lack of decisiveness."
"We talk about decisiveness, when I'll hand you over to the police."
-"Chuck? Where do you think you're going?" That had been Sarah. And her glance rested on Chuck, who already stood some meters away.
"If you can't decide what to do, I'll go alone", he answered. "I want that thing out of my head, and this is my chance! I want my life back! I want … I want to be just a normal guy standing at the Buy More – help desk and getting annoyed about some stupid computer problem, do you understand? And besides, I don't want those terrorists win this game!"
Sarah sighed. Casey hissed. Vincent's brows rose for a second. "Let's move", Casey finally decided without giving embarrassment any chance. "I'll take the roof, Walker the yard. From up there, I can still have an eye on you, Smith, just in case you'll try something."
Vincent's features remained unreadable.
*** Shortly after ***
The house was a brick building, not in very good shape, and half empty. In the ground floor's corridor it was almost dark, because only one of the lights was still functioning. Chuck was unarmed, of course, but some steps behind him sneaked Vincent. Chuck felt uncomfortable. He had trusted the mysterious Orion weeks before, however, after his experiences the past days, after all he knew – or thought to knew – he wasn't sure anymore. His pulse raced. He really would've loved that Vincent went first… or Casey… or … no, not Sarah.
Another step forward and his approach came to a halt, as a bodyless voice demanded: "Stay where you are!"
"Orion?" He tried to discern anything ahead, but the corridor was too dark. The other man probably used a video surveillance system. The camera had to be well hidden somewhere. Chuck looked around to no avail. "It is me! Charles Bartowski!"
Of course. He felt stupid. "I need your help."
A moment passed. "Are you alone?"
You can't see Vincent? That man really has a talent for stealth! He must've melted with the walls like those aliens from Star Trek... What were they called? Suliban... yes... Chuck stared ahead, sweating. I wish I'd were a Suliban myself. "Yes", he finally managed after what seemed for him like an eternity. And yet Orion wasn't suspicious?!
"Step forward slowly", the voice commanded.
Chuck hesitated. A part of him just wanted to get over with this, but the other half was afraid. Would it be a good idea to comply? Or would a trap open below him or something nasty fall on his head with the next step? Or did such things only happen in the movies? Suddenly, there was a light in front of him. The small slid of a door. It got wider. Then, a man appeared. As the light grazed his features, Chuck froze for a second.
"D..Dad?" He whispered breathless.
That moment, the man named Orion caught a glimpse of the figure squeezing up in the shadows behind Chuck. "Vincent?" His voice was almost as surprised as Chucks.
"What? You thought me dead already? Killed by the ingenious invention of yours?" A quick movement to his left wrist by Orion made Vincent raise his Scorpion. "I wouldn't do that. From the position I stand and with the firepower of this little friend I'll kill both of you!"