Chapter 35: One chance
We spent most of the flight preparing the briefing. We had only one chance to convince my old boss and Justice of what we had uncovered; if they didn’t buy it, we were truly on our own. Josh was making up the presentation on his laptop, we just fed him data. It made the flight go quickly, and we really needed to get everything out of Nadine before she went home.
We finished up just before the pilot announced we were on final descent; I looked out the window and my cat and I were captivated. I could see Josh and Charlotte staring at it in wonder as well; the snow-covered mountains, the endless pine forests, the clearings at low altitude. It was so different from the scenery back in Washington, and especially from New Mexico. My cat wanted out, she wanted to run and climb and hunt.
The airport was fairly small, and wasn’t busy since we were between the peak summer season and the ski season. We landed, taxied off the runway then stopped near a hangar. As soon as the engines shut down, a pair of black SUV’s was stopping by the side of the plane. We grabbed our stuff, not having much, and said our goodbyes to those not going to the Johnson Pack with us.
The air was much cooler than back home, it was crisp and smelled wonderful. I liked it already. A tall man got out of the back seat, another four men standing behind him. They were all big and threatening, obviously warriors. My cat could feel his dominance as I led my group towards him, he must be the Alpha. He gave us a warm smile. “Welcome to Wyoming, everyone. I am Alpha Derek Johnson, and I’m at your service.”
I stopped just short of him, my head dipping slightly before looking at him. My cat was strong, but she instinctively knew her place. “Thank you for having us, Alpha Johnson. I am Rose Rodriguez, this is my daughter Charlotte and her mate Josh Spencer.” Both came up alongside me and nodded in respect.
I was a little shocked when we were all pulled into a hug. “You’re practically family,” he said, “and Josh is a legend. He needs no introduction, he is always welcome on Pack lands.” I looked at him a little quizzically. “You didn’t hear about what he did for us during the war,” he asked as he led us to the vehicles.
“I knew he was a hacker, hell he was on the most wanted list, especially after that stunt with the sewage treatment plants.”
Josh and Charlotte were led to the second SUV, when I looked at him he just said “Security,” and continued to lead me to the first one. I got in, then he went around and got in the other side. The two warriors in our car were in the front seat, and as soon as the doors closed we were off. He opened a cooler and pulled out a water, I nodded, and he handed it to me before taking one for himself. “Josh did as much to help our species survive as anyone during the war. His hacking raised millions of dollars that were funneled to Packs to help us survive. You have to realize, we were completely cut off from commerce- no access to food, weapons, or other supplies. His funds started a whole logistical network that kept us alive. It wasn’t just money, as important as that was. He organized hacking attacks that destroyed databases and made it more difficult for the Feds to figure out who and where we are. He’s a special kid.” “He is that, Alpha. What I like the most about him, though, is the way he looks at my daughter like she is his world. He will do anything to make her happy, and what Mom could want more?”
“You are right, Rose, that’s all any of us want for our children, for them to be happy and complete.” He looked out at trees passing by. “Thank you for the heads up. The pilots report they have to rest after the trip to North Dakota, so I’ve booked a charter from DC to here instead. Here is the flight information.”
I pulled another burner phone out of my purse; setting it to text, I typed in the information and sent it to the personal phone of White House Counsel Lisa Giovanni. She acknowledged it and said she would get back to me with her arrival time after she had talked with the pilots. “What about the other paperwork?”
“It was emailed to the White House a few hours ago, Ms. Giovanni should have it already. I’m not sure I understand what you are doing, though.”
“It’s all part of our plan, Alpha. Now, how is your family? I understand your mate is pregnant?”
“She is,” he said with a smile. “Our first, after so many years, it’s exciting and scary as hell at the same time,” he said. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a paper, it was an ultrasound photo. “A little girl,” he said.
“She’s beautiful!” I handed it back and he put it away. We drove on, talking about our family and I was telling him about my introduction to Pack life. Before we knew it, we were in the mountains. “I love this,” I said.
The cars pulled to the side of the road. “Come on, it will do you some good,” he said as he got out. He took his jacket off, then his shoes, tossing them inside. The warrior in the passenger seat did the same thing.
“What are you doing?”
“Your cat needs to run, I can tell. Josh should come too. We can go up over this mountain and meet them at the Pack House. Don’t worry, we’re on Pack lands now and Charlotte will be safe.” I looked back and Josh was getting out of his vehicle, looking at me for the OK.
“Oh, hell yes,” I said as I pulled my sweatshirt off. In a few moments the clothes were in the back seat and I had shifted to my panther form. Josh ran up to me, nipping at my neck, so I batted him with a paw before wrestling him to the ground. Derek came over, his white wolf was big and intimidating. We sniffed each other, then I greeted his warrior, before Derek raised his head and let out a howl. He was quickly joined by two voices, then answering howls from higher up in the mountains. The second time I let them sing, then joined them with my roar. A few of the howls stopped, unsure of what just happened, but Derek wasn’t concerned. We couldn’t talk together since we were in different packs, so he chuffed and led the way into the trees.
My panther was in her element, moving quickly and quietly through the mountainside. Josh was running around, smelling things and leaving his pee-mail behind, while Derek just trotted along. The sun was starting to set, and the shadows were taking over. I had moved ahead of the others, so I took a moment to climb. Finding a large pine that was isolated from the others, I leaped up high and dug my claws into the side. I moved up the side quickly until I was high enough to see clearly the valley we had just left. It was amazing. I moved along a branch, picking my spot I leaped for a branch in the next tree. I watched as Josh ran below me, his nose was up and he was searching for me but was having trouble with the scent. I grinned to myself before moving down and dropping silently behind him. I batted his tail, growling a little as I took off running. He yipped and chased after me.
He was faster, but I was more agile, so I took advantage of that. I weaved through the trees and under the fallen logs, forcing his larger body to slow down. I was starting to leave him behind, I took a moment to look back and that’s when I was hit and rolled. I got back on my feet quickly, but Derek was already running away from me. I growled in annoyance and took off after him. He was bigger and slower than Josh, so I caught him near the top of the hill. Leaping onto his back, I forced him to face plant before I jumped off him.
The play ended when we crested the hill, Josh and I both stopped to take in what we saw. The Johnson Pack compound was huge, and construction was everywhere. There were cranes and lifts and scaffolding all around the building, which looked about half done. It was going to be freaking HUGE when completed, it was the size of a large hotel. Howls of greeting came from down below, and an excited Derek led the way down to his Pack.
Alex went out and came back a few minutes later with a luggage cart and a big duffel bag. “What’s that for?”
“Get in.” I looked at him like he had three heads, but he ignored me and unzipped it. It was made for carrying hockey or football equipment, it was going to be a tight fit, but I could see why he was doing it. I put my feet at the base, then sat down and scooted so I was on my side with my knees up near my chest. “Stay still,” he said as he zipped it up. I heard the door open and I was being wheeled out into the hall, then down the elevator and into the parking garage. A door lock opened, and I felt myself being lifted up and not so gently moved across the carpeting.
I stayed quiet, waiting for the car to start and pull out before I said anything. “Thanks for the extra bounces, boys.”
“Just keep quiet, Gunny, and stay put,” Lars said. “We still have to pick up my stuff.” They stopped a few seconds later, and the back window of the SUV was opened, and I could hear bags and cases being loaded. The window closed, and we started moving again. They kept the bag closed, talking to each other as we drove out of town.
Finally, Lars unzipped the bag and I sat up on the seat. “My stuff in the back?”
“Yep, on the bottom. Don’t mess with my stuff, bitch.” I flipped Lars the finger, I wouldn’t touch another sniper’s stuff. It was personal, his pride and joy, and we were possessive of it.
I turned around and started to move things aside. One of the cases was huge. “Lars, did you bring a fifty?”
“Nope, that’s my Barrett,” Alex said. “After the attack on our Pack, and seeing the Johnson Pack guys use them, we bought a bunch of them. We brought in instructors and a dozen of us qualified on them. They make a big bang, but shooting twice is silly,” he said.
“Hit the right place and you don’t ever have to shoot twice,” I replied.
“True, but you never know when you have to take out a vehicle. The fifty cal will punch through an engine block or defeat any bulletproof glass out there, and it can reach out over a mile and still hit like a sledgehammer. We even have armor piercing and explosive rounds we picked up on the black market. I love that thing.”
“I’m into the classics, Alex. Nothing beats a bolt-action Remington with a three-oh-eight. Light enough to hump through the bush, accurate as all hell and effective out past a thousand.”
“You’re both wrong,” Lars said. “One is too big, the other is too small. My three thirty-eight Lapua, though, is just right. 300 grain low drag bullet, higher muzzle velocity, insanely accurate out to a mile and a half. You can’t argue with the world record holder for a sniper kill, plus my baby looks GOOD.” Lars broke with the USMC on this one, they had gone with a .300 Winchester Magnum, but the Canadian and British snipers he trained with after I left had convinced him.
“Hey, we do have to go over a few things before we arrive,” Alex said. “I made up backpacks for each of us- three days of water, food, extra batteries. Gunny, I packed your night vision equipment and spotting scope in your gear. Add in some extra clothes, sleeping bag and tarp, and you’re set.”
“Sounds like freakin’ paradise, right Lars? A sleeping bag?”
“Hey, I’m the only HUMAN here. You guys just fur up and you’re nice and warm.” I had a little chuckle at that. “So Alex has the fifty, are you setting him up to the south?”
“Yep, I want him on the rocks on the opposite side of the road, fairly close to it. That way he’ll be able to cover approaches from both sides out to a mile.” Alex nodded. “Lars, I want you on the north side, covering the back of the house. I’ll take the southeast corner, here in these bluffs, and cover the front.”
“Are you expecting a frontal assault on the house, Gunny?”
“I doubt it, Lars. There is Maitea and maybe one other sniper. I’m more worried about someone sneaking in within range and waiting it out. That’s why this is a counter-sniper scenario. We need to watch the roads, but we also need to be taking time to watch the terrain so no one sneaks up on us.”
“All right, boys, dropoff in five minutes. Lars, we’ll drop you off about two miles from the turnoff. Gunny and I will park a few miles south and work our way back up. Here’s your comm gear.” He handed out some radios and headsets from the console. “Make sure they work before we go.”
Alex pulled to the side of the road, and Lars got out. He pulled on his pack, then took his rifle out and cradled it in his arms. “Keep your heads down, boys,” he called over the radio as he walked away.
“Shoot straight,” Alex said.
“Time to get some revenge,” I responded. LONG past time.