Authors: Stephen Moss
Volume 2 of The Fear Saga
Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Wilesmith
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Chapter 1: The Fallen
Chapter 2: Floods of Exodus
Chapter 3: Triptych
Chapter 4: Estados Unidos del Mundo
Chapter 5: Running Wild
Chapter 6: Ghazzat
Chapter 7: Let’s Come Together
Chapter 8: Team Mechanics
Chapter 9: Street Fighters
Chapter 10: Blowing Minds
Chapter 11: Two on One
Chapter 12: Real Estate
Chapter 13: Calling Card
Chapter 14: Catalogue
Chapter 15: SpacePort One
Chapter 16: Escalation
Chapter 17: Fine Tuning
Chapter 18: City Counciling
Chapter 19: Chopper
Chapter 20: Lockdown
Chapter 21: Sierra Mike Whiskey Eleven
Chapter 22: Dangerous Liaisons
Chapter 23: Triptych
Chapter 24: Vendetta
Chapter 25: 1979 va
Chapter 26: Standard Procedure
Chapter 27: Private Investigation
Chapter 28: Nick at Night
Chapter 29: Speed Freak
Chapter 30: Drop Zone – Part One
Chapter 31: Drop Zone – Part Two
Chapter 32: Landing Party
Chapter 33: Meeting of Equals
Chapter 34: Axis Two
Chapter 35: Codename: Grozny
Chapter 36: On the Brinkmanship
Chapter 37: Borodino Bound
Chapter 38: Deception
Chapter 39: Flight and Fight
Chapter 40: The Budapest Gambit
Chapter 41: Bubble Burst
Chapter 42: A Brief Engagement
Chapter 43: Inbound
Chapter 44: The Hot War
Chapter 45: Outbound
Chapter 46: The Lion’s Tail
Chapter 47: Ebb
Chapter 48: A Bull in China
A man lies in a steel cell. The cell rocks gently back and forth, as though rolling on a slow, ponderous wave. The walls are inches thick. There are no windows. A small slit in the door passes fetid food and the occasional shout of abuse.
The man, like the floor around him, is covered in human feces and urine. He is chained.
There is a loud clank and the door swings open revealing a doctor who looks torn. He cannot decide between his commitment to his oaths and his hatred for the man on the floor in front of him. His emotional conflict is compounded by the vile stench emanating from the cell.
He knows he cannot sympathize with the prisoner. But nor can he let him die. Another jailor to the doctor’s side opens the valve on a hose and icy sea water blasts the chained man, sending him reeling across the floor, his chains clanking as he slides into the far wall on a slick of human waste.
After a minute or so, a hundred gallons of briny baptism has returned some semblance of humanity to the small, dank space, the big drain in the corner having sucked down the disgusting remnants of the previous night’s abuse.
The doctor steps in and carefully approaches the prone man. As the doctor’s rubber-gloved hand touches the man’s shoulder, the prisoner gently sits up. He does not say anything. His movements are careful, slow and unthreatening. He seems meek and harmless. He does not meet the doctor’s eyes.
The doctor had been among the many who had been victim to the man’s crime. They all had. The whole crew of the HMS
. They had gone to dinner oblivious and happy but then they had all slowly felt the irresistible drowsiness pulling at them. They had fallen where they sat or stood. Every man and woman aboard the powerful destroyer. All of them but one. The man who had drugged them.
When they had awoken, they had found their ship adrift. Confusion and panic had wracked the crew as they had searched their ship for signs of what had happened. Then they had discovered the changes to the firing controls. The ship’s massive salvo of long-range missiles had all been launched. They did not know why. They could not know why. A billion dollars of the most advanced and lethal weaponry on Earth had been fired seemingly into space.
It had made no sense and their attempts to get answers out of the man responsible had fallen on deaf ears. No one had been able to get more than a single sentence out of him.
“It will all be explained in time.”
That had been yesterday and their hot indignant fury had cooled a little overnight. There may even be some remorse at the way they had treated him, even some inkling as to the depth of their crime against him. But without confirmation of the greater conspiracy’s success, the man in chains had been left with little recourse but silence. To tell these people if he had failed would only bring death down upon them.
But the doctor does not know this as he comes to check the man’s vitals and feed him some vitamin supplements. Astonishingly, he seems healthy and fit. His blood pressure is good and his eyes alert, despite the beatings.
He surveys the prisoner. Looking for open wounds or signs of infection, but he is still astonishingly free of actual cuts. His bruising looks severe, and the doctor assumes his swollen nose is broken but there is nothing fatal here. Except those night-black pupils.
As the doctor grabs at the man’s face to check him over, he looks into those pitch-black eyes and sees the bottomless well of hurt that this man has suffered. Not at the boots and the fists of his captors, but at their words.
“Why, John?” says the doctor once more, unceasingly surprised every time he recognizes that man he had once called a friend.
He does not expect a reply. He is surprised to hear the quick step of several brisk feet behind him. He turns to see Captain Bhade’s small but imposing frame appear suddenly in the doorway. The naval doctor stands and goes to salute but something in the captain’s face throws him. Emotions the doctor is not used to seeing on the stern senior officer’s face. Uncertainty. Doubt. And as the captain looks down at the prisoner, something else: remorse.
Another person is trying to push past the captain and the doctor is surprised when the normally dictatorial Captain Bhade steps meekly aside and utters, “Here he is, sir.”
Vice Admiral Terence Cochrane steps into the doorway and frowns in dismay. The doctor salutes again, stammering for something to say, a feeling of concern filling him at the arrival of this incredibly senior officer.
But the admiral is uninterested in what the doctor has to say and he merely turns to someone outside the cell that the doctor cannot see and says, “Dr. Danielson, it isn’t pretty, but Captain Bhade assures me that our friend here is quite healthy. A fact that I am sure he knows his career depends on.”
The doctor glances at the captain who inhales sharply at the stern words, but then the captain catches the doctor’s eyes and his authority returns in a flash, reminding the doctor of whom
should be afraid.
The other man steps past the senior officers and into the cell. He is a civilian, dressed casually. He has an air of cool confidence about him. Confidence born of knowing more than anyone else. The civilian looks down at the chained man on the floor and speaks without the slightest hint of fear or concern for the prisoner’s condition. His American accent stands in stark contrast to the British naval officers around him.
“Well, John, what do you say? Ready to go?”
The room pauses, the stranger’s calm attitude stunning them. The doctor is about to warn them that the prisoner is in no condition to be moved when he hears a rustling behind him, and turns to the sudden apparition of the bedraggled prisoner rising smoothly to his feet.
The doctor steps back as the chains that had previously bound the traitor fall away from his wrists and ankles. The doctor had looked them over only a moment ago. They had been secure. But they fall to the floor like crumbs from a quickly forgotten meal.
The prisoner observes the look of confusion on the doctor’s face and finally breaks his long silence with a sympathetic smile, “Please, Doctor, don’t worry. All is not as it seems.”
But then his eyes turn to the American, and his smile changes to one of genuine affection, “As for you. I can’t say I like how long it took you to get here, but the fact that you have can only mean we did it.”
The words hang like a question, and the American nods, smiling broadly, “We did, John, we did.”
Chapter 1: The Fallen
ust and fine pebbles of an ancient plain crunched loudly under the thud of bare feet.
Lord Mantil ran in long, powerful strides up the side of a low ridge to gain a better vantage, wearing a shawl wrapped around his person, a shawl stolen from a shepherd’s home in the first light of dawn.
Flying wild in the seat of the old but agile Pakistani F-16, Lord Mantil had done all he could to protect the pilots of the rogue B-2 bomber. They had been risking their lives to try and stop the coming plague, and even if Lord Mantil hadn’t wanted to try and keep them safe just because of their bravery, he would have fought anyway, because the longer they were alive the more innocents they could save.
As dust whipped around his legs in eddies, Lord Mantil ran onward toward the peak of the ridge, his shawl cracking like a flag about him. As he ran, he considered those he had killed since he had arrived on Earth, first in the service of his alien crown, and then, after his fateful clash with the double Agent John Hunt, in defense of those whom his crown would have him wipe out in order to conquer their planet.
The desert’s dry heat belied the true power of the sun on his back as he worked across the wastes toward where he knew the parachute had fallen. No human could have survived the long run or kept up his blistering pace. If the building heat and lack of water did not kill them, the bitter cold of the night would have. And now there was a fresh lethality on the plains, a plague of biblical proportions.
Dr. Martin Sobleski and Major Jack Toranssen had done their best to stop the spread of the virus dropped by the satellites to this place where the antigen had not had a chance to spread. But they had been shot down not long after Lord Mantil had lost his own plane, and he had seen only one parachute falling away from the big bomber after it exploded. He had used his powerful machine eyes to search the sky for another, but there was only one.
Whoever it was on the other end of that single parachute had fallen into the lands of a scared and enraged Iranian army, and Lord Mantil needed to try and reach any survivor before that army did.
There were few cars out here among the nomads and tribal shepherds of the plains. So he had started running, his herculean legs thrusting him forward. Within an hour, the pounding speed of his sprint had worn through his boots to the tougher skin beneath. Now he ran with the tops of his boots acting as a mockery, making comical the idea that such flimsy things as shoes could afford any protection to a killing machine such as him.
With the B-2 destroyed, the last guard against the virus had fallen, and all around were the first signs of the end of this region’s story. These local villagers rarely went into the large towns. This same trait that had saved them from so many diseases in the ordinary course of life had now stopped them from being exposed to the antigen that had spread throughout the rest of the world. And though most of them did not know it yet, they were dying.
The shepherd whom Lord Mantil had taken the shawl from earlier that morning would not miss it for long. Some of his family had already begun coughing and wheezing as the virus wormed its way into their bodies. Lord Mantil had switched off his hearing and averted his eyes as he had silently stepped through the hut in the dark, gathering the cloth and shoes he would need to disguise himself as he sought his friends. He had seen six heat signatures as he had approached the hut. Two adults, four children, and one of them was already starting to burn with the first signs of fever. Within a couple of weeks they would all be cold.
- - -
Sergeant Sheba Abhadir glanced nervously at the men around him. They were rushing headlong to the crash site of a mysterious plane. Amidst reports of explosions in the air and some kind of firefight in the skies over Afghanistan, a radar blip had suddenly flared where none had been before and a huge plane had fallen from the sky, burning as it went.
Who the fight had been between was unknown. Certainly the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents had no warplanes to speak of. But when the fight had crossed into Iranian airspace it had become their business. Iranian fighters had been dispatched, assault troops had been loaded into helicopters. The large and powerful Iranian military had been awakened.
It had been some time after the initial reports that news had come in that there were actually two crash sites. One was apparently a European fighter, blown to pieces, and the other was something much larger. Sergeant Abhadir was among twenty men in a helicopter headed to the second site. They were five minutes out.
They came in low, circling the funnel of smoke that marked the plane’s resting place like a billowing black tornado. Landing upwind, the team spilled from the helicopter, fanning out in a flood of black-booted efficiency and surrounding the wreckage. Within a moment the helicopter was airborne again, flying a wide sortie to look for other pieces of debris and report on the surroundings, the team’s eyes in the air. Two more choppers were also in the air, one en route to the other crash site, one more coming in as backup to respond to any unforeseen need that might yet arise. Ground vehicles would bring more troops soon enough. This first team was here to secure the area and get an initial report to the country’s panicked military, political, and religious leaders.
As the troops formed their perimeter around the plane, Sergeant Abhadir turned his focus to the plane itself. His platoon’s lieutenant was staring at the big plane and speaking into his radio. But he was not a smart man and the sergeant heard him saying that the bulk of the fuselage of the plane seemed to be missing.
Not one to correct a senior officer, Sergeant Abhadir bit his tongue while the lieutenant finished his report, and then stepped up to the man.
He waited to be asked his opinion and after a moment the lieutenant turned to him, but with an order, not a question.
“Sergeant, it is clear that this is not all of the wreckage; have the helicopter search for the rest of the plane, focusing on locating the front of the fuselage. We need to find the cockpit. Meanwhile, take two men and begin searching through the remains here and see if you can find some indentifying markers or signs of what kind of plane it is.”
The sergeant hesitated a moment, hoping that the officer would ask his opinion. But it was never going to happen and eventually he decided to speak up, “If I may, sir, I think I can tell you what type of plane it is right now.”
The lieutenant did a double take and then his eyes narrowed into a suspicious stare, “And what, Sergeant, leads you to be able to identify the plane from its wings alone?”
“Well, sir, the wings … are the plane. I cannot be sure, of course, but I am pretty certain that this is, for the most part, the entire plane, though some kind of explosion has clearly opened her up.” The lieutenant turned his focus back on the wreckage, and a weak light started to appear somewhere deep in his dim intellect. The sergeant continued his explanation as realization dawned on the officer, “Sir, I think you’ll find that this is a B-2. It would appear that someone has shot down an American stealth bomber over Iran.”
- - -
The cloud of smoke was as obvious to Lord Mantil from two miles away as it was to the helicopter he could see circling above it. Focusing his vision, he could see the soldiers fanning out around the crash site and two men among them talking to each over while staring into the small crater that obscured his view of the plane’s remains.
He studied the site, the direction of the wind, factoring in the altitude that the parachute had deployed. In a moment, the projected path of the plane and the parachute were overlaid onto his view of the scene as his machine mind computed the potentials. Now that he could see the plane’s impact crater, he could visibly realign the estimated path of the plane as it crashed to Earth to match the reality, and thus he was able to adjust his estimation of the parachute’s path accordingly.
The parachute’s new trajectory dropped to a point not three miles away. Without needing to be asked, his machine mind locked on to the Iranian force’s helicopter circling above and studied its widening search path, giving Lord Mantil an estimated time before the parachute was discovered.
Seven minutes. With a whir and a telltale machine thrum, the helicopter passed over Lord Mantil’s head and the Agent waited, judging the moment when he was just underneath it and thus lost in their blind spot. In that instant, he broke into a run once more.
The pilot and spotter saw him standing there in his ragged garb as they approached, noting his presence on their search log as they passed overhead, dismissing him as a nomad as they continued on. Flying on their search vector, they were unaware that directly beneath them the seemingly harmless man had now accelerated into a breakneck sprint, kicking up a whirl of sand as he used their shadow to circle around the crash before arching away from them, using their shadow to head out and away from the site, searching for his friends still out there on the plains.
- - -
She had awoken to an all-body pain, emphasized and amplified by utter silence. Her body was sending her signals that her mind could not process as she tried to bring herself around. Barely conscious, she started to check herself. She was a pilot. She remembered that she had been deployed to fly a sortie with an armed payload over the Southern Atlantic.
But something had gone wrong.
Shit! Memories came to her like slaps to the face and she flinched with equal parts pain and anger. She had never gotten to the cockpit. An old colleague had been waiting for her in ambush, and she had awoken many hours later on the floor of the flight deck. The moving floor.
She had known instantly that they were airborne. She had been kidnapped, as had her flight commander. She turned her head with the effort of a weightlifter, straining with all her might to get her muscles to respond to her commands. She couldn’t hear anything, but that was to be expected. They had done a high-altitude ejection at near supersonic speed and they had been trained to expect their eardrums to either blow out or at least be severely battered by the wrenching pressure change. She would know which in a few hours, but either way, deafness was going to be at least a temporary setback, possibly a permanent one.
She felt the tug of the parachute still beating in the wind and she registered that she was still attached to the ejection seat. The B-2 she had ejected from only had two seats, but there had been four people aboard, two pilots and two usurpers, so they had followed emergency procedure and double strapped themselves to the seats. It was not comfortable for the seat’s primary occupant or the person strapped tightly in their lap, but those were the breaks.
She tasted sand in her mouth, blown in by the dry wind gusting over her, and realized she was thirsty. Then she registered that her captor was still strapped beneath her. He wasn’t moving. She suppressed an instant urge to elbow him in the ribs and felt instead for the clips that were still holding her down. Her left arm did not respond so she focused on her right, finding and detaching the steel clasps at her waist and shoulder before reaching over with a cringe to her left side.
The movement brought a strained groan from the man under her, one forced through the bounds of unconsciousness to spill mindlessly from his cracked lips. She rolled off him, trying to be as delicate as possible, but her attempt at finesse ended with a thud on the packed dust of the plain, a shout of agony bursting from deep within her. Catching her breath as demons of pain raged inside her, she gripped the side of the ejected seat and wrestled the physical pain under control.
Lifting her head, she came face-to-face with the man who had tranquilized her and kidnapped her. His face was badly bruised, his nose broken, his lips swollen, no doubt from when her unconscious head had whipped back and forth as they fell to earth. Years of training and military fraternity overcame her anger and she set to tending to his wounds and attempting to revive him, reconciling this with her hatred of him by saying that only he had any real idea of where they were.
She did not hear the other man approach, despite the speed of his footfalls, or his screeching halt in the sand, but she felt his shadow fall across her at a primal level and instinctively swung around, her right hand grasping at the standard-issue firearm at her side … a firearm that had long since been taken by her kidnappers.
In his haste, Lord Mantil had not even factored in that there might have been others on board the B-2 he had striven to protect, and he was momentarily taken aback by her presence. But his quick-firing mind took in her uniform in a flash, assessed the situation, and was listing probable scenarios before she had completed her turn.
She stared into the black eyes of the shabby-looking man and was taken aback by the way that they surveyed her in return. She was being assessed, and not by a local farmer or nomad as his dress might suggest. This man had purpose. This man’s appearance at her side was not a coincidence. He carried no weapon and made no threatening gesture. When words started to spill from his mouth, she heard nothing. After a moment he stopped talking, registering her lack of comprehension, and bent to the ground, his finger moving with swift strokes in the sand.
we must go’
She stared back up at him, trying to assess whether to trust him, and then, leaning on her knees she wrote something in the sand as well.