Dying to Kill
by O. J. Anderson
|part 2 of 3|
Andrews Air Force Base
1 hour later
Headlights clicked off. The three black vans and the silver government sedan followed the security jeep out onto the strip. Headed for Hangar 5, tucked away at the far southern end of the airfield, where only ULTRA-level clearance personnel were allowed — the President himself couldn’t even gain access — and the security police normally shoot first, check your papers later.
But these vehicles blew through four different ID protocols and two checkpoints. Soon crossing the point of no return: a wide yellow strip painted onto the tarmac, motion detectors, IR beacons. This convoy moved through unimpeded; i.e., with extreme impunity. The kind of impunity you only get when you’ve been tasked with saving the world.
Hangar 5’s small vehicle access doors were thrown open only seconds before the convoy passed through. The hangar was immense, stadium-sized. No white lights inside; red only, giving the hangar an ominous, end-of-the-world-looming kind of atmosphere. But ominous is Jack Creed’s bread and butter. How he pays the bills. So he hardly noticed.
He did, however, notice the elegantly curving fuselage of the giant Boeing 757c. Mounted on top of the Boeing was a hard to make out shape. Black. Barely visible, but what seemed to be a very large and elongated Delta-wing craft. Their ride. Jack stepped out of the van.
“We’re doing a high launch,” General Gill said as he approached Jack Creed. Pointing upward: “Forty thousand feet. Once the ship reaches the outer limit, a HAARP satellite will open up a wormhole. You’ll squirt through and drop in on an intercept course with the target. I want to get you and your men loaded ASAP for pre-flight briefings and strap-in procedures.”
“Right.” Jack turned to his left, where his men were now assembled. He thumbed toward the vans and said, “Let’s get the Tac boxes unloaded.” Across the hangar, behind the 757’s wing, he saw a mobile elevator/catwalk system being positioned.
“What do you mean Tac boxes?” the general asked. “Everything you’ll need is already on board. We don’t have time for this.”
“No,” Jack intoned. “once my boxes are loaded, then everything I’ll need will be on board.”
The general became slightly irritated. One of the problems with hiring civilian contractors is that one’s rank, even general’s stars, loses its value faster than a fistful of pesos at a Downeast garage sale. “Mr. Creed,” he said dryly, “need I remind you of what is at stake? Time is of the essence here.”
“It is precisely because of what is at stake that I’m taking my boxes, General. I never leave the planet without them.”
General Gill began foaming at the eyes. “Mr. Creed...”
An airman blew a whistle, waved his arms at the cockpit, and the 757c’s gigantic Rolls Royce RB-211 engines began to whine.
Jack raised his voice a note. “You’ve shown us to our ride, general. We’ll take it from here.” And with that, Jack Creed whirled and strode off toward the six large shock-proof boxes now stacked at the base of the elevator unit. His squad standing by.
Teeth ground for a moment, but only a moment. What the hell. Take your damn boxes. General Gill turned and headed for the door. Pulled a cell phone from one pocket and a pack of cigarettes from the other. He flipped open the cell with his thumb and dialed. Waited for his contact to pick up.
Outside, the air was slightly chilly. Rows of blue strip lights ran off into the dark nether regions of the airbase. The general lit his cigarette. Took a deep drag. A voice finally answered. The general mumbled, “This is Gill. Phase 2 has begun.”
The cell snapped shut. The tip of the cigarette glowed brightly in the darkness.
* * *
Jack and his crew stowed their gear and squeezed into the tight passenger area. Seating for twenty, similar to a Lear jet, except no windows or fold-down trays in this one. Each seat had a four-point safety harness and virtually no cushioning, like a race car. These babies were all business, not for comfort.
At the forward end of the passenger area was a video screen displaying old pictures of the Starship Beinhoffer. Interior and exterior, from various angles. This was to be used in addition to the ship’s files that Jack was now in possession of for mission planning. However, aside from the unusual location, it was a standard demo job. One which the crew could pull off in their sleep.
There was one minor point that needed to be addressed though. As Captain Ryan Hawser explained, “We’ll drop the umbilical down over the command module. You guys punch a hole for it and tie in to the system, and we can upload the new instructions.”
Jack nodded. Then unwrapped a fresh toothpick.
“There’s just one problem. The ship’s operating system is almost thirty years old. It won’t be able to read the upload.” He held up a black box the size of a paperback book. There was a fat cable hanging from it. “Someone has to go inside. Crack open the master core. Upload the translator program first.” Hawser then shrugged apologetically. “It’s the only way.”
A short while later, the co-captain gave a quick pre-flight briefing. The trip out would only take a few hours. They’d be inserting behind the Beinhoffer, then creeping up behind it in order not to set off the deflector shields. That would take another seven hours. He also informed them, “After we jump through, you’ll be able to move freely throughout the cabin. You’ll have plenty of time to prep your gear and get suited up.”
After the massive jumbo jet began to taxi out onto the runway, Jack and his crew strapped in and began their long wait.
* * *
Fairfax County, Virginia
The Olive Garden
Only four cars left in the parking lot. General Gill checked his watch: a quarter past ten. Too late probably to get a basket of bread sticks. He hadn’t realized until then how hungry he was. Skipped dinner again. Looked like another microwave-burrito-at-the-gas-station night. Many nights like that since the divorce; those, and cheese-dip-and-hot-dog nights. Beefaroni dishes. And so on. He often wondered why people didn’t like The Olive Garden. It was always so crowded, but everyone he had talked to said that it wasn’t authentic.
Who cares what they say, Gill thought. I like it. Better than the Doritos and baked bean casserole he’d had the night before, although that wasn’t half as bad as he’d expected.
His contact arrived a few minutes later. The black sedan came slowly turning around the restaurant looking for the green Taurus. The general tapped the brake pedal one time.
This was to be General Gill’s last job for The Cabal. He had amassed a small fortune over the years — over one million dollars — and now it was time to get out. Put in his retirement papers next month and head for Thailand.
He planned to leave everything behind — house, car, clothes, everything — and just find a bar on the beach in which to drink himself silly. The dollar to baht conversion ratio would be plenty favorable enough to keep him sunken deeply within a plush retirement stupor for the rest of his life.
Just the thought of it made him smile. Not to mention the thought of his ex-wench not calling him anymore, hassling him about alimony payments. She’d never find him. And neither would that punk kid who couldn’t seem to keep a job. No, nobody would be finding General Gill unless they knew exactly where to look: down in the bottom of a Singha bottle — way way down. Down where it stinks.
The black sedan pulled into the space next to the general’s car. Gill pressed the button, lowering the passenger’s side window.
The man in the black car, whom General Gill only knew as Mr. P, nodded and said, “Evening.”
“Yeah,” Gill said. “You too.”
Mr. P held up a brown paper bag filled with cash. Then tossed it through the window.
“Thanks.” The general used to look around after receiving a bag of cash, worried that someone might have seen, but not anymore. Instead, he opened the bag and looked inside. The stacks of bills looked about right. He wouldn’t need to count them. He’d seen a hundred thousand dollars a few times previously.
“Oh yeah.” He could smell the beach already. After rolling up the top portion of the bag, the general said, “Operation Lightning Rod is well underway. I trust we won’t be in contact for a while.” The general had told no one of his plans, which was to slip quietly away. Without a trace of where he was going left behind.
“Probably not,” Mr. P said. “Though, everyone on the list will be receiving instructions in the event of an emergency.”
The general froze. List? There were no lists associated with Lightning Rod. The operation, as it had been explained to him, had only two purposes.
The first was to force the Russians to fire the laser satellite that they’d been vehemently denying existed. When Project Berserker was explained to them, they’d have no choice but to use it. This action would restart the Cold War.
Actually, it would restart the Cold War money machine. The military-industrial complex would regain a full head of steam, and some of the more obscure, special projects could be fully funded again.
The second was to kill Jack Creed. General Gill had never heard the name before and didn’t really care who he was. But someone high up wanted him really dead, really badly.
But the list? The list? The only list he’d known about with the in front of it was the list of chosen ones allowed into the underground bases before the catastrophe. They were planning to release biological weapons, then nuke the place. A burn-off. Then everything would be sucked out that hole they’d created in the ozone layer.
Were these psychos actually going to do it? he wondered. Project New Eden?
“Don’t worry,” Mr. P said, noticing the distress in Gill’s face. “The contagion will be contained. It’s only a precaution.”
Gill said nothing. He was smart enough to know that he wasn’t, and never would be, on the list. And neither would Mr. P, but he apparently wasn’t smart enough to know that. There was no way to really know what these psychopathic fools were planning. Everything that came down from above was partial truths, disinfo, outright lies, or a combination of all three. That way no one could divulge the real plan; no one knew what it was.
Mr. P reached for his keys to restart the sedan.
“Wait,” Gill said. “We can’t do this.” He began to tremble, as though a herd of emotions were fighting their way out of a burning barn. The Cabal’s evil had always seemed so abstract, so far into the future as to be practically non-existent. He hardly took any of it seriously. Had those madmen now finally severed all remaining ties to sanity?
“We can’t let this happen. We have to do something. This is crazy.”
“Little late, don’t you think?” Mr. P laughed.
“No, no it isn’t. We can still inform the Russians. They can shoot it down. We must stop this!”
Mr. P frowned. These military guys were pretty good in their own way but weren’t always too bright. “General, there is no laser satellite. There never was. Now, I suggest you get your affairs in order... just in case.”
“What?” No satellite. The cold winds of panic blew up the general’s spine. He stared out the windshield a moment; a numbing preview of the end days playing in his mind. Then, as though being remotely reactivated back into action, his basic infantrymen’s instincts kicked in and he got angry. Time to be a hero. He shouted, “I’ll expose this! I’ll do something. Anything I can. I’ll stop it myself if I have to.”
After scratching his forehead, Mr. P sighed and said, “I wish you hadn’t said that.” Then the silenced Glock appeared above the door.
If asked, General Gill couldn’t have said he was surprised by the turn of events. You can’t make a deal with the devil and expect not to have to pay up sometime. All he could say before the two shots were fired was “Damn.”
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by O. J. Anderson