Into the Fire Chapter 1 part 1
Lieutenant Jason Brinkman stepped from his car, the multicolored lights giving the scene a garish look. Another vehicle came to a rest behind his and two Sergeants and a Corporal emerged. A truck pulled to a stop and a SWAT team exited onto the sidewalk.
It was a lot of personnel for the job, but nothing was ordinary about the case. One hour ago a worm on the planetary net had detected a theft from Alliance Navy Headquarters. A follow-up on the message had the perpetrator in Richmond, attempting to sell what he stole.
Normally, the police wouldn’t concern themselves with activities that dealt with the military. However, this wasn’t an ordinary crime. The man involved, Mel James, had in his cyber brain, plans for the latest weapon and ship designs. Since some of the designs were meant for civilian law enforcement, that made it their business.
Brinkman placed both hands on his hips and he looked at the hotel before him. He spat on the ground. James had chosen to meet with his buyers on the tenth floor, which put his snipers out of the game.
Damned antique buildings, he thought, full of angles and wings that aren’t necessary! If only he had chosen a newer building all of this could be settled with a sniper shot to the head!
One of the Sergeants approached. The woman stopped beside Brinkman and craned her neck back. She shook her head for a moment before speaking.
“What if Intelligence shows up?”
Brinkman spat again. “Claudio Reyes knows this is my turf! If that son of a bitch tries to take James down-or into custody while I’m here…I’ll take it all the way to the top of Fleet Command!
“Besides,” Brinkman said as he looked at the SWAT team. “Once James left their property, it became my game.”
Brinkman motioned and the SWAT team moved up the steps, automatic rifles loaded and full of menace. He found himself wishing Intelligence would interfere. With all the firepower they had assigned to takedown James, then the Agent could always be caught up in friendly fire.
“Has that ever stopped him before?” the Sergeant asked.
“No,” Brinkman answered, “But things won’t go well if an agent tries to get involved.”
Which suited him just fine.
While Brinkman and the Sergeant talked, they were under surveillance the entire time. Across the street, his location carefully hidden, a young man watched them intently. His eyes narrowed as he watched the SWAT team enter the building.
The arrival of the Special Weapons and Tactics team wasn’t unsurprising to him; in fact, it had been expected. However, the timing was. Best-case estimates from Command had given them a two-hour window to capture and/or eliminate James. Now, that went out the window completely.
<Falcon,> he sent through his neural link. <This is Rover.>
<Go ahead, Rover,>
<Swat has already arrived on scene. I repeat: SWAT has already arrived on scene. I hope you have another plan.>
<I’m workin’ on it,> came the response.
He sighed and shook his head. Falcon always tended to be a bit overconfident in her abilities. He just hoped this time she was right.
The young woman watched the city lights below as the transport floated overhead. Around her, the flight crew moved carefully through the darkened passenger compartment. Everyone on the mission had been handpicked, and each person knew what his or her role including the woman herself.
Dressed in a skin-tight black suit, she leaned back and closed her eyes. While the outfit seemed like a teenage boy on hormonal overdrive had picked it out, it served a purpose. Intelligence had mastered the tech of optical camouflage, and what she wore was the result.
Optical camouflage took light and bent it around the suit’s wearer, rendering him or her invisible save for slight blurring around the edges. For covert ops, it was a Godsend. However, for the people it was used against, a curse would be the better descriptor.
<Falcon this is Rover,>
<Go ahead, Rover,>
<SWAT has already arrived on scene. I repeat: SWAT has already arrived on scene. I hope you have another plan.>
The woman sighed and closed her eyes. There went the two hours that Reyes swore up and down they had. Why wasn’t she surprised? Of course the Intel they received had to be wrong! Could it have been any other way?
<I’m workin’ on it,>
Kate Almir opened her eyes again. If SWAT were in the building, then she would have to advance the time line for the mission. She made eye contact with the flight crew commander and nodded.
You can always count on something screwing up the plan, Kate thought as she reached down and felt the backpack of equipment at her feet. Not that I like the idea of carrying this mission out…
Kate stood up and found herself reflecting on her life as the flight crew worked. Two years. It had been that long since she left Necko and not a damn thing had changed. For fourteen years, she had been a killer, a gladiator slave, whom people had bet money on. Now, she was a killer sanctioned by the government to do their dirty work. What the hell difference was there? A legal sanction?
God, I hate this ****ing job, she thought as the Flight Commander approached.
“Lieutenant,” she said, “We’re over the target.”
“Thank you, Major,” Kate said. She crossed the cabin and stood beside the flight commander.
The commander worked a code into the cargo lift. It slid aside and the rush of air buffeted Kate’s face. Strands of raven-colored hair flew in all directions and she yanked it back into a ponytail with a disgusted sigh. Below the now silent transport, the hotel’s roof was outlined in blinking lights.
“Do you need us to stay overhead?” the Major asked. “We can run sensors for you.”
Kate shook her head. “I wouldn’t risk it,” she said, “SWAT would detect you and the game would be up.”
Cold air entered the cabin and it caressed Kate’s spine. Like a forbidden lover, it caused a chill to run down her spine. With a shiver, she turned her attention away from the discussion to the job at hand.
The major looked at her and cocked an eyebrow. “Understood,”
Kate looked down at the roof below as the transport lowered a rope. She could hear the voice of her drill instructor: click it into your harness and slide down. Don’t look down, he would say, just act! In basic training, though, repelling was easy; they didn’t have everyone practicing from a transport twenty-five stories above the ground either!
And I got myself roped into this job how? Kate wondered as she attached herself to the line.
The wind buffeted her hair. Kate grasped the cable in gloved hands and took a deep breath. It was now or never.
No matter how many times you practice, she thought, nothing compares to the first time you have to do it on your own.
She stepped off the transport and a burst of wind sent her hair everywhere again. Typical; no matter how hard she tried her hair just wouldn’t cooperate!
For a couple of paralyzing seconds, Kate felt her body sliding through the open air. She hitched her breath before letting it back out again. Once both feet were on the hotel’s roof, she unhooked the eyelet from the line.
Why are you so afraid? She thought. You have a 90% cybernetic body! Even this fall wouldn’t kill you-so why the nerves?
Nerves had always been her worst enemy. Before a fight in the arena, she would nearly get sick on her stomach. During basic training, Kate had tried everything to kick them to no avail. They still tortured her and today was no exception.
She gritted her teeth and crossed the roof. A cold wind blew, its bite cutting through the thin, camouflage suit. She shivered despite her cybernetic body and let out a sigh.
Damn it was cold.
Why did criminals have to pick the worst times of the year to commit their acts? Couldn’t they decide to do their thing on a nice, warm day? No, Kate mused, that would make too much sense!
She knelt down on the roof and opened up the bag. Inside, a small, highly illegal device sat. The conical-shaped item was known by many different names, but to her it was just simply ‘the eavesdropper.’ What it did was simple: the ‘eavesdropper’ hacked into the security systems inside any room and allowed a third party to observe the actions within without being detected.
Kate plugged it into the jack on the back of her neck. Disorientation washed over her momentarily before the room came into view.
There he was! James, the reason for all of this! Even after reading the file Intelligence had on the man, she had expected someone different, taller, with beady eyes. Instead, what Kate had found was a small, non-descript man who was starting to bald.
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