... a short story about deceit and loyalty in the face of danger.
By Dorian Keys
He quickly closed and locked the white door by leaning on it with his back breathing heavily from behind the black ski mask. The dark green leather satchel bag fell from his trembling shoulder on the floor. Suddenly the lights flickered and went off, plunging the entire corridor into darkness. He picked up the shoulder bag and touching the wall with his hand; he guided himself to the nearest office entry. Feeling the cold glass door with his left hand, he turned his cellphone on with his right, illuminating the name printed on it, "Travis Alterman, CEO." Pulling a piece of paper that had a sketch of a floorplan and a few names, he confirmed that this was the correct office.
Turning the handle, he put the phone inside his pocket then tugged on the door. The magnetic security measures on the upper right side of it were still active, keeping the door locked. Sighing, he looked at the keypad on the wall, which, as planned, had no power. The intruder reached inside the satchel and pulled a zipped circular hard case about the size of a hockey puck. Unzipping it, he removed a black magnet and placed it on top of the magnetic device keeping the door closed.
He began to move the magnet side by side and, at the same time, pull on the door for a few seconds until the magnet he was holding countered the force exerted by the two, unlocking it. Closing the door behind, he walked to the wall-size window dimly illuminating the vicinity and looked outside at the snow, which was picking up, and at this height, the wind was pushing it sideways.
Turning around, he noticed a desk on his right and a bookshelf behind it. Approaching it, he shifted the chair out of his way and opened the drawer on his left side, revealing a laptop. Placing it on top of the empty desk, he pressed the power button. A red "SSC" logo flashed on the screen as it booted up.
Reaching inside his satchel, he pulled out a USB drive and inserted it in a port on its side. Moving the mouse around and opening folders as if he was looking for something specific, the intruder repeatedly looked up to make sure no one followed him.
"SSC Cybersecurity measures active," a window appeared as soon as the laptop recognized that there was an unknown drive inserted. He quickly double-clicked an app from inside the drive opening it. The laptop's screen flashed blue a few times, and the layout changed as he folded the screen down, looking at the direction of the bottom of the front door where a band of light shone.
Kneeling under the table preemptively to avoid detection, the intruder felt a small hard protrusion coming from the floor under it, oh, here is the safe. Passing his hand on top of it, he touched the metal door on the floor under the carpet. Hearing a beeping sound, he scooted deeper under the desk as someone opened the front door and took a few steps in illuminating the office with a flashlight.
"Anything there?" He heard a second man's voice getting closer as radio chatter echoed on the corridor just outside the office.
"Nah, it's empty," the one inside the office replied. "This is topside security patrol; the head office is secure," he transmitted, keying the radio. Walking out of the room, he joined the other guards who continued down the corridor, checking the offices along their way. A few seconds passed, and he heard another door opening and closing, now the area was completely dark and silent once again.
The masked intruder crawled out from under the desk, walked to the front door and peeked out, no movement or lights for that matter. Paying close attention to it, he went behind the desk and opened the laptop revealing the 'SSC' logo on it. He opened a folder named 38th floor and pulling the paper from his pocket; he confirmed that was the correct one. He dragged and dropped it on the USB folder copying it.
Waiting for the transfer to complete, he illuminated the floor with his phone and looked at the safe sighing. Reaching inside his satchel, he pulled a stethoscope, wearing its earpieces. He continued to turn the knob in the dark and silent office floor. It was so quiet that the loudest thing he could hear was the spinning hard disk of the laptop on the table above, and the faint clicks from the safe knob he was slowly turning. He listened to the last click and pulled the safe door as a red light from the emergency exit sign penetrated the open front door. Inside the safe, there was one folder, a radio, and a phone. Placing the folder inside the shoulder bag, the intruder turned the radio on, making sure the volume stayed as low as possible. He pulled a chord from his satchel bag, connected it to the computer, and connected the phone he just pulled out of the safe.
Once again, the intruder opened an application from the USB drive that read "Smart call redirect — Network Surveillance," which installed itself on the phone.
"This is maintenance. We restored power to floors ninety-eight to one-hundred-and-four, we have a lot of broken fuses on the roof," the radio transmitted as he looked back inside the safe, nothing else here he closed the safe door and looked at the laptop, 'Transfer complete.' He removed the USB drive placing it inside his satchel and sat down on the floor, pulling out the folder he found inside the safe.
A white plastic electronic key card fell on the floor as he opened the brown folder made of unbleached paper bearing a red stamp on top, "Executive information." A memo stuck out from the bottom;
"To all executives. Effective immediately, the front and floor doors will only be unlocked by this key in case of an emergency. For your compliance." Kneeling, he picked the key card and placed the folder back inside his satchel. The intruder slowly walked out of the office, making sure his soft hiking sneakers didn't make any squeaking sounds rubbing on the floor tiles. Approaching the emergency exit staircase, he turned the handle, but the door didn't budge. Ah yes, the key card, he pulled it out of his shoulder bag and placed it in front of the card reader. Pulling the door immediately after hearing a buzzing sound, he started to go down as quickly and silently as he could until he reached a door. "No re-entry from this level, to continue downstairs either take the elevator or continue to the stairs as depicted," the sign on the door read. Next to it, there was a small floorplan with a line leading to the next staircase.
Adjusting the black ski mask, the intruder, pressed the bar and entered the office floor dimly illuminated by scattered red lights on top of some of the office doors. He walked on the corridor heading for the next staircase.
"Emergency power restored to floors eighty-seven to ninety-eight," the radio crackled from inside his satchel, alerting the security guards who were inside an office just behind. They ran to the corridor and shone their lights on him.
"Hey, there he is!" they gave chase to the thief as he ran down the corridor to the emergency exit door.
Three security guards ran after the intruder, now turned thief, as one transmitted, "we have a possible on the ninetieth floor," which he heard on the radio inside his satchel. The masked intruder pressed against the emergency exit door push-bar, but it didn't budge, damn it. I need the key card again, he opened his satchel and rummaged on the bottom feeling for the plastic card. Finding it, he pressed it against the reader next to the door, which caused it to buzz and unlock. Going on the other side of it, he closed the door, helping it go back to its locked position by pressing against it with his back.
A few seconds later, he heard the two security guards knocking and banging on the door, "he has the executive emergency key," one of them transmitted on the radio.
Without wasting any time, the thief ran downstairs until he heard voices on the floor below, which prompted him to immediately open the first door he found and go through it. "Damn it," he found himself inside a wide-open floor filled with office cubicles, "here we go." The intruder looked at the floorplan posted next to the emergency exit door and continued to walk kneeling to make sure his head didn't stick above the cubicles. Hearing the ding elevator door's usually make when opened, he stopped and kneeled, seeing four security guards walking in. "There is no way out other than with us. This entire floor is under lockdown, come out, or we will find you!" One of them announced loudly as the rest fanned through the cubicles looking for him.
He turned around and again opened the first door he found — the janitorial closet. Turning the light on, the masked intruder hurriedly looked around for a way out. Climbing up a small ladder leaning against one of the walls, he threw his satchel inside an open air-vent large enough for his body to fit in. Sliding inside it, he pushed his bag in front of him and made a left turn at an intersection. He continued to move along the dark duct feeling cold air rushing in. That must be the outside vent. Knowing he was too high for it to be of any help, the intruder stopped pulling the piece of paper with the instructions once again. "Find and retrieve security operations if possible." The intruder folded and placed the printed piece of paper back in his pocket and continued down the vent peeking inside the rooms as he passed them. Approaching an intersection, he heard a faint radio transmission,
"Ladies and gentlemen. There is an intruder in the building. He has physical copies of some of our files," the voice echoed from the vent. "We also know that the files he accessed are all concerning the 38th-floor package, and as you all know, that is the newest and the most important contract we have at the moment." He approached the vent where the transmission was coming from and peeked in. The voice came from a radio station found on the right side of a large desk filled with keyboards as the wall in front of it was jam-packed with monitors displaying various areas of the building. After spying on it for a moment to make sure the room was empty, he pushed the vent cover and went inside, "it is imperative that we capture the thief and retrieve our information." the male voice ended his speech.
He pulled the cellphone from his pocket and inputting a password unlocked it and opened a messaging application, "I have the files, but I can't get out of the floor." Waiting for a reply, he looked at the screen for a few seconds, "continue with your mission," the speech bubble read.
"They have me cornered. I am inside an air vent, and I need a distraction."
"Continue with the mission," the next message revealed the image of a girl and a woman tied up inside what appeared to be the trunk of a car.
Groaning in anger, he put the phone back inside his breast pocket and zipped it up. He looked inside the empty security monitoring room again, and adjusting his satchel pushed the cover going inside the room. Sitting on one of the chairs, he located a panel labeled 'all cameras' and begun looking for the security guards.
A strange dizzying sensation hit his head as he heard a hissing sound coming from behind him. In an attempt to maintain his awareness, the intruder got up from the chair to exit the room, but he quickly collapsed as the gas worked its way through his lungs. Stumbling upon one of the chair's legs, he fell on the floor. As the hissing sound of gas being released in the room intensified, the intruder felt fresh air coming from the front door, which opened. Laying his head on the floor, he lost consciousness as all the muscles in his body relaxed.
A man wearing a black suit under a white laboratory gown with his face hidden by a black facemask opened the door, "thank god for the double intruder measures.” Entering the room, he immediately walked to the end of it, closing a valve and flipping a switch activating a suction fan. The hissing slowed and stopped, and the gas began to clear.
"Alright, we have about eight minutes till he comes to, let's get this done," two more men wearing similar outfits entered and helped him sitting the thief upright. They searched his pockets and pulled his cell phone out, "can you unlock it?"
"It's password-protected, I have to send it downstairs, and I need more than eight minutes for that."
"So be it."
"Travis let's not kid ourselves, we all know he is not working alone, I want to get to whoever sent him. If we keep him too long, they might get spooked and disappear, leaving him here. He is of no use to us, right? We need to know who sent him."
"Ok, let's get on with it. Staple the tracker chip on the inside of his pants and search him," he opened the satchel looking at the stethoscope and folder inside.
One of them raised his black ski mask revealing thief's dark hair, scruffy face with his eyes closed, "I think I've seen this guy before."
The two made eye contact from behind the masks, "I installed the tracker, what else do you want to do?" The third said, getting up.
"You are right. We need to know who sent the intruder. I want to check the package personally." Travis walked out of the room as the rest adjusted the thief back on the floor, "and get me that tracker ID."
"Please help me, baby!" His wife's voice shook the intruder up. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was the plastic carpet; the second was the leg of the chair he last remembered sitting. Quickly getting up, he scanned his vicinity for anyone that might be near. Once he realized that he was alone, the thief pulled out the phone out of his zipped pocket unlocked by putting his password in and flipped through some pictures, stopping on one depicting his wife and daughter. The same woman and child the messaging application showed tied up. Passing his fingers across the screen, he sighed, getting up looking inside his satchel bag, everything is in order. He closed the gallery and opened the messaging application,"I am inside a security office."
"Use the USB drive and download security procedures."
"I want to see my wife and daughter."
"Continue with your mission," the next speech bubble read accompanied by the same picture of the two tied up.
With trembling lips, the thief sat back on the chair, pulling the USB drive from the bag and inserting it in the USB port in the computer tower on top of the table. Opening a folder labeled 'SSC Operations' on it, dragged and dropped it inside the USB drive.
After the file transfer completed, he put the drive inside his pocket, he exited the room and continued down the corridor kneeling at the end of every cubicle to make sure there was no one around.
Again, he went to the emergency fire exit and opened the door taking the stairs down as fast he could. After going down for a few floors, he felt the phone vibrate.
"What is your situation?"
"I am going downstairs. I have all the files."
"Is the security still following you?"
I will murder you when I meet you, clenching his teeth he put the phone inside his pocket and continued down the stairs only to find himself on the bottom of them, "68-floor machine level, authorized personnel only."
He put his ear on the door to listen if there was anyone on the other side. Hearing machinery hum, he hesitated for a moment, but seeing no way around, he fixed his jacket and satchel, removed his black ski mask revealing his face, adjusted his dark hair a bit, and calmly pressed the door open. Finding himself in a dimly lit area that seemed had no separating walls and expanded the entire building full of technicians walking around large machines. Looking down at the catwalk to hide his face from the technician's prying eyes, he continued to walk as if he minded his business. He pushed the exit door only to find himself inside the now-familiar emergency exit stairs. These seemed to continue down.
"The intruder passed the machine room," a security member stopped in front of the metal door bearing the 'SSC' logo on it as Travis pulled his ID card from his jacket pocket and placed it next to an ID card reader. It made a buzzing sound and opened wide, revealing a well-lit room where a few technicians wearing white lab gowns were standing. They approached the windows at the end, where a darkroom was.
"Keep tracking him, but I think that If they wanted to rescue him, they'd be here themselves, not send a human to steal information," he flipped a switch turning on bright lights inside the room, which were followed by a screeching almost crying sound.
"How do we know this, thing, is not human?" One of them approached the now lit room looking at the bald humanoid wearing a hospital gown sitting past the bed found in the middle of the room, covering its eyes with its skinny hands. It retracted its pale greyish slender legs that stuck out and continued to make a noise as it was complaining about the room being too bright. "That's not for us to decide; our task is to protect it. Either way, this is a breach in progress," Travis turned the bright lights off and walked to the end of the room pulling a phone from his pocket dialing a number.
"Federal Bureau of Investigations, Chris Mann speaking."
"This is Travis, with Safe Secure Corp. We have a breach in progress regarding the 38th-floor safe room."
"Jesus Travis, give me a moment," Chris hung up the phone getting up from his bed and wearing his pants in a hurry as Helen lifted her head looking at the clock on the night table, "Where are you going, it's three o'clock in the morning," she turned around, extending her hand to touch his arm.
"I have to work, baby, this is urgent," he wore his shirt, grabbed his tie, and stumbled toward the front door wearing his pants and inserting his feet into his untied shoes. "I love you, baby," he kissed her on her lips, grabbed his keys, and stumbling walked out of the front door. Waiting for the elevator, Chris put the tie around his neck while the shirt was still unbuttoned and tied one of his shoes while making a phone call.
"I need a team on standby immediately."
"We need authorization for that."
"Write this down, KO127M," the elevator finally got to his floor, "I'm going in an elevator and might lose you, I'll call you in two minutes."
"Roger," the man on the other side of the line responded.
Pressing 'G' for ground floor on the elevator, he quickly buttoned his shirt and tucked it in his pants tightening his belt. He adjusted the tie and tied the next shoe as the elevator doors opened. Walking on the windy, snowy street to where his car was parked, he redialed the last number.
"Any news on my team?"
"Operation KO127M, your presidential authorization has been confirmed, Team One package is on standby, we need further orders."
"I'll let you know as soon as I know more, I'll call you periodically, going in my rendezvous point now, please see if you can get me an eye in the sky."
"I will try."
"Ok, talk to you in a bit," Chris hung up the phone, placing the car in drive and pulling out of the parking spot.
Stopping on a red light, he redialed a phone number, "Travis, what's the situation there?" "We are leading him to the memory scanner," Travis replied, "maybe we can see who's behind this, but we installed a tracker on him."
"Don't bother with that, I have a plan set up for this situation, please get the contents of the 38th-floor safe ready to move, I'm going in my office now, let the thief go but don't let him get anywhere near the package, just flush him out. Please send me the tracker's ID frequency." "You're the boss," Travis replied in frustration, "but you have to promise me that all your ends are tied tightly, remember Arizona?"
"Arizona was just a coincidence, Travis. They happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got this."
"I'll see to the transfer personally and contact you in every step."
"Sounds good, talk to you later," Chris hung up the phone, slowing as he passed a snow patch on the highway ramp.
Thinking about Travis's comment, Chris dialed his partner's phone, which went directly to voice mail, "this is Tony, leave a message."
"Call me as soon as you get this call, the op is live," Chris hung up and continued driving through the snow.
"How far from the exit are you?" Thief's phone vibrated once again in his pocket, reading the screen he stopped next to the door, "I'm on the twenty-first floor. I can't stop by the thirty-eighth floor. It is well guarded. Where do you want the files dropped?"
"You are not there yet. From this point, keep in touch periodically."
I will kill you when I meet you. The masked intruder placed the phone inside his pocket, sighing. The door in front of him had a small glass window, and he could see an empty food court area on the other side.
"This is maintenance, we are about to cut off power to the next section to adjust for the broken fuses on the roof," the radio transmitted a moment before the power went out, replaced by the red emergency lights.
"We have a view of the subject on the food court. All units go to the food court!" The transmission alerted a guard standing next to the elevator.
Damn it, not again; he sped his walking only to see more security guards with flashlights coming out of a nearby office. Taking a deep breath, he kneeled behind a counter and stood there, looking around for anything that could help him. Hearing the footsteps getting closer, he knelt and moved closer to the edge of the metal table where their taping sound was coming from, as soon as he saw the first shoe he yanked that leg sweeping the man down. "Oh shit," the guard fell on the floor, bumping his head. He quickly removed his taser from his waistband, going back to his position, checking the plastic weapon. A moment later, a second guard rushed, looking at the unconscious man on the floor, "he is here!" He transmitted on his radio, pulling his taser out of his holster. Wasting no time, the intruder peeked over the counter and shot the taser darts at the guard who was facing away from him, sending him on the floor groaning.
Taking the other guard's taser, he ran to the end of the court. Not knowing where to go, he pushed himself inside another room and felt the door closing and locking behind him. "Status?" his phone vibrated once again.
"I'm stuck on the 21st floor."
"Stall them. We are proceeding with the next phase of our plan."
"It's easy for you to say," he muttered, turning the smartphone's screen off, looking at the placard on the wall with the emergency exits and elevator entry points marked. I should be low enough to rappel from the elevator shaft. He felt the phone vibrating three times, that's a phone call. I don't have time for this now. He pressed the phone's power button from the outside of his breast pocket, silencing it.
Three tall men wearing black suits entered the corridor and walked to Chris's apartment door. One of them loudly knocked on it several times until a woman asked who they were from behind. "My name is Alex Nomo. I work for the Bureau. Agent Chris Mann sent us to secure you because your location is compromised," Alex's strange synthetic sounding voice penetrated the wooden door. "I don't recognize you," Helen peeked through the peephole, trying to see who was outside only to hear the men out loudly banging on the door, trying to break the hinges. Panicked, she ran in the bedroom, grabbing her phone, dialing 9-1-1 as the three men broke down the front door and rushed to tackle her throwing furniture and tables out of their way.
"Nine-one-one, what's your emergency," the operator's voice echoed from the phone's speaker, which fell on the floor as the men violently grabbed her limbs, pinning her down on the floor face up placing a damp cloth over her mouth. Helen struggled for a few moments kicking the men to escape, but it was useless. The chloroform damped cloth did its job, and she quickly lost consciousness.
"Put her in the car, let's go to the meeting point," one of them said, grabbing the smartphone lying on the floor ending the emergency call, as the other two grabbed Helen by her armpits dragging her outside of the apartment.
"According to the tracker, the thief is in a parking lot downtown," an FBI agent approached Chris as soon as he entered the penthouse hotel room where the team had set up their temporary base of operations. He walked to the end of the dimly lit room and stopped by the glass door that led to a balcony overlooking the city. Looking at the cameras attached to the railing with tightened lips, "good, keep tracking him."
"Snipers are in position. Air support is on standby," Melville, the swat team supervisor walked to Chris as the rest of the agents continued working on their makeshift stations, "apparently, our target's meeting point is a few blocks away from here, we got lucky."
"Keep them on standby for the moment. Can we get a better angle of view?" He looked at the computer monitor showing a snowy rooftop parking lot where a man wearing all black clothes and a ski mask got out of a red sedan, "what is the status of the package?"
"The package is on its way to the secondary hideout unless you say otherwise. In which case, I will need a location where to send it," one of the agents sitting on a couch with a laptop on his lap replied looking at Chris, "if you want it here, we will have to place it in our helicopter so we can land it on the helipad here on the roof."
An SUV drove up the ramp and slowly approached the thief.
"No, don't bring it here, just tell Travis to keep it mobile for now," Chris touched the outside of his pants pocket feeling his phone vibrating, "I think that's them," he pulled the phone and looked at the caller ID, Helen, his wife.
"Switching camera feeds now," one of the other agents walked closer to Chris. He pressed a few buttons on the laptop next to him, revealing a closer feed showing the red sedan and the black SUV standing on the roof of the otherwise empty snowy parking building.
"Team one, guns up, this is it," Melville transmitted on the radio.
"Not now, baby, I am swamped…"Chris began to answer the call only to be interrupted by her scared voice.
"Chris, help!" Helen cried.
"Helen?" Chris raised his eyes, staring at the wall in front of him.
"You have someone that belongs to our organization, bring him here, and no one will get hurt," a synthetic voice said from the other side.
"You listen here, you have no idea who you are messing with," he looked up at the technician next to him, "trace the call," he told him, covering the microphone."
"No need to trace, we know what you have been doing," the synthetic voice replied as if he heard him," look at the car that just pulled up in your view."
Tightening his eyebrows in suspicion, he faced the monitor zooming on the car that just pulled up to pick up the spy. The rear window opened, revealing Helen still wearing her nightgown.
"We know you are already moving him, bring him here, and we will make sure nothing bad happens to anyone in the car."
"Sir, the snipers have a shot."
"Hold the fire, there are friendlies in that car," he lowered the phone facing Melville, "in fact put the entire team on standby please." Placing the phone back on his ear, he turned around, facing the SUV where the thief was now entering.
"Mister Mann," the voice continued, "we told you in Arizona when you raided the underground base that we would come for our associate. We told you this would happen."
The phone yet again vibrated, unknown number calling. Knowing that at times the office would use them, he placed one call on hold and picked the next one, "Chris Mann speaking." "This is general Eisner with the space command at NASA. I was referred to you by the intelligence commander regarding the nature of your last encounter in Arizona and operation KO127M."
"What do you need to know, General?" Chris sighed.
"We have an incident in progress with the ISS and military satellites."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"Your boss says you might have an extraterrestrial in custody."
"That's a loose term, and we don't know if it's an extraterrestrial or mutated human as of yet," Chris stared through the monitor at the car which was idling on the parking lot rooftop.
"I didn't call to have a conversation agent. The ISS stopped transmitting to our base, as did our other satellites. That happened immediately after a large craft was spotted in the upper atmosphere, and it all happened three days after you executed KO127M. I don't have to tell you that the ISS is an International facility, and certain countries are getting restless." "I still don't see a connection," Chris persisted."I have a team of marines closing on your location. Please join them, I need to examine case KO127M, personally."
"I'm kind of in the middle of an op at the moment. It has to wait."
"We don't have time, it doesn't matter what you're dealing with I'm sure that can wait, this is a matter of national security."
"Sir, SSC is on the line, they want to know where to bring the package," an agent approached Chris.
"Tell Travis to bring the package at the parking lot," Chris looked at him, "and where the hell is Tony?"
"We tried numerous times ringing him. He's not answering."
"Ping the phone, track him," Chris placed his hand over the phone's microphone.
"Give me a moment," another agent reached a laptop pressing a few keys revealing a map, "Chris, it seems his phone is inside that SUV," the agent got up and walked closer to Chris, showing him the GPS location of Tony's phone on the laptop screen.
"You think he is working on this case without telling us?" The agent lowered his laptop.
"He wouldn't do that, not without telling me. Something is very wrong," Chris dialed his partner from a nearby phone, "I'm sorry, partner," he heard Tony say as soon as he picked his phone.
"I don't understand Tony, what's going on?" Chris stared at the laptop's screen.
"They have Melissa and Abby, my wife and daughter. You know me, Chris, I'd give my life for this op, but not theirs, Helen is here with me, she is good, let's get these guys what they want and get this over with."
"What? How!" Chris looked around the room, breathing faster.
"I think we underestimated them…" he heard Tony's voice followed by the steady beep of the phone line, they hung up.
Swallowing, Chris raised his eyebrows in fear, "guys, we have a problem," the operation has been compromised."
Taking a few steps to in the room he approached the monitors and looked at the rooftop once again, "this is perimeter security," a male voice echoed from a nearby radio, "there is an army helicopter landing on the rooftop helipad."
"Already?" Chris sighed in frustration rubbing his neck from behind.
"Five marines, heading to the penthouse door, helicopter still on. Please advise," the agent transmitted again as they all heard three loud knocks on the front door.
"Open it," Chris told one of the agents standing by the door with her hand on her weapon.
Three marines holding assault rifles entered the room as a fourth one removed his helmet, "we are here to make contact with agent Chris Mann."
"Welcome to the situation room gentlemen. Please stand by a moment…" Chris answered only to be interrupted by the marine commander,"Agent Mann, you need to come with us. Time is of the essence…" their commander replied, motioning the marines to move deeper into the room toward Chris.
“Not right now…”
“You don’t understand,” a soldier walked in between Chris and the monitor showing the snowy rooftop where Travis’s vehicle drove approaching the black SUV, “you are coming with us, now. With or without your consent!”
"I asked for one moment!" Chris interrupted, shifting his gaze towards his team as to ask for their help, which in turn faced the soldiers that entered the room, pulling their weapons out.
"Sir. I don't know what your team thinks they're doing. We are executing specific orders from a ranking military official," the marine commander reacted, raising his left arm as the rest of the team lifted their weapons, pointing them to the FBI agents.
"Team One redirect to my position," Melville said on the radio as he got up from his chair as well, "we are under orders directly from the national security committee to protect this operation, and protect it we will, even from you."
Red laser dots appeared on the marine's armor, and bodies as Chris's phone vibrated, "this is Travis, the package is on the rooftop, advise."
"Proceed with the exchange," Chris swallowed, looking at the red laser dots on the soldier's helmets and faces as his agents raised their weapons to them. Turning around, he peeked at the monitor over the soldier’s shoulder as the exchange took place. Seeing Tony and Helen getting out of the black SUV, Chris took a sigh of relief and calmly turned around facing his team, "agents, please stand down. Please ask your team to do the same," he turned his head to look at the marine commander as the soldiers looked at him.
"Team, stand down," the commander ordered as the soldiers lowered their weapons, "agent," he faced Chris, "you need to come with us."
As the men and women in the room reluctantly lowered their weapons, a sizeable circular craft slowly descended from the dark clouds shining a bright beam of light that surrounded the SUV. The disfigured captive being and the three men in black got out, followed by Tony and Helen. Chris looked at the monitor, which showed Tony quickly walking around the back of the SUV, peeked at the trunk, and immediately opened it. Bending over as if he was reaching for something inside, he disappeared from Chris’s view.
“Melville, please redirect the snipers on the roof. I can’t see what’s happening from this angle,” Chris said, getting closer to the monitor.
“Team one, resume assignment,” Melville transmitted.
Tony reemerged from the rear of the black SUV rushing the men in black who surrounded the being Travis just brought in stepping in the light beam. He grabbed the one closest to him by his black overcoat and forcefully pulled him away from the ray, tripping him as Helen hid behind the SUV. The two rolled on the snow as Tony got on top of him, punching the man in black on the face repeatedly. He kicked Tony off balance with his knee and pushed him away. Getting up, the man in black reached inside his coat, limping toward the light beam as Tony grabbed his overcoat, dragging him on the snowy floor once again. They struggled on the floor, and a gunshot echoed through the monitors.
“Shots fired,” one of the snipers reported to Melville through the radio as the man in black fell on his back, relaxing his body and arms.
Gunfire erupted from the others who were inside the light beam hitting Tony, who returned fire. “Fire! Fire!” Chris screamed, looking at the monitor as Tony fell on the snowy floor.
“Team open fire,” Melville ordered. The snipers opened fire on everyone who was inside the light beam, but the rounds went through them ricocheting off the concrete sparking where they hit.
The men in black stopped firing as the light beam intensified, absorbing their bodies. Once the men in black who were standing there dissolved together with the being they rescued, the glow itself rapidly faded out. The craft slowly ascended above the clouds, disappearing from their view.
"What the hell just happened?" The marine commander moved closer to the monitor that showed the parking lot exchange.
"Get a medic team to the rooftop immediately!" Chris opened the rooftop glass door running to the railing, looking at the direction of the parking lot rooftop.
Rumbles of explosions followed as predator drones dipped in and out of the cloud cover, engaging the craft in combat in the dark sky above.
"What have you done?" he screamed to the marine commander, who followed him on the balcony looking up at the above explosions, "what the hell have you done!"
"You need to come with us, sir, that's all I know."
"I have to get my partner and wife, they are both on that rooftop," Chris holstered his weapon trying to get past the marine commander who didn't move.
"We are going nowhere without them," he stood his ground, looking at the commander narrowing his eyes as explosions continued in the cloudy, snowy sky above flashing unusual colors.
The marine commander nodded, tightening his lips. "You two follow him and make sure the rescue effected properly," he faced his team, pointing at two soldiers standing next to him, "once its done, get everyone in the chopper. Deal?" he turned around, looking at Chris.
"Deal," Chris agreed, quickly moving past him inside the penthouse room.
"Make sure all the intel is safe, get out of here," Chris ordered one of the agents near him. The three walked out on the helipad where the chopper that the marines arrived with was waiting. "I am going to put this harness on you!" the marine sitting on the waiting chopper screamed so Chris could hear his voice past the propeller noise. The soldier secured his harness and fastened all the ties, and the other two did the same getting in the chopper from the other side. The helicopter took off in the dark snowy sky and slowly moved to the rooftop where Tony and Helen were, shining the floodlight on them as explosions persisted inside the clouds above sending down debris. A large piece crashed on the parking lot rooftop cutting the building almost in half, sending cars sliding down from it on the street below as fires erupted from the broken gas pipes. The pilot maneuvered the chopper to avoid the flames but steadied it quickly, "this is your window, go!"
One of the marines moved closer, attached a rope to the side of the chopper and opened the side door as wind and snow rushed in the cabin sucking out all the heat that was in, "let us do this, I have trained for this," he told Chris hooking the other end of the rope to his harness. Chris tightened his lips but obeyed as the other marine placed a carabiner on his harness hooking him to a ring welded onto choppers cabin. Both looked at the soldier repealing down in the burning parking building.
Approaching the part of the parking lot rooftop, which was at an angle but not collapsed yet the marine landed on it as his partner on the helicopter above gave him more rope. Shielding his face from the wind created from the propellers, which was sending debris and snow in a flying vortex, he walked next to the black SUV and looked for Helen.
He found her sitting next to it, crying over Tony's body. The building shook as the SUV, which was stuck on a crack on the concrete slab, slid a little further toward the broken edge.
"We have to go. We will come back for your partner," the marine grabbed her, tugging on the chord.
As the helicopter lifted, her hand slipped from the harness, "hold onto my wrist, not my sleeve!" The marine screamed, grabbing her hand, placing it on his wrist as Helen grabbed it tightly. Both dangled, holding on to the rope as the wall next to them, collapsed in the fire below. She let go of the scorching hot scaffolding, which followed the rest of the wall sending smoke and fiery sparkles around them as the helicopter slowly moved up and away from the now partially collapsed building.
"I'm slipping!" Helen panicked, holding onto his wrist and flailing her other arm in the air. "Hold onto my harness. Hold on to anything you can. It will be over soon."
Reaching with her other hand, she grabbed a string of his harness and felt something hard like a bulletproof plate on his chest. The marine held on to Helen as the helicopter lowered them to the nearest rooftop where agents and marines were waiting.
"We are here," he released the harness as the helicopter reeled it back in and moved away. Now that the sound of propellers faded, she could hear gunfire sounds like firecrackers on the street below as well as emergency sirens.
"Let me look at you," a marine bearing the patch of a medic approached her, "do you know where you are?"
"What's your name?"
"Helen, Helen Mann."
"Helen, can you walk?"
"Of course I can, where is Chris? Are we under attack? What's happening?"
"She's all yours," the medic looked up at a uniformed swat officer holding a rifle.
"Hi, my name is captain Melville with the FBI quick response team one, we are going to take a trip downstairs and evacuate."
"Wait, where is Chris? I can't leave without him!"
"Ma'am. Chris is in the chopper, he went back to get Tony, he will join us shortly," he slipped a bulletproof vest over her head and tightened the Velcro straps around her chest.
"Team one," he raised his voice, "do we have a corridor?"
"Corridor ready and secure," a member replied on the radio.
"Let's go," he reached for his radio, "the last package coming down."
"Evac ready, bring it down," someone replied on the radio.
"Ok, everyone," he looked at everyone on the rooftop, "stay close, and let's go! Team one guns up!"
As the swat officers in front entered the staircase, everyone on the rooftop followed, holding the person in front of them with their left arms on their shoulders.
"Lower me here. I see the car and Tony!" Chris screamed, opening the helicopter's side door as the wind and snow rushed in the cabin. “Hurry up, this building is not stable,” the pilot shouted, turning his head looking at the crumbling building from his window.
He transferred the harness carabiner to the rope and repealed down on the part of the lot that hadn't collapsed yet together with the other marine who did the same on the other side of the chopper's cabin.
The two walked on the roof as Chris quickly walked to Tony, feeling for a pulse, didn't have one. The other marine walked to the truck shining his flashlight inside, looking for anyone or anything of value that he could salvage before the roof collapsed, "hey, there are two bodies in the trunk!" He screamed, shining the light beam from inside the truck.
Chris walked to it, breaking the rear window by hitting it with his metal harness carabiner, inside there were two people tied up. Chris swallowed hard as time seemed to slow down, he recognized Melissa and Abby, Tony's family. Reaching over, he opened the door and pulled the two bodies out. No one was breathing; he made eye contact with the marine, "we are bringing them with us."
"Bring the bucket down," the marine said on the microphone sticking out of his helmet.
They loaded the three lifeless bodies on the bucket and lifted in the air as the rest of the building collapsed in flames.
"What is going on?" Chris asked Melville as soon as they released the harness, and the chopper moved away.
"I am not sure, but there seems to be an air battle going on above us."
"Yeah, that came out of the left-field, didn’t it?”
"Maybe the marines know more about this, this feels like Arizona all over again."
"Tony and his family are dead," Chris looked at the floor.
"I'm sorry about your partner," Melville looked at him, "now we have to move out, we will sort this out, but not here."
The loud crashing sounds of falling debris continued as they banged on wooded and concrete building rooftops sending glass and bricks on the street, whereas the group moved to the last transport they had and loaded the bodies inside. Chris walked inside the moving bus holding onto the rails.
"Chris!" Helen got up from the chair she was sitting in.
"Helen! Oh baby," he ran and hugged her.
"I thought I lost you, baby," she tightened her hug as both fell on the seat on their left.
"I am sorry about this baby, and I am sorry I wasn't more careful with this."
"Where is Tony?"
Chris slowly let go of the embrace and looked at her in the eye, "he's gone, baby."
"Everyone hold on!" the bus driver screamed, shaking him out of his inner turmoil, "this is going to get bumpy!"
The bus sped up going over debris and steering past cars on the snowy street, passing emergency vehicles that were rushing in as the explosions above subsided replaced by the sound of sirens.
To be continued...
< In a heartbeat | Near Death >