Serenity: Full Circle – Chapters 21, 22 and 23

CHAPTER TWENTY- ONE

Serenity Awaits

One week later:

As the G150 leaped skyward leaving out of Scottsdale, the team took a collective deep breath.  The flight time was just under six hours to Hawaii.  Over the past several days, Dara had substantially improved and was subsequently released.  She was now able to move about on her own, but gingerly.  After the debriefing with Jon Meeks, the team had unanimously decided to let “The Company” take care of the loose ends.  The Serenity Group, as a whole, preferred that the spotlight shine elsewhere.  This type of notoriety is something that is best avoided.

It was mid-afternoon as they touched down in Honolulu.  Marc could tell that Dara was totally exhausted dealing with her first full day out of the hospital.  After talking it over with the others, they decided to lay-over for a day.  This would also allow some time for required maintenance on the aircraft.  They checked into the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort.  Marc and Eyan had stayed there earlier, on a prior visit.  The stop over bled over into three days, as they all recharged their life forces and the unscheduled maintenance on the G150 had required more time to move into the system, than first thought.

On the last day of the stopover, Marc and Akil had stopped by the hotel bar for a quick beer. It was late in the afternoon; Dara was up in the room showering for dinner and Eyan was still at the pool relaxing.  They were at the end of the bar when Marc saw a familiar face; it was Kai; the barmaid he had met on his last stay at the hotel.  They had spent a day reminiscing and touring their shared adolescent haunts.  As he watched her working, he noticed that she was now wearing a wedding ring; he smiled, and then spoke up saying, “Kai, the pure soul.”  Kai turned and saw Marc. She said, “Once an island boy – always an island boy,” as she moved around the end of the bar toward him and Akil.  She walked up behind them, placing her hand on Marc’s back, saying, “I had a feeling that I would see you again someday.”   Marc introduced Akil.  As the conversation continued, he asked about the ring on her finger.  Kai began to laugh and told them, “It’s the oldest barmaid trick in the book.  It keeps the barflies off my back and leaves the picking and choosing to me.”  She asked about Eyan and how things were going in the dive business.  All the while, Marc was noticing Akil’s unwavering interest as he watched Kai.  Marc’s phone began to chime.  He pulled it out of his pocket and apologetically stepped away to answer it.  Akil, taking the opportunity, pursued the conversation with Kai.

The phone call was Dara, checking on what the game plan was for the evening.  Marc said that he would call back as soon as he talked to Eyan.  He called Eyan’s cell; it rang several times before he answered. After a short conversation, Eyan said that he was sunburned, tired and room service was his idea for dinner.  Marc returned to the bar and immediately noticed the chemistry building between the two.  He asked Kai what her shift was for the day.  As far as he knew, she only worked nights.  She said it was a vacation schedule and that she had switched with a friend for the day tending bar and was due to finish in about 30 minutes at 5:00 pm.  Akil broke into the conversation and said, “Marc, I’ve asked Kai to join us for dinner, if that’s OK with you and the others.”  Marc’s told him that Eyan had passed on dinner, but he and Dara would enjoy it.

Later, as they headed back up to the room, Marc asked Akil what he thought of Kai.  He smiled, saying, “You really have to ask?”  Marc just grinned, saying nothing.  At 8:00 pm, they met back downstairs in the main lobby.  Marc remembered that Kai as an employee was not welcome in the hotel when not on shift.  He asked her if she knew a good place to dine. She thought for a moment and then replied, “Yeah, I know a place.  It’s not touristy, but the foods great and the booze is poured deep.”  “My kind of place,” Marc said, as he approached the main desk, then asking the concierge for car service.

The place was as quaint as your uncle’s house, called “Hiroshy’s.”  Kai was right – the food was scrumptious, the drinks were liberal and the three-piece band was simply fun.  As the night progressed, Akil and Kai became a bit distant and totally absorbed in each other.  That was fine with Marc and Dara.  They were enjoying some fun down time of their own, as they slow-danced to some island music.  When they arrived back at the hotel, they said goodnight as Akil and Kai risked a night cap at the hotel bar.

The G150 was scheduled out of maintenance before noon and they were to fly to the Island, landing before dark for obvious reasons – like no landing strip lights.  Marc was on the phone talking to Mike Schell on Serenity at the breakfast table in the restaurant when Akil pulled up a chair, joining the group.  Akil was in a jovial mood, which was out of context for him in the morning hours.  Eyan, obviously oblivious to the events of the previous night, was surprised at Akil’s demeanor.  When Marc finished his call, Akil announced that they would have a guest aboard the flight to Serenity.  Now Eyan was totally confused, looking over at Marc with a smile.  Marc said, “Well, let me guess. Is the person about five-foot three, dark hair, Polynesian descent, and extremely curvy?”  Dara was starting to laugh as Eyan’s curiosity blossomed.  Marc, unable to continue said, “Its Kai, Eyan – she went to dinner with us last night while you were in ‘never-never land.’”  Eyan started to smile, saying, “Sounds like it was a party to me.”

When they departed the hotel, Akil handed the driver a paper with the address to Kai’s house.  When the driver looked at the address, he smiled and said, “OK, do we have clearance at the gate?”  This piqued the interest of nearly everyone.  Marc, however, had remembered what Kai had shared with him when they had first met.  When they arrived at the address, the driver pulled up to the gated entrance covered with lush vegetation and said to the attendant, “Here to pick up Miss Kamaka.”  Marc smiled as he noted the reaction of the others, surprised by both the apparent wealth, and also the grandeur of the plantation.  Kai was not what she seemed to be.   The others would soon find out that the Kamaka name was one of the most prominent and respected on the island.  They had, for over ten generations, been associated with not only the culture and royalty, but more importantly, the politics of the now island state.

Later that afternoon, as the aircraft approached Serenity, Akil was directing Kai’s attention out the cockpit window toward the Island.  He was pointing out the cove and also the main house that was now a prominent fixture protruding above the trees upon the cliff.  Then he announced to the others that they were circling around on approach.  As he reduced power to the engines, he got on the radio and made contact with the ship, making sure that the runway was clear of debris and allowing them to sound the ship’s air horn to alert the workers. Kai exchanged seats with Marc who returned to the co-pilot’s seat for the landing.  Now, lined up on final approach, both Akil and Marc were surprised as several strobe beacons now marking the sides and beginning of the runway, switched on.  As they came closer, they also noticed the runway was now much more visually pronounced.  Mike and the crew had made a strong headway during their absence.

The tires on the craft chirped out in unison as Akil, almost imperceptibly, touched down.  They taxied up to the end of the tarmac and shut down the aircraft.  As they were deplaning, Mike and Ara walked up from the direction of the cove and dock area.  Eyan, the first to step down, smiled brightly as he spotted Ara. Mike, as bold as ever, said, “I sure am glad to see ya all back in one piece.”  Marc, walking up, said, “That makes two of us, Mike,” as he glanced back over his shoulder at Dara, gingerly stepping down from the plane.  His basic instincts were to assist her but he knew Dara would not accept such favoritism; she would carry her own weight, just as the men would. As they stood there, Mike said, “Who’s the new addition?” as he noticed Kai and Akil walking off toward the cove.  Marc responded saying, “An old friend of mine, and a new friend of Akil’s” Mike just laughed and shook his head as he said, “Ain’t that a hoot?”

The next day, as a group, they were treated to a tour of the facility.  Mike was obviously proud, as he pointed out what had been achieved during the team’s absence.

The lower hanger and subfloors of the structure were finished along with the elevator system that stretched up the hill and through it, to the second floor of the main house.  The first floor was nearly completed and the second floor was fully piped and plumbed; it was now awaiting the roof and glass panel walls.  The hanger was filled to capacity with building materials that needed to remain dry, as they were now entering the rainy season.  When asked about the runway surfacing, Mike smiled and said, “Well since you asked, it was a stroke of luck.  Bud, one of the workers, had used a combination of sack cement and crushed rock on an obscure island to build footings and floor slabs for temporary buildings.  Well, he returned some twenty years later to the island, and he said that everything was gone with the exception of the floors and footings that they had improvised.  So, when we started excavating the elevator shaft and all the footings for the house, we started using the rock, crushing it – sort of experimenting – and tried it out. At first it didn’t appear to work.  It was too coarse, so we started to mix some beach sand in and it just worked out. It probably wouldn’t hold up to heavy aircraft, but for our purposes, it should do the trick for a long time.  All we had to do was excavate a little more of the hill for more rock back over near the cove and dredge some sand up near the docks to make it work out.  Removing the rock worked out better than we figured because it gave us some level ground to place the communication tower on.  I also moved the power generator right beyond the tower so you’ll never hear it when it kicks in, recharging the solar batteries.  The solar panels need help now and then, ya know.”  Marc was more than pleased, and then he asked, “How much will this set us back, Mike?”  “Well, the runway or the low voltage solar system?” he asked. Marc said, “All of it, Mike.” His answer was simple, “My calculations say the savings in the first 18 months on fuel for generators should handle it all. And the life cycle of the generating equipment should quadruple, or more.” Mike finished up, saying, “Marc, I would have cleared it with you guys first, but you all seemed up to your bellybuttons in snakes at the time, so I made an executive decision and pushed on.”  Marc, realizing he had given Mike the wrong impression said, “I think you did fine, Mike.  I just needed to know if we needed to transfer additional funds to the construction account.” Mike, with a smile on his face said, “I’m glad you’re OK with it, because me and the boys are having a ball playing with these machines again.  Most of us had thought these days were in our rearview mirror, ya know?”  Marc was more than moved by Mike’s sincerity, saying, “Mike, just keep doing what you’re all doing.  I can’t believe what you’ve accomplished in such a short time.”

Over the next several weeks, as the work continued, the bottom floor of the main house became habitable.  They now had a fully functioning kitchen and bathrooms with full showers.  Everyone was ecstatic with this accomplishment, along with the laundry facility.  The roof was now complete on the second floor and the men were rapidly completing the second level interior.  The six of them were now sleeping in the structure albeit still using sleeping bags on cots, and the workmen were happy to have the extra space aboard the ship.

During the next week, a supply ship returned that contained the furniture and final touches for the residents.  It was a welcome sight!  The hanger was now harboring the Gulfstream after being depleted of its stored supplies. The storage rooms were being stocked with dry goods, as was the walk-in freezer, with each routine supply ship.  The armory and a double lane shooting range were already in full use, just upstairs from the hanger.  The upstairs of the main house had two more bedrooms, each with its own bath, and one large room that doubled as a meeting and planning center for operations.  It was soon to be filled with current state-of-the-art electronic gear.  This was to encompass everything from radio communications to Doppler radar and, of course, satellite links for tracking current events throughout the globe and Sat Phone for direct communications.

Over the next two months, Akil and Kai had become inseparable. They had asked Mike to schedule them for a return trip to the main island on the next supply transit. As soon as Marc caught wind of the request, he waited until he and Akil were alone and said, “Akil, is everything OK?  I don’t want to pry, but Mike said you and Kai asked to go back to the main island and . . .” Akil broke in saying, “Marc, everything’s fine.  As a matter of fact, it’s perfect!  I’ve asked Kai to marry me, and she’s accepted. Now we need to see her parents and take care of the necessities.  We want to do this as quietly as possible, but she needs to talk to her father first.”  Marc, with a smile as large as life, said, “Akil, take the Gulfstream!  No one here is checked out on it anyway, so you may as well.  We’re not going to use it.  Akil, once more surprised at Marc’s generosity and friendship, said, “Thanks Marc.  I’m not sure exactly how long we’ll be gone, but we will be in touch as soon as I know.  We plan on staying here, if that’s possible?”  Marc replied, “Our deal stands and you know that we all care for Kai a great deal. The two of you are welcome as long as you wish.” Akil asked that he not say anything to the others, saying that he would like to announce it together.

That night after dinner, Akil disappeared for a moment, and then returned with two bottles of champagne, and quietly walked back into the room.  They were all seated in the large living room area on the first floor.  He placed the bottles on the counter of the wet bar, and then located the fluted glasses that were stored in the service bar. The others were busy talking and no one took notice of his activities.  He very quietly removed the cork from one of the bottles and poured the flutes to the brim.  He picked up the tray with the glasses and walked over to the group and began handing them out.  After completing his task, he walked over to Kai and asked her to stand up.  He said, “Kai and I would like to share some news with you all.  I have asked her to marry me and she has accepted.”  Holding his glass up and out, he turned to Kai and said, “Here’s to a great beginning and a beautiful woman.” It would prove to be one of the happier celebrations over the next year.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Time To Catch Up

Four days later Marc’s Sat phone rang twice before he could answer it. He said, “Marc speaking,” as he always answered.  Hearing Akil’s voice, he said, “Everything’s going well I trust?” Akil replied, “All’s well, my friend.  We have managed to convince Kai’s father that a large formal wedding is not what we want, and have set the event for a week from Friday. I’ll be returning day after tomorrow and we can all fly back on the following Wednesday, if that works out for everybody.”

Over the next few weeks, things were hectic to say the least. The wedding was short, sweet and tasteful. Akil and Kai, after dropping off Marc and Eyan in Atlanta for their flight certification on the Gulfstream, continued on to down to Rio for a short honeymoon, attending Brazil’s Carnival. The construction work was beginning to wind down on Serenity.  Mike, with each trip back to Hawaii, ferried some of the workers back home; it was a bittersweet voyage for all of them.

For Marc and Eyan, the twelve-day certification period seemed like a blur. One of Eyan’s comments was, “This type of intellectual cramming was a hell of lot easier when I was in my twenties.” To which Marc replied, “Agreed, but we made it,” with a slight smile upon his face.  It was after two in the afternoon as the taxi turned into PDK regional airport just northeast of Atlanta. They were a few minutes early, but both were anxious to get back to Serenity. The cabbie dropped them at the executive terminal. It was not a large airport, but better than fighting the traffic in and around Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International, both on the ground and in the air. They had been there only minutes when Eyan spotted the G150 touching down, rolling out, and then turning toward the terminal.  Within the hour, the craft had been refueled and a flight plan filed for Los Angeles and on to Honolulu.

After arriving in Honolulu, Akil and Kai returned to her family’s estate.  They had made arraignments to return to Serenity with Mike on the next returning supply shipment.  Kai needed to collect a few belongings and there was some legal paper work that needed attending to.  The others were to continue on to Serenity.  They had taken turns at the controls on the return trip.  Eyan had the first leg from

Georgia to California, then Marc on to Honolulu.  After an overnight layover, they were now approaching the Island. As Marc turned on approach for his first landing on the Island, he jokingly said, “For some reason I don’t remember this island being so small.” Eyan, with a large grin replied, “Looks the same size to me.”

One thing this runway did not offer was an aborted landing.  Once committed you either stopped safely, or the alternative would not be pretty.  Marc was now very happy to have the marker lights. The G150 was a fine craft and Marc’s landing, although not as perfect as Akil’s, was smooth and without event.

Over the next few days, everyone began settling in to the primary residence which was now complete.  There was one exception, some of the electronics   items needed in the Meeting and Planning room were still being installed.  Everyone now just referred to this room as “Op’s.”  Marc and Eyan were discussing the necessities of the everyday operations of the Island’s infrastructure.  Originally the concept was for just the two of them to live there but now with the addition of the others, that vision had dramatically changed. They were now coming to the realization that flying in the needed supplies would be far too costly and restrictive.  After some brainstorming they had decided to talk to Mike.  Mike was preparing for another trip back to Honolulu when they approached him at the dock.  As usual, Mike was two steps ahead of them and had contemplated the situation as it had slowly arisen.  He knew what it would take to make the day-to-day living on the Island bearable and had formulated a proposal.  When all was said and done, he had laid down a plan for him and one other to remain on the payroll, along with Eve’s Revenge, as the re-supply ship in residence.  After both Marc and Eyan’s approval of his plan, he boarded the ship with the last three workmen and cast off the lines as he sounded the air horn.  Thirty minutes later, as the four remaining souls on Serenity stood on the balcony of the newly completed fortress; they watched Eve’s Revenge disappear at sea over the horizon.  No one said anything, but they all could sense an unusual calm that had descended upon the Island; it was now truly Serenity.

During the following week, Dara and Ara had helped with all the small things that make an ultra-modern house become a home.  Despite the overtly cold concrete and glass, it had taken on a comfortable demeanor. Two days later, around ten in the morning, the air horn on the Eve’s Revenge sounded as it entered the lagoon.  Everyone headed toward the dock to greet the ship and wanted to welcome Akil and Kai and, of course, Mike, back to the Island. Marc was also a bit curious as to which of the workers Mike had chosen to assist the group.  They were standing ready to receive the mooring ropes as Peter Johnson (everyone called him “Pete”) stepped from the side cabin doorway of the ship’s main deck.  He picked up the throw ropes, tossing them to Marc to pull the main mooring ropes ashore. Moments later, Eve’s Revenge was securely moored.  Both Akil and Kai were now standing on the fantail handing both supplies and luggage ashore.

Later that afternoon, the entire group was gathered on the main floor of the house.  The large louvered glass panels were fully open allowing the cool trade winds to circulate throughout. Marc raised his glass high saying, “I would like to welcome both Pete and Mike as permanent members of the Serenity Group. I must say, that I find it hard believe what Mike and the other men have achieved in such a short time, and also, here’s to the Group itself.” As they all raised their glasses, everyone could sense the growing bond that was developing amongst the team.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY- THREE

Darken Skies

Over the next several weeks, they all settled into a routine of daily events. Both Kai and Ara had taken on the responsibilities of most of the food preparation although everyone kicked in now and then. Mike assumed the responsibility of weather reporting for both air and sea conditions and scheduling the supply transfers for all depletable goods.  The response team of Marc, Eyan, Akil and Dara all divided their time between the Op’s room and a stringent daily workout routine.  Dara was now fully healed and was once again working on her tan.  One evening, she asked Marc if he thought a small tattoo of a rose would look nice covering her bullet wound.  His answer was, “Whatever the lady wants, is fine with me.”  Marc was becoming a husband, by osmosis, and didn’t even know it.

The rainy season was now winding down.  The days were filled with bright sunshine and an occasional brief thunder squall.  One day, Akil and Kai were in Op’s, monitoring the communications equipment, when the familiar buzzing of the Sat phone caught their attention.  Akil answered saying, “Serenity Group, Akil speaking.”  He heard a man’s voice say, “Akil, this is Martin Colby, I need to talk with Marc.  Is he around?”  Akil, said, “Martin, give me a few minutes to round him up and I’ll have him on the line.” Muting the handset, he asked Kai to find him and bring him back to Op’s.  Akil returned to the phone conversation, reassuring Martin that he would be available soon. As Marc arrived, Akil handed him the receiver.  Marc said, “Martin, it’s Marc.  What’s up?”  Martin said, “We’ve got a situation developing by the minute, Marc, and I need your whole team here ASAP.  I talked to Stiles, in San Francisco five hours ago.  I had him depart to Serenity.  He should be in your area shortly.  Can the team be ready by the time he arrives?” “What equipment will we need?” Marc asked.  Martin replied, “I’m not sure at this time, so just get here and will find what you need locally.”

At five-thirty in the afternoon, the radio in Op’s come to life; it was Stiles, asking for permission to land. At this time of year, the sun was near the western horizon as he turned on approach.  Marc keyed the radio and said, “The winds out of the east at eight to ten knots, steady, and I’m switching on the marker lights now, over.”  This was Stiles’ second landing on Serenity, but his first flying the G280.  He came back on the radio, “I’ve got the markers in sight, they’re a big help in the low light, thanks.”  Marc said, “Thank Mike, he’s the one that came up with them.”  Stiles’ reply was, “Thanks, I will.  See ya in a few minutes.”

Marc walked over to the elevator and dropped down to the tarmac level and emerged from the hanger just in time to help guide Stiles as he rolled up upon the apron of the tarmac in front of the hangar.  The G280 had a somewhat wider wingspan than the G150 and was a tight fit on the tarmac.  Stiles and Arnesto Garcia, the co-pilot, powered down the aircraft and then popped the door open and stepped down the stairs.  Everyone had already brought down their luggage needed for the trip and immediately began to stow it on the aircraft.  Mike emerged from the hanger with the electric tug and turned the craft around on the tarmac facing the runway as Pete rolled out the fuel hose and began the refueling process.  Akil and Eyan used the remaining time saying their goodbyes to Kai and Ara, and then climbed aboard the aircraft.  Both Stiles and the co-pilot were more than a bit tired, so Marc and Akil assumed the flight seats for the first leg of the trip. Four fuel stops and eighteen and a half hours later, they were on approach to Aeropuerto Barajas, Madrid.

After landing, the team and Stiles made their way to Villa De Martini to meet up with Martin.  When they arrived, Miguel Sandoval was at the main entrance to greet them.  He took them directly to Martin’s location within the villa.  As they walked into the room, Martin was at his desk talking on the phone.  Stiles asked Miguel to have some food and drinks brought to the room as they had not eaten in many hours.  An instant later, Martin finished his call, and spun around in his chair and, without so much as a hello, said, “That was Elena Brinson, and she’s my C.O.O. at Die/Hex research and development center just outside Stockholm.  Just before I called you, we experienced a hacking breach in our server bank at that location.  It’s our Intellectual Properties Development Division.  It’s a non-descript, stand-alone facility, somewhat isolated.  Before we could gear up security to respond properly, the main gate and primary entrance were breached by a highly trained assault group.  They now have control of the facility and all of the centralized data stored exclusively at that location.  Elena and I have been trying to evaluate from the security video just how many perpetrators were dealing with.  So far, it appears that there are a minimum of eight, but we can’t be sure because five of the site security cams were offline due to their hacking.”  Dara asked, “Martin, how many people work at that site?” He said, “It’s a think tank, only six were on site when the attack took place, plus two security guards.  One was at the gate, he didn’t survive and one at the main door.  We don’t know about him but it’s likely he met the same fate.  One of our security commanders found the gatemen a short while after the building was taken and called it in.  They have taken the guards’ radios and have been in touch with the security commander but, as yet, have not disclosed what they want. They did say that if anyone approaches the facility, they will kill the captives and blow up the structure.  That’s all the information we have.  I have requested the building site plans be delivered here; they should arrive here within the next hour.”

Akil stepped away and took out his cell phone and dialed his uncle.  When Ricardo answered, Akil told him they had a situation arise and would need a wide variety of support weaponry.  As usual, Ricardo’s response was, “Whatever you need of course, Akil. Shall I tell your mother you are here?”  Akil said, “No, not until this works itself out.  I’ll be back in touch as soon as we know what’s required.” He ended the call saying, “Thank you, Uncle.”

As he rejoined the group’s conversation, the door opened and one of the house attendants rolled in a serving cart covered with a variety food and drink.  The team had plenty of ground to cover, but the food was most welcome.  By the time they had ravaged the cart, Miguel walked into the room carrying the site plans that Martin had requested. As they began to look over the blueprints, it was becoming blatantly obvious – the building had been well designed.  It seemed that the only shortcoming of its design was the very method that the captors had utilized to take it – a direct frontal assault.

As they worked their way methodically through the pages of the plan, they came upon one designated “M-1,” diagraming the mechanical engineering of the structure.  At first observation, it seemed a dead end.  After further study, Akil found that two subterranean, fresh air ventilation corridors had been incorporated into the building’s design as an afterthought.  He tripped upon these after finding addendum sheet “M-2A” at the very back of the blueprints in the as built site plan updates.

Each of the corridors was about fifty yards in length; one to the north of the primary building and one to the east.  The tunnel to the north surfaced at the entrance gate road at the front of the building.  The tunnel to the east surfaced at the side of the property close to the exterior fence.  From photographs of the area, this entry point afforded the best avenue of approach.  Marc and the others had not noticed that Dara had stepped away and was now sitting down at a computer terminal.  She was using Google Earth to survey the complex from a bird’s-eye prospective.  As she zoomed in on it, the group began to gather around her in hopes of gleaning as much information about the topography as possible.  One of the primary things they noted was that landscapers had deliberately planted vegetation to conceal the vent openings; this would help serve as cover as they made their approach.

The addendum sheet stated that the internal dimensions of the ventilation corridors were thirty inches wide by twenty-four inches tall. At the end of each tunnel was a concrete riser extending two foot above ground with a steel grate at right angle to prevent both animals and or any potential ground water from entering the facility.

After a quick trip to Ricardo’s facility for collecting the necessary assault weaponry, they continued on to the airport for departure.  Stockholm was about 1,600 miles by air to the north-northeast of Madrid, just less than 4 hours’ flight time for the G280.  The aircraft sat down just after dark, and then they all proceeded to the primary headquarters for Die/Hex Corp. in Stockholm, meeting up with Elena Brinson for an update on the situation.  As Marc had expected, she was a no-bullshit, highly competent individual. Marc had come to expect this of all Martin’s personnel based upon the team’s prior dealings.  It was a short briefing, as nothing new had arisen prior to their departure from Madrid.  Elena had taken the lead and had arranged for transportation to the facility.  She also had her top security personnel set up a command post just beyond the sight and sound of the beleaguered compound’s entrance.

Martin had briefed Elena on the plan of attack by phone.  Hence, she had had the on-site security personnel remove the steel grate shielding the approach tunnel, in preparation for the event.  All this was covertly carried out to ensure that the surprise was, indeed, a surprise.  The group was now consisting of five, as usual. Stiles now joined the ranks, as with any dealings with Martin.  He had proven his worth more than once and was always welcomed by the team as a group.  Having now arrived at the makeshift command center, they were introduced to Stan Stenberg, head of the security group for the Swedish division of Die/Hex Corp.  Dara had met Stan previously when she had taken the head Security position for Martin, after the abduction of his granddaughter.  Stan more than a bit surprised at her re-emergence with the team, said to the group, “We are at your disposal, simply ask!” Looking in Dara’s direction, he added, “It’s a pleasure to see you again, Dara.” She, in return, looked directly at him and said, “It’s good to see you, too, Stan.”  All said with a pleasant smile, that Marc couldn’t help but take note of.

Stan began to bring the group up to speed on what had transpired over the past several hours, saying, “We have had only electronic communications up to this point and have not detected any visual physical movement within the facility.  They have been using the computer e-mail from an office within the compound, based on the IP address of the transmission.  It’s located here,” pointing to a second floor office on a blueprint schematic.  The office had a private external staircase down to the parking lot.  The steel-framed door had an electronic keypad and a biometric fingerprint scanner as the entrance system, no external doorknob.  Using an incased spring, it opened outwardly only, as a security measure.  There would be no quiet method to breach this entrance.

Stan had positioned his best marksman to surveil this potential exit point.  It was the only exit outside the main entrance.  The center of the structure had a forty-by-forty-foot atrium used for breaks and as a luncheon area; it was clearly depicted on the prints.  Marc was thinking, if he had designed this building for security purposes, he would have done the same. It was a concrete fortress.

Within the hour, they had donned the proper gear and taken up a position for the assault.  Stan’s armed security group consisted of himself and four other personnel. One was covering the main entrance to the facility; one was on guard watching the second level door and staircase. The other two took up positions at the entrance to ventilation shafts; one being where the team would enter the facility, and the remaining man was at the second shaft’s exit point.  All the potential exits were now under surveillance.  Stan would remain at the makeshift command center so that he could keep offsite management up to date.  He knew that communications with the team once they had entered the facility would only be possible via land line telephone or computer terminal. Their com system would not reach out of the structure due to the built-in electromagnetic shielding.  This was necessary for the onsite electronic security system.

The team slowly entered the shaft one by one.  It took fifteen minutes for them to traverse the fifty yards, and then slowly approach the end of the tunnel.  Marc, at the lead, stopped about ten feet short of the end.  He keyed his com unit three times in succession as predetermined signal for all to stop and remain quiet.  He waited ten to twenty seconds listening for any signs of life near the rectangular tunnel’s exit.  He heard nothing.  He keyed the com once more and, with a whisper, said, “I’m going in – stay put ‘til I call.”  He slithered on until he reached the metal grate shielding the entrance to the basement’s mechanical room. He stopped once more and peered into the room and, once again, listened; he could hear nothing but the mechanical drone of the air handler within the room.  He could see that the shaft emerged some distance from the floor.  He had brought a flat-edged screwdriver as a prying tool.  He was now using it to remove the fitted grate from the opening.   As the metal grate popped off, it made a grinding noise. Marc slipped the grate down the wall until it rested on the floor.  He reached into the room, grasping a large overhead plumbing pipe.   After testing it, he pulled himself out of the shaft and dropped to the floor.  After a quick surveillance of the room, he signaled the others to enter.  He tried to contact Stan to let him know of their progress so that the others on the outside would be ready when the confrontation turned offensive. However, the structures built-in safeguard preventing radio transmissions beyond the perimeter made this impossible.

As they had planned, once they exited the basement level, Stiles and Dara would move to the front stairs, and then begin to clear the upper level rooms toward the rear of the building.  Marc, Akil and Eyan would spread out on the lower level and move towards the rear stairs, covering the retreat of anyone be flushed out by Stiles and Dara from the upper level.

They moved to the top of the stairs from the basement until they reached the door. Akil was now in the lead.  At the door, Akil began to survey it for any type of rigging that may cause harm, he saw nothing. He slowly depressed the handle until the latch clicked and the door released from its mooring.  The door opened inward toward the landing at the top of the stairs.

He did a head bob, looking out, and then back, as quickly as possible.  Once again, he saw no one.  The door emerged into the main lobby at the entrance to the building.  Akil looked over at Marc; he instinctively knew what he had in mind.  Marc turned his back to him and they both did a side-step into the open lobby. They still saw nothing moving.  Just then, the com system came alive, it was a garbled transmission– someone outside saying, “Blank-blank- movement blank-blank- front- blank- the building.”  Marc heard two shots, as one of the two hit his tactical flashlight, protruding from his vest.  He realized the movement they were seeing was them and said, “Check fire!  It’s us!  We’re in the front lobby!”  Realizing the cat was now out of the bag, he turned to the doorway and ushered everyone out of the basement and into the lobby to take cover.  The second level staircase was directly across from the basement door. Both Dara and Stiles dashed directly toward them.  Akil found refuge behind the reception desk, as Eyan was back-to-back with him.

It was once again quiet and Marc was thinking – where the hell are these guys?  He heard a clicking metallic sound and then a noise that sounded like something rolling on a tile floor. He saw both Stiles and Dara dive back off the staircase in unison, as he caught a vision of the hand grenade as it rolled across the midlevel landing of the staircase above them, and exploded sending shrapnel throughout the room. Both Eyan and Marc felt some shards from the explosion, but nothing compelling enough to interrupt their task at hand.  Neither Dara nor Stiles were hit, being much closer – but lower – than the landing.   Akil was the only one with a line of sight to see the upper level landing of the staircase.  He saw a rifle barrel protruding from around the corner.  He raised his rifle horizontally and fired several rounds at the corner, but the concrete construction of the facility was unrelenting. The would-be assailant had retreated.  As of now, all of the resistance had emanated from the upper level.  Akil, looking over at Marc, motioned that he was going to the upper level with Stiles and Dara.  Marc signed off on the change of plan with a nod of his head.

As the trio now started back up the stairs, Marc and Eyan began clearing the various offices off the main lobby.  Eyan moved to the sliding glass doors and looked out into the center atrium of the building; no one there, either. They both turned toward the open office area, down the hallway in the direction of the rear of building.  They began an offensive advancement, one covering the other, as they leap frogged down the hall.

The others, now at the top of the stairs, were moving in a similar fashion.  They were clearing each office as quickly as caution would allow.  Akil was in the lead, followed by Dara with Stiles close behind, being ever-vigilant of their back door.  They moved in the opposite direction of the lower level team.  On the second level, the Director’s office occupied the floor space over the lower main lobby.  They had chosen to clear the short end of the building first, aware that the only communications had emanated from the Director’s computer from within that office.  Akil reached the door first; he stopped and moved to the left of it, waiting for the others to move into a secure position, before attempting to breach the entry.  Dara took up position on the opposite side of the door.  Stiles, still covering the rear, took cover next to the director’s assistant’s desk.  This door was the first that they had encountered that was fully closed.  Akil reached down and tested the door handle; it was locked.

He reached into his TAC pouch and extracted an OD Green package.  The pack contained some double-stranded det-cord, four walnut-sized packets of a plastic explosive, and an electronic variable twist timer. After he had affixed it to the door with the primary explosives placed in proximity to the three hinges and handle, he signaled the others to take precautions and set the timer for ten seconds and moved away briskly.  When the charge detonated, the door fell inward toward the hinged side.  He and Dara, in tactical alignment, entered the room as quickly as possible, trying not to lose the advantage of the sudden concussion of the blast.  As they entered, there were two hostiles in clear vision.  Both were still reeling from the blast and were located in Dara’s area of response.  She clearly had the advantage of both men; however, they both moved in a defensive posture.  Dara responded in kind and neutralized the potential threats.

As the smoke and adrenalin cleared the room, they scanned it for additional threats.  Stiles had taken up position just inside the imploded doorway – always vigilant of a rear assault.  Akil moved over next to one of the lifeless bodies and, upon closer inspection, he said, “Dara, look at this.”  She turned around and knelt down next to him, after a brief examination she said, in amazement, “Korean military!” The man was wearing an officer’s uniform of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – North Korea.  Just then, Akil, on the far side of the room, opened what appeared to be a closet door.  It was an executive bathroom filled with all the hostages bound and gagged.  Each had been shot in the back of their head execution style.

On the first floor, Marc and Eyan were now clearing an open office area used for data collection which occupied almost half of the remaining lower floor plan.  At the far end of the room was a wall that spanned the entire width of the building with two solid doors, one on either side.  The doors had keypad entries announcing limited access to the majority of workers.  As they moved through the room nothing appeared askew, but Eyan, approaching the back wall, noticed a wall-mounted video camera that was moving.  It was tracking Marc’s movements among the varied cubicles.  Eyan keyed his com and said, “Heads up!  I’m going to take out a camera watching you.” Marc reached up touching his earpiece com button, depressing it twice, signifying his acknowledgement.  During this pause, Eyan spotted three other cameras within the room.  He was wondering why the hell they had made such a rookie mistake, not seeing the cameras.  He fired two rounds destroying the first camera moving on to the second, requiring only one.  Marc dispatched the third unit and then, in turn, Eyan nullified the last.  Silence once again took command of the room as both men were now expecting a swift and certain retaliation.

The team upstairs heard the gunfire and responded.  Akil said, “We’re on the last few offices up here.  Do you need backup?”  As Marc reached up to key his com unit, a loud and very large explosion rocked the entire structure; this did not go unnoticed considering the concrete construction of the building.  Before Marc could respond to Akil, both key padded doors swung open wide and small arms fire flooded the room.

Outside, Stan’s command radio came to life. The sentry posted to watch the Directors exit from the second level began the chatter saying, “The explosion was at the very back of the building.  I can see a chopper approaching very fast and low on the horizon, over!”  Stan now faced a real dilemma, he needed to warn the team inside but the built-in security shell preventing both cellular and radio transmissions from within the building also prevented incoming signals.  This left but one alternative.  Stan, on the security radio, dispatched everyone outside on the ground toward the rear of the structure to try and prevent what he now thought was an aerial extraction of the perpetrators.  Stan then turned toward the entrance, grabbing his assault weapon, and moved off at a dead run.  Once within the entrance, he could hear gunfire down the hall in the direction of the open office.  He was briefly distracted by the second level team now descending the staircase to his left.  He yelled out, “We have at least one chopper inbound.”  He turned to his right and began to sprint down the hallway.  The others slowed by their tactical gear, following five or so yards behind.  Dara, trailing Akil and abreast of Stiles keyed her com and blurted out, “Guys!  Heads up!  We have more hostiles inbound on a chopper.  They may be on the ground by now.”

Marc, hearing Dara’s transmission replied, “Copy.” Both he and Eyan were more than a little busy themselves.  They were pinned down, Marc on one side of the room and Eyan on the other.  The opposing weapons fire was nothing short of overwhelming.  The only advantage they had was the cubicles affording visual security but not much physical protection.  They had both retreated back several cubicles, now only an occasional bullet penetrated the padded frames.  When Stan burst into the room, the gunfire rapidly increased.  As he scrambled to find cover, he raised his weapon as high as possible and began firing toward the doors.  One of the doors was directly in front of him and the other was diagonally across the room.  He paused for only a fraction of a second searching for desperately needed cover.  It was a fatal mistake.  In an instant, three rounds of automatic fire ripped diagonally across his torso.  He immediately folded over and fell to the floor.  Akil nearest to him, saw what had happened and stopped short of entering the room, signaling the others to take cover.

The security team outside, now only four strong, were taking machinegun fire from several men on the ground and the Chinese-made assault helicopter that had just flared out and touched down, sent a maelstrom of pebbles and debris flying in all directions.  The security detail was no match for the overwhelming firepower and the well-trained Asian fighters.

Inside, the exchange of gunfire was now equalized by the addition of the three team members.  They all began to lay down tactical arms fire, and then began moving toward the end wall.  This was aided by the fact that there was a center isle through the cubicles.  Once they were able to make it to there, it presented a safe avenue of approach to the front wall.  The team, now at the wall, split into two groups, each moving out from the center to the chosen direction.  Now that the gunfire had ceased, they could hear the chopper’s cavitating blades emanating from the doorways.  Marc keyed his com and with an almost breathless tone, said, “Time to move!  Now!”  Each team scrambled toward and through their assigned doorway at that instant.  They stormed the adjoining room but, to their surprise, it was vacant. They all quickly, but cautiously, moved toward a large gap that the blast had opened.  Marc and Eyan were the first to make it through the opening.  As soon as they broke into the daylight they were greeted by a wall of arms fire just before the chopper began to lift off.  Marc dropped down behind a small mound of rubble from the blast.  He saw the next-to-the-last man stepping up from the skid on the craft, turn and look back, he was Caucasian. Marc looked him directly in the eye.  He had a smarmy grin upon his face; it reminded him of “W,” a former President he disliked intensely.  The last soldier now boarding the craft turned around, as he sat down on the edge of the chopper flooring.  He had a long, discolored, white scar down the left side of his face that gave him a permanent frown.  He was also of Asian descent.  He began to fire his weapon back in the direction of the blast area, just as the side machine gunner ran dry of ammunition.   Marc and Eyan were the only two to clear the building through the gaping blast hole.  The others were pinned in by the intensity of the arms fire.  Marc raised up to fire his weapon but the soldier was intent on killing anything he could.  Marc, taking note of the present danger, dropped back down rolling over on his back against the rubble.  Doing this positioned him to look back toward Eyan.  He saw Eyan standing fully erect and, raising his weapon, Marc realizing that he was horribly exposed, yelled out, “Get down!!”  But then, as if time had ceased, Marc saw two bullets strike him, one in the center of his chest; Marc knew he was wearing a vest.  The second round hit almost centered on his forehead.  There was a second of disbelief, but then Marc could see a blank stare deep within his blue eyes.  They were now devoid of their natural brightness.  In a heartbeat, he knew Eyan was gone.  In reflex anger, Marc stood up and began firing at the chopper as it lifted off, his weapon exhausting the remaining ammunition.  The aircraft quickly disappeared over the tops of the surrounding forest as an eerie silence fell over the compound.  Marc had turned about and was now kneeling beside Eyan.  He reached down with his hand and closed his now lifeless eyes as the others began to emerge from the building.  Akil was first, then Dara; Stiles was close behind.  Each one grasped the full impact of the event as Marc stood up turning toward the horizon where the chopper had vanished.  No one said a word.

 

Copyright © 2016; All Rights Reserved

Published by

Laura Brooks

Published author of four books. See more about me on Amazon's Author Central.

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