Episode 3: "New Beginnings" Part I
Looking at the strangers seated around them as if for the first time, the group sat quietly for a moment taking in their surroundings, Alexander staring intently at the Clayton in an attempt to determine if the older man was an illusion or not.
On edge, Clayton watching silently as the young pyrokinetic slowly leaned forward with a finger extended until he finally touched the cyborg and withdrew to his own seat with a triumphant cry,
The tightening of sinew around Clayton’s jaw was the only response, and Alexander sorely hoped he hadn’t made an enemy of the brooding man.
As the nurse began tending to the wounds of Kitsu, Clayton and Matt, Alexander shrugged at the sudden down-time and popped the cork on a bottle of champagne.
“So, does everyone have powers, what can everybody do?” Elaine asked the awkwardly silent group, each of the young heroes suddenly aware they were in the company of strangers who could possibly have secrets very similar to their own.
Gesturing to the recently revealed Clayton, Kitsu offered:
“Well, you can turn invisible, right?”
With a curt nod, the fugitive cyborg turned his head to regard the younger teenagers,
“Yeah, invisibility is my power. That’s all.” He muttered, still frustrated at being forced to reveal himself so early.
“Well, we know I can create electrical blasts and he controls fire, Zak has telekinesis and…” Kitsu paused to regard her childhood friend, unsure of how much to reveal, but Alexander swallowed his mouthful of champagne to interject,
“And he can read minds and communicate telepathically. Yeah.”
Turning his attention back from the window of the helicopter, Matt regarded the remote detonator in his hand before holding it to his ear. Leaning forward and offering the device to Kitsu he interrupted the conversation,
“Ah, Kitsu is it? The pilot wants to talk to you, you just press the red button to talk.”
Kitsu wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but with a confused expression she lifted the device to her ear and pressed the indicated button in preparation to talk…
As the series of explosive charges detonated through the pirate base, the fuel and ammunition hoarded by the pirates combusted into one incredibly hot orange ball of expanding flames, the wave of heat shaking the large helicopter momentarily as the crew and passengers looked back at the destruction of the floating base in surprise, and the young mercenary burst out laughing.
“Oh yeah, right, you just shoot things and blow stuff up. No other powers, right?”
Matt tried his best to reign in his obvious amusement, but failed, smiling at the group as he replied simply,
“Right. That’s what I do.”
At that moment, the Chinese agent who had previously introduced himself as the Handler reappeared from the curtained doorway through to the forward half of the large aircraft, his smile as perfectly welcoming as before.
“I trust you are making yourselves comfortable?” he smiled, waving a hand toward the as yet untouched canapés and the remaining bottles of alcoholic and soft beverages on offer.
“Now, obviously this is not a social operation. Soon it will be time for us to talk business, but before I get into any classified details, we need to establish which of you are interested in working with us, and which of you will be dropped off to continue your lives where you left off before that incident back there.” Again the Handler smiled, moving into the middle of the room to address everyone equally.
“The delicate balance I have to face right now, is how much information I can give you prior to your signing on. Of course, we understand that you should not be in a situation where you a blindly agreeing to mysterious terms, but similarly we are dealing with issues of international sensitivity which we cannot afford to share with those who are not committed to our efforts. What I can tell you for now is this: We, as agents of the Chinese Government, are in need of non-Chinese operatives for a delicate international operation. As such, we are seeking to recruit a team from the best unsigned talent the world has to offer, which leads me to the incident with the Indonesian Pirates. The conflict with those terrorists was largely orchestrated by our agency as a trial of sorts, an audition for a number of potential recruits we needed to see tested in the heat of battle. Unfortuantely the majority of Colonel Hammer’s mercenary team did not survive the mission, and we have reports that the Russian-American Captain Calvin Luchev went down with his ship. Of our original recruitment targets, only Matt and Kitsu passed the audition, but we are pleased to say that for the rest of you, your presence aboard this helicopter is proof that we are extending our offer of employment to you as well.” The Handler paused as he received a stack of envelopes from one of the crew entering through the curtain before vanishing forward into the cockpit again, leaving the Handler to continue his talk.
“Now, other than how impressed we are with your performances tonight, what I can tell you is that our offer is one that comes with more than adequate rewards. Although all I can tell you of the operation itself at this stage is that its goal is to prevent international hostilities, before we ask you to make your decisions about your commitment, we will share with you all the reward you can expect to receive if you are successful in this mission.” The Handler smiled at the cautious looking group as he shuffled the envelopes through his hands.
“What I will say is this, each reward is different and possibly personal in nature, each promise is a certain fact, we can and will deliver on these rewards for those of you who assist us with our operation. Each of these envelopes has the reward written within, for your eyes only unless you should choose to share the information with anyone else in your own time. Now, on behalf of the Chinese Government I extend this offer to you. I will give you time to think, and when I return I will ask you to make your choice. Enjoy.” With a strangely solemn caste to his usual smile, the Handler passed a personally named envelope to each of the assembled heroes before departing once more.
Initially sceptical, each of the gathered heroes regarded their name on the front of their envelope before leaning back and carefully opening it away from prying eyes.
Despite the vastly different “rewards” offered within the envelopes, the reactions were almost uniform as the words on each page sank in.
After what seemed an enternity of silent contemplation, Alexander rose from his seat and ventured toward the separating curtain, only to be intercepted by the obviously combat trained “waiter”.
“What can I help you with, Sir?”
Alexander made certain his envelope and the enclosed letter were safely folded in his fist as he calmly regarded the man,
“I have a few personal questions for the Handler.”
The waiter indicated a seat for the young New Zealander to wait in as he activated some sort of small pager or communicator, and within a few minutes Alexander was invited into a bare corridor of the helicopter by the Handler.
“What is it you wish to ask me, Alexander?” he smiled softly
“How is this possible?” Alex asked, pointedly holding up the envelope
“I can guarantee you it is.” Was the initial reply, “The journey you are yourself just starting out upon, the very reason you were on that ship no doubt, is a journey experts within China started out upon hundreds if not thousands of years ago. We know where that journey ends, we have techniques and training that can take you directly to the result of that journey. I promise you, the Chinese Government is the one organisation that can truly give you what you seek. The offer is a promise, nothing less.”
As the enormity of the words sank in, Alexander straightened and forced a smile, detecting no trace of deception in the Handler’s demeanor, words or body language.
“Well, thank you for your time.” He managed, before returning to his seat and another glass of champagne to think.
Zak looked suspiciously at the nurse before addressing the group, obviously caught entirely off-guard by the contents of his own letter.
“Anyone else wondering how they seem to know so much?” he asked.
“Yeah… this is… wow.”
Before the group voiced any theories on the matter, the Handler rejoined them stood silently until all eyes were once more upon him.
“I’m sure the offer we have extended you has given some cause for contemplation, and Alexander has spoken to me privately with some questions, if anyone else has any reservations or queries regarding the proposed reward feel free to ask them now, either here or privately in an adjoining corridor.” His friendly eyes scanned the still silent group before adding,
“And of course, if you feel you cannot trust the promised words or simply are not interested in such a reward, the Chinese Government has many material resources that can be arranged as an alternative reward should anyone so choose.”
Checking his watch for a moment, the Handler’s demeanour switched to a more serious tone as he raised his eyes again.
“Now, unfortunately the longer we wait the closer to the point of no return this helicopter approaches, and it isn’t long before we will be reaching the drop-off point for those who do not wish to accept our offer and would prefer to be returned to their lives as they were before the pirate incident. So, if there are no further questions, it is time to decide…”
“One thing, when will we be getting the rewards?” Elaine interjected.
“Yeah, how many missions before we actually see the promised rewards?” Matt chipped in, with Alexander nodding along.
“I do apologise, I didn’t mean to be so ambiguous with the offer.” The Handler smiled, offering raised hands in apology,
“This is a single, once off, stand-alone operation and if you are successful you will receive your rewards as soon as you are debriefed. Of course, if you impress us with your efforts I don’t doubt that further arrangements could be made for continued employment with the agency should you so wish, but the offer as it stands is for this one operation alone.” Again he smiled, turning to face Elaine,
“And if you are concerned with not having anything to hold our trust on before you deploy, we have equipment and resources we can give you to assist with the operation itself that should be sufficient tokens of shared interest in your successful return.”
The Handler gestured with one hand and the nurse finished patching up the last of Zak’s grazes and slipped away through the curtain with the waiter, leaving the Handler alone with the group at last.
“Now is the moment of truth, the time for decisions to be made. Will you accept this offer, and be a part of the team for this operation?” he turned to his left, looking Matt in the eye.
“I’ll do it.”
“I’m in too.”
With the agreement of all six new recruits, the Handler broke out into a wide grin and snapped his fingers, calling forth the waiter with a small steel box. From the box the Handler drew a small light projector before the waiter moved around the room handing small earpieces to each team member.
“As our first reward for joining the team I would like to present you with a six-piece set of short ranged communication links, although not powerful enough to stay in contact with me while you are on the ground, these should allow you to co-ordinate better as a team throughout the operation. If anyone already has a communications device, like Matt for example, the frequency of these other commlinks should be fully compatible. Each of you now owns a commlink each, courtesy of the Chinese Government as a down-payment for your services.”
Dimming the lights and projecting a map onto the wall, the Handler gestured to the projection and changed into a more clinical tone of voice.
“Now, to business. I am about to brief you on your mission. We are calling this Operation: Silent Treaty.”
The Handler laid out the mission to the assembled team, explaining that the shared border between China and Russia where Kazakstan and Mongolia once were was brewing as a potentially destructive flashpoint between the two nuclear armed super powers.
As the Handler displayed maps of the former capital of Mongolia and the surrounding countryside, the team learned that they were to infiltrate the local council offices to attain any confidential Russian documents that could be used by the Chinese Government as leverage and insurance to ensure peace against the possibility of war sometime in the future.
“Of course, the reason for putting this team together is so that you are not openly affiliated with our Government and that any failure of your mission will not result in political or military backlash contrary to the objective of the mission. As such, should you fail, the formation of this team has not been recorded anywhere and we will maintain total denyability about your existence. As such, we advise that you adopt a suitably Anti-Chinese cover so as to prevent the Russians from being overly suspicious of your activities, and we will have no contact or communication with you until two days from deployment when an evac team will be waiting for you in this town here.” The Handler flicked to a new display, showing a small farming town to the North of the target city.
“The glider-suits will allow you to control the direction and slow the speed of your descent without making you visible to radar, but when you are within 200 feet of the ground you will need to deploy the last-minute parachutes to slow you enough to avoid injury. Do not deploy the parachutes at a height greater than 500 feet or you will be caught by the wind, blown potentially anywhere and no doubt spotted by the Russians. Similarly, make certain to extend your arms and legs to allow the glider jumpsuits to ease your descent, as the last-minute chutes will NOT be able to save you if you free-fall to quickly from this height. Due to the nature of this mission there can be no training or rehearsal, but similarly this mission is too important, and you as a team are too important, for us to take unnecessary risks with your safety. Due to his experience in the field, we are appointing Matt team-leader and will be equipping him with an altitude sensor we have configured to notify him when you enter the appropriate height range to activate your late-deployment parachutes. We will be entering Russian airspace in approximately 5 minutes and the drop-zone in under 10. Do you have any questions?” The Handler regarded the nervous expressions on the faces of the assembled team.
“Shit. Ok. No, I’m good.” Clayton muttered, not relishing the prospect of being pushed out of a helicopter in the immediate future.
“Good, check your equipment, enjoy the hospitality for a few short minutes, and be ready to deploy on my mark. Welcome aboard, team.” The Handler smiled, genuinely excited at the recruitment of the entire group as they set about strapping themselves into the reflective glider jumpsuits and nervously checking the buckles that kept the single late-deployment parachute attached to their backs.
Alexander gave a quick shrug at the open invitation to make the most of the hospitality, swigging freely from a second bottle of champagne right up until the side of the helicopter opened to reveal the night sky over Russia and the cold wind swept through the previously comfortable vehicle.
“Operation Silent Treaty is now active, this is the last you will hear from me or our agency until the rendezvous in two days, Matt, you have command. Good luck to you all.” The Handler shouted over the rush of air as the helicopter banked sharply to swing over the drop zone.
“Ok team, I’ll jump first, Clayton, I’m trusting you to make sure everything goes smoothly with the others and to be the last one out. Keep in communication all the way down. I’ll give the signal when we’re low enough to deploy chutes. Let’s go!” the young mercenary barked to his new team, not overly experienced as a leader but ready to accept the responsibilities without hesitation or weakness.
“I wanted to go first…” muttered Elaine, as the mercenary threw himself out of the doorway, but without any further thought the cyborg girl was launching herself into the sky to follow him.
“See you on the other side!” Alexander joked to the remaining three before stepping from the helicopter to free-fall toward the Russian countryside, but he wasn’t entirely sure whether he was being ironic or was genuinely nervous.
“Let’s go.” Clayton gestured for the two former runaways to jump, but to his surprise neither of the younger team members showed any fear as they leapt clear of the doorway to join the team in the air.
Contemplating activating his concealment field but deciding the velocity of the fall would restrict its effect, the fugitive cyborg took one last look at the now empty briefing room before launching himself on as sharp a downward angle as he could manage in an attempt to catch the others.
As the almost invisible siloheutte of the large black helicopter vanished above them, the team found themselves in varying states of free-fall, Alexander sending himself on as tight a spiral as possible until he had pulled level with Matt, the team leader comfortably banking around in wide circles with arms and legs fully extended, the glide suit holding him up against the wind perfectly as he took in the night around him.
Zak smiled at Kitsu as they plummeted downwards, winking to his childhood friend as she stretched out the “wings” of her jumpsuit to ease to a controlled descent and he concentrated on gripping himself in his own thoughts, telekinetically throwing himself down faster than free-fall as he flew, laughing, toward the ground.
Unfortunately for Elaine and Clayton, the seams of the glider-suits were not prepared for the superhuman strength of either cyborg, and as they threw their arms and legs wide to slow their fall they found themselves tumbling in blind free-fall with the torn wings of their jumpsuits flapping around them in tatters.
“Goddamnit!” Clayton cursed, as Elaine frantically began to rotate her body in the air, looking for some way to slow her fall.
“Whatever you do, don’t deploy your chutes!” Matt warned over the commlink, “At this height we’ll lose you completely.”
“We’re fine for now, we can wait.” Elaine replied calmly, finally falling face-first and recovered from the intial disorientation of her fall.
“We have to do something though, if you free-fall until we’re low enough for the chutes you’ll be going too fast for them to stop you in time anyway.” Matt pointed out, closing his own wings in an attempt to stay as close to the accelerating team members as possible.
“Did everyone else’s suit hold together?” Alexander asked, following Matt’s lead and enjoying the excitement of the controlled fall, if not the possibility of Elaine and Clayton being splattered on the Russian streets below.
“I’m fine, I don’t know about Zak’s suit, but he’s flying anyway.” Kitsu chimed in.
“Don’t worry, I’ll grab Clayton, you just worry about Elaine.” Came the voice of Zak, as the cocky psychic came flashing back into view, intending to carry the older man safely to the ground.
As Zak flew over, the cyborg didn’t look any less concerned, and despite Zak’s best effort the lack of strength in his arms in comparison to the mass of the stronger, falling, Clayton only served to pull the would-be rescuer into the same deadly free-fall.
“Zak? Have you got him?”
“Let go, you’re not strong enough.” Clayton replied tersely, not exactly thrilled with the situation as the teenager refused to recognise the futility of his efforts as the two spun helplessly toward earth.
“Ok, I’ve got a better plan anyway.” Zak cut in, letting the larger man fall from his arms as he used his telekinesis to fly toward the ground once again, “When I get to the ground I can use my telekinesis to catch you and carry you down!”
Zak hadn’t got far before his plan was over-ruled by voices on the commlink in his ear,
“Hey! What if you miss me?”
“Will you be able to see him in the dark Zak?”
“I have a torch?”
Finally Alexander’s voice cut through the discussion with a different observation,
“Zak, if your glider-suit is working you can fly down with the rest of us and use your telekinesis to carry the others from up here, right?”
“But…” Zak began to protest, wanting to put his ability to fly to better use even as the voices of the team began to agree with Alex.
“Zak, extend your arms and legs and see if you can grab Clayton with your mind.” Matt’s tone was firmer than a suggestion, and not wanting to be seen as incapable of such a simple task, Zak obliged, easily catching the falling cyborg and allowing him to descend at the same controlled speed as Zak’s jumpsuit was providing him.
“Now, can you carry Elaine as well?” Matt began, as the group turned their attention to the sky below in an attempt to locate the girl who had been momentarily forgotten in the heat of the moment.
“Actually, I think I’m fine.” Was Elaine’s surprising reply, as she gliding around in a wide banking circle of her own, now with a strangely organic/synthetic blended material stretching from wrist to ankle in wings of her own.
“I thought I might be able to adapt some way of surviving the impact with the ground, but I ended up with these instead!” she trilled, steering a figure eight through the air as though she had always had wings.
“Ok… well, good work I guess team, let’s stay together, I want to deploy chutes when we get to 350 feet altitude and I don’t want anyone missing the mark.” Was all Matt could say as the team glided to approximately the same altitude as one another, aware once more that they were on a mission with more at stake than they cared to talk about.
Within a minute, Matt’s new device was beeping and displaying an altitude of 500 feet, the maximum parachute deployment height, and after passing on the news and a reminder to stay close, the young mercenary grimly held his course and waited.
“Deploy chutes, be careful, stay together!” he barked across the comms as the altitude reading flashed 350 feet, and one by one the members of his team were seemingly yanked skywards as first Matt, then Kitsu, Zak and Clayton and then Elaine were all brought to a rapid deceleration by the expanded cloth above them.
Alexander on the other hand pulled his rip-cord to no avail, as the parachute failed to deploy and he found himself shooting away from the rest of the team towards the ground.
Panicking for a moment, he let slip a few choice German swearwords into the communicator before his senses returned and he gathered his concentration to generate enough heat beneath him to grant him full control over the velocity of his descent, although he did manage to maintain a steady stream of melodramatic cries for help over the communication link before he had slowed sufficiently for the rest of the team to recognise he was joking around.
Landing with much relief and a successful degree of stealth in a field somewhere West of the city, the group glanced unconsciously skyward for some sign of the helicopter that had dropped them into this surreal operation, but after only a moment the group had gathered with armfuls of parachute silk and were wondering what the next stage of the operation should be.
“We all survived the drop, well done. Now what?”
Removing his jumpsuit and parachute harnass, Matt looked around, knowing the final decision would probably be his,
“We should head into the town and start sussing out our objective, but first we need to get rid of this airdrop gear.” He offered, kicking his parachute into a small pile to punctuate his point as he instinctively scanned the horizon for prying eyes.
“I could burn it all?” Alexander half-joked
“Yeah, a giant bonfire in the middle of the night won’t draw any attention…” Kitsu cut in, still unimpressed by the unpredictable pyrokinetic.
“Can you destroy it all without a big fire?” Matt asked
“Of course!” Alex turned his eyes sideways at the female runaway, “I’m not an idiot.”
Once the jumpsuits and parachutes were all piled on the non-flammable surface of the road, Alexander stared at the materials until the group could feel the temperature rising, and soon enough the material was melting and smouldering under a controlled burn that quickly reduced the pile to ash without so much as an ember glowing in the night. Kneeling to sift through the ash despite the heat, Alexander made an attempt at tidying the pile into something more appealing, but his creative attempts only managed a more cubic pile of ash before he stood with a shrug and allowed Zak to spread the pile along the side of the road, mixed through the dirt to hide any trace of the team’s arrival as much as possible.
“So, onto the town?” Elaine suggested, eager to finish the mission and get out as quickly as possible.
“First we should establish our cover.” Matt explained, turning to regard each member of the team in an attempt to think of a suitable story.
“I’m good.” Clayton countered, and within a moment he had vanished from sight as his concealment field once again engulfed him.
“Well then, I guess the rest of you could easily be a group of friends, I’m obviously the odd one out being this well armed, but maybe if you’re rich kids you hired me.” Matt suggested, only to have Kitsu scoff and Alexander raise an eyebrow.
“Why are we “rich kids” all of a sudden?” Kitsu asked, not following the mercenaries thoughts.
“Just as a cover, I’m just trying to think why I would be travelling with you if you weren’t paying me.”
“Paying you for what?” Zak asked, clearly unimpressed with this line of thinking.
“Feel free to help with a suggestion of your own at any time, I could easily be looking for work as a mercenary in town if I wasn’t with you. That’s all.”
“We’re all around the age that we could be recently graduated from high school, taking time off to travel the world, right?” Alexander suggested, changing the topic slightly.
“I’m only 17!” defended Kitsu before Alexander waved away her statement,
“Yeah, maybe you just look young, the point is, we could be a group of friends travelling through trying to see the sights.”
“I don’t know! Whatever sights there are around here, and if there aren’t any, maybe we’re the sort of tourists that want to see the real world, not the touristy stuff!”
This suggestion seemed to click with the group, and following Alex’s statement was Matt,
“Maybe you’re those well-off kids that want to help heal the world, and your parents hired me to protect you from the dangers of the parts of the world you want to see?”
Although Kitsu still seemed annoyed at being confused with a “rich kid” in any way shape or form, the team finally seemed to understand Matt’s logic, and eventually it was Zak who said:
“What if Elaine is the rich one, and we’re just her friends from school?”
Beginning at last to walk East toward the city, Elaine turned to the rest of the team to add her own clause to the agreed cover story,
“This is just a role though, I’m not a spoiled rich kid!”
As they walked along the road, the silent spectre of Clayton always nearby albeit unseen and thanks to his silent disposition, unheard, Kitsu turned to Matt with another question,
“Should we use fake names?”
The discussion continued for a few minutes before the group agreed that fake names was more likely to blow their cover through confusion than it was worth, and the team seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the operation until they reached the city itself and were confronted with the dazzling light of a mounted spotlight and the close attention of the two Russian soldiers manning what seemed to be a closed checkpoint, and much to the irritation of the invisible Clayton, a large dog.
“Stop there!” the guards shouted, and the team found themselves at gunpoint once again, Zak found himself translating the shouted words from Russian to English in his head.
“Do you speak Russian?” the guard called out, and while the rest of the group looked at one another in confusion, Zak stepped forward confidently,
“Da!” he replied, finding his mental comprehension providing him the vocabulary he needed to converse in the guard’s native tongue.
“Spread out in one line, hands in the air, please!” the guard commanded, and as Zak realised his team were clueless to the words being spoken, he quickly translated to the others who complied with the instructions save Clayton, who moved silently into position behind the others with his gun ready, just in case.
As Zak answered the guard’s questions it was explained that the city was under martial law and a strict curfew was being enforced. As Zak explained that the group were just traveling and looking for a place to stay, the guard’s questions almost became an interrogation, asking where the group was travelling from and prompting Zak to subtly read the Russian soldier’s mind, gleaning the name of a suitably innocuous local village to put the man at ease. Despite his best persuasions, the best Zak was able to achieve was to have the guardsman check with his supervisor as to whether the group could be let into the city despite the curfew, but when the answer came back a “they could be shot if they are seen by a patrol” and therefore a resounding no, Zak was left little choice but to thank the Russian for his time and turn back with the rest of the group.
“Are you going to tell us what’s going on?” Kitsu prompted her companion after a minute of awkward silence.
“Oh, sorry, the town is under martial law at the moment, curfew means nobody allowed in or out or on the streets until morning, so we should go and find somewhere to sleep until they open the checkpoint tomorrow.” He paused, trying to remember the important details of the exchange, “apparently there’s a small village about another hour’s walk to the South or we can sleep on the side of the road, we should be safe with the military in the area.” He shrugged, not wanting to make a decision himself.
“Well if I’m suppose to be a spoiled rich girl, I’m going to demand we go find a bed somewhere!” Elaine announced, to groans from the rest of the group.
“Is Clayton still with us?” Matt asked, waiting for the older man to either reveal himself or respond via the commlink.
“I’m here, just wandered away so that dog wouldn’t smell me.” Was the terse reply.
“Ok, what do we want to do? We’re obviously going into the city in the morning, but we can either sleep here or add another hour of walking to the night in search of a bed.” The mercenary summed up.
“I’m for sleeping out here.” Said Alex.
“If we sleep out here, I’ll stand watch.” Clayton offered.
“Seriously guys, a bed would be better.” Elaine insisted, but as Matt, Kitsu and Zak all added their votes to the camping on the side of the road idea, the cybernetically enhanced girl added “I’m just playing the role!” but even she didn’t really believe it.
With their combined survival experience, Alexander and Matt soon returned to the group with an armful of quality firewood, and as the fire began to burn at a comfortable warmth and a dull glow of embers and coals, Alexander stripped the excess branches down to make wooden stretchers for the team to sleep on.
“Get some sleep, I’ll make sure you’re safe.” Clayton stated plainly, his voice disembodied from beneath his concealment.
“I can’t have you over-tired tomorrow when it counts, remember to wake me for the second shift and get some sleep yourself.” Matt instructed, and eventually the group was sleeping as comfortably as possible under the stars.
First thing in the morning the group walked into the large town, purpose renewed as they all agreed to get the mission completed as quickly and efficiently as possible, Alexander leading the majority of the group from shop to shop talking to the English speaking locals in an attempt to gather information about the rumours and events that had lead to the military occupation and obvious excitement in the area, while an invisible Clayton watched over Zak as the independent minded young con-man did his own information gathering in less obvious parts of the city.
Meeting up in the late afternoon, Zak and Alexander agreed that the most reliable information pointed to an incident involving a failed mission of the Chinese Government, with two Chinese operatives being found dead in the street only four days earlier, witnesses reporting some large object being stashed in the local bank’s vault and the military being called in to lock down the city until the purpose of the Chinese infiltration could be revealed.
Zak’s reading of soldiers’ minds corroborated the rumours Alex had picked up on, and once the team had been debriefed it became clear that although the mystery of the Chinese incident and the new contents of the bank vault was a priority, the actual council documents and the staff of the local council had all been moved out of the city to the protected temporary offices within the Russian military compound that had been erected to house the soldiers two kilometres North East of the city proper.
While Zak was able to confirm that security at the bank hadn’t been raised since the arrival of the mysterious “package” and the rank and file soldiers didn’t seem to know anything about the Chinese incident or the “package” themselves, Alexander was able to provide the address of an apparently welcoming Hostel that would be able to house the travelling teenagers for either a low share of rent or even assistance with chores.
Deciding it was best to be off the streets before the curfew again tonight, the team agreed to save any major plans until the morning and crossed the city to the Hostel, securing five beds in the common-room for the night while Clayton remained invisible and made himself comfortable on the floor.
The prospects of robbing a bank or storming a military compound both brought their own risks, rewards and dangers, and as each team member drifted off the sleep, plans for the day ahead filled their dreams more than anything else.
Nothing is Everything