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Authors: G. T. Almasi

Blades of Winter (38 page)

BOOK: Blades of Winter
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I twist my fingers into the bedcovers. “Sir, I’m sorry I had to comm you for help. I knew the CIA would find out about everything, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Don’t worry about it, Scarlet. You did the right thing, and this would have happened anyway.” Cyrus tells me that the Darius Covenant’s clear and present danger would have compelled our boss to report it no matter what the ramifications were. “Director Chanez might bend the rules sometimes, but he’s not crazy.”

Cyrus shifts his paperwork and selects a new file folder. “All right,” he says. “Back to work. Fredericks and Chanez can face the music later. For now we have bigger fish to fry.”

My Front Desk hands me the new dossier. It’s labeled “Darius Covenant,” and what’s inside makes grim reading.

The ultimate goal of the Darius Covenant is to drive foreign influence out of the Middle East by removing their reason for being there. No oil, no foreigners. Although it might be enough to destroy only the oil under the Middle East, Winter doesn’t want to leave the developed powers any chance of giving him his comeuppance. The global havoc unleashed by his Darius Covenant will ensure that the developed world will be too busy starving to death to consider any reprisals. Hardly any citizens of the Big Four live near their food supply anymore. Once the local supermarkets run out of goodies, everyone goes on a permanent diet of water and air.

Without fuel for trucks to transport food to the large population centers, it’s possible that only a tiny fraction of the earth’s residents will survive. At best, we lose all the big cities and life reverts to the early Industrial Revolution.
Unless everybody gets sick, which is what usually happens during a famine. If a pandemic broke out, it could be more devastating than the Black Death. This near extinction could rewind the human experience back to 3000 B.C., when the moon was a god and writing was some newfangled thing only the kids could do.

Even if we figure out a way to relocate people to food-producing areas before they all turn into toothpicks, the global economy will implode. Everything will have to be run on far less powerful energy sources such as coal, wind, and solar. Maybe even steam. Locomotives would be a decent solution, but the United States, like the rest of the Big Four, has put so much into our interstate highway system that we don’t have much of a rail network anymore.

Air travel will vanish until engines that run on electricity or biofuels can generate enough power to get an airplane off the ground. Trucks and cars can eventually be switched over to electric motors, but by the time that happens, modern civilization as we know it will have ceased to exist. If it weren’t for the fact that we’ll be dead, we’d still be able to live and work in our giant buildings since most of the power for them is generated by electric plants that run on coal, nuclear energy, or natural gas. Communications can still be instantaneous, so we can all share the apocalypse together in real time.

Transport is really the main problem, but given the way our society has spread out and specialized, it’s the worst possible problem. Winter’s mad scheme is absolutely brilliant because it doesn’t try to untangle the knots his people are bound in. It slashes right through them.

Of course, his people won’t fare particularly well, either. Our analysts presume Winter’s feeling to be that his people are doomed anyway, so what’s the difference? Starvation, disease, and revolution will blaze through the Middle East like an ocean-size forest fire. Anyone currently wielding power there does so through the revenue
they generate selling oil. These regimes will be swiftly swept aside and replaced. We might be able to watch it unfold on TV, but we won’t be able to do a damn thing about it.

Once I’m done reading, Cyrus concludes, “There’s nothing as plentiful and powerful as oil. We’ve got to save it and control it as best as we can. This has received top priority from the president, the Pentagon, fucking
who knows about it. It may be the greatest threat to civilization since the Mongols.”

I remember those assholes from history class. They stormed out of Mongolia about 850 years ago and demolished most of Asia and Europe. Russia’s notorious xenophobia dates from this event because of the Mongols’ spectacular brutality.

Cyrus looks up at the ceiling and inhales deeply. “The White House has authorized the Pentagon to use any means necessary to destroy the Darius Covenant.” He looks out the window for a moment. “If anything will exonerate ExOps, it’ll be how hard the Information Department has been working. They’ve been hammering their jackframes since you got back from Zurich.”

I ask, “Speaking of which, how did I get back, sir?” It’s like when a drunk wakes up after a big party and can’t find his pants. Cyrus lays it out for me. The “TV News” helicopter that extracted me and Patrick from the university flew us to the TV station that acts as an ExOps front. From there, a car with diplomatic plates drove us to the U.S. consulate in Zurich. The consulate is seething with spooks, so they occasionally need to smuggle people out of the country. The office keeps a few fictional employees on the books who conveniently “pass away” at exactly the right moment. The official story of my extraction was that a heavyset clerk had died of a heart attack and his body had to be flown home to the States. What really happened is that Trick and I were packed into a big-ass coffin and flown from Zurich to Washington. They hooked me up to an oxygen
supply and a chemical stasis feed to make sure I didn’t wake up in transit. Trick made the trip in a body bag at the other end of the coffin.

After we got home, I remained unconscious for the better part of a week. The Med-Techs attributed it to stress-induced shock and severe exhaustion from using so many doses of Madrenaline, Kalmers, and Overkaine. On the bright side, I wasn’t nearly as beaten up as last time.

They retrieved most of my partner’s intel from his Bio-Drive. I choke up a little as I think about them removing pieces of hardware from Trick’s dead body. Then I remember the way his legs rolled around in the helicopter, and I almost pass out.

I hold my hand out and ask Cyrus to stop.

He says, “Alix, is this too much?”

“No, I just need a second.” I try to blink the tears back. Totally doesn’t work.
Fuck it, I’ll cry a little. I’m sure Cyrus has seen worse

My boss sits back while I quietly weep. I take a tissue and blow my nose. After a minute I look over at him. “Cyrus, why did Patrick push me off that roof?”

Cyrus raises his eyebrows a little. “I think he was completely drained from running up fifteen flights of stairs. You’d already shown him that you weren’t willing to leave him behind. If you had hesitated for even an instant, the rocket that killed him would have killed you too. Patrick did what he did to make sure that at least one of you got out of there.”

This does
make me feel better. I put my hands over my face and really start bawling. “What a fuckup I am!”

Cyrus says, “No, this was a tough mission, and you’re still learning.”

Between sobs I choke out, “But Uncle Cy, I’ve been doing this for five years already!”

“Alix, you have
been doing this for five years.” Cyrus leans forward and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Look, you only got promoted a few months ago. There’s
a big difference between Level 4 and Level 8. One thing that’s much stricter is following field protocols like leaving a captured IO to his own devices. Patrick knew that, and you showed him you didn’t.”

“So I blew it.”

Cyrus takes one of my hands and holds it in both of his. “Kiddo … it’s true you made a mistake, but Patrick bailed you out.”

I look up at Cyrus. My face is wet, and my nose is running. “Bailed me out how?”

“We got the intel he gathered, and you returned intact. Although you were badly injured.” Cyrus takes one of his hands from mine and gently brushes a few stray hairs off my face.

My crying slows down a little. I sniff really loudly. “It was mostly my right hand. It’s synthetic anyway, so—”

“Not physical injuries so much as emotional ones. The nurses and your mother have told me you’ve been having severe nightmares.” Apparently I’ve been moaning and thrashing around in my bed. This is common for field agents who have undergone significant trauma and usually lasts two or three days. What worries them is that it’s been going on for a whole week. Now that I’ve come out of my little coma, they intend to keep an eye on me to see if it goes away.

I take another wad of tissues and blow my nose, which makes a big honk that I’d think was funny if life didn’t suck so much. I inhale deeply, then slowly exhale and close my eyes. After a few more breaths I ask, “Boss, what happened after I fell off the roof?”

“You were engaged by about eight clones inside and we don’t know how many outside. They disengaged when they heard our helicopter approaching.”

“I’m not sure it was the chopper that scared them off.” I look at Cyrus again. “It might have been me.”

“I can certainly understand why,” Cyrus says with a little sparkle in his eyes. “We tested the DNA samples you brought back. Their genetic uniformity suggests that
Carbon has greatly enhanced the efficiency of its production techniques.”

“I brought back DNA samples?”

Cyrus lifts one eyebrow. “Your clothes were soaked with biomatter.”

That’s right. I was covered with goon guts when I got on the helicopter. No wonder that Squad trooper threw up. Now I remember the voice I heard in the closet. It sounded just like Dad, and it seemed so real.

I’m so cold. I need you to find me

I ask Cyrus, “What happens to the people who get cloned?” Cyrus tells me that we still don’t know much about the Originals, but the intel that Trick and I retrieved gives us a pretty good picture of how the Germans are doing it.

Gen-2 was a huge advance. They figured out how to speed-grow clones. What keeps the Germans from cranking out thousands and thousands of clone troops is that the Gen-2 clones are so emotionally immature. As impossible as Gen-3 sounds, our science teams admit that they used to say the same thing about human cloning in general. Greater Germany’s vast wealth and record of incredible scientific breakthroughs makes gainsaying them a dicey proposition. Winter certainly has faith in them.

I ask, “What happened to Winter, sir?”

“He escaped. By the time we got there, the school’s grounds were in absolute bedlam. The priority was to get our people out of there. It was good that you commed me.”

Swell, I can abort a mission like a seasoned pro. “Do we know where Winter is?”

“As a matter of fact, we do,” Cyrus states. “He’s back in Riyadh, at that damn lab of his, White Stone Research.”

“Are we gonna have the Germans go and get him?” I ask.

Cyrus snorts. “And have them ask us how we know all about an underground operation in
No, our betters will deal with it and then cover it up.” My boss reaches into his file folder and pulls out a thin manila folder. He drops it on my bed and says, “This is the plan from the Pentagon. They want to wipe out the Darius Covenant by staging a discreetly targeted event at Winter’s lab. Once the dust settles, our local stringers will confirm that Winter was under the bomb and the mission will be considered a success.”

A chill runs down my spine. “Are we gonna nuke it?”

“No, no. We’d never be able to cover that. The plan is to fire a thermobaric cruise missile from the Arabian Sea.” He glares at the Pentagon’s plan. “Eight hundred miles. It’s the extreme range for our longest-range missile.”

“When does this go down?”

“As soon as one of our submarines with the proper ordnance can get on station.” Cyrus checks his watch. “About forty-two hours.” He takes a very deep breath, bumps his eyebrows together, and rubs his chin. He even purses his lips. He’s deliberating something.

“Sir?” I say.

My boss thinks for a few more moments. Then he nods his head and reaches into his file folder one more time. He pulls out a memo typed on a sheet of ExOps letterhead.

“Director Chanez and I talked about this when we heard the Pentagon’s plan. We’ve been advised by Justice that if we want to make sure we nail Fredericks, they’ll need stronger evidence than what we’ve presented so far.” He curls the memo into a cylinder and holds it between his big hands. Jeepers, he’s really nervous!

“Chanez knows he’s probably going to lose his job after this is over. He’s got one last mission he wants to run. He used up all his favors in Langley to get approval for this.” Another hesitation. It’s making
nervous, and I don’t even know what’s going on.

Finally he spits it out. “ExOps is going to snatch Winter before the missile hits. He’d be a star witness against Fredericks. We think we can persuade Winter to testify
in return for certain legal protections. This way they’ll both be neutralized. Only a few people at Justice and the CIA know about this.”

I think to myself:
This must be way-y-y above my clearance

“Alix, there’s an additional motive behind our desire to acquire this man.”

There’s only one reason Cyrus would be telling me all this stuff

My boss sweeps the manila file back into his briefcase, “Your father was ExOps’ highest-ranked Level. The best of our best. And he was captured alive. Ever since then there’s been talk that our agency is unreliable, that we’re too far removed from traditional covert methods. Some say we need more oversight or even that ExOps should be dissolved.”

The reason is that he’s sending me

“Fredericks seems to know everything about our day-to-day operations, to the point where
puts out contracts on
. This role reversal has been a blight on the, ah … notoriety … our agency has enjoyed since our founding.”

He’s sending me back to snatch Winter

Cyrus stands up, sticks out his chin, and begins to pace the room with his hands clasped behind his back. “I’m sending two Levels—an Interceptor and a Vindicator. The Interceptor will penetrate the lab to pull the snatch while the Vindicator provides backup. I’m going to keep the mission’s Info Operator here where he can work from a jackframe and have the entire Info Department at his fingertips.”

BOOK: Blades of Winter
7.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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