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Authors: AR Moler

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Braided Lives

BOOK: Braided Lives
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

Braided Lives

TOP SHELF

An imprint of Torquere Press Publishers PO Box 2545

Round Rock, TX 78680

Copyright 2011 AR Moler

Cover illustration by Alessia Brio

Published with permission

ISBN: 978-1-61040-217-0

www.torquerepress.com

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information address Torquere Press. Inc., PO

Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78680.

First Torquere Press Printing: May 2011

Braided Lives

By A.R. Moler

March

"Dennis Espeleta's missing," said Bottman. "I just got word that he didn't make his check-in."

Danny Valentine looked up from his computer to meet his boss's gaze. The news was disturbing. Dennis had been on assignment with the UN peacekeeping forces overseas assisting in tracking down some of the radical Serbian terrorist factions left in Kosovo. Espeleta was a counter-intelligence specialist with the CIA. He was also a telepath of moderate talent, which put him in the employ of Division P.

"By how long?" Valentine asked.

"Twelve hours. The UN people were trying to give him some wiggle room before they gave us the information," replied Bottman. "I've already started making calls. It may turn out to be a false alarm or miscommunication or some other minor issue. But I figured I should give you a heads up."

Valentine nodded, his mind already scrambling to figure out what they could do to get their man back safe.

"I'll keep you in the loop," Bottman continued.

"Yeah, thanks. I'll start talking to our people and see who's available."

Bottman departed and Valentine stared after him for a moment. Andrew Bottman was a medium height man in his mid-forties and the head of Division P. It was somehow perversely funny that the man who ran the United States government's highly secretive group of psychic operatives had no psychic Talent what so ever.

The guy was as head-blind as a doorknob. The flipside was that Bottman had raised the art of networking and favor swapping among the country's bigwigs to an art form. Chances were Danny was going to need a few of those favors to get their man home again, if the guy was even still alive.

Valentine ran a mental checklist as he spent a moment stretching his well-muscled and over six foot tall form. One, they needed to figure out if Espeleta was still alive. That meant they needed a clairvoyant or a telepath who was good at distances. Two, if the guy was still alive, they needed a finder or maybe somebody with psychometry skills. Three, if he was injured, they would need a healer or at least somebody with medical skills who was privy to some of the odd problems that psi could manifest.

There was the added problem of Espeleta being in Kosovo, so that racked up problems of needing passports and preferably military or combat experience.

While it was true that Kosovo wasn't the out and out war zone of a decade ago, there were still a few hot spots and people who weren't willing to let go of old hatreds.

Danny had been recruited by Division P for his odd mix of empathic skills, military experience and his more recent career with NCIS. After a single year of training and field agent work for P, he'd been thrust into the newly created position of Assistant Director of Field Operations. It was a real catch-all job, where he did everything from picking people for assignments to debriefing, along with "hair-on-fire" FUBAR disaster management and clean-up, and juggling a little field command on top of it all.

He started pulling up personnel files for Division P

people, paying particular attention to those that were either active military or had been.

***

"I'll make sure Braithwaite has a full medical field kit," said Peter Vithoulkas. He was the senior psychic healer for Division P, a man of extraordinary talent. He sat at the conference table with Valentine, Bottman, Benford, and Pierce, working on mission plans for finding and retrieving Espeleta. Braithwaite was a corpsman for the army who had some healing talent.

He'd been with Division P for less than a year. His advantage in this situation was having some combat experience.

Peter himself had spent a decade as a corpsman in the Air Force before his own recruitment to Division P.

Given the magnitude and value of his rare talent, Division P seldom sent him into the field. The staff was about to move on to discussion of which finder would be the best choice when an elderly man came into the room.

Reed Sawyer was a seventy-five year old retired spook.

He'd spent more than forty years in the CIA.

"Sorry to butt in, but if you don't send Peter on this op one of our people will die," said Reed. The men in the room were eerily quiet. When Reed Sawyer talked, people listened. Sawyer was a precog of scarily accurate skill. True of anyone with the ability to glimpse the future, his information was often incomplete, and seldom responded on demand, but the man was almost never wrong. His prediction put a whole new spin on what might happen in trying to rescue Espeleta.

"Okay, change in plans," said Bottman. "Peter, you're going to Kosovo."

***

The white noise of the airplane engines was as good a mask as any for the conversations Valentine needed to have with each of the men on his team. The MAC flight to Germany was nearly done and from there they would catch another plane to Pristina in Kosovo. There were five men, plus himself. Nightengale was a psychometric, Rayden was a finder, Claydon was a reasonably gifted telepath, and Tabano had a mix of empathic and clairvoyant skills. Then there was Vithoulkas. Of all the men, Danny knew Peter a little better than he knew the others, which wasn't actually saying all that much.

Although they ran into each other around the Division P

complex fairly regularly, there wasn't a lot of direct interaction in their jobs.

A few minutes with each of the other men helped Danny to confirm that they were calm and in control and had some idea what they might expect on the mission to find Espeleta. Finally Danny sat down next to Peter. The healer was reading a paperback.

"I don't suppose Reed had any last minute revelations for you?" asked Danny.

"I wish. I haven't been out in the field in almost a year. Now I'm on my way to a demilitarized zone.

Yeehah."

"When we land in Germany at Landstahl, there's supposed to be updates on intel waiting for us. I'd like to say maybe Espeleta will have checked in and all we'll have to cope with is jet lag and wasted time."

"I don't think we're going to get that lucky,"

commented Peter.

"Me neither."

***

After landing in Kosovo, the next phase of the journey involved a two hour ride in a pair of Hummers to a small town north of Urosevac. A unit of Army peacekeeping forces was expecting the arrival of the Division P people and it took less than an hour for Valentine and his group to be briefed on the situation in the area. Active fighting was going on with a group of ex-patriot dissidents and at the moment that fighting seemed to involve a hell of a lot of gunfire and explosions.

Danny Valentine paired Nightengale and Claydon, and himself with Rayden. Tabano, he left at the field command with Vithoulkas. The game plan was to send both teams out searching for some sign of Espeleta. No explanation was offered to the field command as to exactly how they were going about this.

The late afternoon air was hazy with dust, and Danny followed along two to three steps behind Rayden, 9mm in his hand. Rayden was focused on what his finder skills might be telling him and Danny was watching the man's back. They spent a large chunk of the afternoon inching their way around heavily damaged buildings.

Danny trusted in Rayden's psychic skill. Between Rayden and Nightengale, they ought to be able to find Espeleta, getting him out could conceivably be trickier.

As they crept along a street, Danny suddenly felt the hard surge of anticipated satisfaction, and it wasn't from Rayden. Then he heard the dull thud of a rocket powered grenade being fired. He flung himself at Rayden, knocking him flat to the ground behind the partial shield of a burnt out car frame. The momentary whistle of the grenade passing overhead was immediately followed by the deafening roar of the explosion. A rain of dusty debris fell for several seconds and both men lay immobile as it settled.

Danny blinked a number of times and shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. Beneath him, Rayden squirmed a little and Danny rolled off him. There was a thread of pain somewhere and it took Danny another moment to realize it wasn't his own. Rayden sat up and leaned against the wrecked frame of the car. He was looking at a gash through the sleeve of his jacket. Blood seeped along his forearm, beginning to soak into the fabric.

"Fuck, I think I landed on a piece of broken glass,"

Rayden said. His voice sounded tinny and far away, and Danny realized his ears were ringing from the blast.

"Let me have a look." He examined Rayden's arm.

There was a deep cut a couple of inches long and it was actively bleeding. "I think you're going to need some stitches. Let's head back and get you looked at."

"You sure? It's not like I'm gonna bleed out or anything."

"Yeah, I know, but it's going to distract you big time until we get the bleeding stopped, isn't it?"

Rayden gave it a minute's consideration. "Yeah, it
is
apt to make it that much harder to focus."

***

At the building being used as field command, Peter examined Rayden's arm and commenced cleaning the gash. The healer actively blocked the man's pain while he was digging several flecks of gravel out of the injury.

A flicker of nausea from his patient caught his attention.

When Peter looked up at Rayden's face, the man was pale.

"You should probably look at something else; I don't want you passing out on me." Rayden gave him a weak smile. Peter returned to his task. Once the wound was clean, he trickled enough energy into Rayden's arm to stop the bleeding and tentatively seal the open gash. A few steri-strips should hold it shut enough for Rayden's body to begin normal healing.

"No stitches?" asked Rayden.

"Nope, perk of being Division P." Peter gave Rayden a wink. "Valentine, you're next," he called over his shoulder.

"I'm fine," said Danny. The tall field director was seated on a supply crate, where he had been keeping an eye on Rayden.

"Then let me confirm that." Valentine gave him an irritated look. When Peter finished bandaging Rayden's arm, he said, "Try not to bang it around too much. If it starts bleeding again let me know."

Rayden nodded and slid off the makeshift exam table.

Peter turned and crooked a finger at Danny. The man hauled himself up from where he was seated and came toward Peter.

"Sit," Peter ordered.

"I'm fine. No blood, no broken bones."

Peter clasped Danny's head gently between his hands and let his Talent roam Valentine's body. Finding nothing lethal, but a little definite damage, Peter asked,

"How bad's the headache?"

"It just hurts. It's no biggie."

"On a scale of one to ten?"

"Maybe three."

"Did you lose consciousness when the explosion occurred?" Peter ran his fingers through Danny's close cropped blond hair, checking for any physical signs of head trauma.

Danny frowned at him a little. "No."

"You have ringing in your ears?"

"Not now."

"But you did?" pressed Peter.

"Yeah. It was freakin' loud. I've had worse from a good rock concert."

Peter was slightly amused and let himself smile just a little. "You have a concussion. Not a bad one, but enough that I should probably do something about it."

"
Your
kind of do something?"

BOOK: Braided Lives
8.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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