Tell me what you think! Should I write more?
Quest for Nobility
Jason straightened his tie and looked in the mirror. Then he picked up the gun that was lying on the dresser. He raised it and said, “The name is Bond, James Bond.”
Flipping the gun over and replacing it on his dresser, he thought, I probably won’t need it for this mission. By now I know that working for the NSA isn’t exactly like a James Bond movie. Not that I expected it to be in the first place, but it involves quite a bit more paperwork than I’d like.
Since he had gotten ready for work earlier than normal this morning, he picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed his father. He wanted to tell him he had a new assignment, though he didn’t know what it was yet. Even if it were, though, he’d only be able to tell his father vague things about it.
It rang and rang; Jason wondered whether he was up yet. It was only 6:30 in Odyssey, though Jason knew his dad was usually up earlier than that. Maybe he was at Whit’s End already, working on an invention.
He was about to hang up when, on the last ring, his dad answered. “Hello?”
“Jason! I thought it might be you.”
“Did I interrupt anything?”
“No, just finished breakfast. How are you doing?”
“I get my next assignment today.”
“So you don’t know what it is yet.”
“No. But—“ Jason hesitated.
“You know what my last two assignments were like.”
“I know. You felt like they didn’t use you to the best of your abilities.”
Jason sighed. “Yeah.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They’re just feeling you out, seeing how much you can and can’t handle. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the time they decided to test you to your limit.
“On the other hand, maybe the time isn’t ripe. God knows what he’s doing.”
“I know. It’s just that I get so impatient sometimes.”
“I wouldn’t try to force the issue, Jason. That can be dangerous.”
“How am I supposed to know I’m even in the place God wants me to start from?”
“He’s led you where you are for a reason. He can use wrong steps as well as right ones. It just might be a little less painful if you go the right way to begin with.”
“I know how that is. Sometimes I think I’ll never learn.”
“Jason, I hope you know, even if you make mistakes, I’m proud of you. I think your mom would be too.”
Jason’s breath caught in his throat. “You think so?”
“I know she would. Jerry too.”
I don’t know about that, thought Jason. “Thanks, Dad.”
“I’d better let you get to work.”
“Yeah, it’s about time to go find out what my new assignment is.”
“Whatever it is, be careful. Even a routine assignment can go downhill fast.”
I kind of hope so, thought Jason, though he didn’t say it; he didn’t want his father to think he was going to seek out danger.
“How is everything up there, by the way?”
“I’ve got a new Imagination Station program I’m working on.”
“One of these days I’ll have to try that thing.”
“Your next vacation maybe?”
“Whenever that is. I need to get up there. But right now, I’d better get going.”
“See you soon, Jason.”
It was 8:00, high time to go out the door. He had to go all the way to Fort Meade, Maryland, a forty minute drive, and if he was late, he’d get a reprimand. They might even take away his assignment. Though he’d only started working at the Agency two years ago, with half of that training, Assistant Director Donovan already knew just how to punish him without seeming to, usually with extra paperwork.
I’ve been good, he thought, picking up his briefcase, and walking out the door. Maybe they’ll reward me with a more challenging assignment.
Outside in the parking garage, he stepped into his red ’85 Mustang, and raced down the highway to Headquarters.
This is a long chapter and has some necessary(?) exposition so bear with me. Also, I have edited but I may need to re-edit any mistakes, but am too tired to do it right now, although I feel like posting because it's been a while since I posted the first chapter.
Here's Chapter 2.
At HQ, Jason got a report done, had lunch, then, waiting for the Assistant Director to call him upstairs, built origami out of scrap paper, fiddled with his Rubik’s cube, and bounced his red bouncy ball against the wall, annoying the people in the desk next to him. Donovan’s probably swamped with work like usual, thought Jason, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he was waiting deliberately, making him sweat it out to the last minute, just for the fun of it.
Finally, at about 3:30, Donovan’s secretary called him and relayed the order to come to Room 1108. He went up the elevator, down the long hallway, then opened the heavy oak door.
“Jason,” said Donovan, giving him a nod. He slapped a manila folder thick with papers onto the desk. “Your assignment,” he said in his Scottish accent.
Jason picked up the folder, and Donovan slipped another, slimmer folder onto the desk. “Your partner.” Jason took that folder too. “It’s her first assignment, so don’t be too hard on her.”
Jason held back a smile. “Wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”
Donovan peered at him over his reading glasses, as if he was about to say something back, but the phone interrupted him. “Yes, send her in.”
Jason waited, fidgeting, until few moments later, a young woman strode through the door. She had dark hair and was tall and thin, with an immaculate black suit and skirt.
“I’d like to introduce you to your partner. Tasha Forbes, this is Jason Whittaker. Jason, Tasha.”
Jason took her hand; her grip was strong and firm.
“Good to meet you,” he said.
“It’s good to meet you, too, Jason.”
Donovan cleared his throat. “Since you’re both here, I’d like to give you a basic overview of your assignment. Have a seat.” He gestured to two chairs sitting on opposite sides of the door.
“Within two days, you’ll be flying to Muldavia, a small country in central Europe that we’ve overlooked until recently because of its size and negligible importance. In the early fifties, it was taken over by a tyrant called Erik Von Warberg. An opportunist by many accounts, he took the communist leanings of the country as an excuse to rally the people behind him. It’s not certain whether he actually believed the ideals he adopted; he’d never shown any communist tendencies before. In any case, after assassinating the last monarch, King Roderick II, he and his descendants have been ruling with an iron fist ever since. It’s been a consistent if not particularly powerful ally to the USSR.
“But recently, we’ve picked up signals from nearby countries, stirrings of a possible revolution that have been simmering in communist countries lately. The tide is changing. We want to be ahead of the tide, especially since Karl Von Warberg, the present premier, is showing potential aggression toward other nations. If we could help nudge Muldavia into revolution before Von Warberg makes his move, well, all the better.
“Your assignment will be the advance guard, shall we say. You will be setting up a listening post in a strategic location. Within the week, a more permanent delegation of agents will be sent, and you’ll be able to move on to your next assignment.
“Your contact will be Josiah Munroe, a man with possible ties to the rebels. We aren’t even sure if there are rebels at this point, or how many there are, because of our lack of relations with the country, and how closed it has been to outside influence. Munroe will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel.
“The second language there is English, so you shouldn’t have much problem with communication.
“Yes, sir,” said Jason. “What will our cover be?”
“You will be reporters, covering the new policy that, ironically, is letting you in in the first place. In mimicking the Soviet Union, they are going ahead with limited acceptance of foreign journalists. To show that you’re above suspicion, we’ve made you sympathetic to their cause. You’ll be journalists for a US communist newspaper.
“Then you will set up the preliminary observation site, with rudimentary equipment. Munroe will help you with this.”
“Does he know we’re with the NSA?” said Jason.
“Yes, he does.”
“How do we know we can trust him?” said Tasha.
Donovan gave her a sharp look. “You never know who you can trust in this game. But the reason we think he has ties with the rebels is that he publishes an underground newspaper, The Vanguard. If there’s anyone you can trust in that country, he’s it.
“I think you have enough to go on for now. You have forty eight hours to study your assignment, and then you will meet back here before your flight on Thursday.” He nodded, their signal to leave.
Jason rose; Tasha followed suit. Donovan was already bent over his desk, immersed in paperwork.
The receptionist gave them a cheery “Have a nice day,” and they stepped into the elevator at the end of the hall.
“Well,” said Jason. “What do you think?”
“I’m looking forward to my first assignment.”
“What’s your specialty?”
She gave a small smile. “I know. This isn’t exactly my field, but I’ll go where they send me; codes are my other specialty—though that’s a given here.
“What about you?”
“Oh, I’m good at pretty much everything.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I mean—What I mean is—“ he laughed “I’m don’t really have a specialty, per se. Encryption, tech stuff, weapons, you name it.”
They stepped out of the elevator into the huge entry way. Her high heels clacked against the ceramic tiles, echoing through the vast space.
Just before stepping through the doorway, on impulse Jason asked, “Would you like to meet for coffee before you go home?”
She pushed through the doorway without an answer. Then she stopped on the sidewalk outside and looked at him, as if sizing up his intentions.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I should get home to study my assignment.”
“Just fifteen minutes or so. If we get to know each other face to face, it’ll save time looking through each other’s files.”
“That makes sense. All right, Jason.”
After settling on a coffee shop in downtown DC, Tasha headed for her car somewhere in the jungle of automobiles. Jason got into his car, locked the assignment folders in the secret compartment in his briefcase, and maneuvered out of the parking lot.
About forty-five minutes later, he parked in front of Columbus CoffeeShop. Tasha was already there, sipping her cup of coffee and flipping through the pages of a book.
He sauntered up to the table. “I thought I was pushing the speed limit. Have a short cut I don’t know about?”
She smiled cryptically. “Maybe, maybe not.”
After ordering a macchiato, he sat down opposite her. “What are you reading?”
She flipped the cover back. Cracks in the Iron Curtain: why communist countries are built to fall.
“That’s not exactly light reading.”
She shrugged. “It’s only a matter of time before the Soviet Union falls, along with most other communist countries.”
“If it’s inevitable, why are we going into countries like –the one we’re going to?”
“Like Donovan said, we have to make sure we’re ahead of the tide. We have to be there to pick up the pieces, make sure they’re on our side when all’s said and done.
“Don’t you think it’s inevitable?”
He nodded. “The Soviet economy is going downhill, and when it falls, others will probably fall, since they depend on it. But I think our role should be more proactive than to just pick up the pieces.”
“We saw how well proactive policies worked. North Korea. Vietnam.”
Jason shuddered inwardly at the mention of Vietnam. He took all disparaging remarks about the war as if they were attacking Jerry’s memory. “I don’t mean war. I mean….covertly.”
“Oh. You mean us. Our role right now is to watch, quietly gather allies among the counter-communist forces. I don’t see how we can be more proactive than that.”
It was hard to speak candidly in a public place about a secret organization. “I agree with that. But if there’s anything we can do to help move things along, we should take it.”
She tilted her head slightly. “Maybe. If it’s the right thing. I doubt we- I mean we, personally this time—will have much of a chance when we’re there. That’s for the ones who come after us to deal with.”
Jason nodded, though his heart twisted with dissatisfaction. It’s probably just my need to do something. I have to put that aside, and focus on what’s right for the mission. Tasha’s right, we probably won’t have a chance to do much but lay the foundation for the more experienced agents.
“So,” said Jason, “what do you like to do, besides read and drink coffee?”
She smiled, and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. She has very nice hands, he thought; the thought startled him.
“Lots of things. I like games, especially ones that challenge your mind. Strategy games like Risk. Chess. Puzzles that it takes weeks to put together.” She laughed. “I love research—“
“Yes. That’s why I’m in microbiology. And why I like books like this.” She tapped the book’s open page.
“You wouldn’t happen to like paperwork, would you?”
“I don’t mind it.”
Jason shook his head. “Do you want to do mine?”
“Maybe. If I have time.” A smile crept up on her mouth. Her dark hair contrasted with her pale skin; dark eyes danced in an elegant, aristocratic face.
Don’t go there, he told himself. She’s a coworker, and there’s that little issue you’re not quite over-- Gloria.
“What about you?” she asked.
“I like games too. Puzzles…but I don’t have the patience for ones that take too long. More technical stuff….I fiddle around with projects quite a bit. I like things that challenge you physically, adventures, finding new places. Travel. That was one of the reasons I wanted to work here—going to new countries every few months or so. That, and my father.”
“What does your father have to do with it?”
“He worked for them, back in the day.”
“Oh, so it’s a dynasty of agents.”
He smiled. “Dad kind of influenced me to go the direction I went. And I wanted to do something for my country. I thought about the military….but it’s too structured. Everything just seemed to fall into place for me to go into…this work.”
Tasha nodded. “Me too. Oh, not at first. Science is my first love. I wanted to study, do research, look at test tubes all my life. Then, in college, I kind of got to see how it could be more than that…I could do real good with it. Find cures. That’s why I switched from chemistry to microbio. In grad school, some work I did got recognized, news travelled to the right places, and here I am.” She set her coffee down. Closed her book. “On that note, I think it’s time I get going. We’ll have a lot more time to talk on the airplane, and during our mission.”
“I’m looking forward to working with you.” He stood; they shook hands. Then Tasha strode out the door, her book under her arm. Noticing his eyes were straying after her, he quickly turned back to the table to sip the rest of his lukewarm coffee.
Tasha steered her car out of its parking space, and drove out onto the road. The warmth from the coffee still sent a glow through her. Or maybe it's not just the coffee… she thought.
He's not my type, first of all. And we're not very much alike. But those eyes….the way they lit up when he talked about travelling. His smile—there's a hint of a dimple…the way that lock of hair falls over his forehead, and wow, he's built very well. You can tell he works out. As well he should, but- wow.
Come on, she told herself, making sure she was staying on the road, you're not falling for a man this quickly. I can admire him without ever expecting anything more….Besides, I'm not quite healed from the last time, and I don't want to get involved with a co-worker, of all messy things. If he even wants me—
No, cut it out.
She made a conscious effort to shut off her emotions; a commitment to remaining objective where he was concerned.
That doesn't mean I can't have a professional interest in the physical attributes of my partner…but it also means I don't make that an excuse to cross the line.
It's his mental attributes I should focus on, like whether he is holding up his part of the assignment. He has seniority, but there's still this boyish naivety about him. This sort of recklessness that's endearing, but also potentially dangerous. I have a feeling I'm going to have to be the more responsible member of this team, though I'm the one that's fresh out of training.
At her apartment, she parked in the street and got out. As she climbed the stairs, she glimpsed some cigarette butts on the steps, and cringed. No, it's not my duty to clean the apartment complex- I just have to pretend none of this is there. This is only temporary till I get my next few paychecks, then everything will be stable enough so I can move out of this crummy neighborhood.
She unlocked her door, and shut it behind her, breathing a sigh of relief to be out of that dingy hallway. Still, she could hear muffled yells from one of the apartments below. And a baby crying.
No, I won't miss this place, she thought. I'll be glad to go on the mission just to have some peace and quiet at night. Not that I couldn't take care of myself if someone broke in. Her eyes drifted to the dresser drawer, where her gun was locked. She often debated whether to carry it with her; sometimes she did, but not today.
She set down her briefcase, and sat in the chair, pulling off her high heels.
After shedding the rest of her work clothes, she pulled on some jeans and a light top. Then, barefoot, she set about making dinner, whipping up some pesto and setting some rotini on the stove.
One thing I didn't tell him I like to do, she thought, leaning on the island. The rather anomalous thing: cook. It helps me unwind and relax. Maybe I'll ask him over for a meal sometime. Professionally, of course.
The pasta done, she sat down at the round faux-wood table, bringing the assignment folder with, and read as she ate. Dry as the material was, she knew how to read between the lines. This sounds like a pretty interesting assignment, she thought, the more she read. Muldavia was a fascinating country; she'd known next to nothing about it before today.
It had united from warring tribes in the 11th century, and other than a brief rule by the Ottoman Turks, it had retained its sovereignty, despite its small size. In the 19th century, it was nearly annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but retained its fierce independence by fighting back. During World War II, it was neutral in the face of enormous pressure from both sides, although, it was discovered after the war, the King had had a secret policy that had led to smuggling thousands of Jews across the Austrian border.
There was a picture of King Roderick I. He cut an imposing figure; in his gold braid, sword at his side, he looked more like a monarch from the 19th century. According to the documents, he was as noble in actions as he was in appearance, and was a hero to his people.
His son had been a different story, wine and flying being his favorite activities. When his father died soon after the war, his illegitimate cousin, Erik Von Warberg, maneuvered to seize the crown. But, despite rumors his plane had crashed, the coronation had gone on without a snag, and King Roderick II had turned out to be as celebrated a king as his father.
His reign was short-lived, however. He had actually pardoned Von Warberg for attempting to assassinate him, but this act of mercy was lost on a man without conscience. Von Warberg had bided his time, and when the king put in place a few questionable policies, he used that as an excuse to take over with a small communist faction, and got what he wanted in the first place, killing the king, his wife and young son.
The country had been under communist rule ever since, and, although it copied the Soviet Union almost religiously at times, it still was strongly independent and nationalistic, believing it had the best people, the best products, the best art, on earth. It also had a cult of personality, both of Erik and now Karl Von Warberg, anyone questioning them amounting to treason. Though many people feared him, many almost worshipped him, believing he could do no wrong.
That's what happens when a country's as cut off from everything as it is, she thought, and with the Soviet Union as its big brother, no wonder it has a skewed perspective. It should be interesting to see what they think of us when we arrive, even though we're supposedly on their side.
Tasha washed out her dishes, and then read the rest of her assignment with the TV on in the background. Finally, she headed to bed.
For some reason, her thoughts kept drifting to Robert, her old boyfriend. Why am I even thinking about that no-good jerk? I should be over it.
Because he was perfect, at first. Tall, dark and serious (most of the time, with a deadpan sense of humor), he loved the things she loved. It had been a fairy-tale romance. They'd talked about marriage. Once, he'd taken her shopping and they'd half-facetiously looked at rings.
The worst part was, she'd never even noticed him drifting away. They were having as much fun as ever, when little hints started to pop up. She denied them at first, because of how happy she was. She didn't want to spoil it, especially if it was nothing.
One day, walking on campus, she'd seen him talking to another girl. As soon as she walked up, the girl went away, and there was something in Robert's face…
Finally the evidence piled up so much she confronted him about it. He blew up. He even accused her of cheating on him, of blaming him for her own guilt.
She'd slapped him. But he didn't just take it like a man. He slapped her back, threw her to the ground. He'd dragged her into his bedroom and locked her there, then sped away in his car.
She'd broken the window, climbed out, and never looked back. Although, sometimes, she found herself longing for things to go back the way they were. As they never would. She found herself having a hard time trusting other men; and now that she was starting her career, a romance would be adding one thing she didn't need, especially if, despite her caution, it got messy like the last time.
She cut off those thoughts, trying to go to sleep. Finally, pleasant darkness closed in on her mind.
In the dreamlike phase between sleeping and waking, Jason appeared before her. He smiled, reached out, touched her face—she leaned into the touch, lifted her face to his—
She shot up in the dark. Great. Is this what happens when my defenses are down? she wondered. I'm not really recovered from Robert, so I can't really trust what I'm feeling. I don't need anyone, especially not now. I need to focus on my mission. Be professional….
She lay back on the pillow, conjuring up the image of the shack on the Virginia beach where she'd spent her summers as a girl. The seagulls calling in the air, the waves lapping the sand, back and forth, back and forth….
Her thoughts temporarily free of intruders, she drifted off to sleep.
Jason lay back on his leather couch, plowing through the assignment. Why did they have to write these things like they were textbooks? For that matter, why did they have to write textbooks like they were textbooks?
Flipping through the photos, he came to the picture of the last king and stopped short. At first, he thought he was looking at a picture of his father when he was younger. Then he saw that he had a beard, and was, of course, wearing the uniform of royalty. The resemblance was striking; he had never seen someone look so alike to another, unless they were twins.
Shaking off that odd déjà vu-like feeling he had looking at the picture, he flipped to the last two, photos of Erik Von Warberg and his son, Karl. They were both rather unremarkable looking, except for the hint of cold determination in the eyes, the twist of cruelty in the mouth that the son had inherited from his father. There were even hints in the documentation that Karl may have had a hand in his father's rather untimely death….
These are the people we are up against, he thought. This is the country I am going into. A chill ran through him, knowing that in 48 hours, he'd be stepping into enemy territory.
His last few assignments had been setting up listening posts in countries that were allies: Britain, Italy. As much as he loved going to those countries, the missions had been brief. What Jason wanted, what he had trained for, was a deep cover mission. At least this was undercover, though he wouldn't be in it long.
I might as well throw my heart and soul into this, he thought. After what I gave up to be here- A twinge of sadness stabbed his heart, as he did whenever he thought of Gloria, though those moments were fading into bittersweet memory, as was his period of mourning after she had married someone else.
He let himself fall back into reminiscence, though he knew it might cost him to do so. Her name matched everything that she was. Long blonde hair, vivid blue eyes that sparked with delight or anger; an easy laugh, an infectious smile.
Gloria, sitting across from him studying, her eyes peering over her book with an irresistibly mischievous gaze….
Next to him on the hill above campus, munching on a bologna sandwich, a curl of blonde hair dangling over her face—how he'd longed to brush it back…
Running across the beach in the surf, her glistening form always ahead of him, boy could she run…
Standing on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Gloria in a rare wistful mood, looking out over the city and its famed seven hills, a gust of wind blowing her hair about her shoulders—
He'd taken her in his arms and kissed her, and she'd kissed him back, and laughed…That was the moment he knew he loved her.
That summer, the summer of his post-grad World Tour Two, he would treasure forever. Nothing would invade it. No shadow of what was to come.
The day he got the letter, they'd just returned from the trip; they were both heavily tanned with sun-bleached hair, hers the color of white sand.
She hoisted herself up to the counter, taking a bite of a strawberry. He slid his thumb under the envelope's lip; it bit him, leaving a stinging cut.
Inside—a rather benign note. But he knew what it was. The NSA recruiters had come to him during college; he'd talked to them a bit, and taken an aptitude test one day in a deserted classroom. He'd barely thought of it since, but excitement surged through him.
"We are pleased to announce your acceptance into a special program…" No word like 'spy' or 'national security' was used, but there was no one else it could be from. It ordered him to a certain place and time the next week to report for training.
"What is it?" said Gloria.
"Nothing," he said.
She tried to snatch the letter away from him, but he wouldn't let her. She chased him through his apartment, and, knowing he could never outrun her (few people could), when she was out of sight, he tore it up and hid it in the wastebasket.
When she caught up, she attacked him, demanding to know where the letter was, half-jokingly at first. Then she kept at it—and he wouldn't give in. His denials made her all the more determined—and suspicious. Why would he hide a letter from her? He knew he couldn't show it to her; they'd made it clear to tell no one, not even his father.
It escalated from there. Looking back, he knew he should have handled it better. But the argument took on a life of its own, blowing up bigger than its original subject. They attacked each other with accusations. Their relationship grew colder, spiteful.
One day, he said something unforgivable. Instead of acting out, as he expected her to, her eyes filled with tears.
That hurt more than anything else she could have done.
That moment, more than anything, tore their relationship apart.
Maybe it could never have worked, he thought. We were too much alike…we were meant to clash sooner or later.
But he couldn't help but wonder, if he hadn't gotten that letter, if he hadn't pursued the NSA despite what was happening between them, that it could have worked out.
He could have sacrificed his career for her. What was more important in the end? It didn't matter now; he'd made his choice. Secrets would always keep a distance between him and the ones he loved.
From now on, he could only share his life fully with Agency employees, and even then…His father, he could tell things to, but still, the NSA discouraged full disclosure even to as distinguished a former employee as his father, and besides, Jason wouldn't want to endanger him by telling him too much.
In a way, this life was a lonely one. It meant sacrificing things others took for granted…
Would I trade it now, for another life, if I could?
Maybe he would have before. But now….he was oriented toward the future. Looking back, to the days with Gloria, hurt too much.
He could throw his life fully into being an agent.
That is what I wanted. Still want, with all my heart.
To distract himself from his thoughts, he flipped to the personnel file.
Tasha stared back at him with an intense, focused expression. Her deep brown eyes drew him in—though her hair was pulled back, a wisp of it had fallen rebelliously across her forehead…as if there was a hint of high spirits behind her professional façade.
If I went out with a co-worker…though that would have other complications of its own…secrets wouldn't matter. She would understand what this life was, what it means to me.
Where's that coming from! I just met her.
She is beautiful though. In her own way, as beautiful as Gloria…
Oh, stop it, he thought. It's not like it's ever going to go anywhere…I can admire her, but from afar. I don't want to make this trip awkward; we are focusing on our job, and….I'm not even looking for romance. I doubt she is either, especially with someone like me.
I'm too tired to think straight, he thought, set the file down on the coffee table. He switched on the TV, and flipped to a movie, which happened to be "Raiders of the Lost Ark". As much as he loved the movie, before the end of it, he was fast asleep.
It may or may not be a long time before I put up the next installment-- especially since I am working on a sequel to Consequence as well. I am not totally sure how to write the next section. If you could give me some ideas, that would be great.
Jason pulled the carryon down the aisle of the airplane, full of people packing their belongings into the spots they’d have for the next eight hours. Tasha maneuvered ahead of him, stepping adroitly through the labyrinth of passengers, a camera case slung over her shoulder. The camera was real, but there was also a gun hidden in it, which they could fold out of the camera if they needed to after they got through customs. Inside both Jason’s and Tasha’s suitcases were an array of innocent-looking items, but were actually spies’ tools in disguise: knives masquerading as pens, bugs that looked like coins, a camera disguised as watch. Everything fit in with their personas as reporters. Except the subsonic transmitter, hidden in the secret compartment in Jason’s suitcase, which would be set up in the listening post and wouldn’t see daylight. Unless, of course, they were caught.
A shiver of excitement ran down Jason’s spine. It was going to be a long eight hours; he was ready to jump right into the mission.
They stopped at their seats. 22A and 22B. Jason’s was technically by the window, but he figured he should ask Tasha if she wanted to sit there. After stuffing his suitcase in the compartment above, he gestured to the empty seat.
“No, you go ahead,” she said, over the noise. “I’d rather sit by the aisle anyway.”
What person in their right mind would want to sit by the aisle? he thought, but didn’t complain, sliding in next to the window and looking out at the DC terminal, little carts zipping to and fro over the runway. It’d probably be another 45 minutes before takeoff.
Tasha slipped in next to him, shoving the camera case beneath her seat. She set her purse on her lap and pulled out a notebook and pen.
“What are you going to write?”
She shrugged. “We’re reporters. It’s what we do.”
Jason nodded. He should probably start getting in character too; at least it might make the long flight more interesting. They had already started playing someone other than themselves as soon as they’d gotten their fake IDs and doctored passports at Headquarters. Jason was Dorian Cash, and Tasha was Nora Baker, both idealistic young reporters with a US communist newspaper. Donovan had given them a lot of leeway in constructing their characters, but also made sure they knew their story inside and out, especially concerning their life as reporters and their communist beliefs. Their main contact would be Munroe, who was in on the secret, but they’d have to withstand government scrutiny if it came down to it.
Jason picked up the briefcase he’d set down beside his seat and popped it open. He pulled out an issue of their newspaper, Red Dawn. The techs must have had fun coming up with its name. And Jason was pretty sure Dorian Cash was a play on DC, as in Washington, DC. Not too subtle, but nothing that would look like anything but a coincidence.
The newspaper was along the same lines. He’d read one issue; it was colorful and bold, especially the articles he’d supposedly written. He’d have to study it to get more into character, and to be able to write like the techs had if it came down to it.
He snapped the briefcase shut, set it down, and flipped to the most recent issue, March 1989. “Red Dawn” was emblazoned across the top in red letters.
Tasha cleared her throat. Jason looked at her; she held her pen poised above her notebook, already half-full of neat cursive writing.
“Are you sure you should have those out?” she said in a low voice.
“Why not? I wrote them.”
Tasha sighed. “Yes, but maybe you should wait until we’re in friendlier territory, if you know what I mean.”
“I just want to go over the last few issues to get ideas for my next article.”
“Just…try not to advertise who we are.”
Jason nodded noncommittally. He wasn’t sure if she was speaking as herself, or as Nora Baker. In any case, he figured it was up to him to know how his character would act. After all, when it came down to it, he was the one in charge. If he needed to, he had the authority to tell Tasha what to do.
He took his pen and started jotting down notes along the margins, and underlining words and subjects that stood out.
He was interrupted by the announcement for takeoff. He buckled in, clutching the papers in his hand, ready for the airplane to launch this adventure.
Gravity pressed him down into the seat, and he felt the exhilaration he felt every time he flew. He turned to see Tasha. She was gripping the armrests, her eyes closed.
“Are you all right?”
She looked at him. “Flying’s not my favorite thing, that’s all.”
“Oh.” He fought the sudden urge to grasp her hand and comfort her; she didn’t seem like the type that would appreciate it.
Washington, DC receded below, its sprawling metropolis shrinking into the distance, shrouded by early morning mist. The city gave way to Virginia pastureland, draped in the green of mid-spring. Then, before he knew it, they were over the ocean, blue-gray waves like rumpled aluminum foil. The sun flashed into his eyes, and then they surged above the clouds, enveloped in white for a moment before rising above the cotton-like surface, a world all its own.
“Look, Tasha,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
She didn’t respond. Then he remembered her name wasn’t Tasha, it was Nora; shock stabbed through him at such an error. He wasn’t used to working with a partner.
“Nora—do you see it?”
She nodded, though her brow was furrowed, as if in pain. He wanted to shake her and tell her there was nothing to be afraid of.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful. Those clouds are not nearly as solid as they look, though.”
“I know, but air is the –“
“Safest way to travel. I think I’ve heard that before.” She shot him a scathing look. He retreated into his newspaper.
He was on the second paragraph of an original article by ‘Dorian Cash’, trying to get the tone down and get into the mindset of a communist, and Tasha had left to the restroom, when an older man walked by with a cane. “Excuse me,” he said, “There’s a scarcity of reading material on this plane—it’s all about American Airlines and how it’s the best thing ever invented. I couldn’t help but notice you have a newspaper. Anything an old guy like me might be interested in?”
“Oh, of course,” said Jason, glad for the opportunity to jump into character. “Would you like to read it?” He pulled a random issue from his pile.
“Thanks.” The man looked at it; his face changed, wrinkles rearranging into a frown. His eyes narrowed. “On second thought—“ he tapped the paper with his finger—“this borders on treason.”
“Listen,” said Jason, “you can believe what you want, and I can believe what I want. It’s a free country.”
“It wouldn’t be free if you commies had control of it.”
“We’d be freer than we are now, with the corporations in control of everything.”
“As free as the Soviet Union?”
“I admit, the Soviets have made some wrong turns on their way to utopia—“
“Utopia!” scoffed the man.
“—but they aren’t as bad as the US government paints them. It has demonized the Soviet Union because it’s in the pocket of the capitalist oppressors.”
The man shook his head. “I don’t see how anyone can be so deluded. If you actually lived in a communist country, I doubt you’d be so glowing in your defense of it. Mass starvation. Prison camps. Torture chambers.”
“More Western propaganda!”
A woman peaked over the edge of the seat in front of him. “If you like it so much, maybe you should go live there.”
“Maybe I will.”
“Traitor,” mumbled a man behind him. “I’d push him out of the plane if I could.”
Jason shook with anger, then remembered he was just playing a role. I am good, he thought. I even convinced myself for a minute.
Just then, Tasha returned. She glared at Jason.
The older man turned to her. “Do you espouse his views?”
“Yes. But I’m not about to get in an argument about it with someone who will never change theirs.”
The man hesitated. Then he ripped the newspaper in two, and it fluttered to the floor. He stalked down the aisle, his cane clomping on the floor. Tasha picked the pieces up and sat down. She shoved them into his lap.
“I told you,” she said through clenched teeth, “not to advertise who we are.”
“I can’t help but be who I am.”
She shook her head and went back to furiously writing notes.
Later, he went to use the restroom. He was just about to open the door when someone knocked on it. “Just a sec.” He opened it; Tasha burst inside. Grabbed his tie, almost strangling
him. “Listen, Jason—“
She rolled her eyes. “Jason. You’re a professional. Start acting like it.”
“I thought I was.”
“That display back there? You think this is a game?”
“We’re here for one thing, and one thing only. Any extra attention could get us killed. We’re new at this, so we need to be cautious, not broadcast who we are at every corner. I hope you remember that once we land.” She released him.
“I’m the one with seniority here, Tasha.”
“Then live up to it.” She turned and walked out the door. Jason followed her, straightening his tie as he went. People looked furtively up at them, whispering, as they made their way to their seats.
He ignored everything but the cloud formations out the window till they reached the airport in Paris.
Thank you Ashley and Liz!
Okay here's an even longer chapter.
The first few chapters are kind of setting things up so bear with me.
The passengers glared at him as he walked out of the plane, hauling his luggage. I thought I was good at my role, thought Jason. Maybe it was a little too good, though.
Just as he was stepping off the ramp, an elderly woman with a halo of curly silver hair tugged on his sleeve. “Excuse me,” she said, “could I have a copy of your newspaper?”
“I’d really like to read one.”
“Well…I suppose you could—“ He dug one out of his briefcase, wondering if it would matter that he gave away an issue of the fake newspaper the techs had constructed.
The woman smiled at him. “Thanks.” She pulled him by his sleeve down to her level, and whispered in his ear: “Keep up the good work.” She winked, and walked off and merged with the crowd spreading out over Charles De Gaulle airport.
He caught up to Tasha down the concourse. She was lugging her camera case, purse and suitcase. “Here, I’ll take that.” He reached for the camera.
“I’m fine.” She swerved away from him and kept walking.
“Listen, I’m sorry—“
She didn’t look at him. Then she stopped, faced him. Spoke in a low voice, beneath the noise of the bustling terminal. “I’m sorry. For –my overreaction. If you haven’t noticed, flying puts me in a bad mood. You were right; you do have seniority, and I overstepped my bounds. I’m sorry, Jason.”
He smiled. “That’s okay. I understand.”
“From now on, I’ll try to follow your lead.”
She smiled for the first time after boarding the plane, reluctant at first; it spread to her eyes, sparkling over their mysterious depths. His heart skipped a beat. She is beautiful when she isn’t all—cranky. Then again…I can’t think of a time when she doesn’t look good.
He glimpsed the Eiffel Tower out the window. It hit him with a pang of sadness. He’d been here with Gloria. They’d ascended to the top in the elevator, and shared a kiss….
He shook himself out of his reverie and walked toward the boarding area for their next flight, burning the bridges to his past.
They boarded a small Muldavian plane, and were surrounded by a majority of Muldavians, speaking their own language, which sounded a lot like German but without many words that Jason could recognize. Jason made sure to be inconspicuous this time, which was hard to do since they were the only Americans on the flight. He did exchange a few words with some of the passengers who spoke good English, but managed to keep from revealing too much about why he was travelling to such a closed country. Tasha was right; the fewer that knew about their visit the better; more scrutiny just gave enemies more of a chance to notice if they happened to slip up.
The plane hit some bumpy patches; Jason feared it might shake apart. It didn’t seem like it was a very well-made plane.
“I hate this,” said Tasha beside him. “I love to travel, but flying…is a different story. I wish I loved it like you do.”
“In this case,” he said, glancing out the window at the lightning streaking across the clouds, “you might be right to fear flying.”
She frowned. “Yes, but it annoys me how…irrational my fear is. And that annoyance gets diverted to other things—and—“ She shook her head—“we were going to put this behind us.”
“Right,” said Jason. “Probably a good idea.” He would have said more, but it might have been something compromising, so he looked out the window for the rest of the trip, watching the lightning flash bright paths across the darkness.
Inside the terminal, they went through customs, showed their fake passports, which the official scrutinized for an agonizingly long time, got their luggage, and finally went to sit in the waiting area. They knew their contact, Josiah Munroe, by photograph; Jason looked around for anyone who might look like him. A few did, and Jason almost went up to them, but Tasha pulled him back each time. “Not him,” she said.
Jason was immersed in a Muldavian magazine, which had some pictures from which he could guess the gist of the articles, when he heard footsteps clicking toward them across the tiled floor. A tall young woman stood there, long slender legs beneath a short gray skirt, a white blouse climbing up to the base of her neck, and platinum blonde hair bound around her head in a braid. Bright blue eyes gleamed from a tanned face dusted with freckles, and she carried a clipboard.
“Can I help you?” said Jason.
“On the contrary, I can help you.” She smiled, revealing generous dimples. “I am Elena Ford, Mr. Munroe’s assistant. He is involved with a…situation at the office, and he asked me to come and meet you.”
“I see,” said Tasha. She rose. “I’m Nora Baker. This is my colleague, Dorian Cash.”
“It is good to meet you.” She shook hands with Tasha, and then turned to Jason. Her warm fingers closed over his.
“Call me Cash,” he said.
“Isn’t that a rather ironic name?” she said in her soft accent.
“In what way?”
“Well, being with a communist newspaper. When we strive for a cashless, moneyless society.”
He tipped his head. “I suppose it is.”
“Mr. Munroe will meet us at the office.” She turned and led them out through the doors. In the entryway, she popped up a large black umbrella. “Do you two have a coat? It’s rather cold out. Our rainy season.”
Jason and Tasha dug in their luggage, and pulled out light jackets. Jason hoped that they would be enough.
Outside, a blast of wind hit him, whipping cold rain into his face. Down the sidewalk, a cab was waiting for them at the curb, and they all piled in. Jason somehow managed to get in the middle, his legs cramped in the center.
He tried to see what the city of Rakima was like, but all he managed to glimpse on their fifteen-minute drive was vague forms of buildings looming like hunched-over shadows in the rain, and a statue in the center square, its fist raised toward heaven.
The driver pulled up in front of a low gray brick building. Several other cars were parked there, one of them flashing the blue and red of a police car.
They all got out, and the cab sped away. As Jason walked past the police car, he spotted the symbol of the regime- a red star with a hammer and sickle in the center.
Inside, the place was a mess. Men walked two and fro, tossing papers haphazardly to the floor. Others rifled through file cabinets and desk drawers. Several people stood in the center, as if at a loss: two men and a woman. One of the men was familiar—their contact, Josiah Munroe.
Tucking the umbrella beneath her arm, Elena strode through the mayhem as if nothing was unusual. Jason and Tasha followed her; a bearded man in a dark blue uniform and hat eyed them suspiciously as he directed the other men around the room.
“Mr. Munroe,” said Elena, “These are the American journalists, Dorian Cash and Nora Baker.”
“Ah, yes,” said Munroe, looking relieved. He ran his hand through his already disheveled brown hair. “Sorry I couldn’t meet you at the airport, but as you can see, I’m a little- occupied.” He smiled. “You already met Elena. These are two of my writers—Dana Kant and Saul Amir.” Jason shook hands with the small redheaded woman with the surprisingly firm handshake and cryptic smile, and the tall, dark-haired young man whose eyes darted back and forth at the men ransacking the room.
“I’d introduce you to the others, only I don’t know their names. We’re not exactly on friendly terms, as you can see.”
Jason leaned forward to allow himself to be heard above the noise. “What’s going on?”
Munroe, instead of answering, guided them down the hall to a smaller, unoccupied room with a few chairs and a wood conference table. They all took seats; Elena sat at his right hand, notebook in front of her.
“Saul, could you shut the door please?” Saul nodded and jumped up, pushing the door; it slammed with a bang.
“Sorry,” he said.
“That’s all right.” He tapped the seat next to him; Saul sat down.
“All right. Nora, Dorian—if I can call you that.”
“I prefer Cash.”
“Cash, then. I am sorry that our welcome isn’t exactly the greatest for our first American journalists. First I don’t meet you, and then you come here to this…police inspection. Even the weather is not agreeing with us today. But I assure you, it is not always like this.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Jason jumped to reassure him. “I saw some of the city on the way—the city square is…” he searched for words. Come to think of it, he was rather tired. Jetlag and weather wasn’t helping. “Spectacular.”
“Tomorrow I hope to show you on a tour, and you will be able to bring a report back to your country on everything you see. Today I would just like to welcome you here, and see if you need anything for your stay.”
Jason looked at Tasha beside him. She shrugged.
“We have our hotel set up and everything…I’m not sure if there’s anything else we need.”
Munroe nodded. “Let me know if you do.” He gestured toward the door. “To answer your question, the police are only doing a routine audit, it’s just rather inconvenient it happened the day you arrived. They required me to stay here, so I sent Elena.”
“It was really no trouble,” said Jason, looking at Elena. She smiled demurely and went back to taking notes.
“Now,” said Munroe, “I’d like to give you an overview of what our paper is like, the topics it covers, and then you can tell us about yours if you like.” He stood, and stepped over to the white board on the wall, picked up a dry erase marker and wrote “Vanguard—satellite of The Free People’s Voice”.
“We have a license to cover more specific topics than the main party paper,” he said. “For instance, a lot of our staff our Jewish, and we cover topics of interest to the Jewish people. We also cover topics concerning other ethnicities, like the Turkish minority and the Roma.
“But of course our main purpose is to follow the guidance of the Voice, which is the authority on all Muldavian Socialist Party matters.”
The door banged open. The uniformed man from the other room. He walked in with a swagger. “So, Munroe. Who are these new visitors of yours?”
Munroe froze in front of the wall. “They are journalists from America. But of course you already knew that.”
The man rubbed his beard. “Yes, I did. Long before they arrived. The question is, are they who they appear to be?” He walked behind Jason, eyes flicking from him to Tasha.
“They’re on our side.”
“Really. I think I’d like to ask them that.” He rounded the chair, his hand grasping its back. Looked down at Jason. Jason met his sharp brown eyes, and wondered whether he could see beyond Jason’s own eyes and into his thoughts. Jason made sure to maintain a nonchalant exterior, tucking any trepidation he might feel deep inside.
“So,” said the man, “are you a true communist? Do you believe in our cause?”
“Of course,” said Jason. “I came here to learn more about you, so that I can help raise awareness in America about the success you have had in implementing a communist state.”
“You mean a socialist state, don’t you?” said the man.
“Because a communist state, in its true, final form, is a contradiction in terms. We want a stateless society, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Where we are all living with common property, and no one has need of anything, because no one is lord over the other.”
The man raised his eyebrows, smiling slightly. “Well put. So, how long have you been writing your paper? You look very young.”
“It just started last year,” said Tasha. “We wanted to reveal the truth about what’s been happening. How America is not the paradise the news media would have you believe.”
The man’s smile grew wider. “Good. I admire your enthusiasm. And I welcome you here, if you are true believers in our cause. However, I think you may be surprised while you are here. Few in the West have the stomach for what the ascent to true communism requires.”
“I know what it requires,” said Jason. “I’m prepared to do anything for what I believe in.” That part’s true, he thought.
“Are you? Then maybe you should come by my office tomorrow. I’ll give you a tour behind the scenes that most in the party would never show you. They will show you the glory, the grand buildings, the statues, let you taste our finest food. All that is good—it shows us what we’re building for. But in the meantime, there are a lot of things we must do. Pieces we must carve off, and grind under our feet, before we can polish the finished product. Before our shining city can emerge into the light.
“Come by tomorrow, the both of you. I think you may find it…illuminating.”
“I am their escort,” said Munroe. “Should I come as well?”
“If you like. The last time you were there, though, you were practically screaming to get out.”
Munroe paled. The man gave a nod, and turned on his heel, striding out the door. Munroe sat down; Dana looked at him, sympathy flashing across her eyes.
“That was Taran Zahl,” said Munroe, voice shaking. “The chief of police.”
“What did he mean?” said Jason. “What was he talking about?”
Dana looked at Jason. “If you go to Zahl’s compound, you might not like what you see.”
“Why?” Though he knew the answer; he just wanted to know if his suspicions were true.
“It’s the….more unpleasant part of our country,” she said sadly. “Munroe knows more than anyone.”
“He had me in there, once,” was all that Munroe would say.
“In all the time that Zahl made him his sole focus, he never betrayed the party, like his parents did. He proved himself worthy.” Dana looked at him, eyes shining with pride and admiration.
Jason wondered if she were part of the rebels, or if she thought that Munroe had not betrayed them because he was telling the truth.
In any case, Jason’s admiration went up for him; it sounded like he had never given away his secrets under what was implied was a harsh interrogation. Zahl was still suspicious of him, but couldn’t prove anything. Which made it possible for Jason and Tasha to come here and do their jobs.
Munroe stood up, and gave them a tour of the offices, and then took them out back to see the warehouse, which was basically a glorified shed. A fan in the ceiling chopped loudly, drowning out the sound of the thunder.
Munroe asked Elena to get started on a new press release, and when she was gone, Munroe gathered them toward him in the center of the room. “Now we can talk freely,” he said, just enough to be heard above the fan. “After a fashion. It’s not that I don’t trust Elena—it’s just that she’s not one of us yet. I’m still trying to see if she’s as interested as she appears in our cause, or if she’s a mole, sent by Zahl to see if he can get with tricks what he couldn’t get by…other means. It’s a dangerous game we’re playing. It’s like a dance, where we each think we know the other partner’s moves, but we aren’t certain.
“Saul and Dana are my lieutenants. That’s why I wanted them here when you arrived.”
“I’m not exactly a lieutenant,” said Saul.
“You are, now that Johann has disappeared. You were second in command.”
“I-I’m just his nephew, it doesn’t mean I have the same—“
“It doesn’t matter. I need you.” He grasped the young man’s arm. “Can you do what I tell you?”
“Jason, Tasha, from now on, we’ll use code words. They will be in the samples of our newspapers I give you before you leave. This will probably be the last time I address you by your real name, or say a word to you that isn’t in code. I want you to know I’ll do everything in my power to help you while you’re here—except for endangering my people. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” said Jason, almost adding “sir” to the end of it.
“Good. Then tomorrow, after your ‘official tour’, I’ll hopefully be able to take you to the location of your new listening post. Unless, of course, Zahl gets his hands on us, and takes us on a tour of his own. Then we’ll have to figure out the best course of action to take.
“Now, I bet you’re exhausted. Saul here will escort you to your hotel.
“Saul, watch out for shadows.”
Munroe took them back through the warehouse and gave them samples of the Vanguard’s back issues. Then he and Dana said farewell while Saul took them out the back door. They stepped into the full fury of the storm.
I hope this isn’t a portent of what our mission will be like, thought Jason, as they pushed through the wind and driving rain, and, finally, made it to the refuge of the car.
Why did I not notice this before?
I love it, I really do. Its like a fiction book I'd be interested in reading on my kindle, yet its set in Odyssey. I really like it so far, and I'd love to read more!
~Queen Belle of Altanovia, Knight of Montreal & Order of Aristotle, Benevolent Dictator, Catspaw of the SS, & Dan's couch troll~
~"I’ve always found you to be a good person to disagree with." - Eleventh Doctor~
Thunder rumbled as Saul drove carefully down the street. The windshield wipers switched back and forth, flicking the rain off before it spattered instantly back on. Tasha noticed that Saul kept looking in the rear view mirror, presumably checking to see if anyone was following them. But they arrived at the hotel without any trouble.
They stepped out at the hotel, a large brick building. They thanked Saul for driving them, and then ran through the rain, not bothering to open the umbrella Elena had given them. Then they stepped into the lobby, soaking wet.
“Goot ev-ening,” said the man at the front desk, with a heavy accent. “Welcome to ze Hotel Zentral.”
“Hi,” said Jason. “I am Dorian Cash, and this is Nora Baker. We have reservations.”
The man flipped through some papers below the desk. “Ah, yes. Ze reporters from America. Welcome to our country. I think you will enjoy it here.”
“I think so too,” said Jason. “I like what I’ve seen so far—though I haven’t seen much of it.”
“Ze rainy season, yes. With spring come ze storms.”
“I can see that.”
“Here are your keys.” The man handed keys to Tasha and Jason. They both had ‘29’ engraved on them.
“What’s this?” said Jason. “Are we both in the same room? I thought—“
“It is a suite. You will enjoy it.”
“Our rooms are ze best. We give ze best to our American visitors.” The man smiled, a rather devious smile in Tasha’s opinion. Perhaps he had done this to them on purpose; even though they were ‘communists’, they were from America and thus de facto the enemy, no matter what they professed.
Not that I ever expected this job to be easy, she thought, but I’m getting a much clearer picture of how we’re going to be treated. Best to ignore it, till we get our job done. Unless of course we’re in direct danger.
“We booked two rooms,” said Jason. “Twenty-one and Twenty-two. Here, it says somewhere in the—“ he opened his briefcase to look for the documentation.
“Ah, but zere was a problem with zose rooms. We had a case of…flooding. Very common zis time of year, I assure you.”
“Look—“ said Jason. “I paid for two rooms—“
Tasha touched Jason’s arm.
“It’ll be fine,” she told the man. “Very understandable that there is flooding this time of year.”
Jason gave her a puzzled, somewhat annoyed look. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m sure the room will be…good.” The last word he said as if it were the opposite. Then he followed Tasha to the elevator.
It was a beautiful hotel, if nothing else. The floors were green marble, there were ornate marble pillars, and the elevator had golden doors.
On the second floor, they walked down the hallway to Room 29, but not before passing rooms 21 and 22. Voices came from 22; that one at least was occupied.
“They must not care much about the flooding,” muttered Jason.
They pulled their luggage into the room. Tasha shrugged the camera case off onto the bed; her shoulder ached from carrying all day. She could have surrendered it to Jason when he’d offered to take it at the airport, but she felt it was her responsibility, since she was the official photographer on the trip.
She set down her carryon and her larger, wheeled suitcase, and put her purse on the vanity near the door.
Jason flopped his luggage unceremoniously next to the bed, and turned on the light. He stood there, looking out the window, arms crossed.
“It is a nice room,” said Tasha, a little amused at his discomfiture. She might have been a little more annoyed at the situation herself if not for him; he didn’t seem like the kind of person something so trivial should bother. Then again, they weren’t exactly in the most normal of situations.
He turned to her after a moment. “You can have the bed. I’ll sleep on the floor.”
“You don’t have to be as chivalrous as all that. I’ll take the floor. Or that chair, in the corner.”
“That chair? It doesn’t look very comfortable.”
“Why don’t we take turns. I’ll sleep in the chair tonight, and you can tomorrow night.”
He frowned. “I don’t know…”
“If it would make you feel any better, I could sleep in the bed tonight. We’d trade tomorrow.”
“Well…I suppose,” he said, and sat down on the chair. He looked out the window again.
“I’m going to take a shower, then we should get to work reading the Vanguard.”
He nodded. She went to take a shower; cold at first, it sputtered for a while before halfheartedly spewing out some lukewarm water. Maybe I’ll have to revise my opinion about this hotel, she thought.
When she came out again, dressed in her soft pajama pants and shirt, he was flipping through the newspaper. She wasn’t sure if he’d gotten anywhere or not.
“Would you like a shower?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, getting up. He smiled; his mood seemed to have lightened.
She took the papers, and traded places with him. “I’ll just warn you,” she said, “the shower’s not very hot.”
“Thanks,” he said, and grabbed a towel from the ledge above the closet, then disappeared into the bathroom.
She took a look at the front page, trying to see if there was a clue as to what the code was. She was good at decryption, but by the time Jason emerged in a white T-shirt and gray sweat pants, hair tousled, a towel over his shoulder, she’d gotten no further.
And now, this distraction.
He sat down on the bed, dried his hair with the towel. She wondered what it would be like to be held in those strong arms, to touch that unruly chestnut hair, try to tame it—
Stop it, she told herself firmly. You weren’t going to do this anymore. Besides, you’re too old for such a silly schoolgirl crush—which is all that this is. Such a thing needs to be nipped in the bud. Focus. Focus on the codes. That’s what matters. He is only a means to an end. As, of course, am I. We’re not here for ourselves; we’re here on behalf of our country.
She handed him a newspaper, and they both buried themselves in it for the next few hours. They ordered room service, which didn’t come for another hour, and then it was barely warm.
“They aren’t exactly going out of our way to make us feel welcome,” said Tasha.
“I only hope they haven’t poisoned it,” said Jason, munching on a piece of the shish-kabob-like thing he’d ordered. It looked good; hers was just some kind of sandwich with meat and sour sauce in it, which had sounded more interesting on the menu.
“I’m about ready to call it a night,” she said. “Maybe a fresh perspective in the morning—“ She dared not say any more; they were just supposed to be reading the paper to ‘compare notes’, not to look for codes. Who knew who was listening in on them.
Jason nodded. “Dad always said that was one of the best ways to work through a problem: give it some room.”
A pang shot through her heart; her father had not been around to give her advice for a long time. He’d died four years ago of a heart attack. But of course she couldn’t tell Jason this either; they both had fictional families, whose fictional details they’d memorized. She suddenly wondered about what his family was like, his father, his mother. Maybe, someday, she would know.
But right now, she was tired. She said goodnight to Jason, and climbed under the covers, shutting out the thunder and the stress of the day, immersing herself in dreams.
In the morning, she was up before dawn, the problem of the unsolved encryption nagging at her. And within the first fifteen minutes of studying the paper, she figured it out. Now the spies and the rebels could communicate with each other, the secret police none the wiser.
She fully realized, then, where she was, and what was at stake. And she was ready to face the day. She could do this.
Jason was still sleeping in the chair by the window, head leaning back against the headrest. It didn’t look very comfortable. She tapped his leg with the edge of the newspaper.
“Ow!” he said, jumping up.
“That didn’t hurt,” she said. “I'm done." She held up the newspaper.
“Why didn’t you wake me?"
“I had it under control. Besides, you looked so peaceful there; I didn’t want to spoil it.”
He leaned forward, hand clutching his shoulder. That chair probably hadn’t given him a very restful night.
“Do you….want some help?” she said.
“What do you mean?”
She stepped behind him, pushing down into the muscles of his shoulder. At first he stiffened, then he leaned into her touch. He gasped when she pressed particularly sore spots, as she kneaded out the knots beneath his skin. He’ll perform his duty better if he starts the day feeling good, she thought. Besides, I owe him for taking the chair.
“Do you expect me to return the favor?” he said, an undercurrent of trepidation in his voice.
“No, I’m fine. I slept in the bed, remember? Tomorrow—depends on how I wake up.”
“Maybe I’ll just let you sleep in the bed the whole time,” he said.
“No, I think it’s best we stick to the original agreement. If it doesn’t work for us one night, we can make up for it the next.”
“I really don’t mind the chair. I’m used to sleeping different places.”
“So am I. I think you just want to experience my massages every morning.”
“They are good. I feel much better.”
Maybe I’ll give you one every morning regardless, she thought, but didn’t say. Then she wondered, am I going so close to the fire to see if I get burned, or to test my resolve? She wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
They got dressed and headed out. They met Munroe at his office; Elena was there too, and greeted them cheerily.
Tasha wasn’t sure she liked Elena or not. She was prim and proper and cheerful and nice, but there was something about her she couldn’t put her finger on. A little too helpful, maybe. Though it was probably just the environment they were in that invited paranoia. A good thing, actually. Never let your guard down, especially when surrounded by enemies.
They drove downtown to the city square, and got out. In the sunlight, it looked much larger than it had last night. The rather prosaic but gargantuan statue in the center of the square glittered with trapped raindrops from the night before.
Their tour guide strode toward them from the base of the statue. “Good morning,” she said. She was short, with curly blonde hair, and bursting with energy. She beamed at them as if they were the most wonderful beings she’d ever discovered. “I am Starla Macek. I will be showing you around the glorious capital of Rakima today. I hope you will enjoy your visit very much.”
Elena walked beside Munroe, and Tasha beside Jason, as the tour guide explained the history of the capital, some of the buildings dating back to the fifteenth century. As they walked, Tasha found the opportunity to say a code word to Munroe, in order to tell him that they’d cracked the code. She also took some pictures and wrote some notes.
As they toured the Muldavian Museum of Art, the Museum of History, and the Technical Institute, Starla acted like hers was the greatest country on earth, with art and technology vastly superior to any other, including the US.
They both expressed agreement with her, but Jason went a little overboard in his admiration in Tasha’s opinion. Of course, it probably seemed overboard because she knew it was just a façade; it was in “Dorian Cash’s” character. “Nora Baker” was a little more reserved; Tasha wouldn’t have felt comfortable acting the way Jason was. It didn’t make sense for them both to have the similar characters, so it worked out. At times, she would interject a comment where she felt it was appropriate; normally it was when she genuinely felt something was interesting, such as some of the artwork and sculptures. Most of the best work seemed to be dated before communism came to the country; afterward it seemed to be a little too uniform in form and subject, but of course she didn’t bring that to Starla’s attention.
They ended the tour in the center square, and Starla explained the history of the statue; it was built just after the monarchy was overthrown.
“It symbolizes the victory over the tyranny of the king. Such poverty, such corruption we had back then.” She shook her head. “Now thankfully we have our Great Leader Karl Von Warberg, who watches over us and makes sure that we are never without the things that we need.” She gave a brilliant grin. Tasha wondered if she really believed everything she said, or if any of it was an act. She was probably for real, since she was the official tour guide. But if you repeated the same things long enough, you probably came to believe them, even if you had reservations in the beginning.
Next, Starla had them all pile into her car and took them to the “finest restaurant in Rakima.” Munroe sat in front, and Elena sat in the middle in the back. During the drive, Elena talked to Jason, completely ignoring Tasha. Tasha felt affronted, but then saw how Elena was leaning toward Jason, her hand dangerously close to his shoulder.
Of course she is attracted to him, thought Tasha. And she’s perfectly welcome to him; all the better, since we need to get all the information we can, and relationships might lead to that. Still, Tasha couldn’t shake the unsettling feeling tugging her heart, and so she looked out the window to distract herself.
Maybe this country is the shining exception to the evils of communism, she thought, as she saw building after building, well-kept and well-built, clean streets, normal, happy-looking people. Until they took a “short cut” and Tasha glimpsed a slum, clotheslines strung over the streets, people in shabby, ragged clothes, with downcast faces. Of course, our best cities also have poverty-stricken areas, she thought, so I can hardly judge the entire country by one section of the city.
She smiled wryly at herself. I’m not being converted to communism by one half day’s tour, am I? I’m not so naïve as to think there aren’t good and bad sides to every regime—even Nazism had one or two good points. Of course, some have more good points than others, which is why I am on the side of capitalism and democracy.
When they stopped at the restaurant, Tasha climbed out, and Jason helped Elena out of the car. Tasha’s throat tightened. That dainty little thing, acting like she’s so helpless and delicate. If I pretended I was the damsel in distress, would he come to my rescue?
Of course he would. He’s just being chivalrous—I don’t have to read anything else into it. Besides, he endured a night in that torturous chair for me, and offered to for the rest of our time here. I can hardly complain.
And it’s not like it would matter. Our relationship will never be anything but professional, no more, no less.
They sat down at a table on the balcony, and ordered. Starla recommended some things on the menu, and they started off with some famous Muldavian wine. Tasha sipped it; it was some of the best she’d ever tasted. Then they had a cheesecake-like appetizer, which was divine. Then, Tasha ordered some fish, which was also excellent, nice and tender with a dash of lime. She was telling them of some recipes she’d made at home, which of course did not compare to this, when a shadow fell across their table.
“Good morning, or should I say afternoon,” said a firm familiar voice. Tasha turned to see a bearded man in a dark suit, dark eyes twinkling menacingly.
I bet Jason and Tasha wish their suite had a couch or, even better, a sleeper sofa, eh?
~Queen Belle of Altanovia, Knight of Montreal & Order of Aristotle, Benevolent Dictator, Catspaw of the SS, & Dan's couch troll~
~"I’ve always found you to be a good person to disagree with." - Eleventh Doctor~
Yes they probably do wish that. The manager didn't intend to go out of his way to accommodate them.
Here is another chapter (so soon?!!?)
Finished it last night.
Things will probably start to be more action-y from now on.
“How are you enjoying our famous cuisine?” Zahl asked. “How does it compare to what you get in America?”
“I can’t think of the last time I had better food,” said Tasha.
Jason could think of several times in the recent past he’d had better, but he said, “Same here.”
“What do you think of your tour?”
“I really enjoyed seeing the capital,” said Tasha. “The buildings, the art—it’s without parallel.”
“Then I hope you will accompany me on a private tour. All of you.”
So he does expect us to go with him to his headquarters, thought Jason. If we refused, it would seem suspicious. I’m just not looking forward to this.
Munroe looked at Elena. “If you want to go home—“
“I’m sure Miss Ford would appreciate a tour of Aleem Center,” said Zahl. “Few have the opportunity to go inside voluntarily.”
“I will come with you,” said Elena, looking at Munroe.
Then they piled back in the car, and Starla took them back to the center square, where she left them with a cheery ‘ta ta’. They filed across the bricks, scattering some pigeons into the air, and then down a cobblestone alley. On the other side of it sat a long low gray building.
“What does ‘Aleem’ mean?” asked Tasha.
“It means ‘clean’,” said Zahl.
“The prisoners call it something else,” said Munroe. “Saldenz.”
“What does that mean?” said Tasha.
“Slaughterhouse,” he answered, deathly pale. He was clutching Elena’s arm, whether for her support or his Jason didn’t know.
Inside the well-lit lobby, Zahl greeted the receptionist, and she saluted him, smiling. Then they turned down a long corridor and followed him down some steps. It got cooler the further down they went. Jason began to wish he’d brought his jacket along; he hadn’t needed it outside. Dread built up inside him; he knew he wouldn’t like what he saw here, and didn’t know if he could hide what he felt.
They stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Policemen in blue walked by; they saluted Zahl, who saluted back.
Jason had been half-expecting some dank dungeon, but it was just as clean and well-lit as upstairs, if colder. Beyond the large courtyard they stepped into, there was hallway upon hallway of stainless steel doors, as far as Jason could see. Guards paced up and down each hallway like mechanical men.
“This is the part of the nation few Muldavians see,” said Zahl. “Many pretend it doesn’t exist. I think it’s important that your readers know it exists, because it is necessary. You can’t have your head in the clouds and act like the march toward communism is going to be all flowers and candy. At times it’s going to be harsh and ugly, because there is so much refuse that must be torn from society before it can be purified.”
“That sounds a lot like Nazi Germany,” said Jason.
Zahl looked at him sharply. “The Germans were right about one thing. Undesirable elements must be purged before a nation can emerge into its ideal state. And they did it right, too: efficiently. As you can see, I have striven for efficiency here.”
“My father fought against the Nazis,” said Munroe. “I don’t see why you felt the need to bring back many of the things he fought against.”
“Your father also fought against Von Warberg. Doctor Munroe was one of the undesirable elements, no matter how heroic he may have been during the war. He and your mother defended the King, which amounted to treason. Last time you were here, you affirmed that treason does not run in your family. You are not thinking of recanting your statement, are you?”
Munroe shook his head.
“Good. I’d hate to have to put you back in one of these cells, after all the trouble we both went through last time.” He smiled, touched Munroe’s arm in a friendly gesture. Munroe flinched away.
“Come, now, Josiah. We’re on the same side. Can’t you put the past behind?”
“You can hardly blame him after what you did to him,” said Elena.
“And just what did I do to him?”
She looked at Munroe; he lifted his arm, pulled back his sleeve. Welts wound around his arm, as if he had been burned repeatedly by a hot iron.
He tugged his sleeve back down, face flushed.
“There is a lot more, in case you don’t remember.” Her blue eyes flashed.
“I remember very well. Every burn, every cut, every scream. He never said a word against his parents, but neither did he betray his party. The most amazing part to me is that he maintained his composure. Most would have been reduced to babbling fools under such treatment.”
“Why did you target him in the first place?” Jason asked, barely able to conceal his outrage.
“I would think that would be obvious. Treason is often a family disease. I wasn’t sure what the timeline and motivation was for their son’s loyalty; I had to make sure, since he was in a position of influence.”
“Why did it have to be so harsh?”
“I always thought that was because I was Jewish,” said Munroe.
“It’s true that many of the Jewish people fought against us, but the more intelligent of them sided with us in the first place. They saw that we were their best hope for the future; the opposite of the Nazis who persecuted them. No, the harshness of the interrogation had to do with his past, and certain suspicious circumstances which have since been cleared up.
“Besides,” he said, looking at Elena, “if he is the good communist he claims to be, he should understand that with his personal history, it’s only natural I would interrogate him. We have both done our duty for our country. Unless, of course, he is a traitor under all that ostensible loyalty. In which case, the next time I get him in here, he won’t come back out.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t defend him then, Elena.”
“O-of course not.” She looked down.
“Because I’d hate to mar that incomparable skin.” He took her hand, raised it to his lips. She yanked it away.
He grabbed her wrist, pressing into it.
Jason stepped forward. “That’s enough.” He grasped Zahl’s arm.
Zahl, an inch shorter than Jason, glared up at him, face reddening with anger. “Let go of me.”
“Don’t touch her.”
“This is my domain, and I can do what I like. Let go, now.”
“Cash—“ said Tasha. She touched his shoulder. “It’s not worth it.”
Jason took a breath, and backed away, releasing Zahl’s arm. Only then did he notice five armed guards behind him, ready to intervene at Zahl’s command.
“Stand down,” said the police chief. The guards filed away, shooting suspicious glances at Jason. Zahl tugged his shirt back in place, and looked at Jason coldly. “I hope that was merely the blind chivalry of a callow American boy,” he said. “I will forgive you this once.”
“It—I just don’t like to see anyone hurt.”
“Especially a beautiful woman. I understand. She’s not hurt, anyway, are you Elena.”
“No,” Elena said, though there were tears in her eyes.
“Now let’s get on with the tour, shall we?” He smiled as if nothing had happened. Tasha gave Jason a withering glance before following Zahl down the first hallway to the left.
Munroe followed her; not before mouthing a “thank you” to Jason as he walked by.
“Are you okay?” said Jason, falling into step beside Elena.
“As I said, I’m fine.”
“Can I—“ He gestured to her hand.
She hesitated, then showed it to him. There was a red mark encircling her wrist.
“It is nothing.”
“No man should touch a woman like that.”
She shook her head. “Zahl can do what he wants. Next to the premier, he’s probably the most powerful man in Muldavia. If I were guilty, he would do a lot worse to me. Besides, if I were guilty, I would deserve it.”
“You don’t really believe that.”
Her blue eyes looked even bigger than normal. “Please, don’t say things like that. Not in here.”
They stopped. Two guards stood beside Zahl, who stepped in front of one of the doors.
“I thought I would show you one of my successes first,” said Zahl. “The end product we strive for here. There are a few kinks to work out, but--” He took the keys from one of the guards and opened the door. “I will let Ariana speak for herself.”
A woman sat there on the bunk, in the brightly lit cell, hair falling in front of her face. She stood as soon as Zahl entered.
“Good evening, Ariana. How are you today?”
“I have been reading the book you gave me. See?” She held up a black book that on first glance Jason thought was a Bible. But then, of course it made no sense that Zahl would give her a Bible.
“Can you tell my friends here what you are learning?”
Ariana turned to them, her brown eyes unnaturally bright, dark circles beneath them. She was pale, probably from being away from sunlight for a long time, and there were signs of fading bruises on her face.
“In this book, we learn that communism is the only way toward peace. It is the only true freedom. All enemies of communism must join us or fall. Karl von Warberg is the one who will lead us to victory.”
“Do you believe this?” asked Zahl.
“With all my heart.”
“What did you believe before?”
“I was an enemy of the state. I believed in rebelling—but how can you rebel against a perfect society? I cannot believe that I was so deluded before; I must have been sick. But here, they have cured me.” She looked at Zahl, and smiled. Jason’s stomach turned over. He couldn’t imagine what must have been done to this woman to turn her to the opposite position of what she had believed before. But of course he had to pretend like it was the best thing that could have happened to her.
“Are you one of us?” she asked them.
“That is why I’m here,” said Jason. “I’m covering this place to show people in America the truth.”
Her smile grew bigger. “I am so happy that you will show them how we live here. Americans need to become like us, or we will do to them what we do to all rebels.” She made a fist, as if ready to take on the Americans singlehandedly. Jason wondered if she really believed this, or if she was agreeing with Zahl to survive. Like Jason was, come to think of it. He wouldn’t escape this place if he voiced his true opinions—which he was dangerously close to doing. Even if he said nothing at all, he was afraid he would blurt out something without thinking.
I have to get out of here, he thought.
“Thank you, Ariana,” said Zahl, and they left her standing there, clutching the book in her hand.
“What was that book?” asked Tasha, falling in step behind Zahl again.
“It is the Tanvarad. Written by Erik von Warberg; continued by his son Karl. You should read it.”
“I would like to.”
“I’ll provide you both a copy before you leave. In English of course. It spells out the superior version of communism.”
“Superior to the Soviet Union?”
“As evidenced by how the Soviets are having problems in areas where we are thriving.”
They walked down another hallway, and Zahl stopped in front of another door. There was a guard here too, waiting for them. He unlocked the door.
It was dark inside, contrasting with the other cell. There was only a dim light in the ceiling. At first, Jason thought there was no one else there, but then something moved in the corner. As his eyes adjusted, he saw that it was a man, chained to the wall, ragged clothes hanging off a skeletal frame. He looked up, though he barely seemed able to lift his head.
“This man, we believe, was a courier between several rebel cells, but so far he has been…unforthcoming. There is almost nothing we haven’t tried with him.”
Zahl stepped forward, grabbed the man’s shaggy dark hair. “Go on, Kellan. Tell them what you believe.”
For a moment, the man didn’t speak. Then he cleared his throat. “I believe—that it is only a matter of time before the tyrant Von Warberg falls.” He gasped, as if it had taken a lot out of him to say that much. But his eyes in the dark hollows carved in his face gleamed with defiance. Jason wondered if it was the only thing keeping him alive.
“I suppose you will be the one to take down our great leader.”
“Not me, but others like me.”
Zahl released him, turned toward Jason and Tasha. “This is what we are up against. But it is only a matter of time before even his conviction wears down. Isn’t that right, Kellan.”
Kellan tried to speak, but he could only cough. Blood spattered the front of his shirt.
Jason fought the urge to leap forward. He wanted to help, but there was nothing he could do.
Nothing but stand there and silently agree with the man who had tortured and was slowly killing this courageous prisoner.
They left the room. Jason felt shaken; he could not have spoken if he wanted to. But Tasha asked, “Isn’t there something you can do for him? He doesn’t look well. He could die before you get the information from him.”
“There is that danger. Our doctor assures us that with a couple days’ rest, building up his hope, we can start crushing it again. Only by crushing it can we give him new hope, like we did with Ariana.”
“You anticipate the same success with Kellan then?”
“If all goes well, yes. I don’t see why it wouldn’t.”
They are tearing their souls from them, thought Jason. We can’t just stand by and let these people endure this. How can Tasha just casually chat with Zahl like this?
It is what I’m supposed to be doing, I suppose, but I don’t trust myself to say anything.
They stopped back in the main courtyard. Zahl spoke to one of the officers, who saluted and disappeared down one of the hallways.
Guards set up folding chairs facing the wall; Jason took the lead, and they all sat down.
Two guards dragged a prisoner forward. He wasn’t thin like Ariana and Kellan; Jason guessed he had only just been brought here.
Blood dripped down the man’s arm onto the cement. The guards dropped him in front of the wall; Zahl strode in front of them, as if stepping onto a stage.
“Tell me where the next rebel attack will be.”
The man attempted to stand, but staggered as his left leg gave way beneath him. He cried out as his knee hit the floor.
“I don’t know about a rebel attack—please, let me go home to my family.”
“You don’t know about an attack. Tell me, isn’t it against the Christian religion to lie?”
“Y-yes, but I’m not lying.”
“Another lie. What was your next target?”
“You are targeting me because I am a Christian.”
“At least you admit what you are. I thought we’d stamped out the last of your poisonous beliefs years ago, but you keep popping up. Sometimes I think we’ll never be rid of you.”
“Believing in God doesn’t make me an enemy of the state. I support some of your ideas in theory- it’s just in practice that—“ He gestured toward the row upon row of cells. “Places like this shouldn’t exist.”
“Do you believe in Von Warberg?”
“Do you or don’t you?”
“He is not God. You have treated him like a god for too long.” The man attempted to stand again; he grasped one of the metal rings on the wall, and stood.
“He is a better god than a nonexistent one. One who cannot help you, no matter how loud you scream his name.”
The man seemed to shrink against the wall. “Even if I did know about these rebels, I wouldn’t betray them.”
“All I needed to hear.” Zahl snapped his fingers. The guard at his side stepped to the stairway; said one word Jason didn’t recognize.
Another guard came down, holding something in his arms. As he emerged into the light at the bottom of the stairs, Jason could see that it was a child, a blindfold over her eyes and a gag in her mouth.
The guard set the girl down in front of the man; he hopped forward, and collapsed beside her. “Tanya!”
He took the blindfold and gag off, and gathered the little girl in his arms. She sobbed. “Papa, papa, they came to our house and took me away. I was so scared!”
“It’s okay, now, sh, my baby girl. My Tanya.” Tears streamed down his face.
Then, a group of guards marched forward. They tore him away from his daughter as she screamed for him. He tried to fight them but one punched him in the face and they handcuffed him to the ring in the wall.
Another guard dropped the little girl back onto the floor; she whimpered as if with pain. Jason moved to get up; Tasha grabbed his arm, pulled him back down. He glared at her; she shook her head, almost imperceptibly.
I can’t just sit here, thought Jason. No one with any amount of decency could let this go on—the mission isn’t worth this. If there was a way to get out with our lives—He looked at the nearest guard’s sidearm. I could take it before he knew what was happening, aim it at Zahl, take him hostage, get them and us out of here—
At Zahl’s nod, the guard stood in the center, took out his pistol. Aimed it at Tanya.
Elena stood. “This is enough,” she said. “A child should not be targeted, no matter what the parent has done.” Her blonde hair looked like a golden halo from an icon as she stood there, fists clenched at her sides.
“Perhaps you should leave if you don’t like what you see here. Take Munroe outside; he looks about to pass out.”
“I will not let you do this.” She stepped in front of the mouth of the pistol. “You will have to shoot me.”
“I am beginning to wonder, my dear, whose side you are on.”
“So am I.”
Zahl nodded to the guards. “Take her.”
Munroe, who had been nearly catatonic, leaped to his feet. “No.” He grabbed her arm, pulled her away from the gun. “Take me instead. Take me back to my old cell—anything.”
“To save her, would you hurt this man’s daughter?”
Munroe didn’t move.
“I thought not. Guards, take these two outside. They are unnecessary distractions.”
Five guards came, three for Munroe, two for Elena, and forced them toward the stairway, herding them up the stairs and out of view.
“There,” said Zahl. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way.” He took his pistol from his belt, and handed it to Jason.
Jason took it, its cold skin against his palm.
“If you are the true communist you say you are, you will pull the trigger.”
Jason stood, shakily. He looked down at the girl curled up at his feet. In one swift motion, barely knowing what he was doing, he knelt beside her. Took her small trembling form into his arms, and stood.
Aimed his gun at Zahl. “You will have to go through me to get to her.”
Zahl motioned to the guard next to him, who took the pistol from his holster, and aimed it at Jason’s heart.
I NEED Chapter 8!
It was very good, I liked it.. I'd like to say that I couldn't take my eyes off the page..but my mom needed me to do a chore halfway through.
~Queen Belle of Altanovia, Knight of Montreal & Order of Aristotle, Benevolent Dictator, Catspaw of the SS, & Dan's couch troll~
~"I’ve always found you to be a good person to disagree with." - Eleventh Doctor~