CHAPTER 1: Early Reconnaissance
The cold air of October night disappeared above Smythe as he climbed down towards the stale air of the cramped ventilation shaft. He used the suction grips that he had strapped to his hands to lower himself deeper into the vertical tunnel. Breathing became a chore as he slipped down through the unbelievably tight space, sweat dripping from his forehead. After what seemed like an eternity he felt the bottom of the metal shaft with his feet. He quickly dropped down to his hands and knees and began crawling along the now horizontal tunnel.
“Shit,” he cursed once again as another surprise reflected against the pupils of his eyes. The burning red light. The hypnotic mechanical humming. ‘Security lasers,’ he thought silently. The five lasers shot horizontally across the shaft, burning anything that touched them. Smythe spied the carcass of a dead rat that obviously felt compelled to investigate the bright red glowing. He reached down into his left boot and produced another one of the Echelon’s ‘tools’. He carefully extended the laser reflector to the height of the shaft. He then placed the reflecting rod to one side of the tunnel and slowly pushed it into the path of the lasers. Once set up correctly, the device split into two, extending its other half to the opposite end of the shaft, reflecting the lasers completely into themselves, creating a safe path to crawl through.
As Smythe crawled towards the vent the voices grew louder and he knew that he was in the right room. He squinted at first at the streaks of light that shot through the vent from the room below. As he reached the vent, the voices became all but clear, and he quickly scanned the room to find the source. The room was well lit by a central chandelier, bookshelves lined the windowless walls and a huge desk sat in the center of the room. It looked to him like a study. One man stood by the desk directly in the light, and Smythe recognized him instantly. ‘Vladimir Petrov,’ he thought to himself, ‘Russian bastard.’ Petrov wore the standard Russian Military uniform, complete with medals. ‘Seems he can’t let go of his past,’ Smythe cringed at the thought of such a mad man.
The other man stood across the room in the shadows, Smythe was unable to make out his face. Two guards stood at the far end behind Petrov, with the silhouettes of another two men at the opposite end. Smythe’s heart beat slower than usual as he tried to keep breathing to a minimum, scanning the room and struggling to make out any words.
“The money. Do you have it with you?” Petrov spoke up with obvious Russian accent and unbridled enthusiasm. He sounded much older than he looked, and his mustache seemed greyer than the one he saw in Petrov’s holographic profile.
“In due time, my friend,” the man in the shadows spoke with a sinister yet calming voice. “Do you have what I requested?”
Petrov opened his military jacket and produced a single computer disk. He held the disk up to his eyes and waved it in front of the man in the shadows.
“Do you have any idea what it took to obtain information like this?” Petrov’s voice grew louder with every word, “Hundreds died for the information on this simple disk I hold in my hands.” He struggled to hold back an evil smile. “Think of it. The launch codes and co-ordinates for every major city and military base in the western world. The power to launch your stealth ‘Cancer’ warhead without a trace of its origin. All in the palm of my hand,” Petrov’s smile disappeared from his face, “Soon to be yours.”
‘Cancer?!’ Smythe’s mind searched deep into his past, where he vaguely recalled mention of the covert warhead in development during the cold war called Cancer. With the correct launch codes and co-ordinates programmed into the main database, the stealth warhead could be launched to any location in its database files, completely invisible to radar and air defense. The Cancer warhead was thought to have been abandoned years ago, but obviously someone else had gotten a hold of it. This was turning out to be much more serious than Smythe could have ever imagined.
“So, tell me comrade, do you have what I want.” Petrov placed the disk back in his jacket and folded his arms across his chest. The man in the shadows across from him snapped his fingers. At that moment one of the men behind him stepped out of the darkness and place a very large briefcase onto the desk in front of Petrov. The guard stepped back into the darkness as Petrov excitedly opened the briefcase and began thumbing through the millions of dollars in front of him.
“You are very efficient for an American,” Petrov looked up at the man from the open briefcase, “I admire that.”
At that second the other guard stepped out from the shadows and lined a gun up directly with Petrov’s head. Before any of Petrov’s men could react, a gunshot rang through the embassy as blood dripped from the ex-general’s temple. Petrov stood for a split second with a look of shock frozen on his face, then dropped to the ground, dead. Smythe bit his lip as the guard proceeded to take out Petrov’s two men before they could pull out their own weapons. All three bodies lay in pools of blood on the floor across from the man in the shadows.
He looked back at his other man and ordered, “You, get the briefcase,” then looked at the guard in front of him, “You, get the disk.” The henchman who murdered Vladimir Petrov swaggered over the ex-general’s corpse, reached into his jacket, and pocketed the disk. As he stood up from the body Smythe gasped when he saw that the man had red eyes, no pupils whatsoever. His dark hair was slicked back and made Smythe shudder just at the look of him.
“Quickly, there’s not much time,” the man still shrouded in darkness said calmly as he headed for the door behind him, followed by both the guard holding the briefcase and the guard with red eyes. The guard with the red eyes took one final look into the room the slammed the door behind him.
Smythe’s mind raced as he kicked the vent cover off of the shaft and dropped into the room. He ran over to the dead body of Vladimir Petrov and searched it for any sign of another disk. Nothing. He stood up from the body and double-tapped his earpiece, still in shock from the event that unfolded before his eyes.
“Agent Smythe to Echo One. The warhead Cancer is active. I repeat, the warhead Cancer is active. Petrov is dead.”
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