Bah, completely forgot to include a disclaimer the first time. But yeah, don't own the property, etc. Also, much thanks to those who reviewed and a big thank you to Dark Tabby for the excellent and helpful criticism. I hope I can meet your expectations. This chapter might seem pretty dull compared to the last, but it -is- an important chapter. Hope you'll like it, but I'll settle for "Bear with it".
After using the freeway to put some distance between them and the foiled ambush, Yang took an off-ramp and avoided the main streets. The last thing they needed was to get pulled over for busted tail lights. Finding the nearest free parking garage, they ditched the Taurus.
By now, Ana had calmed down a little but she was starting to fade. Adrenaline withdrawal was kicking in and she wasn't used to that like Yang and Walker were. They let her rest against the wall of the garage while the two men took care of business.
They managed to pry open the busted trunk and salvage what they could, finding a duffle bag with a tire iron, jack and socket wrench; a Mithril quality med kit; and a road assistance kit. They emptied the duffle and stuffed the MP5's and extra magazines from the backseat compartment of the Taurus into it. The contents of the road assistance kit got dumped in alongside the guns, since the red and white packaging stood out. The Mithril kit they could carry as it came in a black and blue hiking backpack.
After giving the car a quick wipe down, they locked it and threw the keys into a trashcan one level down as they descended to the street, half carrying Ana with them. Once outside, they walked two blocks then caught a Taxi to the nearest department store where Walker purchased six pre-paid phones, cash. They then took two more cab rides before walking the rest of the way to ERV two
ERV two was an empty lot beside a tacky looking motel, the lot itself surrounded by a chain link fence with black tarp hiding the interior. They had gotten inside the fence through a vehicle access point in the alley next to the motel. Inside the lot were the remains of a cancelled billboard construction. Two large steel pipes were at one end of the lot and the billboard's unassembled catwalks rested not far from there. It was here that they decided to rest.
Facing the gap in the fence, Yang put the pack up against one of the catwalk frames. Without even asking, Ana sat down and lay against it. She passed out almost immediately, leaving Walker and Yang to watch over her.
"I'm gonna let my bosses know what's up then I'll hand the phone off to you. You get in touch with Tactical." Walker said, waving the satellite phone at Yang as he walked past, moving off a bit so he didn't wake Ana up. Not that Yang believed she would, having crashed so hard. While Walker talked, Yang took up a watch facing the vehicle entrance point but stole glances at Ana's sleeping face.
You hear it all the time, but Ana truly had the face of an Angel. A face he was lucky enough to see every morning when he went to wake her up. Sometimes he would even let her sleep a few more minutes while he watched. He knew he shouldn't, or couldn't even, but he did it anyway.
He still didn't know how he felt about Ana. There was most definitely something there and he was sure Ana felt something as well. For him, it was a unique feeling, one he had never had before. It wasn't love, at least not in the romantic sense he thought. It didn't feel that way, not that he didn't find her attractive she was most certainly a beautiful young woman. And there was that little near-kiss incident, but he chocked that one up to emotional duress.
He wasn't put off by her age. Seventeen was old enough and she was a very mature girl. But Yang had been in love before, or at least he thought he had. This was a different feeling. He was grateful beyond words to her for saving him from that dark place. With her help, he felt himself slowly healing. He would always have scars, but she was bringing more and more of his old self out the more time he spent with her.
Loyalty or protectiveness maybe? It was just too hard for him to describe. Maybe it was a mix of love, loyalty and protectiveness. He closed down the intense feelings and emotional turmoil he had for her, turning his attention back to his duties and putting his game face on while Walker finished talking. When he did, the American walked back with phone in hand.
"I let our station chief here in Australia know that Ana was okay. There's been nothing about the chase on the news. Someone with a lot of clout was behind this. They probably had to call in some serious favors to cover this up whoever they are…we can't reach the R&D facility. I think whoever is behind this, hit them too. I have a theory but I don't like the sound of it, because if it's true we are in deep doo-doo."
Yang had a feeling he and Walker were thinking the same thing.
Mithril had a tenuous relationship with a number of the countries. These relationships were more along the lines of communication, allowing Mithril to receive and make requests pertaining to those countries. Australia was one such country with an open line to Mithril. However, it was no secret that those governments involved with Mithril were jealous and eager to get their hands on some of the technology Mithril possessed.
"The Australian government or someone with a lot of influence in it is after us." The Korean stated calmly. Walker nodded, tapping the phone against his palm.
"Yeah…everything fits. The number of men, the way they moved…SAS maybe."
"A troop or two, pretty big for something sensitive like this. They aren't taking any chances." Yang replied, sucking on the inside of his lip. He wasn't looking forward to tangling with almost half a squadron of Australia's finest.
Modeled after the British SAS, the Australian Special Air Service had a similar command structure in that there were three squadrons, each squadron having five to six troops, each troop a fifteen man unit. These men are tough, highly trained professional soldiers. Thinking back, the only reason Yang had probably managed to escape against such odds was due to his superior driving skills and the lesser offensive driving skills of his opponents.
This brought up a frightening thought as Veronika and Vikowitz had both stayed behind to cover their retreat. Vikowitz was a good shooter and Veronika seemed to have a cool head on her shoulders, but neither had a chance if they had stayed and fought it out with the SAS.
I hope they're alright…
Yang shook his head quickly. No. No time for that. He looked back at Walker as the veteran agent spoke.
"If it is the Aussies, they probably want whatever Mithril had in that R&D facility and they want Ana because they've seen her frequently entering and exiting the place…but then again…" Walker's musing trailed off. Yang picked it up.
"…That was a rather large pursuit team for a target of opportunity like Ana…I think they intentionally went after her…" The two men made eye contact then looked at Ana's sleeping face. What could the Aussie's want with their Angel? Then again, why was Ana visiting the R&D facility in the first place?
The question was one that every team member had thought about but being in Mithril meant being intimate with the words, "need to know." So while they thought about it from time to time, none of them had ever asked Ana or their superiors why it was that this teenage girl visited a R&D facility for several hours, three times a week. Walker and Yang made eye contact again. While they both had questions the answers would have to wait.
"Call Tactical." Walker said, deciding to put the "who and why" on hold for now.
"Yes sir." Yang held his hand out. Walker put the phone into it and gestured for Yang to take a walk while Walker watched for any signs of Vikowitz or Veronika.
Pacing over to where Walker had stood, Yang dialed the emergency contact number he had memorized and listened to the phone go through its procedure. A woman's voice answered the call.
"Go scramble." Yang said as he punched in the scrambler code that would mask the phone call. On the other end, the operator did the same.
"Scrambled." The woman replied. "Confirm identity."
"Uruz 9, B3120. Call code, "Go long." He paused, waiting for the woman to confirm his identity and calling code. She came back after a brief delay. "Confirmed."
"TDD-1, urgent message, priority one."
There was more data noise as the call was rerouted through satellites, leaving a dummy trail before being caught by a Mithril satellite and filtered to the Tuatha De Danaan in the Atlantic Ocean.
Yang sighed in relief. The Captain's voice had never been sweeter.
"Captain. We have an emergency. Our detail and the R&D facility have been attacked. Principle is secure but the detail is scattered with two MIA's and one probable KIA. We made a lot of noise but there's been nothing on civilian news or law enforcement radio. Whoever it is, they're covering it up…and ma'am, I'm only speculating but I think the Australian government may be involved in some way." Yang let that sink in. The line was quiet for awhile before the Captain's voice returned.
"Understood Corporal. We've just received a similar report from Intelligence, though nothing about the Australian government was mentioned. We're going to work with Intelligence in Australia to get you and the principle out of there. If the Australians have something to do with this, we have to tread carefully. Can you evade detection?" Yang found himself again in awe of their young Captain's professionalism. He smiled a little as he replied confidently,
"Alright then. We'll contact you on this line, so keep it open. Otherwise, check in at this time tomorrow."
"Yes ma'am, I understand." Yang cupped the phone to his shoulder and synchronized his watch.
"And Corporal…be careful." Yang blushed a little at her words, nodding into space affirmatively.
"Yes ma'am, thank you ma'am." He heard the line go silent, and he did the same on his end. Turning around, he walked back to where Walker was waiting.
"I'll check in tomorrow with Tactical, they said they'll work with Intel on getting us out of here." Walker nodded. Yang paused briefly before speaking again.
"You didn't tell your people of the possible involvement of the Australian government."
"…we both know we were likely compromised from the inside. And we both know it was probably someone from Intel. If there is a leak, I don't want it to seem like we're on to them yet, plus we have no evidence of the Australian government actually having a hand in anything." the agent said quietly. Yang took a breath and nodded, putting his hands on his hips.
"Do you trust the station chief here?" The Corporal asked of Agent Walker. Even one ally at the management level of the local Intelligence desk would be helpful. The man seemed to consider the idea that his immediate superior in Australia had leaked information to the locals. Finally, he shook his head.
"I don't want to take any chances. We'll need some supplies and funds. I have a dead drop that Intel doesn't know about with some cash we can use. I'll hit up the drop in the morning. We'll wait awhile longer to see if Vik and Veronika show up. We hole up for the night in a motel or something, wait for contact and plan our next move." The spook was rubbing his chin as he said all this.
Yang reviewed the plan and their options in his head, looking for any input or suggestions he could offer. Finding none, he nodded and assumed his sentry duties while Walker focused on figuring out their situation.
Anna woke up at this time. Her eyes were still puffy from all the crying and she had those moist sniffles you get whenever you cry. Looking around, her face fell as she still didn't see either Veronika or Vik.
"Where's Vik and Veronika? Where are they?" She asked as she got up unconsciously straying toward Yang's side. Walker and Yang shared a brief look before Walker turned his eyes to Ana.
"We're still waiting for them." Yang knew it was useless to try and tell Ana a lie like, "They're fine and on their way." She was a smart kid and was mature enough to understand the truth of things, even if she was having trouble coping with it emotionally.
Ana swallowed and nodded, her body listing towards Yang and resting against his arm. Normally he would have told her not to but he allowed it this time. He felt her palm in his and their fingers entwine. Yang glanced at the teen before giving her hand a comforting squeeze, and together the three of them waited.
Two hours later...
All three of them let out a collective sigh of relief as Veronika and Vikowitz arrived. The two of them slipped through the fence and began to walk over to the three. Vikowitz appeared to be in some discomfort as he approached, and all three noted the tearing in Vik's suit that revealed the bulletproof vest under it.
"Vik!" Ana shouted and ran over to the two weary Europeans with Yang and Walker in tow. Vik lifted a hand as they ran forward, wincing.
"I'm fine, vest caught it." He assured them, opening the rip in his shirt to show that his vest had indeed caught two 9mm slugs. The three of them remained worried anyway. While Ana watched, Walker checked under Vikowitz's vest, much to Vik's discomfort. "Ow!"
Walker stepped back with another sigh of relief. "Just some bad bruising, you'll be fine. Damn is it great to see you guys…" Walker said, grinning despite himself. Yang smiled softly at the sight, catching Vik's eye and nodding approvingly at him. Despite being older than Yang, Vikowitz felt proud to be acknowledged by the elite soldier. He grinned at the Corporal and then went back to assuring Ana that they were alive and well.
It was Veronika who broached the question as she looked about.
"Where is Price?..." Instantly, Walker, Yang and Ana's faces darkened. Walker just quietly shook his head in response. Veronika bowed her head a moment while Vik turned his head with a disgusted expression. Yang matted his lips and summoned a breath before speaking.
"We need to get moving." He felt a spike of anger from the others as they found his words to be callous and cold considering that they had just lost a friend and comrade. But they knew that Yang was right.
"Taxi?" Vikowitz suggested. Walker approved with a nod.
"But first let's steal a phonebook from a phone booth around here. We'll split up. Half of us will go buy some essentials, food and water. The other half will secure us somewhere to stay."
"What's your ammo sitting at you two?" He looked at Vik and Veronika. Vik grimaced a bit.
"I have half a clip left for my 9mm, Veronika is dry. We had to ditch the HK's along with the car." It was Yang's turn to grimace.
"What about transportation?" Veronika said, bringing up a valid point. Eventually they would need some kind of vehicle.
"I have a few thoughts on that but first let's get settled…" Walker talked and the detail listened. Yang suddenly felt a tug on his sleeve, drawing his attention to Ana. She was looking a little dejected, like she was being ignored. He cursed himself for being inconsiderate like that, especially since she needed attention at the moment. Normally…well, before Sierra Leone, he had been a much more socially conscious person. This oversight confirmed that he hadn't bounced back from his ordeal quite yet.
Yang put his arm around Ana's shoulders and pulled her against his side. She turned into him and tucked her face in his shoulder while hugging him around the chest. Seeing this, everyone else grew quiet as they watched Ana and Yang's exchange. Blushing a little at the expressions on his comrades faces, Yang put his hand to the back of her head and brought his other arm around to hold her.
We'll protect you Ana…
Yang looked up at of the four remaining members of the Intelligence detail and they all shared a resigned but determined smile. It was a silent oath between them, nothing needed to be said. The all turned their gazes to the girl hiding her face in Yang's chest and swore that no harm would come to her while they still drew breath.
I'll protect you…