Chapter 2

Once in the air, Irina studied the intelligence Katya provided on Sloane's objective. When she learned Jack and Sydney were also on their way, she knew the operation would be have to be carefully timed. Based on her calculations, she would arrive about the same time as Sloane.

Her plane landed on schedule at private airfield near Ulan Butar. From there she switched to a helicopter. She hadn't planned on being detained by 'customs'. The delay cost her time and a couple thousand dollars. Shortly before the chopper arrived at their destination, Irina noticed an armored jeep making its way from the area. They were too high up for the occupants to see her, and, fearing she might be too late, she considered following them. Without knowing who was in the jeep, she decided it was better to check out the cave.

When she entered the cave, she was horrified to see Jack at the point of blowing the cave and it's occupants to pieces.

"Jack, stop." Irina shouted, ensuring his attention. "Don't do this."

He paused, the shock of seeing her evident in his eyes. "Irina? You are supposed to be in Mexico City."

"I'm supposed to be a lot of things I'm not," she retorted. She noticed the bleeding on his jacket. "Jack, you're hurt! What happened?"

"Irina, look. I found it." There was a glazed look in Sloane's eyes as he moved toward her. "He did it. Milo Rambaldi did it. His formula for eternal life works."

Irina had nearly forgotten Sloane's presence. The fanatical look in his eyes turned her blood cold. She held a hand up, hoping her action would cause him to stop. "Arvin, Jack needs medical attention."

"You don't understand, Irina. It's here. Thirty years of searching and I finally found it. Jack doesn't need a doctor. The elixir can heal him."

"No." The sound was low and raspy, but definite. Jack's eyes pleaded with her. He didn't have the strength to fight them if they banded together, but he hoped that there was some semblance of the woman he had once loved still there. His legs started to give on him and he stumbled toward her.

Irina gave a nod to the two men who had accompanied her. They came behind Jack, holding him up. "Who shot you, Jack?"

"Arvin." The words were barely above a whisper, but Irina could still hear the anguish of this final betrayal.

Irina removed the C-4 from him and took the detonator. "Take him to the helicopter. I'll be with you in a moment."

"He's dying Irina. You can save him. It's here. We can take it; have it duplicated. There are people who would pay millions for it."

Irina took the water bottle from her backpack. "Here, fill it up. Then we need to leave."

Sloane caught the bottle and headed to the cistern. Irina moved swiftly toward the entrance of the cave. As she exited, she placed the C-4 along the exterior wall. "I'm happy that you found what you were searching for. Now you can be together for eternity. Good-bye, Arvin." She quickly backed away, unraveling the detonator wire as she went. Once she was safely away, she hit the trigger. As the rock began to fall, Sloane made a mad dash for the exit, but he was too slow, and Irina watched as thousands of boulders crushed him to the ground.

When the dust settled, there was no sign that a cave had ever existed, and no sign of Sloane, either. She signaled to the pilot to start the engine. Once inside the helicopter, she took a closer look at Jack's wounds. The chest wound was still bleeding, which was not a good sign. There were several bruises along the abdomen, but nothing that appeared life threatening with them. After her examination she realized that taking him back to Canada wasn't an option. He would die if she didn't get him medical attention soon.

She signaled to one of men Katya had secured for her to get his attention. "Is there a SatPhone in any of the supplies?" The man nodded and opened one of the metal containers under the seat. He handed her the phone. Irina signed her thanks. She dialed Jerry Reeds cell number and prayed that she wouldn't get his voicemail.

"Jerry Reed."

Irina smiled, hearing the puzzlement in his voice. "Jerry, I need a doctor, a surgeon. Someone discrete. Do you have any friends or connections in Ulan Butar-."

"Irina? I didn't recognize the number. Are you in Ulan Butar? Isn't that in Mongolia?"

"Yes. I can't explain right now, and I don't have a lot of time." Irina had always prided herself on her ability to remain calm under extreme circumstances. More than once, it had saved her life. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt this helpless. She steadied her nerves, trying to order her thoughts. She had to remain calm, but it was difficult to do knowing that Jack's life was hanging in the balance.

"I don't know anyone in Mongolia. Do you think you can make it to Seoul?"

"I don't know. Maybe. He's still conscious, but only barely."

"Describe the wound to me. Maybe there is something you can do to give him more time."

Irina pulled the jacket away from Jack's chest. One of the men had covered the wound with gauze and medical tape. Before pulling off the bandage, she checked for other wounds. With the exception of bruising around the stomach, she found no other wounds. Slowly, she pulled back the tape and lifted the gauze.

"He has one gunshot wound to the chest area. It does not appear to have exited from the back. There are also multiple bruises on his stomach. He was wearing a Kevlar, but one of the bullets penetrated the vest."

"Let's hope that the vest slowed the bullet enough to limit the damage. You will need to apply pressure to the wound. If you have a pillow or cloth, use it to lessen further injury to his chest. I'll make the arrangements on this end. I should be back in touch within a half hour."

Once again Irina signaled one of her crewmembers. "Tell the pilot we need to fly to Seoul. I'll give him the exact coordinates as soon as my associate calls back."

"There isn't enough fuel in the helicopter to make it to Seoul, ma'am," the crewman informed her after conversing with the pilot.

"Then we will need to make a stop. Ask him if he knows somewhere between here and Seoul where we can refuel."

After another short conversation, the crewman turned back to her, clearly unhappy. "He says he wants more money."

"I'll double his fee."

"He wants triple."

"Tell him he will get half now, and the remainder when we arrive safely in Seoul. Katya will wire it to his account. I'll instruct her give you and your men a bonus, as well." She picked up the phone and dialed her sister's number. After explaining the situation to her sister, she indicated to the pilot to check his account. Within a few minutes, he nodded and gave the thumbs up sign.

The delay for refueling was shorter than Irina feared, and they were soon landing in the parking lot of a small clinic on the outskirts of Seoul. Irina was surprised to see Jerry waiting for them with a gurney at the front door of the clinic. "How did you-"

"You aren't the only one with contacts. The hospital near our conference was transporting a patient from Tokyo to Seoul on a special plane. I hitched a ride."

"Thank you," she told him, simply. Two of Katya's men helped carry Jack to the gurney. Irina watched worriedly. Jack color looked bad, and he had not awakened at all during the trip. An orderly rushed the gurney into the hospital toward the surgical prep room. Irina and Jerry quickly followed behind.

"There is a waiting room to your left, Irina. I'll send someone out to give update on the patient whenever possible." He gently guided her to the room. "And no, you cannot be in there with us. It's a small surgical room. You will only be in the way."

Irina nodded. "Jack. His name is Jack."

"Don't worry, Irina. We will take whatever measures necessary to save his life."

Tears welled in her eyes, the stress finally finding its release. "Go, Jerry, and save him."