1

The Angels Who Keep the Watch – A Short Story Part 1 By Randy Gonzalez (based a Novel) From her vantage point on a mountaintop, somewhere near the Great Smokey Mountains, the dark operative Pandora, aka Myla Trench, keep the watch. Keeping the watch remained critical to survival, as well as self-evolutionary consequences of personal existence. Such psychodynamic capabilities, perfected over time and experience, made for a differentiated mindset. Separate, equal and open, she became more and more liberated in the freedom of her mind. Code-named the Black Widow; she had extraordinary proficiency in the killing arts. Over time, Myla killed with brutal efficiency and expert lethality. On the outside of her thoughts, disciplined by the inside of her neural dimensions, you would never see her coming. In the aftermath of each assignment, no trace of her presence could ever be found. Yet, her reputation had become legendary. Her fortified lair ensured not only her security from the human race, but also what sanity she deemed necessary to safeguard. Given her unusual ability to sense things, nothing, no one, or anything could get within close proximity. However, one would risk much trying to get close to her. She watched the world below as humans awakened for their day, and thought about the enslavement they accepted. To her, they still chose to wallow in the false pretenses they so salaciously enjoyed. Myla remained fascinated by the widespread ravages of stupidity in the devolving nature of humanity. In her mind, she indulged in the speculation as to when the human race might face extinction. She gazed down like an avenging angel. Her pet falcon, Gabriel, perched with her on the rustic porch of what appeared to a vintage log cabin. Nothing was ever what it seemed. “Dogma of illusion,” she marveled and sipped very strong espresso. A thin cruel smile animated her full moist lips. Her smirk concealed and for now contained the malevolence she felt. For moments, she leaned against the doorframe, naked, exotic, lean and muscular. A powerful woman, she embraced the warrior ethos with erotic passion. All she wore, at this interlude, a mere instant in time, was her ever-present custom-made shoulder holster. Naturally, the design was black leather. Her Walther PP Ultra nine millimeter hung snugly close to her ample breast. She surveyed her domain and enjoyed the pleasure of her bold bareness. If this were time and place, she would have been a samurai. “Myth, magic and metaphor, Gabriel,” she whispered eerily. “They believe in fairy tales, as hope springs eternal in their continual regression. But, there are exceptions.”

2

Her dark green eyes gazed toward the town not far away. Inside the well-trained neural networks, she thought about her Achilles heel. Yes, everyone has one. She pictured the imagery of her dashing partner, Sterling Striffe. With a sudden anxious breath of cool fall air, she tingled with anticipation of their next rapacious, unbridled union. Her one deadly weakness, regardless of all her skills, strength and abilities, came in the form of the one she had chosen. Others may come and go, trivial dalliances or professional assignments, but he was different. He would always bring her to the highest peaks blissful eruption, and then higher. As she pondered the whereabouts of her dangerous counterpart, her thoughts lingered on the thin veil of ignorance that hung like a heavy stage curtain over the human race. From the shadows, she knew secrets that the vast majority of people would never know. In fact, they did not want to know what things were done to ensure their smug piety, greedy materiality and safe mediocrity. Her disdain had no limits. She abhorred their weaknesses. “Why, Gabriel, do we do it?” She mused to her winged familiar. “I have little or no use for the vast majority of them. The species devolves and fails to ascend.” She sipped the mysterious brew he had specially imported for her. Shortly, she rested the white cup and saucer on a nearby roughhewed pine table. An antique brown leather case held expensive cigars. Inside were his favorites, and hers too, the historic Partagas, handmade in Cuba. Carefully, almost like a ritual, she pulled one out and admired its length, girth and aroma. Long and comfortably thick, she inhaled its essence and viewed the tightly wrapped veined cylindrical shape. Between her lips, she lit the tip with her gold lighter and twirled the edges slowly in the blue flame. With a long suck, Myla relished the taste. “Now, that’s a cigar,” she breathed out a stream of smoke. Myla relished the refined scent of the vintage tobacco. As a predator, she had no use for the simple minded, the foolish and the stupid. All too easy, people could devolve into a pack of wild animals, prey for the pickings of some vicious stronger pillager. Nonetheless, some semblance of balance had to be ensured for those who chose to evolve. However, for those fewer ones, the real one percent, they were warriors who kept the watch. They were willing to do deadly things to protect the herd from the hording thievery of the others. As the pack, the flock and gaggle of goosed grumblers would do all manner of foolishness, a select group would oversee their protection. With tongue thrusting cynicism, the huntress considered the next assignment the duo might accept.

3

“I’m here, my dear, always near, and never too long away from you,” his darkly poetic whisper resonated from behind her. He could feel the tingle of her prurient expectation. “You’re more beautiful each day than all the previous days combined.” He was close, very close, within a hair of her ample buttocks. He brushed her slightly, almost skin to skin; he stared at her long tanned torso. His energy bristled with hers. She glistened with electric thrill and stood motionless, as if dead in the moment of that mysterious presence. “Gabriel never sounded a peep, my love. I have you from behind. What’s with your pet turkey?” “Mmm, my darling, you can always have me from behind,” she murmured seductively. “I withhold nothing from you, my devilish delight. Desire is everything.” “I sense it’s not a check mate, you’re always ready for me,” he whispered. “Uh huh, the dagger I have poised at your lovely groin. Such was my raptor’s signal for her silence,” she taunted his mutual nakedness. “And yet, I would never hurt that precious abundance of pleasure. My god have I missed you.” “I as well have relished in the thought of this moment,” he whispered softly to her ear and ran his arms around her waist. His breath whipped lightly over her neck and across her shoulder. “Hmm, smoking one of our cigars, my love, how enticing you look.” “Don’t move, stay there.” Slowly, to enjoy each second of his presence, she turned into him. “Ah, the heat of your skin, your touch arouses me, I want to explode.” Much taller, she gazed with a slant into his roguishly grey eyes, a wolf in disguise. As he was naked as she, her hand grabbed him hard and encircled his anticipation. “You’re ready for me.” “I’m always ready for you, your ladyship,” he whispered again. Myla Trench never had much use for most people. In the line of duty, she would use men for what most were thought to be. They were assets or enemies, tools to be used in the tradecraft. However, Sterling Striffe was not a people in the normal sense. Like her, he was as unique as she was. Both were an eccentricity of an evolving species. They were among a select few who were able to do extraordinary things for cause and country. There were not many in the entire world. Within her boundaries, as was his, closeness would be far too near enough, except for one. Arm’s length frequently had about all the distance she or he might tolerate at any given moment. For goodness sakes, do not waste her time with trifling nonsense. Myla Trench had no tolerance for small talk, fads or simple-minded babblings, since she lived on the fringe of a different level. Any incursion across her personal boundaries could invite serious retribution, including death.

4

“You drive me beyond my normal psychosis,” she said with a hushed sexual heaviness. In a blink, she threw the dagger across the room and hit a bull’s eye target on the wall. “I’m going to tame the tempest you have stirred and exhaust you beyond belief.” “Oh my god, I hope so,” he sighed lustfully, murmured slowly and went to his knees before her. “You’re amazing, the most incredible woman I have ever known.” He purposely took his time gazing up, over the contours of tight hard stomach, to the over reach of her bosom. “Sculpted by the gods, you evolve more beautifully with each day.” From fleshy crease, to curly curves, he relished in every aspect of her presence. “Normal psychosis you said?” H e pondered her comment with care. “That’ll never happen. My delight is in your wildness.” “Yours and mine as one design,” she whispered huskily, with increasing pants of short breaths. “Oh that is so wonderful. You suck the essence of my torment…” She hissed, shook and shivered, as he consumed her core to worship her potent femininity. “Consume me.” “A goddess without equal, my warrior queen,” he murmured wetly around her clinching twitches. The taste, the touch, the smell of her, his senses mounted with ever-increasing urgency. “I’m going to push you over the edge of your senses.” “Don’t stop, my love, drive me insane.” She pressed his head into her. “Darling, you are already there,” he whispered with poetic resonance. “Then, do me without end, let’s makes us as one,” she urged, demanded and pressed him harder. “Oh, that’s the essence of it all, we are the one…” Her voice melted into his, not mere words, but ignited echoes. Over the red-hot coals of lust, conjoined gasps of erotic splendor provoked the mind to higher ascendency. Controlled, measured, steady, together they fused as smoldering murmurs of uninhibited desire. Their union consummated the potent expectancy of fervent carnality. Rhythmic fluctuations erotically fueled their consummated blaze, as if so intended by forces beyond life itself. Heated bliss, bathed in sweated exertion washed over their sinewy intertwinement. Tangled, twisted, mounted in shared positions, up and down, from side to side, behind and underneath, their cascading unity thundered to a simultaneous eruption. The mind-altering explosion rocked with a tumultuous flirtation of eternal illumination. It was the brief liberation of spiritual unification. When the brain is fully illuminated and engaged beyond reality, the veil of illusion reveals the mysteries of universal connectivity. Self-evolution unfolded with explosive jolts. Their raging sensuality unleashed the intensity by which their evolution unfolded.

5

Wrapped viciously, tenaciously and drenched with raptured consummation, eventually release had to come to final urgency. Multiple bursts, explosive energy, and blurring white blazes detonated. She and he lay entangled, one into the other, liberated, oozed, and secreted in the flow of amative absolution. Myla Trench demanded his full focus on her, and he gave willingly. The Black Widow held him tightly. Their mind merger infused the psychic secretions of silky fluidic lusciousness for shared affinity. Within the arms and legs of each other, face to face, the two of them absorbed the momentary joy of salacious communion. “You always will be my warrior queen. Ours is a strange love, my dearest. Time has no meaning, and each time is not the same time,” he muttered just above a deeply satisfied whisper. “Whew, my contessa, you are the most incredible woman I’ve ever known. We’ve tasted, eaten, drank and swallowed the living essence of each other.” “My cup runneth over, my wonderful mate. That was magnificent. Our bondage is without boundaries, it’s our oath in blood,” she murmured back to him, held his flaccid repose. “My god, and to the goddesses, that was wonderful. We are different every time, ” Myla continued in a whispered strain. She looked through the depths of his steel grey eyes. “You drove me over the age, my dearest. And from the feel of things, I drained you completely.” “I thought, with a burning blaze of thoughts, I would shrink into you. I never wanted to stop.” He smiled up at her, as her hand lovingly massaged him. “We are the torch of eternal youth in blissful unity, without inhibition, for each moment that passes.” He provoked an eyebrow to arch mischievously. “Ours is well that runs to bottomless depths, my love.” “With that,” she started slowly, “we learned the necessity of unity without limitations. Differentiation in our individuality mounted on equal partnership.” As they soaked in the aftermath, he gazed around the room. This remote location had appeal, yet like much of life, nothing was foolproof. Always a comfortable retreat, she had made the place a very practical living environment. There were no excesses, accumulation of luxuries or untidy things left anywhere. Like him, she was ready to move at a moment’s notice. Being prepared had a sense of keeping to the sharp side of essential. While lying there with her, he tried to guess where she hid her weapons. They had a game about that and sometimes tested each other. Nearby for hand to hand necessitated the expectation of uninvited guests. Over the years, they had attracted many enemies. Aside from the fact, she was a lethal weapon herself, Myla kept guns and knives in secret places.

6

Together, in the world they lived, the darkness they shared, and the shadows they understood, he and she relished in the transformation they sought. Beyond the mundane trivialities of petty communal superficialities, Myla and Sterling traveled a different road. Theirs was an adventure into realms most could not begin to comprehend. While vast numbers of the human species accepted simplistic notions for their own regression, these two ventured off uniquely. Well-defined mutual boundaries bred with well-evolved thinking processes, in order to produce a more advanced life form. Separate but equal, open and free, neither one owned the other, nor demanded one self dominate the other self. Each knew you could not make a whole self out of another, without damage or destruction to the whole of both. Yet, as a team, they could merge into a powerful force, with swift efficiency and lethal certainty. For any possibility of treachery, her actions, as well as his, would be supremely confident, instantaneous and merciless. Both knew all too well the hedonistic egoistical inclinations of people in general. Therefore, they trusted no one. Instead, they forged an alliance and relied on the bondage of their special kinship. As a special kind of warrior, Myla and Sterling self-evolved to keep the watch no matter what. From that, they learned danger had certainty and death had permanence, and you accepted it without fear. Fear drove intentions, and intent stirred from the primal urges of self-interest. To them, humans could be cunningly deceptive, cruelly torturous, and simultaneously superficial in sincerity. Nonetheless, whether by design or incompetence, people in very deadly ways sought their own level of insidious selfishness. No species on the planet harbored the potentiality for power and control, or murder and mayhem purely out of pleasure like human beings. For whatever amative self-interests, anyone could be dangerous for personal gain. “We have a new request for special services, my dear,” he said to her softly and held her from behind. His arms draped around her waist. They stood naked together on the covered deck of the cabin. Gazes searched the mountainside and ventured over the steep cliff just beyond her steps. “Another consulting option, we’re needed on a matter of grave concern.” “I was wondering when you’d get around to it,” she answered dryly with a very strong tincture of sarcasm. Her fingers caressed his arms lovingly. “Save the planet again, huh? There’s always a matter of so called grave concern, Sterling my darling.” She pulled in a long breath and closed her eyes for momentary solace within herself. “I say fuck’em with malice.” “Now, now, my dear, our country calls, we answer,” he countered lightly.

7

“Nope, I want out, Sterling. I’ve had enough.” She remained adamant, hands on naked hips, beads of lusty sweat slid down her back. She turned into him and slanted her head down, eye to eye, the greenest of jade to steel grey. “I don’t care what happens to the human race.” “I don’t either, but I enjoy a good game of chess,” he replied with a grin. “It’s the game Myla. It’s all about the game, which is an adventure, a pursuit of mind stimulating bliss.” He gazed at her and adored watching her every move. She moved away, lithe and smooth, and headed for the kitchen bar. Supple with feminine muscularity, her hips swayed enticingly for his view. At the rustic hand carved counter, a decanter of freshly brewed espresso blend coffee waited for her. Sharp eyed as an eagle, lethal as any lion, and murderously malevolent when she needed to be. Myla, of course that was not her real name, could kill you in so many ways. Both had alternate identities. As to her, the skill set was superior to any he had ever trained. In addition, in all likelihood, when unleashed, you would never see her until it was too late. Trained by the best, on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community, she had been brought in the tradecraft by him, the mysterious Sterling Striffe. Chief architect of advanced psychological warfare, they had retired early and become private contractors, or simply mercenaries. Both children of the cold war, both ruthlessly devoted to protecting the interests of the United States. On a personal level, the pair endlessly warred with each other. Give and take, tug and push, neither would relinquish the other. An erotically enflamed romance, it had unique characteristics in the quest for eternal transformation. Nonetheless, with regard to the human race, they had disdain for the cowardice and hypocrisy in every culture. Given their collective field research, they would come to believe the human species was devolving. As to the psychodynamic frameworks of people, they theorized humankind was showing exceptional signs of degradation across the planet. From that, and after many years of public service, grew a healthy sense of skepticism about the human race. Not to forget of course a very vigorous strain of cynicism. “Sorry, my darling,” she said while she prepared two of strong black brew. With cu p and saucer in hand, she pivoted to his approach. “Here, drink your coffee and shut up.” “Thank you, my dear.” He glanced at the white china and sipped. For moments, silence held their collective attention. “I’m afraid you have to come with me.” “Goddamnit, you son of a bitch, Sterling bastard Striffe, I knew this would happen!” She swore and felt subtle vibrations from her saucer. “Intruders are coming, right?” “Well don’t look at me. I wasn’t followed,” he defended awkwardly.

8

“I haven’t seen you in weeks.” Her emerald gaze told him she was agitated. “You leave to go off on some wild goose chase in the Middle East. I don’t hear a damn word and you show up, my prodigal lover, and what do I get?” She snarled rhetorically. “I get fucked in more ways than one. Geezus, Sterling, half the planet wants to kill us.” She sipped her coffee. “I’m gonna you’re your ass.” Myla peered tactically on a one eighty sweep. “You sense that?” He nodded with her. “They’re coming from the southeast, up the embankment.” “Was your cover story intact, my love?” He quizzed still naked and went behind the bar. A black Benelli M-4 twelve gauge shotgun hung under the countertop. “Where’s the telltale ruse, darling? Can you think of anything that might’ve been missed since I left?” “Not one damn thing.” Her peeved look scolded him quietly. “You know me; anything is possible at any time, right?” She smiled back and swallowed more coffee. “My story illusion is secure.” She stopped, set the cup and saucer down, and thought for a second. As she took a deep breath, her facial expression shifted to what he perceived as a flicker of titillating excitement. “Well then, there could be a slight diversion soon. You know, I always wanted a falcon.” Her hand slid a decorative panel on the bar and she pulled out a Colt Model 1911 .45 auto pistol. “Didn’t take long, I went to the pet store at the mall, and what’d ya know.” “They were watching,” he said confidently. “Your pet pterodactyl is keeping watch.” Out on the porch, Gabriel squawked about something. “Wait, I sense another direction.” “We’re surrounded,” she said with a grin and knelt sexily to the hard wood floor. One muscled leg spread wide, the other bent at the knee, and she listened intently. Her eyes darted carefully back and forth. “Quickly, we’ll get dressed.” “I don’t mind nude warfare, it’s an ancient concept,” he teased her. “Me neither, but, we gotta leave in hurry though. And, I don’t believe we’ll find too many open minded tourists.” She blew him a kiss. “I’m thinking neo-safari look for you, maybe? Something a little GQ would be nice, with an open collar.” “I travel lightly, so I may have just the thing,” he agreed and glanced out a window. “For me,” Myla continued. “Black is my favorite color. Uh huh, let’s see, tight leather pants, ones that leave a good outline. And, oh yes, boots of course will do, and a sleek matching turtle neck?” She winked at him, her face fully animated by her mounting stimulation. “I’ll cover you first. Although naked fighting would be fun, once we escape, a couple of nudist might be too easily noticed. So, Dr. Striffe, move your marvelous ass. The fun is starting.”

9

“You’re absolutely insane,” he said and slipped down the hallway. On the way, he simply shook his head back and forth. “Myla, my dearest, your madness is my infatuation.” “Of course my love,” she murmured eerily to him, while she pulled up her leather pants, wore no panties, and slipped on her boots. Her gun and razor sharp k-bar was always near. The Black Widow remained alert, willing and ready for action. “I sense they’re closer.” She sniffed the cool fall air whisking through the cabin. “Inch by inch they slither to our little lair, my darling.” Moments, later, both were stylishly attired and ready for action. Shadows hugged them, low, dark and surreptitiously vigilant. This was not an untypical day for Trench and Striffe. Life had little or no meaning unless there was adventure. A journey must be about the bliss of the moment. She was correct when she noted there were people who wanted them dead. That was the name of the game. Some live and some die. The world filled up daily with predators, enemies and a continuing rogue’s gallery of despicable characters. There might even be a few former coworkers and supervisors who’d fantasized about their demise. Every day, from the time the sun came up, to the moment it sets, remained a tactical day. Condition red stood guardedly prepared a heartbeat from the next breath. For them, the prepared mind meant daily actions of premeditated effort to prevail against the odds. Yeah, and that includes all the stresses, pains and strains that come with being alive, filled with each taste of the previous second. You simply learned to live with the possibilities, potentialities and the actuality of life dueling with death. That doesn’t suggest one must be “paranoid”, but instead primed, willing, stable and equipped. Mental discipline served higher realms. So many make the life journey with reckless abandon, careless laxity and disregard the necessity for self-evolution. Each mind, filled with streams of thought and purposeful consciousness, ought to seek out willful engagements with realty. And at the same time, from the enticements of the dreamscape, the surrealism of the mind, depending on knowledge and experience, climb the highest peaks. And yet, in spite of warnings, signs and symptoms, cause and effect are reduced to simplistic babblings of foolish trivialities. “Your over-grown canary has a target,” he said and tilted his head toward the bird. Sterling wheeled around with a three sixty sweep of his shotgun. In his brown leather shoulder holster, he kept a grey-black Glock .40 caliber snugly under his left armpit. “Let’s do this.” “Gabriel,” Myla whispered ever so softly. “Take the point, engage.” “I got your six.” He met her gaze. She nodded.

10

“I got your six,” she echoed in the calm serenity before the onslaught. “Now, let’s lure the flies into the web. They just can’t wait to exert their arrogance.” Myla smirked wickedly and enticed him to the depths of his primal thoughts. “We got it covered, baby.” “Nothing like the merger of feeling and intellect,” he skimmed thoughtfully to her inner reaches. “It hones us to a precision of skill. As planned, then we’ll see where this goes.” As people pursue their consumption of primeval pruience, most could careless what secret warriors do. No one wants to know what goes in those shaded areas of cloak and dagger. So long as the store shelves are stocked, the gas pumps keep pumping, and the fast food fryers are frying within minutes of an order, they remain fat, gulible and satiated. Unless whatever happens makes the news headlines for more than a day or so, who cares? Sterling and Myla had come to recognize the importance of their own quest, the pursuit of each others psychic tansition. Nothing matter more to them, than one’s own transition through life. Meanwhile, the raptor swept an arc upward and then swiftly swooped low. Hunting, tracking and attentive to motion, movements and diverse sesnations. Aggressive, focused and ruthless, the winged creature would not fail to exact a measure of vengence. For which vigilance the bird understood, had a price. It’s one thing to sqawk about everything. But then again, it’s quite another thing to stalk and terminate your prey. And that meant, every intricate potenecy of transformed energy, propelled by sheer will of determination, was driven to hit the objective. The very essence of its existence to freely choose, offered multiple options to rise above the mundane and the ordinary. As though an arrow shot by the huntress Diana, the bird zoomed in targeted persistence to an assailant leading the others. For a moment, he thought he heard something. When he glanced upward, time had run out. Perception filled in the blanks from what he thought he saw. On impact, the intruder got caught by surprise. Thinking can have different effects. Illusions fool you, as you imagine something completely alien to what you think you envisioned. That’s why, at all times, the mind must be attentive to a multitude of information sources. Razor talons gripped his skin and dug into the muscle tissues. To his chagrin, the side of head, down to the skull bone, tore open, revealing a gaping wound. After which, he screamed and blew the silence of his cover. “Nice option my dear,” he murmured in a low crawl toward the rear deck. “Quite a unique distraction. they weren’t expecting that. You’re special in so many ways.” “The trap is set and sprung, my sweetheart,” she answered with a quiet tone.

11

“That turkey’s not a bad ally and can actually fly,” he taunted her without mercy. “And, you know what, who would’ve thought someone would use such low tech?” “And you point is wise guy?” Myla smirked roguishly. She ignored him for the moment and tucked her Colt .45 in a thigh holster. Myla liked to have two pistols nearby at all times. In fact, she never left anywhere without several weapons hidden somewhere on her body. She had a fondness for double penetration with different sizes. Without hestitation, seemingly out of nowhere, she had a high powered carbine at her shoulder. Must’ve come from a recessed closet, he surmized. Her green eyes focused intently. With a mind molded by severe training and rigours of survival tactics, she put cross hairs on her target. For a moment, she wondered. Should she toy with her prey? In the next second, she heard the skyborne screetch. With the telescopic sight affixed above the firing breach on the black rifle, she rapidly zeroed in on the invader. As the bird attacked, Myla expertly squeezed the trigger. With a muffled recoil, the bullet blasted out of the barrel, rocketed down range and hit the hitman between the eyes. The assailaint jerked hard and rough and whipped roughly backward. His skull exploded in a flash of red fluids, while his muted cry stiffled on instantly. Afterwhich, a fusillade of gun shots zipped through the cabin. Suppressed weapons fire lit up the thick wooded structure. Multiple blasts sliced through the windows and created a cascade of confetti. Glass panels shattered and curtains ripped, while bullets tore up wood, china and old picture frames. Bursted fragments scattered across the room and dusted the floor. Sparks ignited colorful animation within the darkened atmosphere. Splinters of mixed debris fluttered through the air and crashed noisely around them. cups and saucers fell of the bar. “She’s not a turkey by the way,” Myla warned him playfully when shooting stopped. “Clever, cunning and crafty,” he murmured to her and peered through a small monocular. “Good head shot, what’ya figure, about fixty meters out?” Sterling asked and estimated the reach to the target. “Pistol shot is long range for that. But, I wanna practice.” “Okay and that got their attention, But, they played their hand too soon. Which tells us something about them. A daylight raid? And, yes, it’s about fifty meters.” Myla rolled to cover behind the couch, but kept her rifle up and ready as she scanned the outside areas. “One down and five to go and they’ve widened their posture.” “Yeah, not the kind thing we’d do,” he answered sourly. “Day time, wedge type formation, and frontal assault. Geezus, I miss the cold war, things were more skillful.”

12

“The younger generation of assassins, you know, instant gratification,” she muttered in an acrid way. “Creativity has gone out the window, Sterling. No sense of individual style anymore. Geezus about copying someone else. Not only that,…” Myla nodded at him with a groan. “Now, I’m really upset, actually very insulted. For that I’m gonna kill them all.” “My darling, you were gonna do that anyway.” He winked at her. “I’m still hacked off.” She winked back at him. “What’d they send, amateurs? My senses tell me we spoiled their surprise. And, it’s kinda of stopped. What the hell is that? We don’t stop until the body count adds up.” She cast a side glance at Sterling. “Geezus, this a fucking training exercise or what? You know, this seriously pisses me off. They sent only six?” “Yeah, I feel that too, my dear.” He low crawled and cradled the shotgun to the open space between the door and the deck. “Let’s go down below.” At the corner, he edged caustiously at an angle in the shadows. “That last shot of yours got their attention, along with the bird. Well, five now and they’re encircling. You got the sniper at your eleven o’clock?” “You know I do, my darling,” she whispered ever so wickedly. “Do him?” “Yeah, drop the bastard,” he told her, aimed his pistol on another and waited. “Yep, stay right there, jackass. Do you see me?” She said to the sniper who could not hear her. “Oh come on, do your job, dickhead. I’m right here and I got your reflection.” Myla pause for a second. “There you go. See me now. Too late.” She took her shot. The high powered projectile crashed through the other sniper’s telescopic lense. As the bullet shattered the sighting system, the force of impact flipped him over backwards and threw his body down the side of the mountain. Myla recovered quickly and rolled from that position to rest next to Sterling. With his handgun, he waited another second and focused his sights on an intruder concealed in a cluster of shrubbery. “Easy baby,” he whispered to her. “Keep that up, we’ll have to get naked again.” “Promise?” She blew warm breath into one his ears. At the same time, she snuggled teasingly close to him. One of her legs overlapped his and she rubbed her pelvis against his thigh. “Can you concentrate while I nibble your ear? How about with my tongue?” “Let’s see if I still have the stamina,” he answered with a taunting hint. “Range, roughly about forty meters out, and to the left, just behind the underbrush at nine o’clock.” “Hmmm, go for it, tough guy, do the bad guy.” She licked his neck. “Right there, steady, now.” He fired three shots in rapid succession.

13

“Not bad, in spite of the distractions, you’re good with a pistol shot,” Myla whispered in his ear and then bit his neck sensuously. As though an exotically beautiful vampire, she licked the bite mark. “God, you taste good. Any way, two hits just above the vest. More or less double throat shots, one atop the other, nice pattern.” She licked her lips salaciously and peered at the target. “And, one a little off center. He’s slumped against a tree and not moving. It’s kinda like you nailed him to an old oak. That’s a little squirrelly, Sterling.” She adjusted her scope. “Well that shot went upper right about four inches, a neck shot.” “Yeah, yeah, I could do better.” Striffe scanned with his monocular. “One who makes a mistake and fails to correct it, make another mistake, a compound effect.” Gently, with a lovingly stroke, he patted her buttocks. “Let’s take this outside.” “Uh huh, I would agree with that, my dear.” She reached over to a plank nearby and pressed down hard. The board gave way and a metallic clank emanated. “Next time, with the luscious Glock of yours, correct your wind factor for deeper penetration. Going down?” She lifted a board, hit a release button and the floor opened. “Underground level coming up.” They descended with a swift drop to the basement below and landed on both feet. Felxed at the knees, slightly crouched, they spun three-sixty, ready shoot. Sterling had his hand firmly gripped on his Glock. Myla had both hands filled, especially with the hefty girth of the Colt. Back to back, they waited a few moments and adjusted to pitch black. The darkness of the rough unfinished basement area immediately surrounded them in a shroud of invisbility. Eeriely, a subtle shadowy radiance grew from a couple directions. Not a lot of light, but enough to aid the visual range from several angles. Each position had to be used for maximum tactical advantage. A faint amber glow from motion activated security lamp sensed their presence. Once underneath the cabin, the floor retracted back to its original fitting. And, not a moment too soon. Above them, three assailants, heavy boots, stormed the first floor behind a hail of machinegun bursts. They shot everything. “Goddamn,” Sterling murmured. “That’s pretty sloppy.” “There they go, upstairs, kitchen, bathroom,” Myla counted off their footsteps. “Searching first floor, now the second floor,” Sterling added. “Coming this way.” “Geezus, how messy. Do they have to shoot the place up,” She soured. “I like t his cabin. Okay, give it up, Sterling. What’s this proposition you have for me?” She wanted to talk business, while they fended off their intruders. “Does it involve travel?

14

“Yes, it’s corrective action and cleanup of an arrangement gone nasty,” he muttered while he pointed the shotgun at the stairs. “Sorta like what these clowns are doing. Only we gotta be our usual surgically precise. Wait, five, four, three two, here he or she comes.” “Well baby, this ain’t precise, it’s a fucking mess.” Myla nodded in the shadows. “Ours involves a high value target,” he noted and stood ready. “The mission, at home or abroad?” She asked again and readied her pistol in the same direction. “Meanwhile, this is a hunt and kill job. But, too much noise and damage.” “Would appear to be so.” He kept his shotgun tucked into his shoulder. “Short distance or long range?” She asked again for clarification. “Our assignment could be both, depends on the subject of negotiations,” he told her. “Home turf, we might be exposed already.” She thought it over. “We gonna capture one, so I can conduct an interrogation?” Myla asked with a fiercely fiesty tone. “Let’s see what happens.” His finger gingerly touched the trigger. Stealthily, one of the trespassers broke from the rest. Two remained upstairs. This one crept cautiously down to the underground area. Without warning, Sterling cut loose. Boom, boom, double semi-auto blasts from the heavy shotgun hit the descending assassin in the chest. Fire roared from the barrel of the weapon, and the smell of gunsmoke saturated the air. The would be assassin whipped hard to one side, arched backwords and slammed viciously into the concrete wall. At the same time, the body gyrated like a ragdoll being shook violently. In seconds, the killer slammed into the stair railing, cracked the wood beam, and tettered ghostly for a few moments. She dropped her machinegun over the side of the stairs, stunned and injured badly, she screamed. Her vest torn and tattered, failed to deflect all of the buckshot. Choking, spitting up blood and gasping, she tried to reach her pistol. But, Myla put one shot between her eyes and the intruder fell dead over the steps. “You come for my gun, honey,” Myla said to dead woman, “better be ready with yours.” “Nice shot, my dear. I like your forty-five,” he whispered to her and reached down for the dead body. “Both of them,” he added with a grin. He drug the body into the darkness. “Let’s see what we got temporarily. I suspect the other two might try a little more firepower.” “Yeah, like a grenade this time. It’s quiet. Way too quiet,” she told him as she knelt alongside. “You examine, I got the watch.” She ran her hand over his back. “You’re not wearing protection, my love. Bareback is one thing, kevlar is quite another.”

15

“You are so right. Bare to the back, deep in the reap, bottom out until there’s no doubt. Force, without remorse, thank goodness for that. Come my dear, shall we merge our thoughts?” He answered calmly and ran his hand delicately over her lower back. She arched her posture. “Hmm, you’re prepared. You under armor feels nice and silky, my contessa.” “It’s all liquid silk, my darling. What’ve got here.” She gestured at the body. “Sure did bleed out quickly. My oh my, we’ve certainly created a messy cleanup.” “A bit of a puzzle for the moment as we observe the present.” He used his infrared penlight to do a quick examination of the body. “Punched a heafty groove in the trauma plate on her vest. One of the buckshots tore out the throat. Naturally, your head shot was dead on the forehead. That severed the spinal cord to the brain.” He took in a long breath and told Myla, “Nothing, no marks, tatoos, insignia, identification that’s discerning on this one.” “The other two are waiting,” she replied and looked upward. “They’re mumbling. Confused, stalling for orders, must be feds. No wait, something else, I can’t quite sense.” She glanced down at the corpse again. “Guess they’re not feds. But, then again, I mean who else makes a dayling raid and hits the objective straight on. You know? As though they’re superior to the opposion and somehow invincible. Go in guns blazing, yelling ‘FBI’, or some nonsense.” “Uh huh, but, this one would have an I.D.” Sterling agreed with and pointed at the dead body. “Naturally, it would not be unusal for that other ageny to be after us.” “No, it wouldn’t and that’s one possibility,” she offered lightly and tapped her lips with a gloved finger. “Could be rogue elements of the government within the domestic framework. They certainly don’t apprecaite the way we’ve played them over the years.” “Another possiblity…” His eyes met the gleaming green of her gaze. “A warning of sorts, as if to say, we could’ve gotten you, and we’re willing to kill our own to prove it.” “A sacrifice of lambs as it were, followed by a drone hit,” she mouthed ever so soft ly with a glint of thrill in her glance. “Six is a signifcant number, my dearest one. A half dozen sent to certain death. A trek each of us takes every day, closer and closer to oblivion.” “A cube has six sides on the outside,” Sterling added to her conjecture. “On the inside, there’s a reflection from the outside to the six on the inside. Maybe the word’s out.” “Someone’s sending a message,” she wanted to elaborate. “A cube has twelve sides. We’re inside a cube with the other six. Trapped in a sense, but not without options.” “Everything is a symbol of something,” he said. “Data to be analyzed.”

16

“Uh huh, primal imprints from the unconscious darkness,” she quipped. “Six, but twelve, reflections symbolically associated with symbiosis of some typology. The likes of which,...” she paused as the minions upstairs dragged something. “We may yet know.” “Random events are connected when we make the connection,” he said speculatively to her. “In the living room,” his murmur barely above the sound of a thought. “Above us, they’re collecting the bodies.” He drew in a breath and paced himself to her, as they fell further into their unique sychronicity. “Four to their death, two wait, something’s coming.” “Events are linked once we enter them,” she agreed with a grin in the faint darkness. “Where do you figure they’re standing?” She pointed upward with her Colt .45, and already knew the answer. It was their timing that fit into a spectrum beyound normal. “Right about there?” “Yes, I would say so.” He gestured likewise with his shotgun. “Right there.” Myla fired three times, took a split second pause and fired three more times. Expertly, swiftly, without a second thought, or even a hesitation, she reloaded. Each bullet ripped through the flooring, punched deftly skilled holes into the light. From two sets of three well-placed patterns, tiny shafts of illumination brought the daylight down below. Menacingly, Myla ensured the stairwell was covered with both guns. At the same instant, not a moment earlier or later, Sterling let go a blast of his shotgun. One heavy eruption from the gun blew a chunk out of a wood plank and lifted an intruder off his feet. Both intruders were hit hard. On the stairwell, Myla and Sterling edged carefully to ascend to the first level. Cautiously, they approached the light, as the visual perspective brightened in contrast to the former dimness. Peering above the top steps sightline, they saw both assassins down, sprawled in splattered puddles. One was already dead from the shogun wounds. He had been tossed into a nearby wall and slid to a bent over slump. Several feet away, with multiple gunshot wounds, the other moaned in his final pleading before eternity greeted the unscheduled arrival. Myla kicked away his machinegun and dragged him into the shadows by the bar. “Hold on, don’t die on me yet,” she demanded in a deadly serious voice. As she adjusted the attacker against the corner of the bar, Sterling examined the other one. Looking down from above her, Gabriel kept watch. “I have some questions for you. Come on, you will be on the other side. I’ve seen it.” Myla pulled him to her face as she knelt. “It’s nothing to fear.” “Fuck you,” the intruder gurgled, and spit up a mouth full of blood. “You wouldn’t like that, it’d be very rough,” she teased and held him by the throat.

17

“Nothing on this one,” Sterling called to her from across the room. “Clean and dead. Yo u guys go on the offensive and you make the wrong moves. It’s not about territory, this is about who makes the last move in the great game of wits and wisdom.” “Roger that, baby,” she answered wickedly as the pitch of ominous things to come clouded around her presence. “Dead men take secrets to the grave. We have to cross over to get what they crave. Life is but a strife, and now you face the certainty of my knife.” “Anything from him?” Sterling Striffe asked impatiently. “He’s hanging on to what he thinks is his life,” she murmured creepily and smiled sensually. To the minion, she and Gabriel looked down. Blood dripped and drooled, the killer puked and coughed. “Your guts are falling out. I need to know what you’re about.” “Fuck you,” the dead man sputtered with a heavier accent. “Albanian?” Sterling offered with a hint of speculation. “Hmm, organized crime.” “Okay, with that in mind. You came here with novices,” Myla insisted. “Wannabes trying to make their bones. Who was it? I only want a hint. Just a tidbit.” She pulled out her classic double-edged dagger with an ornately engraved handle. With a razor swift motion, she slit open his sleeve and ripped the cuff of the black combat fabric. He recoiled in horror as the blade slickly grazed his skin. Under the wrist, she noted a tattoo. “Who’s paying the bills?” “He tried to obliterate the tattoo,” Striffe noted. “Black double headed eagles?” “Albanian mob,” Myla said off the cuff with a quick glance at Sterling. “He’s the squad leader with the little hunting party of misfits. Hmm, a hunting party?” “I like that angle, my dear.” Sterling gazed affectionately into her dark green eyes. “Let’s say, a working hypothesis, he’s the guide and they’re on a safari.” He casually adjusted his shoulder holster. “This one seemed to direct the others, as if pointing where to shoot.” “That would account for the misfits, the diversity of the group,” she added. “Five out of six don’t look like trained mercenaries. They, look like, uh, geeks, corporate types.” “I examined the bodies,” Sterling started to elaborate. In his genuine straight forward, yet suave manner, he detailed a rough sketch of each hunter. Striffe, as well as Myla, clearly understood the pains of life, the tribulation of loss, the stress of combat, and the will to prevail. “None of them, except this one, show the signs of wear and tear. I would say, if I had to hazard a guess,” he said with a furrowed brow and a roll of his broad shoulders, their upscale sociali tes looking for a thrill.” He took in a breath and smelled the death.

18

“We’re the quarry, the targets of an expedition with at least dual purposes.” Sterling rose and looked down at the foreigner. “Hunt the big game and terminate a threat. That would mean, these clowns were stalking the most dangerous predators on the planet. However, someone else had another agenda. If a novice group of wannabes could neutralize us, that’s a cost savings.” “Sounds good. However, there’s a leak somewhere in the pipeline. as to our next consultation adventure,” she clarified, “a mole has burrowed its furrow close by.” “Yes, that would appear to be an issue,” he said sardonically with a smile. Death and life, Striffe considered further, fought a war with each other. It was just a matter of timing when the former would prevail. Yet, the struggle went on regardless. As to the intruder, he faced the consequences of that, probably didn’t anticipate the end game, the prey became the predator. Cocky, self-assured and arrogant, their limited incursion made the wrong moves early in the hunt. To him and Myla, every move must be calculated. They prefered chess to poker in a game you didn’t want to lose. It was not that they were defensive in their tactics, and yet they were. Aggression operates from different directions with varying intensities. “They weren’t aggressive enough. An early clue, this pack had timid written all over their face. Their first attempt to hunt humans, but, like most people who live with illusions, they were stupid.” She paused for a moment and admired Sterling’s face. “Wonder what they paid?” “Remember that ops back in the late nineties out of Bucharest?” He adored her exotic features as she nodded in response. “A couple of our agency assets went missing.” “Human trafficking for a select clientele,” he went on to say. “Americans went for a premium price. People on the gaming scorecard, humans a la carte on the dinner menu, and betting on the sidelines for survivors. No one ever survived. American citizens went for very high prices. Extremely sinister and a popular sporting event among a few global elites.” “We thought we put an end to that operation,” she answered with a snarl. “Hell, I took out serveral of their operatives myself. You did too. Our team went in with allied forces and we punished the perpetrators. And then, I blew the place up. What’re you saying?” “The circus is in town and the clowns are around,” he replied with a frown. “The ring masters are back in action. And, we Americans still fetch the highest bounty.” “Geezus, Sterling, they’re at it again and that’s the mission?” She queried with renewed zeal. He didn’t answer immediately. “Goddamnit, you know I want in on this.” The intruder raised an arm and she punched him hard in the face. “We gotta go back, Sterling.”

19

“I knew you would. We have a history of shutting down the freak shows.” Sterling glanced down at the wheezing thug. “Kill him and let’s get moving. We got work to do.” With a blur of edged efficiency, Myla thrust the dagger upward into the thug’s jugular vein, into the lower region of the skull and severed the brain stem. The murderous intruder instantly stiffened in a massive strain cadaveric spasm and slumped dead agains the wall. Quickly, all the bodies were dragged into the basement. A secure transmission signaled a special unit not far away and toward the coastline. A secret facility confirmed the request. In minutes, a reclamation crew were airborne. Salvage operations in and around the cabin reconstructed the entire landscape. Smoke and mirrors with special effects expertise went into full scale rennovations. As though nothing ever happened, the picture perfect mountainside returned to its rustic woodsy setting. The surreal quietness ensured the easy going laid back lifestyle. Simple, basic and unfettered by the troubling hustle and bustle of the world. A little over six hours away in another part of the world, the criminal underworld plotted their next lucrative venture. Creatively evil, this particular subset had revised an old game plan. Near the Adriatic Sea, on a privately held estate, remote and moutainous, a macabre entertainment venue unfolded. A multi-billion dollar illicit industry, human trafficking, or modern day slavery, had many aspects. This one offered real-life adventure for the wealthy sporting enthusiast. For a hundred thousand U.S. dollars per event, you could enjoy a day of stalking and preying on another person. You were only limited by your imagination. “Intel says you only get one person per game event,” Myla read from a classifed intelligence briefing. “And, they don’t seem to be running out of prey. Holy shit, that’s a high price to get off on killing another person on a regular basis. Business has been good.” “Insidious isn’t it? Some people think we’re strange, huh?” He nodded at her as they flew in a black jet to Guantanamo Bay. “The average person is devoid of any understanding of the criminal forces that exist in the real world. They only want their daily fix of personal gratification. Just be fat, dumb and happy, stressed to the max from over consumption.” “That’s why earlier I was wondering why we still do this,” she muttered softly with a sigh. “Not much ever changes. Here we are back again, the mobsters are still at it. The terrorist still plot and scheme, dictators come and go, and politcians remain corrupt. What’s new?” “Not much, my dear,” he said to her with a contained smile. “We enjoy the gamemanship of putting bad guys out of business, while flirting with death and living life.”

20

“Such is the strife,” she hissed slowly and curled her lips erotically. “Which is also the story of my life. To seek, to uncover and to know, all we can in the cresting afterglow. Ours is the temperment of heroic hearts, performing the to the final curtain call, the valiant quest of our parts.” She smirked, leaned her head back and sipped vintage scotch whisky. “Here’s to the councils of eternity and the journey to fulfill our self-evolving infinity.” “Well said, absolutely, my darling, you should’ve been a poet.” Sterling clinked his tepid cup of black coffee to her glass. After a momentary eye to eye pause, as if time had little meaning, he went on to say, “Once more into the war.” They consumed the vision of each other. “NSA intercepts, CIA assets and combined efforts of Interpol have assembled quite a bit of data.” “I wouldn’t expect anything less that premium performance.” She let the tip of her tongue tease the rim of her glass. “We know what we know and yet little has been done.” “The human condition, my contessa, the human condition,” he offered with a heavy exhal e of weary breath. “Corruption, impoverished conditions, limited resources and on and on, the usual saga of neglect and failure. We know the key players in this performance. Nonetheless, each remains insulated in one sinister way or another. Payoffs, protection and opportunitic conditions.” He set down his coffee cup, felt the vibrations of air turbulence and picked up his data pad again. “Encryption activated, but the screen is flashing very discreetly.” His eyes darted to an assistant who stood near the flight deck. As if on guard duty, the woman expressed confidence at her post. She was dressed modishly in stylish business attire, long sleeve white shirt, black tie and trousers. The tall angular woman wore a black shoulder holster and looked serious about her responsibilities. She approached Myla and Sterling with a swagger and nodded to Myla first. A slight bow paid respect to her mentor. “Yes sir,” she said to Sterling. “How may I be of assistance?” “Do me a favor,” he started with a subtle smile. “Have our techie amp the parameters of this data pad. It seems there’s a very discreet glitch occuring. I would like it traced.” “Immediately, sir.” She took the small computer and disappeared. “Behave, Sterling Striffe,” Myla warned playfully with a mysterious slanted gaze. “That’s one of my protégés and she’s not your type. Besides, I’ll kick your ass.” “Thank you, my dearest, I appreciate your protective care,” he answered with a matching grin. “We may have to take a slight departure on our trajectory.” “Uh huh, I would like to know who’s tracking your data unit,” she said to him.

21

“Excuse me, sir, ma’am,” the stoic though interestingally assistant interrupted with a polite bow. Seemingly, for a split second, Sterling felt a yearning of primal instigation. “Please pardon the interlude. This regards your preliminary suspicion.” After a short time had passed, she returned with a preliminary update. “Dr. Striffe, we have the results.” “Very good, thank you. Tell me this, do we a positive assessment?” Striffe queried with a seductive hint and a cool flirtation in his tone. His vocal resonnace had an invitational resonnace for an anwer that had preciseness, but also a salacious enticement. She accepted his gaze with a very slight smile and nodded reservedly. “I believe, by the expression on your face, we have some productive inference.” By now, the sleek aircraft was somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico and preparing to descend toward the Caribbean naval base. After she gestured confidently, he added, “Very well then, tell me more, this could be intriguing.” “Affirmative, sir, ma’am, your collective suspicions are correct,” she answered and again made sure she deferred to Myla. No one ignored Ms. Trench. “Our technical division, at the request of our onboard technician followed the disturbance and found the signal.” She slanted her head toward Striffe in defference to his rank. “Your supposition was accurate, sir. There is an ongoing attempt to interface with your data pad by way of discreet variation. The intrusion followed a linkage via one of our global satcom systems.” “Thank you, that’s close enough for what we need. Our people at Area-51 followed it?” Myla queried her. “I want to know where and who? Any possibilty of that?” “Yes, Colonel Trench, there is exactly that,” the asssistant confirmed. “Please, do continue,” Striffe encouraged courteously. “What are we dealing with?” “Apparently the time-line stems from the safe house,” the assistant proceeded further. “As per your insistence, NSA and CIA overlays were bipassed. The Legerdemain Protocols within the nexus of A-51’s subsystems found the digital roadmap very quickly.” “Ah, the joys of being outside the system, and yet within it,” Striffe said to her. “Bottom -line, we have tracing data and a GPS location, would that be an affirmative also?” “Roger that, sir, ma’am,” the assistant, with a more relaxed countenance, affirmed. “After refueling, we can be airborne and headed to that location within moments.” “Very well than, thank you, please keep us posted as to the time-line,” Striffe answered. “The necessary data for a priority intercept and sanction are on your data pad. Uh, one more thing, sir,” the aide said to Striffe. “The doctor at Sci-Tech sends her regards.”

22

“Oh how nice,” Myla interjected with an abrupt inflection. She watched the aide saunter back to the flight deck and vanish. “Isn’t that sweet, ‘the doctor at Sci-Tech sends her regards’, Doctor Striffe,” Myla snarled, smirked and mimiced the last the comment with her teeth showing. “You have spent a lot of time in the lab, you know my dearest, Sterling.” She shifted in her seat very slowly toward him and curled a long leg over the other. “Have your annual physical yet?” “Now, now, my dear, the good doctor is quite the genius, and she works very hard on our behalf,” Sterling sought to sooth and remind the irritated colonel. “We must be grateful for the expertise and special magic of our Sci-Tech division, don’t you think?” “I could care less about how little Ms. Q-Branch plays with her test tubes, or where she puts them,” Myla sneered again and crossed her arms. “God knows what she does in that crypt of hers all day. What is it, Sterling, the black framed glasses and the lab coat she wears? Or is it the probing instruments she plays with? She’s got a thing for you.” “Myla, my dearest contessa, it’s the restraint devices of course.” He smiled affectionately at her and touched her knee. “Come on, give the doc a break.” She softened just enough not to kill him at this point in time. “You know I prefer the tall, darkly exotic and dangerous types. You and I share the blood oath. We’re two of a kind, nothing changes that.” “Okay, I’m good to go then,” she taunted and gave him a sardonic gaze. “Others, I don’t care about, that’s business. But, if the doc ever crosses the line, I’ll stuff her in a beaker.” “That won’t be necessary, my contessa. Besides, my darling, she’s not Q-Branch, that’s the Brits.” He smiled lovingly, shook his head in amusement and pulled up scans on his computer screen. “Now, let’s plan our sit down with this minor irritant we’ve encountered.” “Yeah, yeah, whatever, I’m still gonna give her a little check up one of these days.” Myla’s strong senuous finger pointed at his data pad. “At any rate, where are we heading?” “A radio station in Key West,” he murmured and perused the continuous stream of classified information from the Groom Lake facility. “Some very clever person or persons, according to our sources, runs a small renegade broadcast program from that location.” “Hmmm, independent entrepeneurs, how inventive,” she scoffed and protectively ran her arm around his shoulders. “I see he, she or it, them, whomever, do political broadcasting.” “You’re friends at the FBI,” he teased, “had them under surveillance at one time. Imagine that. A matter of national security and they abruptly gave up their inquiries.” “Sounds like a familiar story, Sterling my darling.” She hovered closely.

23

“Time to call in the clowns,” he answered with a deadly glance at her. They continued reading the uniquely accessed file on their newly discovered small time quarry. “People can be as critical, rebellioius and revolutinary as they want. They can espouse a coup d'état, revolt or whatever their amative inclinations might conjure. And yet, when called to take a stand, and actually do something, well that’s a whole different scheme of the hunt, isn’t it?” “Of course, my love, when the cowboy mounts the horse, it’s one thing just to sit there in the saddle. It’s quite another to spur things into action and that’s the real test of being able to ride,” she murmured. “One can prance all they want, but can they gallop in the saddle.” “We’ll find out if this little revolutionary knows anything about horses,” he replied. Successful completion of a mission often depends on talent and resources. Nearly anything is possible if the budget is big enough. Nevertheless, once in motion, information, intuition and improvisation add to the intricacy. Meanwhile, the fast raven colored jet slipped through the airspace, and slid smoothly and stealthily through a maze of exceptional air traffic transitions. The trajectory traversed the Gulf of Mexico and headed for the tip of Florida. Maritime surveillance countermeasures were counteracted by interactive intelligence networks. With a bogus cover story and fabricated itenerary, the aircraft hardly provoked any notice from the public. Given the flux of the smokescreen anyone involved more or less yawned, and then went on with whatever they were normally doing. With the pretense of a private charter by some wealthy philanthropist, the plane descended quietly to the corporate hangars remote from the main airport terminal. On landing, the aircraft rolled silently into a secure storage area. Refueling, resupplying and readying for immediate takeoff commenced. “Please tell the captin, we wanna be airborne before daybreak,” Myla told the aide. “Secure the perimeter and commence removing every trace we’d ever been here.” “Roger that ma’am. We’re on it.” The assistant responded immediately to the order. “As you requested, your car is fueled and equipped as per your specifications. Good luck, ma’am.” “My specifications?” She queried and slowly wheeled around to look at Striffe. “Are you refreshed, are we ready?” Myla met Sterling coming down the aisle. “My specifications?” With her usual eyeful examination, she gazed him up and down. “Oh my god, what do you call that outfit? Sterling Striffe, you look like a goddamn Florida tourist.” “Naturally, my darling. Time, talk,” he answered. “Our appointment calls for playing the part, looking the role, staying low profile and taking in the sights. Let’s ride, my dear.”

24

“Geezus, I can’t belive I let you talk me into dressing down,” she blustered like a wet wired wildcat. She blew out a breath. “We’re just over-fed, pampered and silly sightseers.” “I’ll say. Oh my goodness, nice car,” Myla groaned and frowned and caught his look. “I know, low profile. But, Sterling, come on, no customized sports car?” “That’s it. Dull white sedan, faded compact, simple, nondescript and boring. We’re touristas leaving the airport,” he politely admonished. “Looking to buy property on the high end and relocate from the north to the south. So look normal. Well, in your case…” “Nice try with that, wise guy. Get real.” She gently pushed him down the steps. “Look who’s talking. Normal, that doen’t even enter my frame of reference.” Zipping along at a plodding pace, to the chagrin of Myla Trench, the car purred its best efforts at fuel efficiency. Once they exited the secure hangar, they put on their game faces. Smiling, laughing and seemingly occupied with themselves, they hunted for their prey. It’s the gaze, the careful glance, the subtle sweep of the perifphery, shoulder shift, and the skilled application of the senses that makes the difference. Look like what you’re not, because most people don’t have a clue. For the most part, the average person doesn’t want to know. On the main highway, they kept close to their script and drove with care and caution. For the two of them, both were always vigilant and never out of reach of effective firepower. Not far from the airport, they picked up the trail and sensed the quarry was near. As evening fell quickly, and time patiently kept watch over their scheme, they enjoyed espresso and crab cakes. Relaxing at a roadside park in near darkness, on a small key just passed the naval air station, Myla and Sterling were near the target. The historic radio station was in walking distance. “A few walkers coming and going at shops and so forth,” Sterling noted and sipped his coffee. “Not bad,” he commented on the brew. “You too, my dear.” “Oh please, my darling,” she murmured with a growl. “Animal print surfing shorts? Are you kidding me? Sterling, I’m leather and kevlar, what the heck?” “You look fine, lovely in fact,” he sought to soothe. “And, that special over-sized purse of yours, is full of all kinds of gadgets, guns and gutting glitz.” “Well, well, look who’s here,” she whispered roguishly. “Check out the black SUV driving up to the gate of the radio station. My oh my, does that look like the FBI?” “What do you say, the mice love to stray.” Sterling smiled over his cup. “Oh look, one of your old girlfriends, Agent Chyrstal, how fun.” Myla grinned.

25

“Well that confirms one of our suspicions.” Sterling chewed on an unlit imported cigar. A vintage smoke that would’ve aroused a customs agent. “They’re funding an illegal operation.” “What else is new with that organization?” Myla groaned with a sigh. “Senior Special Agent Chrystal Shard, what a pleasant surprise,” Sterling said and watched the huge dark SUV, with heavily tinted windows, roll up the gravelled driveway. Crunching sounds gave way to their not so inconspicous arrival, as heavy rubber tires strained under the car’s heaviness. “Along for the ride, her faithful sidekick, the energetic Agent Ripley Dash. He always drives, while she gives directions.” Myla eyed his cigar, he smiled. “Adds a new twist to our adventure,” she said excitedly. “Certainly does offer other options.” He ran his thumb over the patterned surface of the styrofoam cup, felt creases and the curves, and observed them exit their expensive motorcar. “Prim and proper, poised and poignant, a dapper and pristine essence, as one attempts to cut up the edges of competence, while the other runs around it anxiously.” “Nicely said. Blue suits, white shirts, matching ties, is that standard issue?” Myla taunted and licked the rim of her cup. She leaned lovingly into Sterling’s shoulder, turned for instant and bit his ear. “Geezus, they look like book ends. Shard’s looking hot. You love it and you know it.” She took another sip and swallowed slowly and let him hear her gulp. “Hmmm, do es it give you a tingle to see an old girlfriend in all her pretense to her presence?” “I adore your wickedness, my contessa,” he murmured, continued his stare and skimmed his palm over her thigh. “I feel your thoughts. No, you can’t kill Agent Shard.” “Later, I’m doubly gonna torture you.” She bumped him with her elbow. “We got six people in there now,” he started thinking out loud to her. “A naïve research assistant front desk person. Likely, she’s doing the head guy. Plus two partners and two agents of the U.S. government. All of them have to be put down. But…” “Dash and Shard,” Myla began and knew what he meant, “Dreamland injection, they get to sleep for a short time and explain to their superiors what the fuck happened. Once again, we’ve messed with them. The others will have to sleep for an eternity.” “Yes, my dear, that’s the plan.” He drew in a breath. “Hypo rounds with sleep dosage for the agents. Frag loads for the others.” He nodded slightly with an expression indicative of that’s the way it has to be. “So, we gotta update our ammo. Make this clean, Myla. We don’t kill the agents.” His glance was severe and serious. “Okay, are we good with that?”

26

“Yeah, yeah, I’m somewhat okay with it,” she growled and squinted slightly in the darkness. “What about memory adjustment on Shard and Dash?” Myal asked with a naughty grin. “We need to keep them guessing and on the edge. Shall we strip’em too?” “That could be interesting.” He smirked approvingly. “Of course, we’ll have to neuralize their short term memory, as we had done in the past. But, no injuries.” “Alrighty then, let’s get on with it. Lighting is dim, but sufficient, ample shadows and b arriers aroundt the facility.” Myla skimmed the premises thoughtfully. “This target’s a burglar’s dream. Run down, debris littered, poor lighting, except on the entray way. Two stories though. I recommend balcony entrance.” She drew in a breath made a pause and continued, “And, mostly the kind of aquarmarine rusted out effect you get near the ocean.” “Balcony looks good, we come in over them and corral everyone on the first level. Okay, time for a costume change, end of act one,” he commented slyly. “Hmm, my favorite outfit, naked, my darling.” She whipped out of her clothes and grabbed her backpack and made a quick exchange. “Shucks, and I was expecting an evening gown and stilettos. By the way, this little park area is quite convenient and secluded.” “Yes it is, how fortunate,…Wow,” he noted with captivation and halted abruptly. “Black is your color, baby. And, my goodness that skin suit is form fitting. Nice, boots and all, shoulder holster, utility belt with weapons, quite a combo, my dear.” “Likewise, you dirty old man, you too,” she murmured affectionately. “The black turtle is one of my favorites on you. And, of course, the package is nicely packed.” “Our Sci-Tech Director likes things to fit the user in the field,” he muttered under his breath and felt the automatic adjustment of the special composite fabric. Zipped into the body conforming attire with invisibility charactersitcs, he adjusted his shoulder harness. “Oh, huh, as you know, this balistic material modifies as you wear it.” “I know, but I like it tight.” Myla winked mischievously. “It feels like a second skin.” She gave herself an overall gaze to ensure everthing fitted into place. “Hope you’re all set, tough guy. How manys seconds to the top floor?” She gave him a smile. “The Black Widow is gonna race you to the second floor. Ready, set, go…” She dashed off and faded into the darkness. “How typical of you,” he said as she instantly disappeared. “I see almost caught up with me.” She gazed down at him. “Best two out of three?” He joked as she offered him a hand to pull him over the rail.

27

“Come on, old guy, let me show you how a woman does it,” she taunted and put on her night vision glasses. The eyewear looked like expensive upscale black rimmed sunglasses. Yet, these had multiple uses. Amber tinted clearity nearly gave daylight conditions. “I’ll hook left and you hook right, low, down and dirty?” He nodded. “Okay then, let’s do this, darling.” “Roger that, baby,” he almost answered, but she went first. “Clear on my periphery,” she told him softly. “No sounds on this level.” “That was way too easy. An open doorway, no alarm, lights off. They’re too cocky about their operations,” he whispered moments later. His breath tingled sumptuously in her ear from behind, while they crouched against a nearby wall. Let’s sweep this upper floor.” Expertly, they cleared the second level room by room. “All clear up here, my dear.” “I don’t like things too easy,” she whispered back, knowing they were both in agreement, and remained extremely vigilant. Myla kept her micro Uzi machinegun pistol close to her side, while her pistol hung snugly in her shoulder holster. “Downstairs?” She gestured. “Uh huh, let’s greet the soon departed,” He acknowledged. Slowly, step by step, they descended the old staircase. A normal person most likely would have made noises, given the creaky decaying nature of the structures. Midway, voices sifted up from an adjacent room, which turned out to be the main reception and office area. Faint lighting drifted vaguely to the stairwell. Around the corner, an overhead fixture of flourescent lights provided pale illumination over the area. Behind that was the broadcasting room, where the transmissions were made, using an array of broadcast and computer equipment. Once around the curvature of the wall, from stairs to reception area, two familiar voices were heard. “What the hell do you guys think you’re doing? We have an agreement.” Agent Ripley Dash demanded to know. “You provide us we the information we need, and we, in turn, allow you to keep your confidential informant status. On top of that, you get paid for it.” “We feel you’re playing all sides again the middle,” Senior Agent Chrystal Shard added. “You’ve added a new partner, your intern here. What the hell is that about?” She pointed to a wide-eyed female college student, who seemed more excited about playing spy games than learning the radio news business. All three, in fact, Hacker One and his partner, Hacker Two, along with the intern, seemed foolishly naïve about the games they played. But, they were not untypical of those who pretend to be worldly and yet are woefully deficient in realworld experiences. They played a dangerous gambit in which death was certain.

28

“Holy fuck, did you guys bring the ninja?” The intern, with saucer shaped eyes, blurted out at the sight of the two assassins. “Wow, those outfits are way cool, really neat.” “Oh my god, Myla Trench!” Agent Dash uttered stiffly, and froze in place, as he turned slowly and beheld the grim face of one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives. “I don’t flipping believe this. What the hell are you doing here?” He demanded unsuccessfully. “I get that a lot these days, don’t move,” she ordered both agents. Dash moved one hand toward his belt holster under his coat. “I said don’t move. Don’t even breathe too much. I’ll kill both of you in a hearbeat. You two know I mean business.” “You three,” Striffe said to the others and panned them with his machinegun. “Find a desk, take a seat and keep both hands on top of your heads, fingers locked, palms up. Yeah, I know its complicated, but you look capable of doing it. Go on, kids, get a move on. Do it now.” They scrambled, did as he said and got quiet. “Nice, there you go, sit, stay.” “Agent Shard, don’t think about it, you two’ll be fine, not to worry,” he told them. As he let the machinegun hang from the sling over his shoulder, he pulled his pistol. “Always good to see the FBI on scene attempting to put pieces of the puzzle together.” “I’m warning you, Dr. Striffe, one of these days,” Agent Shard started to warn him, and yet fought off a tiny smile. “I’m gonna get you in an interrogation room.” “Yeah, honey, wishful thinking,” Myla snarled as if bored with the commentary. “Don’t get your hopes up, sweetie. You’ll end up stark naked, with him cuffing you. And, you’ll likely be spread-eagled on that interrogation room table. But, you can always fantasize.” “You see, Agent Shard, hope springs eternal,” Striffe jested. “By the way, you’re welcome for your promotion. You as well, Agent Dash.” He glanced at Dash, who had Myla’s silenced machinegun pistol at the base of his skull. “Sometimes things just backfire.” “Sleep peacefully, we’ll be in touch,” Myla teased, got out her pistol, and shot Dash with a tranquilizer. “Don’t fret, it’s just a sedative, you’ll be okay in a few hours.” “Ouch, no, not again,…” Dash’s voice trailed off as he collapsed on the floor. “Wait, Striffe, come on,” Shard protested. “Let’s talk about this.” “Goodnight, Chrystal.” Striffe inject her as well and she crumpled instantly. “You three, stand up, now!” Myla commanded the others. “I need all you’re data on your surreptitious activities,” Striffe requested. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hacker Two announced smugly.

29

“Then in that case, you’re of no use to us,” Myla answered sourly, in darkness of the dimly lit room. Quiet filtered through the senses, as heavy breathing escalated. Her vicious green gaze scanned their eyes and saw their mounting panic. “One more time, jerk wad.” “Fuck you, bitch, I wanna see my lawyer right now,” he protested. “I don’t have to tell you anything. See that?” He pointed to a frame picture of the U.S. Constitution. “Ever read it?” “With all due respect to your right, young man,” Striffe started to offer advice. “I would caution you not to fuck with her. She is very dangerous and she will hurt you.” “Times up, you fat fuck,” Myla said slowly with deliberate tease. With a haughty expression and defiant tone of arrogance, Hacker Two seemed ready to sneer and joust one on one with the Black Widow. His bloated portly appearance was all the more loathsome as his objectionable rudeness. Daring as he wanted to be in the fright of his cowardice, he continued his overconfident name calling. His brashness came through loud and clear. And yet, he remained typical of flagrant miscalcuations by those captured by their illusions. There was a split second when he saw it in her eyes, he held up his hands in protest. Without hesitation, she smiled calmly and fired a muffled burst from her machinegun into the man’s chest. Through the layers of pompous fatness, six explosive rounds, low caliber, extremely lethal, ripped into his upper torso. On impact, Hacker Two slammed against the rear wall. Punctured six times in a small circular pattern through his sternum, the forceful impact splattered body parts from gaping exit wounds. As he collapsed, slumped to the messy floor, the picture frame unhooked and crashed over his head, as a shroud for the dead. “Well, there you go, he got his rights,” Striffe said matter-of-factly. “As you can see, we’re not playing a game here.” Striffe stood up after administering a memory altering injection to the two agents. Unmoved and unemotional as to Myla’s antics, he observed, “Imagine that, a small safe hidden in the wall. What’da ya know, concealed behind the Constitution.” “You killed him,” Hacker Two muttered crazily, shook uncontrollably down to his knees and peed in his pant. Cadaveric in one place standing up, he babbled, “It’s all in the safe.” “I can’t believe this is happening…” the intern jabbered incoherently. “Now, here we have a teachable moment,” Myla taunted the intern. “Isn’t it fascinationg how idealism crashes into reality the moment you introduce the fear of death? Question, are you willing to die for a cause? Oh let’s see, you call yourself a whistleblower, right?” “You hide behind a computer and think you’re freedom fighters,” Striffe added.

30

“We’re just trying to help the people, expose corruption, and promote democracy,” Hacker One fearfully tried to defend himself. It was clear he was only protecting himself. He neither acknowledged nor offered any concessions for the intern. Bravery has a severe price. On the defensive, he went on, “It’s about freedom and the right of the people to know.” “Yeah, whatever, you really believe in your own mythology. Stay with that in the next world. Might help, who knows. By the way, the people could care less.” Striffe let his machinegun hang from the sling around his shoulders. He unholstered his silenced pistol. “Keep babbling all that nonsense, not much ever changes. Life just goes on with or without you,” he said with a cheeky smirk to the chief hacker and nodded to Myla. “Check the safe see what’s there.” “Roger that, baby, do the sweep, I got this,” she affirmed. While Myla edged closer to the security unit in the wall, Striffe circled, both were seasoned predators. In the culdesac of their superficial consciousness, the jackals had been cornered by a fiercer adversary. Their quarry had been contained and the final kill went without question, but had savory temptations. Except of course, the prey always prayed they’ed be spared. Without the challenge of survival and the test of fear, people get lazy. In time, they think they’re invincible. At some point, their ideology fails, and their beliefs crumble in the face of reality. Hope springs eternal that supernatural forces will swoop down. Illusions are many and mysticism counts for much of the myriad fallacies. At the same sweaty moments of contemplation, Striffe checked the back room behind the reception area, which was the broadcast location. In addition, he swept a couple of closets and storage cubicles nearby. They took turns covering each other and scanning the perimeter. No one else could be found. Strangely, the atmosphere was eerily quiet, except for heavy breathing and nervous knocking of knees. “Seems both of them have soild their undies,” Striffe observed and said to Myla. “I guess the air of insultated bravado has dissipated. At any rate, this is a cute little deposit box,” Myla muttered while she carefully tucked a lump of clay around the dial of the safe. With a gloved index finger, she pushed in a tiny electrode and stepped back. A warning glance to the hostages said enough to them. They cringed. “Okay, three, two, and one.” With her glasses in place, Myla pressed the stem of her watch. Boom, but not a loud boom, just a small boom and a puff of white smoke. Patiently, she waved away some of the smoke and located her dagger. A few stabbing motions and the dial popped off. Afterwhich, standing to one side with caution, she pryed open the door. Watchfully, Myla peered inside.

31

“And, do we have a winner, my dearest?” Striffe asked playfully, as he covered the two whiners with his pistol. “Tell me, what secret things are hidden therein?” “Oh, yes, we certainly do, my darling. Data drives, a whole collection.” She grinned. “My goodness there could be treasure trove of deviance contined within.” “It’s everything we have, all the stuff we know about,” Hacker One said with a severely dejected tone of grovelling surserviance, and head hung low. “Really, no, I’m not kidding. It’s backup for bargaining and bartering. Plus a few viruses. Please, let us go.” “Malware, god I hate people who plant things like that in computers,” Striffe groaned with a poignant inflection of disgust simply to make a point. “You’re out of your league.” “Please, we won’t do it again, I promise, we’ll be good,” Hacker One pleaded. “What? ‘We’, look I had nothing to do with any of this,” the intern interrupted. “Stay still missy,” Myla ordered gruffly. “Keep your hands on your head, sweetiepie.” “A-Fifty-One Looking Glass, over,” Striffe radioed into his earpiece. “Alice through the keyhole. Is your madness mercurial for the gambit in the rabbit’s warren?” “Roger that, King of Diamonds, over,” a friendly voice answered politely. “Confirmed, high card wins, Queen of Hearts sends regards, over and out.” He smiled lovingly at Myla. “We’re done here.” He glanced at the hackers, they squirmed and emitted begging wimpers. “Well, almost that is, but not quite. Some must die for their cause.” “Wait, I got more data on the main PC unit in the broadcast room,” Hacke r One insinuated feverishly. “It’s mob, the Albanian group. They’re ruthless, and…,” “Thanks for the offer, but we have all we need,” Striffe added with a wink. “Shhh, hear that?” Striffe pointed up in the air and furrowed his brow with a grin. Then, he placed a finger over his lips. “Wait, wait, hold still, listen, focus, smell that? Incendiary device by which you have a meltdown in your radio room. We already have what you have. You got nothing.” “So, bottom-line, whatever you believe, think deeply on that. When the lights go out, it gets really really dark.” Myla began with a taunting flare to Hacker One. “You with no balls, you’re expendable. There’s no bargaining, no dealing and no more hacking or attacking.” “Which one do you want?” Striffe asked Myla. “Yeah, I know, you prefer to one up me all the time. Besides, you got one already.” He noted her wrinkled nose and curled up lips. “Alright, flip a coin. Heads you get the intern, tails I get the fat neutered cat.” “It’s gonna be heads.” Myla watched the coin tumble through the air.

32

“I thnk so, okay you win,” Striffe murmured in a fatal hint to the two hostages. Again, to be present in the moment, one learns to focus on the intricate details of human interactions. Most will not be so fortuante as to comprehend the web they’ve weaved. Before the coin landed flat in the black leather of her palm, Myla pointed her pistol at the intern. All motions must be slowed to the juncture of extrasensory attentiveness. Dead center of the forehead, she squeezed the trigger. Internally, the gun’s mechanism responded, consistent with its fine tooled crafstmanship. Tight spring responsivenss, piston momentum and coiled compression, instantly unleashed deadly aim. Energies contained desired their release. Payment, or atonement was due, and the bullet collected the recompense. With smoothly oiled precision, the depression of the trigger cocked and released the potent firepower held deep within itself. She could hear the metallic instigation. When the firing pin struck deeply into the primer of the cartridge, the gun announced the detonated rupture of the gunpowder. In the subsequent chain of explosive sequences, the muffled barrel spewed one projecticle at nearly one thousdand feet per second. With a death smacking thud, the bullet hit the intern in above the bridge of the nose. She flipped out of the chair and sprawled on the floor. And yet, the volatile ejaculation came with quiet pronouncement. Simultaneously, Striffe did likewise and Hacker One slumped over his desk. “Until death do we part,” Myla observed. At nearly the same moment they fired, the coin made a slap into her hand. She’d closed her fist and then opened her hand. He glanced at her with a curious look. “Heads it is. Of course I win, don’t I usually, my darling.” “That you do, my love, that you do,” he whispered and knelt to check the agents. “Too late to pick your friends my little accomplice,” Myla said over the body of the intern. “You make choices, some good and some bad. Sometimes it’s too late to makes changes.” She tossed a casual look at Striffe. “Well, how’s your girlfriend doing? She gonna live?” “Oh yes, they’ll be fine,” he answered smiling and shot a quick glance upward at his warrior queen. “They’ll be confused, disoriented, pissed off again, and at a complete loss as to what the hell happened. Then again, that’s kinda their temperment any way.” “Your expression suggests you’re up to something naughty,” she inferred casually. “Oh, I was just thinking about doing something mischeiveous,” he replied teasingly. “You know how they like to profile and pretend to read crime scenes.” “Ah ha, we could have some sinful fun with this.” Myla winked.

33

“Excuse me, sir, ma’am,” the airborne assistant interrupted Striffe and Myla aboard the jet. “We have an urgent land based signal from inside the United States.” Crusing swiftly through the clouds, the shiny aircraft sliced through the air with little or no resistance. Somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico, they sipped and snacked on health packs. These were specially designed nutrition supplements that boosted their DNA rejuvenation. The SciTech division, or sometimes called the Directorate of Science and Technology, had a long history among conspiracy theorist. Some suggested its forerunner, the mysterious Majestic Twelve, contrived many government coverups, particurlarly related to UFO’s. “Oh, just a wild guess, the Justice Department?” Myla said with a self-satisfied flare. “Certainly, what’s up?” Striffe greeted cheerily. “Are we being tracked?” “That is correct, sir, ma’am,” she answered in a friendly manner, and as usual, gave her customary bow to her revered mentor, the Black Widow. “The F.B.I. demands we land immediately return to U.S. soil and standby for assistance with an investigation.” “How inventive, now that must’ve taken some effort on their behalf,” Striffe said to her and glanced at his watch. “I’m impressed with the Washington boys and girls.” “We make it easy for them, my dear, especially your girlfriend” Myla hassled him. “No worries, we’re gonna help them get their next raise.” Striffe smiled at both of them. “You shouldn’t have left breadcrumbs, Sterling,” Myla lightly chastised. “I told you we should’ve left immediately. But, you wanted to enjoy the sunrise, and a walk on the beach. Hold hands and have breakfast at that charming romantic spanish café near the airport.” She smiled while she teased him, and she reloaded her gun. “Thank you dear, I loved it.” “Me as well, my dearest.” To the trim attentive assistant, he said, “Have the pilot inform the F.B.I.,” Sterling started to explain. “That they are intruding on a restricted channel, we’re operating in official air space, and they’re in violation of national security directives.” “I assume, sir, there’ll be verification forthcoming.” The assistant waited for his response. “Yes indeed.” Striffe hit the send button on his data link. “Waiting for the perfect moment. Sometimes, it’s all about the timing, the precise instant for the next move.” “Chess and poker, two games for which I’m fascinated.” Myla sipped a non-dairy nutritional beverage. “Hmm, she made it taste like coconuts this time. Why coconuts?” “She’s messing with you, my dear.” Striffe grinned with mischief in mind. “But, it seems to really accentuate that exquisite olive complexion of yours. You look wonderful.”

34

“Hmm, nice deflection, cowboy. You’re gonna have rough ride later. Coconuts, I hate coconuts. Sci-Tech ought to be careful about things like that,” Myla murmured with a snarl and a subtle hint of future consequences for the geniuses back at Area-51. “As to our current objective, I wanna get on target as soon as possible. I can taste vengeance.” “Advise the pilot to respond immediately,” Striffe instructed the assistant, who waited respectfully for Myla to finish her commentary. “In a short space of time, a call will be made to Washington. A very brief conversation will ensue. After that, a call well be made from Washington to the F.B.I.’s so called southern command center.” “Upon completion of that call,” Myla picked up where Sterling paused. “Senior Agent Chrystal Shard will be smashing things up and taking our names in vain. She’ll definitely crack and scatter splinters of personal dysfunction everywhere. Rip Dash will be pacing back and forth and complaining to Christal’s shattered persepctive on reality.” “And, such is life.” Sterling playfully sighed as if disinterered, but not really. “The dogma of illusion cracks once you know the real story. It’s easy to delude onself for a false belief. Uh pretty much, that’s a fairly basic summary.” Striffe tasted more of his coconut cocktail protein and nodded to the assistant. “Thank you for the followup on all those details. Also, do me a favor, and tell the pilot to put a signal through to Naval Intelligence.” “Transport of treasures back to Groom Lake?” Myla asked knowingly. “Yes, I’d prefer to use a courier this time,” he acknowleged and glanced at the aide. “Roger that, sir.” The assistant headed back to the flight deck. “I’ll get right on it.” “Nice ass, huh? Well, you seem to be enjoying the view.” Myla sucked down more of her coconut flavored energy drink. “I can confirm it is very nicely shaped.” “What delightful imagery, my dear. It’s very lovely.” Sterling winked, gave her a sly grin and perused his data screen. “It would appear Hacker One and Hacker Two were willing to overlook their intern’s direct link to the organized crime group. She was the primary contact to lure the unsuspecting prey to the hunt. As such, with the illusion of fighting for a better world, they supported the horrors of human trafficking and murder. All three were paid very well.” “Not only that, they were milking the F.B.I.’s sacred cow of informant funding,” she added with a smugly devilish smile. “Awfully easy to criticise your government. Such deception is lazy, sexy and convenient conjecture, while sinister forces exploit the planet.” “Takes courage to fight terrorism, organized crime, and monied cartels,” he said.

35

“Yes, my dear, I would agree,” Myla said as she glanced out the plane’s window. “It’s all so simplistic and sounds good to a self-indulgent public bent on blaming someone.” She drew in a whiff of his scent and sighed heavily. “People don’t have a clue. Like turkeys, they think they got it all figured out. Fast food thinking, feeding at the trough, everybody gets some.” “My goodness my dear, you sound so cynical,” he toyed with her yet agreed. “You’ve turned me to the dark side,” she jested back at him. “They just want to be fat, dumb and happy, simple answers to complex universal questions. Sterling, I’m weary of the bullshit. I don’t even want to be around human beings. They’re cowardly, panicky animals.” “True, but a few try to rise above it all,” he answered sympathetically in a voice that nearly always touch her. “I’m not saying we do this for them. I’m only answering the first part of what I share as the gloomy, pessimistic and skeptical view of humanity.” He caressed her hand gently. “Secondly, the wearisome notion that nothing ever changes and it likely never will. Humanity may have only about a hundred years left before we extinguish ourselves.” “And yet, with all the horrors they inflict,” she continued. “That appears the farthest thing from their consciousness. It’s as though nothing matters but commercialized convenience.” “Yep, with the help of the media, you can invent all manner of subterfuge,” he echoed. “You could park a battle ship behind the smug piety of ignorance. As long as everyone felt good, you’d never notice it was there. That’s a good thing for us, which aids the cloak and dagger mystique. There are pluses and minuses to invisibility in plain sight.” “Myth, magic and metaphor, the contrived dumbing down of the many,” she groaned. “I’d rather be on the outside looking in, than the inside trapped trying to get out.” “As to the intern,” he said with a pause back to the radio station, “her last trip was deadly, as we have her itinerary. Transmissions, which they thought were secure, were traced by Sci-Tech. right to the very location we want to go. Very fast work by the way, so lighten up on the staff back at the alien spaceport. Will you please?” He looked deeply into her green eyes. “When you stare at me like that, with those steel grey eyes,” she started to reply, but her body felt tingling sensations. “I kinda lose focus and you can have anything you want.” “That, my dear, is a two-way exchange of heart,” he murmured under his breath. “Probably not a good time to read the ghastly details of how she lured her prey.” “Oh, on the contrary, I wanna be fired up when I terminate another one,” she said. “The anicent hotel is the front for the horrors to come,” he added.

36

“Ah, the Draconian Inn, how delightful, I should feel right at home,” Myla affirmed the location and circled her lips with her tongue. She leaned into him, ominously perched over his shoulder and scanned his data link. “Hmm, region of Zog on the coast.” “Yes, a long drive from the airport. A small town near the old castle, which now serves as a hunting lodge for the rich and famous,” he explained further as he read the classifed file. “We’ll be posing as hunter and huntress. We wanna make this quick fast and very deadly.” A short time later, the raven aircraft slipped quietly into the naval base. An exchange was made, a quick briefing, refueling and then once again, back in the air. Hours after that, touch down on foreign soil. And, in the lobby of the huge hotel, they felt the lengthy press of the drive from the airport. Old world charm had been caustioualy tempered by historic upper class luxury. Nearly everyone seemed pleasant, outgoing and overly accomodating. Sure, the hunting excusions brought in a lot of money for the local economy. As they cased the surroundings, Myla noted the multiple pairs of eyes that suspiciously inspected their presence. Around mid-night, the quietness of the cool serene ambiance settled around their lavish 18th century styled apartment. Striffe pulled out a vinatge bottle of champagne concealed in his travel bag. Myla prepared a few hors d'oeuvres from the survival supplies she had packed. Neither trusted anything they might drink or eat within the confines of their present accommodations. Every movement they made had to be carefully anticipated. Together, they clearly understood they were now behind enemy lines, and everyone was a potential adversary. Shortly thereafter, Myla delivered on an earlier threat. Slowly, with sensuous tease, they took turns taunting each other. Piece by piece, clothes were stripped away. Skin to skin, naked heat inflamed their unity. A wild strenuous wrestling match tore up the room. From the floor to the couch, to the bed, to the shower room, they exploded into each other’s mind and body. every once of energy they could find was exploited to the heights of ecstasy. Finally exhausted, they tumbled into bed and clutched each other ruthlessly. During the early morning hours, the faint sliver of yellowish light, that slid under the door, moved very slightly. As though some eerie apparition had, by whisper of déjà vu crossed the threshold. At the same moment, two bundles lay wrapped one in the other, quilted by the comfort of the fluffy bedding and oblivious to the intrusion. A split second later, something probed the keyway to the door lock. With a faint click carefully calibrated, the doorknob turned counterclockwise. The black clad ghostly figure entered the room.

37

The heavy wooden door creaked as it was pushed from the snug comfortable fit into the framework. Well-worn but coupled to the recepticle of handmade construction and use over time, the entryway kept secrets of past ages. Through the seasoned portal, the smell of tobacco from cheap cigarettes entered first, followed by two figures. Shrouded in thick dark green military style hoods, the lurking shadows moved toward the bed. For a moment they stopped, took things into considerations, as much as limited cerebral capacity would allow. After looking at each other for a moment, they pointed their pistols at the entangled coupling in the bed. Another second or two ticked, as foretold by the old clock on the nearby bed table. Except the annoyance of the passage of time, the only sound seemed to be labored breathing of twin assassins. Lumbering thuggery seemed to reflect too much smoking and drinking. A little more exercise is normally required for this type of job performance. Without the smooth precise finesse of a professional, they paused to count the timing of their firing sequence. One, they bounced up and down almost together. Two, they glanced at the pile of slumbering unity. Three, standing at the foot of the bed, at each corner slightly offset, they fired their muffled pistols. Reddish-orange flashes emanated from the tubular attachments on each gun. With toothy grins that almost reflected creepily in the darkness, the minions unleashed rapid sucessive bursts that ripped up the bed coverings. Stuffed feathers and cotton stitched fabrics tore apart and flew wildly in a whirledwind of silenced gunfire. Hallow clanking sounds, one after the other, echoed from each empty casing hitting the floor around the bed frame. When the guns were out of ammo, spent and exhausted from their torrent, the slide mechanisms locked back, and the shooting ended. From the haze of smoke lingering in the air, came the clouded smell of gunpowder. Within seconds, from each side of the tattered bed, the killers approached confidently. One of them jerked back the bullet riddled covers. At that instant, there comes the moment when a person realizes a serious miscalculation. “Dumb asses,” Myla murmured and opened fire from the shadows. From the triangulation of their kill zone, Myla and Striffe had taken up concealed positions for their night watch. No matter what the killers did they were doomed to failure from the begining. Neither one would have sensed Myla and Striffe were anywhere else except in the bed. Naturally, she fired first. Her muffled pistol let loose six skillfully placed shots. Each bullet hit her target square in the chest, with a perfect grouping around the heart. Likewise, Striffe joined her in the shooting spree nearly at the same moment.

38

With grisly reactivity, the two assailants stood there, as if held in place by some mysterious force, and were shot repeatedly. Mulitple blasts slit the air with spits and splatters from the dark recesses of the room. Each bullet tore through clothing and punctured skin with vicious persistence. Their bodies shook and rocked back and forth with brutual violent concussions. While Myla fired six times, Striffe shot his target seven times. When they stopped shooting, the bodies hung for a second or two, then collapsed and landed in the center of the bed. The whole scene had the strange animation of slow motion and dark contrasts, as if a sepia tinted old movie. Yet, the end result was very real, killers were killed by killers. “Nice pattern,” Striffe said to her and gazed down at the huge over-weight dead bodies. “I like the way you kept your shot groupings close on this one here.” “Uh, not too shabby yourself there, old guy. You fired seven from that sissy gun,” she goaded with relentless romance for him. He remained her obsession. “Dead on target, Striffe.” “What would life be without strife,” he remarked. They shared a momentary gaze. “By the way, it’s not a sissy gun, my darling. And, you fired six from that relic. Two left in the mag, huh?” He quickly searched the bodies for further evidence. “I’m surprised that old thing actually held together. Geezus, the KGB got rid of those old guns a long time ago.” “I like my old gun, old guy,” Myla repeated. “It’s not a relic,” she played and snarled back at him. “What’da we got here?” Myla bent over and pulled open some clothing. Blood seeped from deep wounds. “Nice, no exit wounds. The ammo is good stuff. Rips up the insides and delivers a potent message to your target. Oh look, tatoos, speaking of the late KGB.” “Also, by the way, a Makarov is a relic, mine is a real gun,” he toyed with her further, and offered an affectionate jest of annoyance. “Russian special forces,” he commented sourly. “At the end of the day, just old mercs like us, looking to make a buck or two. As time goes by, isn’t it fascinating how some things never change. Dead is still dead and a very dark place.” “Yeah, well here’s looking at you,” she said, reached for her champagne, and took a sip. “We certainly have a taste of that. What’da ya say we take their places?” “Good idea. Let’s see who’s waiting for them on the other side,” Striffe agreed. “No I.D.’s, no papers of any kind, just thugs with weapons, with a mission most unkind.” “They got hoodies on their jackets. Maybe we can fake it until the others expose themselves.” Myla commenced to strip one of the assassins. “Use the trojan horse approach.” “I like it,” he said. “Let’s do this, a gambit to be continued.”

39

http://www.whimsicalpublications.com/Randy_Gonzalez/Angels_Keep_Watch.html

http://www.scribd.com/profiles/show/970749-dr-randy-gonzalez