September 15th, 1:55pm EDT
953 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Johann Foster licked his lips apprehensively. "I thought you said we were going to find that guy, Fox Parker? You throw me on a plane and drag me all the way to Washington DC and you're still not telling me what the hell we're doing here."
"You've been nagging me all the way since Reagan International. Okay… look, I need to know what's going on." Karla fluffed her hair then tucked her cellphone down the front of her blouse, safely in her bra. "Why are mercenaries attacking our kind? Now, let's check facts. CIA works abroad. FBI works stateside. Esoterics are being slaughtered. And not just overseas, but right here in America. If people are dying from being shot to death by groups of armed men all over the country, who do you think will be running that investigation?"
Johann looked up at the sign on the building. He pursed his lips, reading the words, "J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building" above the main entrance then swallowed. "What're you going to do? Walk in there and ask who the lead investigator is? And why does this place have a concrete moat around it?"
"Oh sweetheart, you have so much to learn. I'm going to break in, take what information I need, then we're going to leave. I might try something more traditional before resorting to that, if I must."
"Break into the FBI? In the middle of the day? Are you crazy?!"
Karla lifted a finger, telekinetically clamping his jaw. "Yeah, you might want to keep it down. Look, babe, I need to know what's going on. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to take action."
"I hate action," he said in a muffled tone.
"Aw, hon, you'll learn to love action like a Hawaiian loves Spam."
Johann blinked, feeling a release of tension against his jaw. He opened it twice, then rubbed the side of his chin with his palm. "What? What does that even mean?"
Karla laughed with a smile. "Don't be so culturally ignorant. Spam is the only reason Hawaii became a state. They didn't exactly like us for our cultural drama, our military bases, our science observatories on their mountains, and our vacationers. They simply, you know, tolerated us… for our Spam."
"Oh… kay, then." Johann folded his arms. "I told you I'm not trying to die. Why did you bring me with you? You could have done this all by yourself. I am not going in there with you."
"Yes, dear. You are. You can manipulate objects on a molecular level. You're my clever escape plan. Besides, you can't just run away, Johann. I'll just teleport you right back to my side. Now, nut up. It's time to teach you testicular fortitude and make you a man. The best firefighters in the world have a healthy fear and respect for fire to begin with. You're afraid, and that's okay Johann. But you won't die."
"Karla, they have security cameras pointing at us right now, using geometrics to study our faces. We'll become public enemies and have warrants out for our arrest."
"Stop grousing. What are you so worried about?"
"Being thrown into a cell in there. What's with the moat, anyhow?"
"Don't be ridiculous," said the succubus with an airy laugh. "This is mostly administrative and executive level stuff, here. And hush about the moat. There are very few crocodiles in it, and almost no piranhas."
Johann brought his hands up over his face and rubbed his palms into his eyes with a sigh. "Federal Agents are armed, the security at every entrance is armed. There are a lot of people with weapons in that building."
The demoness smiled. "The Washington Field Office is right around the corner on 4th. They have even more agents and guns. The holding cell and interrogation rooms are over there, by the way. Just think, babe, we'll be surrounded by…"
"Stop, please. Karla, I can't do this. I'm not breaking into the FBI. Look at the size of that building. We wouldn't even know where to look. This sort of thing needs to be handled delicately and…"
Karla interrupted him by holding up a finger. "Wrong. Before now, the sects would have used clout, money and political favors to get information out of this building. But they're all dead now. First of all, I need to make sure the FBI isn't somehow behind it. And if not, I want to see what they know about the mercenary teams that are shooting our kind. Why aren't these attacks talked about in the media? Who is silencing this and why?"
"Why did you bring me with you?"
"Because you worked for the Grand Justicar. With everyone else dead, you're the closest thing we have to leadership. And I don't want to do this alone. I need eyes in the back of my head. Yours will do nicely. I have a plan. Just follow my lead."
"I'm going to regret this," he said with a hopeless tone of voice.
Karla smiled. "Probably." She pointed to the sign above the revolving door that read, 'Business Appointments,' took his hand and gave a tug. "Let me do the talking."
The Cadillac limousine turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue at the corner of Pershing Park, headed eastbound. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security leaned back in his seat and sighed. "Boy, I've never seen the President that angry before." He glanced over to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "Ted, have you heard from that guy, Sire?"
Theodore Holloway glanced down at his cellphone then back at Secretary Robert Shaw. "They were your people that…"
Shaw held his hands up defensively. "I might oversee Homeland Security, but those Esoteric people were killed all over the world. That is not my fault. Sire said that everything was going to work out. You're the one who basically earmarked funds for Aris Falcon's experiments. Cryogenics? Drug and genetics research? How come you kept that from the rest of us?"
"Sire told me what needed to be done. The President told me to follow his instructions last year! Technically, I was doing my job. God dammit, Bobby, you oversaw a clandestine department that trained mercenaries, police officers and any god-damned Joe-shmo to sign up for this mess! It came unglued and now it's our asses on the line. I don't even like you, Robert! How the hell did we wind up taking the same limo? God! I'm going to lose my job over this! I was told that this operation would save lives, not take them!"
"Ted… I never realized how much you whine. Sire told me that the President signed off on the order. I had it in writing. I was told that the Esoteric Community was at war with itself, and the winning side unanimously decided to plot terrorist attacks on the Government in order to overthrow it. Falcon has been studying these people for a long time and he's the authority on how to find them. I was told we were green-lightning an operation to take them down as enemies of America. I was doing my job."
Theodore ground his molars together in frustration. "What if this Sire guy lied to us? Or to the President? I did everything by the book. Now he said we're traitors?! The goddamn President of the United States of America called me a traitor to my country, Robert. I can't even begin to wrap my head around it. I know that you were in charge of killing those mutants, or whatever they are… but I was providing Falcon with research to help the situation!"
"Well, all I know is… we're both in the same boat, here. Scapegoats." Robert Shaw glanced out the window, admiring the architecture of the Old Post Office Pavilion on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street. "Maybe this will blow over, Ted. We weren't arrested. The FBI isn't investigating us. No one said anything about a trial. Maybe the man is just speaking out of anger." The limo slowed to a stop.
"Have you ever seen the President raise his voice like that, Bobby? Ever in your life? You've known him for a long time, is it normal for him to behave like that?"
Robert shook his head. "No. Thing is, he was just as in-on-this as we were. This operation killed several thousands Americans, Ted. Suddenly we find out that over a hundred and fifty thousand of them were killed across the globe? That's genocide. And the President isn't going to go down for genocide. He's going to want to stay as far away from this whole thing as possible. Trust me, Ted, we're scapegoats. Face it, our careers are over."
The window leading to the driver lowered. Ted and Robert exchanged glances, confusion on their faces. "Hey, this conversation is private," said Shaw. He reached for a button to put the window back up but the switch did nothing.
The driver turned about and pointed a Sig Saur back at them, with a flash suppressor barrel on the end.
Theodore bit his lower lip. "That's a silencer…"
"Fuck," said Robert under his breath. The gun bucked with a loud, staccato click. He glanced over at Theodore Holloway, who slumped down in his seat then crumpled to the carpeted floor.
Just outside of the limousine, two black Chevy Suburban's pulled up in the adjacent lane. Robert glanced back at the driver just in time to see the weapon discharge again…
Ted Holloway twitched involuntarily. The pain in his chest was beyond comprehension. His head lulled to the side, coming face to face with Robert Shaw. The man had a round bloody mark on his forehead, between his eyebrows. Ted wanted to be afraid but he knew he was dying. It was too late for fear. The two bullets in his chest caused blood to soak his back in a puddle on the carpet. He reached for his cellphone up on the leather sofa chair then closed his fingers around it.
Holloway could somewhat feel the limo move forward again, picking up in speed. He looked up and saw the FBI building in passing, through the tinted window. Ted thumbed the screen to his phone, opened the phone application and dialed 911. The phone clumsily changed orientation from the angle he was holding it. The green 'call' button moved to the other end of the screen, away from his thumb.
He tried to reach his index finger up along the screen towards the little green icon of a phone receiver, but doing so caused him to lose his grip. The phone fell on the carpet next to his hip. He slowly began to reach for it again, then all at once, the limo slammed into something… another car, perhaps? The jolt caused Ted to flop over. He became wedged up against the front corner, against another seat. Ted didn't see his phone.
The smell of burning plastic and rubber filled his nose. He continued to grope about for his cellphone, unable to find it. He expected dying to make everything feel like it was happening in slow motion, but it was the exact opposite. The fire consumed the front of the limo. The tinting film on the glass between the front and the rear section began to bubble up. The window shattered from the heat. Glass covered Ted's chest and legs. He continued to reach about himself.
His fingers brushed over the phone and he fumbled with it briefly. Ted brought it up to his face then thumbed the 'call' button. It rang once then connected with an emergency service's operator. A masculine voice came over the line. "…Please state your emergency."
"Ted Holloway," he wheezed. "Limo is on fire. I think we hit something. Shaw is dead."
"Sir, can you tell me where you are at?"
"FBI on Pennsylvania," Ted said, struggling to catch his breath. "Bleeding out. …Gunned…" He took another labored breath then added, "Christine, I love you." Holloway dropped the phone. The sound of the operator's voice faded away. The heat of the approaching fire felt distant. Theodore let out one final breath, and his body relaxed.
J. Edgar Hoover Building…
"What's going on out there?" Karla crossed her left leg over her right thigh. "I just saw someone running through the hallway." She glanced over at Johann, who appeared to be a nervous wreck, then she gazed back at the man in the tie.
"One moment." The man with the tie stood up and walked to the office door. He stepped out into the hallway and whispered to someone in passing. A moment later, he returned to his desk and settled in his chair. "Miss Howard, today simply isn't your day, ma'am. There was a car accident out on Pennsylvania. Apparently the person killed was a Federal employee. Protocol is to lock down the scene, because he works for the Government."
Karla rolled her eyes. "You've been giving us the cold shoulder this whole time. You don't even take us to your real office. I mean, we should be talking in a SCIF. It's like you don't even take me seriously; I'm surprised you offered to even see us in the first place. What about our request?"
"Miss Howard, your paperwork is valid and what you're telling me lines up. But to sequester documents that old… Unless you're the President, you don't just walk into this building and tell us you want it today. That's not how it works. Plus, what you've told me about people being shot by paramilitary types in black gear? You need to head over to the field office and talk to an agent, so they can conduct a proper investigation."
"I showed you photographs I took on my cellphone," she said. "Don't lie to me; I'm sure they already have an investigation going. That's not why I'm here. I'm telling you that I'm being hunted. What's in those files may help keep me alive. And my friend, here," she gestured to Johann. "Guess what? He worked for Reinhardt."
"Miss Howard… let me explain something to you." The man placed his pen on his desk and folded his hands. "I brought you up here because I already knew who you are. Mueller didn't like you. Freeh hated you."
Karla smiled at the mention of Louis Freeh. "Oh yeah. The Pizza Man. I'd forgotten about him. He did good work handling the Unabomber and the Montana Freeman thing."
The man lowered his eyes then lifted them once more. "You really are older than you look, aren't you?"
"Yes, darling. I knew Stanly Finch. His first day on the job in the Summer of 1908, he started asking questions about the explosion in Tunguska. Keep in mind, nosing around in Esoteric affairs was not the Government's business back then. They were supposed to go after criminals who crossed state lines. So when he started nosing around in my business, I got up in his."
The man stared at her for a moment then furrowed his brows. "You do realize I'm the Director of the United States FBI, and I already know the history of this agency. I am responsible for fifty-six field offices, including a new one that we'll be opening soon. I oversee crimes on Native American reservations. I head Intelligence and counterintelligence operations, and fifty-six international legal attachés around the world. And even with all this power, Miss Howard, I still have trouble believing that Esoteric people are real. Yes, I know they've been attacked. Yes, it's under investigation. NO, you're not getting any files today. They have to be reviewed and properly redacted for national security before any copies find their way into your hands. This meeting is over. I will have a senior field agent personally escort you back to Reagan, where you can fly back to California …immediately."
Karla huffed with indignation, stood up and put her hands on her hips. "This is a free country, asshole. I once teleported in and stole information for Mueller. That's why he tolerated me. In exchange for my help, he said he would put my file into archive or some-such. Somewhere that was safe. He said it would be akin to having a clean record. You bozos haven't chased me since 1996. At least not actively. We had an understanding. But I'm telling you, right now, that the leaders of my kind are dead. Not just in America. All over the world. Someone wants us extinct. Here's where you come in, Chucky-boy: They're operating out of this country. They're giving money to Doctor Aris Falcon, located in California. The surviving people with active abilities won't go down without a fight. So you either help us or you stay out of our way. I need that file and I know where it's located in this building."
"Excuse me?" asked the Director. "You know where it's located, do you? I suppose next you're going to tell me you've checked every inch of the two-point-eight million square feet of this building?"
"Didn't need to," said Karla. "I can't wait for this building to get knocked down. It's fugly. It's falling apart already. The land beneath it is worth way more than the cost of a new building. I hear they're going to tear this place down very soon. Within the next five years. Here's my counter offer, Chuckles… Do you want me to knock this bitch down for you right now? Unless you want to see what I can do, I suggest you give me my file, smile and shut up."
"Karla!" Johann cringed. "Are you serious? What's gotten into you?"
The demoness stepped out from behind her chair and folded her arms. "DC sucks. The traffic sucks; they've run out of room at Arlington National, FBI headquarters is falling apart, and, Chuckster, your suit costs less than fifteen hundred dollars. How can you be seen wearing that?"
"Alright. I've had enough. You're leaving. Now."
Karla curtsied her skirt. "Great! Let me just go get my file. One sec. Be back in a jiff, Charlie!" Without another word, she disappeared, leaving Johann to hide his face in embarrassment.
The Director stood up from behind his desk, eyes wide.
"Director, sir, please just fly me back to San Francisco. I'm…"
"Where is she?" He walked around from behind his desk and glanced about the office. "Christ."
Another man came into the office and said, "Charles, we have a serious problem."
"What now?!" the Director exclaimed.
"We've identified the people from the car accident. And the President is on the line."
Johann bit his lip, looking from the deputy director back to the director. "Look, she said she wouldn't be long. We don't want any trouble. I like this country. I'm not trying to piss it off. I'm ready to go home. I just want to leave. I'll even wait out on the sidewalk for her, if you want."
"Sir? The President?" said the deputy director.
"Get this boy out of my office and have someone drop him at Reagan. I want him on the first flight back to San Francisco. Have someone from one of our field offices pick him up when he lands. Have them call me personally when they receive him." Charles' eyes cut back to Johann. He added, "That will give me a little time to decide what the hell to do with you, kid."
Johann was quickly led out of the office. The Director picked up his phone with a sigh, and punched in a PIN number. A moment later, he said, "Mister President, this is Director Charl-…" He grew quiet and frowned. "Yes sir, it has just been brought to my attention, that the…" Again, he frowned at the interruption. "I've already begun an investigation into the complaints about groups of paramilitary soldiers attacking people claiming to have…"
Over the line, the President interjected once more. "I'm pulling the plug on your investigation, Director. From here on out, Osprey is handling that. Your agents don't have the security clearance for this. Osprey is also already on the scene in front of your building. I'm telling you, right now, that two members of my cabinet were killed by supernatural means. Their deaths are masqueraded to look like they were shot during a car wreck. I've decided I'm going to tell the press that they were killed in a simple car accident. If we don't sweep up the breadcrumbs, it will lead back to this administration, and the complete extinction of the Esoteric Community."
"Complete extinction, Mister President?"
"My Intelligence suggests there are none left. And if there are any survivors, it may only be one or two in the whole world. Possibly ones who haven't yet manifested an ability. I'm working with people who will try and resolve this quietly, but if the public were to find out that over 150,000 people were killed in two weeks, there is going to be a serious state of upset and panic. We've always enjoyed the luxury of these people being completely secret. It will stay that way. They're gone. I'm shutting down Osprey and all its operations by the end of the month. They're not necessary anymore. But until I shut them down, I need you to stay out of their way. Are we on the same page, Charles?"
"Yes, Mister President." He glanced at the two empty chairs across from his desk and sighed. "Completely understood, Mister President."
Karla Howard ground her teeth together. The smell of mildew and the quarter-inch deep water in which she stood annoyed her. She faced a large metal door, with the appearance of a bank vault. Her palms, forearms, biceps and shoulders glowed a brilliant carnation color. She kept her hands outstretched towards the vault.
A familiar voice came from behind, "Miss Howard, what do you think you're doing?" His shoes splashed softly in the shallow water.
She scrunched her nose up in disgust. "Go away, Charlie. I'm not done cracking your vault yet. And you really need to fix the flooding, down here."
"Did you know you're the only American Citizen to ever see this vault? Most of the staff don't even know it's down here, because this section is restricted." He approached her on the left and folded his arms. "I've not even seen inside of it, to be honest. I saw you teleport out of my office. Why don't you just teleport into the vault?"
"That's not how it works, you dimwit. If I appear inside another object of matter, it will kill me. Did you want a science lesson about the Eldridge?"
"That was just a myth." The Director paused and trailed off. "Please tell me you're joking."
"I plead the fifth amendment," she replied. "Stand back, so you don't get hurt, douchebag."
"Look, we're not enemies, here," he replied with a sigh. "I don't think that vault opens anymore. I'm not sure who had it sealed, either Clarke or Sessions. I thought you wanted an active file. What do you expect to find in there?"
"The old file," she said, adding, "I expect you to give me the new file. Why are you suddenly being so nice to me, anyhow? And where's your security team, huh? What, you gotta be GS-99, or SES-10 to come down here? These moldy walls are sensitive material above the pay grade of your security team?" The succubus smirked.
"This room is TS/SCI, Director's Eyes Only status. The hallway leading out to the basement is Top Secret, Compartmentalized Information status. The room leading to the hallway… mm, well, I do believe you get the gist."
Karla offered a sheepish grin. "So… you're not as hardass as you seemed upstairs, huh? So what about the vault? What level of clearance is that?"
"It's at a security classification I can't even talk about. How do you expect to open it?"
"Magic." She grinned again. "So why did you come down here? Two-point-eight million square feet and you chose this room. And now you're being jovial with me. Is that all it takes to get respect around here? A few parlor tricks, like teleportation?"
"Things are complicated, now. I just spoke to the President. He told me that you don't exist anymore. Then he told me to leave it alone. Miss Howard, your active file with us… we no longer have it. It was transferred over to the United States Paranormal Research and Investigations agency. They retroactively redacted everything we still have on file. I'm sure you've heard of USPRI," he said, pronouncing the word like, 'Osprey.'
"Cool; my existence is 'Need to Know.' Nifty. Well, I guess it's time to start a new file, because we're talking right now." She tensed her arms, keeping her hands outstretched towards the vault door. It creaked softly, causing a light layer of dust to come away from the wall around the door. "Our every dialogue will have to be notated in an 'Eyes Only' folder labeled, 'Operation Pogostick.' I've always wanted to meddle in the spy world. I'm hotter than some Bond Girl, after all." She grimaced, still working on the vault.
Charles licked his lips then said, "You and your friend may very well be the very last two of your kind. The President says you don't exist anymore. Making a new file on you would bring attention to the fact that you're alive. I've heard that he's washing his hands of this whole mess and feigning ignorance of it. Your people were forced to live in secret, now their death will be a secret as well."
"They're not my people. They hated me, because Hoover had a file about me. That's a big no-no. So, you didn't tell the president about me?" she asked, still focusing her hands towards the vault.
"No. I suggest that you do not run around touting your abilities or draw attention to yourself. If you do, you'll wind up disappearing. He wants this situation to go away." The Director paused then asked, "What the hell are you doing to that vault door, anyhow?"
"Watch and learn." She kept her eyes on the round metal entrance. The sound of metal creaking caused her to smile, slightly. "Won't be long, now. So, all official files about me were taken out of your system huh? Good thing the one I want is on paper. So how do you know so much about me, anyhow?"
"What I could find on you was in Mueller's personal archive file that was passed from Director to Director. Teleportation and telekinesis – that last one is the ability to move things with your mind, correct?"
"Are you trying to rip the door off?"
"Do I look like a Jedi Master? No. Skirt, babe… not robes. Anyhow, I've almost got it."
"Are you trying to telekinetically turn the gears inside the vault door?"
"NO," Karla quipped. "Jesus. Shut up and watch." She tensed up. The glowing beneath her skin intensified, causing the top of her blouse to incandesce, as well, from the glowing of glyphs beneath her breasts. "Almost got it. Just a little more."
All at once, the massive door blew open on its hinges. The metal hatch wheel became imbedded in the wall. Karla and Charles disappeared briefly, then reappeared fifteen feet back. She put her hand out to steady him. The Director appeared disoriented. He looked around then back at the vault. "Did we just…?"
"Yeah. Just incase it exploded, I teleported us." She offered a wan smile, looking somewhat tired. "I was teleporting air from your HVAC system and filling the vault with more air. I was starting to wonder how much pressure that door could handle. Tough door for having been built in the 70's." She walked forward and stepped over the lip of the vault doorframe. "Oh my." She glanced around at the crumpled metal file drawers built into the walls. "I guess the air pressure trick had its downside, huh?"
She approached a drawer on the left then reached for it. Her palm began to incandesce again. A moment later, the drawer rocketed out of the wall, only to stop mere inches from her palm. She leafed through paper files until coming to an old manila envelope marked 'Azazel & Keturah'.
"Wait just a minute, here." Karla quirked her brows, a look of incredulous curiosity marred her brows.
She flipped it open and glanced through a few pages then closed the file and tucked it beneath her right arm. "This is quite a bit more revealing than I realized. Clyde had information on my father? Well, well… winner-winner, chicken dinner. I got what I came for with an added bonus. I'll leave you alone, and I won't start any drama. All right? Just let me leave. Where's Johann?"
"I sent him home on my dime. He'll be safe from any mercenary attackers when he lands. I promise."
"Alright. You're not on my shit-list anymore, Charlie."
"Please. Don't call me that."
The succubus offered a smirk. "Fine. Charles in charge, after all. Chucky. Chaz. Just," she switched to her Welsh accent and said, "Don't bite my finger, Charlie." Karla eyed him for a moment, then, with her typical Americanized dialect, continued, "Because when I'm crossed… I'm one mean bitch, I promise." She stepped back out of the vault and added, "Get that leak fixed. It's embarrassing to your agency."
"Miss Howard, would any of your people have possibly stepped in and killed anyone they thought might be responsible for the deaths of the Esoteric Community? Do you think a survivor might be responsible for the car wreck out there on Pennsylvania Avenue?"
"Probably not. I mean, anything is possible, but we certainly don't hold the President or the Government responsible. That blame goes to this geneticist guy named Aris Falcon. That's what we think so far. And don't call them my people. They hated my guts. And now they're dead, so to hell with them. Why do you ask?"
"Just being thorough. My agents aren't allowed to investigate. I'm one of only a handful of people with clearance to know that your kind exists."
"My kind? Heh. We're not some special genus, genius. The Esoteric community just shared a common secret. We learned our lesson after three inquisitions. Or so I thought, since these last two weeks makes me wonder if we were too loud after all. Look, I don't want to talk about this crap, okay? I got my file. I'm headed back to my little corner of the country, now."
"Miss Howard… I don't know what it's like to be lonely and to have to lie about your existence. I can't imagine it feels good, and I won't pretend to know what you're going through. But the least you can let me do is fly you back to California on my dime. Not the Bureau's money… mine. It's not as traceable if I have a hand in the transaction."
Karla leered at him for a moment. "Why are you suddenly being nice to me?"
The Director frowned. "The case is out of my hands and there's already political scandal involved in covering things up. That leaves a foul taste in my mouth, so to speak. I was only being short with you in the past because I didn't believe in any of this 'supernatural' stuff. I saw it in writing; I just… never believed it. I guess, well, you could say it's humbling. You can rip a vault open that was sealed shut for decades. That's both impressive and scary." He folded his arms.
"Eh. I suppose. I used to be a hubristic bitch, once. Then I got better because I met a bonafide demigod."
"I… see." He side-nodded towards the vault. "Is this how you get what you want in life? You just take it?"
With a giggle, Karla reached for his left hand. "Oh, honey, my usual method would make you turn all forty shades of Crayola Red." She ran her thumb over his wedding ring, "But there is a realistic possibility that my charms wouldn't work on you. At least, if you really love your wife, that is. Ah well. Too bad, huh? Now… I've got to go. Be seeing you, Chuckster. Thanks for goin' all Deep Throat and giving me the inside scoop. I know it doesn't mean much coming from me but I really think you did the right thing, here."
Charles nodded towards the sublevel stairs. "You can't leave this building the way you came in. You don't need to be spotted in the same place as what's happening across the street. You don't want their deaths pinned on you."
"So… If I'm seen leaving this building what's going to happen to me?"
"Let's just not find out. Thank you for opening the vault. I guess I have my work cut out for me now that it's finally open. I'll take you up to the lower-level parking garage, then I'll have someone take you to Reagan. I'm not sure if you'll catch the same plane as Mister Foster. I like that kid – I don't think he's interested in doing things your way."
Karla smirked. "I've got a good feeling about that boy. He'll come around. And when he does, he gets to be on my supernatural kickball team. I was going to use him to turn on the sprinklers and turn all the water to ice. Then I was going to teleport us out of the building. Daring escape, I know. Thanks for not being a dick, he'd never have forgiven me if I had him block up your hallways."
"Like I said… I like that kid."
The succubus offered a wan smile. "Yeah. He's all right. Still, I don't know if you're one of the good guys, but… thanks."
"Alright, follow me and I'll get you out of here. United has nonstop flights from DC to San Francisco. The sooner I get you home, the better I'll feel."
September 15th, 6:10pm PDT
San Francisco, California
"Johann Foster?" The voice belonged to one of two men wearing ties, but no blazers.
"Uh… yeah. You must be the G-men, huh?"
"Come with us," said the one on the left. He pulled his cellphone out and thumbed the speed dial on his phone. A moment later, he said, "This is Michener. We have Foster at the airport. What're our instructions?" A few seconds later, he hung up the phone and put it into his pocket.
"So, uh… now what?"
The agent side-nodded in gesture. "We wait to hear back while our office contacts the DC field office."
Johann fell into step with the two agents. "Oh. That's uh… Neat." They walked through the airport and crossed over to the parking garage. Johann looked around. "Wouldn't you guys just park right up in front for a quick getaway?"
"This isn't the movies kid," said Michener. "It's better to keep the Suburban far away from the public, just incase. If you're worried about anything else, don't. We have a car in the arrival ring and two other agents in strategic locations for your safety."
"Actually," Johann chuckled inwardly. "That is comforting to hear, to be honest. So, why the long walk? To draw out any possible pursuers?" His question went unanswered. They continued to the far end of the parking garage on a floor with a low number of cars. At the back corner was a black Chevy SUV. "I can't wait to finish up a few loose ends and get home to Chicago."
Michener put his hand on Johann's chest and stopped him. The other agent withdrew his handgun.
"What's going on?" asked Johann, eyes wide and suddenly alert.
"Our driver isn't in the SUV," said the man with the pistol.
Michener brought a finger to his ear and spoke into a satellite microphone in his left sleeve. "Randall, where are you?" He paused. No response. "Ames, Weathers, I don't have a visual on Randall; he's not answering." Nothing.
The second agent said, "I'm hearing you on my earpiece, Mitch. Radio's good."
Michener grimaced. "Team, sit-rep." Silence. The agent drew his own weapon and took a defensive posture, facing away from his partner. "Well, Bill, this is what you get for saying this was going to be an easy day away from paper work. You jinxed us."
"Hey, now… how was I supposed to know?" Bill pointed his weapon back towards the airport. "Kid, the attacks you've witnessed – how many mercenaries were in the typical attack squad?"
"Usually between four and six," Johann murmured. "Depends on who they're hunting. You guys are armed and trained. They might consider you more of a threat." Johann patted his pockets, searching for his Lorazepam.
Bill dropped to the concrete, twitching. His gun clattered across the concrete.
Michener glanced back, saw the headshot wound then wrapped his left arm around Johann's shoulders and hurried them towards the SUV, "Go, kid! Stay down!"
"Shit!" Johann hissed in alarm. Everything faded away as he made a mad dash towards the black Suburban. He dropped down to his knees, staying closer to the back door. His head lowered and his eyes widened, seeing blood on his sleeve. "That's… not… spray." He winced then pushed his sleeve up, followed by a moue of disgust. "I… I've been shot?" He blinked in confusion, seeing the flesh wound. "It feels hot."
Michener glanced back at Johann and the blood on the boy's left arm, then he looked around and knelt down by the SUV. The agent checked the door. Agent Randall's body spilled out of the driver's seat, half-suspended by the seatbelt. "Christ." He reached up over the dead body, unclasped the belt and pulled the motionless man from the chair, somewhat. He brought Randall down then dragged him to the rear door and shoved the body up over one of the back seats. "Stay down."
Michener glanced around then made a beeline sprint towards the other agent's body. He put fingers on Bill's throat, paused, and glanced around. After a few seconds, he took Bill's right arm and pulled the man's body up over his shoulder.
Agent Michener lifted his dead partner and carried him quickly back to the car. He shoved the body into the backdoor, overtop of Randall then grabbed Johann's wrist. "Get up in the driver's seat, stay low, and climb over to the passenger side. Get down on the floor, facing the seat and stay low kid."
Johann nodded and moved towards the driver door. A thumping sound caused him to pause. He glanced over and saw a fresh bullet hole on the door, just beneath the door handle. Johann dove back away and crawled beneath the SUV. "I'm the goddamn target!"
"Dammit. Okay, kid. Stay under there."
"Sir!" Johann pointed up at Michener's neck, where a red dot illuminated the agent's skin. "Down!"
Michener flinched at the sensation of a pinch. He brought his hand up to his throat and felt the skin, expecting to feel wetness. He pulled his hand back and looked at his palm. "…Broken glass?" The agent blinked. "What the hell?"
An old primer-gray BMW came around the corner quickly. Michener glanced at it and narrowed his eyes. He pointed his weapon towards the approaching vehicle. "Stay down, kid."
"God this burns," Johann muttered in disdain, favoring his upper arm.
The BMW veered to the left, away from the SUV in the far right corner of the parking garage. It came to a sudden stop. A scrawny black boy, no older than Johann, got out of the vehicle. He wore a t-shirt with a fancy handmade logo on the front. "I'll cover you two, get in the truck!" he said, pointing to the SUV.
"Are you nuts, kid?! You're going to get yourself killed!"
"Yeah?" asked the young man. "How much did it suck to get shot in the neck just now? Not all that bad, right? Now get in the truck while I hold them off!" He flinched at the sensation of a brief sting above his right eye then blinked rapidly. "I'm Evan, by the way." He brought his hand up and swept glass dust off of his forehead. "That one kinda' hurt. Geeze."
"Kid, they're shooting at us, get the hell out of here!"
"Hey!" Evan turned back to Michener and pointed to the SUV. "Get your butts in there." He backed up to the SUV and put his left hand on the driver's side window. He then reached over to the glass pane on the left rear door and touched it for a moment. He walked back around to the passenger side and touched each window. Evan came back around and said, "What are you waiting for? Christmas?"
Johann came out from beneath the SUV and started to climb in through the driver door, and over the center console. A clap of noise caused all three to recoil.
Michener looked up and saw a round mark on the driver-door glass. "What are they shooting with? A twenty-two? That window should have shattered."
"Yeah, you're welcome; I'll explain later. You're one of the good guys right?"
"Philip Michener, FBI," he said, looking around with his weapon and creeping back towards the open driver side door.
"Evan B. Glass blower from the Haight. I'll follow you out of here. Just move it before they try to flank us with…" Screeching tires caused the trio to glance up. A silver cargo van came around the corner at a high rate of speed then slammed on the brakes and cut left. The passenger-side rolling door opened and a group of men in black paramilitary gear poured out of the van, armed with submachine guns. Evan made a sour grimace, his lips pursed to the left side of his mouth, ala McKayla Maroney. "Mother-frustrating shazbot."