Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fallout Chapter 2: Questions

The man came in first, a huge silhouette. This guy must be pushing seven feet, Jason thought. Biceps bulged beneath his black T-shirt, which showed off his sculpted torso. He wore camouflage pants, and a belt with an arsenal of weapons. In the still-dim light, he looked like he had olive skin, with black hair and dark eyes. He could've been of Middle Eastern descent.

The man lumbered forward, and withdrew a knife from his belt.

"You're going to do as I say, right?" said the man.

"Well, you're the one with the knife, so it doesn't look like I have much of a choice," Jason replied.
The man looked toward the door. "No one told me he'd be a smart aleck. I like those. Makes it more interesting."

A woman stepped inside. She was thin, almost petite, yet athletic, with large, luminous eyes, and she wore a headscarf over dark hair.

Her eyes turned cold as she looked at him. "I also wouldn't be surprised if he was a coward when he doesn't have a weapon to hide behind."

"You have to admit," said Jason, "that being tied up does have its disadvantages. And so do you. Have me at a disadvantage I mean. You are—?"

She stepped forward, and reached toward him. One trembling finger touched his face, then she jerked her hand back, as if she'd been shocked. "You don't even know who I am," she said softly. "You can call me Nadira; I will not tell you my whole name. This is Akim, my bodyguard."

Something clicked in Jason's mind. Akim's accent was very light, but Jason was familiar with it.

"You're Israeli," he said.

Akim's jaw worked. "I was Israeli. Now I have no country. No allegiance but to the one who employs me." He looked at Nadira.

Nadira frowned. "And I would not be called Israeli if you had a gun to my head. But I will leave you guessing as to where I am from."

"You're Egyptian," said Jason. His head was swimming, but not so much that he couldn't read his accents.

"He's good," said Akim.

"Only a trained agent would guess it; both of you speak very good English."

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Jason Whittaker!" said the girl. "I know who and what you are. We are here for one thing only. And you will give it to us."

Uh oh, thought Jason. Not this again. They want information, don't they? I wish people would come up with something more original.

"You might as well just skip to the end, because I'm not going to give you anything."

"We'll see about that," said Akim, twirling his knife. Sunlight from the doorway glanced off of it.
I could make a break for it somehow, he thought. But before he could think any further, the knife flickered from Akim's fingers and hurtled toward him.

White-hot pain blasted into his shoulder like a miniature bomb.

He might have cried out, he didn't know. All he knew was that an inferno was burning at his shoulder, as if the blade had slid into his shoulder joint.

It's probably just a flesh wound, he thought. But that didn't make him feel any better. He gasped, trying to get the pain under control.

Akim loomed above him in a haze. Then, he grasped the knife, twisting it, then yanked it from his shoulder.

This time, Jason yelled through his teeth, which helped a little as it happened, then the wave of pain hit him again, and he almost passed out.

The only thing that kept him awake was a hand grabbing his hair, lifting his head. Akim looked down at him, his face dark against the light.

His shoulder throbbed as if the knife was still embedded there. Akim held the knife in front of him, blood smeared across its edge.

"Where is it?" said Akim.

"Where is…what?"

"You know," said Nadira. "The weapon you took from our people."

Then it clicked in his brain, despite the agony. Of course! She was Egyptian-why hadn't he put two and two together?

He laughed in spite of himself, though it was more of a cough, and it hurt—oh, it hurt to laugh.

"You probably won't believe me—but I don't have it. I never did. In fact, no one ever did."

Nadira's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

"Things were getting too hot for me in Egypt. That is…" Why not tell them? He'd long abandoned that alias, and it didn't matter now anyway. Maybe, just maybe, they'd believe him, if he stuck to the truth. The truth had a certain ring to it…that is, for people who still had the sensitivity to truth…

"I was undercover in Egypt as Atticus Kohl. A man named Strom was after the same thing I was after…so I created a red herring-an imaginary weapon. Strom was a mercenary, so the biggest payoff possible was the only thing he was after. I created a dummy corporation which would pay him for the recovery of the weapon…and it took him off my trail.

"I must not've been careful enough though, because the weapon took on a life of its own after I created it. Somehow word got out to factions within Egypt, and they searched for it. Its mythology was too strong…I tried to undo the damage, but it was too late. The only thing I could do was let it die of its own accord when people realized it wasn't real."

Nadira stepped toward him. "Is this the truth?" Her eyes were penetrating, yet guarded in a way. "We already knew your name was Kohl; we traced that alias to your real identity."

"I don't know," said Akim. "The best spies mix truth with lies."

"But if it is the truth!" Sorrow tore her voice. She turned away, facing the sunlight. A tear sparkled down her cheek.

For the first time, Jason wondered if there hadn't been collateral he hadn't seen…if he had inadvertently harmed someone with the ruse he created. He'd thought it would simmer down of its own accord. But there was something about this girl that didn't seem like a hardened spy or mercenary. There was more to this than the surface suggested…

She turned back to him, no trace of tears. Fury blazed across her face.

"Is this the truth, Jason Whittaker?"

"It's the truth," he said.

"Then what was the thing that you were looking for? The reason you made it up in the first place?"

His heart sank. "I can't tell you that."

"Is it a weapon?"

"In a way…"

"Would it help my people?"

"I don't know. It has the potential to help…but knowing mankind, it's better kept out of everyone's hands."

"But of course you are pure enough to resist temptation."

"I'm only human. But I have sworn to protect my country, and I'm not going to let such a thing get into the wrong hands."

"There are righteous causes," she said. "But I can't expect someone like you to see that."

"There are good causes. No cause is so righteous it's immune to—"

"Enough of this! Akim, I am going to step outside for a moment. See if you can get anything out of him. If you can get that secret from him…maybe our mission will be a success after all."

And she left the shed, leaving him alone with the tender mercies of her bodyguard.

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