Chapter 12 — No Options Left
Many options bring victory, few options bring defeat, no options at all spell disaster.
— Sun Tzu, Chinese General and Tactician
The three of us Fernando, Kayla, and myself, arrived at Fergie’s office right around lunch time. It’d been less than twenty-four hours since Arminius contacted us; and I felt that I’d accomplished a lot, considering that I’d spent a large percentage of that time in airplanes. Fergie was not as thrilled. “Why haven’t you been answering your phone, Chase?” He asked. “And who are these people?”
“I have been busy…As for who these fine folks are, this is Fernando Dantini he’s a…” I paused to come up with a job title. I didn’t think that “mafia enforcer” would thrill Fergie’s heart and soul.
Dantini sensed my problem and stepped in. “I’m a private security contractor with a specialty in conflict resolution. I’ve got some more equipment in the car which I’d like to bring inside.” He left without waiting for an answer.
“And this,” I continued, “is Kayla Meijer she’s…”
“Here against my will.” She interrupted. “Mr. Chase and his thug drugged me and forced me to come with them at gunpoint.”
“Nick?!” Fergie looked at me.
“She’s casting this situation in the worst possible light.” I answered suavely.
“You slipped Chloral Hydrate into my drink!”
“You wouldn’t stop talking.”
“You broke into my apartment!”
“We needed your passport.”
“You put me on a plane in the middle of the night, and told me that if I didn’t cooperate, the forensics team would be scraping my remains off the Michigan countryside.”
“It was necessary to impress on you the gravity of your situation. Besides, it was practically morning by the time we put you on the plane.”
“You stole my phone and laptop.”
“We can’t allow you to contact anyone until this case is over; the stakes are too high.”
“Mr. Bosworth, I think we can both agree that your associate grossly infringed on my legal rights.” Kayla said with the attitude of an injured citizen, who’s out looking for a lawyer willing to sue the world and everyone in it.
“Nick, we need to talk, now.” Fergie said quickly.
“Hey, Nick, where should I put this box?” Fernando was back inside with the case labeled: “Flashes”.
“What do we need more camera equipment for?” Fergie asked.
“Umm.” I was looking for a good answer. Dantini had gone a little overboard in the equipment preparation, and our arsenal now included: shotguns, explosives, assault rifles and an RPG, which looked a lot less sophisticated than the rest of our gear.
“Not camera equipment, that’s just how we got it past customs.” Fernando offered helpfully. “See?” He unlocked the case and dumped it over. A flash attachment and a high intensity stage lamp rolled onto the floor, followed by seven or eight flashbangs and a block of C4.
I felt Fergie had been exceptionally patient through Kayla’s tirade, but everyone has a breaking point. “Nick!” He was pretty much hysterical. “If the police even suspect that this stuff is in here, or suspect that your reporter isn’t here of her own free will, or even dream that I know anything material about the CBW case and am withholding it, I will go to jail for a very, very, very long time.”
“Fergie calm down; I have everything under control.” This was a conversation that I wanted to be having in private, away from Kayla and Dantini.
“No! No, Nick! That’s just it. You don’t have it under control. Arminius is gone! And they’ve firebombed my apartment!”
“What do you mean gone? And define firebombed.”
“Last night, he got a call from one of the ARQ terrorists; they said they wanted to negotiate.”
“Wait, he believed them?” Usually, after a person gets burned, they stop playing with fire; but there’s an exception to every rule.
“Yeah, he believed them.” Fergie was as just as shocked as I was at this less than stellar move.
“Why would he do something so monumentally stupid?”
“It’s what he wanted. The call probably reinforced his pre-existing delusions of grandeur.”
“Do you know what they really wanted?”
“I can guess.”
“Yeah, me too,” It was something I had discussed with Dantini on the plane. The one weakness in the ARQ master plan to threaten the globe. “They need a dispersal method.”
“That’s what I thought too.” Fergie answered. “But Arminius didn’t listen. Anyway, about three hours later I get a call from the police. Apparently, my apartment spontaneously combusted.”
“A couple gallons of gas, according to my contact. Fortunately, somebody called the fire department before the entire building went up in smoke.”
“That is unfortunate; the fire not the rapid response.” I clarified quickly. I didn’t want either Kayla or Fernando assuming I was some sort of pyromaniac. “I assume that everything was insured?”
“That’s beside the point, Nick. I’ve been a private investigator in this town for seven years, and nobody tried to burn me out until you mixed me up with the ARQ.”
“Anything else?” I asked, in an attempt to elicit some good news from the previous evening. After all, even when your client is kidnapped and your house burned to the ground, there is usually some sort of silver lining.
“Yeah, you had a visitor last night.” Fergie said calming down a little.
“Yeah, this guy in a suit showed up about five hours after you left.”
“What sort of guy?”
“A strange sort, I mean he was non-descript but at the same time you couldn’t help but remember him, like he was trying too hard to fade into the background. He kind of reminded me of a squirrel, hyper and twitchy, eh?”
“Did he say anything odd?”
“He said that you were in danger beyond all comprehension. He also left something for you.” Fergie pulled out a small leather case. I was suspicious; it looked a lot like the kind of jewelry box you’d put a hundred grand diamond necklace in. “I didn’t open it, Nick. I thought that I’d let you do the honors.”
I carefully took the case. “Did he leave a name?”
“Yeah, he left a business card; kind of nifty actually.” Fergie handed me a white business card with a silvery holographic image of a face. I didn’t need to see the face; the inscription told me exactly who it was: “Adrian Telmar: HASMAT Agent—APTA Division”.
I opened the case. I was right about it being a necklace, or rather a silver pendant about the size of a fifty-cent piece. It was an odd piece of jewelry; a sort of Celtic knot, except instead of rope, the knot was formed from the interwoven arms of some sort of a sea creature. I guessed it was a kraken. Truth be told, I thought it was actually pretty cool.
There was also a note.
“Mr. Chase, I am sorry that I missed you. It is imperative that you follow these directions. If you do not, the world, as you know it, will almost certainly cease to exist.” Yep, this was Telmar alright. “I do not have the time, and you do not possess the required security clearances for me, to explain the situation. All I am allowed to say is that you must wear this medallion at all times. Do not take it off for any reason. I will be back to explain everything when I can make the time. I repeat wear the medallion. -Adrian”
“So, I take it you know this guy?” Fergie said as he glanced over the note.
“You could say that.”
“Hey that’s Telmar.” Kayla said, seeing the face on the business card. “He’s supposed to be dead; they found his body!”
“We’ll have to discuss that one later.” I grabbed the medallion and hung it around my neck. While listening to Telmar had not exactly improved either my sanity or safety, in this case, I didn’t see what harm it could cause. Besides, the kraken just looked cool.
Dantini walked in with the last crate of weaponry. “So, Nick, did you tell him what we found on the flight?”
“No, not yet.”
“Alright.” He opened his briefcase and set a laptop down on one of the cases of weaponry. “Chase and I tracked most of the purchases made by the ARQ terrorists. They are centered around this location. Now, we had one other useful piece of evidence.”
“Arminius’s radiation badge.” I interrupted.
“So, we started looking for a source of radiation, someplace secluded and secure in that area.” Dantini continued.
“And?” Fergie asked.
“Red Sand Lake.” I said triumphantly.
“In the 1960s, the United States was burying nuclear missiles everywhere. They had this thing going with the USSR, called the cold war.” I felt like a history professor. “Each side was in mortal terror that the other would shoot first, destroying their ability to counterattack, so they hid missiles in the dumbest locations: Cuba, Turkey, Alaska, North Dakota, Georgia, the country not the state, and Canada.”
“What?” This was a piece of Canadian history that Fergie had been previously unaware of.
“They had a missile complex with about a half dozen silos, fifty miles north of Montreal. They called the place Red Sand Lake, ultra-secret, classified etc.”
“They abandoned it in ’87 due to budget constraints, and a lessening tension with the USSR.” Dantini interrupted.
“Pulled the missile warheads out, left the boosters, locked the doors, and just left the place.” I finished.
“No guards?” Fergie sounded surprised.
“Nobody knew the place existed.” Dantini explained. “And the weapons were gone.”
“And you found out about it, how?” Kayla asked.
“Not your concern.” Dantini gave a wry smile.
“The point is, it fits.” I said. “The entire place is underground. It’s in the right location. It has radiation hazards. The virus is there. I’m sure of it.”
“So, what about Cherusci?” Fergie asked.
“He’ll be there. We should probably rescue him; it’d certainly help us get paid.” I answered.
“Ok, now that we have established the relevant background info, I think it’s time to form a plan of attack. Do you have a projector in here?” Dantini asked.
“Yeah, it’s in the back, but…” Fergie paused, clearly uncomfortable with any plan that involved the word attack.
Ten minutes later Dantini had a series of schematics up on the screen. The schematics outlined the location and layout of the Red Sand Lake missile launch center. The complex was arranged like a hexagon, with six missile silos arranged around the perimeter, and a control room in the center of the formation. The control room was a hundred feet underground, connected to the silos by cableways and access tunnels.
“From the records which we obtained, we know that Silo-3 is empty. The other five silos all contain boosters without warheads or guidance packages. We’ll definitely want to watch our lanes of fire down there, as those fuel tanks are probably starting to leak, and the fuel clocks a 4 in every box on the NFPA diamond.” Dantini started his briefing with basic safety information.
“Lanes of fire?” While words like “plan of attack” could suggest a hostile corporate takeover. The words “lanes of fire” left no such ambiguity. Fergie’s comfort level was dropping rapidly. Kayla, on the other hand was drinking this stuff up. I realized that it wasn’t often that a member of the press was invited to sit in on the planning session for a paramilitary exercise.
“We know that there are at least two terrorists down there, but we should be prepared for a small army. We also have at least one hostage. We’ll want to limit collateral damage as much as possible.”
“Now.” Dantini switched the image from the map of the complex to two pictures. “These are our primary targets they will know where the virus is, so we want to try and take at least one of them alive. But I stress, these guys are professionals; do not let them get the drop on you, or you won’t be coming back here.”
“Our goal is to accomplish this raid with zero casualties if possible.” I said, trying to establish a high moral position for the sake of the reporter in the room.
“If possible.” Dantini’s voice carried a sense of seasoned skepticism. “There’s only one access point, the central elevator. That is almost certainly guarded, so we’ll be creating a new access point. Fergie have you ever been rappelling?”
“No.” Fergie answered.
“I have.” I said raising my hand.
“Me too.” Kayla said.
“Ok, Chase you’re with me in Silo-3. Fergie you’re on overwatch.”
“What about me?” Kayla asked.
“You’re staying here.” I said. I knew from prior experience, that in exchanges of gunfire the free press always portrayed the survivors, whether they be cops or robbers, as soulless psychopaths. Since I planned on walking away from this enterprise alive and unscathed, bringing a reporter along just seemed like a bad idea.
“Ok, first we secure the elevator topside. Fergie you will make sure no one comes back up the shaft. Chase and I blow the access panel to Silo-3. We rappel down and secure the virus, trying to keep your banker alive in the process. We make our way back to the elevator, neutralizing any hostiles along the way. We radio you and you let us back up.”
Dantini made it all sound so simple. Never mind the fact we were assaulting a bunker-like complex, we were outnumbered by die-hard Marxist revolutionaries, they probably had at least one hostage, they were in possession of a virus which made smallpox look like the common cold, and the advantage of surprise would be long gone by the time we got underground. What could possibly go wrong?