My eyes snapped open to the sound of voices carried on the wind. I was sitting in the middle of the jungle, a small clearing overlooking a camp that was too large for the name but too small to be anything else. Shaking off disorientation, I crawled to my knees and peered through foliage at the camp and the people wandering inside of it. Blinking I recalled an old woman with long white hair and silver eyes, but it felt like a dream from a long time ago. Had she snapped her fingers and brought me to Olivia's camp or had I walked, deliriously through the jungle, finding my way by the grace of fate and a blatant trail easily followed by the blind?
The gun still rested in my hand and my last two extra clips remained tucked in the waistband of my ragged skirt. Looking down at myself, I was a mess. Dry cleaning probably was not going to cut it, but what do you expect when you go hiking in the jungle wearing business clothes? I pulled my tangled hair back and retied it behind me, watching the camp and wondering what I was going to do.
Olivia was definitely waiting for me to make an attempt to free my friends. The question was what did she expect me to do? That meant I needed a plan and then I needed a plan that made it looked like I was following my plan while actually doing something different. Complicated? No, not at all. It ought to be a walk in the park, or jungle if you prefer. I prefer the park, I think. Yeah, parks are much nicer, plus they do not usually have armed guards. Well unless you are in New York, but that's a whole other story.
What would Olivia expect me to do? Walk in the front gate? Okay, it is not really a gate but whatever you want to call the entrance. Probably not exactly what she would be expecting, but would she buy it? Right up until, things started going wrong, I guess. What could possibly go wrong if I walked in the front? I mean for her, not for me. Obviously, being a painted target in the middle of everyone's gun sight would be a problem for me that could go wrong seven ways from Sunday. Yeah, walking in the front sounds pretty dumb.
Let us see here, I know; What would Tom do? Call in an air strike and blow everything up. Yep, that sounds about like Tom. Casualties? Acceptable losses. On the plus side, with Jack gone, I would be team leader. I wonder if that would put an end to my probation? Knowing Mrs. Anderson, probably not. Besides, the lack of major benefits, there is also the problem, I do not have anyway to call in the air strike, nor would I even know how if I did have the capability. I guess that will not work.
"Inventory," I said to myself. Twenty-four bullets, one handgun, one ruined business suit, a pair of muddy heels, one semi-functional, but filthy body, a rubber band holding hair out of the way, and a pair of earrings. Patting myself down to make sure I had not forgot anything, I discovered a book of matches which were mostly soaked. If I was lucky I might get a spark out of one of them, but I would not want to bet my life on it. Unless, I was missing something big, I did not have the tools necessary to mount a two front assault.
It is simple I guess. Obviously, I need to acquire more inventory. So, what kind of things would it be nice to have? A tank, definitely tops the list, but I think it might take awhile to get one. A platoon of trained soldiers, would be nice also, but yeah, not too likely in this life. Grenades, now there is something those guards have on them, that I could really use. How do I get what they have? Oh yeah, simple, I take it from them. I am sure if I explain my need, they will be happy to hand the stuff over. Okay, I might have to be a little more persuasive, or damn near lethal, but let us not talk about that possibility.
Other things I need then; A knife might come in handy, a few extra rounds for my gun, maybe another gun or two, something in the fully automatic family would be nice, and a better idea of how that camp is laid out. Yeah that ought to do it. The biggest obstacle is actually the fact Olivia knows I am coming. As soon things get started, she will know it is me and be waiting. No matter how much I plan and project, her plan would still be in place and she would probably be thinking a few steps ahead of me because as she said herself, she had all the cards.
Nodding to myself in the darkness, I got my feet under me and started moving around the perimeter of the camp. It was on the edge of a ravine, far below a river ran through it. The camp had three primary structures, all portable and all large enough to hold twenty to thirty people. The outside perimeter was guarded by a roving patrol of four guards. Each guard had a belt with three grenades, an automatic rifle with a spare clip, a handgun with a spare clip and a flashlight.
Watching the three tents, I quickly noted that two of them had people coming and going freely from them while the third had two guards posted at the entrance and nobody was coming or going. It seemed the obvious location of my friends, but with Olivia, it could easily be a ruse meant to draw me into an ambush. I needed to confirm their location before moving in on the camp, but I was at a loss as to how to do it.
The guards' patrol route overlapped leaving no part of the perimeter unprotected for more than a few seconds and even in those seconds it was possible to be seen if the flashlight were directed properly. In order to confirm my suspicions, I would have to take out two guards in silence and even then it would leave with me hardly anytime to readjust if I was wrong. No, I needed another way.
Returning to the small clearing, I considered the possibilities once again. There were just simply too many of them. I could not possibly take on an army and expect to come out victorious. Maybe with Tom or Jack at my side, it would be different, but on my own I was out matched and there was no point in denying it. I might as well pull out and go home because anything else was just... Wait a second. Pull out. That sounds promising.
I grabbed the book of matches and stared at them as a real plan started to form inside my head. Finding dry brush in a jungle is like finding water in a desert, but if you know where to look, well it is just like finding that water. I gathered, twigs and dead grass into a pile in the middle of my clearing. A spark was all I needed by the matches were not in the best of shape after the last couple of days and I knew exactly how they felt. "All or nothing," I said and grabbed all the matches into a bundle, ripping them along the striking surface. Nothing happened. I took a deep breath and tried once more.
Three sparks flew from the matches onto the grass and with some careful huffing a fire began to burn. I eject the mostly spent clip from my gun and dropped it in the middle of my flammable pile. Slapping a fresh clip into the gun, I moved quickly off to the side of the camp before the smoke and light attracted attention from the guards. I waited impatiently near the back of the tent I suspected held my friends and hoped I would be lucky enough to be right.
One of the guards on the other side of the perimeter started shouting and point at the fire I had started. A moment later, all but one of the guards on the perimeter were heading out to the fire and a group of men stood waiting at the entrance into the camp. They knew it was me of course, but they could not possibly know what I had planned. I hoped that was the case at least. As the guards approached the fire, it finally got hot enough to explode the bullets I had left behind. Just like I planned it, every man at the entrance of the camp went running to join their comrades at the fire, assuming I was there somewhere in the foliage, shooting at them. I smiled.
It was working perfectly until I noticed the remaining perimeter guard had not followed everyone else. He was in fact, staring at me, nearly face to face with me as I moved toward the tent. I almost froze, but he opened his mouth to yell and I could not possibly allow him to do that. Reflexes took control and I slammed my shoulder into his midsection as hard as I could, knocking the wind from him. As he doubled over, gasping for air, I swung the butt of my gun into the back of his head, dropping him to the ground, out cold.
Nervously, I glanced around wondering if anyone else was lurking nearby. Seeing no one, I took his grenades, knife, gun and spare clip. The rifle might have been helpful but it was too bulky and it would only slow me down when I needed speed. I ran to the tent and sliced a peek hole into the back of it. Inside, I saw Jack, Gina, and Brian, all tied up and under the supervision of a single guard. At last, something was going right.
For a half second I considered slicing a door and going straight in, but I realized it would take very little for the guard inside to have a lot more goons on us and I could not guarantee silencing him fast enough. I shook my head as I realized what I had to do. Ridiculous, ironic, stupid, whatever you call it, I was going to enter right through the front. I glanced in the distance, confirming the bulk of the goons were still searching the far off clearing and surrounding area for me. Walking quickly I rounded the side and entered the camp, shooting at the two guards still at the door of the tent holding my friends. The scrambled for cover diving behind nearby supply crates.
Hearing commotion from the large tent on my other side, I pulled the pin from the first grenade and tossed it at the tent's doorway. The explosion sent a wave of heat through the air, kissing my cheek as I kept walking toward my goal. The tent collapsed and its material caught fire, causing those inside to panic and try to get out anyway they could. The door to the tent holding my friend flapped open and the inside guard stuck his head out the opening. Quickening my pace, I readjusted my grip on my gun and introduced it to the guard's nose.
He fell backward, stumbling away from me with a bloody nose. I pushed my way through the opening and kicked him hard where it counts. He dropped to his knees, shock in his eyes, not much different than Gina or Jack's who were watching me. Swinging the gun again, I knocked him out cold with a slap to the side of the head. An instant later I had the knife in my hand and cut the ropes off Jack and Gina, followed by Brian.
"About time you got here," Brian said, admiring my handiwork on the floor.
"Sorry, I was a little delayed by the weather," I said with a smile. "We need to get out of here, because there are a lot more guards on their way back here right now."
They all nodded and Jack grabbed the rifle from his formed guard and passed the handgun and spare clip to Gina. I handed Brian my extra gun and a spare clip. Jack said, "What's your plan?"
"There are two jeeps just outside," I said. "We take one and disable the other, but we've got to move quick."
Jack said, "Right," And headed out the door. The rest of us followed as Jack cleared the way with cover fire, keeping the few goons who realized where we were at bay. Brian moved to check the jeeps quickly and called out, "We'll take this one."
I nodded to him and moved to the other jeep. "I'll take care of this one," I said. Brian jumped behind the wheel of the one we were taking and turned the ignition. Gina slipped in the seat next to him keeping her eyes on the surrounding area. Jack kept firing in short spurts, conserving ammo and keeping the goons pinned down. I slipped behind my wheel and turned ignition. A quick search lent me a crowbar which I jammed the accelerator down with and then I slipped the jeep into gear, aiming toward the third large tent and consequently the ravine beyond. As it moved, I jumped out and rolled on the ground.
The jeep drove itself straight into the tent, but it seemed it was mostly empty. I turned back to the others and ran toward them when Olivia appeared in front of them with a gun in each hand, one pointed at Brian and the other at Jack. She looked pissed and that is to say more so than normal. I guess turning her camp into a campfire was not exactly the kind of trap she had in mind for me.
Jack dove behind the jeep as she pulled her triggers. Dust floated in the air where he had been and her bullet whizzed through it into the darkness and beyond. Brian ducked into Gina's lap causing her to drop her gun as Olivia's other bullet shattered the jeep's windshield. Brian shifted the jeep into gear and drove it blindly at Olivia, but she jumped out of the way without much effort.
The absence of the jeep left Jack in the open with Olivia taking double aim at him. Jack scrambled on top of the fallen and burning tent disappearing into smoke and flames. Being out of her direct line, Olivia glared at me a moment before running off to find Jack. Obviously, she considered him the biggest threat, but she should have known I would not just leave him to her.
I ran after her, noticing the goons who had stupidly ran to my little fire were starting to realize they were needed back at their camp. Time was running out and if we did not get out soon, we never would. I round the outer edge of the camp and found Olivia with Jack in her sights. He was dropping his rifle because she had him and there was nothing he could do. I raised my gun and aimed at her. "Drop it," I said.
Olivia turned her head to me and said, "I can't do that. Put your gun down or I'll put Jack down for good. That is the only way this is going to happen."
Jack started to go for his rifle again with her attention on me, but she caught his movement out of the corner of her eye and she spun back on him. She was going to kill him and there was only one thing I could do to stop her. My breath caught in my chest as shadowy advice from dreams or somewhere beyond echoed in my ears. Make a choice, even not choosing was choosing and so I chose. My finger squeezed the trigger and Olivia spun away from Jack and back toward me, her mouth open, as the impact of the bullet ripped through her body. She fell down on one knee, blinking at me and then, with great effort, she pushed herself back up on her feet and brought her guns swinging toward me. I pulled the trigger again and once again send her reeling backward, teetering on the edge of the ravine. A moment later she was gone, slipped off the edge and all that remained was Jack and I.
I stared numbly at the empty space where Olivia had been. The gun still rested firmly in my grip, as the scene replayed itself in my mind. There had been no other choice, she had left me no options, her or Jack, kill or be killed. The look in her eyes was not what I expected, no evil glare or hatred beaming through to calm soul, nothing but pure and total shock. Jack's hand gripped my shoulder, shaking me from the moment back into the now.
"We have to go," He said. There was sympathy in his tone, understanding in his voice. Can a choice be both right and wrong?
Brian and Gina arrived with the jeep, spinning it around directly in front of us and beckoning us aboard. We ran and jumped into the back as an army of goons ran toward us. Jack stood up, bracing himself between the back of Gina's seat and the safety roll bars while sending a spray of bullets into the oncoming army. The scattered like roaches, diving back into the crevices from which they had come.
Miles away, the sun rising on a new day, Jack rested a hand on my knee and offered a smile. Brian had pulled over to rest for a few minutes while he studied the map to set our direction. "I hid the codex before they got to me," He said. "I memorized the GPS coordinates and if this map is accurate I think I can get us there by tomorrow nightfall."
I nodded. "Tomorrow is good enough," I said.
"We could all use a little rest before moving on," Jack said. Brian and Gina nodded and moved off from the jeep a short distance. I started to get up and stretch myself, but Jack's hand held me back. He said, "She didn't give you a choice."
"I know," I said, faking a smile.
"Gene will understand," He said looking into my eyes, "I'll make sure of it."
"You know about them?" I said, surprised because I thought Dr. Michaels was too embarrassed to admit it to anyone else unless I forced it.
"He told us," Jack said, "He wanted his daughter back, but he knew the risks and he knew she wouldn't make it easy."
I blinked. The world suddenly turned upside down as Jack's statement filtered its way through my brain. His daughter. Dr. Michaels' daughter. Olivia was his daughter. I killed Olivia. I killed Dr. Michaels' daughter. Tears spilled onto my cheeks and Jack pulled me to him, but I was alone.