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    C James
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Changing Lanes - 36. Convergence

Chapter 36: Convergence




Dashing inside the resort’s main entrance, Brandon used the hotel phone to alert Helen. “General Bradson is here and he’s got a woman named Felecia with him. Chase is taking them to the pavilion–”

Helen didn’t even reply, she hung up and rushed out the door of her suite.

After listening to the dead line for a moment, Brandon hung up, shrugged, and took off at a run, soon catching up with Chase, the General, and Felecia.

They arrived at the pavilion and knocked. Brandon said, “Open up.”

Hearing Brandon’s voice, Eric let them in, and the General entered first. He took one look at Brian, the incongruously parked truck, and stared for a moment at the loud shorts and T-shirt Brian was wearing. Smiling, the General said, “You’re out of uniform, Marine.”

Brian grinned but before he could answer, Helen pounded on the door. Holding his breath, Eric let her in. She stormed right up to General Bradson, jabbed a finger in his chest, and said in a steel-edged tone, “You and I need to talk – right now!”

The General followed Helen outside, and as soon as they were far enough away for privacy, she turned on him to say, “Are you out of your fucking mind? You sent us nuclear weapons as loan collateral!”

“I had to, Helen. We couldn’t deal directly with Washington, and if I didn’t come up with something, those bombs would have been turned over to the arms dealer who put the mission together. I couldn’t say before, but I think you know him: we believe he's your old acquaintance, Jerry Clump. Apparently he survived the explosion in South America. His injuries and traits match what we know. Given what he’s done in the past, I figured you’d be as eager as I am to keep nukes out of his hands.”

Shocked by that bit of news, Helen replied, “Look, I see your point, but my first duty is to those boys in there. I need to be damn sure that they’ll be reimbursed.”

Smiling, General Bradson replied, “That’s the easy part. We aren’t going to tell Uncle Sam where the nukes are until you’re paid. No way in hell will the government want those things on the loose. They’ll pay.”

Seeing a hole in the General’s plan, Helen narrowed her eyes. “That’s predicated on a mighty big assumption: that they believe us.”

Shaking his head, his smile becoming a self-assured grin, General Bradson replied, “Oh, they’ll believe it. When we were leaving Iran, the mercenaries used one of the bombs to destroy the Iranian production facility. That fact will be evident. I’ll make a call shortly to make sure they’re looking in the right places. If that’s not enough, we have three of the bombs so we’ll have other options, up to and including a nuclear demonstration at sea for the press. You have my word: I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you’re paid back, and in this game we hold three very big aces.”

“The mercenaries used a nuke? And they still have one, and it’s here on the island?” Helen asked, feeling a sudden chill in spite of the tropical air.

“They aren’t easy to detonate, and that bomb is their only guarantee of being paid, so they won’t use it. They’d have no reason. They’re well aware that it’s part of the deal, and to be turned over to you as soon as the money clears. I’ll be there to make darn sure that occurs. They were under orders to use a nuke in Iran but they turned on their former employer. All they want is to make sure they get paid so they can get out of the business they’re in. It’s the only way out for many of them.”

Rolling her eyes, Helen said, “Very well, let’s go check with the guys, and if they agree, I’ll send the transfer order to Switzerland. I’ll do so at dawn tomorrow; the actual transfer can only occur within banking hours. The money will be in the numbered accounts within twenty minutes after they receive the transfer order. It’s all set up.”

His exhausted mind deciding that now might be a good time to broach a different subject, General Bradson said, “Helen, before we do, I’ve got a huge favor to ask. Once this is all done, I’ll be dead broke. Is that job you offered still available? If so, count me in, but it would be a ‘two for the price of one’ deal. You’ll like her; she’s the lady I came with tonight – Fel. We’re dating now; I haven’t even told my son that yet. If this nuclear deal works out to your satisfaction, just give us an interview and hear us out, that’s all I ask.”

Helen wasn’t pleased by the question, especially as she had no idea who Felecia was, nor why the General assumed it was safe to bring her to the bombs. Helen suppressed her anger; she didn’t wish to offend the General unnecessarily, not at that point. She knew that the assurance she was about to give had no real force and therefore she had no reason not to make it. “You’re chock full of surprises, aren’t you? I certainly can’t see the harm in an interview and yes, the position is still open,” Helen replied, and then headed back into the pavilion, with General Bradson following close behind.



While General Bradson and Helen were having their private chat, Felecia took a seat next to Brian. Giving him a sympathetic smile, she asked, “You hanging in there, Kiddo? You must be exhausted.”

Surprised by Felecia’s question, Brian nodded and returned her smile. “Yeah, I’m doing okay, thanks. I need to sleep for a few days but I think I’m healing up.”

“I’ve been in a few tight scrapes myself over the years, and I’ve got to tell you: you’ve impressed me. You’ve been through hell but you’re toughing it out. That takes guts. Just... Just don’t try and be too tough, okay? If you need someone to talk to, someone who’s been in bad places, I’ll lend you an ear. Don’t try and handle it all alone.”

Brian could only look at Felecia in surprise, colored by lingering suspicion, astonished that she’d seen through his front so well. When he’d slept on the plane, he’d repeatedly woken from nightmares. Now, he feared returning to that chamber of horrors in Iran every time he closed his eyes. Still, he believed that he could handle it himself. “Thanks, I mean that, but I’m okay.”

Glancing at the bulge showing on Brian’s pocket, Felecia lowered her voice for privacy and grinned. “Either you’re really happy to see me or you’ve still got the pineapple. I’m guessing the latter because I know I’m definitely not your type. Your father told me about you, and I just wanted you to know that you’ve got no worries from me.” Then, with a wink, Felecia added, “I’ve got a cousin like you.”

Brian’s jaw dropped open for a moment. He’d never been secretive about his sexuality, but he didn’t announce it, either. He considered it his own business. ‘What the fuck is he, a public address system?’ Brian thought, wondering what on earth had possessed his father to share that sort of personal info, first with a rock star, and then with the commander of the mercenaries, and God only knew who else.

With that subject out of the way, Felecia and Brian began talking about his time in Iran and to his surprise, Brian found himself warming to the mercenary commander.



As soon as she was inside the pavilion, Helen pulled the four members of Instinct aside and explained what she’d been told, including about Jerry Clump. At the mention of Jerry’s name, Eric’s eyes flashed fire as the old hatred returned. He then led his bandmates in agreeing to the deal. Solemn nods and a few questions followed. A minute later, Helen led her charges to General Bradson and, ignoring Felecia who now stood a few paces away, said tersely, “It’s agreed. We’ll effect the transfer as soon as the bank opens in the morning.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Felecia walked over to say, “Thank you,” to Helen. She then reached for her satellite phone and turned to General Bradson to ask, “Any objection to me letting my men know?”

Your men?” Helen asked pointedly, arching an eyebrow.

“Fel is their commander,” General Bradson said, with an open-handed shrug.

“I see,” Helen said in an icy tone, furious that General Bradson had omitted that little detail. She was even more concerned that the mercenary commander knew of the bombs’ location. However, she rationalized it by the fact that the mercenaries wished to be paid and neither Felecia nor the General would know the bomb’s location for long. Helen then added, “Very well, but do not disclose our location.”

Hearing no other objection, Felecia flipped open the phone. After a few seconds she said, “It’s dead, no service.”

“The phones keep going out due to the volcanic ash shorting out some of the lines,” Helen said.

Shaking his head, General Bradson pulled out his own phone and said to Helen, “These are satellite phones, not cells. They should be unaffected.” Checking his phone, the General said, “Mine’s working,” and handed it to Felecia.

Felecia dialed Horst’s number and listened for a few moments. “It says it’s disconnected.”

Realizing what had likely occurred, General Bradson said, “Those came from your employer, right? Looks like he was nice enough to pull the plug. He can’t touch mine because I didn’t get it from him, but it’s not a lot of use without a working phone on the other end.

Felecia fished out a card from the hotel they were staying at, and dialed. The call, routed via a satellite ground station on Tenerife and from there to La Palma by undersea cable, went through. It was a matter of luck more than anything else; the cell towers – the ones serving the resort’s area were located on the volcano itself – had been the hardest hit by the ash, followed by the landlines. The mercenaries’ hotel happened to be close to the main telephone switching station and was serviced by a line that was still in working order. Working fast, Felecia had the innkeeper put her through to each room in turn. Her message was the same: “We have a finalized deal. We’ll have our money first thing in the morning, every bit of it, a million each.”



François hung up the hotel phone after receiving the message and relayed the news to his roommates. The cheering and high-fives were echoed in the other rooms, and for a few moments, the hotel reverberated with the sounds of celebrating men. Even Private Johnson, the only man there who had no financial stake in the proceedings, joined in the joyous outburst, delighted that the nuclear weapons were a step closer to being in safe hands.

François gazed out the window, watching several men running towards the garage to give the good news to Horst. Turning to face his two roommates, François said with a wry smile, “I am beginning to think that this mad venture might just pay off and should tie things up nicely. I prefer the Caymans for such things, but Switzerland will do very well indeed, for the moment. I will believe it when I see it, but for now, even I am feeling somewhat optimistic.”



In the pavilion, General Bradson used the satellite phone to call Bill. “I’ve got a bit of a situation here and you probably won’t like it. I’ll make it quick: we were partially wrong about that base. It had chemical weapons like we thought but it was also a nuclear enrichment facility. Their nuke program was further along than anyone thought. We found four operational nukes and used one to blow the underground base to hell. We have three more nukes with us. We’re going to hold a press conference in the morning and announce these facts. I need you to make sure, if they haven’t noticed it already, that the seismic signature of an underground nuclear blast at the base has been seen. The blast broached the surface so confirmation can be gained through air samples.”

Bill’s palms began to sweat. His voice a little unsteady, he said, “You used a nuke? Are you fucking nuts? Holy shit, no way in hell will we be able to keep this quiet...” Bill’s voice trailed off as the rest of the General’s words sank in, and he continued, “A press conference? Are you out of your fucking mind? What the hell for? Just call the nearest U.S. base and get them there, ASAP–”

“I know this puts you in a difficult situation, but it can’t be helped...” General Bradson explained about the loan and its need to be repaid.

Bill remained silent for a few moments, mulling his response. “Just keep me out of this. I’ll do what I can to make sure the seismic monitoring people are looking in the right places. The NRO,” Bill said, using the acronym for the National Reconnaissance Office, “saw the refineries blow so I’ve got an excuse to ask a few questions, but that’s as far as I can go.”

General Bradson smiled, assuming that the seismic signature of a nuclear blast would be unmistakable proof. “That’s all I ask. I’ll keep you out of this, you have my word.”

After hanging up, the General’s thoughts turned to more immediate needs. Looking at Helen, he said, “We’ve got a long night ahead of us. We need to keep a guard on the nukes. Fel and I are exhausted; we’ve had no sleep since launching the mission into Iran. Brian is even worse off, due to being brutally treated while a prisoner, plus forced sleep deprivation. Is there somewhere we could take turns sleeping? Or at least get some blankets and pillows for the loungers on the other side of the truck?”

Helen shook her head. “I’ll check with the front desk. I’m sure there are rooms available–”

“Thanks, but please don’t,” General Bradson said. “It might look odd that people are checking in with the volcano acting up. I don’t want to take any more security risks, not tonight.” General Bradson was already decidedly uncomfortable regarding the number of people who knew of the bombs and their location. What was worse, he knew that the fault was largely his, due in large part to his exhaustion-addled mind.

Helen glanced around, doing a quick mental review of everyone’s accommodations. “Jansen and Keith have a two bedroom suite. I’m sure we can change around a bit and free up a room or two. At worst, each suite has a sofa that converts to a bed.”

The mention of ‘bed’ had a very special meaning to a man who had been awake and under massive stress for almost forty-eight hours. General Bradson nodded appreciatively, and then turned to tell Brian, “You and I have to do the guarding. You go get some sack time and relieve me about four AM.”

Brian gave his father a wry smile. “I hope that’s not an order because I’m not going to obey it. You’ve got to handle the press conference in the morning so you need to sleep. If somebody will get me a few pots of coffee, I’ll handle the guard duty. Marines are used to going without sleep. We’re not soft like the Air Force.”

General Bradson laughed at the barb. He’d spent precious little time with his son since the rescue and Brian’s returning sense of humor was the best evidence so far that he was recovering from his ordeal. However, the General was also well aware that Brian was near exhaustion. “In spite of your jarhead bravado, you can’t do it. You’ve got to guard the bombs while I’m at the press conference.”

Felecia chimed in to remind the General, “I’m pretty handy with a gun, Walter. I can take a turn.”

The idea of turning the bombs over to the mercenary commander did not sit well with Helen. “Enough. Those bombs are Instinct’s now so Barbra and I will take a shift and the boys can help. If you’ll recall, we’ve seen our share of gunplay. Let Brian take it until midnight while I have a quick nap. I want you in good shape for the press conference, as you’ll be doing most of the talking.”

Felecia was sharp enough to grasp the likely real reason that Helen had intervened. Felecia could understand Helen’s unwillingness to trust her, but her objection was practical, not personal. “With all due respect, Helen, how much experience do you or Instinct have with an AK-47 or an RPG-7 grenade launcher?”

Knowing that Felecia was expecting a far different answer from a civilian, Helen replied, “I’ve been packing a pistol for years and I do believe in training. Ever since a shootout in Telluride the General can tell you about, I’ve become a little more proactive on the weaponry side. One of my guns is an SKS, which happens to be a Chinese copy of an AK-47. It’s not full-auto, just semi, but I know how to shoot the gun. So do the boys. We go shooting quite often, with rifles, pistols, and shotguns. The RPG, you’ve got me there. I’ve never even touched one.” With a smile, Helen added, “However, Jim, the biker who is our bodyguard, is ex-military, so I’m betting he knows how to use a grenade launcher, even if not that particular model.”

The debate went on for a few moments, until Helen literally put her foot down and said, “We’re going to compromise and do it my way. General, Felecia, you two go get some sleep, right now. Brian, if you can hang in there for a couple of hours, I’ll be here at midnight to take over. Jon, you’re sacking out in Brandon and Chase’s living room so the General can have your room. Jansen, Keith, one of you gets to sleep in your living room so Brian can have a room. Eric, Felecia can have your room and you can sleep in the volcano. There, we’re done.”

With a soft smile, Felecia said, “Walter and I can share, to make it easier on everyone.”

That comment caused Brian’s head to snap around. For a moment he wondered if Felecia was up to something, but then he caught sight of his father’s crimson blush. Shaking his head as if to clear it, Brian stared in shock. Then he began to smile, his tired mind finding wry humor in the absurdity of it all.

General Bradson and Felecia left in a hurry as soon as Helen handed them the keycard she’d taken from Jon. General Bradson regretted that he had not been the one to tell Brian about his new relationship but, tired as he was, he could only hope his son would understand. Felecia and the General were far too tired to do more than share a kiss, and were both asleep within minutes.

Helen too made a speedy departure from the pavilion and after filling in a still-incredulous Barbra, set her alarm for fifteen minutes before midnight.

Jon, Brandon, and Chase lingered for a few minutes, talking with Eric, the dancers, and Brian, mainly about the volcano. Brandon suggested that they see what they could find out regarding any updated forecasts, and led Jon and Chase back to the suite they now shared.

They weren’t the only ones concerned by the volcano. The vulcanologists doing the monitoring had confirmed that water was being superheated within it, with no significant venting of steam to release the pressure. The hoped for steam venting had not occurred. Seismic data indicated that magma was spreading throughout the rift system, along the old fissures, bringing it into contact with more groundwater and increasing the pressure. Tiltmeters on the western slope had detected ground deformation all along the 1949 fracture zone, forcing the scientists to conclude that the scenario they most feared was becoming more likely by the hour. The water, once freed by a massive eruption, would flash to steam and act as both a lubricant and driver along the fracture, causing a lateral collapse of the western slope of Cumbre Vieja. The power of a steam-driven – also called a phreatic – eruption cannot be understated; the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which obliterated most of the island and created the loudest sound in recorded history – heard thousands of miles away and detected as far away as London – along with massive tsunamis, was a phreatic event.

Cumbre Vieja had become a powder keg, and the fuse was lit.

The decision was made: unless conditions changed – there was still hope that they might, and thus the scientists were reluctant to act immediately, knowing the panic they would cause – they would issue evacuation orders for the southwestern coast of La Palma at dawn, though the island was not their prime concern. They would also send a tsunami warning for the entire Atlantic Basin, including the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, which was the area judged most at risk: the massive tsunami that a lateral collapse could trigger, the largest such wave in human history, would hit the East Coast of the United States, and once it began, nothing on earth could stop it.



Keith made a quick trip to the restaurant and returned with several thermoses of strong coffee. Taking a seat beside Brian, he waited while the Marine poured a cup, and then asked, “Mind some company?”

Brian gave Keith a tired smile. “Actually, I’d really appreciate any company I can get. I need to stay awake. So, what’s you’re story? What brings you to this erupting volcano?”

Keith laughed, hard, before jabbing an accusing finger in Eric’s direction, “That nut over there, he’s the one. He hired Janse and me for Brandon and Chase’s bachelor party...” Keith settled in, taking his time as he told Brian the story. The one part he omitted was his own sexuality; in spite of Brian’s apparent acceptance of Jansen and Eric, and unaware of the disclosures regarding Brian, Keith felt no reason to out himself to the armed Marine.

Jansen and Eric, sitting together at a table a few feet away, listened to Keith’s long recount, occasionally butting in to add a detail or two. Jansen was a little quieter and more distant than usual, and at first Eric chalked it up to the monumentally bizarre day they’d had, but as the evening wore on, he began to feel there was a larger issue.

When Keith finished his recount, Eric looked at Brian and Keith to say, “Jansen and I had a date planned for tonight. Would you guys mind if we took off for a while?” Turning to Jansen, he asked, “That is, if you still feel like it?”

Jansen nodded with a lot more enthusiasm than Eric had expected, given his prior melancholy air.

Brian and Keith shared a look, a shrug, and a smile. “Yeah, you guys go. Have fun,” Brian said.

“Lead the way, since you planned this one,” Eric said with a grin.

On the way out the door, Jansen replied with a chuckle, “Yeah, I’m planning all our dates from now on, remember?”

Keith got up to lock the pavilion door, and then returned to his place by Brian’s side, shaking his head in amusement. Brian gave Keith a sideways glance and asked, “So, what’s it like, being an exotic dancer?”

That led to another conversation, as the two extroverted guys, strangers only hours before, fell into an easy rapport.



Strolling by the resort’s main pools, looking at the moonlight and tiki-torches, Eric walked with Jansen until they reached a dark area far from the lights. Taking a seat on a bench, gazing out at the starlit sea and brilliant stars, Jansen said, “This place is so beautiful. Thanks,” and in the darkness, he took Eric’s hand.

In spite of Jansen’s reassuring touch, Eric could feel the return of a distance between them. After mulling it over for a while, he decided to just ask. “Jansen, something’s bugging you. If it’s what happened today at the airport, I’m really sorry, I had no idea–”

Jansen gave Eric’s hand a gentle squeeze and chuckled. “Damn, you’re good at picking up on stuff. Yeah, I’m still shook up from today. I don’t blame you, don’t think that, but you gotta admit, this was one weird day. Maybe it’s making me read too much into things, or worry too much. I want to talk to you about it but not here, okay? It’s nothing to worry about; I just want to wait until we’ve got more privacy.”

Eric glanced around in the darkness, thinking that where they were was fairly private, but he said, “Okay. Anytime you’re ready.”

They sat for a while, enjoying the view and the company, before changing into shorts and going for a moonlight swim.

Ignoring the fact that there were a few people still roaming the grounds, Eric cornered Jansen in the pool, pulling him in for a quick but passionate kiss. The emotions it held did much to assuage Jansen’s concerns, but it wasn’t enough to dispel them entirely.

Eric broke the kiss and pulled away before launching a splash attack on Jansen. Laughing, playing, they chased each other across the starlit waters until it was time to return to the pavilion, intending to help Helen guard the bombs.

When they arrived, shirts in hand and still dripping from the pool, Helen let them in and shot Eric a withering glare. “You’re late.”

Confused, Eric glanced at his watch. “It’s three minutes ‘till midnight, and you said midnight.”

Walking towards Brian, Helen grumped at Eric, “If you’re going to make me sit up all night guarding goddamn bombs, the least you could do is be early.”

Brian stood up, slightly unsteady on his feet due to exhaustion. He glanced at Helen, the two dancers, Jim, and the four members of Instinct in turn. He then gave Helen a quick rundown on the AK-47 and handed it to her, pleased to see that she seemed comfortable with it. He left the RPG on the table after giving some instructions to Jim, but stressed that she should call him and his father at the first hint of any concern. “How about I crash out in the cab of the truck?’ he asked, not feeling comfortable leaving his post.

Shaking her head, Helen replied, “No, hon, you’ve been through hell. You’re sleeping in a real bed tonight. Jansen and Keith’s suite is close by, and the boys and I will be here. Go, before you fall over. We really need you rested and conscious by morning, remember.”

The lure of a bed, a real bed, was too much for Brian’s dazed mind to resist. “Thanks,” he said, weaving slightly as he walked towards the door.

Keith trotted to catch up, telling Helen, “I’ll go get him settled in.”

Nodding, she replied, “Get some sleep yourself, he’ll need some company in the morning.” Helen suppressed a smile; she wanted both Brian and Keith out of the way, and she was pleased that she’d phrased her words in such a way as to avoid lying. As Brian and Keith left, Helen made a phone call to the press office, confirming the ten o’clock conference for the reporters who were there covering the volcano. It had been an easy thing to arrange. The reporters were hungry for any news, given their mistaken impression that Cumbre Vieja’s eruption was tapering off.



Keith led Brian to the suite, noticing his half-closed eyes. Leading Brian to Jansen’s Room, Keith watched as Brian half crawled, half fell into the bed. Brian nestled in, face down, and mumbled, “Don’t forget to wake me...”

Keith was amazed. He’d never seen anyone fall asleep so quickly. He clicked off the light and eased the door closed before going to his own room, where he stripped to his boxers, set the alarm clock, and rolled over, intending to get what sleep he could.



At the Pavilion, Barbra arrived with coffee and sat down with Helen.

Helen glanced at the four members of Instinct, who were, along with Jansen, sitting at the next table, and said, “Jim and I will stay up. As for the rest of you, let’s make some plans for in the morning. First, I’ve got to finalize the bank transfer when the bank in Switzerland opens at eight their time, which is seven our time. I need to be at the airport when that happens, to take possession of the third bomb. Jim checked out the remaining van and it’s fine, but I won’t leave anyone here without emergency transportation. So, we’ll be using a little Volkswagen Jetta that I’ve borrowed. It can seat five. The General and I have to go and he wants Felecia there too. We’ll need Brandon as he’s the lead singer and we need the most famous face for the press conference. We’ll round it out by taking Chase. It’ll be a tight fit but we’ll make it. We’ll leave at nine.” Helen had been careful to omit much of her plan.

“What can I do to help?” Eric asked.

With a smile, Helen asked Jansen, “Hon, could you get us some coffee?”

Jansen figured Helen had something private to say, but he didn’t mind. He nodded and set off for the lobby, where he knew they had coffee for the guests at all hours.

As soon as Jansen had left, Helen fixed Eric in her gaze. Softening a little, Helen replied to Eric’s question, “I’d planned on yelling at you all night to keep awake. There’s the matter of you sneaking off to the airport and shutting your phone off, plus of course the little presents you brought us,” Helen used the AK-47 to gesture at the nuclear warheads. “However, as a practical matter, you and Jon need to keep an eye on things in the morning. Jim and I will stay up for a while and the rest of you should get some sleep. Tomorrow might be a very busy day and at least some of us need to be well rested. Eric, I need you to go so Jansen will.”

“You’re planning something,” Eric said as a statement, not a question.

That comment resulted in some puzzled looks, and Helen continued, “I’m very uncomfortable with two things. One is that the commander of the mercenaries is here and knows where the bombs are. The second is that, once we announce what we have to the world, the U.S. Government, plus anyone else who can access credit card info or phone records, will know where we are and have a good idea where the bombs might be. I’m not turning them over to the government until they cough up the money we’re out, so we, except for Eric, will be moving the bombs. Where they are going will be known only to us, understood?” The four members of Instinct nodded in agreement.

Jim stood up and walked over the truck. “I’ve cleared the air filters so it should be runnable enough for what we need. A couple of hours ago, Jon and I took the working van and did some scouting. We found a place in the town uphill from here, Las Indias. It’s a storage locker complex. They have a twenty-four-hour place – keycard operated – due to all the holiday rentals and timeshares around here. I paid cash and that’s all set up. The truck won’t fit – plus, I’ll need it to move the third nuke tomorrow – so we’ll have to offload the bombs. The things weigh over a ton but the cylinders can roll. I scrounged up some bricks and lumber. I’ve also borrowed a mattress from my room. We’re going to roll the bombs off the truck, right into the storage locker, then padlock it. Secrecy should be our best protection.”

Helen gestured at the RPG. “Brian and the General might not be pleased when they find out the bombs are gone. However, they did turn them over to us and we never agreed to their having access. I like the General, but I believe his overriding concern is getting the bombs out of mercenary hands and turned over to the U.S. Government. Brian is a serving U.S. Marine so his first loyalty, naturally, is to the government. I support them in that, of course, but we also need to be reimbursed. Most of my, and much of Instinct’s, net worth is tied up in this so I’m not inclined to take any chances. It’s always possible that the government might try to take the bombs without paying us, or screw it up in some other way. They might even try to get cute and tax us for ‘selling’ the bombs to them. This way they won’t have the option of screwing up, or screwing us. The bombs will be as safe hidden in a storage locker as they are here. Probably safer. However, no one but us must know where, understood?”

“That’s why you made the General, Brian, and Felecia leave, right?” Chase asked.

“Exactly. It was either that or tell them ‘no deal’ unless they agreed. This way was easier,” Helen replied.

Jansen returned with the coffee, and Helen said to Eric, “You and Jon need to keep an eye on things in the morning. So, as a practical matter, Jim and I will stay here and the rest of you should go get some sleep. Tomorrow might well be a very busy day and at least some of us need to be well-rested.”

Jon, Brandon, and Chase hung back a little, allowing Eric and Jansen to leave ‘first’. Eric understood the need for secrecy, but he still felt a little bad for not leveling with Jansen.

Once Jansen and Eric had gone, Helen waited for five minutes, and then ordered, “Let’s saddle up! We’ve got some nukes to move.”



A mile upslope from the resort, The Scar sat in the darkness with Yuri while his men scouted ahead. The Scar massaged his aching ankle, bruised during the parachute landing, while Yuri finished a whispered conversation with their airport force on a satellite phone.

“Some interesting news,” Yuri said upon hanging up. “Felecia's C-130 is abandoned. However, there are many tracks in the ash and our men are trying to follow them. They will report anything they find. Perhaps we should secure a vehicle and join them?”

The Scar considered that for a moment. “No. They can handle it for now, with you in command by phone. We shall attend to matters here first, unless the warheads are located. I still believe that the band is mixed up in this and may well know the location of the warheads, or even have them. There are too many coincidences for it to be otherwise.”


© 2009 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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Exciting stuff, CJ. Getting two new chapters a day helps to mitigate the cliffhangers which are beginning to rival those of Circumnavigation.

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So, Fel gets a million dollars and a job interview? That doesn't seem quite right. Hopefully Helen picks up on this.

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The debate went on for a few moments, until Helen literally put her foot down and said, “We’re going to compromise and do it my way. General, Felecia, you two go get some sleep, right now. Brian, if you can hang in there for a couple of hours, I’ll be here at midnight to take over. Jon, you’re sacking out in Brandon and Chase’s living room so the General can have your room. Jansen, Keith, one of you gets to sleep in your living room so Brian can have a room. Eric, Felecia can have your room and you can sleep in the volcano. There, we’re done.”


That was hysterical! Eric sleeps in the volcano! lol We're going to compromise and do it my way. lol Too funny.


I'm nervous about The Scar following them to the storage facility. I'd love to see Helen come face to face with Clump and blow him away with the AK-47. :)

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