Continued from Eighteen: Who’s Taking the High Road?
Nineteen: Getting In Your Head
The Little Guy—the talker, the ESPer—took a step toward Boyle. He sneered. Rudi wanted to track the Little Guy with his pistol. He wanted to put that arrogant bastard down. He wanted to erase the Little Guy then do the same for the Lifter—that bulk of flesh and muscle who also had a firearm in hand.
Rudi did not shoot. He could not. No one in the little restaurant moved. His back to the store opening, he wondered if everyone in the store were equally paralyzed. If not, perhaps someone in there would notice the frozen tableau in the restaurant, all those guns out, only the Lifter and the Little Guy moving.
“Poor little Rajendra.” The Little Guy considered the corpse, its blood an ever expanding pool beneath it. “The funny part is that he really didn’t know anything. Nothing important at least. So much for him. Now for you two.”
“You need to hurry up.” The Lifter spoke slurred English with a strange accent. Rudi would have put him as an Indian, but now he wasn’t so sure.
“We have time.” The Little Guy stopped just in front of Boyle, who was on one knee, weapon out, aiming at where the Little Guy had stood before the paralysis. “And I figure I might as well enjoy this little victory. Stop and smell the roses, you know?”
In his mind, Rudi had a strong sense of the Little Guy. The Little Guy’s presence had expanded to fill everything, like a balloon inside a box. Thoughts percolated up and then bounced off the balloon. It made everything so chaotic for Rudi, so disconnected.
Then the balloon deflated. Wiggle room. Rudi tested its limits. Slowly, he turned to get the Little Guy in his sights.
I’ve got the parapsych. Cascade spoke in his head. You need to remove the bodyguard. Do it now.
And the balloon disappeared. No trace of it remained. Rudi shifted target to the Lifter. That one didn’t even notice. Three rounds impacted, two in the chest and one in the head, before the body even started to fall. The Little Guy gurgled out something that might have been a plea or a curse.
Supercilious little prick. Even as a disembodied voice, venom laced Cascade’s words.
Everyone in the restaurant moved–a surge of people and the associated noise. Someone started to scream.
“Sit in your chairs with your hands on the table.” The volume and the steel in Boyle’s voice forced obedience as much as the Little Guy’s parapsychic commands had. “Look at your hands. We’ll be gone soon. Feel free to tell the police everything you saw and heard. It should be interesting explaining how you couldn’t move or act in any way.”
Did everyone in the restaurant speak English? It didn’t matter. Everyone complied. Why ask why?
Cascade stepped into the restaurant from the store. She had her silenced Beretta in hand. She pointed to the Little Guy. “We take him with us.”
Boyle had already holstered his weapon and had flex-cuffs in hand. “Way ahead of you.”
Rudi swept the restaurant and the store opening with his Yarygin Grach autoloader pistol. The three had driven a non-descript sedan from their safehouse. That sedan had been parked in the alley behind. Would it still be there? Boyle had chosen visually unpleasant for a reason.
The Little Guy cuffed, Boyle took glanced at Rudi. “Carry him.”
In that he had agreed to assist Boyle and Cascade in their work, he had accepted Boyle as his commanding officer, his leader, his boss. One did not contest the role of alpha male in the middle of an operation. Rudi holstered his weapon, and moved to lift the surprisingly light ESPer.
With the Little Guy upright, Boyle got in close. He held in his hand what Rudi took for an autoinjector–like what medics used for morphine. He jammed it into the Little Guy’s neck.
“You thought you’d have fun mindfucking us?” Boyle leaned close, speaking into the Little Guy’s ear. “Guess who’s on the menu now.”
The Little Guy, already a passive load, became a total dead weight in Rudi’s arms. Rudi hooked him over his back, grabbing one arm and one leg in a fireman’s carry. “Let’s go.”
Boyle nodded. He had his SIG in hand again. He moved quickly and all but silently through the door behind the counter. Rudi followed, assuming Cascade would do the same. Through a kitchen and past two staring faces, jaws slack, then Rudi stood in the alley. The sedan remained, and Boyle waved him to it. Boyle scanned the area, waiting for the ambush. Cascade came through the door.
Five more, almost at the entrance. Cascade spoke in his head. They have a powerful parapsych with them, but they aren’t expecting an active screen.
Rudi reached the sedan. He didn’t have the keys. He heard the vehicle unlock, so he tried the trunk. It popped open. Before he dumped in the Little Guy, he pulled out the duffle bag with some of the weapons Boyle had collected. The Little guy ensconced in the trunk, Rudi took an MP5SD—a silenced sub-machine gun—and chambered a round. The selector remained on safe, and the duffle went into the back seat.
Cascade arrived next and got into the driver’s seat. “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” The car started.
“I’m keeping the boss covered.” Rudi didn’t joke.
Boyle reached the car. He no longer held his SIG, but rather had his HK53 short assault rifle in hand. “Someone was expecting this.” He got into the passenger side, and Rudi got in the back. “Expecting the meet, expecting the ambush, and expecting us to counter and escape.”
“Maybe, but they didn’t expect it so fast.” Cascade threw the vehicle into gear and lurched down the alley, away from the restaurant.
“Can you monitor them while driving?” Rudi asked Cascade.
“Concentrate on driving.” Boyle watched the side mirror.
Rudi had the sub-machine gun ready. He saw the back door of the restaurant open just as the sedan turned out of the alley. Too late for the opposition. Too late for the Little Guy.
Abandon all hope . . .
Cascade took a circuitous route back to the safehouse. Rudi had no idea if the team had other roosts, but he had only been allowed to see one. He watched for tails and, as they approached the safehouse, for surveillance. He saw nothing.
The safehouse had a convenient rear entrance on a conveniently unremarkable alley on a similarly unimpressive side street. That side street had little traffic, and no one witnessed them removing the unconscious Little Guy from the trunk. Rudi again had the pleasure of carrying the prisoner, which wasn’t too bad, considering the Guy didn’t weight much.
Cascade paused at the mouth of the alley. She shook her head. “Unless they’ve got some optimum shielding, we’re clean.”
Boyle still had the HK53 in hand. He went to the safehouse door and paused. Perhaps he listened, but Rudi would have been surprised if Boyle thougth he would note signs that Cascade had missed. He entered, followed by Rudi while Cascade came last, securing the door.
The safehouse had few furnishings. An old storefront, whose covered front window declared it undergoing renovations, the first floor had their cots, kitchen and computers. The building also had an upper floor and a basement. The upper floor saw little use, except for occasionally as a perch from which to watch the street outside. The basement had already been prepped to receive prisoners.
Rudi navigated his way down the narrow stairs, the unconscious package on his back not helping at all. Boyle switched on the main light. Rudi dumped the Little Guy on the table to which Boyle pointed. Boyle then secured him while Cascade wheeled out an IV drip.
Stepping back as Cascade searched for a vein, Rudi rubbed his chin. “Sodium thiopental? Amytal? Love potion number nine?”
Boyle stood beside him, watching Cascade work. “Actually, propofol.”
“I haven’t heard of that used in interrogations,” Rudi said.
“We’re not talking a truth serum here.” Boyle moved to grab a chair and slide it over to Cascade.
“Not truth serum?” Rudi did a quick survey of the dimly lit basement. “I don’t see any tools or implements. The Burmese like show off their collection before they begin their session.”
“We’re not the Burmese, Rudi,” Boyle said. “No torture. The subject’s been anesthetised. Cascade’s going in to get us what we want.”
Rudi’s hand froze on his jaw. “Going in?”
“Cascade is going to ESPer our answers.” Boyle spoke with easy nonchalance, as though mentioning Cascade was going shopping at the market.
“You say no torture, but ESPer intrusion has its own particular scars.” Rudi’s hand fell from his jaw. He shoved both in his pockets. “It’s never pretty. I’ve seen good men ruined.”
“We’re professionals here.” Boyle gestured at Cascade. “She’s good. She’s smooth. She’ll go in, get what we need, and be out. The subject won’t remember it. There’ll be no damage. She’s been trained by the best.”
Rudi raised an eyebrow. “The best?”
Boyle scowled. “Did you forget who we are? We’re Tangible Stream. The best.”
“And humble.” Rudi touched his jacket. He found his cigarettes. “I’m going to get some air while you get your answers.”
“This isn’t going to be messy, trust me.” Boyle’s scowl evaporated. “We’ve done this before. Successfully.”
Rudi just nodded as he climbed the stairs. Of course they had. They were, after all, Tangible Stream–the ghosts that frightened even the blackest of operations. Rudi had worked in SD8, had worked alongside the Hunters, had contact with just about every unit that used or researched techniques from the “beyond-the-limit sphere.” The Stream haunted all of those, just as it haunted the Western units, like Narcissus, like Oberon.
He stepped out into the alley. The shadows had lengthened, bathing most of the alley in darkness. Nothing moved. Rudi could hear the city around him, breathing the noise and commotion common to cities. Here, in the alley, a cocoon of quiet and gloom separated him from the rest.
He noted, as he took out a cigarette, the beat-up, brown and white cargo van at the end of the alley, near where Cascade had parked the sedan. He took out his lighter.
Cold metal pressed against the top of his head.
“Stay quiet,” said a woman in thickly accented Russian. “I cannot hesitate in killing you.”
“Your grammar is terrible.” Rudi still held the lighter in one hand and the cigarette in the other. He started to lower the lighter, getting closer to his holstered weapon.
From the size and shape of the object, Rudi guessed the weapon at his head was suppressed.
“You move, I shoot.” She sounded closer now. The voice came from above.
Cascade would be busy probing the Little Guy. Hearing the door, Boyle would assume he was coming back in. If Rudi didn’t act, this team would have surprise. The best or not, outnumbered and surprised would spell the end for Boyle and Cascade.
“You get gun, you dead,” said the woman.
His heart beat loudly. His hand hovered near his hip, near his weapon. How fast? Could he outrace a bullet?
From out of the shadows, a male voice spoke in English. “You say the wrong thing, she will kill you. Is Boyle inside?”
Continued in Twenty: Face to Face