When Paul Metcalfe regains consciousness, he senses the awful pain throbbing in his head, right were he had been hit. It takes him little time to realize that he is still in the enemy’s clutches, as he hears the clicking sound of handcuffs being put on his wrists, behind his back. As he starts to stir, one of the commandos gets him on his knees and secures the cuffs so tightly that he feels the metal bands biting into his flesh.
Metcalfe looks around. There are still some commandos surrounding him. The Captain is nowhere in sight and the other captives have disappeared. So is one of the helicopters, he notices. He wonders how long he has been out and what has going on during that time.
The he hears an engine running, coming from inside the warehouse and looks in that direction. Coming from the darkness, he sees the tank-like vehicle he had investigated sooner… What was it the Captain called it, already? A SPV…
The vehicle comes out slowly into the sunlight, then stops at a few feet from Metcalfe. The engine is shut down and the door opens. The WAAF colonel then sees the Captain, rigged out to the driver seat, as it slides down to the ground.
The Captain undoes the harness and steps down of the seat. One man has come toward him and is now waiting orders. The Captain gives them to him in an undertone, so low that Metcalfe doesn’t hear anything. The commando nods, comes to attention, and then salutes before going into the warehouse.
The Captain now comes toward Metcalfe and stops in front on him. His hands are playing with a roll of duct tape.
“So, you’ve come out of it.” He says to Metcalfe. “How are you feeling?”
“Where are the others?” Metcalfe replies abruptly.
“Did you forget our agreement? They’re gone. I’m a man of my word.”
“Yeah, sure. That’s why one of your men nearly breaks my skull opened.”
“This man disobeyed orders.” The Captain says, shaking his head. “He will be dealt with for that. I assure you, I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“So am I really to believe that you let the others go free?” Metcalfe asks suspiciously. “What makes you sure they won’t come back with some help?”
“They won’t, that’s for sure. I had them flown in by helijet, in the very heart of the outback.”
“It’s only a measure of precaution. By the time they get back to civilisation, we’ll be all done with our mission.”
“Do you realize they could very well all die out there?”
“Not it they are as resourceful as I think they are.” The Captain says with a thoughtful tone. “I expect, however, that they will have quite a trying time.”
“Oh, marvellous!” Metcalfe grumbles sarcastically. “So this is your idea of a fair bargain. It seems I get the better over them, staying here with you.” He frowns, even more suspicious. “And what assure me that you didn’t have them killed instead?”
“Be realistic, my friend.” The Captain replies. “If I hand wanted any of you dead, it would have been done by now.”
Metcalfe screws up his eyes to him. “I figured that much. But I still can’t understand why you’re doing any of this…”
“And what it has to do with the Selection Committee?” The Captain continues. He pauses a second, before adding: “You’ll have plenty of time to think this over, now, colonel. But I’m sorry to say you won’t be sharing your deductions with the others any time soon.”
“And what’s that suppose to mean?”
“I’m not letting you go, THIS time around. You’re too dangerous for the well being of this mission.”
“Mission that doesn’t make ANY sense in my book. So what do you intend to do with me, now? Since I’m sure you won’t kill me, I’m to suppose you will keep me as a captive?”
“Quite so. You will understand that with a man of your calibre, I must take some precaution. Don’t worry. In a few days, I expect you will be with your friends again.”
Metcalfe gives the Captain a look of surprise.
“Mister Svenson has expressed the intention to see us again soon…” The Captain continues. “Well, not as soon as he’d expected, I’m sure. And I have the distinctive feeling that Holden, Blackburn and Fraser are feeling jut about the same.”
“You’ll be keeping tabs on them.” Metcalfe notes abruptly. He gives a conniving smile. Okay, which one is it?”
The Captain seems disconcert. “What are you talking about?”
“You know.” Metcalfe quietly replies. “The spy. Which of them is the spy?”
The Captain is obviously taken aback.
“I assure you, colonel, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He says, trying to sound convincing.
“Don’t serve me that crap!” Metcalfe replies with an angry tone. “You would not have let them go if you hadn’t had some kind of control over them. Some way to know where they are, what they intend to do.”
The Captain does not respond. Thoughtfully, he crouches before Metcalfe, unrolling a length out of the duct tape.
“You have quite an imagination, there.” He says. “But you must realize, my friend, that there is other ways to keep informed without resorting to a spy.”
“Stop calling me that! Metcalfe shouts at him. I am not your friend!”
“In other circumstances, we might have been.”
He tears up the length of tape and puts it onto Metcalfe’s mouth; the WAAF colonel tries to resist, without any success. He lets out a furious groaning sound and looks daggers at the Captain.
“Sorry for this latest humiliation, but I assure you it’s quite necessary.” Metcalfe could swear he’s smiling behind his mask. “Besides, you talk too much.”
He stands up and turns his back on the captive who’s following him with fury in his eyes.
The Captain goes to the SPV, looking at his watch. He is far too late, he thinks. He’s sure to hear about it now.
He climbs inside the vehicle without closing the door down and goes to the other seat, where he will be out of sight of Metcalfe. Then, whit assurance coming only from knowledge of the equipment, he press down a series of command buttons that start out the vehicle controls. Last, he pushes down the control button for the radio and takes off his hood.
One Conrad Turner activated the transmitter.
“Zorro to Control. Come in Control.”
He doesn’t wait very long, before a young male voice responds to him over the radio:
“Control’s here. Go ahead, Zorro.”
“Is the Great White Chief there, lieutenant?” Turner asks, with a little smile.
“Er… Yes, he’s there, sir. He’s been expecting your call.”
Another very short moment comes by. Then another voice, this one with a British accent, takes over:
“I’m here, ‘Zorro’. I’m not sure I like your choice of code names, though.”
Turner produces a broader smile.
“Sorry, sir.” He says. “But I’ve got to play the role of the outlaw, remember?”
“Nevertheless, Zorro was a good guy.” The other man replies dryly. “What is your situation, now? You’re late for your report. Has everything go smoothly?”
“Not exactly. One of them got away.”
“A pity, really. But under the circumstances, it was predicable.” The British voice keeps silent for a moment, and then continues. “You don’t think he’s gone off to get some help?”
“Negative. He ran out of here like a scared rabbit. He’s done for.”
“You’ve got a strange voice, Captain.” The other man says, sounding suddenly suspicious. “Are you talking to me through that hood of yours?”
“No, sir.” Turner sighs. “That’s part of another problem. I had a run in with one of the others.”
“Scarlet and I got into a fight.” He touches his injured nose and groans. “I think he has succeeding in breaking my nose.”
“Serves you right.” The other man says sternly. “I told you he was a dangerous one to handle, even for your standards. I trust the rest of the operation has proceeded without a twitch?”
Turner is rather hesitant to respond.
“You’re beginning to worry me, you know, ‘Zorro’.” His superior sighs. “All right, out with it!”
“With one noticeable exception, the captives are actually been transported to ground zero, in the Great Sandy Desert, at about ten miles north of Liberty Point Mines.”
“What ‘noticeable exception’?”
“I had to keep Scarlet isolated from the others. He’s beginning to know too much about all this. He’s too close to the truth.”
“Too close, to soon.”
“Exactly. We can’t dare letting him with the others. So I’ve kept Scarlet with me. And send the others in the wild alone.” Turner smiles contently. “It will be difficult for them without his help. He’s the only one who had training in surviving skills in the desert.”
“Aside from Blue, maybe.”
“Yes, Blue.” Turner says thoughtfully. “That’s another one who may prove too wise.”
“Why haven’t you kept him too, then?”
“He and Scarlet? They have already proved that they are quite resourceful together. I didn’t want to give them another go: they could prove to much to handle if reunited.”
“All right. I trust your instincts in that matter. Go ahead with the rest of your report.”
“Well, according to plan, we’ll let the captives in the wild two or three days… And then go back to recuperate them. Grey has a transmitter stashed on him. We will know every step of the way where they will be.”
“Good. What do you intend to do with Scarlet? You don’t plan in sending him up here, I trust?”
“No, sir. I was thinking of the brig, over at Koala Base.”
“Koala Base?” The voice over the radio sounds puzzled. “That’s were the Angels actually are.”
“But aside from them, the place is practically deserted.” Turner replies. “He won’t cause any trouble there.”
“You’re forgetting something.” His superior notes. “He’s a WAAF colonel. A very renowned one at that. Some of the pilots may recognise him.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll take care of that. And I won’t let him alone with the Angels too: I will have some guards put onto him.”
A resounding sound coming from the distance draws Turner’s attention to the sky. Through the narrow window of the SPV, he sees a helicopter coming toward the warehouse.
“I have to go now, sir.” He says over the radio. “The transporter is about to arrive. I still have to get everything here ready, before it lands and the loading operation begins.”
“All right.” His superior answers back. “Call me back after the operation is complete and you have left the warehouse.” There is a short time of silence, before he adds, with a less then satisfied tone: “Great White Chief out.”
Turner smiles with a certain amusement. He’s quite sure he has heard a note of disapproval in his superior’s voice. Intended on pleasing him, he gives him the closing line as he knows he would have prefer to hear it:
“Will do as you ask, sir. End of transmission. Black out.”
He turns off the transmitter and sighs. This is becoming really interesting, he thinks. And a bit discomforting also. And not only because he has to sport that awful hood.
He puts it on again and steps out of the SPV. A commando comes to him and shows him the approaching helicopter.
“The transport, sir. It’s there.”
“I’ve got eyes, sergeant.” Turner mumbles. “ I can see that. Has the pilot already asked for landing clearance?”
“No, sir. Should do it shortly, now.”
Turner turns toward Metcalfe, who is staring at him with the same infuriated look as before. He muses over his commander’s remark about the WAAF colonel being recognized. And he must not neglect the fact that Metcalfe must not see their faces and where he is about to go.
He knows too much already as it is… No sense in letting him learns more.
Turner points toward Metcalfe. “Put a bag over the colonel’s head. We must take off these hoods before the helicopter lands, and we don’t want to alarm the pilot. And we don’t want the colonel to identify us either.”
“Wouldn’t the pilot be suspicious seeing a captive amongst us, sir?” The sergeant asks.
“Certainly. But neither you nor any of your men has to say a word about it. I will handle it myself.”
“Be quick about it.”
The sergeant nods and goes to Metcalfe, picking a bag of thick black clothing from out of one of his numerous pockets. He kneels before the WAAF colonel who makes a move in trying to evade him. Somebody from behind grabs his shoulders and holds him still, while the sergeant puts the bag over his head.
The last thing Metcalfe sees before the hood is shut closed on his eyes is the swirling rotor blades of the big helicopter making his approach, while the man he only knows at the Captain is about to take off his hood mask.
* * *
At a relatively closed distance of the warehouse, stationed at a remote service station, a man inside a black sports car is looking at the same helicopter with a pair of very strong binoculars.
Patrick Donaghue is not really an expert on this kind of things, but he’s pretty sure he’s actually looking at a heavy-duty transport aircraft. Probably coming, he muses, to take the crates and the tank-like vehicle that were stashed in the warehouse basement.
Donaghue is thoughtful as he lowers his binoculars and gazes down at the suitcase opened on the seat next to him. He permits himself a slight smile as he affectionately pat the computer build inside.
That’s not just any portable computer, but one he has specially designed himself. One who can found access to about any computer networks in the world, be it military, police, or governmental… and one particularity of that computer was to track down and access any wave length radio transmission in existence… That single capacity has proved very useful for Donaghue in his line of work, when it is imperative to know the whereabouts of the local authority and work on it accordingly.
Granted, if he was the genius behind that concept that he has elaborate following long years of studies and researches in computer technologies, Donaghue hasn’t use it by himself this past few years. He hasn’t been “in the field” for a long time now, since he has so many “employees” willing to go out there and do the dirty work for him.
His escape has been a daring risk himself was surprised he’d taken. But he had found it very exhilarating. And it has stirred in him a need he had thought long forgotten: the need of adventures, challenges, and excitements. He has found that he has missing it. A lot.
And now, sitting in his car, after listening to the transmission he has intercepted on his specially designed computer, he’s pondering. Maybe it is the time to do something about it, to give a new purpose to his life.
He thinks about those five men whom he has encountered today. Yes, Fraser acted like a pain, but he was a cop and, after all, ALL cops are pains. And Fraser has a reputation that precedes him and was forcing respect on him, like it or not. The others, Donaghue doesn’t know much about, but they all seem like decent fellows. And they had taken his defence against Fraser, particularly that WAAF colonel. That alone should indebted Donaghue to them.
They are in trouble, now. Deep trouble. And maybe, just maybe, he was the only person who can give them a little hand.
Donaghue smiles as he pats his computer anew. Intercepting THAT transmission wasn’t easy. The wavelength was somewhat scrambled, probably on purpose, so nobody would be able to pick on it.
But he was able to do it, thinks Donaghue with satisfaction. With this marvellous machine and his personal skill to do about whatever he wants with computerized gadget.
He’s wondering what’s going on exactly. What is that strange tank-like car that he had opened for Svenson and Metcalfe… What is contained in those crates… Who are all those commandos-types men who had attacked them and capture the others?
What is the exact purpose of these guys, anyway? Aside from a few words, Donaghue has missed pretty much the first part of the communication, trying to get a fix on it. But some parts of the rest were pretty confusing. No real names were ever mentioned in that conversation. Just ranks and some codenames.
Donaghue has heard one of the guys calling himself “Zorro”. Probably the one that was leading the raid on the warehouse. Not much to know right now about that guy. Donaghue, who’s taking some Spanish lessons since recently, just happens to know that “Zorro” means “fox” in Spanish. If that’s any indication, that man has a pretty high opinion about himself and his personal capacities. Besides, it looks like something of a joke for him. He did close the channel using the name “Black”.
Then there was that other guy whom that Zorro fellow has called “Great White Chief”. Another joke, more than a kind of nickname actually, but obviously he was Black’s superior, by the way they were talking to each other’s. There was a certain deference in Black’s voice that couldn’t be mistaking. That other man was British, judging by his accent. A cultured one at that. Official, perhaps military. Aside from that, nothing. Except that he lets quite a free leash to that Black fellow.
Now there is a thought. They used colour code names, even for their captives. Magenta, Scarlet, Blue, Grey… Donaghue has already deduced, quite easily, that he was “Magenta”, whom has ran away like a scarred rabbit”. Not bad, for a codename, Donaghue thinks with a bit of humour.
Blue and Grey, Donaghue has no real good idea whom they could be. Recalling one part of the conversation stating that Blue works well with Scarlet, Donaghue thinks he could be Svenson. He looks like a “Blue”, anyway. And he seemed to be very chummy with Metcalfe. And Metcalfe was definitely Scarlet. Since Scarlet happens to be a WAAF colonel, there was no other choice.
So, Metcalfe is being held as captive by Black and his men, and will be send to a place named Koala Base, where they were… what, Angels? Donaghue wonders what or who that could be.
As for the others, they have been shipped in the heart of the Australian outback… Where they have to remain for three days, before somebody come back to pick them up.
Goody, thinks Donaghue with dry satisfaction. It would be fun letting Fraser trapped in the desert for a few days, wondering how to get the hell out of there.
But unfortunately, Donaghue thinks again, there were the others. Svenson, Holden, and Blackburn don’t have to pay because he happens to have developed a certain disdain for Fraser. It would not be fair to them.
The four men being in the desert, with no apparent surveillance, would be easier to rescue. The only setback is that transmitter Black had talk about. Well, that would be easily taken car of, Donaghue muses. Once he’ll get there.
And since Black was so kind as to letting him know their approximate position, it was quite easier to pinpoint that this “Koala Base”.
Sorry, Metcalfe, Donaghue thinks grimly. But better go out there get the cavalry before coming for you. The others’ help wouldn’t be too much to get you out of your scrap.
Donaghue looks toward the employee of the service station, who has been admiring his car for quite some time now. He gestures him to approach, while picking up a wad of banknotes from his jacket’s interior pocket. The employee bend at the opened window and Donaghue gives him his most congenial smile:
“Hi, there! I would like a full refill, please… And a lot of food and water. Can I find all this in your little trade?”
The employee nods toward his shop.
“Got sandwiches in there… Bottles of fresh water… and some lagers, if you like.”
Donaghue frowns. “Lagers? Oh! You mean beers.”
The employee mumbles insistently. “Lagers.”
“Anyway, water will be just fine. Lager could be a little too much.”
“Planning on some picnic?” The employee asks curiously.
“More of camping, actually. I’m going to the outback. Precisely, the Great Sandy Desert.”
“That won’t be no picnic.” The other man says with a cynical smile.
“Well, I didn’t think it would be either.”
“You won’t be able to go there with this car.”
“I didn’t expect to.”
Donaghue pauses, starts to count some bills in front of the man who’s looking mighty interested by the thickness of the wad growing in his right hand. Donaghue glimpses at him from the corner of his eye and finds difficult to suppress a smile of satisfaction.
“You look like a bright fellow, my friend.” He says with a distracted tone. “I would like some information out of you. “He bends at the window and extends a good number of hundreds American dollars bills to the astounded man. “One, I would like to know where I can find transportation to go to Sandy Desert. You know, helicopter, plane… that sort of things. I’m ready to pay whatever the price, with no questions asked. I’m sure you know of a place…”
“Yeah, sure. I know of someone who could get you a plane. What is it you want to know too?”
Donaghue smiles. “Some friends are waiting for me to pick them up in Sandy Desert. They’re near something called ‘Liberty Point Mines’… Know where I can find it? And, by any luck, do you know of another place named ‘Koala Base’?”
* * *
Karen Wainwright pushes the control stick of the heavy-duty transport helicopter so it would make a quick flight over the point of rendezvous, which is just at about two hundred feet below. She looks down with a bit of perplexity.
When Destiny has assigned her to this flight, she had told her not to be alarmed or surprised if she happens to see anything out of the ordinary. According to Charlie’s information, Destiny has said, this was all part of some secret military operation, designed to recuperate some stolen classified equipment from dangerous terrorists. Wainwright’s role in this was only to flight the transporter to ground zero after the recovery operation was complete, so the equipment could then be loaded in and taken back to its rightful place.
From the looks of things, Wainwright thinks, the action seems well finished now, if not for a very long time. About a dozen men, all armed, all dressed in black, were standing down there, looking up to her position. Some of them are standing guard next to a strange looking vehicle, while the majority is waiting in front of the warehouse or near two helijets landed in the vicinity.
They look military enough, thinks Wainwright, but it is quite puzzling that they should be wearing black clothing instead of standard commandos’ uniforms. And if by any chance, it was instead the terrorists, waiting for her to land? Maybe she should be very careful before making her final approach…
A call from the radio emitter disperses her suspicion:
“Team Zero Leader to Helicopter 316. Come in 316.”
Wainwright turns the radio transmitter from her headphones, so she could respond to the call. “Helicopter 316 to Team Zero Leader. Please identify yourself.”
“Here’s Black, 316. Identify yourself in turn, please.”
“Codename Symphony Angel. Request permission to land.”
“Request granted, Symphony Angel. You may land at about twenty yards in front of the warehouse. I’ll be waiting for you. Zero Leader out.”
Karen Wainwright kills the radio and begins her approach. A helicopter as big as this one needs a very careful handling, but fortunately, the young woman is particularly skilled with this sort of aircraft. She’s even suspecting Destiny of having assigned her to this mission solely because of this.
Well, my dear Juliette, muses Symphony Angel with a sly smile, we’ll have a word together when I get back. You may be an ace when it comes to fly a fighter jet, but maybe it’s time you learn from a real pro how to handle big heavy-duty transporters.
The helicopter lands at exactly the point indicated to Symphony. She sees a man coming toward her, gesturing to turn off the engine. She does so and, removing her headphones, she steps out of the aircraft and comes to meet the man.
He frowns when she stops in front of him.
“You’re a new one.” He notes.
Symphony nods. “Yes, sir. I’ve been with the team for two weeks now.”
“I was expecting your leader… Or at least Melody Angel.”
Symphony smiles. Destiny is only considered leader of the Angels because she’s been assigned at it. Perhaps because she’s the oldest, if not by far. At least, she’s the more experienced of the team and, in military terms, the higher rank. But in reality, Melody has much more influence on all of them that Destiny could have. This man seems to know of that fact.
“They had others errands to run. They could not make it.” Symphony answer to his remark. She smiles again, nodding toward the transporter. “Besides, I’m the expert about these kinds of monsters.”
“You must be mister Black?”
“I am. You’re just in time, Symphony Angel. We have just finished taking the equipment out of that warehouse basement, where it was stashed.”
Symphony finds herself looking with curiosity at the tank-looking grey vehicle that is only a few feet away from her. Black intercepts her stare and nods indifferently.
“That’s a highly classified prototype, which was also stolen.” He explains. “The more valuable piece of the lot, actually.”
Symphony doesn’t have very much taste in that kind of vehicles. Tanks, she thinks, are messy things. They’re big, ugly, too slow… that one has a certain profile, she must admit, but she couldn’t even imagine herself behind the control of such a machine. She would rather prefer finding herself flying a swift, slick fighter jet.
Symphony then sees a man, not far from the vehicle. Watched closely by two armed men, he’s on his knees, handcuffed and with a black bag over his head. The young woman frowns; he’s wearing some sort of military uniform, but the bag that covers his face makes it also impossible to see the ranks on his epaulettes. She points toward him.
“Who is he?” She asks Black.
“One of the thieves.” Black answers. “A most dangerous terrorist.”
Symphony frowns yet again. “Why does he have a hood over his head?”
“You ask many questions, young lady.” Black says with an imperturbable tone.
“Sorry if I sound curious, mister Black, but I found all this very peculiar.”
“Destiny has told you it was a military operation?”
“Yes, she has. So you wouldn’t mind showing me your order or mission, sir?”
Black smiles. This young lady, he thinks, gets plenty of nerves. He takes the document she’s asking of him out of his pocket and gives it to her. She takes the time to read it then hands it back.
“Now I know you’re really who you said you are.”
“Good.” Black looks at her straight in the eyes: “You’re a careful person, Symphony Angel. Now, can we begin to load the equipment?”
Symphony steps aside. “By all means. But don’t expect me to give you a hand.”
Black laughs. There is something cold in that laugh that gives Symphony the creeps. She doesn’t even think that guy has a real sense of humour.
He orders his men to get to work. They do, and Symphony sees them moving with military efficiency. Two of them take down the access ramp of the helicopter cargo, while most of the others enter the warehouse. The only ones not doing so are the two keeping watch on the prisoner. They help him to his feet and guide him to the side, so he would not get in the way of the operation.
Symphony leans on the helicopter’s fuselage and waits, watching as the loading begins. She witnesses as Black opens the hatch door of the strange looking vehicle. A seat attached to the interior of the door slides to the ground. How odd, she muses, that seat is facing the wrong way… that doesn’t seem to bother Black a bit, as he takes place into that seat and press down a command to close the door behind him. The engine starts running and the vehicle rolls slowly toward the helicopter. It climbs smoothly the access ramp and stops right in the middle of the cargo.
Symphony braces herself for a very boring time. No wonder Destiny and Melody didn’t want to take that mission for themselves! The loading of that vehicle is about the only interesting thing to happen during this operation…
Well, the prisoner is a bit of a curiosity, admits the young female pilot. She finds herself strangely drawn by his presence. He’s keeping very quiet, for a dangerous terrorist. Perhaps too quiet, and that uniform…
As Black comes down from the helicopter, where he has left the SPV, he catches the look that Symphony is absentmindedly casting upon the captive. He clears his throat as to attract the pilot’s attention: she doesn’t even look back at him and points to the prisoner again:
“How dangerous is he, anyway?”
Black comes in front of her. “Very dangerous.” He shows his swollen nose. “See that? He did this to me.”
Symphony doesn’t even bat an eyelid. She has already seen much more serious wound then this. If this Black thinks for just one minute, he can impress her with that…
“So, he gave you a scratch.” She replies somewhat coldly. “Is that reason enough to treat him like that? With handcuffs and black hood?”
“Are you trying to show me my job, little lady?”
She looks back at him. She isn’t so little. In fact, with five feet eight, she was tall enough to not let herself imposed by men like that Black.
“Look, mister Black…”
Symphony nods. “Captain Black. I’m not trying to show you your job. I was just asking myself some questions.”
“You know what curiosity did to the cat, miss?”
“Is that some kind of a threat, captain?”
“Not at all. I’m just implying that you should be very careful with the kind of questions you’re asking.”
“So you won’t answer me if I ask you why that guy seems to wear what very closely looks like a WAAF officer’s uniform?”
“I told you. He’s a terrorist. That’s about all you’ve got to know. The rest is restricted matters. Like that vehicle inside…”
Symphony is not yet convinced. “Yeah, right.”
Black screws up his eyes to her. “Aren’t you the one who is with the Universal Secret Service?”
That question takes Symphony totally by surprise. She frowns.
“How do you know about that?” She asks. “That’s not exactly public information!”
Black smiles mysteriously. “That matters not. It just that I wasn’t really picturing you at the Secret Service. I know of someone there who would NEVER has tolerate such undisciplined behaviour from any agent.”
“Your friend is high ranked?”
Black does not respond. Symphony continues:
“Captain Black, as far as I know, you have no ability to give me orders… Or am I mistaking?”
Again, Black keeps silent.
“So I don’t quite see how you can find my behaviour to be ‘undisciplined’.” Symphony adds. “I don’t have to respond to you.”
“So you’re right.” Black replies quietly. He adds, with a cold smile: “But you have to respond to Charlie, if I’m correct, isn’t it?”
Symphony gazes at him suspiciously. “You know of Charlie?”
“Why, yes. Remember: it’s through him that I had made contact with your team.”
“Yes. I seem to have overlooked that fact.”
“And I also know that Charlie has let you and the rest of your team in charge of Koala Base.”
Symphony is suddenly on her guard.
“What do you know about Koala Base?” She asks abruptly.
“Plenty.” Black answers. “In fact, that’s where we’re going to take your load.”
“What?” Symphony says, jumping. “Now, wait a minute! That’s not what Destiny has told me!”
“And what did she tell you?” Black asks her. “Did she give you another destination?”
“Well, no…” Symphony admits “We figured you would give it to me when the time would come.”
“I just did.”
Symphony shakes her head.
“No, that can’t be possible, captain! We’re using Koala Base as a training ground…”
Black smiles with dry humour.
“Quite an odd statement, considering you’re flying OVER it.”
“Oh! You’re a real bag of jokes, mister!” Symphony replies, now annoyed. “Yes, the Angels pack has charge of Koala Base, and we inhabit it. And we’re not about to…
“I’ve got all the authorisations.” Black interrupts quietly.
He has taken from his pocket another paper, folded in the same manner as the order of mission he has showed Symphony earlier on. She practically tears the document from his hand and unfolds it to read carefully. Black waits, very calmly, that she finishes. When she looks back at him, conceding defeat, he smiles like a cat that had just swallowed a canary.
“So, you have nothing more to say?” He asks her.
She angrily folds the paper and smacks it back on his chest, where he takes it.
“I just wish I could find Charlie’s signature on that piece.” She says between clenched teeth. “But aside from that, it all appears in order. All right, Captain Black. We will transport your equipment at Koala Base.”
“Good. So you won’t mind my men going too, to unload the goods when at destination.”
“My helicopter’s not for transporting people. They’ll have to ride in your own helijet.”
“And they won’t stay, either. We can’t allow unauthorized persons on the Base’s ground.”
“Normally, I would concurred… If it would not be for the prisoner.”
“What are you talking about?”
Black points with his thumb toward the hooded captive.
“The terrorist. We need a place to imprison him. And Koala Base has a brig, hasn’t it?”
“Oh! Do tell me you’re kidding!”
“Well, I’m not, I’m sorry to say.”
“There’s nothing on your authorisation paper concerning any prisoner.”
“How was I to know that I would take any?”
“Well, it’s your problem, not mine. Hand him over to the military police, or something like that.”
“I can’t do that. Because of the top-secret nature of the equipment and of this whole operation in general. I must keep this prisoner in confinement, pending interrogation.”
Symphony eyes Black very coldly. “Like some kind of political prisoner, isn’t that right?”
“You dramatize a little here.” Black sighs.
“Am I really?” Symphony replies abruptly. “Why would you want to place that man in confinement?”
Black shows some hesitation.
“Well, I SHOULDN’T be telling you this, but… he has some accomplices who might want to come back for him.”
“And you want to send him to a restricted area like Koala Base?” Symphony asks him with astonishment.
“They won’t find him there.”
“That’s what YOU say.”
“Look, they don’t know the first thing about Koala Base. Heck, they don’t even know it even exists. It’s only a matter of security here. That man must not escape and certainly must not get in contact with his accomplices. That's as simple as that.”
“Simple for you. Now I suppose you’re going to ask us Angels to keep watch over him.”
“I wouldn’t go to that extend. You’re pilots, not watchdogs. Besides, he’s too dangerous for you ladies to handle alone.”
Symphony frowns. “I’m not even going to answer that!”
“So, I’m going to do you a favour and let a couple of my men with you at Koala Base.” Black continues.
“No, you can’t do this.” Symphony says, shaking her head.
“It’s for your own safety. While I’m quite certain that this man’s accomplices will not find where he is, I can’t, in good conscience, take too much risk. I’ll leave three men with you, to watch over him and the equipment that will be unload at Koala Base.”
“I suppose that’s not an option?”
“No. You have seen my papers. I have full authority to do whatever it takes to insure security over that equipment, Koala Base… and you, ladies.”
“Well, you force my hand, and I don’t like it one bit. Destiny won’t like it either.”
“I really don’t CARE what Destiny likes or not.” Black notes coldly.
“Don’t say that to her face, Captain Black.” Symphony warns him. “With her temper, I’m pretty sure that your nose would be the healthiest part of your anatomy when she’d be through with you.”
“Then I’m grad I won’t be seeing her.” Black continues wryly.
“You mean, YOU won’t be coming to Koala Base?”
“Would if I could.” Black says, shaking his head. “But it’s impossible. I have other things to take care of today. But be reassured, I’ll be there tomorrow morning. I will check on the prisoner and get the SPV out of the ‘porter.”
Black points toward the shark-like vehicle he has drove inside the helicopter.
“None of my men has authorised access to it or training to drive it.” He explains. “I’m the only one who can do it. So, it will have to stay in the helicopter until my arrival tomorrow. Meanwhile, one of my men will keep guard beside it.”
Symphony frowns. These arrangements, changing by the seconds, really are beginning to annoy her greatly. Black looks at her thoughtfully.
“Is there something the matter?” He asks her.
“Truth to tell, everything.” Symphony answers. “I’m not comfortable about all this at all. I expect quite an outburst when I get back at Koala Base.”
“Well, she won’t be the only one. But since she’s our designated leader…”
“Well, just tell her that, if she has some problems concerning my decision, she just has to call Charlie and talk it over with him.”
Symphony bites her lips. She certainly doesn’t want to tell Black that the Angels couldn’t call Charlie in any way. They don’t even know how to reach him. It is always Charlie who calls, never the other way around.
“I’m sure she’ll mention all this to him when she talks with him.” She simply answers to Black.
“So it’s settled, then.” Black says.
“No, it’s not.” Symphony replies sharply. “But since I don’t have ANY choice… Have it your way, Captain Black.”
Black nods and leaves her to go directly to the two men guarding the captive. Symphony follows him with her eyes, as he gives instructions to the men, so low that she can’t hear them. She shakes her head. That man so arrogant, so full of himself! And mysterious.
Practically as mysterious as this whole charade, she adds to herself.
She’s now wondering if she had made the right decision when she had received that invitation a few weeks back. Maybe she was wrong in joining this special pilots training camp… There were too many mysteries in this.
And as for all secret agents, Karen Wainwright hates mysteries.
Well, she thinks, maybe all I have to do is persuade the others that something strange is going on with that Captain black and this whole Koala Base affair.
And maybe together, they will get to the bottom of it.