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Authors: Jim DeFelice

Cyclops One (22 page)

BOOK: Cyclops One
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Chapter 9

The first day after the crash, McIntyre managed to walk only a few hundred yards beyond the ravine where the helicopter had gone down. He lost his strength somewhere after midday and, lying down to rest, fell fast asleep. When he woke it was dark; he went back to sleep and didn’t open his eyes until the sun forced them open. He got up and began walking. After a while he realized the aches and stiffness he’d felt had melted into a gnawing hole in his stomach, something he thought must be hunger, though it felt slightly different than that, as if his stomach had been emptied and then twisted in his body.

McIntyre came to a hillside so sheer that the only way was to slide on his butt. He couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold the guns and finally decided to loop the straps around his neck. As he started to push down he changed his mind, thinking it would be better to crawl on his belly, but it was too late: Unable to stop himself, he slid sideways, then rolled and kept going until he slammed against some rocks. The gray hands that had climbed over his eyes pressed in and he lost consciousness.

He was out for an hour, maybe more. Then the ground in front of his face turned blue. He opened his eyes and saw that he was about fifty feet above a trail through a valley. Bushes began to rise in the terrain about twenty yards to his right, gradually becoming thicker until the entire valley was covered in lush green.

McIntyre picked up the guns from his chest and got to his feet. He slid a few yards, walked a bit, then gave way to his momentum and began trotting down the hill. For a second his aches, pains, and bruises disappeared. He reached the bottom of the hill and caught his breath, hyperventilating slightly. His head remained clear.

The blood on his clothes had dried into stiff patches that felt like pieces of wood. He wasn’t hungry, but his mouth was dry.

His butt hurt, as though the bone in his rear end had been broken.

He had his phone there. He’d put his phone there yesterday, then completely forgotten, blacked out before he could use it.

McIntyre began to laugh. He laughed so hard he rolled over, face in the dirt.
All I’ve got to do,
he thought,
is just call someone and tell them to pick me up. Send a taxi. Send a friggin’ taxi!

The laughter caught in his throat and he began to spit. His phlegm came out in red gobs. When he stopped, McIntyre reached back for the phone. Had he tried it yesterday? He didn’t think he had, but yesterday was a jumble, the crash was a jumble. He remembered hitting the Indian captain who had kidnapped him, and walking, but nothing else.

McIntyre put his thumb on the Power button and held it down. When he let it off, the display flashed green, then faded; he couldn’t tell in the direct sunlight whether the phone was working or not.

At first he thought it was dead. His chest rippled and tears erupted from his eyes. He dropped the phone and hunched over his knees, weeping in despair. He saw himself from the distance; he sneered at the miserable wretch who was so pathetic.

He hadn’t cried since he was a little boy, six or seven years old. Crying was a thing sissies did, and girls, and he was neither.

Shaking, he tried the phone again. Holding it sideways this time to avoid the sun’s glare, he realized that it was in fact working. The battery was only at half power, but the phone was working.

He thumbed the menu up, got the main switchboard, hit Send.

McIntyre put the phone to his ear.

He heard nothing.

“NSC.”

“Hello?”

“Hello? I’m having trouble hearing you.”

“This is McIntyre,” he said. “I’m in India, I think. There was a crash.”

The operator didn’t say anything, and for a long moment McIntyre thought he had lost the connection. Then there was another voice on the line, a louder voice, male, vaguely familiar.

“Mac…this is James Brott. Where the hell are you?”

Brott was one of the intelligence liaisons, a CIA officer over on assignment.

“I’m in India.”

“Are you all right? We’re starting to track the call and get a location. Do you know where you are? Do you have a GPS?”

“No.” McIntyre spoke softly, as if someone were nearby. The crying jag had taken his anxiety away; he wanted to tell Brott everything and yet he felt calm, or almost calm. “We were flying near the Pakistani border, west of a base called Pekdelle. I’m not sure I’m pronouncing it right. They took me on the attack. I guess they were going to either throw me out of the helicopter or make it look like the Pakistani soldiers killed me.”

“Where are you, Mac? Describe it.”

McIntyre looked around, then began to describe what he saw. Mountains rose in the distance—mountains rose everywhere, actually—and the nearest one had a green circle on it that looked like a fist.

As he spoke he heard a truck somewhere nearby. He got to his feet, looking for the road.

“There’s something coming,” he said. “I’m going to flag it down.”

“No, McIntyre. No!” Brott shouted. “They’re at war, Pakistan and India. Stay hidden.”

“Hidden?”

“Mac, there are guerrillas fighting all over Kashmir, even though there’s a cease-fire. You have to try to hide. We’ll send someone; we’ll find someone we can trust to rescue you. Stay hidden.”

The road was across the hill, to the right. McIntyre walked sideways across the grade, peeking down toward it. A large, open transport rounded the tar-paved road. White rocks were piled alongside the road where the shoulders should have been, funneling the pavement over the sharp terrain. The truck continued past, then downshifted as it went downward. He looked across the way and realized that the road ran around the opposite rise; he was exposed here.

“How safe are you?” Brott asked.

“Safe?”

“Are you in shelter or out in the open?”

“The open. Listen, my battery is weak. I have maybe an hour of talk time left.”

“All right. You’re going to have to assume—we have to assume—that anyone you see right now is the enemy.
Anyone.
We’re going to try to get your location; I think we’re going to be able to get it. The NSA has been looking for your signal, so I’m sure we’re going to get it; I just haven’t been able to get them yet. I don’t want your battery to die, though. Can you get somewhere safe—somewhere we could send in a team and find you?”

“I don’t know. Yeah, I have to. Yeah.”

“A good-sized field, someplace in the open, but with a place you could hide….”

McIntyre started to laugh. “I’ll just check the Michelin guide.”

Brott started to apologize, but McIntyre held the phone down; he heard the truck downshift again, the motor revving as it started up opposite him.

“Look, I don’t think this is a good place. I’m going to move,” he told him.

“Don’t hang up yet,” said Brott. “I want to make sure I have the location.”

“I have to save the battery,” McIntyre told him. If they had been looking for him, the NSA had more than enough to find him now. “I’ll call in an hour.”

“McIntyre, listen—”

He hit the End button, then got up and began running toward a low thicket he’d seen to his left.

Chapter 10

Fisher sat on the long canvas bench, staring at the pile of retrieved aircraft remains in the center of the Osprey and wondering if the odds of finding a trace of an explosive could be measured in the billions or simply the millions.

Millions, he decided. But it was also likely that whoever had worked this out had probably also been smart enough to set it up in a way that would be hard to pin down, maybe making the fuel do most of the work.

He had the boot and the cloth sample, which appeared to contain a hair. Could they trust a DNA sample?

His cell phone began vibrating. Fisher took it out of his pocket.

“Fisher.”

“Mr. Fisher, this is Matt Firenze.”

“Hey, Doc, whatcha got?”

“Well, we took apart the environmental control system, and there it was.”

“Back up. What are we talking about?”

“It’s like a Trojan Horse virus. Actually, we didn’t find the code, but we found that something had erased something, and we figure that’s where it has to be. We couldn’t duplicate it on the bench units. It had to be there. We have a model—”

Fisher let the boy genius explain how he thought a rogue program could have caused a power surge in the circuitry connected to the shared radar sections and at the same time knocked out the controls. It was rather convoluted, but the agent knew better than to cut off a scientist mid-theorem.

“It’s just a spike, a temporary hit,” concluded Firenze, “and that fits with what happened.”

“Who developed that system?”

“It was purpose-built for this model of the plane,” said Firenze. “I think Carie Electro Controls. But it could have been Jolice too.”

“Jolice?”

“They have a lot of little divisions and things. It’s hard sometimes to keep them straight.”

“They owned by Ferrone?”

“No, it’s the other way around, I think,” said the scientist. “I think Jolice is the bigger company.”

“Why don’t you work for them?” Fisher asked Firenze, whom the records had shown was working on the project under a special contract with the Air Force.

“Jolice, NADT, all those people—they make you rich, but then they figure they own you,” said Firenze.

“I know how that goes,” said Fisher. “Except for the rich part.”

Chapter 11

McIntyre watched the wheels of the truck bounce up the trail. He could tell it was something small and relatively old, but he was too afraid to rise and get a good view of it. When he was sure it had passed, he sat up and tried to take stock of his situation.

They’d be working on finding him. The NSA would have the location of his transmission by now. But could they do anything about it? He was half a world away.

There’d be Navy units in the Indian Ocean. Somebody could come up and get him.

It might mean staying another night at least. He’d have to find a place to hide.

Something to eat would be good too. And drink.

McIntyre rose and shouldered his guns, then began walking toward the road, going in the direction the truck had come from. It took only a few minutes to reach the nearest curve, which made its way across a notch on the side of a series of hills. There was a switchback in the distance, but he couldn’t tell if the one-and-a-half-lane pressed-chip-and-tar road led to it or not.

He began to walk. Two or three minutes later he heard a vehicle coming up behind him. There were some trees a short distance away and he managed to get to them before the truck passed. It was a pickup, and it moved at a pretty good clip. Just as he started out from behind the tree he heard another truck. He slid down, watching a military vehicle speed past. It was a Russian-made KAMAZ 6x4, or possibly an Indian knockoff. The six-wheeled truck had a canvas backing, the kind that might be used for light cargo or soldiers, but what it was loaded with or even if it was loaded at all he couldn’t see.

Was it even Indian? He might actually be over the line in Pakistan. The border in Kashmir wasn’t very well defined, and now there might not be a line at all.

McIntyre walked for a long while, his head gradually stooping closer to the ground. Finally he heard noises. Thinking it was another truck, he climbed over the stones at the side of the road and hid in a small depression a short distance away. Minutes passed without anything appearing, and he finally realized the sound wasn’t getting any louder. It seemed to be an engine of some sort, but it was standing still.

A large boulder stood on the slope across the road from him. Thinking it might give him a vantage to see ahead, he slipped back across the road and clambered up the slope. But the rock was higher than he’d thought, and tired and battered as he was, he couldn’t get to the top, not even when he put down the rifles. He settled for sidestepping across the slope below it, pushing through the bushes to see.

Something orange flashed in the distance.

A tiger.

He reached for a rifle, realizing belatedly that he had left them on the ground. He took a step and then the tiger sprang forward, charging him from the distance.

McIntyre tried to run but quickly lost his balance and slid down the rocks. He covered his head, cowering against the dirt and scrubby vegetation, waiting to be torn apart.

Except that he wasn’t; the tiger had stayed where it was.

It wasn’t a tiger. There were no tigers here, or other large cats; even the snow leopards had long ago fled, leaving man as the only predator. The orange was a piece of cloth, and as he walked toward it he realized it wasn’t even orange but yellow. It was draped over a bush, and it wasn’t moving.

McIntyre looked past the cloth and saw a building in the distance, set back near a clearing. This, he thought, might be a good place to arrange the pickup, though he’d have to scout it first, see if there were people nearby. He checked his watch: He had a half hour left before he was supposed to call.

The bushes in the back didn’t provide much cover, but the building looked run-down and possibly abandoned. McIntyre gathered his courage and walked down a shallow slope toward what seemed to be the back or a side wall, studying two large metal housings on the roof. There was no sound, and he could see no vehicles nearby. The highway swung around somewhere ahead, passing in front of the building.

The door must be on that side. Here there were only windows, one boarded, the other’s glass covered with a thick layer of grime.

McIntyre edged to the left side of the structure. There were two windows. A car or truck passed; he crouched before it came into view and couldn’t see it.

He tried to come up with a plan, but his brain wouldn’t supply one. What would the occupants do if a man with a rifle—two rifles—appeared at the front door, his clothes torn and covered with blood?

Shoot him, or run for their lives.

But then again, if no one was here, it would be a perfect place to stay and wait for a rescue.

McIntyre hunched on his knees, thinking. Finally he pushed up from the crouch, walking toward the building with the guns still in his hands.

When he was about twenty feet away, he tried to run. After a single step his right thigh muscle began to spasm. He managed to reach the wall and hurled himself against the blocks, catching his breath before edging toward the front corner.

A metal door was set into the front wall about a third of the way down. The road was visible through some trees to his left.

McIntyre steadied the rifle in his right hand, glancing at his finger on the trigger. Then he knocked on the door with his left hand as hard as he could manage, and stepped back.

No one answered. He tried again, stepped back farther this time. The third time he used the butt end of the rifle, the other gun swinging awkwardly off his shoulder. When no one answered, he reached for the handle.

The door was heavy and opened toward him rather than inward. Slapping his side against the door to hold it open, he stood against the darkness, anger inexplicably mixing with his fear and exhaustion; with a rush he went forward into the building, not so much ready for anything as resigned to it.

There was no one inside.

The building housed some sort of machine shop. A pair of desks sat in the front, separated from the work area by some filing cabinets and open space.

There were phones on both desks. McIntyre went over and picked one up.

A dial tone.

A dial tone! He wouldn’t have to rely on the satellite phone and the draining battery.

But didn’t the fact that the dial tone worked mean the building wasn’t abandoned?

Was it a trap? Was someone watching him?

McIntyre put the phone back down and walked through the rest of the building. There was a washroom in the back. He opened the tap and put his face under the faucet. The warm water tasted metallic and moldy at the same time, but he was so thirsty he gulped it down.

When his thirst was quenched, he realized he was a few minutes late for his phone call. He went back to the front and took out the satellite phone.

Brott picked up before the first ring ended.

“We think we know where you are,” he told him. “We’re going to arrange a rescue, but it’s not easy. It’s chaos over there. There’ve been several riots.”

“Get someone here,” said McIntyre. He sat down on the floor against the desk. “Get somebody here.”

“We’re working on it. You have to relax.”

As McIntyre struggled to control his response, the door began to open.

BOOK: Cyclops One
3.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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