“Mr. Jarvis says you’re unwilling to lead an army on the capital?” The Senator stared at me hard, but his facial features betrayed kindness, not anger. His sculpted silver hair, his blue eyes, strong jaw and broad shoulders gave him the look of a president. His picture could appear on a J.C. Penny ad for business suits or the front page of an election newspaper.
“Not unwilling, unable.”
“What makes you say that?” His expression toyed with me. The slight grin on his face made me think he knew I'd eventually give in.
“I have almost no military training. Why do you believe I can lead a whole army?”
“Not a whole army, just part of one. Jarvis will lead the five thousand troops stationed in the canyon. You need to be there to convince the lower class rebels to fight. Once we’re inside the city and fighting, you won’t need to lead them, we should be able to overpower Isoli with sheer numbers.”
“That sounds easy enough. What is the deal you wanted to offer?"
“There's some trouble in Phoenix. The Anti-Terror Squad has one of our rebel hide outs surrounded. Tanner is in there with your sister. Eve is in a safe room in the basement of the complex, but it’s only a matter of time before they move in and either kill or kidnap your sister. We think we can take out the squad and extract your sister, but it’s a risky move. If we’re not careful or if someone gets caught, Isoli could call in more troops and ruin our chance to take the city. We’re willing to take the risk if it means you’ll help lead the army.”
“Okay. But I want one more thing. I want to go with to extract Eve.”
Senator Caste’s grin stretched into a smile, “I thought you'd want to. We need a sniper to take out the ATS’s communication lines before we attack and extract your sister. We need to act tonight if we want this to work. Are you ready?”
“Yes, sir.” I got up to leave, but the senator interrupted me.
“The helicopter leaves at 9pm. You’ll need to be briefed at 7 in the war room. Do you know where that is?”
I smiled as I remembered the silver dome near the edge of the rebel community. At first it'd looked like a large rock, but I recognized it as some sort of bunker when the moon reflected off its surface. “Yeah, I think I saw it on our way in.”
“Good luck. For Zoe’s sake, come back safe.” The senator eyed me once more as I shook his hand.
I turned away and closed the office door. Zoe looked up, grinning at me from behind a computer. She wore a pair of black rimmed glasses that perfectly framed her pale eyes. How did the senator know about us? Had she already told him about our encounter that morning?
I strode over to her desk and munched on a piece of candy as I tried to flirt. “I’m disappointed I didn’t get to finish my desert this morning.”
Zoe smiled and played along, “Well, maybe you can still have some after dinner?”
“I can’t do dinner. I have an operation thing.”
“Oh, you’re going to that?”
“You know about that?”
“I over hear stuff sometimes.” She blushed and looked down at her keyboard. “I guess we’ll have to do lunch then.”
“Is there anywhere to get something to eat around here?”
“Not unless you like cafeteria sloppy joe’s. How about I make you something at my place. I’m off for lunch in 20 minutes. Can you wait?”
“Sure, I need to go back to my place and get some stuff for ready for tonight. I’ll see you at your place in 20?” I didn’t think I'd need to gather anything for tonight, but I wanted to change out of my jeans for lunch.
“Perfect.” Zoe smiled again and started typing.
As I walked back to my apartment, I tried to concentrate on the mission for tonight. A helicopter flew overhead. The noise almost made me reach to cover my ears. How could we get one those into Phoenix? Even if the city wasn’t on lock down, it'd be difficult.
I rummaged through the closet for the pair of tan slacks I’d seen earlier in the morning. I took off my jeans and put on the slacks. I left the white t-shirt on and looked though the closet for another shirt. I found a light blue one and put it on over my t-shirt, leaving the top two buttons undone. I found some brown dress shoes and slipped them on. After waiting another 20 minutes, I left for Zoe’s.
I knocked lightly on the already open door, purposely three or four minutes late, and entered her fresh smelling living room.
“I already started lunch. How do you feel about pasta with alfredo sauce?”
“Sounds good. I’ve never had any kind of pasta that wasn’t spaghetti. At least not that I can remember.”
Zoe flashed an amused grin. “You are something else, Micah.”
I smiled back. “At least I know you like it.”
“You think I do anyway.” She showed a devious grin and then slipped back into the kitchen. I watched her from the dining room. She moved around the kitchen, stirring pots and placing dishes on the table. Her adeptness and smooth movements reminded me of Eve.
“You look nice. What’s the occasion?”
I paused. “This could be my last meal. I wanted to look good.”
“Relax.” I smiled at her. “I’ll probably get another meal before I leave tonight.”
“That’s not funny.”
She finally finished and served the pasta into a couple of bowls on the table. The glasses were already filled with juice. “All ready,” Zoe announced. I found my seat adjacent to Zoe and started eating. I finished lunch fairly quickly.
“I guess it’s time for dessert.” I grinned sheepishly, got up from my chair, and went to the kitchen with my bowl, hoping to repeat that morning’s meeting.
“Well, you did finish your food.” Zoe was following me into the kitchen.
I turned around after placing my dish in the sink. Her hands were already pulling my body next to hers. I felt her soft lips for the first time with mine. I liked it. I pulled her closer and kissed until she gently pushed away.
“I’ll be right back. You can wait in the living room.”
I stood dazed for a few seconds before I left the kitchen. I found the end seat of the sofa and sat down. I peered around the room, my mind still racing. Zoe had been gone a few minutes when I noticed an opened envelope poking out of Zoe’s purse on the table next to the couch. I pulled out the envelope. It was addressed to Zoe Castle, but with no address. There was no postage which meant it was probably delivered from somewhere inside the rebel camp. I resisted the urge to look inside. Zoe called out from down the hall. I quickly replaced the note.
“Just a few more minutes, Micah.” Her tone was playful. The letter caught my eye again, and I wondered about it’s contents.I quickly read the note and replaced it. Zoe finally entered the room. She still wore her light spring dress but she no longer had on the apron. Her hair was down and she was now bare-foot. Her playful smile disappeared as she entered the room and saw me standing, ready to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“Something came up for the mission. I’ve got to go," I lied
“You don’t have to be in such a rush. You only got a taste of dessert.” She forced a smile and tugged at my shirt as she moved closer. I inched away, more aware of the temptress.
“Really, I’ve got to go. I’m really sorry. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” I ducked in and kissed her on the lips, hoping the rouse would hide what I knew about her loyalties. Her smile returned, and she seemed to believe I was sincere.
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.” She bit her lower lip and a tear seemed to sneak out of her eye. Did she regret what she was trying to do to me? Maybe it was just part of the act. I hurried out of the apartment. After reading the note, I could no longer trust her. Even if her tears were genuine.
The time past quickly as I tried to wrap my mind around my new discovery. I looked at my watch. 6:50. I got up and walked towards the silver building I'd been watching for the last 2 hours. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t walking into a trap. Six other men, and one women entered the building at about 6:45. The building appeared innocent, but so had Zoe. I reached the entrance and slid the access card that Castle gave me through the reader. Two guards in army fatigues greeted me and searched me before letting me pass. The entrance led directly to what looked like the war room. A large table sat in the center of the room, surrounded by computer monitors that all held different images. The room looked pretty high tech. Six men and one women, dressed all in black waited for me at the table. I was the 8th and final member of the team. A man with red hair and stubble called me to a seat close to him.
“I’m Mark. Have a seat. We were just getting ready to start.” Mark then introduced me to the other members of the team. Landon, Josh, Dustin, Blake, Gabe and Alba, the lone female I’d seen enter a few minutes earlier. Alba was small and looked Spanish. She greeted me with a warm smile.
Mark continued the briefing. “We have a hospital helicopter that will get us in and out of Phoenix. After we take off, the chopper will take us to the hospital. We’ll have to move on foot south for 2 miles to reach the rebel hideout. The ATS team has about 75 men surrounding the block. Obviously we can’t take out that many men by ourselves. Our job will be to take out communications and open a path for a another group of rebels who are waiting in another stronghold to attack. We have to make it look like the only involvement was from the other rebels. They can’t suspect any outside help. That means none of us can be caught. Micah will be in charge of taking out the communications. There are three comm stations that need to be taken out before we can attack. Gabe will be Micah’s spotter and Blake will be his personal guard.”
“Why do I need a guard?”
“If anyone finds out you are in the city, you’ll need more than a guard. As soon as you take out communications, try and kill as many ATS personnel as possible. Landon, Josh and Dustin will meet up with the rebels and lead them to the attack spot before peeling off and extracting Eve and the president’s son, Darion. Alba will be Eve’s guard. As soon as we get there, Alba will sneak into the rebel base before we take out the communication lines. Once she is in and has Eve, she'll give us a signal to start. Any questions?”
Everyone remained silent and nodded. “Good. I’ll see you all in front of the hospital at 9. Micah, Gabe will take you downstairs, and you can get your weapon.”
After getting my Parker Hale Model 85, I headed over to the hospital to wait for our departure. My mind was still thinking about the mission, but I wondered who I could trust. Olivia caught my eye as I neared the hospital. She rushed out to meet me and greeted me with a hug.
“Micah, I heard you were going tonight.”
“Does everyone know about this?”
“No, my dad told me you were going. He’s more than a little surprised”
“What do you mean?”
“There’s something fishy about it. He thinks it’s a little odd that they would send ‘Robin Hood’ into the middle of Phoenix to do something that could be done by someone else.”
I remembered the letter again. “I’ve got to tell you something, Olivia.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her behind a building. “I saw a note someone gave Zoe.” I was suddenly embarrassed. “It was from a guy named Seth. Does that sound familiar?”
“Seth Jarvis? That’s the only Seth I know here at the camp. What did it say?”
“It was very vague. I can fill you in later. Keep an eye on Zoe.”
“Okay.” Olivia remained mostly silent.
“Watch out for Senator Castle, if his daughter is dangerous as I suspect then we have to be wary of him too. I know you normally don’t leave the camp until Monday, but I think you should get out tomorrow with your Father. If things don’t go well tonight, and we get stuck in Phoenix, I don’t want you to be here, not knowing who to trust.”
Olivia looked up at me her face was strong. Her eyes looked steely, the eyes of a fighter. She forced a brave smile. I bit the inside of my cheek, a nervous habit.
“I’ll be back tonight Olivia, I promise.” I didn’t know if that was true, but I wanted to believe it. I kissed her forehead and left towards the already running helicopter.