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First pages


September 1997...


Kahuta, Pakistan.

Zulu: 2000

Echo: 0100




Some people live off of thrills. Others live in spite of them. Throughout his life, Hussain Fahd had done his share of both, but he increasingly lived somewhere in-between, unafraid of the occasional challenge but content to avoid firsthand excitement when convenient. Most tasks, he found, were conveniently orchestrated from afar. Some, though, were too important, too rare, not to play an active, leading role, and that was the reason that he found himself in the driver’s seat of an unmarked delivery van, roaring down the road toward one major piece of his destiny in the middle of the night.

With Islamabad well in his rearview mirror, Fahd anticipated the lights of Kahuta to appear on the horizon in any minute, and, soon enough, a rise in the terrain fell away and revealed the city. He couldn’t help but smile at the scattered oasis of lights; a smile that had wrinkled his middle-aged face beyond its years.

Kahuta was a company town, and the business was weapons, most notably the nuclear type. The weapons facilities were principally controlled by a handful of government scientists and engineers; men who enjoyed almost total autonomy in exchange for enabling their nation to keep up with its neighbor to the east. It had become a matter of policy long ago to spare no expense on the programs and to get out of the way of the men who had the nuclear know-how. This attitude eventually created parity between foes, but it also made the handful of men running Kahuta Research Laboratories very wealthy and powerful as they siphoned off nuclear secrets to any nation willing to pay. To facilitate such trade, the men necessarily made sure security protocols and accounting processes were lax. For instance, they may purchase ten tons of miraging steel, a specialty metal used in centrifuges, but only account for five tons, selling the difference out the back door to Saddam, Gaddafi, Kim Jong, or Khamenei and quietly pocketing the entirety of the proceeds. Fudging the books and permitting potentially sensitive materials to move freely allowed these select men to enrich themselves by stringing along cash-rich rogue regimes, but the loose atmosphere also created opportunities for others along the line, for people like Fahd, who had a little less cash, a much lower profile, and an entirely different approach. Fahd had no interest in building his own nuclear facilities like the rogue regimes; his interest was in the final product, and a friend of his, a follower, was going to help him bypass quite a bit of headache and expense. His friend was a mid-level scientist at Kahuta, and although the man was just outside the sphere of influence that reaped the most benefit from the underhanded trade emanating from the facilities, he could plainly see the weaknesses built into the system, and he planned to exploit them.

When Fahd’s small convoy of delivery vans pulled up at the western entrance of the Kahuta Research Laboratories compound, the guard asked little questions. Night deliveries were common, typically having to do with especially illegal activities, and the schedule showed a shipment of vacuum pumps was due. Fahd simply told him that he was carrying vacuum pumps—a lie—and that was all the man needed to hear. He opened the gate, knowing better than to give any of the vans’ actual contents any thought. Inside the fenced compound, Fahd smiled to himself again. He was glad that he didn’t have to kill the guard, not yet, at least.

Despite the overall lax attitude about security, each entry and exit to the facility was equipped with sensors that were supposed to detect the escape of any raw radioactive material. Fissionable material was one of the few things that was kept pretty close to the vest, not because the Pakistani scientists were concerned that rogue actors might possess it, but because selling rogue actors production methods was much more lucrative than selling them the final product. If it were not for that one little issue, Fahd’s scientist could have very well put the material he wanted into a shielded briefcase and walked out the front door with it. As it was, though, they were expecting some minor action at the least, and that would be where Fahd and the men stuffed into the back of his delivery vans planned to come into the picture.

Following directions provided by his scientist, Fahd led the convoy to a long loading dock embedded in the side of one of the facility’s massive concrete structures. One van broke away from the others and headed to the eastern side of the compound. There, its occupants would wait to clear an exit path. The other vans backed up to the loading dock, where one wide door was open and two people were mulling around under it. One was Fahd’s scientist, and the other was a loading dock attendant, who, like the guard, was expecting the vacuum pump delivery. Fahd hopped out and the two men on the loading dock moved toward the back of his van. The attendant didn’t quite make it alive, however, because Fahd’s scientist unexpectedly pulled a knife and took the man down, shoving his lifeless body down between the van and the dock.

“Nicely done,” said Fahd, impressed with the man’s cold efficiency. He knocked on the back of the van three times and the men inside popped open the doors. The other drivers did the same, and within an instant, the loading dock was covered with a small group of militants. “Just like we drew it up, now—take a defensive stance,” he commanded, and the men began to move. Fahd and several others followed the scientist into the facility. The first thing they met was a man headed toward them driving a forklift. The man stopped the vehicle and looked at them strangely, unsure how to react to a group of heavily armed men who were clearly not delivering vacuum pumps nor were they members of the facility’s security staff. “Take care of him. Quietly, please,” said Fahd as they neared him, and one of his men went forward and obeyed in a manner just as cold as the scientist’s action of a moment before.

They continued on and saw no one else until the scientist led them into an office suite. There, they first found another man at a sort of reception desk, who had just enough time to jump up and ask, “What is this?” before he too met his fate at the edge of a silent steel blade.

They continued through several empty offices before the scientist came to a halt just beyond an open door. He looked to Fahd and whispered, “This is it.”

“Right,” said Fahd. “Are you ready, brother?” The scientist nodded and turned around, allowing Fahd to wrap one arm around his neck and place the muzzle of a pistol to his head. “Here we go,” Fahd murmured, and he wrestled the scientist into the room.

There was a general gasping and clatter as the three men who were gathered in the office jumped in surprise as they found themselves face-to-face with what appeared to be a hostage situation with one of their colleagues.

“Which ones?” Fahd demanded of his hostage.

“Him,” the scientist spoke desperately with a nod, indicating the manager of night operations. “And him,” he added, nodding to a deputy scientist, the third highest ranking man at the facility.

“Who is he?” Fahd asked of the third man.

“He’s nobody.”

“Good. Take care of him.” One of his men stepped up and obeyed, much to the horror of the victim’s colleagues. “Show me the vault,” Fahd then commanded, without so much as allowing a response.

Fahd’s hostage led the way to a vault used to store small amounts of material as it became enriched to the appropriate level. The men from the office were in tow, firmly controlled by Fahd’s men.

“Open it,” Fahd demanded of the men with the authority to open it. “And if you try anything,” he warned, “you will be killed.”

The men uneasily stepped up to a control panel on the wall, and they each punched in a pin code. Next, they each produced a key, inserted it into slots in the control panel, and turned them at the same time. There was a low metallic clang from the vault door, and it began to lurch open. Fahd loosed his grip on his scientist, and the two of them and another of his men moved to step into the small shelf-lined room. As they crossed into it to begin taking an inventory of their loot, the manager of night operations squirmed free from his captor and made a sudden bolt back to the control panel. Two deafening gunshots echoed in response, but the man was able to punch in an alarm code with his final breath. The sound of the gunshots were soon forgotten, replaced by a shrill alarm.

“The door!” Fahd shouted from inside the vault, turning to see it closing automatically. They ran for it, and although they didn’t have to run far, it was closing fast. Fahd and his scientist were able to slip out, but Fahd’s other man was quick to realize they were empty handed, so he paused to grab the first thing he could get his hands on, a bulky, hard plastic case. He turned back to the door, moving as quickly as he could, but he knew he was not going to make it. With all his might, he slung the heavy case forward, and it shot through the gap before the door came firmly shut.

“See what it is,” Fahd breathlessly told his scientist, who knelt down to the case in response. Fahd turned to the other scientist and asked, “Can you open the door without him?” referencing the dead manager of night operations.

“No,” the man answered simply. Fahd replied with a fatal gunshot and turned back to his scientist.

“It’s weapons grade,” said the man. “But the quantity is very small.”

“Is it workable?”

“Maybe for a small device.”

“Better than nothing, yes? Let’s take what we have and go,” said Fahd.

Two of his men grabbed the case, and the scientist began leading their way back out. The office suite had been practically vacant moments prior, but a small security force from somewhere within the structure was quick to respond, bypassing Fahd’s men guarding the loading dock, and it didn’t take long for the group of men fleeing and the group of men responding to the alarm to cross paths. In their haste to leave, Fahd was no longer acting as if his scientist was a hostage, and without that deterrent a firefight broke out without warning, each side firing indiscriminately, shredding the office space between them. The sound and the violence was enormous but only lasted a matter of seconds. Fahd, crouched behind a metal desk, reloaded and took an inventory of himself. He was unharmed. He looked to his men around him. The two that had been carrying the case were dead, another was shot but still alive, and, most regrettably, his eyes soon found his scientist lying against a file cabinet, clutching his freshly dyed lab coat. He crawled over to him, only to realize that the man was a lost cause.

“Your sacrifice will not be in vain, brother,” he spoke softly, and the scientist nodded with his last ounce of consciousness.

“The room is clear, sir,” said Fahd’s other man, and Fahd jumped up. The two of them picked up the case where the others had dropped it and resumed their path. They made it the rest of the way to the loading dock without incident and set the case down in the back of Fahd’s van just as the wounded man’s strength was exhausted. He collapsed, and Fahd called for someone to give him aid and for everyone else to load up and head out. The other drivers recalled their men from their defensive positions around the loading dock, and the vans began to pull out just as a mass of headlights became evident down the road that led to the western gate. Fahd headed east while the other two vans stopped, intending to put up a fight while Fahd might flee.

Speeding toward the east, Fahd radioed ahead and instructed his men to clear the way. They responded quickly, first shooting up a pick-up truck patrolling the perimeter and then ramming their van through a section of fencing that proved to be a wholly inadequate barrier for someone determined to breach it. Moments later, Fahd sped through the gap in the fence, wrestled with the steering wheel as he bumped across the dusty terrain, and after a few moments found his way to a paved road, running up on the asphalt with a bark of the tires. The ride suddenly smooth, he took a deep breath and glanced in his side mirror to see the van that had cleared the way for him hopping up on the pavement behind him. He was pleased that he made it out with at least one other van to act as backup or a decoy, though he hoped he would need neither. It wouldn’t take long to reach the Kashmir, where he knew he could get lost among friends who were something like his eastern counterparts. He just hoped that he could get there before anyone at Kahuta could realize that was where he was headed.

Thanks to the disorganization of the security staff and the confusion created by Fahd’s men who stayed behind, he did make it. By the time investigators got on scene and took a thousand photographs and lined up the body bags, Fahd was boarding a bush plane in the Kashmir with his case in tow, optimistic that he would find himself back home in the western frontier in time for breakfast.

At the research laboratories, the chief scientist and his first deputy found themselves tiptoeing around blood to access the control panel to open the storage vault. They opened it only to find more blood, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot by the man who had been trapped inside.

“I think it is safe to say that they got into the vault,” commented a young-looking ISI agent, who was heading the investigation on behalf of the nation’s premier intelligence agency. He took a few photos before gesturing the scientists forward.

“Yes, Major Phadkar,” the chief scientist replied with dismay, stepping into the vault, “but I think this poor soul would confess that getting in is one thing while getting out is quite another.”

“Fetch another body bag and a stretcher, would you?” said Phadkar, turning to one of his subordinates. The man hurried off, and Phadkar watched on while the two scientists navigated the vault delicately, checking the inventory against a ledger whose accuracy was somewhat dubious. They checked through it twice without a word, both coming to the same conclusion each time. They looked at each other, as if trying to communicate telepathically, and the chief scientist finally declared, “I think everything is accounted for, but we should cross reference one more account just to make sure. If you will excuse us a moment, major.”

“Carry on,” Phadkar replied, making way for the scientists to step out and the stretcher and cleanup crew to step in. He watched to make sure nothing was touched except for the body, and the scientists stepped into a nearby office.

“Just as I thought,” the chief scientist lamented, looking down on a duplicate ledger moments later. “The account is correct. It is right.”

His deputy’s heart was racing and his voice was shaky when he asked, “What are we going to do? How could this happen?”

“It is such a meager amount,” the chief said after a pause. “Hardly enough to do anything with. And even if it were a significant amount, the technical skill required to...”

“It is insignificant, really,” said the deputy, “especially compared to what would happen if we were to reveal it. We would never hear the end of it. We would be vilified, our entire lives suddenly examined under a microscope.”

“That is an examination that we cannot afford. We have to bury the discrepancy in the books. It is as simple as that.”

“But what if something happens?”

“It is too technically demanding, especially with such a small quantity. Anyone with the ability to put these materials to use would have the ability to produce their own—they would not need to steal it.”

“What about a biological device?”


“You are probably right,” the deputy conceded, knowing there was no other way. They could roll the dice and cover it up or reveal the discrepancy and come under scrutiny that they certainly could not withstand. There was only one choice for them.

“Begin working out the bookwork—this is no different than anything else we have done before—and I will go notify the ISI investigator,” said the chief, turning away. When he got back to the vault, the stretcher was on its way out and two men were already inside mopping. “Everything checks out,” he lied. “They had just enough time to get one trapped but not enough to take anything out.”

“That is a relief,” said Phadkar. “But it is still extremely concerning that they were able to get this far. Some security audits are in your future, you can be sure of that.”

Twenty Years Later...

Karachi, Pakistan.

Zulu: 0300

Echo: 0800




Nervous energy. That’s what Asim reasoned was behind his seemingly convulsive fidgeting. One second he would find himself grabbing at his black stubbly beard and the next second he would catch himself tapping his foot against the car’s floorboard with a steady rhythm. He would go on to shift his weight from one side to the other, cross one leg and then the other, and then a hand would find its way back to his beard. Each time he caught himself doing one thing he would stop, only to unknowingly move on to the next step in the cycle. His behavior did not go unnoticed to the man sitting beside him in the back seat of the sedan.

“Calm down, brother,” the elderly man spoke in a disarming tone. “Do not betray your excitement so easily.”

“I’m fine,” Asim dismissed with the vanity of youth.

“Of course you are,” his companion replied. After a moment he added, “I do not like the vice, you know, and I never allow it in the car, but I think an exception can be made this once if you would like to smoke.”

Asim looked at him strangely for a moment, almost as if it were a trap. The man gave him a reassuring nod, and Asim fished a lighter and a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. “Thank you, Mullah,” he said, lighting a cigarette shakily. He closed his eyes and took a long, easy pull.

“Do not worry about me, Mullah,” he exhaled, his eyes still closed. “I have been preparing for this for so long...I know my duty...I will not be compromised.”

“Brother, do not think I am worried. I know you have faith in your task and yourself. So do I,” Fahd smiled.

“Thank you, Mullah,” Asim replied softly. “Thank you.”

Assisted by the nicotine soaking into his lungs, Asim quietly began to gather in his composure. He had indeed been preparing for a long time. He had anticipated these very moments of nervousness countless times and was more than a little surprised that he had not become numb to the stimulant. But imagining something in one’s head, walking through it perfectly with imperfect imagination, is one thing, while experiencing it in unbending reality is another thing entirely.

No matter what he had previously told himself, he never could have escaped some initial moments of anxiety. It was simply human nature. But as Asim came to terms with the fact, he became increasingly self-aware, and his mind sharpened, contracting to bring all his being’s nervous manifestations under firm control. Aided by his cigarette, he went from jittery to sedate in just a few minutes, soon leaning comfortably back in his seat, once again going over his idea of the future in his mind’s eye.

Mullah Fahd, always observant, was pleased by the evidence of his friend’s strengthening resolve, though he had never really doubted it. Fahd’s words had not been just lip-service; he had the utmost confidence in Asim. The mission was far too important to entrust to anyone who was not worthy of it, to anyone with the propensity to fail. Particularly with Asim, Fahd merely dismissed the possibility of failure with all the faith he was known to possess and more. He was a religious man, after all, in the most perverse sense, and he was convinced that he and the man sitting beside him had important roles to play in divine affairs.

Just as Asim was taking his cigarette’s final draw, the driver wheeled the sedan into the entrance of the West Wharf at the Port of Karachi. The car came to a stop just short of the guard booth.

“Here we are,” Fahd announced.

“Yes,” Asim replied with a nod of his head. He took a deep breath and seemed to hesitate.

“Another cigarette before you leave, perhaps?” Fahd questioned.

“No. No, thank you, Mullah. I am ready,” Asim answered, taking a final deep breath before reaching for the door handle.

“Then let us not delay,” said Fahd cheerily, reaching for his own handle and hopping out of the car. They met at the opened trunk, and Fahd helped his friend unload his luggage, which consisted of a large rolling suitcase, a duffel bag, and a bulky backpack. It probably would have been much easier to pack and transport the heavy contents of the backpack inside the rolling suitcase, but the men preferred the backpack’s contents firmly attached to Asim’s person, as much in his control as the clothes against his body. Fahd slammed the trunk lid shut with a thud and Asim wrestled the backpack onto his back with a subtle grunt. He had been practicing to carry the heavy pack over the span of his last several voyages, adding a bit of benign weight to the pack each time to gradually become acclimated to bearing such a burden and looking naturally while doing so. The real thing somehow seemed far heavier, and he could only assume it had more to do with the added tonnage it piled atop his mind rather than the physical weight.

“Goodbye for now, brother,” Fahd spoke softly, placing a hand on his shoulder and offering another smile.

“Goodbye, Mullah,” muttered Asim. He turned away, adding, “I will call you when I can.”

Fahd got back into the car, this time into the front passenger seat, and proudly watched Asim make his way through the wharf checkpoint. He continued on, where he soon entered an office. A few moments later, he emerged with a port worker and they hopped onto a vehicle that looked like an airport luggage cart and scooted away toward the container ship where Asim worked.

Fahd nodded in satisfaction and looked to his watch after he had passed out of view. He turned to the diver, who was grappling the steering wheel in a manner that made him seem tense, and said, “You may take us home now, Syeed.”

It took about three minutes for the cart transporting Asim to reach his vessel, though his company made it seemed far longer. The port worker driving was familiar, but not overly so, and Asim was happy when the time came to part company with him. He grudgingly returned the man’s parting words on the way up the gangway, and he quickly found relief in the much more familiar confines of the vessel he regularly made his home for months on end.

Despite the enormous size of the vessel and its relatively small crew, it was made for transporting cargo first and foremost, and that meant spare room was not much of a consideration in crew areas. He squeezed and twisted his way through doorways and pulled his luggage across bulkheads as he made his way through the maze of corridors that led to his cabin. To his relief, his roommate was not there when he pushed open the cabin door—it was claustrophobic enough with one human in the space—and he was able to spread his things out in order to stow it all away in an orderly fashion.

After he had everything stowed, Asim sat on the edge of his bunk for a moment, taking in the cleared space around him and catching his breath before he might head off to check the duty roster. It wasn’t quite as claustrophobic with everything put away, he noticed, but the presence of his backpack, even with it safely out of sight in the locker beneath his bunk, still made the cabin—the whole ship, really—feel much too small.

Day 1

Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Zulu: 2000

Echo: 0100




Few things are as unwelcome as an uninvited knock on the door in the middle of the night. In a strange and foreign land the effect is tenfold.

“What could this possibly be?” Julie Abbott asked herself annoyingly, slipping out of bed and finding her pistol through the darkness.

The knocking continued as she made her way down the hall, seeming to increase in frequency and volume with every barefooted step she took. She soon came to the dim living room, lit only by a television.

“Michael!” she called harshly to the man lying on the sofa. “Are you just going to lie there?”

“Yeah. It’s the middle of the night.”

She sighed.No kidding.

“Yeah, and people don’t knock on doors in the middle of the night for no reason. Get up and watch my back.”

“If it was something important somebody would’ve called us,” he said, gesturing to the phone on the coffee table. “Probably just some bum hoping someone will open the door so he can gut ‘em. Just let them bust in. Then you can kill them without too much hassle.”

Julie pressed on toward the door, shaking her head in irritation. Her already fast heart rate went up another notch when she looked through the front door’s peep hole. She had never before seen the man knocking on the door in person, but she knew him all too well from photographs.

“Michael! It’s GOLDFISH!” she said in a strange kind of tone between shouting and whispering.

“What?” Michael replied, jumping from the sofa. He produced his own pistol from a nearby hiding spot and hurriedly headed toward the door. “Are you sure?” he asked more quietly, approaching Julie. She nodded silently, her dark eyes wide. He took a peek for himself, startled all afresh. “Check the perimeter,” he ordered.

“What are we going to do?” she asked, scurrying away to comply.

He only shrugged his shoulders in reply. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what kind of trap he was on the verge of springing. Should he act like no one was home, even though it was evident someone was, and hope GOLDFISH went away, or should he open the door and rush the man in? Either option would probably be disastrous. If someone was after his contact, he needed to protect him. But not this way. This way implicated himself and Julie. But if his contact happened to be caught and tortured, he would most likely be implicated in any case.How did he find us? he asked himself time after time.

Michael finally opened the front door to his home swiftly, grabbed GOLDFISH by the collar and pulled him into the entryway. He shut and locked the door behind him in an instant.

“You fool! What are you doing here? Don’t you know you’ll get us all killed? This is the most outrageous breach of communication procedure! How did you even know where to find me?”

“That is not important!” the man stammered. “I have information that cannot wait. I had to see you immediately.”

“You know this isn’t the way this works.”

“Listen, Rafiq!” GOLDFISH said, calling Michael by an alias. “I discovered something and they are onto me. I had to flee. And I could not follow the normal protocol. There is no time for it.”

“You’ve blown us all! Tell me what you know, you idiot, so I can hurry and kill you myself!”

“They have a weapon, Rafiq. They sent it with someone on a cargo ship two weeks ago. Nuclear!”

“Proof?” Michael demanded, unbelieving of such an outrageous claim. GOLDFISH produced a memory card from his pocket and thrust it into Michael’s hand.

“This? You’re a dead man! You could’ve gone to the embassy. You could’ve given this directly tothem. You could have put it in the mail! But you brought it here. Tome!To compromiseme!

“I had no choice! The mail is not safe and the embassy does not know me. They would not trust me.”

“I would have vouched for you. You would have been safe. Now we’re all screwed. We have to get out. We all have to get to the embassy now. Julie?” A breathless half second passed. “Julie?” this time harshly.

“What?” came a hurried reply from off the entry.


“I didn’t see anything.”

“We have to go. Our friend has compromised us.”

“Aren’t you going to check my intel?” GOLDFISH interrupted.

“Not here.”

Michael began to move to gather up everything that didn’t need to be left behind. He supposed he would never be back. He made three steps before the glow from the television in the other room went black. The power was cut.

“Julie! I thought you said the perimeter was clear?”

“It was a minute ago, Michael,” she shouted from her bedroom, throwing some supplemental things into a pre-assembled bug-out bag.

Michael changed directions, heading back to the front of the house. He looked inconspicuously outside. He saw no activity, but he did see that the opposite side of the street had power. Power outages were definitely not rare in his neighborhood, but the opposite side of the street was on the same line, and they were clearly experiencing no problems. Just as he feared, what was happening was no routine outage.

“Julie, better break out the heavy artillery,” he shouted, searching for movement outside, looking for the opening barrage of the ambush he knew was imminent. GOLDFISH began to panic behind him, pacing back and forth and muttering incomprehensible prayers to no one in a strange dialect. Seconds later, Julie arrived with a pack on her back and carrying assault rifles.

“What about your stuff?” she asked, ignoring GOLDFISH and tossing a rifle to Michael.

“No time to collect it. We’ll just have to torch it.”

No sooner than the words had left his mouth, the living room window was shattered by a Molotov cocktail. The glass bottle further shattered right on the coffee table, igniting a room-sized fireball with a suck of oxygen.

“That’ll get the job done,” Michael commented, looking back outside and seeing the long flame of another cocktail just being lit on the street. Whoever was handling the thing was obscured by the night and some vegetation, but the flame was a prime target. Michael leaned against his rifle and sent a barrage through the window and toward the orange flicker. It fell to the ground and spilled its fuel, making a fresh fireball in the street. Unfortunately, before he could engage any of the shadowy figures illuminated by the ball of flame, his barrage was answered, forcing him, Julie, and GOLDFISH to duck for cover. They were pinned down, and the house around them was both on fire and being shredded by bullets.

“We’re just going to have to shoot our way out of this,” Michael coughed, inhaling smoke. “I’ll draw their fire and you two bolt for the car. Here,” he directed to Julie, wrapping the memory card GOLDFISH had given him in her hand. “If I don’t make it to the car, make sure this gets to the embassy at all costs.”

“I won’t leave you,” she answered.

“You will if you have to. Now, let’s go. Stay on her tail,” he instructed GOLDFISH.

Without further delay, he leapt to action, flinging open the bullet ridden front door and firing at anything that moved. He cantered away in the opposite direction of the car. Julie and GOLDFISH were quick behind him, making a desperate run to flee just as another Molotov cocktail smashed into the front of the house. The fuel raced in every direction, a portion of it finding GOLDFISH. A second after the shatter of glass and the whoosh of flame, GOLDFISH found the left side of his body engulfed in flames. Julie was so concentrated on her task that she would not have even noticed if it hadn’t been for the man’s horrified scream. She was already at the car when she turned to see him well behind, squirming on the ground, ablaze. By the time she got back to him, he had nearly put himself out but was still convulsing in a seizure of panic. Well exposed, they could both dodge bullets for only so long, and as Julie reached down to drag him to the car they were both pierced by a concentrated effort. Julie was hit in the arm and leg and took another cutting graze to the abdomen. GOLDFISH found most of the lead and was completely flayed.

In a rush of adrenaline, pain, and confusion, Julie did not notice the extent of her own injuries or of GOLDISH’s, and she instinctively found the motivation to pull herself and the dead man the rest of the way to the car as Michael initiated a fresh offensive, sprinting across the small yard directly toward a group of attackers on the street. It was only when Julie had started the car and put it into gear that she realized the man she had thrown into the car before her was well beyond saving. Somehow, she still managed to put her own condition out of mind, focusing wholly on the ringing of Michael’s words from moments ago:make sure this gets to the embassy at all costs.


About me

Ben Harris is a student, writer, and investor.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian, Adam Smith, Aristotle.
Q. What books are you reading now?
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll.

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