Gust Front John Ringo



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Chapter 54



Rabun County, GA, United States Of America, Sol III
0325 EDT October 11
th, 2004 ad


The team leader's head came up at the crack of the pistol round and he shook it violently. There were two protectees though. One was a young female and the profile on the assassin did not make that a pretty picture. There was still a mission; the question would be how to proceed.

He waved for the point to stop and turned to the technical expert. That worthy was deciphering the readout from the Galactic-supplied life sensors. He made a motion for three humans, one terminated. One male, one female alive. Male and female were moving.

The team leader checked the location and gave the point hand signals to move to the opposite side of the house and do a covert entry. He waited impatiently for more intelligence.

* * *

Mike Senior finished strapping Cally into the Kevlar battle armor and threw his own on. Cally had pulled down her British 7.62 Bullpup and the sight of her with pistol and rifle made him think of other ways to spell her name. The drying blood flecked through her blonde hair was a sight to behold.

"You're a mess, Grandpa."

"You don't look so hot yourself," he snorted, fixing the last two straps in place and picking up his MP-5. The friction sling rode smoothly and he hopped up and down for a second to ensure there weren't any rattles. "And the living room is going to be a bitch to get cleaned up."

"Sorry about shooting him, then. Not."

* * *

The point monk checked the window for entry. He popped up a microcam and scanned the bedroom beyond. It looked like a spare, bed made, no one around, no personal items, no mess. Next he checked the window for tell-tales. It had magnetic alarms but they were easily bypassed. There were motion sensors in the room, however. He bypassed the window alarms, jimmied it and made a slow entry into the room. As long as you moved very slowly, the sensors would not detect you. If they were set to detect motion that slow, they would false-alarm on every breath of air. He moved into the room, the camera on his shoulder faithfully repeating the picture back to the team leader.

* * *

"They're in the downstairs guest bedroom," said Papa O'Neal. The command bunker was connected to the kitchen by a short tunnel. From it he had a commanding, and camouflaged, view of the approaches. He also had readings from the sensors scattered throughout the property and house. The sensors were not connected to alarms, so they were set on the highest possible threshold. Detecting false alarms from reality was something of an art. However, the bedroom also contained a small sound mike and camera. Occasionally kinky but old habits die hard.

"Who is it?" asked Cally, sliding her Bullpup behind her back and checking the mine controls. She got the fun part; her job was detonating them on Papa O'Neal's command. Well, she might let Papa O'Neal try a few. If he was nice.

"Hmm, lemme see," answered Mike Senior. "Black body armor. Black ski masks. Black weapons. Black boots. Gee, Santa Claus?"

"Police?"

"No, they'd have it across their backs in great big letters," said Papa O'Neal, gesturing at the picture of the point moving stealthily down the hallway. "They're good, though. Shame we're gonna have to kill 'em."

* * *

The point froze at the entrance to the living room. The body slumped across the rawhide chair was not one of the protectees. It appeared to be the target. He began to relax out of his crouch.

* * *

"That's odd," said Papa O'Neal.

"What?" asked Cally, running a circuit check. The detonators were designed to take a low-voltage test current without actually exploding. Only two circuits were dead. Very good. And there was one claymore placed directly behind their visitors. As soon as Papa O'Neal gave the word, one special operations team was toast.

"He just relaxed. If he was backup for Harold he should be more tense, not less."

"What else could he be?"

"I don't know. But it's odd."

* * *

The team leader looked at the tech with a puzzled expression in his eyes. Then he shrugged, picked up his cell phone and consulted a scrap of paper.

* * *

A red light over the phone in the bunker began to blink. Papa O'Neal looked at it with a puzzled expression and picked it up.

"Michael O'Neal, Senior?" asked a faintly accented voice on the phone.

"Yes," said Papa O'Neal, warily.

"Are you and Cally O'Neal in good condition?"

"Yes."

"In general, if I might ask, where are you?"

Mike Senior chuckled evilly. "In a command bunker watching you and your point scratching your heads. Smile for the cameras!"

"Ah," said the commando, cautiously. "We were ordered to respond to protect you from one Harold Locke, an operative of . . . An operative who had been given a contract on you. You are in good health?"

"Yes."

"Oh. That is good. We will withdraw then."

"Okay," Papa O'Neal agreed warily. "You'll understand if we don't invite you to tea?"

There was a dry chuckle. "Of course. Question: Do you want us to dispose of the body or would you prefer to yourself?"

It was a good question. If there was an investigation the body would be a mountain of evidence pointing right at Cally. The fact that he was an assassin would not even be worth bringing up in a trial. There was no proof.

The question really was: Did he trust these people not only to dispose of the evidence but to do so as perfectly as possible? In the end the answer surprised him.

"Yeah. Thanks. Come to tea some other time. With a few less friends."

"God be with you, Mr. O'Neal."

On that odd farewell the group broke into activity. The point opened the front door of the house while three other black-clad troops slung their weapons and trotted forward. Two vans pulled up within seconds and, as the four in black on the inside bagged the body, another group in white exposure suits exited the second van. These individuals lugged in a variety of materials, mostly cleaning supplies and equipment, and began a thoroughgoing cleaning of the room.

Once practically every scrap of blood and brain was cleaned up, they closed the curtains to the room and doused the lights. Papa O'Neal could not determine precisely what went on, but he had a pretty good idea. Many modern investigation techniques involved materials that fluoresced or are visible only under ultraviolet light. Undoubtedly the team was cleaning up these otherwise invisible bits.

When the lights came back on it was to reveal the last of the group exiting a perfectly cleaned room. The only thing suspicious about it was that most living rooms do not look like a factory clean room. The body bag had already disappeared into the maw of the evidence van. Once both groups loaded up the two vans pulled out without, as far as Papa O'Neal could determine, a single word being exchanged. One of the white-suits had donned mufti and drove the rent-a-car. From the time the point man entered the living room, less than an hour had elapsed. The only face they saw was the white-suit and he was wearing dark sunglasses and a beard.

"Damn," whispered Cally. "Who were those masked men?"

"I dunno," answered Papa O'Neal with a broad smile. "But they sure knew what they were doing." Fellow professionals were so hard to find.





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