Hi! I was inspired by spring forward and decided to post the next chapter early. I hope that you enjoy it.
Thank you as always to LostIn PA. She is awesome!
Now, Bella and an introduction.
Chapter Two: Rolling In the Deep
"She's mad but she's magic. There's no lie in her fire."
I knew Afghanistan would be a risk, but I believed that it was worth taking. This village, on the outskirts of Kabul, is one of the few places where Laurent doesn't have any known associates. Unfortunately, like so many other recent events, the calculated risk didn't work to my favor. Thank God for Tyler's quick reflexes, but damn his protective nature for covering me while the room shook and crumbled around us. His brave attempt to keep me from harm has only put us in another precarious situation. If he weren't unconscious, I'd throttle him for being so stupid.
We don't have much time. The hired guns who attacked us will be coming to collect the evidence of our demise. There is no way that I can drag Tyler anywhere fast, but there is also no way that I can leave him behind, no matter how angry he will be that I'm risking my life for his.
Pot, kettle, black.
The sarcastic phrase rattles around my head. We really are two peas in an incredibly twisted pod. I almost laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Sitting quietly against the wall, I rack my brain for alternatives. Sadly, there is nothing in this room to help and no place to hide. It's hard not to let the hopelessness seep in, the heaviness of defeat pushing me into the floor. Tightening my arms around Tyler, I swallow back the bile simmering in my throat.
"I'm sorry. This is all my fault."
Suddenly, the door flies open, my hand automatically grabbing the handle of the gun tucked into my shorts. The stranger is not who I expected, and for a few strange seconds, the intensity of his jade eyes give me pause. The moment is quick lived as a screaming siren reminds me of our dire circumstance. Shaking myself free, I channel my anger on the person in front of me. My priority is protecting us, protecting Tyler. Pulling the gun, I aim squarely at his forehead undeterred by the gun pointing back. If he is coming for me, he is going to have a fight.
"You have one second to tell me why I shouldn't kill you right where you stand."
His eyes turn dark, narrowing their focus. "Trooper." His voice is calm and deep.
My arm drops as the word registers in my head. "FN2187," I rattle off immediately, relieved in knowing that there is only one person who would have constructed that code word.
His gun drops too, eyes softening slightly. "I'm here to get you out, although I wasn't aware that there would be two of you."
Spurred by his veiled suggestion of abandonment, fury seeps from my clenched words. "I don't go anywhere without him."
Tilting his head, he considers me silently, the heat of his stare challenging my own ire. "We don't have much time."
"Then quit standing there and help me get him up." I won't be deterred. Fuck the CIA. "It's either both of us or nothing. I'm not afraid to die." The brave lie rolls off my tongue easily. The fate awaiting me if I stay is more frightening than I want to admit, but Tyler's constant loyalty has earned my sacrifice.
"Fine." Slamming the gun back into its holster, he rushes forward, easily hoisting Tyler into a firefighter's carry. "Let me go on record as saying that this is ludicrous." His words are gritty.
My sore body protests as I stand. "Duly noted," I spit back. "Come on, there's a hidden staircase in the back." He looks at me wide-eyed. "I wouldn't come here without an escape route."
Not waiting for his response, I rush towards the door, opening it slightly to peek into the hallway, gun at the ready. Finding it empty, I wave him forward as I move out. Cognizant that my new "friend" is carrying extra weight, I know I need to balance moving cautiously with moving quickly.
Creeping along the wall, I check each door as we pass. When I come to one that is open, I pause to take the master key that I stole from the hormone driven clerk out of my pocket and lock it.
"What in the hell are you doing?" The man hisses behind me.
"These people are the muscle, not the brains. They will see a locked door as a possible hiding spot. The more that are locked, the more time we buy."
"And you know this because?"
"They're unsophisticated hired guns with a basic arsenal. They used a grenade launcher, not an RPG when they attacked earlier. This is definitely the B team. But, I'm sure that the A team is on their way. We don't want to be here when that happens."
"I'll trust you on that one," he grunts, adjusting Tyler's body across his shoulder.
Coming to the end of the hallway, the man growls, to him I'm sure he sees a dead end. To me, I know we are close to freedom. Opening the door on the left, I walk into the hotel room, letting my companion through, and leaving the door cracked behind me.
He lifts his eyebrow but follows my lead. "Too stupid to see the ruse."
"Now you're getting it." Moving swiftly to the wall on my left, I look for the framed art shown to me in the picture so many years ago.
Carefully putting Tyler down, my companion rolls his shoulders as he stands back up, shaking them free of the added weight. The fact that Tyler is still unconscious worries me and only adds to my increasing panic to get us out. Quickly pulling the picture off the wall, I feel along until I find the false panel. Taking a knife out my pocket, I pry it open and flip the concealed switch behind it. The room fills with a horrible squeal as a sliding door hidden in the wall opens behind a chair on my right exposing a covert passageway.
"I thought that only existed in the movies." His voice is smooth and honeyed, although cynicism lingers between each syllable.
"You'd be surprised by how much of so-called 'fantasy' actually exists in real life." He stares, analyzing, trying to figure me out. Good luck, buddy. "Let's go."
Moving the chair over, I'm careful not to pull the tiny chain tied to it. Lifting up Tyler, he rushes past me, just as the sound of running feet fill the hallway. After replacing the panel and returning the painting, I follow them into the narrow hallway. Flipping another switch on the other side of the wall, the door closes behind us. The chain should pull the chair back into place, blocking the hidden passage. Unless someone looks closely, it would be difficult to notice.
Encased in darkness, I control my breathing, listening for the sounds of our attackers. After several seconds of thankful silence, I make my way over to my new "friend". He is smart enough to know to stay quiet and not bombard me with questions. It gives me hope that Charlie's connections paid off and they actually sent a worthwhile agent. I don't have the time or patience to babysit some rookie trying to move up the ladder. Squeezing past him, the strange look he flashes as our bodies brush intrigues the analytical part of my brain, but there is no time for my usual scrutiny. Focused on my goal, I reach up and grab a flashlight from Tyler's cargo pants. Switching it on, the small tunnel illuminates revealing dusty debris and cobwebs.
"This way," I whisper.
"Lead the way, Mira."
Whipping my head in his direction, I silently question the unusual name. He simply shrugs his shoulders, with a hesitant smile. The innocent nature of the gesture sends an unexplainable tingle down my spine. Annoyed by my undisciplined reaction, I focus back on the path. I don't have time to ponder unnecessary feelings. Turning a tight corner, I see the small winding staircase that should take us to another tunnel leading away from the building.
"Can you go down with him?"
"Please." He bristles, although I catch a glimpse of fatigue in his eyes.
"Don't drop him," I warn. He can be as tough as he wants; Tyler is the only thing that matters.
"Don't worry, your friend is in good hands," he grumbles, apparently offended by my suggestion.
Before we get far, I wave him past, swinging the bag strapped over my shoulder around so I can open it. My companion stares with curious eyes as I dig into the side pocket and pull out a tiny charger. Quickly sticking the device to the wall next to the first step, I engage it.
"Insurance," I state matter-of-factly. It might look little, but the invisible laser will trigger enough of a blast to bring down this staircase if anyone figures out a way to follow us.
His eyes narrow, evaluating the device and then me. "Impressive."
"I like to be prepared. Come on."
The wooden stairs groan as we walk down, my hand sliding against the wall as we twist our way to the ground floor. Once we reach the bottom, I pivot left, looking for the door that was in the blueprint. Pushing some broken boxes and paper out of the way, I spot our escape, yet the size makes my heart sink.
"That the way out?"
"Yeah, it must have been designed to crawl through. Shit." I turn and look at Tyler's unconscious body.
"Hey." My companion bends to catch my eye. "Don't give up now." I open my mouth to challenge his sudden optimism, but he quickly cuts me off, his eyebrow peaking above his prodding eyes. "It will be a challenge, but we don't have a choice, right?"
The intentional push is effective; I need to get it together. "Right."
Prying the door open, I shine the light in as the smell of stale air assaults my senses. Luckily, it looks like there is enough room to crouch. That should give us a little more leverage than if we had to crawl. "It should be about thirty feet to the next building."
Putting Tyler down by the entrance, he looks into the tunnel with me. "I'll go first." Sliding in, he turns and maneuvers Tyler over. Wrapping his arms under his armpits, he pulls him into the tunnel. "You take his legs. We're going to have to do this blind." His eyes shift to the flashlight in my hand. He's right. I can't help him move Tyler while holding a flashlight.
Taking a breath, I shove the flashlight into my back pocket, pick up Tyler's legs, and scoot into the passage. "Let's go."
"Is there a way to close that door behind us?" he questions, moving backward.
My mind scrolls through the pictures and blueprints in my head until I find the right one. "Yes." Laying down Tyler's legs, I take out the flashlight and shine it on the wall to my right. Finding the switch, I quickly flip it, the door shutting behind us.
"Whoever designed this was a genius," the stranger's voice echoes in the darkness.
"That he is," I comment lightly.
"Hmmm." I can feel his eyes searching me, paying attention to my every word. I should have monitored them better. "We should get moving," he responds simply.
Picking up Tyler's legs once more, we find an awkward rhythm of pulling and pushing. The sounds of our grunts and heavy breathing are the only noises in the tunnel as we slowly push forward. The further we get, the more my leg muscles burn and arms protest. The thought of getting Tyler to safety is the singular notion that keeps me going. I have no other choice.
"Fuck," my partner hisses, when he unexpectedly hits a dead end. "You don't by chance know where another one of those magic switches are, do you?"
"Umm, it should be in the same spot as the last one." I automatically point before realizing he really cannot see me. "I can try to…"
"I got it. I pay attention to important details," he throws out as if there is a hidden message behind the words. The weight in my arms shifts as he sets Tyler down, the sound of a gun arming echoing around us. "Can't be too careful."
After a few seconds of hearing him search the wall, the click of a flipping switch followed by the sound of a sliding door fills the tunnel. We made it. Maneuvering out of the tunnel, we set Tyler down so that I can turn on the flashlight. The room is small, with another door on the opposite wall. Cobwebs and a few scattered boxes line the walls. Looking around, I try to get my bearings and plan our next move.
Shifting through the boxes in a corner, I search for supplies. "I need to stop the bleeding. Being unconscious for this long isn't good." Everything is dirty and stained with unknown substances.
"Here." I turn in time to see him taking off a small backpack that I never paid attention to before now. Pulling out an army green tee shirt, he uses the knife attached to his hip to rip off the bottom section, effectively making a bandage.
"Thank you," I murmur, grabbing it and rushing back over to Tyler. Thankfully, the blood flow has slowed. "Tyler?" I carefully wrap the material tightly around his head and then check his pupils.
"How does it look?"
"I'm worried about intracranial pressure." I look around the room again. "And I don't have the supplies I need to fix that." I huff in annoyance. "Trying to place an external ventricular drain outside of a hospital is tricky enough, let alone in a place like this." My eyes scan the room, hoping that an answer presents itself. Medics in the middle of a war zone learn to improvise, doing what they can to increase the percentage of survival just enough to get the patient to a hospital. Nevertheless, even field surgery requires some equipment. "I'd need a drill, some type of hose, tape to hold it in place, antiseptic for the wound. Fuck."
"Who are you?" the stranger asks before I realize I'd spoken my harried list aloud.
"There is no way, I can treat him here," I say ignoring his question. A groan from behind me alters everything. I quickly turn and focus all of my attention on the grateful sight of blinking eyelids. "Tyler?"
"Thank God," I whisper, tears filling my eyes at the sight of his opening. "I'm here. How do you feel?"
"Like shit. How are you?"
"I'm really fucking mad at you. You're not allowed to die on me. Remember?"
"Don't worry. You can't get rid of me that easily." He smiles, but it quickly turns into a frown when he moves. "What's going on?"
"The cavalry arrived just in time. We made it through the passage."
"Who…" pausing, he clears his throat, "Who'd they send."
"Umm," I turn realizing we never had a chance to make introductions.
"Edward," my companion states moving closer. "Edward Cullen. Nice to meet you, Tyler."
"Likewise," Tyler grunts, his unfocused pupils paradoxically narrowed on Edward. He doesn't trust anyone easily, especially when it come to my safety.
"Be nice," I chastise quietly. "He saved our lives." Standing, I reach out. "Bella Swan. Thank you, truly. We wouldn't have survived if you hadn't arrived when you did."
His hand encases mine in warmth. "Bella," he whispers. "It's very nice to meet you."
So, I don't think I would ever make it as a code created for the CIA, but bonus points to anyone who knows the reference. ;)
Why did he call her Mira? Tune in on Sunday when we will hear from Edward again. Until there here is your teaser.
As she turns, I appreciate for the first time that Tyler was not the only one caught in that blast. She's dressed in a dark blue tank top and beige cargo shorts, appropriate for a hot day, but not the best protection for shrapnel and crumbling walls. Scrapes and bruises smatter her arms and legs, but the large wound on her right shoulder is particularly concerning.
"You're hurt." I reach towards the cut when she quickly pulls back.