Desperate Measures

Chapter I


Kat slipped down the hallway. She was sure that she had seen only one enter the room. She stood a few feet from the doorway, listening intently. Her hands were sweating on the grip of the pistol. After a moment, her patience was rewarded with a crackling CP radio call. There! It was definitely only one unit!

Inching slowly towards the door Kat thought out her plan. It was pretty sketchy, but if it helped her get to Lennox, it would be worth it. Capturing one CP should lead to some names at the least. If it didn't work out for her, she didn't really have anything to lose anyway.

With her back to the wall Kat peered around the doorframe. There was a battered apartment room littered with pieces of furniture, graffiti and broken windows. Standing at the window was a lone CP unit. Maybe luck was with her this time. CP's hardly ever worked alone. He was looking down on the small courtyard between the apartment buildings. Both hands were on his rifle, but all of his attention was on something outside. Kat took a deep breath and crept into the room. Moving as silently as possible across the debris-strewn floor, she kept her eyes riveted to the back of the CP's helmeted head. The pistol was aimed there as well.

Every time the CP shifted, Kat froze but he was intent on his surveillance. After what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, she slipped up behind him. With one quick motion she wrapped her left hand around his neck and jammed the pistol under his jaw with the other.

"Don't. Move." She could feel the man stiffen and then freeze. "Good. Drop the weapon." To her surprise, he complied easily enough. "OK, we're going to move away from the window and over to the wall back here. Keep your hands out where I can see them and move slowly."

The CP did as he was told and didn't offer a word of argument or abuse. Kat had him place his hands on the wall and stand leaning forward so he couldn't make any sudden moves without warning. "Alright, tell me your name and what unit you're with. And why you're here alone." After a pause, the man just shook his head.

"What? Hey, I'm the one with the gun here now, smart-ass. Answer me!" She jammed the gun against the man's neck a little harder and was rewarded with a small grunt of pain. He slowly dropped his head forward and then shook it as if hoping the front section of the helmet would fall off. Kat clenched her jaw in frustration. What kind of trick could this be?

"Stop it! What are you doing? Can't you speak with that thing on?" The CP shook his head. "Liar! I've heard you guys transmit to each other. I know you can talk." As if on cue, a transmission crackled in.

"Unit 37. Unit 37. What's your 20? You are no longer visible. Respond"

To Kat's surprise her victim responded calmly and without prompting. "Thought I heard something down the hall. Give me another minute to check it out." He then shook his head again as if trying to dislodge the helmet and twisted a hand around to point at the back of the helmet.

Kat was paralyzed with indecision. She could feel her heart pounding. What was this guy trying to do? There was a catch on the back of the helmet. She had absolutely no reason to trust him, but he had done nothing to give her away on the radio. Before she could make a decision he slowly started to move his hand towards his head.

"Stop! Are you trying to get that thing off?" He nodded. "Alright, move slowly."

The CP gingerly fiddled with the helmet. It was obviously not meant to be removed with one hand. After a moment, the front half of the helmet fell to the floor. Kat suddenly realized she didn't want to see a human face at the other end of her gun.

The man still hadn't looked up. "I'm sorry," he said. "Look, I couldn't say anything without putting you at risk. The radios are voice activated when we're on recon like this. Anything I said would be heard by the whole squad."

Kat was stunned. "What in the hell are you talking about?"

He shrugged. "It's clear that you're no Civil Protection fan, and since you're the one with the gun to my neck, I thought maybe we should have a talk without calling in the troops."

"Good. I want information. I need to find a CP named Lennox. I don't know anything about him except he's been on missions outside the city and he seems to be some sort of an officer or something."

"I think I can help you, but you'll have to trust me. I don't know a Lennox, but I might know some peopleā€¦"

"Why in the world would I ever trust you?" Kat interrupted. "You work for them! You've turned on your own people. I don't care who you 'might' know, just tell me how I can find this guy and all this will be over."

The CP responded in a calm, level voice, "I'm sure you have a good reason to find this Lennox and if you can give me a reason to trust you, I think I can help you."

Kat narrowed her eyes as she realized what he was implying. "You think I'm a Combine spy?" Her mind worked furiously. "There's nothing I can tell you that you haven't heard. My story is just like everyone else's. I have nothing left. The only thing different is I've decided to do something about it. I can't think of anything to tell you that would inspire your trust. "

"Well, it looks to me like we only have a few options here. A) You can choose not to trust me, shoot me and alert a whole Civil Protection squad. B) You can trust me enough to hear me out, sneak out of here and either report me as a sympathizer or disappear. Or C), you hear me out and follow my advice. I personally prefer C, as A and B probably won't end well for me. Your call now."

Kat took a step back, but didn't lower her weapon. The man straightened up, rubbing his neck, and gave her a self-mocking grin. "I never expected to get apprehended by a citizen. You didn't make a noise." As he looked at her face, Kat noticed a puzzled look flicker cross his face, as though he had recognized her from somewhere.

"OK, first, I need to get back to the window or they'll send someone up to check up on me. I can switch off the voice-activated transmitter now that you let me get my mask off. If you stay low they won't see you and we can try to straighten this out."

"Alright, but still no sudden moves."

The CP picked up his mask and fiddled with it for a minute, put it back on and walked back to the window. Kat followed and crouched against the wall, sliding his weapon towards her. After slipping a finger under the edge of the white mask the man spoke, "Unit 28. Unit 28. This is Unit 37. Did you copy previous transmission?" His voice came out modified and unnatural.

There was a crackling response. "Unit 37. That's negative. No previous transmission received."

"I seem to be having some trouble with my radio. Hallway was clear, just some birds in one of the rooms."

"10-4, Unit 37. Get that checked after your shift."

He removed his finger from the mask. "There. That should keep everyone calm."

Kat finally lowered her weapon a bit. "Neatly done. Now, how do you think you can help me?"

"Alright, here's what I'll do." The CP glanced at her before returning his gaze to the courtyard. "I know some people who could use someone with your skills and, ah, determination. I'm gonna give you some directions to a nearby base, but it will be up to you to get there. If you check out, I might be able to pull some strings.

Kat listened to the detailed directions carefully. When he finished the CP asked her, "Is that clear? Can you get there without attracting attention?"

"Yes."

"Good. When you get there knock on the door and tell whoever answers that Barney sent you."