Contacts and Preliminary Investigations
For a moment, Alexa stared openly at Villiers. She still could not believe that Kevin was the man known only as Coureur in the Resistance. From what she had heard, Coureur was a pre-Invasion staff sergeant in the Army, a man who knew all there was about killing from long range. A man whose name was supposedly whispered in fear by the Spetsnaz snipers, the Guard infantry regiments. A killer who emerged from the shadows at random, making his sudden chaotic kills, and then melting away into the night, as if he never was. But the clue was there for Alexa. Coureur, it turned out, meant 'runner' in French. Ever since she was assigned by Miers, before she was captured, to discover who Coureur was, she tried to decipher what the cover name could indicate. When Alexa learned that Coureur supposedly operated on Cape Cod, she took a closer look at the cross-country team of her school. One man, and one man only, fit the bill in terms of absences and language abilities, but she doubted it. Only now were her suspicions confirmed.
"Kevin, you won't like what I'm going to say, because it is asking a lot from you. And I mean a lot." Alexa warned him, looking closely at his face. As always, he was like a sphinx—Alexa couldn't read him. "Okay. I was assigned by Miers to determine who Coureur was. When I determined his or her identity, I was to make Coureur an offer, an offer that could possibly have huge consequences for the Resistance. Kevin," She said, obviously not comfortable with her assignment, "Miers wants you to…" She trailed off, unwilling to make herself say it.
"Alexa, what is it that Ms. Miers wants of me?" Villiers asked quietly, turning from the window and back towards her. She nearly gasped in surprise. Kevin's eyes were like rifle barrels leveled at her, penetrating her own gaze as if he was looking down into the depths of her soul, searching for the answer to his question. But what surprised her was Kevin's face. It looked…old, haggard. It looked like he had seen sights worthy of a dozen lifetimes of combat. She noticed a small scar on his forehead, slanting down towards his eye, that she hadn't noticed before. A small spot of white hair was visible above his left ear, probably brought on by stress. She couldn't do this to Kevin, not after all he had done both for her and the country to which he had sworn his allegiance. But she had her orders.
"Kevin, she wants you to die."
Villiers, to his credit, did not react. He calmly took a sip of his coffee, and stared at Alexa. His right hand suddenly shot out across his body, grabbed her pistol, and wrenched it out of her hand. He ejected the magazine, field-stripped it, and threw it into the next room. This all occurred within ten seconds. Leveling his own pistol at Alexa, he took a few steps back, screwing a small black cylinder on the barrel. Alexa was stunned, not knowing what was going on. She didn't believe that Kevin had just done that.
"If Miers wanted me dead, you would have acted sooner, and you would have been dead in the instant you tried anything. I did that to illustrate that you must, at times, be more specific. What does Miers mean when she says that she wants me dead?" Villiers questioned her, as he lowered his pistol. He knew that Alexa meant him no harm, as she had not screwed a suppressor on her Glock's barrel. But he did want to illustrate to her that one must be specific in this business that he was in.
"Right. Well, I guess she means she wants you to fake your own death, and begin a resistance cell here on the Cape." Kevin nodded, sitting down at the table again and holstering his pistol, the suppressor in his pocket. He had feared that Miers would want him to do something like that, given his performance both prior to and at her rescue. By now, the sun was clearly visible above the trees, and he closed his eyes. He did not want to do this. His parents were already nervous, given the Soviet occupation, and he did not want to send them over the edge. If they were told that he had died in a car accident, but later saw him in town, no amount of explaining could save them.
"Alexa, you know that I am committed to my family. They've raised me, taught me values that I cannot shake, and gave me a sense of mission. They raised me to be a man who stands up for what he believes in, who values freedom and liberty over tyranny and oppression." He looked Alexa in the eye. "But they also raised me to be aware of my actions, what they do to my family and loved ones. I am their son, and they have given me so much love and support. To simply walk away from that, in this time, to leave them wondering if I was arrested for 'crimes against the state'…it would be too much for them. I can't leave them. My brother, tough as he is, isn't smart enough to beat the Soviets at their basic game. I am. I have to stay here for their sake." He finished, hoping that Alexa could understand him. She did.
"That's what I thought, and, more importantly, that's what Miers thought you would say." She stood up, walking to the door. "I'll contact you when more information is forwarded to me. Same time, same place. Au revoir, Coureur." With those words, his friend disappeared into the dawn, leaving Villiers to wonder about the nature of the Resistance. He was not certain of it, but a sudden cold feeling fell down his spine. He had long learned to trust his instincts, and he didn't like what they were telling him.
"Kevin! What, exactly, was the Adams-Onis treaty?" Kevin was startled awake from a slight nap. His AP US history teacher glared at him angrily, the glasses on the man's face reflecting the light harshly into Kevin's eyes. Kevin rapidly reviewed the events of Monroe's administration, knowing that the teacher was trying to make an example of him. Kevin was determined to prove Mr. Bridges wrong yet again.
"The Adams-Onis Treaty was a treaty brokered between Spain's foreign minister and John Quincy Adams, SecState for Monroe, sir! The treaty ceded Florida from Spain to the United States, sir!" Kevin's voice boomed through the classroom. Mr. Bridges shook his head at Kevin, surprised and not a tad angry that his number one student had, somehow, given the correct answer even though he had been asleep. The rest of the class laughed, happy to see that Mr. Bridges' trap had backfired on him, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. Despite his best efforts, he simply could not trick the best history student in the class.
"Kevin, I don't know how you managed to pull that off, but I will not tolerate this! This is your third-block class, and, although granted that this is the rotating block for this class, that is no reason for you to nod off! Either you must change your sleeping habits or transfer into a lower-level class. Am I understood?" Kevin gave his teacher a murderous look.
"It is hard to focus, sir, when you know that you have not heard from friends in the military since the invasion. Or, perhaps, you've never lost sleep over something like that?" Mr. Bridges could not, and would not, reply to that. Everyone was still feeling the after-effects of the Soviet invasion, and it had made Kevin lose contact with some close friends.
"I understand that, but you must make an effort to pay attention, or you will be attending a Saturday school. Emily, what prompted Monroe to create his non-intervention doctrine?" He yelled at another student, turning to attempt to create a new victim in the class. Kevin turned his head away from the teacher, thinking, You weren't stuck behind a scope the entire night, waiting to take down just one target. That target, a Soviet militsya captain, had been in charge of investigating and prosecuting several police officers who had refused to obey the orders of a Red Army infantry captain. With the officer's death, the investigation was dropped, as were the charges. However, Villiers could not just tell that to Mr. Bridges. Truth be told, he didn't trust many teachers these days, given the political tendencies of most. Some were outright communists, like Mrs. Granger, his English teacher, or merely socialist, like Mr. Bridges. A small flash of blue caught his attention. Kevin turned to see Elizabeth waving her cell phone at him. He nodded, and flashed four fingers beneath his desk, telling her to hold on and follow him once the period was over. Thankfully enough, the bell rang two minutes later.
"Now remember, people, the chapter test is on Thursday, and I want to see the multiple-choice questions that you answered for review before the test!" Bridges yelled as chairs scraped along the floor and teenagers turned on cell phones and iPods. Kevin merely put his notebook in his pack and walked out the door. XC practice didn't start for a good thirty minutes, more than enough time to talk with his girlfriend. Lately, the relationship had been suffering, due in no small part to Kevin's Resistance activities and the vagarities of scheduling. Their sophomore year, they had shared three classes, but this year they only were in AP American history. He turned around, and saw Elizabeth was right behind him, just like he had thought. Turning away quickly into a small room, he set his pack down and flopped into a chair. Elizabeth did the same, but sat in the same chair as Kevin.
The room was, perhaps, the best-kept secret of the entire high school. It was furnished and used by the men and women's cross-country teams as a kind of 'lover's cove'—a place to ride out storms, as it were. No one, not even the teachers, knew of the room. The entire setup was surprising to any outsider—soft carpets, ample lights, a futon-like bed in a corner along with several chairs grouped around a coffee table and a TV with a well-stocked movie selection. Needless to say, a runner only brought their significant other to the room when they thought that the relationship would last quite a while.
"Hey, Elizabeth. Sorry I couldn't talk before class; Rowland was being a bastard with a pre-calc problem I couldn't get." Kevin apologized, kissing her lightly on the cheek. Elizabeth nodded her head, giggling.
"It's okay, Kevin. A lot of things like that happen. It's just life." Kevin nodded, looking at his watch. Two hours until contact, he thought. Elizabeth saw that he was distracted, and also noticed that his muscles had tensed up.
"Man, you are tense today. Here, let me help you," Elizabeth said, turning around in the seat and beginning to work Kevin's shoulders. At first, Kevin tensed up even more, not knowing what was happening. Then he realized that she was trying to give him a massage.
"Thanks, Elizabeth. I guess I need this," Kevin said, submitting to her touch. He had an odd habit of referring to people by their full names, even though Kevin knew that she actually preferred Beth to Elizabeth. However, he tried to stay deferential and professional at all times, a habit that endeared him to her parents. He relaxed as he felt Elizabeth's hands work his muscles, and, truth be told, he was grateful for it. His shoulders were tensing up far more often on runs than they had in the past and he could almost feel the pain in those sockets and muscles. Then her hands began to venture lower.
"Elizabeth, what are you doing?" He asked playfully. To his surprise and shock, he felt his shirt lift up, and, more terrifying, he realized that Elizabeth could see at least two scars, both from 7.62mm rounds. The bullets, although passing through him, hadn't done any damage, essentially just glancing blows—enough to spin him to the ground, but not enough to kill. He feared that he could keep his Resistance duties secret for only a short while longer.
"Kevin, what happened to you?" Elizabeth asked, her voice full of shock. Seeing a scar, mused Kevin, is always shocking, let alone injuries incurred in combat. He had to think fast, though, or else he would be put in a bind.
"It's nothing, Elizabeth. Some trigger-happy militsya officer thought I was someone else, but thankfully his aim would have gotten him disqualified from their training courses back in Russia. I think he was transferred to a desk job; the captain handling my recovery wished as much." Elizabeth looked at him in complete horror.
"When did this happen? I wasn't aware of it," She said, almost accusingly. Kevin heard anger enter her voice, and so he had to come up with a reply, and fast.
"It was over summer vacation. We all decided to keep it quiet, because one, I didn't die, and two, the offending officer was punished. I personally thought that was sufficient compensation, and I told my parents to get the idea of criminal charges out of their heads. It doesn't do well to anger the Russian bear after he saves you, right?" Kevin chuckled at his own joke. Turning around, he saw that Elizabeth, although frightened, had accepted his lie. Internally, he breathed a sigh of relief. My secret is safe for a few more days. His eyes flicked back to his watch.
"Oh, damn. I'm sorry I have to cut this short, but I have to get going. XC starts in a few minutes, and you know my times schedule…" He was not a bit surprised and happy when Elizabeth cut him off.
"I know. 'If you're five minutes early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late, and if you're late, you're dead.' I've heard the speech a dozen times, Kevin." Smiling, Kevin brushed her cheek with his lips.
"I love you," he whispered as he shouldered his pack and almost double-timed it to the lockers. He could have easily ran out to his car and thrown his pack in, but he decided that he didn't have time. Pulling his Underarmor and running shorts, he wondered what the run would be like. We did the six-miler to the beach and back yesterday, so we might just do the course. Then again, Coach might just make us do speedwork, he thought with revulsion. Mile repeats were not Kevin's favorite, to say the least. He noticed that he had a little time to wander out to the track, and so calmly walked to it, finding an Ultimate game in progress.
"Over here, over here!" His friend and team captain John Leonards yelled out. Kevin chuckled as he saw the bare-chested runner barrel across the field hockey field, trying to get to the end zone, the start of a straightaway on the track. John always sprinted when the end of the game was near, and this was no exception. The captain leaped up, caught the Frisbee, and then let out a roar of triumph. Kevin wished that he didn't do that, if only out of sportsmanship, but captains are as captains do.
"I see Leonards is up to his usual tricks," a voice behind Villiers said, and Coach Praetor smiled as Villiers nodded. William Praetor, although not a running legend on the Cape, was certainly a competent one. He had three Boston marathons under his belt, as well as many five and ten ks before he wrenched his knee in his first ultra marathon. He couldn't run very fast now because of that injury, but he instead coached Nauset Regional High's boys XC team as a way to give back to the running community. Although not as good as some of the other teams, Nauset's XC team, Praetor claimed, was the best because of their commitment and friendship with each other.
"Hey, Coach. What's the game plan today?" Leonards asked as he ran up. As team captain, Leonards felt like he had the need to know for what the team would be doing that day.
"It's pretty simple. We'll be doing a fartlek on the course, repeating the loop twice. Should be a good workout for you fast guys. The slower ones will be doing the course, then some acceleration-deceleration work on the track. That sound good?" Leonards nodded, then called the rest of the team over.
"Okay, guys, let's warm up!" He yelled across the field, and the guys started to jog along the track. Villiers kept up with Leonards on the warm-up, with David Workman right beside them. Villiers was probably the number five or six runner on the team, but he always ran 'with the wolves', as he called the upper-tier runners. Villiers had made it a policy to keep his mouth shut on the warm-ups and runs, instead preferring to listen to the light-hearted banter pass between the rest of the guys. But this day was different, for some reason. Villiers couldn't put a reason on it until they were at the treeline of the course, at the half-mile mark, doing their stretches. No one's talking. The realization hit him like a thunderbolt. Usually, there was a banter going on, with harmless insults rending the air. He looked up from stretching his hamstrings to see the reason for that quiet.
A squad of Russian soldiers, all in PT gear, was jogging the perimeter of the school's fields. He could hear the squad leader call out a cadence in Russian, but didn't understand what he was saying. That didn't scare him. What did was that they were all looking in the team's direction, watching them as a hawk would a rabbit. Villiers broke the silence.
"John, I think that we should get going." John turned at the sudden hardness and authority in Villiers' tone; he had never heard it before. Looking at the junior, he saw a coldness and ferocity that had never crossed his face before. Coureur was present, even if the others didn't realize it. The captain nodded nervously, then started onto the course, the rest following him. Villiers' suspicions were confirmed when the squad turned onto the course themselves, obviously tailing the runners, most of whom, including Villiers, had taken their shirts off in response to the heat, even in October.
"Leonards, listen to me carefully," Villiers said, up ahead at the front of the pack. "We're going to run at a normal pace until we enter the trees along the power lines. At that point, we're going to book it to the two mile mark. I'll go towards the beach, you take the rest of the guys on the course. I'll see what's up with the Russkies." Leonard, already nervous because of the soldiers, decided to follow Villiers' instructions. He had no idea what the junior was going to do, but he decided to trust his gut on this one. It seemed like Kevin knew what to do.
Okay, you bastards. Let's see if you follow me. Villiers thought as he turned left instead of right at the trail intersection. He ran hard for two hundred meters, then turned off down a small, ill-used path. Reaching it, he followed the path until he got to a tree with a dug-out base. Inside that hole was a ghillie suit and a real treat for Villiers, a suppressed Dragunov rifle. It wasn't his preferred rifle, but the situation called for a weapon like this. Villiers had kept it in the woods so that if it was discovered, no one could tie it to him. Putting on gloves and the suit, Villiers lay prone and shouldered the rifle. It was painted with a custom woodland pattern, one that could blend in with the forest during the fall or winter, along with spring, to a degree. Villiers looked down the 5x scope at the trail, waiting patiently.
Sure enough, the Russian squad soon came into sight, pistols in hand. Okay, ten men, as per Soviet doctrine. At least five will be experts with the pistols. Seem to be regular Russian service, no supressors or extended magazines. Might have a higher powder content, though. If I do this right, I can get away with one expended magazine. Villiers thought all of this quickly, knowing that, in his plan, seconds meant the difference between life and death. He waited until he estimated that the rear was about three hundred yards away. He willed his breathing to slow down, and slowly counted to ten. It had the effect of forcing his heart to beat more slowly, improving his aim markedly. He sighted in on the man's chest, then noticed the bulge.
Coureur quickly shifted aim to the head, waiting a few more crucial seconds. Slowly, steadily, he squeezed the trigger. A muffled pfft came from the rifle, and the soldier's head exploded. Blood sprayed out onto the trees, and the man dropped to the ground. To their credit, the squad acted quickly. They took cover behind whatever they could find, and started looking for the sniper. Villiers didn't move a muscle. The human eye is attracted to motion, and he was denying them that evolutionary advantage.
One of the soldiers, after about a minute, moved his head towards another, a question coming from his lips. Coureur slowly sighted on the soldier, and fired another round. This man's shoulder erupted in blood, the round traversing his chest cavity, penetrating his heart, and lodging in his lung. The soldier fell down, a rattling cough coming from his lungs before dying.
The rest of the squad finally had enough. They shot up the woods, hoping for a lucky shot to kill the sniper. Coureur didn't move. Finally, the soldiers advanced slowly, with the squad leader and his assistant hanging back to look over the entire scene. Villiers sighted in on the squad leader, and almost didn't take the shot. He looked like a kid barely out of high school, with the beginnings of a beard emerging on his face. His eyes betrayed him, though, skillfully examining the terrain as he looked for the sniper. That sentenced him to death. The assistant was just about to ask a question when a bullet sped seemingly out of nowhere into his superior's throat, killing him almost instantly. The new sergeant then knew that they were hunting Coureur.
Villiers acted rapidly, putting a round into the man's head, moving on to the next target. With the command structure eliminated, he worked quickly and furiously, taking down the soldiers as they ran for cover. Finally, there was only one left, who screamed the only obscenity that Villiers understood in Russian. Fuck my mother, eh? He thought in a moment of macabre humor, as he sighted in on the private. He was shooting up the trees, confused and panicked. Coureur shot him between the eyes, ending the fight and letting silence descend on the forest yet again.
Villiers acted quickly. He policed the brass, and put them into the rifle's case. He quickly hid the rifle, gloves and ghillie suit back into the hole, covering it with a piece of sod and moss that served the purpose admirably. He ran back onto the course quickly, where he encountered a frightened group of teenagers ahead of him. He decided to run the course the other way, to avoid the messy and awkward explanations that his actions were sure to demand. And so once more, Kevin, you lose a part of your soul and humanity with those deaths, the philosophical part of his mind lectured him. I hope, for your sake, that the killing will stop soon; you shall be a killer, nothing better than some of the Russians you yourself have killed. Kevin told his inner voice to shut up as he pounded the ground, trying to leave the stress of combat behind him.
Back at the track, Leonard and David Workman were shaking. Villiers had turned off the path, and a few minutes later they had heard gunfire, as well as shouting. The two top runners had increased their pace immediately, trying to get away from the sounds they now recognized as a firefight. They were scared, and they didn't know what was going on. Suddenly, they heard a Marine cadence being shouted from across the track, and they saw Villiers come running back hard, forcing the others around him to pick it up. He had gained a reputation as the 'motivation' coach of the team, scaring the underclassmen into nearly sprinting to get away from him. The results showed in the meets; they were all too scared of what Villiers could devise as a punishment for them.
"Well, how are we, guys?" Villiers asked as he finished right in front of the two runners. They merely stared at him, then Workman spoke up.
"I don't know what the fuck happened, and I don't think I want to." Workman said, his eyes reflecting the fear that he felt. Somehow, Villiers had an aura of death about him. Workman couldn't explain it, but it certainly felt like he was a harbinger of destruction and violence. Villiers nodded silently. In time, my friends, in time. His eyes reflected the thought, and that made the fear of the two runners even more palpable.
As Villiers changed back into his street clothes, he felt his phone vibrate. Opening it, he saw that he had a text message from Alexa. 2030, Thai cuisine, bar. Wear your Scout polo. ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA. Villiers couldn't help but smile. St. Nicholas of Myra, in Catholicism, was one of the patron saints of sailors, which was exactly was both Alexa and he were. He knew that he would have no trouble meeting Alexa, as it was a Friday, and Kevin occasionally went out to eat with his friends. His parents would understand.
"Well, Alexa, I'm here." Alexa, in a fashionable and alluring yet conservative dress, turned around to see Kevin in tan slacks and his Scout polo, one he received for being a sailing instructor at a camp several years ago. It was one of his identifying features at any informal yet 'dressy' function.
"So you are. Anything you'd like to drink?" Alexa asked. Kevin responded by motioning to the bar tender, who smiled, seeing a friend. "An iced coffee, please." Kevin spoke to the man. It was a ritual with the two, as that was often all Kevin would order when he was out with his friends. The bar tender smiled, then disappeared into the kitchen, having taken another order previously.
"Well, what is it that you'd like to tell me? Anything from Miers?" Kevin asked. He had considered the woman's offer, and accepted it with a few conditions, primarily being able to stay in school and live with his family. Miers had instructed him to begin Resistance operations whenever and wherever he deemed necessary, with the long-term goal of neutralizing the old Coast Guard air station in Falmouth. So far, he had only eliminated several officers and the one squad trailing him.
"Well, Kevin, Miers has given me an odd request. She wants to meet you in person again. From what I can tell, you'll be picked up in Orleans tomorrow at 0900 in order to meet her. I'm not sure where she has hidden herself, but she appears to be in charge of most if not all Resistance operations in Massachusetts, if not New England." Kevin motioned for her to continue. "Right. I think she wants to discuss the possibility of moving a squad down to the Cape, to handle operations under your supervision." Kevin leaned back in his chair and motioned for Alexa to be quiet as the bar tender appeared with his drink.
"Alexa, that's going to be difficult," he started. "I'm supposed to be in school, and I can't randomly take a day off just to lead a raid somewhere. If anything, the squad should be operating independently of me, and I am to function as an advisor and sometimes support element, not its commander." Alexa quirked her eyebrows at this, not understanding what Kevin was saying. He sighed mentally. Civilians and military speak different languages, and never the twain shall meet, he thought.
"What Miers should do is assign the squad or section a leader that she trusts, one who can take advice from those who live there and combine it with his own experience. Also, he should understand that the local contacts have limitations placed upon that they can't shrug off without being exposed as an operative." Alexa nodded now, understanding what Kevin had meant. Kevin quickly drained his drink, and set the cost plus a generous tip down on the table. He motioned outside the restaurant, and Alexa followed him.
"Alexa, I want you to relay what I've told you to Miers, through whatever channel you use. Tell her that my recommendation is that of an operative on the ground and at the scene, and she would be wise to trust it. Also, tell her that the local garrison is starting to look around for Coureur; I might have to go to ground sooner than I thought, and I'd like it if whatever unit she sends could be here to protect me." Alexa nodded, and the two got into their separate cars, one driving back towards home, the other one towards an out of the way pub where she could relay a message.
"Well, it would appear that Coureur has a sharp mind, if nothing else. I would trust his assessment, Ms. Miers. My gut tells me it's right." Major Dawes informed the New England Resistance commander. She nodded.
"Something tells me that he's right, too. These reports that we've been getting seem to indicate that the Soviets are cracking down on certain fighters whose cover names are well known. Coureur is too valuable an asset to lose. Send Captain Briggs and his platoon down to the Cape; they've operated together before."