The thieves moved quickly.
They ran through the white-lit corridors of the underground installation, moving with a dire urgency in their steps. They all wore black from head to toe – with Kevlar plates in their collars – carrying silenced MP-5SD submachine guns held high, eyes looking down the barrels as they ran.
Mitch Reilly ran in the lead, and his six companions kept close pace behind him. They turned corner after corner with practiced dexterity, never slowing down, never stopping, except to peer round corners for any dangers. It was quite fortunate, thought Reilly, that all they had come across were empty, deserted corridors, but he knew the peace would not last, could not last…it was only a matter of time before…
The silence of the air was ripped cruelly apart by the sudden, ear-piercing wailing of an overhead alarm.
Reilly stopped in mid-stride and looked up toward the apparent source of the sound. One of his companions, a short, sandy-haired man, came to a stop right beside him, turned his head toward the alarm, and said quite merrily, as though commenting on the weather, “Well, it was bound to happen sometime.”
“Took them long enough, as it is,” replied another behind him, a woman. She was tall, even taller than Reilly, with a daunting overall appearance. Her words were delivered with a feigned bravery, bravery Reilly suspected she did not feel. He could not blame her. “Come on!” Reilly commanded, and took off running again.
Reilly and his team were in a top secret government facility, hidden deep beneath an army base somewhere in the desert. A facility that extended six floors into the ground. A facility whose existence the United States government had vehemently denied on numerous occasions. It occurred as somewhat of an irony to Reilly that he was running for his life inside an establishment that supposedly did not exist, having come to steal the one thing above all others the government did not want the world to know about.
Reilly took a look behind him, scanning his companions, his eyes coming to rest on the last person in their group, the one person Reilly would not have dreamed of coming here without… the one person whom Reilly trusted above all others…the one person, who, at the moment, was carrying the biggest secret – the biggest lie – in the history of the United States.
That they had come to steal the Government’s biggest secret, from right inside the lion’s den was bad enough, but the whole scenario was made much worse by another fact.
Mitch Reilly and his team were Marines.
Lieutenant Mitch Reilly, USMC, was head of his own Recon Unit, even though some had argued that he was too young to do so. Reilly had long since silenced the critics. His Unit was like a family to him, but they were all not here. Well, except one.
Reilly looked back at his Sergeant, the tall, imposing woman. Her name was Rowena Terrin, call-sign Athena, and she was one of the finest he had ever worked with. Reilly had often said that if there was one person he did not want to mess around with, it was Sergeant Terrin. Athena was every bit as wise and cunning as the goddess her name suggested.
The sandy-haired member of their team was Joshua Sanchez, a corporal in the Unit of the last member of their team. Sanchez had a way with weapons that was legendary, a luck with the ladies that was also legendary for all the wrong reasons, and a heart of pure gold. Sanchez also happened to think that he was very funny – Sanchez was the only person who happened to think he was very funny – and his favorite joke went: “Hey, did you hear what the Mexican said to the Eskimo?” Nobody knew the answer, and indeed, nobody cared to ask. As such, Sanchez simply kept bringing it up every chance he got. But for all his quirks, Sanchez was the ideal partner in a tight spot. And they did not come much tighter than this. Sanchez’s call sign was Pancho.
Three other members of their team were Ryan “KillerBee” Smith – he’d apparently gotten his call-sign from a cartoon character – , Jason “Blackbeard” Gomez and Amber “Aphrodite” Hargon. All three were leaders of their respective Units. All three were the best at what they did. Reilly had worked with all of them before, and he trusted them implicitly.
Which brought Reilly to the last member of the team. Medium in height, with closely cropped black hair and piercing eyes, Captain Adam Brewer was a lot to Mitch Reilly. The two men had grown up together on a farm in Kansas, as inseparable as two boys ever could be. They had attended the same high school, the same college, and had even signed up for the military together. Adam Brewer was the best friend Reilly had ever had. He was also the first person to save Reilly’s life, way back when they were both just privates. But their paths had parted – the military often does that to you. Reilly became leader of his own Unit, and Adam went on to become a legend whose skill and deadliness were the stuff of campfire stories. Captain Brewer was rumored to have done some truly extraordinary things. Once, he was said to have taken on two Russian army units single-handedly, and not a single Russian survived. Tales like this, although sometimes hard to believe, were what gave rise to Adam’s call-sign: Hitman. Reilly hadn’t seen Adam many times since they parted, and they had never worked together on a mission. Until now.
Reilly’s eyes strayed to the carrying case Adam was carrying on his chest. The contents of that case were what all this was about. It was so serious that Reilly, Adam, Athena, Pancho, KillerBee, Blackbeard and Aphrodite had committed what amounted to high treason to obtain it, for the simple reason that the shocking secret it contained – the biggest secret (the biggest lie) in U.S. history – was something the nations of the world just had to know. The world had to know the truth. And they would, thought Reilly. He had put his life and six others on the line just for this.
Reilly thought back to the beginning, when rumors of a secret underground government facility had began to go round. At first, Reilly had dismissed these sayings as just gossip and conspiracy theory – the inventions of bored, sexually starved army men. The government had as much conspiracy theory as Nicki Minaj had ass.
But then other rumors had appeared, rumors of a secret kept there, in a facility that “did not exist”. A secret that, quite frankly though unconfirmed was shocking, to say the least. If it were true. At first, Reilly had been quite content with dismissing these stories.
But then strange things had started happening. The loudest mouths concerning the rumor had suddenly been transferred to the hottest war fronts…and they had the uncanny knack of being declared dead or missing in action. And new stories had started emerging…stories of hundreds being killed, massacred by the Government in the name of keeping this secret hidden from the World. Nobody as yet knew exactly what the so-called secret was, but Reilly decided he had to put these stories to rest. So he had gone to the most decorated and esteemed man in the military, General Jack E. Fairmont. Reilly could still remember…
He had gone to see Fairmont on a clear, sunny morning. He had been received with open arms by the General – after all, he was one of the best in the Marine Corps. They had exchanged pleasantries for a while, and then Reilly had gotten down to the real reason he came.
The General’s face had suddenly changed. “Why, my dear boy,” he had said, “I do not know where you heard this from, but I can tell you once and for all, that that is not true whatsoever.”
Reilly heard the words, but the mannerism behind them and the sudden change in the General’s demeanor convinced him that all was not as it seemed. So Reilly had thrown in a few more rumored details – including the supposed location of the Facility.
The General’s face had gone a shade of red that would have put Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose to shame. Gone were any pretenses of amicability; hostility was written all over the face of the most decorated man in the U.S. military. In a voice dripping with fury, right before he had all but kicked Reilly from his office, he had said: “I do not know your sources, but I do not want to hear of this issue again. Never.
“That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it.”
Not authorized, indeed, thought Reilly as he ran.
Knowing for sure now that something was not right, he had gone to the only other person he could think of…
Reilly was still thinking about this when they rounded a corner and came face to face with the first of the armed guards.
Mitch Reilly came to a sudden stop in his tracks. At the far end of the corridor stood the guards – about ten of them, Special Forces, well-trained, mean motherfuckers all – rifles in hand, but barrels pointed to the ground. Apparently they had not expected company so soon.
For the briefest of moments nobody moved.
Then a small, black object sailed over Reilly’s head – from behind him – and landed in the middle of the corridor.
Reilly’s eyes moved away from the object on the floor to the guards, seeing everything as if in slow motion – the look of surprise on their faces, the barrels of their rifles as they lifted them –
And then the smoke grenade went off. Thick, choking smoke filled the corridor, filling their nostrils, obscuring visibility – and denying the guards a clear shot.
“MOVE!” yelled Reilly.
All around him bullets began to fly, hitting the walls and the floor as Adam, Athena, Pancho, Aphrodite, KillerBee and Reilly turned and set off running back the way they came. Blackbeard reacted just a second too late. A burst of gunfire erupted from the guards and blew his head clean off. The lifeless body of Jason Gomez crumpled on the spot.
Across the smoke barrier, the Special Forces began to yell into their radios and give pursuit.
And the chase was on.
(Read part 2 here )