Vectors of Corruption
Author's note: I hope readers will enjoy it, there will be mistakes and typos enveloped inside the novel. Do not... Show full author's note »
Twenty-EightAt the airport, the entire group was consolidating as to what to do on their next plan of action. Holly was starting to tear up and Brunner hugged her tightly next to him. He felt sad, but he showed no emotion. Again, it was not something that Ryan Brunner was too apt at exposing himself for all to see. His emotions were seemingly locked up tightly in a titanium safe deep within his heart. In reality, he felt much sorrow, especially for Meenen, it wasn’t something he took honors upon.
Across him and Holly was Haddock, who right now was fumbling with a Beretta pistol strapped to his waist. To the right of Haddock was Lieutenant Einspahr who was still nervously looking around while keeping his hand on his own pistol. Next to Einspahr were Osborn and Johnson, both looking glum and tired as the others, Johnson was on the phone with the President of the United States, her voice was entwined with sadness and small traces of anger.
“Yes Mr. President, we understand…” She sighed, “I know of the situation, but…yes, I understand… however, according to the circumstances that arrived, I’d say it is the best option for the seven of us to…” She paused, sighed and rolled her eyes, the group looked on. “No, that would be impossibly difficult for the time…we CAN’T do that Mr. President, she’s gone and we need to find her, but there is no way we can have two deals going on at once, I’d say her safety is of concern here!”
In the distance, Meenen’s BMW was moving towards them.
“Wait, Meenen is about to arrive, we’ll see what he has to say. Honestly sir, I think it is the best option if sit tight and see what Zaslavsky and Chernkov has to say to us. They will call since the idiots are looking for something right?” She paused, face red, obviously frustrated. There was a loud click on the other line. Johnson turned to the group and said, “Well, I can’t believe I am saying this but President Majewski just hung up on me. He kept asking me what was on the ruby and why it was important to the S.H. and Chernkov. We are told to figure out what is the deal with this ‘gem’ before any extra orders are given.”
Holly pushed Brunner away for a second, she stepped forward, her hair blowing in the slight breeze, “What the hell? We’re just supposed to sit here while we wait for Andrea to die?”
Johnson said, “Apparently so, he’s stressed right now, the whole issue back at Mozambique, the downed satellite, failure to capture Chernkov, the changing of the sides for Zaslavsky, as well as the capture of Ferguson. All of this action tires out the leader of the group.” She tried to sound positive but even her voice had a sense of pain and sorrow.
Tears were rinsing away at Holly, bits of her eyeliner smudged, she wiped them off. Brunner hugged her again, his hand gently rubbing her back. She buried her face deeper into his shoulder.
Meenen pulled up. The car screeched to a halt and stopped. After a second, the agent opened the door, stepped out, and quietly shut the door behind him. He slowly walked forward; the group could see that his eyes are still red.
“Sorry Michael.” Brunner said, the rest of the group followed suit with their apologies.
He sighed, but he didn’t speak, Meenen was simply too lost for words. Finally, after a few seconds of quieted silence, he said, “She’s gone.”
Then the silence filled the air once again.
It was Holly who spoke first, “No she’s not, we will find her and bring her back, for the country, for the team, for you.”
Meenen broke down at that point, he returned to his car quietly. Holly, wiping away her tears said to the group, “I think I should go talk to him.”
The others nodded silently.
She walked towards Meenen’s car.
He was sitting inside, his face buried deep into his palms. Holly wasn’t sure whether he was crying or not but just wiped away her own tears and opened the door. She dropped into the passenger seat; a heavy, sobbed sigh escaped her throat.
“I can’t believe I lost her already.”
“Yeah, me neither, sorry I was a little aggressive earlier.”
“It wasn’t your fault. You had the right to use your rank.”
Holly paused, “No, I shouldn’t have pushed it. All I wanted you to do was return.”
Meenen ran his hand across his pocked, he eased and pulled out the hairband. “I found this in the room.”
Holly took it and ran her finger across the stretchy fabric. “It’s definitely hers, this was her lucky band, and she had been wearing this almost every day since she lost her father.”
“Wait, Andrea lost her father?” Meenen said with a surprised tone.
“She didn’t tell you?”
Meenen stopped talking for a few seconds, and then he quietly said, “No…”
For a few minutes, Holly explained the events that occurred to Ferguson’s father to Meenen while he listened intently. When she finished, Meenen gave out a long exhale of breath.
“I never knew…”
“I guessed Andrea didn’t want you to be worried about that. She told me too keep a little bit quiet about this, but I thought that you probably had the right to know.”
“I’m, I’m not sure what to say.” He wiped at the corner of his eyes.
“There’s no need to cry yet, it’s only the beginning.”
“A little hypocritical there?” He pushed a slight smile.
“Okay, you got me, but the thing is I came here to tell you something that had been around for a bit but was never revealed to you.”
Holly sniffed, “Andrea has had a crush on you ever since high school.”
Meenen snapped, “Really?”
“This is starting to sound like another teenage dream but it is quite true. She never told anyone but myself, just like how she never really told too many about her father’s death. Andrea’s mourned of it for a long time you know? Do you know why she feels safe next to you?”
“She trusts you.”
Meenen paused and looked across the tarmac at an airplane preparing to takeoff. “I never knew.”
“Ever since she lost her dad, Andrea was never the same. She lost him before she even met you.”
“I know.” he stopped talking, then after a brief pause, Meenen continued, “How did she change?”
“Andrea used to be more open. She’s, quieter now…”
“You know, I might never hear her voice ever again…”
Holly turned to him. “Nonsense.”
“Look Kaitlyn, I know you love Andrea, but let’s face the truth,” tears began to return to his eyes but he held them back, “If the president doesn’t even give a damn about her life nor does he give us the order to find her back. She’s gone, she’s out of our reach, and she’s been enslaved upon the bastard gang members.”
“But what? If you care for her so much, why don’t you think of a plan to keep her safe and let her see her family again? Or see us again?”
Holly let out a long breath. She turned away and looked out the window at the rest of the group. They were still standing next to the plane talking about something. “You know Michael, if it wasn’t for Andrea, I wouldn’t be here today talking to you.”
He turned to Holly. It was his first time noticing the silky blonde hair that flowed down her shoulders. Meenen wondered whether Brunner noticed the hair as well. “Yes, I understand.” He sighed, “I just can’t believe I lost her. It’s funny actually, one minute were trading a kiss and the next she’s out of my reach. This was my fault. I should have followed her instead of letting her go alone. What the hell was I thinking?”
“Michael, it wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known the future to prevent this.”
“Yes, but don’t you feel guilty?” His voice was beginning to rise higher. “If I would have just made the act of following her to the hotel instead of coming here to this damn airport, we would still be able to see her now! All my idiotic thoughts and actions have struck me again.”
Meenen stopped, he turned and looked Holly in her eyes. They were so similar to Ferguson’s. The eyes were color of sapphires in the evening light. He suddenly went mute, unsure whether to explain his past. The agent paused, wiped some sweat off his forehead, sighed, and proceeded. “Since you told me about you past earlier and Andrea’s past just now, I might as well tell you my own version of a pained childhood.” Meenen reclined back the seat of the BMW, closed his eyes, and then told Holly the entire story of his time with Jenny.
When he was finished, Holly was quiet and speechless. She simply looked at him without moving. Meenen could see the sorrow buried within the sapphires as it gazed on him.
Finally she spoke, “I’m sorry.”
“It was my fault too.” He sighed again, “An old author of a book I read in high school juxtaposed the whole world as an endless cycle. People would make the same mistakes over and over again until the pass the wretched conditions down the generations. I guess I am still stuck in the hellhole of stupidity and still could not fix these mistakes after so long. Finally, I understand what she was trying to say. What she was trying to say is that the human race is just too lazy and pathetic to change.”
Holly looked at him, “But Michael, the cycle can be broken.”
He looked back at her. “I know it can be broken. But I haven’t seemed to be able to break it yet. I have mourned of Jenny’s death ever since that dreadful day. Now I have to blame myself yet again for losing such a close friend.”
Holly gave out a quick burst of air, “It’s interesting how much each of our lives sucked ass.”
Meenen manage to pull off a smile. When Holly saw it, she knew that talking to him was a great idea, yet inside her, she still felt the need to help avenge for Ferguson, yet like what Meenen had said just a few minutes before, she had no idea how.
“Thank you for talking to me.” He was still in a crestfallen mood, but much better than where he was before she talked to him.
“No problem. Look, I don’t want you to feel that I have Brunner while you don’t have anyone. We are in this together, we still are a team.”
“Thanks Kaitlyn, I knew there is still hope left for humanity.”
Now she managed to smile, “I think the others are still waiting for us.” She looked outside; the sky has dimmed to a twilight color. The group was still standing next to the airplane, chatting.
“Yeah, time to go and see what to do.”
The two of them opened the door and stepped into the warm, humid air.
Brunner watched as Meenen and Holly approached them, both of them seemed to be in better moods. He was happy about that. He himself wasn’t a man that normally was used to make someone happy. He never really had that experience, but seeing the slight shift for the good in Holly made him feel better as well.
Johnson spoke first, “How was the talk?”
Holly replied with a dull expression, “Made us feel better than before.”
“We just realized how alike our lives were…” Meenen replied.
“I’m glad it went well. Again, the others and I have been talking about a possible plan to get Andrea back.” Brunner said to the two of them.
The two stopped talking.
“We can try the usual tactic of ‘a trade for a trade’ to see if Chernkov’s interested.” Haddock reported.
Johnson added, “The only problem is finding something that Chernkov or Zaslavsky wants. They already have the ruby, so that is obviously not possible. Secondly, the two bastards are probably already being paid for this job, so money’s out of the question.”
“What else would Chernkov want?” Einspahr asked to no specific person in particular.
“This is going to be strictly off the charts, but we could give him information regarding the drones.” Johnson suggested.
“And break the code? What a great idea!” Haddock was slightly annoyed again.
The group was silent for a few seconds. It was Meenen who stepped up and broke the silence. “Didn’t the president call you guys?”
“Yes he did,” Johnson replied, she scratched at her hair, which was beginning to curl in the humidity.
“What did he have to say?”
She answered, “President Majewski told us to find out what the ruby was about. We can ALL guess that there is something significant about the gem aside from the fact that it is just an expensive stone. Come to think of it, I’m actually surprised that Ferguson even managed to snag the thing when she breached the slave cells earlier this week.”
“She’s good Joyce, she’s good…” Meenen replied to her.
“I know, Andrea is the agent in human affairs. They kept her at the desk for much of the time but when she’s on a mission, she takes matters aggressively. Ferguson is the eagle in the field of her job. She is the best.”
“IS the best…” Meenen mouthed the words. After taking a few deep breaths, he said to the group, “I think we should just do as the president says, wait a day or so and let Chernkov calm himself first, then ask. Also, we need to research the ruby first as to what is so important about it. You wouldn’t have a picture of the inscriptions would you?” He turned to Holly and Brunner.
“No, Ferguson had the pictures. She should have sent them out already though. It might be collecting dust on Corbett’s desk as something he needs to do. But as you know, he is experimenting with his new toy drones so he was probably too busy to do anything. Speaking of which, what ever happened to that drone that Corbett was piloting, did he just gave up and left?” Holly popped her fingers.
“No clue, I will call him later to see the situation. In the meantime, Chernkov is still at large in the city, we have to be careful of his actions and his henchmen. I suggest we ditch the hotel and find a nice, cheap place at the edge of town and stay there for the night. The only place he could leave would be this airport and Corbett already has informed us that the security of the airport already has a lockdown on their faces. If anyone who remotely looks like either of them pop out around the airport, they will be quickly detained. Plus, this also means that Ferguson is still here in the city, but searching down the street will be impossible, plus, Chernkov probably has a satellite looking down right as us to pinpoint our location.” Brunner replied.
“Wait isn’t that working for us as well?” Meenen chimed in.
Brunner turned to him, “What was that?”
“The satellites, shouldn’t WE have pinpoints on the two bastards as well?”
“That’s true. I will need to talk to Corbett about that as well.” Brunner yawned.
“I think we need to go find a place to stay for the night.” Haddock suggested.
Johnson said to the group, “You know, we could just stay on the plane, it’s cozy, it’s got food and drink, and it has heating.”
“What I am worried about is the suspicion it will cause. We are not supposed to even be here but we’ve been staying next to this plane for such a long time that it is beginning to become quite conspicuous.” Einspahr explained.
“Best idea is still to find a place to stay for the night. Like what Michael said, we should just find a place to rest for one night and then deal with the issues in the morning.” Holly pulled uneasily at her hair, “I think that’s still the most viable option. Plus, we will get to see the city and maybe keep an eye on suspicious activities.”
“Also,” Brunner cut in, “We need to get rid of the BMWs, they are fast and all but after today, the cars have been slightly beat up. A regular BMW is gaudy enough, but one that has suffered scratches from bullets is like seeing a wildfire during a snowstorm in the artic.”
“He’s right. We need to get rid of them.” Meenen affirmed.
“How do you propose we do that?” Holly asked.
“There is a junkyard near the southern edge of town, we could drive our cars there, smash them, set them on fire, and people would ever find the evidence. After that, we take the walk over to the motel, which should just be a five minute walk.” Brunner commented.
Holly looked uneasy again, “What about the weapons we have in the trunk? We can’t just carry that into a motel!”
“The side arms we will need to carry, that’s definitely needed, but the big boys will need to be left in the plane.” Osborn finally said after staying quiet for so long.
“Just leave it in the plane?” Holly questioned.
Osborn replied, “Our pilots, Sergeant Conners and Corporal Dunne has had experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, these two should be able to handle themselves. They are still in the plane right now, probably resting, but I can tell them to stay here for the night and keep an eye on things.”
“Thanks Reid,” she squeezed his shoulder. Osborn gasped.
“Oh please.” Holly walked off to grab her weapons from the BMW.
Johnson went inside the plane to explain the situation to the pilots.
Osborn stared at Holly as she walked away.
“Easy Reid, she’s not yours, you’re going to need to find someone else.” Haddock dully said.
Osborn snapped out of his trance. “Right, sorry Ryan.”
Brunner shook his head and slapped Osborn in the back with a laugh. “Come to think of it, I’m pretty lucky aren’t I?”
Osborn’s eyes squinted to a line. “Sure…”
“Well, better get your butt used to this place. It’s a whole lot different than Moscow.”
“I’ve given up trying to aim for women.” Osborn said in a defeated voice.
“One just needs to wait for the perfect purple bloom to expose herself within a field of red flowers,” Brunner replied.
“If it was as easy as the movies make it, I would be gold.”
“Too bad Reid, real life is horrid beyond the belief of a person. As a male, you still have your primeval instinct to have intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. It’s unavoidable.”
“Have you two, you know…”
Brunner smacked his own forehead. “No Reid, we have not. The two of us haven’t talked about it at all. I don’t think we are ready. It’s just been two days since we’ve officially met each other. Just two days ago I was rescuing her from the grasps of Nivea. Damn that felt like a long time ago.”
“Well, I guess you have your reason to wait.” Osborn responded.
“Look Reid, I will tell this to you since you are a fairly close friend. Kaitlyn’s a little bit shy when it comes to making love. Making out is fine, but the real deal is just, a little too much for her.”
Brunner glanced over to Holly. She was still grabbing some bits and pieces of her things from the BMW. “Okay, I think we all should have the right to know.” Brunner explained Holly’s story to Osborn.
“Oh, what a disastrous incident, I can’t imagine.”
“That’s the reason why she is touchy about the subject on her parents. And that is the reason why she is also sensitive about sex. Also, that is why she is so close to Ferguson. Andrea was a rescuer of people in trouble.”
“And now we have to rescue to rescuers.” Osborn shook his head. “How sad things can become. It was like the incident I had last year back in Moscow.”
“Oh righteous, is it story time?” Brunner said with sarcasm.
“Be quiet. Anyway, I had just met this amazing girl during my stay as a spy for an arms dealer named Alexi Antonov. She was an abused servant who was constantly being beaten and raped by the henchmen. One day during dinner, she was serving food and I accidentally tripped her, causing the food to spill all over Antonov’s suit. He called the guards and they dragged the screaming girl down to where I assumed was a holding cell.”
“Oh great, what a wonderful story Reid, I totally need to hear more of these tales.” Brunner said in dismay.
Osborn continued anyway, “So that night I snuck out from my room and went down to the basement to see her. She was curled up in the corner, her clothes tattered, her face bruised, and she was bleeding from a cut on her leg. The girl curled tighter when I told her she was going to be fine. I pulled some paper towels and tried my best to bandage the wound, which was a lot deeper than I had originally thought.”
Brunner cut him off, “Reid I think we’ve had enough of this story.” He glanced at Meenen, who was also listening. Meenen was beginning to show more worry in his eyes.
Of course, to Brunner’s utter dismay again, Osborn continued anyway. “So she began crying and sobbing. I said to her that she was going to be fine again. Then I wiped the blood that stained her skin and she replied a quiet word of thanks. I also ran and grabbed her some leftover food and water and asked whether she wanted the food or not. She told me that they have starved for two full days and was dying for sustenance. I fed her and she took the food and ate it quickly, thanking me the whole way through. I asked what her name was, and to my sadness, she said she doesn’t have one. When she was younger, Antonov killed her entire family and dragged her to his house to live. After reaching an old enough age, she was forced to work for him. He just calls her ‘Number Forty-four.’”
Brunner stopped talking. He looked at Meenen. Meenen was breathing deeply. Reid, I think you really should consider stopping.
“No, let him go on.” It was Meenen who said this.
Reid looked over towards Meenen, “Are you sure?”
“Might as well.”
“Okay, I of course felt quite sorry for her and told her my name. Well, the name of my fake ID of course, but it still counts right? Anyway, I said to her that I’ll come check to make sure she is okay every night and that she doesn’t have to worry about not getting food. She of course, thanked me again. It was a whole cycle. Every night was the same routine of going down and seeing her. We sometimes would just talk and chat. Luckily my Russian wasn’t half bad and she didn’t suspect anything. That went on for about a month or so. Then one day…” Osborn paused and bit his lip. He looked at Meenen, then back at Brunner.
“Go on.” Meenen said.
“I think now it’s about time to stop.” Osborn told him.
“Just go on Reid…” His voice was still calm.
Osborn sighed, “Well, one day at the end of the month, I was about to go down to see her when I heard a few men downstairs as well as her screams for help.” He stopped.
Meenen raised his head and stared sideways at Osborn.
“They were beating her aggressively with the butts of their guns.” Osborn stopped.
Meenen let out a forced breath of air and walked to his BMW. He paused and put his shoulders against the tinted windows, face buried in his hands. Brunner strolled over to him.
“Michael, don’t think about it.”
“I’m worried.” He didn’t show emotion. His face was still buried within the protection of his hands.
“She’s going to be fine.”
“And how would you know?” Meenen raised his voice in slight anger.
“Sometimes one just has to stay optimistic.”
“Says the most pessimistic person on this planet…”
“Pessimism is not a probable solution to our problem right now.”
Meenen sighed. “I just can’t believe I lost her.”
“You didn’t lose her. It wasn’t your fault.”
Meenen unburied his hands and stared at Brunner. “You know, Kaitlyn said the exact same thing to me.”
“No, not good, I feel as if I can do something to help her but can’t.”
“You can’t depend on yourself you fix everything Michael, you need the collected efforts of the team to ensure the success.”
“And our wondrous leader has ignored Andrea’s life for the life of a gemstone which for all we know has absolutely zero significance other than the fact that it is worth a large sum of cash.”
“The President just doesn’t understand her importance to you yet.”
“And you do?”
“Yes.” Brunner sighed, “It’s odd to say so but she really did like you.”
“In less than a day?”
“You could see it within her eyes.”
“If anything is to be said,” Brunner paused, “It’s the fact that she trusted you.” With that he left for Holly.
Meenen stood in the waning sunlight. He was depressed, sad, and hopeless. It seem to be the end for the one thing he had felt attraction to. It was just like the many years before, when he lost his other loved one to that accident. It was history repeating itself once again. He ignored his sadness as best as he could. What was there to do? Rio wasn’t a nice place to work at. But neither was the United States. How was that better? Being stuck in one’s own country doesn’t mean that one is safe. It just means that one has the connections to the others the loved. Meenen had lost that connection years ago. The ominous day had cycled its course. There wasn’t anything to be done but to wait. He had to be patient and curious. Without the support and feelings from Ferguson, Meenen felt weak. It was a sense he had avoided feeling ever since the last accident. Like Brunner, it occurred to him that the weak do not survive. It didn’t take a single biology class for him to understand both natural and social Darwinism. If it wasn’t for his tenacity to achieve his intended goals, he would have been dead since the day he was admitted into the P.S.A.
The team was preparing to move out to find a motel at the edge of town. Brunner had already packed the unnecessary equipment into the airplane. Conners accepted the materials gladly and disappeared back into the plane. Down on the warm ground, Holly opened a bottle of water and began taking delicate sips from the plastic container. In the darkness, her hair still gave off a small shine. Einspahr, Osborn, and Johnson were arguing about something, but it was too far for Meenen to hear. After a few seconds, Haddock dropped out from the airplane and said something to the group shouting below. It seemed all like a dream. It felt to Meenen as if his life had been in limbo, slowly creeping across his unconscious mind. He pinched himself. It wasn’t a dream.