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Cyclops One DeFelice Jim




41

The blood on his clothes had dried into stiff patches that felt like pieces of wood. He wasn’t hungry, but his mouth was dry.

His butt hurt, as though the bone in his rear end had been broken.

He had his phone there. He’d put his phone there yesterday, then completely forgotten, blacked out before he could use it.

McIntyre began to laugh. He laughed so hard he rolled over, face in the dirt.All I’ve got to do, he thought,is just call someone and tell them to pick me up. Send a taxi. Send a friggin’ taxi!

The laughter caught in his throat and he began to spit. His phlegm came out in red gobs. When he stopped, McIntyre reached back for the phone. Had he tried it yesterday? He didn’t think he had, but yesterday was a jumble, the crash was a jumble. He remembered hitting the Indian captain who had kidnapped him, and walking, but nothing else.

McIntyre put his thumb on the Power button and held it down. When he let it off, the display flashed green, then faded; he couldn’t tell in the direct sunlight whether the phone was working or not.

At first he thought it was dead. His chest rippled and tears erupted from his eyes. He dropped the phone and hunched over his knees, weeping in despair. He saw himself from the distance; he sneered at the miserable wretch who was so pathetic.

He hadn’t cried since he was a little boy, six or seven years old. Crying was a thing sissies did, and girls, and he was neither.

Shaking, he tried the phone again. Holding it sideways this time to avoid the sun’s glare, he realized that it was in fact working. The battery was only at half power, but the phone was working.

He thumbed the menu up, got the main switchboard, hit Send.

McIntyre put the phone to his ear.

He heard nothing.

“NSC.”

“Hello?”

“Hello? I’m having trouble hearing you.”

“This is McIntyre,” he said. “I’m in India, I think. There was a crash.”

The operator didn’t say anything, and for a long moment McIntyre thought he had lost the connection. Then there was another voice on the line, a louder voice, male, vaguely familiar.

“Mac…this is James Brott. Where the hell are you?”

Brott was one of the intelligence liaisons, a CIA officer over on assignment.

“I’m in India.”

“Are you all right? We’re starting to track the call and get a location. Do you know where you are? Do you have a GPS?”

“No.” McIntyre spoke softly, as if someone were nearby. The crying jag had taken his anxiety away; he wanted to tell Brott everything and yet he felt calm, or almost calm. “We were flying near the Pakistani border, west of a base called Pekdelle. I’m not sure I’m pronouncing it right. They took me on the attack. I guess they were going to either throw me out of the helicopter or make it look like the Pakistani soldiers killed me.”

“Where are you, Mac? Describe it.”

McIntyre looked around, then began to describe what he saw. Mountains rose in the distance — mountains rose everywhere, actually — and the nearest one had a green circle on it that looked like a fist.

As he spoke he heard a truck somewhere nearby. He got to his feet, looking for the road.

“There’s something coming,” he said. “I’m going to flag it down.”

“No, McIntyre. No!” Brott shouted. “They’re at war, Pakistan and India. Stay hidden.”

“Hidden?”

“Mac, there are guerrillas fighting all over Kashmir, even though there’s a cease-fire. You have to try to hide. We’ll send someone; we’ll find someone we can trust to rescue you. Stay hidden.”

The road was across the hill, to the right. McIntyre walked sideways across the grade, peeking down toward it. A large, open transport rounded the tar-paved road. White rocks were piled alongside the road where the shoulders should have been, funneling the pavement over the sharp terrain. The truck continued past, then downshifted as it went downward. He looked across the way and realized that the road ran around the opposite rise; he was exposed here.

“How safe are you?” Brott asked.

“Safe?”

“Are you in shelter or out in the open?”

“The open. Listen, my battery is weak. I have maybe an hour of talk time left.”

“All right. You’re going to have to assume — we have to assume — that anyone you see right now is the enemy.Anyone. We’re going to try to get your location; I think we’re going to be able to get it. The NSA has been looking for your signal, so I’m sure we’re going to get it; I just haven’t been able to get them yet. I don’t want your battery to die, though. Can you get somewhere safe — somewhere we could send in a team and find you?”

“I don’t know. Yeah, I have to. Yeah.”

“A good-sized field, someplace in the open, but with a place you could hide….”

McIntyre started to laugh. “I’ll just check the Michelin guide.”

Brott started to apologize, but McIntyre held the phone down; he heard the truck downshift again, the motor revving as it started up opposite him.

“Look, I don’t think this is a good place. I’m going to move,” he told him.

“Don’t hang up yet,” said Brott. “I want to make sure I have the location.”

“I have to save the battery,” McIntyre told him. If they had been looking for him, the NSA had more than enough to find him now. “I’ll call in an hour.”

“McIntyre, listen—”

He hit the End button, then got up and began running toward a low thicket he’d seen to his left.

Chapter 10

Fisher sat on the long canvas bench, staring at the pile of retrieved aircraft remains in the center of the Osprey and wondering if the odds of finding a trace of an explosive could be measured in the billions or simply the millions.

Millions, he decided. But it was also likely that whoever had worked this out had probably also been smart enough to set it up in a way that would be hard to pin down, maybe making the fuel do most of the work.

He had the boot and the cloth sample, which appeared to contain a hair. Could they trust a DNA sample?

His cell phone began vibrating. Fisher took it out of his pocket.

“Fisher.”

“Mr. Fisher, this is Matt Firenze.”

“Hey, Doc, whatcha got?”

“Well, we took apart the environmental control system, and there it was.”

“Back up. What are we talking about?”

“It’s like a Trojan Horse virus. Actually, we didn’t find the code, but we found that something had erased something, and we figure that’s where it has to be. We couldn’t duplicate it on the bench units. It had to be there. We have a model—”

Fisher let the boy genius explain how he thought a rogue program could have caused a power surge in the circuitry connected to the shared radar sections and at the same time knocked out the controls. It was rather convoluted, but the agent knew better than to cut off a scientist mid-theorem.

“It’s just a spike, a temporary hit,” concluded Firenze, “and that fits with what happened.”

“Who developed that system?”

“It was purpose-built for this model of the plane,” said Firenze. “I think Carie Electro Controls. But it could have been Jolice too.”

“Jolice?”

“They have a lot of little divisions and things. It’s hard sometimes to keep them straight.”

“They owned by Ferrone?”

“No, it’s the other way around, I think,” said the scientist. “I think Jolice is the bigger company.”

“Why don’t you work for them?” Fisher asked Firenze, whom the records had shown was working on the project under a special contract with the Air Force.

“Jolice, NADT, all those people — they make you rich, but then they figure they own you,” said Firenze.

“I know how that goes,” said Fisher. “Except for the rich part.”

Chapter 11

McIntyre watched the wheels of the truck bounce up the trail. He could tell it was something small and relatively old, but he was too afraid to rise and get a good view of it. When he was sure it had passed, he sat up and tried to take stock of his situation.

They’d be working on finding him. The NSA would have the location of his transmission by now. But could they do anything about it? He was half a world away.

There’d be Navy units in the Indian Ocean. Somebody could come up and get him.

It might mean staying another night at least. He’d have to find a place to hide.

Something to eat would be good too. And drink.

McIntyre rose and shouldered his guns, then began walking toward the road, going in the direction the truck had come from. It took only a few minutes to reach the nearest curve, which made its way across a notch on the side of a series of hills. There was a switchback in the distance, but he couldn’t tell if the one-and-a-half-lane pressed-chip-and-tar road led to it or not.

He began to walk. Two or three minutes later he heard a vehicle coming up behind him. There were some trees a short distance away and he managed to get to them before the truck passed. It was a pickup, and it moved at a pretty good clip. Just as he started out from behind the tree he heard another truck. He slid down, watching a military vehicle speed past. It was a Russian-made KAMAZ 6x4, or possibly an Indian knockoff. The six-wheeled truck had a canvas backing, the kind that might be used for light cargo or soldiers, but what it was loaded with or even if it was loaded at all he couldn’t see.

41

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