Justice or Vengeance -chp15


Justice or Vengeance

142px-US_Marshal_Badge.png

An old enemy has returned from the grave to shack the Marshals to their core. The mole has been found but at the cost of a friends life. The Deputies have always known the cost of being an Officer of the Law. But when one of their own has been targeted for assassination the gloves come off.

by Snowfall and Jessie Wolf.

Dedicated to the men and women of the US Marshal Service.

Edited by my husband Paul, Honeysuckle, and djkuffman.

~o~O~o~

This is a work of fiction an any persons in this work are purely fictional.


Chapter 15

The home of Dorothy Rose, Washington D.C. 0530:

Lieutenant William (Billy) Chandler was getting ready for his morning run. The third shift Deputy had just completed his last sweep of the house grounds and would wait for Chandler to return from his morning run before clocking out. He just finished tying his shoes when that young Deputy came barging into his room at Dorothy's.

"BOSS! You've GOT to come see this! It's all over the networks and every station, NATION WIDE!" The young Deputy said frantically.

Ever since Dorothy had brought in the three fresh, out of the academy, deputies into help him they had been calling him Boss. Billy was actually starting to like it. It was almost like being back on an A-Team again.

"What has you so worked up Deputy Marten?" Chandler had no sooner finished asking his question, than the house phone started ringing. Chandler wasted no time and grabbed for the phone in his room. "Chandler. Go."

"Agent Chandler! This is Marshal Rose's Secretary, Kelly. I need to speak to her, immediately!" Kelly said.

"Slow down Kelly. First; tell me what has you, and very obviously my midnight relief, both upset at oh-dark-stupid in the morning?" Unlike the secretary, and his deputy, the former NEMESIS Operator knew he needed information. He was not about to rush in and wake his new boss without being able to brief her with something.

"SIR! It is ALL over the news. Just turn on the nearest TV!" Kelly said, clearly upset.

Chandler grabbed the remote for the TV and turned it on. Once he changed the channel to a local station, he knew. There on the screen was a national network breaking story. Turning up the volume so he could hear the bubbleheaded bleach blonde anchor for WTTG morning news. "Going LIVE to Wassaw National Wildlife Reserve, just off the coast off Savannah, Georgia. What can you tell us, Dan?"

The screen cut to a reporter and a ship in the background with boats and police all around it. "It is still a little sketchy down here Gwen. What we have learned SO FAR is; the Merchant Vehicle Styx is one of THREE floating slave factories. That's right; I said SLAVE FACTORIES! According to one of the freed slaves, a young teen by the name of Kendra, this ship is only ONE of THREE. At present, the authorities have yet to comment. However, according to the former SLAVE Kendra, this whole operation was run under the offices of the Private Intelligence Company; Vassago International. From what the Captain of the Coast Guard Cutter was able to learn, the ship is registered to Vassago International as a converted ore carrier. This was a cover for a new type of Strategic Prison System; like Guantanamo Bay. This is just one of the MANY discrepancies that have been brought to light so far Gwen!"

Chandler turned to the young deputy. "Deputy Marten. Go wake up the Marshal, now. We got ourselves a category 6 shit hurricane on our hands." The young man took off to carry out Chandlers orders while he lifted the phone back up to his ear. "Kelly? Let me take care of Marshall Rose. I need for you to dig up as much as you can on Vassago. I have a feeling that the Marshal is going to be pissed beyond belief. Do it and do it FAST."

Kelly asked. "Um, Agent Chandler; why in the world do you think Marshal Rose is going to be mad?"

Billy Chandler growled. "Those ships shouldn't exist. It sounds like a Program that was shut down for more than one reason. If Vassago was stupid enough to reopen that can of slugs and slime; this whole situation just went to hell in a hand basket, tits-up."

"Yes sir, I'll get right on that. You should also inform Marshal Rose that EVERY News Network, newspaper, and blogger has been getting massive downloads from some, as of yet unidentified, outside source." Kelly informed him.

"Fuck me SIDEWAYS! Get the cyber-division on that, yesterday!" Like all Operators, Chandler didn't like Intel being leaked to the news hounds. OpSec meant life to those of his kind. "If anyone questions you, tell them that you're following orders. Don't worry I'll take the heat. We gotta get ahead of this, somehow."

"Yes sir. I take it that YOU'RE taking charge, on behalf of the Marshal?" The fact that Kelly was even asking the question did not go unnoticed by Chandler.

Billy affirmed. "Yes Kelly; I am taking charge of the investigation. There, now your ass is covered. Just get those mushroom farmers down at Cyber going."

Kelly wanted to laugh at Chandler's joke about the men and women over at the cyber-crimes division. Instead she just disconnected and went to carry out her orders. Over the past few days Marshal Rose's staff had come to like the enigmatic DOJ agent. The fact that he didn't act like a Dick of Justice, but more like one of the former Military Deputies, had a lot to do with it.

As Chandler entered the kitchen headed for the coffee pot, his thoughts drifted back to the many stories he'd heard from the old timers, many of which, had spent time with the C.I.A. deep in Eastern Bloc territory. That wasn't all he thought about. The whole situation with the ship was WRONG. SEALs did ship take-downs. Normally though, the media wouldn't get wind of it for at least a day or two after the fact. Unless the pirates contacted the media, it was kept dark until the authorities had things well in hand. This was the exact opposite. It was like someone had WANTED the media to be first on the scene. Quickly he changed into working clothes instead.

"Surgical precision, total blackout ending in a BIG spectacle and no answers. Only two groups work like that. Two, and both are so deep and dark, if the sun blew up; they'd never know about it." Billy said to himself, heading for the kitchen.

Even before he had the grounds in the new filter and catch Dorothy Rose walked in. "I take it from young Marten's excited condition, that we have a shit storm of EPIC proportions on our hands William?"

"Cat 6, with gusts pushing the 'fuck me sideways' point. If we don't get ahead of this Dorothy; it will reach Cat 9 before nightfall." William's use of hurricane categories grabbed Dorothy's full attention as the coffee brewed.

Dorothy looked at him intently. "Just how big of a SNAFU are we talking about here?"

Chandler sighed and reached for a coffee cup and handed it Dorothy. "SNAFU? Everybody is going to WISH for SNAFU. There's no term for 'worse than FUBAR', but I think we're there. To be honest with you Marshal, I have no clue to how bad it is going to get. Already the vultures are whipping themselves into a feeding frenzy. If I had to give you an estimate, I wouldn't know where to start. First; all we know so far is Vassago has been running some type of Lock-box operation using heavy ore carriers under the guise of Strategic Prisons."

Dorothy held up her hand. "The coffee hasn't kicked in yet. What is Lock-Box and Strategic Prison?"

"Sorry." Billy apologized then explained. "Strategic prisons are like Camp Delta down at Gitmo. Some are known and some are kept 'black'. They are for holding terrorists, and the like, for the purpose of gathering Working and Actionable Intel. Working Intel leads to Actionable. It gets you going in the right direction and is usually behind enemy movement. Actionable is Real-time or Preceding-time. Special Operations deploys off Actionable Intel. Spies go off of Working Intel. With me?"

"Yes. That was a good explanation. Ok what is Lock-Box?" Dorothy asked.

Billy Chandler paused for a moment to choose his words then said. "Lock-Box was a Cold-War program used by the C.I.A. Basically it started out as brothels with no limitations. If you could pay, you could play and there were NO restrictions. Even death was on the menu, as it were. Later on it evolved to even outright selling of slaves. From what I've heard so far; this Lock-box operation was a cover for the production of customized sex and domestic slaves. That is all I know for certain at this point in time, ma'am."

Dorothy looked over at the man who had come to her a few days ago. He had been assigned to her as a bodyguard by someone outside of normal channels. She knew that he was no ordinary soldier, but he had shown his abilities for being an even better Deputy Marshal. From what little information she had been able to gather about him, he was very highly trained.

"Sounds like more than just stories around a campfire. How familiar are you with this? Captain." Dorothy asked pointedly.

Billy looked up. "Well now. If know I used to be a Captain, then you probably have an idea why I'm a Lieutenant."

Dorothy sipped her coffee. "I know you were a Captain. I know that you were Special Forces. I also know that you are monitored by a group in SOCOM that doesn't exist. Not even those guys from Delta get that kind of treatment. I've known some. Even have a couple in the Marshals from time to time. You're different."

Chandler saw no reason to deny any of that. "That's right. So?"

"So. You remember that talk we had the other night William?" Chandler nodded his head, so she continued. "Have you decided on what you're going to do?"

Billy nodded again. "If you got a contract handy, I'd like to go ahead and sign. I can send in my Resignation of Commission in ten minutes and it will be approved on receiving. I can be yours by zero-nine."

Dorothy had anticipated his answer. Dorothy smiled and tossed him the wallet she had in her housecoat pocket. "Welcome to the Marshals, DEPUTY Chandler."

William caught the wallet in the air.

When he flipped it open he found the golden round shield of a U.S. Deputy Marshal Inspector. "Excuse me Marshal, but isn't this the shield for an Inspector? I mean, shouldn't it be for a regular Deputy?"

"Inspector Chandler, please don't start off on the wrong foot by accusing your boss of making a mistake. I know, damn good and well, what badge I gave you. Besides, I need someone to handle what is going to be a real snake pit. If what you have told me is only the beginning of this mess with Vassago, I need someone who understands PICs and the people who work there. Most Deputies have no idea of how these people work and will miss something. You on the other hand know what to look for and where to find the skeletons. You are now in charge of this investigation. Inspector." Dorothy said with emphasis.

Chandler just saluted and turned to the coffee pot. After filling his and Dorothy's cups he gave her a smile. "I suggest we watch the morning newscasts Marshal. If the vultures are only reporting half of what they have so far, this is going to be a FUN ride."

"If, by FUN, you mean taking apart one of the largest Private Intelligence Companies in the US; then we really need to adjust your concept of fun." Dorothy laughed. "However, I can see your point. I have never like these PICs and how they operate."

Reaching over to pick up the remote for her kitchen TV Dorothy turned it on. Once again the bubble-headed bleach blond for WTTG looked out at them. As the two sat and had their morning coffee the reports coming in became more and more amazing. The look of realization on Chandler's face didn't go missed by Dorothy.

"Is something about all this 'familiar' to you William?" Dorothy asked.

"Marshal Rose, if I'm working for YOU now. Just go ahead and call me Billy. In answer to your question; I have heard of this type of operation before. Not operational specifics, just the style of the personnel. I have to tell you now, we are never going to find whoever it was that hit that ship. Trust me on this ma'am. We're dealing with ghosts in the night." Chandler told Dorothy with a sly smile.

"Let me guess. You think that this was a Black Badge operation. Trust me William, if you have been listening to the younger deputies telling tall tales of off-the-books Deputy Marshals acting as judge and jury; remember that is all they are, TALL tales. Oh in the past, there were such teams, but there hasn't been a Black Badge unit for over sixty years." Dorothy stated.

Billy shook his head. "Ma'am, I don't know what you're talking about when it comes to these Black Badge Deputies, but I will say this much. Somewhere out there is a unit of highly trained and dedicated individuals. Individuals who don’t care what it costs them to complete the mission. I can also tell you for a fact that they are totally off the books and are so black that even a black hole shows more light. Deep and dark is only the beginning."

"Ok. How deep and dark?" Dorothy asked. She suspected she was about to get more than an answer. She was about to get an education.

Chandler refilled both cups and took a couple of paces away. "Vietnam took warfare to new levels. Special Forces and SEALs were only the beginning. Operations themselves went to new levels. Prison raids, for example, was one. Not a BIG secret. Everybody knows. In a way, those raiders laid some of the groundwork for what came to be Delta. Its common knowledge that the C.I.A.'s Phoenix Project performed quite a few behind-the-lines assassinations and snatch-and-grabs."

Dorothy nodded. "I watch the History and Military channels from time to time."

"Well the Agency Assholes weren't the only ones. Actually they were the second string. First String was, and still is, the Army. Somebody, nobody really remembers who, came up with something called Zulu-Ops. Long story short, this was a new generation of suicide missions. Absolute one hundred percent mortality estimation. Zero percent possibility of survival, zero percent possibility of success. As you can guess, since the concept started with a Z and those that went out on them were practically walking dead-men; the squads became known as Zombie Teams." Billy said then sipped his coffee.

Dorothy was impressed. Most people that knew of such things would take half a day explaining them, and you still wouldn't have a clear picture. "I take it these teams and operations, in some capacity, still exist?"

Billy locked his eyes on hers and slowly sipped his coffee. "There have been, incidents. Unexplained incidents. Troops; that don't exist. Operations; that nobody carried out. Officials; that don't seem to answer to anybody. Names, ranks and faces change, but the need for them never does."

"So there are groups out there. Maybe even some Marshals that I know nothing about?" Dorothy asked.

The former NEMESIS Operator nodded. "Trust me when I say, I know what I am talking about. If there is, what did you call them?"

"Black Badge Deputies." Dorothy answered.

"Right. Black Badge Deputies. As I was saying; if there IS a unit of Black Badge Deputies working, no one will ever know it. Especially if they are being supported by one group that I ran across awhile back." Billy stated.

Dorothy arched an eyebrow. "I take it that it was this unit that got you burned?"

"Figured that out did you? Yes ma'am, in a way they did. And I still don't know who they were." Chandler didn't know how Dorothy figured out he had been burned, but she was a seasoned investigator with connections, after all. "Like I was saying this whole mess has the earmarks of that type of operation. We'll know more if the vultures start receiving data packets that can't be traced back to their point of origin or a point of origin that makes no sense." The words had no sooner left his mouth than across the screen of Dorothy's TV a message flashed then a list of names began to scroll. "HOLY SHIT!"

After twenty minutes the list finally stopped scrolling and ended. At the end a message played across the screen.

WE are the LOST. Will someone PLEASE FIND us? Victims of Vassago International, Preston Carstairs, and the Law Order and God Party.

The list began to scroll again and the stunned news anchor was given a sheet that apparently had the same list and plea for help.

"Billy, we need to get to the office now. This whole thing just jumped past a shit hurricane into an out of control nuclear reactor heading for a full blown meltdown with a China syndrome." Dorothy headed for her bedroom to get changed. Just before she disappeared down the hallway she tossed back over her shoulder. "Pack yourself a go-bag, Inspector. You're heading for Savannah on the first thing smoking."

11:30 am London England InterPol Headquarters:

Data Analyst Walter J. Watson had just finished his third cup of tea when his computer went crazy. At first he thought his was only PC that was being attacked. All across the Cybercrimes division floor of InterPol, massive packets of data were flooding in and phones began to ring as well. "Holy 'ell. Good lard what in the name of Steve Jobs is going on here?!"

"Don't ask me Gov, but every office from here to Moscow, Paris to Tokyo, are sending reports of similar data packets." One of the younger analyst holding a phone called out to him. Walter was about to tell the young man to get him more information when another analyst called out.

"BLOODY HELL! Sir, all of this data is coming in from the STATES! Those damned Yank cowboys with Vassago are overloading the whole Interpol Network with these packets. What the hell do they think they’re doing?" The young man asked.

"Don't think! Analyze those packets! They'll tell us what we need to know." For the first time in his long career with InterPol Walter John Watson would be following in the footsteps of his great, great, grandfather. Only he would not have the help of a consulting detective like Sherlock Holmes.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sir! All of these packets are victims of some kind of white slavery being carried out by Vassago! Each packet has the real identity, modified identity and buyer name. They have been sent to the individual appropriate agencies where the buyers and slaves are currently located. Those already sold to owners here in the EU can be recovered by Agent Blair Connelly." One of the senior analysts called out.

Watson demanded. "By WHOSE orders?"

"Um, Sir these orders come straight from 10 Downing Street." The analyst said with real fear in her voice.

TOC, Ram's Rock Island, 0445:

Maria turned and looked over at Kimberly. "Are all the strike teams clear and safe Kimberly?"

"Yes ma'am. Lone Star just finished recovery operations. The whole team is inbound for Fort Stewart, Georgia as we speak. Why?" Kimberly asked.

"Because now OUR job begins." With a malevolent smile Maria looked over at her granddaughters. "Now my little swans; it is time for you to play."

"What are you up to Ria?" Paul asked.

"For the past hour Paul, we have held one of our greatest weapons at bay. I now plan to turn that weapon lose on our enemy." Maria never took her eyes off Kasey and Kristine as she answered Dannigan's question. "Kristine can you hack into the Vassago main frame?"

The teen looked up at her grandmother in surprise then giggled at her question. "I don't have to hack that main frame ma'am. When Miss Krystle opened the Styx's server for us, I was able to copy the uplink and ip address for the Home office. We have all the passwords now."

"Go after that computer and lock it down girls. Once you have done that, let me know." Maria ordered.

Kimberly looked confused. "Madam Maria, I normally don't question those who run an operation, but what are you up to? We got the Intel and the ship will run aground in the next half hour in front of six different news networks so far. By the time they hit that wildlife preserve it will be closer to fifteen networks."

"Have faith in an old woman Kimberly. You'll see shortly." Maria smiled.

It didn't take Dannigan more than a few moments to figure out what Maria was up to. "Oh my god. You are NOT going to do what I THINK you are?" at Maria's nod Paul started to laugh. "Lieutenant this is one time you need to trust our Mistress of Crime and just stand back. We are about to get a lesson in the fine art of blackmail. Or I should say what happens when someone really knows how to use blackmail to get a point across."

"We're in Nonnina. We own SERPENT." Kristine said.

"Good! Now lock the doors so that no one can get in to stop you." Maria instructed.

The two teens started to like where this was going. Maria stepped back and watched as the two teens started typing away. She was amazed at the way the two girls worked as one. Paul stepped over to stand beside her. Even he couldn't believe the way their granddaughters worked as one.

Whispering to Maria. "They really are a Deity-Class operator when they work like this. Our granddaughters truly are Gemini, the twin goddesses."

"Oh my dear Paul, they have yet to have fun. What you and I saw the other day was nothing. I plan on pushing them to truly see what they can do under controlled pressure." When Paul went object Maria held up her hand.

"Nonnina; we own the server room and the building's security system. Vassago International is in total lockdown. What do you what us to do with this piece of garbage?" Kasey said from her station.

Maria said slowly and clearly. "Kasey, you and your sister, are to STRIP that mainframe of every last deal, bargain, and backroom shenanigan file. Then I want you to use that very server to upload all of our packets to the appropriate agencies. Starting with our good friends in the Marshals and InterPol. Once all the packets have been delivered; rape that piece of shit and leave behind a smoldering paperweight."

When the teens heard their grandmother use shit they knew she was dead serious. Kristine just smiled and turned up her music and let herself fall into the net. When Kasey saw her sister do this she quickly followed suit. Only Kasey kept herself aware of the world around her. This was her one of her duties when Kristine went diving. Another was keeping her sister’s tracks covered. The fact that Kristine was already bouncing through seventeen Nexis, twenty four Nodes, and four international Server Arrays, not to mention ONYSSIUS, was beside the point. Even as her sister ripped through the firewalls of twenty three different Law Enforcement agencies around the world, Kasey was busy keeping their cyber-crime officers off her tail. Kasey had long ago learned the secrets of false back logs, dead end nodes, picket lines, spike traps, and off-site ghost machines.

Like Kristine, Kasey had become a true cyber-warfare operator under the instruction of Krystle. However, it wasn't until she worked beside her sister Kristine, that Kasey really shined. And now her grandmother had given the two of them orders to tear into the people who were behind so much evil. Finally free of the reins, the two girls waged an unholy attack on the enemy.

From their positions Madison and Kimberly sat in stunned silence. As up on the main screens first two, then three, then four, until finally six deferent sets of code scrolled across one of the secondary screens. They had seen Krystle do something like this, but for a pair of teenagers to do it was unbelievable. The codes were all scrolling at the same speed at first but soon they began to gain speed until the lines were nothing more than a blur. The two teens were definitely living up to their classification as the first ever Gemini Deity.

"Are they really doing that?" Madison asked from her station.

"Yes Madison, they really are. I knew that the girls were good, but I never dreamed or expected something like this." Kimberly answered her.

Maria smiled over at the two Operations specialists. "All'interno degli occhi di un bambino le grandi cose sono fatte." When the two women looked over at Maria she repeated the Italian proverb in English. "Inside the eyes of a child, the great things are made."

"What our dear Mistress of Crime has so beautifully put is this, ladies. Children can do anything they want. They just don't know any better." Paul told his Operations officer and Secretary. "In other words, never tell a child they can't do something. They'll do it, just to prove they can."

Maria turned and looked over at the younger women. "We held them back long enough this night. Kimberly, I know that you normally have command in these situations, but this is one time you must trust me. I fully expect my granddaughters to not only place this information in the hands of the news organizations and pertinent law enforcement agencies, but bombard the social media of today's youth. Which I've recently learned is more than effective. I am willing to take short and long odds on how long it takes for that nasty little PLE bill becomes ashes on the Senate floor. Well Major are you game?"

Chuckling Major Paul Dannigan just shook his head no. "I'll past on this one Ria. I don't think even Lyssa would take odds on something like this."

Madison just giggled. "I am afraid that I will have to go with the Major on this one Madam Maria. We've spent too much time on the Hill to not understand what a time bomb that bill is now. Personally, I would hate to be the poor bastard that has it land on his desk. You have managed to turn that bill into a tactical nuke."

Before Kimberly could chime in with her opinion, Kasey waved for the adults' attention. "Sir, ma’am’s, we have reached full saturation of all public news networks and have over seventy-nine percent of all Law Enforcement agencies; worldwide. Sorry we cannot get that any higher, but most third world national police forces have yet to network their computers. If they have them to begin with."

Maria, Paul, Madison, and Kimberly just chuckled at Kasey's apology.

Maria stepped over to her granddaughter and placed her hand on Kasey's shoulder. "No need to apologize Kasey, for what you have no control over. Now is your sister about done playing with that mainframe?"

"Give her another, three minutes and she'll have turned that box into a pile of burned out circuits and melted plastic Nonnina." Kasey turned her attention back to her screen. "In fact, I need to take care of something first, before she goes ape on that box." A few typed commands and a press of the enter key later. Kasey sat back and placed her hand on Kristine's leg. "Time to drop the bomb sis."

Kristine never looked up at Maria and Paul. Her voice was almost robotic like as she asked. "Do you want an A10, B52, Tactical, or Thermonuclear?"

"Must be her own terms. What did she meant by that?" Kimberly asked.

"She wants to know if we just disable that box or turn it into scrap iron. She also wants to know if you just want to take out the computers in that building or the entire Vassago Computer network worldwide." Kasey answered for her sister.

Paul looked at the two teens and smiled. "Thermonuclear. Crush their entire network, girls. Leave them deaf, dumb, and blind."

Kristine heard the Major's orders and began typing in commands. Kasey, seeing where her sister was going with her command codes, quickly began setting up attack viruses. Within minutes the two teens had sent eight different viruses and seven worms at Vassago's main frame.

"Damn! I knew they were good, but Krystle never said they were this good. Are you seeing these Major?" Kimberly asked.

"Yes Lieutenant, I'm seeing it. And for the record, Krystle hasn't told anyone just how good these two really are. She told me their classification, but didn't elaborate. Though I should have suspected something when they build an array out of the class room desktops. When Krystle gets back, she is to allocate four hours of training time with these two twice a week from now on. They're too good for their own safety."

"Sir, yes Sir." Kimberly heard the order for what it was.

She also heard the worry in the big Spook's voice. She too had worried about the two teens but didn’t realize just how bad they really needed the training that only Krystle could give them, until now.

"Aren't you afraid of those two just going wild and doing something illegal, Kimberly?" Madison asked of her friend.

"Nope. They know when, and where, to use their training Madison. They have already learned the first lesson of being a cyber-warfare operative. Discipline." Kimberly never took her eyes off the two teens. "They are the next generation of cyber-warriors Madi."

Vassago Internal Headquarters, El Paso, Texas, 0145 Local Time:

Tom 'the cat' Jeffers was enjoying the quiet that the third shift brought. In fact the only other person in the IT center was his friend and fellow Network Manager, Jerry Selman. All they had to do was sit back and monitor the security network. If was the prefect job for a young college student working on his degree in Computer Science. The sounds of the fire doors and shutters slamming down grabbed both his and Jerry's attention.

Tom looked around. "What the hell?! Jerry did the fire alarm go off?"

"Don't ask me Tom. Everything is showing in the green here. What about your station?" Jerry asked.

Tom brought his station out of hibernate. When the screen came up Tom felt his stomach drop. There before his eyes were multiple command line windows. Each showing a different program running, at full force. "OH SHIT! Jerry we're under attack from the outside."

"Fuck me!" Jerry quickly started typing commands in at his station. Every time he tried something it was countered from the outside source. "Oh Shit man; we got a real problem. I can't shut down the connection!"

Tom yelled. "Kill the Routers now!"

"Tried that already, Tom!" Jerry protested.

"Then shout down the Switches, Jerry." Tom demanded trying to fight back.

Jerry swore. "That was the first thing I tried, you fuck-stick!"

Tom was about to take issue with his friend when his desktop started beeping. Looking at his screen Tom turned white. "Oh man! We are totally fucked bro! Whoever is running this attack is stripping SERPENT of every file in there. Dude, we got to shut down the link!"

"We can't do it from here, Tom." Jerry exclaimed.

Tom looked horror-struck. "What about severing the T-1/3 line? Don't we have some kind of remote destruction device on it?"

"They pulled that out three years ago, man and never replaced it!" Jerry informed him.

"Why?" Tom demanded.

"We moved the MDF and POP three years ago when we remodeled this floor. The only way to cut SERPENT off from the outside now, is in the Server Room itself. Which is in total lock down right now." Jerry pointed at the fire doors and shutters. "The only way we're getting in there now is with a plasma-lance and heavy equipment!"

"Shit!" Tom picked up the phone and started to dial only to put the receiver back down. "The phones are dead!" He said barely over a whisper.

"Oh man! We're done for! I guess we'll be seeing each other on the unemployment line in the morning." Jerry said just before the desktop workstation started to overheat and throw out sparks. "OH HELL! We need to get out of here now Tom! The whole fucking place is about to go boom!"

By that time even as Jerry was warning his friend that they needed to leave, Tom's own workstation started to eat itself. "You know something bro? I believe you're right. I have a feeling that by the time we get out of here, the whole building is going to be up in flames."

The two men abandoned their stations and ran for the nearest exit. As they passed the lobby Security Station they saw that workstation go up in smoke.

"Bail out Mike! The whole place is going up in flames and we don't have control over the fire suppression system!" Tom called out to the Night time Security Guard.

Mike Gunther had been with Vassago International for just over four years. When he first got out of the Marines he tried to get on with the El Paso PD, but they turned him away. They said he needed at least two years of college first. For Mike that wasn't going to happen. He had a wife and two kids to provide for first. So being a Security Guard working the third shift seemed like a wet dream. However, burning alive was not part of the deal in his opinion. Mike heeded the warning from the two IT guys and abandoned his station, but not before pulling the fire alarm.

All through the building lights began to flash and sirens sounded. On every floor of the twenty five floor building the night-time janitorial crew abandoned their equipment and headed for the nearest stairwell. Even as the last member of the janitorial staff left the building to join their fellow night-time employees, the last of the desktop workstations burned out and went up in flames. Before the first fire station arrived on scene, the Headquarters building for Vassago International was completely involved.

"You know something Tom?" Jerry asked watching the building engulfed in flames.

Tom watched as well. "What's that Jeff?"

"I don't think we're going to be the only ones on the unemployment line later on today." Jerry commented.

Dry Docks, Great Lakes Engineering Works, Toledo, Ohio, 0500:

Bill Holiday sat back in the guard shack enjoying the warmth of the space heater. He had heard the old timers talk about the Great Lakes' Hawk being a killer in his youth. He had always blown them off, thinking that he would never feel the cold the way they did. That was over twenty years ago; now at thirty-five, Bill wished he had paid more attention to those old men. As Bill reached for the coffee pot to refill his cup he heard the one thing no one near the lake wants to hear.

Dropping his cup Bill ran for the door and out into the night. He was headed for the dry docks. He was half way there when he heard the warning blasts of an out of control barge. As he rounded the corner of the warehouse storage for construction he was greeted by running dock workers.

Bill stopped the first one he could. "What the Hell is going on down there?"

"One of those natural gas tanker barges broke loose from its tug! The damned thing is heading straight for the dry docks!" The worker told him.

When Bill heard this he damned near shit his pants. "What size barge?"

"One of the new super barges!" A different worker said looking nervous.

Bill's eyes went wide. "Oh fuck! Is anybody down there at the dry docks?"

The worker shook his head. "No way! We all heard the blasts and started running for high ground."

"Come on then; let's get the hell out of here!" Bill and the dockworker joined the running nighttime workers.

They had no sooner cleared the guard shack than the night was lit up as if it high noon and a thunderous blast rock the still night. The shock wave from the blast tore its way across Great Lakes Engineering Works smashing everything in its path. Whole warehouses were knocked over. Gantry cranes fell over. Water rushed in through the flood gates where the new ore carrier Acheron sat.

It would be months before those gates could be repaired and two years of salvage work to restore the docks to working order. The natural gas barge that rammed the gates was one of the newest on the lakes. They were supposed to be the safest way to transport liquid natural gas. The Coast Guard investigation into the accident would claim that it was an act of god as one of the mooring ropes had snapped that held it to the tug boat.

The morning news stations on the Great Lakes would be carrying more than just the news of the runaway gas barge. In Cleveland a fire had broken out on one of the lower decks of the new ore carrier Lethe. By the time that Fire units were able to respond, the half way constructed ship was a total lose. One of the local anchors for the morning news would crack that Great Lakes Engineering Works was having a really bad night.

TOC, Ram's Rock Island, 0545:

Kasey and Kristine sat back sighing heavily. "It's done Nonnina. SERPENT and Vassago are dead. Major, we nuked the hell out of that network. There is not one computer on their network that's more than a melted pile of plastic. Also, there is not one Vassago file that we don't own." Kasey said with her back and eyes closed.

Like her older sister Kristine had her head leaned back with her eyes closed. "Sir I know that there are a lot of shady and dark files in that mess we pulled out. It'll take Mrs. Kimberly, Miss Krystle, Kasey, and me months to go through all that. If not years."
"You girls did good. Now you have been up for more than half the night. Take the golf cart and head back to the house. It'll be a few more hours before the teams get back. Go get some sleep girls." Maria told them.

When they didn't move Paul and Maria stepped in to take a closer look. It wasn't until the soft sounds of snoring reached their ears that they realized what had happened. With looks of amusement plastered on their faces they backed away.

Paul walked over to Kimberly and whispered in her ear. "Have Eddie come down and give me a hand."

Kimberly and Madison both looked over at the sleeping teens and started to giggle. At first Maria was going to take them to task, but stopped. She too, found the fact that her granddaughters had fallen asleep sitting at their workstations, funny. Paul was have a hard time of keeping his own laughter under control. Thankfully the teens were so worn out from their efforts on behalf of OICA they never woke up.

Madison stood up and waved to Kimberly. "I'll go get him Kim. Besides, I need to stretch my legs some."

As Madison left the TOC Paul looked over at the sleeping teens. "To be able to sleep the sleep of innocence, once again. They really did live up to their classification tonight. They did you proud Ria."

"No Paul, they did themselves proud." Looking back over at Kimberly Maria asked. "What time can we expect our people to return Kimberly?"

"Not for another four hours Madam Maria. Between the helo flight from the ship to Fort Stewart and then the flight from Steward to here, that's still a lot of flight time." Looking up at the mission clock Kimberly figured out the ETA for the C-130. "They should be landing here a little after ten this morning."

"Thank you Kimberly." Maria took off her headset and returned it to its charging station. Maria smiled as Eddie stepped into the TOC. "Eddie would you be so kind as to help the Major carry my granddaughters upstairs to our golf cart? I am sure that between Anna and me, we can get them into the house and to their own beds."

"Rugrats are wiped out. Sure, I can handle Kasey." Eddie replied quietly and went over to the teen.

Paul went to pick up Kristine and the teen woke in his arms. "I'm sorry Gramps. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

Kasey woke at the sound of her sister’s sleepy voice. "Oh man. I don't believe I dropped like that. I haven't crashed like that since that night Joey Piscapo got me drunk on Skyy vodka."

When Kasey saw the look of disapproval on her grandmother's face she turned bright red.

"We shall discuss THAT some other time young lady. Right now, you and your sister are going back to the house and get some sleep. Classes for you two are canceled for the day." Kasey and Kristine both looked over at their grandmother in surprise.
"You heard me girls. Besides, you earned a day off after the night you've had and the work you've done. Now come on, it's time for you two to get some sleep. Kimberly please let Mindy know that I will holding dance class this evening, instead of the usual time." Maria said then urged both teens out.

Somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico, 0830;

No sooner had the C-130 reached cruising altitude than most of the assault team fell asleep. The slight change in course had awoken Bobby. With practiced ease born from long flights on similar planes Bobby stood up and walked the cargo hold. He smiled at the sight of his sleeping wives and partner. They had done good last night and he was proud of them. Yes halfway through the mission the team's cover of secrecy was blown, but that was nobody's fault.

"Shit happens when serving a 'no-knock warrant'. You plan all you want but after the first contact your plan goes OUT the window." As Bobby was talking to himself, he didn't hear Lyssa come up behind him.

"As General Sherman once said, no plan survives contact with the enemy." Lyssa smiled at Bobby went he turned to face her. "Your team did alright Staff Sergeant. I was a little worried about your wives, but they held it together and completed their mission."

"Thank you Master Sergeant, but I hate to tell you I told you so, but I told you so. Sam and Annette are not your typical civilians. We still got a few kinks to work out as a team, but we're coming together. Hopefully we don't have too many more operations like this one." Bobby remarked.

"I will agree with you on that one. However, we both know that the world is filled with evil men and women. It is our job to stop them. Either by bringing them before a judge, like your team does, or in the darkness; as my team does. We get justice for the victims one way or the other. Speaking of that Sergeant Everbrite; did you get your Justice this time or was it revenge?"

Bobby reached down to his right leg were he had strapped the knife his mother-in-law had given him. Slowly pulling it out he looked down at the blade. "This time I took a page out of your book Lyssa, a bit of both. Revenge for fallen brothers, and justice for the victims of that piece of shit."

Lyssa held out her hand. "May I see that dagger, please?" Bobby handed Lyssa the knife hilt first. Lyssa looked at it with a sad smile. "The first time I saw one of these was in Maria's office in Paris. At the time I never really gave it much thought. If it hadn't been for an old friend, Raphael Giordano with the First Group Special Forces, Special Operational Detachment Delta, I would have never understood the meaning behind these blades. You know that the DeMarco family has shown you a great honor by entrusting you with one of their blades."

"Believe me, I know. I can tell you for a fact that there isn't a law enforcement officer out there that hasn't wanted to claim one of the DeMarco or Capizeo blades as evidence. To be handed one, as a sign of family, was something I would have never expected in a million years." Bobby admitted.

Lyssa ran her hand down the side of the blade staying away from the edge. "Did you know that the steel that makes up the DeMarco and Capizeo daggers is a composite of five different metals? I asked Rager once about his own knife. He told me that there is only two families that know the actual metals that go into these blades. Ever worked a forge Bobby?" Lyssa had not once taken her eyes off his dagger's blade.

Bobby nodded. "Back in my younger days as a teen I worked in Reservation Forge. Used to get paid fifteen bucks for every unfinished knife blade. Not bad money back then, for a teenager. Why you asking Lyssa?"

"Bobby you're married to the last DeMarco and Capizeo in the western hemisphere. I wouldn't put it past Maria giving you the secret to making these blades. I don't know what the metals are, but I know what they stand for. Do you want to know?" Lyssa asked.

"I take it Rager told you the meanings?" Bobby guessed.

Lyssa nodded her head. "He did."

Bobby was curious. "Sure. If you don't mind?"

"One is for each of the five senses. Rager told me that the knives are supposed to be an extension of the body." Lyssa was interrupted by Annette.

"You only got it half right Lyssa. It is more than just an extension of the body and there are seven metals in that blade not five. Raphael is not part of the core family, so yes, his blade only has five metals. That is how we have always been able to tell whose knife was whose in which family. Only the daggers, swords and knives of the DeMarco main branch have all seven metals in them. As for the Capizeo family blades only Samantha knows for sure how many metals there are and in what proportions." Annette walked over and held out her own knife. "Also the length and width of the blade has meaning, just as the hilt shows which family it belongs."

Annette turned her knife so that the hilt was showing and held it next to Bobby's. "As you can see, even now there is differences between Bobby's hilt and mine. In fact, I would be willing to bet any amount you wish, that you will find the number of metals in Bobby's blade is one more than mine and one less than Sam's."

"It is Sis." Sam sat up from where she had lain down on the cargo deck. "And to answer your question Lyssa, there are nine metals in my Family Knife. They stand for the five human senses, plus the four classical elements. The only reason I have been carrying the one mama Maria gave me, is to honor her and the DeMarco family that I now belong to. However, I still have my family blade with me." From the sheath at the small of her back, Sam drew her family's knife. Slowly she rolled it over in her hands.

As the blade rolled in her hand, it reflected the lights on the cargo deck. The other three members of team could see the way the light played across the ten deferent metals twisting together to form the blade in Sam's hands.

"They are beautiful. True works of art." Lyssa stated. "I could never carry one."

"Lyssa saves the pretty for the stage." Carl remarked.

Lyssa nodded to confirm what the California Loadmaster said.

Bobby finally asked. "What about you though? You asked what I got. Did you get revenge or justice?"

"It was business that turned into revenge. He was supposed to do something. He didn't. He informed me of personal betrayal. If I'd had more time, he would have suffered. Bringing him along wasn't an option to have what I wanted. Sometimes you get what you get." Lyssa said flatly.

Rodrick had come into the cargo hold with a cup of coffee. Pete joined them as well.

"Lyssa, can I ask a question without getting shot?" Annette asked.

Everyone chuckled. Lyssa rolled her eyes and waved Annette on.

"You keep this tight rein on what you do. Like plans are set in stone. Why?" Annette asked.

Lyssa pointed to Samantha. "Sam can tell you."

"Me?" Samantha asked in confusion.

"Of course." Lyssa said. "You DO remember what it was like. All your family murdered. There's a slight difference though. You weren't tied to a chair as each one was killed three feet in front of you. That happened because of two things. Betrayal and deviation from plan. Because of that, five brothers and a DEA agent we went in for, died right in front of me. Before that. And after that. I have a plan and stick to it. I've never lost, except that once. I never will again."

Annette shook her head. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not the only one. Rodrick has lost. Pete has lost. We refuse to lose anymore. We don't wing it. We don't improvise. We don't go in on one plan. There's always back-ups. You saw that. We knew the plan would eventually go to shit. We plan for that so that we can get back on track. We're READY for problems. Bobby and Hunter understand planning to the nth degree. You will get used to this Annette. Sam will help you." Lyssa said. "Past the gates, before the throne; I've been to Hell Annette. I'm sending as many as I can. As PLANNED."

Lyssa went over to stand by Rodrick, who slipped an arm around her. Together they went over to the jump seats and sat together. Pete went back to the cockpit. Annette and Sam sat on either side of Bobby. Hunter sat down and leaned his head back. Tiffany, Shawna and Krystle were already napping. After a few minute Rodrick went up to the cockpit and relieved Lone Star.

------To be continued ----



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