s he watched the hurried cab take off, App-0001a stepped over and sat down on the bench beside the building.  There was no one else there and he opened the little thumb drive, inserted it into the wireless box with the short antennae.  It came through beautifully on his ear bud.  His mission: assassinate the Muslim czar of transportation.

Directions and details were all set forth, the weapon, location, time, all mapped out.  The hit would happen in two days.  App-0001a was overjoyed at the possibility of doing something for his country in its time of need.  According to the Dr's, he only had 6 months to live, and his option to go through chemotherapy and other medical nightmares he had vehemently refused.  "Let me die when I'm supposed to die!" he had stated in no uncertain terms to the proposing Dr.

Well, it was time to prepare.  He pulled the thumb drive from the socket of the little wireless device, and it immediately smelled of burned electronics.  He tossed it into the trash can by the corner of the building, and strode to the bench at the bus stop.  Within a half hour, he was home and going over the instructions.  He was to pick up the weapon at the little joint on the corner where the hit was to be made.  The czar ate lunch there every day, and on Saturdays, he spent a little extra time there working on his personal computer via the wi-fi of the restaurant.

On Saturday App-0001a walked casually into the little restaurant and ordered.  He wondered where he would obtain his weapon, and as his food tray was delivered, he noticed the straw was a little different, the wrapper had a distinct printed "LMA" printed in bold colors on it.  The instructions said to use the weapon immediately, so he pulled loose both ends of the paper covering the straw, stuck it up to his mouth, aimed and blew.

The little ice flechette was laced with poison which would work to completely debilitate the czar within half a minute.  Within four minutes, he would be dead as the ice melted away leaving nothing but a pin prick at the base of the neck.  The hit was direct and the flechette buried itself in the flesh on the neck.  The czar turned around to see what had happened and only saw the old man sitting there casually eating his lunch.

The old man picked up his lunch tray, tossed the contents into the trash can, and glanced at the Muslim.  The Muslim had a look of confusion on his face.  The old man had one more instruction.  He was to tell the czar he had just been injected with pig blood.  The old man walked toward the czar and keeping two tables between him, made the statement and smiled.

By then, the poison was taking it's toll on the mark, and the old man turned and walked out the door.  The sounds of breaking glass, as silverware and plate and his drink crashed to the ground as the mark reached out for anything to support himself.

The missions the old Vet had accomplished in the intelligence division of the military were never this satisfying.  He looked forward to many more missions.

He had no idea as to who the operatives were within the diner, and, had no idea as to why that operative hadn't performed the hit.  Then it dawned on him.  They were all young, and had their full lives ahead of them.  His life was nearly over, and he had just performed the most important duty he had ever done for his country.  But the life he felt at this moment gave him the feeling that he would live forever!

In his day he was quite the soldier, but after his wife had died of cancer two years prior, he'd fallen into depression which only deepened seeing his country going down the tubes like she was.  What an honor to be able to perform this small duty for his country.

The ambulance could be heard for miles, and he looked at his watch.  It had been exactly eight minutes, and by the time the ambulance did their first check on him, the mark would already be burning in hell.  The eyes of the Muslim barely registered that he had been tainted with pig blood, and the poison was already through his system enough that he was pretty much paralyzed to the point of prohibiting a phone call or even breathing.

The poison was also a type that would completely disappear within an hour.  Usually the autopsy would not be able to detect it, and with the paralyzing effect it would have on the heart, the autopsy would simply be listed as heart failure.

That was hit number five on that day alone.  He was not aware of other hits being carried out almost simultaneously, and, he would not find out on the evening news of any of the hits.

With all the men dying within minutes of each other it didn't take long for the government officials to figure out a very adequate espionage ring had been launched.  How many more would die?  The guard would be doubled or tripled on all governmental employees instantly, but, there would be little they could do to stop what was coming.

The job performed by App-0001a had went flawlessly.  He had not been identified and as of three months after his last job, had never been questioned, or even suspected.  The multiple killings had been kept very quiet and as such, had been kept from the media.  Because of that, no one, at least within the organization, could breath a word about any part they might know of or had seen without the chance of reprisal.

App-0001a wondered what his next job would be, and made an attempt at connection.  No response and it had already been a full week.  He wanted the big one!  He wanted the chief of Muslims, Oslima.  His disgust of the man had been one of great irritation to him, and he wondered why he had not been "taken out" long before this bunch came along, whoever they were.

His next mission finally arrived easily recognizeable from the instructions.  As he was sitting at coffee in a little outside cafe the morning of the eighth day, the waitress asked what he thought the temperature was.  He looked up at her, smiled in response to her pretty smile, and said "I have nothing to complain about, everyday is a new and happy experience."

With that, she laid his bill on the table.  He stuck her pen in his pocket after signing the receipt, dropped the $.83 tip on the table as instructed, got up and walked out.

Rolled up within the pen was a complete set of electronics; GPS pin, ear bud, and a very small thumb drive, one like he'd never seen.  The instructions were simple.  Wait until you read of the cabby implicated in death of would-be robber.  The instructions will be within that report.  This codex is of extreme impotance.

"Now what in the heck does that mean?" he thought to himself.  Then he realized, "No problem, I'll know when I see it."

One week later, he found his story, and purchased the newspaper.  As he read it, it made little sense to him, and he was nearly ready to toss the paper when he saw a number he recognized.  App-0001a.  He saw some curious writing at the bottom which looked like hen scratching, and realized it was in code.  He picked up the pen he'd obtained from the coffee shop, clicked it twice and used it to scan the chicken scratch, then, the first three lines of the last paragraph in the story.

When played over the ear bud, it simply stated, 'retrace steps of original mission.' By this time of the year it was quite cold, and he wondered at the instructions.  Before he could sit down on the bench a kid on a bicycle breezed by and handed him a newspaper.  "Have one on me" he stated as he rode by.  App-0001a glanced at the strap which encircled the paper, and simply went home.

He had barely gotten settled at the kitchen table of the little apartment when he heard a knock on the door.  A couple of men in black suits and long coats were standing close to the door, the condensation of their breath looked like dragons breath.  App-0001a said "can I help you?"

"Yes, you can invite us in for a cup of coffee.  We have some information we wish to discuss with you," the bigger of the men said quickly.

App-0001a didn't really like the sounds of what he was hearing, and said "I have nothing to discuss with you," and attempted to shut the door.  Instantly the bigger man stuck his foot in the door and heaved heavily against it knocking App-0001a to the ground.

"I happen to disagree with you, and the sooner you talk, the easier it is going to go for you old man."  The two men were now inside his humble abode, and had roughly handcuffed him to the chair at the table by one arm.  The other arm was extended out in front of him by the smaller man who had his whole weight on the old mans arm.

"Now, I'm going to ask some questions, and you are going to answer them.  If I do not like the answer you give, I'll shove a toothpick up your finger nail.  The second answer I get that I don't like, I'll take a finger off.  If that doesn't work, I'll break your arm, the next will be a kneecap, the next will be a knife to the throat.  Do you understand?"

The bigger man spoke briskly and with the accent of a Russian.

"What would a Russian be doing here in my home and asking questions of me?" App-0001a wondered aloud.  Then to himself he thought "I have a feeling things are going to get real rough real quick."

App-0001a was just shy of his seventy eighth birthday, and was feeling the effects of the cancer weakening his body day by day.  He knew he couldn't take too much, and prayed for a quick end but didn't think it very likely.

The toothpick went up past where the end of the nail stopped.  The pain was immense.  Obviously the ruskie hadn't liked his first answer.  He had heard stories of the prisoners at the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam having bamboo shards shoved up the nails, then the ends lighted on fire.  Fellow inmates could hear those men screaming in pain.

And other sounds of torture could be heard.  They also heard the licks on the backs of the men, as they were whipped one by one with rods of bamboo.  They heard them scream as they were hoisted off the ground by their arms which were tied behind them.

The other prisoners could hear as feet were broken so badly they could barely hobble around.  After healing crooked, they would never be able to march again, let alone jog or run.

He was brought from the recollection of the prisoners in 'Nam as he smelled the sulfur of the huge kitchen match as it struck, and felt the fire as it got closer to the flesh on his finger.  He could smell the flesh as it burned, could feel the searing pain of the fire, but, it was strangely and suddenly fading away.

He saw the blood on the table began to pool as the first of his fingers was severed from his hand, and then the room slowly begian to fade into the dark.

"I told you not to go so fast on the old man!  Now he's passed out" the shorter man exclaimed.

"Look again comrade.  See the color of his face?  The blood has stopped.  The old man is dead.  Leave him and search the place."

Within five minutes, the entire place had been tossed and they found nothing that interested them.  They did take his pistols and some ammo with them, but left the long guns.  It was quite dark outside by the time they exited the little apartment and they hoofed it quickly to the car they'd left a block over.

William stood with his back to the wall and listened to the news quietly.  He knew this would happen, but from what he was told, the old man had died very quickly and had suffered very little.  The police had been called as soon as the voices of the two thugs had started coming over the GPS mike.  So they had only been in there maybe fifteen minutes, including the time they spent tossing the place.

The GPS mike had not been located and was still active when the police arrived.  They had a real mystery on their hands as there was no witnesses whatsoever.  They could not figure out what the thieves had been looking for, and wrote it up as a local thug break in.  This was confirmed by the missing of the two pistols the apartment manager told them of.

Things were beginning to get sticky.  App-0001a had been the second of the organization to die due to connections to the organization.  The hardest part of the whole ordeal to the Four, in which they were involved was the simple fact that they weren't getting to do any of the missions personally.  That would change.  Soon, it would be one of his chosen men who would die.  The lot fell to Randal Williams to pick up the torch on this job.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Chapter III