Ione shivered in the early morning Parisien chill. She adjusted her grey overcoat, trying to keep warm and trying to ignore the weight of the Sig Sauer under her left shoulder. The pistol was on loan from her British hosts. Ione peered into the false dawn at the warehouse. She saw two of her hosts enter the building.
"Everyone, look lively." Gemma's voice was far from comforting for Ione. The British woman's tone was clipped and sharp with its London accent. Acknowledgements clicked over the radio. Ione added hers as she crouched down near a a scraggly bush. A mist built up over the warehouse's parking lot. Ione missed the weather back in her hometown; she never figured that Ottawa would turn out to be warmer in the fall.
Gemma's voice broke the silence again. "Car and a truck arriving."
Ione looked past the warehouse. She took note of the headlights in the gloom. Once the vehicles stopped, she raised her binoculars and zoomed in on the passengers. "Four people total," she reported. "Confirm that Babbage is there." Babbage was the code name Ione chose for her contact, a weapons dealer.
"Acknowledged," Michael said, his voice more soothing to Ione. "Time to get to work."
The warehouse's bay door opened, letting the two vehicles enter.the building. The light from inside barely extended past the door, disappearing as the door shut. Ione settled in for a wait. Her part of the operation completed earlier in the day, after she arranged for Michael to meet Babbage. The British agent deigned to let Ione along to see the end. Gemma had protested, but the other two agents deferred to Michael.
Michael's throat mike picked up the sound of the fluorescent lights in the warehouse, the conversation he had with Babbage, even the sounds of crates being opened. Ione forced herself to keep awake, slapping herself from time to time. A shiver worked through her, getting past the layers of her grey coat and grey sweater. The mist grew heavier.
"Contact," Gemma warned over the radio. "Lone man, walking in from the south."
Ione oriented herself, working out the location. Across the parking lot, she saw a dark figure striding across the asphalt. "I see him." She raised her binoculars to get a better look. The darkness of the hour didn't let her pick out details. "I don't recognize him. I have never seen anyone that tall with Babbage."
"Leader, do you copy?"
"Two, this is Three." David's Scottish burr carried over the radio waves. "Leader's busy."
"Wonderful. Guest, where is the new man going?"
Ione worked out the newcomer's path. "The warehouse," she said. "He's not changing pace."
"Is he alone?" David asked.
Ione set her binoculars down. "I don't see anyone else."
"Confirmed," Gemma added.
Ione opened her coat to reach for her Sig Sauer. The metal of the pistol was still warm from being in close contact with her, even through her sweater and blouse. Ione let her hand linger on the butt of the gun.
"Two, how thick are the doors?" Gemma asked.
"Paranoid thick," David said. "It'll stop a rifle shot. Why?"
"The bogey has a weapon, possibly a rifle."
Ione picked up her binoculars again, forgetting about the pistol. She zoomed in on the dim figure. On his back, and Ione was sure the newcomer was male, was a long, stiff item Ione couldn't make out in the mist. "I don't think that's a rifle," she said.
"Guest, repeat that."
Ione ignored the challenge in Gemma's voice as she answered, "It's hanging wrong." She adjusted the binoculars again, ignoring the British woman's insistant questions. "It's not a rifle. It's a scabbard." The newcomer reached over his shoulder and pulled a long blade from the scabbard. "What the hell? Confirmed, it's a sword. Repeat, it's a sword."
With two hands on the hilt of the huge blade, the newcomer slashed once, twice into the bay doors, leaving crossing gashes in the metal. Sounds of shock and accusations jumbled over the radio. Loud staccato pops rang in Ione's ear. She winced, then pulled the radio earpiece out. A louder set of cracks rolled across the parking lot. Ione set down the binoculars and drew her Sig Sauer. She darted out from her hidden position, keeping low as she dashed on to the asphalt. A blur to her left caught her eye. She glanced but kept her pace. Over the radio, despite the earpiece dangling from her collar, she heard the deep voice of a man, calm and accentless. "Prepare to meet your maker."
A wall of force hit Ione. She fell back, landing hard on her back. Ione worked to keep her head from hitting the pavement. The warehouse flared white, walls disappearing into white flame. The explosion washed over Ione, deafening her, roasting her. All she heard was a roaring in her ear. The remains of the warehouse burned. Smaller flares popped in the inferno.
Ione rolled on to her side, keeping an eye on the destruction. She crawled away, her stomach roiling. Instinct took over, urging her to get up and escape. Ione forced herself to stand up. The pistol, still clenched in her hand, felt far heavier than it should be. A voice in her head commanded, "Run! Run!" Ione picked up her pace, retreating away from the warehouse. She risked a look over her shoulder. In the middle of the conflagration, the newcomer stood, his back towards her.
Ione doubled her pace.