"Everyone, look lively." The British woman's tone was clipped and sharp. 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.
Gemma's voice broke the silence again. "Car and a truck arriving."
Ione looked past the warehouse taking note of the approaching headlights. 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 replied. "Time to get to work."
The warehouse's bay door opened, letting the two vehicles enter. The light from inside barely extended past the door, disappearing as the door shut. Ione settled in for a wait.
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.
"Contact," Gemma warned over the radio. "Lone man, walking in from the south."
Across the parking lot, a dark figure strode 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?"
"The warehouse," she said. "He's not changing pace."
"Is he alone?" David asked.
"I don't see anyone else."
"Confirmed," Gemma added.
Setting down her binoculars, Ione opened her coat to reach for her 9mm. The metal of the semi-automatic pistol was still warm from being in close contact with her, even through her sweater and blouse.
"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. She zoomed in on the dim figure. "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 insistent 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. A louder set of cracks rolled across the parking lot. Ione set down the binoculars and drew her 9mm. She darted out from her hidden position, keeping low as she dashed on to the asphalt. Over the radio, despite the earpiece dangling from her collar, she heard the deep voice of a man, calm and accent-less. "Prepare to meet your maker."
A wall of force hit Ione. She fell back, landing hard on her back. The warehouse flared white, walls disappearing into white flame. The explosion washed over Ione, deafening her with the roar of fire.
Ione rolled on to her side, keeping an eye on the destruction as the remains of the warehouse burned. 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 inferno, the newcomer stood, his back towards her, sword out.
"Ione, you're an analyst, not a field agent."
"The trip just turned out badly."
"It just felt like someone was watching me, okay?"
"I get the pampering this time."