“Turn back and seek the safety of the shore; tempt not the deep, lest, losing unawares me and yourselves, you come to port no more.”― Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Venomiss froze. She sensed the sniper’s scope. Somewhere close by, an invisible chord had latched on to the nape of her neck. She knew that gut-wrenching feeling well. Her alert eyes roved left and right drinking in her peripheral vision. Otherwise motionless, she surveyed the back alley where she stood for a few brief seconds.
“Okay girl, your next move could determine life or death—choose wisely!” said Venomiss, listening to her own internal counsel. She reasoned in her mind’s eye that, if the person behind the sniper’s scope was the friend she had called seeking to return to the fold at “Vauxhall Cross” (aka MI6); then, she was safe. If not, then she might see the gates of The New Jerusalem and Saint Peter much sooner than she had hoped.
Either way, her next move would be a gamble. But, the Israeli-born British Naval Officer assigned unofficially to MI6 to infiltrate groups across the globe with ties to weapons of mass destruction, drank danger for breakfast, often.
Therefore, Venomiss ran. She zig-zagged along Malta’s dark and murky alleyway. Suddenly, she arrived at a street lamp. Its bright light would give her away.
Drawing her weapon from the underarm holster in her bulky sweater, she fired the modified Glock 17, Luger at the street lamp. The once-lit lamp housing fell with a crashing boom toppling and shattered to the ground near her feet. Now, darkness cloaked the invisible and she was in it…running for her life.
Just then she remembered the blood-stained thumb drive Mr. Goldman had given her in secret. She exclaimed, “That’s how they have been tracking me. Blimey!”
Venomiss reached into her pant pocket and ditched the thumb drive in the sewer grate near her feet.
“Dang it, my cover had been blown. But, for how long I wonder? And by whom?”
But with no time to ponder these questions, Venomiss continued trying to outrun the sniper’s range, bobbing and weaving down the alleyway.
Then, a shot rang out behind her. The bullet hit the now blinded lamp-pole standard and twanged as it ricocheted iron chards into the muted warmth of Malta’s night.
Seemingly out of nowhere, she saw headlights barrelling down the street on the wrong side of the road. The street-rod sounding engine behind the advancing headlights sped toward her.
She ran past a cafe’s back door. What she could see of the scene inside the cafe stopped her in her tracks.
The cafe scene suddenly reminded her of why she risked her life daily in missions so covert that if perchance this was to be her last day alive, she would not even be granted the honor of a nameless star on “The Unknown Heroes” wall for fear of breeching The Official Secrets Act.
She watched and smiled to herself. From the back door of the cafe, she could see the shadows of patrons inside milling about near its frosted window.
The cafe patrons’ voices carried into the alley where Venomiss stood poised to continue her escape from a sniper’s bullet. Soft laughter and the clatter of delicate cups and saucers in the cafe kissed her keen ears as she stood outside. Couples enjoyed each other’s company inside, unaware that gunfire courted the night outside.
Meanwhile, by now, the car, a deep purple Lamborghini Countach had caught up with her. Its Pirelli tires screeched smoke. The car’s single passenger door swung open violently…Then a familiar voice from inside the car shouted—
Wasting no time, Venomiss dove into the car as it zoomed expertly away from the scene. But not before another of the sniper’s bullets left its mark on the armored Lamborghini’s windshield.
“Bloody hell, they’re using armor-piercing rounds! You must have made someone really mad this time! Welcome home, Captain.
“Long time no see Commander.” Responded Venomiss as the car rounded the bend heading for a secluded pier on Malta’s coastline. Several miles off the pier and underwater hid her “home office” the Royal Navy submarine, The Vengeance 2.
Hours later…aboard the Royal Navy’s Zeus class (non-nuclear) submarine, The Vengeance 2…
“Okay, so what do we know Captain Venomiss? Bring us up to speed.” Inquired the anonymous voice on the other end of the triangular conference call speaker in the middle of her “home office” desk.
Venomiss settled in her chair in the submarine’s “situation room” kitted out as her home away from home. She had missed and longed for the maternal sway of its wombed comfort for the past eight years. She glanced with a warm smile around the room of her underwater “home office.”
Dozens of computer LED screens lined the walls and the table. News and images from satellites around the world were gathered and combed meticulously for any sign of trouble. Intelligence reports were then sent up the chain of command.
“A group known only as The Pale Rider, apparently financed by philanthropists with very deep pockets, have tested once—to my knowledge, a global deforestation device. Their plan apparently is to vaporize surface structures (trees, buildings) for the purpose of clearing vast portions of the earth’s crust. Their goal…to bore beyond the earth’s crust penetrating into its magma, harness that power and sell the earth’s internal energy to the world.”
“Bloody hell! Is there technology that can do this, Captain?”
“It has been available for the past three years. From my undercover work on this mission over the past eight years—I have discovered that there are three key stages to this diabolical plan.
“In stage one: a massive surge vaporizes buildings creating a large crater. The device employed for this stage is a modified and more powerful thermobaric bomb than we ever thought possible—its current location is unknown.
“Stage two is the key. Unknown to the world, every satellite in Lower Earth Orbit can “talk” to one another. In theory, the existing hundreds of orbiting satellites in the sky can be programmed to link up as one targetted laser beam, pinpointing any location on Earth. The result—a laser beam powerful enough to slice surgically into the earth, penetrating one kilometer down into the earth’s magma layer. And, in stage three—once the magma is exposed it can be harvested… believe it or not… with water…lots of water.”
“Good God! Do you have any leads on who is behind this wickedness, Captain?”
“Well, as you suspected, unfortunately, your niece, Lady Cat is somehow involved. My efforts over the past eight years gathering intelligence on her vast gun-for-hire global empire has netted scant results. She has been very careful about whom she lets into her inner circle. Admittedly, I failed to do so.”
“This call is not a confessional, Captain. And I am not your priest! Give me something!”
“I may have one lead from something that slipped out in conversation from someone in Mossad. I would like to go to Haifa…to…”
The anonymous voice at the other end of the conference call interrupted Venomiss with the accustomed authority of one who is used to wielding the power of the nobility…
“…Not in a million years…not if it were the last clue you had in this sordid business. We barely got you out of there alive, twelve years ago. Nee, non, or, besum ofen lo, hahin...those all mean NO by the way!!!”
Venomiss paused. Waiting…
Then she spoke softly, “Are you sure the answer is no. What if, the “people” behind this horrible business have been planning to set up your son to take the fall, Your Grace?”
“What proof do you have, Captain?”
“Just a vague reference to Haifa and a direct reference to your son as someone involved with The Pale Rider organization. Having said that, I do question the source’s veracity (Venomiss referring obliquely here to Mr. Goldman); since he shot himself to give me a thumb drive which, as it turned out, was in fact a GPS tracker so that his sniper could pick me off. And, he pretended to blow himself up with me as a witness in the tunnels under the hotel, possibly, to sell his pretense that he was in some sort of desperate danger he could not possibly get out of by himself.”
Venomiss continued as she took a sip of expresso, hugging the cup’s warmth:
“Haifa may be the best place to start. And, we are running out of time, Your Gr…”
Suddenly…Venomiss grabbed hold of the railing on the table in the situation room where she sat in The Vengeance 2 on the conference call, spilling her expresso on her Navy uniform’s blue shirt in the process.
The Vengeance 2 submarine heaved violently to and fro. Then, its massive one-hundred-and-fifty-meter length lurched forward, angling thirty degrees downward in a sudden unplanned dive. Its walls rattled and shook…but held fast. Venomiss too held on. Suddenly, the submarine’s internal emergency alarms sounded for a moment and then quickly stopped. As quickly as it began, the submarine righted itself. All was eerily quiet.
In the next moment, over the submarine’s public address system, Captain Mark “Skiff” Phelpson spoke calmly;
“Steady as she goes everyone…we were knocked about by a shockwave…nothing more. It appears that there was some sort of unanticipated earthquake inland in Malta a few moments ago. Initial readings are off the Richter scale. That is all I have for now. All crews…repeat… all crews, stations!”
***To be continued Next Sunday***