Rising Tide: CATU Book 3 Ch. 05byJoeBarnosky©
White House, Oval Office
Tell me what you know," President McKinsey says.
"Marsha was found early this morning dead, a single stab wound through her stomach," Petroff states.
"Has the media been alerted yet?"
"Nothing official has been released. Senator Rustlin is using the situation to his advantage," Petroff says grimly.
"Working on it sir. It's not looking good."
"I know," McKinsey pauses, letting out a breath. "We can't deny the senator's accusations and we can't support them either. No matter what stand we take, we're going to get support or none at all."
"If whoever is behind this attack can get to Marsha, then we don't know who else is in danger."
"Exactly Andy. I want the entire white house staff under observation of the Secret Service."
"That will put a strain on them and they may not be able to cover everyone," Andy says, his voice distressed.
"Right now I don't care," McKinsey says.
"We also have a situation Dave. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but China has made its move further into Africa."
The President peers up from his desk as dread washes over his face. "Just China?" he asks.
"Yes sir. Intel reports the Russian front is still settled on Madagascar with the fleet close by. Their presence in Lesotho also remains," Andy reports.
"Any reports coming out from the area?" McKinsey's question is a two sided coin; has communications from any military personnel or Sam come out of the area.
"Just basic chatter from our assets. The only disruption so far is the movement by the Chinese." Almost as an afterthought he says, "There apparently were two incidents over the weekend. Intel chalked them up to be nonessential."
"Go on," McKinsey prods.
"A Russian ship, the Gidra, suffered an explosion in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Since we didn't have any assets in the water at the coordinates, Intel affirmed it to engine malfunction. Ground assets in Madagascar reported a man, possibly a prisoner, being released. Then a few hours later, two women, both in tactical gear and non-Russian, left the same way."
"Let me guess," McKinsey says, "not ours."
"That's correct," Andy says with a knowing smile.
McKinsey returns the smile. "Good work Andy. Get the situation with the press contained and controlled."
"Right on it."
Sam and the mystery woman spent the previous night traveling first by boat then by car. Sam asked several times who she was and for some sort of explanation for what had transpired. All she received from the woman was her name, Julie Branon.
Eventually, after not getting any more information, Sam gave up and rested. She wasn't able to get much sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, images of Spencer either being tortured or killed appeared.
They were now in Singapore with the trip coming to a close as they pull into a large gate. Beyond the gate lies a long paved road with a chateau at the end. The road leads into a driveway that takes the shape of a crescent in front of the house. They pull in, coming to a halt next to the stairs that lead to the front door.
"Welcome to Château d'espoir. That man will explain everything," Julie says pointing to the man that appears at the top of the stairs.
Sam unstraps her seat belt and exits the car.
"What the hell is going on here?" Sam asks berating the man before he even has a chance to speak.
"Nice to meet you too, Miss Roberts."
"Please, come inside we have much to discuss and I have someone here that is as eager as you to see."
The man extends his hand out to Sam. He stands less than six feet tall with short cropped dark hair. He wears a simple pair of blue jeans and white shirt that makes Sam wonder if this was his house or someone else's entirely. Without another word, she accepts his hand and follows him into the house. Julie follows close behind keeping to herself. If it unnerved Sam any, she didn't show it.
They step into the foyer and Sam is astonished by the chateau's beauty. Her eyes quickly fall to a figure walking out of the living area. "Spence!" she yells running into his arms. Joy fills her at being able to touch and hold him after so long. After a long, intimate kiss, she pulls away and looks deep into his eyes. "I love you, Spence," she says low enough so that only he could hear.
"I know. You were my light that kept me going the last couple months," Spencer replies, once again kissing her, taking in her scent and taste. It lasts for about a minute, before their host gives a small cough.
"I'm sorry," Sam says, slightly blushing as they brake off from each other.
"It's quite okay. Both you have been through an ordeal, but now it's time to get both of your questions answered. Please have a seat," the man says gesturing to the couch Spencer was sitting at before the trio entered. "Care for a drink Sam?"
Sam bites her bottom lip. "Got any vodka?"
"Sure thing. Julie, fix up Sam vodka and me as well, please."
With a nod Julie walks to the bar and gets to work. Sam sits next to Spencer as he holds her close. Usually in a professional meeting such as this, they would keep professional, but these were different circumstances.
Nobody says anything until Julie joins the group with the drinks. Without wasting any time, Sam chugs the drink down in one breath. She sets the drink down on the table with a sigh and then looks straight at their host. She bares a look of expectance on her face.
"First let me tell you a little about who I am and what I represent."
"I'm all ears," Sam says, settling back into Spencer, knowing this was going to be a long explanation.
"My name is Martin Sternigan and I currently represent the Black List."
"By represent, you mean leader?" Sam interrupts. This logic runs through Spencer's head as well, but Sam beats him to the punch.
"Yes, that is correct. The Black List has been around for several thousands of years now, ever since its founder, Alexandros of Sparta, created it. That in itself is another story all together, perhaps another time. For all its time, Black List has had many members and leaders, all with a single goal: to keep the demons at bay from ruling over the human race."
"We worked with Julius Claude. That was the first time I heard about it," Spencer points out.
"Yes, Julius was a good field agent. It is a shame we lost him, but like him we have lost a great deal of our agents. With the demons once again getting bold and banding together, it has become quite a challenge."
"What is with this Demon Lord that supposed to be released?" Sam asks.
Both Martin and Julie have a look of shock on their faces at the question. "She revealed as much to you?" Martin asks.
"Said, Avyanna was supposed to be released, but we could slow it from happening. Only she never told me how it was to be accomplished," Sam explains.
"Unfortunately there is no way to slow or even stop her release. Talilith told you the truth from a perspective that she chose." He pauses, choosing his words carefully. Not at all sure of what Talilith may have filled her in on. "What else did Talilith reveal to you?"
"She said my mother was a demon, a Djinn. Because of the union between her and my father, both my sister and I were born Marids." Sam looks at Martin, hoping for an answer opposite of what she was told.
"She told you the truth about that. I'm sorry Sam."
"What does that mean for her?" Spencer asks, hugging Sam in the process.
"I would say nothing much, but the truth is, she has practically the same abilities and strengths that us, the Black List, and you, Spencer have."
"So how do we stop them?" Sam asks, pushing aside the revelation.
"If we could do just that, we wouldn't be sitting here right now. Unfortunately, we can only take the demons head on one step at a time. And with the Winter together, it has become even more complicated. The council only convenes when a Demon Lord is about to be released from imprisonment. Once this demon is released and not stopped, it could literally hell on earth."
"Unless I am wrong, these are the same demons that were banished to the depths of the earth by God for their crimes?" Spencer asks.
"That's correct. To answer your next question; when God punished them, each one was given a different length of time. For Avyanna, her time is coming close to an end."
"What do the Russians and Chinese have planned?" Sam asks.
Martin hesitates before answering the question. "That is what is on everyone's mind. We know the whole fiasco they pulled a couple months ago was just a cover. The Russians as you know are under the control of Maltaus and they have occupied Madagascar because that is where Avyanna has been imprisoned. It wasn't until recently did we discover the purpose for their occupation on White Island. A gate that opens to Hades is located there, deep in the ice. Winter is using the Russian army to excavate it."
"Hence the need for the four experts, including my father," Sam states.
"They wanted to speed the process up. The good news though, is they haven't uncovered it yet. The bad news is it won't take them much longer. Once Avyanna has been released and the gate uncovered, it will be hard to stop the demons from ruling over us."
"Why don't you go in and hinder their operation?" Sam questions.
"I wish it were that simple. Actually it was your subsequent action with the explosion that set their timetable back. Now don't think we haven't tried ourselves. We have and we have had casualties because of it. We do have one thing on our side though. The gate can only be opened by a Demon Lord. The unfortunate part is that they found one."
"Why hasn't Black List destroyed these things by now?" Spencer asks.
"We would have, if we knew where any of them are. Like us though, the demons don't know either. No one knows if the Demon Lords themselves created them, but luckily the knowledge of their locations weren't past down to the demons. Of course this doesn't help us out either."
"But it does put us on common ground," Spencer murmurs.
"That it does," Martin agrees.
"So what do we do to stop this?" Sam asks as impatience seeps into her voice.
"We can identify a small number of demons belonging to Winter. Prime Minister Chernoff is one, Talilith another," Martin paused to take a sip of his drink before continuing. "Why Talilith helped you is a mystery. With Winter convened there is usually order within the ranks of the demons. To break that order and continue the infighting is grounds banishment. For her to go against the tide is almost suicide. But Talilith has always been subtle and when need be her efforts only cast minor ripples."
"Question is can we trust her?" Spencer asks.
"No. Definitely not," Sam interjects as Martin opens his mouth to speak. "I got the feeling this was a move for her own gain, not ours."
"Then what would serve them to let us go, especially since we're their biggest threats?" Spencer asks directing the question at Martin. He pushes further back into the cushion never taking his gaze off the man.
"Sometimes in war you have to put the big fish back into the water so that they can muddy it for the other side," Martin offers.
"Do the dirty work for them," Sam states.
"How can either of them count on us to inadvertently help?" Spencer asks, picking up where Sam left off.
"They can't. This war is as serious to them as it is to us, but they treat it as a game. In this game it is up to us to go after the bigger threat while ignoring the smaller ones. Unfortunately we don't know what the bigger threat is. And if we are forced to ignore one to fight the other, we just may still come out to be the losers in the end."
"Then it's time we step up the game a bit," Spencer says, slamming his glass onto the table.
Good Morning and welcome to this edition of Morning America. We have tragic news this morning with the death of Attorney General Marsha Golding. Here in the studio today is Senator David Rustlin to speak about it and the current situations surrounding us in the news," Angela Bartow says.
The crowd claps as Senator Rustlin makes his appearance and walks to the empty chair between Angela and John Walters. He shakes hands with both hosts before taking his seat.
"It's good to have you back on the show, especially so soon," John states with a smile.
"I'm glad you allowed me to come back," Rustlin responds with a chuckle. Both hosts and the audience laugh in response. "More serious though. It is tragic news to hear of Attorney General Golding's death," Rustlin continues.
"I'm sure there are circumstances surrounding the issue keeping you from giving out too many details, but what can you tell us?" John asks.
"For one, she was murdered on what investigators believe to be Friday evening."
"Murdered?" Angela asks. Her face contorts into a frown of disgust.
"Yes," Rustlin says with a nod.
"Do you have any suspects or leads on who may be the perpetrator?" Angela asks.
"At this moment, the FBI and Homeland Security are investigating and have a large number of possible suspects."
"What about CATU? You reported a number of the members have not been taken into custody. Is there a chance one or more could be responsible for this vicious attack?" John questions.
Rustlin takes a moment to let the question settle into the minds of all America watching before answering. He had hoped the question would be raised about CATU rather than him bringing up the subject and blaming the organization himself. "They are I'm sure on the list. Personally, with the organization falling under attack, as many have said in response to the swift actions of the FBI, I do not doubt one or more of the members are behind it."
"What leads you to believe this Senator?" John questions.
"There isn't any physical evidence to really point a finger at anyone, but with Assistant Director Michael Grines still on the loose along with other missing members, their anger could be aimed at our government."
"What makes you so sure any of these people are in fact terrorists?" Angela asks. She has an almost innocent look on her face as she asks the question.
Rustlin felt for a moment that he was the bad guy here and not CATU. He takes a deep breath and releases it, calming his nerves and regaining his composure. This is in the bag and he is holding it. As long as he could gain the trust of the American people and ensure that CATU was truly responsible for what they were accused of, he would be President for sure in the next election. "If these men and women were not terrorists and truly innocent, then why haven't any of them turned themselves in? Not one member has come forward and surrendered. Because these people are possible terrorists and a threat to the welfare of America, I am setting a reward for any information leading to the capture of CATU members."
The audience begins clapping louder than when he first took his seat. The roar of the crowd brings a smile on his face.
"How is this reward to be paid Senator?" Angela questions as soon as the clapping fades.
"I am personally paying each reward out of my own pocket. I want each and every American to know that I want a place safe for them and their children. If that means I must us my own money to do so, because the rest of the government wants to sit on their hands and do nothing about it, then so be it."
He is stern in his message and audience is moved by the statement. People stand and clap. Many whistle and shout Rustlin's name. The event goes on for several minutes before John speaks over the crowd in order to quiet them down. "Now Senator, how are the people to know who the individuals are?"
"Right now people need to report any kind of suspicious activity. All members of CATU have had their assets frozen and I am personally working to allow the release of both names and pictures of each member."
"That's a tall order in itself there Senator. How is it you plan to get any government organization to allow such an act?" Angela asks. The puzzled look on her face looks real rather than a false expression.
"I believe with the pressure from the people and the need for justice, there will be no other choice but to release the information to the public. It was President McKinsey after all to have the people involved with the government. I see no other reason to deny that to the people."
"Well we shall look forward to that Senator. We thank you for coming in today and hope you will keep us informed," John says extending his hand out. I large smile creases his face as he shakes Rustlin's hand vigorously.
"I will and hope I can make another appearance here, if the situation permits."
"We will definitely like to have you here again," Angela says, shaking his hand.
Rustlin begins walking off the set as the show cuts to commercials. The audience claps and cheers loudly, many giving a standing ovation. He waves and smiles as he walks off the stage. He continues to smile as he heads outside to his waiting limo.
Everything went as planned. Everything is going as planned.
You requested my presence, my lord?" Natalya asks as she knelt at the base of the dais.
Chernoff sat at the top, his head resting in his hand. He raises his head to peer into her eyes; his face is contorted into a scowl of anger. He was too angry the previous day to confront her, so he waited until now. "What has happened here? I left you in charge while I was away and everything about falls apart. No I receive news that Sergey is dead and the Black Dragon is refusing to take orders from me!"
He stood roaring with anger. All around Natalya the air seemed to tighten and the ground quietly vibrated beneath her. She dared not interrupt or even speak at this moment. She was after all, still a slave to her master.
Chernoff began walking down the steps from the dais. As he slowly takes each step, he begins to change into his true form. Natalya dares not to lift her eyes from the floor. She knows those eyes hold immense anger.
When Maltaus reaches the bottom, he holds his hand spread open over Natalya's head. He could easily take the life from her and how he would have loved to. She served a purpose though and she was too great an asset to waste. Instead, he lowers his hand and walks past her. Rise.
She stands, but remains silent.
How has the human, Spencer escaped?
"We were caught by surprise," she begins. "Talilith and the human Samantha made their way into the base and attacked. At some point th—"
Talilith dare attack so openly!?
"It appears she meant to try and kill you," Natalya offers.
Talilith, you are bold.
"That fool General Wei had Sergey murdered. He didn't care too much for your plans, as you well now know," she explains.
Maltaus' anger is quelled and she knew he wouldn't strike her down.
Gravlis has confirmed this?
"He told me of the incident," she confirms.
An interesting turn of events, if not unexpected.
"Are you planning to go before the council and call her out for her actions?"
Maltaus turns quickly to regard her. Once again the rage he had held back shone brightly in his eyes. You dare think I am worried about her!?
The roar startles Natalya briefly. She normally wouldn't ask such a foolish question, but with too much riding on Maltaus' campaign, she has to be certain.