Thursday, November 14, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 8 & Pics

Chapter 8
“You’d better get going. You’ll hear from me in twenty-four hours. Good luck, Edward.”
The call ended, and I felt myself being jerked out of the way. One glance down at Maslov, and I had a sinking feeling he wasn’t going to make it. The phone in my hand bleeped. A swipe of my thumb showed a picture, but I had to use my pants to clean the blood off the screen in order to see.
“We gotta go, Ed,” Kurt urged in a hiss, grabbing my arm, but he froze at the sight of the picture. “Oh, shit.”
It was my dad strapped to a fucking metal chair. His mouth was covered with a strip of duct tape, and he was dirty, pale, and pissed, but otherwise, he looked okay. As in, he looked alive. If I was to trust the time stamp, then the picture would’ve been taken less than ten minutes prior to that fucking phone call.

“Edward!” Bella’s voice snapped me back to the here and now, my head spinning her way. “Baby, we gotta go! Now! Emmett and Alec are…” She stopped herself, her eyes flickering to the people around her.
“They’re tracking the sniper,” Kurt muttered right next to me, tapping his earpiece to remind me that I should’ve been listening. “That’s what she’s trying to tell you.”
I nodded and gave another look to Maslov, who was now loaded up onto a gurney. Without thinking, I tugged an EMT out of the way, only to lean over the asshole.
“Who has him, Sergei?” I practically growled in his face. He was sweaty, weak, and losing a shit-ton of blood. “Tell me!”
“I don’t know! It could be anyone. Stahl has many contacts, many supporters,” he whispered, his eyes squeezing closed as he trembled in pain.
“Who else is looking for this shit?” I asked him gruffly, because by now, I kind of had an idea of what I was in for, and it didn’t look good.
He shook his head profusely, his eyes closing. I was pulled away, the EMTs yelling at each other as they rolled Maslov out of the interrogation room.
“Edward, let’s go!” Bella grunted, thrusting my jacket at me.
Seeing her determination knocked some sense back into me. I took my jacket and pulled it on, only to stow away Maslov’s phone in the inside pocket. My girl did not need to fucking see my dad looking like that. At least, not at the moment. We had other shit to do.
I tapped my earpiece that I’d turned off when talking to that motherfucker holding my father, saying, “My crew, on me. I want that fucking sniper. And I want him alive, dammit! Update!”
“We’re on him,” Emmett panted.
“I’m picking you up. You’ll see me when you come out to the corner,” Felix stated. “El’s following the boys.”
“Ten-four,” I replied.
Kurt and Bella took the lead inside the police station, winding us through the corridors we’d taken with Petrovich, who had disappeared when the shot had come through the window. My guess was he was in pursuit of the same fucking shooter.
We hit the sidewalk at almost a run, diving into the SUV that was waiting for us. Jasper and Mickey were already inside, and they shifted in order to let us in quickly. Felix punched the gas before Kurt had even closed the door.
“Alec, what’s your location?” I ordered, only to be handed a tablet by Mickey.
“Here, pretty boy,” she stated. “I had Igor pull up their GPS trackers. Em and Alec are on foot. They’ve stayed on his tail for a couple of blocks. He’s winding them around, but so far, he doesn’t seem to have a vehicle.”
“Or if he does, then the boys aren’t allowing him to get to it,” Bella guessed, taking the tablet from me. “Felix, take the next left and then the next right.”
“Ma’am,” he replied instantly, following her direction.
Over her shoulder, I could see two dots – one yellow, which was Emmett, and one red, which was Alec – traveling slowly through the streets. They had a few blocks lead on us, and so far, they’d outrun the police, as well. No sirens were anywhere near us.
“Ed, take this,” Jasper stated, checking a nine mil and handing it to me, along with a couple of clips. “You, too, Bellsy,” he told her, doing the same for her. “Yours are in the other car. Can’t have you unarmed.”
“Thanks,” we both stated.
Bella set hers in her lap, but I tucked mine at the small of my back in my waistband.
El’s voice came over the earpieces. “We’ve got a problem,” he warned. “This asshole just dove into a building. Looks like old apartments or some shit.”
Bella’s finger gently touched the screen, bringing the GPS map closer. “Felix, they’re right up ahead. There!” she said, pointing to a fairly rundown building.
“Stairs, stairs!” Alec ordered, and he sounded pretty fucking winded, which wasn’t a shock, considering how far they’d run.
Before Felix could pull to a stop, I was out of the car, calling out directions. “J, Kurt, take the building next door to the roof and cross over. Beat that motherfucker to the top, if that’s the way he goes. Bella, Mickey, take the back entrance, if there is one. Felix, you’re with me…front doors. Go, go, go!”
Felix skidded to a stop at the curb, but I was already out. The girls climbed out, taking off down the alleyway. I didn’t like separating from Bella, but it was common knowledge that those two girls made a deadly team. They were fast on their feet, quick-witted, and watched each other’s backs fiercely. Plus, together, they didn’t look like what they truly were; they simply looked like two beautiful girls, not completely trained weapons that could kick a grown man’s ass. And that was without a gun in their hands. I’m not sure I’d pair Bella with anyone else, other than myself.
Felix covered me as we slammed open the ragged-looking front door. I could hear footsteps overhead and in the stairwell, but I spoke low over the com link.
“Em, Alec…talk to me,” I murmured.
“Third floor,” Emmett panted. “I’ve lost sight.”
“Asshole’s on the fourth floor,” Alec advised. “He did a one-eighty when he reached the roof.”
“There’s no one in this building,” Emmett added. “He may be looking for an escape…or a place to hole up.”
“El, watch the windows on the east side of the building,” Felix chimed in.
“Already on it.” Eleazar’s voice was calm, but focused.
“Mickey, Bella, cover the first floor. Jasper, don’t move from that roof. Em, stay where you are, and Alec, cover that fourth floor you’re on. His ass is trapped in this building,” I stated softly, pointing to the stairs and locking gazes with Felix.
Felix and I started for the second floor, and I gave a look behind me to see Bella in position at the front door. The building went silent. Not even my team made a sound over the com links. We moved silently up the stairs. I caught sight of Emmett on the third floor, but Alec was slowly and carefully searching out the fourth floor. With silent hand signals from the end of the hallway, he told me that he’d tracked the guy to the last door.
As quickly and quietly as we could, Felix and I joined him in front of the door. We were going to kick it in. I’d hoped we’d cornered the bastard. On my signal, Alec’s boot met the rotten door, sending into the room, completely ripped from its hinges. We aimed our weapons inside just in time to see the asshole launch himself down what looked like a laundry chute or a dumb waiter. I wasn’t quite sure.
Alec and I raced to the fucking hole in the wall, missing the guy by mere inches.
“Fuck! He’s going down! Basement! Someone cover it,” I ordered, trying to see where the guy landed. If my calculations were correct, then that left Mickey and Bella the first to get to the basement. Pointing toward the door, I faced Alec. “Go! Watch the girls’ backs. Felix, cover the stairs.
Slipping my gun into the front of my pants, I grabbed a hold of the edge of the chute, lowering myself inside. I wasn’t going to fall blindly like the sniper, just in case he’d stopped at another floor. Using the bricks, the next floors down, and a few rotten holes, I was able to make my way down to the third floor and the second, but there was a drop from the second floor to the basement, which looked dark below me.
“Shit,” I hissed, letting go and bracing myself for a hard impact.
I was careful to land on my stronger leg, knowing if I tore my ligaments in my bad knee, I’d be shit out of luck. I pulled my weapon out as soon as I landed, smiling as I saw that the man we’d been chasing hadn’t thought anything through. He’d landed roughly and was just now climbing to his feet. What he also didn’t know was that two brunettes already had their weapons trained on his ass.
Nodding to the girls once, I stepped up silently behind the guy, wrapping my hand around his neck to cover his fucking mouth. It was all I could do not to snap his neck. He struggled in my arms until my other arm wrapped around his chest to grip his shoulder.
“I’ll break your fucking neck, asshole. I swear to God,” I warned him, but he continued to fight me.
The girls rushed in, and Mickey pointed her gun right between his eyes, pulling back the hammer with a loud, deliberate click. He froze.
“He doesn’t speak English,” Bella murmured. “Kurt or Eleazar, I need one of you down in the basement.”
“Ten-four,” Eleazar stated.
“Actually, all of you get down here,” I ordered, giving the basement a cursory glance. “Mickey, secure his weapon. Bella, cover her. We’re gonna need to get some answers from this asshole.”
“Not here, you’re not,” Felix stated, pointing toward the small window, but what he was really saying was the sound of sirens was getting closer. He turned to Eleazar. “We have a safe house around here?”
“Yes,” El answered, snatching up a piece of wire off the floor and binding the sniper’s hands behind his back. “It’s about fifteen minutes from here.” He locked gazes with me. “It’ll give you the…um, privacy that you’ll need to ask him what you need to know.”
I smiled humorlessly, nodding once. “Good. Then tell him to stay fucking quiet and to cooperate, and he’ll live through this shit,” I told Eleazar, which he did with a fucking smile on his face.
“We gotta go,” Felix warned as Emmett, Kurt, and Jasper appeared at the top of the basement stairs.
I grabbed the front of the guy’s shirt, yanking him forward and shoving him toward the stairs. The fight had left him, even more so now that he was completely outnumbered and out-gunned. When we got up to the first floor landing, Emmett took control of the guy, which was pretty funny to watch, especially when he grinned, grabbed the guy’s shoulder, and pistol whipped the man so hard, his face snapped to the left. Our sniper dropped to the floor with a heavy thud.
“Trunk of the car?” Em grunted as he tossed the guy over his shoulder like he hardly weighed a thing.
“Yeah,” Eleazar agreed, pointing toward the back entrance of the building.
The BMW was parked in the alley, and the trunk lifted when El pushed the key fob. Emmett set the sniper in there, and Jasper appeared with another bit of wire, wrapping it tightly around the man’s ankles, along with a strip of fabric to gag him. The asshole wasn’t going anywhere.
“Good. That should keep him quiet until we get to where we’re going,” Jasper stated, turning to Eleazar. “We’ll follow you.”
“Ten-four,” I replied. “No speeding. Just get the hell out of here. Stay on the radio in case we have to separate.”
“Hooah,” Jasper and Emmett grunted.
Bella, Alec, and I dove back into the car, where Alec handed Bella and me our personal weapons back. “What’s the plan, Ed?”
“This guy’s gonna answer some questions, and then…we’re gonna call Alice. We need to know everything about Alexander Gunter we can get our fucking hands on,” I stated, glaring out the window as Eleazar pulled out onto the street. “I have fucked-up feeling we won’t like what she finds.”
Ignoring the sounds of yelling, gurgling, and cursing, I walked quickly to the back of the warehouse that Eleazar had brought us to. It was old, a little off the beaten path, and falling apart, not to mention a touch eerie as the sun started to set. He’d said it had once provided a safe extraction point in case CIA operatives needed to get the hell out of Moscow in a hurry. Now, they used it as a stopping point to save girls abducted for human trafficking – an underground railroad of sorts. And that fact had given Mickey and me the heebie-jeebies, especially since we knew for a fact that those types of kidnappings went on everywhere, even back home in the States.
Off in one corner were donated clothes, mainly for women, but at least Edward had been able to toss the shirt he’d been wearing at the police station, which had been stained in Maslov’s blood. However, he hadn’t yet put on the gray thermal I’d found for him. He was busy at the other end of the warehouse, trying to get the Russian-speaking sniper to give up some information…any information.
As much as I understood why Edward, Eleazar, and the rest of the boys were using the methods they were on the man, I couldn’t stick around to witness it. It was, at its core, torture. It worked, and I wasn’t exactly feeling sorry for the man, having seen Maslov shot down in cold blood, but my past, my history, made my stomach weak.
A glance up at the clock, and I grimaced at what I was about to do. Picking up the satellite phone, my finger rubbed over the button as I stood in a bare-essentials kitchen. It was late back in Alaska, but we were now desperate.
“Hang on, Bellsy,” Mickey said, holding up Maslov’s phone as Kurt followed behind her. “Eddie gave me this, said to be with you when I showed you.”
“Actually, his words were: ‘If it fucking scares her, then you fucking come and get me!’” Kurt grinned when I snickered a little.
“Yeah, that sounds like him,” I said with a wink his way, but I held my hand out for the phone. “That bad?” I asked Mickey.
She grimaced. “I’ve seen worse,” she murmured, shrugging a shoulder. “You okay to look? I can get pretty boy for you.”
“No, don’t bug him.” I sighed and sat down at the table, bracing myself for the “proof of life” picture everyone but me had seen. Edward was merely protecting me, and I honestly hadn’t been ready to see it until now.
My thumb swiped over the screen, and tears welled up in my eyes at the sight of Carlisle. He was, for all intents and purposes, my father. He loved me, loved my kids, and had been protective of me way before my own father had charged him with my safety. The picture on the screen in my hands didn’t make me sick; it made me sad…and very fucking angry. No one should be strapped down to anything, much less a rusty old chair. However, the logical part of me could see that he was alive, that his dark blue eyes shined with hatred and determination, and that in spite of his pale skin and a few minor cuts and bruises, he wasn’t too badly hurt. They weren’t beating him or torturing him. And for the moment, I felt a touch better at having seen him.
I took a deep breath and let it out, handing the phone back to Mickey.
“You okay?” she asked, sitting next to me, and I nodded. “I can go get Edward. It’s okay.”
“No, I’m good,” I stated truthfully. “What we need to do – and I hate that’s late over there – is get the girls on the line. We need info like pronto.”
“Do we need to wake them?” Kurt asked, setting up a couple of tablets with keyboards. “Igor, engage.”
“Yes, Mr. Kurt...”
Mickey grinned, smacking my shoulder. “Hot damn! Let’s do what we can, yeah?”
With a nod, I said, “Igor, I need all you can find me on Alexander Gunter.” Pointing to Maslov’s cell phone, I added, “And we need to scan that phone, mainly that picture, so that Alice can have it when she finally does get up, okay?”
Kurt nodded, reached into the bag at his feet, and pulled out a laptop, instantly syncing it up to the cell phone. He glanced back up, saying, “Okay. Done.”
“Good. Now, back to Igor,” I sighed, flinching at the sound of flesh meeting flesh echoing from the other end of the building. Thankfully, I couldn’t hear what the low voices were saying.
“Yes, Miss Bella, Alexander Gunter.”
Igor rattled off the man’s date of birth, his birthplace, and where he went to school – all in Moscow. He’d won several awards in science and nuclear physics and had spoken in conferences all over the world. It was his genius that put him in the eye of the storm during the Cold War, however. He’d taken what everyone else had been doing and changed it up. He’d been the first to streamline the nuclear bomb, turning it into something that could be attached to not only submarines, but planes, helicopters, and tanks. It gave the Russians an advantage, if only for a little while…until everyone else caught up.
And that was the key, it seemed. The arms race had been nasty and full of backstabbing and secret selling. Gunter had been hired to take over the entire Chernobyl project. Underneath it all, he’d continued to research. By the time things had started to settle down between Russia and the U.S., that was when the man in question had decided to throw a wrench in it all. But I couldn’t find a thing written about it, other than it was an accident – a power outage test run and not a deliberate thing.
“Huh,” I huffed, rereading what Igor had brought up on my tablet. “Igor?”
“Yes, Miss Bella…”
“Give me…let’s see, how do I put this?” I asked myself, rubbing my temple, but glanced between Mickey and Kurt, who were watching me curiously. “Give me the conspiracy theorists’ version of Chernobyl.” I turned to Mickey. “Everything I’m getting is the textbook version of what we all were told. Apparently, it was completely covered up, so we need to look outside the box.”
A few articles popped up on my tablet. Scrolling through them, I shook my head. There were a few that guessed that the meltdown was done on purpose, there were a few that thought aliens – as in extraterrestrials – did it, and then there were the “end of the world” believers that claimed we would all die in a fiery hell.
I snorted, sighed, and pushed the tablet back.
“Okay, so humor me,” Mickey piped up, grinning as she looked over my shoulder at picture of a bulbous-headed alien on my screen. “We know E.T. didn’t do it, and really, we can take El’s word that this guy did it on purpose. The motherfuckers that have Carlisle asked for this asshole’s work back. Let’s go from there.” She paused when I nodded. “Igor, what happened to Alexander Gunter…after Chernobyl?”
“Alexander Gunter was relieved of his duties shortly after the reactor meltdown. He was held in a medical facility, along with several other residents and employees of Chernobyl, pending examination. Chernobyl was eventually abandoned, sealed, and still stands empty to this day. Gunter was found just outside St. Petersburg, dead in his home. His laboratory and house had been burned to the ground seven years later.”
“Igor, what happened to the research Gunter was working on at Chernobyl?” I asked, leaning forward.
“The uranium was distributed to various locations, one of them being MCC.”
“Oh, hell. Okay, Igor, what was he working on exactly?” Kurt asked, leaning closer so that the three of us were side by side.
“A smaller, more compact missile, Mr. Kurt. The casings were never located.”
We went quiet for a moment, all three of us sitting back in our chairs.
“That’s it,” I sighed, staring at the screen without seeing it. “That’s what Edward has to give them – the missiles and the uranium – to get his dad back.”
“The uranium is at MCC, or it could be found at a conversion medical facility in Canada. You know, where they’re turning weapons-grade uranium into medical radiation,” Kurt pointed out. “It’s the missiles that we have to hunt down. That fucker at the police station said to go back to the beginning, but does that mean where the asshole started? Chernobyl? Or where his ass was found burned to a crisp?”
Snorting, I shrugged. We all jumped a little when the tablet bleeped.
Smiling, I touched the screen, bringing up a small screen filled with Alice’s tired face. “Pixie, why are you up?”
“I couldn’t sleep. Plus, I have Igor alerting me when you’re accessing him,” she stated with a yawn. “How’s it going?” When all three of us scoffed, which caused her to smirk, she said, “I see this picture. Give me a few, and I’ll verify its authenticity. And while I’m doing that, why don’t you catch me up.”
Kurt gave her the rundown, including what had happened at the police station, Maslov’s shooting, and the sniper, who had currently gone quiet at the other end of the building. We tried our best to explain the conversation between Edward and the kidnappers.
“Maybe when he gets a chance, Edward can tell you exactly what they said,” I suggested, “but it won’t be right now. He’s questioning the sniper.”
Alice snorted, giving me a droll glare, before going back to her work. “Well, the picture’s real. They took it about…ten minutes before the call, but sent it right after the call ended.” She paused, frowning a little. “He looks…okay. Not great, but like he’s hanging in there.”
“Yeah,” Mickey and I mumbled back.
“Okay, okay, okay,” she chanted softly, seeming to shake off the sadness that came with seeing Carlisle all tied up. She typed furiously for a moment, only to turn back to the camera. “Now…I’d really like to go over what I found on Carlisle’s laptop.” Her nose wrinkled. “However, I think you should all be in the room.”
“That bad?” I asked her, grimacing at her fearful glance. Turning to Kurt, I said, “See if at least Edward and Eleazar can step away.”
“Gotcha,” he replied, getting up from the table.
Looking back to Alice, I asked, “So nothing on the cell phone?”
“Nah, not really. It was the same calls I’d assumed he’d made: Maslov, the Moscow bank, Norilsk. Nothing struck me as out of the ordinary. But Maslov’s phone is interesting. Thanks for syncing that up. It seems most of his calls were to and from the Norilsk area, a few Moscow numbers and, of course, his family. The call from the kidnappers, that last phone call? That was a throwaway phone with a Norilsk number.”
I sighed and nodded. “Well, that doesn’t surprise me. Maslov said there were enough men in Norilsk to threaten the entire town and the mine.”
Alice grunted that she heard me, but went on typing. When footsteps approached, we all looked up to see Edward, Alec, and Eleazar walking with Kurt. Edward was still shirtless, wearing just his cargos, and he was sweaty, fierce, a little dirty, and pretty damn focused. Though, his gaze softened a little when he met my eyes.
He grabbed a chair, spun it around, and straddled it backwards, giving Alice a small smile and my temple a soft kiss. “Pixie, it’s late there.”
She grinned. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, well…my work is never done with you people!” she shot back.
Eleazar smirked and shook his head slowly. “What’cha got, Alice?”
“Carlisle’s laptop,” she stated, and the two tablets and the laptop Kurt had been working on immediately filled with information. “I’ve just sent you the files that I found on his hard drive. They had to have either been planted, like someone stuck a thumb drive in, or they piggybacked in on a few emails that he received prior to the trip. My guess is that it’s the latter, but take a look at what I just sent you first, and then I’ll tell you why I think that.”
I picked up one of the tablets, flipping through what she’d sent. Edward’s warmth surrounded me as he leaned in to look over my shoulder. He smelled like his usual woodsy smell, though there was a touch of a musty scent, too, like the building around us.
“Oh, hell,” he murmured softly, reaching out to touch the screen. “Plans, blueprints, even…no, this can’t be right. Alice, this was on his laptop?” he asked her.
“Yeah. Now, the reason I think it piggybacked in through an email was that the last file downloads on that computer came from an email from…guess who? Maslov. I think the guy was trying to ask for help from Carlisle. Do you recognize what those are?”
“Yeah,” I answered her. “It’s everything that we’d need to not only get into MCC, but to find the uranium. It’s passcodes, inventory, and locations inside that combine.”
“Exactly!” she chirped, typing a little more. “Now, look at this!”
Another window popped up on the tablet, but what it showed looked like scanned pages of someone’s diary or a journal of some sort.
“Don’t tell me,” Kurt moaned, shaking his head. “These are Gunter’s notes. Who the hell had these?”
“Maslov? That’s my guess,” Alice answered, shrugging a shoulder. “Where he got them, there’s no telling. But I want you to really look at those notes.” She looked around, but her gaze landed seemingly on Edward. “Edward, what did the kidnappers say to you exactly?”
He dragged his gaze from the tablet in my hands to her, swallowing thickly. “That they wanted Alexander Gunter’s work back. That I needed to go back to the beginning.”
She nodded. “If that’s the case, then you’re far from being finished. According to those last few notes of Gunter’s, he was working under the radar at Chernobyl. It follows through his termination, from there after the meltdown, to his own personal research outside of St. Petersburg. The last mention of those missile casings…he’d stashed them in Chernobyl, thinking he could eventually go back to get them, but the place was sealed off for years.”
“Okay, okay…wait!” Mickey piped up. “How can we trust this journal thing? I mean, wasn’t Gunter’s place burned down? Like…didn’t Carlisle’s crew destroy the place? And in turn, all of his notes would be gone, right?”
Eleazar’s head shot up to look her way. “Carlisle’s crew merely took the hit. They didn’t destroy the place. They wouldn’t have burned the place, and they wouldn’t have taken anything…at least, not that I’m aware of.”
“Besides Garrett and Sam, who was on that mission with Carlisle?” I asked, fighting the funny feeling in my gut that I already knew the answer.
“Boris Zukov.” Eleazar’s voice echoed in the tiny kitchen.
I turned to look at Edward. “Tell me again what Garrett told you, Edward. You said they barely made it out of that lab when they took the hit on Gunter.”
“That’s all he told me, sweetness. Something about the lab was rigged to blow, but Sam disengaged the timer. If what El says is true, then no, my father didn’t burn the place. In fact, they stopped it from happening,” he answered, looking between Alice on the computer to Eleazar. “So…they’re asking for Gunter’s original work. That’s these missiles and the uranium. And if Maslov was trying to help, then…”
“Then he handed Carlisle everything to get the job done. It’s all there,” Alice finished for him. “The question you have to ask yourself is who gave it to Maslov? Because, as far as I can tell, the man is still clean.”
“No, he’s clean,” Edward agreed. “He’s just in some serious trouble.”
“Wonder if the guy made it to the hospital,” Kurt muttered, grimacing as he looked to me.
“I’ll find out for you, but later,” Alice promised us.
“Alice, they also told me that we wouldn’t be the only ones looking for this stuff,” Edward added, running a hand through his hair and rubbing his face. “Who else would want it?”
Her eyebrows shot up. “If you take the uranium and put it together with those missiles? Anyone. You could essentially take over a country with that much power. You look at any country at war – North Korea, the Middle East... – they’re all looking for a leg up.”
Edward nodded like he’d assumed as much. “This is…” He sighed deeply, standing up and starting to pace. “This is some fucked-up bullshit! Let’s say we find what these assholes want in order to trade it for my dad, but then…we’ll have these fucking bombs out there!”
“Okay, one issue at a time,” Eleazar stated calmly. “Right now, Carlisle is the mission. Focus on that, and then we can deal with whatever after. Got me, kid?”
Edward nodded, looking to Alice. “What if…what if we find where they’re holding my dad prior to taking off on the motherfucking wild goose chase for missiles and shit?”
Alice smiled evilly, nodding slowly. “Okay, okay, okay…I see what you’re asking. Let’s see. They’re using Maslov’s phone to talk to you, yeah?”
“Yeah,” we all answered her.
“Kurt, sync that phone up again on the laptop,” she ordered.
Kurt did as she asked, and we all waited as we watched her flip through the files on the phone. She moved, sorted, and added a few files of her own, grinning when it was all said and done.
“Now I can track the bastards!” she sang, wearing a smug little smile. “Knowing that they’re using burner phones is the only drawback, but…” she urged, holding up a finger. “Now, I can track what towers or satellites they’re pinging off of.”
“Excellent,” Kurt mumbled, unplugging the phone from the laptop and handing it over to Edward, who pocketed it quickly. “Narrow down the towers, then we can at least narrow down the area.”
“I’ll take it a step farther.” Eleazar grinned, pulling out his own phone. He smiled when someone answered. “Shelly, it’s Platt.” He paused, chuckling lightly. “I need a few keywords added to the watch list, please. I need to know ASAP when they cross the air…in any language. Okay?” He nodded when he heard whatever answer he wanted to hear. “Perfect, thank you. They are as follows: Carlisle, Cullen, Alexander Gunter, Vladamir Gunter, Stahl, uranium-235, Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk, Mining and Chemical Combine, and Chernobyl.” He stopped for a moment. “Thank you, Shelly.”
He hung up the phone, but turned to us. “Listen, what I’m about to tell you doesn’t leave this room, but…the CIA has a phone monitoring system. When certain words are spoken, it activates a tracking program. The call is immediately recorded, tracked, and we’re alerted. An operative can request for specific words to be temporarily added to said list.” He turned to Alice. “Will that help?”
“Oh hell, yes, yes, yes!” she chanted, her fingers a blur. “And I just knew Big Brother was fucking watching us!”
We all chuckled at her and turned to Edward, but it was me that asked, “Edward, what do you want us to do? Did you guys get anything from the sniper?”
He shook his head. “No, but I don’t think he knows anything more than the job he was hired for. And even that was done anonymously. Felix, Jasper, and Emmett have taken care of him.” When I grimaced, he snorted into a chuckle, bracing on my chair to kiss me. “Relax, love. They’re simply setting it up for Petrovich to find him, the sniper weapon included. We didn’t kill him.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder. “Okay, so nothing from him. These guys are gonna call you back tomorrow afternoon. Do we blindly assume that if we gather all this shit, they’ll just hand over Carlisle? Do we chance it?”
“I don’t know,” he replied softly. “And where do we start?”
“Chernobyl,” Mickey, Kurt, Alice, and I all answered him.
“For real?” Emmett’s voice boomed behind us. “Isn’t that place like radiation hell?”
“No, Emmett,” Alice sighed, but then beamed at the sight of Jasper. “Hi, handsome!”
He grinned all crooked and sweet, setting bags of food down onto the table. “Darlin’…miss you.”
“You, too,” she said. “But no, they have guided tours at Chernobyl now. I could get you into one, but you’re watched fairly closely by the guides, and you’re only allowed in certain sections.” Her eyes glanced over all of us. “If you go, the radiation levels are no more than you receive microwaving your food, okay? But there’s a reason there are certain sections still restricted. All the emergency and rescue vehicles are stored there, because they still give off too much. The concrete has absorbed a shit-ton of it, but apparently, soil, grass, and underground water sources still have some remaining. So…don’t walk on the grass?” she suggested, sounding sarcastic, but it was a fair warning.
Edward sighed wearily, gripping his hair. He jerked a chin toward the computer, but locked gazes with Jasper. “Humor me. Scan through what Alice found. There are some blueprints and a journal. See if you can come up with anything, but I have a feeling these guys are right, that Chernobyl is where we need to be next. And we’re down to…” He glanced at his watch, frowning. “We’re down to less than twenty hours before these assholes call again. I’d like to be further along than we fucking are right now.”
“You got it, Ed,” he stated, and I stood up, giving him my chair. “We brought dinner, by the way,” he stated, gesturing toward the bags.
“Thanks, Jazz,” I said, turning to Edward. “Eat something, sweetheart. Give Jasper a chance to look that over, and then we’ll talk plan.”
“Okay,” he conceded, taking one of the sandwiches Mickey was now passing out. He walked over to a ratty old sofa and fell down hard into it.
I took a sandwich for myself, grabbing a couple of sodas for us, and joined him. I didn’t say anything for a few minutes. I was trying to give him calm and space, but our crew chatted softly over at the table. Only a few statements met my ears.
“If we go, then I think a nighttime raid…”
“We should fly over first, use the camera…”
“This Maslov risked his fucking life. I feel bad for him. I bet we could get some answers from the assholes that are in Norilsk.”
“You know, for all the security that Carlisle said he had to pass, this MCC would be a piece of fucking cake to get in and out of…well, for us!”
I shook my head and tuned them out once I finished with my sandwich. I leaned into Edward, sighing when he wrapped an arm around me.
“You okay?” he asked me softly. “Did you see Dad?”
Gazing up at him, I nodded. “I did. He looks…better than I expected.”
He kissed my forehead. “I hope he stays that way.”
“Me, too.” I rubbed absentmindedly at a smudge of dirt on his bare chest.
“This feels all wrong, sweetness,” he sighed forlornly, shaking his head. When I set my chin on his shoulder to look up at him, I could see his eyes glazed over in thought. “It feels too big,” he went on, only talking to me while the crew babbled at the table. “I don’t know…I don’t want to fuck up. I can’t fail him, Bella. H-He w-wouldn’t… H-He h-hasn’t e-ever f-failed u-us, y-you kn-know?”
My eyes filled with tears, but I blinked them away. “Yeah, I know. We’re doing our very best, baby.”
“I know,” he mumbled. “I sit and listen to this shit…nuclear bombs?” he asked, his voice rising just a little. “Fuck me, Bella… My dad would not want us to trade this shit for him. Not at all!” he hissed, trying to keep this between us. “But I promised Esme…I swore I’d get him back, but to hand these guys fully functioning nuclear weapons? Oh my damn, he’d kick my ass for even considering it.”
I couldn’t help but grin a little at the mere thought of Carlisle’s opinion of all that we were going through. “True, Edward. He wouldn’t. Though…I’m pretty fucking sure that he’d play the game up to a point. Don’t you think?”
Edward’s eyes narrowed on me. “Bait and switch?”
“Maybe. All I know is…he’s always told me that we were worth everything he went through – me with Miller, Bethy’s kidnapping, you in China, even the whole Kyra thing. I’m pretty sure he’s worth it, too, Edward.”
He frowned and nodded. “Yeah,” he said slowly, sounding so much like Sammy. He kissed my forehead. “I need to clean up, love.”
“Okay. There’s a shower room, baby. I’ll bring you the shirt I found you,” I told him, and then I sat and watched him throw away his garbage and walk out of the kitchen.


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