Chapter Twelve – Just Another Day, Take Two

2020, Post-Pulse Seattle, Washington – Present Day

Minutes earlier…

Max entered the shipyard unhindered. She’d plied the guard dogs with some raw steak she stole on the way. It never hurt to be prepared and her foresight had proven helpful. The dogs were chewing away happily and she was inside.

She heard Logan through the earpiece. “Okay, Max. Let me know when you’re in position.”

“Copy that.” she replied, eyes sweeping the area.

“You gonna use that military jargon on every mission?” he asked jokingly.

“I’m a soldier, Mr. Cale.” she snorted in reply. “Part of my training. If you prefer endearments, go find that girlfriend of yours. I’m sure she’d be happy to talk dirty to you.”

“Aw, c’mon Max! Can’t we at least try having…what would you call it? Comms sex?” Was he flirting with her? He was flirting with her!

“You men are all the same! But if you’re desperate I could always give you Kendra’s number.” Max giggled helplessly. Focus, soldier, no time for games.

“No thanks! Besides, you know I love Asha.” Logan’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Hey, you brought it up buddy! Not me.”

Max fell silent as she ventured forward. Crouching low, she crept between semi-built boats and an odd assortment of wood and metal scraps. The shipyard looked like more of a junkyard and Max wondered if she would be able to find her way out of the maze of debris.

“Okay. I’m at the pier. Who exactly am I looking for anyway? Yeah, yeah, that Santos guy. But how will I recognize him?”

“All I know is that he should be arriving on the Santa Maria II.

“Right. So I look for a slime ball meeting with a sleaze?” Max sniggered. “Got it. Going radio silent, over.”

“Copy that.”

She came up behind a fishing boat and peeked over the top. A catamaran was pulling into the bay and two unidentifiable men were reeling her in. Max used her enhanced vision to zoom in on the two figures. They were dark skinned, possibly of Mexican or Asian background. She made another visual sweep of the area, turning to check out every possible vantage point, looking for signs of enemy snipers or backup. She saw none. Either they were very, very good, or just extremely stupid.

Then she saw him. A tastelessly dressed man stepped from the boat and onto the dock. He looked at his gaudy, gold watch and scowled. *Obviously Mr. Cheesy-Dresser doesn’t like being kept waiting.* Max thought with a smile. Agitated people tended to make mistakes. She hoped he would. It would make things easier on her end.

The sound of tires on gravel reached her sensitive ears long before the car actually pulled into the yard. It came to a stop directly in front of the dock, blocking Max’s view of the proceedings. Dammit! She would have to find different point of cover that afforded her a clear view.

Max made her way over to another boat and hid in the shadows. She homed in on the man exiting the car. And inhaled sharply. *What the hell is Lydecker doing here!?*

Max lost her balance and fell forward, her holster hitting the side of the boat with a ‘clank’. The sound reverberated in the empty shipyard. *Shit!* she thought. It only occurred to her that she’d spoken aloud when Logan’s worried voice carried over the radio.

“Max? Max, what’s happening?”

“Shit!” she repeated. Mr. Cheesy-Dresser Santos wasn’t carrying any cargo. And Lydecker’s hands were devoid of cash. The men turned in her direction, pointing long range rifles. The cocking of several guns from overhead made Max look up in fear. Then they started shooting at her.

She shouted into her mic, “It was a set-up!” Max made a mad dash for the fence and leapt into the air. But before she managed to clear the top, she was hit twice. “Oh god, no! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!” She fell hard. Climbing to her feet with difficulty and trying not to lean on her wounded leg – It just had to be the same leg Asha shot, didn’t it? – Max tried to run.

“Max! What the hell is going on?!” Logan was frantic. Max was screaming shrilly. “Max, are you okay?”

“Find my brothers and sisters. Zack, Krit, Zane, Syl and Jondy.” She blurted out, hoping Logan could hear her over the bursts of gunfire.

Suddenly she was attacked from behind. A fist connected with her face and she stumbled but still held her ground. Wounded and in pain, she did her best to fight the them off. But she was no match for X5 soldiers in her condition. She grunted and gasped with pain as she flailed her arms feebly.

She whispered weakly to Logan. “Tell them it’s Mant-” A tall soldier kicked her hard in the gut and the air hissed from her lungs and her words fell flat. Max toppled backwards from the force of the blow, knocking her mic free from her collar. One of the soldiers bent over her, extracted a needle from his pocket and injected her with it. Max blacked out.

As the soldier bent to pick her up and carry her to the waiting car, another one spotted and lifted the microphone from the ground, staring at it intently. He flicked the tiny connection switch off and pocketed the device.

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