Chapter 31

October 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm (The Job)

If Leland had thought the vote would take place directly at 1pm, he was sadly mistaken. Lunch was served first and everyone else in the room took the opportunity to lollygag. He’d have wolfed his lunch down if he’d thought it would get the others moving. Instead, he ate with ease and chatted as though he had all the time in the world. By the end of the meal, he had a bad case of indigestion.

The servants cleared the plates and removed all of the other paraphernalia that went with a 3-course meal. The drinks were all that remained of the lunch and now Leland thought things would really get rolling. A projector screen quietly rolled into place across the table from him and Leinster, who sat at the far left end of the table, cleared his throat. The stack of cue cards in his hands had to be an inch thick.

“We shall begin with the annual review,” Leinster said, and flashed up a pie chart showing the financials for the agency over the past year.

Leland groaned quietly and settled in for a long day.

***

“We got us a bunch of apes on our ass, man,” Kern called out as he hustled toward the rendezvous point. The RPG wasn’t useful anymore. It wasn’t a close contact weapon. Still, he hadn’t wanted to leave it behind.

The gorillas had scattered when the bombs and grenades had gone off. The females had corralled the young ones and huddled near the centre of the village. Some of the males had gone after Simon’s team and the remainder had started looking for Parker’s team. The male population of the gorilla village had been seriously decimated over the past day. Those that were still alive were tired and, in some cases, wounded.

“How close?” Parker called back.

“Maybe fifty yards and closing fast.”

Not enough distance to regroup at the rendezvous point. Parker called a halt to their sprint and set in for a close-in fight. She could see four of the great beasts bounding toward them. She grabbed a grenade from her supply and lobbed it. When it hit the ground it issued forth a thick white smoke. Parker cursed and looked down at her supply for a frag grenade.

“Sir, what did you fire at them?” Kern asked.

“It’s just a smoke grenade. I meant to grab the frag.”

“They’re afraid of it, man. Look,” Kern pointed.

Parker stared in surprise as the gorillas backed away from the smoke that crept slowly toward them. Picking out two other smoke bombs from her pack, Parker lobbed them, creating a wall of smoke that cut the gorillas off from them.

“Nice one, Kern. Let’s go!” Parker turned and started leaping jungle brush in an effort to make the rendezvous.

Simon’s team was a little outnumbered. He had five able-bodied soldiers and one who was assisting their wounded man. A quick glance to his right showed fifteen gorillas heading their way. To make matters worse, the crocs were starting to explore the gorilla village. They’d come down the trough and stepped over the bodies of their dead. They were further away, but crocs could move when they wanted to.

“Get ready, gentlemen, those gorillas are going to get here first, but the crocs won’t be far behind.” Simon checked the level on his mag and started shooting. Head shots worked for closer in, but at this distance he was hoping to take a few out at the knees.

Mule placed Preston’s shoulders on the ground and turned back to assess the crocs. Pulling a frag grenade from his webbing, he aimed for the lead croc and tossed it. The grenade landed at the croc’s front feet and exploded just as the animal was stepping over it. The shrapnel shredded the croc’s soft underbelly. Tossing a second one to land in the middle of a pack of crocs, he gained a little more devastation for his efforts.

The sound of gunfire kicked up as the rest of the team went after the gorillas. Simon knew the odds weren’t in his favour. He called to Mule to keep heading toward the east side and they would follow. He didn’t want to get separated from Mule or the gorillas would target him, but he didn’t want to stand there and fight either. He could walk and fight just as well.

With the crocs temporarily knocked back, Mule once again grabbed Preston by the armpits and started hauling him east. He picked up the pace a little, careful not to drag the wounded leg over anything that could snag the ties and cause more damage. He was thankful that Preston continued to sleep through the ordeal. He had to be adding insult to injury dragging him across the uneven ground this way.

They were closer to the east edge of the village than he’d thought. Simon tossed a frag and fired a few shots before taking a few seconds to assess the area beyond the village. A slight rustling from the east had him bringing his gun around.

“It’s me,” Parker called out, as she broke through the brush and added her firepower to their fight. Kern scrambled out after her and tossed several grenades at the pack of gorillas. The smoke from the bombs cut them off from view, but Simon expected them to walk straight through it. When they didn’t appear, he looked at Parker.

She shrugged. “Don’t question it, just go with it.”

Mule had already headed into the jungle where two men were just finishing up a quick and dirty litter for Preston. Mule strapped him down with extra bandages from his first aid kit and let the men haul the wounded soldier for a while.

Parker took the lead once again, with Kern bringing up the rear. He’d swiped a few extra smoke bombs from a couple of his teammates, just in case the gorillas broke through the last wall. He could hear them coming once again. The second smoke wall hadn’t held them nearly as long as the first had.

“King Kong’s posse is on the move again,” Kern called out. He tossed two of the smoke bombs and sprinted to make up some distance that he hadn’t noticed he’d left between him and the rest of the team. The gorillas came barreling straight through the smoke this time and they closed the distance until they were within twenty feet of him.

Parker came crashing through a particularly thick section of brush into a small open area completely clear of jungle brush. It ran in a ring to the right until it hit the cliff wall. To the left, it ended some fifty feet away where the jungle picked up again. Directly in front of her was a white wall of a different sort. Not made of smoke, this wall looked to be made of cobwebs. The trees were completely shrouded in spider’s webbing. It looked like a giant cocoon. She didn’t need to ask what the hell was in there. She’d already made their acquaintance at Wagner’s lab. The rest of her team, minus Kern who was still some distance away, came crashing out behind her.

“To the east!” she yelled, pointing toward the jungle. Kern’s yelling brought her up short. She turned back toward the sound and realized that he was the only one who hadn’t come out yet. Heading back in, she was almost mowed down by a gorilla coming out. He held Kern in his fists and headed straight for the cocoon. With a powerful toss, he threw Kern inside.

Caputo, Hinckley and two others all fired on full auto, their bullets striking the beast in his chest and legs. Buffeted about from the velocity of the rounds, the gorilla was knocked backward into the spider nest. The men turned their weapons back to the jungle, to head off several more gorillas.

“Simon, the antivenin,” Parker shouted as she tossed her pack on the ground. Diving head first into the web, she swatted and slapped her way through the thick fibres. She could hear Kern screaming. The spiders were already on him. Pushing through, she felt the spiders landing on her back and head. Their bites stung, but she wouldn’t let herself think about it. Another few feet in and she spotted Kern’s boots in front of her. Picking them up, she pulled him back out of the spider’s nest. The gorilla that had thrown him in was swallowed up by spiders. The bullets must have killed the beast because he wasn’t screaming.

Parker pulled him straight out into the open and Simon was waiting for her with the antivenin. He injected Kern and then assisted Parker in removing the spiders from his body. Stomping on them as she flicked them off, Parker could still feel them crawling on her. Donovan stepped up and knocked them off her back.

“Crocs to the west, spiders to the north and fucking angry gorillas to the south,” Caputo said. “What the hell is to the east?”

“Looks like we’re about to find out,” Simon replied, as he hauled Kern across his shoulders. The man was out cold.

With all due haste and some trepidation, the team plowed into the east jungle.

***

Chief had barely finished goggling at the TV as he’d watched Parker dive into the cocoon, before he was goggling again as she pulled a man out. The man wasn’t moving, but one of the others still injected him with something. Chief knew that if it wasn’t the correct antivenin, that soldier wouldn’t have a prayer.

When his men called out that they were prepped and ready to rock, Chief left his security console and joined them in the containment room. As they exited the room and then the cliff, he received updates from his assistant through his ear piece. He had the fence deactivated once again and his team was heading for the far end when his assistant told him that Parker’s team was almost to the beach.

“Where are the gorillas?” Chief asked him.

“Right behind them, sir.”

“Ok boys, these people are coming in hot and heavy. Let’s get down there and give them some assistance.” Since the incoming team only had two wounded, Chief hadn’t bothered with another flatbed. He had the gate open and his team fanning out as Parker’s team hit the beach and angled in toward the cliff.

Parker saw the soldiers up ahead, but didn’t stop. When they didn’t open fire, she assumed they were friendlies. When they directed their attention to the back of her pack, she knew the gorillas were once again right on her ass. Parker bolted past the row of soldiers and into the gates fence area. Stopping to catch her breath, she turned to watch the rest of her team’s progress.

Simon was bringing up the rear, Kern bouncing around on his shoulder. Mule wasn’t doing much better, once again hauling Preston who had finally woken up. He should have stayed unconscious, because the first thing Preston saw was several gorillas far too close for comfort.

Parker shouldered her rifle once more and got a bead on the closest gorilla. Several of Chief’s men fired at the same time she did, cutting down three of the apes at once. Several of her people were now within the confines of the fence area. Donovan streaked past her and stood at the edge, watching.

Chief called out for the smoke bombs and several of his grenadiers fired immediately. The bombs fell beyond the last of Parker’s team and exploded. The smoke dropped a few of the gorillas, but several had already been beyond their range. Chief nodded as Parker stepped from the fenced area and added her firepower to his men’s.

Simon loped past her, the last of her team to arrive. Parker kept her attention and her firepower on the apes. The lead gorilla, riddled with bullets but not dropping, grabbed one of Chief’s men and lifted him off his feet. The soldier ripped a smoke bomb from his webbing and shoved it into the gorilla’s mouth. Automatically chewing on the thing, the bomb exploded and filled the gorilla with paralyzing smoke. His grip loosened and he dropped the soldier as his body crashed to the ground.

Chief’s soldiers quickly re-entered the fenced area and the gate was closed. Several of the remaining gorillas were aggressively agitated and started banging against the fence. Chief ordered everyone into the cliff complex. When no one but his soldiers remained outside, they donned their masks and deployed the enormous smoke cannons positioned twenty feet up the cliff face, hidden behind the rock. The cannons poured a steady stream onto the gorillas until all had succumbed.

Chief and his men moved into the cliff and entered the containment room before removing their gas masks. The smoke from the cannons was ten times as concentrated as the smoke from their bombs. Without the mask, they wouldn’t have had enough time to pull anyone to safety before the smoke killed them. The smoke from the canons kills the gorillas, as well. They had a lot of cleanup work to see to once the smoke had dissipated.

Parker winced when Petrillo’s wife’s voice crashed out of the overhead speaker. It reminded her of her friend and, once again, she wondered what had happened to him. When she got off this freaking island she was going to determine what had happened to him.

“The man with the spider bites must be taken to the infirmary immediately,” Petrillo’s wife said. “His heartbeat is dangerously irregular.”

“Once he’s cleared, we’ll take him straight there,” Chief responded.

“The other wounded man will also need attention. His calf has been shattered and he has some nasty bites on his arm and leg.”

“Yes, computer,” Chief agreed.

“The woman is fine, though she’ll need something topical for those bites.”

“Yes, computer,” Chief agreed once again. He made a rolling motion with his hands as though wishing the computer would just get on with it and let them through.

“The others are suffering mild cases of dehydration and exhaustion. You are all clean and cleared for entry.”

The door opened allowing them access to the main complex. Chief ordered a gurney for Kern and Preston and saw that both men were immediately sent to the infirmary.

Jack Tunn stepped forward and offers his hand to Parker. “I have to say, I’m very impressed with your resourcefulness, Parker.”

Parker shrugged, uncomfortable with the praise. “Thanks. Sir, why is Petrillo’s wife’s voice used for the computer in there?” she asked, gesturing to the containment room.

“He apparently tried to get you to do it, but you refused.”

“That’s what he wanted it for?” she demanded.

Jack nodded.

“Jesus, I’m glad I said no.”

“I don’t know,” Simon disagreed. “I think your dulcet tones would be quite nice in there.”

“Fuck you,” she muttered.

“Exactly,” Simon said, raising an eyebrow at Jack.

Jack very nearly snorted. “I’m sorry they set Seth on you, Parker,” he said instead. “That wasn’t my call and beyond my level to correct.” It still galled him that he hadn’t been able to veto Leland’s orders.

Parker ignored the comment. It was done now.

Jack shook hands with Simon then clapped a hand to Donovan’s shoulder. “We need to get you upstairs so you can vote. I believe we have just enough time.”

When Parker moved in behind them, Jack shook his head. “He’ll be safe now, I assure you. Besides, there’s someone in the infirmary I think you need to see.”

Parker was torn, but figured if she couldn’t leave Donovan with the Head of Ops, who could she leave him with? Parker asked a soldier where the infirmary was and then headed over to the elevator. Simon stepped and the rest of her team stepped in after her.

Once on the infirmary level they had to ask a nurse where the patients were. She looked harried and glanced at all of the men piling out of the elevator with some annoyance. Since they were all mobile, she assumed they weren’t too badly hurt. That meant they could wait.

Parker grabbed her arm as the nurse tried to walk away. “Jack Tunn sent me up here. He said there was someone I ought to see. I don’t know who he meant, so you’ll have to point the way to the patients.” When the woman took a half a second to stab her finger down the hallway, Parker dropped her arm and walked away.

The first few doors on either side of the hallway appeared to be offices for the doctors. The infirmary was built like a large hospital room, capable of offering aide to forty patients at once. Damn near half the beds were full. The soldiers who had been hit by the smoke bombs were awake, but still taking oxygen. Those soldiers who hadn’t made it out of the jungle alive had been moved to the morgue to await transport back to the US. In a bed on the far wall lay a figure so bruised, Parker barely recognized him. When he raised his hand and waved to her, she stepped forward for a better look.

She was halfway across the room when she finally recognized Petrillo under all that black and purple mess. She carefully took his hands, worried that she’d hurt him. “What the hell happened to you?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” he replied. “You look like you’ve been stung a thousand times.”

“Spider bites. Who beat the snot out of you?”

Petrillo tried to frown, but his face was still too puffy to react. “Willis.”

“Ingram’s man,” she muttered. It wasn’t a question. She was familiar with his work just as much as she was with Ingram’s. He’d been an assassin once. Willis hadn’t used his power to get the ladies. Willis liked to use his fists on them. She’d heard the rumours that Ingram had been forced to clean up a few of his messes before the agency had revoked Willis’ license. Ingram had somehow managed to get the man hired on as his assistant.

“I’ll see to him,” Parker promised.

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