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Chapter XXXIII

Amateurs, Frankie thought. Goddamn amateurs.

Was there anything worse than dying at the hands of the inept? If he gave them a few pointers they’d break him in a matter of minutes. Probably save them all a lot of grief.

As it was, they wasted minutes wrestling him off of the chair into some great big metal apparatus in the front compartment. Frankie didn’t make it easy for them. When they had released one hand, he rabbit-punched the commando on his left. That drew a round of beating. Then, thinking him subdued, they tried lifting him off of the chair. He lashed out again, this time smashing a venom shunt on one of their heads. The commando shrieked, slapping at the bore-hole spurting viscous green fluid. He collapsed to the deck and stopped moving.

Another torrent of blows followed, inexpertly administered but effective. They manacled him to the metal apparatus, his head clamped firmly inside a Mayfield surgical adaptor. If the commandoes were still fully human, this would be the point where Frankie would wait for one to misjudge distance. Mutilate a human torturer and he might provoke them into supplying a quick death. As it was, even the coward’s way out remained out of reach.

The door opened and for a second he thought another guard was going to join in. Craning his neck, he saw Agent Shield, alive and on the loose. Marcus launched a swarm of force bubbles at the guards. The one Frankie sucker punched took a bubble to the face and wound up smeared up against the wall. Two more force bubbles clanged off the steel of Frankie’s restraints.

The other guard, having successfully dodged the sphere meant for him, ran at Shield, doubling the agent over with a gut-punch. Frankie pulled at his restraints, finally able to liberate his right hand. Shield’s fusillade must have weakened a strut. Frankie wrenched his head free, grabbed a surgical tray and whipped it at the commando grappling with the mission leader. The tray bounced off his head, enough distraction for Shield to flex another force bubble into being and slam it into the guard.

Freeing his other arm, Frankie moved to wipe away blood oozing from an abrasion on his forehead.

Marcus caught his wrist before he touched his face. “Careful,” he said. “You’ve got venom all over you.”

Frankie nodded, lowering his hand.

“Are you okay?” Marcus asked.

“Fine,” Frankie said. "Where’s D?”

“Nosing around the cargo bay.”

“Do we know where we’re going?”

“Gunther said south,” Marcus said.

Frankie eyed Marcus. “How did you convince him to let you go?”

Frankie pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “We had a few words and he lost his head.”

Frankie noted the carnage in the loading bay. “If we rush the cabin, we might be able to take the pilots by surprise.”

Agent D chose this moment to enter the front compartment. Her manner was casual, as though fresh from an invigorating walk around the park.

“So far, the cabin doesn’t know what’s happened,” Frankie said. “But that will change. We have to find as much about what we’re heading into before we storm the cabin.”

“If this is a cargo plane, what are they carrying?” Shield said.

“I saw big piles of boxes in the rear,” D said.

“Did you by any chance happen to look over the manifest while we were busy fighting?”

“No,” D smiled. “But the boxes are all marked with hazard signs.”

Neither man liked the sound of that.

Frankie let Shield and D to check out the boxes while he further secured the guards. Two were dead, but the one that had punched Marcus was still breathing. Frankie tied this one up before dragging the other bodies, including Gunther’s decapitated carcass, into the front compartment.

He finally had a chance to scope out the plane’s cargo bay, noting a staircase leading up from the deck. The lighting wasn’t great but he thought he made out a radio unit and a door leading into the flight cabin. Shield and D returned to the front of the plane, he carrying a large ax and she leafing through a clipboard.

Frankie glanced at the clipboard, “Manifest?”

“I think so. Most of the cargo is marked, ‘biologicals,’” she said, running her index finger down a long list of reference numbers. “Want to guess what that refers too?”

Frankie frowned, “Not particularly.”

“So, what’s the deal with the cabin?” Shield asked, still jittery after their fight with the guards, “how are we going to get up there?”

“It’s not going to be easy. The cabin would be locked, dead bolted actually, and the crew would have worked out some kind of code with the guards.”

“That would be the smart thing to do,” Frankie observed.

The intercom buzzed to life, “Burma. Asset 3217, do you copy? Burma.”

The three Section Starfire agents looked at each other.

“I’m guessing that would be the code,” said Frankie.




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