Section 2: Operation Lifeline

Section 2: Operation Lifeline

Part 1

Lia waited patiently in the meeting room of Fourth-District. Jason and Leon had already been taken in and given their own stories on how their night had occurred. But they had the easy part of it. Leon simply had to keep a check on what was happening and make sure neither Jason or herself was in danger. And Jason merely had to execute any elimination of targets around the building and secure her an escape, and all she had to do was get in, slip the nano-bots to Mulheimer, then finish him off when he was promptly forced to leave. Except her mission didn’t go entirely as planed.

Number Four entered the room from a side door, a file in hand. He dropped it on the table without even looking, sat down, and stared at Lia, his hands placed neatly together in front of himself.

Lia felt awkward having him stare at her without saying anything. Finally, he spoke.

“Okay. Time for you to tell me your story about last night.”

Lia considered her answer for a moment, reflecting upon the previous night. “Well, the mission started off as it should have.  Leon took control over the security systems while me and Jason split up, him heading off to remove any threats, and me to get to the building. Upon reaching the roof, Jason took down two guards…”

“I know all this.” Number Four interrupted. “I wish to know what happened later on when the fire alarms went off.”

Lia paused for a few moments before continuing.

“After Mulheimer received the nano-bots and began to head off, the fire alarms activated, and the area was filled instantly with smoke. Not from a fire though, but from smoke grenades. Likely set up inside the ventilation shafts to go off at a set time, or otherwise by remote activation.”

She crossed her legs over and breathed deep. Normally she’d not be so nervous at a debriefing, but there was something about the night that’d gotten her stirred up. It was very rare to fail a mission. Or, at least fail the mission yet have it succeed at the same time. It was beyond stressing for her to understand what had happened then explain it to another in an effective way.

“As people began to fled, I headed over through the smoke to find Mulheimer. Eventually I found him getting assassinated by a Ninja.”

Number Four leaned forward into the table. “Interesting. A Ninja you say? Can you describe any features we could use?”

“Well, the Ninja was a male Caucasian. About six-foot. Couldn’t tell the age since he was wearing a full costume. All I could make out were his eyes.”

“Was there anything on his costume that could prove helpful?”

“Unfortunately, there was nothing at all. His costume was completely plain grey with black trimmings. Nothing special. He carried a Ninja-To and a satchel of Ninja equipment like smoke bombs, and a small rope and grapple on his right.”

Number Four sat back and picked up the file. He stared at the label for a while before throwing it over to Lia.

“Well, looks like there’s nothing more we can find out for now. We don’t know who this Ninja is or who he works for, if he does. Right now though, e isn’t a problem to us. So we’ll leave it for now. Instead, I’m going to debrief you on another mission.”

Lia picked up the file and flipped it open. Inside was a picture of a child no older than ten, an image of three other men and their mug shots from prison, and a sheet explaining the mission with a map attached to the back.

“I’ll let you know that you’ll be going solo on this one. Leon and Jason are needed elsewhere right now and can’t provide any support. However, we do have a small team from Sixth-District that are available to provide you with overhead support, only.”

Lia picked up the photo and examined it more closely. The boy in the picture maintained a sincere smile, but his eyes showed a slight sadness to them. He seemed happy, yet unhappy at the same time.

“The boy in the picture there is Luis Le’ Chafe. He’s the only son of a very well respected duke and minister over in France. Mr Le’ Chafe is responsible for a lot of diplomatic influence between France, Italy, Spain, England and Germany. You likely have heard of him through the news, correct?”

“Yes. He was the man who stopped an international feud between Germany and Spain, as well as providing a neutral spacing for France during the in the Eastern Europe War Games of 2016.”

“Glad to know you watch the news. It means that you realise that if he is removed from the picture then there may be trouble between the countries he keeps at peace with. But more so to the point, is the power he holds over France’s war involvement. So if he was forced to change his ideas, France could become a super weapon to start another war, just like in 2016.”

“So, I’m playing baby-sitter for the boy, aren’t I?”

“You catch on well as usual. His son is going on a diplomatic exchange to the Vatican in Rome. The three men shown there are ex-miliary from the Gulf War, and were apart of the revolts that started up in Italy and Germany. In fact, they were faction leaders during the War Games of 2016. Each held a strong resentment and ruthlessness and naturally aspired to trying to escalate the war. Now, it seems these three are trying to restart the war for the worst by targeting the son of one of the most powerful diplomats in the world. You need to keep this boy safe while he partakes in the events at the Vatican at all costs. You will depart in six hours. All arrangements have been made and we’ll be deploying you ourselves to the embassy in France.”

Wait a second. Departing in six hours! But I’ve got…” Lia reconsidered question her orders. “Never mind. I’ll make sure that I’m all set and ready for the mission. I will not fail.”

Number Four smiled, “I’m sure you wont. Now, a brief case is just outside the room. Grab it and head off to the helipad on the rooftop now, please. We’ll take you away to the airport from there, where you’ll then be flown over to France to meet up with the small team that will be providing your rear support.”

Lia stood up and nodded affirmatively.

“Good luck to you.”

Part 2

It was a long and dull ride from the airport in New Gettingsburg to France. For most the duration, Lia simply slept. She’d been well prepared before leaving the airport. She’d been provided with a suitable amount of luggage, minor technical equipment like a headset and grapples, a 9mm semi-auto pistol, smoke and flash grenades and her Mark IV Tiger.

She awoke abruptly as the plane descended into the yard, a quiet beeping sound signalling the decent. She rubbed her eyes sat straight against the seat. The plane wasn’t much. It could only hold seven people in total, so her rest had not been too good at all. She massaged her back gently before noticing the seat-belt indicator and buckling up. She stared out of the window on her left, gazing down upon the city below. It was a late afternoon now and the streets of Paris had started to light up. Ahead she spied the Eiffel Tower, it’s lights sparkling with a beautiful display.

“Please hold fast ma’am. We’re coming into port now.” Said the pilot.

Lia snapped to attention. “Wait. Port? Shouldn’t we be landing on mainland?”

“No ma’am. My orders are to land near the bay where you’ll get off. From there, all I know is that you’ll need to catch a car. I know nothing more than that.”

“Well… so long as there’s a dry piece of land to step on.” She said, sitting back in her seat.

The plane descended lower before a loud mechanical noise emitted from below and water-ski’s protruded from beneath the plane, ready to make the amphibious landing.

The water wisped past the windows as the plane glided through the water like a swan and finally began to come a halt near a dock. The side hatch came loose and the pilot opened it up. Standing on the dock was a well tailored man his back straight and his hair slicked back neatly.

He spoke in a deep French accent. “Greetings madam,” He said while placing out a hand to help Lia off. “The young master has requested that I be your escort to the embassy. Right this way please. The car awaits.”

There was a faint blush across Lia’s face as the man escorted her to the car. She felt as if she were someone of high prestige being escorted to her fancy home. They made it over to the car, an old jet-black Cadillac with chrome trimmings. She was almost afraid to touch the car it so polished and expensive. Never the less, the man opened the door for her, and she hoped inside to find herself in a roomy back seat.

“We wont be long madam. The embassy is just a ten minute drive from here.”

Lia sat back and strapped herself in. She felt out of place in such a car when she looked like she’d merely thrown on whatever. She felt awkward in a way, but managed to keep herself proper.

At long last, the car pulled up outside the embassy. A huge building itself but was still small compared to the large office buildings on either side. But, the embassy was surrounded by a garden with tall maple trees. Lia began to open the door and found the man had already beaten her to it. He opened the door and helped her out.

“Your other belongings are in your room, and the others are down in the meeting hall. There will be someone to give you a tour through the building inside.” He said as Lia stepped out and gazed around at the boulevard style street.

“Okay. Thankyou.”

“My pleasure.” He replied as he went back to the car.

She walked up to the gates, which, after a few seconds opened up to let her into the marvellous green garden. Not far from the entrance, a man, also dressed in an elegant looking suit and his hair styled into small tufts, opened the door to let her inside.

“Ah, welcome. You must be Lia O’Donnell.” He took her hand and kissed it gently. She blushed. “Right this way. Others are currently having their meal in the dining hall. You may join us, if you wish.”

Lia didn’t even answer. She was still under some awe from being treated so highly. She followed the man inside, gazing around the large white marble interior and it’s many paintings, portraits and statutes.

“Oh. How rude. My name is Monte Bermonte. I am the young masters,” He stopped walking in front of a large door and thought about the right word. “I’m his caretaker.” He opened the door to let Lia through into the rather tall dining room. “I am also his cousin.”

Sitting around a large rectangular table covered in a smorgasbord of food and drink were the three others agents from Fifth-District, a few waiters moving back and forth from the room and what must’ve been the kitchen, two others, and finally at the end of the table, the boy. He seemed to stare off around the room for a while before he realised eh should be socialising. But, upon trying to get into a conversation gave up, looked over at the door, and smiled.

“Monte. You’re back!”

“Yes, cousin.” He said as he approached the table. “I hope that you are enjoying your dinner.”

“Yes. It is very nice.” He looked at Lia, and smiled at her. “You must be my bodyguard while I head to the Vatican. I must say, I never expected them to send a woman… At least not such a beautiful one. It is very nice to meet you.”

Lia smiled at him. “It is very nice to meet such a charming young man.”

“Oh, please. Take a seat.” Said Luis, gesturing to a seat.

Monte sat down nearest to Luis and they immediately began to chuckle. Lia couldn’t make out what they said since they spoke in French, but by the gestures Monte was making, she could almost pick up on it. Finally they broke into a chuckle. Lia, though she didn’t even know why they laughed, couldn’t help but let off a slight chuckle as well.

She stopped to look around the room. A waiter walked over and placed a plate of food in front of her and Monte.

“Dig in Lia. The food here is exquisite.”

She looked down at her presented meal and allowed her eyes to light up in joy. She hadn’t had a proper meal in ages, and now she had a just prepared actually cooked meal in front of her and not the usual take-away she’d have every other night. She picked up her fork and sampled the meal, savouring the taste before she really got into her meal.

“So, Lia. I assume you have been fully briefed on the changes made to the mission?” Spoke one of the agents.

She swallowed a piece of steak and replied, “No. I wasn’t told of any changes.”
One of the other agents came in, “Well, control says that we’ll be having to keep closer tabs on the mission. They say that the men after Luis, who we have code named ‘The Three’, have obtained a rather dastardly group of mercenaries. So we’re going to need to play more than just your overview, but your backup.”

The first agent then spoke. “And the man next to you, Monte, will be accompanying you throughout the whole mission. The chief has called in for as many people as possible now that the situation has become more serious.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me if they sent in someone from Third or even Second-District!” Said the third agent at the very end of the table.

“Oh. By the way, I’m Smith.” Said the first Agent. He wore a black suede suit with his hair almost shaved off. He gave a curt smile. “Nice to meet you. This here is Geoff.” He motioned the second agent, also wearing the same style clothing, but his hair was left to grow almost shoulder length with blonde tips. “And at the end there is Richard.” Richard smiled at Lia, his light blue eyes gleaming. Once again, he wore the same clothing, and his hair was cut short like Smith’s.

“The other two men here are… Rats. I’m not very god at remembering names.”

“My name is Vermont, and this is Xavier.”

Vermont has his hair slicked back and wore a tweed jacket. Xavier was a light brown man with very dark eyes and a pressed suit.

Suddenly Lia felt awkward again. Everyone at the table was wearing their best clothing and al she had worn was her blue jeans and a pale green shirt. Under that was the covert costume she hadn’t had time to remove. She felt the sudden urge to be excused and raid her luggage for at least a nice looking dress, or even just some make-up.

“So. We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. Nice and early.” Spoke Monte. “So no staying up, Luis. You need your rest.”

Luis moaned before answering. “Yeah, yeah. I know the drill.”

Though Luis was a proper young boy, he was also a child and that he couldn’t conceal. Lia could instantly tell that he was still the usual playful boy at heart just like any other.

* * *

After another hour of talking at the table, and finishing off a rather unique desert mixed with fruits and ice cream, everyone retired to their rooms.

Lia was in hers unloading luggage when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in.”

The door opened and Monte entered, then he quickly blushed and turned his head. “Oh dear.”

Lia looked puzzled. “What’s wrong?”

“My apologies, I didn’t know you were in your nightwear.”

Lia realised she was mostly ready for bed and only had a shirt on apart from her underwear. She blushed and quickly slipped some random pants on.

“Oh, sorry. I’m still not used to being all formal.”

“It is no problem.”

“You can look now.” She said, giggling.

Monte turned his head back and looked at her. He still seemed to blush though, which Lia found rather ‘cute’. “I was just making sure that you were comfortable with your accommodation.”

“Oh yes, very much so. Compared to my apartment, this is royalty for me!”

Monte laughed. “This pace actually isn’t that fancy. You should see the ambassadors building. The rooms there are extraordinary.”

“Well, you haven’t seen my apartment.” Laughed Lia. “It’s a disgrace. But, it’s also home.”

“Well, so long as you’re comfortable where you are, anything can be home. For now, this place if your home, so feel free to use the area as much as you wish until we leave in the morning.” He began to open the door to leave. “Think of it as you’re our guest of honour.”

“Okay. Thankyou.”

“You’re welcome. Goodnight, Lia.”

“Goodnight, Monte.”

Part 3

They left early in the morning with a car and three armoured vans. Lia, Monte and Luis rode inside one car, the three agents rode in the largest vans with all the technical equipment, and the other two men rode in their own van each, alongside with several other men. They had practically enlisted a small army to protect Luis. Had the situation really because that bad?

“It’s going to be a while before we reach Rome. We’re making a stop between here and there at a town called Lyons and finally another stop at Genoa, over in Italy. On the third day we’ll make it to the Vatican where we can stay in perfect safety. No one gets in there, so we can relax until the meeting. Then we’ll be on guard duty making sure that ‘The Three’ and any of their recruits don’t make it inside to ruin the party.”

“Sounds like we’re going to be in for one long trip. If we get lucky ‘The Three’ wont show themselves.”

“I wish. They wont let this chance to cause chaos. Not for anything.”

Lia sighed and looked at the window at the vineyards passing by. It was a beautiful day to be out and about, but she had this weird feeling that it would be ruined by an attempt to assassinate Luis.

“Are you alright, Lia?” Asked Luis.

She looked at him and smiled. “Yes. I’m fine.”

He looked at her concerning, and then went off to staring out the window. She was okay, in a sense. But she was also very worried. This was a mission like never before, and she was almost worried. There’d never been a mission she’d seen or heard of that would require such an amount of armed guards. If she didn’t know any better, she’d say that a war had already been started.

Suddenly the car pulled to a stop.

“What is it?” Asked Lia.

“I’m not sure”, replied Monte, sticking his head halfway out the window to check. “It looks like there’s a roadwork ahead.”

Lia wound down the window further and poked her head out slightly. One of the men in the van at front climbed out and walked over to their car.

“Sir, they say that the road is not in use. The bridge up ahead has collapsed and won’t be repaired for some time. They say we’ll have to detour down the road for about ten minutes and cross the bridge there.”

“What? We can’t do that. It’ll lead us along a different bypass, and we’ll end up taking longer to get to our destination! We need to be keeping to our route.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but there is noway we can get there unless we detour.”

Monte sat back I his seat and groaned.

“It’s alright, Monte. We’ll still get to the Vatican on time.”

He let out a slight sigh and poked his head back out. “Okay, we’ll detour. But we’ll need to make more haste now to get to Lyons in time.”

“Of course, Sir.”

He sat back inside and wound up the window. “Looks like we’re taking the scenic route.”

“Just our luck, huh?” Chuckled Lia.

“Are you laughing? This is serious!”

“Oh, lighten up. Luis isn’t worried.” She said, looking at Monte’s aggravated expression. “Oh come on. Don’t stress yourself out, or else the day will really be ruined.”

Monte stared at her for a while before he shook his head and smiled. “You’re right.”

The ride ended up taking them through a small mountain range. They ended up having lunch during the ride to save time. Luis eventually became bored of the sitting in a car all day and fell asleep at about three in the afternoon. Monte placed a blanket over him. Lia noticed he looked unhappy as he did.

“What’s up?”

“What?”

“What’s up? You don’t look too happy.”

“Oh. Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just tired, that’s all.”

“Right. Come on, spit it out. I’m a woman you know, I can read you like a book.” She said with wink.

Monte looks reluctant to speak, but after forcing himself to resit her playful smile any longer he finally cracked.

“I’m just worried. About Luis.” He paused for a few moments to look at Luis and half smiled. “It’s just. He’s still just a child, and he’s being placed under so much already. His father is far too busy anymore. I know he tries his best to get around work, but these days he doesn’t even get to see his own son. And with… Well, his mother who died a few years back.”

“Oh. I… Didn’t know that.” She said sincerely. “Damn. He’s very brave to be able to put up with so much.”

“Yeah. I’m the only family that he ever gets to really see. So I’m doing my best to be a male-role figure and look after him like his father would. He’s really the reason why I’ve taken on this occupation. It’s more so for his sake.”

“That’s very kind of you. I’m pretty sure he’s very grateful for all that you’ve done.”

“Yeah. It’s just too bad that he can’t have time to enjoy a real life with the rest of the family.”

“Well, maybe when all this is over he can get the chance to do just that.”

Monte stared out the window. Outside the sky had begun to fill with clouds.

“Looks like it’s going to rain later. Well, at least we’re only a few more hours from the town.”

Lia nodded.

“I think I might just take a nap myself.” She said.

“Okay.” Said Monte without taking his eyes off the clouds.

* * *

They arrived at Lyons at six o-clock. The rain had begun to pour down by then and they all had to literally flee to the hotel they were staying at. In the distance came the sound of rolling thunder, and a flash of light signalled that the downpour would only get worse.

There wasn’t much said at the dinner table that night. They mostly just sat around, made small talk about the weather and things they’d picked up on in the newspaper. It was a more casual change for Lia since they no longer dressed in anything fancy, but rather similar style clothing to what Lia owned, in order for them to blend in with the crowd. They were keeping everything strict tight so no one would know whom they were. They had decided to assume a secret identity to remain hidden. Monte was now Gerald, and Luis was his son named Francis, and to make it more realistic, Lia was playing his mother, and had her name changed to Samantha.

“So, Mont, I mean. Dad. What time are we going to head off tomorrow?”

“Well, son, “replied Monte, putting on a silly smile. It depends when your mother wakes up.” He said jokingly.

“Are you implying that I wont wake up early enough?”

Monte turned to Luis and began to speak in French. Luis said something and suddenly they both cracked up laughing.

“Hey! That better not have been aimed at me!” She said disapprovingly as they continued to laugh. “Don’t make me send you two to bed without your desert!”

They both immediately stopped laughing. Then Lia couldn’t keep a straight face anymore and they all started to laugh in unison. Though they were supposed to be acting serious in their current disguises, they were also making the most out of it, turning their work into a game of role-playing.

“Anyway. I think we’ll be heading off around the same time as we did this morning. It’s a long way from here to Genoa. Around the same distances to be exact.”

“Okay. Well, since it’s late, we better all head off to bed.” She looked at Luis. “If we’re getting up early, we can’t have any ate nights.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

“That goes for you too, Gerald.”

Monte coughed at his drink. “What? Aw, come on.”

“No complaining. You said yourself that it’d take about the same amount of time. So, get up. It’s time for bed.”

Luis chugged down the rest of his soda and jumped up and down, smiling. He seemed to be really enjoying the night. There could have been plenty of reasons for it, but after what Monte had explained in the car, she had a hunch about why he was in high spirits.

Monte yawned. “I guess I’m pretty tired anyway.” He began to wander off to their room. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight”, called Lia and Luis in unison.

They both began to head to their rooms. Though they were posing as a family, they had gone in separate rooms. Lia had her own bed, and Luis was staying with Monte. Lia opened her door and was about to turn around and say goodnight to Luis, when suddenly he came up and hugged her, pressing himself closely to her.

“Goodnight… Mother.”

Lia smiled sincerely down at him. “Goodnight.”

Luis turned around and went inside his room as Lia went off into hers. As she did, she was filled with kind of warmth that simply made her forgot her worries. There was a nice feeling in playing mother for the night. She actually hoped that they’d be doing the same thing again when they reached Genoa.

* * *

Like the previous, the day went off with them simply sitting in the car waiting to reach their destination, except with two differences. They didn’t have to detour, and the talk amongst the three was a little more festive. It seemed that the previous night had developed a bond between them.

They ended up passing a bunch of time playing ‘eye spy’ and then a few rounds of ‘guess who’. Monte was much less concerned about their mission now that things had become more relaxing, which set Lia at more ease. Though she still had a gut aching feeling that something would eventually go wrong. It was far too unusual for things to be going so smoothly. If the situation had escalated, then why hadn’t there been any trouble yet?

She sat back and pondered the thought for a while at one point. Trying to figure out what could happen since ‘The Three’ hadn’t shown themselves yet. It left her with an uncertainty for the success of the mission. She was trained to think that way. If she was informed of something happening, she had to expect it to happen. If things didn’t happen, then she was expected to make assumptions of what could happen.

The finally reached Genoa after a enduring thirteen hour drive. This time the weather had held itself together and the clear night sky shone overhead. Just as last time, they had posed themselves as couple on a family trip. Though they didn’t need to get up as early the next day, Luis retired before Lia and Monte even considered going to sleep.

“It’s pretty nice night right now. Compared to how horrible it turned out to be back in Lyons.” Said Monte as he sipped at a coffee.

“Why would you say it was horrible? I thought you were enjoying that night.”

Monte looked at Lia. “Oh, I didn’t mean that, I meant the weather was horrible. But tonight is perfect. Good thing I scored us rooms with a good view of the ocean.”

“Yes. That was a very good decision you made there.” She said as she walked over to the window that Monte stared out of.

He drained the remainder of his coffee and looked at Lia, smiling.

“I’m glad they sent you to help with this mission, you know.”

She smiled back at him and then sipped at her own coffee.

“I know it’s just as cover, but it’s been good to have someone to play mother for him. I haven’t seen him so happy since his mother passed away.”

“Well. I’m just doing my job.”

“Well you’re doing a very good job of it. You sure you haven’t looked after children beforehand?”

“Yeah, I’ve never had any experience with any kids before now.” She drained the rest of her coffee and stared outside. “I guess its just instinct.”

Monte looked at Lia and seemed to blush slightly. Lia noticed and chuckled.

“What’s with the blushing this time? Have my pants fallen down?”

Monte chuckled. “No it’s not that… I just. Never mind.”

“Oh, come on. You’ve got my curiosity now.”

Monte seemed a little embarrassed, and tried to hide it by taking a long sip of what was left of his coffee. He kept pretending to drink, even when the cup ran dry. Lia noticed that he was feeling too awkward to tell her his thoughts, and decided to play it smart and trick him into talking.

“Well, like I care.” She said rather brashly.

“Hey, no need to be angry.”

“I’m not angry. It’s just if you don’t want to tell me, then I’m not going to bother caring about finding out.”

Monte seemed to have gained back some confidence. “Well, that’s good then. If I don’t feel like saying anything, then I don’t need to.”

“Okay then.” She said in a dismissive tone.

“Not like you care what I think of you, anyway.” He spoke a little too fast to think, and suddenly looked away and tried to drink more from his empty cup.

“Oh. So you were thinking about me were you? Well, now I will care.”

“No, it’s nothing important.” He said hurriedly, trying to hide his face from Lia’s prying eyes.

She kept trying to get around his back to look at him, then finally gave up and stood staring out the window. Monte stared at his empty cup, then spoke.

“Just thought you looked very beautiful tonight. That’s all.”

Lia was a little in awe from his remark, and then looked at him.

“Thankyou.”

Monte smiled, blushing again. “Well. I better head off to bed.”

“Okay. I guess I should retire as well.”

They both walked off, and upstairs to their rooms. They didn’t say anything to each other until they were about to go in.

“Uh. Goodnight, Lia.”

With out a second thought, Lia leaned over and kissed Monte on the cheek. “Goodnight.”

She entered her room quickly, leaving Monte to stand in the hallway in awe.

Part 4

The next day consisted of more games to pass time in the car before they reached the Vatican. Lia noticed that each time Monte looked at her, he’d blush. At one point, she blushed herself and they both laughed. Luis was curious at why and tried to find out. They didn’t tell him what had occurred that night, but instead told him that they were laughing at their awkwardness. Luis believed them and started to join in with the laughter.

Suddenly a voice echoed in through the car speakers from the driver. “We’ve reached Rome. We should arrive outside the Vatican very soon.”

They all looked at the window. Except for Luis who had been to Rome before, Monte and Lia were taking in all the sights with great anticipation. Monte had never gone too far from France, and thought Lia was an Agent, she’s never been sent to Rome until now. She felt lucky to have been chosen for the mission.

“It’s very beautiful here. Don’t you agree?”

Lia was about to answer when an explosion rocked the car sideways they came to an abrupt halt. They looked out the window to see what had happened. Ahead, the lead van had been hit and had toppled right over onto its side. Three men were shooting outside through the rear door at some assailants that were emerging from across the park.

“Oh no!” Said Monte as he reached fro the speaker button. “Driver,” he shouted, “Get us the hell out of here and to the Vatican!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“This is not good! We should have known that they’d pull off an attack right here in Rome, but… Who would have guessed it?”

Lia wasn’t paying much attention. She’d already reached for her suitcase and was changing into her covert costume. Monte suddenly averted his eyes and covered Luis’s as Lia almost became half naked in order to slip into her costume. She was changed in under a minute with her sword strapped to her back and her gun loaded.

“Bastards! Trusts them to pull off a stunt like this just as we’re about to reach the Vatican!”

Monte didn’t answer; he was busy looking out the window. Lia nudged him.

“You better get a weapon ready. These guys are…”

She was interrupted by another explosion going off, this one propelling the car into a uncontrolled spin. The car finally stopped by ramming into another car. Lia quickly shook off the shock and hit the speaker button.

“Driver! What happened?

No answer came.

“Driver!”

Another explosion rocked the car.

“Damn it to hell! Monte, stay in the car and protect Luis! There’s a bastard out there with an RPG. Luckily he’s a crap aim or we’d be dead.”

She leaped out of the car without letting them say a thing and sprinted for cover. She scanned the area quickly to spot the assailant. Suddenly a flash came out from nowhere and she tucked and rolled just in time to avoid another rocket glidng past and exploding the interior of the building bhind her. She huddled on the ground before crawling away. The assailant had planted himself in the third floor of the adjacent building, and upon seeing Lia jump out was trying to kill her. But, she wasn’t a bad aim like the assailant was. She took sight, waited, squeezed the trigger and removed the target with a single shot.

Suddenly gunfire spurted from her left. She took cover and sighted three armed men, each wearing militia style urban clothing. She took a quick aim, fired, and took each down while only using six of her rounds. She then quickly ran to the front of the car, scanning the area for more targets. The front of the car was crushed leaving it completely useless.

Monte stuck his head out to see if she was all right. “Lia!”

Suddenly a bullet grazed the bonnet of the car and Monte shoved his back in. Lia took aim and brought the nest man down in a single kill shot before running tot eh door of the car.

“The car’s screwed! And we can’t risk going on foot!”

“Damn it. There must be another way.”

Suddenly one of the armoured vans sped around the corner and stopped next to them. The door opened and Smith poked his head through.

“Get the hell inside!”

Lia and Smith covered the area as Monte escorted Luis into the van, then Lia jumped in and was took a seat.

“Damage report. Now!”

Smith wasn’t prepared for the order and hesitated.

“I said now!”

“Yes ma’am!”

Monte looked at Lia. He’d never seen her in such a heated mood. It was frightening.

Finally Smith yelled back over to her.

“Vermont and what’s left of his team is heading to the Vatican by foot, and Xavier is a couple streets behind us, trying to cover our advance on the Vatican. So far we’ve got nine KIA and three wounded.”

“Shit.” She said to herself. “This situation is getting off hand!”

“Report in from the police.” Called Richard. “They’re sending in a SWAT to assist. They’ll also have two helicopters in the air soon. Hopefully more to follow. It also turns out that there are roads barricaded all around the Vatican, and the enemy positioned there aren’t giving up their ground.”

“Jesus Christ. It’s a bloody war zone out there!”

“We’ll need to stop and make out way by foot, ma’am. There’s no way we can get to the Vatican by car.”

“Can’t we get an airlift?”

“No ma’am. They have RPG’s on the roofs, and likely snipers too. If we try to get their by air we risk being shot down.” Said Smith.

“Shit. Okay, get as close as you can. Then we all get out and go by foot. Relay your orders to Xavier.”

“Right away.”

Lia sat back and checked her weapons. She then reached over to a set of Semi-Automatics and strapped around her shoulder. Monte was still in shock from how quickly Lia’s personality had changed from her once playful and kind on. Suddenly she was a soldier with regards only to completing her mission, and not to mess around.

“This is as close as we can get.”

“Okay, everyone out now!” She ordered as she kicked the door open. The other van pulled up behind them and their group began to hop out too. “Right. You all have your mission, and that is to protect Luis at all costs. Xavier, I want you and your team to file out and scout your way through the building. Smith, you and your group do the same. Monte, you and Luis will follow my lead. Keep Luis between us at all times!”

They all nodded. Xavier and Smith ran inside the nearest building and began to head towards the Vatican as Monte placed a bulletproof vest over Luis. Lia holstered her pistol and readied the semi-auto for combat.

“Right. You guys ready?”

Luis nodded, and Monte loaded a clip into his pistol.

“Good. Lets move out.”

They started off by heading into the same building the others did. Richard and two others came in through a door and aimed there guns at Lia, then moved off as soon as they realised she wasn’t an enemy.

“Geeze. He almost took your head off.”

“Agency training. Take aim, and fire as soon as you recognise your enemy.”

They continued to move through the building and made their way into an alleyway.

“This looks like a good way to get to the Vatican.”

“Yeah. It’s also a great place to get shot. But we don’t have much choice. We need to get there quick.”

Lia tapped her headset then took aim.

“Smith, can you read me?”

“Loud and clear.”

“What’s your status?”

“We met up with some law enforcement. They’ve requested our assistance. So we’re giving them some extra firepower to knock back the enemy troops on the ground.”

“Okay. Give them what support you can before doubling over to the Vatican. We’ve found a route through the alleyway, so if you can get anyone to the rear building, we’d love your support.”

“We can give you help. We made it to the rooftops.” Answered Xavier.

“Excellent. Any targets? I’m not going to proceed down here until I know it’s safe from up there.”

There was a short pause before Xavier spoke back over the intercom. “All clear. I can see you, and we can provide as much cover as needed.”

“Good. Over and out.” She scanned down the alleyway, and then looked up at the roofs five stories above them. “Stay low and move as quick as you can.”

They began to make their movements towards the Vatican. Luckily the street was long and leaded them straight towards the Vatican’s walls. The only trouble was they were at the rear of the building and the gates were around the other side. Luis was starting to get tired and his fear had risen to a point where he was having trouble breathing. Lia had to take a quick stop.

“Okay, take a break. I’ll scout for a quick moment.”

Monte nodded as Lia moved over to the walls edge and peered around onto the street. They were so close to their target, yet they couldn’t be any further away. To get in they’d need to trek all the way around the building, which left them open to enemy fire. And without any more rooftops, Xavier was no more use to them.

Without warning, one of the helicopters took a hit and started to spin violently towards the ground. It struck the wall with enough force to bring it crashing down. Lia looked at the wall and quickly acknowledge their luck. She ran back to the others.

“That helicopter just gave us a way in. Lets move out!”

Monte helped Luis stand. Lia saw that he needed to rest for longer, but there was no room for being kind right now. Her job was to ensure his safety at any cost.  Remarkably, Luis grinned at Lia, and began to sprint.

They reached the road and checked the area.

“Xavier, how’s our entry looking?”

She was started to find no answer.

“Xavier, do you read me?”

“This can’t be good.” Said Monte.

“Shit. They must’ve gotten into serious trouble. Okay, so that means we’re on our own.” Lia bent down to be eye level with Luis. “Okay, I need you to do one more big run. Head right for the door, and don’t even try to look back.”

Luis nodded and gave a curt smile. “I wont let you down.”

Lia managed to crack a smile before turning back to her duty. “Monte. I want you to stick right next to him. I’m going to go halfway, then cover the rest of your entry.”

“Right”

“Okay… Go now!”

Monte led Luis quickly out into the streets as Lia scanned, then followed. She was playing a risky card, using their fleeing as bait for the enemy to show themselves, and once they did, she’d spot them and pick them off.

Lia made it half way when several armed troops ran out. Three fired blindly at them, but Lia managed to pick them off before they could get away. She allowed the two other to get closer rather than waste ammo. Once they did she slipt out her sword, extended it, and began her brutal assault.

Luis saw her fighting the five other men and stopped to yell at her.

“Lia, get out of there!”

Monte grabbed him and tried to yank him away, but he forced himself off and grabbed his pistol and fired. Two men dropped as Lia rolled for cover. Monte snatched the gun off Luis and almost began to drag him away.

“Come on! She’s fine on her own!”

He was right, because once Lia recovered; she brought her weapon to bear and skewered one of the assailants. She then tripped the other over, ducked to avoid the other from swinging a machete at her, rammed her blades hilt into his gut, then stabbed the sword through the downed mans gut. She then span about and brought her weapon swiftly down upon the winded mans neck, severing it. A spray of blood cascaded through the air as the decapitated body fell to the ground. Luis had seen the whole thing.

“Come on, damn it! Leave her!”

Luis suddenly stopped fighting to help and turned to run. He’d now come to realise that Lia wasn’t the kind hearted woman he’d known before, but a cold blooded killer. She saw his reaction and almost felt ashamed. He shouldn’t have had to see that. In that brief moment, she had forgotten a crucial aspect of her duty. ‘Don’t ever lose focus on the mission at hand’. A bullet stripped past her and struck Luis in the shoulder. He stumbled back and screamed. Lia turned to spot the new enemy and fired at him as she dashed backwards to reach the others.

“Luis, get inside, now!”

Lia took down the enemy, and then brought another down before she turned and fled towards the others. Monte was trying to shake Luis out of his shock and pick him up, but Luis was too frightened now to move a limb. Suddenly, Monte took a bullet himself. He turned around and fired instantly, his face contort in anger. He moved forward from Luis who had no shifted his attention to Monte.

“Bastards! How dare you take aim upon him!” He fired off at the enemies approaching before taking another bullet, this one going right through his shoulder and almost hitting Luis again. Lia managed to reach Luis and pick him up and force him to run a small distance before he elbowed her in the gut and tried to get back to Monte.

“Luis! Come back!” Screamed Lia.

Monte continued to advance, firing on anything that came in sight. Finally, another round hit him and he fell onto one knee. Lia managed to grab a hold of Luis and stop him from running.

“I wont… let you take him…”

Monte coughed blood onto the ground in front and raised his gun to fire once more. He got one more shot off before another shot hit him struck him in the chest. Lia spotted a sniper in a window and fired randomly with a free hand, but ended up having to pick Luis right up over her shoulder and carry the screaming boy away, more bullets whizzing just past them.

Behind her she gazed at Monte fallen upon the ground, his face pale and eyes no longer filled with life. She noticed Luis had started to cry, and forced herself even more to get him to safety. Finally they reached a bunch of armed guards who took Luis off Lia and quickly escorted him inside the building. Lia fell onto the steps outside and placed her face in her hands. She lifted her head up to look around at the smoke emitting around the outside of the Vatican. She felt something drip onto her face and brushed it off with a finger. For the first time in years, she had started to cry.

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