Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes (7 page)

BOOK: Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes
8.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 18


Carlie extended the folding antenna on
the top of the Iridium sat phone and dialed in the code for central command in
Washington. She stood by a slightly ajar window for better reception, feeling
the cold air trickle out past her tired fingers.

Four attempts and ten minutes later, she
tried calling Washington as well as Secret Service offices in the Four Corners
region, but to no avail. Carlie closed the window and powered off the device,
then returned to the group, giving a grimace to Phillip as she approached.

“Was there any luck with contacting your
colleagues?” said the professor, who stood with his hands buried in his

“No, but standard protocol is to try at
the top of each hour over a ten-minute interval,” she said, stowing the phone
back in her pack.

“What’d you see out there?” said the

“A few dozen creatures milling about.
They seem to have piss-poor eyesight at night, which was mighty helpful. I also
saw one that exhibited near alpha-dog behavior over the others. Not sure what
that’s about.”

“What now, if central command is
off-grid or disabled?” said Phillip.

“I’ll try a few more times throughout
the night. The juice in the sat phone is half gone, the way those things work,
so I have to be picky with our attempts until tomorrow, when I can pull out the
solar charger. Cent-com is hopefully only down for a short time until POTUS and
his cabinet regroups.

“For now, we should all get some rest,”
Carlie said. “There are two couches and some chairs in the employee lounge
around the rear. Phillip and I will take three-hour shifts on guard and keep
trying to get a message out.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” said Nadine
as she and David began walking towards the other room. She turned before
entering, looking at Carlie. “Thank you for coming to get us, ma’am. I don’t know
what we would have done if you hadn’t showed up.”

Carlie nodded while raising an eyebrow.
“You’re welcome.”

“Yes—thanks to both of you,” said the
professor. “We are indebted to you.”

Eliza unfolded her arms. “Rescuing
others is programmed into their cell structure.”

“We are not programmed for suicide,
Eliza, and I certainly didn’t take an oath to die for you or your father but
rather for the office of the presidency. There’s a big difference.”

“I just can’t take sitting still here
any longer when there are others besides me that can use help,” Eliza muttered
before heading into the back room.

“Ah, she is brash at times, but I’m
quite sure she is grateful,” said the professor, leaning forward in a low
whisper to Carlie.

“Sometimes Eliza’s insulation from the
real world prevents her from seeing the bigger picture,” Carlie said, then
looked at the professor. “Why don’t you join the others, sir, and we’ll wake
you when we have any news.”

After everyone had left, Carlie leaned
against the wall next to Phillip, who bore a faint grin. “What’s up with you?”
Carlie said.

“I just find the irony of your situation
intriguing. It hadn’t dawned on me until I saw you interact with Eliza just now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Oh, Eliza despises anything to do with
D.C. and its politics and has tried to remove herself from that setting as much
as possible while you—you desperately want to be assigned there and be immersed
in that world at any cost. Funny thing is—your wish will come true when you finally
get her back to her father.”

“You mean much to your disappointment at
not being able to hamstring my career with your tawdry investigation?”

“Well, my probing will probably be a
moot point after all this, now, won’t it? Though I do worry about you—did
Gerald and the others try and help you through your PTSD over shooting that
young attacker or were you just trying to bury your head in your work as the
psych evals have indicated?”

Carlie got up and moved towards him
until he backed into the wall. “Piss off,” she said, standing a foot away from
his face with her fists balled up. “Did my psych eval also mention anything
about my temper?”

As she stood across from him, the
overhead lights began flickering in the room as well as in the adjoining
buildings. Then the room went dark and she heard the flow of cold air stop
pouring forth from the ventilation system above. The campus was black and only
the occasional lightning from the approaching thunderstorm, shining through the
panes of glass above, outlined their surroundings.

Phillip stared at the ceiling and A/C
vents. “Great—that’s just fucking great. We are so screwed. Now those things
are going to come in here and they’re going to…”

“Shut it, Phillip, and take a deep
breath. I don’t need you panicking the others and you’re the only reasonably capable
shooter I have so pull it together,” she said, grabbing his chin. “Phillip, are
you with me?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Got it,” he replied
in a wobbly voice.

“Now listen, it’s going to heat up in
here pretty quick. We’ve got plenty of water so we can use that for getting
through the night and then we’ll have to retreat down below into the service
tunnel during the day.”

Carlie walked across the room and into
the employee lounge, where the others were splayed out across the furniture.
“The power just went out across campus so that means no air-conditioning. I’d
advise soaking some towels, sheets, or your clothes in water and wrapping that
around you to stay cool throughout the night. You can also lie on the ground if
it gets too hot. This is what the early residents did here until the advent of
A/C so it looks like we’re going to be sleeping like pioneers for tonight. I
also want everyone to fill up any bowls, containers, and water bottles in case
the water mains shut down.”

As everyone was quietly at work
gathering supplies and then settling back down to rest, Carlie’s thoughts raced
back to her oldest brother and his family in San Diego.
It would be a
violation of protocol to call him on the sat phone

God, I hope they are
She pulled out a picture in her wallet, stowed behind her ID, of
her three brothers and her father. All of them were lazily reclining around the
woodsmoke of a fall deer camp in the Sierra Mountains. How she longed for such
peaceful times again. Her eyes floated over the faces of her two youngest
brothers. One had died in Afghanistan three years earlier and the other had
retreated from the family, finding solace in his work in Africa with the Peace

She considered going in the back room to
make the call to her oldest brother but then glanced over at Eliza in the other
room and refocused her mind on the mission ahead.


Chapter 19


As the night wore on and the rain storm
intensified, Carlie sat up on one elbow from her makeshift bed on the concrete
floor. Phillip was standing nearby on guard duty and came over to her side.

She reached over for a water bottle and downed
half a liter, then reslung her pistol in her belt holster. It had been a
restless two hours of sleep due to the unfamiliar noises, the sweltering heat,
and the uncomfortable floor arrangements. The conditions reminded her of most
of her other assignments when she was abroad—the four-hour nights of sleep,
skipping meals, catching another red-eye flight to a different time zone, and
standing in the cold or heat for days on end, doing the advance work before a
protectee arrived. Despite the globetrotting, she could barely recall the
sights she had seen in the cities she visited. Her job was an endless blur of
memorizing escape routes and potential target vectors.

As she stood up, she could see the delicate
ornamental flowers in the lobby were already beginning to wilt and die. “What’s
the temp in here?” she said, rubbing her eyes.

Phillip walked over to a large wall
monitor with a thermometer and craned his neck to read the gauge. “Looks like
eighty-four degrees. This place is going to be an oven soon. Temps this week
were supposed to be around 110, I heard.”

“I’m going to try the sat phone one more
time and then it’ll have to be recharged. While I’m doing that, have everyone
organize all the water, food, and sheets, and get them down in the tunnels
before sunrise. That’ll have to be our new hideout for the day.”

Phillip nodded and then walked into the
employee lounge while Carlie retrieved the sat phone from her pack and headed
to a rear window.

After powering up the unit, she dialed
the familiar number for central command in Washington. After the third ring, a
man’s voice came over the line. “Cent-com, Vectra One, authenticate.”

She took a deep breath and blew a strand
of hair off her face. “This is Carlene Simmons, AZT9662-Agent 3088 SW, over.”

She could hear typing on a computer
keyboard and then the voice returned. “Confirmed, Agent Simmons; what is your location
and status?”

“I have secured Gemini and we are at the
University of Arizona. Our local command center has been compromised and primary
evac routes are cut off, over.”

“Please hold,” the monotone voice
replied, and then returned a few seconds later to indicate he was placing the
call on speaker.

“Ms. Simmons, this is President Huntington
along with General Adams. Is my daughter OK?”

“Yes, she is unharmed, sir. Her security
detail hid her away until we got to her.”

“Thank God. I am forever indebted to you
and your colleagues.”

Carlie then heard a deeper voice come on
the line. “This is General Adams; can you give us your exact location? We will
coordinate with any remaining Homeland Security and law-enforcement agencies in
the region to expedite your extraction. We have lost contact with most of our
teams but we
get to you.”

“Current position is in the pharma…” The
phone emitted a beep. Carlie pulled it back from her ear, staring at the LED
screen as the battery expended itself and the unit powered down.

“Dammit,” she said, while rotating the
antenna closed
She unrolled the flexible solar power charger and laid
it out on the windowsill before her and connected the phone
. Now we’ll have
to wait until sunrise to juice this baby back to life.
I guess it’s time
to locate a deck of cards and settle in as the dorm babysitter.

Chapter 20


After the power outage had crippled city
buildings, Shane and his men retreated during the night to the cooler confines
of the subterranean parking garage below their tactical ops center.

As sunrise came, he stood poring over a
map on the hood of a black Humvee, looking at possible routes to each family
member’s home in the region. Given their tightness as a group on the job, it
was typical for agents to live in close proximity to each other. This provided
a support network for the wives and children when their husbands were deployed
on missions.

Now, his thoughts were solely on
assisting his men in getting their families back to the tac-ops center, which
would be their safest location for riding out whatever hell had just been

While he and Matias went over approach
routes and exfil options, Rory came over and handed the inter-agency radio to
Shane. “We got a call that just came from cent-com in D.C.”

Shane placed down the GPS unit and
grabbed the radio. “Yes, this is Agent Shane Colter with the DEA.”

The voice on the other end was General
Adams. Upon hearing this, Shane set the phone down on speaker and snapped his
fingers above his head, motioning for his men to gather around.

“Go ahead, sir.”

“We just received word from one of our
Secret Service agents that the president’s daughter is alive and being
safeguarded at the University of Arizona. How far is that from your location, Agent

Shane folded his arms across his chest
and looked up at Matias and the others. “That’s about fifteen minutes’ drive or
three minutes via helo, sir.”

“I’m sure you and your unit have been
through a lot in the past sixteen hours but I have to ask—are you mission
capable to extract them? You are the only federal response team left in the

Shane sighed and took a deep breath,
looking down at the map on the hood with the highlighted streets and back up at
his men’s inquiring eyes. “Yes, sir, I am good to go. I can have boots on the ground

“Understood. We don’t know how long they
can hold out,” said the General. “We have lost contact with their security
detail. I have their sat phone number, which I will relay to you. Thermal
imaging indicates that they are located in the Skaggs Pharmaceutical Building.
We have pinpointed that as being on the north-central perimeter of the main
campus, near the medical center.”

“Can you provide us with a satellite
linkup so we can have real-time intel on the hostiles on the ground and thermal
imaging of the survivors' location?”

“Yes, I am going to hand you over to my
second-in-command, who will give you everything you need. And Agent Colter, I
don’t have to remind you what’s at stake here.”

“No, sir. I’m crystal clear on that,” he
said with a muffled sigh, then clicked off the speakerphone.

Matias frowned. “Great, now we gotta go
haul in this little chica when our own guys need to get back to their families.”

“And who declared Mondays on the job are
always dull,” said Shane, rubbing the back of his neck and wondering if Carlie
was at the university. He had worked with various female federal agents over
the years and found them all to fit the same profile: square-jawed tomboys that
were emotionally aloof. Not Carlie—she had the usual cool exterior and
confident sensuality of a fighter but exuded a sunny disposition beneath her
jade green eyes.

“Monday…is it really Monday? This feels
more like Dia de los Muertos to me,” said Matias.

BOOK: Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes
8.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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