"A Gathering Storm"

02 August 2042 - One day later

The fifteen-year-old brown sedan raced across the darkened Nevada Free State highway.

Jack McGee did the math in his head. At this rate, they'd reached the border crossing in under three hours. He glanced at the rearview.

Empty highway. Just stars and the dim red glow from the sedan's tailight.

He silently prayed there'd been enough time to leave.

Must've been. There must've been enough or they wouldn't have gotten this far.

A week ago they'd been in their house on Laurel Lane, enjoying a beautiful August day in Virgina.

Had it just been a week?

And then Katie. Oh, god. Katie. What they did to you--

Focus, Jack. Focus. For Danny's sake.

He clenched his teeth.

They just needed to get to CFS.

To get to Bay city.

"Daddy?" said a muffled voice from the passenger seat.

Jack glanced over. "Hey kiddo," he said. "I thought you were sleeping?"

"I couldn't sleep." Danny McGee, ten years old, poked his head out from beneath a gray wool blanket. "I kept thinking about those men."

"It's gonna be okay, Danny," Jack said.

"I'm scared."

"Me, too."

Silence, save for the rumble of the road beneath the sedan's tires.

After a while, Danny said, "We'll be at Aunt Mo's soon?"

"Soon."

"That's good."

More silence.

Then: "Daddy?"

"Yeah?"

"Did I kill those men?"

Jack felt his mouth go dry. He coughed and licked his lips, willing moisture into his throat. He said, "You did what you had to do, Danny."

Silence again.

Then: "I don't wanna anymore."

"You won't have to, Danny," said Jack.

"Promise?"

"I promise."

"Okay."

And the sedan continued along the highway.

* * *

03 August 2042 - Two days later

Sakura answered her phone. "News?"

The voice on the other end said, "Someone's after your girls."

It was Simon.

"Oh really?" she said.

"One's some ganger. Lowlife. Making noise about dishonor and retribution and that sort of bullshit."

"Will he or she be a problem?"

"He. And I doubt it. He's a grunt."

"Keep an eye on him anyway. I don't want any distractions. What about the other one?"

"This one might be trouble," said Simon. "Mob daughter."

"Can't be Righetti," Sakura said.

"No. Vittorio. Blow up from the Renaldi thing."

"Ah, yes."

"Yeah. Word is she's scouting for big guns."

"Any takers?"

"Not yet. Invitation only. And the bounty's pretty nice. Twenty million. Each."

"What does Don Vittorio think?"

"He's telling her to forget about it. Doesn't sound like she's listening to daddy, though."

"She might make the same mistake as last time. This could be a problem." She thought for a moment, then said, "Think she'll listen to reason?"

"Highly doubt it."

"Maybe she'll hear my side."

* * *

04 August 2042 - Three days later

The man stood in front of the fourteenth floor office window at 1100 Peachtree, looked down at the passing Atlanta morning traffic, and listened to the buzz of a phone on his headset.

A click, then: "Hello?"

Low pitched and hurried.

The man adjusted the headset's boom mic, gave a small, thin-lipped smile. "Good morning, Mr. Jeffries. Do you know who this is?"

A pause.

"Yes," said the voice on the other end of the line. "I do."

"Good. Then you know why I'm calling."

"Yes," said Jeffries. "I'm sorry it's late. I can explain."

"I hope you can," said the man. "I'd really hate for things to happen."

"Nothing needs to happen. Just a little glitch on my end. No worries, really."

"I'm not in a position to worry. That would be you."

Jeffries sighed. "Yes. You're right."

"Of course I'm right," said the man. "When should I expect it?"

"Tomorrow morning," Jeffries said. "Eight a.m."

"You love your family, don't you, Mr. Jeffries?"

"Eight a.m. I swear to Christ--!"

"Don't blaspheme, Mr. Jeffries."

"I'm--I'm sorry. Eight a.m. You have my word."

"And you have mine," the man said and cut the connection.

A door creaked open behind him. Footsteps entered. Then a woman's voice said, "Brother Malachi, they are ready for you."

Brother Malachi half turned and inclined his head at the brunette standing in the doorway. "Thank you, Sister Rebecca. Go forth to love and serve the Lord."

* * *

Revell picked up his pace as he neared the corner of 39th Street and Steiner Avenue, on the eastern edge of campus.

They'll be here in just a few moments--

He crossed the street, turned north on Steiner, and saw them ahead, walking toward him.

He slowed.

Three twentysomething coeds chatted animatedly as they walked down the sidewalk. Two were dark-haired. The one in the middle was blond and statuesque and wore a gray BCU sweatshirt.

Revell focused on the blond and felt a stirring of emotion in his gut.

Ten seconds later, they walked past him.

Revell fought the urge to turn around and continued walking north on Steiner.

But he smiled.

Little Raya has grown up, Tamara. She has her mother's eyes.

Your eyes.

You've done well, sestrionka.

You've done well, Little Sister.

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Peek-a-Boo"


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