Eighteen

July 12th, 2024
1600
Somewhere over the pacific
Bombs went off. Men shouted incoherently as they scrambled about. Confusion washed over Daniel. He wasn’t sure of his mission. He had a heavy bag on his back, and the sense it was filled with explosives. Gideon appeared, bloodied, and screamed something. A building collapsed, sending dust spraying over everything. He knew he had to get the pack of explosives off his back if he wanted to survive. He looked down, and saw that his hands were on fire.
Daniel sat bolt upright and he pulled himself out of the dream that haunted him in so many different forms. He woke in a sweat despite the chill that lay over the pulsing Norseman. His head was pounding, and his heart was racing. He closed his eyes as he tried to get rid of the images that would not let him sleep. Normally when he was on a mission the dreams were worse. Glancing at his watch, he decided it would be best to walk around the bay to clear his head. He sighed in annoyance. The pod had been quite comfortable. While on an assignment he was lucky to find a nice rock to sleep on.
He walked out of the sleeping area and started exploring the dark Norseman. The hum of the engines was strangely soothing, and it seemed that everyone besides the pilots was sleeping. Then Daniel saw Markus, who appeared like a ghostly apparition in the dim light of the Norseman. He was leaning over a lower porthole and looked out onto the vast ocean below. Curious, Daniel walked up beside him to see what was so fascinating to the former Army Ranger.
Markus didn't look up and barely acknowledged Daniel’s presence. Daniel, in turn, answered his silence with more of the same. Markus finally spoke.
"Take a good look down there, Daniel," Markus said. "See that?" He pointed to a cluster of lights gleaming on the inky dark ocean below. Gallery’s face was contorted with conflicting emotions about what he was seeing. "That's Joachim Soren's relay station. He's an incredibly powerful man. Politically connected with the CPC. He made a fortune by establishing this relay station between Hong Kong and New York.”
Markus looked up and looked into Daniel’s eyes to see if what he was talking about was registering and found that it had.
“From there, he detects patterns and intercepts financial trades. The latency between the two positions makes it so he's amassed $1 trillion. By not providing a shred of value, not inventing a new widget, not figuring out a new way to take a product to market.”
Markus looked disgusted. “We know someone is after Loki, and our intelligence says this guy is probably pulling the strings.”
"What’s his motive?" Daniel asked, glad for something to distract him from his nightmare.
"You've heard the story that Radchenko is an international terrorist that invented the Ducat protocol?" Markus asked cryptically. "To destabilize the world's governments? Well, some of that is true." Markus rubbed his eyes sleepily, deciding this line of questioning was not in his best interest to continue.
"Are we after Radchenko for the bounty?" Daniel asked. "Or on behalf of the government...?" he asked, trailing off with a vague and indecisive hand gesture. He was trying to play it casually, but he wanted to know whose side they were on. He was used to top secret missions, but this was unusual.
"We'll be in Hong Kong in less than an hour," Markus said, ignoring Daniel’s question. "We'll meet another member of the team there. She's been on the ground assisting Loki.” Markus looked concerned for a moment, but then added “I've never worked with her before, but she was the only one on the Panther Marketplace available and in position. She has a fantastic reputation and credentials. Beggars cannot be choosers.” Markus said. “Her name is Reyes.”

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