Nine

On the embassy wall, a Marine slammed a wall mounted alarm, blood drizzling from his shattered eardrum. The Americans began to respond, while two simple white Toyota pick-up trucks drove through the crowd, which had parted at a pre-arranged signal. A tarpoline was ripped from the tops, and the two pickup trucks revealed M134 miniguns mounted on the back. They pushed into the deep chasm that was once the primary gate and unleashed a stream of gunfire. The American forces reacting to the alarm were no match for the heavy weapons. As outgunned Marines collapsed to the ground, five hundred screaming jihadis charged into the embassy courtyard, producing AK-47s from underneath their white robes. The ambassador had, after hearing the earsplitting boom, immediately dashed forward to discover the source of the commotion. Thomas Santander looked out his window in horror. Waves of shock swept from his brain to his heart to his stomach, then back up to his brain again. He wiped his brow, his palms dampened with sweat. How could this be happening? The State Department was all about politics, and now war had just arrived on his doorstep.
Thierry and the rest of his staff frantically bustled about, hastily destroying classified documents, computers, and other highly sensitive materials. Marines rushed into the room, motioning for the ambassador to follow them under their protection. As the ambassador was hustled along, a Marine hit a panel on the wall of his office, revealing a secret passageway. Santander didn't need any instructions. He stepped into the tunnel, escorted by the Marines. As the door slid shut behind him, the ambassador turned for just a moment and watched Thierry continue to burn documents. He hated leaving his confidant and friend behind, but he had no choice. The CPC could not afford to have an American ambassador captured or killed.
In any other situation, the view from the top of the embassy would have been worthy of a long look or at least a photo to examine later. It captured the rhythm and flow of the city below, allowing anyone standing over the railings to see the glorious mirrored skyscrapers that had been put up by so much oil money. From the roof, Daniel could hear the crowd raging below, punctuated by gunshots and automatic weapons fire that could be heard even over the ear-splitting shriek of an Osprey V-22 Tiltrotor. There were screams as well, presumably from the staff and the Americans who manned the embassy. Other transports waited their turn, following the strict battle order of an embassy evacuation. Daniel and Gideon had been in this scenario before, the politicians and their personal staff getting out first, the lower echelons watching and waiting their turn.
Daniel and Gideon had been tasked with providing security for Thierry as he performed his various tasks in the restive city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was assumed that the embassy was a safe zone. When Thierry was in his office or his quarters here, Daniel and Gideon were off duty, though on call at any hour of the day and night. Their lodging was a mere cargo container, converted into a living space with the addition of an air conditioner that was not nearly large enough. Although spartan, the two didn’t mind and had spent their days reading, Daniel with his astronomy blogs and Gideon with his theology books.
When the explosion had gone off, Daniel and Gideon immediately grabbed their M4 rifles and headed for the roof where they assumed Thierry would be.
Daniel and Gideon spotted the ambassador from across the roof as they exited from the stairwell and sprinted across the hardtop towards the helicopter. A large figure stepped out in front of them as they got near, his blond hair blowing in the downdraft from the blades. At nearly six feet six, Maximillian Karneas loomed over Daniel. His sheer physical presence rivaled even Gideon. His prominent Swedish jawline matched the severe tone of his voice as he shouted to be heard over the roar of the tilt-rotor.
General Karneas walked on the rooftop helicopter pad with the imperious stride of a man having absolute certainty of his place in the world and issued orders to the Marines scurrying about. He was dressed in the desert uniform of his nation, Sweden, complete with an arm patch on his shoulder identifying that fact. His battle dress uniform’s dazzling array of earth-toned geometric shapes reminded Daniel of a World War Two battleship, but he had to admit it did an excellent job of confusing the eye. The emblem of the CPC the man wore on his floppy boonie hat made it clear the Karneas oversaw all of the CPC military forces in this country.
Karneas had a sinewy, well-toned physique, more befitting a man half his age. His weather-worn face was carved as if from granite, all sharp angles forming a whole that inspired both intense fear and unqualified loyalty. The general surveyed the pad with eyes narrowed to hard, dark slits that masked any hint of humanity. Taken in its entirety, his presence was a man not to be ignored or trifled with.
A battle-dressed Marine guard held tight around the middle-aged ambassador during the transfer, watchful, tight-jawed and calm. General Maximilian Karneas escorted the ambassador onboard an Osprey tilt-rotor craft painted the serene blue of the CPC. The ambassador looked worried as he was strapped into the CPC aircraft, watching to make sure that the rest of his staff were being evacuated
Gesturing for Daniel and Gideon to approach, Maximilian screamed to be heard above the thunk of the chopper blades. His pale blue eyes were vivid in his Nordic face, his unusual pupils tiny. “It's a coup. A simultaneous attack on all the CPC installations. We've got to get out of here. Now.” Daniel leaned in to answer him, biting off each word sharply to get his message over the pulsating sound. “Sir, we've got to go back! We have orders to protect Thierry Greer!” "Forget him," barked Karneas, eyes swiveling around the roof, watching each group of employees as they ran towards the Ospreys. "If he’s still in the ambassador’s office, he’s dead by now, or soon will be. They’ve completely overrun the embassy. I’ve already spoken to the Premier Secretary of the CPC. He's ordered your President to have your armed forces evacuate the country immediately. That includes contractors." Gideon shook his head, unable to believe what he was hearing. If he had understood right, CPC had gone to dictating policy to the President of the United States almost overnight. He exchanged a familiar look with his long-standing partner, a look that had been exchanged a thousand times and had launched a thousand adventures. "We're going back. We don't work for you." Karneas grimaced at the disrespect, shook his head like a disgusted and angry bear getting rid of a small fly. Turning away, he threw a brief backhanded wave over his shoulder, dismissing the men as he climbed back onto the waiting Osprey and sat down beside a now panicked ambassador who seemed to have shrunken into himself. Leaning forward, the general called to Daniel. “Then I’ll see you in hell.” Karneas signaled to the pilot, and the rear ramp slowly raised. The Osprey began to lift into the sky as Daniel and Gideon backed away in the prop wash. Without the need for discussion, they moved off the pad rapidly, cutting across the roof towards the stairs that led down to a city in flames.
The Americans evacuees were clustered on the roof waiting their turn, and the native staff had gone home or joined the mob. Daniel and Gideon turned as they heard a familiar gravelly voice shouting their names to be heard over the roar of the engines. A tall and skinny light skinned black man strode toward them with concern in his eyes.
Hayden Dawson's dedication to his work and fluency in over a dozen languages made him an invaluable asset the world over. Dawson was most definitely CIA, smart, cagey and just a little bit nerdy. An African American who’d moved up in the diplomatic service despite never having attended Georgetown U, he wasn’t supposed to know anything about Daniel and Gideon’s assignment.
“Thierry?” He asked, already knowing the answer. "There's a secret entrance to the ambassador's office. If you move fast, I can show you."
Dawson was waving them over to a slab in the floor that suddenly opened as he approached. Daniel and Gideon raised their eyebrows at each other, then followed the directions of their slender colleague back into a dark embassy that was starting to smell like Hades itself.

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