A Number, Not a Name: Part Twenty-five

Chapter 25: It Ends with Us

A well-built man stared at Milena and Lorenzo through his binoculars. Their happiness shone through their bright smiles and warm embrace. But their newly found joy was the least of his concerns. As long as she was alive Norvan Ohanyan’s daughter posed an immediate threat to his boss. Her elimination was necessary. He pressed down on the “push-to-talk” button on his shoulder microphone. “Is everyone in position?” He waited for the affirmatives from the rest of his team. “Alright. On three. One. Two. Three…” On the other side of the glass, Milena and Lorenzo were oblivious to the turn their lives would take.

“So when do you want to get married,” Lorenzo asked as he placed his hand on the small of Milena’s back.

Milena smiled sheepishly. “Tonight.”

“You really don’t want to wait do you?”

She shook her head. “I’m ready to start our lives together.”

“So am I.” They shared a tender kiss. 

Milena broke away, “So where’s your phone?”

“In my bedroom why?” Milena flashed a grin and began crossing the room to the doorway.

“Lena, what are you doing?” He playfully teased her. 

“Calling the justice of the peace.”

“You do know what time it is right?” He pointed to the clock mounted behind him. “He’s probably asleep.”

“Well, then I’m sure his phone ringing will wake him up.” 

A tremendous crash echoed through the house. Whipping her head around Milena saw darkened shadows standing in the middle of the front doorway. Even in the darkness of the night, Milena could tell these weren’t your average intruders. Each was heavily armed and wore protective body armor. Milena locked eyes with a burly man who stepped inside the threshold. His features were eerily familiar. Cold gray eyes beneath heavy well-defined eyebrows, a sharp nose above thin sardonic lips. There was no doubt the man was Daniel Melikian. Dalmar’s head of his special task force. Or more accurately assassination task force. Milena’s mouth ran dry as the blood drained from her face. A bullet flew past her head, shattering the mirror which hung near the fireplace.

“MILENA!!” Lorenzo called out to her. 

“GO!” Milena yelled back. The two of them scrambled out of the room down a long hall. Bullets whizzed past them. Chairs scraped across the floor, crashes echoed, and glass shattered as their masked assailants overturned furniture in their path. Lorenzo and Milena finally stumbled into the kitchen. Three solid walls greeted them on every side. 

Lorenzo’s eyes flickered from Milena to the kitchen door. Muffled footsteps could be heard in the distance. Every moment they grew louder. “They’re coming.” His voice was cold with dread. 

“They want me,” Milena softly said. “I’ll distract them. You get out of here.” She turned to the door. Lorenzo caught her arm, holding her back.

“If you’re staying, I am too. I’m not leaving without you” he tearfully replied. 

Milena knew there was no changing his decision.“Find anything in here that can work as a weapon.” 

“Okay,” Lorenzo nodded. Frantically they searched for anything that could be used to defend themselves. A knife found its way into Lorenzo’s hands while Milena settled on an iron skillet. They dashed behind the door and locked it. Lying in wait for their pursuers.

“Please be careful.” Lorenzo pled. Milena silently nodded, acknowledging her fiance’s words. Only a few seconds had passed when the door shot open. A man entered the room. Lorenzo hurled himself at the attacker. The knife plunged into his shoulder. 

Another shadowy figure came into view. Milena’s skillet collided with his face. He staggered to the ground revealing his comrade behind. She swung the pan with as much force as she could into the woman’s head, sending her gun streaking across the tile. She kicked her in the side of the head followed by a succession of sharp swings to her jaw, eyes, and nose. A groan escaped the women’s lips. Brushing aside the sharp twinge of pain radiating across her face, the lady delivered a strong blow to Milena’s face. Milena brought the skillet again toward her assailant’s head but the woman caught her wrist, delivering a swift punch with her free hand. The pan clanked to the ground. 

The woman lunged at Milena, sending her crashing into the cabinets behind her. The woman grabbed Milena’s neck and held her down on top of the counter, before retrieving the knife strapped to her leg. The blade dangled above Milena’s face. Milena grabbed a plate behind her and smashed it into the woman’s face, causing her to release her hold as the blade nicked her cheek. Milena struggled to her feet and brought her leg to the women’s head again, rendering her unconscious. Blood seeped from her hairline.

Milena’s heart raced and cold drops of sweat beaded her brow. In the middle of the kitchen, Lorenzo and his assailant traded blows back and forth. The knife seemed of little use to Lorenzo as his aggressor appeared immune to its sharpened blade. Lorenzo’s shirt and pants were slashed in a variety of places, revealing gashes caused by the man’s blade. Milena retrieved the iron skillet from the tile floor. She was at Lorenzo’s side in a matter of seconds, striking the pan against his face. The man joined his associates strewn on the floor.

Lorenzo lightly touched Milena’s shoulder “Thank you.”

Before Milena could reply, more members, a man and a woman, of Dalmar’s security team rushed in. Lorenzo raced toward the man and threw a punch to his jaw. Milena sprang in the women’s direction. She unexpectedly crouched down to the floor and spun her leg out into the woman’s legs, causing her to stumble to the ground. 

Lorenzo swung at his attacker with his knife. Jirair caught his arm and wrenched it above his head, rendering the blade useless. Jirair brought his fist to Lorenzo’s side causing him to double over. The bloodied knife clanked to the ground. Lorenzo was sent flying against the wall and found himself pinned down against it. 

Milena tightly gripped her make-shift weapon and brought it forward to its target. A sudden blow to the wrist jolted the skillet from her hand. Her head throbbed as her current assailant repeatedly struck her. The women lunged at Milena pushing her to the cold dank tile. The women attempted to pin her to the ground but Milena sharply rolled to the right, resulting in her assaulter hitting the white kitchen cabinets. Milena grabbed the woman’s head with both her hands and threw it against the cabinet countertop. 

Before Milena could stand from the floor, she heard the distinct sound of a gun being loaded near her head. A Glock by the way the cartridge was loaded. “Get up,” the voice snapped. A fist grabbed a fistful of her shirt and dragged her up. A gasp escaped her lips, her feet swinging limply in the air. While she was fighting the fear which had gripped her had been impossible to feel. Adrenaline was a powerful drug. Now she was suspended. Vulnerable. Helpless. Terror seized her. 

Lorenzo’s eyes met Milena’s. Pure fear was all he saw. He pushed against his attacker as hard as he could and managed to wrestle himself from his grasp. His fingers found his knife previously in his possession. He’d barely taken a step in Milena’s direction, however, when he felt his right arm being pulled behind his back and his brief moment of relief quickly vanished as a heel dug into his back. Stumbling to the ground, he felt his other arm dragged behind his back as the man elected to pin him to the floor. 

“Drop it!” Milena’s captor icily spat. Lorenzo looked up from the ground to where the voice had come. A few feet away from him a bulky muscular man held Milena down. His left arm was draped around Milena’s neck, pulling her head back. A gun was shoved against her temple. When Lorenzo didn’t immediately react, the man tightened his grip. Milena brought her hands up to try weakly to pry the vice-grip away. Already she could see the darkness overtaking the outer edges of her vision. “I said drop it!”

Lorenzo obeyed, his heart sinking as he heard the clank of the knife hitting the ground, along with probably any hope they had of escaping. 

“Please…” Milena pleaded, “let him go. I’m the one who went after Dalmar. I’m the one who tried to kill him, not Loren. I deserve this, not him.” Milena shifted her gaze from her fiancé to the henchmen holding him to the floor. “Do whatever you want with me. Kill me…but just let him go.”  

“As you wish.” Her captor clicked back the safety of the gun.

Lorenzo was overcome with emotion. Everyone seemed to fade away at that moment. Anger and desperation surged through him. Milena was his soulmate; he couldn’t let her die. “Wait! Kill me! Take me instead!” 

Daniel chortled, “I’m afraid it’s ladies first.”

Milena glanced back at Lorenzo. Tears brimmed her eyes. “It’s okay,” she whispered.

Daniel slowly began to pull back the trigger. Using all his strength Lorenzo lurched forward, desperately trying to reach Milena.“NO!!”

Milena shut her eyes, waiting for it to be over.

A shot rang out.

The bullet drove into Daniel’s chest and he promptly slumped over to the floor, dead. Jirair

fired his gun. The bullet collided with Lorenzo’s chest causing him to collapse.

A third shot was fired, hitting Jirair in the head. Killing him instantly. 

Milena scrambled to Lorenzo’s side where he lay in a pool of his own blood. She quickly turned him over, placing his head in her lap. In a moment she could feel every heartbeat, every second. 

It was as if her mind couldn’t process the information but at the same time was creating every possible scenario. Lorenzo smiling up at her, alive and happy, in his hospital room. She standing before his grave, all dressed in black. “Lorenzo…” she stroked her cheek with her thumb. “You’re going to be okay. Alright…you’re going to be okay,” she tenderly assured him.

 Lorenzo’s breathing was shallow and continued to slow. His heartbeat was fainter by the second. No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. Not to Lorenzo. At the last second, he’d jumped in front of her causing him to be hit by the bullet Jirair had fired. She felt the tears burn at the sides of her eyes and the oxygen get sucked from her lungs. Her voice went from shaky to sobbing in a matter of seconds. Tears flowed down her cheeks and her breath was hitched. “Please Loren…don’t leave me,” she sobbed. “Stay with me.” Milena gently stroked his face as he slipped away. “Lorenzo…Lorenzo…” Milena bent over his body, bawling uncontrollably. 

She felt a hand gently rest on her shoulder. Glancing up from Lorenzo’s body she saw a blurry figure above her. Her younger sister.

Liana gently placed her gun beside her and crouched down next to her anguished sister. “I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “I didn’t get here sooner.”

Milena threw her arms around her sister. Liana brought her hand to her sister’s back and rubbed her back and forth as she sobbed. All the anger and bitterness between them was obsolete at that moment. Right now they each needed someone to hold them. To comfort them. They just needed someone.


Jason carefully made his way through the underground corridors. Every few seconds he checked every direction to make sure he wasn’t being followed or if someone had spotted him. The box truck has to be around here somewhere. The more time passed the more Jason’s nerves continued to grow. Footsteps sounded behind him around the corner he had just turned. Jason froze, not knowing who it would be. He turned around and waited anxiously for the person to reveal themselves. 

“Relax 007,” Tasha teased, “It’s only me.” A somewhat shocked expression spread across Jason’s face. “What? Surprised to see me here?”

“Let’s just say you’re not exactly the first person I thought I’d see.”

“Well, me either.” The two of them began walking again down the hall. “So what’s your plan?” 

The next few minutes Jason filled Tasha in on all the details of his plan. Jason would pretend to be Tarek escorting a handcuffed Tasha to the truck. Just as Tasha would be loaded in the back of the vehicle they’d knock out Dalmar’s security. The two of them would then drive to where Dalmar’s jet was waiting and take him into custody. Unsurprisingly, Tasha thought it was incredibly risky, especially since they weren’t waiting for backup, but to Jason’s credit if everything worked out it was quite clever. 

Jason and Tasha peered into the room at the end of the corridor. They immediately spotted the white box truck they’d been transported in to Dalmar’s estate. Two henchmen leaned against the back of the truck waiting for Tarek and his team to show up with Tasha and Jason. One twirled his gun on his finger while the other anxiously looked at his watch.

“I’m so going to regret this…” Tasha whispered as she placed her hands behind her back. Jason grabbed her wrists, making it appear like she was handcuffed. 

Wilhelm glanced again at his watch, swearing under his breath.“Where are Tarek and Emil?! Don’t they know the place is crawling with cops?” 

“Maybe the NSA agents held them up” Michael offered his suggestion. 

“I’m going to go see what’s keeping them.” Just then Tasha and Jason came into view. “It’s about time you showed up!” Wilhelm barked.

“Sorry for the delay,” Jason imitated Tarek’s voice. He kept his head down, taking an extra precaution so that Wilhelm and Micheal didn’t see his face. “They each put up quite a struggle. Emil and the others are right behind me.”

Michael rolled up the back of the truck. “Load her in the truck. We ain’t got time to waste!” Wilhelm shouted. Jason pushed Tasha into the back where Micheal was waiting to secure her.

As soon as Jason exited the truck his fist collided with Wilhelm’s face. Wilhelm caught off guard, stumbled against the side of the vehicle. 

Michael raised and aimed his firearm, a mini uzi, at Jason. Tasha grabbed both ends of the weapon and slammed it into Michael’s face, before kneeing him in the crotch. Micheal struck Tasha across the jaw, blood splattered from her mouth across the interior of the truck. He punched her again, this time with even more force, sending her to the ground. Tasha slammed both feet into Micheal’s face, knocking him out.

Jason kicked Wilhelm square in the chest, followed by a kick to his head. Wilhelm slumped to the concrete. Tasha grabbed Michael’s mini uzi and jumped out of the truck while Jason collected Wilhelm’s gun. 

Meanwhile upfront in the driver’s seat, Samvel had heard a series of crashes and groans echoing from the back. Through the side view mirror, he noticed a scuffle occurring in the back. He retrieved his gun and opened the truck door. As he stepped out of the vehicle he was greeted by Tasha and Jason. 

“Hey, stranger.” Tasha slammed the car door into him. Samvel dropped the gun and slumped back into the truck. It was clear Tasha and Jason knew exactly what they were doing and what they were after, and Samvel had the feeling he wasn’t going to like the results. He tried to fight back but he couldn’t even stand up. Every nerve in his body felt like it was on fire. Jason stared down at the disarmed driver and crossed his arms.

Samvel spent a few seconds grunting in pain before struggling to sit up. “What do you want?” he asked, holding his side. 

“You’re going to slide over to the passenger seat,” Jason replied, “while my partner here drives. And give us directions on how to get to the tarmac.”

The driver let out a nervous chuckle, “And why would I do that?”

“Because…” Jason took a step forward, “that jacket looks really expensive, and I’d hate to mess it up.”

Samvel’s face went ashen. He swallowed nervously and reluctantly slid over into the passenger seat. Jason climbed in beside Samvel, all the while keeping his hand firmly on a gun. Tasha ducked into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. The roar of the truck cut through the silence. She shifted the gear from “park” to “drive” and slammed her foot against the gas pedal sending the truck flying forward through a tunnel in front. For several minutes the vehicle made its way through the darkened shaft before emerging through its exit onto a logging mountain road in the middle of the forest. Pine trees and conifers surrounded them from all around. The scents of the forest greenery still reminded Jason of the Christmas season. Though the mood at that moment was anything but cheery. 

The box truck swerved and veered through the forest. The majority of the time Tasha drove straight but occasionally turned left or right depending on Samvel’s directions.

The truck reached the base of the wooded mountainside revealing a sprawling grassy plain surrounded by towering woods on all sides. A few moments later a large metal fence came into view. Samvel entered a code into a security keypad and the metal gate rolled back, allowing the vehicle to continue speeding along towards the tarmac. 

Several hundred feet away Dalmar’s private jet was lined up on the runway. Tasha pressed down the brake. The truck came to a screeching halt. 

“Well, you’ve been very helpful,” Jason said as he tucked Wilhelm’s gun into the pocket of his leather blazer, while Tasha threw the Mini uzi beside her onto the backseats.

Samvel looked at Jason uneasily, “Whatever I can do to help.” 

“Oh, one more thing,” Jason said, as though remembering a forgotten detail. “Sorry for the headache.”

Samvel gave him a confused look. Jason struck him twice in the head. Samvel fell back against his seat, unconscious.

From the comfort of his private jet compartment, Dalmar unleashed a tirade at his personal driver. The room was small yet luxurious, with white wool carpet and wood gloss paneling along its only solid wall. A black tufted leather bed with complimentary nightstands was in the center of the room. An Italian leather Barcelona chair adorned a corner of the room with a matching side table.

“Where are my men and the agents?!!!” He tugged angrily at his watch strap. Twin red lines traced circles around her wrist where the strap had been digging deep grooves in his skin. “I’ve been sitting here for a darn half hour! The authorities could show up at any time!!! Arghhh!!!!” he tossed his champagne flute against the wall. Glass shards flew across the carpet.

“I’m sure they’ll be here soon sir” Avak responded to his boss.

Dalmar glowered at him. He wasn’t in the mood for pleasant assurances. “Tell Adrine we’re taking off in two minutes with or without the others!!”

“Of course sir” Avak opened the compartment door. Through the window, he spotted a white box truck parked some feet away. “Sir, I believe Tarek and the others have just arrived. The box truck just pulled up” he gestured to the vehicle outside the window.

“See that they quickly board the plane and get me another glass of champagne while you’re at it” he snapped his fingers.

“Certainly.” Avak swiftly exited the room and bounded down the airstair to Tasha and Jason.

“It’s about time you showed up,” Avak chided. “The boss has been going off for the last twenty min-” he trailed off as Jason’s face came into view.“Wait, you’re not Tarek or…”

“I’m Nathaniel,” Jason cut him off. “Dalmar hired me a few days ago. He said he was in need of some new muscle and judging by today’s events he was right. Tarek and the others are in the custody of the NSS agents. I managed to make it out with this one” he tightened his grip on Tasha’s arm.

Avak had no patience for Jason’s explanation. “Hurry and get her aboard.” 

Jason and Tasha made their way up the airstair into the jet. Avak climbed in after, shutting the door behind them. 

Avak rapped his knuckles against the cockpit door. “We’re ready for departure” he announced.

“We’re about through with our systems check. We should begin takeoff shortly” the pilot’s somewhat muffled voice came from behind the door. 

One of Dalmar’s bodyguards, Douglas, sat in a chair beside the door to Dalmar’s private quarters. His attention was focused squarely on Jason. Douglas didn’t recognize him as a member of his boss’ security team. And he wasn’t aware of any new hirings in the past few days. 

“So you’re the new kid on the block?” he asked gruffly, his British heritage evident in his accent.  

“Something like that,” Jason replied coolly. He peered out the window behind him away from Douglas’ gaze, signaling an end to the exchange. The fewer questions he had to answer, the better.

Avak retrieved a bottle of champagne from the fridge and began pouring another glass for his boss.

Douglas crossed his arms, “So when exactly were you hired. I don’t recall seeing you before.” Tasha, sitting in a seat next to Jason, anxiously watched the unfolding exchange.

Jason kept his reply short and direct. “Two days ago.” Douglas nodded his head as if physically registering Jason’s response. 

Douglas sat up and stalked over to Jason.  “Word of advice…” the room seemed to grow colder as he trailed off. “Next time you try to pull off something like this make sure you check the number on your shoulder microphone.” Jason glanced towards it and saw “4672” written in white. Douglas’ voice was hard and emotionless “Tarek’s number is hard to forget.” 

Douglas’ eyes bore into Jason’s. Their faces were mere inches from each other. By the wet bar at the front of the jet, Avak placed Dalmar’s champagne flute on a tray and carefully stepped toward the private compartment. 

Jason swung at Douglas. His fist connected with the older man’s jaw. He staggered backward and crashed into Avak.  Avak hit the ground while his tray clattered on the floor. Jason wrapped his arms around Douglas and tackled him into the jet wall.

Avak pulled out his Glock 17 and aimed it at Jason. Tasha raced to Avak and forcefully stepped on his wrist, pinning his right arm to the ground. The younger gentleman yelled through his teeth. Tasha’s fist crashed into the side of Avak’s face, knocking him out.

The door to the private compartment swung open revealing Dalmar. His eyes widened as he took in the unfolding scene within the cabin. He quickly shut and bolted the door behind him. He raced to the telephone on his nightstand and entered the number for the cockpit. 

Tasha’s eyes landed on the cockpit door. Her and Jason’s chance of success rested on preventing the plane from taking off. Who knew what Dalmar planned if he was staring down certain capture. He could have his flight crew intentionally crash the jet, the consequences of which could be devastating. Countless innocent lives could be lost. Substantial property damage could result. Not to mention Dalmar’s day in court would never come. Tasha was not going to allow that to happen, she was trained not to let it happen. 

Tasha grabbed the open champagne bottle left by Avak on the bar and ran to the cockpit.


Inside the cockpit, the first officer, Daron, and pilot, Adrine, were conducting a routine safety systems check. 

“How’s the hydraulics?” Daron asked as he held a clipboard and pen in his hand.

“All the values, pressures, and pumps are operational.”

Daron checked off hydraulics on his checklist. “Well, that’s the last item on our systems check. I’m sure the boss will be happy to hear that.”

“He’s not the only one. The sooner we get out of here the better.”

A loud crash echoed down the plane. Daron and Adrine whipped their heads in its direction.

“What was that?” Adrine asked. Her nerves were already on edge since earlier that morning when the police had shown up.

Daron shrugged it off. “Probably just one of the NSA agents giving some trouble.”

A piercing scream sounded through the cabin.

Adrine shot a look at Daron “You were saying?”

“I’m sure Douglas can handle it. He is all muscle.”

“Yeah and no brain.” Adrine snapped.

“How about we take off?”

“Bolt the cockpit door first. I don’t want any unwelcome visitors.”

Daron closed and bolted the door. The phone rang to life. Daron grabbed the phone and held it to his ear. Dalmar’s agitated voice came through the speaker. “Listen, there’s been an attempted takeover by the two NSA agents. Make sure the door is securely locked. I want them kept out of the cockpit at all costs!”

“It’s been taken care of sir.”

There was no acknowledgment of Daron’s response. “Continue to our scheduled destination. Don’t stop for anything!” Dalmar slammed the phone back on the receiver, ending the call.

Daron returned to his seat. “Do you and the boss really think that flimsy piece of crap will keep them out,” he muttered. “This isn’t a passenger plane.”

“That door might not…” Adrine brandished her gun “but this will.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have another one for me?”

Adrine smirked, “Sorry. I missed the buy one, get one free sale.” She tucked the gun between her seat and the center pedestal. 

There was the sound of a door crashing in behind them. They each looked back and saw Tasha standing in the doorway.

“Room for one more,” Tasha quipped. Adrine scrambled for her gun. 

Tasha rushed towards them unfazed. She brought the champagne bottle toward the first officer. The bottle shattered against the side of Avak’s head. Blood flowed down the side of his face. He slumped forward onto the yoke. Tasha turned her attention to Adrine, grabbing her wrist and holding the gun above her head. 

A bullet pierced the ceiling of the fuselage. Tasha twisted Adrine’s wrist at a painful angle, eliciting a strong groan from the pilot. Tasha landed several blows on her wrist causing her to lose her hold on the Glock 19. Tasha swung at her assailant again. This time towards her face. Adrine anticipated Tasha’s move and weaved to the side, avoiding the blow. 

Tasha lunged at Adrine, grabbed both of her arms, and pushed her against the cockpit door. 

Adrine threw a punch at Tasha. She quickly reacted and shifted her head to the left, dodging the blow. Adrine’s knuckles cracked against the hard wood paneling. She uttered several profanities and threw another punch. Tasha caught her fist and kicked her in the stomach.

Douglas grabbed Jason’s jacket and pulled him off of him. He threw him against one of the passenger chairs before grappling his arms and hurling him against the top of the Jet. The gun in Jason’s pocket clattered across the airplane’s floor. Jason slid down to the floor and lay in a heap. Disorientated and in pain. The stab wound to his side throbbed and was beginning to bleed again. Doulas hurled another punch at Jason. Jason, anticipating his move, blocked it and rolled to the side. 

Jason kicked his leg out, striking Douglas’ chest. The older gentlemen stumbled back. Grimacing, Jason struggled to his feet. He tackled Douglas against the bar, pinning him against the wooden console. Douglas reached across the wet bar and retrieved another champagne bottle. He smashed it against Jason’s face. Blood poured from a gash on his forehead, partially blocking his vision. Desperation drove Jason’s every move. He yanked Douglas’s shirt collar and slammed him against the plane’s side. Douglas fought back and shoved Jason off of him. Douglas lunged toward Jason and slammed into him. They flipped over several passenger seats. 

Jason stood up and swung once more at Douglas but he grabbed her arm, flinging him over her shoulder onto the floor. Jason shook it off and struggled to his feet. He brought his leg to Douglas’ chest but the seasoned bodyguard blocked it. The two men struggled across the cabin.

Adrine shoved Tasha into a passenger seat and climbed on top of her. She brought her hands to her shoulders and pinned her down. Her nails dug into Tasha’s skin. Tasha butted her in the head causing her to loosen her grip on her. Tasha leaped from the chair to Adrine’s right thigh. She placed her hands on her shoulders and swung around Adrine’s back before grappling her left arm. Flipping over she sent Adrine flying to the floor. 

Adrine spotted a gun, Avak’s Glock 17, a few inches away from her. She quickly snatched it with her right hand and pointed it at Tasha as she lay on the floor. Tasha grabbed Adrine’s arm and flipped over her to the right, pulling the pilot to her feet. Tasha struck her in the stomach before wrapping her right arm around her right leg. She leaned forward with all her weight sending Adrine to her back and the gun slipping from her hand. They both dove for it. Adrine got there first. Tasha desperately clawed at her hand as she struggled to point the gun away from her. A gunshot reverberated through the cabin. The bullet struck the wet bar, slicing through a mahogany cabinet. Another gunshot. The bullet seared across Tasha’s cheek. The wound burned, but she didn’t have time to acknowledge it.

Jason, startled by the gunshots, looked over at Tasha, checking to see if she was alright. Adrine and Tasha’s forms came into view. He saw them ferociously fighting for the gun. His eyes caught Tasha’s. He could tell just like him she was beginning to lose ground.

Sparks danced across Jason’s vision as Douglas’ fist met his face but he forced himself to stay on his feet. He hurled another punch. Douglas blocked him with his forearm.

Adrine struck Tasha on top of the head. She could feel her grip starting to slip on the gun. Adrine sensed her growing weakness and yanked the gun away. She then rammed it toward Tasha’s face. She ducked, avoiding the gun’s cold muzzle. Tasha threw herself at Adrine and knocked her backward. They tumbled over a paneled table, Tasha landing on top of Adrine’s chest. Her fingers closed around the gun, but then Adrine punched upwards, hitting Tasha in the ribs. A knot of pain spread across her stomach. She fell backward but recovered just as Adrine leaped to his feet. 

Tasha reached again for the gun. Adrine pulled back, trying to wrest it from her grasp, and aimed at Tasha’s heart. Adrine squeezed the trigger, just as Tasha slammed her hand sideways, knocking her aim to the left. A series of bullets smashed through several of the plane’s windows. Sending a torrent of wind rushing through the cabin. 


Daron stirred. His eyes slowly blinked open. Blurred letters and numbers greeted him from the instrument panel. He sat back in his seat, disoriented and confused. A series of gunshots ringed in his ear bringing back to him recently transpired events. His heart pounded in his chest. He dreadingly looked behind him and saw Douglas and Adrine fighting with the NSA agents. He couldn’t tell who was winning or losing. All that mattered was getting the plane in the air. 

He shakily stood from his seat and rushed to the pilot seat. After placing Adrine’s gun in his lap, he brought his hand to the thrust levers and pushed them forward to “TOGA.” The engines roared to life and the jet began to taxi down the runway.


Jason struck Douglas’ jaw, catching him off guard and forcing him off balance. He tackled Douglas to the floor and started delivering several punches to his face, his anger fueling the force each hit carried. Doulas managed to reverse the position and started hammering at Jason. Jason planted his knee into Douglas’ midsection before grabbing his wrists and throwing him against the wet bar. Jason wrapped his hands around his neck and started bashing his head against the wooden bar, incapacitating the older gentleman.

Jason straightened himself up and located his gun. He raced over to the middle of the jet where Tasha and Adrine were fighting. Jason brought the gun barrel to Adrine’s head, knocking her out. He extended his hand to Tasha and helped her off the floor. “You good?”

“I’ll be good after I get off this darn plane.”

The sound of the engines roaring to life flooded the passenger cabin. Tasha and Jason felt the jet roll forward.

‘Oh crap,” Tasha frustratingly exclaimed. Jason and Tasha raced to the cockpit and found Daron at the pilot seat. Jason and Tasha lunged at him, one from either side. Daron jumped from his seat and aimed his gun. Jason reached Daron first but was greeted with a gun aimed at his chest.

Daron fired. The bullet lodged in Jason’s lower left abdomen. His hand opened and he dropped his gun. For a split second, the pain was slow in coming. Once it hit, however, it was like a tidal wave. He felt the warm sticky flow of blood erupt from his side and he keeled over to the floor.

“No!! Jason!” Tasha screamed out, momentarily forgetting or rather ignoring their covers. There was no time to process what had happened or rush to Jason’s side. The sight of him lying on the cockpit floor shook her. Coming into the NSA she knew she would see the worst side of people and probably lose some of her closest co-workers. If she was honest with herself it was why she distanced herself from people. It was why she took extra precautions on the field. Seeing the worst side of people she could tolerate, losing those she cared about, or worse was responsible for, was not an option for her. She had seniority on this mission, its success along with her and Jason’s safety was her ultimate responsibility. 

I’m not failing, thought Tasha. No matter what it takes. Tasha grabbed Daron’s right arm and extended it behind his back, trying to disarm him. Daron hit her with his other hand knocking her off balance against the center pedestal. She caught a glimpse of Daron moving on her left and reacted almost on instinct, swinging around to punch him in the face. Tasha kneed him in the chest, followed by a kick to his head, disarming him.

Daron locked Tasha’s right arm with his left and hurled them against the side of the jet. Daron pinned Tasha against the wall, pressing his right forearm on her throat. Tasha bit down on Daron’s left arm. He let out a pained groan and let go. 

The plane continued to pick up speed as it sped down the runway. The sound of the wind rattling outside drowned out the occurring struggle in the cockpit. Tasha pushed against him, pressing them into the middle of the cockpit. Tasha grabbed both of Daron’s shoulders and flipped over around his right arm. The sudden move brought him to his knees.

Tasha kicked her leg out and brought it to Daron’s head. Reacting quickly he latched onto her foot and pulled forward. Tasha slammed onto her back. Daron climbed on top of her and angrily grasped at her arms as he tried to pin them down. Tasha grappled Daron’s right foot and rolled to her right. Daron found himself on his back with Tasha above him.

Warnings and alarms rang through the cockpit. The plane had exceeded V1, the speed where takeoff could no longer be safely aborted. Daron desperately glanced at the control stick. He cursed under his breath. No one was there to pull it back and time was of the essence.

He summoned every ounce of strength he had and flung Tasha off of him. Daron had nearly reached the control stick when he felt two hands resting on his shoulders. Tasha whipped her legs around Daron’s back and wrapped them around the front of his neck. She delivered several blows to the top of his head before grappling him to the floor. A swift kick met Daron’s face, knocking him out. 

Tasha rushed over to Jason and knelt by his side. Jason felt a hand rest on his shoulder.

“Tasha?” Jason asked.

Tasha breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, it’s me.”

Jason struggled to sit up as he held his hand tightly to his side. Several pained groans escaped his lips.

“Don’t sit up.” Tasha protested. “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“I’m fine,” Jason grimaced. “I think it’s just a flesh wound.”

The jet suddenly jolted forward as it careened off the tarmac, sending Tasha and Jason stumbling forward. Another series of alarms blared in the cockpit. Tasha stood up and saw the plane had overshot the runway. A few hundred feet away she spotted a metal fence behind which was a wooded area. Tasha’s blood ran cold. It was clear they were going to crash.

“We have to move to the back of the plane. We’re going to crash!” 

Jason’s eyes widened as he heard Tasha’s announcement. Tasha draped Jason’s arm across her shoulder and helped him to his feet. 

The two of them reached the passenger cabin and huddled by the door to Dalmar’s compartment. Tasha and Jason clung to one another trying to offer the other some sense of comfort. Jason offered up a silent prayer, fervently praying that God would protect them.

The next few seconds felt like an eternity. 

The plane slammed into the metal fence and careened into the towering forest beyond. The force of the impact shot Tasha and Jason back through the plane. Jason’s head crashed against one of the jet’s windows, nearly knocking him unconscious. Deafening sounds of metal crushing, bending, and twisting enveloped the jet’s passengers. The plane’s rudder and ailerons were torn off as the plane sliced through the trees.

Slowly the jet crawled to a stop. The heavy stench of fuel leaking overwhelmed Tasha and Jason. Fire burst out from the fuel tank and ignited the foliage. The intensity of the heat grew with every passing moment.

Tasha turned to Jason and saw him slumped against the compartment wall.“Jason!” She frantically shook him, “JASON!!! We have to get out of here!!”

Tasha wrapped Jason’s arm around her shoulder and helped him to his feet. Jason struggled to stand on his own. His resolve was unbroken. He turned from her to the compartment door and threw all his weight against it. “What are you doing?!” Tasha demanded.

“I’m not leaving without Dalmar.” Jason rammed his shoulder against the door again. 

“Jason, listen to me.” Tasha pleaded. “I want to bring him in as much as you do but we don’t have time! The plane is going to go up any minute!!!”

“Well, then I better hurry.” Jason backed up a few steps and hurled himself at the door again. It gave way crashing into the room. 

Jason and Tasha spotted Dalmar lying face down on the wool carpet, a gash to his head. Heavy smoke billowed into the room overwhelming Tasha and Jason.

“Hand me…” Tasha coughed, “hand me the handcuffs.” Jason reached into his back pocket and placed them in Tasha’s hand.

After Tasha placed the handcuffs around Dalmar’s wrists, she and Jason dragged his body through the broken fiery fuselage. Both of them were filled with relief as they reached the jet door. Tasha and Jason, carrying an unconscious Dalmar, climbed down the airstair. Once on the ground, they ran as fast as they could away from the burning wreckage.

A fireball surged through the entire jet causing the whole fuselage to be engulfed in flames. In the early morning sky, the raging fire illuminated Tasha and Jason’s faces like a giant bonfire. The two of them could only look back in horror at the blazing inferno from which they’d barely escaped. 

Sirens sounded in the distance. Tasha and Jason turned in its direction and saw a row of squad cars and SWAT team vans coming towards them. Their hellish nightmare was coming to an end. 

Jason felt himself become lightheaded and became increasingly aware of the extreme amount of pain shooting throughout his entire body. All the adrenaline which he relied upon to see him through this ordeal was gone. He felt his legs give way as he collapsed to the grass. Above him, he could see Tasha’s blurred face. He could barely hear her quiet and slightly fearful voice. “Stay with me, Jason. Help is almost here. I’ve got you. You’ll be okay.” 


Glossman awoke to the sound of chittering birdsong and the merry voices of young children from next door. The lamp atop his desk cast its flickering light on the Webster Development firm papers littered across his desk which he had spent the night peeling over. He lifted his face from the wooden desk and shifted back in his leather chair, his body stiff and rigid. His once-crisp gray suit was wrinkled beyond belief and his tie in rumpled disarray from sleeping bent over the desk.

Glossman lifted himself from his seat with some effort, his body giving all manner of protests. In the kitchen, he poured himself a cup of coffee that had been made sometime late last night and took a giant gulp in an attempt to wake himself up. Being met with a cold and bitter taste in his mouth he spat the drink out and poured the remainder down the drain. 

The coffee wasn’t the only thing unbearable around here. The town of Odyssey itself was quite unsettling. The absence of blaring sirens or revving engines, honking of cars or the clamoring shouts of Wall Street was something he would never get used to or even understand. The general quietness of Odyssey haunted him at every turn. Not to mention the saccharine sweetness and ostentatious friendliness of its residents. Everywhere he went he was greeted with a cheery “Good day” or even worse “Howdy.” How could a question be a greeting anyway? 

His three months in this real-life Mayberry had been almost unbearable. Sure it had been somewhat satisfying to see the small-brained yokels of Odyssey falling for his act. His farce of jolly smiles, holding cute babies, and slapping of backs had apparently been convincing enough for him to win a seat on the Odyssey town council. Something which had been much to the delight of the doctor. Still, he couldn’t imagine why Blackgaard was so set on acquiring an old run-down building. What was left standing of the Fillmore Recreation Center was hardly impressive or even historic for that matter. However, it wasn’t his place to question Dr. Blackgaard’s intentions. Only a fool would do so.

He made his way back to his desk and eyed his phone. It had been a few days since he’d reached out to Dr. Blackgaard. He’d been putting off calling him for a while. Whether he had good or bad news to deliver each of his calls with his “employer” left him feeling unnerved. Despite his reservations, he knew he couldn’t delay reaching out to Dr. Blackgaard any longer. Everything was in place to present the Webster Development Firm’s offer to purchase the Fillmore Recreation Center before the town council. One he was certain would be approved. He couldn’t imagine who would object to such a lucrative deal for the city. 

He sighed and started dialing the familiar number. Words from a marital argument next door filtered into his small apartment.

“Why don’t you ever listen to me Rick? I always tell you to take off your fishing boots when you come into the house and you never do it.”

“Now Lou baby-”

“Don’t you Lou baby me. I’m the one who always has to clean those muddy tracks of yours!”

“And I bring us fish.”

“Yeah, yeah. Which I have to clean and cook!”

Glossman stalked over to his apartment door and swung it open. “Why don’t you be a good husband Rick and take off your shoes or better yet how about you two get a divorce!” he shouted across the hall.

Glossman slammed the door and went back to his desk. Lizzy wanted to live in a town like this. If everything had gone her way they’d probably be the couple across the hall minus the constant bickering. But he wanted to chase the wealth and thrill of the New York stock market and chose that life over a simple one with the woman of his dreams. Now neither Lizzy nor the glory of Wall street was his to hold. He finished dialing the number and anxiously waited for Dr. Blackgaard to answer.

A deep dark voice oozed out of the receiver “Hello Philip.”

“Hello, Dr. Blackgaard.” He swallowed. “I have good news concerning the Fillmore Recreation Center.”


Jason sat in his hospital bed surfing through channels on the TV across from him. The excruciating pain he’d been experiencing the day before was now reduced to a dull ache. A knock sounded on the door.

Jason glanced at the doorway and saw a tall young woman, with doe brown eyes and black raven hair. She gave a friendly smile, “I see you’re enjoying our selection of channels.” 

“I’ve always wanted to know about the intricacies of dung beetle hunting,” Jason joked.

“I’ve heard it can be very intense at times.”

“Only slightly more than the operating room I imagine.”

“Slightly more?” She playfully squinted her eyes and crossed her arms.

Jason held his hands up in mock defeat “Okay, okay. Slightly less than the OR.”

Dr. Karev glanced down at Jason’s chart. “You have quite the sense of humor. Did your parents ever consider naming you Jerry or Dick?”

“They were pretty set on naming me Jason unfortunately.”

“Well, Jason unfortunately,” Amanda teased, “I’m Dr. Amanda Karev.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jason smiled.

Dr. Karven informed Jason of the results of his surgery. “You’ll be happy to know the operation was a complete success. We were able to repair your external oblique and rectus abdominal muscles completely. Fortunately, the blade and the bullet missed any organs or substantial arteries. You’ll experience some discomfort for a little while. But I anticipate you’ll make a full recovery.”

“When can I expect to be discharged?”

“We’ll keep you here for observation for a few days but barring any complications, you should be discharged in about three days.”

“Thank you so much, Dr. Karev.”

“You’re welcome. You also have a visitor.”  Dr. Karev exited the room as Tasha entered.

“No, flowers. I thought visitors always brought a nice cheery bouquet with them” Jason teased.

“Sorry. I gave them to a hot young doctor downstairs,” she returned, playing into his playful banter.


She sat on the edge of Jason’s bed. “It made quite the impression. I wouldn’t be surprised if he asked me out one of these days.”

Tasha and Jason shared a small laugh. “So how are you doing?” Tasha asked, shifting their conversation in a more serious direction.

“I have a dull ache in my side, and my shoulder, but I feel much better than earlier” Jason replied. “How about you? This wasn’t any picnic for you either, you know?”

“I’m mostly just sore and tired.” Tasha tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Knowing Donovan we’ll probably have a few desk jobs for a little while.”

“This may surprise you but that prospect doesn’t fill me with the horror it used to.”

Tasha laughed. Then she turned serious again. “Jason. Thanks for saving my life. I didn’t get to tell you that earlier.”

“It’s the least I could do to make up for everything else. I made so many mistakes on this mission. They may not have cost me this time but they could have. Dalmar could have gotten away. You could have died. And I…I would have had to live with that.”

Tasha shifted closer to Jason on the bed. “Jason, you may have made a few mistakes but please don’t beat up on yourself about it” she reassured him. “Dalmar’s captured. We’re alive. Besides I can’t imagine the pressure you must have been feeling trying to prove yourself and complete this assignment. For your first field assignment, it threw everything at you. I don’t know about Donovan but for what it’s worth I think you’re a good agent. You showed me what you’re made of. Not many agents would have been able to go through what you did. Now you might still have a few reckless tendencies you need to work on…”

“Just a few?” he playfully joked.

Tasha smiled and then continued. “But I think you have a promising career ahead of you.” 

“I appreciate it.”

“I mean every word of it. I just hope this mission hasn’t cured you of your desire to be an agent?”

He shook his head. This had been a harrowing mission no doubt. One he never wished to experience again. But this job, this life as a spy, was what he was born to do. “No, In fact, it makes me want to do this job even more. Seeing a man like Dalmar reminds me that there are men and women out there just like him. People need to be brought to justice. I’m doing something I believe in. Something I feel called to. I don’t think I could stay away if I tried.”

“I’m glad to hear it. The NSA needs more agents like you. Not to mention I like having you as a coworker. Who knows maybe one of these days we’ll be partners again.”

“You really want to be my partner again after all this…not that I’m opposed to the idea. I just thought that-”

Tasha finished his remark, “You’d scared me off?”

Jason chuckled, “Not exactly how I was going to put it but yeah.”

“I’m not perfect either. I may not be as impulsive as you but trust me I make plenty of mistakes myself. Just ask Donovan. Despite our disagreements, I think we work well together. My strengths complement your weaknesses and vice versa.” Tasha shook her head and laughed to herself. “To be honest after all this…I can’t see myself working with anyone else.”

Jason thought for a moment. He thought of how forgiving she was and how lucky he was to call her a friend. Even with their arguments and occasional conflicts, they had a special rapport that he hadn’t shared with anyone else. They had been through so much together and had a bond that they would always share. Jason gave a small smile, “Neither can I.”


One week later:

Rain fell from the sky and dark clouds cast their shadows from overhead. Milena stood next to Lorenzo’s grave. Liana standing silently by her sister’s side. Her hands wrapped around Milena’s shoulders. The funeral had ended an hour before. The pastor, the only other attendee, had long since gone.

Try as she might, Milena couldn’t break away. She wiped away the tears that trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t make sense of it” she choked up. “He was with me. The last time I was here he was with me.” Her mind drifted back to her father’s funeral two months ago. before How much things had changed since then. 

Milena knelt down to the ground, her knees sinking in the wet grass. “I don’t know what to do,” she said somberly. 

Liana crouched down beside her sister. “Lena, I know things are still…” she thought for a moment trying to find the words, “difficult between us…but I was thinking why don’t you come to Budapest with me?”

“Budapest? With you?”

Liana nodded her head. “I think it will do you good to get away from here…from all the memories.”

A rush of wind passed through the trees, rustling their leaves. “Ana I….” she sniffed, “I don’t know. You said it yourself, things are still difficult between us.”

“I’m not saying it’ll be easy. But I…” Milena trailed off as she choked up. Tears brimmed her eyes as she reached into her coat pocket. She pulled out their mother’s old charm bracelet. Milena sobbed as her baby sister held the bracelet out towards her that she’d given her all those years ago. Its little stars still dangled and twinkled away. “I still love you” Liana quietly said. Milena took the bracelet and gently caressed it in her hand.“To Neptune and back…remember?” 

She looked up from the bracelet at her sister. “You kept it? After all this time?”

Liana nodded. “No matter how angry I was, I couldn’t bear to part with it.” She walked closer to her sister and took her hand. “I want what we had then back. I’m willing to try…if you are.”

Milena’s eyes met her sisters. It was clear that they each regretted the past. Reconciliation would not be easy or happen overnight. All that mattered was taking that first step towards finding healing and restoring their relationship.

“I want to try too.”


An armed truck rolled through the Krudian mountainside on its way to ADX Sevan, a supermax prison in the Sevan mountain range. Dalmar glared at his handcuffs and then towards the armed security guards in front and on either side of him. 

The security guard to his left tightened his grip on the electric stunner strapped to his leg. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his forehead. 

A sudden jolt rocked the truck as it came to a sudden stop. At that moment the security guard leaped forward and brought his stunner against his three fellow officers, causing them to slump over to the metal floor. The guard then proceeded to shoot the other officers killing them all. 

The backdoor to the truck swung open revealing a muscular man who judging by his uniform was another security guard. Dalmar assumed he had been driving the truck. Behind him stood a tall male figure. His face was obscured by lengthy shadows. He stepped forward. His cane clicked on the hardened asphalt. The light struck his face allowing his distinct features to come into view. It was Blaackgaard. A wave of relief washed over Dalmar at the sight of his ally. 

“Blackgaard. How…?” he stumbled over his words.

Blackgaard stepped inside the truck and leaned forward on his cane.“My, my isn’t this a fascinating turn of events. There I was not even a month ago the object of your unwarranted derision. How did you phrase it” Blackgaard feigned recollection, “Without your funding, I’d be reduced to a beggar on the street? And here I am now your heralded savior.”

“Blackgaard I realize now my disdain of you was unfounded. I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. But we can still work together. Whatever you need. All the money. All the contacts you desire I can supply them.” He held his hands up drawing attention to his handcuffs, a physical representation of his standing offer. His freedom in exchange for his support.

“That is quite generous of you but I’m afraid it’s an offer I’ll have to refuse. You see, I can’t afford to continue conducting business with a liability such as yourself.”

Blackgaard motioned to the security guard by the truck door, “Take care of it.”

The man stalked toward Dalmar, his gun drawn.

“No, wait!!” Dalmar screamed after Blackgaard. “I CAN HELP YOU!!!”

His screaming plea was silenced as the gun went off.

Blackgaard reached his Mercedes where his personal driver was waiting. The chauffeur opened the passenger door for Regis and then took his place behind the wheel. “The airport sir?” the driver asked.

“Yes, and do try to speed the journey along. I can’t afford to miss this flight.” He glanced at his watch. It read 6:30. His flight to Amsterdam departed at 7:30. The Chairman of the Center of Scientific Understanding wasn’t tolerant of tardiness. Especially that of prospective clients. 

The car drove off. The doors of the armored truck were then shut leaving Dalmar’s bloodied body, along with those of the three murdered guards, in the back. The security guards then made their way to the front of the truck and cranked the ignition. The vehicle roared to life and wound its way toward its scheduled destination. 


Donovan leaned against his oak desk, a phone pressed to his ear. Tasha and Jason stood across from him, their debriefing with Donovan interrupted by the urgent phone call. Donovan listened intently, a blank expression on his face. “Yes, I understand. Thank you for informing me…Good afternoon to you as well.” Donovan sighed as he placed the phone back on its receiver. “Apparently, Dalmar along with three security officers were killed during his transfer to ADX Sevan earlier this morning.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Tasha remarked.

“Is there any idea who’s responsible?” Jason asked.

“The NSS is opening an investigation. There aren’t any suspects as of yet.” 

“Hopefully they catch who’s responsible,” Tasha replied.

Donovan took a seat behind his desk. “Aye, lass. Hopefully. I wouldn’t dwell on it too much if I were you. It’s the NSS’ problem to handle. You did your job and you did it well.”

“Thanks, Donovan” Tasha offered a small smile. Donovan leaned back in his chair “So Jason was your first field assignment everything you dreamed it would be?”

Jason wryly chuckled.“That and then some sir.”

“Aye,” Donovan said as he retrieved a thistle pipe from a holder on his desk. “So are you sure you want to continue with this life? He lit it, brought the pipe to his mouth, and took a puff. “Once you commit there’s no turning back.”

“Believe me I’ve thought long and hard about it and I’m sure this is where I’m supposed to be.” 

“Well, I’m glad to hear it. Now I expect both your reports on my desk by tomorrow morning.” 

Jason blinked.“Tomorrow morning sir?” 

Donovan nodded. “Aye, is that a problem Agent Whittaker.”

“No, no.” Jason backtracked. “Not a problem at all sir.”

“Good.” Donovan turned his attention to Tasha. 

“Before you go Tasha I need to speak with you privately,” Donovan said as he blew a thin stream of gray smoke from his lips. Jason gave Tasha and Donovan each a nod and exited the office.

Tasha knew what was coming. “I have a feeling I know what this is about.” Tasha adjusted the purse on her shoulder.

“Do you now?”  

“‘What was it like having Jason Whitter as my partner?’” Tasha crossed her arms. “It’s not hard to guess.”

“Getting smart with me now are you lass?” Donovan teased her.

Tasha surpassed a grin at his boss’ thick Scottish accent. “More like trying to speed along this conversation.”

“Alright, then I’ll be direct.” He leaned forward and folded his hands together on his desk. “How was Agent Whittaker’s performance on the field and what was your experience as his partner 2362?”

“2362 huh?” Tasha grinned. “Getting serious are we?”

“Agent Forbes,” Donovan slightly chided her.

“Sorry, sir.” Tasha cleared her throat and plastered a serious expression on her face.“Agent Whittaker, 1131, exhibited valuable qualities on the field. He was displayed intelligence, bravery, and proved very resourceful. He also showed some concerning tendencies as he is prone to recklessness and not taking necessary precautions at times.” Tasha paused for a moment and then resumed. The tone of her voice shifted from professional to sincere. “But without him by my side, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be here. Jason saved my life countless times. When everything had gone awry he had a plan, as crazy as it was, to catch Dalmar. Most importantly he showed a willingness to learn and grow from mistakes. He may be a maverick at times but he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. He admits when he’s wrong and he apologies. I admire that about him. And that’s more than I can say about most other agents in this department.”

Donovan nodded his head deep in thought. Tasha’s response had affected him when he least expected and given him something to ponder. Donovan’s hardened look softened as did his voice. “Well, get out of here and make sure to get some rest, lass.”

Tasha imitated his boss’ prominent Scottish lilt. “Aye, sir.”

Outside Donovan’s office, Tasha found Jason anxiously waiting. “I assume Donovan wanted to know about my performance on the field.”

Tasha played coy. “Perhaps?” Tasha walked down the hall, through the row of cubicles, to the elevator. She pressed the down button.

“And?” Jason eagerly inquired. The elevator doors opened.

Tasha stifled a laugh. She had no idea why Jason was so nervous yet found the sight adorable. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” she said as she lightly patted his shoulder.

Jason cracked a smile and the two of them loaded into the elevator. Tasha pressed the “1” button.

“Do you have anything planned for your day off?” Jason asked.

“You mean besides finishing my report for Donovan?”

“That was what I had in mind.”

“A new issue of the Journal of Applied Microbiology was just released. There’s an article detailing vasopressin and oxytocin secretion by microorganisms. I’ve been looking forward to it since it was announced a few weeks ago. If you want I can loan you an edition or two.”

“I’ll get back to you on that one.”

“Mm-hmm.”The elevator doors opened. Jason and Tasha stepped into the bustling lobby. “So what are your plans for today?”

“Ever see Raiders of the Lost Ark?”

“Love that movie.” Jason gave her a surprised look. “Why so surprised? I told you I enjoyed all film genres.”

“Yeah…I just thought it wouldn’t be…” Jason trailed off. “Never mind.”

“I think a lot of things about me would surprise you.”

“Good to know.”

The automatic doors swung open to the parking lot outside. Tasha bid Jason goodbye.“See you around 1131.” 

Jason smirked. 1131…it fit him. The past week had been the most trying time of his life. His physical and mental strength had been pushed to its limits and he had come out on top.  He was officially an NSA field agent. A number, not a name. 

“I’ll hold you to it 2362,” Jason gave a boyish grin.

Tasha smiled back at him and walked to her car. Jason glanced around taking in the buildings and sprawling complex of Fort Meade. His eyes rested on the door to the NSA headquarters building. A feeling of gratefulness and profound duty enveloped him. Yup, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

And so this story has finally come to an end. Thank you so much for the support and kind reviews! Every single one means so much to us and added lots more joy to this experience.

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