DAMIEN WYNTER WIPED the blood off his lower lip with the back of his right hand and looked up at the towering tank of a Russian that stood over him. Across the rugged, narrow wash, cluttered with small boulders, rocks, and sage-brush and scrawny, dried-out shrubs, lay the glittering prize that both men sought.
A long, black, burnt furrow had gouged the rocky terrain, continuing for several hundred yards. At the end of it lay the scattered silvery remains of a UFO. It had crashed, the pilot attempting to slow the craft and stop, but it had failed to do so before the ship had smacked into a cluster of boulders.
“Go back to your own country. You have lost this round, Mr. Majic,” growled the Russian with a smirk on his thin lips. Yuri Ogenysky had been an enforcer with the KGB before the downfall of Communism. Close to sixty years of age, his bear-like body was still hard and strong. He was square-jawed with silver, combed-back hair and glittering dark brown eyes. Ogenysky clenched and unclenched his massive hands.
Wynter’s pale blue eyes glittered with resilience and anger. He’d come too far, tracked down too many clues to let the artifact be taken away by a belligerent, egotistical man like Ogenysky. Like a rattler, he struck. He rolled onto his back and swung his legs up, delivering a sledgehammer blow to the Russian’s groin.
Yuri gagged, bent slightly and staggered back but wasn’t as crippled as Wynter had hoped. At least he’d bought himself some time to bring out what he needed.
The Russian straightened up and took a step forward. Yuri’s eyes flashed. “That wasn’t nice. Now I have to rough you up, as they say, so that you learn how to act when you meet your betters.” He reached for the baton that was strapped to the wide brown belt around his waist. It also held a holster and sheathed hunting knife.
Suddenly the ground around them erupted with spurts of dust kicking up. The roar of an engine made both men stop and turn. A cloud of dust trailed the racing old jeep as it rumbled its way down the gully. Inside the jeep were a half dozen armed men, their AK-47s firing as the vehicle bounced closer.
Both men dove aside and clambered for cover among the scattered rocks and boulders. Damien drew his SIG Sauer 229 automatic from the holster strapped to his thigh. Damn it to hell.
“I call truce until we take care of these thieves,” yelled Yuri. Pulling out his own automatic from its holster, he fired at the jeep.
“Agreed.” A bullet ricocheted off the boulder. Wynter ducked, but he still felt a sharp sting. He wiped his cheek, only to find blood on his finger. A chip had scraped his cheek. He peeked out, took aim and fired three rapid shots. One of the men fell off the jeep.
The jeep skidded to a stop and the five remaining men jumped out, firing wildly. Yuri fired two shots. Another of the attackers hit the ground and lay still.
Damien looked across at Yuri. “Drug runners or militia?” he yelled.
“I don’t care.”
“We can’t let them get the technology,” said Wynter.
“Agreed. If it comes to that, I have some C4 and a detonator in my pack.”
A hail of bullets hit the rocks. Wynter and the Russian poked their automatics out and fired several rapid shots. There was a yell. The firing ceased. Wynter peered quickly around the boulder. The men had taken positions behind the jeep. Another body lay maybe twelve feet away, an AK-47 still in the man’s grasp.
Yuri reached over and gripped the assault rifle. The AK-47 was not known for its accuracy, but it did provide some seriously needed firepower. Yuri checked the magazine, which still held ten rounds. He jammed it back into the gun.
Wynter popped his magazine and jammed in a fresh one. “How many spare mags have you got?”
“Two more, after this one is spent.” Yuri raised the AK-47 slightly.
“We can’t drag this out. They may have re-enforcements coming.”
“Cover me.” He tossed the rifle to Wynter. “I’ll plant the device. It is a shame to lose it, but the last thing we need is those pigs getting this and selling it.”
“Count to three, then run.” Wynter took a deep breath, then flew across the narrow clearing to where Yuri was, firing as he went. Yuri took off, scampering further down the gully. He darted around scattered rocks and brush before heading back to where the saucer debris was.
The Russian could hear the rapid fire of the automatic rifles and the responding rat-a-tat-tat of the AK-47, then Wynter’s automatic. Reaching the saucer, he took out the explosive and stuck it onto the remaining housing. Glancing down, he saw part of the anti-gravity fuel propulsion container. There was a crack in it and a thin trail of thick silver liquid, like mercury, trailed away. Yuri took out a small plastic container from his vest pocket and took a sample.
“YURI! I CAN’T HOLD THEM OFF MUCH LONGER!” yelled Wynter.
The Russian stabbed the detonator into the plastique and clicked the timer. He dashed back, firing his automatic. “We need to clear the area.”
Wynter fired again. A hail of bullets pummelled the boulder as the Russian slid home. “We have to run through them.”
Wynter cocked an eyebrow. “This is crazy.”
“You only die once,” said Yuri. He smiled crookedly. Both men reloaded.
“On two,” said the Russian.
A bellowing yell and both men charged the jeep, firing their guns. One of the men, a swarthy-faced individual with a thick black beard, popped up and fell back, a bullet hole between his eyes. Wynter swiftly rose up and fired a couple of shots. He ducked and sprinted from behind the vehicle and ran down the gully, diving behind a cluster of boulders to his right.
Yuri ran to the left and killed two more men as they turned. He felt a hot impact across his thigh that stung like a bee. He’d been hit, but it didn’t slow him down. He ran on, and leaped behind the boulders as Wynter covered him.
A huge blast shook the ground. The jeep flew into the air, the remaining gunmen were flung back like rag dolls and crashed against the hard earth. A volcano of flames, rock and dirt shot upward. Wynter and Ogenysky felt themselves picked up and flung back. A breath of hot wind flashed down the gully. Then it was over.
Wynter groaned. He rolled over and picked himself up. He was covered in dust. He coughed and wiped his face. Several feet away lay the Russian.
The jeep and men who’d attacked them had been within the blast radius. They were nothing more than charred pieces of meat. A crater smoked where the craft had been. It would’ve been nice to get some of the super coolant. They were still trying to analyze its composition. It was the one part that was missing from being able to get the electromagnetic engine to work.
A sudden thought occurred to Wynter. He went back to the Russian. Yuri was unconscious. Wynter checked the man’s pockets and discovered a small plastic vial filled with some thick, silvery liquid. The sonofabitch had found some of the super-coolant and taken a sample. Wynter pocketed the vial and clambered up the wall of the gully.
Over the rise was his vehicle. He’d flown into Kazakhstan and landed at a base used by the US military. Presenting his orders to the CO, he’d been given an unmarked black, 2009 Land Rover and drove over the border. An extraction team was waiting for his signal. It’d be good to get home. His trip, it seemed, hadn’t been a total loss. Suddenly he felt a sharp smack from behind. Blackness flashed before his eyes and he fell to the ground.
Yuri stood looking down at his competition. “Nice try, Wynter.” He bent over and retrieved the vial. “The truce is over, comrade.” The big Russian laughed.
Wynter groaned and rolled over. His eyes blinked.
“This is coming with me.” Yuri flashed the vial, then shoved it into the pocket of his canvas pants.
Damien grinned and whipped out a flat metallic case, sort of like a cigarette case, from his jacket pocket. He aimed it at Ogenysky and pressed a circular button on top. The end pointed towards Yuri flashed blue, and suddenly the Russian straightened up and went into convulsions. The device, like a taser, shot a bolt of electricity at him. The smell of ozone, sweat and urine filled the air as the giant Russian crashed to the ground. He convulsed again, and lay still.
“Damn, guess I had the juice turned up too high. My bad.” Damien picked himself off and brushed off the dust from his brown leather flight jacket, khaki shirt and blue jeans, then strode over and took the vial from Yuri’s pocket for the second time. He placed it carefully in his backpack before turning his attention to the Russian. He strode over to the still body. He reached down and felt the pulse. Weak, but steady. He checked Yuri’s pockets and removed his gun, a GSH 18 automatic. The gun, developed in the late 90’s, held eighteen 9mm rounds in the magazine.
Wynter considered disassembling the gun and throwing the parts away, but finally settled for unloading it and throwing the magazine in one direction and the chamber round in another before he tossed the gun into the brush. Wynter also found a cell phone, which he dropped on the ground and, with a well-placed boot heel, smashed it until pieces lay scattered around. Then he then clambered up the arroyo and walked back to his jeep that sat in the shade of a huge outcropping. Parked nearby. Wynter saw a Toyota SUV. Obviously, Yuri’s vehicle.
“I really shouldn’t be a total bastard about this,” said Damien to himself. He looked around. A man could die out here in this barren wilderness or be hunted down by thieves or renegade militia, but at the same time, he couldn’t afford any more delays or have the Russian contacting any of his playmates. He popped the hood of Yuri’s car and jerked out the spark plug wires.
Damien took off the backpack and placed it on the passenger seat of the Land Rover, then clambered into the driver’s seat. He buckled himself in and put the key into the ignition. The engine roared to life and he turned the vehicle around, spitting dust into the air as he drove off down the makeshift trail.