Dent frowned, her eyes darting back and forth as she read the screen before her huddled within the cramped cabin of the boat. “I seem to be picking up something here.” She said as she pushed the controls to the left guiding the RUGRAT further below the freighter.
“Whatever it is, you need to find it fast gal.” Walters quipped as he stood in the doorway his hands sitting motionless at the controls. “I’m not sure how long we’ve got before those spooks up there on the deck tell us to buzz the hell off.”
They were drifting through the rain churned harbor in a space of open water midway between the barge and the Chinese freighter. Already Walters could see army personnel onboard taking notice of his craft. Two guards stood seeming to discuss what to do about his presence along the railway towards the back of the ship closest to his boat.
“It’s faint.” Dent said as she wormed the craft along the harbor floor. “It’s not like what I saw two days ago, that’s for sure.”
“Faint like how?” Walters asked stooping down to get a look at what she was seeing.
"Faint like some sort of residual radiation.” She answered. “It’s almost lost in the normal background noise that we pick up on our scans everyday.”
Walters rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he reviewed the graph. “It’s not like CT cargo or any other sort of medical equipment, that’s for damned sure.” He muttered.
“No.” Dent replied. “If they had a consignment of CTA machines in their hold as Homeland Security thought they did then we’d have picked up a signal a long time ago. I’m trying to locate the spike I’m picking up right now.”
With a groan Walters stood rubbing his back as he did. “Well, I figure we’ve got about five minutes max before they run us out of here so look quickly. I’m not in the mood to get my ass fired or written up for pissing off the federal government at this particular point in my career.”
Dent didn’t answer. Instead she continued to drive the robot along the base of the hull looking for any anomalies as the signal grew stronger. Suddenly, she saw something. “There!” She said tapping the screen with her finger.
“What?” Walters asked still rubbing his back as he looked down into the cabin.
“I don’t know.” Dent replied shaking her head. “It’s some kind of protrusion on the hull.”
Walters stopped massaging his spine for a moment and cocked his head in confusion. “Is it natural or unnatural kiddo?”
“Unnatural.” Dent shot back watching the picture on the monitor before her and trying to figure out what it was that she was looking at.
Walters ducked into the cabin again to get a look at the screen.
The image beamed back to their boat from the RUGRAT’s onboard camera seemed to show some kind of cage welded onto the bottom of the Chinese vessel. Long supporting beams painted bright yellow clung to the ship’s underbelly surrounded by metal grating. The enclosure currently sat vacant but whatever was once inside had left enough residual radiation to be picked up by the robots instruments.
“Well I’ll be damned!” The older man exclaimed thumping Dent on the shoulder. “You’ve done gone and found yourself a smuggling compartment kiddo. I saw plenty of these when I was working dock security out in the Gulf. The Mexican drug cartels would use these suckers to sneak drugs into the country all the time!”
Dent’s brow creased. “I don’t think this one was being used for drugs.” She said seriously.
* * * * *
Wahab rushed down the concrete platform as he watched Nizar disappear down a side tunnel to the right. Having spent as much time as he had exploring these sewers he knew that it was bad. The pipe that carried his commander away slopped downward at a 25 degree angle diverting rainwater rapidly into a confusing array of chambers and tubes far beneath the city.
If the man were driven by the currents into the labyrinth that he was now headed towards Wahab knew that there would be no finding him. The only hope then would be to somehow follow the radioactive signal of the bomb and hope that neither had fallen down one of the great shafts which dumped runoff deeper into the earth. There were over 11,000 miles of pipe running beneath this city at countless different levels.
Rather than follow directly, Wahab leapt across the tunnel where Nizar had been swept choosing instead to go back in the direction from which they’d come. As he did he barely caught the edge of the opposing catwalk. Struggling to pull himself up he heard the rest of the men shouting as they disappeared around the corner behind him still in pursuit of their leader.
They were fools he thought as he rushed towards the jet skis. Jumping off the ledge and straddling one, he cut where it was tied off and fired up the engine. Wahab was a tiny little resourceful man with a tangled mass of brown hair atop his high forehead and he knew that if he was to have any hope of catching Nizar he would need the speed of its motor to get to him.
Opening the throttle as far as it would go Wahab sped through the length of the sewer turning hard down where he’d seen his commander carried. As he rounded the corner his wake cast a huge plume of water up onto the wall with the force of the maneuver. The depth was shallower here as it spread itself thin in the decent through the tube. The bottom of his craft skidded along the bottom occasionally as he rocketed down its sloping expanse.
Soon he could once again see the head mounted light of Nizar bobbing along wildly before him. As he closed the distance between himself and the man Wahab noticed a point far ahead where the water seemed to drop out of sight. He knew he didn’t have much time to act. Wahab maneuvered the craft pulling up as close as he could get in the roaring unpredictable currents and motioned for Nizar to grab a hold of his outstretched hand.
Nizar tried to latch on but with his other hand he held fast to the rope that was attached to the bomb. Without a free arm to steady himself his grasp flayed violently as his body was churned in the waters. “Damn!” He spat as the jet ski suddenly veered away from him bumping into the wall and giving off a shower of sparks.
Wahab called down to him as he repositioned the craft “You must let go of the rope!” He said nodding forward as he motioned towards the drop off they were coming up on. “Hurry!”
Nizar saw it. The pit was dangerously close now. Too close to stop on time. Reflexively he let go just as the device tumbled over the edge grabbing onto Wahab’s outstretched hand using both of his own.
Is one fluid motion Wahab pulled his commander out of the current banking the craft hard into the wall to avoid falling over the looming precipice. The Jet Ski collided with a heavy thump throwing him into the handrails of the catwalk. Wahab grabbed on using all his might to hold Nizar above the lip of the crater as best he could. The vehicle tumbled wildly away beneath them giving off a fiery explosion as the fuel tank ruptured on something far below.
Lifting Nizar up onto the edge of the catwalk they both stood looking down into the hole before them. Somewhere down there, the bomb was lost.
* * * * *
Hearing the distant explosion Karam dropped into the darkness of the sewers running below the UN building and crept forward cautiously, his gun drawn. Above him, the Israeli was ordering the members of his team to stand up their threat awareness levels and notify their commander of the escalated situation. Once again, he felt pleased with himself for ordering his own men to follow the Jews. If they saw the Israeli’s scrambling then they would respond likewise without his direction. The Arab didn’t have time right now for official communications.
His boots crunching over the spent shells littering the catwalk, Karam stalked down its length moving closer towards the injured man. He could see him lying inert several feet away, his crumpled body cast in the glow from his own head mounted lamp. It didn’t appear to Karam that he was armed but still the Palestinian kept the barrel of his weapon pointed at the figure, his trigger cocked.
“If you have a weapon then I order you to throw it over the side.” Karam said sternly. “I will still be able to kill you before you can kill me.”
With a low groan the man rolled over onto his side revealing the butt of a rifle protruding from a harness around his back. Seeing the weapon the Palestinian quickly rushed forward covering the distance between them before he’d had a chance to draw it. His knee came down hard on the man’s back as Karam knelt and ripped the AK-47 out of its holster throwing it over the edge of the walkway into the water’s below.
“What are you doing here?” He snarled, jamming his gun into the back of the man’s head.
“Please!” The man shouted trying to grab a hold of the spot where he’d been shot to stop the bleeding.
The Jew’s bullet had hit him in the lower back tearing out a huge chunk of flesh near the spot where Karam’s knee kept him pinned to the floor. It would be a fatal wound if the man didn’t get immediate medical attention Karam thought to himself pressing down harder. There wasn’t much time to ask questions if they were to take this infiltrator alive.
"Tell me why you are here?” Karam growled letting up the pressure just long enough to flip his body over and wave the gun in his face. “If you don’t you’ll die!”
Wincing in pain the man looked up at him through eyes that were filling with tears. “Kill me.” He rasped.
The Palestinian turned the gun around, cracking the heavy butt of the pistol across the man’s mouth. “Why are you here?” He repeated.
The man choked on his own blood grinning up a Karam. “We are all dead.” He wheezed. “It doesn’t matter anyway. Everything you see will be engulfed in fire soon.”
“What does that mean you son of a bitch?” Karam spat giving the man’s mouth another blow.
The man simply laughed.
Karam was about to strike him again when Tabor called down to him from the top of the hole. “Is everything under control or do you need me to help beat the living shit out of him?” He asked preparing to come down.
"Stay up there.” The Palestinian answered grabbing the man by the collar and lifting him onto his back. “I need you to help me get this bastard up the ladder so we can take him to a medical facility.”
“Oh.” Tabor said scrambling back up the steps. “Did you already have all the fun?”
“No.” Karam replied. “He’s dying. I want him alive to help us find the men who are trying to destroy our peace.”