The snow melts off the car as Jason books it through the fields of the Twin Volcanoes. The impending frostbite being pushed back as the stifling heat penetrates his clothing and mask. The heat feels good. Real good. His body’s able to inhale more air and his focus is returning in leaps and bounds. He sees both volcanoes standing in all their glory. Waiting to erupt and blot out the sun even further with potent, gray smoke.
Guess things are about to blow up, huh? Jason thinks as he rides passed them toward the castle. He looks at his watch. Three hours. He thinks. I can make it.
He grabs the steering wheel with both hands and one thought enters his mind. Rather, it speaks to him in the voice of Kurt Cavanaugh, his former commanding officer, very short but very powerful. Watch out for Mr. Stealth.
Jason drives on, not knowing what may lie ahead.
The sun shines brightly in the sky over the Cracked Sea, the way the it usually shines, right before it starts to wane. The castle stands in all its aged glory, holding its ground before the unforgiving crashes of the waves. It is now 16:45, just two hours and fifteen minutes before the wedding starts, and Neither Jason Maccavelli, the most important aspect nor Lila, carrying the second most important aspect (the diamond) are present. And that’s fine, at least, according to Mr. Stealth, who’s very aware of the present location of the two. He paces back and forth with anticipation, hoping for Maccavelli’s return so that he can test his skills as a soldier. In fact, Mr. Stealth has something very special planned for Jason should he arrive here on schedule. Something special indeed.
He looks toward the sun as it struggles to shine through the clouds, as if it’s trying to will itself through and prevail over a type of obstacle. A battle. Even the sun admires your persistence, Mr. Maccavelli. Mr. Stealth thinks. As do I.
“Black Storm, this is Black Leopard calling. Black Storm, do you read?”
“Lila, I mean, Black Leopard. Black Storm here, what’s up?”
“You got eyes on the target?”
“Maccavelli?” Black Storm asks. “Yeah, he’s just passing the Twin Volcanoes, going about eighty, maybe eighty-five miles an hour. Why?”
“I think Mr. Stealth wants us to do it now.” Lila a.k.a Black Leopard says. “We have just over two hours so this little operation needs to be quick. Contact Swift and have him wait at the pass.”
“Copy.” Black Storm says. “Boss must like this one a whole lot, to call an operation for him.”
“Judging by how he handles himself, I can see why.” Black Storm pauses. “He seems like one helluva soldier.”
“That’s what I told the boss.”
“Aight Leopard,” Black Storm says, “Swift’ll be waiting at the pass at 18:00. That should be enough time.”
“We’ll make it work.” Lila says. “See ya on the other end.”
The transmission ends and Black Storm switches channels, “Swift? You alive, my boy? Swift!”
“Yeah Reg? What’s up?”
“Get your lazy ass up, we got a little job.”
“Who, that Maccavelli guy?”
“Hmph!” Swift scoffs. “Don’t see what’s so special about him that boss likes. I was scaling mountains way faster when I was a rook.”
“You been sleeping too long, man.” Black Storm chuckles. “The guy’s got DGX, and you know what that means.”
“Right.” Swift chuckles. “His time is coming. Well, when you put it like that, I guess he’s pretty impressive. Not many can hold out with a load of DGX in the system.”
“Exactly,” Black Storm agrees, “Some say the DGX kills some off in a couple weeks, some last a month or two, very few a year and some change.” Storm pauses. “But this guy, he’s lasted his whole career. Fourteen years.”
“Whoa!” Swift says. “You mean that Maccavelli?”
“Who’d the hell you’d think I meant?”
“Holy shit!” Swift laughs. “If that’s the case, I gotta see this guy myself! I’m waiting at the pass, right?”
“Yhup. All yours.” Storm chuckles. “Just try not to get carried away, he does have a wedding to attend.”
“Well, that all depends on him now doesn’t it.” Swift is wide awake now. “If he’s as skilled as everyone says, then he should be able to get pass little ole me.”
“Well, you say that,” Black Storm sighs, “Just don’t get your ass kicked too bad, aight?”
“You betting on this Maccavelli guy, Storm?” Swift sounds fake offended. “I’m hurt, I thought we were buddies.”
“You at the pass yet?”
“Yeah, I’m about ten minutes from it and twenty minutes ahead of Maccavelli. I should be meeting him real soon.”
“Aight my boy,” Black Storm says, “Kick some ass.”
“You know it.”
The Transmission ends and Swift drives confidently toward the pass to meet Jason for a little one-on-one. Alright Maccavelli, Swift thinks, Let’s see if you’re really one helluva soldier.
Jason’s car is smoldering hot. If it gets any hotter he’d be in Satan’s corner office. He takes off the mask, rolls the windows all the way down, goes into the back seat and puts his pack and the suit on the floor to prevent their falling out. He drives recklessly across the bridge that passes between the Twin Volcanoes. The bridge zigzags for a long stretch then straightens out at the end. Nothing but gallons of magma being turned to lava surrounds him, he has to be careful of its Barbeque time to the umpteenth power. His body is loose and relaxed, his eyes are at ease (perhaps a little too at ease), his knees are cooperating and for a brief moment everything seems to be in order…but wait, what’s that? In the distance. It looks like another car but that’s impossible, Jason’s the only operative that’s supposed to be in this territory. He looks on and tries to concentrate but the heatwaves are obscuring his vision. Who the hell is that? Jason thinks. No, it can’t be. Ah, but it is. As Jason gets a little closer (not too much but just enough to see the general shape and color of the vehicle) he recognizes the vehicle. A black Jeep Cherokee with the messenger God Hermes in black painted all over it. Its driving in the same direction as Jason is, toward the pass that leads from the Twin Volcanoes to the Castle by the Cracked Sea. Jason Slows down a bit and maintains his distance. He reaches into the glove compartment and pulls out a pair of binoculars he hasn’t used in five years. He glances at the lenses and cleans them with his sleeve. He blows off the dust from the part you put your eyes and looks through them. Yhup, not doubt about it. That’s Swift alright! One of Mr. Stealth’s top guns. Shit. Jason thinks as he looks at the time. 17:45, an hour and fifteen minutes before the wedding (and if he can’t manage to get passed Swift, and hour and fifteen minutes before Lisa puts her foot up his ass).
“Fuck it.” Jason says to himself as he picks up speed, driving toward the pass, “Guess I’ll have to kick his ass before the wedding.”
He drives on to face Swift in a long overdue one-on-one battle.
Swift gets to he pass right at the start of the bridge and parks his jeep. He gets out, slams the door and pulls out a lighter and cigarette. He cups the lighter and lights that bad boy up and takes a long and satisfying drag to wake himself up. He looks into the distance and sees an object moving toward him. A vehicle. An all black military-grade Audi coupe with automatic adjustable tires and rims. Yhup. That’s Maccavelli alright, the cocky bastard. Thinking he’s so cool in his Audi coupe the commander gave him for his promotion. Swift chuckles to himself and takes another long (and somewhat less satisfying) drag of his cigarette.
“C’mon here, you cocky bastard.” Swift says as Jason’s car gets closer. “You bested me in the past but that was a different time. I was a different person.” He takes another drag of his cigarette. “Let’s see how much you’ve changed over the years. And I don’t wanna hear about that DGX when my gun’s at your throat.”
Swift takes one more drag as Jason is but a few hundred feet away, “No more games Maccavelli.” Swift throws the butt away. “This ends now.”
Jason sees Swift parked in front of the bridge in the distance, and, as he gets closer, he makes calculations. Risky calculations. He understands now why his body is giving out on him and has come up with at least some idea of how much time he has left until he completely gives out. He also understands that getting in a fight with Swift wouldn’t be the best thing at the moment. In fact, it’d be a very bad thing for him. Swift and Jason have always been competitors, ever since they were rookies in the Black Ops. Jason had been an ordinary soldier before he’d been recommended and Swift had been a lieutenant. The fact a regular soldier got the same opportunity as him bothered Swift, so he figured he’s embarrass Jason a bit, you know, kick his ass a little. Or a lot. But, when Jason proved to be exceptional, even better than Swift, Swift has been doggedly pursuing Jason ever since. Jason was well aware of all this, however, it didn’t concern him. He had a job to do then like he has now, and petty squabbles and rivalries are unbecoming of professionals. And as if DGX isn’t unbecoming enough, now he has to fight someone who’s almost as good as him in top form while he, Jason Maccavelli, fourteen year Black Ops operative on his last mission about to retire, is semiconscious in an Audi coupe driving at a hundred miles an hour with no sign of slowing down. Fuck that, Jason thought, he had a better idea.
He was now a couple hundred feet from Swift and closing in, he reached into his pocket and took out a cellphone. He dialed a number, and called a certain someone. Someone who’s almost solely responsible for the mission he’s in right now and explained his situation. The call lasted for a few seconds as Jason did the talking and the one on the other end did the listening. Jason hung up, put the phone back in his pocket and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands.
Swift has excellent vision, almost as good as an eagles when its high in the sky. But, he didn’t need that vision to see that Jason was closing in fast and had no intentions of slowing down. So, that’s how you wanna play it. Swift thinks. Well, I got just the thing. He goes into the back of his jeep and pulls out a missile launcher, already loaded. He goes on one knee and aims then waits patiently for the precise moment Jason can’t swerve at the last second.
“I was hoping for a one-on-one but,” He pauses as he adjusts his shoulders to make the launcher more comfortable, “since you got somewhere to be, I won’t stand in your way. In fact, I’ll help you get there, nice and quick.”
Jason and Swift stared each other in the eyes from hundreds of feet away but one could swear they were inches away, like two UFC fighters at the weight test a couple weeks before, trying to intimidate each other. Neither budge. Then, when Jason’s Audi gets within three hundred feet, at that exact moment, Swift fires the missile with an expressionless face and it goes like an Amtrak at Mach speed toward the Audi.
Jason, at the very last second, when the missile is within twenty feet of his Audi, swerves and drives toward the cliff. He doesn’t stop, not for a second, as the Audi drives clean off and begins to plummet into the Cracked Sea.
Swift, though he has a good poker face that’s relatively expressionless, is bewildered. Flabbergasted. The missile, on the other hand, just keeps going. It isn’t a homing missile, which is while Swift had to be so calculated in firing it. Usually, the missile would drive him nuts if it missed, but this time, it didn’t bother him at all. He walked over to the cliff and looked into the abyss that is the Cracked Sea. No sign of the Audi, no splash, no signs of a body surface. As if nothing happened at all.
Swift’s face remained expressionless but, on the inside, he’s still bewildered. Bazaar that such an exceptional soldier would choose to go out in a pathetic way. Swift went to his jeep, took out his radio and called it in. He told Lila, Black Storm, and Mr. Stealth what happened. None of them seemed surprised.
The time now is 18:30, just thirty minutes before the wedding. The guests started arriving an hour ago, Lisa’s parents among them. Lisa’s parents are administrative officers within the Black Ops. Her father, Albert Arbitrage Pratt, is the senator of the Metropolis by the Cracked Sea. He’s done some very. . .shady and underhanded things to attain his position and million-dollar paychecks but nothing too crazy as experimenting on dead soldiers. Sure, he’s funded (and is still funding) the experiments, but he takes no part in them nor does he possess any information on them. The less he knows, the better. Linda Spinoza-Pratt, on the other hand, possesses such information. She’s an administrative officer directly associated with the Black Ops. She coordinates and manages the money her husband gives and ensures it goes untraced to the proper channels. Usually, if such an event as a wedding involving her daughter were taking place, she would know who Lisa was marrying with utmost certainty. But, since Lisa is her own woman and a commanding officer in the Black Ops, Linda has no access to that information (and its fitting she doesn’t, she taught Lisa herself).
The wedding room is fabulous beyond compare. It looks like the inside of any church, except for the extravagant Sistine Chapel on the ceiling, the shining chandeliers, the newly acquired Organ, the exceptionally clean red carpet, and the heavenly white drapes and tapestries flowing gorgeously in the breeze as it blows softly, awaiting the sun to retire and let the moon shine. The seats are cushioned with red, satin pillows and the alter is creatively done with a custom painting of two people holding hands and kissing, sealing the glorious (some call it that) fate of holy matrimony.
Lisa, on the other hand, is standing in her room, looking at herself in her wedding dress. Her face is the way it’s supposed to be. Just the right amount of makeup, mascara, and foundation (to cover up the crows feet). Her blonde hair flows down to her back in gorgeous curls, her eyes shine a radiant green/hazel, her lips a luscious red and her figure intoxicating to the eyes. She takes a deep breath and tries to make herself less intimidating, more womanly, more friendly (she didn’t want the person marrying her to feel forced, especially when in essence, he was).
Suddenly, a presence disturbs her musings as she starts to get the hang of the womanly, friendly persona. It’s Mr. Stealth.
“What is it?” She asks.
“It seems Mr. Maccavelli couldn’t make it.”
“Is that so?” Lisa says rather than asks. “I guess I know where my foot is going after this. Get the replacement. The wedding goes on.”
Mr. Stealth leaves.
Oh, Jason. Lisa thinks. You really are an exceptional soldier.
It’s time. The wedding begins at 18:00 sharp, not a minute later. The guest take their seats, the groomsmen and bridesmaids take their places. One groomsmen holds the diamond Lila acquired from Jason earlier in his hands, encased in a small, suede, black box. Lisa’s parents and other Lieutenants, Generals, and administrative bosses sit in the front row. Other family such as distant relatives sit in the second and third rows, and random friends and family of those people sit in all the others. The place looked like a packed sermon rather than a wedding, but that didn’t matter. Everything would go as planned, with or without Jason. The replacement, who look almost like Jason, comes from the back and down the aisle. He walks confidently in his rented tuxedo, like he’s actually getting married and takes his place on the alter. Lisa’s parents know immediately this isn’t the man their daughter is marrying, she’s been raised to have better tastes. Far better tastes. Now, her parents don’t mind her marrying a soldier, not at all, but, if she’s going to marry a soldier, at least marry the best and most exceptional. Nothing less would be tolerated. Lisa is well aware of this fact, and her parents know she is. They’ll be sure to have a talk with Lisa after the festivities.
The Organist, band, and composer, take their places. Lisa’s father gets up and runs toward the back through the right exit and intercepts Lisa to walk her down the aisle. A blunder that would’ve been had he not remembered. They walk together without a word toward the entrance in back of the room and the music begins to play. Lisa and her father walk down the aisle, taking their sweet time. When Lisa is within inches of the alter, her and her father part ways and she goes by herself, meeting the imitation of the man she was really supposed to be marrying.
The pastor begins his sermon to unite the two in holy matrimony, it lasts for about ten to fifteen minutes and then they say their vows. Lisa’s are poetic, dreamy and touching in all the right places, reminding all the older people in the audience that love still exists and is still worth fighting for. The replacement’s vows are entirely scripted and rehearsed. The front row can tell that immediately, however, the other rows are completely taken in. He speaks with such elegance and grace, leaving the audience spellbound. As he’s been ordered to. To the untrained eye, it looks like these two are really in love. Then, the big question.
“Do you, Lisa Pratt, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I do.” Lisa responds just as friendly and womanly as she had when she looked herself in the mirror.
“And do you, Jason Maccavelli, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
Before the replacement could get the word out, a loud, clicking sound permeates through the hall and everyone looks back in unison. A figure walks through the dark and steps into the light. He’s tall, about six foot three. He wears a black tuxedo that’s been tailored to his physique. He walks with an air of professionalism. He walks as if he’s exceptional, and he is. He looks to be in the best shape of his life, not a sign of disease or affliction in sight. His hair is parted on one side and combed to the left, he’s clean-shaven and well groomed. He commands the room with his presence as he makes his way to the alter. His face is expressionless yet friendly. Strong but gentle. His eyes are a dreamy, steel blue. A perfect fit to play James Bond. The replacement nods at him and he nods back. The replacement steps back into the line of groomsmen as the newcomer takes his place as Lisa’s rightful husband.
The pastor asks the question again, “Do you, Lisa Pratt, take this an to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I do.” She says with sincerity.
“And do you, Jason Maccavelli, take Lisa Pratt to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
Jason took a deep, looked out at the crowd, Lisa’s parents have a look of approval on their faces as if to say “this is more like it. Excellent choice!” He looks at Mr. Stealth in the corner and Lila in her bridesmaids dress, then he looks at Lisa. Those radiant green/hazel eyes staring back at him. And suddenly, he realizes why. Why him, why this mission, and why the wedding. And, without further suspense, Jason says those two words. . .