It turns out that I didn’t watch TV. After getting into my pajamas, I just set my alarm and crawled into bed. I was awoken by John knocking on the door. “Hey, Nate,” he said. “Supper’s here.”
I muttered something and got out of bed. I realized that I was actually hungry. Luckily, there in the living room area on one of the tables, was several silver serving trays. “Well,” I said, as I took off the ornate silver tray, “I feel underdressed.”
“As I said before,” Bai said, “he’s trying to buy you.”
“Or maybe he’s just making sure we don’t get suspicious before he tosses us in the garbage,” I said. “It has happened to me before.”
“Dude,” John said, “he’s already spent a huge amount of money. Kind of doubt that he’d just leave us to die.”
“You’re right,” I admitted, as I began to cut into my steak. “Sorry. I guess I am still a little bitter. Ignore me.” I made it easier by shutting up. I also ate much more slowly than usually, and not because I was savoring the excellent food. I mean, it was excellent, but I was too jet-lagged and bitter to care.
I noticed that Bai and John were having a much better time. Bai even laughed at one of John’s jokes. Still, I couldn’t get into the conversation, no matter how much I wished I could. I wished Eliza had come. I wished I had never taken UNIX’s offer. I wished I could get a decent night’s sleep. Seriously, I hadn’t had a sleep without nightmares since Hell Semester ended.
Finally, I managed to finish my steak and potato. “Hey, guys,” I said, “I’m going to sleep. See you in the morning.”
“See you, I guess,” John said. He seemed worried about me. Couldn’t blame him. I had been able to keep things together when I had visited my parent’s house during Christmas break, and had mostly been able to work myself to sleep. However, there were a few times when I had woken up screaming, and apparently I had been tossing and turning a lot.
When I got to the bed, I fell into it, not even bothering to get under the covers. “Soft and fluffy…” I murmured. This was a good bed. It’d probably be easy to get to sleep in it.
Turns out, it wasn’t. Twice, I woke up from nightmares I couldn’t remember. I woke up once more, convinced that someone, couldn’t remember who or what, was coming. It was a few minutes before I realized that my G-3, my SIG, and my Berretta were back on the plane. It took me even longer to realize that no one was actually coming.
I looked at the clock. It was 4:30. The plane left at 7:30. I debated getting back to sleep, then decided against it. “Fuck it,” I said. “No way I can get sleep tonight.” Besides, we had to be out the door by 6:30 to get to the plane. Instead, I decided to write a letter to my parents and my sister. Or maybe just to whoever found it on my body if we all died in North Korea. At the time, I figured, why not? After all, I was pretty much packed.
However, that was hard. I honestly did not know what to say to them. I had never really talked to them that much and Hell Semester had made the differences between us grow even huger. Also, what could I say to some asshole who had shot me?
Around five, I quickly made sure I had everything together and I went down to breakfast. When I got down, I saw the restaurant was closed. Instead of eating, like I wanted to, I sat down on one of the couches and turned on the TV to the news. The first thing I found was a BBC report about how the Bundeswehr, with support from local militia, capes, US Marines and the French Foreign Legion were engaging the Grenzefrontier (the Nazis who had run to space) in vicious fighting in and around Stuttgart. If I recalled correctly, that was only two to three hours by car from where I was. No wonder the people around here were so worried. Combined with the fact that the Nazis had death rays, and I was surprised people weren’t panicking.
Disturbingly, as if the invading Nazis from space weren’t enough, Russia was building up troops on its European borders. Their claim was that they wanted to “engage in peacekeeping,” but the Germans (as well as most of the nations between the two countries) didn’t trust the Russians. The Russian Prime Minister, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly hawkish.
Back home, the Virginia and North Carolina National Guards had mobilized to combat an invasion of Grenzefrontier backed by anti-government militias. However, it turned out that not all the militias had wanted to rebel, and a few black and Hispanic gangs had felt understandably threatened by Nazis rising up. What that meant was, in the forty eight hours before the National Guard could organize, and much of the five days it took for Congress to authorize the Army to be deployed on US soil, a hodge-podge of natural enemies came together. Some notable groups included some Bloods and Crips who flew in from Compton, some local Neo-Confederate and Soverign Citizen groups, and a Mexican street gang from Richmond that was obviously concerned about the recent upswing in white supremacist groups.
Miracle of miracles, they somehow all became coordinated. The results were beautiful. A female BBC reporter was talking to a group consisting of a black Washington gang and, Neo-Confederates, and what the BBC called “other Americans who inexplicably possess assault weapons.”
“So, we was bein’ shot up by these Nazis, right?” the leader of the street gang said, beginning a long rant that the BBC struggled to censor. “I mean, we’re pinned. They got guns that were ****ing bigger than I was. Then these white-**** mother****s roll up in pick-ups, and we all thinking, ‘shit, this is it, man.’ Then they open fire on the Nazis. When they were done, one of them was all like, ‘You **** hunting Nazis?’ and I was like, ‘Hell yeah, mother****, we huntin’ Nazis!’ We been kicking Nazi **** like it was 1945 ever since.”
While this group was restoring my faith in humanity, John and Bai came down. “Ok,” John said, “I may be a little tired, but that looks like a black guy is trying to get a BBC reporter and a Neo-Confederate to have a rap battle.”
“It is,” I said, “and it is fucking glorious. Anyway, after the battle is done, do you want to have some breakfast? The hotel café should be open by then.”
We had a quick breakfast and were on the plane five minutes before the doors closed. For the rest of the journey, we would hear occasional reports of the war. The Grenzefrontier expedition in South America had come to a bloody standstill, and after a few daring raids on the CIA, the Pentagon, and the NSA headquarters, their otherwise embarrassing show in the US came to an end. They then shifted all their efforts to the German theater.
This did not make the Russian Prime Minister cease his drive to get in on the action. Every time we stopped, the news showed that it was looking more and more likely that he would deploy forces into Germany… whether the rest of the world liked it or not.
All the horrible news made flying worse. Trust me, when you are flying commercial, after a few hours it starts to become miserable. Finally, it was mostly just Bai, John, the flight crew and me. This was in Tehran. It had taken us several days to get there, due to all the stops, but we could finally head straight to a city in China called Yantai. After assuring Bai we would tell her all about our Korean adventure and collecting our luggage, we called a number that the President had given us from a payphone.
“Who is this?” a Jamaican voice asked us from over the phone, suspicion evident.
“Collier One and Collier Two reporting for duty,” I said.
The Jamaican guy on the other end laughed. “I got’cha mon. I’m sendin’ a friend over right now. You know him. Wait out by the front entrance and he’ll be pickin’ you up.” He then hung up.
We went outside as directed. As we waited, we noticed a white van with blacked out windows was loitering a bit too long. “John…” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, slowly undoing a zipper on the bag that carried his guns, “I see it too.”
I remembered the one good international flight I had. It was on the private jet of Charlotte Blackmoor-Ward, a member of the British aristocracy and one of my friends. It had ended with us getting ambushed outside of TF Green by what I’m pretty sure was the Grenzefrontier. Needless to say, I was worried that they would try again. John was worried also, judging by the fact that he seemed to be loading a pistol.
Meanwhile, I was busy regretting the fact that my weapons were locked in a case. I could have gotten my P229 out in the bathroom, but no, I didn’t. Just when I was considering doing something stupid, a Buick pulled up in front of us. Its blacked-out driver side window rolled down to reveal a familiar face.
“Good to see you, Kyle,” I said. “We might have trouble…”
Kyle Rockford sighed. “Is it a white van with blacked out windows of a Chinese make?” Suddenly, I realized that Kyle had a weird face. There weren’t any distinguishing marks. In fact, it was weird in how non-descript it was. I actually realized it for the first time then, and that was only because here, among so many people with Chinese features, he actually stood out. This helped me to realize that I actually couldn’t say much about him other than that he was built like a quarterback and Caucasian. Maybe also good-looking
I honestly had to believe that this had to have helped him infiltrate the Grenzefrontier’s spy ring at NIU. That, and the fact that he was really good at pretending to be an idiot. He wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, at times he seemed scarily smart.
I was interrupted from the internal monologue by Kyle. “They’re with us. Joseph, Sunny, and Jeong are the guys in the Foton. Now get in before your itchy trigger fingers cause an international incident.”
Kyle popped the trunk and John and I put most of our luggage in it. We kept our weapon cases out. “You better not be taking your highly illegal weapons out,” Kyle said as I took out my P229 from my case.
“The Grenzefrontier ambushed us when we went home over winter break,” I said as I slid a magazine into compact pistol. “Then Richard pulls his bullshit on me within my first week back at school.” I pulled the slide back, chambering a round. “Then I get caught in the middle of a fucking invasion.” I closed the case. “I’m tired of getting caught unawares.”
John nodded in agreement as he finished concealing a Bren 10 pistol. “Exactly. Besides, can you honestly say that you aren’t armed?”
“Ok,” Kyle said, “there might be an MP-7 with a forty-round magazine in the glove compartment. Still, you guys are way too jumpy. Fucking chill, ok?”
Eventually, we came to a parking garage connected to a condo in a nicer area. The van parked right next to us and a large black man with dreads and two Asians got out, one male, one female. Both of the Asians seemed to be shorter than the locals. All of them were wearing blue NIU t-shirts with the University’s shield logo.
“So you’re the famous Killer and Mr. Boring, huh, mon?” the black man with dreads said. “The Entertainer told me quite a bit about you two.” Ah. Eric had been talking me up again.
“Please,” I said, “don’t call me Killer.” I hated the nickname. I had gotten it during Hell Semester because I had gotten the first kill in an event called Fight Night. If I was honest, Fight Night had been the point of no return for me. “It kind of brings back bad memories.”
“I know the feeling,” the one female said. She had Asiatic features, but she had dyed her hair blond. She held out her hand out. “My name is Sunny.” She had an odd accent. I had heard Japanese accents, and had hung out a lot with Bai and her brother so I knew what Chinese accents sounded like.
“Hi, I’m Nate,” I said. “Do you come from our destination?”
The other Asian, a somewhat skeletal little dude with slicked back hair like a 1950’s Greaser, said, “Yep. We’re your local guides, man. I’m Jeong, and this big guy is Joseph.” He shifted and I noticed that he had an AKMS under his leather jacket.
“Let’s get your stuff inside,” Kyle said. “I’m a little creeped out by being out here. Don’t want a cop to roll up while we’re carrying all this ordinance.”
“Sure,” John said. “By the way, what is this place?”
“Chinese professor owns this condo, mon,” Joseph said. “Don’t ask if he’s Chinese or if he teaches the language. We don’t know, and he doesn’t want us to know.”
“Ok,” John said. “That’s fair. How much time do we have to prepare?”
“Sorry, mon,” Joseph said. “We got a boat that’ll get us to the destination. It comes tonight.”
“Can we trust these guys?” I asked.
The other four exchanged nervous looks. My shoulders slumped. This was not a good sign.