I posted part 1 of the first chapter the other day, so be sure to check that out as well (reading one without the other won’t make a difference though). This book is a sci-fi thriller. No, there is really no way to tell this is a sci-fi book from the first chapter, but I don’t have a problem with that. The first chapter is a thriller and is used to establish one of the protagonists. Again, comments, suggestions, and criticism all welcome! Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Journey of the Kings – King’s Series, Book I
Part One – Earth
Chapter One – The Agent
Following Yasef Masam was the easy part. Seth had been studying the man’s habits for a few weeks. The markets of Damascus had been mostly unchanged for the last few hundred years. Crowded and noisy with hagglers, tailing someone with a daily routine was basic agency training. Langley taught them how to disappear in the open, and Seth mastered that task a week into training. He may have been the youngest recruit, but he was definitely the smartest. He wasn’t the most physically demanding specimen, but that didn’t matter. He had proven that there was no situation he couldn’t think his way out of. If thinking his way out of the situation failed, he certainly knew how to kill his way out.
Yasef turned left at the dealer hawking live chickens on the corner. The same place he turned everyday. Seth had to wave off the carpet dealer that had no customers. There were few things in the world more annoying a Muslim marketeers. Business must have been slow if the man wanted to talk to the one person clearly not there to buy anything.
Turning the corner about twenty seconds after Yasef, Seth saw him heading for the stairs about forty yards away. Today was going to be different for both of their routines. For the last few weeks Seth never had followed him up those stairs. There were too many locals in the hallways of the run-down apartment complex that they led to. The complex housed a darker crowd that might notice him if he entered.
Unfortunately, he had no more time to tail him. He knew that Yasef was a lower ranking member in the Syrian Freedom Group, but he never seemed to lead Seth to any higher ranking members within the organization. The group likely organized much like Al Qaeda did before the US destroyed them. No single layer of ranking led directly to the other. It was a safer, if less efficient way to conduct business. It was time for Seth to find out who Yasef reported to. Maybe then he could at least move to someone a little farther up the food chain.
Seth held back a little bit, but never let Yasef out of his sight. He went up the stairs about ten seconds after the Syrian, but immediately slowed when he saw a group of shady looking locals gathered. They all stopped talking and looked right at him. Seth had grown out his beard and had gotten a considerable tan, to the point where he would easily blend into the local scene of Algeria or Morocco. He hoped it would be enough for this part of the Syrian city. Much of his career with the CIA had been spent undercover in the Middle East or India, so looking the part was usually not a problem. Any Westerner would never suspect that he was actually an American.
He knew he might encounter people such as this today, so he dressed in trashy clothing and rubbed some dirt on his arms and face earlier in the day. He needed to look like he belonged. If these guys were thieves, he didn’t want them thinking he had anything to offer. Apparently they came to that very conclusion, because they quickly resumed their conversation. As he passed by he overheard them talking about a policeman that had been killed the night before. They were speaking in Arabic, but Seth had spoken the language fluently since he was nineteen. He figured these men had something to do with the death, but he was not going to stick around to ask. He saw Yasef head up the stairs at the end of the narrow hallway to the right. He needed to speed up a bit.
He was too far behind. By the time he got to the next floor Yasef had already disappeared into one of the small apartments. Seth figured that he would have only had time to get into one of the first three doors. Any other day would have proven harder to figure out which door he went in, but there had been a small sand storm the previous night and there was only one door in which the sand in front was disturbed. Seth approached the second door and listened. He heard a chair being moved and knocked.
Less than five seconds later the door opened. No wonder this guy was so low ranking in the organization. He didn’t even check to see if there was any danger lurking outside before he opened the door. Seth was inside the tiny apartment before Yasef knew there was any danger. He had him on the floor and the door closed less than two seconds after entry. Yasef would have screamed for help if not for the silenced .22 caliber pointed in his left eye. Seth quickly scanned the place and noticed only one other exit; a small window that probably dropped to a back alley behind the complex.
In Arabic Seth said, “Say a word and it will be your last. Stay quiet and answer my questions and I will be gone in three minutes.” Yasef looked at him with terror in his face, but quickly nodded his agreement to the demands. Seth took about thirty seconds to tie the Syrian to the chair with the para-cord he had hidden under his tunic.
“Okay. I’ll make this quick. Who is your contact within the SFG?” Seth knew he what the response would be.
“I do not know,” Yasef said. Seth knew he didn’t know. None of them knew the other members. Sure, they may see each other at a drop every now and then, but other than that, for all they knew, their coworkers and neighbors were also members of the terrorist group. It was meant to be that way. Their organizational structure made it incredibly hard to wipe them out. If one member was captured, they couldn’t give up more than one other person.
Seth had to show some anger or the guy wouldn’t believe his threats. He pushed the chair and Yasef over on his left side. Yasef hit the floor with a loud thud, but to his credit, didn’t utter a word of complaint.
“Where do you receive your orders?” Seth didn’t need to know exactly who the person was, just where they would be and when.
Yasef didn’t want to give up this information. He said nothing. Seth didn’t have the patience for this so he put the gun barrel against Yasef’s leg, the one pressed against the floor, and pressed it into his femur. Yasef still didn’t answer. The sound of a silenced small caliber pistol shot filled the room and Yasef screamed out in agony. Seth had to hurry in case someone heard the scream.
“I will not ask again. If you want me to leave this place with you still breathing, tell me where you get your orders,” Seth pressed the barrel into the new wound, causing Yasef to wince in extreme pain. Tears were rolling down his dirt stained face. Poor kid, thought Seth. He was probably recruited from the streets and given this opportunity because he had no other. He didn’t look a day older than twenty. Such was the desperation of the area, Seth thought. He knew that until poverty was eradicated from the area, there would always be people like Yasef to recruit.
“I pick up messages from a man every Tuesday,” Yasef mumbled pathetically, “right after mid-day prayer in front of the new coffee shop near the market entrance.” He knew that even if he made it out of the apartment alive that they would kill him when they discovered he had divulged this information. It was only Wednesday, so he thought that maybe he could get his leg fixed and get out of the country before they knew what he had done.
Seth had everything he needed. It was not much, but he had more information than he did four minutes before. The only way he knew to infiltrate the SFG was the start low and move up the chain of command. Picking off the lower ranks like Yasef would be easy, but it would certainly get harder as he moved up.
Seth got up before the blood pooling under Yasef’s leg could reach him. He didn’t want to draw attention to himself by having fresh blood on his clothing as he walked back through the hallways. He untied the young man and tore off part of a shirt nearby on the floor and told Yasef to wrap it around his leg to stop the bleeding.
“Thank you, Yasef,” Seth said. As the Syrian began to wrap his leg, Seth took a few steps towards the door, angled himself a bit for a clear shot, aimed at Yasef’s head and pulled the trigger. His body fell with a small thud. He was already on the ground so he didn’t have far to fall. Seth walked out the front door and back down the stairs, past the hallway thieves, and into the market. He had six days to figure out how he would approach his next target.