From his very beginning, man has lived in the sun; worked, played and hunted there. He lived his days in dread of the inevitable fall of night when he would sit, crouched near his fire, watching the shadows and trembling with the knowledge that something there was watching him.
He built cities; great civilizations - but the fear remained.
Now, he looks out into the night from the safety of his home; that ever-present, ancient knowledge trembling within the depths of his soul.
Violent gusts of wind churned through the narrow space between a parked tractor-trailer and decaying cinder block shelter where several parka-clad men worked to deposit the truck’s cargo. For almost two hours now, the four of them had fought the raw Siberian wind and blowing dust in near darkness.
The wind lashed at the workers as they struggled to hoist the last of the cargo from the rear of the trailer. They staggered almost comically for a few tense moments, wrestling to keep the awkward top-heavy crate upright. Alarm in their voices rose and fell with the crate’s teetering movement as powerful gusts rocked it to one side and then the other.
A fifth man, standing inside the now empty trailer, spit a string of curses at the workers in frantic Russian. His face went white when the crate lurched sideways and his voice caught in mid curse as a sudden burst of fear seemed to suck the air from his lungs. He did not breathe again until the workers finally managed to right the crate. Even then, his expression held its pallid look of terror and he grasped the front of his parka as if his heart may have tried to leap out of it.
A short distance behind the truck, a black, military-style Hummer sat parked, almost invisible against the pale gray ghost of a cloudy night sky and swirling dust. The dim lighting from inside the trailer glistened slightly on its shiny hood, though its dark silhouette gave the impression of something menacing lurking in the shadows beyond.
The Hummer’s interior light switched on and the passenger-side window slid down a couple of inches. The single occupant inside peered out from beneath the black fur hood of his parka.
“How much longer?” he asked, not bothering to raise his voice above the howl of the wind.
His companion leaned against the door of the vehicle, arms folded across a massive chest. He towered over the roof of the Hummer like some blond, fairy tale giant. Only a sweatshirt, baggy pants and tennis shoes protected him from the wind’s bitter sting, of which he seemed to take little notice. He watched the workers with an intent, almost child-like, stare.
He cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted toward the shelter, “How long now?”
“Almost finished,” a wind-muffled, Slavic accent yelled back.
The giant turned back to the Hummer, “Almost…”
“I heard him, Klaus.”
The gray-blue eyes peering out from the parka’s hood reflected an unseen smirk before they focused once more on the shelter.
“Excellent,” the Hummer’s passenger breathed. “We’re ahead of schedule.” His eyes narrowed. “Take a good look around you, Klaus. This beautiful piece of God’s earth will soon cease to exist. As if anyone would notice.”
Half an hour passed before the workers emerged again from the shelter. One jogged toward the Hummer, tapped lightly on the passenger window glass and gave a thumb’s up gesture to the man inside.
A subtle hint of pleasure curled at the man’s lips. He pulled a cellular phone from his parka’s side pocket, flipped it open and entered a series of numbers.
“Test pattern Alpha,” he said into the phone.
A moment passed as he waited, phone pressed to his ear, listening, until he smiled again and flipped the phone shut. He slid out of the Hummer into the icy wind and turned to the Russian.
“The link-up is perfect. Well done,” he said as he slipped the cellular phone back into his pocket.
A broad, stupid grin spread across the Russian’s face, but as suddenly as it appeared, it wilted then vanished as the man’s hand re-emerged from the pocket with a silenced Walther in its grasp. The scream of the wind covered the gun’s muted report as it fired and the Russian stumbled backward, eyes wide and mouth gaping.
The flash of the weapon’s discharge caught the attention of the others. For an instant, they each seemed frozen in place until a collective panic sent them scurrying in all directions.
Again, the Walther discharged. Three of the four remaining workers dropped to the ground. Only one managed to scramble behind the old shelter to take cover. The parka-clad man glanced up at his overgrown associate.
“Get him. And make sure the others are dead. Leave them in the shelter with the devices. And this,” he tossed him the gun. “I want to be out of here in half an hour.”
Klaus nodded and disappeared behind the semi. In a few moments he rounded the corner of the shelter dragging a limp body behind him.
His companion flipped open his phone once again and dialed.
“Sir,” he said after a moment. “This is Roger. It’s done.”