Prologue – Six months earlier –There’s no time like the present
“Ling, we gotta go. We have to get out of here! Can you stand?” asked JAC.
Ling was having trouble staying focused or comprehending much of anything. As the mental fog began to lift, words started to make sense again. Responding however was another matter. It was only after several minutes and with a great deal of struggle that words could be formed.
Ling finally questioned, “Where am I? And now that I think about it, when am I?”
JAC realized that Ling was still weak and in no condition to move under her own power.
“I can see you need a few minutes to gather yourself. You must understand the diversion will only last a few minutes and then the guards will return. You probably should have answers to get your thinking de-fogged, but time is of the essence, Ling. I can explain later when we have more time. Right now, we gotta go.”
Ling was lying on the table and rolled her head to the right in order to orient herself to the surroundings. It was an oppressive room with a stink of neglect and disuse.
“You are already too late,” asserted Ling. “There is a video camera just over the door. They must know already of the escape attempt. You should make your way alone. I can just barely move my head and you look like you’re ready for a marathon. Thanks for trying, whoever you are.”
JAC was frustrated with Ling’s attitude, but advised her, “We knew there would be a camera inside this area and right now we are feeding a video loop through it that still shows you lying on the table with the narcotic drip feed stuck in your arm. We expected that your muscles might have atrophied after this length of time, so I gave you a shot of B-complex with an adrenaline boost as a chaser to help get you amped up. With what I shot into you, it wouldn’t surprise me if you wanted to run down to the beach for a ten kilometer swim. By the way we are one hundred kilometers from the beach.
“How are you feeling now, Ling? Can you stand? We gotta go.”
Ling smiled then responded more coherently, “Now I know who you are. You are JAC, aren’t you? Why would you come to rescue me and Grasshopper?”
JAC’s smile quickly turned to a solemn dark look as she apologized, “Ling, I’m sorry about your assistant. They must not have valued him the way they did you. They saw to it that Grasshopper did not make it this far.”
Ling now was awash with remorse at the loss of Grasshopper and with guilt at having survived by the whim of her abductors. Her resolve to get up melted.
Ling’s voice cracked, “Then my fate is here and I shall follow behind my dear Grasshopper. All I see ahead now is emptiness, and I don’t want to face it without his strength.”
JAC’s eyes now flared from her temper, which was escalating to fury as she commanded, “Soldier! Colonel! I gave you an order! You will stand up and you will follow me out of here so we BOTH don’t suffer the same fate as Grasshopper! Maybe you should understand that they tortured him before they killed him. I am giving you a chance to escape and extract revenge from your abductors! Don’t you want to get even? Don’t you want to live for Grasshopper, so they can pay for their crimes? Don’t you owe that to Grasshopper?”
Ling began to feel the adrenaline boost kick in and the goading from JAC about revenge ignited a storm inside her. Ling swung one leg down and then the other, which gave her the momentum to sit up on the side of the table. Her eyes now burned with hatred for those responsible.
Ling stared into JAC’s eyes and responded in crisp military fashion, “Colonel Ling Po reporting for duty as commanded, sir! Get me out of here!”
JAC smiled knowingly and placed Ling’s arm around her neck to assist as she stood to walk. They moved slowly and carefully towards an opening in the floor that allowed them to then drop into the underground drain/sewer systems which snaked below the structure. The underground system lead to a shallow river. Going with the current they finally located an area that was flat enough to make it up onto dry land. Ling’s strength was almost all gone, but she grinned from ear to ear at their good fortune. JAC flashed a light signal into the dark, and a signal was returned. Shortly after, they were taken on board a craft and placed under cover as it moved downstream.
Ling used the last of her strength to ask, “What happened to my original escape plans? How did I end up here? Who was it that had me?”
JAC marshaled her features as she solemnly conveyed, “As far as we can tell, it looks like someone among the exit personnel compromised the operation and sold you out to Chairman Lo Chang. You have been here for months. We got a snippet about your location from the Internet chatter and staged this exit strategy. Now all we have to do is find a new place for you to operate from and a new identity.”
Ling Po smiled as she said, “Thanks for getting me to go. Making me move was not easy. I will trust you for now.”
Having spent all her physical and emotional energy, Ling dropped off to sleep while the boat made its way down river to freedom.
The fight to perfect battlefield communications may prove lethal in Breakfield and Burkey's third installment of their techno-thriller series (The Enigma Rising, 2014, etc.). In this novel, various entities struggle to create new, successful tactical communications systems.
A failed field exercise by the Chinese, for instance, results in implanted chips burning soldiers' skin. However, when Texas A&M professor Su Lin succeeds in inserting monitoring chips into a pig, a number of different organizations take notice, including information-services organization R-Group. Otto, the son of one of R-Group's founders, sends two employees, Jacob and Petra, to talk to the professor before a "three letter [government] agency" can. However, there are two Muslim terrorists, wanted by Interpol, who are also interested in the technology. The terrorists grab defense contractor Keith Avery and subcontractor Eilla-Zan "EZ" Marshall, who have information about the chips, and R-Group must find them before the terrorists can launch an electronic assault. As in previous books, Breakfield and Burkey infuse the narrative with technological jargon that's intelligent but accessible. This time around, however, they've amped up the suspense, as R-Group has very little time to find Keith and EZ. There's also considerably more humor in this third outing, including a number of tongue-in-cheek acronyms (such as Su Lin's "Polymorphic Operational Programing of Technology to Aggregate Recurring Temporal Synergies," or "POPTARTs"). In one scene, government agent Arletta Krumhunter gets a reluctant ops team to do a job with the promise of Slim Jims and beef jerky, and in others, Su Lin's pig is shown to have just as much personality as his human counterparts. The authors continue their run of stellar villains with the returning Chairman Lo Chang, but they also add wonderfully unpredictable characters with unclear motivations. The solid ending could either stand alone or serve as a lead-in to a potential sequel.
A solid espionage thriller that adds more tension and lightheartedness to the series.