The 13th Power
Jason Garrett is enjoying his life as a freelancer, selling his services to newspapers, media outlets, or whoever can pay his price. After years away from the action, an old army buddy gives him a cryptic mission that'll lead him into his past, and the danger of The 13th Power.
The sun peaked through the fluffy white clouds, aiming a ray of light at the world. A sweet scent of morning dew on the grass filled the air as a slight breeze blew across the lake. Over the lake, a falcon flew across the water, hunting for fish near the surface. As a sudden froth of water erupted from the spot the falcon dived to, the impressive bird lunged up and away from the surface, his prey held by razor-sharp claws.
Mornings such as this made all the struggles in the world seem worth it to Jason Garrett. For every ugly thing he’d seen and reported on, these were the mornings that made him feel balanced with the world. As he sat on his deck, steam trailing from his morning coffee, Jason checked his emails and the news. His morning routine took him several years to develop, but every day like this one meant he started his day feeling at peace with the world.
As he read through the news, sipping his coffee, Jason made notes on a pad. In that way, he was old school. Many of his colleagues did all of their work digitally, but Jason felt a sense of security keeping his notes on paper and filing them away for future reference. In the digital world, Jason knew nothing was safe, and keeping important information locked away protected him from being discovered any earlier than necessary.
There was nothing wrong with a healthy amount of paranoia, thought Jason. He would recommend things like, “Don’t sit with your back to an entrance, don’t put sensitive information online, don’t share personal information with newly made friends, and if it seems suspicious, it always is.”
As he looked through the morning news, finding an article about US purchases of middle eastern oil, he silently cringed as he remembered a time when the world started to take notice of what it had done to the planet. In the end, it all came down to one thing, money. The money would keep the industries polluting Earth and the governments together, despite the consequences of their evils. What good was money going to do any of us after the air is so unbreathable we can’t go anywhere without breathers, thought Jason.
Jason finished his second cup of joe before going into the house to shower. He was due at a meeting in the city in a couple of hours and then needed to report to his boss. After two weeks without a check-in, the terms were specific, show up or look for another job. His boss was sometimes a pain in the ass, but Jason enjoyed what he did and didn’t look forward to training a new boss at 40.
Jason had skill as a trader and made a pretty penny on the stock market. He could call the market better than most on Wall Street. It wasn’t his passion, however. He needed more excitement, more adventure in his life. He became an investigator, doing stories for the news that nobody else dared do. He traveled the world, and Jason had a network of contacts that Military Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency would kill to get their hands on.
Jason walked through his house, heading toward the shower. His phone chimed, indicating a face-to-face call. It was from Roger Stevenson, an old war buddy.
Jason’s face went cold. He stared off into the distance as the phone in his hand continued alerting him to the call. He wasn’t there anymore. In his mind, all he could see was Roger and him 16 years ago, in desert fatigues with their M4s at the ready. It was 100 degrees, with all their gear on, and they were searching a village for ISIS fighters. It was his final mission.
After the noise stopped, then started again, Jason finally pressed the accept button.
“Roger, long time no see,” Jason said as he answered. “What’s going on?”
“Look, buddy, I don’t have much time. I’m sending you a package,” explained Roger.
“Package?” Jason could tell something was wrong. “Roger, what’s going on? Where are you?”
“Lisbon,” he replied. “Do you remember that girl you had such a crush on when we were at Pendleton?”
“Yeah, I know the one. Why?”
“It’s going to her address. You’re the only one that knows. You’ll need to intercept it before anyone else can open it,” explained Roger. “And Jason, I’m sorry to drag you into this old buddy. I stumbled into something next level, and it needs finishing. I’m just not going to be able to be the one to finish it.”
“Roger, what are you into?”
Roger’s eyes stared at Jason through the phone and the thousands of miles that separated them. He couldn’t say it over an unsecured line. The screen went black as he heard his friend’s last words.
He pressed the icon on his phone, trying to call Roger back. Jason sat as the phone rang in his ear.
“Come on, dammit, pick up!”
After several tries, Jason threw the phone on his bed. He needed to shower and get into town. He still had the meeting with his boss.
Despite worrying about Roger and his cryptic phone call, Jason showered, dressed, and was out the door and into his Suburban in record time. Driving down the highway, Jason typed a name into his laptop, starting a search. He expected it to take time. It was time he feared he might not have.
Roger sent a package for him to intercept, using a drop address to keep it off the radar. The question was, who’s radar was he trying to keep it off, and why? To find that answer, he’d have to find the old flame.
That should go well, Jason chuckled. It had been 17 years since he spoke to her. How was she going to feel about him coming into her life again? As casual as they left things, she wasn’t happy with him the last time they spoke. Reappearing in her life now could cause problems for her, and he didn’t want that. Jason liked to imagine she found everything in the world she ever wanted.
Pulling into the parking garage at the Tribune, Jason flashed his identification and roared up to the top level. He exited the Suburban with his computer. Walking across the upper deck of the parking garage to the skywalk, Jason entered the tower and took an elevator up to the 21st floor. Once there, he walked into the head of the paper’s office and told his assistant he had an appointment.
“Mr. West will be with you shortly,” his assistant said.
Sitting in the waiting area, Jason opened his laptop and checked the search for his old girlfriend. To his surprise, she moved back to her hometown. That meant the girl and the incoming package were only a few hours away.
“Jason! Get in here,” said Jonas West, opening the door to the office.
Jonas West was an old newsman. He started with the Tribune when he was just in high school, then applied for scholarships to go thru the journalism program at Chicago University. Jonas West knew every department in the Tribune. At different times in his tenure, he’d done every job the Tribune had to offer.
“Have a seat,” said Jonas. “Tell me why I should keep using your services.”
Jason pulled a file out of his briefcase. Jason slid it across the desk, sitting in front of his boss with a cocky look on his face. He finished the story of his career. Reaching up to the desk, Jason poured himself a glass of scotch.
“Jesus,” sighed Jonas. “This is all sourced?”
“One hundred percent,” Jason answered.
“Christ,” said Jonas. “You realize that the FBI will want to talk to you after we print this.”
Jason looked at his boss, a wry grin growing on his face. He was counting on the FBI wanting to hear his side of things. For two months, Jason was embedded in the streets of Chicago, watching as one person after another disappeared. They were all taken from the streets of Chicago by city-owned vehicles, and all were dead within days.
“Does this cabal have a boss?”
“Last page,” said Jason.
Jonas turned the pages, anxious to see who was behind the disappearances of the city’s homeless population. When he hit the last page, he dropped the file on his desk, staring at the face of the city’s mayor-Mayor Alan Roberts.
“Dear God,” sighed Jonas. “Are you certain of all this?”
“The thumb drive has all the notes, copies of statements, affidavits, financials, and pictures of the men and women being dragged away in the middle of the night. I can tie the mayor to a shell corp that makes regular payments to an offshore account in the mayor’s name.”
Jonas poured a glass and walked around the desk, sitting in front of his reporter. He tipped his glass to Jason. Jonas nodded his approval like a proud father.
“I’ve got a lead on something else. I need to go chase it down. It might require me going away for a while,” explained Jason.
Jason had no idea. The question persisted, what was in the package? Why did Roger apologize before going dark? All he knew was that getting to the girl was important.
“A few days, maybe a week or so. It depends on if it pans out,” explained Jason.
“Check in with me,” suggested Jonas. “This story breaks the way we think, and I’ll need to know how to get in touch with you.”
“I can’t promise anything. This one might require me going dark,” Jason replied, getting out of his chair and setting the glass on the desk. “Wire my check to the usual account. I’ll call you when I know something.”
Jason walked out of the office. He had a place in the city. Jason needed to pack a few things to take with him. Nodding at Jonas’s assistant as he exited, he made his way to the parking garage and sped into the city streets.
It took an hour to get to his condo in the city. After exchanging the usual pleasantries with the doorman, Jason told the attendant he wouldn’t be long. Moving up the elevator, he kept picturing Roger’s face. It alarmed him that Roger hadn’t answered his calls. He couldn’t help but wonder, what the hell had Roger gotten himself into this time?
Keying his way into the condo, Jason checked his messages and then went quickly to his bedroom. A large standing safe was all that was behind the doors. He put his palm against a plexiglass reader and waited for the safe to open. When the lock popped, he spun the handle and stared. What did he need to bring?
Jason reached under his bed and retrieved a duffel bag. He took an AR-15 from the closet, grabbed five loaded magazines, and pushed them into the bag. Jason also took out two pistols and an MP5. He grabbed extra magazines and a large box of various ammunition.
Once he was sufficiently armed, he grabbed a second bag beside the safe. It was his “go” bag. Inside he kept two spare passports, six identities, fifty-thousand in cash, gloves, a knit mask, and binoculars. Wherever Jason went, he always had a bag with a week’s worth of clothes in his Suburban, so he was ready to go.
Jason hauled his gear out the front of the building after telling the doorman, Hank, to keep an eye on his place. He knew he wouldn’t be back for at least a week. Packing the back of the Suburban, he slid the two bags into a locked compartment he built on the floor of the cargo compartment.
“Never can be too careful,” he said, seeing Hank take an interest in the modification to the vehicle.
“No, sir. I guess you can’t,” said old Hank.
With that, Jason sped away from the highrise apartments leaving behind two black lines on the concrete.
To be continued…
About the author
I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!