If you are a top executive of the Corporation, and the telephone rings at four o’clock in the morning, you can bet, that the caller has some serious, even critical message for you.
Caroline slept quite well, surprisingly to her high work position, duties and responsibility. So she felt really disturbed, but she received the call.
“Mrs. Rubesova, this is Diana Cedrova from Internal Affairs speaking. Can you confirm your identity?”
“One moment,” Caroline found the portable book of codes in her night table. She found the appropriate code to answer.
“Ruby, zero, jasmine, two, peach, six,” she replied with sleepiness in her voice.
“OK, your identity confirmed. The message is: time for a vacation.”
“Don’t worry, it was cancelled! Just a misunderstanding! Everything is under control. Have a good night!”
“I am repeating the message: time for a vacation. The source is our own internal Intelligence.”
“What are you saying?” Caroline was completely awoke. “You mean…”
“Vacation for the whole night shift would be a good idea,” the caller confirmed. “There are some security incidents across the country…”
“Prepare the way! The small one for me, and the big one for the assets. ETA one hour. All assets out of the office!”
“Roger. As ordered. Can I… take my family too?”
At the first moment, Caroline wanted to say something offensive, to react to this insolence. Some third grade employee… but it was the right time to encourage, to keep people calm.
“It’s just a precaution. Your family will be OK. But if you want to take them with you, secure a standard way. The places on the big way are limited, you know that.”
“Understood. Thank you.”
“You are welcome. You are a good person. Thanks for your service. We will meet again,” Caroline hung up the phone.
“Wake up, man,” she turned to her husband. “We are leaving!”
“What?” he was completely surprised. And not only him will be surprised. Soon, the whole country will become speechless.
“We have to go. For a vacation.”
“You mean… some longer vacation, I presume.”
“Maybe forever. Situation is becoming hot. Move, man,” Caroline ordered him, as a military officer. Now, she had to be completely decisive, even ruthless, prepared to sacrifice anything, to move her precious property of the country. And it was not the fancy house or a car in the garage!
“I must pack some stuff…”
“Forget it! Forget it all. Get dressed. You don’t need anything on this trip!”
In that moment, he fully understood. His eyes asked Caroline the unspoken question.
“Some security incidents. No time to confirm it. Let’s follow the procedure and be safe.”
Their helicopter landed after half of an hour. Caroline took just some petty memorabilia. And they even managed to have a breakfast. Can you imagine? You are leaving your home, in hurry, and instead of savage packing of your personal property, this pair is having a breakfast…
“We have to pick up Rudolph and Clara,” Caroline ordered.
“Sorry madam,” the pilot objected, “but I received the strict orders from the state anti-aircraft command. All private flights are forbidden from 5.00AM, and who will violate this order will be mercilessly shot down. And I won’t risk that. Regardless of promises of money or threats, sorry. I have my family, you know. And nobody is more important to me than them. So I am landing at exactly 4.55AM. Fifteen minutes from now. Or you can fly this bird yourself. But I won’t be on board in that moment.”
Caroline was awoken into another world, than was yesterday. All people started speaking about families, their life priorities were instantly switched.
“Fine. We will make it to the airport by car.”
“Leave them!” her husband disagreed. “Their problem! They can make it on their own. We need to get out of here!”
“I won’t leave them! And Rudolph lives at the other end of Prague.”
“Moron! Why he didn’t move closer to the airport, when we had calm times? Why should we endanger ourselves because of his mistakes? Let’s move to the airport! We can be there just in minutes! Please, Caroline!”
“You know, why he doesn’t live nearby? Because he isn’t the same coward as you! We don’t leave our people, did you forget?”
“To Rudolph’s place!” Caroline ordered to the pilot.
“Your last order will be executed, madam,” the pilot replied obediently. At least for now.
It was still dark, so they couldn’t see anything on the ground. But in the distance, some large fires could be observed.
“Rudolph!” Caroline hugged her irreplaceable friend, colleague and companion, when they finally met.
“What are doing, Caroline?” Rudolph disagreed with this noble idea to pick him up. “You should head for the airport immediately! You are important for our future – not me!”
“Such life would have no value for me! I don’t want to live without you around!” she expressed her love to him.
He always thought that Caroline only pretends her alleged feelings to him, with the intention to be more persuasive. And now, he realized, that those feelings were always truth… he couldn’t believe it. He felt honored… but why had this declaration of love to come this late? Will there be any future yet?
“We have to continue on the ground from here. All private flights are forbidden. I secured a heavily armored security escort, awaiting us at the Prague borders. So we will be able to move through the city.”
“Good. Let’s go. We will pick up Clara on the way.”
They rode through the countryside, and all seemed calm and sleeping. Until a road block with police officers with assault rifles occured.
They checked their identity with barrels directed at their heads. “What is happening, officer?” Caroline pretended to be uninformed.
“Nothing, just a preventive police action. Everything in order, you may continue.”
“It all started exactly at midnight,” Rudolph informed Caroline eventually. “And our reports talk about all European countries under a massive, coordinated attack of small commando groups of unknown origin. It could be an invasion, although the domestic security forces still call it unlinked terrorist incidents. But the scope of this operation is immense… no wonder, that our Internal Affairs recommended to evacuate out of the country now, preventively, as the cop said,” Rudolph smiled. He and Caroline, they never lost their sense of humor. And always when things got tense, they joked the most.
“I need a vacation anyway,” Caroline replied with wide smile.
All military personnel were called to report to their home units, just before the dawn, when the country was still asleep.
Denise was here too. Everything was quick. They were, as SPECOPS personnel, ordered to take as much ammunition as possible, including anti-tank weaponry. So it was clear, that an action behind enemy lines could be possible. It was absolutely unbelievable and unexpected – but these Special Forces soldiers were trained to follow orders, not to think about them.
“The mission is to protect an anti-aircraft rocket battery position close to the Prague airport,” the commander instructed them inside an armored carrier, quickly moving to the target location. “They are under heavy attack. They were able to stop the first wave, but the enemy won’t stop just like that. And we need to keep the flight corridor open and safe for evacuation of VIPs. This is not a drill! You are authorized to use deadly force at will.”
It took them just twenty minutes, to get to the AA battery, hidden in a wood, just two kilometers from fenced airport perimeter.
When their team got out of the vehicle, they were also fully awoken into the new reality. The place sustained heavy attack. Craters from explosions were everywhere, and the field hospital was full of hurt soldiers. Even some bodies were laid om the ground, covered.
Soon, the attack started again. And it was yet heavier, than the first wave. The still unknown enemy was really systematic.
Fortunately, strong reinforcements arrived, and the position was successfully held. But for how long?
“That rats are attacking everywhere,” one of the new soldiers informed Denise’s SPECOPS team. “This won’t be a nice morning!”
After successful meeting of their armored escort, Caroline’s column advanced through Prague streets. All drivers moved out of the way, after noticing the threatening weaponry on the armored carriers.
But then, the police refused to let them through a road block. They took another way, but it happened again. So they were forced to take the slowest route through the city center, where traffic problems could be expected, even this early, on this special day.
Suddenly, they were inside a traffic jam. Yes, usually it would be highly unexpected, it was just six o’clock in the morning. But as the news spread through the country, many people refused to wait for a disaster, and tried to escape the incoming storm.
“We are losing time,” Rudolph said. “The longer we wait there, we are risking, that the way out will close.”
“Move forward!” Caroline ordered to the driver decisively.
“And how? There are cars everywhere around us!” the driver objected.
“Run through them! This is what an armored carrier is made for!”
“Are you crazy, madam? Do you know, what you are saying? The laws are still valid, this is no war zone!”
“But it will be, and soon! The enemy is attacking at the Prague borders already! So no alleged breaking of the law counts anymore! Just a decisive action! Go forward, man! Trust me!”
Her charm still worked. The driver started moving forward slowly, until a creaking noise could be heard. All drivers around abandoned their vehicles immediately, running away.
“Law of the stronger ones,” the driver commented it to himself. He knew, that he just earned a place inside the plane. He will stay close to them, and he will become important. During crises and revolutions, promotions always come very quick. And he was young and eager to make a great career… he had no family to worry about. So he stayed the most loyal servant…
“New orders! Four of you, move to the Lhota village, about ten clicks from here, and prepare a defense there. Take some anti-tank mines with you… to be sure,” the commander issued new orders to Denise’s SPECOPS team. The AA battery had enough defenders now, and several T-72 tanks reinforced the position yet more.
But anti-tank mines… it meant something! It indicated a full scale conflict… and everybody sensed, that it started because of the Device. If only they knew, that the main actor of this show was between them, with face covered with black masking strips!
After arriving to Lhota, they found, that a platoon of soldiers is already there, preparing the defenses.
The team refused their offer to help with digging the trenches. They were Special Forces personnel – their combat tactics was different.
It was just four of them – but enough to do the necessary work, to hold the advance of the enemy. They checked the military map and they chose a good point, to prepare an ambush, if mechanized units of the enemy would occur here.
They placed anti-tank mines, made from reinforced glass and plastic, so they couldn’t be detected easily, and covered them carefully. The plan was, to lure the tanks to their position, using the terrain conditions, to stop the tanks, and to ambush the vehicles with anti-tank weapons and explosives, making as much damage as possible.
But they still didn’t believe, that this could really happen. One thing is to smuggle a terrorist into the country, but to launch a tank attack… that is something really different. And the most unsual was the direction – not from the East, but from the West.
Their prepared position had the shape of a scissors, opened to the West, from where the enemy could be expected too. He could be expected from anywhere… rumors talked about one million of soldiers, landing on all European coasts. They were everywhere. They really wanted the Device…
When everything was prepared, the team, consisting of two men and two women, visited the village, to have a coffee, but no breakfast. There was this suggestion not to eat before the battle, so if you are shot in the abdomen, you will have higher chance of surviving with an empty stomach… who knows, when they will eat next time.
When Caroline’s column reached the start of the four-lane highway, leading to the airport, all people inside the transporters became relaxed and even happy. They made it! Now, nothing could stop them. The Military secured an escape route to the aiport perfectly. Along the way, they could see strong presence of armored forces.
“Ninety percent of our critical assets already arrived to the airport,” Rudolph reported. “But there is bad news – we were able to secure just a common 737 airplane, without advanced defensive countermeasures.”
“Not acceptable! Get a better plane!”
“The director of the airport operations said, that according to the circumstances, we can be glad for this contribution.”
“Give him 500.000 USD to prepare an appropriate plane for our assets,” Caroline didn’t hesitate. It was the last money their Corporation had. They begun their bold business plan with the same amount – and now, this money had to get their assets out of the country securely. The assets were their scientific team, able to construct a new Device. Their value was priceless!
They finally arrived at the airport. It was already crowded. People didn’t bother to park their cars – they just stopped them as close to the entrance as possible, and left them unlocked, even with open doors.
Their private jet was awaiting on the starting runway. Caroline and Rudolph made the few steps to the stairs to the plane. They heard the distant gunfire.
“Just in time,” they thought.
On board, they sat and finally relaxed a little. “Mission accomplished, Caroline. Let’s take off. Let’s get out of here! It’s over.”
“But we did the best we could, Rudolph, do you agree?” she asked him with urgency in her voice.
He touched her shoulder. “We all did! But not every time the life goes according to our bold plans. Sometimes, you need just to leave, and not to turn back. We will find a calm a place, we will think about it all, we will figure some good new moves. But the chapter here is finished.”
“Let’s go!” Caroline issued her last order, as the Executive Director of the Corporation.
When the plane was taking off, she was watching the landscape she will maybe never see again. She felt no relieve. She felt just emptiness…