Still Not Black Enough Chapter 06
Monday, May 13th, 2024. 10:30 AM - Paris, France
Adam slides down the hill, trying not to make too much noise or be seen.
The lush nature surrounding the compound provides plenty of cover for him to use while he surveys the surroundings.
It's been a long while since he's been a part of anything like this, but for Adam, it's like riding a bike.
There's not enough time for a safe approach, as the clock is ticking on the air strike. The chances of Adam failing far exceed the slim chances he has of making this work - but chances of him not trying are nonexistent.
Adam proceeds slowly, his weapon ready.
There are two men guarding the main door, heavily armed with rifles. It seems impossible to pass through, until one of them decides to patrol around the area, leaving the other one alone.
This is Adam's chance.
Each step taken could be a lethal one, but Adam puts all of his experience and training into use while moving in, not seen or heard.
The guard then feels a knife pressed on his throat and hears Adam's voice behind him.
"Try to make a move, and I'll slit your throat. Slowly, place the weapon on the ground."
The hostile contemplates on making a move, but decides to obey, placing the rifle on the ground. Adam continues to press the knife firmly on his throat.
"Tell me where the hostages are being held, and I'll let you live."
The man doesn't respond - until Adam pushes further.
"I'm either going to kill you now, or you're going to tell me where the hostages are."
The hostile loses this game of poker and breaks.
"Section 3B. Down the hall. Three lefts and a right."
Adam reads the hostile and concludes that he's telling the truth. He keeps his word, and instead of having his throat slit, the terrorist gets knocked out cold.
Adam enters the complex, appearing to be a bunker, perhaps an old bomb shelter. Dust as far as the eye can see, though what can be seen isn't much due to the dim to almost non-existent lighting.
Adam has been trained for this, however. And the darkness gives him an opportunity to move around unseen.
Normally in a situation like this, Adam would allow his eyes to get accustomed to the dark, but the looming missile strike doesn't offer him such a luxury. Instead, he uses his ears. And in the midst of everything, he remembers the young days in training.
There's a bittersweet comfort he finds in the field - even if he's the last person to admit it to anyone, let alone himself.
He's doing this for Clara, though. Not himself, not even close.
Isaac is on the phone with President Levesque, attempting a last ditch effort to make him change his mind about the missile strike, without making much progress.
"I am urging you to reconsider."
"Based on what ground?"
"There is a rescue operation underway, sir."
"I thought you said your full team wouldn't be able to make it there in time."
Isaac gets a little awkward as he recognizes how bad it sounds that he's placing trust on a single man - who does not even work for him.
"They won't. The rescue operation is attempted by a single man."
"Yes, sir. Adam Black went in by himself."
Levesque sits silently for a moment.
"Are you urging me to risk President Abbas being executed in front of the world on a live broadcast due to one man?"
"What are his chances of succeeding?"
"Very low, sir."
Of course Levesque wants to do the right thing, but the chances of one Adam Black pulling this off are so slim, he has no choice but to stand his ground.
"I'm afraid I can't do that. But I pray that Mr. Black is successful. I simply fear that he won't be."
"So do I, sir."
Isaac and President Levesque both view the same broadcast, showing Abbas, Shaheena, and Clara about to be executed.
Amal Hassan finally lets President Abbas know that time is up.
"You've run out of time, Bashar. If you are incapable of showing the least amount of backbone by deciding which of these women dies first, I will make that decision for you."
Hassan aims the gun at Clara.
"She will be the one to die."
Clara tries to plead and beg, fearing for her life as tears roll down her cheeks.
"Please! Please don't do this! I'm begging you, please!"
Adam is nearing their location as he hears Clara's voice.
He gets confirmation she's still alive and follows her voice.
Bashar then interferes.
"Take me instead! I am the one you want! What kind of a man are you? Do you think our God will accept this? Do you?"
Hassan is insulted by someone who, in his eyes, sold his soul to the West lecturing him about faith.
"You have lost the right to speak of such matters, Bashar."
This distraction buys Adam some additional time. He takes cover behind a pile of wooden boxes and other debris lying around and peeks out just enough to make eye contact with Abbas.
Adam holds up five fingers to signify five seconds. Abbas realizes what he means, but does not react outside of the slightest look in his eyes.
Hassan counts to five.
And intentionally falls down on his chair, providing enough distraction for Adam to put a bullet through Hassan's head.
Everyone watching the feed sees what is happening, and even though Isaac can't believe it, he is happy to see it transpire.
"He's doing it! The crazy son of a bitch is doing it! Call the President!"
The rest of the terrorists open fire at Adam who takes cover just in the nick of time to avoid their bullets.
A firefight ensues, but Adam manages to neutralize the terrorists with perfect shots that come from a man who was built to do this.
Abbas, Clara, and Shaheena are scared and confused, but once the terrorists are down, Adam rushes to untie them.
It's at this moment when Clara realizes who it is. She can't even form the words. She has no idea how Adam could possibly be here.
Adam wants to calm Clara down, but time is ticking away.
"Clara, you okay? Did they hurt you?"
"I'm- I'm okay, I- Adam?"
While Bashar and Shaheena are embracing each other, Adam unties Clara and places his hands on her cheeks and looks straight into her eyes.
"It's me. I'll explain everything. I'm gonna get you out of here, I promise. But you're gonna have to trust me. Do you trust me?"
Clara isn't quite sure how to respond right now.
"Clara, do you trust me?"
Clara then places her hands on Adam's hands, and gives an honest answer.
After giving a quick kiss on her forehead, he wants to make sure she really means it.
"I'm gonna need you to do exactly as I say, alright? Do you understand?"
"Okay, stay close. We need to get out of here."
The millions upon millions of questions racing around Clara's head are apparent. How is Adam here? How does he know how to handle a gun so well? How did he even find her? Who is he, really?
Bashar then speaks up.
"You are here to rescue us?"
"Yes. And we need to move, now."
"I need a firearm."
Adam is not sure if he's comfortable with the idea.
"Do you know how to handle one?"
"I used to be a soldier."
"Just follow me, I'll cover for you."
"My wife and daughter are in danger. Could you stand by like you're asking me to do right now?"
Adam realizes he's basically on a suicide mission just to save Clara, so he has no choice but to say no.
"No, I couldn't."
Adam hands Bashar his gun and picks up one of the terrorists' rifles from the ground.
"Take my gun. There's 15 bullets in the clip, safety's off. But I'll lead."
"Dahlia. My daughter. She's in here. I am not leaving without her."
"Where is she?"
"I don't know."
Things just got a lot more complicated.
"Son of a bitch. Well, we're gonna have to find her. Clara! Stay close."
Adam leads, as Bashar, Clara, and Shaheena follow.
More terrorists make an ambush, but Adam is quick enough on the draw to take them out.
Clara and Shaheena are frightened of every gunshot. It pains Adam to see Clara especially being so scared.
As they arrive at a corner, Adam is the one who proceeds to make sure it's safe.
Adam kicks open the doors as they come across them, but there's no sight of Dahlia.
Shaheena begins to panic.
"We must call to her!"
Adam feels it's a bad idea, but it might be their only option.
Bashar is unsure, as well, but his daughter's life is at stake, so he's willing to take the risk.
"Dahlia! Where are you?"
Dahlia's voice can then be heard from outside of the complex.
Quickly, the four move to the outside of the complex where there is an even larger ambush by the rest of the terrorists.
Adam and Bashar push Clara and Shaheena to the inside, safe from the fire. They then team up, even though they are greatly outnumbered by the plethora of terrorists.
Adam provides the strategizing as they take cover behind a set of pillars.
"Take the four shooters at your 11 o'clock! Can you handle it?"
Adam does the bulk of the work until running out of bullets in his rifle, and there are still men left to be taken out.
"I'm out! I need you to cover for me, I'm going to take that guy's weapon! You ready?"
Unarmed, Adam moves from cover to cover, trying to get to a rifle of one of the dead terrorists.
President Abbas is not quite the gunman Adam is, but he provides sufficient cover for Adam to get to the rifle in time.
However, things still take turn for the worse as the terrorists continue to outnumber Adam and Bashar Abbas. It doesn't look like they stand a chance in the firefight.
Until in the nick of time, a swarm of helicopters arrive at the scene, firing at the terrorists.
Adam yells at Abbas.
"It's the TDM! Stay down!"
The armed forces swipe the area and seem to clear all of the terrorists as Adam and Abbas take cover from the bullets.
Holding Dahlia hostage, the remaining terrorist threatens to kill her. Adam and Abbas take aim, but can't risk taking a shot.
"Drop your weapons! Drop your weapons right now, or I will kill her! I will kill the girl!"
Abbas immediately drops his gun and cooperates. Adam still holds his aim.
"This is over! Let her go! You're surrounded! It's over!"
The terrorist looks at the troops surrounding the area, realizing Adam is right.
"That may be true. But first, Bashar will watch her daughter die."
Adam is the quicker draw and lands a precise headshot just in time. As Dahlia cries, the terrorist falls on his back. And that is the end of it.
Abbas, his daughter, and Shaheena then embrace, finally safe. Adam also takes a deep breath, but before he relaxes he looks for Clara.
Clara steps outside, unharmed. Clearly shook and still in disbelief. Adam and Clara walk towards each other and hug. Both squeeze tightly.
Adam always knew he cared for Clara, but the thought of her not surviving what happened made him realize just how much.
"Are you alright?"
Clara keeps hugging, only tightening her grip.
"I'm okay. I'm okay now"
After a long hug that takes them to a different place, they finally kiss. Both thinking it's a kiss that was close to not happening.
But now Clara must ask the questions.
"So... how and... you know. I mean, I didn't know you could handle a gun. How did you get here?"
Adam has been quiet about his past. After all, that's what he escaped from when he came to France in the first place. But Clara deserves honesty, and he knows it now.
"I worked as a federal agent in the States for years. Counter-terrorism. Black ops. You name it. This was my world. And that's what I was trying to get away from."
"But you're here now?"
"Someone I knew came to me earlier today with some information about an attack. Apparently, President Abbas was the target. I tried not to get involved, but then you were taken hostage, and-"
"And you saved my life."
"I'm just glad you're alright."
"You could have died, too."
Clara is feeling a little weak and disoriented, so Adam finds a place for them to sit.
"I'm sorry I kept my past from you."
"I always knew you were running away from something."
"Oh, so you knew, huh?"
Clara finally cracks a slight smile.
"I'm a reporter, remember? I notice these things."
And Adam responds in kind.
"I figured you'd tell me when you were ready. And I still do. I'm sure there are specific things you were running away from. And people."
"But I know how people have betrayed you in the past."
This takes Clara by genuine surprise. Adam notices this.
"What is it?"
"Oh, it's just... I've talked about those things once. In passing. And that was months ago. I guess I'm just so used to people not really listening to me."
Adam places his arm around her and holds her close again.
"I always listen to you, okay? Remember that."
"I meant what I said earlier, by the way."
"When I said I trust you. I do."
"That means a lot. I really care for you, you know? I never even realized how much."
After a prolonged silence, Clara makes an attempt at a joke to lighten the mood finally.
"Not quite the date I had in mind."
"Heh, yeah, well. I guess not. But we'll have plenty of opportunities."
President Abbas then approaches Adam an extends his hand.
"Me and my family owe you our lives. Thank you for saving our daughter and us. Our gratitude can not be expressed in words. I know the people of my world and yours haven't always seen eye to eye on things. But I would like for you accept my humble thank you."
Adam stands up and shakes his hand.
"I'm sorry this had to happen."
"So am I."
It's more than a handshake. Adam has devoted much of his life to fighting threats from the Arabic world. But he hopes this is the start of something different, should Abbas go ahead with the peace proceedings.
"Mr. President. Clara. I know what just happened is probably the last things you want to think about, but you need to come to DGSI for a debrief and answer some questions."
This is when Clara remembers something.
"One of the men."
"What is it?"
"I recognized him."
"I don't know, I can't put my finger on it. But I know I've seen him before. Quite recently. And I could tell he was afraid when he realized I know him."
"DGSI is going to assemble a photo file of all the casualties. Once we get there, you can make an ID. Okay?"
"And I want the medical team to have a look at you."
"Do it for me."
Clara feels a sense of safeness she hasn't felt with anyone before. Adam truly cares for her, and is looking out for her.
It's different for once.
Adam takes Abbas, his family, and Clara to the helicopter and they head back to the DGSI.
A Few Miles Away from the Compound
Daivari and Mia are driving away from the compound, having gotten out of dodge just before Adam got there.
Daivari seems satisfied with what happened, despite President Abbas still being alive.
Mia is asking for reassurance that everything went as planned.
"Have you gotten confirmation yet that Phase 1 was successful?"
Daivari keeps his eyes on the road and only gives short answers. He is even more focused than before.
"Well, Abbas is still alive."
"An unfortunate set back, but we accomplished what we needed to accomplish. And you will be accommodated for your part in it, Miss Evans."
"Just making sure."
"We'll let the authorities think they won. It will buy us the time we need."
"And then, hello Phase 2?"
"I can still be of help, you know. If the incentive is there, that is."
"You have earned my trust."
"Happy doing business with you, Daivari."
Mia smiles, and as Daivari is focused on the road, sends someone a text message.
A Skyscraper at the Heart of Paris
At the very top of an office skyscraper, an older man looks down on the city.
And it's quite fitting, seeing as how his shoes are likely to cost more than average Paris citizen makes in half a year, if not a full year.
The office room is more luxurious more than most people's homes, and it's evident to anybody that no average, or even above average, human being would ever step foot inside its confines.
This is all reserved for someone in the elite.
Someone with the resources to wear such an extravagant suit casually. His more expensive suits are for actual business meetings.
Today is about something else.
He reads the text message sent to him by Mia a few seconds ago.
"Good work. Keep me posted, Mia."
Adam, Clara, and the Abbas family arrive at DGSI, greeted by Isaac. Adam also receives a standing ovation from all of the employees for his actions they all witnessed on the live feed.
"Black! Good work out there. I'd ask you to come into my office for a minute."
"Sure. Listen, Clara said he recognized one of the men. Set up a photo file for her to look at of all the casualties so she can make an ID."
"You got it. Diane, set it up."
"And I want Clara to be checked up by the medics before she makes her debrief."
"Understood. Now, follow me."
Adam gives Clara a kiss.
"I'll be right with you."
Isaac leads Adam to his office and shuts the door.
"I just wanted to tell you that you made the right call. And you did a damn fine job. I guess I owe you an apology for not having faith in you."
"We both did what we thought was right."
"Yeah. I actually have a favor to ask."
"Seeing as how it's likely this threat isn't quite over yet, I'd like to ask you to help us as part of the field team. Until the crisis is averted."
Adam has mixed emotions due to Clara.
"I'll think about it."
"Alright. But really. We could use your help. But I gotta ask you something. If you're so unsure whether or not you want to do this, what is it that drives you? Why get involved in the first place? What's your ideology?"
"I don't have an ideology. I just try to do what's right."
"Well, I can respect that in a man."
There's a knock on the door. Isaac opens it.
The man behind the door is a new employee, Jeremie Benoit, who has arrived to start his first day at DGSI. A young guy, well dressed and equally mild-mannered. He extends his hand at Isaac.
"Mr. Bernard? Jeremie Benoit. The new systems analyst."
"Oh, right! We spoke on the phone. Good to have you. It's been quite the morning, it slipped my mind you were supposed to start today. Let me show you your desk."
Isaac shows the new guy around, and Adam heads to medical to check on Clara.
The doctor is just about ready.
"Is she okay?"
"Apart from some minor bruises, I'm happy to tell you she's fine."
Adam smiles and gives Clara a hug.
Clara is smiling a lot more now than she was an hour ago.
"Hey, mister. I told you I was alright. I may be small, but I'm tough. Maybe not as tough as you, but you should know how tenacious I can be, haha."
Adam is happy Clara is okay, but there's business to attend to.
"We really need you to make the ID. Are you ready?"
Clara gives Adam a deep kiss, stares at him and smiles.
"Now I am, let's go."
"Diane should have it all set up, follow me."
Diane sets up a slideshow of all the dead terrorists in the compound for Clara to have a look at. Isaac then asks for Adam.
"Adam, could you come with me to the conference room."
"Raymond said he has something to show us."
Adam wants to quickly apologize to Raymond for pointing a gun at him.
"Hey. Ray. I'm sorry about earlier."
Raymond harbors no hard feelings. He gets it.
"You did what you had to do. And in the end, you made the right call."
Isaac wants Raymond to get to the point.
"You said you found a possible link between the plane bombing and President Abbas' kidnapping?"
"Yeah. Take a look at this."
Raymond shows a picture of the body of Gregory Jones, at the crash site of the plane.
"This is Gregory Jones. One of the passengers on the plane that was hijacked earlier this morning. It's become clear that his death was not caused by the plane crash. He was killed by stabbing. Probably because the killer wanted to get their hands on what was in the briefcase chained to his wrist."
Isaac and Adam stare at the photo and examine it.
"Do we know what was in it?"
Raymond then shows a close up of a logo on the briefcase.
"That corporate logo belongs to Devaux-Collet."
"The defense contractor?"
"Well, did you contact them?"
"I tried, but the CEO told me we need clearance from the MDA."
"Well, we're gonna have to get that clearance. I'm on it."
Adam leaves the room to go see if Clara's made the ID.
"Made any progress?"
"No, not really."
"Well, look at the photos again."
"I've gone through them a dozen times. The man I saw was caucasian, and these are all Arabic. He's not in these photos."
"Damn it. He must have gotten out before I got there. When you were there, were there any indications that the terrorists were in contact with people on the outside?"
Clara tries to think back on everything that happened.
"Yeah... the man who was holding the trial. He was on the phone with someone. It was like he was taking orders."
"That means this is far from over."
Clara thinks back more intensely.
Adam gets closer.
"What is it?"
"I may remember where I saw the man. Umm, there was an Espérer Foundation dinner a month or so ago. At Pont Royal. I interviewed some people there and... Darn it... I still can't place him, but that's where I saw him, I'm sure of it."
"But you didn't interview him?"
"No, but I have connections, I can pull some strings. I can get the guest list. Just get me a phone."
Diane tells Adam that Isaac wants him back in the conference room.
"Isaac asked me to tell you to go back to the conference room. He's set up a call with the CEO of Devaux-Collet."
"Yeah. Hey, get a hold of the Pont Royal hotel security department. Get access to their archival video surveillance. Clara will give you the time and date, set up a perimeter. Clara, I'll be right back."
Adam enters the conference room, just as the conference call with the CEO Jean Chevallier begins.
"Mr. Bernard, I hope you understand that we at Devaux-Collet couldn't give you the details about the case until the appropriate permission from the MDA."
Isaac doesn't have time for bureaucracy talk.
"Understood, could we move on? It's my understanding that your courier was transporting something while on that plane? What was it?"
"Mr. Jones was carrying with him something called the CX4. It's a type of remote recall device."
"What kind of 'remote recall' device?"
"A combination of hardware and software, developed with the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire. It's a safety measure, designed to take over nuclear power plants."
Adam immediately has a look in his eyes like he has a hunch.
"Under what sort of circumstances would this remote be used, exactly?"
"To take control of a nuclear power plant's nuclear piles, in the event of a disaster that would necessitate an evacuation."
"Would a person in possession of the device do the opposite? Create a nuclear meltdown?"
"Yes, but only theoretically. There obviously are safety measures in place."
"What sort of safety measures?"
"Mere possession of the device is not enough. In order to do something like that, the person would need to hack through a power plant's firewall. It would require such massive computer power that ASN would see it coming a mile away."
Adam thinks for a moment.
"Could the ASN theoretically miss it due to unusually heavy traffic on the internet?"
"I don't follow."
"Mr. Chevallier, less than an hour ago, President Abbas was about to be publicly executed while the whole world was watching. Do you think it's possible that the whole thing was a charade to create such load on the internet in order to disguise a massive attack on those firewalls?"
"It might be possible."
Isaac looks worried as he poses a scary question.
"If this were the case, how many nuclear power plants would be vulnerable?"
"Well, all of them. As of right now, France has 58 nuclear power plants online. The second most in the world."
Isaac turns to Adam.
"We have to assume that's it."
"Thank you, Mr. Chevallier. I need to set up an all departments briefing, right now."
A Paris Home
The man Clara recognized at the compound has just arrived at his home, frantic and panicking.
He quickly starts packing things, along with a sum of cash, into a briefcase.
The packing is interrupted by a phone call from Daivari. The man has no intentions of speaking with him, though.
"Daivari! You told me this would not happen! That woman recognized me, and now she's still alive! You told me this would be handled!"
"I understand. I called you to let you know I've arranged transportation for you. As a token of my appreciation. You will be able to leave the country."
"I trusted you once and now I've lost everything, Daivari."
"I have done what I can."
"Well, screw you."
The man aggressively hangs up and continues his packing. He wants to arrange his own transportation.
This man is clearly a businessman, not a terrorist. And someone who seems to be in way over his head.
Isaac holds a briefing for all the staff members, and Diane is heading there. She and Adam run into each other as Adam is going to talk to Clara.
"Adam, I just got off the phone with the Pont Royal security department. The dinner was monitored by a private company called Sauvegarde. Unfortunately, they work off a closed a system. We can't get any of the tapes sent here."
"Shit. Well, I need to go there myself. I’ll go talk to Clara."
Clara is still contacting people about the guest list when Adam approaches her.
"Where are you with that guest list?"
"I should have it any minute now."
"The dinner was monitored by a private company, working off a closed system. I need to get in there myself to pick up the tapes. And we're running out of time."
"Wait, it's that urgent now?"
Adam starts heading outside to the parking lot, and Clara follows.
"Yes, things changed."
"It turns out the trial was just a cover up to disguise a much larger attack. We have reason to believe terrorists are in possession of a device called CX4. Basically, it's a remote device that can theoretically be used to cause a meltdown in every nuclear power plant in this country."
The shock stops Clara from moving for a moment.
"That's why we're running out of time. I need to get those tapes here for you to identify that man. Right now, he's our only lead."
"Well, I'll come with you."
Adam immediately stops Clara in her tracks.
"Absolutely not. After what you just went through, I'm not putting you at any kind of risk."
"Adam, I'm a big girl. If what you said is true, these people could melt down almost 60 nuclear power plants in this country. Let me help. I can make the ID quicker if I come over there."
Adam really doesn't want to do this, but Clara is right: time is ticking.
"Fine. Come with me."
Adam and Clara head to the car.
Due to Finland's new tax rulings regarding crypto, I'm forced to refrain as much as possible from withdrawing crypto. And as much of my money is tied up in crypto, this means I'm literally a starving artist.
If you enjoy this story, you can support it here. Much appreciated.
Also, big, immeasurable thanks to @anthonyadavisii whose generous donation made this hard work possible.
Remember to vote @nextgencrypto for witness.