The Dubious SIM Team

Published 10/15/2016

Chapter One

 

Two fourteen-year old boys raced along the devastated pockmarked street that was once the center of their neighborhood. They knew their way around the rubbish filled area, but had to avoid the deep slashes in the ground and the bombed out craters that had been left from the apocalypse. They nervously sprinted past the two homes where they had grown up — but paid little attention. The buildings were nothing more than rubble. The boy’s homes were just fused debris now. Their personal safety was more important, so they kept running.

The sun was going down as they turned onto the now worn path that went towards the refugee camp — where they shared a tent with several other orphan boys. None of their many relatives had survived the conflict. The two boys had formed their own family. They were the only members.

They had to get to the camp before the government patrols swept into the area and the looters, gangsters, and other undesirables came out of hiding for the night. There was no guarantee that they could survive an encounter with any of those groups at night. Many had died in the destroyed area since the war ended two months ago.

“Gagan,” one boy called to the other. “I don’t think we will be able to make it. I’m getting tired,” he said with panic in his voice. While both boys were in good shape, they had run a long way already.

“We’ll have to take the short cut through the old mall,” Gagan replied to his friend Devesh. He pointed to a hole in the collapsed mall entrance. They had taken the route several times before since the destruction of their neighborhood and found that it cut fifteen minutes off of their journey back to the camp. It was worth the risk.

“But there are always dangerous people hiding out in there,” Devesh responded with alarm. “They could grab us and hold us for ransom or even worst things.”

“We have our knives, we can defend ourselves,” Gagan noted with determination as he slid a hunting knife from the holder on his belt “Or would you rather face the wrath of that witch that looks over us in camp. She will surely ground us forever.”

“You’re right,” Devesh replied as he pulled out his own blade. “Let’s go.”

 ***

The sprawling mall, once known as the North Ex Mall, had been a two story structure with over a hundred thriving shops and retailers in the north-west section of New Delhi, India. During the conflict, two months earlier, the top floor of the mall had collapsed and all accesses including the north and south entrances had been blocked by mountains of concrete and rubble.

Looters soon realized that all the shops on the main floor might still be accessible and have something to steal. They had managed to dig through both ruined entrances to get inside. The merchandise in all the stores had since been liberated, but the large vacant mall still provided a haven for people who wanted to live outside the refugee camps. It was, however, a very treacherous place.

Gagan and Devesh slipped through the entrance opening with undisguised trepidation. They began stealthily walking, in a crouch, down the middle of the marble passageway in an attempt to be as quiet as possible. Their knives were at the ready. Theirs ears were on alert.

It was very eerie inside the big mall. It was full of shadows, strange noises, and there was an overwhelming stench from decay. The smell of human waste permeated throughout the dead space. Pieces of concrete, packaging, and debris from the stores inside littered the floor. It was a scary obstacle course. The boys knew they needed to survive long enough to travel the three hundred yards to the other end and the other exit.

There were many holes in the roof which allowed some light to filter into the long building, but it was late afternoon and the passageway was filled with unknown elongated shadows — any one of them could be a murderous person who was setting a trap. Life was cheap in the ruined city.

The boys, while afraid, were determined to survive the house of horrors in the mall and make it back to the refugee camp before nightfall. They were no strangers to danger. While they weren’t technically looters, they had been looking for a specific item in the dead area since the two day war ended. They knew that if they found one, their fortunes would quickly change for the better. They had spent every day looking for one.

Up ahead a shadow moved slightly. Someone is in here with us, thought Gagan. He nudged his friend to alert him and pointed to the shadow. The boys readied themselves for a fight and brought their knives up to an attack position. Another shadow moved near the first one.

Both boys remained silent, but prayed that the shadows up ahead had not seen them. They knew that they were no match for experienced looters and gangsters. Gagan grabbed Devesh by the collar and pulled him to the side of the walkway up against a wall that was in complete darkness. They then waited for the attack they were sure was coming.

They had survived in the ravaged war zone by using their wits and knowledge of the area, their stealth, and their speed to avoid trouble. Their ability to fight was now the only thing that could save them and neither boy had been tested.

Suddenly, Gagan noticed movement on his left side and turned to defend himself with a knife thrust, but he pulled back at the last second. A young girl of about eleven years old stepped into the weak light. She was soon joined by and even younger girl. Both stood there staring at the boys with big brown eyes.

“Please help us,” the older girl pleaded in a little voice. Gagan could see that she had clearly been crying and appeared emotionally drained.

“Get out of the light,” he whispered gruffly as he swiveled his head left and right to look for any additional motion.

“We need your help,” the younger one begged in a clearer voice. “There is no one else that we can rely on.”

“You must hide,” Gagan urgently whispered. “You are giving our position away.”

The two girls stood side by side in the soft light and didn’t move. They were half as tall as Gagan and he could see that they hadn’t been eating properly. They were very skinny and covered in many bruises. Both girls had long chocolate-brown hair that covered half their backs, but was tangled and full of debris. Their hair hadn’t been brushed in quite a while. Their small bodies were clothed in tattered sun dresses that were filthy and full of large rips and tears. The garments barely covered their young bodies. Their cherub-like faces were covered in what looked like mud. The girls had a look of feral animals. Gagan could see that they had once been very attractive, but had clearly been living outside the refugee camp for some time and it had ruined their bodies. They were two little lost waifs.

Gagan motioned to his friend. He reached out and grabbed one girl, clamping a hand over her mouth. Devesh grabbed the other. They pressed them against their chests and carried the barely-struggling doll-like preteens into one of the shops and out of the passageway. The girls had little fight in them and seemed to be resigned to their fate. The two boys had little trouble controlling them.

Once inside the small shop, the boys brought the young girls over to a section of the shop that was behind what was once a sales counter. A hole in the roof allowed for weak light to fill the area, but no one from the hallway could see them there. They placed both girls on the ground.

“I’ll take my hand off of your mouth if you promise to not scream. There are many bad people around here. We could all get killed,” Gagan said sincerely as he looked into the girls’ huge nearly-dead brown eyes. She nodded her head in agreement and didn’t struggle.

As soon as he removed his hand, the girl begged. “Please don’t hurt us,” she said in a soft whisper. “We’ve had several men hurt us already.”

A shocked Gagan replied as he pulled back from the girl and raised his hands in surrender. “I promise. I won’t hurt you. But what are you doing in this unsafe place?”

“The woman who takes care of us brought us here after the war. We have been here for a long time. Our real family went missing and she took us in. We have no place else to go,” the older one said and started crying.

“I don’t understand,” Devesh responded. “Why would she keep you in this disgusting place?”

“She uses us to lure men into one of the shops across the way. Then she attacks with a knife and kills them. The men are usually looters. We take their valuables,” the younger girl replied like it was a business.

“What?” Gagan almost screamed in disbelief. He was shocked by what he heard.

“Sometimes the men really hurt us before she can kill them,” the younger girl added to make it clear to them.

“Is she coming after us now?” Devesh asked suddenly suspiciously as he scrambled to his feet to look over the top of the counter.

“No, not anymore,” she answered and shook her head. “The last man she attacked managed to kill her instead. That’s why we need your help. We have been hiding for three days. We need food and someone to look out for us.”

Gagan staggered with the impact of the peril the girls had faced in the mall. “What’s your name?” Gagan eventually asked the older girl.

“My name Jaina,” the older girl spoke. “I am eleven years old and this is my sister Gudiya, she is ten. We used to live in a big house with servants.”

“So the woman kept you as sex slaves so she could kill looters and take their valuables, is that correct?” Devesh asked incredulously.

“We didn’t see it like that,” Gudiya protested. “We saw it as our way to survive.” After a few seconds, she continued. “Do you have any food? I’d do anything for something to eat,” she said in a provocative voice.

“Gagan, we need to get out of here right now,” Devesh said with alarm. “We only have a few minutes before it will get dark. We don’t have time to do anything for these girls.” He went to stand up and leave their hiding place.

“Wait,” Jaina pleaded and grabbed Gagan by his shirttail. “We know where the woman kept the valuables she collected. We’ll give some of them to you if you help us.”

A suddenly more interested Gagan asked. “How many valuables did she collect?”

“She had a large sack with everything in it,” Jaina responded. “We can take you right to it. It’s not far from here,” the young girl said and pointed to the shop opposite from where they were hidden.

Gagan looked at his nervous friend and knew it was an opportunity to get some money.

He shrugged.

“If you can be quiet, then we’ll help you,” he told the girl.

She replied with a nod of her head.

***

The first thing they had to do was transverse the shadowy hallway. Jaina and Gagan went first. They reached the other side without incident and quickly took cover. Gagan motioned for the other two to follow. Devesh and Gudiya scampered to the shop while holding hands. Once all four were inside, the girls guided them to the back of the store and towards a storeroom. The boys wondered if they were being set up, but followed.

As they entered the room, the four of them was suddenly struck with the overwhelming smell of death and decay. In the corner of the room they saw a woman. She was half-naked and slumped over a dead man. The tip of a long knife protruded from her bare back. Dried blood was pooled around both bodies.

“He had a knife too,” Jaina explained sadly.

“There was nothing we could do,” Gudiya uttered in their defense and started to cry.

“Stop crying,” Gagan ordered like a big brother.

“The bad smell has kept any intruders from searching this room. We have lived here in this stench for three days,” Jaina told the boys.

Once he recovered from the shock, Gagan nodded in understanding, “Where’s the valuables?”

“They are in another secretly hidden room,” Jaina replied. At the back of the empty room, Jaina pointed to a large industrial refrigerator. “The opening is behind that,” she explained.

Gagan and Devesh ran over to the huge appliance and pushed, but couldn’t move it. The boys were not strong enough. It wouldn’t budge.

“How do we move it?”

“I’ll do it,”Gudiya offered and suddenly dropped to the dirty floor. She wiggled her small body under the appliance until only her little legs were showing. When she crawled out, she told them that she had released the lock on the wheels. Within seconds they pushed the refrigerator aside. There they found a door which led to a closet-sized hidden back room.

“This is where we used to sleep. The woman too,” Gudiya explained happily. “The hiding place for her valuables is behind that board over there.”

Gagan grabbed the piece of wood and found that it was not attached to anything. He pulled it aside and saw a burlap potato sack that was half filled with goods. He dragged it out and immediately looked inside.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “There’s a bunch of jewelry and money in here.”

“Let me see,” Jaina exclaimed as she peered into the bag.

“Wait!” Gagan exclaimed. “I can’t believe it. We found one, Devesh.” He started to jump up and down with joy.

“Found what?” Jaina nervously asked. She was afraid the boys would renege on their deal once they realized how much the loot was worth.

“This item is more valuable than anything else in the bag,” Gagan declared as he pulled a shiny silver object from the sack.

“What is it?” Gudiya asked curiously.

“This will get us all the money we need,” Gagan announced as he held the item up for all of them to see.

“You said us,” Gudiya said happily and clapped her little hands together.

“Let’s get out of here and get it to Zayd back at the camp,” Devesh said. “He’ll pay us top dollar for this.”

“What are you talking about?” a confused Jaina inquired. “Are we included?”

“Of course you are,” Gagan replied. “I’ll explain everything on the way. We are all family now. We will watch out for each other.”

“We would like having a family again,” both young girls replied with smiles.

***

Zayd Patel sat like a Buddha in his roomy tent in the middle of the refugee camp. His rotund body draped over several cushions. He was always uncomfortable sitting on the dirt floor, but he had other compensations like food and drink to ease the feeling. He knew it was only temporary.

Zayd Patel was the wealthiest person in the entire camp. He actually had a real home outside the devastated area, but made more money by pretending to be a poor peddler in camp. Everyone knew that he would buy anything of value that the refugees came across. He would, of course, cheat them and would later sell the items for three times the price, but at least they received something. He had an army of various other fences and connections as well. While the people in the camps suffered, Zayd Patel was becoming very rich.

His guard poked his head into the tent.

“Zayd, you have some visitors,” he said.

“Very well, send them in,” the fat man responded without much enthusiasm. He didn’t feel like working today.

The tent opening parted and in walked four filthy, smelly, children. He stared at them with contempt. “I do not give handouts. Be gone with you,” he uttered in a deep growl. He waved his hand to make them go away.

“We have come to barter the sale of some jewelry,” Gagan responded. Then he sarcastically said. “Are you no longer in business, or do you not have any money left?”

“Don’t smart mouth me boy,” Zayd immediately threatened and pointed his pudgy finger at Gagan. “Okay, let me see what you’ve got. I’ll give you a good deal, of course,” he said as he rubbed his greedy hands together.

The four children spread out the jewelry that they wanted to sell on a table an assistant had brought and placed in front of the big man.

“Where did you get so many valuables?” Zayd asked with a curious eye. He was wondering if it was a place he could send his men to collect more without paying a middleman.

“That’s not important,” Gagan said dismissively. “Give us a price for everything. If you cheat us then I won’t let you bid on our last item. I assure you it is very valuable.”

“Oh, a tough bargainer eh,” Zayd responded with a laugh. His entire body shook when he chuckled. He had two bodyguards who were heavily armed nearby and could easily dispose of the vagabond children. He was not swayed by the threat.

“Do you want to do business or should we go someplace else?” Devesh continued while speaking for the four children.

“I’m curious about your last item,” the long time negotiator responded. “Let’s see it,” he ordered.

“Very well,” Gagan replied. He turned his back to the fat man and after a few seconds uttered a few foreign words that Zayd didn’t understand. When he turned back around he held a sword that was made of an intense red light.

“What the?” the big man screamed as his eyes grew large and he almost tumbled over on his pillows.

Without hesitating, Gagan slashed down and cut the table in half. The jewelry fell to the floor.

“Why that’s…a Sumi…laser weapon,” Zayd stammered and pointed. He had never seen one before.

“That’s right,” Gagan replied. “It is worth a hundred thousand dollars. So do you want to do business or not? We can always go to one of your competitors.”

“I thought it was all a rumor. The police said there were a few unaccounted for, but…,” the fence said in shock. He didn’t know what to think.

“Quit stalling Zayd. Or I should cut some more of your things up to prove that the sword is real?”

“I need to make a phone call,” the fence suddenly pleaded with a gulp of his large Adams’ apple. “This will cost more than I have available to pay you. It could take me some time to get you enough money.”

“You’re lying,” Gagan yelled. “Get the money before I start cutting up big fat round things sitting on pillows,” he threatened.

“It’s nice to have a family again,” Gudiya said and smiled.

 

Chapter Two

A physically fit man of around fifty years old hustled down the long second-floor hallway at the Dewey & Beatem law offices in Chicago. Colonel Gerald Cole was headed for the corner office that once belonged to him when he was the owner. He had sold it to an investment group called Forever Ours, LLC. The sale had occurred about a year ago — at the urging of his college roommate, the President of the United States. Most of the new owners were former employees who were also his friends. But they all knew him as Bart Longwood, one of the man’s many impersonations, and not as Colonel Gerald Cole.

While Jerry Cole had made a lot of money from the sale of the business, the real reason he had made the change was to free up time for his real vocation — special black operations for the United States government. The unique law firm he ran had become too hard for him to manage as it grew in size. Part of the sale agreement was that he would have an office on the first floor and begin his clandestine work as head of the ultra-secret Scientific Investigations Mandate (SIM) team for the government.

Colonel Cole reached the office he was looking for and ran his hand through his close cropped blond hair. The name Colton Banyon, C.E.O., was written on a plate on the wall. He summoned up his courage and threw open the door without knocking. He needed a favor and wasn’t sure if Banyon would oblige.

The first thing he noticed when he entered was an extremely good looking younger woman leaning over Banyon’s desk on her elbows. She was right in front of him. Her longer than shoulder-length auburn hair covered the back of a stylish red dress that fit her like a glove. Her sexy legs were slightly apart and her rear end was sticking up in the air. He could have sworn that she was wiggling it back and forth.

The woman yelped and immediately stood up straight. She turned her angry red face towards the intruder. “Bart, I mean Jerry, this is not your office any longer, you have to knock before entering. It was your damn rule, remember,” she said in an icy sarcastic voice. She was clearly embarrassed.

“I need to speak to Colt right now,” Jerry Cole muttered as a defense.

“Well, as you can see, he is not in the room,” Heather Vance, the President of the firm responded and stepped back allowing Colonel Cole a view. The person sitting in Banyon’s chair behind the desk was Steve Pellegrino, the Vice President of Security at the firm and her longtime boyfriend. The hardened ex-Martial Arts expert made a face that looked like an angry gorilla.

“Where’s Banyon?” Colonel Cole demanded in panic.

“I’m right here,” a man replied as he walked out of the private bathroom. “We older people have to go to the bathroom more often and sometimes leave our desks you know.”

Colton Banyon was over sixty years old, but looked much younger, and was in pretty good shape. He was six feet tall and around 185 pounds with thinning light-brown hair and penetrating green eyes. He was the largest investor in the new firm and had become the C.E.O. of the company. Jerry Cole had originally hired Colton Banyon as a “finder”. Banyon was capable of finding anyone or anything. He was a very special person.

“I’ve got some extremely important news,” the impatient colonel let out.

“So do we,” Banyon responded cheerfully. “We have just completed our best financial quarter ever. Everyone at the firm, including you, will be getting a bonus next week.”

“That’s great, but my news is bigger.” The colonel responded.

“Bigger?” Banyon repeated in surprise.

“We’ve found one,” Colonel Cole said with excitement.

“Found one of what?” Banyon inquired and stared at the colonel with his hands on his hips.

“We finally found a Sumi laser weapon,” Colonel Cole announced enthusiastically.

“Well, that is good news,” Banyon responded cautiously. “As I recall there are fifty that are unaccounted for and ten anti-gravity devices too.”

“Yes, and it is my job to find them and collect them for the government — by Presidential decree,” he replied proudly.

The war between the original inhabitants of Earth, the Sumi, and current earth people had only lasted two days, but millions had died on both side. St. Louis, New Delhi, and parts of Cambodia were left totally devastated. When the defeated Sumi left to go back to their planet they took all their dead and their weapons — but some had gone missing. The weapons were made with very advanced laser technology and powered by the ultimate energy source, Vril. In the wrong hands, they were very dangerous. Colton Banyon believed that the U.S. government should be included on the dangerous list.

Banyon and the Forever Ours team had orchestrated the final battle and ultimate defeat of the fascist factor of the Sumi in the Cambodian jungle. The newly formed SIM team had worked closely with them during the conflict and now worked out of the Dewey & Beatem offices. They were charged with finding all the weapons.

The Forever Ours team had also collected fourteen of the weapons for themselves. Banyon had hidden them in his vault at his home. He had not notified Colonel Cole or any government officials that he had them. Banyon had a number of secrets in his big vault including the Staff of Life.

“So are you here to gloat?” Banyon responded sarcastically. Their relationship had always been competitive and slightly tense in the past.

“No, no, I need your help,” the colonel admitted sheepishly. “I need to succeed on this mission Colt. It’s been two months since the attack and I haven’t even found one weapon. I may lose the team and my job. I need this one.”

Now more intrigued, Banyon walked closer to the colonel. “What do you need?” Despite their differences, the two men had helped each other many times in the past.

“The laser weapon has shown up on eBay. I need Timmy to hack into their database and find out the IP address and anything he can about the seller.”

“The government has hackers,” Banyon reminded him. “Why don’t you use them?”

“I could use government hackers, but as you know, they work slowly and eBay is not very good at sharing information. I need the information now before someone buys it and it disappears.”

Banyon didn’t hesitate. He pressed his Bluetooth which every employee was required to wear while in the office. “Timmy, can you come to my office, immediately?”

“Right on,” the replied came from the Director of Corporate Communications.

“Bring your laptop,” Banyon added.