BY: RLM Cooper
Cascadia, September 2133
On her 30th birthday, Alex Glover, Cascadian Intelligence Mission Agent, comes into possession of a unique journal that once belonged to a young American woman. On that day she also becomes the target of an American military determined to possess the journal—and the secret it contains—for themselves.
How the journal came to be in Cascadia is just one of the mysteries Alex and the CIMA-2 team must solve before they find themselves in a race against both time and the determined Americans as they embark upon a mission that takes them from Cascadia to Atlanta and across the American South.
Their mission: rescue one of their own being detained by the American FBI and recover and destroy a deadly substance that has already killed nearly a dozen people—a substance the Americans are eager to obtain and weaponize.
Millions of lives are at risk.
Failure is not an option.
Cascadia: 5 September 2063
Legacy Hall, Santa Rosa, California
With her right hand she pulled her left arm tight against her side in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood, yet it streamed down her arm and spattered onto the concrete walk where it thinned to pale pink rivulets in the drizzling rain. When hit, she had been so shocked several seconds elapsed before she could move again. Her breath stabbed sharp as she inhaled. The bullet must have pierced her lung. Each step was more difficult than the last, yet she was determined to keep going. Her destination lay only a few more feet ahead.
In the dusk of early evening, rain puddles reflected the building’s lighted windows, shimmering like heat rising from a desert. Golden. Pretty. Just a few seconds more. A few more steps and the promise she had made to her father would be kept. Kyra was inside, waiting for her—and for the journal. She felt the stiff, flat cover beneath her rain jacket, secured by the pressure of her arm across her body.
He had been shocked, too. So shocked, he was unable to move for several moments as she stumbled away from him toward the library doors. Yet now he was determined and slowly gaining, just yards behind her.
He called out her name. “Rachael!”
She pretended not to hear, looking back only once, strength failing. It was difficult to focus.
Why is he approaching so slowly? Why is he swimming through such thick water? I trusted him. I thought…
At the threshold at last, she pushed through the imposing double-doors of Legacy Hall and, stumbling forward, called out Kyra’s name.
Kyra had heard the pop of the weapon, like the backfire of an old automobile. She moved quickly around the corner of the adjoining hallway, her deep red robe and long, silver hair swirling behind her.
Along the cavernous main hall of the library, Rachael at last collapsed onto the cool, pink marble floor. Kyra dropped to the floor beside her and cradled her head and shoulders in her arms. For support, she leaned against the wall of legacy boxes for which the library had been built. She had been expecting Rachael.
But not like this.
Rachael was wounded and bleeding in her arms and it was mere seconds before the whump of the thick wooden doors thudded open again, revealing a tall, male figure.
The man entered and advanced quickly toward them, his footsteps echoing through the hall. He was unknown to Kyra. Unexpected. Determined. She sensed danger. Whatever else happened, she must safeguard the journal. She had also made a promise to Rachael’s father and, in this moment, she knew of only one way to secure it—and whatever secrets it held.
She scanned the hundreds of locked, glass-fronted boxes lining the wall behind her and felt a flood of relief as she detected the faint glow of green light behind the glass door of one located to her left, just within arm’s reach. The light was a beacon, its green color signaling the box’s availability. Cradling Rachael in her right arm, she fished the master key from her robe with her left hand and pushed it into the lock of the glass door. She flung it open.
For Rachael, time began stretching in an odd, smeared slow motion. Her blonde hair, wet and darkened by the rain, was matted to the side of her face. She could feel her heart pulsing, but her vision was blurred and fading. Her left arm felt sticky and strangely wet. She couldn’t remember why. She was resting against something—someone—soft and warm. Comfortable.
Paul’s face swam before her, and she cried out as she re-lived the moment he was left on the side of the road so near to death. She wanted to sleep, but she heard someone calling her name.
She frowned slightly at the woman bending close above her. She thought her face old, lovely, and kind. Then she remembered her father and the promise she had made.
I’m sorry, Daddy. I messed up.
Kyra frantically reached inside the open glass door of the legacy box and threw wide the already-unlocked, solid interior door.
“Rachel! The Journal!”
“Here…” Rachael, drifting on the edge of conscious-ness, slowly remembered her mission. She frowned at the sudden pain in her side as she released her arm to move the journal from her rain jacket into Kyra’s waiting hands.
“Oh God! There’s no time!” Kyra was near panic.
The man was upon them now, so close Kyra imagined she could smell his breath. Onions, and garlic, and something bitter. His hair and clothing, like Rachael’s, were soaked from the rain. He lunged across Rachael for the journal now in Kyra’s hand, the strong fingers of his right hand wrapping firmly around the book’s spine.
Kyra was certain the book was lost to his superior strength. But she did not let go. She held on tight and turned, instead, toward him and looked deliberately into his eyes. Then she knew.
Never taking her eyes from his, she gently, slowly, pulled the journal from his grip. Finger by finger. Oddly, he did not resist, nor turn his eyes from her stare. With deliberate speed, she shoved the journal into the empty legacy box and slammed shut the solid, inner door.
At the sound of the metal door clicking into place, he tore himself from her steady gaze and reached over Rachael in a final attempt to reopen it before its lock could be engaged. But he was too late. With one final thrust, Kyra pushed the inner key into the locked position and the faint glow of light inside the outer glass door morphed from green to red. The timer had begun. The box was secure. It would remain so well beyond their lifetimes.
Kyra silently prayed that whatever secret the journal held would remain safe as well. She was sorry she could not keep her promise to Rachael’s father. But she had done her best. She had, at least, kept it safe.
As the lock engaged, a leaden cloak of resignation fell over the man. His shoulders sagged. As though he had been playing some strange part removed from reality, he slowly emerged through the mist to the pain of the scene before him. His dark eyes were wet. He moved slowly away from the two women, brushing Rachael’s arm with his fingers gently—even tenderly—as he rose. He turned back once and looked again at Kyra, then down upon Rachael’s frail figure in the older woman’s arms. There was a sadness about him that puzzled Kyra. She felt a strange curiosity, but no longer fear. The danger, if ever there had been any, was past.
He turned and rapidly walked the length of the hall, disappearing through the doors, and out into the evening rain. He did not look back again. He had not spoken a single word other than Rachael’s name.
Rachael was still.
Kyra continued cradling her still-warm body as she calmly reached up to close and lock the outer door of Legacy Box 627. She slipped the master key back into her pocket and stared down the hallway into the blackness of the evening beyond the doors the man had left open to the rain.