Ch. 35

L.A., California, USA

Saturday April 1, 2029 – 2:32p.m.

The angry horn of another 18 wheeler blares as Peter races past, cutting the startled driver off, dangerously close to rear ending the station wagon impeding his progress in his current lane. With a foot to spare he squeezes in, flooring the gas and feeling as the power and scream of his turbo charged engine revs all the way to 5k RPMs. He can't help but smile. He finally has a straight shot. The stolen, royal blue '68 Shelby GT up ahead tries to veer to the side but the other drivers have nowhere to go and another off-ramp passes them by. Peter is almost at the last L.A. exit from the U.S.101 highway that cuts through the city.

"If I get him out of town, he'll be done. Nowhere to exit for miles." He growls to himself. The driver of the Mustang must realize this because on the upcoming off ramp he resorts to bumping the stubborn car to his right into the shoulder and just barely making it inside the concrete barrier that lines the huge circular bridge descending below into the streets of northern Los Angeles. Peter follows suit, easier for him due to the space the cars were now giving the crazed driver.

Once the turn begins to subside Peter floors the gas again, trying to gain on the muscle car. He knows he is being reckless, endangering civilians and himself alike, but his pursuit has his blood pumping and the adrenaline makes his senses seem extra attuned. The car takes a wide left, nearly running up on the sidewalk into several pedestrians who let out shrieks of surprise. Peter has to slow as he follows, allowing the car to get ahead of him once again.

The '68 Shelby races through an intersection as the light turns red, prompting other law abiding drivers to grind to a halt in front of Peter. With a shout of frustration Peter pounds the steering wheel before finding that the left turning lane is empty and floors it through the red light, just feet before he would have T-boned the right of way traffic. Horns blare and middle fingers fly but he now has a strait shot to his target. Just as the Mustang makes a sharp right, attempting to out-maneuver the large truck, Peter's enormous truck crashes into the back right end. This sends the car careening into the intersection where it is clipped by another oncoming vehicle, slamming it to a halt.

Before anyone else can get out of their vehicles Peter is out with a pistol in his right hand and his FBI badge held high in his left. "FBI! Stay in your vehicles!" He orders as he approaches his target's vehicle. Approaching from behind was dangerous because it gave his target time to draw a weapon of his own if he has one, but as he nears the driver window he sees that the driver is dazed and a gash on his left temple suggests he had a rough encounter with the side window or steering wheel.

Peter opens the door and drags the almost unconscious man out of the car onto the pavement. "Who sent you after me?!" He snarls as he shakes the man by his collar. The jarring seems to snap his target out of the daze because he begins to resist, but Peter quickly gains leverage on the overweight man beneath him. He twists the man's arm painfully behind his back, and puts his pistol to the side of the man's neck and purposefully takes off the safety. "Let me ask again… Who sent you?"

"I don't know. He or she uses a code name."

Peter jams the gun harder into the man's throat. "Come on! You know I need more than that!"

"Alright, alright." He says and stops resisting. Peter does not loosen his grip. "He's a ghost, sent to do the UN's dirty deeds and apparently he slipped up and they hired me to do cleanup."

"I figured out that much. What I want to know… is how to find him." The seriousness in his tone makes his target feel uneasy.

"So that's it. You and the girl are a thing, eh?" His inquiry is met with a pistol whip to the side of his face. "Bastard," He spits. "If the news guy hadn't emailed you, none of this would have happened. But my orders were to take out anyone who got ahold of that footage… Just your unlucky day I guess."

"Seems more like the bad luck is yours." Peter says. The crowd around them is gathering by now, and Peter sees several people with their phones out, recording the whole encounter. Not good. "So I will ask again. How do I find this 'Z'?"

"You can't." His target snarls.

"Fine. You'll help me." He whispers in the large man's ears. He pulls the man off his stomach to his feet, causing him to put weight on his injured leg and stumble and howl. "Nicholas Simmons, you are under arrest!" He says aloud, loud enough for the people watching to hear. Then he shoves his captive towards his truck and cuffs his left hand to the passenger door handle, so that his body is twisted and unable to make any sudden movements. Peter hops into the driver's seat.

"So, you found out who I am, eh. Good detective work, Agent Peter Smith." Nicholas says, aiming to prove he knows just as much about Peter as Peter knows about him.

"Might as well get comfy there Nick, somethin' tells me we're in for a long drive." The bearded man's face wrinkles at the thought. Peter didn't much like the thought either, but he can't help but chuckle at the truth of the old adage about keeping friends close but enemies closer.

Peter drives away from the scene. Leaving the crowd and hoping the wreck situation sorts itself out. The next few minutes follow in silence, with Peter glancing over every few seconds trying to keep an eye on Nicholas. When it seems clear that Nicholas isn't going to try anything, Peter begins questioning him. "So you are a private contractor of the less desirable persuasion, yes?"

"Yep." Is the only reply.

"How do you get your jobs?"

"Message." It seems Peter won't be getting very helpful answers, but has to keep at it. He needs to find out the root of all this mess. With Natasha occupied at one end of it, it seems he is the only one who can find the source of all this mess.

"Listen. All I want to do is find out why someone would use a private army to attack a rat-hole in the desert. They kidnapped two Americans for God's sakes. Don't you care about any of that?"

"Nope." This time Peter's frustration gets the better of him. He grabs the side of Nicholas' head and slams it to the right, knowing it hurts his previously broken nose. Nicholas tugs at his restraints to try and get back at Peter, but they hold true.

"Neither of us are getting out of this truck until you tell me something useful. Something I can use to find out my next step. Now, you said that I couldn't find him, but you seemed like you know how. So here's what's going to happen. Either you help me get what I need easily, or I will drag you into the nearest police station and have them hold you until I can get my best interrogators to pay you a little visit… now I bet there's some stuff about a certain news editor that you wouldn't want coming to light now isn't there."

Finally resigning to his circumstances, Nicholas takes a deep sigh and grudgingly begins. "I owe this contractor no loyalty other than my paycheck, which is technically forfeit at this point since I've essentially failed at my objective of quieting everyone involved with the video." He began with his original orders, going as far as detailing how he took out Ron, their confrontation at Peter's house and concluding at Peter using FBI satellite tracking to catch Nicholas while he is getting a snack at a gas station and the high speed chase that ensued. "So that's where we find ourselves now Agent."

"Okay. So now I know your methods, but doesn't get me closer to this 'Z'." Peter states, clearly confused.

"Sure it does. Now that you know who I am, you will tell me who you are and how all this landed in your lap. And only if I believe you, will I help you."

Now it is Peter's turn to divulge information. He is cautious but he needs this man to help him help Natasha. So he tells them his part in the chaos and when they are done, there is now a mutual although unspoken bond that seems to have somehow formed. Not friendship, or even trust—more like an understanding that they are stuck together until this whole thing is done—even if only so that one will not sabotage the other the minute they leave each other's sight.