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Thriller

Run faster! Beth-Ann thought as she ducked between trees, hopping over fallen logs.

She might have trained to be one of the best, but she was being chased by someone as well-trained. The heavily falling snow was an unwelcome curse, leaving a trail of footprints to follow while obscuring her vision to the pitfalls before her. The cold didn't matter, since her blood was running so high, it heated her up from the inside out. But she needed to find a place with people, a modicum of safety until she could get her bearings.

Beth-Ann traversed up a slippery stone, jumping off the other side, landing in a spongy cluster of moss. The grassy bits pulled at her boots as she barreled through to the next clump of trees, wending like a slalom course, ducking the bullet which whizzed over her skull.

Think of something or you're gonna die out here! she warned herself.

She should have thought before she got herself into this mess. It was supposed to be a simple exchange. Get into the Belarusian Embassy, swipe the zip drive from the safe in the ambassador's office, replace with a convincing fake, get out. Somehow, someone knew their plan. She and her partner were caught leaving the embassy. Her partner was murdered, giving her the fraction of a second she needed to escape. As if this could be considered escaping.

Minsk was the nation's capital, but an isolated city. The nearest big town was Mir, eighty-five kilometers away. Even for a seasoned spy, that was a long distance to travel on foot. If she could conceal it, she would try to double back. Right now, she needed a weapon.

Use your gift!

Now that wasn't her inner voice. Her inner voice had quieted that urge when she joined the CIA. The Company required a psych eval she intended to pass. Believing she possessed supernatural powers would not have helped. So she shut those thoughts away, becoming one of the top foreign agents in her field.

That would be her mother's nagging. The same mom whose psychic gifts almost squashed Beth-Ann's chances to be in the CIA from the start. Her mother also “influenced” the recruiters to approve her training. Still that didn't mean Beth-Ann wanted to embrace her childhood talents. She didn't even know if they still worked.

Use your gift! the reminder came again, this time more urgently as Beth-Ann nearly tripped over a piece of rotted wood.

To do so, she would have to stop and face her pursuers. She risked showing her power to people who could use the knowledge to exploit her. If she chose this course, she would have to kill whomever was after her. No one could know what she was.

Beth-Ann recognized she had no choice in the matter. If she didn't do as her mother's voice urged her, she would die out in these woods. As if to punctuate that thought, a bullet pinged into the tree just beside her ear. A large, wide pine was in her path and she focused on it. Once behind its relative safety, she took a deep breath, seeking her inner energy. She felt it click into place as her enemies gained ground.

Coming from behind the tree, facing the three who were after her, Beth-Ann spoke. Her voice caused a tremor on the air which shook the bullets flying her way. They lost all momentum, falling to the ground at her feet. She spoke to the men and they flinched, throwing their hands up over their ears in obvious pain, two of them losing their guns. She walked forward, intent on the discarded weapons, talking in a modulated tone. They screamed and threw themselves on the ground, writhing.

She didn't need a weapon to finish them. All she needed was to raise her voice. But Beth-Ann couldn't imagine soiling her gift that way, turning it into a murder weapon. She grabbed the guns from the ground, aiming them toward her pursuers. Without hesitation, she shot each of them twice to the temple in quick succession, the silencer making little popping sounds in the crisp, cold air.

She checked the bodies for money, jewelry, papers and came away with very little. These men were professionals like her, not guards from the embassy. It was more proof she and her partner had been betrayed and were meant to be terminated.

With this information, she knew she couldn't go back to Minsk. Men would be waiting for reports of her death. They would recognize her. She would have to head to Mir, no matter how long it took. Hopefully, she could get to safety before they began to look for her there.

Beth-Ann took a coat and a better pair of boots, close to her size, then set out over the treacherous wood. She was grateful for the blowing, snowy winds which would now cover her tracks up behind her. As a safety precaution, she turned back for a moment. Using her gift, she elicited a small avalanche of snow to fall from the tallest branches of the trees above the dead bodies. They were covered within seconds. Satisfied, she continued on.

Using the sun as a compass, Beth-Ann traveled southwest, keeping her eyes open to any sightings of life. She allowed herself to stop only a few times, long enough to eat untainted snow and hopefully keep hydrated. Her hunger didn't bother her. She was trained to ignore it, focusing on the mission. At present, that was safety.

Though the sun had set, the moon reflected off the snow to lend plenty of light for Beth-Ann to see. She had no desire to camp for the night. Wolves, bears and wild cats would make a nice meal of her if she were to rest. She already saw indications of their presence in the woods. Awake, she could shoot or use her power to protect herself. Sleep was yet another basic need which she'd been taught to ignore.

Just before dawn the next morning, Beth-Ann found herself at the edge of the forest, entering a meadow. She could see in the distance, a structure which looked like a barn. If it was, there would likely be a house close by. Despite the risk, she had to contact other people. It was her best chance to succeed.

She stopped and took a moment to retie her braid. She rubbed her dirty hands with snow until they ran clean, repeating the process with her face. She resembled a native in coloring and build, part of the reason why she had been chosen for this mission. Her Russian was nearly flawless, her Belarusian passable. She hoped the farmers would see her as one of their own. She needed their trust.

As she trekked across the meadow, she thought of the other trait she had been developing with her talent so long ago. She had been learning how to use her voice to soothe and seduce. The idea was to make people or animals amenable to her suggestions, sort of like hypnosis. Unfortunately, she hadn't done much training. She would hate to put it to the test untried as it was.

The structure came clearly into view now. It was definitely a barn. She could hear animals distantly sounding off from inside. She came around the building to find the farmer's house about a hundred yards away. Smoke came from the chimney indicating someone was inside. Beth-Ann was both hopeful and wary.

As she climbed the steps to the house, the sound of a shotgun being primed stopped her in her tracks. She held her hands up in surrender, speaking in Belarusian.

“I'm lost. I was traveling from Minsk to Mir when my vehicle broke down. I'm just looking for a ride. I have money. I can show you.”

She waited. When nothing was said in reply, she tried again in Russian.

“I heard you well enough the first time,” a man's rough voice responded in Belarusian. “Show me the money, but carefully. My weapon is aimed at you.”

Beth-Ann slowly went into her pocket, withdrawing the cash she stole from her pursuers. “It's over three hundred rubles,” she said, offering what was the equivalent of one hundred and fifty dollars American. “I just need a ride to Mir.”

The man behind the shotgun stepped out onto the porch, holding it pointed at the floorboards. He approached Beth-Ann, patting her pockets, looking for weapons. When he came up empty, Beth-Ann was relieved she decided to leave the guns behind.

“Come in,” he offered. “I will get my coat and drive you.”

She entered the kitchen and stood at the door, waiting as the farmer got into his jacket. There were indications of cooking, but no one else in sight. She imagined the man sent his family to hide before facing off with Beth-Ann. He was smart to do so. Even without a gun or her gift, at close range, she could disarm him, choking him out within moments. A woman or child, she could easily break their neck.

“Let's go.”

He took her out to an old truck with an open bed. She climbed into the cab beside him and noticed he left his weapon inside the house. Again smart. In the cab, she could easily commandeer it and blow his head off. Plus, if he took it with him, his wife and children would be left without a weapon. She was willing to bet, if he would give a stranger a ride for 300 rubles, it was likely the only one they could afford. She had definite respect for the man.

The farmer was untalkative, so the drive was quiet. Over rutted dirt roads and narrow pathways, the ride took nearly three hours. The snow stopped and the sun was out, melting some of the damage done the previous day. Beth-Ann hoped her victims weren't found soon, so she could get to safety without further issue. She was weaponless again, save her unique power.

Upon arriving in Mir, Beth-Ann thanked her driver and gave him the rubles, plus two hundred extra. She wished him well, making her way down unfamiliar streets to where her back-up contact should be. The town was laid out in her brain in perfect symmetry with the actual roads, leading her exactly where she needed to go.

She climbed the rickety back stairs to the rented room, sensing trouble as she neared the landing. It was the blood. She could smell it even in the brisk, winter air. That was something agents were trained to recognize. It could save a life.

The thickness of the smell in the air told Beth-Ann the only life she would be saving now was her own. But she knew they could hear her outside. It was obvious they knew she was coming here to meet her contact. Whether luck or they were simply tipped off as before, it didn't matter. They would come for Beth-Ann until she was dead.

Unless she stopped them right now.

She took the final steps, bursting open the door with just her voice, pitching it to stop the bullets she could hear firing even as she reached the landing. Her tone changed, sending the nine assailants to their knees, keening in pain, their hands clawing at their ears. Her assault continued as she retrieved every fallen weapon to keep them from being used against her. Then she killed every last one of them.

On their knees, two shots to the temple, no hesitation. This time there were no silencers. There would be repercussions if she were found. With so much gunfire, someone would be bold enough to summon the local police. From one of the dead bodies, she grabbed a coat and threw it over her own and a scarf which she wrapped around her head and face. Wiping down every weapon as quickly as she could, she left the same way she entered, but jumped from the stairs into the alleyway.

As soon as she came out onto the street, Beth-Ann found an empty storefront. She tucked herself into the doorway, ridding herself of the outer coat and scarf. Dressed as she was when she arrived, she revisited the map in her head. She was without help now. She would have to get out of Belarus on her own.

Poland would be the quickest route, but there was only one major city between Mir and the border. Her enemies would likely suspect she would seek refuge with the American consulate. They would probably be waiting for her in Hrodna. If she tried to use her papers to cross into Poland, she would be stopped as a criminal.

That left the Ukraine, farther away, but easier to enter. She could bribe a guard to let her across, no identification needed. She doubted her pursuers would guess she would head there. She just needed a ride out of Mir.

An hour later, she was traveling south with a Roma caravan. She rode in the back of an open-bed truck with members of the tribe. The group traveled with luggage near-to-bursting and a few pieces of furniture also strapped in alongside them. They followed another truck packed similarly and one followed behind. Beth-Ann had arranged to be taken as far as Zhitkovichi.

They reached their destination as the sun was going down. Beth-Ann immediately began searching for a boat across the river. Unfortunately, she was forced to pay exorbitantly to avoid waiting until morning, but she couldn't waste the time. As soon as she was across, she looked for a ride, but with no luck. She was going on day two without sleep, having had little to eat, but for the generosity of the travelers. She began to walk, keeping her eyes open for a car driving by or a farm. Eventually, someone stopped and asked if she needed a ride. Trusting her own strengths, Beth-Ann accepted the lift to the border.

When they reached the Ukraine, the driver presented his papers to the border guard and was identified without trouble. When the light was shined on Beth-Ann, she smiled.

“You don't need to see my papers,” she said in Ukrainian, another language she knew well enough.

She went to get her money for the bribe when the guard blankly waved them on. The driver looked at her quizzically, apparently not understanding the conversation. She simply smiled, not quite understanding what had just happened herself. She felt as if she was a Jedi Knight who had just used the Force to mind control a simpler brain.

Her power had worked to hypnotize.

Two hours later, her next ride arrived in Kiev. She got out a few hundred feet away from the gates of the US Embassy in the Ukraine. Beth-Ann went directly to the soldiers guarding the door stating she was an American who sought asylum. She produced her passport which she had hidden in a concealed pocket in her pants. It identified her as “Alice Darby, 28, of Royal Oak, Michigan”. She was immediately let inside the gates.

Beth-Ann was treated well by the staff, given food, a shower and a place to rest. As they ran her documents, she knew they would check out. The moment the passport run hit the computers monitored by the CIA, her department head would be notified. Either she would be sent encrypted instructions or someone would be sent to retrieve her. For the moment, she could cautiously relax.

She was asleep when they came for her. A knife slid against the skin of her neck. It would have sliced her jugular had she not gasped, sending a vibration across the air which sent the knife pushing back at the assailant. A pair of hands grabbed for her. Beth-Ann began speaking in Ukranian. From the moans she heard, both people who entered her room were no longer an active threat. She continued her recitation as she reached for her bedside lamp, trying the light. It was out. She reached up, screwing the bulb back in. The room was illuminated.

Two of the American soldiers she recognized from her arrival were dressed as Ukranian service staff. It was apparent they meant for her death to look like a hit arranged by those outside of the Embassy. But it was obvious she was being targeted by her own people.

“Who sent you?” she demanded of the one who tried to slice her throat.

Even in his pain, he stubbornly refused to respond. She tried the second man with the same results. Knowing what must be done, she got down on her knees and rolled the first man above her, before stabbing him through the side of the neck. She shoved him off and went to the second man. Now she ripped the lamp from the bedstand and slammed it into her assailant's head, hard enough to hopefully have broken his skull.

Bedraggled and bloodied, she staggered to her door and whimpered for help. She made it a few steps before guards were all around her.

The consulate assigned a soldier to be at her side until she got onto a plane returning to America. When she touched down in Boston, her boss, Mathers met her. She walked with him to the waiting limo, but before they entered the vehicle, they were surrounded by FBI.

“Don't look so surprised,” Beth-Ann told Mathers. “You were the only one who knew where I'd be at every step of the way. It had to be you.”

Her boss looked as if he were about to deny it.

“Don't,” she said in a soft voice which rippled on the air.

Suddenly Mathers began confessing as the agents took him away. The Agent in Charge asked Beth-Ann if she was alright.

“I will be,” she promised.

But she wouldn't be alright. From now on, she'd be amazing.  

January 14, 2020 23:35

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4 comments

Kara Piccolo
14:19 Jan 23, 2020

Great short story Amelia! I didn’t want to put it down, it had my adrenaline pumping!

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Amelia Coulon
20:54 Jan 23, 2020

Thank you! I appreciate the feedback.

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22:33 Jan 22, 2020

Nice use of harsh setting to really put the protagonist in an isolated, unforgiving situation. I also really liked the double level of secrecy of her having to hide her power from the agency, and the way that played into the icy paranoia of the plot.

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Amelia Coulon
20:54 Jan 23, 2020

I'm glad that my message came across. Thanks so much for the review.

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