Firestorm: Book III of the Wildfire Saga

Contents

Title Page/Copyright

Books by Marcus Richardson

Dedication

Half title

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Call to Action

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Books by Marcus Richardson

Half title copy

MARCUS
 
RICHARDSON

© 2016 Marcus Richardson.

All Rights Reserved.

1st Printing, April 2016.

This is a work of fiction.
 

The people and events in this book have been written
 

for entertainment purposes only.
 
Any similarity to living
 

and/or deceased people is purely coincidental and not intentional.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
 

in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical,
 

including photocopying, recording, or by any information
 

storage and retrieval system without prior written consent by the author.

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Books by Marcus Richardson

The Future History of America
 

Alea Jacta Est

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Dux Bellorum
(2016)

The Wildfire Saga

Apache Dawn

False Prey
(Novella)

The Shift

Firestorm

For KJ.
 

C
HAPTER
1

Kursk, Russia.

V
ASILY
A
NDROPOV
STOOD
IN
the first line of ten applicants with forty other men and women arrayed behind him in orderly rows.
 
They had been waiting in the gymnasium for what seemed like an hour.
 
He glanced around at the crumbling facility.
 
A huge faded red star marred the concrete of the far wall behind a rusted basketball hoop.
 
The chipped mural displayed what remained of a golden hammer and sickle, cracked and crumbling like the old empire it represented.

Vasily turned to looked at the two men on either side of him.
 
Both were of middle height with neatly trimmed brown hair.
 
Just jeans and a casual shirt, no beards or stubble.
 
They looked as if they would be comfortable on any city street in Russia.
 
Vasily frowned.
 
Their casual clothes were the equal of his best shirt and trousers.
 
As the son of a poor farmer, Vasily didn't stroll down the streets of any city.

“How much longer will they make us wait for the results?” he asked.
 
Talking eased his anxiety—securing the job would mean more money than he could ever hope to make on the farm.

The man on his right fixed cold blue eyes on him and turned away with a grunt and a shrug.
 
The one on his left offered a tight smile.
 
“I want to know why they have armed guards in here.”


Sssh!
” a woman behind them hissed.
 
“They said no talking.”

The man on Vasily’s left winked.
 
“Aleksei.”

They shook hands.
 
“Vasily.”

“You think we failed?" asked Vasily's new acquaintance under his breath.
 
"Maybe they’re waiting to dismiss us?”

Vasily eyed the impassive men with AK-47s at the gym's three exits.
 
They wore uniforms he couldn’t place and stared straight ahead, ready but not staring at any one person in particular.

“I don’t know,” he said.
 
“Perhaps they’re—”

The main double doors, directly across the gymnasium opened and bright light temporarily blinded the applicants.
 
More than one hand flew up to shield dark-adapted eyes.

A loud clanging accompanied the return of semi-darkness as the doors closed.
 
Vasily’s eyes struggled to re-adapt to the dim lighting in the dreary gym but his ears worked just fine: people in heavy boots tromped across the chipped and scuffed wooden floor.
 

“Hello and congratulations!” called out a cheerful male voice.
 
“I am
 
Igor Voroshilov.”

The speaker stepped closer.
 
He stood examining the applicants for a moment and nodded to himself.
 
“They are certified?
 
All of them?” he called over his shoulder.
 
A woman in a lab coat flipped through the pages on her clipboard as she stepped forward.

“Yes.
 
All of them."
 
She frowned.
 
"The best candidates available.”

"Will it be enough?” asked a man in the group behind Voroshilov.
 
His voice echoed in the silence.

“It will have to be,
nyet
?” Voroshilov replied.

"You don't give us enough time—” the man complained.

"Do not worry,” soothed Voroshilov.
 
“I am sure they will be fine.”
 
He focused on the ranks of waiting applicants and smiled.
 
“Worry not, my friends—everyone in this room has passed the test!
 
You are all hired!”

Spontaneous cheers erupted but Vasily felt only cautiously optimistic.
 
He’d been told there were a very limited number of positions available.
 
He glanced up and down the line of people in the first row, shaking hands and laughing.

“Okay, please calm down everyone.
 
There are still some things—” Voroshilov began.
 
He laughed, arms spread wide.
 
"Settle down, please."

“Will we still be paid the full amount?” someone called out.
 

“I thought there were only a few positions…?” another voice added cautiously.
 
A murmur of agreement followed the question.

Voroshilov raised his voice over the noise: “Yes!
 
You will all be paid the full amount—$175,000 American.”

More cheering.
 
Vasily couldn’t believe his luck.
 
After all the medical tests and the barrage of mental exams, he was sure he’d flunk out of the program.
 

“Why do those men have guns?” asked the woman who’d
sssshed
Vasily a few moments earlier.
 
The crowd fell silent.

Voroshilov never missed a beat.
 
His smile never wavered.
 
“When dealing with the amount of money we are, one learns to take precautions.
 
Hence meeting in this dreadful place,” he said. “My company requires the highest security in this matter.
 
The amount of money involved in the overall program is more than you can imagine.
 
Remember, you are just a small piece.
 
Onnei is a global corporation—we have programs like this all over Europe and Asia, North America too.”
 
Voroshilov shifted his attention back to the entire group.
 
“And this is only the beginning!
 
When you complete each assigned tasks, the bonuses will increase.”

He turned and waved a hand to the guards by the doors.
 
A platoon of unarmed men marched in, each carrying two silver briefcases.
 
The doors on the right side of the gym opened and another group entered wearing surgical scrubs.
 
They wheeled IV stands and carried bulky equipment bags.

“You are wondering what is happening,” said Voroshilov above the noise of the new arrivals.
 
“First, you will each receive a series of travel vaccinations administered by our medical staff," he nodded in their direction then gestured toward the men with briefcases.
 
"Then each of you will then meet with one of our veteran couriers to discuss the details of your first assignments."

“Vaccinations?
 
What for?” demanded the man on Vasily’s right.

“On your applications, you indicated international travel was acceptable to you—to all of you, yes?” asked Voroshilov.
 
“The European Union has strict travel restrictions in place to combat the American Flu in Berlin and Cordoba."
 
He clasped his hands behind his back and smiled.
 
"You are the lucky ones—you will get the vaccine and a special immune system booster we created to make sure you stay healthy on your travels for Onnei Systems.
 
I assure you, the vaccine is quite safe—I have had it myself.”

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