Cole Wicklander – Roman Drake

Roman sat in on the roof of the tallest building for a mile. His mission had taken him just outside of New Delhi, India, and skyscrapers loomed in the distance. The target came into view of Roman’s binoculars followed by a girl Roman’s age, his twin sister Brittney. “He’ll be in range in ten seconds. Backup is still five minutes out. Prepare to take the shot,” Brittneys voice came in over Roman’s earpiece. Roman took a deep breath to settle his nerves, then pulled the trigger twice. Both shots hit their marks. The target went down.

“Nice shot,” Brittneys voice faded out of his ear as she collapsed. Roman stood up, grabbed two duffle bags that were sitting to his right, and walked away.

###

It was a cold and cloudy January morning in London, the frigid winds pushing against Roman as he walked to class. His dorm room was on the opposite side of campus from his first class of the day, forcing him to expose himself to the wind and rain that came with winter in London. He climbed up the stairs and someone yelled from behind him. “Hey Simon, wait up!” Simon was Roman’s alias, and he still hadn’t gotten used to it.

Roman brushed his shaggy blondish brown hair out of his face, barely looking up from the book he was reading, and turned towards Graham as he hurried to catch up to Roman. Graham was built like a penguin so his version of running looked more like a fast waddle and wasn’t all that fast. When they got to the top of the stairs, two students came barreling down the hall towards them and Roman pulled Graham to the side to prevent the collision.

“Thanks,” Graham said.

“No problem,” Roman responded.

Graham seemed like he had something else on his mind. “Simon, what did you get on the geometry test?”

Roman looked up from his book. “I got an A-.” 

Graham frowned. “I got an A.” Graham paused for a second, “You always seem to get the same thing. Did you notice that? In English, French, P.E… You have an A- in every class.”

Roman shrugged. “I’m consistent. And I have an A in History” 

“I guess. Why don’t you study a bit more to get A’s?” 

“I try. I just have a hard time studying for long periods of time—”

“Hey, Graham!” 

Graham sighed and turned around. “Hey, Sean.” 

“Whatcha reading?” Sean asked mockingly. Pointing to the book Graham held under his arm. He knew exactly what the book was about, Graham always read the same type of books.

“It’s called Spy Stakes. It’s about a kid spy.” It wasn’t what he said, but how he said it: with a faraway glint in his eyes. His hand tightened on his backpack strap. You could feel Graham’s jealousy oozing from his tone.

Sean smirked. “Do you want to be a spy fatty! Because the only way you will ever be a spy is in your dreams.” Sean made a point to switch up his bullying strategies every day, sometimes it was insults, sometimes it was wedgies, sometimes both. He usually left Roman alone and went straight for Graham, probably because he was such an easy target.

“Yes. You told me this yesterday Sean.” Graham responded.

Sean continued, “If anyone here could be a spy it would be me. Not the nerd standing next to me.” 

Roman could see where he was coming from. Sean wasn’t that bright but he was athletic. He was built like a bull, with broad shoulders and always wore a tank top that showed off his biceps. He excelled at nearly every sport he played.

Samuel walked up from behind Roman. “Come on Sean, leave him alone. Graham could be just as good a spy as you. He’s definitely the smartest guy in school, although,” he paused pretending to be deep in thought, “ neither of you could be as good as me. Out of all of us I am definitely the next James Bond.” 

Graham stared at Sam. “I could be a better spy than you Sam! I am great with computers. I could make all the gadgets I would need on missions and I could hack into the enemy computers.”

“With your P.E grade you would need a lot more than just a few gadgets to make you a good spy!” Sean cracked. Graham got very quiet.

“Who do you think the best spy would be, Simon?” Sam asked.

Roman looked to Sam, then to Graham, and finally Sean. Out of all of them Sam seemed like the most likely candidate, he was intelligent, persuasive, athletic. But Roman thought that he might as well answer honestly. “I would definitely be a better spy than all of you.” Although he didn’t want to be. Not anymore. He had left that life in New Delhi, and didn’t plan on going back.

There were a few yah rights and no ways before Graham looked at his watch. “Hey, guys. We need to get into class.” 

First period started differently, Mr. Sherman the history teacher stood up and introduced a new student. He sat down and a girl walked in. Everyone’s jaws dropped at the same time. She was gorgeous, she had light brown hair tied in a single braid hanging down her neck. She looked as though she was a mixture of every race in the world and didn’t look more like one than any other. She wore a light pink sweater, jeans, and flat shoes. She introduced herself as Amilia Avery and she was from Los Angeles, California, and loved riding horses. While everyone was paying heavy attention to her look Roman could feel his face go red in annoyance. He barely remained composed. “I’m here to visit my cousin for a little while. There he is over there,” the new girl was saying, as she pointed at Roman. “Hi, Simon!”

###

“What are you doing here!” Roman exploded on his “cousin”. They were in Roman’s dorm room so that they could talk in private. Romans’ room was a space about the size of a walk-in closet,  filled with a desk, a small dresser, and his bed. They were both sitting on Romans bed.

“I found out where my brother was hiding after 5 months. I wanted to see how you’re doing,” she responded.

Roman was infuriated, he was barely keeping it together. “Does dad know where I am?”

“No. I figured you would be happier with just me.”

It was true. The last person he wanted to see then was his father, who had put him in the spying business to begin with. The person who had pushed him to be the best, without asking how he felt about it. “You know I didn’t want to be found by anyone. So why did you really find me, Brittney? You’re on orders aren’t you.”

Brittney smiled. “At least you’re not rusty.”

“Don’t remind me.”

Thump. Thump. Thump. “Hey, Roman! Can we come in?”

“Now’s not a good time,” Roman responded, planting his face in his hands.

“It’s important! Come on, let us in!”

Roman glanced at Brittney, who nodded. “Fine, come in.”

The door burst open and Sean, Graham, and Sam walked in. “What do you guys want?” Roman asked. 

“We wanted to welcome your cousin to the school,” Sean said with a large grin.

“Thank you all so much,” Brittney said.

“We don’t really have time for this right now guys. Amilia has to go to her dorm room to get unpacked before breakfast tomorrow.” Roman said.

“Simon’s right. We were just finishing up our conversation and then I was going to head to my room,” Brittney agreed.

“Oh, ok,” they all responded.

On the way out the door Sean turned around. “Well when you start unpacking find me and I’ll be sure to come and help you out.”

“Of course.”

After they left the room Roman and Brittney waited until they knew they were far enough away not to hear. “Whatever it is, I am not doing it,” Roman said.

“I have orders to bring you in against your will if needed,” Brittney responded.

“As of five months ago I am retired,” Roman argued.

“Five months ago you shot me with a tranquilizer dart and deserted. I’m still a little annoyed by the whole dart thing by the way.”

Roman shrugged. “I thought shooting you was fun. And does it really matter? They wouldn’t have let me retire if I had asked. Not while I’m a Drake. Or alive. And I didn’t feel like faking my own death. Although that would have been more effective. Live and learn I guess.”

“We leave first thing in the morning, before anyone is awake,” Brittney said.

“You mean that you leave first thing in the morning. I will be transferring tomorrow night. I need time to get a new name and erase my information from the school database,” Roman said.

“You don’t get a say in this. Everything is in order. You won’t exist at this school in six hours. We will take a car to a safe house a few miles away for the briefing. You don’t get to say no. The mission we need you for is priority alpha-1.”

Roman startled at this, priority alpha-1 could only be called on by a handful of the highest ranking officials in the spying world getting together and voting unanimously on it in person. It’s big. Roman had only read about priority alpha-1, the last time it was placed on a mission was at the end of WWII, the “suicide” of Hitler. But the fact that alpha-1 had been engaged just made Roman more reluctant to go. “I will not be a part of it. I am retired.”

“Your 15. You can retire when you’re 60,” Brittney responded.

“You do that, I’m done with that life.”

“You can’t do that and you know it. Josh is gone and you’re Dad’s little prodigy. When are you just going to accept it?”

“I have no plans to ever accept it,” Roman was getting annoyed now. He walked over to open the door, signaling to Brittney that the conversation was over.

Once Brittney was out of the room Roman flopped on his bed. He was exhausted from dealing with his sister. He would have to wake up shortly before Brittney came to collect him and disappear. But he ended up lying awake in bed thinking over his situation.

He thought of his life five months ago. Waking up at 5am to complete his twelve hours of required training a day. Constantly trying to improve himself physically and mentally. It was like Roman was forced to go to a job and work overtime while also going to school and serving as a marine. He didn’t have any time to have fun other than just after he completed a mission, he would usually have a few hours to explore wherever he had been working. He had been his father’s secret weapon, when all he wanted was some down time. “Winners don’t take breaks. And Drakes are the ultimate winners.” His father’s words rang in his ears. After free time, going undercover was the next best thing. He got to be someone else who didn’t have to work so hard every single day. It was his only really escape. And this had been his deepest cover outing yet, and he wasn’t on assignment, and he wasn’t going back.

About an hour before Brittney was going to try and collect him, Roman heard footsteps. His first thought was that Brittney decided to come get him early but he knew his sister’s footsteps. There were six people. Roman could tell from how light there footsteps were that they were well trained, similar to a team of green berets. Roman grabbed a bag from under his bed, silently crept over and opened his window, and started to climb down the side of the building. The dormitory was three stories high. Roman’s room was on the top floor, and the climb down was difficult. The dormitory was made of red bricks and there were very few obvious hand and foot holds. Even so Roman was making incredible time, he had practiced the climb dozens of times over the last few months just for this kind of situation. He was still 10 feet off the ground when he heard the men enter his room. They were speaking Mnong, not a very common language, although it seemed like that was the point. Roman could speak a little Mnong, it was a useful language for spies and spies in training to learn as it wasn’t commonly used outside of the relatively small area where the language originated. “Where’s the boy?!” One man said in Mnong.

“The windows open!” another responded.

Quietly Roman transferred over to a short leafless tree and swang down to the ground like an ape. Landing silently he retreated into the shadows in between some tall ferns and the dormitory. The men looked out the window seeing nothing they turned back to Roman’s dorm room. Roman had got into the habit of wearing dark camouflage pajamas in 3rd grade and never grown out of it. He would be a ghost and disappear before they even got out of the building. Roman figured that Brittney would be fine as she had the same training as him, minus a few self taught lessons. Quietly, Roman exited his place in the shadows. When he passed by the dormitory entrance it creaked open. “Simon what are you doing!” It was Graham. 

The intruder’s footsteps started coming toward the entrance, fast. Roman was thrown off guard. He had been focusing on the intruders footsteps and hadn’t been listening for any 3rd party noise. Graham asked again, “what are you doing, Simon!” 

Roman cringed at how badly this was going. He grabbed Grahams arm and tried to pull him along with him but Graham resisted. “I asked you what you are doing Simon! I saw you climbing down the side of the building from my room. Don’t deny it!”

“I don’t have time for this Graham. Come with me or we will both be in trouble,” Roman urged.

“Not until you tell me what you are doing!”

“Yah, what are you doing?”

Roman looked up to the doorway. It was Sam and Sean. Roman cringed again. Graham hadn’t been yelling, but he also hadn’t been quiet and those two had dorms right next to the dormitory entrance. The footsteps of the intruders were getting closer. “All three of you need to come with me right now!” Roman said.

“Why?” Sean snorted.

“Is dead a good response?! Because that’s what you’re going to be in 2 minutes if you don’t follow right behind me.” With that, Roman turned around and ran towards the edge of the school.

When Roman looked back all three of them were following. The panic in Romans eyes had convinced them that he wasn’t kidding. At the edge of the school there was a ten foot tall wall, made of the same red brick. Roman hit the wall running and was to the top before the others even made it to the bottom. “Sean and Sam, you guys push Graham up to me. Then Sean will give Sam a boost and I’ll help him up, then Sam and I will pull Sean over.”

“Wait a second! We still don’t know what’s going on here!” Graham argued.

“Who cares! We’re leaving school. Isn’t that enough to do it.” Sean said.

“No!” Graham said.

Roman looked at the dormitory. The men were coming towards them now. Attracted by their talking. It wouldn’t be long until they were on top of them. “You see those guys over there. They have guns. Now, do you want to climb the wall or talk with them,” Roman said.

The three of them looked stund. “H-h-how do you know that they have guns?” Graham asked.

“Educated guess,” Roman responded, “They broke into the school and my room, covered in black. I felt it was safe to assume that they had guns. Also, it would just be dumb not to.” Roman slid a pistol of his own out of his bag to prove his point.

Graham’s eyes went wide. “Fair enough…”

Sean and Sam boosted Graham up and Roman helped him over the top,etting him drop into the bushes on the other side. Next came Sam, although instead of going over the side of the wall Roman grabbed a rope and tossed one end down to Sean. Then he and Sam jumped over the other side of the wall, grabbed the rope, and started pulling with their body weight. After a few seconds Sean appeared at the top of the wall and a flashlight shone on Sean as he jumped down. “Over here,” one of the men said in Mnong.

“Follow me!” Roman whispered. Then he started down the winding streets of London.

They were making good progress, every time their pursuers got close enough to get a shot through the darkness Roman would lead them down an alley or parallel street. But they couldn’t keep up this game of cat and mouse. Graham looked like he was going to hurl. They would be caught and most likely killed in a matter of minutes if they didn’t pick up the pace, or unless their pursuers slowed theirs. “In here!” Roman said as he turned towards an old run down bar. The door was locked but Roman kicked it off its partially rotted hinges. He ran behind the counter. “Start smashing the bottles. The higher the alcohol percentage the better.”

Sean and Roman started throwing bottles on the ground all around the bar. “Shouldn’t we keep running!” Sam yelled.

“No. And keep your voice down,” Roman whispered.

“You aren’t doing what I think you’re doing?!” Graham whispered.

Roman showed him a lighter in his other hand. “No! That’s suicide!” Graham protested.

“It is if we don’t have a way out.”

“We don’t! You said it yourself, these guys are smart! They probably have this place surrounded already!” Graham was panicking, looking at Roman like he was insane.

“Definitely. We aren’t getting out through traditional means.”

“What do you mean?” Graham asked.

“Start smashing bottles and I will handle the exit!” Roman said.

Graham still looked hesitant, but Sam and Sean were going strong and liquor was pooling on the floor. Roman took a metal container from his bag. Inside was blue gel. Roman set to work smearing a generous layer of the gel in the outline of a small door on the wall. Then came the men, 3 of them came in from the front door and 4 from the back of the bar. They were huge. All of them were over 6 foot and armed with a pistol with a long suppressor on the barrel, which made sense for a stealth mission. Roman grabbed two bottles from Sam and through them at the two in the lead. Then he clicked the lighter and lit the gel on the wall. The gel seemed to absorb the flame, and where the small flame had touched the gel turned a bright orange that quickly spread in along the arc of the gel. Then the wall inside the gel arc collapsed, charred at the edges. Leaving a small doorway. Sean, Graham, and Sam ran through the new door. As Roman turned to go through last, he lit the flame again and dropped it into the liquor that had pooled on the floor. The lighter seemed to fall in slow motion. Roman could see the eyes of the attackers widen as they realized what he had done. He had missed this part of the job, normal life seemed terribly boring compared to this, yet, boring was exactly what he had been looking for. Roman emerged from the bar with a tsunami of heat and fire roaring behind him. He led them down the street as the bar collapsed in a blizzard of red and gray snow.

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