Zonkerton glanced around the low-slung stronghold and checked to see that the guards were all still in their positions. The base wasn’t much more than some old ruins with tarps slung over the tops to keep out the rain, but the entire resistance movement was orchestrated from this point. It was high-desert, not a single settlement for over a hundred miles in any direction. They were protected by sheer distance, and sitting atop the only well. Before turning back to his charts, he stopped one of his men who was on his way to the only actual building on the site.
“Hey, Chooch, you better not be going where I think you’re going,” Zonkerton warned.
“Ahh, I was just gonna see the princess,” Chooch grinned. “Just a little visit.”
“We been over this, Chooch,” Zonkerton waggled a finger. “The president’s daughter is off-limits to your kinds of visits. Once he lets our people go, then you can take her. That’ll be the leverage we need to get him to step down from office.”
“Ehh, I’m getting tired of waiting,” Chooch waved. “A few more days in this desert, she’s gonna look too good to pass up.”
Zonkerton opened his mouth to scold his comrade, but a guard interrupted them.
“There’s a guy commin!” he shouted. “Black car! Is gotta be tha’ negotiator they said they’d send!”
“Ahhhh,” Zonkerton sighed happily. “This should do it, stick around, Chooch, you going to see the beginning of the end for the leader of the ‘free world’, eh, eh?”
The car was allowed to enter the compound, and before long it’s only occupant stepped out carrying a very large case.
“Tha’s the guy,” Chooch pointed. “Tha’s him? Ha! He was a fool to bring payment!”
“We’ll take whatever he has, and then demand the release of our people,” Zonkerton nodded. “That’ll be a nice bonus, eh?”
The man stopped beneath the tarp and placed the case on top of Zonkerton’s maps. It was hand-cuffed to his wrist. He was covered in head-to-toe with black and red body armor, and wearing dark sunglasses which he removed to glare at the two resistance fighters.
“My name is Hunter Jusenkyou,” he introduced himself. “Representative of the Gudersnipe Foundation. I’ve come to broker and agreement for the surrender of Alicia Eeles, the president’s daughter.”
“Yes, yes,” Zonkerton waved, signaling for his men to surround the representative. They brought out their crude assortment of automatic riffles and other equipment, showing him exactly who was in the right position to make deals here. “The president already knows what we want! All right, what trinkets have you brought to trade for her?”
“Hold on, just a moment, and I’ll give you my offer,” Hunter took out a small communicator and spoke into in hushed tones. All Zonkerton or his men could here were the final string of words: now, now, now.
Hunter put the communicator away and indicated for them to watch the horizon to the west. A strange cloud suddenly shot up over a sand dune, small and clearly far away, but it was soon accompanied by a horrifying glow, and, a few moments later, and ear-splitting blast.
“What was that?!” Zonkerton screamed, grabbing a riffle and pointing it at Hunter.
“That was a tactical, ten-megaton nuclear-two warhead,” Hunter replied calmly. “Surface-detonated sixty miles away.”
Moving slowly so as not to startle the guards, Hunter opened the case to reveal a large ovoid shape. He took a small remote out and held it up for Zonkerton to examine while he hit a few buttons.
“This is a forty-megaton nuclear-two weapon,” he explained. “And this—“ his thumb came down on a large red button on the remote. “—is a dead-man’s switch.”
Zonkerton could feel his face go white as he dropped the riffle and backed away. Chooch screamed some curse and ran, other soldiers joined him.
“My offer,” Hunter continued. “Is to take the girl, and the bomb, and get back into my car and drive away, without releasing this switch. Do you accept?”
“You’re ki—you wouldn’t dare—“ Zonkerton stammered.
“The minimum safety-distance on a surface detonation of this size is at least one-hundred-twenty miles,” Hunter stated. “If you ran as fast as you could right now, you’d die with your back to the fire. Your entire operation would be vaporized. There is no counter-offer, here. Either you accept my offer, or not.”
“But you’d kill her!” Zonkerton screamed hoarsely.
“And you,” Hunter pointed out. “And myself. You may take the time to observe: do I look concerned about any of this?”
“You’re insane,” Zonkerton snarled.
“And you’re running out of time,” Hunter replied. “Now go get the girl, have her put into my vehicle. Unless you have a better offer.”
“We are—“ Zonkerton began, but Hunter held up his other hand for silence.
“I’m a representative of the Gudersnipe Foundation, we are not interested in your rhetoric,” he stated plainly. “This is how the Foundation negotiates with terrorists. Now, hand over the girl, or I let go of this remote.”
Written June 25th, 2011
And the count is now down to 684, see you soon!