D.S.S. agent Roy Lombardi looked up from his palm tablet. “Kelly?”
“You are to meet with Jemal Yavuz at this address in Kurtulus.” He handed me a paper.
“You know Istanbul.”
“This meeting might be a trap.”
Lombardi nodded. “I’m aware of that possibility.”
“Erdogan Jr. or the Russians might want to pick up a CIA hostage.”
“True, but we can’t skip the chance to get a source inside of Alssayf. “
“The Prague truck bombers?”
“Yeah. One of them wants to change sides — for a price.” He looked at me. “It’s worth the risk.”
Roy grinned. “I’m sending Basilone 27 with you.”
“One of the clones?”
“That’s the plan. Why?”
“Those enhanced Marines give me the willies.”
Roy’s grin became broader. “They should.”
Corporal Basilone 27 sat motionless on a straight-backed chair in the embassy’s security annex. “Excuse me, Corporal Basilone?”
Basilone 27 leapt to her feet. “Mr. Kelly?”
She was a full head shorter than my five feet, eleven inches, dark-haired, dark-eyed and slender. “Might we require a larger force for this mission?”
“Sir, I am equivalent to three Navy Seals or five Army Rangers.”
“Have you downloaded the mission data?”
We stepped out of our third cab at the top of the hill above Istanbul’s Gypsy Flea Market.
“This way, sir.” Basilone headed down Mekkareci Caddesi into Kurtulus.
I followed a pace behind. “Corporal Basilone?”
“Sir?” Her eyes scanned the street ahead.
“What exactly does ‘enhanced’ mean?”
“What special capabilities do you have?”
A propane truck lurched up the hill toward us, a lovely four-note melody pealing from its loudspeaker, announcing its presence in case any wife cooking supper needed gas.
“I provide close protection without employing firearms, sir.”
“Yes, I appreciate that Turks don’t take kindly to Americans waving machine guns around. You seemed to be in a trance when we first met.”
“My coms and computer links are highly advanced and internal, sir. Tactical updates are constant.”
“Does that bother you?”
“No, sir. Much of a Marine’s duty entails waiting. I use that time productively.”
“One of my links is to a data archive detailing Corps history. I have a standing order to study it when I can.”
“I see. And what about your name?”
“Basilone denotes my particular variant. I am number twenty-seven in the clone series. There will be another two hundred of me, budget constraints allowing.”
“He was a Marine hero, sir.”
I said nothing. She continued.
“On October 24th, 1942 three thousand soldiers of the Japanese Sendai Division attacked Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Sergeant Basilone’s machine gun sections fought them for three days. By the battle’s end only three Marines were still standing. Sergeant Basilone, their leader, was awarded the Medal of Honor.”
We turned the corner of Mekkareci and Degirman Sokak. Un-re-enforced brick apartment buildings six stories high lining both sides of the street gave me a shiver. This whole place was going down in the next big quake, hopefully not tonight.
Every apartment had a balcony and flower box. Grandmothers sat all day and into evenings on those balconies — joking with their neighbors, hauling up purchases from fruit vendors on long strings and keeping watch on the neighborhood.
I glanced at the balconies. No grandmothers.
I turned. Two men approached me from Mikkareci. “Too late.”
“Against the wall, sir.”
I flattened against yellow bricks, now gray with dusk. Five more figures detached themselves from doorways. Light from a second-floor window gleamed off a knife, a bicycle chain, a wrench — street rules.
Basilone leapt. Knife man’s blade sliced air a centimeter from her torso. She punched his larynx, whirled and took bicycle chain in the temple with her left foot. Both dropped to the greasy cobbles. Her landing took her close to wrench. She stepped inside of his swing and buried her fist in his solar plexus. He joined knife and chain on the pavement. The two remaining thugs ran.
The men to my right pulled guns — no more street rules. They fired, hitting Basilone multiple times. She went down. The guns swung toward me.
I employed my most reliable defensive move: I raised my hands. The two men approached me. I recognized the one on the right.
“Vassily, what brings you here?”
Vassily smiled. “Mr. Kelly, you may serve the FSB alive or dead. Your choice.”
“You lost some boys.”
“Local talent. Coming?”
Basilone launched herself from the cobbles. The guy on the left got a foot to his groin. Vassily got an elbow to the center of his face. The first guy aimed his weapon and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Basilone stepped toward him. He dropped his weapon and hobbled away. She took a deep breath and collapsed.
I knelt. “Corporal?”
Her eyes fluttered open. “Backup is three minutes out, sir.”
“You were lucky the last guy’s gun jammed”
A smile ghosted across her lips. “It was an old Makarov — couldn’t handle the new armor-piercing ammo.”
I looked at her bloody groin, her bloody chest. “Can I help?”
“No. Two hits — chest kevlar implant got one.”
“Nicked my right femoral artery.”
“You should be dead.”
“Engineered blood clots fast. Vascular system closes fast, too. Problems after forty — heart attacks, strokes.”
Basilone smiled. “Marines don’t live forever, sir.”
“Thanks — for what you did.”
“My job. Besides — I had time to check your background while I waited for you. I found something in Corps archives, a Medal of Honor citation for a Marine private. He attacked a German machine gun nest by himself at Mont Blanc Ridge in October of 1918.”
“His name was Private John J. Kelly.”
“He was your great-great-uncle.”
Basilone’s eyes — young and brown and clear — met mine. “You’re family, Mr. Kelly.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Semper Fi, sir.”
Robert Walton is a retired middle school teacher and a lifelong rock climber with many ascents in the Sierras and Pinnacles National Park. His publishing credits include works of science fiction, fantasy and poetry. Walton’s historical novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. His “Do you feel lucky, Punk?” received a prize in the 2018 Bartleby Snopes dialog only contest. Most recently, his story “Tryst” took second place in The Ghost Story’s fall contest. Please visit his website for more information about him: http://chaosgatebook.wordpress.com/.