Originally broadcasted 11/25/03
Interstate 80 – Nevada – Night
Nevada Desert – January 2000
The trucker lifted one hand off the steering wheel and rubbed his eyes. The Nevada desert was as black as octopus ink in some places. And even with his headlights on, the vastness of it seemed to drink the brightness down, sucking it into a pit of oblivion. He could barely see ahead of him and nothing on either side. The immense cloud cover on the horizon masked the moon and stars.
The only hint he was still on the road was the small ridge that ran along each side of it and the taillights of the vehicle ahead of him.
The other driver was apparently in a hurry, and had gotten farther and farther ahead of him until the lights disappeared in the distance, swallowed by the dark.
The two-way radio crackled unexpectedly, startling the trucker. He rolled his eyes as he heard the dispatcher’s voice call him.
“Rob? Customer requesting status. What’s your location?”
Instead of answering, he flicked his CD player on and cranked the volume to drown out the two-way radio. Then he ground his gears and gunned the rig.
“Promise me son not to do the things I’ve done
Walk away from trouble if you can
It won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek
I hope you’re old enough to understand
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.”
He sang along with the CD, a yawn escaping him in mid-chorus. The eighteen-wheeler rolled along, steadily picking up speed.
Interstate 80 – Nevada – Same Time
Ahead in the distance, an unmarked van sat by the side of the road. A man dressed in military fatigues, with the name Sgt. Donnelly stitched on the pocket, paced along the road.
“What the hell are you doing out there? The Colonel wants this prisoner at the compound by 0800 and we’re already one hour behind. Move your ass, Private,” Donnelly shouted into the dark.
He shivered slightly as the crisp night air went through him. “Let’s go, let’s go,” he said under his breath. He took a long drag off his cigarette and slowly exhaled. He looked from side to side, but saw nothing. He kicked at the dirt, but he couldn’t see it scatter – or even the toe of his own foot – in the darkness.
He took another drag off his cigarette and watched the tip of it glow suddenly bright – a single point of light in the desert.
Donnelly shook his head as if his eyes were playing tricks on him. As he stood staring at his cigarette, the bright tip split into two – then three – points of light before his nose. Two of the lights became increasingly larger, heading straight for him.
“What the –!” He dropped his cigarette to the ground as he saw the other vehicle heading straight at him. He ran around to the driver’s side of the van, yanking the van keys out of his pocket. He felt them slip through his fingers and heard them thump on the ground as the approaching vehicle continued racing toward him on the wrong side of the road.
“Dammit!” Donnelly dropped down onto his knees and began to feel around for the keys. Metal hit his fingertips and he scooped them up, sand grains embedding under his nails. He flung the van’s door open and jumped in. “Come on, come on, come on…”
Two headlights were looming dead on, bearing down on him. He could hear the sound of the other engine – faint, but getting louder. Too loud. Donnelly did the only thing he could think of to warn the other driver of his presence. He leaned on the van’s horn with his left hand while he continued to fumble with the keys.
Out on the sand dune, Private Mattick was finishing up his call from Mother Nature.
“I’m comin’, I’m comin,’ ” he grumbled to the sound of the blaring horn. “Guy can’t even take a leak in this man’s army.”
Donnelly’s key found the van’s ignition and the van started on the first crank. He floored the gas pedal and yanked the steering wheel hard to the right as the oncoming headlights blinded him. The van lurched but it was too late.
“Oh Christ,” Donnelly said softly. It was his last prayer before the sharpness of torn metal pierced his ribs.
Pvt. Mattick heard a sound like a can being crushed and the unmistakable groan of twisting metal. He zipped his fly and ran back over the dune he was behind to see the van’s front end nearly demolished in the headlights of another vehicle. Sgt. Donnelly was slumped over the steering wheel. Mattick raced over to him and two large men standing by the van’s open door.
“Ohmygod!,” Mattick said. “What happened?”
“Everything’s fine,” one of the strangers told him, calmly.
Mattick moved quickly to Donnelly. He was covered in blood, his ribs torn open. Mattick shakily pushed him back. There was blood on Donnelly’s forehead. And a small hole. A bullet hole. Before Mattick could react, two silencer shots rang out and Mattick fell, limp, across Donnelly.
The two strangers made their way to the back of their own van. Moments later, an engine roared and a motorcycle with a sidecar shot out and down a ramp at the back of their vehicle. They proceeded to the back of the MP’s van and broke the lock. Shining a blinding flashlight inside, they announced simply, “Your presence is requested.”
They helped the shaken prisoner, who offered no resistance, into the sidecar. Then the two men pushed both vans into the center of the highway. Within minutes they were speeding away.
Interstate 80 – Nevada – Moments Later
Trying to make up time, the trucker barreled along the highway in his fuel tanker. He turned a bend in the road, coming face to face with two large vans immediately in his path. He slammed on the brakes and tried to jackknife the rig into a stop. He fell hard against his door as the tanker began to skid sideways, sand bouncing up against its panels. The twang of guitars on the CD accompanied the grind of gears and the steely screech of brakes.
The driver had no time to scream.
A fireball erupted at the sound of an explosion, lighting up the desert sky. The sound and the heat wave reached the three men speeding away on the motorcycle. Only the man in the sidecar turned his head slightly toward the sound.
Interstate 80 – Nevada – Morning
A team of camouflage-clad soldiers surveyed the wreckage from the crash, collecting evidence as a high-ranking officer looked on. One soldier walked over to him and saluted.
“Agent Davis,” the general spoke, ignoring the salute. He continued to peer at the recon team.
“Donnelly and Private Mattick are dead, General. They were badly burned. Can’t find the driver of the other van. And the trucker is totally charred, sir.”
“What about the prisoner?” the General asked, still peering stone-faced at the recon effort.
“Unaccounted for, Sir,” the agent told him.
“Who owned the other van?”
“We don’t know, Sir. We can’t find any vehicle I.D. No plates, no VIN number, nothing.”
The general grunted and silence fell between them.
The soldier hesitated, then asked, “We’re suspecting foul play, aren’t we, Sir?”
“We’re suspecting everything, Agent Davis.”
“General…about the local fire and police –”
“They know nothing – let’s keep it that way. We’ve told them there’re hazmat conditions and on-site contamination. They’ll stay away.” The general turned and faced the young soldier. “You have your work cut out for you, Agent,” he said bluntly, “I want Ethan Rayne back!”
“We’ll get him, Sir. I assure you.”
The General looked away, preoccupied, “Carry on.”
Agent Davis gave a short nod and salute and returned to his duties. The General continued gazing out across the dark desert.
Fade to Black
End of Teaser