A Marine staff sergeant in embassy dress saluted smartly, and held the limo door for the party of three. David awkwardly returned the gesture as he, Diaz and LeMoyne boarded the four-wheeled yacht.

“You’re bound for Dulles, Admiral?” he asked. David looked at LeMoyne, who nodded.

“Looks like it.”

As the vehicle pulled into traffic, David sat back, trying not to fixate on his uniform, and failing. Picking up on his discomfort, LeMoyne tried his best to allay the doubts.

“I know it all must be very awkward, the title and uniform. But if it helps, I promise you it’s absolutely legit.”

“It’s a sham,” muttered David. “Look at this… ribbons? Did I kill someone in my sleep?”

“Basic service and commemorative medals that almost every servicemember gets. And some unit citations. All based on your association with real, current activities. No service record is being cooked-up for you. Within a week or two, you’ll qualify on rifle and pistol and add a few more to the collection; again, all legit.”

“Rifle and pistol for a NOAA officer?” David mused. “So I can expect people shooting at me on a regular basis?”

His answer was a sharp splat to the rear window, which blossomed a spiderweb pattern around a bullet strike. Diaz threw him to the floor of the limo and was already atop him before the window absorbed two more rounds.

“Heads down, please, everyone!” The driver shouted, foot nearly on the floor as he began evasive maneuvers. “Four-Charlie to Aerial; we are taking fire,” he said calmly into his radio. “Can you get a fix on the shooter?”

The radio replied, but was drowned out by what sounded like a hailstorm on the roof of the vehicle. The driver made a screeching right that dashed everyone to the side of the cabin and said, “Aerial, we did not copy; please repeat.”

There was a brief calm as they awaited a reply.

“Are we clear?” yelled Diaz from the limo floor.

“For the moment, ma’am,” the driver answered. “No one following us that I can make out.”

At that, a salvo of shots pummeled the roof and side windows.

“Must be from the air,” LeMoyne shouted.

The driver nodded, still composed. “Must be, sir. Air escort will pick them up; we just need to buy time.”

The skids of a helicopter passed through the view of the windshield. “There!” pointed LeMoyne.

“Ahh-ffirmative,” said the driver, activating the radio again. “Aerial, bird confirmed over our position. How’re we doing up there?”

“Four-Charlie, repeating; we’ve got your bird,” barked the radio. “Engaging now.”

There was a roar overhead as another, unseen aircraft loomed close, and the chatter of a minigun. The first helicopter backed off, evading, but not without the limo taking three more rounds to the rear window, which was now completely shattered and held together only by the laminate. Small chunks and a bit of dust littered the occupants.

“Four-Charlie, your bird’s a slippery one, but I’ve got between you. Head towards the river if you can.”

“Aerial, that is way too far out of cover,” answered the driver as the limo thundered through a tight alleyway.

“Acknowledged,” came the response, “but if we can get him over water, we’ll be able to use a missile without endangering civilians.”

“Ahh-ffirmative, Aerial,” said the driver. Looking back at the occupants briefly, he put on his best air of Marine hubris.

“Ma’am, gentlemen, please hold on the best you can,” he grinned. “Looks like we’re gonna dance.”

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