"I didn't put the tracker on you, but I found who did and I dealt with them." Finding her with the tracker had just made it easier on him to collect his bargain. He wanted that money, not the girl. It was just ill luck that she was part of it, but she would be useful for when he needed to go on his own missions. Having so many men could sometimes be inconvenient, and she could be his babysitter. But he wouldn't say as much.
Elijah crushed the device within his palm, then let the pieces drop into the sand.
"If you're tracked again, we'll have to do this all over again." He glanced over his shoulder at her. "So don't let it happen."
Leyla didn't appreciate being treated like a child. She would find out for herself who had been tracking her, and why, and then she would turn her attentions to how Elijah had known she was being tracked to begin with. It struck her as strange that he claimed to have nothing to do with the device, but had known it was on her and had known how to trace it.
Leading a group like hers wasn't easy, but if her father had thought her as useless as Elijah was treating her, he wouldn't have given her control before he died. "You know, if you want my help, you've a funny way of asking," she muttered, tightening her hair before she turned to go home.
He wanted her to take on more responsibilities within his group, and it seemed that he expected to be paid for allowing her the privilege of doing so. He could at least pretend to act like she wasn't a burden.
And what was up with his voice? It was different, now.
Elijah gestured for his men to follow after Leyla. She was the new leader of the group, after all, and therefore responsible for his men. She was also responsible for providing them shelter. Eli didn't bother joining them. He could find his way if he needed to. For now, he pulled out a small device that fit in his palm, and took a blood reading. All was normal, no trace of anything bad. He'd learned how to use the device with the help of one of the medical experts in his group. With the virus going around, he could be too careful.
Checking the time on his wrist, he dropped the smoke stick onto the sand and crushed it under his boot. Rather than going in the direction of Leyla and his men, he decided to take a detour.
Leyla ignored the men following her as she wove through the buildings on the edge of the city. She didn't slow down or wait to make sure they were behind her- if they were any good, they would be able to keep up. For about half of a mile, she stayed on the edge of town, and then began working her way in, until she reached a mountain of rubble, large pieces of crumbling stone and twisted, rusting metal.
Easily, she slid behind one pillar of broken stone, walking down a slope. The entrance to the old parking garage had collapsed, which made it perfect in her mind. They had gone to a lot of trouble to model over the multiple levels of the interior, to keep the lights on by leaching power from a variety of other sources- never so much that they would be noticed. She had money, but here, it was better not to be traceable. It was still a parking garage, but it was as nice a control center as she could have hoped for, with the lower levels being fully renovated into sleeping bunks, computer labs, weapons armories, and a well equipped hospital. Only the uppermost few levels remained bare, as a precaution against anyone stumbling in or snooping around.
"Isaac," she snapped, her voice echoing off the walls.
A tall, lanky man with a compact computer tucked under his arm stood up from a chair nearby, waiting for instructions.
"New men," she gestured to them behind her. "I want background checks on each- full ones. I want to know who's under my roof, and I want to know who the hell put a tracker on me." She ignored Isaac's dropped jaw. "Send 'em to medical when you're through with them, and then find out what happened to Ben, Kira, and Ishmael. They ought to be back by now." When Isaac didn't say anything, she twitched. "Move!"
It'd been a bad night, to say the least, and she wasn't going to put up with any more crap.
Elijah came to a stop in front of an old, crumbling Hindu temple. Religion was scarce nowadays, and most of the temples scattered in the lands had either been entirely destroyed, were on the brink of destruction, or still standing yet hollow and dark. He didn't bother taking off his boots as he stepped inside, passed the decorated pillars whose mosaics had been chipping off for years. Like always, the main entrance was empty, and there was nothing and no one.
He kept walking until he reached a hidden set of stairs that led to an underground passage. Unlike most that he'd been through, this passage was lit up and decorated to fit the taste of its owner. There was only one door at the end of the hall, hidden behind a hanging persian rug.
Inside, incense and candles were lit all around, and an elderly man was seated in front of his idol. "Wash the blood from your hands." The elder said without looking back at Eli. Eli knew his hands were clean, but spiritually they were tainted with the blood of those he'd killed earlier. A basin of holy water sat to his right, and he made use of it.
"I need some information." Eli finally said after he came to stand next to the kneeling man.
"There's going to be a sandstorm tomorrow." The elderly man nodded, eyes still closed in meditation.
In her own living spaces, which were tucked away on the eighth level of the underground structure, Leyla stripped silently, letting her hair down to fall to her waist. Who did that stranger think he was? Barging in, telling her what to do, throwing his weight around. Demanding that she marry him, when she had never seen him before.
Agitated, she reached for a warm, damp towel, wiping the dust off of her body. She paused over the small rose tattooed on her right ribs, scowling. How would he have known about that?
"I'm going to figure this out," she muttered, reaching for fresh clothes and clipping an earpiece into place on her ear. "Whoever you are."
After finishing his business with the elderly Hindu man, Elijah tucked a few more weapons into his belt. The old man may have a certain spirituality, but he had a great store of various weapons. Elijah was his regular, and only, customer. Once he was out of the temple, he started the trip to Leyla's little hideout. It wasn't difficult to find. He'd been keeping tabs on her for awhile, knew more about her and her whole life than even she did.
Her hideout was terrible, but he kept his opinion to himself as he entered the crumbling parking garage and joined with the others. His face was still covered, but his dark eyes observed all that happened around him. "There's going to be a sandstorm tomorrow." He told his men.
They all looked at him and nodded in understanding.
Isaac glanced up from his computer, where he was typing away. "Name, ID, and take off the hood," he recited, turning his attention back to the computer screen. "None of you are cleared to go on until you're all approved." Leaving the upper two levels of the garage a crumbling mess had been a security measure, and one that Leyla kept strictly. She'd spent far too much money remodeling the rest of the place to be found out and have to relocate because of governmental prying. It was actually a clever set up, she had her own men taking shifts masquerading as homeless men in the garage. They did double duty as guards and decoys.
When he didn't get an immediate reaction, Isaac stopped typing, looking over at the group patiently. "Name, ID, hood," he repeated, his own dark eyes calm.
Eli gave Isaac a quick glance before he took out another smoke stick and lit it. His men remained calm and went about their own business with checking their guns and other weapons. He would not give out his name, and the hood was definitely staying. He understood that this may have been a command from Leyla, but that didn't mean he had to tolerate it.
He walked away from Isaac and continued to smoke. He wrapped the hood more tightly around his face to hide it.
Isaac just sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose before tapping his earpiece, murmuring quietly. He paused briefly, listening, and then stood up. Apparently, Leyla knew who he meant when he described the newcomer. "Follow me," he said curtly, snapping the laptop shut and tucking it under his arm. "Leyla says most of you are going to medical, sixth floor down, then to living quarters on the fifth floor. You," he gestured to Eli, "Are going to the eighth floor."
As much as Leyla disliked this man, she was going to talk to him.
Eli took one more pull on his smoke stick before letting it fall to the ground, crushed under his boot. He didn't bother following Isaac. He knew his way around this place. It wasn't that hard to infiltrate. For him, at least. He wasn't intimidated or afraid to talk to the young woman. He had other, more pressing matters to think about. Such as that sandstorm. It wasn't really a sandstorm at all. That was just the way he and his associates described the herds of governmental soldiers that liked to sweep through towns every once and awhile to keep citizens on their toes.
And to destroy rebel groups like theirs.
When Eli reached the eighth floor, he stood a good distance away from Leyla.
"You called." He glanced at her for a moment before looking around.
"I understand that you're only here because you want my money." Leyla was seated in a cushioned chair, watching him closely. She didn't like the way he moved, as if he had been here before, as if he knew everything there was to know. "But, frankly, I'm not inclined to give it to you until I know I can trust you. So far, I don't even have your name." She leaned back, crossing her arms.
"So, Rosie. Talk to me."
If he wasn't going to give her his name, she would call him that- it was apparently as close as she would get. If he had her codename tattooed on him, she could assume his was on her.
He took out a small packet from his back pocket and popped a piece of gum into his mouth. It was to help curb his addiction, but he wasn't getting that effect. So he opted to just chew it for chewing's sake. He thought better when he was chewing the nasty tasting gum. "Don't bother looking me up in the system. According to the records, I don't, nor did I ever, exist." And he liked to keep it that way. He was only known through rumors that spread.
"I've been keeping an eye on you for over 20 years. If I wanted to take you, or your team down, I would have. There's all the proof of my trust you need."
"Not good enough." Leyla shook her head. "Forgive me, but being monitored for twenty years is not exactly a citation that instills trust." She knew that she would wait twenty years, thirty years if it took that long, to execute a plan. "I don't like puzzles. I don't like secrets- I especially dislike them under my roof." If he needed her so badly, he would have to give up more than that. "If we're going to work together, I'm going to need you to either level with me or go." She liked her men. Her small group was just as good as any of the larger ones. They were the best funded, and well trained, and had worked together since Leyla had been a child.
If this 'Desert Rose' needed her so badly, he could stop acting like he was so superior.
"Secrets? Puzzles? I don't believe I'm any of those things." Elijah shrugged nonchalantly. He'd told her all of his intentions. If he chose not to show his face or give his name, then that was his business. He couldn't help that Leyla had allowed herself to stay in the system so long that anyone could get her information from anywhere. "You know my name already, you know what I want, and I've given you a stronger force."
He sighed. "Besides, I don't count giving all my personal information away as instilling trust in others. Try again."