The assassin loomed above him, the automatic in his hand aimed at Jason's head. 'Your execution, Delta. On the day scheduled. For everything you've done."

Bourne arched his back, rolling furiously to his right; at least he would die in motion! Gunshots filled the shimmering room, hot needles slicing across his neck, piercing his legs, cutting up to his waist. Roll, roll]

Suddenly the gunshots stopped, and in the distance he could hear repeated sounds of hammering, the smashing of wood and steel, growing louder, more insistent. There was a final deafening crash from the dark corridor outside the library, followed by men shouting, running and, beyond them somewhere in the unseen, outside world, the insistent whine of sirens.

'In here! He's in here!' screamed Carlos.

It was insane! The assassin was directing the invaders directly towards him, to him! Reason was madness, nothing on earth made sense!

The door was crashed open by a tall man in a black overcoat; someone was with him, but Jason could not see. The mists were filling his eyes, shapes and sounds becoming obscured, blurred. He was rolling in space. Away... away.

But then he saw the one thing he did not want to see. Rigid shoulders that floated above a tapered waist raced out of the room and down the dimly-lit corridor. Carlos. His screams had sprung the trap open! He had reversed it! In the chaos, he had trapped the stalker. He war escaping!

'Carlos ...' Bourne knew he could not be heard; what emerged from his bleeding throat was a whisper. He tried again, forcing the sound from his stomach. 'It's him. It's ... Carlos!'

There was confusion, commands shouted futilely, orders swallowed in consternation. And then a figure came into focus. A man was limping towards him, a cripple who had tried to kill him in a cemetery outside Paris. There was nothing left! Jason lurched, crawling towards the sizzling, blinding flare. He grabbed it and held it as though it were a weapon, aiming it at the killer with a cane.

'Come on! Come on! Closer, you bastard] I'll burn your eyes out! You think you'll kill me, you won't! I'll kill you! I'll burn your eyes!'

'You don't understand,' said the trembling voice of the limping killer. 'It's me, Delta. It's Conklin. I was wrong.'

The flare singed his hands, his eyes! ... Madness. The explosions were all around him now, blinding, deafening, punctuated by ear-splitting screeches from the jungle that erupted with each detonation.

The jungle! Tarn Quan! The wet, hot stench was everywhere, but they had reached it! The base camp was theirs!

An explosion to his left; he could see it! High above the ground, suspended between two trees, the spikes of a bamboo cage. The figure inside was moving. He was alive! Get to him, reach him!

A cry came from his right. Breathing, coughing in the smoke, a man was limping towards the dense underbrush, a rifle in his hand. It was him, the blond hair caught in the light, a foot broken from a parachute jump. The bastard! A piece of filth who had trained with them, studied the maps with them, flown north with them ... all the time springing a trap on them! A traitor with a radio who told the enemy exactly where to look in that impenetrable jungle that was Tarn Quan.

It was Bourne! Jason Bourne. Traitor, garbage!

Get him! Don't let him reach the others! Kill him! Kill Jason Bourne! He is your enemy! Fire!

He did not fall! The head that had been blown apart was still there. Coming towards him! What was happening? Madness. Tarn Quan ...

'Come with us,' said the limping figure, walking out of the jungle into what remained of an elegant room. That room. 'We're not your enemies. Come with us."

'Get away from me!' Bourne lunged again, now back to the fallen screen. It was his sanctuary, his shroud of death, the blanket thrown over a man at birth, a lining for his coffin. 'You are my enemy! I'll take you all! I don't care, it doesn't matter I Can't you understand!? I'm Delta! Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain! What more do you want from me! I was and I was not! I am and I am not! Bastards, bastards] Come on! Closed

Another voice was heard, a deeper voice, calmer, less insistent. 'Get her. Bring her in.'

Somewhere in the distance the sirens reached a crescendo, and then they stopped. Darkness came and the waves carried Jason up to the night sky, only to hurl him down again, crashing him into an abyss of watery violence. He was entering an eternity of weightless ... memory. An explosion filled the night sky now, a fiery diadem rose above black waters. And then he heard the words, spoken from the clouds, filling the earth.

'Jason, my love. My only love. Take my hand. Hold it. Tightly, Jason. Tightly, my darling.'

Peace came with the darkness.

Epilogue

Brigadier-General Crawford put the folder down on the couch beside him. 'I don't need this,' he said to Marie St Jacques, who sat opposite him in a straight-backed chair. 'I've gone over it and over it, trying to find out where we went wrong."

'You presumed where no one should,' said the only other person in the hotel suite. He was Dr Morris Panov, psychiatrist; he stood by the window, the morning sun streaming in, putting his expressionless face in shadow. 'I allowed you to presume, and I'll live with it for the rest of my life.'

'It's nearly two weeks now,' said Marie impatiently. 'I'd like some details. I think I'm entitled to them.'

'You are. It was an insanity called clearance.'

'Insanity,' agreed Panov.

'Protection, also,' added Crawford. 'I subscribe to that part. It has to continue for a very long time."

'Protection?' Marie frowned.

'We'll get to it,' said the general, glancing at Panov. 'From everyone's point of view, it's vital. I trust we all accept that'

"Please! Jason. Who is he?'

'His name is David Webb. He was a career foreign service officer, a specialist in Far Eastern affairs, until his separation from the government five years ago.'

'Separation?'

'Resignation by mutual agreement His work in Medusa precluded any sustained career in the State Department "Delta" was infamous and too many knew he was Webb. Such men are rarely welcome at the diplomatic conference tables. I'm not sure they should be, visceral wounds are reopened too easily with their presence.'

'He was everything they say? In Medusa?" 'Yes. I was there. He was everything they say.' 'It's hard to believe,' said Marie.

'He'd lost something very special to him and couldn't come to grips with it. He could only strike out.' 'What was that?'

'His family. His wife was a Thai; they had two children, a boy and a girl. He was stationed in Phnom-Penh, his house near the Mekong River. One Sunday afternoon while his wife and children were down at their dock, a stray aircraft circled and dived, dropping two bombs and strafing the area. By the time he reached the river the dock was blown away, his wife and children floating in the water, their bodies riddled.'

'Oh, God,' whispered Marie. 'Who did the plane belong to?' 'It was never identified. Hanoi disclaimed it; Saigon said it wasn't ours. Remember, Cambodia was neutral; no one wanted to be responsible. Webb had to strike out; he headed for Saigon and trained for Medusa. He brought a specialist's intellect to a very brutal operation. He became Delta.' 'Was that when he met d'Anjou?'

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