Authors: A.B. Gayle,Andrea Speed,Jessie Blackwood,Katisha Moreish,J.J. Levesque
“Make sure he knows his CCTV from his radar. Rag,” Gideon turned to the Swede. “I want you, Pritch and Bull well out of the way when we leave for Rapatoka. I have no intention of allowing the Ice Queen to order you along too. Two of us is two too many, especially if she wants us armed. So, radio silence for at least an hour, okay? Clarkey, you’re with me. Full desert gear.”
“Yes, boss.” Clarke looked anything but happy about the prospect. Full gear in this heat was going to be punishing.
“I know the heat doesn’t make it easy, but when have we ever gone into a potentially volatile situation without full protective gear on? I shouldn’t need to tell you that we never underestimate the natives. Don’t underestimate Pierce’s ability to cock up either. Pierce wants us armed, she gets us geared up as well. She needs to learn that. Got it?”
“Got it, boss.” Clarke responded. He was accompanied by a chorus of “yes, boss.”
“Good, let’s get to it then. Go get geared up, Ewan. I’ll meet you at the boat. Rest of you, keep an eye out for the doctor again. And don’t take any nonsense from that tricky little bastard, Flynn Archer. Last thing I need right now is anyone else making waves…”
, Gideon thought, watching Clarke as he got the boat ready. Pierce hadn’t shown yet, but then, that was why he’d woken up before dawn and had his guys do likewise in order to prepare. He wanted to get the drop on her. She was a right royal pain the arse and the less time he had to suffer her company the better. At least the inflatable was a good one, able to carry up to seven men and their gear, with a reasonably powerful engine and low fuel consumption.
They really needed a fuel dump fitting. So far they had brought all their fuel in jerrycans and Gideon really didn’t like carrying it on board the plane. They would need a shit load of it to run the site 24/7 too, even with wind turbines and solar panelling. They ought to be fuelled from a tanker visiting once a month, rather than bring it piecemeal by plane. It wasn’t an efficient method at all but Gideon hoped Eidolon had the answer because it would be next to impossible to get a ship anywhere near close enough.
“There we are, boss, all ready.” Ewan Clarke grinned and scratched his chin. “So what’s the protocol for today? Allow Ms Pierce to drop herself in it?”
Gideon smiled and nodded. “That’s pretty much it. Do what you’re told, but stop short of shooting the islanders, okay? I am not condoning violence, even if it happens to be Pierce doing the ordering. We need these people, even if she doesn’t realise it yet.”
“Did we have to get all tooled up though? I’m sweating like a pig in this gear.” He had stopped short of greasing his face with camo paint, but he was wearing the full desert combats and body armor, sporting the utility belt and full ammo clips. He wore his helmet with its visor up.
“Yes, we do. She wanted us armed. I never send anyone in to an armed situation without wearing the full gear. That would be suicide.”
“And another thing, Clarkey, you do the talking. I don’t want her to know its me under this. You got that? Not until we get there…” Clarkey nodded. “Otherwise there’s a chance she’ll tell me to stay behind, and I’m damned if I’m doing that. She said she wanted a couple of my men to accompany her and a couple she is going to have. Okay?”
Clarkey grinned. “Okay boss… O-oh, Uberbitch on the horizon, eleven o’clock.”
Gideon looked up, saw the coiffed blond head through the trees and quickly jammed his own helmet on his head and dropped the visor. He jumped into the boat and cradled his rifle to his chest. The barest flicker of something—was that surprise?—crossed Pierce’s face when her eyes alighted on the men waiting for her. Gideon slung his gun across his back and started the engine, gunning the throttle a little. Clarkey held the boat and handed Pierce onto the craft, helping her to a seat.
“Ready to go, ma’am?” he asked respectfully.
“Clarke, ma’am. You might want to hold on here and here?” he offered, as Gideon turned the boat toward open water. Pierce placed her hands where Clarke suggested and held on.
The wind as they sped through the water cooled them both down. Gideon guided the craft across the waves, pointing it toward the larger island and hoping he could find a settlement to stop at. He had no idea what waited for them here, no clue concerning how many islanders lived there who would not be happy to see them brandishing weapons and throwing their weight around. Well, they would see Pierce throwing her weight around. Gideon hoped he may be able to remain incognito. If not, well, he was there to see that nothing drastic happened. He could do without Pierce making a cock-up of relations with their neighbours.
“Has your commander told you why we are going there this morning?” Pierce suddenly broke the silence. Clarkey regarded her with a bored look.
“To quell the natives?” he suggested with a grin. Pierce paused, then allowed herself a small smile.
“Is that what he said?”
“No, ma’am, but it’s what it amounts to, isn’t it, ma’am? Warning them off nicking our stuff, aren’t we?”
“Yes, we are, but we ought to be subtle.” Subtle, Gideon thought? That woman wouldn’t know subtle if it rushed up and smacked her in the eye. “I want you and…”
“Bu..van…, ma’am.” Gideon replied gruffly, the helmet muffling his voice somewhat.
“You and…both of you…need to back me up and be prepared to use force if necessary.”
“Are we anticipating a problem, ma’am?” Clarke enquired.
“Did Sterling not brief you at all?” She sounded irritated.
“Oh yes, ma’am. He said we were to liaise with you, and you would tell us how you want this played out. He said we were to look to you for guidance.”
Gideon nearly gave the game away, but managed to get his laughter under control before it escaped.
Pierce looked a little mollified but thoughtful. “Then take my lead. I am warning the residents off coming over and taking our…equipment. We have no obligation to them, and they need to know, we own the island, and we will come down hard on trespassers.”
“Very good, ma’am.” Clarkey shouldered his G39 and sat facing the way they were going, eyes searching out the lie of the land. Gideon saw him glance over and nodded, not sure if the motion of the boat had disguised the movement, but he saw Clarkey nod and face front again.
Pierce was handed off the boat by Clarke again and stood, taking in the surroundings like a tourist. Bloody hell, she really did behave as if she owned the place.
They beached the craft on a stretch of white sand that lead up to a row of partially hidden bures in the tree line. To the right, up a pathway, was a low building Gideon took to be a meeting house of some kind. Evidence of the cyclone’s destructive wake was here also, broken trees and piles of debris on the beach. A few curious islanders began to come toward them, but the men saw the two armed visitors and pulled back, ushering womenfolk and children to safety.
*SNAFU – Situation Normal, All Fucked Up
Mid-morning, Sunday 27th January, Mystery Island (Mata Api Kisiwa)
The sheer amount of equipment the men were toting into the room was amazing. It made Lyle wonder if he was equal to the task he’d been recruited to. Eidolon wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble to acquire him though if they didn’t believe in him. It even crossed his mind that they might have been the ones to out him to Vale, triggering the chain of events that had brought him here. There was the Flynn factor though, too. He knew now that they had wanted the street punk too, for whatever reasons.
Gideon had promised Lyle he would be getting the best kit, and he was right about that. Whoever and whatever Eidolon really was, they obviously believed in the phrase ‘no expense spared’. They certainly weren’t a charity, not judging by the manpower and the level of sophistication they were able to apply to their operations. Lyle was pretty sure they weren’t just about ‘witness protection’ either, if at all.
A technician was grabbing the packages as they were brought through the door and setting the items up. There would have been a nasty mess of wires trailing round the room if Lyle hadn’t taken charge of the deployment of the equipment to suit his own tastes and the ergonomic requirements of the tasks ahead of him. He hadn’t a clue what to do with some of the stuff, though. He recognised a radar screen, but other bits were utterly unfamiliar to him. He smiled, thinking of the tiny amount of equipment he’d smuggled in with him—stuff that he’d already deployed; it was a drop in the ocean compared to this stuff, but it was something Eidolon didn’t know about, a little one-up for his side.
“Watch it, mate…” Harry muttered as he nearly got swiped by techie on his way out of the room. Gideon had ordered–well, asked–that he go give Tate a hand setting up the IT centre. The tech muttered an apology and disappeared, presumably to collect more gear. Harry leaned in the open door and took a look at what was going on. The blond looked preoccupied, as if he was weighing up the stuff he didn’t recognise and trying to decide where to have the technicians put it all. As Harry watched, Tate asked for something to be moved. The tech who was attempting to fix the thing in question grumbled. Harry grinned. He wondered how often Tate had wanted things moving round. This would be interesting.
“Yes, again. I won’t have you lot here to shift this stuff later and I need help getting it positioned to the optimum for one man to run it all. So if you would oblige….”
“One man, eh? Who’s that gonna be then?” The technician’s tone was deliberately disrespectful, sly.
“Me. If you’ve got a problem with that, or with me, talk to Pierce. She recruited me specifically for this job. I’m sure she won’t mind spending her precious time explaining to a junior technician where I fit into all this, and why I get what I want here.”
“Knock, knock,” Harry said, by way of introduction. “Can I come in, or is this a no-go area?”
“Depends on who you are and what you want.” Lyle said a little testily.
“Harry Garvey; Major Sterling sent me to help. Looks like you’re getting on fine on your own though, from where I’m standing.” Harry couldn’t help fixing the tech with a stare.
He never told me his rank, Lyle thought. Interesting. “If you know what these things are, you’re welcome.” Lyle gestured at a couple of items that had been plonked down near his feet.
“One’s part of a radar receiver. The other…” Harry walked in and picked up the device, turning it round. “I’ll tell you later.” He smiled as he spoke. No need to tell the techies everything. “I have a suggestion. Let these guys bring the stuff in, I’ll go through it with you, we can connect it up later when it’s all in place. How does that sound?”
“You can do that? I can programme like all hell, but like most software people, I rely on technicians to do the wiring and plugging together…”
“And I rely on software wranglers to make sure the stuff works once I’ve wired it. I’m a bit more than a techie though. We have to be…adaptable.” Harry picked up a bunch of wires and sorted through them, checking the connectors.
Lyle eyed the guy, wondering if that was an opening line or just a matter of fact. He hoped it was the latter, because the man was gorgeous, lean and muscular, the build of a gymnast. Gideon seemed to have chosen his team for their value as eye candy as well as for their military and technical capabilities.
Harry turned away and seemed to be fiddling with another piece of tech when he suddenly burst out “Oi, for the love of God!” Lyle startled but he wasn’t the butt of Harry’s ire. “Who hired you? That goes in there… Look, if you don’t know your arse from your elbow, bugger off and fetch the rest of the stuff, I’ll deal with this later. Go on.” He watched the disgruntled tech storm out. “Good riddance. These guys are okay with standard stuff but all this needs a little more sophistication.” He turned back to Tate. “Right, now he’s gone, I can show you properly. All of this stuff is high spec, but some of it is prototype. Some is straight out of Eidolon’s stable, never before seen. We’re using the most advanced gear money can buy here. Gideon wants it locked down so tight a fly couldn’t fart without our knowing.”