Aeron is on exercise but she’s going to need to take a detour…
As always, please excuse the typos,
Act 3 Scene 5
I was lumbering down a mountain side following Sissy and with Hankings in tow, muttering about how we didn’t know what we were doing. The hut was ahead of us and by the red flags on the opposite side of the valley, we were the only ones who hadn’t been caught.
“The position we’ll be seen from is up ahead,” Sissy held up her hand to stop us.
“What do you want to do?” I crouched down, like Frei had shown us but Hankings stayed standing. “That means crouch.”
“I know,” Hankings said and folded his arms. “She’s not my superior.”
I stuck out my arm, gripped him by the scruff and shoved him down. “Quit being a baby.”
“I’m not a baby,” he muttered back but his eyes were too wide in shock that I’d stuck him onto his knees without trying. “What did they feed you?”
“Prison food,” I shot back at him and turned to Sissy who was chuckling. “So how’d we get into that hut.”
Sissy shook her head. “There’s too many viewpoints… and about twenty hostiles.”
Hostiles who were actually members of the CIG team who Renee worked with. Funny that they were helping recruits when I figured they’d be with Renee someplace saving folks.
“But we just need one member of the team to get inside, right?” I asked trying not to look for Renee.
“I’m not getting caught,” Hankings said and shook his head. “I’ll go into the hut.”
I turned and glared at him. “You and me are way too big not to get spotted.” I thumbed at Sissy. “She’s shorter and quicker.”
“Don’t care. I want to pass.” Hankings got up. “You can get caught on your own.”
Sissy rolled her eyes as he limped off to the right and disappeared through the bushes. “The main viewing point is that way.”
I smiled at her, hoping she’d feel boosted that we didn’t have him in tow. “He’ll be a great distraction then.”
She looked up at me. “You don’t care that you’ll get caught do you?”
I shook my head. “They ain’t gonna shoot at me. They work with Renee.”
She cocked her head. “You’re certain about that, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” I said with a grin. “So, what you need me to do to get you in?”
Sissy studied me than fixed on the building. “There are two hostiles to the left, and five to the right…” She shook her head in Hankings direction. “But there is a small blind spot directly in front with a door ajar.” She pointed to the building. “I just have to get inside to complete the exercise.”
“I think I can keep them busy.” I winked at her and squeezed her shoulder. “I used to play in trees a whole lot as a kid.”
She let out a long breath. “You sure?”
“Yup.” I scurried through the trees to the left and sniffed in the scent of the wood and the mulch below. Felt real nice to be around the critters bouncing or scurrying nearby.
The hostiles: two geeky looking guys, stood with bored expressions staring at the trees in front of me. I stooped down and picked up a dropped branch as they turned to talk to each other. I aimed high and threw the branch as far as I could like a javelin. It sailed high into the air and clattered down into the trees to the hostiles’ right—my left—and they spun in that direction.
Sissy sprinted out into the open as the five hostiles near Hankings started calling to each other over the far side. I took another branch and hurled it deeper into the trees to my left. The two hostiles hurried toward that position.
“He’s over here,” one of the five hostiles yelled. “Red flag!”
Hankings’ protest echoed through the air and I chuckled as Sissy made it to the door.
I launched another branch to the right of the two hostiles and they hurried into the trees. I lumbered out into the open and scurried across to the hut.
“Flag raised,” Frei’s voice sounded from a loudspeaker as I slipped inside. “Assignment complete.”
I grinned at Sissy as she ran over and high-fived me.
“Great job!” She high-fived me again then hugged me as Frei sat with her arms folded on a table at the back of the room.
“You lost a team member,” Frei said like we sucked.
“We tried not to but he headed off on his own,” I shot back and glared at her. “We can only work as a team if the folks working with us want to be part of it.”
Frei turned to the door as the CIG team brought in Hankings. “Did you leave your team?”
“No,” he said like he weren’t lying. “We were distracting the hostiles for Sissy to get inside.”
“That was what I said, yeah, but you didn’t want to get caught.” I shook my head. “She weren’t your superior, right?”
Hankings turned to Frei. “They’re lying.”
“Are they?” Frei turned to one of the geeky guys who wandered in looking confused. “Check their mics for the decision to provide a distraction strategy.”
The geeks saluted and hurried over to a corner.
“Marney and Hankings will return to camp first.” Frei nodded to Fitzpatrick who strolled in looking pleased.
“Well done, guys,” he said with a big grin on his face.
“Video feed shows Lorelei and Marney carrying out a rescue of Hankings on the ridge…” one of the geeks said, gaze on his screen.
“Hankings refused to cooperate on several occasions… and tried assaulting Lorelei…” the other geek said with a worried expression. “Both Marney and Lorelei showed mental resistance to provocation, good team ethic…”
Frei glowered at Hankings.
“Lorelei suggested correct distraction strategy… she wanted Hankings and herself to risk capture to secure Marney’s completion of the exercise. Hankings refused and left his team,” the first geeky guy said. “His psychology shows personal problems, gender discrimination and he has a problem with Marney.”
“Something about Marney’s fiancé?” the second geeky guy said.
Frei strode up to Hankings. “You’re out.”
“What?” He shook his head. “I have a higher grade than her.” He waved at Sissy. “She is meant to listen to me.”
“You’re all recruits to CIG,” Fitzpatrick said and motioned to the door. “We’ll escort you back.”
“I’m not leaving when even she can pass.” He folded his arms. “I’ll report this to Internal Affairs.”
“Feel free,” Fitzpatrick said with a roll of his eyes. “Move.”
“I’m not moving.” Hankings turned to Frei. “She’s not even been in class half the time and you don’t kick her out.”
“That’s because she’s already an officer,” Frei said like I was. I weren’t. I knew I weren’t. “Fitzpatrick, remove him before I do.”
“Ma’am,” Fitzpatrick grabbed Hankings and dragged him out.
Sissy stared up at me. “You’re an officer?”
I shook my head. “Nope.” I looked at Frei but she weren’t gonna help, I could feel it from her. “I didn’t know I was anyhow.”
“Lorelei is going through training,” Frei said as though she didn’t want to say anything. “But her enlistment is secured.”
Sissy studied me then smiled. “That makes sense.”
“It does?” I folded my arms. “I don’t get why.”
She chuckled and turned to Frei. “Ma’am, do you need me to leave to? It’s my fault Hankings wasn’t cooperative.”
“It ain’t your fault, the guy is an idiot.” I tugged on her arm. “You got us to the hut and you got us inside.”
The two geeks in the corner eyed us.
“No, you got us inside and you rescued Hankings.” She turned to Frei. “I just followed what Commander Black once did.”
“To me that just means you got sense,” I said trying to ignore the guys tapping on their keyboards. “She’s the best.”
Frei’s eyes twinkled when I said it and I felt a wave of affection coming at me from a few directions.
“She was the best,” Sissy whispered. “But I had no way to get us inside because I didn’t have any reports of Commander Black doing the same.” She shook her head. “That’s not initiative.”
“Well, we’re a team,” I said right back and grabbed her by the arms. “I trusted you to get us to the hut and you did. You trusted me to get you in the hut and I did. That’s what teams do.”
Sissy beamed up at me. “Because you make me feel like I can get us anywhere.”
Frei nodded to our tutor as she headed inside. “Marney is returning to base with a full pass.”
Sissy stared at her.
“Ma’am,” Fitzpatrick said as he hurried in. “Chopper with the class in has been intercepted and forced to land in the ice valley.” He tapped his ear. “Renee’s chopper has been grounded due to bad weather.”
I looked at Frei. “Is she someplace safe?”
Sissy glanced from Frei to me.
“She’s at a military base run by a good friend,” Fitzpatrick said with a smile. “Spokes will keep her busy.”
Frei was too busy striding to the computers the geeks were on. “Intercepted?”
“It’s the unsub, Ma’am,” one of the geeks said. “He’s taken out the senior officers on board.”
“So we need to go and get them.” I didn’t dare head over or the computers would crackle.
Frei eyed me. “Yes, we do.” She turned to Fitzpatrick. “Set up a perimeter and keep any locals away.” She turned to the geeks. “We know his M.O. I want a full extraction strategy.”
“Ma’am, Renee is the lead,” the other geek said. “We need her expertise.”
Frei glared at them. “She is not going near this. She is not hearing about this.”
“Ma’am we only have investigators here.” Fitzpatrick glanced at Marney. “And if Renee isn’t going in, we can’t let you in either.”
Frei narrowed her eyes.
“You’ll lure her in,” Fitzpatrick said then shrugged. “I mean it.”
Sissy eyed them then looked up at me. “Commander Black?”
“We have an unsub who plays games with groups of people.” Frei turned to me. “They are in sub-zero temperatures with no provisions; he likes to get close and set traps.” She folded her arms. “Can you get something off him?”
Sissy stared up at me.
“I ain’t my mom,” I mumbled but I wanted to help. I weren’t sure why CIG wanted Renee and Frei away from this guy but I didn’t want nobody else near him neither. “But jewellery might help?”
Frei pulled something out of her pocket, like one of them bars military folks stuck on a uniform. “It’s hers.”
I took it—
He liked to corner people and I didn’t see it. I ignored what I’d been taught because he made me believe it wouldn’t work. If I’d stuck to what I knew they wouldn’t have been hurt. It’s my fault they got hurt. Mine.
I dropped the bar on the floor and shook off my hand. Renee. The guilt she’d felt was like I felt about Jake. I scowled.
“He made her think what she knew weren’t right and how she should help weren’t right.” I studied Frei whose icy blues flicked to and fro. “They need to follow how she’d lead them out but they have to stick to it.”
“And how would she lead them out?” Frei asked as though she was listening and ready for any help she could get.
“By going in and getting them to the extraction point.” I shrugged but I was sure that’s what she’d intended to do when he’d hurt folks before… whoever he was…
“He’ll be looking for anyone who is connected,” one geek said to the other. “He’ll know any officers.”
Sissy puffed herself up. “Then I’ll go in.”
“We both should,” I said and nodded to her. “We’re both recruits. I know you can get us to the extraction point.”
“We can.” Sissy turned to Frei. “Ma’am, do you think we can assist?”
“Ma’am,” the other geeky guy said. “Lorelei is an uncertain character herself.” He met my eyes. “She has a track record.” He sighed. “And you’re on parole. You’re not meant to be out of your state.”
“But you got me out of state anyhow an’ I can feel him if he’s close enough.” I folded my arms. “You got that kind of burden?”
“Lorelei is correct,” Frei said and nodded to me. “But you’ll need Renee’s strategy.”
“Ma’am, Renee will fly out herself if she thinks Lorelei is going anywhere near the unsub.” Fitzpatrick shook his head.
“Extraction of a group in cold weather…” Sissy rubbed at her head. “Assignment… B… Ice Raft. Commander Black was still in the military… um… the POI was… um… a delegate of some sort… his plane went down in icy weather over hostile territory…”
The geeks looked at each other and typed it in.
“Here it is, Renee had ten delegates, one of which was pregnant. They had no rations, no equipment… she used traditional navigation until she noted the hostiles were closing in and then turned to her father’s technique.” The first geek had his nose to the screen. “Colonel Black didn’t write his technique down and there’s only a brief mention of it here.”
I wobbled on my feet.
“You’re looking a little lost there, kid,” a gentle voice behind me said. I turned and squinted then squinted some more as a brawny, blonde guy strolled over to me. “Your aunt know you’re out?”
It was Renee’s Dad?
“Lorelei?” Frei had a concerned look in her eyes.
“She didn’t write the technique down,” Sissy said to the geeks. “But it’s based on using nature to guide your way. Noting the wind and how the land is instead of the better known ways.”
I looked to Frei. “You mentioned the wind before.”
She nodded. “I know the technique, Lorelei.” She strode from the geeks. “I want the perimeter set up, public moved back and cold weather gear on that chopper.”
“Ma’am,” Fitzpatrick said with a salute and hurried out with the tutor.
“I want pictures of that territory,” Frei snapped at the geeks. “I want details of wind directions, snow movements… every detail on that land.”
“Ma’am,” they mumbled and started tapping furiously.
“Marney, you will have to assert dominance over the team. We know Hankings is a problem but it needs to be clear you’re in charge.” Frei held her gaze. “Follow Lorelei’s direction. She will direct you as to the unsubs intentions.”
“Ma’am,” Sissy said like she wasn’t surprised, shot a smile at me and hurried out.
“Lorelei,” Frei said, lowering her voice. “I do not want you going in but I need you to.” She gripped my arm. “I’m going to run you through every strategy for this situation. You are a vital POI. Do not get caught.”
I frowned. “I ain’t more vital than nobody.”
“Lorelei,” Frei said, her tone hardening. “Renee disobeyed orders to protect you with Sam. You are still her POI and she will put herself in danger to protect you.” She held my gaze icy blues glinting. “And I will do the same.” She gripped my arm harder. “Do not get caught.”
“I just gotta follow what Renee did and I’ll be fine,” I said like I weren’t shuddering. “Right?”
Frei let go of my arm. “You get in trouble, you make an ice shelter and place your skis on top.”
“Skis?” I didn’t think somebody with my feet would be good on those.
“Skis.” She pulled me over to the door. “Let’s get you briefed.”
I followed Frei out to a waiting chopper and tried not to wobble as I walked. Get a whole group of folks away from an unsub while on skis and using wind? I shook my head to myself. Guess I was getting my first assignment.