The dark clad man hiding behind the dumpster doesn't see the other dark clad figure approaching, or notice the “drunk” undercover operative stumbling down the sidewalk. The streets are slick with icy drizzle. His muscles are cramped from crouching, the burn becoming almost unbearable. The teen years of biathlon training which have helped him on other assignments is of no use in this gravity. Lungs searing from the decreased oxygen on this God-forsaken planet, he tries to gasp for air inaudibly. Silently cursing himself for failing, for losing his edge, for ending up in this hazardous position, he sends one more thought to her. “I'm so sorry, Leah. So sorry.”
It's over in a few seconds. The operative slumps all the way to the ground as the assailant calmly walks away from the scene, nods to the “drunk”. Mission accomplished.
When the body of the European terrorist hits the humble cop's car, Leah jolts to attention. John has been trying to convince the police that he isn't an insane pranker, and the only one who believes him is Abe Lincoln. But not until that body crunches the hood do others believe. Leah's been trying to convince the whole world that she's a trained soldier whose mission is to serve and protect colony residents, and the only one who knows the truth is Ian. Is he really the only one? Now that she's gotten her groove on, she starts humming. It's a nameless tune, and she's mostly unaware of this habit. Only one person ever asked about it.
“What song is that? You hum that when you're thinking hard.”
“I do? What are you talking about?”
Lon hums the tune. She smiles.
“I guess it's my thinking song. My Grandma used to hum when she worked. It made me feel safe. Even when I couldn't see her, I could hear her in the apartment, and I wasn't so scared.”
Why is she telling him? She never reveals personal information. She's been undercover so long it's an ingrained habit. This bit about the tune just slipped out. She has to be careful. Instead of going back to her work, she heads to the kitchen.
“Nah, I'm fine.”
Leah isn't fine. As she did then, she needs a shot. Grabbing the soy sauce bottle out of the fridge door, she guzzles some smuggled in Jack Daniel's. Surveying the meager inventory available, she also grabs the tub of cheese product and the imitation wheat crackers from the cabinet above the cook top. Tomorrow, supplies.
She moves to the floor between the coffee table and the couch, downs several snack packs. Cracker-cheese goop-cracker. Shot. Cracker-cheese goop-cracker. Shot. As the familiar warmth slithers into her system, she grabs the timeline.
If someone else did find out the truth, when could that have happened?
Ian is worried. More worried than he's been since Leah left for Spartan, and that's saying a lot. They “met” just briefly, over closed chat, way back when she first began her undercover work.
“So I hear you're my new ward.”
“Yeah. Just so you know, I don't like this. I don't like the daily reporting requirement. At all. I can take care of myself. How 'bout I contact you when I need you? Wouldn't that save everyone a lot of hassle not to mention budget credits? Don't you have more important things to do than babysit me?”
“Your mission is of high importance. And since you're new, and in a level 4 OP, you get daily. SOP. Nothing personal.”
“Nothing personal is just fine by me.”
“Ok then, I'll either hear, “I'd like a beer” or “I'd like a shot.” You do remember which is which, right?”
“Don't appreciate the sarcasm, your supreme highness, but yes I do remember. Beer means trouble. Shot means fine. I'm not stupid you know. Many cadets drink during training camp. It ought to be allowed. Would save the agency a hell of a lot of money in enforcement.”
“Well believe it or not, the agency values human life over regulations. We'd prefer that all personnel have self-discipline. It was a one-time blunder, right?”
“How many times do I need to grovel? I've lost count. You'd think no one around here went to school, got stupid, puked on someone important, and embarrassed themselves.”
“Point taken. Good luck, Leah. You'll need it.”
She'd have to get used to the Leah.
She knows Ian is worried, but that's nothing new. She doesn't understand how he can hold this job and be such a worry-wart at the same time. Throughout her training, she never came across a man who cared. Sure, there were men who cared about the mission, or the expensive equipment, or their covers, but that's not the same as caring for a person as, well, a person. A person who can get hurt or killed at any time during the OP. With whom they're going after, she's lucky to have gotten this far in one piece. Well, a put back together piece. She rubs her shin where the titanium tibia aches, despite it's lack of nerves. Stupid phantom pain. The irritation gets her back on track, though. She was lucky to have made it out of there alive. Aches and pains can be tolerated. Failure cannot.
Some of you might recognize the characters of Leah and Ian. For BuNoWriMo, I'm working on the sci-fi piece I started in February. If you care to go back and read, it starts here. I'm finding this challenge quite challenging. But the way I figure it, even if I don't make it to 50,000 words, I'll at least be further along then I was in May. Oh, and keep in mind, this is me spitting out words, no editing done yet. I hesitate to put raw stuff in Bloggyville, so I keep reminding myself of my purpose. It's in the header: Wanna be writer seeks place to vent, practice, and share.