Harold–Rold to those who knew him–leaned back in his chair until Charlene thought it would flip over. Rold just smiled. “Relax Charlie. The A players won’t be in position for another hour,” he said with that laid back, stoner self assurance that Charlene hated.
She also hated that he called her Charlie. She had spent her entire adult life trying to be more feminine after three brothers had dragged her kicking and screaming into tomboyhood.
“I will not relax,” she said, returning her attention to the array of detection equipment in front of her. “The targets could roll up any second and you don’t have your tracking sequences uploaded to the server yet.”
Rold leaned back in front of his monitor, the springs of his chair groaning under his weight, before he clicked the send button on the matrix he had been working on. “There,” he said grinning. “Uploaded.”
Charlene rushed to check the code and sequence of the tracking protocols for the satellites:
SwiftNet 5; online.
SwiftNet 8; online.
SkyLoft 1;…synchronization fail.
She ran the sequence again. Synchronization fail.
“SkyLoft one failed its sync,” Charlene said, running the sequence a third time.
“It’s in use by another Op,” Rold said as he got up from his chair and went to the back of the van.
“Why would that stop us from using it?” She asked, annoyed by his non-answer. “We could have six hundred different feeds coming through at once.”
She looked back over her shoulder and saw him pulling the large coffee can off the lower shelf by the back door.
“No,” she snapped.
He turned and looked at her with a sly grin. “When you gotta go, you gotta go,” he replied as he peeled the plastic lid off their pee-can. “SkyLoft is being run on a level six Op…no secondary operations allowed.”
She spun around to face her monitor, narrowly missing the opportunity to see Rold unzip. She closed her eyes and wrinkled her face in disgust as the water began to run.
“It’s fine,” he said as he peed, preempting her protest. “Three views are more than enough for this.”
She waited for him to finish before addressing him again, shaking her head as he zipped up and put the lid back on the coffee can. “That only leaves us with thermal imaging on one bird.”
He put the can back in its place before dropping heavily into his chair. “How many do you need?”
“Back up–chowder head. Backup.”
She turned and smacked him in the back of his head. “Standard Operating Procedure is not ‘pfft’.”
“Look, Charlie… I know the stick up your butt chafes sometimes but–”
He never got to finish his insult. Charlene leapt from her chair and knocked Rold to the floor, landing on top of him. Just then the back door of the van opened. Charlene looked up–it was James…beautiful, lean, sexy, James.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he stepped inside. “Did I interrupt something?”
Charlene abruptly broke her strangle hold on Rold and climbed back into her chair. “SkyLoft one is offline for another Op,” she said to the super sexy super spy. “but the other three are online and transmitting.”
“Good,” James replied as he stepped over the struggling Rold to reach for the ammo rack. “One set of thermal imagery should be enough… the deal is supposed to go down outside anyway.”
“Ha.” Rold grunted as he rolled to his side and pushed his considerable bulk off the floor.
“Though it’s not protocol,” James said, winking at Charlene. “I’ll keep that detail out of my debrief as long as it doesn’t cause any problems.”
“Ha,” Charlene said, the curl of her lip ruing an otherwise perfectly lovely grin.
Rold set his chair up and plopped back down as James began shoving bullets into spare magazines. “We should be getting underway soon,” James said as he slipped several spare mags into various hiding places in his clothing.
Charlene watched him, growing more tense as he seemed to be over-preparing for a simple hand off. “Expecting trouble?” she asked.
James pressed his lips together and shook his head dismissively. “It’s always best to be prepared,” he said absently before slipping a set of throwing knives under the edge of his body armor.
She had never seen him like this before. It had her worried.
“Make sure you stay focused on the lead vehicle,” James said without looking from his preOp preparation. “They have the devices. If it looks like they’re splitting off from the main group before I hand the money over, call in the cavalry. I won’t be able to reach them from the ground if they don’t come into the warehouse.”
“Yes sir,” Charlene replied. “Do I need to worry about a switch before the handover?”
James shook his head as he pulled a box from under the rack and sat on it facing Charlene…the simple act spiked her pulse. “The devices are tagged,” he said leaning across her to bring up the tracker screen. “If they switch vehicles, the new one becomes the lead. Just keep us posted on which one is in play.”
She nodded nervously, trying her best to ignore how great he smelled…so much better than the inside of the van which smelled like dirty gym socks at the bottom of a locker. When he pulled away, he left behind his swirling scent of expensive cologne and real-man pheromones. She closed her eyes and inhaled after he turned away. When she opened them again, Rold was staring at her, grinning like a fat, pit stained Cheshire cat. She abruptly turned back to her station, embarrassed.
“If anything else pops up, give us plenty of warning,” James said as he opened the back door of the van and stepped out. “I’d rather hear your voice in my ear than get caught unaware.”
She nodded. “Yes sir.”
He winked at her again and then nodded to Rold before closing the door. She watched in the camera monitor as he walked away from the van toward the garage across the street.
“Do you need to take care of anything before we start?” Rold asked with a taunting edge to his tone. “Coffee can? Breath mint? Clean panties?”
She threw the Op log binder at him. “Shut up.”
“Pay attention and don’t distract me,” she said as her fluster level reached maximum capacity. She could feel the heat rising from her collar, flushing her ears and cheeks.
“Oh, if you’re distracted it wasn’t me who did it,” Rold said with a chuckle.
“I think they should change SOP to keep the operatives out of the van before an Op,” he said.
“I think it’s not good for your concentration,” he added.
Charlene swiveled around in her chair and kicked him in the side.
“OW!” he yelled, angry. “And it’s not very good for your mood either.”
A flashing beacon appeared at the edge of Charlene’s laptop monitor precluding any further response. “We’re on,” she said, all business.
“Roger that,” Rold said before flipping on the mics for his and Charlene’s surveillance stations. “Good morning Op runners, this is Watch Tower one. The grid is in play. I say again, the Grid is in play. Tango vehicle is on Al Rasheed Street headed north at forty Kph, twelve blocks out.”
The radio in the van squelched to life. “Acknowledged,” came James’s voice over the speakers. “Okay team, here we go.”