Gideon Sterling and Sandra Pierce
(Introducing Eidolon Security Detail Alpha – Harry Garvey, Ragnar Bjornson, Gareth Pritchard, Ray Bullivant and Ewan Clarke. With mention of Miles Sutherland, Carter Gillespie, Lyle Tate and Aiden Parker)
26th January, dinner time
“This is no fucking good…”
“I tell you, if he doesn’t sort the bitch out soon, I bloody will…”
“…need to know who to take orders from…”
Gideon looked up from his desk as the voices invaded the quiet and calm of HQ as it had come to be known. The paperwork he was attempting to finish was a raft of requisition forms and orders. He needed to sort them before the seaplane’s next scheduled visit. So far, despite her arrival on this morning’s flight, he’d managed to avoid Sandra Pierce, and he wanted to keep it that way for a while longer if he could.
Christ, his neck was stiff. Gideon flexed his shoulders and heard a crack as something shifted back into place. Exhaling with relief, he realised he’d been on the go ever since waking to the sound of his satellite phone going off: a ‘heads up’ from Ragnar Bjornson that their flight was on the final approach.
His men had been first off the plane, shouldering their kit and clumping down the wooden walkway, Bjornson in the lead, a tall, tow-headed, genial Scandinavian with piercing blue eyes followed by Pritchard, Garvey, Clarke and Bullivant. After a quick welcome he’d sent them up to stow their gear then set them a few tasks around the place, clearing up some of the larger pieces of storm debris and transferring the equipment which had just arrived from the jetty to the complex.
Next time he saw Breslaw, though, he’d rip him a new one for making him into a glorified babysitter. Gideon had done the best he could for Tate after hearing his request for privacy and offered him a share of his own room for now. Tate had reluctantly agreed; Gideon knew all there was to know anyway. Gideon tried hard not to be judgemental. He might not understand–that was evident after talking to Tate for a while–but he didn’t make assumptions. Tate was struggling through life and rising to the challenge, so far as Gideon could see. He respected the man for that.
The teacher had been roaming around with his dog half the night, muttering to himself about being hot. He’d seen the paramedic—whatshisname—Carter Gillespie, intervene which meant he hadn’t needed to do anything himself. Gideon strongly suspected there were PTSD issues there, but he would leave that to the medics to decide.
Then as he and his men took a well-earned break, Gillespie had started harassing him that Miles Sutherland had been missing for more than 24 hours. After lunch, he’d sent his men off to make a thorough rece of the island. While they were doing that he told them to keep an eye out for the missing man. He expected they had turned up to give him their report.
The argument that the doctor might be lying injured somewhere was a valid one, but Gideon had seen the look in the man’s eye when he walked off soon after they landed. He obviously wanted to be anywhere but there, on Mystery Island. Of all of them, Gideon figured the doctor was probably the most experienced at looking after himself.
The door opened and Bjornsen, Garvey and Pritchard barged in, coming to a halt before the desk. Gideon looked up and growled, “You might be civilians now, but don’t you ever knock?”
“Sorry, boss, but this is ridiculous…”
“She’s fucked us up….”
“Woah there, one at a time. Rag, what are you yammering about?”
“Sorry, sir, but it’s that Eidolon woman, Pierce. She’s contradicting your orders about what we’re meant to be doing here…”
“What exactly did she say?” Gideon asked. There was no sense in going nuts before he had the whole story.
“We were progressing with the sweep of the island like you told us, sir, then she called us over and ordered us to help rebuild the bures.”
“What did you do? Garvey?”
The lean young man almost straightened to attention. “We left Clarke and Bullivant at it, sir, and completed the survey. Couldn’t find a trace of Sutherland anywhere, by the way. It was getting dark so we decided we best head back. We observed Gillespie, sir, he was on the beach, looking out to Rapatoka. Looked like he might be doing his own search, like he suggested, sir.” Gideon suppressed a chuckle at all the ‘sirs’. Garvey was nothing if not precise, even if they weren’t in the service any more.
“Okay, go find the others and knock off for the night. I’ll deal with Ms Pierce.”
“Boss, who do we take orders from now?”
“Me, Pritch, for as long as you are here, clear it through me first, please.”
“Now, did you get the supplies unloaded?”
“Yes, boss,” Pritchard winked. “Six crates of supplies and a couple of dozen bottles… We got any birds here or are we going to have to put up with you in drag again? Harry’s got his ipod dock…”
“Great. Not sure about me in drag again, that cheongsam was a little tight. Although the girls are a little few and far between. The gay guys outnumber the girls five to one, I’m guessing…” Gideon grinned. “I saw a couple of girls arrive with you, but that’s all. What about them?”
“Nah, one’s a lesbian…”
“Well, if the gays are that numerous, you’ll have to watch your arse, Garvey.” Ragnar grinned and elbowed Harry Garvey in the ribs. It was a well known fact that if anyone was going to be chatted up by a Thai lady boy or an Anak Ikan then it would be Harry. Next to Pritch he was definitely the gay bait.
“My arse is safe, thank you, but what about yours, Gay Boy?” he retorted.
Gideon ignored the verbal sparring. He would go to hell and back with these guys, but a niggling feeling of doubt was suggesting to him that they might have to, sooner or later. “I want you lot to mind your Ps and Qs around Ms Eidolon herself, let me handle that one, and don’t think you can turn into beach bums. There’s work to be done.” There was a chorus of moans which degenerated into laughter.
“No such thing as a free holiday, eh, boss?”
“Might have known we’d not be sitting on our arses all day…”
“Knew it was too good to be true…”
“Can it, guys,” Gideon ordered gently. “Be subtle, okay? Keep the lines of communication open and hope Ms Busybody goes home first chance she gets.
They’d barely been gone a moment, when the door opened. No knock, again.
He didn’t even bother to look up. “Why don’t you guys bugger off and let me do some proper work.”
“Nice to see someone is working, Mr. Sterling.”
Shit, he thought. “Ms Ei…Pierce… Nice to see you.”
He stood, not sure whether to offer her his own chair. As offices went it was pretty sparse. She surprised him though by perching on the edge of the desk and smiling at him sweetly. Pierce didn’t do sweet so what was going on here?
“Your men seem to be settling in well, enjoying themselves.”
She stretched out one leg and twisted it slightly as if admiring the view. Did she think his men would find her attractive? Gideon smirked to himself as he sat back in the chair. The odds might be in her favor, but none of them would touch her with a barge pole. Although…
“They’re adaptable. Comes with the territory.”
“Hm, as long as they realize that there is a lot of money tied up in this project. Games are all very well, but we have to get this place up and running in record time. If you need more men…”
“My men are not here to be builders, Ms Pierce, they have specialist skills. If you needed builders, you should have brought more with you.”
“Builders will be coming, Mr Sterling, along with all sorts of tradespeople. It was at your insistence that your security detail arrived first. I’d have thought getting a roof over their heads would be a number one priority, unless of course they like sleeping in communal quarters with a bunch of gay men.”
“You have something against gay men?”
“Not at all, Mr Sterling, but your men don’t seem the sensitive, understanding type.”
“You don’t know my men…” he stopped himself and smiled broadly.
She stared at him for a long moment. She almost seemed to be baiting him. Before he could respond further, she sprang to her feet and started pacing around the room. “Enough of that.” She gave a dismissive wave of her hand and placed a document down on the desk in front of him. The seaplane specs. “How does she handle? Will she suit our purpose do you think?”
“That entirely depends on how you perceive our purpose. She’s a good plane. Handles well. She has a good range…”
“Precisely, that’s why we bought her. She’s the vital link in our plans. The Russian model may be bigger, but they can’t land in such a small area. Do those landing and lift-off devices work like they’re supposed to?”
Gideon smiled. Something about her eagerness didn’t sit right. “The suppressors work just fine. Now, if I could draw your attention to the state of the equipment here…”
She waved a hand dismissively. “Just let us know what you need. I must admit that cyclone did make a bit of a mess. That’s what you get when you use leaves and branches for building materials.”
“Readily available building materials, Ms Pierce, plentiful and cheap.” Gideon gestured to the forms on his desk. “My requirements are all ready for you.”
“What about the important things, the electricity, the desalination plant, are they all still functioning properly or do we need to get them repaired as well.”
“Well, the generator is working, although it could do with a complete overhaul. As to the desalination plant, I have yet to check it. There’s only so much you can complete in a day.” What did she think he was, superhuman?
“I’ll have some experts come in on the next flight. When I stayed here as a guest last year, that was one of the first things that made me interested in buying this place. Once the solar and wind generators are all up and running again, we won’t need to rely on antiquated pieces of machinery. We will have all the energy and water we need.”
Experts. Gideon suppressed a smile. Anything and everything was at her beck and call. Well, Eidolon’s. “I’m sure we’ll have the resort running to your satisfaction in no time.” He turned on the charm. “You’ll have to stop ordering my men around though; it confuses them. They’re used to a chain of command. You’ll not get the best out of them unless you leave them to me.”
“Your men?” She turned and planted her hands on the desk leaning over slightly towards him. “Mr. Sterling, your men may have been under your command in the SAS, but here they are employees of Eidolon.”
“SBS, Ms Pierce. Not SAS. And yes, we are all your employees now, are we not? But they still remain my men, under my command. Anything else will mean you won’t get the optimum performance from them. If security, as you have already stated, is of paramount importance?” Gideon stood and wandered round his desk, stepping closer to her. “We’re here to do the best we can for you.”
“I expect nothing less, Mr Sterling. However, we need to be exactly clear who is the boss here and, like it or not, I need to be sure that this place is operational as soon as possible. I can’t afford to have men jaunting around the island when there is work to be done.”
“I’m sure jaunting was the last thing on their minds. All I’m asking is that you let me keep things simple. Chain of command, Ms Pierce. If you want them to do anything, please run it by me first. Dissemination of information is easier when it comes through correct lines.”
“That’s why wars have been lost throughout the ages, Mr Sterling. Arguments about priorities.”
“Wars are won through good strategy, Ms Pierce, which includes clear communication through correct lines, otherwise we may as well be sitting on our arses getting a suntan.”
“So what was so important that you had to spare five men today when our first priority should have been to make this place ready for the influx of personnel we’re going to get over the next few days? Perhaps I should have brought the builders over first. Pity that by the time we load the seaplane up with gear, we can only bring in a few people at a time.”
“My first priority was to familiarise my men with the island they are supposed to protect. We have to adapt as we go, Ms Pierce. Things come along that change our priorities. We now have the added and unforeseen issue of a missing person not to mention evidence that the islanders from Rapatoka have been visiting in order to take anything useful. My men are now on alert in case they try it again.”
“Missing person? Who is missing?”
“Miles Sutherland?” Pierce let go of the desk and straightened, a self-satisfied smirk twisting her lips into a sneer. “His usefulness is over anyway. We only needed his inclusion in the crew to convince the manufacturers to sell the seaplane to us. They were making some noise about the fact that because it had been built with Government money they couldn’t sell it to private companies. That cyclone relief story paid off in two ways, giving us an excuse to get them out of Haven Falls and clinch the deal with the plane. Disaster relief.” She snorted. “Works every time.” She turned and walked to the window. “Maybe he’s decided that he couldn’t live without his dead lover anymore. Our psych evaluation showed he was borderline suicidal.”
Gideon was careful to keep his expression bland. He had a great deal of experience in not revealing his feelings. Sandra Pierce had just shown her true colours. “A pity, we could have done with a medic. Still, one of my men has experience. And we still have Gillespie. Between them, it should be enough until you can replace him.”
“I’m actually more concerned about reports of locals coming over to the island. Now we have the inflatable Zodiac unloaded, I want to visit Rapatoka tomorrow and make sure they understand the resort is off limits now.” She turned back to face him. “I want a couple of your men with me. Armed. They need to see that we’re deadly serious.”
Gideon nodded. “I’ll see to it.”
“Of course you will, Mr Sterling, that’s what we pay you for.”
That’s right, Gideon thought, rub it in that I don’t hold rank any longer. He smiled and moved a little closer. “And you get what you pay for, Ms Pierce,” he said reassuringly. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Sleep well.” He brushed close by her and held open the door.
“I’m sure I will, Mr Sterling. The bure is fine now Mindy has cleaned it.”
The door clicked with a sharp snap behind her. Poor bloody Mindy. He paused, considering. Now that might be worth a try. She did say anything I needed. He sat back down quickly and added a couple of things to the bottom of the requisition forms.