Lyle Ashley Tate, Harry Garvey, Amanda ‘Mindy’ Masterson
and introducing Agnetha Jackson-Grey
Early afternoon, 27th January, Mystery Island
Harry stood back and surveyed the room appreciatively. Everything was in place, to his and Lyle’s satisfaction. Now all they needed to do was finish positioning all the cameras and the network was done until they received the final consignment. The only worrying thing was identifying what was blocking their comms signals. If they could find that, then they were home and dry.
“Just wish I knew what it was,” he had said to Lyle when the man had come back from seeing his injured friend off. Lyle had looked subdued and Harry tried to take his mind off it by turning the discussion onto the cause of the signal damper.
“Well I suppose it could be someone intercepting the signal, or it could be more localised interference. Not really my forte.”
“If we don’t find it, it’s going to play havoc with our signals. We should maybe look at getting more equipment in to dampen the effect…?” Harry was failing in his aim to divert Lyle’s thoughts; the man was too preoccupied. “I’m sure he’ll be okay, you know. If they’ve found the doctor…”
“He looked bad, that spike… We’re so isolated here.”
“Well, it’s down to us to make us less isolated then. We’re the tech bods, we have the technology…” he intoned and grinned. “Look, Lyle… I’m used to this, to some extent. Me and the other lads, we’re ex-military, we’re used to being constantly thrown on our own resources, we’ve been isolated in much more challenging surroundings than these. Be thankful, we’ve no hostiles pointing guns at us. We’ve no severe threats to our immediate safety… well, other than holes in the ground…” Harry shrugged, “and maybe adverse weather fronts… I’m not reassuring you, am I?” He grinned.
“Not much, no…” Lyle agreed, allowing himself a small smile. “But you’re here to do your bit for island security, it’s all part of what you signed up for, I suppose.”
Harry glanced at Lyle and sighed. “We did, but you didn’t. It can be a difficult transition for civilians. One minute you’re safe, the next…” he paused. “Truth to tell, you’re not that safe. Most civilians just think they are because they are surrounded by the familiar.”
“Safe hasn’t been something I could feel for quite a few years now. Seeing Gil hurt that badly just has brought to mind how far from home we really are though.”
“I can appreciate that.” Harry smiled and nodded. “Look, we usually get together for a few beers in downtime. You’d be welcome to join us, if you like. We made sure the cooler was well stocked.” He grinned again. “I think we may manage a party one night, although there are not many girls and the gay guys seem to outnumber the straights two to one.”
“I’d love a beer. Can’t say I can make up for the lack of girls though.”
“Well, maybe we can coax Aggi into joining us. Although from what I hear, she’s a bit of a Viking battleaxe.”
“The cook? She seemed nice enough.”
Lyle knew Harry was trying to stop him brooding about Gil. His friend had looked pretty seriously injured though, and Lyle wasn’t at all convinced that Miles was up to treating the injury, not because of any lack of skill on his part but due to a lack of facilities. Babbling about the differences between civilians and ex-military was not the way Harry should be going, though. It was too much ‘us and you’. Frankly, the guy was starting to get on his nerves.
“Look, I’ve had enough of this, for now.” He gestured to the stacked up equipment. “I’m going to go for a stroll…I promise not to get kidnapped or to fall down any holes. Catch you in an hour or so, back here?”
“Sure, if that’s what you need. I’ll check out the radar while you’re gone; that way we’ll get notice of when Gideon’s returning.” Harry winked. He knew Lyle was sleeping in their boss’s room, what that meant they had already speculated on, and Harry was pretty sure he would win their little bet. He couldn’t see the appeal of the man himself, but Gideon took his pleasures where he found them. That was part of being a soldier too.
Lyle watched for the optimum moment before scooping up the materials he was going to need. He didn’t want to show his hand to Harry. There was no love lost between Gideon and Pierce, but he was less sure where the other mercenaries stood, and they might not all approve of what he was about to do.
The wind was up again, for which Lyle was eternally grateful. He loathed how much sweat he was able to generate just by standing still on this island. He longed to be able to strip off his top, slap on some tanning oil and become a beach-bum-surfer-dude. He was going to have to lean on Pierce, get some answers out of her about how soon Eidolon was going to settle their debt to him. Bugging her bure was just perfect in terms of gaining the leverage he figured was going to be necessary to tie things up properly.
Trust Pierce, arrogant bitch that she is, to bag the nicest of the still-standing bures; no sharing a dormitory for her, Lyle thought to himself, as he weighed up the building to see if it was truly empty at present.
Lyle was finding it hard to make himself take the time to properly scout out Pierce’s bure; he wasn’t sure how long he had before the Eidolon big noise would return from Rapatoka. He didn’t imagine the locals would throw a luau for her, making friends wasn’t her forte. He absolutely mustn’t get caught at this stage, but he needed to hurry too so that he could set up the surveillance in her bure to get maximum coverage. He gave it five minutes, crouched in the treeline observing the low building, then scurried to the doorway of the low building. He’d expected to find the place all locked up, but it wasn’t. Very cautiously he let himself in.
That Pierce would be careless of her security seemed odd. She hadn’t struck him as the careless type. Maybe Flynn had been there ahead of him though? That would fit. Flynn had probably already turned over every locked room in the complex; the street kid had guts, skills even, but not a lot of sense.
Mindy pushed her plate away with a sigh. The food was good, better than she had been lead to believe. Listening to Sandra Pierce sniping about it, anyone would have thought it was pigswill. Mindy finished up, aware of how hungry she had been. She glanced at her watch and frowned. She had been on the go since seven that morning, finishing up the tasks Pierce had given her. She snorted softly. Pierce treated her as little more than a skivvy these days, a glorified maid. She was an experienced PA, for God’s sake. First Pierce had assigned her to that little scumbag, Archer, who frankly treated her like she was some kind of bimbo and now she was in the middle of nowhere, cleaning Pierce’s bure…
“That was a sigh from the heart…” The oddly-accented English made Mindy look up to see a small woman in a chef’s white uniform, blond hair cut short as a soldier’s, peering at her through the serving hatch. “You are okay, Sweety?”
“I’m fine…” Mindy was a little unnerved by the woman’s stare, but her manner was kind. She reminded her of Tank Girl. “Just a little pissed off, but what’s new?” Mindy replied dispiritedly.
“Ah, Sweety, not good, not good. I’m Agnetha, by the way. You may call me Aggi if you like. The boys call me Bork…you know, like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets?” She laughed and shrugged one shoulder. “Before your time maybe…” Mindy realised her look must have been a little blank. Her accent was a tad strange to Mindy’s ears. Aggi spoke with a lilt, the emphasis on the wrong part of the words. Abruptly, the woman’s focus altered and she said something unintelligible. Was that her own language? She disappeared from view, emerging from the kitchen moments later with a tray. She proceeded to collect discarded plates and cups, swiping a wet cloth across the tables with gusto. “Ach, those men! Bad enough I’ve no help here, but why can’t they clean their own mess up? But then, they’re men. I should not expect miracles.” Mindy thoughtfully collected her plate and mug onto her tray and carried them to the hatch. She felt she would be letting the side down to do anything else.
“Tack.” Mindy glanced at her. What was that?
“What did you say?”
“Tack… Sorry, I’m Swedish, I forget. Thank you,” she said. “It means thank you.”
“Oh.” Mindy smiled. “That’s okay. I guess we women should stick together.” Aggi smiled broadly.
“We should keep these men in their place,” she said with another grin, shaking her head in exasperation and waggling a dirty mug in the air for emphasis. “Military types know better, but we have civilian workers too. Not the same…” She shrugged, looking Mindy up and down. “You don’t look like a builder, Sweety, and you sure are not Military. How on earth do you fit in round here?”
“I’m…” Mindy paused. What am I? She was hard pressed to answer. “I work with Sandra Pierce…”
“Ouch, that hard-faced Tik…”
“Why, Sweety, what did you do?”
“Er… I meant, what did you mean? Tik?”
Aggi laughed. “Oh, I believe the word means the female dog?” Mindy took a moment to process the meaning, then she laughed as well.
“Yes, Aggi, I believe you’re right with that assumption.” She frowned. “Look, I better get going or… the Tik will be back and breathing down my neck. She reached for her keys, finding they were not in her pocket where they ought to be. Then she realised in horror that she hadn’t locked the door of the bure on her way out. Damn it to hell and back, she had left her keys behind! Pierce would kill her if she got back and found out. “Sorry, Aggi, I really have to go…” and Mindy flew out the door as fast as her sandaled feet would go.
Aggi watched her go with a frown. It looks like Pierce has her claws into this one too. Damn the woman. Aggi had only met her once and once was one time too many in Aggi’s opinion. The woman was a Tik of the highest order, and one that Aggi would dearly love to see fall. Short of poisoning the woman’s chilli she wasn’t sure how that would happen, though. People like Pierce got away with murder. Gideon she could relate to. Gideon was military. So were his boys. They liked her. They were also smart enough to know that one did not piss off the only cook on the island too. Not everyone had the sense they were born with though.
Mindy ran out of the main building and took the path at a run. Pierce might already be there. Anxiety lent her speed and in no time she was in sight of the bure again.
It was a nice hut, cool and comfortable. Trust Pierce to get the best of the accommodation. It looked like some of the building had been recently patched. Not all of the furniture was standard either. The bed was broader than the others he had spotted at the resort so far, and swathed in a diaphanous mosquito net. The rest of the decor was typically ‘tourist tropical’–rush, cane and bamboo. The place showed no sign of habitation, though Pierce had been on the island nearly as long as himself.
Lyle pondered where best to position his cameras and microphones. He thought about both reception and concealment, carefully considering the optimum placement. He was hoping the interference Harry had been registering earlier wouldn’t affect these gadgets, since they were going to be hooked up to a different part of the system–his own private section. He had to cobble some of the stuff together, he’d swept a random selection of gear up as he’d left the security base room—he hated thinking of it as an ‘IT’ room—so he wasn’t sure exactly what he could accomplish right there and then. It would have to do for a while though, he doubted he would get such easy access to this particular bure again for some time.
More than once Lyle froze as voices drew close, but every time they faded; just people passing by, workers maybe. His nerves were on edge though and it ate into the concentration he needed to fix the tiny cameras and microphones. He would have to hope that the cameras would pick something up. They were fixed in one position; if anyone placed anything in front of them he would be blind. He put one in the main room, as high up as he could get it, pointing down. The other he placed to cover the door. It would be interesting to see the comings and goings and time-stamp them. He set the voice-activated microphones in the main room and the bedroom. He had a chance of getting more from them than from the cameras.
Job done, Lyle thought, casting a final glance round the room. He pocketed the remains of the equipment he had brought with him, did a final check that he hadn’t left anything incriminating behind and stepped quickly to the door.
He reached to open it, intending to peer out to check that the coast—almost literally in this case—was clear, but as he did so, the handle flew out of his grasp. A flustered young woman with dark hair and a horrified expression stood there, framed by the doorway.
“Just who the fuck are you?” Mindy’s terror that Pierce had returned rapidly changed to anger. She knew the stranger who stood in Pierce’s bure had absolutely no business being there, although it didn’t occur to her to be scared of him. Pierce scared her, but few other people could. In fact Mindy hated Pierce for her ability to do exactly that.
If looks could kill, Lyle thought, this woman would have been guilty of murder. She had an air of righteous indignation and Lyle knew he had to think on his feet before she started screaming the place down. He realised he had seen her before, she had been heading into the refectory as he had been leaving, no doubt late for her lunch. He remembered thinking she looked too neat to be part of the maintenance crews.
“Just what the hell are you doing here? Who are you?”
Lyle was stumped. He had no idea where the woman fitted into the Eidolon puzzle. He’d seen her hanging around Flynn a bit, and around Pierce. Did she know about their history? Did she have a clue who they were or was she out of the loop?
“Security. I was just making sure everything was okay here. The door was unlocked. I know Ms Pierce is off the island right now, so I thought I should check for intruders and then secure the premises.”
Lyle smiled as unconvincingly as he could manage, playing out the persona of a security specialist. “. . . And you are?”
“Amanda Masterson…I’m Sandra Pierce’s PA… but if you are security, how come you didn’t know that?” The man had rattled her, but she was unsure of her ground. She knew people had been brought in whom she had yet to meet but somehow this guy didn’t seem right.
Lyle pulled himself up to his full height of 5ft 10, looking the woman straight in the eyes, echoing the way his own bodyguard, Breslaw, had carried himself. With all the military present on the island right now he knew he wasn’t exactly right for a member of the security team, but that was what he was now all the same, and bugging Pierce’s hut was exactly the sort of thing he should be doing.
“I have a set of names, just haven’t had chance to meet everyone yet.” He pulled out his PDA and started pressing buttons, whilst making sure the woman couldn’t see the screen. “Ah yes, you check out. Thanks. Do you know when we can expect Ms. Pierce to return? They didn’t leave a schedule.” He did his best to sound really annoyed as he added the final sentence.
“Ms. Pierce—,” Mindy gave the Ms an audible capital, “—will be back when she’s done what she went out there to do.”
“She didn’t tell you either, huh? Law unto Herself.” Lyle checked his watch. “Better get on, got plenty to do today. You have a key for here, yes?”
Lyle smiled, his eyebrow lifting slightly. “Better use it next time then, Ma’am. After all, you never know who might be snooping around.”