Gideon Sterling, Lyle Tate (and a few others who get in Gideon’s way…)
Mystery Island, 12th February
“Good morning, Mr Sterling.” As always Sandra Pierce never failed to address him with slight emphasis on the mister, as if to remind him he held no military rank here on Mystery. He forced a smile and offered her a seat.
“Ms Pierce. Always a pleasure. How are you this morning?”
“As you ask, I have to say I’m disappointed that things are not moving faster. The ship is delayed and the builders seem to be on a go-slow….” He tuned her out as she sat there listing her grievances. He might challenge her one day to find something she actually liked, if only to prove she wasn’t the cold-hearted insensitive ice-queen he thought she was. Then again, he’d better not hold his breath. In his opinion Narnia had gotten the better deal.
“I’m sorry to hear things aren’t going to your satisfaction. Afraid there’s nothing we can do to hasten the ship’s arrival. It’s pretty much in the hands of the Gods—”
“Screw that,” she said inelegantly. “It’s that bloody idiot of a captain. If he hadn’t answered that distress call, they’d be with us by now. I’m expecting a delivery, and I’m not happy about the wait. It should have been picked up when you took the plane to Eidolon base, but it wasn’t collected.”
“Damned inconvenient.” Gideon had a burning desire to ask her if it wasn’t what they were supposed to be doing, rescuing people and providing disaster relief, but remained silent. It wasn’t worth it. One day, though, he’d take great pleasure in telling her to stuff it. Nothing he did was ever right.
Pierce rose to her feet, bristling. He knew by her body language that she suspected he was winding her up, and he had her off-balance as a result. She must be itching to tell him off. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, my dear, he thought, and smiled disarmingly. “I won’t keep you any longer,” he said, rising and shadowing her to the door. “I’m sure you’re very busy.” She nodded, once, and swept out. Gideon breathed a mental sigh of relief and went back to his desk, intent on finishing the forms he had been checking.
Five minutes later, his radio beeped. He juggled the paper pile he was sorting through, grabbed the radio and barked, “Sterling!”
“Boss? That damned kid…”
“Bloody Flynn, that’s who!”
“Take it easy, Ray. What’s the matter?”
“He’s driving me nuts!”
“Ray, calm down. I’m sure you can handle him. That’s why I gave you the job.”
“Oh, I can handle him alright. I’ll break his bloody scrawny neck if he doesn’t watch out, not to mention tying his dick in a knot for good measure….”
Gideon sighed. For Bull to get upset, it must mean Flynn was a bigger handful that he had been lead to believe. “Bull, just… handle it, okay? He needs a minder. I’m up to my ears in waste paper here. Unless its an emergency, you’ll have to deal with him yourself.”
“Thanks for nothing, boss. This is serious…”
“Come on, Bull, I told you. Deal with it. If he’s still pissing you off by tonight, I’ll get Pritch to spell you tomorrow. How’s that?”
There was a heavy sigh. “It’ll have to do.”
“Yes, it will.” Gideon threw his radio into a draw and shut it pointedly, then stared into the middle distance thoughtfully. Flynn was more than just a handful, he should come with a bloody health warning.
Gideon stared at the requisition pad with ill-disguised distaste. It was filled with those shitty green forms that were the same colour as that mold that grows on bread. They didn’t quite rise above dull and boring with a touch of insipid thrown in. Damn forms. Why did Eidolon need everything in triplicate, signed in blood under a full moon with three witnesses and a DNA sample? Seemed like it anyway. To say they were heavy on the bureaucracy was an understatement. He scanned the on-line catalogue trying to decide if he should order medical supplies or leave it to the professionals.
Damn it, he really needed Doc Sutherland or Gillespie back to tell him what drugs and equipment to request. They would know what they were dealing with. It would probably take them all of five minutes to spend his entire budget while it took him hours to order a couple of hundred quid’s worth. Wondering how the paramedic was fairing under the doctor’s care, Gideon decided to call Rag in and ask him to make an order out for interim emergency supplies. After contributing some of theirs to Gillespie’s welfare, they were a tad low. As he reached in the drawer for his radio though, the telephone chose that moment to ring.
“Damn it all,” he muttered, picking it up. “Sterling,” he barked.
“Yes… son, how are you?” The male voice enquired. “You sound a little tense.”
“Things are a little busy right now…” Hint, hint, he thought. Come on, take the hint, I’ll call you back…
“I won’t keep you long. I called to ask if the ship was on schedule?”
“No, sir, seems not. They deviated to answer a distress call.”
“I hope their captain is aware of the sorts of tricks pirates pull. Have you heard from them since they deviated?”
“We haven’t heard from them at all. Eidolon Central sent us a wire that the ship was going to be late, so I naturally assumed they’d been in contact. We haven’t been in direct communication yet.” There was a silence.
“That isn’t good. There’s something on that ship that cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Something I am sending to you. I’ll get on it. I’ll be in touch. Mother out.” The line went dead.
“Thanks for nothing.” Gideon frowned and replaced the receiver. What the hell could ‘Mother’ be sending him that was so damned important?
“Yes, Mindy.” Gideon threw his pen on the table will ill-concealed exasperation. “And what can I do for you?” He glanced up to see the curvy brunette peering round his door as if using it as a shield. And if you’ve come to tell me you’ve broken a nail, I’ll bloody strangle you.
“Ms Pierce’s toilet is blocked again…”
“Then get a bloody plumber!” Gideon snapped. “For the Gods’ own sakes, love, do I look like I know my u-bend from my plunger?” He grinned wolfishly and watched mercilessly as she blushed a deep pink and fled. “Tell her I’m Security Chief, not a fucking chambermaid!” he shouted after her departing back.
He probably would end up unblocking Pierce’s toilet anyway. There might not even be a plumber on the island, and he knew Pierce would have a fit if he didn’t do something. Maybe that’s why she had her knickers in a twist this morning. He knew they had builders and sparks and a chippy or two, they even had roofers and solar panel fitters, but a plumber? It stood to reason that they would need one, but that wasn’t how Eidolon seemed to work. The ship was due to provide them with more personnel and equipment, so possibly one would turn up on board. That’s assuming the fucking ship turned up at all.
Damn it, he had no plans to be up to his ears in shit all afternoon. Although…. He glanced at his desk. If the amount of paperwork was anything to go by he was already up to his ears in shit. Whether there was a plunger anywhere in their tool kits was debatable, though.
“Damn it, What now?”
“Sorry, Soup, I’ll come back later—”
“What did you just call me?”
Pritch went red and stammered an apology. “S.s.sorry, sir…boss, I mean…”
“Pritch?” Pritch was the youngest and most uncertain of where he stood with regard to his superior. “Explain.”
“Well, sir, you’re head of security on the island…”
“So soup is short for supervisor?” Gideon suggested.
“Er… no, sir. Not exactly. It’s…. well, the other lads… someone said that you’re the MISO— Mystery Island Security Officer—and miso is Japanese soup and… well… it just stuck, that’s all…”
“Soup,” Gideon muttered thoughtfully. “Well, of all the things I have been called, that isn’t the worst.” He grinned. “Just think, I could have been Sectional Head of International Territory or something…. Look, unless it’s an emergency, Pritch, bugger off until later will you? I’m up to my eyes here.” Pritch didn’t need telling twice. He fled.
“Oh, for the love of….” Gideon muttered and closed his eyes. Today was just getting better and better. “What’s up, Harry?”
Harry Garvey came into the room, carrying what looked like a bunch of wires. “Sorry, boss, but I think we got ourselves a problem.”
Gideon’s head snapped up. “What kind of a problem?”
Harry held up the bunch of wires. “I think these have been sabotaged.” He fingered the frayed ends. “Cut with a rather blunt knife. What do you reckon?” Gideon took the wires from him, examining the ends critically.
“What did these connect to?”
“The bunch of monitors on the reception desk. It hasn’t done much damage. We have spares. We’ll be running again in minutes. Lyle is sorting it out as we speak.”
“Someone who doesn’t have much idea about technology then?”
“One of the Islanders? Who knows. Lyle is going to run through the CCTV footage of the corridors.”
“Corridors? Why not the room itself?”
“Er… we haven’t got any….” Garvey looked uncomfortable.
“What? What do you mean, you haven’t got any?”
“It’s the reception area, we haven’t finished fitting it out yet. There’s nothing in there yet.”
“It’s the entrance to the whole building. You know, the place we keep thousands of quid’s worth of gear? Why wasn’t it made a priority?”
“Boss, no disrespect meant, but we didn’t exactly expect thieves on the island. I mean, where would they go?”
“All eventualities, Harry. Cover all the possibles. Get some cameras into that space now. And while you’re about it, we’d better get good combination locks on the main doors, coded, card-swiped, whatever. Go talk to the builders about getting it done asap. We’re expecting more kit to arrive on the boat, when it finally gets here, and it all needs to be kept safe. Let’s see what we get from Lyle…”
“Hi, Gideon, sorry to bother you.” The minute their Chief of Security looked up Lyle knew his timing sucked. Gideon Sterling looked like he was ready to strangle someone–anyone–and Lyle positively did not want that to be him. Erotic asphyxiation was definitely not one of his things. Joking aside though, he was worried and needed reassurance. Gideon didn’t look to Lyle like he would be giving much of that today, though.
“Okay, so what can I do for you, Lyle?” Gideon exhaled slowly. “Tell me you got some results on the sabotage.” This afternoon was going tits up anyway; one more interruption wouldn’t make much difference to the whole. Besides, he didn’t actually mind an interruption from Lyle Tate.
“Sorry, no, nothing. Looks like they didn’t enter the rest of the building. Must have cut the wires and run.”
“Damn, too much to hope for.” Gideon sighed, then observed that Lyle wasn’t going away. “Was there something…?”
“It’s alright, I can come back. I should probably be asking Ms Pierce about this anyway.” Lyle moved to back out of the office.
Gideon sighed heavily. “It’s okay, mate, no need for you to face the bitch. She’s in the mood to make a glacier shiver. Probably something to do with the fact that her u-bend is blocked again.” He grinned happily. “I’m getting nowhere here anyway. Let’s grab a coffee.”
“That would be good. Thanks.”
Gideon had gotten used to reading Lyle, since they were still sharing accommodation. The Englishman’s body language was telling Gideon that his request was important to him at least. He had a habit of holding his head just so, and his eyes had that expectant expression, his brows drawing together making him look a little worried. Lyle wasn’t one to push things, so Gideon knew he needed someone to listen to him.
The cafeteria was surprisingly quiet when they arrived. Wherever the builders are, Gideon thought, they aren’t busy having tea breaks. Were Pierce’s complaints about the construction people genuine? The woman always seemed to want everything to move at light speed, but never seemed to do anything to encourage that to happen.
They could help themselves to coffee from the machine, but Gideon decided he was hungry as well as thirsty. He leaned into the kitchen and yelled “Aggie!” and then rested his hands on the counter top to await the response. He was rewarded a few moments later by a voice from out the back door.
“Be right with you.”
“Okay, love, no rush.” Gideon returned to the table and sat down, propping his elbows on it and placing his face in his hands. “Oooooh God, I’ll be seeing requisition forms in my sleep,” he groaned and massaged his temples. Flexing his neck, he heard it crack rather loudly and paused, assessing whether the move might cause him pain. When it didn’t, he breathed a sigh of relief and sat back, surveying the slender man on the other side of the table. “So, Lyle,” he began. “What’s up?”
“It’s personal.” Lyle checked that Aggie wasn’t close enough to hear their conversation. “I want…need to ask…”
Gideon inclined his body forward, maintaining eye contact and presenting a concerned expression. “It’s okay, Lyle, you should know by now you can tell me pretty much anything.” Trust me, I’m a security guard, Gideon thought.
“I’m running out of T-shots. I don’t know if anyone else has ordered them, but I need you to if not.”
Gideon paused. What had Lyle just said? He put his head on one side and frowned slightly
“Pardon me? T-shirts? Did I hear that right? You’re asking me for clothes now?”
“No! T-shots–Testosterone injections–for my transition.”
Gideon couldn’t help himself; he burst out laughing. “Oh fuck… I’m really, really sorry, Lyle… No, wait, I’m not laughing at you!” He reached out and laid a hand on the man’s arm as Lyle made a move to run. Gideon tightened his hold. “Don’t go. I’m truly sorry. I misheard you….” He tried to school his features into a more sober expression and failed. “Bugger it, I’m sorry but that was funny. I’m a twat, sorry…” He took a deep breath and tried again. “After the morning I’ve had, I appreciate anything that can give me a bit of light relief. Even my own screw-ups. So, how fast do you need them?”
“I have enough for the next two weeks. I could reduce the dosage to stretch it out, but I don’t really want to do that.”
“No, no, don’t do that, it can’t be good for you. Look, I’ll see what I can do to pick some up from Eidolon base when the plane flies out again. depending on the weather conditions, that will be next week. Has to be, Pierce is running low on that Polyfilla she calls make-up. Personally I think it hides the cracks.”
“Maybe we need some anti-freeze too?” Lyle suggested with a grin.
Under his hand, Lyle’s skin was warm. Gideon’s thoughts drifted and he suppressed the urge to stroke. “So, wonder where Aggie’s got to…” He rose to his feet, intent on investigating the whereabouts of the chef. He was badly in need of coffee and food. And sex, part of his brain said unhelpfully. He pushed it away. He didn’t think Lyle was ready for that just yet, certainly not with him. Although of late, sharing a room with Lyle was getting harder. Gideon had to work extra hard to not think about him, lying there near-naked, mere feet away.
The hand on his arm was still there. Gideon didn’t touch people often, Lyle knew that. Maybe he was feeling the pressure of the loneliness of command? If Gideon was reaching out, Lyle was willing to be there for him. Or maybe he was reading something into it that wasn’t there?
“Hallo, guys, what can I get for you?”
“Coffee please, Aggie, two. One black, one…” Gideon turned to Lyle. “How do take yours? Latte? Espresso? Any preference?”
“Latte please, Aggie, no sugar. I’ll have one of your wonderful chocolate cakes too please.”
“No cakes today, I’m afraid, Lyle, I’ve run out of chocolate. When’s that boat coming, Gideon? And when do I get my assistant?”
“When Hell freezes over? When Ms Pierce gets visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future? I wish I knew, Aggie. I’ve placed the request, marked it urgent, I’ve lit the blue touch paper, now I’m retiring to the recommended safe distance and waiting. In short, the boat is delayed. They answered a distress call. Whether there is a little spare sous chef on board for you, I am not sure. If necessary, I’ll ask one of the lads to give you a hand. As to the chocolate, make me a supply list with the urgent stuff, and I’ll see if we can’t arrange something when the plane gets back, okay?”
Aggie grinned. “Okay, but I not wait forever. Aggie is viking; she get what she want or else!”
Gideon laughed and took the coffees from her. “I’ll bear that in mind, Aggie, but remember I might have to set Ragnar onto you. He’s my viking.”
“Ooo, chance would be fine thing.” She handed the coffees over and leaned on the work surface. “Another thing before you go, Gid’. When are you going to find the owner of that pest outside?”
“Yes, Pest. The scruffy doggy with the appealing grin, the one who haunts my steps whenever I go outside. I’ve been feeding him since the lads told me he belonged to the doctor, but he’s forever trying to get in, and you know I can’t have that. I run a tight ship here. I would tie him up, but he runs off whenever I come near. It’s as if the little devil knows.”
Another reason for getting Miles back here, Gideon thought. “I know where his owner is, Aggie, I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, just make sure he’s fed and watered and let the lads take care of him. I’ll ask them to make sure he doesn’t get inside unless he’s safely in their billet.”
“Okay, will do, boss. Enjoy your coffees, guys. I see you later; I have clean-up to do.” She rolled down the shutter with a snap. Shortly after, they heard her singing as she clattered pots into the dishwasher.
“So,” Gideon returned to the table with the drinks and sat down opposite Lyle again. “You okay, apart from running low on supplies?”
“Beginning to wonder why we’re all here,” Lyle raised a quizzical eyebrow, “I mean, really?”
Gideon fixed Lyle with an unreadable look. “Truth? I guess you wouldn’t know whether I was lying or not anyway. Adam Breslaw contacted me and appraised me that you were all in… How should I say this? He thought you were in immediate danger of being associated with the death of a dangerous man and asked me to intercede with Eidolon and try to bring them on board. He knew they were looking to provide safe havens and witness protection and wanted… I really don’t want to call you all guinea pigs; that makes Eidolon look like they don’t know what they’re doing and that wouldn’t be true. They’re good at what they do, they’ve been in the business longer than you’d think, but I suppose you are guinea pigs to some degree. Let’s say Eidolon wanted to test this place out on someone, and you were around at the right time.”
“I was promised… they said they would provide my treatments. Now I’m not sure if they’ll see it through.” Lyle sipped his coffee and gazed into his cup, a worried frown creasing his brow. “I mean, as far as Sandra Pierce is concerned, we’re just an irritation, flies in the ointment. She’d be glad to see the back of us. She hardly welcomed us with open arms in the first place.”
“I wouldn’t worry about your agreement with Eidolon. I’ve never known them renege on a deal. They are pretty strict about maintaining their rep and the CEOs are quite hot on delivering their promises as a result. Their spin doctors would have a hard time selling this outfit to the investors if they weren’t.” That’s why I’m here, Gideon thought but didn’t say. To find out who isn’t delivering. “Eidolon have a lot invested in this project. If any dirt should be thrown and manage to stick, rather a lot of money could disappear rather quickly. And Pierce might be a first class bitch but even she has to be careful. Her perch isn’t as secure as she’d like to think. If she steps out of line…” Gideon left the statement hanging and shrugged, eloquently.