Tuesday 29 October 2013

The Grass Is Always Greener Outside The Van

By David Allsopp.

A black van pulls into the alleyway between two office buildings, coming to a stop in a pool of shadows. Two men, Gary and Karl, settle into their seats in the back of the van as a row of monitors spring to life, showing a series of camera feeds of the office buildings.

Karl turns on his microphone. “Falcon Three, this is Bear Six. We are online and in position.”

“Bear Six, this is Falcon Three. I’m on my way to the roof.”

Karl checks the monitor showing a live feed from a small lapel camera attached to Falcon Three. “Roger that, Falcon Three. We have your visual.”

Gary finishes his start-up sequence and activates the main display screen. “All good to go from this side of things.”

Karl nods. “Falcon Three you are good to proceed with aerial transfer when ready.”

“I love this part of it – just before all the action starts,” said Gary.

“How’d the anniversary dinner go?” asked Karl.

“The dinner went fine. Classy French restaurant – nice and romantic. Gave Sandra that necklace I told you about. She loved it.”

“Sounds like it all went to plan then.”

“Well, not quite. The sitter had to cancel, so Sandra’s mother had to look after Molly instead.”

“I thought you got on well with your mother-in-law?”

“I do, but having to drop Molly off in Scarborough on the way to the restaurant just put a real dampener on the evening,” said Gary. “Then Sandra got a little carried away with the champagne, so by the time we got back home she’d gone past the ‘tipsy and amorous’ stage to the ‘almost comatose’ stage.”

“So, not an ideal end to the evening?”

“Don’t get me wrong – we had a great time at dinner. It’s just I was hoping to enjoy some quality alone time with Sandra, which hasn’t been easy to do since we had Molly.”

“I know what you mean,” said Karl. “Tash and I hardly had a moment to ourselves once the kids came along.”

“Bear Six, I’m on the roof.”

Checking the monitors once again for signs of activity, Karl could see nothing of note on the security camera feeds, and their night-vision setup on the building opposite showed no signs of movement on the target rooftop. “Copy that Falcon Three. We have zero activity on the target roof, so you’re good for transfer.”

Gary and Karl watched the display screen intently as Falcon Three fired his grappling gun across towards the other building, the hook finding purchase and the cable going taught.

“I bet he feels like Batman every time he does that,” said Gary.

Falcon Three hooked his harness onto the cable. “I’m now crossing over.”

Sitting in the van, Gary and Karl watched on their monitors as Falcon Three slid down the cable to the rooftop opposite.

“How cool must that be, to slide down a wire from one skyscraper to another?” asked Gary. “On the monitors it looks awesome, but to actually do it? That high up…”

“He’s probably done it so many times that it must feel like crossing the street to get milk.”

Gary smiled. “Just once I’d love to be the guy who gets to do it.”

“You never did any Field Agent training?”

“No. Did you?”

“I applied once, but with my asthma I didn’t make it past the physical examinations.”

“Cable cut and secured. Moving into position for infiltration.”

Karl checked the monitors. “Copy that Falcon Three. Stand by.”

Gary worked to finish bypassing the building’s security systems to allow Falcon Three to enter undetected. Once finished he gave Karl a nod.

“Okay Falcon Three, you’re good to go. We’ll monitor your progress and keep our line open but silent. As always, give a yell if you need anything.”

“Roger that, Bear Six. Have a Dry Martini waiting for me.”

Karl turned his radio channel to silent receiving.

“Could this guy be any cooler? Not only has he got the quips, he’s got the looks and the swagger to match,” said Gary.

Karl watched on the monitors as Falcon Three entered the building and made his way down the stairs to a corridor on the 36th floor.

“And don’t forget the women,” said Gary. “Remember that Czech hottie from last month? I’d never get the time of day from a woman like that, and this guy seduces her in two minutes flat. ‘All in the name of National Security’ he says, as if it’s just another day at the office.”

“I remember that Estonian swimsuit model,” said Karl. “She must have been a perfect 10.”

“Sweep of 36 all clear. Proceeding down to 35.”

“How does he do it?” Gary asked.

“I don’t know,” replied Karl. “I wish I could say it was the training, but this guy is just a natural. What I wouldn’t give to just be in his shoes for half a day...”

“One hour would be enough,” said Gary. “Don’t get me wrong – I love Sandra, but if I was this guy, the things I would do… Is it wrong for me to wish I was him?”

“Now on 35 and proceeding to target.”

“If it’s wrong, them I’m guilty as charged,” said Karl. “I go to sleep dreaming about it sometimes.”

“He makes our lives seem so ‘middle of the road’,” said Gary. “Downright boring at times.”

The sound of gunfire rang out over the radio. Gary and Karl snapped out of their daydreaming and looked at the monitors.

“Hostiles on 35! Engaging.”

Karl switched his radio microphone back on. “Falcon Three, we have nothing on our scanners. How many hostiles?”

More gunfire rang out over the radio, this time mixed with shouting.

“At least six! Cannot proceed to target! Repeat, cannot proceed to target!”

Karl turned to Gary. “It’s like they knew he was coming.”

“There’s no way they could have hacked my feed,” said Gary. “This is a secure line! Triple encryption!”

“Well something’s gone wrong. If we could hack them, then they could hack us!”

The gunfire continued as the video feeds on the monitors suddenly cut to black.

Karl turned to Gary, who was frantically trying to find the cause of the interference.

“I can’t bring it back up,” said Gary. “We’ve been shut out!”

“Falcon Three, we’ve just gone blind. Abort mission. Repeat – abort mission! Get the hell out of there!”

The gunfire continued.

“Will try to make Extraction Point Two. Heading back up to 36.”

Gary and Karl sat transfixed in silence as they listened to Falcon Three retreat towards the stairs. There was sporadic gunfire until the radio suddenly went silent.

Karl checked his radio. “We’ve lost the signal.” He looked over at Gary, who was still desperately trying to re-establish the video link. Nothing seemed to be working.

An explosion rocked the 36th floor, shattering the windows on the eastern side. Gary and Karl stared at each other in silence until something fell onto the reinforced roof of the van with an almighty thud.

Throwing the back doors open, they rushed out of the van to inspect the damage and were shocked to find what remained of Falcon Three firmly embossed in the roof.

They looked at each other in horror.

“Let’s get the hell out of here!” Karl raced around to the driver’s side of the van and started the engine as Gary hurriedly closed the back doors before joining him back in the van.

Karl hit the gas and zoomed out of the alleyway and onto the street beyond, cutting across the oncoming traffic. “We’ll get to the garage over on Sixth Avenue, get this thing off the street and call in HQ from there.”

Gary was still in a state of shock, staring out the window at the night sky hanging over the city. “I think I better call my wife…”

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