High-pitched whirring filtered from the projector, competing with the smothering silence. Dust danced in the angled light that illuminated the expressionless faces of her compatriots.
It was impossible to overlook. They were questioning her judgment, as if she were the newest member of the agency, as if she hadn’t been hired specifically for her bailiwick.
She didn’t see who it was, but someone toward the back of the room, opened the door and quietly exited without a second glance or even voicing their opposition.
More dust was stirred as people began to filter out of the makeshift meeting room.
“I’m sorry, Cassandra…it’s just too risky…” He shook his head as if the helpless look on his face would make her feel any better.
“Risky?!” She could feel her blood boiling.
“No! What’s risky is waiting another 24 hours while our people are held hostage behind enemy lines–their lives are at stake!”
One by one, each operative exited the small concrete room, leaving Cassandra alone with her dread.
She turned off the projector, wanting the darkness to smother her and the sick feeling that was slowly creeping into her bones. A cold sweat broke out on the back of her neck at the thought of seven dead agents and their grieving families. There was little chance of her making an extraction within the next 24 hours without their help. She’d gathered the best from their agency and they had turned her down and turned their backs on their colleagues. Cassandra didn’t know what to think or do.
Her one mistake had caused this problem and now their blood would be on her hands.
Bright lights flipped on overhead, drawing her eyes to the switch near the door.
“So that must’ve gone better than expected.”
The voice and sarcasm were unmistakable.
“Not now, James! I’m not in the mood for any games–”
“Are you in the mood for saving lives?” He leaned against the doorpost as if he had sauntered in late to the party.
James hurled a something toward Cassandra. She caught it midair. They were keys.
“I’ve got a chopper, artillery, and some men who are up for a mission, as long as there’s a fearless leader willing to lead us.” He straightened, filling the doorway. “We’ve had our differences, Cassie, but I’m willing to put aside our decade-long war to fight with you and save lives… ”
His words seemed heartfelt now. She swallowed the emotion rising in her throat.
“But only for the next 48 hours…” he said, with a grin.
“I only need 24,” she said. Alarms sounded within her own mind as she forced herself to ignore the warnings that were going off for every protocol she was about to break.
She gripped the keys tighter.
“We have no backup, if this goes south on us,” she said, checking his gaze for any second thoughts.
She swallowed all emotion and her pride and silenced the internal warnings.
“We could die…”
“Next to me, I’d say you’re the best in the field, Cassie…I trust you and I’m not worried. I know the stakes.”
He was perfectly calm and, now, so was she.
Cassandra nodded, removed her memory stick from the projector and headed toward the door. They were going to have to be more than smart and quick to accomplish this mission. They were going to have to be allies.