The Quandary 902

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Chapter 15

I’m dosing off in bed when I’m startled by Ayana’s heavy knocks on the door. It’s only been a few minutes since I left Sydney. I wonder if these people plan to kill me with exhaustion. My right arm is thrown across my eyes to shield me from the light leaking through the open door.

“Tell me you’re here to say I’m free to fall asleep at my leisure,” I say, resigned.

“No such luck. We’re going to see Naomi.”

I maneuver myself into a sitting position. “She’s awake?” I ask.

“For now. Dr. Whittaker is trying to get her to sleep, but she won’t consent to taking any heavy pain killers until she can talk to you.”

“She should get some rest.” I might not be a doctor, but even I know that much.

“I know that,” Ayana says irritably. “So get moving.”

I’m lacing my boots and out the door before she can get another word in edgewise.

Naomi looks terrible. Her eyes are sunk deeply into her pale face, making her cheekbones even more striking. A sheen of sweat covers her brow. She looks waxy and small in her bed. It’s hard not to think about how easy it would be to snap her small wrist in my hand. Evander, Beckett and Dr. Whittaker are gathered around her. I don’t see him, but I have no doubt that Sydney is lurking around here somewhere. How he managed to ingratiate himself into her inner circle is beyond me. I doubt it has much to do with his sparkling social skills.

I’m not really sure how to greet this scene appropriately so I move into her field of vision and hope she says something first.

“Eve. I wanted to say thank you,” she says, raising her head slightly off her pillow. I’m at a loss for words so I move my gaze around the room, taking in the short ceilings and piping. I’m somewhat mollified to know that despite her position of authority, her quarters aren’t terribly different than mine.

My eyes meander back to where her prone form lies. “Nothing anyone else wouldn’t have done.” I say.

“No,” she says, “nothing else anyone could have done. You got us through, and you have my thanks. Now I need you to do it again.”

“What?” I say, startled.

“The ambush tomorrow. I need you to coordinate it. Tonight.” She shudders as a wave of pain seems to settle through her. Can I object? Do I even want to? The thrill of killing is sweet, the adrenaline rush that comes with it even more so. Fighting Darrow was nothing like the touch and go games I played with the Switches tonight. It doesn’t even come close. The rush of winning, of absolutely dominating isn’t something I’m willing to let go. So I nod, yes.

She seems relieved and her body visibly relaxes. “Beckett will you…” She doesn’t have time to finish because at the sound of his name Beckett produces several sheets of paper, the largest of which is a satellite photograph of a main highway.

Naomi thanks him, then points to a spot on the map. “Tomorrow a convoy of five vehicles will come through this area at approximately two in the afternoon. Two of those vehicles will be fully manned, eight men each. The three carriers in between will have a driver and a guard, they’re fully stocked with the supplies we need. We need to disable the drivers and take down the combatants all before they have a chance to signal for backup. In and out.” She passes me a piece of crumpled paper. “This is what we’re working with.”

I look down at the paper in my hands. It’s a list comprised of several last names, a number signifying age, and their skillset. I scan down the list slowly, taking in the myriad of combatants and close-range shooters before I realize something’s conspicuously absent.

“Where are the snipers?” I ask.

Naomi’s eyes shift and Beckett answers for her. “We don’t have any.”

“Not one?” I demand. “How do you expect me to organize any kind of operation without one?”

It’s Naomi who answers, “We don’t have the equipment or any trained men.”

I place my hand on my face, considering my options when a quiet voice pops up from behind.

“That’s not entirely true, sir.” Says Ayana. All eyes turn to her, but its me she speaks to. “I can take a bottle out from 1500 yards.”

“What about moving targets?” I ask.

She considers her answer for a moment. “Might need to get closer, more accuracy.”

I suck in a breath and look to the maps spread out before me. I pick up an elevation map and kneel down, studying the terrain. I gnaw the hangnail on my thumb, pointing to a spot on the map with the other hand.

“Here. The high ridges around the road will provide sufficient cover for guerilla shooters. This,” I say, pointing to another spot on the map, “is where we disable the first car. We can’t lay a spike strip across the road— they’ll know something’s wrong almost immediately, so we’re going to have to take out the lead vehicle’s driver first. Can you make that shot?” I look to Ayana. She hesitates for only a second before nodding determinedly. “Good. You’re going to have to. After that shot you’ll act as overwatch for the men. You see someone take aim, you take them out.”

I poke and prod at the map with my good arm, answering questions when asked, trying not to be short when I decide that they’re asking too many. I try not to reveal my assessment of the situation. Of the hundred and twenty men, including Evander, listed as being actively stationed at this base only twenty-five of them are capable of fighting, and only one of them capable of killing.

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