Iron Angels – Snippet 07

Chapter 4

Special Agent Vance Ravel rubbed his eyes. Poring over the data a few months back had been exciting, and on occasion provided some decent leads resulting in instances of anomalous activity. These past few weeks, though? Nothing. Boring. At least Sentinel, the Bureau’s case management software, allowed for the use of keywords and even an RSS feed. In the old days — he chuckled — let’s say, the year 2010 or so — he would have had to search manually for what he was after. Well, what he and his superior, Supervisory Special Agent Temple Black, were after.

“Hey,” Temple called out.

“Yes, boss,” Vance said.

“It’s too late –”

“Or early, depending on how you look at it,” Vance said.

Temple sighed, a sound Vance heard all too often, especially late at night when they’d both forsaken caffeine in the hopes of heading home.

“All right, what do you need?”

“I got news of some crazy incident earlier this evening, have you seen anything come through?”

Temple leaned close. Her soap or perfume, Vance couldn’t tell the difference, was in the final throes of its effectiveness.

“Yes, and I’ve been sitting on it for hours now.” Vance stared at the computer screen and didn’t even glance in Temple’s direction.

“You’re becoming quite the sarcastic little human, aren’t you? Tell you what,” Temple said, “rather than be like that, how about finding something useful for a change?”

“How about you tell me about this crazy incident?” Vance asked, tapping away at the keyboard, adding new search strings, and ready to add more based on Temple’s information.

“There was a kidnapping out in Indiana, close to Chicago.”

“Wow, that sounds so strange.” Vance rolled his eyes.

“Look, I know it’s late, but how about we don’t turn on one another, okay?”

“Yes, boss,” Vance said, and winced.

“You know how I feel about that word, right?”

“Yes, b — Temple.” Vance shook his head. “Tell me more, please.” But he had already begun a search for Indiana and kidnapping and before she started talking again he had it.

“– ah, here it is. Huh. This is a draft, and you know how drafts can sometimes be a little too raw and, might I add, a prank of some sort?”

“What does it say?”

Vance turned and grinned. “How does suicide by thermite sound? That strange enough for you?”

Temple pursed her lips, tapping them with her forefinger. “Not bad, anything else?”

“There is mention of a weather anomaly…”

“You mentioned thermite. Could this supposed weather simply be the remnants of the thermite’s exothermic reaction?”

He glanced back and up at Temple and whistled. “I’m impressed.”

“Here you go again.”

“No, really, you’ve been listening to me.”

“I do remember basic chemistry from my high school days,” she said, folding her arms. “And before you make another crack, it wasn’t that long ago. Now, read that part of the report to me, that bit about the weather.” She had taken to pacing behind him when they went through this exercise on at least a daily basis the past couple of days. She must be worried about her future, and perhaps that of their fledgling unit, the Scientific Anomalies Group. They’d been made fun of for the acronym, SAG, but there was nothing for it now. The name was theirs and would stick even if they changed the name down the road.

“But what about the thermite? Or how the men who killed themselves with the substance looked alike?”

“Interesting. All right, you know what? I’ll take the entire report. Print it out for me.”

Vance sighed. “Aye, aye, captain.” He stood and saluted her, garnering a quick “pfft” from Temple. He smacked the printer, which beeped at him. “We need a new printer.” He withdrew the toner cartridge and shook it.

“We need to use our funds carefully, and if this report is as good as I think it’ll be, we’ll be taking a trip.”

The pages printed. Temple read. Vance removed his glasses, a beat up pair he kept around the office, and rubbed his eyes. Temple didn’t say anything while she read, only emitting an “oh” or an “hmmm” and one single gasp.

A few minutes later, Temple said, “Vance, we’re heading to Indiana. You better phone the agent who drafted this and let him know. He’ll bitch about getting local concurrence to travel to their AOR, but this is just a heads-up we’re giving. We’re not asking permission. Got it?”

“Yes, boss — uh, ma’am.”

“A simple ‘yes, Temple’ will do.” She walked off, shaking her head, but turned back before she hit the door leading to the outer office, “Go home, pack enough for a few days and get back here ASAP. We’re heading out on the first available flight.”

“But –”

“You can nap on the plane.”