Shadow of the Templar: Static
On timeline: at some point pre-Morning Star
Simon and his team have a long and checkered history, and it's a history that began years before Jeremy Archer was even a blip on their radar; I always like getting to write pieces about their pre-books days.
"We're clear," Sandra said, loud and clear over frequency, and Simon relaxed for the first time in nearly two weeks.
"All right," he said, sinking down into his chair and clapping a hand to his ear. "The two of you bust ass back here, you hear me? I'm not going to be able to breathe properly until you get back."
"We are en route," Sandra said, and fell silent.
Simon shut his eyes and listened to the traffic sounds filtering in over his earphones. It didn't dawn on him what he was hearingor more precisely, not hearingfor nearly five minutes: he could hear the traffic, and he could hear Sandra occasionally muttering imprecations, but he couldn't hear Mike at all. "You guys doing okay?" he asked, breaking into the silence.
"What?" Sandra said, and followed that with exactly what Simon had been hoping not to hear: "I can't hear you, boss. Got some static on the line." Her voice was clean, precise, staccato.
"Never mind," Simon said, clenching one hand into a fist on his desk. 'Static' was team code for 'a problem that we can't discuss on an open frequency'. "I'll meet you around the side entrance. Templar out." He pulled off his headphones and dropped them on his desk.
"What's the word?" Johnny asked, cracking one eye open as Simon strode out of his office.
"Static," Simon said tersely.
Johnny immediately swung his feet down off the table and stood up, cracking his knuckles. "Springheel?"
"Honda, sounds like," Simon said, thumping his fist against his forehead. "Christ. Texas, you're with me."
Johnny nodded and fell in behind him as Simon dragged the saferoom door open and headed for the side entrance, nearly at a run.
The van pulled up five minutes later, Sandra at the wheel. Simon, who'd been pacing, immediately yanked her door open and helped her out. He didn't say anything and neither did she; after a quick distrustful glance at the doors leading into the compound, Sandra jerked her head towards the rear of the van. Simon nodded and followed her; Johnny followed him.
Without a word Sandra stuck the van's key into the back door and popped it open, her other hand stopping the door before it could swing open wide. Johnny turned around and crossed his arms over his chest, keeping an eye on the parking lot; Simon stuck his head and shoulders into the back of the van.
Mike was in a little huddle on the van floor, his arms curled protectively around his head. The thin t-shirt he was wearing was no concession at all to the February weather, and it left the festering track marks inside his elbows bared to the air. Simon hissed a breath through his teeth.
"Hey, boss," Mike croaked, licking his lips. The two words were enough to make him start coughing, and Simon was forced to wait for him to stop.
"Problems?" Simon asked, hunkering down in front of the van's bumper.
"Yeah," Mike rasped. "What can I say, they weren't buying my act, they wanted proof that I was on the level..."
"Jesus, Mike." Simon ran a hand through his hair and groped for something to say. "What, you couldn't just say no to drugs? You've made one former First Lady very sad, I hope you know that."
That earned him a laugh, although it wasn't much of one and it made Mike start coughing again. "I'm gonna need a couple of vacation days," he managed to say when he was done.
"Yeah, I guess so," Simon said. "Okay. You hang on. We'll get you taken care of."
"'kay," Mike whispered, and then made a little noise that Simon could only qualify as a 'whimper', curling up into a fetal ball on the cold metal floor of the van.