They had been in Iran five days, traveling openly, boldly. She had worn the traditional Muslim robes, with only her eyes revealed, and sometimes they had been veiled, too. She didn't speak Farsi -- she had studied French, Spanish, and Russian, but not Farsi -- but that didn't matter because, as a woman, she wasn't expected to speak. Sayyed was a native, but from what she could tell, Tucker was as fluent as Sayyed, Dallas nearly so, and Hadi less than Dallas. She was sometimes amused by the fact that all five of them were dark-eyed and dark-haired, and she wondered if her coloring hadn't played nearly as large a part in her having been chosen to be a team member as had her skill with electronics.
"Ready." Dallas hooked the radio transmitter to his web gear and shouldered the knapsack of plastique. He and Sayyed had identical gear. Niema had practically assembled the transmitters from spare parts, because the transmitters they had acquired had all been damaged in some way. She had cannibalized them and built two she had tested and retested, until she was certain they wouldn't fail. She had also tapped into the factory's phone lines, a dead-easy job because their equipment was of early-seventies vintage. They hadn't gotten much information from that, but enough to know their intel was accurate, and the small facility had developed a supply of anthrax for terrorists in Sudan. Anthrax wasn't exotic, but it was sure as hell effective.
Sayyed had slipped into the facility the night before and reconnoitered, returning to draw a rough floor plan showing where the testing and incubation was done, as well as the storage facility, where he and Dallas would concentrate most of their explosives. As soon as the factory blew, Tucker and Niema would destroy their equipment -- not that much of it was worth anything -- and be ready to move as soon as the three men returned. They would split up and each make their own way out of the country, rendezvousing in Paris to debrief. Niema, of course, would be traveling with Dallas.
Tucker extinguished the light, and the three men slipped silently out the door and into the darkness. Niema immediately wished she had at least hugged Dallas, or kissed him good luck, no matter what the other three thought. She felt colder without his bracing presence.
After making certain the blankets were in place, Tucker switched on the light again, then began swiftly packing the things they would take with them. There wasn't much; a few provisions, a change of clothes, some money: nothing that would arouse suspicion if they were stopped. Niema moved to help him, and in silence they divided the provisions into five equal packs.
Then there was nothing to do but wait. She moved over to the radio and checked the settings, though she had checked them before; there was nothing coming over the single speaker because the men weren't talking. She sat down in front of the radio and hugged herself against the cold.
Nothing about this job had been a picnic, but the waiting was the worst. It always had been, but now that Dallas was in danger, the anxiety was magnified tenfold. It gnawed at her, that internal demon. She checked her cheap wristwatch; only fifteen minutes had lapsed. They hadn't had time to reach the facility yet.
A thin blanket settled over her shoulders. Startled, she looked up at Tucker, who stood beside her. "You were shivering," he said in explanation of his unusual act and moved away again.
"Thanks." She pulled the blanket around her, uncomfortable with the gesture, considerate though it was. She wished she could ignore her uneasiness about Tucker, or at least figure out why she was so wary of him. She had tried to hide her wariness and concentrate only on the job, but Tucker was no one's fool; he knew she was uncomfortable with him. Sometimes she felt as if they were in a silent battle no one else knew about, those rare times when their gazes would accidentally meet and distrust would be plain in hers, a slightly mocking awareness in his.
Copyright © 1999 by Linda Howington. Published by permission of the publisher, Pocket Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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