31 DaysDay 17: NEEDS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Night Sky Mission

“What if somebody sees us?” Gary asked.

“Relax, would you? No one’s going to anywhere near this place tonight,” Frank told him. “I told you I had it covered.”

Gary grunted as he moved around the desk and sat down in front of the computer. “What am I looking for,” he asked.

“Just fire her up and I’ll go through the logs,” Frank said.

“Whatever,” Gary said. He slid a small device from his pocket and slid it into the USB port to trace the password keystrokes. Within seconds he’d broken through the three levels of security and unlocked one final code to access the covert files. His fingers ran across the keyboard with amazing dexterity and file names began scrolling up the screen. “There’s several hundred files on here,” Gary said, “why don’t we just grab them all and be done?”

“Because that’s not why we’re here. Do you mind?” Frank stood over Gary waiting for him to get up.

“So what do you want me to do?” Gary asked.

“Keep an eye on the door and the hall.”

“Thought you said nobody’d be around here tonight.”

“Yeah, well, you can’t be too careful, right?” Frank said.

“Yeah, sure,” Gary said and moved over to the door where he watched Frank more than the hall. Frank seemed a lot more familiar with the system than he’d let on at first. “Do you remember your first mission?”

Frank looked up at him. “What?”

“They say you never forget, right,” Gary continued. “Mine? Overseas. London of all places. Sent over to retrieve files that were smuggled out of a defense contractor’s office. First, find the files. Second, find the mole. Third, well, you know.”

Frank shook his head. “I’ve got to focus.” Frank typed in access codes and maneuvered through screens without hesitation and Gary wondered why he’d needed Gary to crack the first three security screens.

“What was your first mission?” Gary said, looking over Frank’s shoulder at the screen. The file names he was grabbing all referenced something called the Night Sky Project.

“It was a long time ago,” Frank said, not looking up. Gary leaned in closer and realized that Frank wasn’t marking the files for copying, he was systematically deleting them, and not just deleting them from the hard drive or the server, but running some high-tech program that shredded the documents so that there’d be no way to reconstruct them.

Gary stepped behind Frank and put a pistol to the back of his head. “Take your hands off the keys,” Gary said.

“Are you out of your mind? What the hell are you doing?” Frank stopped typing for a moment.

“I’ll ask you the same thing,” Gary replied.

“I’m tagging the files,” Frank said.

“No, you’re shredding the files. Why?”

Frank made a move toward his pack and Gary cocked the hammer and shoved the gun a little harder into the back of Frank’s skull. “Don’t,” Gary told him, and then suggested Frank get up and move to the chair by the door. Once Frank was seated, Gary sat across from him on the edge of the desk, the gun aimed at Frank’s throat. “So, again, why are you shredding the files?”

“I’m just following orders,” Frank said.

“Tell me about your first mission, Frank,” Gary said.

“What?”

“Every detail. Convince me that you’re telling the truth about the mission and about the files,” Gary said.

“We don’t have time for this,” Frank told him.

“Nobody’s coming around here tonight, Frank,” Gary said. “We’ve got a few minutes.”

“This is ridiculous,” Frank said and pushed himself out of the chair.

Without missing a beat, Gary fired a shot through Frank’s thigh, causing Frank to fall back into the chair, grabbing his leg and yelling out with the shock. “Sonofabitch,” he said.

“Your first mission, Frank.”

Frank applied as much pressure to his leg as he could with his hands and took in several breaths, gritting his teeth and glaring at Gary. “Fine,” he said. “First mission was Croatia, nineteen-ninety-five, Operation Storm.”

“Go on,” Gary said.

“We were greenlighted by Clinton to clean up the trail of US involvement.”

“What was your role?”

“I led the team.”

“What team?”

“There were six of us. We were there to extract two Seals.”

“Names.”

“Gahhhhh,” Frank muttered, grabbing his leg.

“Names, Frank.”

“The team included Maresca, Cargill, McKenna, Schmidt, Anderson and me.”

“Ops name.”

“Diamondback.”

Gary narrowed his eye. “Never heard of it.”

“No kidding.”

“You’ll need to do better than that,” Gary said, cocking the hammer of his gun again. They both knew he didn’t need to cock the hammer before he fired, but Gary was trying to give Frank another chance and they both knew that, too.

“Diamondback, like the snake. We were recruited for a special ops assignment that was off the books. No records, no trail, nothing to link any of us to what we were doing.”

“Convince me, Frank.”

Frank rolled up his sleeve and turned his arm over to reveal a thick, black tattoo of a diamondback snake. There were six letters in six of the diamonds: M, C, Mc, S, A, G.

“Why you here tonight?”

“Same as you,” Frank said.

“Nope. You were focused on something called the Night Sky Project. Not the information I was given.”

“It’s a bit like Operation Storm,” Frank explained.

Just then, two guys in black busted through the door with guns drawn and two more guys sprayed the windows behind Gary with bullets and crashed through the windows into the office.

“Seems we found Gilmore,” Gary said and the Night Sky Ops stood down.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: NEEDS -write a fragment of a story about a character in a desperate situation. This person has to tell a story to get out of the desperate situation. Narrative appears to be hardwired into our systems, the way some kind of basic language underlies all of the world’s languages (according to Noam Chomsky). We sometimes laugh in the face of great danger – an instinctive reaction. Do we tell stories for reasons other than entertainment? {Exercise 71 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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