Irene pressed the folders and files Alexander had given her to her chest, eyes down at her feet as she scuttled through the corridors towards the briefing room, all the while berating herself for the choice she was about to make.
As she turned the corner, she crashed into someone coming equally fast in the opposite direction, spilling all the folders and files across the floor. Irene’s line of vision shot up and she caught her breath.
That someone was Jude Stone, the leader of the field team.
“Next time watch where you are going, soldier, and don’t…” she muttered to herself, swallowing hard, her deep brown eyes flicking between his eyes and the files splayed out on the polished timber.
He glared at her, looking her up and down with contempt.
“I guess we both weren't looking where we were going. Too preoccupied with our thoughts, hey?” She shone a quick, polite smile before bending down to pick up her files.
Jude Stone didn't respond. Instead he just peered at her, chewing his gum rhythmically, before pushing past and continuing on his way.
She glanced back at him as he made his way in the opposite direction.
“Idiot,” she muttered under her breath.
Irene picked up her papers and files, and made her way to the briefing room. As she walked into the small office, one of the security personnel closed and locked the door behind her.
Inside was a solid-wood oval table with Alexander and seven of the soldiers she saw yesterday seated around it. There were two spare seats.
Irene searched the stone faces of the soldiers. Jude was the only team member missing.
“Sit anywhere you like,” Alexander sighed, gesturing to the two spare seats. “I was just introducing you to the team.”
There was a silence, so Alexander spoke again. “This is the team bar the almighty leader, Mr. Stone, who had to rush out and tend to something. Do not worry, doctor, he will still be on the mission.”
“I think he didn't like the fact you recruited someone without our okay, Lord Cartwright,” chuckled Spider. “Especially appointing someone who's not even part of the forces.”
Irene sat on the seat at the end of the table and opened a folder. Her ears burned. She took a few deep breaths, and then focused on sifting through her prepared documents with quivering hands.
“In the next mission, you will be very thankful for Doctor Hadar and her expertise,” Alexander swallowed. “I do not think Mr. Stone understands how respected a researcher she is in her field. He would treat her much differently if he did.”
Spider leaned forward and pointed a finger at Alexander. “I don't think you understand what it's like in our field. Each one of these boys brings something to the table we actually need in completing a mission. And we rely on each of these parts to keep us alive.
“This woman is not just going to hold us back, her lack of training, Lord Cartwright, will put each member at risk. That's why Jude stormed out. No offence, doctor, but one wrong step and someone could die.”
“Excuse me gentlemen, perhaps I can introduce myself as Lord Cartwright had previously offered. It is probably appropriate given the partnership we find ourselves in, although I do condition that formality by saying I wish not to form any real relationships with any of you, and have no intention of winning the respect of the ‘boys' club’. I'll leave that to the yard spitters and booze guzzlers,” Irene interrupted, looking at the two men in between setting out documents on the desk. “My not wanting to socialise with you all is no reflection on any of your individual characters, which I am sure sparkle like diamonds and drip with charm. It is, in truth, rather an unfortunate bias formed by the aggregation of military personnel I have previously encountered. And had the misfortune to tolerate the company of. An unfounded bias, no doubt, but a bias all the same.”
The men glared back at her in varied states of confusion.
“My name is Doctor Irene Hadar. The letters after my name won't mean anything to you, as a soldier ... just as the lettered agencies you served under mean nothing to me ... so I'll get straight on to why I am here. Your next mission is to go back to the year 31 A.D., in what is now modern-day Palestine. I believe many of you have been posted there before in more modern times.
“There your task will be to take out a revolutionary connected with the Zealots, an underground resistance group. I believe Mr. Stone was to brief you all, but as he has had some other business to tend to, I'm more than happy to. It will perhaps be refreshing for you all to have a leader in the field talk to you about your next destination, and I invite you to ask questions regarding the time period at the end if you would like to learn more.
“The revolutionary we are to locate goes by the name of Yēšûă, or what can be anglicised as Joshua.
"According to the research notes Alexander has provided me, collated by an adequately impressive research team, Yēšûă never raised arms in his time, preferring to travel throughout the region spreading insidious ideas that incited violence and led to countless deaths for centuries to come. After a failed attempt at killing him by the Roman Empire, he left for Asia and possibly lived out the rest of his life in Kashmir, India.
"Yēšûă must not be killed in public view as this will create a martyr, which will only fan the fire of his words. In fact, he may well wish to be made a martyr.”
“Sounds like a standard job for us, babe,” sniggered a marine with a bent nose and bushy eyebrows. “We don't need any textbooks to tell us how to make someone disappear without a trace.”
“If you did, I wouldn't expect any of you would be here.” She smiled, satisfied the backhanded compliment would be lost on the men.
“The difficulty with taking out Yēšûă is that his group stay underground most of the time,” continued Irene. “The only time he can usually be found is during his public lectures when he comes to a town. These are kept secret until the last moment, as he had a significant amount of Roman gold coins on his head.
“And it seems he used a myriad of underground passages and supporters in every village who helped hide and protect him.
“There is not much accurate information regarding his whereabouts at any point in history, however the researchers have narrowed down one window of opportunity. A location and time period with an 84% historical probability.”
“Can't that hologram web tell us where he is?” asked Spider.
“Despite Alexander's confidence in his new toy, I spoke with the research team and they revealed they couldn't fully harness its power yet. They can access likely probabilities, but nothing they glean is 100% foolproof.
“On top of that, they tell me you only have one opportunity. Once you travel to a specific time, Spider glanced about the room and sniggered. "Thanks for the history lesson, Doc, but we'll do better without you. Believe it or not, accomplishing a mission like this needs a lot of high-level training."
Doctor Hadar paused and handed out pages with the basic elements of the mission. “If you want someone to help you track down a man who will be harder to find than Osama bin Laden and Where's Wally's adopted love child, you might want someone who knows the terrain, knows the customs, and can speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It's your choice, Spider. Just say the word and I'll get back on my plane out of here, and leave the babysitting of marines to somebody else. I have a very important dig on the other side of the planet that I'm happy to go back to.”
Everyone looked at Spider.“You are a feisty one, aren't you?" He smiled. "I guess it's up to me then, since that pretty boy Jude ain't here,” he added. He looked at the document Irene had handed him. “He ain't going to be happy about it, but I guess we could do with more intel than a few bullet points on a page. Just do as we say or you'll end up dead.”
Click here for Chapter 5
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