”What?! Tannerman, do not engage!”
There was no reply on the com.
Sergeant Singh yanked the ribbon microphone from its stand. “Tannerman, do you copy? Do NOT engage those pirates!”
There was a moment of silence. Then a giggle. “It’s a little too late for that ma’am. Don’t worry I’m keeping them busy-“
“There’s been a- ksssssh -plosion - kssssh -spotted me - kssssh-“
“Tannerman? There’s too much static to know what you’re saying. Can you read me?!”
“Kssssh - try to- ksssssh - and- ksssssssssssssssssssh”
“Tannerman?! TANNERMAN!? FALL BACK, TANNERMAN! FALL BACK!”
An officer stepped up to Sergeant Singh and saluted. “We’ve lost contact with her, ma’am. Nothing’s coming in or out.”
Singh’s eyes searched for an answer on the control panel. “What’s the word on the fleet?”
“We’re waiting on affirmative from HQ.”
Singh rubbed her fingers into her temple. “Is there any signal coming in on the tracker?”
“There are too many aircrafts in that area at once ma’am. Our instruments can’t get a clear read on any of them. Friend or foe.”
Singh stood up, adjusting her coat. “Then you’re useless to me right now.”
“Listen, get me as soon as we get the OK from HQ. Tannerman thinks help is on the way and by the time they get there it might be too late. Get that affirmative right now! Report back when you do.”
The officer nodded, saluted and ran off. Singh stared at the microphone, half expecting Tannerman to replay with a ‘gotcha!’ or something else that would get her privileges taken away again. But the coms were silent.
“Dammit, Tannerman,” Singh turned from the control panel, “I’ll be in my office. Get me as soon as we have word on the fleet.”
Singh closed the door behind her and took a deep breath as she turned the lock. Her brow wrought with wrinkles, she groaned and moved toward her desk. Her right hand pulled open the largest drawer, revealing countless sheets of paperwork. With her left hand she moved all the folders forward and flipped a switch on the side of the drawer. Another compartment slide open and Singh pulled out a radio, placing it on her desk.
She placed an unusually large pair of headphones onto her head. “Dammit, Tannerman,” she growled, turning the knobs and pulling another, smaller, ribbon microphone to her mouth. She pushed down on the call switch. Her voice barely broke above a whisper. “This is S-1-5-5. L-1-3-3 do you read me?” She released the switch.
Switch on. “This is S-1-5-5. L-1-3-3 do you copy?” Switch off.
“This is L-1-3-3, you’re barely coming in at all S-1-5-5. What’s your problem?”
“I need you to pull back-“
“PULL BACK? Now? Are you crazy, S-1? Have you gotten cold feet?!”
“IF you had let me finish, L-1, I would explain! There isn’t much time!”
“Alright, go ahead and finish your precious thought, S-1. This had better be good.”
“I need you to complete your hit and pull back or disengage the rouge officer in the skies right now.”
“Rouge officer? Oh you mean the pretty little black bird flyin’ around doing loopdeloops? She’s fast I’ll give her that but she won’t be much trouble for long.”
“Negative. Disengage now or else!”
“Or else?" The voice on the other end of the radio laughed. "That sounds tough but you ain’t got nothing to back it up with, S-1. What are you going to do? Rat me and my people out? Wouldn’t you be leaving yourself a little high and dry?"
“Do not underestimate me, L-1. I need you to listen and listen good.”
“NO. You listen, S-1. You ain’t got nothing. Anything happens to me or my men and I’m going to sing like a canary. You’ll go down with us, you got that?”
Singh bit her tongue.
“Listen, you got a sweet thing going here, S-1. You held up your end of the bargain givin’ us the coordinates we needed and we don’t forget to return any favors. But we ain’t too keen on forgiving none, either. Do we understand each other, S-1?”
There was a sudden knock at the door. “Sergeant? We got the OK from the higher-ups.”
“Did you copy that, S-1?!”
Another knock. “Ma’am? Do we have your orders on the fleet? Is it too late to send back up?”