Ray Sullivan publishes science based fiction adventures on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, WH Smith and other good eBook retailers as e-books. Additionally all of his books are available in paperback on Amazon. He also muses on technology, posts comedic books in serial format and discusses the world of self publishing.
Books written by Ray Sullivan
Friday, 4 January 2013
Parallel Lives chapter 41
Sergeant Jim Forsythe rubbed his eyes as he walked down the
corridor, brushing the yellowing plaster walls as he avoided personnel passing
him in the other direction. ‘Monday morning again,’ he thought to himself, ‘and
I’m still knackered.’ Jim had completed a week of 12 hour night shifts as Guard
Commander at RAF Fylingdales two weeks previously, his third such stint in that
role since arriving at the base two and half years earlier. The slightly
extended weekend following the duty was considered sufficient recovery time,
but even on the best guard stints meant taking half the following week to
recover. This duty had provided rather more work than Jim had been prepared
for, and an amount of intrigue he couldn’t have anticipated.
On arrival back at work Jim had discovered an altogether
expected pile of paperwork and files piled on his desk, all marked for his
attention. On previous guard duties Jim had managed to siphon much of his
paperwork to the Guard Force HQ to keep on top of it. However he hadn’t enjoyed
the same degree of freedom over the week, having to manage his meagre guard
force over an extended roster. Now, just over two weeks since he had been
directed to supervise a ‘transfer’, he had been summoned to the new boss’s
He stood outside the open door viewing the top of the head
of the new man, a middle aged Flight Lieutenant, as the Officer scribbled a
note on a pad in front of him. Jim rapped the door smartly, conscious that he
hadn’t yet worked out where this man stood on protocol. The Flight Lieutenant’s
predecessor, many years his junior, had been one of the new breed and had
attempted to be as informal as possible with all ranks save for the inevitable
disciplinary functions he had had to perform from time to time. This one, Jim
reckoned, was a bit more old school. Probably an ex-ranker, he appeared less
comfortable fraternising with any of the personnel on the section, and had
managed to rub most of Jim’s subordinates up the wrong way within days of
arriving through his obvious formality. Jim had made a conscious decision not
to bring his beret along with him, ensuring he did not need to salute the
Officer as he entered his office, testing the water.
‘You asked to see me, Sir?’, Jim asked as the Flight
Lieutenant looked up. A momentarily querulous look crossed the Officer’s face
as he tried to recall the visitor’s name. Suddenly recognition flashed in his
eyes and he beckoned Jim to enter.
‘Sergeant Forsythe, come in. Close the door and sit down
please,’ the Officer said, picking up his desk phone. He turned the phone
upside down, located the ringer sound level switch and turned the ringer off.
Jim realised that this was unlikely to be a social interview, it was being
played by the book. He sat and waited for the boss to continue.
‘I understand you were enjoying a week away from your desk
the other week,’ opened the Flight Lieutenant. Jim didn’t respond, assuming
that this statement didn’t require answering. The Officer continued: ‘You were
in charge when we received our unexpected visitors, I understand.’ Jim shuffled
in his seat uncomfortably, wondering whether he should pitch in. Technically he
had undertaken not to mention the events that had occurred under his command,
had been specifically reminded of his obligations under the Official Secrets
Act; however it was clear that the boss had some knowledge. Jim leaned forward
to ask his question.
‘Can I stop you there, Sir? I’d like to know exactly what
it is you think I was involved with before I answer any questions,’ he said,
sitting back once he finished his piece. The Officer didn’t bat an eye at this
apparent impertinence, in fact his briefing the previous day had prepared him
for it. He rocked back in his chair, scanning behind Jim to confirm the door
had been closed fully.
‘I’m aware that you received a request on your first shift
as Guard Commander to assist in the transfer of a civilian to the medical
centre, and that you maintained an additional guard shift on the facility for
the remainder of your duty. The order to divert the Guard Force from their
primary duty was directed from a Senior Civil Servant from the Home Office and
sanctioned by the Station Commander following enquiries he made with the
Ministry of Defence. I am fully aware that your obligations under the OSA were
reiterated to you several times, as it was to all of your guards and the
personnel on the day shift. To my certain knowledge, and we have been
monitoring as far as possible all guard personnel involved, you have complied
with that instruction.’ The final sentence had been lifted directly from the
briefing the Officer had been given; he had no personal knowledge of Jim’s or
any other Guard Force personnel’s adherence to the instructions, nor had he the
means to determine these ‘facts’ had he needed to do so. Jim looked carefully
at the Officer, trying to work out if he was being tested. He decided that this
was not a trap. Leaning forward, talking quietly, Jim unburdened himself.
‘To be honest Sir, I’m very uncomfortable about some of the
events of that week. The transfer, as you call it, was hardly the most
professional of affairs. More importantly the man they brought onto the base
was clearly drugged. I don’t know how I stand on this one if anything should
happen to him. I think I could be wide open to prosecution, I don’t know,
aiding and abetting in unlawful imprisonment.’ Jim felt himself flushing as he
spoke, wondering if he was over-reacting. The Officer nodded slowly, inhaled
through his nose noisily, then replied.
‘The man you were guarding is assisting the, em, Security Forces,’
he began, using a euphemism generally reserved for the intelligence community.
‘He has been operating close to a terrorist cell in the North West somewhere
and has suffered injuries believed to have been maliciously inflicted. At
present it is unknown as to whether his cover has been blown or whether the
injuries are related to other activities,’ the Officer continued, suddenly not
understanding the reasoning he had been persuaded less than twenty four hours
ago to accept. Jim interjected, attempting to clarify what he had just heard.
‘What sort of “other activities”?’ he asked. The Flight
Lieutenant searched for the words the amiable man, Martin, had used. He wished
that the SIS man could have conducted this briefing as he clearly had far
greater knowledge of the situation, even if he did claim the task to have been
dropped onto his plate at very short notice.
‘This man, he’s not a career member of the intelligence
service, more of an opportunist, a chancer. One of life’s risk takers. These
people are the best way of infiltrating some of the groups that threaten our
freedom but they can be a little erratic, perhaps unprofessional.’ Leaning
back, he felt pleased with himself, he knew it wasn’t quite how Martin had put
it, but felt it reflected the essence of the words he had weaved. Jim looked a
little more convinced
‘That would explain some of the cloak and dagger stuff we
found ourselves involved with. Not completely though, but I guess when you’re
dealing with these types I expect you never get the whole story,’ he said. Then
a thought hit him. ‘Why is this being raised now? As far as I know he’s still
in the medical centre being guarded by the guards who replaced those who
replaced mine.’ The Officer clasped his hands together, gathering his thoughts.
‘I understand the guard has been dropped as unnecessary.
The site’s secure, the patient isn’t a prisoner and the guards were drawing
attention that could be avoided. But yes, he’s still here, for the time being.
Now, I’ve been asked to release you for an additional duty, one that needs
someone of your obvious sensitivity and calibre. In fact you have been
specifically requested by the spook in charge…’
‘The what?’ asked Jim, trying to follow and anticipate the
thread of the conversation. Talk of ‘additional duties’ requiring much
thought-of traits he had previously been unaware of gave him great unease.
‘Sorry, the man who is heading up the operation here. It’s
slang for his type, you know, the secret squirrels,’ explained the flustered
Officer. Jim had understood the term perfectly well, he had just been surprised
at the pace of developments involving him. Clearly his outburst had been
misunderstood. The Flight Lieutenant continued, his delivery slightly shaken.
‘They want you to help escort their man, later this week. It should be a cake
walk, they actually don’t expect any problems, but they are thin on the ground
with their own people at the moment and they have asked for our assistance. You
specifically, as it happens.’
‘Me? Why?’ asked Jim, not liking the way this conversation
was flowing. His boss tilted his head smartly to the side, not a large tilt,
but a rapid one, the way birds move their heads while feeding, scanning for
‘Because you have impressed them, with the way you handled
the transfer given it was short notice and outside of your terms of reference,
and by the way you have kept your own counsel since. Apparently you were noted
as being businesslike, asking relevant questions, organising the troops and
making sure they didn’t go over the top. They looked at the personnel who had
been involved so far, and you stood head and shoulders above the others. They
didn’t want to involve anyone who hadn’t already been involved, it limits the
risk so to speak, but they really want you to help above all,’ he said, ‘so we
‘We? We have agreed what?’ asked Jim, forcing himself not
to allow the compliments to sway his judgement, though he was struggling.
‘To release you for this task. They have no formal
jurisdiction over us and we would be quite in our rights to refuse. However, we
are all batting on the same side here and the Station Execs have agreed to
allow you to be seconded.’ Jim squirmed in his seat, an unease washing over
‘Sir, what exactly are you telling me I have to do?’ he
asked, resorting to a more formal approach to the conversation, a formality he
had tried to avoid on a poorly formed principle. The pressure was on and he had
reverted, hidden behind even, his military indoctrination.
‘They would like you to act as an additional escort for
their patient. He has to attend some sort of inquest in Manchester as a
witness, apparently. Something to do with an industrial accident some time ago,
quite unrelated to his undercover enquiries. They feel that if he didn’t show it
might make his absence more visible, so to speak, and could blow his cover. At
any rate they aren’t expecting any problems. They expect that he will arrive,
give evidence and then leave, no problem. Its just that they hadn’t anticipated
this tasking and are more or less fully committed elsewhere. They need our help
and you are their first choice,’ concluded the Officer. Instinct told Jim to
refuse the task, protocol told him it wasn’t a choice of his. He would end up
doing this job whether he agreed with it or not. If he tried to turn it down he
would pay at the next appraisal yet still be ordered to do it; embrace it and
it is all gain, given the amount of compliments being paid.
‘Fine,’ he lied, ‘what are my instructions? His boss,
pleasantly surprised at the positive turn around, beamed.
‘Well, first, we need to get you pistol qualified.