Michael Stanely fiddled with his access card, chuckling at the fact that his last name was not conventionally spelled as it sounded conventionally. He was standing in the middle of a room built for discussions, the sort that would translate to compromises if left unrecorded. The sofas and bookcases which seemingly revolve around an overvarnished pine table failed to create a pleasant atmosphere aimed at masking the resultant tension of previous heated conversations. The carpetted floor, on the other hand, did its job in containing the shouts and cries which came from this room, out of sobbing attaches and impostors posing as high-ranking officials, wrenching vital information from the former.
For now, the only sound being buffered by the carpet came from fingers flicking a plastic card. Suddenly it followed with a sudden startling sound of a hand slamming own and turning a doorknob, followed by a quick creaking of the unoiled door. The instigator of the sudden tension was a heavy-set man wearing a black suit. He barged in, folder in hand, stopping himself from taking another step into the room, suddenly turning back to close the door, and lock it.
“It’s the white on these walls, I tell you. I could walk in here and piss my pants just looking at them.”
“Stanely,” said the man with pronounced breathing, “I could use more than your tips in interior design right now.”
The man sat down and tossed the folder on the table, while Michael took his time, exhaling as he spoke, “Then what exactly does Joseph Greene, Senior Operative, need from someone like me?”
Joseph turned back to look at the Mein Kampf in the third row of the bookcase behind him, where he knew a recoding module was taped behind the book jacket; “You did that on purpose. Why couldn’t you take this seriously for once?”
“I would if you relaxed.”
“I CAN’T relax, God damn it! Because of your lack of initiative, YOUR procrastination, I’m forced to make decisions that I never thought I’d make, considering the crap I get for a paycheck!”
“Then let me take this time to say that I appreciate your patience.”
Joseph scoffed. “What the hell happened out there!? TL-7’s orders were to blow everything up at the exact time specified, regardless of if the target was there or not!”
The uneasy silence loomed over the room once again, as it almost always did when two or more people spent time there before. Michael Stanely took another deep breath, then he leaned forward, speaking slowly, “Tango Lima saw something else that he needed to escalate.”
More silence ensued. The other man stopped, fingers pressed against his temples as he slouched back. His blood pressure took too much of a toll at such an early age, he thought. He was more open to listening this time. Stanely was going to give him shit, he just knew it. His claims sounded legitimate to 95% of the general public – the remainder consisted of men and women with claims more speculation than truth. Only a few people knew of what they called the blunders of Stain. Even less survived the consequences of these errors.
“Did he, now?”
“Sarcasm was not always your forte, Greene.”
Joseph gave out another scoff, giving a small, quick, smile, while shaking his head, “What are you feeding me now, Stain?”
“I said it clearly. Fog. Clouds hovering over low altitude, reducing visibility quite significantly.”
He laughed, if only to ease the tension he created. “Lying was always your forte. That was not a lie, that was an insult to my intelligence.”
“Humility was not always your forte either, apparently. I never lie.”
The Chief Administrative Officer suddenly lashed out, “Now THAT’S a lie! You’re telling me that all of the resources we put into this, all the effort and time we devoted, all the lives we lost to get to this moment, all amounted to NOTHING, by fog!?”
“Yes.” Michael tensed up, a huge part of that because of the fact that he was looking at a friend, a man whom he helped countless times in the past. Apparently he was also looking at a man who demonstrated his total loss of trust in him. Despite his disbelief, he did not flinch. Rather, he started fiddling with his ID again.
Joseph looked at him in this same lack of faith. Now was the time.
Before words came into Joseph Greene’s mouth, Michael cut him off. “I can’t believe you couldn’t understand that. Tango Lima did whatever we all would do when an unexpected circumstance, yes, even one as ridiculous as low visibility due to an unseen change in the weather.”
The man in front of Michael leaned forward as well, looking straight at Stanely’s eyes: “You would go ahead and cancel the whole thing and waste our only chance at taking out the biggest problem of the lives of many other people, all on the account of rain…?”
Michael sighed in frustration, and in the humblest tone he could muster, he started. “I said fog. Fog is different from rain. Rain would hinder the hearing of an operative, but visibility would still be acceptable. Fog, on the other hand-“
“You know what I said! Spare me the lesson!”
Michael sighed again. “Fog, on the other hand, hinders his vision, but his hearing, and other listening surveillance for that matter, would still function, enough to hear that our target was not just with his entourage, but unidentified women and children.”
“That was not in the report! Why should I believe you!?”
“You doubt the claims of Tango Lima?”
Joseph loosened his tie. “I’m fearful for his future, sir! If TL-7 failed to indicate an important detail on the report, you know as much as I do that he might lose more than his head!”
“Tango Lima contacted me, cried out to me, personally.”
Joseph suddenly let out a cough, his stressed throat irritated. “YOU!? There were other operatives! Then there’s the chain of command! What made him jump straight to you!?”
More silence ensued. Greene started at Stanely’s eyes, trying to analyze him while having the same difficulty believing he was serious. He kept his calm, but there was obvious anger laced in his words, “…’Faith’? In the face of all the advantages we had at the time, in the face of the dedication our other operatives had, and on top of that, our decision not to consider collateral damage… All you say is ‘faith’?”
“That’s what I appreciate in you, Greene. It’s your faux willingness to understand, and that’s getting you to let out more words for every one-word answer I give you.”
Joseph’s blood pumped even faster, and his voice jumped up a notch or two louder, “You just don’t GET it, do you, you old, obsolete son of a b-“
“I GET it, Greene, except I never said that I agreed to get this done while inflicting the collateral damage you find so easy to inflict. Tango Lima understood this, respected this, unlike the rest of the personnel involved in this assignment!”
Greene did what he could to keep his heart rate down. He breathed slower. “So you had your doubts. Why did you help out in this? And tell me, oh wise and almighty Stain, what did you accomplish by keeping this to yourself, & to TL-7?”
“Contrary to what you think, I never spoke to Tango Lima about my take on the matter. He called me to give status. I told him to hold, and he obeyed..” Michael did not allow Joseph to respond. “There will be other times, Greene.”
For the third time, the Senior Operative gave a mocking scoff. “You won’t be part of it, Stain.”
“…Stain. I happen to love my name. It’s just that they don’t seem to know me much in Registration.” And for the third time, Michael Stanely flipped his ID around, only this time he made it a point to get Greene to notice the words on it: “Michael Stanley, Chief Administrative Officer”.
Greene’s eyes widened. “How-“
“Apparently, the unidentified innocents heard just happened to be the wife and children of the Prime Minister, serving as our target’s shields while they were casually invited to have an early dinner.” Greene remained silent. “You’re right. I won’t be part of any new attempts. I’ll be heading them. And since you came storming in here with the same confidence to shoot our original target with your own hands, I’m assigning you, Gamma Juliet, to be the triggerman this time.”
Joseph understood that agent TL-7 was under a lot of pressure for the decision he made, under the circumstances leading to unnerving uncertainty. His lack of information regarding the incident placed him in a fog of his own, and it struck him, that as Stanely saved his Tango Lima from making a huge mistake, he was sparing him from having too much to think about. There was too much for his mind to try to understand at that moment, but it seemed as if the assignment struck through all the confusion. In the middle of all the questions Joseph Greene had, one answer seemed to satisfy all his frustrations. All the pieces were in the right places.
“Copy that, sir.” His voice came out with a sort of arrogance, expressing that he was sure he wouldn’t make the same “mistake” that TL-7 did. With that, he stood up, and with a deliberately slower stride, he walked out of the room of pressure, with less noise, this time.
The feedback from a rarely used speaker barely concealed behind one of the lamps accompanied the words of a person in a nearby room. “Stain, we had no other choice but to pick up from Hitler. Good thing he disregarded that. You mind fixing King James up for next time?”
Chief Administrative Officer Michael Stanely stood up slowly, whispering “…Why you all do this, I will never appreciate completely…”
“Nothing.” He stood up and reached for the book behind him, and opened it up to take out the recording bug. He hooked up a wire that was separate from the main module, and whispered to it, “Thunder”.
“Flash. Sounds perfect, Stain.”
He flipped through the book, and chuckled as he came upon a line on a particular page that seemed to jump out and strike his mind, the right words at the right time. He placed the bug between the pages and closed the book.
As he walked out of the room, he whispered the line:
“…all things work together for good to them that love God…”