by Kevin Koch
edited by Jennifer Kamish
John Santiago pulled his phone out of his pocket. It was strange getting a real phone call. Most of the time he used his phone only for texting and surfing the web. He’d been waiting for this call, but he’d been hoping he’d be finished with work before it came. Between his job and keeping up with all his classes, life as a junior was turning out to be hard to handle. But John needed to make time for a social life.
“Hey Brian, I’ve been waiting for your call.”
John mentally kicked himself. That was the total wrong way to start off. He didn’t want to seem too interested—or worse yet, needy. Best to play it cool and see what happens.
“I guess that means I should be flattered,” Brian’s voice was playful.
“Only if you want to be.”
John had been thrown through a loop when Brian had given him his number. He’d barely managed to return the favor with his dignity intact. The two of them had been giving each other significant looks for a few months now, ever since Brian had broken up with his boyfriend. It’d all been hush hush, but John had done his best to be supportive without drawing too much attention.
“So, I was thinking maybe we could go get some coffee sometime,” Brian said. “If you drink coffee that is.”
“I do. I’d like that. Can I text you in a few minutes? Things are a little crazy at work.”
John stuffed his phone back into his pocket. It was easier said than done while balancing on one foot. Another voice crackled in his ear.
“Proctor, now that you’re done with your personal call, maybe you could give us a status update?”
“Oh come on Steve, give him a break. He has a crush.”
“Turing, what have I said to you about using our real names? My call sign is Newton.”
“Well, Proctor,” Turing—Malorie “Mal” Bernard—said. “I never thought I’d see the day when you got nervous. And Newton, this frequency is encrypted so much it’d take a supercomputer years to crack one syllable.”
“It’s protocol. Anyway, Proctor what’s your status?”
John looked down his leg to where his foot was pressing someone’s throat against the wall behind him. Sometime during the phone call with Brian, the man, a tall and scary looking muscle-bound behemoth, had slipped into unconsciousness.
“The target is down and ready for extraction. Heading back to the objective.”
John ducked out of the supply closet and was immediately struck by a wall of noise. His body started moving with the rhythm as he blended into the crowd. The man he’d left behind in the supply room had been trying to make a grab for a spoiled ambassador’s daughter. Lucky for the girl, the U.S. government put a high price on maintaining good relations with her father’s country and John and his team had been tasked with watching over her.
At least half of what they did was work like this. Covert protective detail was the fancy CIA term. What it boiled down to was babysitting from a distance or in disguise. Someone like this girl would never accept guards, but they were still at risk. That’s where John, Steve, and Mal came in. They could blend in places that adults never could, and their unique backgrounds made them well-suited to their roles.
John and Steve had known each other for years. As they’d grown up together in school, they’d also trained together in secret. Both their parents had been CIA operatives, both killed in action in various parts of the world before their kids were in their early teens. After the funerals, John and Steve had been recruited into the Mentor Program and trained to become government agents.
They were drilled on spycraft, linguistics, hand-to-hand combat, and dozens of other skills. John didn’t think it was actually legal (the program didn’t officially exist), but he didn’t care. He’d need all these skills when they finally let him track down the people who’d taken his parents from him.