Franklin took the disk; Barry’s job was done. He could stay here for the night and return to base tomorrow. Still, Franklin invited him to follow. He said something to one of the maintenance techs, then ducked into a smaller tent next to a Hummer. He offered Barry a seat on the cot and pulled out a netbook. Holding up the disk he asked, “I suppose you have no idea what’s on here?”
Barry shook his head and grinned. “Not my job to know.”
Franklin inserted the DVD into the drive tray on his netbook. Then he pulled out a cell phone and held it close to the netbook. He offered no explanation, but made no effort to hinder Barry watching. After a few minutes, the cell phone spoke in a gentle feminine voice. “The disk contains flight plans and aircraft signatures for helicopters to prevent accidental targeting.”
That made perfect sense to Barry; the VIPs were going to be flown out into the field to see the work first hand. And since Franklin’s team got one, it probably meant the VIPs were coming out to see them. He said as much, then pulled out his own cell phone and showed Franklin the image he captured that morning through the window blinds.
Pointing to the picture, he said, “That guy gives me the willies. You know what I mean?”
Franklin nodded. He had already felt a faint chill in his own soul just glancing at the picture. “I’m still learning from the elder’s writings, but there are some people in this world who just mean trouble for everyone. Whaddaya think, Bess?”
The cell phone quietly displayed the face of the obvious big shot, showing his name and associations as the head of some investment conglomeration. The two women were former models, while the other three represented a private investment club. The last guy was unknown. That didn’t help their sense of foreboding.
Barry rubbed his short hair. “Man, I sure could use a cell phone as smart as that one.”
Franklin snapped his fingers. “Hey, maybe I can help you with that. I received this as a gift from some of our brothers back home. You’ll have to get hold of them about it, but they told me they were praying they could find someone in the family who worked close to HQ.”
“That would be me,” Barry chuckled. “There ain’t no more family anywhere around that base or I would know.”
“Have you played any of the Shepherd games?”
“Nah,” Barry drawled. “I get on the forum when I can and I love those photographs people share.”
Franklin looked at his cell phone. “Bess, what’s the best way to get a message to Ned? Can we send it through the elder himself, maybe?”
The sweet feminine voice answered, “The elder’s site is hosted on one of Ned’s servers. Is that easy enough?”
They both had a good laugh at that. Franklin looked at Barry. “Pull out your cell phone, Bud.”
Barry complied. To his surprise, the screen automatically displayed the site and took him to a page for urgent messages. Barry’s eyes widened. “I never knew that was there.”
“You never needed it until now,” Franklin said.
As Barry was about to pull up the on-screen keyboard, it quickly typed itself into the message field in terse language asking to contact Ned to offer assistance. It was submitted automatically, too. Barry turned to Franklin and pointed at Bess. “Man, does she always take care of things like that?”
“She’s a good ol’ girl,” Franklin said, nodding his head.
“Tell ’em I want a girlfriend like that. That gal back at the base would eat me alive if I didn’t turn to stone whenever she’s around.”
They chatted for awhile as darkness fell.