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Incirlik Airbase

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“Where do you think you are going?“

Straker pivoted on his heels, barely able to keep himself from falling into a defensive crouch. The voice was a lively, southern London banter, young and markedly devoid of respect. Respect he considered his due, given his stripes and pilot’s coverall. The speaker lounged lazily against the hangar’s corrugated iron, arms folded, eyes hidden behind sunglasses and wearing a British version of his own jet suit. A name tag stitched onto the right breast pocket read ‘A. Freeman’ and his insignia made him the senior by two ranks.

“Checking the jet I’m supposed to take across the Surami range tonight.”

Freeman was taller and quite a bit bulkier than he was, the plain, strong face pitted with pock marks. Yet in spite of the bulk he pushed off the wall with lithe grace, advancing on him with a toothy grin Straker wasn’t sure was friendly.

“And there I thought this operation is top-secret,” Freeman drawled, coming to rest in front of him, hands shoved insolently into the pockets of his trousers. There was no doubt, the man was checking him out. If there was something Straker hated, then such little games of who could piss farther.

“You are RAF Wing Commander Alec Freeman, re-con pilot based here in Incirlik for the past fourteen months, born in London, Great Britain, to the joiner Richard Freeman and his wife Catherine Freeman. You have three older sisters, Laura, Eliza and Olivia, and no brothers. You didn't much appreciate working in construction and joined the merchant Navy instead, before applying for pilot’s training,” Straker said. “What few people know, including your direct superiors – you’re also her Majesty’s special agent. We're supposed to fly this mission together, though I can't say why they believed this was a good idea.”

The smile – if anything – widened even further. Freeman chuckled and took off his glasses, bright blue eyes flashing with genuine humour.

“You’ll do!” He stated and laughed. “Yes, you’ll do all right!”