I watch them.
It’s been months since I finished my training, and even so I still watch, amazed by the way they work.
I wonder if I could ever be like that.
It’s the lull before the storm; no action, no immediate danger, and yet everyone knows why we’re here, and that blood will be shed before this is over.
This is a little more public than I’m used to. Hell, being in the firing line at all is still a novelty. I’ve spent so much time in the office since I joined that I was beginning to think I’d have been better staying with IBM. At least there the pay was better.
I accepted the offer of joining CI5 because I wanted to achieve something, to really make a difference – but sitting on the sidelines while Curtis, Keel and the others save the world wasn’t quite what I had in mind. It’s not about looking for glory, about wanting to be seen to be superwoman, I just wish that they’d trust me enough to allow me to do the job I was recruited for.
‘Backup’ might be meant as a term of endearment, a way of making me feel like a part of the team, but to be honest I’d be much happier to be called Backus if it meant I could be more involved, more like them.
And yet we are different, and this afternoon has made me even more aware of that than I already was.
The street has been sealed off at both ends, and even though that might protect the general public from the danger that we ourselves are about to face, it’s done little to help us keep our usual low profile.
It’s a busy street, and the employees, afternoon shoppers and general traffic that would usually be making its way through the area are now milling around idly behind the blockade at either end.
From my seat inside the back of one of the cars forming the blockade, I can hear what the crowd are muttering. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Who are they?’ ‘What’s happening?’ Then there are even more specific observations from the more eagle-eyed in the crowd.
It obviously hasn’t been missed that there are very few police in the area, and that those present are quite publicly deferring to us.
I'm supposed to be gathering together the final updates before we get ready to move in, to check and double check that we haven't missed anything important. Instead, I find myself getting distracted while I wait for the laptop to download the network files, my eyes glancing through the window and seeking out the two men at the centre of all the activity.
Even to those who don’t know them, Curtis and Keel are obviously different, set apart from the rest of us. When those behind the barricade draw attention to themselves by pointing at us, it's 3.7 and 4.5 that they point to. It's not as if they're even doing anything to draw attention to themselves, either. Sam is sitting in the front seat of one of the other cars, with Chris leaning against the open door, talking quietly. Both men are conservatively dressed in dark clothing, neither is openly displaying their guns, they're just talking. They could be anywhere, standing in a queue at a supermarket, sitting in a park, anywhere, doing anything.
And yet they're different, and everyone here knows it. Not just because they're the agents in charge in Malone's absence, either. Both men radiate dangerous authority, and it's that aura surrounding them which is making the police keep their distance. There's no-one within a three foot radius of the pair, and in spite of the flurry of activity going on around me, no-one seems willing to break that invisible barrier.
We're all playing the waiting game - the men inside the building waiting for us to take action, while we're waiting for the signal to move in. Even the public are watchful, having seen enough crime in their own lives to guess what's going to happen before long. I wonder whether any of them truly comprehend the long term consequences of the next hour.
People are going to die, very possibly the two men laughing together now, and they know it. They have to, and yet they don't seem worried, laughing and joking as if they don't have a care in the world.
There's tension settling over the area, and everyone seems nervous, on edge, waiting impatiently and fearfully for the drama to begin. Only Curtis and Keel seem unaffected by it, Chris' laughter ringing out at odds with the situation at hand.
How can they stay so calm? How can they continue to face this, day after day, without it changing them?
I’ve been in fire fights before, though nowhere near as many as Curtis and Keel have, but I’ve experienced it. In the eternal seconds after the shooting starts, survival is all that matters. The reasons why you’re fighting, the law, what they’ve done, none of it is going to help you survive. In a strange way, you become like an animal, and the legal niceties that keep you on the right side of the law no longer apply. They apply later, when you’re dealing with the consequences, but in those seconds you’re no different from the people you’re hunting.
It’s kill or be killed, and only those more skilled, more efficient at delivering death will survive. To catch a killer, you have to become a killer, have to become the very people you despise; that you’re trying to stop.
Regardless of the reasons why, you’re still immersing yourself in their world, and some of that dirt rubs off on you, catches hold of your shadow and stalks you at night. That’s why they watch them, why the public keep their distance. Curtis and Keel are tarred with the same brush as the criminals we protect them from, and the badges we carry aren’t enough to conceal one, unmistakeable fact.
In dedicating our lives to stopping the assassins, and the terrorists…
…we hand over part of our soul.
This fic was inspired by the poem below, which does not belong to me. The poem is re-posted here without permission (if anyone knows how to get hold of Marcia I'll happily ask her!) but with no claim of ownership. I just think it's a brilliant poem. :-)
They Do Not Love Us
by Marcia Brin in Pros zine "British Takeaway 3"
They do not love us.
Huddled in their concrete fields,
While we circle,
Ever on guard,
Willing to offer fang and claw in their defense.
They do not understand us.
For theirs is a world of warmth and hope and life;
Ours, a world of honor and bitter reality and death.
And when the howl of the wolf is heard in the night,
And hide in fear at the sound,
And cannot understand
Why we seek out the enemy
And risk death
On behalf of those we do not know and do not love.
With whom we are not kin, nor kith, nor kind.
They fear us.
For the smell of blood is upon us also,
And they know our kinship lies with the predator and not with the prey.
Are not our fangs as sharp,
Our eyes as cold,
Our souls as deadly?
And they are not fooled.
For though we wear the guise of sheepdogs,
They know the truth.
We are wolves, too.