Best-Laid Plans

Rory’s Story Cubes Mini-Story #3


Photo by Jennie Coughlin

Elizabeth Drake couldn’t help but smile as she threaded her way among the corridors of the United Nations Intelligence Directorate’s headquarters. Her career was going exactly as she’d planned: Analysis and mission planning, she could check off. Next was chief of an analysis group, followed by deputy director of analysis, and ultimately director of analysis. Of course, the current director of analysis would have to retire, but Elizabeth was confident enough of her abilities that The Directorate would recognize them appropriately.

Any fledgling analyst/mission planner would likely be intimidated by planning a mission for The Directorate’s top operative, but Elizabeth had created a flawless plan, of that she was certain.

That confidence ebbed a bit when she entered the conference room and saw not only Alexei Bukharin but also his partner, Mai Fisher. Bukharin was the senior of the partnership. Elizabeth felt she should have to answer only his questions. He and Fisher sat side by side, turned toward each other, their heads inches apart, and Elizabeth couldn’t hear what they were saying. Fisher gave Bukharin a smile and sat back in her chair. By the time Bukharin looked at Elizabeth, his corresponding smile had left him.

Elizabeth’s mouth went dry, and when she tried to swallow, she coughed. Fisher leaned forward, picked up the sweating carafe in the middle of the table, and poured a glass of water. Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed as she took the glass from Fisher and wondered if it were safe to drink.

“Thanks for coming, Ms. Drake,” Bukharin said. “Have a seat.” He didn’t wait to see if she sat and continued, “There are a number of holes you need to fill in this mission plan.”

“Holes? I don’t think—”

“Loose ends might be a more apt description,” Fisher said.

“Loose ends?” Elizabeth echoed.

Bukharin turned to his partner. “Loose ends? Mai, I could fly a starship through the holes in this plan.”

Elizabeth sighed. If The Directorate were in an above-ground building, she’d at least be able to open a window to allow her carefully crafted career to fly out. Then, she could follow it.