A loud ringing filled the room, pulling Olivia from a deep sleep. Something she wasn't used to. Swinging her arm over to the nightstand to shut off the alarm, she lifted her head to see what was going on when it wouldn't stop.
"What..." She said groggily, rubbing her eyes, realizing that it was her phone ringing.
Turning on the lamp on her nightstand and clearing her throat, she picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID.
Noticing it was 1:30am, she figured it had to be something important.
"Hello?" She answered, trying her best to sound like she wasn't just sleeping.
"Olivia Jameson?" The voice asked on the other end.
"Yes? Who is this?" She asked sitting up.
"This is Colonel Locke, Section 20. I apologize for calling so early, but this is important and I need to brief you as soon as possible on the situation." He told her.
"Section 20? What situation?" She asked, not knowing what was happening or what Section 20 was.
"I'm sending coordinates to your phone. Get there at 0700." He instructed her.
"Umm...what is this about?" She asked, looking at her phone after hearing it beep. It was the coordinates Colonel Locke said he was sending.
"We'll brief you in a few hours." He responded before disconnecting.
Olivia sat there in her bed for a few more moments before getting up and going over to the desk with her laptop on it. Opening it, she opened her browser and searched the coordinates.
"It's only a 30 minute drive from here." She said out loud to herself. The location looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.
Setting her alarm for 5am, she climbed back into bed and slept for a few more hours before she would have to get up and head to the mystery location.
Five o'clock came fast. Olivia got dressed and headed to the kitchen. She gave herself extra time so she could have her oatmeal, toast and coffee.
Damn it, I wonder if I have to bring anything? She thought, cursing to herself for not asking.
Coming to the conclusion that Colonel Locke would have told her if she needed to bring anything, she finished her breakfast feeling a little more relaxed. She packed up a day pack that she would normally take for a day in the field and keep it in her Jeep. Since she wasn't sure what she was up for, she got her beloved P226 and a few extra loaded mags out of her safe, just in case. She never liked to go anywhere unprepared.
Deciding that she would give herself an extra 20 minutes for the drive, she headed out with her pack and GPS in hand and her gun safely concealed on her hip. Most of the way, there were unmarked dirt roads.
Coming up to a gated, unmarked building, she looked at the map on her GPS once more to make sure she was in the correct place. Feeling confident, she drove up to the gate where she was met by an armed soldier.
"Name?" The soldier asked in a serious tone.
"Olivia Jameson." She answered, feeling nervous all of a sudden.
Looking down at a clipboard, the soldier nodded then gave a signal to another soldier to open the gate.
"Go to the left, you'll see other vehicles. Park there. Someone will come get you." The soldier informed her.
"Thank you," she replied and followed his instructions.
Once she parked and got out of her car, she saw a brunette waiting for her a few yards away.
"Miss Jameson?" she approached, reaching her hand out for a shake.
"Yes. Olivia, please." She answered, accepting the handshake.
"Very well, Olivia. I'm Sergeant Julia Richmond. This way, please," she said, leading her through a door.
There was a lot of action going on inside. It was a makeshift control room with computers everywhere and multiple large screens against the far wall. She saw maps and images on two of the large screens.
"What is this place?" Olivia asked, taking everything in. There were, what she assumed were intelligence analysts, working feverishly at the computers.
"Section 20," Sergeant Richmond answered, leading her into an office.
There was just one man in the office, with his back turned to the door. He was looking at a file.
"Sir." Sergeant Richmond announced.
"Ahh, Julia. Thank you." He replied, turning around. At that, Sergeant Richmond left, closing the door behind her.
"Colonel Locke, I presume?" Olivia asked, still standing by the now closed door. She recognized his voice from the phone call earlier and now she could put a face to it. He was older, his salt and pepper hair looking neat.
"Correct," he smiled. "Please sit, Miss Jameson." He motioned to a chair opposite the desk and she took a seat.
As he sat down in his chair, he set down the file he was looking at. At a glance, she noticed the file was hers. The paper clip holding her USMC portrait to the outside of the folder was the giveaway.
"What is this about, Colonel Locke? What exactly is it that Section 20 does?" She asked, shifting in her chair.
"Ahh, we'll just jump right into it, then," he replied, amused. "Simply put, we find the bad guys and neutralize them."
"And Section 20 is British intelligence?" She asked.
"What gave it away?" He said with his British accent and a smile.
"Just a guess," she smiled. "So what are you guys doing in South Africa? And what am I doing here?"
"We need your help," He said, standing up. He dug out another file from his desk and handed it to her.
She opened up the file to find some photos of a man along with a few pages of information on him.
"Tinashe..." She said his name out loud while looking at his picture. "I know about this guy. What does Section 20 want with a poacher?"
"He's responsible for the death of one of my men," Locke grimaced.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," Olivia stated solemnly.
"He was a good man and a great soldier," he said, staring off into nothing. "Anyway, we need your help to find this Tinashe character. Not only does he command poaching operations within the park, but he uses his poachers to traffic drugs and weapons as well. We know he usually operates in Kruger National Park, and that's where you come in."
"What can I do to help?" Olivia offered, interested in the task at hand. She didn't hate much, but poachers were on the top of that list.
"You've been working in that area for a few years now, correct?" He asked.
"Yes, I know the area like the back of my hand," she answered, trying not to focus on the fact that he seemed to know everything about her, but she knew next to nothing about him or his operation.
"We need your expertise and navigation skills in the African bush to aide us on this mission. You'll be working closely with two of our best men. Sergeant Michael Stonebridge and Sergeant Damien Scott." He informed her.
"Julia, send them in please," Colonel Locke ordered over the intercom.
Olivia's heart jumped into her throat. Damien Scott. She knew that name. And she remembered the first time she met him like it was yesterday.
"What's your name, sweetheart?" The cocky Delta Force operative asked.
"It's Lance Corporal Jameson. And I ain't your sweetheart." She quipped back.
"I see how it is," he responded with a wicked smile that made her weak in the knees. His dark hair really made his green eyes stand out. Oh yeah. He was handsome and he knew it. But Olivia didn't want to cave into his charm and wicked good looks. She was a professional and she wanted to keep it that way. She worked her ass off proving that she belonged in the United States Marine Corps, and she wasn't about to let some guy ruin it. No matter how hot he was.
"Can we focus on the mission, sergeant?" She replied, trying to change the subject, wishing she hasn't volunteered herself for this co-op mission.
"Whatever you say, Lance Corporal," he said, stepping closer to her. He stood close enough so that if she wanted, she could just lean up and kiss him right there. Her heart was racing.
"Ok. Here is the location where you guys will be dropped," she swallowed hard, trying not to give away the impression that she was very hot and bothered by the man standing close to her. She didn't know why she felt this way, she's been doing this job for a four years now. Maybe it was his confidence. Or those eyes. Could even be his arms.
Snap out of it! She thought to herself.
"Here?" He asked, leaning even closer to point out the location on the map.
"Yes," she barely squeaked out. By now his face was inches away, his eyes at the same level as hers, staring into the depths of her soul. A crooked smile formed on his mouth. Swallowing hard, she looked down at the map. He let out a small laugh and finally moved back a little, giving her space. He knew exactly what he was doing. She was flustered and he could see it written all over her face.
It had been a few years since her run in with Damien Scott, and she was happy to think she'd never see him again. The way he made her feel in those few moments was almost too much to handle and she was sure she'd give in if he had been around longer.
"Sir," she heard another British accent behind her as the men entered the room.
"Ahh, boys. Meet Olivia Jameson. She'll be helping us track down Tinashe. Olivia, this is Sergeant Michael Stonebridge and Sergeant Damien Scott," Colonel Locke introduced her as she stood up to greet them.
"Nice to meet you," Michael greeted her, shaking her hand.
"Ms. Jameson," Damien said, shaking her hand and giving her a look and that same crooked smile that told her he remembered her.
"Nice to meet you both," she said, trying not to blush and pretend like she didn't know Damien prior to today.
"Now, let's get to business. Olivia, what can you tell us about these poachers you have dealt with? Are they out there on a daily basis?" Colonel Locke asked.
"They are out there every day and every night. They are absolutely ruthless. If they see a ranger, they'll kill them on the spot. And seeing as how there's a poachers moon coming up, they'll be out in full force." She answered.
"Poachers moon?" Michael asked, confused.
"It's what we call a full moon. The poachers use the bright moonlight to their advantage."
"Bastards," Damien said disgusted. "So what's the plan? Are we gonna camp out and wait for one of Tinashe's cronies to show up?"
"Sort of," Olivia answered. The three men listened intently.
"It'll be a little more involved than that, though," she continued. "Some of the animals have tracking devices on them. When we come across them, we tag them so we can keep tabs on them."
"So we can use that to find out where these guys might be?" Michael asked.
"So it's a guessing game? What happens if we end up following the wrong elephant and we miss our guys?" Damien asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
"It's not like they announce to the world where they are going to be hunting. It's not an easy operation." Olivia matched his tone.
"It's a risk we have to take." Colonel Locke directed at Damien.
"We have drones. It makes the task at hand so much easier," Olivia assured them. "We also have an informant."
"How trustworthy is your informant?" Colonel Locke asked.
"We've been working with him for about a year and we've made dozens of interceptions and busts with his information. He hasn't steered us wrong yet." Olivia answered confidently.
"How do you know your informant? He's in with these guys?" Damien asked, crossing his arms.
"He did some jail time a few years ago for poaching. He came to us in secret when he got out, apparently a changed man, and offered to help our operation." Olivia detailed.
"Why in secret?" Michael asked.
"If the poachers he worked with found out he came to us, they'd kill him and his entire family." Olivia answered, looking down at Tinashe's file.
"So we're supposed to trust this guy? What if he turns around and tells 'em about us?" Damien asked with a stern look.
"It's a risk we have to take out here. He's been trustworthy this long, I'll take my chances." She answered back, looking Damien in the eyes a second too long. Feeling her cheeks grow hot, she looked down at the file again.
"Okay team, let's get working on the plan, shall we?" Colonel Locke announced and with that they exited the office.