Maybe it only felt like twenty minutes. Maybe it wasn’t that long, but it felt like an age.
The tent city was a labrynth of various stations and tents with little signs telling wanderers what was inside. She poked her head into a couple of them, peering into the gloom. Some of them were barraks, some of them held pelican boxes staked to the room. Some of them had a couple of vehicles. One of them was filled with crates and crates and crates that she recgonised from the pit of her lava bubbling stomach.
She entered, her hands shaking, praying that there was no one in the tent. It appeared to be empty and had been for a couple weeks, at least, judging by the sand on top of the boxes.
She reached the nearest one, the lava in her stomach bubbling even more, and she brushed the sand off the top. She tried to avoid the splinters that she knew peppered the top of the box, that she knew would dig into her hand if she wasn’t careful.
There was her little mark on the top, a small cartoon cat in sharpie in the right hand corner. They had sold these weapons a while back… why were they here?
She pulled out her phone and loaded a spreadsheet. She’d kept all their records and knew the serials for each gun. Leo would killed her if she knew she just had it on her phone. But Leo had her phone encrypted or something, right?
She cracked the box open; no one had hammered the nails back into place, so she didn’t have to get a crow bar.
The guns laid in the box on special wooden racks, cradling each rifle so they didn’t move during transport. She lifted the top peice of the board that kept them from hopping out of theer cradles.
She scanned the area just in front of the trigger, Sam called it the “bottom receiver” or “lower repipient” or something like that. She typed the serial into the search bar of her spreadsheet.
The gun came up, with the original seller, the batch, the date it was sold, and who they sold it to. They got it from their normal supplier in Arkensas, they’d sold it two years ago, and they’d sold it to…
Yuri. And then Yuri had turned around and sold them right to the Resistance. Probably at a high profit margin.
That son of a bitch had been scalping them. Probably for years! And scalping the resistance to boot.
She cracked open another crate, that one not sealed either, and found another batch of guns they’d sold to Yuri.
She grabbed a peice of paper from a small table in the corner and started to make notes of the batches that had been resold to the resistance.
And she dissapeared into the paperwork, into the numbers and the words and the spreadsheets.
She shot a text off to Ray, asking for a computer and a tablet; she was using too much of this paper and needed a sheet for her own records and her chicken scratch was way to hard to read.
She kept digging, kept writing down prices and dates and numbers. A tablet slid itself into her feild of view, along with a computer, a water bottle, and a box of vegan cookies. She looked up and saw Ray sitting down with her, looking around at the mess she’d made in the tent.
“Need some help?” Ray asked with a grin.
“I’m not sure.” Maya said, entering her findings into a spreadsheet template.
“How about I start by putting things away and making sure all the boxes you’ve checked are separated from the ones you haven’t?”
Maya looked up with a big smile on her face, a glow filling her chest.
“That would actually be amazing.” She gave the younger boy a smile, trying to convey grattitude. But she didn’t want to stop, didn’t want to get broken out of her flow.
He started putting guns back in their boxes and putting the lids back on and moved them from one side of the tent to the other with a dolly.
Maya buried herself back into the data, organizing it, putting in her notations, and letting the information fill a spreadsheet.
She plugged in a couple of organizers and charts and calendars, looking at the data from a birds eye view and then delving back into serial numbers.
Ray finsihed organizing the tent and then started opening boxes and shouting out serial numbers for her. Then he’d put the box away and into the “checked” pile.
She looked up every once in a while and was shocked at how meticulous he was. He would have been great in the disorganised warehouse when they’d gotten a new shipment. Sam was almost useless at organization and Leo’s room was in a costant state of chaos. But her computer was well organized.
Three hours later, she had a data spread in front of her, charts, graphs, analytics, numbers everything.
“Yuri over charged them by about sixty thousand dollars per crate.” She whispered, as Ray hauled the last cratte to the corner of the room.
“How much?” he was panting. The tent wasn’t cool and they’d been working in the closed flaps for too long.
“Come on.” She said, gathering her papers and the tablet. “You need to get out of this oven.”
They got out into the cool again and Ray’s hair was glistening with sweat. Maya realized she was pretty miserable as well. Ray was dumping some of the water onto his head.
Maya looked around and saw they were just a few hundred yards from the ocean. She tucked her data under her arm, grabbed Rays hand and drug him out to the beach. Ray figured out her intent and took off running for the water, splashing up to his knees and then diving in head first.
She didn’t trust her documents and computers in the sand, opting for a more calm version, wading in up to her ankles and letting the waves wash up to her hips.
She pulled out her tablet again and looked back down at the data, letting her body cool down in the surf.
Yuri had stabbed them in the back. It was one thing to sell from a primary supplier, but it was another to sell from your seller as resell as a tritiary reseller. It was bad enough manners in the underworld to get yourself killed.
Ray came tromping out of the surf, pants water logged, hair slicked back on his head, and his shirt stretching with the weight of the water. He had a huge smiled on his face and was looking far less droopy.
“Thanks again, man.” Maya smiled. “You didn’t have to stay and help, but you made it far easier to get all that shit done.”
“Yeah!” he was much more chipper, as it happened. “It was nice to do something with my hands.”
“The IJS took your soldering kit, didn’t they?”
“Yeah,” Ray’s head drooped a little bit. “But it’s not just a big deal. I can get another one. There’s bound to be one around here somewere. They’re bound to let me take one.”
“Oi!” there was a shout from up at the tent city. Maya whirled around and saw the tall figure of Yvonne standing at the edge of the city, gesturing madly for them to get back under the cover of the tent city.
“Or maybe not.” Ray’s shouldered drooped again.
“Get BACK here!” Yvonne was shouting. “You could blow everything! You’re right in the middle of the open!”
They sloshed out of the surf, Maya holding her computer up over her head. Ray was a splashy bean.
Yvonne was almost steaming with rage as they came into view, tapping her index finger on her upper arm, chewing a corner of her lip. The lady needed to switch to decaf.
“You realize that satelites have high powered cameras? You realize that your fun little surf day could have jeapordized everything we have going on here? You realize that you could have undone all the work that we’ve done getting you out of the lap of the IJS?”
“You realize that you could need to bug out of here by sea and you have way too much open space to get there?” Ray sassed. Maya almost choked on her own spit in shock. Ray wasn’t normally sassy or spoke back to people. He had a rebellious streak!
“If you had moved your whole set up 20 yards toward the water, you’d still be out of range of high tide and you’d be able to launch boats without fear of getting picked off by gunfire.”
Yvonne chewed her lip and stared Ray down. Ray, oblivious to Yvonnes nervous tick, just looked at her, deadpan. Was he oblivious? Or was he just obstinate.
“I have something else I need to speak to you about.” Maya said, turning away from Ray. “Namely: the weapons locker. If you can call it that. I have reason to beleive that you’ve been taken advantage of by your weapons supplier.”
“That’s not possible.” Yvonne began to turn away from her. “Nikolai has always been honest with his stock quality and I have no reason to mistrust him.”
“I’m not talking about the quality of stock.” Maya took a step forward, trying to get in the way of those long legs. “I’m talking about him scalping you. I saw the prices on those boxes and I saw my chop. I put the kitties in the corner of the boxes. I’m Nichole.”
“You’re the supplier?” Yvonne was listening now.
“I’m the seller. Not the supplier. He’s a reseller. He calls himself ‘Yuri’ when he buys from us. He, apparently, calls himself ‘Nikolai’ when he sells to you. For sisty thousand dollars over what he baught them, per case.”
Yvonne’s face turned red and she started chewing her lip again. Maya’s stomach relaxed as she saw Yvonne’s anger ramp up towards Yuti. Maya had been stewing in her own rage for several hours and felt that Yuri was due for some come ups.
Yvonne spun around, her face pulled back in a look of disgust.
“You honestly think that I believe that Yuri wants to rip me off? You honestly think that I’m so incompetant that I can’t check market prices on weapons to see if I’m being ripped off? Check your own facts, Miss.”
The word “miss” was very specifically hissed, like her being not in the military, not being on first name terms, not being on Yvones level was something she should hate herself for.
Yvonne stomped off, her knee high boots sinking into the sand at her heels and making her wobble slightly as she tried to storm off.
“Oh my god.” Ray whispered. “She can be a bitch when she wants to.”
Maya clapped her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh out loud. Ray never swore. How in the world.
“Am I being a negative influence on you?” Maya said peeked through closed fingers.
“I think you might be.” Ray grinned. He walked out into the thouroughfare and held out his right elbow to her. “Miss, would you care to join me on a walk so we can dispense with our wet clothes and ajourn to the mess hall to partake in questionable meat products?”
“Why,” Maya chose a southern accent. She didn’t know why. “Mista Ray, I do beleive that’s the best offer I’ve had all yeeah.” She too his arm and they walked together back to the tent.
Leo looked up when she heard Maya and Ray come in, Maya was whisper ranting.
That didn’t bode well. She’d probably found Yvonne and she had found something that she didn’t like.
Leo took a few minutes to finish up the couple lines of code, putting some notes down so she knew where she had left off in the box.
She came out just as the two were putting on the rest of their clothes. What had… what?
She looked down at the cots and their clothes were sopping wet. And Maya had computers. No… oh shit…
“What…” Leo started to stay but Maya cut her off, hands into the air.
“Don’t worry about it. We did some work in the weapons locker and got really hot and then Ray went for a swim. And then we got yelled at by Yvonne and now we are back here and we need to get dry and go get food.”
“Uh huh…” Leo said. “And what work exactly?”
“I found crates of guns that we had sold to Yuri and that he’s resold to the Resistance. He's a total scalper.”
“And how do you know they were our weapons that we had sold to Yuri?”
“My little chop in the corner. The cat. And I combed our records for serials.”
“Our re… our WHAT?”
“Yeah… I… I kept records. On my phone.”
“On your…” Leo pinched the bridge of her nose, taking deep breaths. Her heart was hammering in her chest and she felt like she was drowning. She was having trouble breathing.
“I know you wouldn't like it.” Maya said, her voice half-heartedly trying to be low.
“What happened to those electronics while you were on the beach, hopefully not getting seen by any survelance sattelites?”
“They were in my arms and I only went up to my ankles and they are perfectly dry, look at the papers.”
Leo looked at the papers squished between the laptop and tablet. They were bone dry.
“Good. I’m glad. I just got my hands on new equipment. So, I’d rather not have to replace it already, or replace something in that equipment. So…”
“Yeah.” Maya said. “And don’t worry about the survelance satelite thing. Yvonne filled me in on the whole, ‘don’t get out from under our amazing camo’ thing. But that makes no sense. Because the IJS probably knows where we are, because lets face it, the security here isn’t exactlt Azkaban prison, right?”
Leo blinked, taking in all the information from that string of sentences. And the key item finally landed home and she wanted to get mad. She wanted to scream and flail and swear and her blood was too hot and her heart was going too fast and everything was too much.
“Maya.” She took a deep breath, remembering to breathe. “Did you guys really go out into the open and swim?”
She saw Maya pause in her fumbling with her notebook and purse. Leo actually saw the wheels turning in her little sister’s head.
“I went out and stood in the surf. Like I told you. Ray went for a swim though.”
“Maya,” Leo put her face into her hands. “You really could have been seen. You really could have blown it.”
“What do we do then?”
“I have some… tricks. But I need to know exactly when you were out there and for how long.”
“I have no idea!” Maya stood, arms out as if she were imploring the entire room to help her. “How am I supposed to know?”
“Okay,” Leo backed down just a little more. “I just need to know approximately. I can look in a certain hour.”
“It was about twenty minutes ago.” Maya was getting huffy and starting to shut down.
“Listen,” Leo said sitting down, instead of running off to her computer to get things done like she wanted to so desperately. “I know that you didn’t mean to. You got exctied about discovering something and then hot and sweaty and forgot. And then you got yelled at by the scary pseudo-general lady. I’m not trying to make you feel ashamed of making one small mistake. I’m trying to fix the one small mistake that you’ve made through this whole ordeal. And it wasn’t discovering whatever you discovered in the weapons tent. It was just wanting to cool down. And I know I can find it and make it better. I’ve got you and I can make it right.”
Maya was still trying to shut down and she had her arms crossed.
“It’s fine. Go get dinner, I’m gonna get my scanners going and then I’ll come down and eat. It’s fine. I’ve got you covered.”