Twelve, airspace above the Middle East
“Rise and shine, sleeping beauty,” Ian said, his voice nearly drowned out by the whirring props of the plane. The inside was massive, and through a haze of sleep, Jack could barely remember Ian putting him on a plane in Washington. “How much of last night do you remember?”
“I got most of the way to the White House with the intention of putting my boot up Drump’s butt. And I cleaned Hugh’s clock.”
“He says he let you.”
“He would,” Jack said with a grin.
“He would,” Ian agreed. “But we both thought it made more sense to get you out of town while his PR team planted the story of you assisting with a Secret Service incursion drill. And I needed your help in Iraq.”
“Are we invading again?” Jack asked.
“You say that like we ever left,” Hugh said, sipping some tea from a cup, before setting it back on its saucer. “The travel ban has had some… unforeseen knock-on effects. Iraqis who aided the American forces, who were supposed to be granted asylum as part of their assistance, have been frozen out, mostly interpreters. And the insurgents have taken it as a green light to enact vengeance on Iraqis they see as traitors.”
“Seems like we should turn this plane back towards Washington,” Jack said, the muscles in his neck tense.
“I don’t think it’s a problem you can murder your way through,” Ian said. “And I’m not tasking you with solving the problem en total- international aid agencies are already doing a lot of the heavy lifting there. We’re on a more specific mission. Remember Jalal?”
“Well, unfortunately for him, he got some press attention for helping us. Which came back on him now. Insurgents took him and his family. I gave him a cell phone for such an occasion, and he kept it on him and charged, so we’ve got a location, according to pings off the cell towers. He stayed there for at least eight hours before the battery died, so if we’re lucky, they’re still there.”
“How long before we land?”
“We’ll be descending any moment now. I have a jalopy waiting on the tarmac.”
“We aren’t officially here, are we?” “I’m never officially anywhere, if I can help it,” Ian said.