Mr. Tim was as Lana remembered him.
"I imagine I owe you an explanation," Mr. Tim said.
Despite his urgency, Mr. Tim was immaculately dressed, his silvered hair clashing with features rendered youthful by multiple advanced cosmetic surgeries.
"Tim, helo!" a dark figure shouted from the awaiting shuttle.
She stared at a helicopter as it lifted nimbly into the air, imagining Mr. Tim and other politicians aboard it.
Tim, his government contact and the highest-ranking individual in the PMF, was already on screen when Brady entered the comms center.
"Your base camp isn't on the feds' radar yet," Tim said.
"I'm not ten, Tim," Brady said with a small smile.
"Your family and mine would kill me if I let anything happen to you," Tim said, returning the smile.
Tim looked up from the images on his micro.
"I may need you to act quickly in the near future to interfere," Tim said.
What had started out as a pain-in-the-ass babysitting favor to Tim had turned gradually into something he looked forward to.
He'd known Tim his whole life and knew all of Tim's consorts and children by name, if not by sight.
Tim had never mentioned Angel to him before asking him to take care of her.
He expected her to name off Tim and answer his unasked question about the relationship between the two of them.
He wasn't sure how he'd break the news to Tim if something happened to her.
Mr. Tim had called her well before.
He contacted Mr. Tim when I was four, after my mother died.
Mr. Tim paid for my education and training.
Mr. Tim kept her too busy to allow her time to have her own life.
The dates were all from the past week, and she recognized two of the originating net codes as being from Mr. Tim and General Greene.
Tim trusted her, but Brady was cautious, suspecting she was unwitting of Tim's activities in the PMF.
And yet, Tim said nothing of Angel except to take care of her.
No, she was not at all the type of person Tim normally surrounded himself with.
It was customary to wear the highest rank, and the VP trumped Mr. Tim twice over.
There were messages from Mr. Tim mixed in with messages from General Greene.
Lana typed a message to Mr. Tim, telling him she was leaving and heading to the Peace Command Center, which was the first center beyond the Mississippi River.
Even Mr. Tim had abandoned her after years of mentoring her.
He doubted Tim would appreciate him making moves on her.
He also knew Tim wouldn't consider this part of taking care of her.
Maybe he feared his punishment would be worse when she told Mr. Tim what he did, for Mr. Tim would surely crush Brady's PMF militia once he found out his friend was a traitor.
She'd never learned to lie; in fact, she would never dare lie to Mr. Tim, not with his rigid sense of integrity.
And then he recalled his promise to Tim, and looked away from her.
He didn't need more emotions to hamper his decision making, and he didn't need Tim to disown him at the end of this mess.
Tim was already on the large screen when Brady entered the comms center several hours later.
"Never seen you sweat, son," Tim said.
Tim, on the other hand, looked as if he'd gotten some sleep since their last talk.
Even without their shared history, there had always been something about Tim that Brady liked.
And Tim never asked why.
"Indeed I did," Mr. Tim said.
"Keep it that way," Tim said.
He'd often wondered what it was that drew Tim to Lana and suspected it was nothing more than what drew him to other women.
Tim didn't show much affection, even to his thirteen sons.
I got her access to everything, even shit the President didn't have access to, Tim said with a shake of his head.
Tim flashed a smile.
But if she's not talking, I'd take extreme precautions if I were you, Tim said, again thoughtful.
"She'll probably have an issue with being under the protection of the PMF," Tim said.
Tim asked, eyes narrowing.
"Greenie wasn't on our list," Tim admitted.
His conversation with Tim returned, and he stayed the urge to call Lana as he had when he was simply the Guardian.
The chances of them both surviving—or of Tim not finding out—were low.
"Well, someone … it was her, wasn't it," Tim said with a sigh.
Tim, she needs to know.
I'll be waiting on this end, Tim directed in resignation.
At the same time, Tim was about to bring the rest of her world crashing down around her.
You and Tim are PMF.
Everything you did for me I sent to the PMF, Mr. Tim said.
Little Tim was so tame that he would hop on my finger and eat candied cherries out of my hand.
Tim seemed genuinely pleased.
Tim was already on the viewer.