Strings of Retaliation – 1a – iGo Crazy

I paced back and forth in our so-called war room. “Worry room” was more like it. Gabriel’s never-ending To Do list only reminded me that there wasn’t a blip on the radar. Not a peep over the comms. For the past six months. As if that — after everything else! — would have killed her.
Lorelei’s muscles expired in less than a week, and no amount of service to my country could keep my mind off the ticking clock.
I sat and tried to busy up my brain with the Intelligence Network Mess-Maker. I didn’t plan to tear apart the country’s intelligence committee, but programming the virus required more brainpower than Sudoku.
Yet, I swore the lines of code somehow drew Lorelei’s portrait.
I switched off the holographic display, and pressed my forehead against the desk. I shouldn’t just have stopped her from jumping off the cliff; I should have bolted her to her bed.
I want my boss/life-safer/personal hell/patient/friend/may be more!
Frogster, my mechanical pet frog, jumped on the desk and poked the side of my head with its tongue. I programmed it to do that when I brooded. The base algorithm, capable of analyzing body language down to micro-expressions, had been a challenge. Both the process and the result kept me sane. It kept me from wishing for a tech-fix.
Frogster poked me again. “Don’t you dare!” Lorelei’s faked voice growled in the frog’s mouth.
She cleaned me a year ago. Despite everything, I didn’t want to relapse while she was gone. So every time Frogster poked me, I undertook a new pet project or improved an old one.
By the end of the first month, Frogster could operate simple machinery – enough for him to make coffee and toasts – and pick locks.
“Vexx!” Gabriel, the FBI guy who let Lorelei walk out the front door, bellowed. “If your damned cat keeps wrapping itself around my legs, I swear I’ll kick it until there are bolts everywhere.”
Close quarters got on everyone’s nerves. Or so I had learned. Gabriel used to be a male version of pre-surgery Lorelei, calm and calculating. Though the annoyed version was harsher to deal with, at least I didn’t feel like Mister Oh-so-perfectly-muscled had more in common with Lorelei than I did.
“What do you think of its fur?” I replied, grabbing the purring cat.
“What?”
“Well, the dog’s patchy. The koala keeps losing his because it’s beyond fluffiness.”
Hair was hard to fake. I could hack into a cosmetic company and steal their formula for these perfect wigs everyone talked about, but that would be cheating.
“I don’t want to answer that.” Gabriel pushed past me to pull some files on the computer. He always looked so busy, chasing down the connections of Merrilyn Technologies and the location of the other in vitro assassins, but most of our underground operation was at a standstill without Lorelei.
He was faking.
“Why the hell not?” I insisted.
“Because I’m afraid it’ll cause more experimentation.”
He had encouraged me at first, after I decrypted, filed and protected every single piece of information we had. He provided proper material; I created to preserve my mental stability and his peace of mind. We only had a problem when he decided I took ‘pet projects’ too literally and tried to cut off my supply.
“Small furry animals if I have to make more tests,” I explained. “A tiger or a lion if I’ve finally nailed it. I’m rather happy with it, to tell the truth.”
I had my ways of getting stuff, secret government facility or not. It just involved more ingenuity to rework non-optimized machines so I could take out a few pieces without anyone noticing.
“What if I granted you access to the shooting range?” Gabriel countered.
“They’re driving you that nuts, huh?”
He trained me in hand-to-hand combat a few hours every day, something Lorelei never bothered to do since I was so far behind her proficiency. He had categorically refused to teach me how to fire a gun, not letting me forget I had been a criminal – absolution and new identity not withstanding.
“Deal,” I conceded.
I should have been done with the basement life by now, one year after Lorelei faked my death, but I couldn’t put on my new face and flash my new ID before I had restored her natural self. Changing the routine would help.
“When do we start?” I spun my chair around to follow Gabriel’s beeline to another computer.
He seemed really focused – like every time he thought he found something new, something that had escaped me. Unfortunately for his self-esteem, I combed these files so many times, there wasn’t anything left to find.
“Gab?”
He turned to answer me and paused. “Later?”
He accompanied the word with the “got a call” gesture before turning his attention to whatever conversation was beamed right inside his brain through the government-issued communication chip. I subtly switched on the recording program on my computer; I had hacked every employee’s signal weeks ago, just in case they tried to compartmentalize information. The only thing that escaped my surveillance was Gabriel’s monthly off-location meetings.
If Lorelei didn’t come back soon, I might forget the risks and bug the FBI agent.
Gabriel paled and punched a few commands in the closest computer. The holographic screen switched to a TV channel.
And there she was.
Lorelei Beyer.
Aka Alice White.
Aka the Nightshade Assassin.

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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