Strings of Retaliation – 3a – Back

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How to alienate an assassin 101, was all I could think when I walked in the conference room the next day. Seating around a table with a coffee-and-muffins centrepiece, Vexx and I listened to Gabriel’s “Merrilyn Technologies — Assets’ Briefing” presentation. The FBI must have lost their What Would Nightshade Do? software, because it would ring a red alert right about now.
“Enough!” I snapped after an hour of Gabriel’s cold teacher-like explanations of the FBI’s strategy to alter Merrilyn Tech. “Start slow and gain the sympathy of the board of directors?” I chuckled. “Not my strengths and I can’t make a single decision!”
“It’ll come with a little patience.” Gabriel’s tone doubled my annoyance. What happened to his crooked smile of support when I stood up to the FBI?
“Don’t lecture me on patience. Or careful planning,” I added when he took a breath to argue with me. “I didn’t top your Most Wanted list by being restless.” Not when it mattered, anyway…
“Our top analysts spent months devising this plan and we will stick to it.” He sounded unshakable, but he shifted his weight and eyed me intently. He had tried to subtly guide me toward actions that served my interest before, so even if I didn’t know why he forced this upon me despite his knowing better, I snapped my mouth shut on the flow of rebellious comments.
If he faked his uneasiness, his head would roll.
“By the end of the first couple of months, the board will have grown used to your presence, and then we can implement small changes.” Gabriel switched to the next slide.
At the end of the day, Gabriel presented me to a teacher of Administration 101.
Over my dead body! was my first reaction, which Gabriel read in my frown. He caught my elbow before I spun on my heel.
“The alternative is a business implant.”
Class or tech?
I shook myself loose. “Anything for my cover, right?”
I pulled a chair, ready to suffer through without a peep as the FBI turned me into a believable head for the tech industry’s biggest snake.
‘Operation Chimera’. Someone somewhere was having a laugh and after three days of ‘Assets’ Briefing’ and evening classes, I would have kicked said someone’s teeth in.
The FBI strategy to alter MerriTech — might as well embrace the irony! — was a political campaign: all about charm, half-truths and ass-kissing. To Gabriel, it may look like I slipped back into my official personality, but this was a new beast altogether.
The kind of beast I used to slay.
“You’ll come back here every other evening for debriefing and an Administration class,” Gabriel announced as I got into the SUV to move back in my restored house.
“Of course I will,” I growled, slamming the door shut in his face. For the sake of his physical integrity, Gabriel would have to explain his newfound strictness. Hopefully, our off-base relocation would give him an occasion to do so.
Vexx sat next to me, wearing his ‘Vincent’ face, and relaxed once we left the gloom of the underground facility.
“This is so beautiful,” he sighed, peering at the sky through the tainted windows. “Can I live in the manor with you?”
“Sure. Plenty of space.” I couldn’t care less, but showing it too much would push Vexx away. I was running low on allies. “I think I’ll take Alice for a ride.”
I wore the face of my charitable persona when I travelled downtown, where the superscrappers rose so high the streets never saw the light of day. The slums needed assistance on so many levels that I felt guilty for taking a break from my life and not delivering supplies for the past months.
It would do me some good.
Hopefully enough good so I could endure the FBI’s commands until I could walk away without forfeiting the pardon I earned by killing my father.
“Good idea,” Vexx said, snapping me back to the car. “I’ll get an order prepped as soon as I’ve rebuilt our network.”
“Thanks.”
We rode in silence, providing very little for our FBI driver’s report. I jumped when Vexx squeezed my hand, and decided to let him have it.
Maybe I had a politician’s fibre in me after all…
We drove up the long alleyway leading to my house. When I left half a year ago, debris from an exploded bed decorated the parking and the porch was partially burnt. Bullet holes riddled the vestibule and the body of my father’s ‘secretary’ stained the dinning room’s floor.
The FBI’s contractors erased one of the most defining moment of my existence while the media assumed I had been targeted like my father.
“Welcome back, Miss Beyer,” my house system said as soon as I walked in. “You have eleven new messages. Two hundred and thirty-five calls were forwarded to you spam box, including five from your brother.”
I cringed and dropped my very limited luggage in a corner. I didn’t know if I shared any blood with my ‘brother’ and I never liked the guy.
“Empty the spam folder,” I requested, already on my way down to the basement.
Vexx caught up with me before the SUV drove off. “This is fishy.”
The place was exactly as it had always been. But it wasn’t a criminal lair anymore; it was a government facility. Something ought to have changed.
Vexx pulled Frogster out of his backpack and put it on one of the workspaces. “Find the bugs,” he instructed and the frog hopped off the counter.
“I hope they didn’t,” I muttered.
“I’m sure they did.” Vexx switched on the main computer and keyed in a few commands on the holographic display. “I’ll sweep the network.”
“I’ll self-soothe.” I headed for my collection of antique guns.

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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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