Strings of Retaliation – 7b – Report 05122513

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Report of May 12th, 2513. The asset integrated her cover efficiently. Operation Chimera enters Phase 1.
I couldn’t finish my daily report until I found a viable solution to the “tour” issue. Unfortunately, missing one would look bad. The clock ticked away as I fell into a fruitless problem-solving loop. A knock at my door extracted me from the downward spiral. My stomach growled.
“They told me you’re in there.” Vexx’s annoyance travelled through the door to lay its leaden weight on my shoulders. Six months taught me that this particular tone meant I would have to weather the storm; he couldn’t be brought to reason — much less to cooperation — when he sounded like this.
Vexx knocked again. I pulled myself up and straightened my suit. The protein bars in my dresser called out to me, but they would have to wait. With a sigh, I opened the door.
“Get me hired in MerriTech’s lab,” he barked from behind his Vincent face. His breath smelled of mimosa.
I relaxed my face as much as I could. “How much have you had to drink?”
“I’m not kidding.” Vexx squared himself in the narrow corridor. “It’ll move a lot faster if I work another angle instead of playing eye candy.”
“Speed isn’t the best policy here,” I said, skidding past the long list of issues I had with his plan. Either that or, the argument would turn into a fistfight despite my best intentions. Again.
“Like hell it isn’t!” Vexx moved closer as he yelled.
I bit my tongue instead of biting his head off; people should stop yelling at me for things I hardly had any control over. If I had known taking the Nightshade case five years ago would lead to this, I may have chosen to go back to the army.
“She’s dying Gabriel!” Vexx’s voice broke and panic flashed through me.
“I’ll talk to her.” I kept my voice levelled as I pushed past him.
“She doesn’t need a talking to,” he snorted. “You should have seen her today.”
“I was told she performed as expected.” I cringed internally.
Vexx shrugged. “Sure she did! Ever seen her go below standards?” If Vexx caught my allusion to Lloyd, he did let it show. “It’s not her.” Vexx leaned against the wall, his shoulders hunching forward. “It’s a freaky Lorelei doll on a death march with sparks of the real her peaking through the veil at irregular intervals.”
Though colourful, his assessment matched my motivation to push her as much as I did.
“She keeps bottling up and bottling up. Maybe she’ll blow up and the third time she kicks your ass will be the last one. And that’s the healthier option.”
I refused to have a copy of the What Would Nightshade Do? software on my memory chip, but I didn’t need it to know her. In this situation, she could embrace who she had been programmed to be, snap and become a worst psychopath than she had been, or let Merrilyn Tech’s board hang her. Dark outcomes either way and I had yet to figure out a happy one.
“We can’t pep talk her out of hell.” Vexx threw his hands up in the air. “You can’t let her do what she likes.” His accusative finger upped my level of anger. “I can make it end faster.”
Weather the storm. Weather the freaking storm. These two would cost me my job. Maybe my freedom too. Not that I had a lot of it these days.
“Get me in the lab. Blame your actions on survival instinct if it makes you feel better.”
“Vincent has no reason to be there.” That was a safe enough counter-argument.
“Make me a new identity.”
“Vincent will be expected on the tour.”
“Any doofus with my build and an altered voice can wear Vincent’s face.” Vexx pushed himself off the wall, his destruction of my argument rekindling his boldness. We couldn’t replace Lorelei because her face showed up as all natural on the cameras. Vincent’s didn’t.
“She’ll need you there.” Emotional manipulation wasn’t my favourite tactic.
Vexx’s jaw tightened around words he didn’t want to say. “She’ll have you.”
I couldn’t tell him I might not be there and my safe objections we’re fading fast. “Too dangerous.”
“My choice.”
I expected that answer; if he wanted to do this enough to entrust me with Lorelei’s safekeeping, self-preservation had no weight. “She won’t allow it.”
“Convince her.”
“No!” I managed to keep my voice down but I took a few steps forward. Vexx pressed himself against the door to my apartment. “You barely escaped with your life the last time you worked there.” He had been lucky Lorelei went through the trouble of finding human organs to replace most of the tech inside him.
“I have changed!” Again, his voice cracked and worry seeped through.
When tech was involved for the sake of tech, he did fine. When humans and tech mixed, the story changed. I had seen him operate on Lorelei, watched his precise movements freeze and shake for a beat.
“She’ll worry and it will. Not. Help.” Not to mention that there was no way I could convince the FBI to let a tech-addicted hacker infiltrate the corporation that may still want him dead.
“It’s as if her sense of initiative had been swallowed by pink fashion accessories.” Vexx leaned back against the wall. “I need to do something.”
“Trust me.”
To my surprise, he burst in laughter. “You really shouldn’t say that to people who are pissed at you. It’ll put you in trouble.”
It already has. “Then I’ll learn.”
“Put her back in the action or find me a way to help. Wait too long and I’ll get in the lab without you.” Vexx walked past me and I didn’t say a word.
Better he remembered this conversation as a victory. The leeway I gained from that was worth letting him have the last word. Tomorrow, I would ask him to share his hack of Merrilyn Tech’s security with us as his way to help.
He would most likely accept. One less problem on today’s report.
As soon as he turned the corner, my stomach growled again.

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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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