Strings of Retaliation – 8b – Routine

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Though we had a friendlier start than I expected, I hated Cy by the end of the second hour. I liked the idea of contrasting old school acrobatics with next-gen technological accessories and props, but the way the tour manager developed his concept from there disgusted me. All the blame for my disappointment belonged to me; his mandate was to sell Merrilyn Technologies and I should have remembered that.
“A girl struck by tragedy struggles to find her place in the world,” was the blunt, non-metaphorical premise. My first acrobatics would involve aerial contortions, ropes, floor work, anything bounding and limited in range that evoked struggle and danger.
“As she follows the lead of technology, she finds freedom and family.”
Translation: “As she gives in to her robot love interest and learns to move with other enhanced acrobats, she starts flying around on trampolines, trapezes and whatnots.” And my trusted mechanical frog pet would accompany me throughout the trials.
“Our take on Gemini Cricket and Cinderella coming into her own!”
Each idea sparked homicidal thoughts. Each paternal encouragement and compliments both soothed me and worried me; I couldn’t know if Cy acted under order from Ben but I certainly didn’t need a replacement controlling, backstabbing, violent-death-deserving father figure.
At last, he stepped out of my office after the sun set.
“There are emergency emails —” Gail managed to say before my double doors slammed shut in her face. I hoped she would go home like most people already did so I could leave without talking to her.
I shut off the cameras and slouched in my chair.
I never slouched.
Better get to those emails while I still can. Either my brain would implode or Ben would busy me out of my own emergencies.
Seconds after my computer hologram lit up, a faint noise drew my attention to the farthest edge of my window wall. My eyes caught a flash of blueish light. I rounded my desk to take a closer look.
Stupid move.
With a loud bang, the window’s corner fractured. The black-clad person hanging outside peeled the plasma-proof glass off its frame far enough to slip in. I dived behind a couch. A plasma bullet melted the top right off and blew up one of the product displays.
“Huh!?” A woman. Surprised she missed. Not good.
“Smart entrance but you’re messing with the wrong girl.”
“So they all say.”
The voice came from a few feet closer. I rolled a bit further, but made sure to stay out of her sight. When she fired a predictable bullet through the couch, I vaulted over the mini-bar. It had been reinforced so she would have to come within close combat range.
My eyes spotted a red ladybug under the counter. My instincts screamed. I jumped back over the bar as it exploded behind me. My assailant didn’t expect that and, with a mix of luck and training, I landed and kicked her gun away.
Controlled blast in the stronghold. That’s what I would have done, I thought as her hands closed around my throat. I broke her nose before she broke my neck. She stumbled backward for about a step and then dodged a plasma bullet. I spun in a defencive stance. My office’s door were busted open and Gail stormed in with two pistols, ready to annihilate the threat to my security.
“Don’t!”
A second shot muffled my order. The intruder dodged it and swiped my feet in the same fluid movement. My back hit the floor and the assassin pulled me to her, using me as a human shield. Her hold was a tough one to break but she couldn’t stand without exposing herself to Gail. Unfortunately, she could also kill me in the blink of an eye.
I should have kept that from happening. A year ago, she would have been handled before my secretary came to my rescue.
Gail waited for her moment to fire again.
“She’s company property,” I yelled. The assassin laughed. Gail hesitated but dropped her guns. She closed her fists and bent her knees; she would take her chance at close combat.
“You,” I said to the assassin. Darn, how could I phrase it without betraying myself? “I’m not your enemy.”
Generic negotiation catch phrases. I should just facepalm myself into unconsciousness and let them duke it out.
Very fainting-damsel-in-distress-y.
“Right, you’re the innocent queen of an evil empire.” The assassin constricted.
Gail lunged.
I was the middle woman.
With a fury-powered push, I broke the crazy entanglement. The assassin hit me square on the jaw. Gail bruised a couple of my attacker’s ribs with a foot I was too stunned to deviate. The assassin rolled onto her feet and unfolded toward me. Her shoulder buried itself in my middle, barely slowed by Gail grabbing her midair. I blocked the assassin’s arm and realized she had pulled a knife out of her extensible Kevlar suit. Noticing the knife too, Gail landed a precise punch on the assassin’s shoulder.
The articulation clacked. The knife clicked. The world spun.
After her goodbye punch to my face, the assassin refocused her attention on Gail. The two women clung at each other’s throat, ignoring me; I wasn’t the biggest threat.
Wrong time for an ego crisis.
Or not.
I spotted Gail’s guns and made a run for them.
“Enough!” I barked. Firmly in my cross-hairs, the women froze. “Let go! Now!”
They pulled away from each other. The assassin’s eyes travelled between my gun and Gail. Her knee bent in preparation. After all, I had stopped Gail from using her guns minutes before.
I fired a shot to graze her suit so she wouldn’t try anything.
Gail’s eyes crucified me while her eyebrows creased in question. She expected me to side with her, but she worked at Merrilyn Tech long enough to know she didn’t know everything.
“Let’s breath for a beat, shall we?”

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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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