Strings of Retaliation – 9b – Saskia

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I composed myself a calm and conquering attitude before I walked back into my office where Saskia sat, shoulders straight and jaw clenched, surrounded by guards. Her cheek was split open. It hadn’t been when I left.
There hadn’t been guards moaning on the ground either.
“What happened?” I hammered both words.
“She tried to make a break for it,” Gail-Male replied, raising his pitch with each syllable and shrugging.
Deception. They roughened her. She retaliated. They won the match and an excuse.
With a growl of annoyance, I grabbed Saskia’s bag from my coffee table, picked a silver bead by the safe end and threw it to Saskia’s forehead. She fell like a rock, sound asleep.
“There!” I replied to everyone’s surprised look. “Is this manageable enough for you to stop damaging company property?”
“Yes boss!” The guard who replied seemed eager to move up in the world.
“Absolutely, Miss Beyer!” Gail-Male said, sending a double dose of hateful looks toward the insubordinate speaker. “A brilliant idea.”
Fake humility looked good on him and I would have said so if the phone hadn’t rang, rekindling everyone’s surprise: no one used non-implanted phones anymore. I smiled and picked up the receiver.
“Dear Miss Beyer,” Gabriel said with a very formal tone, “the team is readying for an exchange. If you would be so kind to inform us of your designated driver, we’ll upload him with the instructions.”
“Driver?”
A guard stepped forward to give me his Merrilyn ID.
“Badge number 23408-HY095,” I read to Gabriel.
“Excellent. You can entrust us with the last details and rest after this trying experience.”
He was asking me not to participate to the drop. The guards probably wouldn’t agree with my presence either.
I could bite their heads off, but my hands-on presence during the transfer would spark unnecessary questions.
“Thank you. I will.”
A few minutes after I hung up, a truck’s door closed on Saskia and an armoured car’s on me. As per company protocol, any menace triggered my emergency relocation to a secret bunker until both my house and my office had been swept. Gail-Male enjoyed his temporary power over me. The FBI would appreciate it as well. First, it turned the debugging of my house from annoyance to ‘Thank God we did that’ moment. Secondly, the heavy guard prevented me from meddling with Saskia’s treatment.
It pissed me off that ‘Queen Lorelei’ wasn’t the kind of person to pass her nerves on a punching bag. Even if I could justify some sort of anger for my official persona, she still wouldn’t go berserk like I wanted to.
No. Instead, after a long ride behind blacked out windows, a robot/maid forced me into the bathroom where a bubble bath waited for me.
“I’m also programmed with a variety of massage techniques,” it said as it closed door on me. “Anything you need to relax, just ask!”
A HUMAN maid would already be an improvement.
I locked up behind the robot and paced the gigantic bathroom. I wanted out of this outrageously cozy bunker. Its very existence drove me nuts; so many people didn’t have the bare necessities and my emergency back-ups were underground manors. This one was most likely the robotics district’s bunker.
‘Cause why have one when you can have three!
“’Cause that’s what you’re really mad about,” Vexx’s voice in my head made me jump. For once, I didn’t mind that he hacked my chip.
Is this safe? I thought. A Merrilyn safe house had at least as many countermeasure as the office.
“It’s not too risky.”
I didn’t like what his answer implied.
“They’re not bringing Saskia back to the base,” Vexx said, diving straight into what I feared was worth the risk of contacting me. “From what I gathered, they have no intention of letting you interact with her.”
Of course, they don’t.
To avoid suspicion or a destructive outburst of anger, I took off my clothes and leaned in the bath.
“I may have bugged Gabriel’s jacket to circumvent this, though.”
I caught a chuckle before it escaped my mouth.
Big risk. Good job.
“They’ve confirmed she’s a SSW.”
Sibling of the Silicon Womb?
“Correct. Apparently, she doesn’t have a lot of free radicals in her blood making her a new model, artificially matured.”
My jaw dropped, then clenched. The files I read detailed MerriTech’s animal experiment with growth hormones. Apparently, Special Projects hadn’t entered the result of human testing in the mainframe.
Small oversight.
“Not the first time info is missing from their files.”
Makes you wonder what else we’re missing.
“We, maybe. The FBI? I’m not so sure. Listen to this.”
A couple of beeps announced that Vexx patched the bug through to me.
“We’ll establish her model at the lab,” an unknown voice was saying inside an unmarked van somewhere.
Model? She’s a human being, you prick!
One of my artificial nails broke on the bath’s edge. I eased my grip a little.
“Based on her estimated age, I would say she’s a seventh generation,” the voice continued.
“Remotely programmed for a mission,” Gabriel uncertainly added.
You’re a dead man!
“To her, it’s just an impulse to act on.”
Thoughts rushed into my brain faster than I could track. A couple of beep announced the disconnection of the bug.
“Think that’s enough for now. Breathe. The jumble of thoughts really hurts my ears.”
The FBI has an asset in Special Projects.
“And probably elsewhere. They’ve been infiltrating MerriTech for years.”
Gabriel is concealing information about my siblings.
“As much as I would like to say otherwise, it’s not surprising.”
Saskia is a human being on remote control. And the someone pushing her buttons wants me dead.
“I doubt it can be anyone but a Merrilyn Tech employee.”
Kim? Ben? A needle in a haystack?
I think I’ll tan Gabriel’s ass first.
“I’ll have a location ready whenever you get home.”
Your bug’s a tracker too?
“Yes. They’re heading toward the robotics district.”
I couldn’t catch the chuckle this time.

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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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