Unforeseen Dives – 30a – Panic

<< 29b – Mistakes

Even the people that reached the door and made it out of the bar in the first minute didn’t survive the incident. The death toll neighbored five hundred, including the six FBI agents who tailed the bait. The dozen survivors who partied in the VIP lounge needed an extensive psychological therapy.
We played our cards wrong and lost. That fact was bad in and of itself but what sickened me the most was that I couldn’t have known. Not really. The damned whirlpools blinded me and every time I tried to push through them, my soul nearly got torn to pieces. A war was well on its way and no matter how skilled I was, I couldn’t stop it.
“He knew.” Rebecca breathed through clenched teeth, her face bathed in tears. I returned to my spot in front of her on the carpet.
“What do you mean?”
“The criminal. He must have known.” Her brown eyes shone with the sparkle of a problem solving itself, of a lead lighting up our way. “The whirlpools.”
 “So far we’ve assumed they were an uncontrolled phenomenon…” I said, jumping on her trail of thoughts.
“… what if they aren’t?”
“If they are man-made then we’re blind but, assuming he’s psychic or partners with one, he isn’t.” Our actions weren’t covered by whirlpools. We were an open book. The thought frightened me. That was probably how non-readers felt. “What made you think of that?”
“The complexity of the operation.” Rebecca walked to my map of the Ocean. She stared at it but her attention was elsewhere. “Strapping people with explosives and blowing them up close to important buildings is fairly easy.”
I cringed. The memory of my mom’s death was still fresh. There really wasn’t a soft way to put it though.
“Tonight was more complicated.” I agreed, pursuing her idea. “It required preparation, timing.” She nodded. “Why go through so much trouble?”
“Assume he knew what we would see around the whirlpool and how we would react. Protocol and all.”
“He knew there would be FBI agents in that bar.”
“Killing people is one thing but he needs to kill a whole lot of them if he wants an all out war.” The sense that made sent a shiver down my spine.
“A handful of patriots is a faster trigger.”
“Soldiers dying for their country. The press turns them into martyrs and bingo! The population’s ripe with hatred.”
“And the readers survived the attack.”
“Which happened in a reader’s bar.”
We looked at each other, breathless. Once the story passed through the distorting lenses of the press, the only thing people would remember is that we didn’t get hurt. Only non-readers did.
The criminal framed us.
Figuring the path to the endgame sounded like a step towards victory. Nonetheless, the weight of knowledge downed our moral. The enemy was smart. He eluded us. He made our attempts to stop him work in his favor. He played us and kept winning.
“The government won’t fall for it.” Rebecca affirmed. I almost smile; she instinctively took the rigid soldier pose years of army training branded in her.
“They don’t need to.” I countered, my mouth drying from the harshness of what I was about to say. “If the population gets riled up enough, things will get bloody anyway.”
“Our forces will be divided between trying to contain a civil war and stop its creator.” We sighed.
We jumped when the phone rang. After taking a deep breath to steady myself, I answered.
“I just heard what happened.” Aaron barked so loudly I pulled the phone away from my ear. “I’ll be in my office in twenty minutes and you’ll be there with an explanation.” He hung up before I could even speak. Rebecca shrugged. Aaron’s rage was hardly surprising.
Ten minutes later, Daniel joined us in our office and the three of us headed upstairs. None of us dared to break the silence. Lost in our thoughts, we steeled ourselves for the coming argument. Aaron would try to lay it all on me. I never agreed with the idea of using the people tied to the whirlpool as bait and I wasn’t going to be blamed for it.
“Please explain to me why the FBI lost six agents tonight.” Aaron bellowed as soon as he walked in his office. “Please. Do give me a plausible argument so the FBI doesn’t fire you for your incompetence.”
“We’re at war. Look it up. It means people die.” Becky retorted with fury. Daniel put a hand on her shoulder and smoothly pulled her back into the couch.
“Aaron, I would appreciate it if you kept from exaggerating the consequences of tonight’s fiasco.” Daniel requested with his smooth British phlegm. Aaron sat on the corner of his desk and crossed his arms.
“Exaggerating? I’m not. They want me to fire her.” Aaron waved at me. “Save yourself, lady.”
“First, I’m heading a task force. You’re spitting on the work of a dozen of people. The work that turned up the only leads you have in this investigation. The FBI might be looking for someone to blame and we might be half-blind because of the whirlpools but the situation remains that without us, you’re sitting ducks.”
I caught my breath while Aaron pondered what I had just said. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with the idea of telling the FBI they were even more incompetent than us. I couldn’t blame him. He needed to present a viable use for my team or it would be dissolved. PSI fought every year for its budget, our team was no different. My star status wouldn’t change a thing if the world began to loath readers.
“You can also tell them that we suspect the whirlpools are man-made. At this moment, it is likely that the criminal reads us while we can’t read him. My team might be able to level the playfield, given time.” I hoped it was enough of a candy for the FBI to munch on instead of my head.
“I think I’ll go with that as the main reason.” Aaron confirmed.

30b – Panic >>

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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

4 responses to “Unforeseen Dives – 30a – Panic

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